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Archive for February, 2009

My attendance for the Psychrometrics Class was better than I expected. There were nine scheduled to attend, six showed up. Sixty six percent I guess that’s better that the fifty percent I had projected, thank goodness, I hate it when they cut those guys in half. This is a weekend class so I’ll be back at it tomorrow for about 5-6 hours, that’s about all the math and theory these guys can handle.

There is a PBS fund raiser airing right now, I don’t really care for these pledge drives, but they are featuring excerpts from the video works of Victor Borge, and I found myself laughing out loud at his comic wit. I’m hard pressed to think of any musician of his caliber, that had the ability to make people laugh over the simplest of things. He’s been gone for some time now, but he still makes me laugh.

Weird Al Eat Your Heart Out

Weird Al Eat Your Heart Out

Often comedy can be taking place right under our noses, but because of our proximity to it we completely miss the punch line. I remember a time many years ago, I wanted to introduce my kids to the humor of Mel Brooks. My kids were about 9, 8, 6 years old at the time. I know your thinking, Mel Brooks? Why the hell would you do that to them? Aren’t they a little young for that type of humor? The movie that I wanted them to see was pretty tame, and had three actors who, at the time were pretty funny. Mel Brooks, Dom Deluise, and Marty Feldman starring in Silent Movie. So I went down to the video store and rented the movie. I’m excited to share the comic genius of one of the greats with my kids, the kids are pumped because there’s going to be popcorn, and my wife? My wife thinks Mel is about as sophisticated as lighting farts, in the dark, on the porch swing. So we get the movie running, the credits are rolling, popcorn is falling to the floor, as the three kids fight over the big Tupperware bowl.

After the credits run and the movie gets into the theme, my eight year old says, “Dad turn up the sound, I can’t hear the words. I respond with, “Yeah I know it’s a silent movie.” About 3 or 4 minutes pass… “But we can’t hear the words”, this time it’s the nine year old, again although this time a little annoyed I respond; “Yeah I know, it’s a silent movie.” Finally the six year old assuming that I didn’t quite understand her brother and sister, interjects, “Dad, this is a stupid movie, they don’t have any words”. I still don’t get it, even with my wife laughing in the background, I try to explain, “It’s…a….silent….movie! There are no words!” All three little faces turn and gaze toward my end of the couch and give me the same dumbfounded look, “Why on earth would you watch a movie with no words”.? By now my wife is laughing so hard I think she’s going to wet her pants, and  that’s when I get it!!! Comedy like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.   “Just say good night Gracie.”  

Talk to you later.

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It’s Friday night, Good Shabbos…

Febuary is fast fleeting and in a blink March is here. It’s six weeks or so until Passover, and already my mother in-law is dropping small hints about the menu.

In past years we usually have had Seder at Alice and Lenny’s house. Primarily because Alice and Lenny are the matriarch and patriarch of this family, and secondly they have the room that is needed to seat 15-20 people. I recall my first Seder. I had been dating Alice and Lenny’s daughter, about two or three months. I was interested in Judaism, mostly because I was interested in her, let’s face it men are pigs. Although I was looking at Judaism seriously, I doubt that I would have found myself exploring some of its traditions and practices, had I not been serious about her.

I was as nervous as hell, on the way to their house that night, not only was this my first Seder, it was my first time meeting her parents, and I do not like crowds. I was about 21 then and she was well … not. So needless to say tensions and expectations were running high for me. It didn’t take much persuading to get her to stop at the liquor store to get a six pack to calm my nerves. Mind you the liquor store was only 8 blocks  from their house. But my future wife knew that everyone would fare much better, if I went into this evening in the proper state of mind, an attitude adjustment is what she called it. I don’t think either of us knew or suspected that, this behavior might be indicative of someone that had a drinking problem. So there we are in the parking lot of the liquor store ,20 minutes before go time, downing a couple of beers, okay she had one and I finished the rest, getting my mind right…for the evening. 

Actually the evening went quite well, her parents were charming, but I could tell they were a bit uncomfortable with our age differential. Nobody told or someone forgot to mention, that there would be wine served throughout the Seder and during the meal. I was feeling no pain by the time the fruit compote was served, and I had made a new bestess buddy!, Alice my future mother in-law, liked to tip a glass too! .   

