30th Anniversary Trip

26 12 2011

I know you are all anxious to read about our trip, especially on how Rhonda was rescued by a nude Hawaiian, but you will have to wait until after the new year, I’m still working on it, among my many projects this holiday season. But I promise it will be worth waiting for.  Merry Christmas to all and a prosperous New Year.

 

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Lowering of Standards “Good Enough” is too acceptable –

6 04 2011

My Saturdays as a kid was spent helping Dad with whatever project he had planned that weekend. This included everything from building a privacy fence to building a three car garage. My Dad was the son of a German carpenter who taught him that everything built must be plumb and square; and if it wasn’t, take it apart and did it again until it was plumb and square. There was no “good enough”, it was good or it was not. I experienced the German craftsman mentality again as a young second lieutenant. My first duty assignment as a young engineer officer was at a Corps of Engineers project office in Kaiserslautern Germany. This was before “the Wall” came down. There was a West Germany, instead of just Germany. In West Germany craftsmanship was highly regarded, to be a Master Craftsman was a title you earned through experience and extensive training. During my third year in Germany, one of the projects that was assigned to me was the close out of a relatively simple contract. The project involved the replacement of about a hundred military housing apartment front doors. A local German carpenter had been awarded the contract for the project and when he had finished the job I was assigned to conduct the final inspection. As we proceeded through the final inspection, we would stop at a door; observe the new door in its new frame and with its mitered molding around the door opening. Everything there, door opens and closes perfectly, check one done. Not a lot to check, pretty tedious, but we went door to door; checking and marking them complete on the list of doors to be done. Until as we approached one door, the German carpenter turns to me and says, “This one is not ready”; I look at the door its appears to be perfectly fine, I open and close it, its movement is as smooth as all the previous doors, I turn to him and say, “No its fine”. He shakes his head and points to the mitered edge on the top right side of the door frame. I see there is a tiny gap in the mitered edge, the gap is so small you might be able to slip a thin dime in the gap, again I tell the Carpenter, “That’s OK”. He again shakes his head “No”, and tells me, “This is unacceptable, this is my work, everyone knows I did this work, my reputation is based on my work, and if I was to allow this to stay like this every German that sees it would know I do sloppy work and would never hire me for another job.” He then came back and completely re-did that door and when he was done it was perfect, like every other door he had done – Good enough – was not a standard acceptable to him. I am reminded of that German carpenter every time I see someone doing shoddy work, and announcing its “Good Enough”. Where is that pride of workmanship? Where is the peer pressure demanding that we do our very best, and if it is not right, do it again? We as a society accepts poor quality, because it’s too much trouble to do it right. We choose to buy the product made in China, because it’s less expensive, not because it’s better. The better made product sits on the shelf, and chances are it would last a lot longer and do the job better than the less expensive one that gets bought.

It used to be that you could tell the difference between a white collar worker and a blue collar worker by the way they dress, not today. I work in an office environment; most of my co-workers have at least a bachelor’s degree, some have Master’s degrees. We are all professionals in our fields and yet most do not dress as professionals. Today, the only time someone shows up at the office in a suit, is if they are interviewing for a new job. To wear a dress shirt and a tie is “dressing up”. Most likely you will find most men wearing golf shirts and blue jeans any day of the week. Dress shoes, if they happen to wear any, are unpolished or worst. They might have shaved this morning, or they decided not to shave this morning. There is no pride in their appearance

With the advent of computers, we have eliminated the clerk typist and nearly eliminated the office secretary. This means that everyone is their own clerk typist, responsible for preparing their own correspondence; which means that they prepare as little as possible. Memorandums for Record are as scarce as hen’s teeth in today’s office environment. Formal letters are only for legal correspondence. Today’s documentation of meetings or decisions is captured in three sentence emails. Details are lost, because they are never captured. Six months from now when you are trying to figure out why a decision was made, you are hard pressed to figure it out, because you have no documentation to read. Once again very few actually make the effort to do the job right. The Army recognized the need to establish standards, and created regulations to define those standards. They even created a regulation for correspondence, AR 25-50. It explains how letters and memorandums are to be constructed, formatted, and even what font should be used. Very few even know that it exists and fewer still follow it, and if you point it out…. They look at you like you asked them to cut off their hand. Why should it matter that it’s in proper format? Why should I spell out an acronym that everyone on the project already knows? Nobody is going to look at this a year from now. These are the reasons given for not doing it right – it is far easier to do it wrong, and nobody cares if it is done wrong.

