--- BLOG ---

March 2005


March 1, 2005 #

An Honest Car Salesman

I'm sick and tired of looking for a car. That being said... Last Saturday evening, when I wasn't so tired of looking, I signed the papers for a VW Passat that really seemed like a good car that I'd be happy to be driving, and that I'd be happy paying for. The guy had to get the keyless remote from the dealer that took the car as a trade in, and get an O2 monitor replaced. All part of the deal. It turns out the O2 monitor was fine, it was the catalytic converter that needed replacing... about a $1,500 item.

So this guy had a few options. He could act like everything was fine and send me on my way, only to act stupid when I call him in a couple days asking why the check engine light was on. He could tell me what the mechanic said, act like it's no big deal, and be a hard nosed jerk about the contract being signed "as is" if I had any problems with it. Or he could be honest about what the mechanic said, what it probably means, and renegotiate a deal if I wa interested. The latter, most courteous option, was the one he chose. I appreciate that.  He offered to split the cost of the repair, or to let me back out of the deal all together. I haven't decided quite yet. I really like the car, and it's still a good deal even with the repair bill. Not sure on the car, but I am certain that I would go back to this dealership looking for another car, and I would send my friends in their direction.

Beach Blvd. Car Sales - (no web site)

March 2, 2005 #

Doing a job right the first time

I spent today understanding, and then modifying, a good chunk of code for our thermal vac chamber. It's the chunk of code that has given our team the most problems over the last four years since the original contractors set the system up. Historically, I've found it's best to give original designers the benefit of the doubt when reviewing their work. When I see something that doesn't look like it will work, or it appears they overlooked some possible scenario, I assume they considered what has come to my mind, and start looking for what they did to compensate for that. Usually I find that they have thought about things, and I often learn some pretty slick tricks by figuring out their solutions. Sometimes though... they just screwed things up,  or didn't look far enough ahead.

It costs a lot in time, in frustration, and ultimately in redesign, if you don't do a job right the first time. The majority of the control system I've been programming has been coming from scratch because we're building it in an entirely different language. The ladder logic is staying on the same Allen Bradley SLC's that we originally had, so I'm modifying the code to adapt to our new control system. The guys who originally did the thermal control system were 1) very rushed, 2) systematically shortsighted, or 3) they just didn't care. I think the 1st criteria lead to the 3rd criteria, which then resulted in the 2nd criteria. There are a lot of details in the programming that they just slopped together, so I've been cleaning up a lot of that.

Coming to the point though. If these guys hadn't been so sloppy when they did the job 4 years ago, I would probably have never begun reprogramming this system. 90% of our bugs come from this particular segment of the system. It was integrated with the neighboring sections in a way that made the programming more difficult than it had to be, but even so, they really should have seen the gaping potential for the hang-ups that the system randomly experiences. Reading through the code, it's clear why, where, and how the problems are arising. A little foresight should have made that clear to the original programmers. A little more thought, and they could have installed a number of solutions around it. With a little thought done prior to the actual coding, they could have integrated it in a way similar to how I'm redoing it, and with the same software and hardware, made the system far more reliable and simple to program.

But they did the job wrong. Consequently, we've had to put up with 4 years of bugs in the system, nervous management, 4 am phone calls to those who know how to troubleshoot, and now wrapping up 14 months of engineering to reprogram the entire system. If this one section were done right, the entire system would have been doing just fine for the last 4 years, and for the next 4 years. I never want to sign my name to such reckless work. It only ends up costing more later on down the line.

March 3, 2005 #

"Partly because we don't have a TV, and partly because I have no friends."

The quote of the day. Trajan sorting out why he's habitually drawn back to his computer. If you visit his corporate web site several times in a day, you'll see several new names for whatever this business is.

* * *
I think our solar system is in need of a serious public relations image upgrade.
Yes. We really ought to be more aware of how we are perceived by the greater community of the universe.

* * *
Today's pictures are some of the better looking for their sheer aesthetic quality. There's a brilliant composition of color. Not many colors, but brilliance and contrast. The combination of straight lines, curved lines, broken lines, texture, order, disorder, randomness, predictability... everything you could possibly ask for in life.

