Sunday, November 28, 2010

I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it

Hola, peeps.

Took off about 4 AM on Black Friday. The crowds at the Super Target on Bloomingdale Ave were large and restless. It was a sea of people, who for some reason, needed a 32" TV at 4 AM. Luckily, I was driving past them on my way to Miami. Yep, another South Florida fishing trip in search of the not so elusive Peacock Bass.

Just past the Super Target we jumped on I-75 Southbound, setting a blistering 65 MPH pace all the way down to Naples. The road turned to the east and we turned with it, paying our two dollar and fifty cents toll to drive across a gatorless Alligator Alley, which means, I suppose, we paid a toll to drive through what would merely be an alley. Wait a sec. We were pulling a boat trailer. No extra axles for free on a toll road. I must ammend this to read that the road turned to the east and we turned with it, paying our five dollar toll to drive across a gatorless Alligator Alley, which means, I suppose, we paid a toll to drive through what would merely be an alley. FIVE DOLLARS & NO GATORS!! What a ripoff. (And $5 back, too.)

Turns out that the new lake DRE wanted to try was literally in the only neighborhood in Miami that I am completely familiar with. We were fishing at Airport Lake/Blue Lagoon which, coincidentally, was right beside the Airport. I work at airports! So I am fishing in the back yard of the hotels I stay at when I'm there for work. Had I known they had the peacock basses in the water there, I'd have brought along a rod on previous trips. I will next time for sure. I have been sitting around the pool, shirtless, enjoying a cigar when I could have been sitting out on the rocks, shirtless, fishing and enjoying a cigar.

From the lake, a bunch of canals went thisaway and that. So once you get to fishing, you can just meander all over the place. Normally we fish out in the woods, so it was cool to look up and see a plane looking like it was going to land on you, or to be cruising from neighborhood to neighborhood while fishing. It was a lot like the boat rides through Bangkok's canals, except we didn't have to pay and we never encountered a floating market. But we did come face to face with a surprising number of the wild urban iguanas. Miami is a lot of things, many just a bit surreal and not all of them pleasant, but it is never dull.

At one point I noted that we were in a boat, fishing beside a railroad track that ran between the runways and a freeway. Although, it was not a freeway since it charged a toll, a distinction I just snapped off as I typed that. So I will leave the quote I made unmolested. By the way, I just thought about the signs we have at all of our retention ponds in the Tampa Bay area that say do not feed or molest the alligators. I always think that the warning to not molest the alligators should be removed so as to not to upset the Darwinian balance of the universe.

I am on a learning kick. I hope. I tell people all the time, but while they hear, they never listen. I am surrounded by people who reach a level, any level even a bad one, and get comfortable. But I tell them, once you get here, look to see how you get there, then learn what you need to reach it. And if your employer will pay for it or subsidize it, all the better. Then I'm done. I mean, you can lead a dope to water, but you can't make them think. But me, I'm going to at least try.

So, I got the company to purchase Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin America). Except they didn't. They had me research it. Twice. They had me write up a proposal that included cost, coverage, and licensing information. Twice. They told me we were going to do it. Twice. Then I was ultimatly informed that Spanish For Dummies was only $29 and that's the way they'd decided to go with it. I imagine that at some point, while we are down in Latin America trying to grow our business opportunities, one airport manager is going to turn to another and say something like, "Their Spanish makes them sound kinda like dummies".

So anyway, I just bought my own Rosetta Stone. And it was not cheap. But being bilingual is better than not being bilingual. I am going to attempt to put it on my taxes as an uncompensated business expense, because it is. I expect to be training operators down in Colombia and Costa Rica and who knows where else. I want to know at least a little Spanish. In real life I can get through an order at Pollo Tropical with out it.

