Dec 31, 2008

Auld Lang Syne :o)

Happy New Year To All :o)

A selection of versions, pick the one that appeals to you. You can then play this as the new year rings in if you so desire.

Catch You On The Turn :o)

Auld Lang Syne

The song, "Auld Lang Syne," is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English- speaking country in the world to bring in the New Year. In spite of the popularity of 'Auld Lang Syne', it has aptly been described as the song that nobody knows. Even in Scotland, hardly a gathering sings it correctly, without some members of the party butchering the words.

Written by Robert Burns in 1741, it was first published in 1796 after Burns' death. "Auld Lang Syne" literally means "old long ago," or simply, "the good old days."

Versions Below:


Traditional (my favorite)



Bagpipes from (Darrin, whoever that is)



Head Banger Version :o)



The SAW, watch if you dare!

Lyrics: Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne

We twa hae run aboot the braes
And pou'd the gowans fine,

we've wander'd mony a weary foot
Sin' auld lang syne

We two hae paidled i' the burn,
Frae mornin' sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin' auld lang syne

And here's a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie's a hand o' thine;
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Dec 30, 2008

New Years History :o)

Ancient New Years

The celebration of the New Year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, Babylonians celebrated the beginning of a new year on what is now March 23, although they themselves had no written calendar.

Late March actually is a logical choice for the beginning of a new year. It is the time of year that spring begins and new crops are planted. January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical nor agricultural significance. It is purely arbitrary.

The Babylonian New Year celebration lasted for eleven days. Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, but it is safe to say that modern New Year's Eve festivities pale in comparison.

The Romans continued to observe the New Year on March 25, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun. In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the New Year.

But tampering continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established what has come to be known as the Julian Calendar. It again established January 1 as the New Year. But in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days.

The History of New Year's Resolutions (See Yesterday's Post about Resolutions)

The tradition of the New Year's Resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C. Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar.

With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future. Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions and many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and also exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year.

The Romans named the first month of the year after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances. He was always depicted with two faces, one on the front of his head and one on the back. Thus he could look backward and forward at the same time. At midnight on December 31, the Romans imagined Janus looking back at the old year and forward to the new. The Romans began a tradition of exchanging gifts on New Year's Eve by giving one another branches from sacred trees for good fortune. Later, nuts or coins imprinted with the god Janus became more common New Year's gifts.

In the Middle Ages, Christians changed New Year's Day to December 25, the birth of Jesus. Then they changed it to March 25, a holiday called the Annunciation. In the sixteenth century, Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian calendar, and the celebration of the New Year was returned to January 1.

The Julian and Gregorian calendars are solar calendars. Some cultures have lunar calendars, however. A year in a lunar calendar is less than 365 days because the months are based on the phases of the moon. The Chinese use a lunar calendar. Their new year begins at the time of the first full moon (over the Far East) after the sun enters Aquarius- sometime between January 19 and February 21.

Although the date for New Year's Day is not the same in every culture, it is always a time for celebration and for customs to ensure good luck in the coming year.

Tomorrow: Auld Lang Syne

Dec 29, 2008

New Years Resolutions :o)

The clock is ticking, and the New Year is just around the corner. I have never been a big believer in resolutions, but I do want to continue with my fitness and weight loss program, and to also continue to improve on our financial situation in these lean times. How about you, do you have a resolution or two?

New Year's Eve has always been a time for looking back to the past, and more importantly, forward to the coming year. It's a time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make and resolve to follow through on those changes.

Below is a listing of the most popular resolutions, did your New Year resolutions make the list?

Lose Weight
Manage Dept
Save Money
Get a Better Job
Get Fit
Eat Right/Better
Get a Better Education (Learn Something New)
Drink Less Alcohol
Quit Smoking
Reduce Stress Overall (Enjoy Life More)
Reduce Stress at Work
Take a Trip
Volunteer to Help Others
Get Organized
Spend more Time with Family & Friends

Recent research shows that while 52% of participants in a Resolution study were confident of success with their goals, only 12% actually achieved their goals. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, a system where small measurable goals are used (lose a pound a week, instead of saying "lose weight"), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.

There is a right way and a wrong way to make a New Year's resolution. Here are a few tips to see that your resolution actually makes a difference:

1. Create a Plan

Setting a goal without formulating a plan is merely wishful thinking. In order for your resolution to have resolve, (as the word "resolution" implies), it must translate into clear steps that can be put into action. A good plan will tell you A) What to do next and B) What are all of the steps required to complete the goal.

2. Create Your Plan IMMEDIATELY

If you're like most people, then you'll have a limited window of opportunity during the first few days of January to harness your motivation. After that, most people forget their resolutions completely.It is imperative that you begin creating your plan immediately.

3. Write Down Your Resolution and Plan

http://www.mygoals.com/ exists to help you formulate a plan, which we then help you stick to. But even if you don't use myGoals.com, commit your resolution and plan to writing someplace, such as a notebook or journal.

4. Think "Year Round," Not Just New Year's

Nothing big gets accomplished in one day. Resolutions are set in one day, but accomplished with a hundred tiny steps that happen throughout the year. New Year's resolutions should be nothing more than a starting point. You must develop a ritual or habit for revisiting your plan. myGoals.com helps you stick to your plan by providing email reminders that arrive when it's time to work on a given task.

5. Remain Flexible

Expect that your plan can and will change. Life has a funny way of throwing unexpected things at us, and flexibility is required to complete anything but the simplest goal. Sometimes the goal itself will even change. Most of all, recognize partial successes at every step along the way. Just as a resolution isn't accomplished the day it's stated, neither is it accomplished the day you reach your goal. Rather, it's accomplished in many small increments along the way. Acknowledge these incremental successes as they come.



Hope you can make some reasonable and achievable resolutions and stick to them in the new year. Tomorrow: The History of Resolutions and New Years :o)

Dec 28, 2008

Dec 27, 2008

I loves me Deer :o)

While there is no surprise to any that I love my wifey with all my heart, this post is not about her. While we were sitting and puttering, we saw a band of at least five deer at the back pond. Right now the temperature is 59 degrees, so I am sure it was even warmer earlier. As you can see from the pictures, the six inches or so of snow has melted and the back pond is very full. We are expecting freezing temperatures again tonight, so the roads will be a skating rink tomorrow. Below are the pictures of our little deers (extra 's' intentional :o)


The Twelve Days of Christmas, What does it Mean?

Head on over to Rantings of a Simple Woman and pay Sharlene a visit and let her know you appreciate the details of one of the best known Christmas Carols (her post is repeated below).

