Bruce is Retiring!

One of my coworkers, Bruce Lansciardi, is at work for his final day today.  He has been with the company for 15 years.

When I first hired in I was almost immediately working with him, albeit somewhat indirectly.  He was managing the high-speed stamping press products that I was counting, packaging, and delivering every day.  A few years later I was promoted to actually running the press full-time, and then worked directly with him.  You couldn't ask for a better guy to be teamed with.  Knowledgeable in seemingly endless areas, he was also funny and easy to get along with.  He taught me a lot about that press and the associated tooling we had to dissect and repair almost daily.

He has been involved with what seems like every facet of the shop in one way or another.  Upgrades?  Sure, he ran electrical cables, ducting, wiring, carpentry, plumbing, lighting--you name it.  He wasn't afraid or intimidated by voltage either--he was into everything from 440-volt AC on down to batteries.  He installed new equipment of every kind as well.  Repairs?  Very few things were out of his league.  Vehicles, giant presses--it didn't matter.  I have seen him working with everything from huge to tiny.  If he could open it up he'd figure out how to fix it.  He might be up on a ladder cutting tree limbs one day and running ethernet cable the next.  He has had tools and toolboxes scattered all over the shop.  I believe he really doesn't know all of the tools he owns that might still be around the company here or there.

It's really going to be strange around there without him.  We will undoubtedly falter occasionally and wish he was still there to prop us up.

In honor of Bruce's retirement, I thought I'd throw a few rhymes up on the wall:

A Tribute to Bruce

A lot of things have been repaired:
Machinery, pipes, and wiring,
but after years of working hard
Lansciardi is retiring.

He has been our "go-to" guy
when things at work would die.
It seemed he could fix anything.
If not, he still would try.

It didn't matter if he was clean
he'd jump right into messes.
He'd clear a plugged-up toilet
or work on oily presses.

Installations and upgrades
were also things he'd do.
No matter how complex they'd seem
He could see them through.

He taught a lot of people things
that they had never known.
He was a patient teacher too,
and taught without a groan.

We always knew when he was near--
his whistle could be heard.
That's how he announced himself
without a single word.

Many times he worked so hard
and he was stretched so thin
he needed clones to help him finish
so his next job could begin.

I'm sure that there are things at work
he'd just as soon forget,
but he'll miss things too--I'm sure of that
but won't too soon I'll bet.

There is one thing that might be good
about Bruce leaving us,
and that's the blame game we can pull
whenever we get cussed.

I can hear it now--just wait:
"Who didn't get this done?"
We'll be able to point a finger
"It was Bruce--Yep, he's the one."

It's time that he slowed down a bit
and treasured things in life;
He'll get to count his blessings
and spend time with his wife.

It will be weird after he leaves
on that you can rely,
but he has worked his years;
it's time to say goodbye.

Rick Williams

At least the internet provides us all ways to stay in touch with someone when they retire.  It doesn't matter how far they go--they're just a few clicks away.

Good luck, Bruce.  May your future be filled with nothing but the good things you've worked your whole life to achieve!

No Wonder

Anyone that follows me here on this meaningless blog knows that I usually pick up a sixer of some kind of "special" beer every Friday.  I have been doing that for years.  Sure, I occasionally skip a Friday for whatever reason, but it's just something to signal the onset of the weekend I guess.  I dunno.

My requirements for my Friday selection are not high at all.  Actually there is only one real requirement: A glass bottle.  Because I drink plain ol' canned light beer most of the time (usually some sort of mass-produced fizzy crap from the Anheuser-Busch company) I like to remind myself that my taste buds do still in fact operate and I have not been using them.

One of my favorite brands of beer has been Pete's Wicked Ale. I don't know when I first discovered it.  They only had a few flavors in their brewery but I liked them all.  While sometimes I will buy some sort of brew that I haven't tried (or just don't remember it), I sometimes look forward to a particular variety of beer.  Pete's Wicked Strawberry Blonde has been the object of my quest for a while now, and with no success.  Now I know why.

They're gone.