But wait, there's more. I also put in an external training request for a full course in Linux. I especially have difficulty moving around in our software and configuration menus because you have to type the command lines and that kind of stuff does not come naturally to me. I will, in effect, be learning a second foreign language. But the products are requiring more and more fiddling around with the command lines and I don't want to be the old guy that got stuck in one spot and couldn't keep up as technology changed. And I know I am close to becoming that guy because I am not particularly interested in smart phones and don't see why I'd want to watch video on them. So, I am at the cusp of becoming a crusty, ill-tempered, old curmudgeon anyway in real life, no need to be one at work also.

My fall of self-improvement, if you will.

I watched The Bad Lieutenant. The reviews were good. The movie was bad. Although, Harvey Keitel is always a trip to watch. Just like Dennis Hopper was. But I digress. Anyway, do I learn not to pick these off beat movies to watch? You know, since I am frequently disappointed in them. Not on your life. Life's too short for Disney Flicks and Iron Man III. I have The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans queued up in Netflix. It has Nicolas Cage, not Harvey Keitel, but Nicolas has a full on crazy side that could be interesting. Plus, for you ladies, Val Kilmer is in it. You know, The Ice Man.

Review from Esquire Magazine:
Cage's performance as the rogue cop hunting a murderer while battling his inner demons is absurd, an endless muscle cramp devoid of depth, nuance, or credibility. And Herzog, who has made a handful of truly brilliant films — check out Aguirre, the Wrath of God, an ice ax par excellence — is content in his dotage to toss poo against the wall and film whatever sticks. In BL: POCNO, this boils down to random footage of gators and iguanas and a break-dancing corpse.

Hey, say what you will about the not so glowing review of the flick, who among us is not willing to see it just for the break dancing corpse? Yeah, I know.

Well, I have lingered more than is normally comfortable, so I say goodbye.

Like its politicians and its wars, society has the teenagers it deserves, out
Ramblin' Ed

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Beg Peace

Beg Peace 20 Nov 2010

When I called you
I had fallen in a bad place
Reaching for a memory
that the haze of time had shaded
Shadows lay a softness
and had worn away the edges
Never mind they're lying
They were all the lies I needed

When you picked up
I could hear that you were smiling
More than I remember
Or that you believed you'd ever
In time our crooked questions
Brought us all these twisted answers
It seems you've found your sunshine
Without knowing where you're headed

So I'll move on
Always been that kind of restless
I find my peace
without seeking understanding
It's too late
for me to die too young
We fade slow
While believing we're still giving


Friday, November 12, 2010

A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for

I can make things better than they are. It's a mostly true statement. I definately believe it. I am kinda like a bona fide, living and breathing spell check. A lubricant for getting things done. I am an idea guy. Or, as I like to put it, a de-gooberizer. So where am I going with this? Besides a healthy pat of my own back. I am going to China. Or rather, I am NOT going to China and should be.

We have customers who want and/or need our services. By having the poor foresight of being born in one of the countries on the ever expanding list of them that we figure are all trying to kill, maim, or at the very minimum, highly inconvienence all us patriotic Americans who just want to sit peacefully in front of the TV, munching our tater chips, these folks have all manner of difficulty getting a visa. Nearly as much trouble as I had finding an ending to that last sentence. So we schedule, cancel, repeat. It's not their fault. It's just the way it is. And it's been like that for a long time now.

So I said, "Then why don't we just go there?" And I sat down and looked at what we do. Then I figured out what could be exported. Then I looked at what they would not need, as it is a domestic requirement, and swapped those things for information they would need that we get locally but they probably don't. (Sorry to be vague, but I don't like to do details when it comes to my work.) I thought about how to get the materials there and how long to clear customs in the various parts of the world. Then I wrote a syllabus, lassoed all the lessons into one place and sent the email to my boss that we had a new product to offer, there was a real need for it, and go out and make some money with it. To which he replied, "Nobody will want that. Too expensive." Not exactly, the thanks I had wanted, but more or less the thanks I have come to expect.

One week later, he calls me up and says that China wants that new training. And a little something else, too. So it's a good thing that "we" have developed that training and for me to give it to this other guy so that he can go there and deliver it.