There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me. What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas? This week, I found out.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

-The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas Carol...so pass it on if you wish.

So I would add, if you decide to pass it on, please make sure you credit Sharlene at Rantings of a Simple Woman.

Dec 26, 2008

Post Holiday Regime :o)


With the major food holidays now behind us, and a New Year lurking just around the corner, do you have a workout regime in mind?

I know that I have often wondered what the advantage or disadvantages of "Fat Burn" vs. Cardio type workout routines are. So I did a little research and below are the results. I know that most of the time I will be headed to the cardio arena since that burns more calories.


Busting the Great Myths of Fat Burning

Your body burns either fat or carbs depending on the intensity of your activity. But when it comes to losing weight, calories are calories. You burn fat even when you're in couch-potato mode. Yet, a lot of misunderstanding prevails. Get ready to break down some of the myths people have about burning fat:

Myth: The body completely shuts off one fuel source when it turns on the other.

The Truth: What has often been misunderstood by both exercisers and exercise instructors alike is that the body relies on both fat and carbs for energy all the time, albeit in different ratios. In fact, as you sit here reading, you may be burning about 50-60 percent fat and 50-40 percent carbohydrates. You're not using much of either, however, because the amount of calories you need probably amounts to about one or two calories a minute.

If you were to get up and start jogging in place, your body would need to supply you with some quick energy to do so, so the metabolism ratio might shift to drawing upon more carbohydrates, say 70 percent, and less fat, say 30 percent. If you were to continue jogging, then, in order to preserve the carbs (which can run out since you have limited stores in the body), your body would gradually shift its metabolism ratio again to say, 60 percent fat and 40 percent carbohydrates.

From an energy efficiency point of view, it pays to be fit. However, in practical terms this is purely technotalk, and these ratios don't make a big difference when it comes to losing weight and decreasing your body fat. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than your body consumes and uses everyday. Exercise is one main way to burn a lot of calories. But when it comes to weight loss, what matters is how many calories you burn, not so much whether they are fat or carbohydrate calories.

If you do work at a low intensity, you need to increase the time spent exercising to burn more calories. What matters most is the total number of calories burned. If you burned 250 calories every day from a short, fast jog, you'd see a bigger difference in weight and fat loss than if you walked everyday for the same amount of time.

The number of fat calories you burn isn't that important, because even if you burn a lot of carb calories, these need to be replaced both by the carbs you eat in your diet and also within your body. Your fat stores will be broken down and transformed into carbohydrates when you need fuel. Even if you're burning lots of carb calories and less fat calories through exercise, your fat still inevitably gets used.

Watching TV for 20 minutes - 40 total calories, 60 percent fat, 24 fat calories

Walking for 20 minutes - 100 total calories, 65 percent fat, 65 fat calories

Jogging/sprinting for 20 minutes - 250 total calories, 40 percent fat, 100 fat calories

Who knew that watching TV burns more fat percentage than jogging LOL :o)

The fat burning zone is ‘Low Intensity Cardio’ where your heart rate is between 60 – 70% of your maximum heart rate. This heart rate range is reached by standing up, walking fast or jogging.

The cardio training zone is ‘High Intensity Cardio’ and your heart rate is between 70 – 85% of your maximum heart rate.

Maximum heart rate can be estimated by the following formula:(220 – Age) = Maximum Heart RateExample: (220-28) = 192b.p.m. (beats per minute) is the maximum heart rate.


The bottom line: For individuals new to exercise it is recommended to start in this low intensity zone (60 – 70% of maximum heart rate). There will be some benefit in the first 2-3 weeks, initially they can experience even some weight loss. But after this initial stage gradually we need to increase the intensity of our routine. Remember, this increase corresponds to a 70 – 85% of Maximum Hart Rate. You can even make it a family affair :o)







Rehab Time :o)

Get your mind out of my drunken gutter :o)

Actually, Rehab is the name of a band and I got their latest CD today as a gift from Beth. The track that both Beth and I had heard on the radio is titled "Bartender Song" and has a very catchy rythme and beat to it, and the tone and lyrics are pretty cool also. We had not talked about this song, but Beth knew that I would like it. The version on the radio is cleaned up, but you know what the "missing" words are. PARENTAL ADVISORY - EXPLICIT CONTENT. First link is to the unedited video, and the second link is to the lyrics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-_Cstkk6Jc

Sittin' At A Bar (Remix Clean) Lyrics

Another track that I really like is the video below, which is a little milder, but still not something you should listen to with the kids. The Hook: This town is my home, it's deep in my soul, That's why I'm at home even when I'm on the road. We were listening to the CD on the way to and from Beth's side of our family, and this part of the song really made me think about how blessed I am to live were I live and to have the family here that I have. No matter where we travel, this is our town, our home, and because our our family, our soul. Peace to you on this Christmas Evening.






This Town Lyrics

Dec 25, 2008

Merry Christmas - Bad Sheeba Poetry :o)















Twas the day of Christmas, and all through the Nutty house
Not a creature was lurking, especially a mouse.
The stockings were tied to the rail with care,
Bulging with treats, evidence that Fat Boy had been there.

The humans were nestled in their bed,
While droplets of kitty drool landed on her head.
And mamma in her 'robe,' and I in Dad's lap,
I settled in for my daily winter's nap.

As I snoozed, I had a vision, in my mind what should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and two huge micedeer.
With my old man driving, dressed in a robe and looking so slick,
I knew in a moment it must be a trick.
More rapid than Dad and his Mustang they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Mickey! On Minnie!"
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
As dry leaves that remained on the tree bristled,
A red-tailed hawk a-rustled.
So up to the treetop they flew,
Unaware that a meal they were about to be, those two.

And then, in a heartbeat, I saw a bright light
Dad in his robe snapping a picture was quite a sight.
As I lowered my head, and was hunkering down,
Off the tree the hawk flew in a flash of brown.

Dad's eyes they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His nose like a bright red cherry!
His robe was tied in a bow,
And the flash of his legs was as white as the snow.
He had a flushed face and a little round belly,
That shakes whenever he laughs, like a bowlful of jelly!
My Dad is a bit chubby and tall, not even close to an elf,
I always laugh when I see him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and snide comment he does make,
Soon gave me to know he was no flake.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his micedeer he gave a whistle,
And at that moment I awoke due to what felt like a thistle.
I heard him exclaim, 'my bad poem here is done,'
"Merry Christmas to everyone!"