As happens so often in today's corporate world, the brand is sold, the brand is monitored by the suits, the brand is deemed not performing to their satisfaction, and the brand is killed off.

I did some digging around on the web and found the story that explained it all.

No more Pete's Strawberry Blonde.  No more Pete's Wanderlust Cream Ale.  No more Pete's anything.

I hope you had a chance to taste one of them while they existed... They were truly unique.

Nice Weekend!

This weekend was the perfect ending to an overtime-filled work week.  I ended up sitting at our brazing station at work all day long for four of the five weekdays, tediously brazing stainless steel discs onto stainless steel rods.  Those days I stayed overtime to try to pick up the accumulation of my regular duties while I was away from my desk.  All told, I brazed a tad bit over 600 of them.  Whew.  We recently lost one of the few guys that did that job, and it is one of the many "hats" I wear at work.  It will be nice when (or if) they finally find or train a suitable replacement.  While I love the overtime paychecks, I hate the overtime itself.

The Harley has been apart for a couple of weeks.  Multiple systems were torn down at one time, making the bike look more like I was doing a complete overhaul of it.  While it's still up on its jack, it's basically finished after I do a few final tweaks and adjustments, and take care of a few little details.  During the process, it received a complete carburetor cleaning and rebuild, a new starter ($), a new battery ($), oil & filter change, primary oil change (it had be completely torn open for the starter change anyway), drive belt adjustment, fixed a spot where the throttle cable was trying its best to rub through one of the gas tanks, replaced a couple of burned out light bulbs in the dash panel, and a few other little things.

The starter was an easy purchase (good ol' internet), but it involved a lot of disassembly to get to it.  Very much a labor-intensive repair.  When I put it in and tested it, it worked much better than the old one did, but was still obviously lacking in something, and that something was battery juice.  I bought a new battery a few years ago, but it was a "non-Harley" battery, and while it worked fine when I installed it, it never fit exactly right, nor did it have the kick that it should have.  Trouble is, you don't notice it when you're going from a completely dead and useless battery to a brand new one.  You just thank your lucky stars that your bike starts once again like its supposed to.  Saturday found me in a Harley "stealership" plunking down $140 bucks for a new one.  When I installed that battery (which obviously fit like it was supposed to by the way) and hit the starter button I was amazed.  The bike has never turned over that fast as long as I've owned it!  I also tracked down suitable replacements for the Harley oil filters at NAPA a store.  Harley gets almost $20 bucks for an oil filter.  NAPA = $5.  It was funny when I was at the Harley dealer and was once again reminded of the rider demographic.  Being a beautiful sunny Saturday, it was filled with bikes.  Everywhere you looked you saw the "bikers" milling around in their perfect leather garb with no road grime anywhere on any of them, perfectly put together in every way, holding their cups of trendy coffee from the latte' stand inside the dealership.  They were there to see and be seen.  I know I've blogged all this before, but I have to wonder how many of them use this Saturday ritual ride to the dealership as their sole reason to own a Harley.  Anyway, Saturday was spent working at a nice, easy pace on the Harley.  It was nice weather even if I did just "waste" it in the confines of my garage.

Yesterday morning while Sue was at her JW meeting I loaded up our canoe.  I built a couple of supports for it to sit on in the back of the truck and also drilled and mounted some anchors in the truck for tie-downs to attach to.  When she got home it was loaded and ready.  We recently found out about Rattlesnake Lake, near North Bend, and that's where we headed.  It was beautiful!  With temps in the upper 80's, we floated and paddled lazily at least three times around the lake.  It was quiet (no boats with motors), just a gentle breeze, and even the water temp was nice.  We enjoyed it immensely.  We even got to watch a falcon or hawk of some kind dive-bomb the water with a splash and carry a fish away!  I found this interesting article about it that you might want to read too.  I love learning the history of places we visit--whether you can see any sign of it or not.

It was a nice day.  We're definitely going back to that lake.  It's close enough, and we liked everything about it.

Going Extinct: Phone Booths and Pay Phones

All thing eventually come to an end.  Some things obviously take longer than others.