Close up of the radiator plate. Check out those .002" edges.

This machinist is good. He ended up using a CNC mill instead of a lathe. The lathe would have curled the material like we expect, but a CNC should normally make the edge all jagged and ripped up with an edge this thin. Mike is a tool and dye maker, so he created some bottom cutters to make this part. He knows how to design the flutes and relief angles so that it's really gentle with the metal.

This is the finishing tool.

He also had to grind a cutter for the bottom of the grooves.

True to form, the whole setup is a cluttered wreck.

All the shavings you see there are the natural result of any machine shop. That's always cool looking, but unique to this is all the undisturbed tools and parts underneath the shavings. The real aesthetic brilliance of this shot is the bright red rag. The black and silver with all the textural variety is great, and then the soft bright red object that just doesn't belong, but fits so well.

March 5, 2005 #

Falling into Old Habits

When I moved down here to California, I was intent on becoming a full blown "has-been" concerning climbing, biking, and skiing. I had been trying to become a has-been for the past year there at BYU, but it's really a difficult thing to do when your brother is about as hard core as they come, all your hard core friends are accustomed to you never bailing on a trip... and it still was always fun. Trying to quit mountaineering really helped me develop a sympathy for crack addicts trying to quit their old habits. It's a tough thing to change a lifestyle that you've been so accustomed to, and that has others who have become accustomed to you.

That being said... I picked up my new car, and it didn't even make it to the first sunset without getting fitted with a rack. I honestly thought it would take a couple weeks, but I really wanted to go biking.

I picked up an '01 2 dr Accord. V6, Leather, every option that Honda installs, and only 35k miles. After dealing with the Honest Car Salesman, it occurred to me exactly why I hate car shopping. I really, really, don't want to go buy another car in a year, and I never like maintenance. That combined with the fiscally conservative tendencies in me, I settled on a slightly more expensive, low miles, zero maintenance, not as high class car. There really is a difference between the Honda and Acura transmission. I was surprised to feel it, but it's there. That's ok though. The Honda transmission is good enough, and I am still very easily comfortable with the payments. My car will not be an influential factor in future life decisions (Katie's grad school entries illustrate this dilemma).

On breaking old habits... I was successful for a year. My mountain bike remained unused for a whole year. Then one weekend I wanted to go biking again. Last October. I guess I'm no longer in the has-been status, but have digressed to the status of weekend warrior. Oh well. I like it.

March 8, 2005 #

Washington DC is COLD!!!!

I anticipated it wouldn't be reminiscent of Huntington Beach, but I really wasn't expecting the bitterness in the air that greeted me walking off the airplane.

I had a 2 hr layover in St. Louis where Greg's going to Med. School, so he swung by the airport and we got to do dinner. Greg's always good for a laugh when he's been studying too much. He feels like he needs to apologize that his brain is fried, or point out that he's not in his usual frame of mind... as though we couldn't tell. It's funny because it's when he's totally fried that he's the most relaxed. It's like he gets too tired to be stressed, and just accepts that life is good enough as it is.

This is a ridiculously domestic shot. Any picture of Greg that looks like something a Mother in Law would be happy to see is far from the character we know.

That's more what we expect.

I got used to seeing everybody wearing colors in CA, and forgot how black and white everybody's clothes are on the Cold Coast.

March 9, 2005 #

Washington DC is CLEAN!!!!

What I saw of DC today is appearing to be the
cleanest city I've been in, next to Vienna (Austria). The metro is clean, the sidewalks are clean, the buildings look clean, the people look clean, the traffic looks clean... All the way around, everything I saw today was very well kept.

Quote of the Day:
"When Lawyers are getting paid more than Engineers, you're bound to have a society in decline."
Congressman Dana Rohrbacher (R) - CA 46th

AIAA Congressional Visit Day

It was interesting talking with the different Representatives and their staff today. First off, It's been a while since I've seen so many attractive girls in one day. The House Office Buildings are across the street, South of the Capitol Building, and they're stacked with girls who seem to be just as smart as they are pretty. That's a good combination. But more relevant to our purpose for coming today...