Dec 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Eve - Day :o)

Christmas Eve Day has arrived,

No one is stirring, not even my bride.

May your day be grand and full of fun, but my head is headed down like a sled,

I must demure and head off to bed.

In a few short hours I shall awake,

And Holiday Joy I will partake.

Merry Christmas Eve Day to all,

Here is hoping you have a ball :o)

Dec 23, 2008

Intenet Explorer Hacker Warning

OK, I am going to keep this pretty much unedited, so if the spelling and lack of links bother you, I apologize in advance. Copy the info into the browser and go. I am fading fast, and the bed awaits for a solid 6 hour snooze before I turn around and do it again :o)

Microsoft releases emergency patch for Internet Explorer

A serious security flaw in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer allows hackers to install malicious software on Windows computers. While AEP Information Technology has
patched this flaw in company computers, you should take steps to protect your home computer.

To protect your personal computer, Windows users should install the
latest update from Microsoft. In addition, IT Security recommends installing and/or updating anti-virus software. If you have not purchased anti-virus software, consider using programs that are free for home use such as AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition or Avast! Home Edition.

http://update.microsoft.com/microsoftupdate/v6/muoptdefault.aspx?returnurl=http://update.microsoft.com/microsoftupdate&ln=en-us

Microsoft Security Bulletin MS08-078 - Critical Security Update for Internet Explorer (960714) Published: December 17, 2008 Updated: December 18, 2008

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms08-078.mspx

This security update resolves a publicly disclosed vulnerability. The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if a user views a specially crafted Web page using Internet Explorer. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.

This security update is rated Critical for Internet Explorer 5.01, Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1, and Internet Explorer 7. For information about Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2, please see the section, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Related to This Security Update. For more information, see the subsection, Affected and Non-Affected Software, in this section.

The security update addresses the vulnerability by modifying the way Internet Explorer validates data binding parameters and handles the error resulting in the exploitable condition.

For goodness sake, please be careful where you link to :o)

Dec 22, 2008

Christmas Cheer :o)

Hope this finds you snug as a bug in a rug so to speak (it has warmed up to a balmy ten degrees here today). I am steeling myself for the drive into Southwest Michigan to go to work this evening. Only good thing about working the night shift is that I should get a parking place relatively close :o) The parka hood will be pulled tight today.

Christmas Day is just around the corner, we have trimmed the tree, checked our lists, wrapped the presents, wished the wish for a Happy Holiday and a wondrous New Year. Now it is time to enjoy the fruits of those labors by spending some quality time with friends and family, sharing some Christmas Cheer.

I am dropping off the PlayStation One and some games (originally purchased for car trips with the kids, and no longer being used) for our work Adopted Family on my way in to the plant. It is great to know that something that is not currently being used will bring joy to two young children on Christmas morning.

Dec 21, 2008

Sunday Silliness - Change :o)


When the winds of change blow hard enough, the most trivial of things can become deadly projectiles.




Dec 20, 2008

Do You Have One?

During this holiday season, it is important to keep a positive attitude. We all have things that could easily bring us down as we think about memories past, loved ones that cannot share the holiday with us (for a variety of reasons), or to feel a little sorry for ourselves because our best laid plans are not working out the way we had hoped.

I believe that having a positive attitude is crucial for individual happiness, and even more important in a family or work situation. Attitudes are contagious, and it is up to each and every one of us as to whether we are going to infect others with positiveness, or negativity. The easy path is to take a negative or victim approach. This denial and negative perspective, which is underneath what is observable to others, can be like an infection and spread and become gangrenous.

Below are seven simple messages that can be used to put yourself in a positive frame of mind:

Contribute to Success: Find something that you are passionate about, and get involved. This will most likely result in doing something for someone else.

Confidence: You must believe that you are a winner before you can be one.

Take Control: In life there are very few things that you have total control over. However, you do have control over your attitude. The way you approach a given situation is entirely up to you.

Visualize Success: Practice succeeding at something in your mind. This will help make you more self-assured and comfortable.

Start the Day Right: The type of attitude we have is a choice we make every day. If you don't automatically feel upbeat, look around and find something to feel good about. This can be the difference between a good day and a bad day.

Avoid Negativity: Do you say half full or half empty, partly cloudy or partly sunny? This is an indication of how you see things. Habits can be broken, so find the silver lining or ray of sunshine for goodness sake :o)

Do the Right Thing: Attack issues head-on. Learn from past experiences, and do not let things fester.

So, here is wishing you a magnificent holiday season and may each and every day be wondrous for you and yours :o)

Home Sweet Home :o)

All in all, not a bad travel day. Spend about three hours this morning benchmarking with a couple of other nuclear plant representatives, then headed to the Airport.

Both flights were pretty much on time, and I ended up getting to South Bend only 15 minutes later than originally scheduled.

The biggest delay of the trip was having to literally chip the ice off of the windshield. The driver side window was clear, but the windshield had a 1/4" thick layer of ice that I had to chip away (scrapping did not work). I could not clear the passenger window, so made sure I drove in the right hand lane :o)

The wife and cat were glad to have me home, and greeted me at the door. I am even more glad to be home.

Hope you survived the Friday weather with no real problems :o)

Dec 18, 2008

Successful Day :o)

Today was a successful day. We did our Strategic Projects and Sourcing meeting today, identifying four areas that we may be able to develop contracts that leverage the USA Alliance Fleet concept (fifteen single nuclear site utilities with 27 plants). Acting as a fleet gives us potential leverage to negotiate favorable contracts and/or rebates as members use vendor services. We finished up about 3:30 P.M., which allowed me to go to Balley's (free via the hotel) for a workout.



There are four of us that are not leaving until tomorrow, and we agreed to meet at 6:30 P.M. for dinner (my poor system, Beth and I rarely eat before 9:00 P.M., I fear my system will go into shock and shutdown - or worse yet, by 10 or 11, I will be ravenous :o). We all agreed that while in this Midwest area (Overland Park, Kansas), that we needed BEEF :o)


I was not aware that the call "New York" strips "Kansas City" strips down here, but that was the special tonight, and I had a 16 oz version that was so tender it melted in my mouth. I was good and substituted broccoli for potatoes, but I did have a salad with Blue Cheese (my favorite).



We got to talking about wine as we were deciding what to order, and I learned that the Northern CA and Central Coast wines are growing in prestige, and that a region (Paso Robles, central CA) that I had avoided is on par with French wines now. Turns out that there extreme temperatures, drip irrigation, and shale soil "stress" the vines and the grapes, which results in great flavor. So I will be looking for some new vintages to add to our cellar. Our vintage pleasure tonight was Earthquake, a Red Zinfadel from Lodi CA (north of Napa). It was a tad young, but an excellent match for the steaks.



