Bean counters

  The people who look at company budgets and make changes in them are officially known as ‘budget analysts’.  Regular folks know them as ‘bean counters’.  Mathematical models and ‘industry standards’ are applied without emotion.  The human factor is not part of the equation, and there’s a low percentage of common sense involved.  Consequently, ‘intelligent mistakes’ are made.
  Consider the effects on one company of the bean counters.  The company makes a product for the tech industry, requiring engineers to make plans and draftsmen to draw the plans so the workers can build the product.  At the end of one quarter, the engineers are producing more plans than the draftsmen can draw.  More draftsmen are hired.  At the end of the next quarter, the plans are caught up.  The following quarter, due to the higher number of draftsmen, there isn’t enough work produced by the engineers to keep all the draftsmen working, so more engineers are hired and some draftsmen are laid off.  The next quarter, things even out, but the following quarter, there is a backlog of plans to be drawn because there are too many engineers and not enough draftsmen.  So some engineers are laid off and more draftsmen are hired.  The next quarter, things even out, but the following quarter a lot of draftsmen have nothing to do since there are less engineers.  So the bean counters step in again and lay off some draftsmen and hire more engineers.
  This goes back and forth for several years.
 
Consider now the plight of many industrial facilities.  For many decades, industries kept spare parts for their machinery in a warehouse, for ready access in case of mechanical failure.  The quicker it was repaired, the faster the company returned to work.  But someone thought it would be better to empty the warehouses of expensive objects that cost a lot and were just sitting there ‘not making any money’.  They replaced the warehouses with a “Just In Time” system in which a repair part was ordered as it was needed, which saved the company the cost of having one or two spares of everything sitting in a warehouse.  
  The system failed to take into account the time it took to get a spare part from the supplier, and the cost of the d​​elivery​, plus the loss of income from the production shutdown while waiting on the needed part.​  Some repair items are nearby, some are across the country, some come from overseas. Some parts took weeks to manufacture.  Each time a part was ordered from a distance, it had to b​e shipped by over-night delivery, express, o​r a​‘hot-shot’ truck, which cost several times more than regular freight.  
 Between the added cost of quick delivery and the extended downtime, companies lost huge amounts of money.  The system was quickly dubbed the “Just Isn’t There” system.  Yet many companies still use this flawed system because the bean-counters say it saves money.
 
Take care, and watch out for bean-counters.  😉   

Bad Coworkers

In the workplace you don’t get to say who your coworkers are.  You have to get along enough to do your job.  Once in a while you might be unlucky enough to have one or more coworkers who do their best to irritate others.
  At one shipyard, Mac could only drink weak coffee.  Sometimes a few people would make a pot of strong coffee first thing in the morning, but since Mac wanted weak coffee he would pour it in the sink and make weak coffee while loudly ranting and raving about people wasting company resources.  Quite ironic, but he never got it.  We’d try to come in earlier and make the decent coffee and drink some before Mac came in and ruined everything.  The head of the department thought it was amusing, but it really irritated us that he allowed Mac to pour out our good coffee.
  There was a narrow wooden walkway into the building.  When it rained, Mac liked to walk very slowly on it with his umbrella and dare anyone to tell him to walk faster.  “you dumb SOBs should have brought an umbrella like me”, he’d shout, as he stood there defiantly while we got wet.  It’s a wonder no one ever just punched him out.  Wanted to keep the job, maybe.  He sure deserved it.
  A new card badge station was installed just inside the building entrance.  The first few days there were large signs on the wall over the badge stations, one said “Enter” and the other said “Exit”.  The first week, Mac insisted on trying to wave his new badge at the “Exit”, insisting that was the correct one when coming into the building.  He made many people late because he would block the door and keep waving the badge over the wrong station over and over.  Finally, we started waving our badges over the Enter station and squeezing past Mac.  After a week of displaying his stupidity, he finally started using the Enter station in the morning.
The worst thing was, Mac was an Inspector.  No wonder so many things were screwed up on the assemblies.  That guy should have been a ditch digger.
  A young supervisor from up North thought he made himself look good by telling somebody they weren’t doing enough of this or that.  He messed with a few others then got around to me.  He told me I wasn’t going out into the assembly area enough.  What is enough, I asked, when most of my work is done on the computer?  You just need to go out there more often, he said.  So after that, I went out with a clipboard and measuring tape and took notes on random objects from 7:30 to 9:15 each and every morning, rain or shine.  I finished a little less work, but that wet-behind-the-ears turkey never said another word.
Thankfully, I got another job and escaped that place.
That shipyard lost its contracts within the year.  They got other contracts, then got in serious trouble for holding foreign workers in what amounted to slavery and were shut down.
At one office there was a rat-faced man about 40.  And there was a man who was about to retire and was on so many medications he was unsteady on his feet, moody and just plain mean a lot of the time.  Ratface and Old Goat decided they would make themselves look good to the boss by constantly criticizing my work, making wrong changes on my drawings then showing the altered drawings to the boss and telling him I screwed it up, “checking” drawings that I had only begun and hadn’t turned in yet for checking, telling me to make global changes on specs on the drawings but then when I turned them in they denied ever telling me to make any changes and told the boss I made changes for no reason.  On and on and on.  Luckily I kept copies of my drawings on a memory stick each day and I wrote down every instruction given to me.  The office manager is a good friend, saw what was going on and put the brakes on them.  We managed to get the project done and keep those two from screwing it up.  I got a transfer to a chemical plant, which is a steady job.  Those two went to other companies, and didn’t last long there.  When Old Goat announced he was leaving for another job, the rest of the office clapped and cheered.  Neither one is working now, from what I’ve heard.  Too bad for Ratface’s kids, though.
A couple of decades earlier, a Yankee at a shipyard tried that trick about making wrong changes on my drawings, printing them, circling the “mistakes” in red and then showing the markups to the boss.  That’s when I thought of making copies, and I put a password on my computer.  The Yankee went into the server and accessed my drawings that way, but he didn’t know I made copies each day.  Eventually he was caught and exposed.  Others in the office would put silly things on the drawings and the Yankee would only check to see if they were on the right layer.  He got caught on that too.  He got one guy fired by using the guy’s computer after work to get on the network and look in other people’s computer files.  Then the Yankee accused the guy of illegal computer use and got him fired, probably for no other reason than the guy was my friend.  The Yankee could not get another job in the area after that, and no one has seen him since then.
Karma will get you every time.
Unrelated short note about the 1970s Kalkoff German bicycle:  Germans are great on cars and planes, but have a blind spot when it comes to racing bicycles.