My G-d I had stumbled into the prefect religion, wine ever Friday night, at least four glasses, make it five if you got to fill in for Elijah at Passover, and it was a Mitzvah to make love to your wife on the Sabbath! I was made for this. 

All joking aside, I remember feeling a connection with a tradition that wasn’t even my own, yet. As time has pasted by, I have gone through phases of drawing Judaism near, and pushing it away. Lately it feels like a gathering time, I don’t know why but my gut tells me just go with it. This year I think we should do Passover in our home, not because of the reduced crowds, I expect we will see about 10 or so, and I still hate crowds, but more to take the stress off Alice and Len.   

Tomorrow is a busy day, my wife and I will be teaching so I had better get to bed…can you say Mitzvah!

Talk to you later.

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As I get older, I notice the isolation my mother in-law and father in-law are experiencing more and more. These days I feel the need to spend more time with them, what I find surprising is that I am really enjoying it. In the past, finding time to spend with them seemed bothersome, short of a burden, but a bother all the same. What with work and kids of my own, Alice and Lenny were usually the last on my dance card. Time in my life seems different now, I’m still working the same hours, yet I only have one daughter at home, busy with matters of her own. I think one thing that has changed for me is my perspective, I’m beginning to I see myself in my in-laws shoes in about 20 years. There are nights when it’s just my wife and myself, the house seems so quite and very empty. When my son and his wife, or my daughter and her boyfriend, stop by; it’s nice and we spend time talking and asking the same kind of questions Alice and Lenny ask my wife and I when we visit.

Alice and Lenny have noticed a change also, that kind of bothers me, the guilt that they have noticed a change. Today Lenny mentioned to my wife, that he really has enjoyed the last several visits we’ve had together, but he hopes that we were not doing it to just spend time with them. I know that sounds like something out of a geriatric haze, but I kind of get it. I think it’s more of an acknowledgement that he knows, that we know, that they’re old and they’re lonely.

Would things have been different if we had spent every other Friday night with them? I don’t know, but rather than second guess myself on the virtues of being a perfect son in-law; I’m going to steam ahead. Take it or leave it, as long as we’re both having a good time I plan on getting a couple of punches on their dance card while I still can. It’s getting late and I better call it a night.

Talk to you later.

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I don’t have much to talk about tonight.

Last night I was teaching a class in Air Side Fundamentals at Local 208’s Training Center; the class numbers were small to start with, and last night they fell like the DOW on Wall Street, with a 50% decline in attendance. I don’t know the reason for the drop, but it always disappoints me when that happens. This weekend I teach a class on Psychrometrics I’m expecting about 10 students let’s hope for the best.

I’m slowly getting over my anger and general frustration, an obvious side affect from the snatch and run that occurred last week. It’s not likely that I’ll ever forget the event, but it does have it’s benefits. I’m being lot more diligent about securing the truck, and I get to park in the driveway off of the street. I just hope the little bastards don’t vandalize the wifes’ car.

Our middle daughter T. the writer, is talking about making application into a Masters Program in Library Sciences at The University of Denver, ouch!! I hope she can manage some grant, scholarship, or a cheap loan, to cover the costs. She seems to be enjoying her present job at “Borders”, but the wages they pay are not very good. I’m hopeful that she gets into the Masters Program and can find a carreer in a field that interests her.

The job market and general state of things has me very concerned for the future of all my children. I think we’ve left them quite a mess, and the America that my children are facing, is not the same America that I grew up knowing. 

Is this where we are headed?

Is this where we are headed?

Does it make sense to continue to prattle on about the economy? It’s all been said. We’re on a giant coal train making its way toward the Station. The conductor suspects there’s a problem  with the brake, but there is far too much momentum to slow the train down to avoid a catastrophe. If this were an old Buster Keaton movie I might even laugh, unfortunately its not, and I ain’t.

Talk to you later.

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7:45 a.m.   

Today is pancake Sunday with Alice and Lenny. I’m just starting to shake the blur from my head, trying to get a sense of the hour without rolling over to focus on the iPod docking station sitting on my side of the bed. I know it can’t be 8:30 yet, because the radio hasn’t come on announcing that; “this is “Breakfast with the Beatles””.