Sometimes it's the technology in an item and not the item itself that goes by the wayside.  Cars, for example, have been around for a long time and are still going strong.  Steam cars?  Nada.  Recorded music is still going strong and has seen various formats come and go.  CD's are going strong.  Cassette tapes?  Nada.

Take the telephone.  The basic telephone has existed in our country (and the world for that matter) for over a hundred years, and during most of that time there has been little or no noticeable changes.  Sure, they used to be so basic you had to get an operator to do all the work.  Then they had dials and we did the work, but they were still your basic analog device.  Then we got push buttons.  Still the same otherwise.

Telephone numbers had to keep up with the times too.  They originally only had a few digits, then they added the local prefix code, then the area code.  Who knows what the phone numbers of the future may look like.  Remember the cool-sounding phone number prefixes we used to have?  They always started out with names.  Ours was Temple-3, also known as TE-3, and later 833. There we many others, like Waverly-7, and Sunset-4.  The picture on the right is of the front of a Seattle phone book from 1958, the year they adopted the 7-digit numbering system.  I left it big enough to read if you click it.

Now cell phones have taken over.  Nobody seems to care that cell phones are actually 2-way radios.  What cell phones have done is eliminate the desire or need for most people to have hard-wired phones in their homes.  It doesn't matter that your cell phone rings at the least opportune moment--like when you're sitting on the toilet.  It also doesn't matter that a land-line phone will work even when there is no power anywhere in your city because they are powered through their wires.  None of that matters.  It's convenience that matters.  It's not uncommon for someone that has no job, living on welfare and food stamps, to be seen pushing a stroller along the sidewalk while talking on their $50-per-month cellphone.  They have truly covered the globe.

Although it's happening slowly we are coming to the end of another icon in the history of our country:  We're witnessing the end of the pay phone.

I mentioned it to Suzie some time ago, and she suggested I take the opportunity to start taking pictures of any phone booths I see, and maybe start a blog with them or something.  Well, when I started looking around I realized that I was basically already too late.  The majority of the standalone booths are gone.  I believe I know of one of them still in existence in the whole town of Auburn.  I guess there is just no need for them any longer.  They take up space and are targets for vandalism and garbage.  Someday kids will be watching old Superman shows and wonder why they had those funny glass closets on the sidewalks for people to change clothes in.  Although you can still find naked, wall-mounted pay phones in places like on the outside of a convenience store or in a shopping mall or airport, they are going away as well.

There has always been one at work hanging on the wall in the hallway that leads to the the employee washroom.  A naked, "$1.00 for anywhere in the country for 1 minute" pay phone sitting all by itself.  I really don't remember the last time I saw anyone actually using it, but I'm pretty sure it had been a couple years or longer.   I remember looking at it a few times, wondering if I should go ahead and take a picture of it in case I do decide to start blogging pay phones.  One day I noticed it had a cool-looking spider web on it and I was just about to snap a picture of it for effect.  I went around the corner and there was a guy cleaning it.  Dang.  Well, the day before yesterday I finally took a picture:

As you can see, I missed it.  I guess they left the phone books there to pay homage to the recently departed.

Maybe I'll just capture the essence of the forgotten phone numbers in pictures like this site has.  It's exploration, it's photography, and it's retro.  I like retro.

Putting Up with Dad

There is a recent change in my attitude towards my dad.  In recent years I've tried my best to avoid him whenever possible.  Every time I interacted with him it wasn't a matter of if he would irritate me but how soon he would irritate me.  It was just a given that I would be irritated at something he said or did while I was there.  I found him annoying and hard to deal with.  When I did have a visit where everything went well I would be somewhat amazed and glad, calling it a success.

He has never stopped being the "father" of the family.  He has either not noticed that his children have grown up or he just can't accept that they have.  It's never been possible for any of us to know more about something than he does.  If you ever challenged him it just angered him.  He was not able to hold an educated, constructive, one-on-one conversation with any of us because we were not equal.  We were just his kids and he was the authority.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was the main source of my irritation with him.  None of us kids ever really know what's going on with him.  The only one that is allowed into the inner workings of my dad is mom.  She is the only one he trusts.