Lawn Care

There are some misguided people (that’s a polite term for idiots, fools, dodos, morons, vandals, etc) who have the insane belief that all lawns must be mowed down to the dirt with the roots of the grass exposed to the hot sun.  Then they complain that the yard never looks good.
Grass should have a minimum of an inch of leaf above the root, and it should get to at least 2 inches before mowing; 3 is better.  The clippings should fall onto the ground to create a mulch layer, which keeps moisture near the roots and protects the roots.  Mulching mowers are great at this.  When I mow, if the freshly cut grass is the same shade of green as the unmowed grass, it’s at the right height.  If the mowed grass looks pale green or yellow, it’s too low.  I see too many yards that are yellow with dirt visible; those people don’t know how to mow a yard.
  I’ve showed some people my yard and told them how to mow, but they insist on cutting their yard at about a half-inch high.  Then they complain that their yard never looks as green and nice as mine.  sigh
I have been the victim of these “lawn idiots” several times and it is very hard to not hate them.  Months of fertilizing, watering, weeding, and carefully cutting it at the proper height produces a beautiful healthy green lawn of thick lush grass that is nearly free of weeds and attracts compliments.  Then some well-meaning “lawn idiot” thinks that it is getting high and maybe you’re too busy to mow it so they decide to lend a helping hand and they proceed to scalp it down to the dirt, leaving piles of dead grass everywhere.  Then they want you to thank them for destroying your pride and joy.  All they have done is mangle your beautiful lawn and created several months of extra work for you on the expensive intensive care on your lawn.  The weeds move in and start growing before your grass does, and it’s a constant battle with the weeds.  When the lawn was cut at the proper height it choked out the weeds, but now the weeds nearly take over since the grass was whacked down to the dirt.  After several months of hard work, your lawn is almost back to where it was before the scalping.  Why did God allow these “lawn idiots” to exist?
It could be a power trip.  The times my lawn was violated, it was usually a “lawn idiot” on a powerful riding mower, usually a zero turn.  Those people have great fun going at full speed and bumping up and down which makes waves in what’s left of the grass, and they make sharp turns without slowing down.  Those fast turns makes the mower lean over which leaves curved gouges deep in the dirt.  It is so incredibly ugly when they do that, yet the “lawn idiots” think they have done the greatest mowing job in the world.  There ought to be a law that requires a potential mower buyer to prove that they are not a “lawn idiot” before they can buy a mower.
  One time I was mowing a large yard for a friend who was sick.  I had almost finished, just had a small section in the back yard left to do when one of their neighbors drove up with his big zero-turn and offered to finish the yard.  Sure, we said, thanks!  But I should have looked at the dirt trail behind his mower.  He proceeded to scalp that little spot and then in the next couple of minutes he destroyed the rest of the nice yard that I had just mowed.  What. An. Idiot.  Another lush green lawn hacked down to the dirt by a fool.   arrrggghhhhh   Thankfully, that idiot moved away and now that yard is looking good again.
The latest incident, I mowed the yard of one of my rent houses Monday.  It hadn’t grown more than a quarter-inch by Thursday, yet one of those “lawn idiots” used his zero-turn mower to scalp the green front lawn down to yellow roots and dirt, complete with curving gouges and piles of dead grass.  I might let that guy live if he promises to never do that again.  I now have to get some bags of topsoil, fertilizer, grass seed and go apply all of it to the farmed front yard.  And I think I’ll get some rebar stakes and drive them in so that 1-1/2″ sticks up; my mower will go over them easily.
  A non-profit organization has about an acre of grass that needs mowing about every other week.  I’ve been mowing it for free for several years.  I use a trusty old riding mower and set the blade high.  It takes about two hours to mow and trim it.  The first couple of years, it did well, the grass grew thicker and started choking out the weeds.  Then they let someone else mow it and he turned out to be one of those “lawn idiots”.  That man used a big zero-turn, of course, and set the blades so low that there was very little trace of any grass in many places, just dirt.  Nothing was over a quarter-inch high.  He complained afterwards that it took him eight hours to mow the acre and it was hard on his mower.  So he was never allowed to mow it again.  Three years later, the grass is almost as thick as it was before that guy scalped it, but the weeds are harder to get rid of.  There ought to be a law …
The “lawn idiots” are similar to the people who willingly and eagerly commit “crepe murder” every spring.  Crepe Myrtles are trees that grow 20 feet high or more, bloom from spring to fall, and don’t need much care beyond some very minor trimming of stray branches near the bottom.  “Crape Myrtles” (rhymes with “happy”) are the unfortunate trees that get amputated, they are definitely not happy at all.
  The “crepe murderers” have some insane idea that crepe myrtles should be hacked off at about five feet from the ground every spring.  Instead of having a beautiful tall tree-shrub that blooms continuously for about eight months, this butchery forces the “crApe myrtle” to put out a few spindly little branches that struggle to make some leaves and finally make a few flowers a couple of weeks out of the year.  If a bird lands on one of those skinny branches, it can’t hold their weight.  It’s so sad.  There ought to be a law …
One time I had a renter who thought the fig bush in the back yard would benefit greatly if he sawed it off at the ground.  It was about five feet tall and covered an area about eight feet in diameter; it produced a lot of tasty figs each year of its 30-plus-year life.  When I noticed it was gone and asked what happened, he assured me it would grow back bigger and stronger.  Next month, there was a different renter there.  Two years later, there is a little fig bush about a foot tall.  No figs yet.  There ought to be a law …

RepurposeMemorial – – No Way!