We started the day with a team of twelve of us to cover appointments with at least 16 California Representatives, and both our Senators. We split into revolving teams of four for each visit,  so every meeting was different according to which of us was present, and the staff member or representative we spoke with. We brought a folder with summary literature on five key topics that AIAA has agreed are of the greatest important to receive congressional attention. This was the framework for our presentation and discussion, but naturally we focused on the topics that were more directly relevant to us as individuals, and to the committees that the representatives serve on.
By working with different groups each time, we were able to learn from each other, and thereby speak with more rounded representation. By the end of the day, I had learned a lot about the concerns and ideas that different contributors in the aerospace industry are facing. It really was informative.

I've tried to avoided cynicism about the usefulness of Congress and the work that they do, and after today, I'm glad I gave them the benefit of the doubt. There isn't any engineering that takes place there, but there is real work being accomplished. Sure it's a lot of talking, and seldom does it lead directly to conclusions. But it appears that it can be valuable, and often is valuable. An effective Representative or staffer, who can look to the heart of an issue, and address it within the concrete challenges, without stopping at the challenges, can make discussions effective, and lead to either solutions (ideally) or at least understanding (second best). The dialogs that they carry need to take place, and this is the established forum for holding these conversations.

Dependent upon Public Opinion
The most significant thing I saw today is how entirely dependent the representatives are upon public opinion.
Individually, they're dependent on constitutiant support, and collectively, they're dependent upon public opinion. Individual Representatives or Senators can rant and rave on any far winged issue they want, so long as their constituency will continue to vote them into office. For any collective action to take place, there really must be a general public opinion in support of the action. Whether or not the action is right and fair is irrelevant. What matters is what public opinion is about the matter. If the public doesn't like it, there is another politician standing next in line, ready to represent the popular opinion about what is right and fair.

Example. We have a large number of non-US citizens in our Universities, both graduate and undergraduate. They are receiving loads of federal money for their education. If not directly through tuition scholarships, they're receiving it indirectly through the funding for the research they're working on. They receive their degrees, and frequently will return to their home country within a decade or so. One of the primary reasons federal money is spent on research and education is to foster the development of such expertise here within this country. Such scientific and engineering expertise is highly valuable to a country in many respects. By educating foreigners and them going back home, we're essentially giving away scientific and engineering expertise, and simultaneously dampening the growth of the same within our own country (opportunity cost to citizens rejected from programs). A possible solution would be to only federally fund research for US citizens, and mandate only US citizens work on federally funded projects. We can propose that, but public opinion in this country would go hog wild about such "discrimination." Consequently, it's not an option, regardless of how right and fair it may be, or even how effective. (This is far from fully and fairly addressing the issue example, and there is much more involved to any solution, but we're looking at the principle at work here.) Public perception and resultant opinion is a requisite factor to any federal decisions.

If the public won't accept a solution, then the solution cannot be implemented. The (mis)understanding of the public on any given solution (let alone the issue and the factors involved) is horrendously crippling. We can have genius Representatives and Senators, but unless the public approves of their genius solution, the solution will never be implemented. It would be like engineers submitting their design proposals to a public vote. Do you really think the F-117 Stealth Bomber would have ever been built if the design was contingent on a public vote? Never!!! I'd be surprised if we could collectively design a wheel barrow by vote!!! Ok. A Wheel barrow could probably be agreed upon and passed by a simple majority. But how about a bicycle? It wouldn't happen.

This system has it's limitations, and they may not be so bad to have in place. Allowing command to a single genius has proven dangerous in history. But that's a discussion for another time.

In addition to the established governing system, it is an open and capable press that makes this country a democracy. Without the opportunity for citizens to be informed, and their agency to act upon their opinion, we would have a democracy, but it would be a (somewhat) blind democracy. With news and people as they are, we may have a partially blind democracy, a biased democracy,
a manipulated democracy, or any number of other adjectives, but it is a democracy. With news and people as they are, it is also a diligent democracy, an informed democracy, a deliberated democracy, and so on. It is up to the people collectively to make the democracy as effective as it will be. We can choose to be diligent, or to be apathetic. Either way, we will collectively live with our collective decision.