Another source of irritation with him is the fact that he was never listening to what you told him.  He would ask questions, but really never cared what the answer was unless it was yes or no.  If it was a long answer (also known as a sentence or paragraph to most people) he would usually only hear one word here and there.  At that point you would find yourself constantly interrupted by him asking about something that he only heard part of.  My theory is (and I've pretty much confirmed it) that he just can't pay attention to that much at a time.  His ability to concentrate or pay attention is extremely limited these days.

The thing about him that made me wince the most during family functions or visits was probably the limited scope of his stories.  He repeats his stories incessantly.  I have thought about that too, and realized that everybody does that.  After all, it's really hard to remember who you told what to unless you've got a photographic memory.  Most people are constantly adding to their stories and experiences.  As their lives go on they interact with more people and have more events and experiences to add to their lives.  My dad, on the other hand, has not done that.  His life is one of very limited interaction with the outside world.  The few friends he has ever had are the only ones he ever will have.  That's why all his stories involve the same people and same events of his past.  It's like his memory is one big "greatest hits" recording.  His interaction with the "outside world" came to a stop several years ago when he stopped working.  To this day I'm not sure why he did so.  I'm sure my mom would be able to fill me in on things like this but I haven't had the chance to ask her yet.  I think he just stopped being able to deal with people he didn't know.  As a kid I remember learning that he had a fear of crowds.  When he would find himself in a thick jumble of people that one might experience at a ball game or a car show he would get nervous and feel faint.  Maybe those sort of feelings just got worse as he got older.  The fact that he repeats stories is partly because he has had no new stories and partly because he can't remember that he has told them already.  We--his children--have been around him for half a century so it just stands to reason that we would have heard them all countless times just through association.

Mom and I used to occasionally go to the Flapper Alley Tavern in Auburn and talk about stuff over drinks.  She told me during one of those visits about how his parents didn't want him so he was raised by his grandparents instead, and when his grandma died when he was 12 it basically rendered his entire adolescence a shattered mess.   She also shared that he always had a desire or a need to feel important, and a need to "be" somebody--possibly a direct result of his fractured childhood.  That's probably why he chose to go by R.D. (his first two initials) while in the working world.  I guess he never "belonged" enough for anyone to give him a nickname so he gave himself one.

It dawned on me one day recently that he is but a fraction of his former self.  It sneaks up on you in little bits until it's obvious enough to be noticed.  He has trouble remembering anything any more.  He has trouble even getting complete sentences out without getting a little tongue-tied.  Mom pretty much does everything for him.  I used to kind of shake my head at that fact--wondering why she catered to him so much.  I thought, "Why doesn't she let him cut up his own food" and stuff like that.  Now I'm pretty convinced that the reason is that he simply can't.  She gives him little tasks to do so he can still be an active participant in life, but he really is slipping fast.

Now I find myself listening to his often-repeated stories with a different attitude.  I'm forcing myself to be interested in his stories, because after all--he is interested in telling them.  Who knows when they may come to a complete stop.  He still has pride, and he's still every bit as stubborn as he ever was.

His days now consist of watching TV and guarding his castle.  They live right near the Auburn High School and the public swimming pool, so traffic can get heavy at times.  He sits on his porch and watches over his kingdom--making damn sure that nobody dares park anywhere near his driveway.  He also keeps a close eye on his alley--making sure someone doesn't try to park there either.  I know I've made fun of him countless times for his tactics.  I call him the 'parking gestapo' because of his love of it.  However misguided such actions may be, it makes him feel important and it keeps him moving.

I used to be alarmed when someone might tell me I'm doing something my dad would do.  If I was inadvertently showing one of his mannerisms or something I would go, "Whoa..." and try to make it a conscious effort to never do it again.  I've decided it's inevitable.  I can try to minimize the undesirable things I guess, but hey--I wouldn't be offspring if there wasn't part of him in me now would I?

