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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Part 2 of "Early signs of dementia or just too many years of frustration?"

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Refer to part 1 of my earlier post for the link to the actual article these posts are based on. Otherwise ... hey, you kids! Get off of my blog!

"Early sign of dementia #2: Problems with executive functioning

Trouble carrying out basic, familiar tasks can creep up slowly but surely. The person may, for example, have difficulty doing something that involves multiple steps, like following written directions or instructions. A longtime cook may avoid complicated recipes. A hobbyist may simplify the form of his or her craft.

Other hallmark trouble areas: making plans and not following through, whether for a vacation or an activity. Not tracking bills."

So, there you are, minding your own business, trying to carry out your important tasks while dealing with countless interruptions. Who wouldn't finally give up and avoid complicated recipes? What hobbyist hasn't simplified his or her craft with a few well-placed strokes of a hammer? If you're not going to get a moment's peace, you might as well shorten the task and create a few pieces.

Not able to follow through on vacation plans? Surprised? As you cross that century mark, try and count the number of plans you've unable to follow through on. I bet you run out of fingers and toes --- yours and the ones of the people you made plans with --- to make that count.

Not tracking bills? That's probably because you've discovered ... THE SECRET. Here it is for the rest of you. Once a month, place your bills onto the launch pad of a skeet shooter. Just BEFORE you yell "Pull!", fire your gun into the papery pile of perplexing preponderances, THEN yell "Pull!". See?! Nothing to track.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ignore those hidden costs behind the curtain!

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Back in 1998, I built our company's first tester system that used a laser barcode scanner to track production parts. Upper management loved how parts could be quickly traced through the plant. Quality loved it because it eliminated a lot of hand-written notes.

The scanner cost $500 then, which would be about $1,000,000 now (or a little less). Today, I could buy that barcode reader for $150 ... if they would let me. But no. That would go against our new company motto: "You can't make money if you have to spend it."

Not a problem. Last month, we still had to build a tester that would read bar codes. So we did the next best thing. We took an old, obsolete web cam and wrote a program to convert the bar code image into text. TA-DA! As of last week, the investors and upper management are making mo' money, mo' money, mo' money ... as long as you don't count the hundreds of hours we spent developing the system from scratch. Because that's just good business sense not to!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene

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It's official! Sand blowing in your face is painful! At least, that's what EVERY news person standing on the NC beach has reported, repeatedly, for the past hour. Whose says our news stations aren't informative.

Here at my home, I'm seeing torrential outbursts and blustery gust of hot air ... this stuff on C-SPAN is amazing. Oh, and hurricane Irene isn't too bad either. Is it possible that Irene just out-stimulated anything Obama and Congress have tried?

According to my neighbor's radio, the wind is blowing at 55 miles per hour. At least, that's my guess as it and his lawn furniture went flying across my yard.

In any case, I want to send my sincerest sympathies to anyone named Irene right now. Don't worry. The repetitive teasing and jokes should end shortly. On the bright side, at least you weren't named Hurricane.

iRene: the last hurrah for Steve Jobs...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

SEMA 2011

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Once again our sales team is abuzz about the world famous automotive trade show, SEMA. In less than six weeks, they get to fly to Las Vegas and spend four days showing off products that we haven't fully developed yet. Then they return and we'll hear four weeks about the terrible time our sales guys had with late-night parties, eating exotic foods on the company’s dime, and being hit on by beautiful booth babes.

Right now, to prepare for this horrendous ordeal, our sales team is practicing by having countless meetings. These meetings consist of them asking us why complex pop displays and demo systems aren't ready, even though we got a blurry, handwritten sketch just the other day. Several times during this time-sink session, we get to hear, “Oh, by the way, could you add yet another feature / remove a feature / completely redo an entire multifaceted fixture without spending any money or time? That’s a dear, thanks.”

We can't wait for them to leave. If we are lucky this year, the entire team will be kidnapped by a marauding band of senior citizens and sold for spare change. One can only hope.