  There is a nice new Veterans Memorial along the highway in Orange, Texas.  By several US laws, Confederate Veterans are US Veterans.  Anyone who shows disrespect to this Memorial are only shaming themselves since they are disrespecting US Veterans.  And by itself, showing disrespect for the dead is the same as desecrating a grave, since the dead cannot defend themselves.  It is up to the living to defend their honored dead.  That is why there is a Memorial.
  Most people support this Memorial, as shown by several public polls.  One poll on KOGT resulted in 77% in support.
  There are a handful of people who have publicly criticized the memorial.  They don’t know much about history, and what they do know is wrong.  They have been vocal in their hate and ignorance and have been trying to get the Memorial torn down or “repurposed”.  They offer no suggestions on how any kind of “repurpose” could be done or even what it is, they just want the Memorial removed.
  There are no signs at the Memorial telling what it is.  There are 12 flags flying there, none of them is the Battle Flag.  Hardly anyone could accurately identify any of the flags.  Several of them have Christian crosses on them.  Yet the protesters continue to spew their hate and intolerance at the Memorial.
  The campaign of hate and misinformation by the out-of-town agitators started with a few people standing on the corner holding some signs.  One or two news stories were written about them, then interest in the occasional protests faded away.  The protests stopped for a few months, then resumed when some construction was done on the Memorial.  In November the protestors spent a thousand dollars to buy a month of time on a nearby electronic billboard to show their hate and ignorance in LED lights on the sign.  That money could have fed a lot of hungry kids.
  The sign cannot be seen by westbound traffic, and since there are so many sentences on the sign, the text size is too small to be easily seen.  Motorists can’t read the message from the highway.  Local people read it once or twice then ignore it.  Nothing has happened since the billboard message started, except the protestors are seen as ignorant meddling fools who need to stay in Houston instead of trying to stir up some trouble in Orange.
  They have at least two websites and one Facebook page whose purpose is to criticize the Memorial and spread their hate.  repurposememorial.com  dobianchi.com and “Repurpose Confederate Memorial” on Facebook.  Several people have tried to give the protesters the facts of history, but it is useless to reason with the protesters.  They cannot grasp the facts, or the simple idea of “live and let live”.  Some of their relatives have posted on the Facebook page to leave it alone; they ignore the good advice.
  The protesters have not made any progress against the Memorial so they have stooped to the tactic of attacking a specific person.  One entire article attacks a person associated with the Memorial, and it is sad to read such hate and so many outright lies and distortions.  The call the person a “white supremacist” without any corroborating evidence at all.  That seems to be their label for anyone they don’t like and want to demonize, since they use the same label for an imaginary author of an imaginary letter that was allegedly sent to a protester’s grandmother.  This tactic is as bad as Blasey-Ford’s fairy tales against Brett Kavanaugh.  Like Ford’s weird fable, the supposed ‘letter’ story falls apart quickly under scrutiny.
  Some LE experts have looked at the ‘letter to the grandmother’ produced by the Repurpose Memorial group.
According to their analysis, the letter has a 99.99% chance of being a fake.  Several red flags are in it, with two main ones:
1.  There are too many details in the letter that only someone in the group’s inner circle would know.
2.  Most damning is the fact that it was supposedly sent to one of the group’s grandmother.  Only someone within the Repurpose group would know of the existence of a grandparent and where to send the letter.
Producing a fake document is a standard tactic of hate groups to try to discredit someone they don’t like.  In this case, it backfired.  Their credibility is zero.
  The Repurpose website claims that someone told Parzen “… I’m going to kick your a$$…”   There is no proof that the threat was ever said.
  The person says the actual sentence was ” … I am a southern boy who was taught good manners, so you are lucky that I will not kick your a$$.”
  The Repurpose website is guilty of publishing deliberate misinformation and false statements, character assassination and promoting ignorance and intolerance of history.  How terrible.
The Dob site seems to be all about wine.  For many years, the site owner has been indulging in a strong alcoholic drink and writing about it.  The Bible says “wine is a mocker”.  What a waste of time.
The Memorial and its flags and the grounds are beautiful.  Go see it if you are in the area.

