A Twist Of Fate
February, 2010 Entries
"If you don't know where you're going, you might wind up someplace else." - Yogi Berra

Back To Current Blog Entries
Bottom Of Page

(02/28/10 - 11:46 AM)
Greetings all! It is I, Plinky the House Elf!

Master Heath is wandering somewhere in the house, so I thought that I would take this opportunity to discuss with you something that you may not yet be aware of. I know that I certainly wasn't!

Master Heath has been packing his magic television box full of something called 'The Olympics'. Curious, I asked him what this was and why it was so important to him.

After receiving only a soda can thrown at me and a bellow to 'pipe down' from him, I knew that I must research this phenomenon on my own.

So, I snuck in to the office a couple of nights this week and learned what I could about the phenomenon known as 'The Winter Olympics'.

Here is what I have learned, dear readers:

The Winter Olympics were originally begun in 1924 in Chamonix, France because the hockey players and skaters at the Summer Olympics at the time refused to compete in their respective sports in water - rather than on ice - anymore. So, we have the whiney hockey players and skaters to thank for this marvel.

The Winter Olympics are the counterpart to the far more popular, and well world-represented Summer Olympics. The biggest difference is that, apparently, the only God from Mt. Olympus (where the original Olympics were sanctioned) who sanctions the Winter Olympics is Apollo. Someone really ought to tell the media how to spell his name properly, however. And I'm not sure how fair it is that he is competing, either.

So, bucking Zeus, Hera, and a plethora of other Olympian Gods, Apollo decided that he liked it better cold and sanctioned the Winter Olympics as a solo project that, I can only assume, takes up his off-time between wars.

The other Gods seemed to be okay with this, although there is the occasional random smiting of athletes, as we saw this year in the form of poor luge guy, Nodar. What did he ever do to anyone?

But, I digress. Apparently, there were alot of countries who liked the idea of frozen water versus liquid water. Countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, and many other cold-climated countries finally saw a way for them to win something far more illustrious than the sport of water polo.

And so, the Winter Olympics were begun. Any country who chooses to do so may send athletes to compete against one another in pre-prescribed events of skill and prowess. Or curling.

And, because it takes a lot of money to put all those people in one place, in 1992 it was decided that the event would only be held every four years, but alternating from the Summer Olympics. I suspect that it was either to keep Norway from gloating every two years, or to give nations more time to find fitting presents for the IOC, like they did in Salt Lake City. But this is pure hypothesis.

One other point of interest is that there is a glaring bias against the Southern Hemisphere. Not ONCE has a Winter Olympics been held there. Again, I can only surmise that the International Olympic Committee and Apollo do not want to be shown up by African or South American nations on home soil.

All in all, it's just a bunch of people that I've never heard of competing in sports that I've never heard of, in a place that I've never heard of. All for the want of a metal necklace and a photo on a cereal box with said-same.

In summation, I fail to see the draw. But, if it keeps master Heath from screaming at me then I suppose I can weather the time until I can once more record Lifetimes' movie of the week.

Until next time, dear readers!

(02/27/10 - 11:46 AM)
I popped out of the house this morning to pick up some soda.

I got to the store, obtained the soda, and brought it to the cashier.

After the inevitable cursory, meaningless greetings, I asked whether she would prefer the soda left in or out of the cart.

"Leave it out, that's fine," she said.

So, I began unloading the soda onto the counter when she said, "You can leave it out, that's okay" and began circumnavigating the counter.

I was puzzled, but I asked, "Do you mean that you would like the sode left IN the cart, then?"

"Yeah, you can just leave it out, that will be fine."

Moments later, as she's scanning the items still in my cart with her cordless wand, she says, "I meant you could just leave them where they were."

Well, DUH.

I'd hate to hear this woman if her life were in danger, and she were on a 9-1-1 call.

"That's right, I'm someone else, and I'm outside the house that has me trapped inside."

(02/25/10 - 10:33 PM)
I have discovered this week that I actually like watching short-track skating. I think alot of it is the speed, sure, but the remainder is the catering directly to that short-attention-span that we of the sandwich generation were bred to posess. It's fast, it's dangerous, and it doesn't take too long to see who wins (suck on that, Cross-Country Skiing & Nordic Combined.)

(02/22/10 - 10:16 PM)
Wanda and I have been watching a show on DVD called " Worst Week". It was a one-season, shot in the dark featuring Kurtwood Smith. And while it's a bit irritating at times, it's also genuinely funny. I would almost to venture to use the word 'hilarious', as I don't recall ever laughing so hard at a television show as I have with this one.