Fun with the Sales team

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We've done a lot of work with brand name company to set up their touring line of motorcycles with our cruise controls. To get their business, our sales team felt it necessary to sell our intricate cruise systems to this brand-name business at our manufacturing cost. In other words, after two years of sales, we ain't making a plugged nickel on this little venture.

Still, you have to give our sales team a little credit for their strategy. They successfully convinced our upper management that selling our system with $0 profit was a good thing. They promised that, in two years, the brand name company would sell our cruise line as an add-on to their ATV Parts list and we could raise our prices to profitable levels. A lot has changed in two years, just not the ATV venture.

Our sales team received a good bonuses because of that deal. The rest of us put in long, unpaid hours. Only one of Scott Adams' Dilbert cartoon can truly capture the moment:

Early signs of dementia or just too many years of frustration? Part 1

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I've been a little concerned about my memory lapses of late. My mind might not be the most wonderful thing about me, but it helps keep me from wandering naked through the neighborhood. Still, recent times have found me forgetting the names of people I've known for years, as well as those occasional mental train wrecks of thoughts that seem to have mysteriously jumped the track into oblivion.

So I happened to come across an article called "5 Signs of Alzheimer's That Sometimes Show up Before Memory Loss". But as I read them, it seemed that these signs also sounded like the symptoms of people overwork, overstressed, and overtired from accumulated years of work, stress, and weariness.

For example:

Early sign of dementia #1: Personality change

A warm, friendly loved one may seem to morph into a bit of a grouch -- at first occasionally, and then increasingly. A gregarious person still jokes and talks a lot but begins to say inappropriate things or make odd accusations. A mild-mannered loved one begins cursing. All of these are examples of the kinds of personality changes that can predate memory loss in someone with dementia. Often, it's only later that friends and family look back and realize that behaviors they found off-putting or upsetting weren't intentional but related to the Alzheimer's.

Is this Alzheimer's or the result of one too many straws of frustration piling on the back of an otherwise patient camel?

I used to be quite patient and tolerant of inconveniences and costly mistakes that others put me through. Locked your keys in the car for the 20th time? That's ok. Let me drive across three states and help you out. Wipe out my bank account? No problem, it's only money.

Lately, however, I've found my patience running short. Perhaps it is because I'm beginning to realize that I just don't have the time to deal with others' repeated mistakes that they expect me to fix. Suddenly, I seem to have a lot less life than I used to have. (I know everything is getting taxed more but this is ridiculous.) Maybe it's because I'm reflecting on all that I gave up of myself to accommodate the needs and comforts of countless unappreciative people. Aging is such a high price for maturity and right now I want to throw a major temper tantrum. (I would but I would probably end up throwing out my back instead.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hey Y'all, Watch This

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In the annals of famous last words, "Hey y’all, watch this!" ranks right at the top if you live in my neck the woods. The instant we hear this phrase uttered, we’re immediately torn between fleeing for our lives and remaining where we are as the morbid fascination of watching a train wreck consumes us.

My friend walked up to our table in the lunchroom and announced in his slow Southern drawl, "Hey y’all, watch this!" We all instinctively cringed a bit and gave him our reluctant attention. He then showed his arm over the middle of our table and showed us his brand-new watch, a michael kors watch to be exact. His wife had bought him the first piece piece of real jewelry that didn't involve string or plated tin. And being the wise guy that he is, he couldn’t resist the “watch this” phrase.

Great! No one got hurt. Funny. Real funny.

changes

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My friend dated his future bride for 4 years then married her. Now three years later, he's been confiding in me his growing regrets.

" She'll ask about my day but then interrupt me in mid-story to tell me about her own multitude of crisis of the day. She'll ask my thoughts and then begin to criticize them before hearing the entire thought.

It took a few times before I change my behavior. So I've stopped telling her about my day and my thoughts.