Hope you are getting your shopping and wrapping completed, I know I have several hours of wrapping in my weekend future (assuming I can get home tomorrow through the winter storms).

Late But Safe :o)

Five and a half hours late, but safe and sound in Overland Park, Kansas. Apparently there were storms across the country today. Delays, but not bad flying.

I am very frustrated right now, the "free" wireless is so slow I cannot even open e-mails, but at least I can connect a little. Looking forward to being home late Friday night.

Nite, Nite, off to bed I go.

Bucko :o)

Dec 16, 2008

Stupid Winter :o)

This is the type of image that I drove through yesterday, cold and overcast. The original forecast was for a nice morning, and getting colder in the afternoon. Well, it was full face-on bluster yesterday walking the 1//2 mile or so into my office from the parking lot. I did not wear my winter jacket (stupid, stupid, stupid [hitting my forehead as I say this]), and I was very cold and the wind gusts actually sucked my breath away several times.

On the way out last night, the wind was at my back, so was not real bad, but my legs were definitely cold from the wind blowing through (keep it clean folks :o), and my butt almost froze to the seat when I got in my car (I sure miss the electric seats from my previous SUV's).

Tonight, I had the opportunity to experience lake effect snow and Midwest pre-winter (that's right, winter does not actually start for five days) driving "dandies". On the back roads, the top speed was 25 mph, and on the freeway, it increased to a whopping 40 mph. There is something wrong when a Mustang is passing SUV's and trucks on both stretches of road.

I am hoping that part of the stimulus package will give MI/IN drivers some "balls".

Dec 14, 2008

Sunday Silliness - Challenges :o)


I expected times like this - but I never thought they'd be so bad, so long, and so frequent.

Dec 13, 2008

Pay it Back :o)


I am a big believer in the pay-it-forward concept, and I refer you to my previous entry on kiva.org.

But today, it was a day to cash in on the past. Our grocery store gives gas for groceries, where you earn points for purchases of groceries on your card, and then get a discount at the pump. So Beth gave me the current card last night, knowing I had a meeting on the other side of town this morning, and I filled up for 0.939 today - $12 for a full tank :o)

Since I knew I was going to be on the dark side today - that is what I call the shopping district (people come from miles away to shop the mall and other stores), I went through our collection of gift cards from the past year or so. I took an assortment of Barnes & Noble, Borders, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Meijer cards, plus my AEP Wellness gift card.

I hit the mother lode today. Turns out we had $148 in the store specific stores, plus the AEP Wellness Visa card. So I picked up the new Batman DVD, two new release books, a few groceries, a new Skill saw, a drill bit set, and a set of fire extinguishers (PSA: if you do not have one in your house, please go get one, you can never be too safe and they cost less than $20. During this time of year, with lights and plugs and such, invest in prevention, because the correction price is too high).

So take a look in your junk drawers, or your wallet/purse, or anywhere else you store partially used gift cards, and make a travel itinerary and use up those bad boys :o)

Hope you are having a wonderful and relaxing Saturday.

Dec 12, 2008

Detroit - Star Trek Temporary Home :o)



I see a trip to Detroit in our 2009 Future. On our last trip to Las Vegas, we went to the Hilton and had the Star Trek Experience (we are geeks, we fully admit it). We were so bummed that the Experience closed in September '08, so we will not be able to live it again in January with our great friends Kim and Steve.

However, there is a silver lining, we will have a chance to make a sojourn to Detroit next year to see the new exhibit described below, and hook up with Bill and Mary Sue, and perhaps check on a few "stars" and "grains of sand" :o)

STAR TREK: THE EXHIBITION OPENS FEB. 14!
Discover imagination and innovation like never before with one of the most popular and influential works of science fiction known around the globe. Making it's Midwest debut at the Detroit Science Center, Feb. 14 - Sept. 7, 2009, STAR TREK: THE EXHIBITION takes visitors beyond television and movie screens into the Starship's bridge and Captain's quarters. Your students will see engineering milestones shared between fiction and reality, witness the fruits of creativity, and be exposed to the on-going themes of social justice and tolerance as advocated by Star Trek.

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was always proud that his show was built on real scientific principles. STAR TREK: THE EXHIBITION builds on this tradition by using Star Trek's imagined future to teach real science. Inertia, rocket propulsion and relativity are just a few scientific principles showcased.

Albert Einstein once said that "imagination is more powerful than knowledge." Introduce a new, fun, and original way to pursue further studies of physics, aerodynamics, engineering, literature, drama, and film - just to name a few.

Live long and prosper!

We are really looking forward to Star Trek XI release on May 8, 2009, so click the link if you want to get a trailer preview. Note to self, May trip to Detroit to include a movie viewing, hmmm :o)

Dec 11, 2008

OptOut of Offers :o)

Here are three websites you can use to OptOut of credit, insurance, magazine offers and the such.

Some statistics: Each American gets 40 lbs of junk mail each year, which is an average of 848 individual pieces, 30% of worldwide mail is composed of U.S. junk mail, and 19 Billion catalogs are mailed each year.

I know we get lots of junk mail, and I continue to try and find ways to limit it.

Here they are:

http://www.catalogchoice.org/

http://www.greendimes.com/

http://www.proquo.com/

In order to opt out of some of the credit card offers and such, you need to provide your SSN, but again, this information came from Time, so it has been properly vetted.

Dec 10, 2008

One Minute Manager - Goal Setting :o)

One Minute Goal Setting:

1. Agree on your goals.
2. See what good behavior looks like.
3. Write out each of your goals on a single sheet of paper using less than 250 words.
4. Read and re-read each goal, which requires only a minute of so each time you do it.
5. Take a minute every once in a while out of your day to look at your performance.
6. See whether or not your behavior matches your goal.

Dec 9, 2008

SmartyPig :o)


You have most likely heard of the old Christmas Card Clubs. Well, there are some new sites out there that let you save for something specific you want. You can save for a specific goal with a free account at Smartypig.com.

I have not yet opened an account, but it was referenced in my BottomLine publication, so I am sure it has been properly vetted :o)

Here is how it works: Sign up, describe what you're saving for and when you want it, and the free service will suggest a savings plan to be automatically deducted from your existing checking or savings account. You know what they say, pay yourself first!!!

You can keep your account private or open it up to contributions from friends and family toward a group birthday, wedding, graduation, or other gift.