I can see, on some levels, how this show got cancelled. And yet, I can't help but wonder what would have happened if it had been picked up for a second season.

For those of you out there in Netflix-land, I highly recommend that you get your hands on it. Enjoy the living crap out of what little there is of it, because it's funny as hell.

(02/20/10 - 11:28 AM)
It's been an interesting week at work, to say the least. We've managed to keep super-busy, and I had another 50+ hour week.

I've made a concerted effort to watch all of the Olympics that I have the time and sleeplessness to, and it's proven too much to follow them all. My DVR has wholly bested me.

The highlights of the week were the Canadians finally winning not one - but three - home-turf gold medals for the first time in history.

Go, Canada!

Oh, Canada! Go, Canada! Whoa, Canada!

Shaun White also didn't disappoint, with his near super-human showing in the half-pipe. I don't really even care for snowboarding, but his performance was something that I feel I would have regretted not seeing.

Beyond that, nothing much stellar happened that sticks out.

One more week to go in this round of sixteen days of glory.

(02/19/10 - 9:36 PM)
I had a meeting this morning at Trek Bicycle Corporation in Waterloo, Wisconsin. My meeting was with a very old, family friend (as in long-time, not that he's old - just to clarify). He's one of the engineers there, and is also in management. Further, he's the one who gave our shop our first opportunity to serve their needs, which has since blossomed into a sound relationship with numerous other buyers in the company.

Immediately upon entering, I knew that I was someplace special. The entire design, layout, and scope of the place was something out of a corporate dream.

When my friend finally came to take me inside, we walked through a hall of famous bikes. Lance Armstrong's Tour De France bikes lined the walls, along with his jerseys from each year. These were the REAL bikes - not replicas.

On the opposing wall was the first Mountain Bike ever made, invented by Gary Fischer. It was kind of a sad looking thing, but you could see where he was going, conceptually.

And here it was, right in front of me. The interesting thing was that these bikes could be touched. You could see the wear on them, and see where the dirt and mud had not been removed. It was kind of neat.

Throughout the plant, we saw hundreds and hundreds of bikes. Prototypes, concept bikes, mish-mashes of parts and concepts. All around were highly-intelligent people, doing highly-intelligent things in a workspace that was nothing short of perfection.

I immediately wanted to work there.

As we traveled through the plant, I saw bikes in various stages of completion. From start to finish, I could see the bikes being made from the ground up. And it was actually pretty interesting.

As we made it to the last room, there was a rack with some of the Tour De France bikes for this year's Team RadioShack still to be finish assembled. These two were Lance's bikes, and I touched one with a mixture of child-like whimsy and reverence.

Sorry Lance: I touched your bike.

The hour I spent touring the place felt like a great deal less time. I think this is so because I was actually fascinated with the whole affair.

To those of you working there, you're making something special - enjoy it.

And to my friend Mike (patent-holder, no less) thank you for a truly inspiring morning that I won't soon forget.

(02/18/10 - 6:42 PM)
I walked out into the shop today, and was immediately confronted by Mr. Phillips Screwdriver. His arms were drenched, and he was holding a major-league bottle of peroxide.

"Dude!" I said, "Are you okay?"

Inwardly, I was wondering what kind of shennanigans I had just stumbled upon.

"I can't stand it anymore!" was his sole reply.

"Can't stand what? Are you okay? Did you cut yourself?"

"NO!" he says. At this he lifts his arm to face height, still soaked, and says, "My psoriasis!"

Only then did I see that the entire inner-arm was the affected area, and how gross it looked. I felt bad for the guy, but I questioned the use of peroxide as a remedy. I also questioned why he felt the need to show me the grody arm up-close and personal.

Why did I even ask in the first place?

(02/17/10 - 9:53 PM)

If you look closely, you can also see the Unicorns & Dragons in the distance
This one comes compliments of my wife.

(02/16/10 - 8:16 PM)
I received this in my e-mail today. I have altered nothing but the name bit.

Hi, Mr Alberts: Iam posting my resume of a posaible opening in your s/beloit plant. My resume that highlights my ability/ knnowledge/expertise in shop maintence and repair or CNC machine center. See Attachment. Thank you in advance for your time Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. I would appreciate the opportunty to review my quaifcation in more detail. Sincerly >dude who spelled his own name wrong here<

It even came without line breaks.


(02/15/10 - 10:49 PM)

I think the noises really take this one over the top.