Arena Speakers

Someone posted a picture of a huge wall of giant speakers at a concert venue and asked what the first song played on that system should be. The usual flurry of rock classics were submitted, then a few more obscure but good tunes, and a few unknowns that turned out to be pretty good. For the first one, I’d like to go to The Who and their Quadrophenia album to play “The Real Me” which segues into the “Quadrophenia theme”. John Entwistle’s bass hits you like a bleedin’ VC10 (that’s a jet airplane that was common when this album came out). Some others would be “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams, “Tough Enough” by The Fabulous Thunderbirds, “Medicine Hat” by Son Volt, “Loneliness Of Distance” by Acoustic Alchemy, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band “Garden Of Eden”, “Waitin’ For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago”’ by ZZ Top, “Lover Of The Bayou” live version by The Byrds, “Just One Victory” by Todd Rundgren, “Frankenstein” by the Edgar Winter Group, anything by Johnny Winter, “Parisien Plight II” by Shawn Phillips, “Get Back” and “A Day In The Life” by The Beatles, “Lovestruck Baby” by Stevie Ray Vaughan, “Time” by Pink Floyd, “Streets Have No Name” by U2, “American In Me” and “Samson And Delilah’s Beauty Shop” by Steve Forbert, Alabama “Gotta Have A Fiddle In The Band”, “We’re An American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad, “Dance To The Music” by Sly and the Family Stone, Dobie Gray “Good Time Lucy”, “Still You Turn Me On” and “Lucky Man” by Emerson Lake & Palmer, “The Other Room” by Michael Nesmith, anything by Eartha Kitt, “25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago, “Locomotive Breath” by Jethro Tull, Billy Idol “White Wedding” and “Rebel Yell”, “Sultans Of Swing” by Dire Straits, “The Beat Goes On/Switching To Glide” by The Kings, Joe Satriani “Friends”, “To The One I Love” by REM, Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” and “Born To Run”, “Swimming Song” by The Earl Scruggs Revue, “Jole Blon” by Doug Kershaw, the live version of “Get Ready” by Rare Earth, “Late Last Night” by Todd Snider, Mike Ness “Charmed Life” and “I’m In Love With My Car”, Gatemouth Brown “Okie Dokie Stomp”, Jack Ingram “Love You” and the entire album of “This Is It”, Buffalo Nickel “Stayed”, Boz Scaggs “Loan Me A Dime”, Men At Work “It’s A Mistake”, The Call “The Walls Came Down”, Alice Cooper “School’s Out” and “No More Mr Nice Guy”, “Sweet Jane” by Lou Reed, “Going Home” by Alvin Lee, James Brown “I Feel Good”, Big Head Todd And The Monsters “Sister Sweetly”, Bill Withers “Use Me Up”, Steam “Na Na Hey Hey”, “Ventura Highway” by America, Billy Joe Walker Jr. “Warm Front”, Steve Earle “Jerusalem”, Sopwith Camel “Astronaut Food” and “Fazon”, Joe Walsh “Turn To Stone”, Van Halen “Panama”, Allman Brothers “Whipping Post”, Roy Buchannan “The Messiah Will Come Again”. Oh, yeah, more Roy Buchannan.
Do NOT, under ANY circumstances, play anything on that wall by Minnie Ripperton, Bette Midler or that “My Heart Will Go On” woman. People will die.
Think we could fit in Buck Owens “Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass”?
We absolutely have to play “Belly Of The Beast” by David Grissom; it has a killer backbeat.
And just for fun, “Eastbound And Down” by Waylon Jennings, “Flibbity Jib” by Ken Nordine, and “Church” by Lyle Lovett.
But wouldn’t it be weirdly appropriate for the first song on that big wall of speakers to be “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys?
The group that did the music for “Eddie And The Cruisers”, was John Cafferty And The Beaver Brown Band. Story of how they got their name: The band entered a contest and the band had to have a name. So they went into a utility closet to think about a name and spotted a paint can on a shelf whose color was “Beaver Brown”. So they used that.

Standing next to someone who you later learned was famous

A few summers ago I decided to get a CHL.  That’s a Concealed Handgun License, not Chocolate Homemade Layer cake, though that would be good too.  The classroom was held early on a sunny Saturday morning in the bar of a local restaurant.  There was a wide assortment of people in the class.  A few of them I knew from various times and places and it was good to make their acquaintance again.  The ladies in the class seemed to gravitate to a friendly homespun woman who had a good word for everyone.  She had some funny stories to tell and listened to everyone when they spoke.  When we got to the part of the class when we told the instructor which pistol we would use, she was the only one with a revolver and it was a little .38 she had owned for years.  We were a little surprised but no one said anything negative about her choice.  Each to their own.

At lunch, which was served by the restaurant, the woman’s husband strolled in; she hugged him and sat him down at her table, where their dinner was waiting.  She had told the other ladies that her husband was sort of well-known in his area and handled it well.  He was medium height, about 60 and lean, camo hat and shirt, blue jeans.  Pretty normal except for a nice beard that reminded one of ZZ Top.  Unassuming, sort of smiling.  He ate with his wife, talked with the ladies but listened more than anything.

I was busy eating my plate of tasty food and didn’t pay much attention to the nice couple.  The fellow next to me was a little bit physically handicapped and I wondered if he would be able to pass the range test.  Nothing wrong with his brain, he was an engineer at one of the chemical plants.  A couple of the other guys I knew from the home improvement store, we all did some carpentry and painting now and then.  We just ate, sometimes talked about the class and sports and our latest home project.

When we got to the range, the nice woman pleasantly surprised everyone with that little wheelgun.  Accurate shots, fast reloads, she was completely at ease with it.  Some of us had new pistols and weren’t real familiar with them.  We all passed the course anyway.  I thought I saw the instructor rolling his eyes a few times but I could be wrong.  If he was, it was probably at me.  The man who was mildly handicapped could draw his pistol from the hidden holster and fire pretty fast and hit the target.  The rest of us started from having the pistol lying on the bench.  Between sets, I ended up standing near the nice woman’s husband and noticed he was wearing a T-shirt under his beard that had a picture of Uncle Sy of “Duck Dynasty”.   I looked at the shirt, looked at him, looked at the shirt, probably had a dumb puzzled expression on my face, and while it slowly dawned on me, he was sort of half-smiling.  I suppose he was waiting for the usual gush of recognition and fan adoration.  My brain was going in two directions – – 1.  This is Uncle Sy of Duck Dynasty   2.  This can’t be Uncle Sy because why would his wife want to take a Texas CHL course when they live in North Louisiana?   All I could do was sort of nod and say,  “Pretty good”.  About that time, the instructor called for my group to come to the firing line so I said ‘Excuse me, gotta go.”  Later, I was able to catch his eye and give him a “thumb up”.  They drove off in a standard old everyday car, don’t even remember what make it was, probably a Chevy.  Just normal folks.