I point to all of these things as a part of the whole of why this country/world is going downhill. No one seems to take pride in their work, to take the time to do it right and not just “good enough”. It’s why we have Congressman passing voluminous laws without even reading what’s written in the bill. Why the former number one automaker in the world ended up filing for bankruptcy. Why hundreds of thousands of home owners defaulted on their loans that they could never afford in the first place. Why people like Madoff or corporations like ENRON can go for years undetected. Why off-shore oil rigs and nuclear power plants create environmental disasters, when someone saw a problem and did not recognize that it was a problem until it was too late. We allow too much inferior work go by, and no one cares.

Ask yourself, what standards do I work by?

Do I take pride in my work? Do I care that others see your work?

If you are a professional, do you project a professional image?

Do you buy a quality product or the cheapest one?

Do you accept “good enough”?





When was the last time you read a book for fun?

14 05 2010

I listened to a story on NPR a couple of months ago ( ), it was about a town with a population of over 250,000 losing its only book store. With the recession and the various communities reporting lose of tax revenue, the first thing you hear from these city and county government officials is that they will close the library to save money. In the last year 61 newspapers have ceased publishing ( ) and 361 magazines bit the dust ( ). It would appear that reading is becoming an endangered practice.

We live in a digital age. Our kids have grown up with the TV being the surrogate babysitter. When we bought our Pontiac Aztec, we ordered it with a TV and DVD player mounted in the ceiling. We had discovered that the long drives to Michigan from Florida were without the “Are we there yet?” questions when we had a video to entertain the kids in the back seat. Of course when I was a kid, we didn’t have DVD or any stored video option, so we brought books with us to entertain us on those long boring road trips. Today most kids bring their iPod or their video game player instead. The television, or as my Mother referred to it, “the boob tube” is the entertainment source of choice. Folks would rather see the movie, than read the book.

Personally I love to read, it has been my favorite activity most of my life. When I was in elementary school, I would slip out of class and go to the library and sit in between the stacks of books and read a book I took off of one of the shelves. My disappearance would frustrate/terrify my teachers, until they figured out where I had disappeared too. As a young teenager, I rode my bike the four miles from my house to visit the nearest public library. I checked out 3-4 books at a time, I believe that was the limit one could check out. I would them ride back home, and devour the books, and the following week, return to the library to get my next set of books. Today, I typically read three books at a time, but now I read them mostly on my Kindle.

I don’t have any scientific study results to correlate or to point to, but it does appear to me, that success in school is in direct proportion to reading ability. The more voracious the reader, the more successful the student. I know that for myself, my high rate of reading and comprehension, made me a better student, with a higher grade point average, than most of my peers that did not read as well.

So my sage advise to all young parents is read to your kids. Turn off the TV, take them to the library, and promote reading everyday, you will not regret it.





Arguments for a Cashless America

19 04 2010

I’m in the midst of one of my many business trips, and I just bought a $2.84 coke at one of the concessionaires here in the airport.  I paid for my coke with my VISA card, a simple swipe, no signature required.  It got me thinking, why do I carry cash?  More importantly, why does anyone carry cash?  While in Iraq, I carried no cash, instead I carried an Eagle Cash Card.  The Eagle Cash card was a pre-loaded cash card issued by the Army Finance office; it was linked to my home checking account.  There were electronic kiosks at the PX, Green Bean coffee shop, and the finance office where I could load or off load money onto the card.  When I went to the PX, I used the card similar to a debit card, entering a personal Pin number to authorize the purchase.   If I lost my card, all I had to do was go to the nearest finance office, report it missing; they would cancel the card, and then re-issue a new card with the money amount that was on the original lost card.  In other words I lost nothing other than the time to get a new card.  Whereas, if I had lost my wallet with actual cash in it, I would have lost the cash.  The entire program was underwritten by the Treasury Department.  The reason?  The Treasury Department was reducing the amount of cash they had to transport into theater.    Prior to the Eagle Cash Card program, the treasury department was transporting millions of dollars into theater each month for the troops to spend.    It in turn cost the Treasury Department millions of dollars each year to do this.  They had to hire a plane,  have security guards to protect the money, not to mention all of the procedures and processes involved to counting out the money, boxing it up, loading it onto trucks to transport to the airplane, fly the plane to theater, off load the plane, transport to a secure location, and then sign over the cash to the Army/Navy/Air-Force finance offices in theater.  Recognizing that 150,000 troops in theater is just a fraction of the monetary system of the United States, you can quickly extrapolate the related money that the Treasury Department spends doing the same thing in the United States, and other locations around the world.   Not to mention everywhere U.S. military, as well as State Department personnel are located. During Fiscal Year 2008 the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) delivered 7.7 billion notes at an average cost of 6.4 cents per note, that’s $492,800,000 was spent just to make the paper money. Think of the money spent daily, transporting the cash to stores, banks, restaurants, etc.

