Oct 31, 2008

Be Scared, Very, Very Scared :o)

The market is enough to spook even the ghosts, goblins, and ghouls lately.
Wishing you all the best during these difficult times, and that you can enjoy the weekend. On a positive note, the market closed up 11% this week. Celebrate by having fun :o)

Halloween Quicky :o)

Get your minds out of the gutter :o)

Just a reminder to click the Wildcat's Lair link on my sidebar. He has a funny new Halloween entry.

My treat to you is the chance to start following the adventures of Wildcat and Frank.

Happy Halloween.

Oct 30, 2008

Generations Gaps :o)

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend M.E.E.T. training. The purpose of this training is to provide insights on how to deal with generational differences in the workplace (and frankly, can extend to situations outside of work as well). The acronym stands for:

M - Make time to discuss; There's something I'd like to discuss.
E - Explore the difference; This is important because...
E - Encourage respect; I really appreciate the way you....
T - Take responsibility; How about we agree to...

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate your need to meet!

What is in it for companies to take the time for this type of training? Provide a common language for employees and management. Provide skills to use leverage multi-generational differences. Improved morale. Enhanced teamwork. These attributes should then lead to improved performance, better recruitment and retention, and problem prevention (keep situations from escalating).

There are now four generations in the workplace:

Traditionalists, born 1925-1942, 75 million large, 10% of workforce
Baby Boomers, born 1943-1960, 80 million large, 46% of workforce
Generation X, born 1961-1981, 46 million small, 29% of workforce
Generation Y, born 1982-2002, 76 million large, 15% of workforce

Disclaimer: these are approximate numbers, the company we purchased the training material from uses these ranges. Cuspers are those born in the 3-5 years before or after a generational frame, and Cuspers tend to show characteristics of both generations.

OK, lets meet the Generations (via a few key terms, feedback preferences, and work motivators :o)

Traditionalist: Loyalty, Sacrifice, Patriotism. No news is good news. The satisfaction of a job well done.

Baby Boomers: Optimistic, Competitive, Workaholic. Feedback once a year with lots of documentation. Money, title, recognition, corner office.

Generation X: Skepticism, Informal, Self-reliant, Life-balance, Technology. Sorry to interrupt, but how am I doing? Freedom is the ultimate reward.

Generation Y: Realistic, Direct, Entrepreneurial, Value fun, Communicative, Internet. Feedback at the push of a button. Work that has meaning for me.

Bottom Line: State what you need and our willingness to help others with what they need. Communicate with respect. Acknowledge the similarities and differences that exist. Reach agreement. End on a positive note. Follow-up.

As we went through this training, and I balanced the terms and phrases, and looked at the demographics regarding our looming election, I can see why there is a divide between the older generations and the younger generations. The message is different, the target audience is different, and the response is different.

Oct 29, 2008

Financial Crisis Issues (complicated but necessary with 11/04 approaching :o)

The housing bubble

At a time of rising home values, the seed for the crisis was sown when risky borrowers were able to obtain home loans from mortgage lenders, which pooled mortgages together and sold them for a fee. The banks hired investment banks to package the mortgages as securities with different risk layers. To sell desirable risk loans, banks kept significant amounts of less-desirable loans -– typically lowest-return, highest-risk loans -– for themselves. The investment banks sold the rest of the securities to a wide variety of investors. In some cases, banks parked the securities in off-balance-sheet funds, called Structured Investment Vehicles, which the banks themselves sponsored. The securitization of these assets allowed banks to transfer credit risk to capital markets and focus on generating fees rather than interest income.

Insurance was purchased to enhance the credit rating, or hedge the value, of securities. The role of insurance companies, like AIG, in providing credit enhancement or protection made asset values on bank balance sheets dependent, in part, on insurance company solvency. For this reason, regulators viewed the potential bankruptcy of AIG as posing a systemic risk.

After peaking in October 2007, home values began to decline, with the pace of that decline accelerating through the summer of 2008. At the same time, over-extended home buyers began to default on their mortgage payments, and foreclosure rates began to sharply climb.

The Credit Crunch

Increasing mortgage defaults and excess housing supply led to the collapse of real estate values, which underpinned mortgage security values and caused a crisis of confidence in bank solvency. As the values of mortgage securities fell, banks recorded losses, now totaling more than $660 billion. The losses required them to raise new equity capital to reduce leverage as well as to tighten credit, which has forced down spending.