Once you reach your goal, you can transfer the money into your main account or put it on a gift card. Best yet, deposits earn a 3.9% annual percentage yield :o)

We have started saving for the 2012 Superbowl and 2016 Olympics, and I will be investigating SmartyPig accounts to facilitate the process.

Dec 8, 2008

One Minute Manager Tips :o)

People Who Feel Good About Themselves Produce Results

Quality is simply giving people the product or service that they really want and need.

A problem only exists if there is a difference between what is actually happening and what you desire to be happening.

Dec 7, 2008

Help the Working Poor - Kiva II

As I investigated more about the Kiva.Org site, I figured out that I could establish a team. If you would like to become a member of the Nutwood Junction Team (described as a group of blogger friends who care), please go to www.kiva.org/team/nutwood_junction and join.

Alternately, send me an e-mail at buckoclown@aol.com and I will send you and invitation.

Peace to you all :o)

Help the Working Poor - Kiva

I have heard of microfinancing/lending in the past and have wanted to check it out. In the recent issue of Time Magazine, there was satirical article from Joel Stein, grounded in fact, about Kiva.org.

Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.

Their motto is: We Let You Loan to the Working Poor

I decided to check it out today, and made two loans, one to Helen Azimi Cloth & Dressmaking Supplies, in Nigeria;

and one to Shahnaz akhtar Waqar Masood Group Manufacturing, in Pakistan.

I started out slow, $25 each, and will periodically let you know what type of correspondence and experiences I have. I am very excited to be able to help others, and to show that the America that a lot of people perceive, it not the only America that there is. That is one of the reasons I chose Nigeria and especially Pakistan.

The people you see on Kiva's site are real individuals in need of funding - not marketing material. When you browse entrepreneurs' profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else in need.

Kiva partners with existing expert microfinance institutions. In doing so, we gain access to outstanding entrepreneurs from impoverished communities world-wide. Our partners are experts in choosing qualified entrepreneurs. That said, they are usually short on funds. Through Kiva, our partners upload their entrepreneur profiles directly to the site so you can lend to them. When you do, not only do you get a unique experience connecting to a specific entrepreneur on the other side of the planet, but our microfinance partners can do more of what they do, more efficiently.
To learn more, visit their website at: Kiva.org

Sunday Silliness - Burnout :o)


Attitudes are contagious. Mine might kill you.

Dec 6, 2008

Life Lessons - How Do You Deal ???

Are you accountable for your own actions, or are you a victim?

Accountability – when you make a promise, you have to deliver. Do what you say you will do! Recognize, Own, Forgive, Analyze, Learn, Renew…TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.

SEE IT – Obtain the perspectives of others, communicate openly and candidly, ask for and offer feedback, hear the hard things.

OWN IT – Be personally invested, acknowledge your involvement, create and maintain a sense of alignment, own personal and team objectives.

SOLVE IT – Constantly ask “What else can I do?”, redefine boundaries, creatively deal with obstacles, stay focused on results.

DO IT – Be proactive, follow-up relentlessly, do what you say you will do, and measure progress toward you intended result.

Victim Loop: Deny, Ignore, Hide, Resist, Rationalize, Blame.

Attitude: Life is 10% what happens, and 90% how we react to it.

One of the lessons I have learned is that - People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care! Choose how to respond! Do not deny how you feel! So show that you care, learn to count ten so you can react with facts and not emotion, and do not be a victim.

Dec 5, 2008

Moving Day in Our Future :o(


No you Silly Billies - Not Beth and I.

Several years ago, I received a call from my Mom that she and her husband (my step-dad) were moving to Oregon to be near her daughter from a previous marriage. At the time, I was a little hurt that there was not a discussion, because I told her that they could have moved here just as well. But we were good sports and went out and visited several times (the Bend Oregon area was absolutely beautiful). About a year and a half ago, they decided to move back to the Springfield, Missouri area. I flew out to Oregon and drove the U-Haul back to Missouri and unloaded it. They had moved to Springfield MO to be near my Step-Dad's daughter. It was a good choice since they had retired to and lived in the area for many years before they moved to Oregon.

While we were down at my Mom's house for Thanksgiving, and after the recent divorce of my Step-Sister and her Husband (who is an absolute great guy and great friend), and after some love and tears from Beth and I, we told my Mom that we would love it if they moved up to our neck of the woods to spend the time they have left with us, who love them, and with Beth's family, who love them as well.

Guess What - tonight, my Step-Dad called and he said, you had only been gone a little while before I was accosted by your Mom! He indicated he had no reason to live down there anymore, and that he was touched that we wanted them to live near us. So, by the end of May, they will be moving-on-up and be living near us. Lots of logistics to work out, but we will deal with that.

My heart goes out to my bride, when we talked about this on the drive back last Monday, and I thanked her for her support, she said, "Of course, they are family." We are so excited and pleased that they will be near us with a family that loves them, and has been and will always be there for them :o)

Dec 3, 2008

How Deep Can You Dig?

In yesterday's post, I indicated that one of our nuclear units would be shut down through at least September 2009. I learned today, that the announcement was made at the end of the day on Monday, after the Stock Market had closed for the day. The length of the shutdown (one year plus), and the potential costs ($330M plus) are considered material statements, and if the announcement was made while the market was open, the SEC would have suspended trading of our stock.

As evidence of these material statements, our stock closed down more than 4% yesterday (after dipping down more than 6% during the day) even though the market was up more than 2%, and our peer utilities had slight gains. So today, our investor relations group was again in New York to explain what the numbers mean, how much of the costs will be covered by insurance and rates, and that there is expected to be little impact to our 2009 earnings.

It is a reminder that in these difficult economic times, what and how things are reported can have a significant impact on the finances of companies. Its not just about electricity and what customers pay. It is also about one of the largest utility companies in the nation, that employs more than 20,000 people. It is also about investors, about the value of the company and the ability to raise capital to make infrastructure improvements, which in turn helps support the economy.

As Beth indicated in an e-mail to me today, we tend to think in terms of immediate impacts such as work schedules and such, but the true impact is much wider and affects many people. So as we experience the roller coaster ride of the current economy, try to not only focus on your immediate impacts, but give thought to the downstream impacts. It may be a neighbor that works for a supplier to your company, it may be a grandmother that has her savings in investments that are under performing, it may be a friend or family member that lost a job.

Try to dig as deep as you can to support your local food bank, Toys For Tots, and local charities during this difficult time and holiday season.