Making Friends
Representative Dana Rohrbacher was easily the most impressive Representative I met today (Actually, he was the only Representative I met. The rest were staffers of greater or lesser impression). Conveniently, he represents my own district here with Huntington Beach, and owns a house just 8 blocks away from me. He understands the issues we support, and why we support them. However, I was glad to see what he did with that understanding. He cut right to the solutions and decision that need to be made.

"I agree these are all great things, and that money would be well spent on them. What programs should we cut in order to spend money on these programs? These are your top 5 priorities. What are your bottom 5 priorities that we can cut?"

We had five of us there talking with him. Our team was speechless. I sat back and smiled... and started thinking.

That lead to a far more useful discussion than we held with any other staffers. We didn't reach a conclusion, but some understanding was generated.
(Rohrbacher's not all business. He has three surf boards on the wall in his office).

If we speak positively and supportively of everything, we're always going to make friends... at least for a while. Being infinitely friendly feels great at the time, but when we come to reality, and we see that resources are scarce, that wonderful feeling of friendship quickly becomes strained. Friendship consists in part of appreciating and understanding the desires of another individual, and doing what you can to fulfill those desires. However, friendship becomes strained when friendship is imbalanced between one party and another.

It is very difficult to fulfill the desires of all parties at once. The ability to create optimal solutions that fulfill the most desire of the most people at once is truly a valuable ability. Not just to offer temporary lip service, but to offer real mediation between multiple parties. This is like engineering according to multiple design constraints. Minimal weight, optimal strength, vertical rigidity,  horizontal flexibility, maximum thermal transfer, minimal electric conductance, etc. As Engineers, we use words like minimum allowable, maximum allowable, and so forth. Even with set specifications (X.XX inches), we have tolerances. We are mediators between design constraints. People however, are not as obliging as design constraints. People, with their interests, are each like an individual design constraint. One person wants X.XX inches with no variance. Another person wants minimum weight, regardless of what the allowing parameters are. Another wants maximum strength, regardless of what it does to the other design constraints. Each design constraint / person in itself is useful and worthwhile, but often it becomes a difficult task to engineer a solution that satisfies all design constraints / people. This is the challenge of being a government  representative.

AIAA will never show up at the congressional offices with a list of five areas to emphasize, and five areas to cut. We're a 30,000 member association of technical aerospace engineers, and every one of them is a design constraint that the association is trying to serve. As soon as they introduce a suggestion to cut, they will loose every friend who carries that design constraint within their desires. This is true for AIAA, as well as every other large organization out there. All they will ever do is ask the government for more. Not because they're ungrateful, but because the laws by which they operate will never allow them to do otherwise. Doing so would go against the design constraint by which the organization operates (generate membership).

It is up to the Representatives to find a way to make the most friends possible; to satisfy as many design constraints as possible. We're not talking short term, but long term. They're going to have to cut back on some design constraints (programs) according to their judgment. If the friendship between the Representatives and the public were a mutually balanced friendship, then the public would be equally understanding of the representatives desire to create an optimal solution. If the public were friendly with the rest of the public, they would be understanding of the desires of the others. As it is, we have a lot of imbalance in friendship. Most of the imbalance is public to public imbalance, but it also carries to public and politician imbalance in friendship. Generally, I think it is the public that returns less friendship to the politicians than they offer to the public. Generally, I think the politicians are far more understanding of the public than the public is of them.

That being the case, you can't make any friends by cutting programs. The funny thing is that those who despise another for not fulfilling their desires, generally are those who are being the least friendly... that is, the least understanding and the least willing to oblige anther's desires. That's why I've never liked ungrateful complaining about politics, about business, and so forth. Sometimes people are cheats, and we regret that. But in general, if people would be a friend, they would find that they already have friends doing everything they can to help them.