Still, I wonder, was that Uncle Sy and his wife?  Or not?

If I could write to them now, I would say, “Ma’am, you were gracious and friendly in the class.  It was a pleasure to listen to you and watch your good work on the range.  Sir, on the day of that class, you took a back seat to this gracious lady.  She was the star of the day, so to speak.  You were just her husband that day.  And that’s a compliment to you both.  God bless you all.”

Hurricanes 2

In the middle of the war zone 9-12-17

In nearly all wars, after a big battle, there are areas that are devastated, and some that are somewhat damaged in varying degrees. And there are the inexplicable untouched areas, some small oasis of normal life. What seemed normal is now a little unreal, compared to the hardships and basic survival struggle of so many. The normal people have to keep being normal to support the ravaged ones; their jobs provide goods and services for the despairing and deprived. My house wasn’t flooded, due to luck and being on higher ground. We’re just about normal.
This morning I opened the newspaper, which recently resumed arriving on my driveway each morning like it always used to, and was shocked to read that a nearby city still does not have any running water almost three weeks after the storm. The basic life support, water. Not there. People in that city have to haul water from a central location to their homes, using whatever they can scrounge to carry it. They also have to get food, clothes, pet food, etc from charity suppliers that are pretty steady. (Update on 10-2: water system being repaired, some are getting a trickle of water) Many people have to live in the stripped-out shell of their home because there is no place for them to go. Some may say, now you know how the Kosovo refugees felt, only you aren’t in the middle of a frigid winter like they were. It’s all bad, being a refugee, whatever the season or circumstances.
A small city west of Beaumont had damage to every home, most were under water to their chimneys. There are hardly any utilities available. Residents can live in trailers next to their houses if they can afford them. The rest have to camp out in their gutted house.
Went to check on a friend’s house that hadn’t been cleared out yet since they are in a shelter in Dallas. The house got two feet of water. One door was slightly ajar, no windows open. The air itself and everything inside seemed faintly slimy, with a sickly sweet mold smell. We opened a few windows, a few family photos were grabbed up, then we exited quickly. In a couple of days we’ll go back with full respirators and disposable coveralls and rubber boots, to start clearing it out. The rest of the neighborhood has debris piles by the road about five feet high, a single lane between them. Some have trailers in the yard, others are camping out in their gutted homes. Utilities are on so their A/C is keeping them comfortable at least.
A few local radio stations were off the air for a while, most are back on now. The little pleasures of just listening to the radio is something we don’t notice until it’s gone. Your base of living, your home, your foundation for everyday living . . . gone, with some of your sanity. Most people are resilient and will eventually adapt and rebuild. It’s harder for some than others.
The roots of our everyday lives are exposed, we’re back to the basics. Eat, sleep, work, clean up, repeat. We’re not telling as many jokes as we used to. Humor is still there, below the visible level; once in a while it surfaces. Something decent happens, something normal such as a high school football game, that takes our mind off the troubles for a while. On the ride home, the moldy smell from the piles of household debris swats you back into the immediate world. You’re in it for the long haul, so you set your shoulders and keep moving ahead.
Homes in this area could be built on barges, moored to tall posts. Utilities could be supplied through flexible connections, so if another flood comes the entire houseboat would just float up, then back down. Retro homes, like the bayou Cajuns have been living for centuries. God bless the Cajuns.
Speaking of humor, think of loss of all the women’s shoes in the flood waters. The salt content of the receding waters was raised several points by the tears of the women lamenting the deaths of their beautiful shoes. And purses. And belts. Not hats, few women wear hats anymore. When all this is over and they are ready, the women will go shopping for new shoes and purses and belts. Maybe even a hat. And this time the men will be happy for them.

Quotas

For several decades following the imposition of “affirmative action” rules on job hiring, the overall performance of American businesses was burdened and slowed down by the presence of employees who were clearly not the best person for the job. The low-performing AA lottery winners were hired because of their skin color, gender, ethnic name or some other kind of discriminatory political -correctness idiocy. Many industrial accidents might not have happened, and many public works projects might not have failed or had to be rebuilt or replaced if the best and brightest job candidates could have been hired long ago. Some of the bizarre highway configurations could have been designed much better with brighter employees. The low-performers were unable to do the job as well as the better-qualified candidates would have done, hence the many repairs, rebuilds and failures.
American companies could hardly make a profit with the forced hiring of deadwood. The concept of paying a low-performing worker the same wages as a high-performing worker is not good business.

My generation graduated from high school expecting to work in the same petrochemical plants and shipyards and manufacturers where our fathers had worked for so many years. We were shocked to find out that if we didn’t have dark skin or a Mexican surname, we weren’t hired or even given an interview. All the black and Mexican applicants were hired on the spot, didn’t even have to fill out an application. A very few white guys were hired, thanks to their fathers pulling in favors; it took a lot of stroke to get your white son hired in those days. This was racial discrimination on a massive scale. Funny thing, all of us rejects found good jobs, made good money and overall we did better than the ones who were handed our jobs way back then. Some say it was being so pissed off at being unfairly denied a job that drove us to aim higher and work harder all our lives. You can’t keep a good man down.