No, I’m brought out of my haze by the sound of my wife, did I tell you I love her. Anyway apparently she has spent the early dawn hours composing poetry, in bed, about an elephant. Not any particular elephant, but elephants in general. It’s actually a good little prose about why elephants should avoid little mice. My initial response was how unfortunate it was that we didn’t have any baby elephants to read it to. I hear her chuckle next to me, followed immediately by the scratchings of dog #2 at our bedroom door. The moment is lost.

9:10 a.m  

Preparations are well under way for breakfast with Alice and Lenny, although it isn’t scheduled until 10:00 a.m. I think more planning went into this than the Invasion Of Grenada in ’83, let’s hope we don’t suffer those kind of casualties. There is one little item that my “Spidey Sense” keeps picking up on, it triggers whenever I bring up the time for the “Great Pancake Breakfast”. The time was set for 10:00 a.m., actually much later than I would like, but hey Alice and Lenny are well into their eighties, I get it. But the last couple of times that I mention the time to my wife, I get a minor hesitation and a “Yeah, 10:00 – 10:30…. 11:00”, now I’m getting worried. Who ever heard of a Great Pancake Luncheon! This could be a tough breakfast…err aah lunch. 

I’ll get back to this later today. It’s about departure time for operation Buckwheat!!!

1:00 p.m.

My wife and I just got back from Operation Buckwheat. We did pretty good, we arrived at 10:15, no sooner had we walked in the door, my mother in-law is ribbing my father in-law that she has won their bet. Apparently the bet was whether we would arrive before 10:00 or after 10:30  I guess 10:15 meant that Lenny had lost.

The discussion during breakfast was very typical, health, children, grandchildren, normal old people, grandparent stuff. After the meal the topic changed to politics, and estate planning; with the way the market has dumped I think most of America is focused on their financial health. What I found interesting, was that; Alice and Lenny were more concerned with what they would be leaving their children, rather than what they had set aside for their own personal well being.

Times have changed. Right now, all I hope for is that they have enough green to stay in the game all the way to the end, screw everything else. It sounds harsh, but that’s the truth. As for our next event with Alice and Lenny? I think marching around a swamp looking for Goldfinches with an eighty-six year old man, who has bad eyes, seems like a long shot….Damn its hell to get old.

Talk to you later.

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What a week! I’ve had The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, of a week, fortunately it didn’t hit me in that order. I hate it when I end things on an ugly note.

The week started out with the ugly, one of my mechanics called me and said “I think we have a problem with the “Bravo” chiller at the Co-Gen plant.” Never have the 6 words, “I think we have a problem,” been more prophetic. We’re not talking mission control, life and limb but, a $70,000 dollar repair cost on a full service account definitely hits the bottom line pretty hard.

Damaged Impeller

Damaged Impeller

In today’s economic times this will put the pinch on any companys’ P and L. I will save you the boring details and give you the short story. The centrifugal compressor had seized up and has extensive damage to the bearings and impeller.

The Seized High Speed Bearing

The Seized High Speed Bearing

 

 

These damaged items list out as some of the more pricey components  in the machine. That along with the labor to tear the machine down and rebuild it puts this in the ugly category for the week, with A Fist Full of Dollars, thrown in for effect.

Taking the Centrifugal Apart and Repair; $70,000

Taking the Centrifugal Apart and Repair; $70,000

 

 

The Bad part of my week hit on Thursday. It’s about 5:20 in the morning and I’m going through my morning ritual, Not That Ritual, I mean putting on the work boots. Anyway, as I’m pulling the boots over the old dogs, I hear a car idling out front. I don’t give it much thought, but start to notice that it’s been running longer than I would expect. It was unusual for that time of the morning to have any car traffic on our street. That’s when I decided to open the front door and take a look. Sure as shit there’s a car parked next to my truck on the street and some jerk is stealing tools out of one of the side panels on my rig. I gave out a yell, I see a head poke up, and hesitate, I wished I was at the penny arcade at that point with a Daisy Air Rifle. The guy then jumps into the passenger side of their get away mobile and they go buzzing off. I estimate they got away with about 2,000 dollars worth of company hand tools and meters. Man that hacks me off. 