My hat goes off to Phil Cojanis for setting the appointments, organizing us,  and making this whole thing happen. He was looking pretty stressed at times, but due to his hard work, the whole operation was smooth and effective for all of us foot soldiers. Behind everything that happens, there is always at least one driving individual taking personal accountability. Phil Cojanis drove today's success.


"So authentic you start to fear you may contract some kind of food borne illness." - Kathleen

A couple had been recommended to this authentic Morocco restaurant, so a few of us went. This place was a blast from the moment I saw the entrance. No sign. Just a door that you have to know exists in order to knock on it. They slide back the bolt, and DC is left behind.

I didn't bring my camera, so I'll post a picture when the others send one. Interesting people are always worth meeting.

I Belong in a City

What can I say? I love the Metro /Subway / T / Tube / Train (depending what city you're in). We stayed in Morocco until pretty late. I caught the last train back out of the city to my Hotel (Don't fly into Dulles Airport. It's a long way out there.), and ended up chatting with a beautiful blue eyed girl from Belorussia. She moved out here 8 months ago, works for a catering service, and may stay a year, two years, the rest of her life... who knows? I like people who are enjoying their lives.

Long Entries

It has occurred to me that this entry (as well as others), has been pretty long. Everybody may not be interested to read it all. That's fine. I decided a while ago that I will run this blog for my own personal use. I do keep a personal journal for my own purposes when I want to. I like to keep a record of my experiences anyway, regardless of whether I blog them or not. I like blogging, and others seem to enjoy reading what I post from time to time, so I post this. This blog may end up excessively long at times, but it's only because I'm processing experiences that I would want to process anyway... regardless of anybody reading them. As long as I'm processing the experience, it doesn't hurt to post it. If I were posting this for others, I would keep it more concise. I am posting it primarily for myself, so I will write in it what I want, and as much as I want. Whatever you gain from it is entirely up to you.

Read what you're interested in. If at any time you loose interest, please move on (so reading my life doesn't become a burden). I live for fun, and I would like you to live for fun as well.

March 10, 2005 #

As long as I was here, I thought I'd stay an extra day and see some of the place. I met up with Loretta Hidalgo, a friend from the X Prize, founder of SpaceGen and Yuri's Night, among the stars on James Cameron's new Imax film Aliens of the Deep, astro-biologist out of Cal Tech, and lots of other fun stuff. She's been involved in the space effort some time now, and has made a difference. If you don't know where the April 12th Yuri's Night party is in your city, hit the web site and find out. If you know anybody who is a student and interested in space, SpaceGen will line them onto the path they need to make it there. 

We ran into astronaut Tom Stafford; 1975 Apollo - Soyuz Mission. Behind him and Loretta, you're looking at the docking interface between the American and Soviet spacecraft. Right in the middle of the Cold War, while spies on both sides were risking their lives to gather secret information on each country, and we were racing to build up military and nuclear arms to overpower each other, the astronauts, engineers, and scientists from both nations were able to come together, meet up in space, and shake hands with each other. Quite a technological accomplishment, as well as diplomatic. A worthwhile final flight for the Apollo program.

If your goal is the be the top dog in the world,  there's only room for one at the top of that hill. If you goal is based upon relative position of one individual compared to another, whether it be prestige, power, status, recognition, accomplishment, market share, wealth, image, leadership position... if the substance of the goal disappears when other people disappear, you're only setting yourself up for conflict. However, if your goal is a project, a destination,
a challenge of performance, a challenge of technology, a challenge of human ability, a challenge of human intelligence, any goal that remains even if you are left alone to accomplish it, that is a goal that can create unity, cooperation, and friendship. The 1975 Apollo - Soyuz mission was just such a project.

If we choose goals that require ability and intelligence to accomplish them, then anybody willing can team up with us and contribute to accomplishing that goal. Creating (relatively) inexpensive manned space access doesn't require fighting anybody along the way. Being the first to do it might require fighting, but doing it by a chosen deadline does not. Manufacturing inexpensively and reliably, running a mile by a chosen goal, performing an ice skating routine, creating a mathematical algorithm, etc... none of these require fighting other people. Becoming a Vice President in a major corporation requires that you are selected instead of somebody else for the position. This can create fighting between people, and is bound to create disappointment when multiple people share the same goal. Multiple people can try to get to the moon, and try to get to Mars, and others reaching for the same goal will only increase their chances of accomplishing their own goal. These are the kinds of goals that lead to a peaceful, cooperative, and progressive civilization.