Then she began to complain that we don't talk enough. At first, I felt bad. I felt bad until I realize how her complaint wasn't about us not talking enough. It's about my change in behavior. Now I don't spend more time than necessary to listen to her constant nattering.

Tell me again why we got married? I would try to tell her but I'd never get to finish."

I don't know what to say.

Stock up now, Irene!

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There's a hurricane a-comin’. Oh boy! Even though hurricanes are generally a one day event, people around here tend to hit the stores and shop as though the end of the world was about to befall them.

So with Irene three days away, be sure to act now and stock up on the essentials: lots of toilet paper to handle your fear-induced emanations, enough bread to fill a small room as a large, moldy science project in a week’s time, a shiny new bathtub – preferably one of those fancier clawfoot tubs so that you can be tossed about the neighborhood in style by one of those pesky tornadoes – and, the most important item of all, beer.

Of course, the buying beer goes without saying. It also goes very quickly from the store on the slightest mention of weather. Nice sunny day? Need beer. Possible hurricane in a couple of weeks? Need more beer. Slight dampness in the air? By all means, beer … just not that dark heavy stuff. Save that for the thunderstorms.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

changing of the guard

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About six months ago, on one of my other blogs, I mentioned that the board of directors for our company was considering the firing our company president. Today, during a plant wide meeting, our company president told us that he would no longer be running our business. That's right. The Board of Directors fired him into the position of Chairman of the Board.

Our VP of operations has often talked about how he would run things if he were president of the company. However, instead of promoting this ambitious VP, the board hired a new guy from Atlanta, Georgia.

We met our new company president today. He presented himself as a very likable person as he toured the plant yesterday, meeting many of the workers as possible. Today, he spoke about his amazement when he learned how long many of the people have been working here. He said that it was rare to find such commitment and loyalty to a company. He said that when he asked various people why they are still with the company after all these years, they told him that they loved working here. We all gave each other sideways glances and incredulous smiles as we wondered exactly who he spoke with. Especially as we know the response of one assembly worker who has endured 20 years with the company. When he asked why she has been here so long, she replied with, "Because I can't find work with any other company right now." I can tell you that she isn't the only one.

The next few weeks should be very interesting…

Friday, August 19, 2011

hosed

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You know a company meeting has taken a very mature turn when one attendee jumps up and angrily screams at another attendee, "Up your nose with a rubber hose!" Fortunately, our 20-something engineer spoke up and prevented this meeting from becoming an episode of extreme boxing. With youthful confusion on his face, he asked, "Rubber hose? Don't you mean straw?"

Apparently, our young engineer had led a sheltered life. He knew nothing of the sweat hogs and "Welcome Back, Kotter". He didn't even realize that straw doesn't rhyme with nose. He also didn't seem to know about the importance of the almighty rubber hose: it's durability when liberating gasoline from containers, it's life-saving properties when directing water from an overflowing kitchen sink (or toilet, depending upon your emergencies), or its behavior modification features that parents used in a bygone era.

Almost any brand would accomplish its task effectively and efficiently. However, if you mentioned an impressive sounding name like Delafield Corporation rubber hose, there was suddenly an air of mystique and superiority to your task. And, upon accomplishment of your serious undertaking, your peers saw you as the master of their universe.

Unfortunately, none of this seemed to impress our young engineer. So, we called him a baby and return to our less-than-productive meeting. We knew he was part of the team when he responded, "I know you are but what am I?"

Good, Fast, Cheap. Pick any two.

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As a customer, you can have any two of three choices. You can have something made good and fast, but it won't be cheap. You can have the desire of your dreams made quickly and cheap, but the quality won't be there. Or you have a quality-made item done inexpensively, but it won't be done in a hurry.

Those of us in the manufacturing world have to live by this little philosophical gem on a daily basis. Yet, when the customer gets a little power after rising through corporate ranks and becomes your boss, he (or she, in any case anyone feels left out) tends to forget this universal lesson learned during that managerial rise.