Consumers, tapped out on credit with declining home values and a lack of savings, have stopped discretionary spending.

In September 2008: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced the federal government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, the largest of its kind. The Federal Reserve lent AIG $85 billion in exchange for nearly 80 percent of its stock. Washington Mutual failed, representing the largest bank failure in U.S. history.
Secretary Paulson proposed a $700 billion rescue plan.

The Dow plunged. The bailout begins.

In October 2008: The President signed the $700 billion bailout bill into law. Wachovia agreed to be purchased by Wells Fargo for $15.1 billion. Hedge fund and mutual fund redemption's led to massive selling of equity securities.

While it may be too soon to know whether the bailout of the nation's financial institutions alone will solve this crisis on a global scale, be assured that there will be volatility in the markets. If your are five or more years from retirement, this is the time to hang in the market, and keep following the practice of monthly purchases. Over the long run, you may come out ahead. If you are closer to retirement, or already retired, you need to watch a little more closely, the last thing you want to do is to panic, and lock-in recent losses. If you have a year or two cushion, then I recommend watching the market on a regular basis, and sell only when it makes sense (the market is so volatile, that watching the market daily if you have assets at risk can be beneficial).

Oct 28, 2008

Don't Be Scared

This entry was inspired by the following news headline: WASHINGTON (Oct. 27) - Two white supremacists allegedly plotted to go on a national killing spree, shooting and decapitating black people and ultimately targeting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, federal authorities said Monday, and an entry made by Teresa at Shadows of The Moon. First is some demographic information from the 2000 Census, followed by my commentary in red text.

The United States is a diverse country racially and ethnically. White Americans are the racial majority and are spread throughout the country; racial minorities, composing one fourth of the population, are concentrated in coastal and metropolitan areas. The Black American or African American population is concentrated in the South, and also spread throughout parts of the Northeast and Midwest. Black Americans make up the largest racial minority in the United States.

White Americans are the majority in forty-eight of the fifty states, with California and Hawaii as the exceptions. The District of Columbia, which is not a state, also has a non-white majority. Non-Hispanic Whites, however, are the majority in forty-six states, with Hawaii, New Mexico, California, and Texas, as well as the District of Columbia, as the exceptions. The latter five have "minority majorities", i.e. minority groups are a majority of their populations.

Areas with the largest "American" ancestry populations were mostly settled by English, French, Welsh, Scottish and Irish.

██ German
██ American
██ Mexican
██ Irish
██ African
██ Italian
██ English
██ Japanese
██ Puerto Rican

A new report from the Census Bureau projects that by 2042 non-Hispanic whites will no longer make up the majority of the population. This is a revision of earlier projections which projected this demographic change to take place in 2050. Today non-Hispanic whites make up about 68% of the population. This is expected to fall to 46% in 2050. This, as a result of a much older white population, relative to minorities. The report foresees the Hispanic population rising from 15% today to 30% by 2050. Today African Americans make up 12% of the population, in 2050 they are projected to comprise 15% of the population. Asian Americans make up 5% of the population today and they are expected to make up 9% in 2050. The U.S. has nearly 305 million people today. The population is projected to reach 400 million by 2039 and 439 million in 2050.

People are scared of change, and scared of losing their perceived previous hold over what was going on. We have the illusion of control, and when we see or hear things that are different or challenge that illusion, then there is a negative reaction, and we push back. Psychology tells us that 10% will embrace change, 10% will actively oppose change, and 80% will wait and see. Unfortunately, it is the 10% extremes that get the attention and publicity, typically with the negative connotations getting more air time – because that is what sells. Until the other 80% truly become engaged in change, and I mean stepping up and making change for ourselves (which is much more than casting a ballot), then we are being prevented from moving to the new reality for this country of ours. We must change and care more – care for others in our country, care for others in less developed countries, care for our environment, care for displaced animals that cannot help themselves, care for ourselves enough to stop living beyond our means, as individuals and as a country. These must be OUR values, which is very different from religious morality.

Oct 27, 2008


Note: this is a non-partisan entry from Karl Rove's Website.
The presidential race remained fairly stable over the weekend, with only one state changing classifications. Indiana (11 EV) reverted from Obama's column to toss-up status. Obama now leads with 306 electoral votes to McCain's 157, and 75 votes as a toss-up. Some national polls are now showing McCain closing ground with Obama, but he still has an uphill road ahead of him between now and next Tuesday. One cautionary note: from here to the end, these Electoral College maps will be slow to reflect last minute shifts in opinion since they are based on an average of state polls over a two-week period.