Sailing

In high school, there was an offshoot of the Boy Scouts “Explorer” program for nautical interest, called the Sea Explorers. We had dress white sailor uniforms, and bluejean/denim work uniforms. The local organizations were called “ships”, like Boy Scouts are Troops and Explorers are Posts. For advancement, there were four ranks – – Apprentice, Ordinary, Able and Quartermaster which was the equivalent of the Scouting Eagle. I made it to Able and almost got Quartermaster. There were several sailboats that belonged to the Ship. We had a Lightning class, 19 feet long with a retractable centerboard. It was easy to sail, and there was a little bracket for a 3.5hp outboard. Also had a Corinthian class racer, 21 feet with a bolted-on iron 900-lb center keel that drew 3 feet and we had to be careful not to run aground. In the river or lake it was great. Also had a 26-foot ketch with a cabin, which looked sort of home-built but was solid and easy to sail. It had a little outboard bracket too. We camped out on it many times, just drop anchor in the lake and hit the sleeping bag. It had a “bowsprit” that was fun to sit or stand on; you could watch the bow cutting through the water.
The Lightning was easy to put on a trailer and take to a lake. We went on several weekend camping/sailing trips with it. The retractable centerboard was perfect for trailering, or beaching. We could beach it on the river across from the old Navy Base and look for things that had washed up on shore from the old ships. We could beach it on various spots on the lake shore to fish, swim, cook and camp. Our favorite was a narrow island in the lake along the Intracoastal Canal. Some cattle were on the island; we didn’t bother each other.
Years later I became the Skipper of that Ship and had a great time teaching the next generation of kids about sailing, boating, Navy traditions and terms, knot tying and Parliamentary Procedure. One of the adult leaders was an Englishman who had been sailing for many years in many parts of the world, and he could tie some of the most interesting knots we’d ever seen. He could tie a bowline with one hand. The Ship still had the Lightning and Corinthian, and also had several smaller sailboats of various makes and sizes. Among them there was a Dolphin Sr, a punt, a pram, and an old Snipe sailboat. All the kids enjoyed sailing, but they liked water-skiing behind the 18-ft powerboat too.
A Ship in a nearby city folded so we got their 39-foot ketch and a 25-foot Chris Craft powerboat that had a Chevy 307 inboard engine; it would get the big boat up on a plane. That 39-footer was unique and beautiful and needed a lot of maintenance. It was built in the Philippines in the early 1970s for J. Fred Bucy of Texas Instruments, and was christened “Tumbleweed”. Solid mahogany inside and out, aluminum masts, latest 1970s electronic navigation and communication gear, 4-cylinder inboard engine, 12v refrigerator, alcohol stove, enclosed head with hand-pumped flush toilet. Four bunks in the main cabin with a drop-leaf table. All that beautiful varnished mahogany. It had a a seawater shower area between the head door and the forward cabin door – – one pump for the shower water, the bilge pump gets rid of the water. Forward cabin slept two or three, it had a hatch to the forward deck in the cabin ceiling. Rope/chain locker in forward bow. Long bowsprit, huge mainsail, pretty big mizzen, two jibs. Long thick wooden tiller for steering. Outstanding vessel under sail. We would take it from its mooring near town, travel down the bayou to the river and go to the big lake for hours of fun sailing, taking turns at the tiller, and tacking – – “prepare to come about” then “come about”. A couple of times we went to the west side of the lake where the sloops were racing and we’d put up all our sails, close-haul them and keep up with the racers. That was a fast ketch. We took it to the Lake Charles “Contraband Days” a couple of times. The kids rigged up some “cannons” from black plastic tubes and firecrackers. They stuck the tubes out of the portholes and it looked a lot like a small pirate ship. Won a trophy one year.
Another time, we had been out in the lake most of the day then we were ready to go back to the mooring but the engine wouldn’t start. We fiddled with it for a while, then figured we could sail all the way back to the dock because the wind was blowing in just the right direction. So off we went, completely under sail in the river, then the bayou. Approaching the turn to the mooring, I called “Drop the mainsail” then went to the bow to ready the mooring lines and hang the side bumpers. We were about to turn and I looked back, and was horrified to see the main was still up. Too fast! We’ll crash into the dock! I hustled back to the cockpit, untied the main, dropped and furled it then berated the kid who was supposed to drop it. He thought we needed it to get to the dock, but he forgot that a boat doesn’t have brakes. Watch, I said, we have momentum. I steered toward the dock, then turned so that the bow pointed parallel to the dock, jumped onto the dock with a line and shoved back on the bowsprit to slow it down, then looped the line over a piling and slowed the boat to a stop. Dang near pulled a lot of muscles, thanks to that kid not following orders. The big soft bumpers hanging over the side saved the boat from damage.
Another time, we were coming into the mooring under engine power just after dark. We could see everything just fine since our eyes had adjusted to the dark, and some streetlights in the parking lot gave us all the light we needed. Just then, some car headlights popped on and blinded us. We shouted and waved to shut them off, shouted and shouted and shouted. Finally, they went off, just in time. Almost hit some things while blinded. Got to the dock without further mishap and found that the headlight culprit was the wife of one of the Ship leaders, she was just trying to ‘help’. Sigh
Each summer the Ship would drive to Galveston for a weekend on board the Texas A&M Maritime Academy’s training ship, the Texas Clipper. It was a pretty nice old freighter that had been converted over the years to the cadets’ needs. One cargo hold was a basketball court. The main staircase was nice. Each cabin was home for four, with plenty of storage. The galley served great food. Several educational stations were set up for the Sea Explorers, such as a Man Overboard drill, firefighting, Bridge Operations where we got to handle the big wooden ship’s wheel, mooring lines, signaling, and more. Just going up or down the gangplank was great fun.
The sailing trip we most often remember is when we went to Galveston for a Sea Explorer Regatta in the “Tumbleweed”. We sailed and motored there in the Intracoastal Canal, left about noon on a Thursday and arrived the next morning. During the night there was a driving rainstorm and we ran aground in the mud once. The next morning it was sunny and we proudly waved to the ferryboats and merchant ships as we crossed Galveston Bay and moored at the Galveston Yacht Club We stayed in the clubhouse for the weekend, ate well, sailed small craft in the bay, took the ketch out in the bay and put all the sails up for a great afternoon of sailing. Such a great weekend. Sunday we sailed out into the Gulf for the way home, then came up the Sabine River to home, and got there before dark.