The bottom line:  My dad won't be around much longer.  I'll try to minimize making fun of stuff he does and keep it on a good-natured level.  No more challenging him during "conversations" we might have.  Let him take the lead.  I'll try to do whatever it takes to make our interactions enjoyable.

You know--I'm only 17 years younger than he is.  It won't be long before Sarah will be writing stuff like this about me.

Summer, Schmummer

It just occurred to me that our summer is almost gone.  It's nobody's fault but our own though.  It's not like it just happened.  It's not the weather's fault that our summer is gone either.

It's our own.

We were so busy bitching about the lack of weather that we just kept going on and on with that 'maybe this weekend' mentality.  I'm just as guilty as anyone else.

"Maybe this weekend we'll finally see some summer."  As we were saying that the week whizzed right on by.  We weren't noticing what we did have... We were just hoping for something we didn't have.  It was the proverbial dangling carrot, but one we weren't even guaranteed that we'd get in the first place.

"It's supposed to be nice this Saturday."  After we uttered those words we turned off everything except the weekend countdown.

Well you know what?  What we did have was nice weather.  Sure, it was colder than we would have liked it.  Although it was far from hot weather, it was weather you could get out and do almost anything in and still enjoy yourself.  It was weather you could get things done in.  It was weather that millions of people in other parts of the U.S. would have given up their firstborn child for.  Maybe even the second.

This is the exact same reason I have made it a personal point to not ever do a "Friday countdown" during my work week.  Every Friday is the same so why look forward to it?  Before you know it you'll be old, wrinkled, and wonder why the hell you spent your life with your workweek blinders on and could care less about anything except the end of the week.  You know what you are doing when you do that?  You're effectively trading five days of your life away for two.  On top of that if something didn't go 'just right' during your weekend you were in a surly mood the whole week while you started the whole process over.

We need to stop counting and look around.  Life is speeding up.  If we take advantage of what we do have we might be able to slow the clock down a spell.

Who knows--Next summer we might get 3 solid months of 95+ temperatures and we'll be bitching the opposite direction.

The Week in Review

Still we seem to be plagued with a summer that can't quite pull itself up onto the level it's supposed to be residing at.  Time and time again we get a nice day or two followed by more weather that it unseasonably closer to April than August.  During this month I should be getting up in the morning and walking around the house shutting windows before the heat of the day gets a chance to wipe away the coolness that came into the house with nighttime.  Not so.  It was 59.6 degrees outside at 7:30 in the morning on August 7th.

That's just not right.

I did get to blow the dust off the Harley this week--figuratively and literally.  It's been neglected.  I've already explained that my heart just wasn't in it way back in my April 18th post.  I still kind of feel that way.  Anyway, I rode it to work twice this week and it's apparent that it needs some work.  The starter is the main thing.  It's been acting up for a long time in one form or another.  I've suspected for some time that it's the culprit for the times that it just doesn't seem to want to turn over as well as it should instead of the battery.  The last several years have brought more and more times when it will "kick out" while it's turning over whenever the engine almost starts.  Now it's to the point where I have to keep clicking the start button over and over just to get it to hopefully engage.  It wants to just spin without engaging.  Like a lot of motorcycles, they're not easy to replace.  Also expensive.  I also had an episode with it gushing gas when I tried to start it because I left the fuel tank petcock on all day while at work.  That was a mess.  I've had the repair parts for that in my toolbox for a few years now but have procrastinated like I usually do.  You know how it is--It starts?  Ride it!  It did feel good to ride it both days I rode it this week though.

Yesterday was interesting.  We got to play dress-up.  It's time for the annual Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire, this time held on a sprawling farm in Bonney Lake.  Many of you may remember our wedding had a medieval theme to it.  Well, my parents surprised us with the level of their costumes for that event, and it occurred to me this last week that they might like to dress up and go with us to the Renaissance Faire this year.  I stopped by and invited them one day this week and they seemed okay with the idea.  Dad, of course, is never excited about anything, but mom seemed genuinely interested in going.  I told them how they had such awesome costumes that it would be a shame to not get out and wear them again.  Well, mom called yesterday morning as we were getting ready and said that dad wouldn't be going.  "He doesn't do well with walking very much and he's afraid he wouldn't be able to do it." she explained.  That opened up a seat in the car so we took Keith along.  He has some great stuff he puts together when he does a Renaissance event!  We invited Sarah to go too, but she opted instead to attend an art event in Auburn.