Civic Duty, 4 Acre Wood, Shopping Score

It felt cozy to stay in bed this morning (I did wake up at 3:00 A.M., but blissfully rolled over and went back to sleep). I slept in until 8:30 A.M., and while that may not seem like much, that is five more hours than I got the last two nights.

After getting caught up with our Spotters, we determined to head out to do our civic duty. We voted today, so I will start to tune out the political ads. Alas, methinks that my other half may still have a thing or two to say about the pending election. We only had to wait about 15 minutes, and then it was off to fill in the little ovals.

With the demise of our local second hand exercise equipment sales store, we figured we had three stops to make. We were lucky to miss the rain (this morning), the blustery wind (late morning and early afternoon), and the hail and sleet (while we were at the mall). Yesterday, the wind was blowing so hard off the lake that we needed to have walk downs at the plant to secure equipment and material (flying material and power lines do not mix well). I was kidding some of my coworkers about it being like 100 Acre Wood. Beth and I were discussing this last night, and with our grass area (about 3 acres) and our marsh (about 4 acres), we figure we have a 4 Acre Wood :o)

Our Journey: First was a discount sporting goods store, Dunhams Sports. They carry a lot of one-off merchandise, that is, a new model comes out to replace the old model, and discount sporting goods stores such as Dunhams carry the older models. We perused their selection, then headed to the local Mall, with a twofold mission, get our wedding bands inspected and cleaned (a free service when you purchase at Rogers and Holland jewelers) and to check out the exercise equipment store. The first part of our mission was uneventful (and Beth's little rock sparkled), but the second half was thwarted by yet another exercise equipment store closure. I feel there may be a conspiracy (or is it more an symbol of what we no longer value). Our last planned stop was at Dick's (keep it out of the gutter here folks :o), another sporting goods store. We found their selection to be very limited for such a large store (that has a huge Internet selection by the way) and overpriced. I did have a $50 gift card from a work sponsored wellness program drawing that I was selected for, and picked up a multi-position all-purpose bench (sitting for shoulder workouts, angled and flat for chest workouts, and reverse inclined for abs).

After our planned stops, it was back to Dunhams to purchase the best selections we came across. We got a multi-purpose weight machine, that uses weight stacks that are easy to adjust simply by moving the pin. We learned last week that when there is a 12" difference in heights, it is important to actually try the machines, because the Pro-Weider machines as Sears do not accommodate those of a smaller stature :o) It has enough variety to get good workout in. We already have a recumbent bike and a treadmill, so we wanted to round out our aerobic equipment with an elliptical machine (it is easy to get bored doing aerobic workouts, so having a variety is important). All told, we only spent $800 today, because everything was either on sale or on clearance. A health club membership would eat that up in less than a year, so I feel we were very frugal today.

The trickiest part of the day was getting it all in the back of Blue. The elliptical machine was on clearance, meaning that we had had to take the floor model, and that does not stand up in a truck with a cap on the back. I worked up quite a sweat getting the elliptical machine and boxes for the weight machine in. I had to leave the tailgate down and tie the box upright. We drove home with the flashers on. Rant Alert: What kind of &#%@#$ idiot, instances of both male and female drivers mind you, tailgates you when you have a box hanging out the back, the flashers are blaring, and you are going no faster than 30 mph? End of Rant.

Hope the start of your week was smooth as silk :o)

Oct 26, 2008

Weekday Boy :o)

Another long day today, same as yesterday (12+ plus the commute :o)

We ate during the third quarter, of the Penn State vs. Ohio State (yuk!) last night, because ND was doing so well, that the second string was in [doing the happy dance]. Sorry Mark - I am happy to say that Penn State pulled out the victory.

This morning, after only four hours sleep, I headed off to work with my glasses vs. the contacts (eyes were still asleep :o). We are early in our outage, so we are not paying for Sunday (double time for the craft), and it was very slow. We counted off the hours (hey Chuck, only 5 hours to go, Ken - stop it LOL, you get the picture). I actually got a lot of work done today.