Two year ago, my boss wanted a new tester. One that was sophisticated enough to launch a space shuttle, designed and built as soon as possible, and without spending more than a dollar. My team came up with a tester that could test his new solenoid for $20,000 and be built within 12 months. After 9 months of listening to "is it built yet?" "why is it so much?", we had finished his fancy tester that had more features than the original design and cost us $10,000. Of course, we had to scrounge parts from antique systems, such as obsolete data acquisition cards, an old computer cabinet with an even older computer (including an ancient 14 inch monitor). But we did it.

Now he wants another tester --- one that doesn't have obsolete parts in it, for $5000 and ready in 6 months. I asked him if he had ever heard of 'good, fast, cheap' saying. He replied that he had many decades ago. "It still applies," I said. He ended the conversation with "Do you like your job?" I'm beginning to think ... not so much.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Weight for it ...

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I saw a hopefully sign of economic growth in my area as yet another exercise gym opened its doors. Actually, YOU have to open them - large, heavy, steel framed rectangles on stiff pivots that cause you to have an instant workout. Of course, someone is just inside the entrance to immediately charge for using their 'equipment'. That, or to collect your body if you don't make it through their doors of death.

It seems to be a modern place with all of the latest in gadgets and outlandish fads guaranteed to make your wallet thinner. And, if you act now to sign up, you can pick one of two specials: hcg shots for weight loss or nude workout classes.

I understand the "no pain, no gain" mantra. But needles and I have a wonderful working arrangement. They stay away from me and I won't try to shove them through my delicate skin.

As for the other special, I don't know if I could handle a class where its overweight members can only workout in the nude. I'm sure you understand how it make for a great weight regiment. After a few minutes of watching a fat person sweat all over the exercise machine, you've pretty much lost your appetite and anything else on your stomach.

Either way, I'm sure that this gym will be in business for a while. The owners also rented the empty store next to their exercise facility. Judging by the tantalizing aromas coming from inside of that second business, it looks like we have a new, tasty doughnut shop!!!

Today's Post is brought to you by the letter 'P'

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While travel in an Air France plane yesterday, GĂ©rard Depardieu took a moment to relieves himself in aisle way of the aircraft. Instead of asking "Are we there yet?", he must have assumed that he was already in France.  Either that, or he did ask and someone answered with "Oui, Oui."

While no one is certain if Mr. Depardieu had been drinking, passengers described the incident as "robust, with a hint of legs and not as reserved as it should be."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Genius of Hair?

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When I was young and saw pictures of Albert Einstein, I thought that his wild hairstyle and bushy eyebrows were just the nature of being a genius. Through the years, I've met several elderly man who reinforced this youthful notion.

I had to reconsider my earlier standard of genius as my male friends and acquaintances began to acquire eyebrows that would've given Medusa a scare. Given their actions and behavior, genius was not a term to associate with them.

Then it happened! My own eyebrows began to take on a untamed life of their own. I realized that Albert Einstein was a genius who just happened to have wild and crazy hair.

My eyebrows have become so unruly that I'm considering using one of my daughter’s hair straighteners. The only downside is that I would end up the curtain of hair in front of each eye. I suppose I could then braid the long strands into dreadlocks. Or perhaps, weave the long follicles into show time curtains complete with drawstrings that I could tug to look onto the stage of the world.

Of course, I could shave them off completely. No one would know when I was surprised. Nah …

Changing Of The Guard

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For most of this year, there had been quiet whisperings amongst us at work. Some murmuring hopeful, hushed words. Others muttering in slightly louder, bolder sarcastic tones. This time next week, they will know the truth because, last week, I learned about the investors’ fateful decision.

Our company president made a quick visit last week to our plant. Speaking to only a select few, he mentioned how the company's investors had fired him. Next week, there will be a plant wide meeting with an announcement of the change and introduction of the new company president.