I just finished doing my taxes, and it also reminded me that lots of folks in the United States under report their income. That’s because we have an underground economy. “Cash under the table” rarely, if ever, gets reported to the IRS. Especially if it is cash and not a Check or a Credit Card purchase. If we were to eliminate cash, people could not hide their true income, they would have to pay the taxes that they truly owe, and this country would not be dealing with a budget deficit. Most criminal activities, especially drugs, operate on a cash only basis. Without cash, how would they buy their illegal drugs?

Of course there is also an argument to keep cash. Billions of U.S. Currency is outside of the United States. There are several countries, that have made the U.S. Dollar their own currency. They are the British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Marshall Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, Panama, Turks and Caicos Islands, they would not be able to make the transition to a cashless society, as easily as the United States could. The transition could be catastrophic to the world economy. When the United States was changing their bills to be more difficult to counterfeit, the treasury department went on a worldwide media blitz to inform the international community that the bills were changing in design but not in value. Their fear was that the million of folks that have dollars would misunderstand and would dump their dollars for Euros or some other currency. This would have resulted in a “run on the banks” that could have caused a temporary but devastating loss of value of the U.S. Currency.

If the United States was to transition to a cashless society, these issues would have to be considered. The transition would have to be slow but steady. Cash cards, like the Eagle Cash Card, would have to be provided at no cost to the consumers. The banks or the Treasury department would have to cover the cost of the program. A propaganda campaign would have to precede it to inform the international as well as domestic users of dollars that this represents no loss in value of the dollar. The countries that currently use dollars as their currency would have to transition to the cashless model or to another currency. This is a transition that will take years to accomplish, but I believe that in the end, the United States will be better for it.  Millions of dollar currently being spent to make, store and transport cash would be avoided.   Illegal activities will be severely hampered by not having a “cash only” business.  The true extent of the US economy would be be known, with the minimization of the underground/hidden economy. The proper collection of taxes to fund the requirements of the federal, state, and local governments.

A penny for your thoughts?





WHERE IS THE AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS?

2 10 2009

When I was in the 9th grade, more than 35 years ago, I was an exchange student to Mexico. It was a very interesting experience in so many ways. It was my first time to observe a culture different from my American middle class existence. The Mexican families that were participating in the exchange program were all very well off. The homes were huge, some taking up an entire city block. Surrounded by 12-foot high concrete walls with broken glass shards embedded on the top of the wall. Inside the wall was a beautiful home and garden/yard. There were servants taking care of the grounds and the house, some of the families had chauffeurs to transport their children to and from school. When we went out on organized field trips as part of the exchange program, we drove by areas of extreme poverty. There were shanty homes, crowded up next to each other with no apparent running water or even electricity. The Guadalajara area appeared to be composed of either very rich or very poor people. There were very few that I would classify as middle class. Our Mexican fathers in the exchange program were all very wealthy and successful men. One was an owner of several jewelry stores, one was a banker, my Mexican father was an international businessman, and we even had a former Governor of the state of Jalisco. I remember being very impressed with the obvious wealth of our Mexican families and appalled at the extent of poverty that was just down the street from these mansions. I remember being glad to get back to the United States were there was a greater diversity of economic conditions. That we did have a middle class, the very wealthy were few and far between, and we had poor also, but they also appeared to be of a minority. How is it that we had such a large proportion of the population in the category of the middle class? I believe the answer is quite simple. Manufacturing created the middle class. If you look at American history, you can see that the middle class population exploded with the growth of manufacturing. Prior to that, there was the wealthy and the poor. The wealthy were primarily the landowners, the bankers, and the merchants. The poor were the farm hands, the indentured servants, and the clerks. The industrial revolution created a new worker, with an improved wage. The landowners, bankers, and merchants were still rich, but these manufacturing laborers made more money than the farm hands and the clerks, they were in that middle ground of income. Manufacturing’s prominence was the decades after World War II. The United States was the center of the universe, because we produced everything, and our products were consumed around the world. Our workers were being well paid, and they enjoyed the fruits of their labors, buying homes and cars, and things to go in those homes and cars. Then we as a nation got stupid. Companies discovered that they could get workers in other countries to make the same products and pay them less than what they would have to pay their workers in the United States. Therefore, they started to build factories in other countries, initially as an experiment to see if they could produce the same quality at a much cheaper cost. Consumers always looking for “a bargain” discovered these products in the stores and bought them, because they could get more for their hard-earned dollars. Companies finding the products from the off-shore manufacturing were selling as well or better than the products produced in the United States started sending more and more of their manufacturing outside of the U.S. Manufacturing workers were starting to see less jobs available, but they still had their job and they were able to buy what they wanted, so it was OK. But as the jobs reduced so did the middle class. In the last year America has seen the Auto industry, once the Kings of Industry shrink to nearly non-existence. In fact if the US government hadn’t stepped in, the only American auto company that might still be operating today is Ford, and even that might have been doubtful. Even with the Chapter 11 restructuring, which occurred in mind-blowing record time, the future success of GM and Chrysler is not for certain. What amazes me is the public outcry against; and asking why are we trying to save these companies? Because if these companies fail, it will have a domino effect that will destroy what manufacturing we still have. As we eliminate the manufacturing sector of the United States, we are watching the end of the American middle class. Think about that the next time you pick up a product off the store shelf in Wal-Mart and see it was Made in China.