So, as you head into the beginning of your work week, I head into a two day off situation. So, I applaud you in advance as you get up when the alarm sounds, and I will read you when I get up in the morning :o)

Oct 25, 2008

Quick Post - Happy Weekend

Have to admit, I am a little dismayed with the weather forecast and the the temperatures in the morning. They are predicting the possibility of snow here, but I remain optimistic :o)

I had my 12+ hour day today, plus the 45 minute commute each way, but luckily I am still feeling fine, and have made it 1/2 way through the Norte Dame game [Go Irish!] They are doing well. Alas, my Illini loss today, but Beth's Alma Mater BALL STATE remains undefeated. Who would huv thunk :o)

Have a great day tomorrow :o)

Oct 24, 2008

Today, the agenda was simple. Go look at some laptop computers, go to look at some exercise equipment at Sears, go to the bank, and go to Lowes :o)

It may seem like a full agenda, but the stores are all within a few miles of each other. The computer (purchased today) was courtesy of American Express Points (allows me to not cart my work computer home every day, and I got a 4G flash drive to allow me to bring work home versus the computer home LOL).

The Sears trip was a bust - they only had one strength training machine, so we quickly exited. After an online search, it seems that Dick's Sporting Goods has a great selection of equipment, so after we vote on Monday, that is where we will be heading.

Bank - mission accomplished, a minor deposit made :o)

Lowes - Beth was amazed when I got back into the truck (Blue), she said "twelve bags," I said yeah; six for Blue for winter traction, 2 for Slick (Beth's Mustang), 2 for Blacky (My Mustang), and two for the water softener. We will need little salt in the Spring and Summer, because we use the bags from winter driving.

Note: the salt is all in the garage, not staged in the vehicles, I want to do nothing to call in the winter weather.

Hope your day went well today, and that you are ready for a great weekend :o)

Science Scene - Sustainable Sushi :o)

Note: this entry is applicable to all seafood, not just Sushi.

What a coincidence - The October 27, 2008 edition of Time had an article about how we can recover from the overfishing of the oceans, and how consumers can help. In the article the following paragraph was included:

"Consumers also can help save the seas - through the fish they buy. To that end, California's Monterey Bay Aquarium, along with the Blue Ocean Institute and the Environmental Defense Fund, is coming out with pocket guides to sustainable sushi."

Best - farmed bay scallops, farmed striped bass, farmed oysters, farmed trout, Alaska wild Salmon and Pollock, U.S. Spiny Lobster.

Avoid - Chilean sea bass, Atlantic Cod, Groupers, Atlantic Halibut, Mahi-mahi, Orange Roughy, farmed or Atlantic Salmon, Sharks, imported Swordfish, imported King Crab, imported Spiny Lobster, imported Shrimp, Bluefin Tuna, any Tuna caught on a long line, imported Caviar, Lake Huron/Michigan Trout.

The coincidence comes in because our friends Kim and Steve had recently sent us our Seafood Watch pocket guides from the Monterey Aquarium (Steve takes his 7th grade class there every year :o)

To learn more, please go to www.seafoodwatch.org. You can download your own guides!

Oct 23, 2008

Thank You :o)

Thank you so much to all for a B-Day celebration.

Stop, Stop, Stop! - I am 46.

This entry goes out to Beth Anne, my Mom and Step Dad, My Second Mom and Dad, my Sister in Law Suzi, GREATEST friends Kim & Steve (& Baxter), and my Blogger Family (Jamie, Tawnya, Wes, Marainey, Linda, Donna, MS. Ginger, Guido, Karen, Indigo, Dan, Jimmy, Laurel, Hollie, and any others that stumble across our little Spotter home).

After a long day at the office, this was so welcome, entertaining, touching, and appreciated.

Thank you, have a great Friday (I am off tomorrow, but work both Saturday and Sunday :o(), and an even better weekend.

I love this new little community!!!

Oct 21, 2008

PSA - CFL Recycling

One of the many benefits of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) is that they last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. But how should we dispose of these bulbs when they do burn out?

The answer: Recycle!

Home Depot recently announced an in-store, consumer CFL recycling program at all store locations in the United States.

According to Home Depot, customers can simply bring in any expired, unbroken CFL bulbs, place them in a plastic bag and deposit into the orange CFL collection unit. The bulbs will then be managed by an environmental management company who will coordinate packaging, transportation and recycling. The CFL receptacles are located on the front end of the store near the entrance, by the returns desk or near the exit doors inside the store.

A store finder is available on the Home Depot website to locate the store nearest you. Many towns and cities offer recycling opportunities at local recycling centers or transfer stations. There may also be household hazardous waste collection days; contact your local waste disposal officials for details.