Those were good sailing days. All that’s left of them are photographs and memories.

Hurricanes

I remember the scare of Carla in 1961. We almost left but Dad heard on the radio it changed its course away from us so we unloaded the car. Reading its reports now, I see why my parents were so scared.

1969 Camille hit Mississippi. Went on church choir tour through there in summer of 1970, much wreckage still there. Camille 2nd worst storm of century. Winds 200mph at shore.
1970 during a small hurricane, us kids walked to a corner store in 70mph winds. Leaned way over to walk forward. Fun.
1983 Alicia dropped rain on Houston for a week, flooded it bad. We got some of it.
1992 an exchange student from Sweden had been there just a few days when one storm headed our way. Might have been Andrew. I saw it would go into the middle of LA and said so but wife panicked screamed and shouted and made us all pack up. While packing the car, I left the car doors and trunk open so she wouldn’t have to unlock them. Then I went back inside for another load, came out and found that she re-locked all the car doors after she put her load in. So I unlocked them all and put my load in, went back for another load. She locked them all on her next trip. Repeat several times, lock and unlock. Arrgghh We’re right in front of the door! Got only a few miles from the house, traffic jammed. Clear blue sky. Sat there an hour in the sun, asked wife if she wanted to go home. Yes. Many others turned around and went home too. While unloading the car, she didn’t lock the doors every trip.
2005 Rita. Only one I ever evacuated. Went inland 90 miles to my parents’ house. Winds were 124mph there, 165+ in Orange. The weather people lied and said it was only 110 in Orange. 60 trees fell at parents’ house, one on our Suburban, two on edge of house. Power and water off. Generator power, Dad put it in the garage where it heated up the house. Ran it at night, made it hard to sleep. To flush the toilet we dipped water out of the holes where the trees had been uprooted. That water was light brown, which made it hard to know if you’d flushed it or not. Temps in the upper 90s; our two dogs were hot, two cats okay. I sat in the shade reading a book, while dribbling water on the dogs to keep them sort of cool. Later, one cat ran off into the woods; she lived there several years. Some young guys came by, sawed the tree off the roof of my Suburban; it sprang back up. It was driveable if I leaned forward and looked through the steering wheel since the tree bent the roof down. Back to our city on Tuesday, house OK, water and gas on. Cats all came back. Generator power. Freezer OK, but wife didn’t trust it even though things were still frozen solid. Stayed a few days, cleaned up the yard, cleared out freezer. Got neighbor to watch house and feed dogs and cats, went to wife’s sister’s in Katy for 10 days. Finally got insurance check, had to drive to Beaumont for it in the rented car (Jeep Grand Cherokee?). Estimate to fix Suburban too much, so they totaled it. Shopped for a Jeep, but they cost too much. Got a 2003 Eddie Bauer Explorer with 35k miles at Hempstead. Still have it in 2017, running and looking good. Took 3 weeks for electric grid to be completely rebuilt. Nat’l Guard handed out supplies in shopping center. Leaves were blown off the trees so they sprouted new ones; odd to see spring green colors at Christmas. At the workplace, one man couldn’t get out of town so he stayed in the office for a week, eating whatever he found in desks; he kept a list and replaced everything later. He ran off some looters too. Good man.
2008 we had Ike. Stayed home, boarded windows. Our street didn’t flood, rest of city got the flood surge. Power only off 12 hours at my house. Helped rebuild wife’s parents’ house, it got a foot of water. They stayed in his upstairs office for several weeks; generator, bathroom, running water, A/C.
Humberto formed on the coast overnight, got up to 100mph winds at home. Some roofing curled up, a few tree limbs fell, nothing major.
What many people are thinking during a hurricane:
Help, Mr. Wizard, Heeelllppp!
Tutor Turtle – – Drizzle, drazzle, drozzle, drome, Time for this one to go home.
At industrial workplaces, guidelines are worked up and written on what to do if this or that happens. A hurricane procedure is standard at workplaces along the coast. One place I worked in 2008, a shipyard, had some modular offices for the engineering staff. They were glorified mobile homes, and the seams weren’t completely leak-free. The usual cool fronts would come through with a thunderstorm and heavy rain for an hour or so. We’d put buckets under the leaks and empty them a couple of times before the storm was over. Those were pretty bad, and we just kept on working since the management wanted us to work hard. Then one Sunday there was a little tropical storm – – peak winds of 20mph gusts for about ten minutes, and about 30 minutes of a light drizzle. Hardly enough to wet the windshield. Those thunderstorms were ten times worse than this little thing.
Went to work at the shipyard at the usual time Monday morning to find two idiots standing at the front gate screaming at everyone to get the h*ll out of here and don’t come back until you’re called because we just had a hurricane! Get the h*ll outta here!
I ignored the idiots and badged in the gate and almost made it to the office until the screams and curses from those two idiots were just unbearable. I turned and glared at them. One of them furiously shouted “Come here!” I stared at him about a minute more, then rolled my eyes and very slowly walked up to him. I said, “By the way, that’s ‘come here PLEASE’. Made him madder. What do you want? “We just had a HURRICANE here and we have to inspect everything for damage before any work can be done” Uh, there wasn’t any hurricane, just a little breeze and drizzle. That set him off again. By then, their shouting and cursing was comical. Little kids. Those idiots would be a waste of time to talk to so I slowly walked to my car and slowly drove off. Made sure to drive exactly in the middle of the lane so they had to move out of the way. Called my boss, told him what happened and he said to show up Wednesday. Said he would find out who those two were and why the shipyard was closed. Wednesday, showed up at the usual time, no screaming idiots at the gate this time. Boss said the company procedure for hurricane was to check everything out, even though it was just a tiny bit of rain. They didn’t have any procedure for the thunderstorms that filled buckets in the office. Stupid bureaucracy. Saw those two idiots later – – one was an Affirmative Action “safety” guy, the other was one of the yard supervisors. A couple years later the yard was shut down by the gov’t for holding foreign workers in near-slavery conditions. Those two got fired, might have gotten jail. Karma.
A couple weeks after that gate-yelling incident, Hurricane Ike flooded the shipyard and did so much damage that a new office was set up in the old Naval Reserve buildings a mile away. The old offices got about a foot of water in them; the contractors hired to clean them stole everything of value from the desks. What was salvaged was carried to warehouses and the office workers were assigned to sort out everything and try to find the owners. We got to pick from the unclaimed leftovers. All the computers were put on pallets and wrapped in plastic, to be shredded for insurance purposes. We got to snag some of the computers and monitors; some of us found our old computers and took them home. Unfortunately, the flood did so much damage the shipyard lost its big contract and had to lay most of us off. I went back to the contractor office for a few months, then got laid off and went back to doing handyman/painting/odd jobs.
Harvey August 2017 – – was supposed to be a tropical storm traveling off the coast going east, supposed to just get some 35mph winds and a few inches of rain, nothing major. It had dropped feet of rain on the Houston area. 3am Aug 30, it came by and dropped 10 inches or more in a few hours on us. SE Texas flooded worst ever. The Cajun Navy rescued many people, Cajun Gravy fed many people after the storm ended. My garage got a foot of water, the shed got a few inches; pulled it all out to dry. One rent house got about 16”, we quickly pulled out carpets and soggy furniture. Will cut 4’ of wall paneling and pull kitchen cabinets, treat mold if found. So far, open windows and fans are keeping mold from growing while we work in there.
Wife’s parents got 5 feet in their house. Sunday 9-10 church group from Carthage gutted it. Brother-in-law came from Austin Sat night, helped Sunday. MIL took my bed, I had to sleep in desk chair. They are now staying in their upstairs office, like they did in 2008.
When the chips are down, people and businesses reveal their true colors. The Monday before the storm, HEB panicked and closed early, shouted at people to go away; other stores were still open with no panic. HEB is The Chicken Crew. Kroger limited only 6 shoppers in at a time before the storm, they get demerits for that; but afterward, they stayed open to 6pm and sometimes later, stayed polite the whole time. WalMart was okay before the storm and right after, but within a week they got surly. Unshaven and scruffy non-licensed non-badged ‘security’ with bad attitudes and worse manners. Changed closing times without warning leaving many without essentials and herded out of the store by the barking-terrier ‘security’. They raised prices too. We hope the new HEB puts WalMart out of business. Market Basket was okay, no problems. A few small neighborhood grocery stores, Danny’s and Robert’s, were okay too. Robert’s got water in the store, they opened pretty quick anyway.
Building supply stores are doing great business. They treat customers right this time. After Rita in 2005, for the first couple of days, only uniformed emergency services could get into Home Depot, though many regular folks desperately needed plywood and lumber and generators and fans and such. And for weeks after, at Home Depot, when customers paid for their goods and started to walk out, strange unidentified thugs held them at the exit with hands on their pistols until a receipt was verified. One time was all it took and those customers went to McCoys and Ace and Parker’s where things were normal.