Dec 2, 2008

Schedule Smackdown

BRIDGMAN, Mich., Dec. 1, 2008 – American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) continues work to repair Cook Nuclear Plant’s damaged Unit 1 turbine generator. A repair option may allow operation at reduced power, but the rotors will ultimately be replaced to ensure the long-term viability of the unit. The expected return-to-service timeline ranges from the second half of 2009, if repair is successful, to 2010 if the rotors must be replaced before operation. AEP anticipates that all costs incurred to return Cook Unit 1 to service will be recovered through insurance, vendor warranty or the regulatory process. Repair and replacement of the turbine rotors is estimated to cost up to $332 million.

So, again the sucking sound of the forced outage comes calling. The week of Christmas, I will be on nights (reduced work week, we will get a four day weekend), and the second week in February, five nights. I will be the night Shift Outage Manager. Nice to get recognition for being the head on the horse so to speak, but messes with the rhythm. I also found out that I will be doing day-shift for the spring outage for Unit 2 (32 days, 6-12 hour shifts, with one day off per week); again, nice to be recognized for having something to contribute, but a hassle.

I welcome my chance to do my share, and never complain publicly, but it is the same old syndrome of 5% of the folks doing the heavy lifting. I fully expect that after the Unit 2 outage, I will then move into an every seven week rotation on the Unit 1 forced outage until the unit is back on line. I just want to know the schedule so that we can plan the rest of our life :o)

Hope your post holiday week is going well as you prepare for the Christmas Holiday.

Dec 1, 2008

Sunday Silliness - Blogging :o)



Sorry it is a little late, but we did not go out on Sunday :o)

Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.

Nov 28, 2008

Thankful

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your friends and family.

We headed out from the homestead right on schedule Wednesday at 9:00 A.M. The weather was sunny, the temperature was mild, and the company was divine :o)

We made it through the Kokomo Hell Zone without to much trouble (the bypass has become so congested and overgrown, that the new HWY 31 will need to bypass the bypass).

Then we headed West after going through the Indianapolis interchanges. Beth used to live there and she could not believe the amount of growth and ongoing construction. Certainly the slowdown was not evident in Indy. From Indy all the way to Springfield, MO, the traffic was semi-dense, and the drivers were definitely dense LOL. I do not understand how people have forgot the common courtesy of driving on the freeway. I use the cruise control to make sure I do not get in any trouble with our law enforcement brethren, and I cannot tell you how many times people pulled out in front of me, doing 5-10 mph below the speed limit. It made for a long drive, but we made it only 20 minutes latter than we had predicted.

At the five minute latter than predicted time, I turned to Beth and said my Mom is starting to squirm now because we are not there yet. Beth said, I was just thinking the same thing. Sure enough, when we pulled into the driveway, the door was slightly ajar and my Mom was watching for us. It was even worse because she did not know what the truck looked like :o)

She was ecstatic to see us, and we were correct in our assessment, she started getting very antsy when we were not there at the top of the hour.

We had a wonderful family Thanksgiving yesterday, and also got to see my ex-BIL and his girlfriend. They are doing well and are coming over for dinner on Sunday. Today, we foraged for some groceries and are at a wonderful library complex in Springfield. Beth is on the laptop, and I am using my Mom's library card at one of the terminals. My one hour is getting ready to expire, so just want to say that I am thankful for being with me wife and mother for Thanksgiving, that we arrived safely, and that all indications are that our Spotter friends had great Thanksgivings.

Peace to each and every one of you, and thank you for your holiday wishes and blessings.

Nov 25, 2008

Vacation Boy Again :o)

Ah yes, not a bad day at the "office" today. Was actually able to leave with nothing that needs to be "completed" before 12/09/08. That is huge for me, especially as we slide into our six day weekend (yahoo, a mini-vacation :o)

Tomorrow, we are heading off to Missouri to visit my Mom for the Thanksgiving holiday. We are taking our laptop, but do not know when we will be able to get connected since my Mom does not have a computer. I did "google" a Starbucks with Wi-Fi, so will get on at least once LOL.

In preparation for our trip (ten hour drive), I filled up the truck today, and could not believe that I only paid $1.679 per gallon. WooHoo :o)

In advance, I wish each and every one of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 24, 2008

Secret Irony :o)

Tonight, I read a brief article in Time Magazine about the history of the Secret Service. I found it ironic that in 1865, on the very day he was assassinated, Lincoln green-lighted what would become the U.S. Secret Service.

The agency's mission has evolved dramatically since its inception under the Treasury Department. Today, there are more than 3,200 members, ready to sacrifice their lives for he safety of the leader of the free world.

The agency's job originally was to stamp out counterfeiting in an era when one out of every three bills in circulation was fake. Presidential security became a formal objective after the assassination of President McKinley in 1901. It wasn't until 1951, after a failed attempt on President Truman, that Congress codified the agency's permanent protection of the First Family. Its duties also now include candidates for high office (they have been guarding "Renegade" since May 2007, longer than any other presidential candidate in U.S. history).

Monitoring for fiscal malfeasance is still half of the agency's job though. In August, the Secret Service helped crack what was heralded as the largest identity-theft ring in U.S. history (so where was the publicity on this? Oh, thats right, our media machine usually only reports on the negative. End of Rant :o).

Hope you enjoyed this little historical stroll :o)

Nov 23, 2008

Home Gym Project, Complete :o)

Today, the project was to finish building the weight machine (far left, only 150lb weight stack, but provides a good variety for home). This machine had three separate cables, one for legs, one for butterfly, and one for the overhead. The instructions were good, and it was not to difficult.

From this view, you can see the window to the back eleven acres, plus the TV and Radio.

Only thing left is to finish putting some new outlets in, as cannot put the heaters on high since they are on the same circuit as the living room. I came up short by ten feet in cable, but the new outlets are installed, just some connections left after Thanksgiving.

Hope you had a good day (I watched Da Bears win as I puttered in the garage :o)

Big Three Bailout - Yes or No ???



There have been some discussion threads and entries about the pros and cons of assistance to the Big Three (This one for you Mark).

This got me thinking, at first blush, I am against a "bailout" (it is bad business planning and poor decision making, the company(s) do not deserve to be bailed out), and that is the fiscal conservative republican side of me. After all, if we bail out the auto industry, what is next, every struggling company will line up with the palms extended upwards (sometimes holding a bucket). Where do we draw the line?

Then there is the socially liberal side that looks at the impact to the people, the workers and families that were simply doing their jobs, and they may have to pay the ultimate price. How do we address that issue, do we bailout the companies, do we provide increased welfare and job training, do we do a packaged bankruptcy with government backing???

