Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bad Parents

This weekend we had a very special treat for Evelyn this weekend.  Sesame Street Live!  Elmo holds a very special place in Evelyn’s heart…second only to Minnie Mouse.

The show was at 7 pm, but we got to East Lansing a bit early.  We killed some time perusing Sears and picked up a set of pajamas for Evelyn so we could get her ready for bed when we left the show.  As the show neared, we drove to the Breslin Center and parked in the event lot.

Strangely enough, the lot was empty except for perhaps two other cars.  A family was walking into the parking lot with a youngster holding an Elmo doll, so I asked why they were headed the wrong direction.

“Well, we knew that Sesame Street is in town and we thought there might be a show tonight.”

Odd, I thought there was a show.  We doubled checked our tickets and both of us had that stomach-in-throat sinking feeling.  There was a seven o’ clock show.  Unfortunately our show was Friday, not Saturday.  Having pumped Evelyn up we had to explain to her that we were idiots and showed up a day late for the show.  It would have been easier if she had thrown a tantrum, but she didn’t.  She just started crying quietly.

Aimee explained that we made a mistake, but that we’d try to fix it.  When we got home we found that, much to our relief, there was a Sunday show.  We bought tickets and updated Evelyn.  She reassured us “You not make a mistake!”


So, we caught up to Elmo a day later than we expected.  I’m at a loss as to how both Aimee and I managed to screw up the date, since it was on both of our calendars!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Growler Goes Off-Leash

This evening, Evelyn wanted to visit her Grandma.  We called and arranged a time to visit.  Since I hadn’t run today, I decided to run while Aimee would ride her bike.  She would take the bike trailer and pull Evelyn behind her.

Now, Grandpa would be heartbroken if we arrived without Abby.  We were in a hurry so we pitched Abbey into the trailer with Evelyn, but without her harness or leash.  At this point I need to confess something.  Abby gets very upset when she’s separated from people she really likes.  As I ran in front of the bike, she whimpered and carried on as though we had cut off one of her legs…but we made it to our destination uneventfully.

Things were a bit different on the way back, though.  Abby made the same raucous, except that this time she emerged from the back of the bicycle trailer and landed on the road.  To her credit, she didn’t miss a beat.  Since we didn’t have her collar or leash, we put her back in the trailer and instructed Evelyn to keep an eye on her.

Rriiigggghhhhht.   Suffice it to say that poor Aimee nearly went over her handlebars when Abby crawled out the front of the trailer and nearly got run over.  She would have too, if I hadn’t grabbed the trailer and stopped trailer and bike in their tracks.  The bike trailer is completely enclosed and velcroed shut, so it’s a bit of a mystery as to how our little monster-dog got out.  It probably has something to do with her four pound size.

This time we realized that we certainly could not put her back in the trailer.  I carried her for a while but she was getting jostled quite a bit.  Finally Aimee suggested that I could put her down and try to get her to stick with me.

With Andy, sure, no problem.  With Abby, I dunno.  She doesn’t normally get distracted, and she does normally come when I call her…however she is really terrible about healing.  We didn’t have many other options though, so I tried.

First we ran about two blocks at an 8:45/mile pace.  Her little legs were a blur.  When she finally began to tire I slowed to a walk.  Per usual, Abby tried to get ahead of me.  Also per usual, I chastised her for getting ahead.  Unlike usual, she realized that she didn’t have the comfort of her leash on.  Rather than running ahead and relying on her leash for communication, she realized that she would need to keep track of me herself…and she did.  We walked the remaining three blocks without incident whatsoever, Abby walking next to me.

Not bad for a six month old puppy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009, please?

Our refrigerator was doubling as an air conditioning unit for quite a while. The door seals were miserable, and the refrigerator consistently froze its contents despite being on the lowest setting. Finally, I grudgingly admitted that perhaps we really should look into a new refrigerator.

We went to Sears and found a model we liked. After some consideration, though, we decided to buy a cheaper refrigerator and a low end stove. Both models were still much better than our existing appliances. When we got to the checkout, the trouble began. First, the extended warranty.

The salesman decided to inform us "This refrigerator comes with a 1 year warranty on the compressor. For $140 you can get two years added on top of the factory warranty." Some quick math had me foaming at the mouth. This joker wanted me to pay 25% of the purchase price for the extended warranty. I declined the warranty. Our previous refrigerator lasted 20 years. If our new refrigerator lasts fewer than five years, it will be the absolute last appliance that I purchase from Sears. Ever.