I had an old gas edger that ran okay and did a great job on the curb and driveway. A month before the hurricane I was cutting a limb that had fallen on the roof, and accidentally dropped it on the edger. Cracked the carburetor and bent the axle. I thought it could be fixed so I kept it. Then the hurricane flood came, submerged it for about 24 hours. Guess it’s goodbye to the good ol’ edger. I have a newer one that wasn’t flooded but it won’t do as good a job as the old one. It’ll work out eventually. My father-in-law’s new lawnmower was partly under water, he thought it was ruined. I took it home and drained the tank and carburetor bowl, put in fresh gas, pulled the rope a few times and it started. Changed the oil too.
Most of the emergency personnel and law enforcement are pretty good all the time, and during a storm you can count on those. There are a few who are using the job to vent their life frustrations on others; those aren’t worth the air they breathe. A small city in between two larger cities has a lot of commuter traffic going through it every workday. Until some state laws were enacted to rein in excessive ticket-writing, that small city’s police department was very well funded. They still manage to take enough money from commuters to pay themselves well, and recently they moved into a brand new big HQ with a well-furnished “rec room” where the one woman ‘officer’ seems to spend a lot of time. They push the limit nowadays as much as they can get away with, which causes most commuters to pass through without stopping to buy anything. That police department acts more like “road pirates” than law enforcement; their vehicles are silver-gray with black trim, just like pirates. You have to get a magnifying glass and a spotlight to see any law enforcement markings on their vehicles. They are a cliché of a small-town speed trap. After a hurricane or big storm, they quietly declare a ‘curfew’ that includes the usual commuting hours; you guessed it, they put every officer on the street to prey on the commuters, writing as many $250 tickets for “violating curfew” as fast as they can until the state AG shuts them down. Those people are scum. Bridge City, Texas. Pinehurst, Texas isn’t much different.
Saw a disturbing news story about Tampa, FL city “code enforcement” handing out thousands of code violation notices just a few hours after Hurricane Irma went through. Gave the residents a couple of hours to fix everything or they would be heavily fined. No word on whether any code people made it back to the office. That wouldn’t fly in Texas.