I can see, understand, and empathize with both perspectives. So, I decided to look at the business case perspective; what is better for the average taxpayer. Some facts/assumptions:

  • One Million workers potentially impacted.
  • Average weekly unemployment benefit is $359/week (assume 20 weeks)
  • Assume average salary is $60K/year, and that workers will be out of work for a year.

What is the burden to the taxpayer if do not provide some assistance? The unemployment benefits will cost $7.18 Billion. The lost tax revenue, assuming a 25% rate, will cost $15 Billion in lost taxes. So, without even considering downstream costs to other local businesses that lose sales, and without considering job training and placement assistance, we are at a greater than $22 Billion impact if we do nothing.

So, I say that some assistance package is necessary, for the good of the impacted workers and their families, as well as for all tax payers. I think that some guarantees of repayment (so the assistance is more like a loan) and harsh realities for the executives (no bonuses, reduced pay) are definitely in order. Longer term, we need to consider reduction in manufacturing in other countries, retooling for renewable technology, and some union concessions are in order to ensure the viability of this industry in our country.

I think that whenever we are faced with such a dilemma, we need to run the numbers, figure out what the business case is, and make our decisions based on facts, not emotion. When the number of impacted employees is around a million, the numbers do not lie; when the numbers are in the thousands, it is much harder to make the case.

Sunday Silliness - Blame :o)







The secret to success is knowing who to blame for your failures.

Nov 22, 2008

Mini-Me :o)



Since everyone enjoyed the last picture of Sheeba, getting some heat from the register, I thought I would post another picture I took a couple of months ago.

We picked up beanie babies that were a black panther some time back. Sheeba likes to play with them, often tossing them in the air (especially after I rub some catnip on it, hmm, good idea, I am doing it now).

Okay, that was fun, he enjoyed his "treat". Here is a mini-slide show.

video

Mini-Nukes Part Deux :o)


I had a couple of questions on my previous entry, so thought I would do a little more research. If you are interested in learning more, go to Hyperion Power's website.

Invented at the famed Los Alamos National Laboratory, Hyperion small modular power reactors make all the benefits of safe, clean nuclear power available for remote locations (our science and engineering tax payer dollars at work :o). For both industrial and community applications, Hyperion offers reliable energy with no greenhouse gas emissions. Hyperion power is also cheaper than fossil fuels and, when you consider the cost of land and materials, watt to watt, Hyperion’s innovative energy technology is even more affordable than many developing “alternative” energy technologies.

Small enough to be transported on a ship, truck or train, Hyperion power modules are about the size of a "hot tub" — approximately 1.5 meters wide. Out of sight and safe from nefarious threats, Hyperion power modules are buried far underground and guarded by a security detail. (It is not like you are going to bury one in your back yard, these are intended for industrial situations). Like a power battery, Hyperion modules have no moving parts to wear down, and are delivered factory sealed. They are never opened on site. Even if one were compromised, the material inside would not be appropriate for proliferation purposes. (The uranium enrichment is in the 10-20% range, and for weapons grade, you need to be greater than 98% enriched). Further, due to the unique, yet proven science upon which this new technology is based, it is impossible for the module to go supercritical, “melt down” or create any type of emergency situation. If opened, the very small amount of fuel that is enclosed would immediately cool. The waste produced after five years of operation is approximately the size of a softball and is a good candidate for fuel recycling.

Nov 21, 2008

Keeping Warm :o)


It did not seem that cold outside, but the temperature in the house was below 60 degrees (Fahrenheit).
One of the things that cracks us up is that when the furnace is going, Sheeba loves to sit over it. Here he is with the furnace going, see how he straddles the register.
Happy Friday, and hope you have a restful weekend planned (after all, the holidays start next week).

Mini-Nukes?


Nuclear power is normally associated with gigawatt-scale facilities (that would be 1100 MW, or 1.1 GW) costing billions of dollars and run by armies of scientists and engineers (the army would be 1100 employees for a dual unit site, i.e., 2200 MW). But some in the nuclear industry have long argued that much smaller, unmanned reactors could play a role too. Such reactors, which would have power outputs of only a few tens of megawatts, would be particularly suitable for people or companies in remote parts of the world.

Now, however, Hyperion Power Generation — a US company based in New Mexico — has brought the dream of tiny nuclear reactors one step closer with its Power Module. This nuclear reactor — or "battery" as the firm calls it — is not much larger than a hot-tub and could supply thermal energy at a rate of about 70 MW. That could be converted into about 27 MW of electricity (thermal efficiency is about 33%), which would be enough to supply about 20,000 US households.
I deleted the technical explanation because I have not researched the accuracy.

The firm says it will have a prototype of its reactor fully-designed next year and that it has already secured an order for six units from a group of investors in Eastern Europe, including the Czech engineering company TES, who have an option to buy a further 44. It also claims to have other commitments from various parties — mostly energy utilities that currently use diesel generators in remote locations — for a further 100 units. The company expects to deliver its first reactor in June 2013.

Reactors would be configured and sealed at its factory, which has not yet been built, before being shipped to customers. Installation would take as little as six months and a reactor could remain in place for at least five years before the spent reactor would have to be returned to the factory and recharged with fresh fuel.

Hyperion believes that its reactors are ideally suited for companies needing a source of power in remote areas, such as mining companies or those wishing to extract oil from, say, the Canadian oil sands — an application that Altira has long been interested in. This is an energy intensive process that is currently fuelled by natural gas. According to Peterson, the large quantities of greenhouse gases that are generated during extraction could be reduced greatly if a Hyperion reactor were used — although the company has no firm orders from the oil industry.

About the author
Hamish Johnston is editor of physicsworld.com

Vindication!


Here is what I woke up to this morning (I did not say we because Beth and Sheeba are still zzzzzz :o)
At least seven inches and still snowing.
Off to initiate the tunnel (VPN connection) to work and get some quality stuff done. Be safe today.

Nov 20, 2008

HomeWork :o)

I am stoked, based on forecast of multiple inches of snow tonight, and a light schedule tomorrow, I have made arrangements to work from home tomorrow. I have been a little stressed at work lately because I am getting behind. So, working from home is great because there are no interruptions, no ringing phones, and so forth and so on. I will get a lot done tomorrow, preparing us for a great six day Thanksgiving Weekend.