It was a great day for the Renaissance Faire.  Although I bitch (and so does everyone else) about our lack of August weather, that lack worked out well for us yesterday.  It was plenty warm but not hot.  It was probably about mid-70's and cloudy, so even the lack of sun was in our favor because it made for less eye-squinting at everything because it wasn't as brightly lit.  We did a lot of walking around of course, because that's essentially what you do.  You go to see and be seen.  It's full of pirates, knights, fairies, musicians, peasants, and all manner of dress.  There lots of activities to watch too.  You might find a group of pirates singing pub songs, someone playing bagpipes, cannons being shot, mock battles, and all sorts of things.  There are also lots of kid-safe things to take part in as well.  Mom was having a great time people-watching.  She said she got complimented twice by people for something she was wearing.  We sat and watched a horsemanship show put on by Cavallo Equestrian Arts.  They apparently do several shows, but the one we watched was called Ma'Ceo.  I didn't get as many pictures as I probably should have.  I was just getting into my groove as we were leaving I think.  This was the first year they had it at that location and it was much better than the previous one.  Sue and Keith both remember the place they used to have it several years ago--back before I ever went.  It had forested land and a babbling brook and all kinds of stuff.  Because they loved that location so much they can't help but compare all the others with it.  I have a different view.  To me they have went from good to better.

We dropped mom off and dad was sitting on his front porch where he was when we picked her up.  He has a tremendous amount of separation anxiety when she's away from him.  He gets all nervous and fidgety and acts mad that she was away for so long.  I guess that's understandable because he has depended on her to be with him every moment of every day.  For that very reason it was good--she needed to get away.

Rediscovered "Wealth"

It was one of those times when you "find" money.  But not quite.

Most of us have been through one of those kind of situations where you find money that wasn't really lost.  stuff like:  You're pulling clothes out of the dryer and you find coins in the bottom.  You pull out your winter coat and wear it for the first time in the fall and find money in one of the pockets.  That kinda stuff.  Not the situation where you do actually find money--like laying in a parking lot or something.

In this case, I knew the money was there--It just wasn't quite spendable.  It was foreign.

Sue and I were talking about travel and this time were on the subject of Italy.  Then we got onto the subject of money.  Then I mentioned that I thought I had some Italian Lira still around somewhere, at least one item of which was in the form of a Gettone coin, which are the strange coins that the Italian phone booths took when I was there in the 70's.  The phone booth coin slots had a shape that required these special coins to operate.  I went to the safe and pulled out a big envelope that I had in there with foreign currency in it.  No Gettone coin, but I did find one piece of Italian Lira paper money.

That really wasn't where this post was going though.  I was just setting up the story.

Inside that envelope I also found a bunch of Turkish Lira.  I counted out the pretty paper notes and had 950 Lira total.  I remember thinking that when I left Turkey I still had this in my wallet and never did get around to exchanging it.  I think it was somewhere around $30 bucks worth at the time.  Anyway, I popped up my currency exchange app on my iPod and entered my 950 under the Turkish Lira.

Whoa... $558!  That was considerably more than it was worth back in the 70's!

Briefly, we discussed how cool that was, what I might do with it, where to exchange it, etc.  Then I noticed something:

The exchange said new Turkish Lira.  Hmm.

I was holding in my hand, old Turkish Lira.  It had been replaced in 2005 by new Turkish Lira.  Apparently their currency had been in constant decline for so long that it was worth less and less as time went on.  When they replaced the old with the new, they did it out of convenience so people didn't have to carry an inch-thick wad of money to the corner store to buy a loaf of bread.  The new Lira was the same as the old Lira, but they had dropped 6 zeroes off of it!

So what is my 950 Lira worth?  If I'm doing the math right... It's worth approximately .0006 dollars.

Like I said:  Easy come, easy go.