Problems in the United States

28 09 2009

1. Education – High drop out rate, easy standards, lack of science and math majors

2. Reading – Less and Less, decline in newspapers, magazines, and books.

2. Disappearing Middle Class – Two class society – The super rich and the poverty stricken poor

3. Energy – Greater demand, fear of Nuclear

4. Oil Dependency – United States thirst for oil, exceeds what the United States can produce.

5. Lowering of Standards – “Good Enough” is too acceptable.

6. Television/Movies – Just plain dumb

7. Health Care – Becoming too expensive

8. Retirement – Social Security – Going broke, Pensions disappearing, savings non-existent

9. Disappearing Manufacturing – God help us, if we ever have another world war.

10. Loss of Farm Lands – There is a point where we won’t have enough agricultural area to support our population.

11. Over fishing of fish beds – There are limits to what Mother Nature can produce.

12. Lost of morals, anything goes

13. Manners, respect, etiquette these are things we have forgotten or ignore.

14. CEO’s pay – No one is worth tens of millions

15, Professional Sports figures, Entertainers – Actors, Actresses, music performers – Million dollar pay – Soon people will not be able to afford to see them perform.

16. Obesity – We eat too much and exercise too little.

17. Military service – Should be mandatory for all.  Minimum, 2 years of service. Conscience objectors routed to a civil service job,  18-20 years old.  No exception for going to college, go to college after two years of service.   Only exception is completion of high school, if you turn 18 prior to graduation from high school, you can complete your senior year.  But before your 19th birthday you are in the military regardless.





Hello world!

5 07 2009

This blog is my opportunity to add my two cents to issues that I see occurring in America today.  My hope is that these blogs will promote thoughtful discuss and add awareness to serious problems that we Americans seem to ignore.

A little about myself, I am a little over a half-century old, which only means that I have been around for a while.  Not necessary wise beyond my years, but a little more educated than most.  My formal education includes a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Masters in Business Administration.   I believe that education is a lifelong process, and that the ability to read and write, is essential to success.   I am an avid reader, reading three or four books at a time.  I’m a News Junkie that reads   articles from various sources on a daily basis.   Because of my work I have travelled beyond the borders of the United States.  I have experienced the cultures of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.   I have also travelled extensively around the United States, visiting nearly every state of the Union at least once.   I am a “Geek “in every sense of the word.  Gadgets of every kind intrigue me, and I am always looking for the next best thing. I am happily married to a woman that can only be described as a “Super Women”; she is truly the best thing that has ever happened in my life.  I am also a very proud father of two wonderful adults, and recently become a Grandfather. I’m a lifelong Republican with moderate leanings.  I believe in a strong national defense.  I believe that the government should have little to no control over my private/personal life.   I believe that a woman has a right to choose, and that adults have the right to choose when to check out.  I am a Christian, but do not believe that any religion should be forced on to another.  I am a proud American, but concerned of where we are headed.

We appear to be resting on our laurels and declining in so many ways that I find it frightening.   These ways are what I intend to discuss in this blog.  This blog will not be a daily thing, it may not even be a weekly thing, but as inspiration moves me I will post an article about things I have observed and the long term consequences that may result.  My hopes are that this will raise awareness and launch meaningful discussions that will motivate people to seek solutions to promote improvement.