Oct 20, 2008

Since I have some new readers, I am going to include some non-big brother details here. On September 20th, Unit 1 of our facility experienced a failure, and the power plant will be off for an undetermined period of time.

The real reason for this repeat entry today is that this forced outage has "Dragged me In." Starting Thursday, I will be in the Outage Control Center, in a four 12-hour day on, four 12-hour day off schedule. This sounds good, except that during the four off days, I get to make sure my regular job continues. Luckily, my counterpart (who does the other four days) and his organizational support ensured that my early November business trip, Thanksgiving trip to visit my Mom, and our early January Vegas trip are all unaffected. So, over the next several months, I will need to be selective in my comments and entries. It is not because I do not care Spotters, it is because I do not have time [apology provided in advance :o)]

Some of the Original Text Starts Below:

Due to the serious nature of this event, and the fact that the low pressure turbines were replaced in 2006, and legal and insurance issues, I can not give any details beyond the below press release. The picture is of a typical turbine steam path for a power plant. This is a huge impact to our plant and our company, as a single unit power replacement cost is in the neighborhood of $500K to $1M per day.

Damage occurred to our plant on September 20th. Damage to the turbines and generator from the fire is minimal, but vibrations did damage the low pressure turbines, bearing supports and some steam piping.

The cause of the vibrations is believed to be an imbalance from the loss of turbine rotor blades.
Hydrogen is used in a closed system to keep the generator cool during operation and the seals that contain the hydrogen were likely damaged by the vibrations.

“We know how to fix and operate equipment, but we are most gratified that there were no personal injuries as a result of the incident.” Our plant operations crews, fire brigade, security officers and other emergency responders all performed well. We are also very appreciative of the excellent response and support of local fire fighters and law enforcement.

An estimate for returning the unit to service will be made after the turbine casings are removed and the turbines fully inspected. It is expected to take about one to three weeks to complete turbine inspections.

The generator is in the Turbine Building and is separate from the nuclear reactor that is located in the Containment Building. The nuclear systems were unaffected by the generator fire.

Oct 19, 2008

Old Garage Cleanup Complete :o)

Here is what the old garage (the one attached to our house) looks like. We had a new 3-car garage built last year, so this space is available.

The long term plan is to expand our living room into the left corner, and have a fireplace as well. The center section is for a workout area, that could be up and running next weekend.

You can see all the insulation that I installed yesterday. Today was removing old shelves, putting down weather strip under the garage door, and general cleanup.

I missed the Bears game, but got regular updates from Beth (Da Bears won :o). It sure feels good getting some work done around the homestead.

Here is hoping you had a good weekend, that you accomplished what you wanted, and that you are ready for a new week. I have a little work-work to do, and to finish watching the colts, and then it is off to BBQ some steaks :o) Yummo!

Sunday Silliness - Apathy

If we don't take care of the customer,maybe they'll stop bugging us.

Oct 18, 2008

Home Improvement Saturday :o)

Last summer we had a new garage built, and our plan is to make a workout area of the old garage. I have been slowly cleaning out the original garage, but have not really made the progress that I would like.

That has changed this weekend. Yesterday, I installed the first two rolls of insulation that we had purchased a month ago, and based on that, estimated that I would need another 12 rolls.

We headed out about noon today, and got the insulation, some new door knobs (the spare bedroom one broke a few weeks ago), some rubber matting for the workout area, and some cement blocks to install a little patio for our garbage can (to get it out of the garage). After we got back, I headed to the old garage and got most of the insulation installed (only thing remaining is some insulation over the joints of the garage door).

Always satisfying to have a productive day, and tomorrow I plan on doing the same (of course, there are the Bears and Colts games to watch, and some American Lager to swill :o). So now, we are watching Illini Football, and the leftovers are a-heating. Hope you had a great Saturday, and that your Sunday is even better.

PSA: Breast Cancer Site needs help :o(

PSA: (Thanks Lee). According to snopes.com the general message of the email below is true. I do not know about the part that states, The Breast Cancer site is having trouble getting enough people to click on their site daily to meet their quota of donating at least one free mammogram a day to an underprivileged woman. According to snopes.com it takes 45,000 clicks to provide a free mammogram and the site is averaging 58,000 clicks a day. Regardless of how many clicks the site is getting, it is a good way to provide a service to those that can not afford it. To do your part go to http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/ .