Hope you have a great Friday and an easy slide into the weekend :o)

More Info Needed - No More Bailouts :o)

Today, there was no vote on a bailout for the Big 3 from Detroit. I know there is a lot of emotion and feelings on this issue, but I think the congress actually made the right choice in saying to the car companies, come back when you have a business plan that demonstrates how you will use this taxpayer money to restructure and be viable in the future (and come on, ditch the jets). We cannot just throw more money to the automotive industry without a contract for change.

In addition, I think they made a great decision in the house today to change leadership on the Energy Committee. A new focus on alternative energy and global warming vs. the status quo. As usual, California has been a leader in this type of situation, and frankly, I think there are some things we can learn from their approach. If you are interested in details, read on :o)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, a California liberal, won the chairmanship of a key congressional energy committee on Thursday and promised to work closely with President-elect Barack Obama to promote alternative energy, ease global warming and expand health care.

Waxman wrested control of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee from Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, a longtime friend of the now-ailing U.S. auto industry.

The action was taken on a vote of 137-122 at a closed-door meeting of House Democrats. Waxman will take the gavel when the 111th Congress convenes on January 6, two weeks before Obama is sworn in as the 44th president.

"American people are hurting all around this country," a victorious Waxman told reporters on Capitol Hill. "They are demanding action. And we must live up to their expectations."
Waxman, known as a skilled legislator, said the new committee leadership would help "to get important issues passed in health care, environmental protection, in energy policy."

Many of Obama's plans will be funneled through the Energy and Commerce Committee, whose vast jurisdiction includes consumer protection, regulation of energy resources, global warming, conservation, health and auto emissions.

Waxman favors stronger fuel economy standards for U.S. cars and trucks. But with the three major U.S.-based automakers facing severe financial problems, it may be difficult to boost gasoline mileage requirements that federal law says must climb by 40 percent to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. That is still lower than what is required for vehicles in Europe and Asia.
Environmental groups welcomed Waxman as the new chairman of the powerful committee
"Waxman will help Obama move forward with his agenda," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY
Waxman's immediate priorities will likely be passing legislation to promote alternative energy that would help create the millions of "green" jobs that Obama has called for.

He is also expected to seek to clear a bill that would cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and prepare America to be part of an international agreement to fight global warming.
"Waxman undoubtedly would press more aggressively for effective legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions," said O'Donnell. "Dingell is the favorite of the K Street lobbyists because they realize he will move more slowly, and not require their companies to do as much on global warming."

Fossil-fueled vehicles, like those made in Dingell's district, which includes Detroit, are key sources of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming.

Dingell, the longest-serving member of the House, fought for decades for breaks for the Big Three automakers, which are now seeking emergency financial aid from Congress.

Dingell eventually joined the drive to force the industry to build more efficient cars, and last year helped win passage of legislation to increase fuel economy standards, but not as much as Waxman and others wanted.

Ethan Siegal of the Washington Exchange, which tracks Congress for institutional investors, said Waxman's harder edge had long been noted.

"We see Dingell as a more pragmatic, deal-making liberal with whom the business community can negotiate; and we see Waxman as more of a classic take-no-prisoners liberal who tends to go for the jugular."

Greenpeace praised Waxman's global warming plan to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020 and for the long term by 80 percent by 2050.

Waxman previously sought to block the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing permits for new coal-fired power plants unless those facilities installed the best technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Waxman is a big supporter of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and is a major critic of Big Oil. He has also investigated the cozy relationship some oil companies have had with Interior Department employees responsible for overseeing drilling on federal lands.

Nov 19, 2008

Sticking to The Standards.

I found this an interesting read, courtesy of Paul Glover. Posted with few changes, and my commentary is in red :o)

I’m pretty hard core about things when it comes to the workplace. I believe the workforce is divided into three segments: Core Employees – 20% of the workforce who are hardwired to give 110%; Temporary Employees – 60% of the workforce who have the potential to become Core Employees if properly trained and motivated; and The Others – 20% of the workforce who should have been fired yesterday. And, no, I don’t believe The Others will be anything but The Others regardless of how much time, energy and resources a Company expends on them. It would be better to take the time, energy and resources wasted on The Others (like that last raise The Others received just because it was company wide) and apply it to Core Employees who deserve it! I agree with this, HR sometimes has a tendency to push for generic standards, versus true pay for performance. All performance is not equal, and your Eagles should be rewarded, and your Mice should become food.

My management philosophy is pretty simple, but effective: Reward and Recognize those Employees who exceed expectations; train and motivate those Employees who have potential to exceed expectations and then give them a deadline to start exceeding expectations; and get rid of those Employees who do not have the potential or do not want to exceed expectations. But when I advise my clients on how to implement this highly effective approach to improving performance in the workplace, the first obstacle is not the Employees but the fact that management either has not established standards and expectations or is not constantly enforcing them! How true is this, do you know what it will specifically take to get a 5% raise versus a 1% raise? Do you have specific goals outlined to get you a promotion. I would say the answer to these questions will generally be "no".

Since I believe having good standards and high expectations and enforcing them are essential to maximizing profit, here are a few rules to start the process:

Ø Develop standards and high expectations. Include Core Employees in this process. Ø High expectations begin in the hiring process. Do not hire those who lack the mindset for good work (think Nucor which established facilities in rural areas where they knew they would hire the farmer mentality – hard work all day every day).

Ø Tell new Employees in orientation what the standards and expectations are and that they are expected to meet them. Use clear language. Leave no doubt in their minds! Ø Constantly communicate to everyone in the workforce by your words and actions what the standards and expectations are.

Ø Accept no excuses for unacceptable behavior that violates your standards. No way; no how! If you occasionally accept unacceptable behavior, in time you will routinely be accepting unacceptable behavior. Every exception weakens the standard and reduces profit.

Ø Periodically review the standards and expectations to determine if they still make sense for your Company. Do not change them to accommodate the Temporary Employees or The Others! If the Core Employees have a problem with them review and adjust if necessary.

Ø Enforce the standards by first disciplining and then terminating those who do not meet them. The Core Employees will applaud you; the Temporary Employees will be motivated to become Core Employees or leave; and The Others will know their day is coming.

Ø Supervisors and Managers who do not enforce appropriate standards and have expectations for their Work Team are classified as The Others!

The Bottom Line is: Does your Company have high standards and expectations? Does your Company communicate and enforce those standards and expectations?

Again, an allegory to every day life - do you have high standards and expectations? Do you stand behind those standards and values? Do your family and friend understand what makes you tick, what will allow them to soar with you, or to become food fodder? The key is to communicate and let your feelings and expectations be known.