Name the last war that was started by an engineer, a scientist, an athlete, or a musician. Is it athletes and musicians that create political infighting in their fields, or critics, judges, and awards. Without the awards, there would be no reason for scandals surrounding such things.

We need to choose dreams, purposes, and goals, that are not based upon a finite sum desire, or obtaining something that only one person can obtain. When such goals are achieved, progression stops. If you want to be the fastest runner, then you don't need to progress any farther than just past the next fastest guy. If you set goals to run by continually increasing time goals, it doesn't matter who is faster or slower than you. If you choose finite sum goals, there's nowhere else to go after you get to the top.

We need to choose dreams that require personal accomplishment in reference to our own person. If somebody is a better skier than ourselves, we can still accomplish our own goals for skiing. If somebody is smarter than us, we can still accomplish our own personal goals for research and understanding. If somebody has a greater network of co-workers than us, we can still accomplish our goals for operating a business with particular performance measurements. As we choose dreams, purposes, and goals of this nature, we will not run into occasions where our accomplishment requires sabotaging the work of another, inflating our own appearance, or any of the other aspects of human interaction that make life miserable. As we choose dreams, purposes, and goals of this nature, we open the opportunity for people with all goals and backgrounds to join us if they choose, and at a minimum, to pursue their goals uninhibited by us.

This is why I have chosen manned space exploration as my dream. It will require everything that makes humanity great, and does not necessitate the interaction that makes humanity miserable.

Every trip to DC needs a picture of at least 1 monument. Do you think Washington or Jefferson ever thought such a space age looking horseless carriage would be parked in front of this monument?

March 12, 2005 #

I figured out why I like parties, and I don't like parties. I like people. Being around people, interacting, whatever... I like people. I'm an individualist though. When I talk with somebody, I like to talk with them. I don't like doing social performances of conversation, or entertaining people in smaller or larger groups. I like talking with individual people. Parties are great because you can meet people you haven't met before. Parties are miserable because there are so many people that it's really distracting when you're talking with an individual. I frequently find myself surfing the perimeter of parties and large groups. Not because I'm anti-social, but because the perimeters are far enough outside the distractions to carry an individual conversation. I go to parties for the people that are there, not for the activity that is there.

March 16, 2005 #

I never get to sleep on time because I always have enough energy to get just one more thing done before I stop. I never make it places on time because I always have enough time to get just one more thing done before I leave.


March 17, 2005 #

Maybe I'll live longer because I'll always keep trying to get just one more thing done before I die. : )

* * *
Something I realized (again) today. People don't want to read; they want to look and see and know. I need to remember that.

* * *
Another thing. I've been getting sick of how sluggish my laptop has been running lately. I guess it's worth it for the virus and spyware protection, but this was getting beyond reasonable. The only real change I could find to make was logging off IM and changing some of its settings. My computer is running like a champ now. I only have two people that I ever IM. It's ridicuolous that a simple program would slow down an entire system so dramatically.

March 18, 2005 #

T minus 10 days. That's the count down to finish my project I've been working on at NG. My original goal was April 31, '05 (laughed at by our facility lead engineer when I started 12 months ago), but we're starting a baseline test on March 28. My manager would be fine with it only being partially complete, and I was tempted to accept that. Then last night during dinner, when I remarked that the Thermal System might not be entirely complete, one of our test guys commented "Isn't the purpose of this baseline to test the whole system as we will use it for GEO?" He's right. All the rest of life is on hold until I get this system ready and complete.

March 19, 2005 #

"You picked the wrong girl to mess with. I'm not working in a salon."
Suzanne describing her primary malfunction with guys. She's finishing her MBA at Chapman, has spent a year working in the Senate in DC, came to HB to work for Hewitt and Associates in consulting, and still thinks she needs to prove to guy's that she's not a dumb blond.