(02/14/10 - 11:32 AM)
Watched the Olympics until bed time last night. The highlight of the evening was the Korean speed-skating upset by... the Koreans?

Yep. They were running 1, 2 & 3, when three hit two, and knocked them out of the medals. A podium sweep - gone. Just like that.

Consequently, the U.S.A. won silver and bronze instead of nothing.

While I feel for them, I can't help but think that they brought it upon themselves. Still, it feels like a hollow victory.

Another nice surprise was women's moguls. I've never watched this sport before, but it was actually pretty interesting all the way to the phenomenal end.

Wanda and I also watched the Sweden vs. Switzerland hockey game. It was kind of lame, because Sweden pretty much dominated for all but ten minutes of the game. Switzerland just looked really disorganized.

With the Olympics on, I don't know how much blogging I'll get done this week. I hate sports, but for some reason I always watch the Olympics.

I know - I make no sense.

(02/13/10 - 9:26 PM)
My brother and his wife hung out for the day and we had a pretty good time. We watched the opening ceremonies last night (total downer) and then while we waited for the DVR to pick up some actual sports this morning, we played Wii Bowling and Super Mario Kart (totally fun.)

When the competitions came on, there was some debate about whether NBC should have shown the last moments of Nodar, the luger.

I was in the 'yes' column, but the rest of our happy throng were solidly on the opposing side. I guess it's a matter of perspective and preference. I like things to be open and understandable, so I always want to see everything that ultimately gets censored. Apparently, I'm in the minority on this one.

(02/12/10 - 5:38 PM)
My brother and his wife are coming over to watch the Olympics and hang out. Hopefully, it will be fun (the Olympics, not the company.)

(02/11/10 - 11:02 PM)
Found me a grey hair today. The only problem was that it was on my head. For years I've looked for the things, on the off chance that there might be one. Don't ask me why, it's just something that I started doing.

And for years, I've had numerous false alarms. Until now, because this baby was so grey it stuck out like Tonya Harding at a Black Panthers rally.

So, I finally got my first one at thirty-five. From what I'm hearing as I freak out about it openly, I'm actually a lot later to the party than a great many of my acquaintences. Somehow, this doesn't make it any less unsettling.

(02/10/10 - 9:53 PM)
I was walking in the nether regions of the shop today when I turned a corner and there he was. Breath like a corpse and itching to annoy... Mr. Phillips Screwdriver.

"Hey! Look at this," he says as I am inevitably sucked into his vortex of mumbled chaos.

At this, he holds out a piece of material that he is working on.

"See that? Feel that! I think this is the wrong material and it's hard."

I sigh. I just cannot help it.

"I'm actually certain that that is the right material," I respond. "And I know it isn't hard, because we just stress-relieved it in a furnace."

You don't need to know what that means. I'm only throwing it in for the sake of continuity.

"Have you checked the inserts in your cutter there, to make certain that none are chipped or mis-seated?", I ask patiently.

To take a step back: A number of tools in our shop are what are known as 'indexable' tools. These are holders specially designed to accomodate from 1-50 specially-made inserts. The inserts themselves are made from carbide and provide the cutting. These can then be changed out when they become dull or broken, so one doesn't need to buy a new tool each time. The inserts themselves run anywhere between $6.00 and $23.00 each, and come in boxes of five or ten. Remember this, as it will be important in a minute.

He mumbles about checking the tool, and I begin to move on because the problem is him and, therefore, I cannot possibly solve it.

"Oh!", he says, just as I am freeing myself of his singularity. "I need some more of this kind, but in an .032" nose radius."

At this he gives me a little red box that has three inserts left in it. I recognize them (sort of) and realize that the box has no ISO nomenclature sticker on it. This is important because there are about a bajillion different combinations of insert styles, rakes, coatings, grades, and on and on. So many, in fact, that the International Standards Organization regulates the nomenclatures. And it's confusing at the best of times. The reason that these numbers are especially important to me is that we use over 130 different varieties of insert in my shop alone. And that's alot.

"Where is the ISO sticker?", I ask.

"Oh," he says, "I always take those off right away, because it's hard to open and close the box with them on."

'LIAR!', I secretly think. It's not hard, you dolt. What in the hell are you talking about?

Outwardly, I say, "Well, I need that so that I know what to order for you."

As I say this, I move my eyes over to his stacks of inserts. And sure as shooting, there's scarcely a sticker among them.


So, now I have to play detective, because something stupid has been done; something that makes no sense.