Exactly like when I saw a need for on-site refresher training for our field techs. Despite the loud protestations of my former manager that he would never allow training to take place anywhere but the factory, I developed the course anyway and just sat on it. A year later, things change, TSA writes us a new contract that includes....wait for it.... a provision to allow on-site refresher training for our field techs. It is quickly pointed out that luckily "we" have developed just such a course, but TSA will have to pay for us to hire another trainer. TSA agrees, we interview for the position, hire a new trainer and then give him my course to run.

I can no more resist tinkering with the way we do things than porcelin can, ....doing things ...... that are glass-like. Anyway, I see ideas like the spooky kid sees dead people. I've got crazy mad energy in the mornings, so I pound these things out. And I'm already working on my next idea. Because we'll eventually hire someone else.

So, kinda a segueue from there to here, though more humorous and less bitchy. And just as true. It concerns my ship, the USS Antietam, her Commanding Officer, and the 1MC. The 1MC provided helpful reminders throughout the day to help us sailors, as I used to point out, do more before 8 AM than we had wanted to do all day. Here's an example: "Sweepers, Sweepers, man your brooms. Give the ship a clean sweep down both fore and aft! Sweep down all lower decks, ladder wells and passageways! Dump all garbage clear of the fantail! Sweepers." Ah yes...the glitz and glamor of the seagoing life. So, the story begins....

We were the pre-commissioning crew for Antietam, which means we moved onto the ship when it still belonged to (what was then) Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi . Later we sailed her to Baltimore (Antietam Battleground is landlocked, most land battles tend to be fought on land as it turns out, but Baltimore is not) for the commissioning ceremony and to bring the ship to life. So yes, I am a plank owner.

Because we were a new ship, in a new class of ships, almost everything we did, we were doing for the first time. That's why the CO and XO would have to spend a lot of time on the 1MC. To tell us what was going on, what we were expecting to do, how we expected to do it, etc. However, and this is a big however, they were both prone to long pauses when they talked.

Now, if you have ever been on a ship at sea, you know that when the CO takes the mic and starts talking, everyone stops and listens. Because he has news. Be it a port added, a port taken away, news of a new inspection, news from home, or announcing that have been tasked with escorting US flagged Kuwaiti tankers therough the Straits of Hormuz (true), if he's talking, it is something worth listening to. So we stop and listen, which also entails, for some strange reason, staring up at the 1MC speaker as he talks.

The CO would announce something, we'd listen, he' d stop talking and we'd go back to work. But with this guy, as we'd all start moving along, he'd pick the announcement back up and we'd all kinda lurch back to a stop and assume the position staring up at another 1MC speaker. Then he'd stop, we'd all start moving along, he'd pick the announcement up yet again, we'd all lurch back to another stop and assume the position staring up at yet another 1MC speaker. And this would happen numerous times. Until, at some point after we had all been staring up at a silent 1MC speaker for a couple of minutes, looking for all the world like curious, stoned lemmings (dungaree clad lemmings at that), we would realize that he was actually finished now and we could carry on.

The CO has a suggestion box.

I am full of suggestions.

So guess what.

I suggested to the CO that, and this is really what I wrote as we were a close knit crew, "when you are making 1MC announcements you should say thank you, or 'out', or something so that we the crew would know the announcement was over and could stop staring up at the 1MC speaker and go back to work". And that was that.

A few days later the CO again came on the 1MC to announce something. We all stopped and listened. And, after a few minutes he unexpectedly spake these words: "Abernathy, that is all."

I broke into a huge smile. Everybody just looked at me and you could see the little cartoon thought bubbles that said What the HECK?? I thought it was a one time payback deal for pointing out the pauses, but for the next couple of months after that, whenever the CO, XO, or Command Master Chief made a 1MC announcement, all across the Long Beach, CA waterfront you could hear it end with, "Abernathy, that is all."

(Go here - see page 3)

USS Bunker Hill used bugles. Tell you about that sometime.

If God wanted us to fly, He would have given us tickets, out
Ramblin' Ed