Oct 17, 2008

B52 Concert Preparation - Part II

After reviewing my last entry, I can see that the pictures are hard to see any detail on, and the captions are hard to read. So, this entry has the source pictures, and if you double click on them, they may be viewable at a bigger size.

B52 Concert Preparations

As requested, here are some pictures of my bride getting ready for her B52 Concert Night.

Enjoy :o)

Financial Forum - Money Tree

With the troubles going on in our economy, have you ever wished that you had a money tree? Or, at times, do you feel as if you are treated as nothing more than a money tree?

If the answer is yes, then please read on. If your answer is no, but you have a desire to save money, then please read on.

Here are some simple ways to save some significant green (paraphrased from an issue of BottomLine Personal, 10/01/08).

Limit Portions: according to the USDA, roughly 25% of all edible food bought by Americans goes to waste. There are also packaging and transportation costs. If you use smaller portions and invoke leftovers, you could save between $500 and $1500 per year.

Plant Trees: A few strategically planted trees that provide shade and block cold winds can lower your heating and cooling costs. Once mature, this could be as much as $250 per year.

Reduce Your Lawn: A beautiful lawn requires water, fertilizer, weed killers and pesticides. If you use a lawn care service, you also have service fees. Planting low maintenance ground cover such as pachysandra or creeping thyme can trim your yard care costs by 50% ($100-$500 per year).

Be Thrifty With Clothes: Only a small fraction of all clothing thrown out in America is truly worn out. If you buy half of your clothing from thrift stores, you can expect to save 80% over the cost of new duds. This can represent a savings of as much as $800.

User Fewer Paper Products: Use cloth napkins and towels instead of paper, and real plates/cups versus paper plates/cups, and even after factoring in laundry and dish washing, your could save $100-$200 per year.

Energy Star: As you replace household appliances, look for the Energy Star label. You could save $100 - $400 per year.

Eat Lower in the Food Chain: Did you know it takes seven pounds of grain to gain a pound of weight in a cow? Beef and Poultry account for more than 200 pounds of meat per year. If you eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, your will be healthier and reduce your grocery bill by 20% (savings of $1200 per year).

Drink Tap Water: Tap water is as safe as bottled water for most of America, and it takes oil to make plastic bottles for your water. If you drink bottled water, you could save $200 - $1000 per year.

Stay Close To Home: With gas at $4 per gallon, if you can eliminate one or two trips per week by consolidating your outings, you can save more than $100 per year if you save 15 miles per week. Do the math for where you live.

Use Your Library: Save trees and plastic by borrowing books/CDs/DVDs from a friend or from the Library, and if you avoid buying one book per month and avoid renting two movies per month, that is a savings of $420 per year.

So what is the bottom line (pun intended) - look at how you spend your money, and if you plan and strategize, then you could get to the point of saving between $2000 and $8000 per year. That is not chump change :o)

Oct 16, 2008

Magic Smoke Alive And Well :o)

Please spread the word about the existence of this journal. Its URL is http://jlandhub.blogspot.com/.

Happy Boss's Day :o)

Whether you are a "boss," or an employee, I hope you had reason to celebrate today.

When I arrived today, I had a card on my keyboard from my team. It was an "Office" card with the saying "Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy, Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me." We love The Office, and I have a magnet set on my filing cabinet. It made me laugh.

On our calendars, the section managers had a meeting with our department manager, with the subject line being an "accountability" meeting, which was very clever. We recently had a Department Clock Reset (a human performance performance measure) dealing with Managers performing field observations. We thought this was real. Turns out our department had arranged a lunch for our department manager and us other managers in group. We had sandwiches, chips and dips, veggies, a shrimp salad, and more desserts than you could shake a stick at. It was a very nice gesture, and is shows how we are coming together as a team. It was very enjoyable.

Hope you had a great Thursday :o)

Oct 15, 2008

A Simple Request :o)

So, we have been here in Blogger for a while, and I have to say, that our community seems to have grown a little (at least for me and the blogs I am following :o)

It now takes me a good two hours to keep up with all you Spotters!

So, here is a simple request, almost a rant, PLEASE TURN OF WORD VERIFICATION FOR COMMENTS on your Blog. When you have 30-40, or more updates to review, not having to enter the word verification may not save a tremendous amount of time, but it sure will lower the frustration level. Below are the instructions.

Go to your Blog
Click on "Customize" (or Dashboard)
Select "Settings Tab"
Go to the Comments section.
Scroll down to the "Show word verification for comments" and click "No".