When we initially purchase inserts, we do so with specific ends in mind. Once they're in circulation, we keep the boxes so that - when they're empty - we can simply replace from stock or re-order with ease. We call it 'not re-inventing the wheel' (clever, I know.)

Eventually, I figured out what he needed, but how ridiculous was that?

(02/06/10 - 2:53 PM)
Actually went to work this morning (I know - I'm even more surprised than you should be.)

We've been slammed at work of late (yay!), and even my 47 hours were no match for the week at hand.

Even more shocking, I found NINE quotations in my e-mail that I decided to tackle before Monday. They were all from Saturday, and those have been nearly as rare as a Triceratops of late. Especially en masse like this.

C'mon economy - keep it coming.

(02/05/10 - 11:21 PM)
Finally finished Terry Pratchett's latest work, "Unseen Academicals".

This book boldly goes where some of his others have gone before by introducing yet another race to the melting pot of The Discworld (I won't spoil it for you.)

The book does advance the over-arching storyline, somewhat, but it felt more like an aside/distraction than a spot-on gem.

Which isn't bad. Most Pratchett books are great (and a few are stinkers - don't get me wrong) but, on the whole, this one was enjoyable.

I'm expecting a repeat of some of his masterworks in the near term. C'mon Terry - I know you have it in you!

(02/04/10 - 10:06 PM)
Got a call from an old friend of mine at Trek Bicycle in Waterloo, Wisconsin today.

We talked shop for a minute or two, but then he said:

"Hey, I wanted to tell you. Those parts that you just finished and shipped up here? They're for Lance Armstrong & Team Radio Shack for the Tour De France bikes."

Reeeeeeally?, I thought.

"Really?", I said.

"Yep. The bikes are too light, the way we make them, so we have to add those to the lower tubes to get the weight up to race specifications."


(02/03/10 - 9:28 PM)
Discovered a new band called "The Paper Raincoat" and they're just amazing.

According to the extremely helpful reviewer 'KarenS' of Amazon.com:

"The Paper Raincoat is a musical collaboration between Alex Wong and Amber Rubarth. Alex has more than cut his teeth in the industry with a degree in music, a production company, and his former band, The Animators. Amber is an established singer/songwriter among indie circles. She just finished a tour with Joshua Radin. Together, the duo has found something special: Alex's voice isn't necessarily timbre, but it provides depth to Amber's sharper pronunciations. While he lays a rounder foundation, Amber complements with edge and texture. And that's just the vocals.

Based in Brooklyn, The Paper Raincoat uses New York as the muse for their first full-length album, exploring its vast terrain, both physical and visceral. Although New York's inspiration is nothing new to the music world, Alex and Amber match the city's restless, diverse culture with an engaging set of songs.

"Right Angles" is the perfect introduction to the pair's folktronic sound. A stringed arrangement teases you in, playing to a classical palate before it explodes into a snowstorm of notes and beats. The melody keeps a steady tempo as the listener tunes in to a layered accompaniment of piano, strings, and drums. It's an upbeat track that races to the final note, weaving throughout New York to get there.

A fan favorite, "Sympathetic Vibrations" debuted with The Paper Raincoat's EP in 2008. This second track puts a spring in your step, a smile on your face. Amber's 'oh oh's' embrace New York's idiosyncratic landscape and the caricatures that inhabit it.

"Rewind" is quirky and smart, a self-reflexive a capella about a musician's recording process. An odd subject matter for a song, but Amber spins out a brilliant anecdote and, of course, the lyrics become larger metaphors for life. "Rewind" also testifies to The Paper Raincoat's production savvy. The track falls right in the middle of the album, providing a breath of fresh air from the confetti of instruments in tracks that proceed and follow. The only thing better than the album's "Rewind" is seeing it performed live.

Alternative taste buds would love "Brooklyn Blurs", a documentary about late-night bike rides and soul searching in the city. Its composition and lyrics are subtle but effective. Its imagery comes from songwriting at its best:

"Between mistakes and new beginnings
This city swells up like a symphony
I disappear in those bodies of motion
And a comforting wave washes over me"

It is perhaps the most visceral of all the tracks in the album. Indeed, one experiences this song best when listened without pretense. Like that comforting wave, simply let Alex's warm and earnest voice wash over you.

Between these tracks is the ballad of "Don't Be Afraid", a familiar message, but one that still hits close-to-home given Alex's soft reminders. Don't cross the song off as cliché.