What really makes me mad is I started to blame myself, I forgot to lock up the side panel.  Then I think, fuck it! What has happened to our society, where anything is far game, as long as it’s not locked, secured and booby trapped. Man I’m getting tired of this shit. Yeah I know the company insurance will cover it but that comes at a cost too. Meanwhile some little worthless jerks are pawning the tools for quarters on the dollar. Hell, they probably don’t even know what half the items are for. Don’t hand me the under privileged kid, or a fatherless family line: grow up, get a job, and if it ain’t yours leave it the HELL alone.

Oddly enough I think the idiots are friends to the kid (18-20 something), that lives next door. Two words of advice pal, 1. Don’t shit too close to your house, and 2. Be careful who you piss off. I know what that car sounds like, and have a general idea what it looks like, trust me those two just found one street that they probably want to avoid for sometime, like… forever! That should give me enough time to settle down.

I think some of my anger and frustration is cumulative. When it comes to crime, the  Stanfords, the Madoffs, and the collection of money handlers from Wall Street who should be appearing on A Post Office Wall; these guys, make the Honda Boys, that made off with my tools, look like a pair farts in a waste treatment plant. The difference is I caught The Honda Boys in the act and couldn’t stop it.      

Now for the Good. Thank G-d for Shabbot, it was good last night to come home, light the Candles and say blessings over the Wine, and Challah. I’ve made it a point to sing Kiddish and I find that very special. If your not Jewish, the sense of “All Is Right In My Home”, may be lost to you. There is a feeling of security, as if a shield has been hoisted, and nothing outside the walls of this house can affect me during this time with me and mine.

Sunday, was going to be a pancake breakfast at Alice and Lenny’s house. Well, breakfast has turned to brunch, but I think we’ll have a good time. Of course my wife and I will bring most of the edibles, my mother in law’s coffee is the worst. It’s decaf and instant to boot, talk about torture, they should have had her serving that at Gitmo. The guilty would have cracked and the innocent, well G-d help them. Maybe I should invite the Honda Boys over for a shot of her coffee!!    

Talk to you later.

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What a nice day. The sun has decided to make an appearance and the chill of winter has retreated for a time. My lovely and I went for a walk around Expo Park, taking advantage of winters reprieve. Finding a discarded hunk of old bread along the way, provided us with  something  to feed the water fowl that were flocked in the pond.

Feeding the Ducks

Feeding the Ducks

It brought back memories of when we were first together. We would go to a small lake near our apartment on the westside, to feed the birds and talk. My wife has never been the outdoorsy type, and I would laugh at the names she would assign some of the birds, and any wildlife in general that we would spot.  A Mallard was “A Duck,” an American Coot was called a “Black Necked Duck”, a Pronghorn Antelope was called “one of those White Assed Deer”. It took some time, but I finally get her to a point where she would actually call them by their correct names. We still have a good chuckle about those earlier days.
 
There was a time when I was into some pretty extreme bird watching. I recall packing up the wife and kids and whisking them off to some stinking marsh, to spot some elusive Black Throated Blue Warbler, or Virginia Rail. 
Black Throated Blue Warbler

Black Throated Blue Warbler

One spring we went to Monte Vista Colorado to see the Sand Hill Cranes during the mating season, snow was blowing and in general pretty damn cold. I was lucky, most of the time the group was pretty good natured about my obsessions. However as the bugs got peskier, the hikes longer my entourage became less and less enthusiastic. It would finally be my son and I trudging through some snow blown field chasing down Northern Harriers, and American Kestriels, as all the song birds had migrated to South America. He would never ask me,.. “could we go home now”… but I sensed when I did suggest calling it a day, I should have made the offer several hours sooner.

Today my kids are pretty busy doing their own thing. I often wonder what kind of memories they hold of those days, and what stories they might tell their children when they spot a Mountain Chickadee. Lately I feel the urge to venture back into the fields and marshes to spot my favorite birds or even add a new one to my life list. The season is returning, where I might be able to talk my wife into going back out with me. I do have a young nephew living in Alamosa Colorado, and in a few years I might be able to kidnap him from his mother for a weekend. It would be a lot of fun take him to The Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Colorado and see the Sand Hill Cranes returning for their spring ritual. Who knows maybe some day I can share spotting a Rufus Sided Towhee, with a grandkid.

Spotting a Rufus Sided Towhee

Spotting a Rufus Sided Towhee

Talk to you later. 

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