I guess our former president knew this was coming so he wasn't too surprised or upset by the news. However, our vice president in charge of operations was extremely upset – he thought that he was in line for this position. But no. The head of the investors already had a friend lined up for this important post.

Next week should be very interesting indeed…

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Staying on the Ball ... or not

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To stay technologically ahead at my job, I try to read a lot of … stuff. Granted, "stuff" isn't the most technological term that I could use. However, it does cover several trade journals and the myriad of high tech, geewhiz type websites that I have to wade through on a daily basis.

The latest automated gadget that caught my attention was one for ping pong tables. You're probably asking yourself, “Why would anybody want to automate that game?” Yet, that's the motivating force behind all gadgets – if you can imagine it, then it's worth the effort, the tears, and the trips to the emergency room to bring it into reality. Most of the time anyways.

So Newgy has mounted a machine at one end of the ping-pong table that fires balls at a preset rate to help you improve your game. Or, perhaps to keep that only child of yours entertained. Or, maybe even to just annoy the cat.

This product begs for modification as well as uses beyond its original purpose. With just a few motors, a couple of sliding rails, and a connection to your computer, you could program this baby to patrol the outside of your house. Any intruder or unwelcome visitor approaches your humble abode, WHAM a ping-pong ball whizzes passed their head at blazing speeds. Well, maybe not 'WHAM'. More like PING. In any case, if you're into extremely nostalgic mood, you could invite that annoying neighbor over and reenact the ping-pong ball scene made famous by Captain Kangaroo and Moose.

Whatever your desires are with ping pong balls, remember that you read it here first.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Depends upon the line you're in

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The news reported that Apple had more money on hand than our US Federal government. But whose surprised at that? When you stand in line at an Apple store, you don't have to worry about getting groped. I'd pay to stand in that line any day ...

shiny, shiny protection

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Contrary to what you may have been told, the phrase "RF ID" does not stand for Red Freckles Indicator. Maybe you already knew that because of the times you had to wrestle RFID tags off of your newly purchased clothes (the size of the hole in the fabric determines who won that match).

Now, these micro-miniature radio frequency tags are making their way into everything just to scream out to the world what it's attached to. If you're in Las Vegas, poker chips are embedded with these little marvels, ready to announce to the gambling establishment (and probably the IRS) how much you won and when.

At the gas station, the gas pump sits ready to listen for your new fangled credit card to broadcast your account number. Unfortunately, thieves also listen for this most private of transmissions. While they don't dress themselves up as a gas pump, they do sit concealed in their electronically equipped vehicle nearby.

There are solutions to protect your rfid credit card. One method that I have wondered about involves wrapping your entire body and wallet in those extremely thin and flexible sheets of aluminum. If a thief then sees you after he realizes that he can't get your vital data, would he say, "Curses, foiled again!"

I'm touched

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To give myself illusion that I'm not aging, I've been camouflaging my hair for the past couple of years with "a touch of gray hair dye for men". Of course, it's obvious that when the Demon of Old-Age sees my unnaturally youthful looking locks, he doesn't pass me by. If that were the case, I wouldn't be this constant target for his liver-spots spitballs.

In any case, for the past couple of years, I haven't looked too bad. I've had just enough gray for that distinguished look – old enough to look like I might know what I'm doing and young enough to look like I won't be retiring anytime soon (very important quality for those job interviews).

This all changed a couple of days ago when I reapplied my anti-aging camouflage. My graying strands of hair weren't just touched, they were body-slammed out of existence. By the time I stepped out of the shower as a final step in this vain process, a dark fur encased my scalp. My hair was so dark, the room dimmed as my blackened follicles sucked all the light out of the surrounding area.

Have you ever had hope in obviously stupid thoughts? Thoughts such as "maybe my ex will be reasonable," or “maybe they will drop my income taxes to only 10%.” As I walked through the main doors of my job, my ludicrous thought was "maybe no one will notice." I soon learned that "notice" was an understatement.