If "Sympathetic Vibrations" makes you tap your foot, "January" will put you in full swing and dance. An infectious bass beat strums out the color and noise of New Year's Eve - sleek black attire, flowing champagne, tinsel and cheer. A tambourine reminds one of sleigh bells and the bite of winter, the setting for this holiday story. A trombone melody further elicits nostalgia of Christmas parties past, of excitement and hope in new beginnings.

The rest of the album, particularly "It All Depends", is a party thrown by Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, and The Postal Service (and maybe a cameo by Nada Surf). Indeed, The Paper Raincoat employs an array of instruments, ideas, and influences. That said, the album is varied but never aimless. Instead, it crosses multiple platforms because of skill and musical maturity. It is distinctly born of New York blood, but still universal. This journey through New York is well worth it."

I couldn't have said it better if I had tried. The only thing I might add is that Amber's voice, at times, is somehow reminiscent of Mama Cass, without the power but with all the crispness. If you hear it, you'll know what I mean. And for me, "Sympathetic Vibrations" is where you should start. That's what sealed the deal for me.

(02/02/10 - 10:36 PM)
Where I work, our final inspection/shipping area is divided right in the middle by a large granite plate. This plate is precisely flat, so that it may be used in conjunction with measuring instruments to final-inspect things. This is my home away from home in the mornings, as I've been performing my 'short-term' job of Quality Control since we lost our last inspector in 1999.

To the left, the completed and ready-to-ship items are placed by me, when I deem them suitable to ship and free of defect. To the right is where my employees bring their finished components for final inspection and approval to ship.

The counter itself is about three-feet deep, and over sixteen feet long. So, with the real-estate taken up by the granite plate, this affords about 6 1/2 feet of remaining space on either side.

Mr. Phillips Screwdriver apparently needs space. Lots of it.

Here's what I mean:

On my side of the counter, I begin my morning by clearing space in one way or another. I either move on the easy stuff, or I manipulate the inevitable mess that's been left for me into an orderly fashion that makes sense to me.

Over the last few weeks, I have noticed a strange pattern, and on several recent occasions I have caught the culprit red-handed.

For, you see, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver has exhibited a brand-new quirk! What he will do is this:

He will approach a counter that has two items on it. The items are 8 1/2" x 11", as the blueprints are folded to fit into a protective, plastic sleeve that is 9" x 11 1/2". The components are then placed on top, to conserve space. So, we can safely say that of the roughly 19 1/2 square feet of available counter space, 2 square feet are accounted for at this point.

What I have actually seen Mr. Phillips Screwdriver do - on three occasions, thus far, is bring up a new item. But rather than placing it within the confines of the copious amount of open area, he elects to jam it right into one (or sometimes more) of the existing ones. This pushes the items all over, overlapping them, and sometimes knocking things over.

Why, oh WHY!?

I have also witnessed him bring something up and, seeing the counter half-full, he will simply place his items in a pile on top of the EXISTING ones, rather than placing them on the empty counter.

Dude, SERIOUSLY? What is your malfunction?

What makes this even worse is that about three to four months ago, he began leaving his blueprints out of their protective sleeves when bringing items up choosing to, instead, put the oily/greasy/dirty components coming off his machine on top of the blueprint, which is then placed atop the sleeve.

What the hell, man?

* Top Of Page

* Back To Current Blog Entries

* January, 2010 Entries
* December, 2009 Entries
* November, 2009 Entries
* October, 2009 Entries
* September, 2009 Entries
* August, 2009 Entries
* July, 2009 Entries
* June, 2009 Entries
* May, 2009 Entries
* April, 2009 Entries
* March, 2009 Entries
* February, 2009 Entries
* January, 2009 Entries
* December, 2008 Entries
* November, 2008 Entries
* October, 2008 Entries
* September, 2008 Entries
* August, 2008 Entries
* July, 2008 Entries
* June, 2008 Entries
* May, 2008 Entries
* April, 2008 Entries
* March, 2008 Entries
* February, 2008 Entries
* January, 2008 Entries
* December, 2007 Entries
* November, 2007 Entries
* October, 2007 Entries
* September, 2007 Entries
* August, 2007 Entries
* July, 2007 Entries
* June, 2007 Entries
* May, 2007 Entries
* April, 2007 Entries
* March, 2007 Entries
* February, 2007 Entries
* January, 2007 Entries
* September, 2006 Entries
* August, 2006 Entries
* The Plinky Page
* Paper or Plastic: The Cashier Chronicles
* The Mr. Phillips Screwdriver Chronicles