March 20, 2005 #

#1 on Google!!!

I never thought I'd create anything that would be the top listing on Google, but it's already happened. We began submitting SpaceHub.org to the search engines a couple weeks ago, so all the engines are crawling the site to know how to list it. Greg optimized the pages for the search engines, and apparently he did a good job. Granted, searching for "spacehub" is pretty specific... but it's pretty cool anyway. We're also #1 on MSN, and numbers 2, 4, 7, and 9 on Yahoo.

A shout out to Amber Hardy for spending the last day of the year and the first day of the year with me parked in front of our computers putting together the framework for this site. All this week she'll be out in Utah helping to run Novell's Brainshare Conference. She's helping with a couple of the keynote presentations, and has a few of her own presentations on topics of her particular expertise.

I'm making killer progress on my project at work, but I do let my wander for a few minutes here and there for important things like this.

March 21, 2005 #

"He was lucky"

One of the guys I work with won't be in for the next two weeks. He got some blood clots, went to the emergency room, and they were able to get everything taken care of... but I guess 70% of the people who get these kind of things don't make it. Since he was one of the 30% who made it, we all get to comment about it and say "He was lucky." I don't really think I like that.

Larry is the guy who keeps everything in order in our testing facility. Brent changes and upgrades things, Jim takes care of the radiometer and all our optical-mechanical stuff, Roy does our optics, Steve run things... we all have our place. Larry is the guy who knows where everything is at, finds a place for everything, makes sure all the things the rest of us forget about are taken care of, etc. He does the unseen work, and he does a very thorough job of it. He's like the brainstem of our facility, keeping the heart beating and the lungs breathing.

I guess all we can really say is "He was lucky." He has some gray hairs, but he has some years left to live. I guess there isn't a whole lot to say about it. It just caught me off guard. I haven't been confronted with much of illness, trajedy, or death. It's sobering that only a roll of the dice last night was the difference between Larry being gone for a couple weeks, and being gone permanently. I still haven't sorted out this whole "Life" thing. Either way, we all keep moving on. I don't really think I like that.

March 26, 2005 #


"What do people do on Saturdays? People that don't work on Saturdays?"

No, that wasn't me. I answered that they go biking. Then Trajan offered more comments on 'Fake Holidays.'

March 27, 2005 #

Fast Shoes

When I was a little kid and it was time for me and my brother to get new shoes, my Mom would take us to Payless. My Dad was in the Air Force, and even though he was a rising star, the military doesn't pay anybody more than enough for necessities. But Payless had ProWings, and ProWings were Fast Shoes. So me and Greg ( using my grammar at that age), would try out the shoes to see how fast they were. We would run up and down the isles to see how fast the shoes went. We would run around the corners to see how fast they turned. (Never into the girl shoes isle though... that would be embarrasing).

Then one day while trying out new shoes, I realized that I was just imagining that one pair was faster than another. One pair certainly looked cooler than another, but there really was nothing about the shoes that made them faster or slower. I wasn't sure that what I had realized was correct, but my brother Greg was excited about fast shoes, and my Mom was encouraging about fast shoes, so I talked about fast shoes as well... I wasn't yet sure if what I had realized was true. I had believed it before, but I wasn't sure anymore. Not in the affirmative, or the negative. For that time, I just acted like I was expected to. It worked well enough before, so being in doubt, I went with what had already been working.

After that day, I never again ran down the isles to test out how fast my shoes were.

There's a line from a song that I connect with.
"By the time he was nine, he had deciphered the illusion, trading magic for fact. No trade-backs."
That was about that age. I didn't intend to, but I had traded away a piece of magic. No trade-backs.

It wasn't until 5th grade that I realized there was a difference between my shoes from Payless, and my friends shoes from Footlocker. This realization introduced a strain into my life that hadn't existed before. It was a strain for myself, but also a strain for my Mom. With time, we learned how to deal with this strain. By now I've grow out of it.

It seems that a large aspect of life is the process of learning to adjust to what we expected to see (or didn't expect to see), and what we really do see.

  * * *

Maybe I'll use this space for something.