Next, the Sears card. If I would be so kind as to apply for a Sears card, I could have free home delivery plus 5% off the purchase price. Now this sounded pretty good. I really didn't want to have to dispose of my old appliances. I started in on the paperwork. Now, any reasonable person would have put their pen down when they saw the word "Citi" in the contract. Apparently, I am no such person. They accepted my application and put the charge on it.

The bill arrived yesterday, and I paid the balance before they could earn any interest. Why so eager to pay the balance? Sears shouldn't be commended for their unfriendly practices. What's so unfriendly, you might wonder. I'll tell you what...I've got a 740 credit rating and these sheisters tried foisting off a card with a 20% interest rate. I can't put cash into a safe investment which returns more than 1% right now, and these idiots think they are going to get away with this kind of robbery? Seriously?

What is Sears really thinking? Do they really believe that trying to take advantage of their customers is a good long term strategy? Obviously, that's exactly what they think. Unfortunately, they are hardly alone.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

CNC Cutting


Our friends came to visit yesterday, and we got to meet their new dog Cookie.  Gary is an electronics whiz, so I thought he might get a kick out of some CNC goodness.

When I first purchased my mill, decent CAM software was really expensive, and you couldn’t necessarily trust the results.  Using CAMBAM I was able to create the text, and the three programs to cut it out. 

The first program profiled the text (which reads “Crum”).  The second program pocketed from the text to the edge of the wood, and the third program cut around the edge of the wood.  CamBam automatically added holding tabs to the edge of the wood, which keeps it in the wood in the fixture.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Aimee has been working tirelessly this week painting our bedroom.  It looks great, incidentally.  This evening I was outside repairing our utility trailer.  This endeavor involved using a reciprocating saw, angle grinder, and MIG welder.  All of these take their fair share of electricity.  It was thus no surprise when Aimee peeked out the door and asked if I had blown a breaker.  A quick tug on the saw trigger verified that my own power was still available.  As it turned out, the lights in our bedroom no longer worked.

A quick check in the breaker panel revealed that one of the breakers had tripped.  I reset it, but it tripped instantly.  Like an idiot, I tried three more times before reaching the conclusion that something in the line was a direct short.  I sauntered up the stairs. 

Due to the painting project, all the covers were off the light switches.  It didn’t take long to find the switch with soot along one side.  Closer examination revealed that someone had placed a screw across the terminals.  There could be only one such person.

“Aimee”, I inquired, “did Evelyn say anything?”

“Yes.  She said ‘The lights are broken.  I’m gonna go help Dada.’  Then she took off.”

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Defensive Sociopathic Behavior

This week at the office was difficult and long.  Three events which I caused created an enormous amount of trouble.  Two of them were for a very good reason, and the other was for a very bad reason.  As we evaluate our personal behavior, the litmus test for performance is the “repeat offender” quiz.  Could this event occur again?  If I had the chance to do it over, would I change what I did?

Regardless of how well we perform, even making the right decisions can be stressful as we evaluate personal needs vs. corporate needs.  In my own case, I didn’t sleep much last week.  When I spoke with a friend about it, he cautioned me against taking such events too personally.  He’s right in many ways.  The higher a person’s responsibility, the more stress they will encounter during the course of making decisions…even if they are the right decisions.  A good leader who becomes paralyzed as a result of making difficult but necessary decisions is destined for burnout.

On the other hand, meltdowns at large companies such as Enron and Tyco have elicited the same question from different people: “How do such self-righteous, uncaring people become CEOs?"  In light of my week and the advice I outlined above, is it really possible for someone who doesn’t exhibit some of these behaviors to be an effective CEO?  How long would it take them to burn out? 

Robert Hare, creator of the Psychopathy Checklist observed that a surprising number of corporate executives scored quite high when his checklist was applied to them.  Are these officers sociopathic before they become powerful, or do they change as they gain power?  What if the sociopathic behavior displayed by corporate officers is defensive?  Is it possible that they endure so much stress that their defense mechanism is to stop allowing themselves the luxury of stress?

Incidentally, Mr. Hare has written a book about his observations titled Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To work.  Perhaps he should consider writing a book about environments that foster psychopathy as well!