Thank you in advance for your consideration :o)

Wildcat Wednesday :o)

Click the image seen here on my sidebar and get in on the beginning of a new set of Wildcat Episodes :o) He never ceases to make me smile.

Give him some support as he struggles to get a handle getting fully moved before the end of J-Land.

Oct 14, 2008

One Leg At A Time :o)

Vent Time: My primary responsibility is long range planning, looking forward. Unfortunately, as a society, as a nation, as an economy, we are focused on the now - the next quarter results - etc..... [you get the idea]. So today, my financial meeting was cancelled, by one of our Senior Leaders. This is the #5 cancel in the last 3 months. They do not hold financial and long range planning as a core value. Their position in the organization allows them to make decisions such as this. Thing is, I know that I put my pants on the same way they, One Leg At A Time. Position often allows others to to change things up on their whim or agenda. That Just Sucks. End Of Rant.

One of the things we try and focus on for coaching and leadership development, is to make sure you are performing your "role". Supervisors need to supervise, Managers need to Manage, Directors need to direct, and Vice Presidents need to VP (meaning, focus on strategy and look ahead).

Unfortunately, especially in times of difficulty or stress, we have a tendency to revert to our previous mode of operation (our comfort zone). At our facility, we have VPs acting as Directors, Directors acting as Mangers, and based on their "position power", this usurps all else that is going on. The more you have Directors acting as managers, that forces Managers to revert to supervisory roles, and Supervisors reverting to individual contributor roles. This cycle works good for immediate issues and events, but ABSOLUTELY does not work for look aheads, long range planning, and strategic thinking.

So, my wish for you is to recognize your role, whether it is at home or at work. Make sure you put on the proper uniform to allow you to fulfill your role - Parent, Sibling, Relative, Friend, Coworker, Supervisor, Manager [you get the picture]. It can be hard at times to stay in your designated role, but I believe you will come out a better person in the long run :o)

Oct 13, 2008

Big Brother :o)

I am here to tell you, that multiple "Big Brothers" are watching :o)

Several weeks ago, I was having a conversation with an acquaintance of mine from some nuclear industry meetings, and he mentioned that he had "come across my blog" [when it was on AOL], and appreciated the passion of my writing. Beth and I laughed about that at the time and I said that could be an idea for an entry. Time passed and so did the idea.

So today, while discussing plans for an upcoming activity with our communications manager, I asked him if he would be interested in pictures from the Habitat Dedication, and that I had put some of them into a little movie.

His response was, "Sure, I saw them over the weekend."

My response was, "I don't recall telling you about my blog!" He stated that he has Google Alerts set up so that any time Cook N**lear Pl**nt is mentioned, he gets a notification. So B., if you get a Google alert even when I put special characters in, please let me know (rrrriiiiiigggggghhhhhtttt).

So, the lesson learned is to know that there are people out there that monitor what you write. I know that any time I mention nuclear power via NEI, or my nuclear plant, that someone will be reading and watching. Of course, I always strive for the high road, and would never do anything to compromise my industry, my profession, my company, or my family.

I just found the whole situation a little creepy and unsettling. The things we like about our electronic community also create the ability and environment for those with hidden or not-so-hidden agendas to carry out their objectives.

Oct 11, 2008

Would He Play Psycho for You ??? :o)

Here is a funny video with the violin parts played by Paul Dateh. Please share with anyone that you know that enjoys the voilin and modern music, they really are compatible

Visit him at http://pauldateh.com/

I came across this from Fish Hawk Road here on blogger. If you would like to get a six minute sampling of his amazing talent, click on the link to her blogspot. Warning, she has some political entries and opinions (not unlike a lot of us here), Beth and I have come to know her, and she is a good person with a good heart. Go ahead, follow for a while :o)

Habitat Home Dedication Ceremony

We had a very pleasant late morning/early afternoon. We headed to Benton Harbor Michigan for the Home Dedication Ceremony of the Habitat for Humanity house that AEP/Cook Nuclear Plant build. Habitat is awesome because it is faith based, has partner companies, requires sweat equity (300 hours by the family), and requires the family to pay the mortgage. They really do own the home in multiple ways.

Addendum: Beth reminded me to let you know that there are at least 20 homes in this Habitat community, a new endeavor to do a whole neighborhood versus just individual houses. In addition, I want to mention we had 137 individual volunteers this year, and if you thing they contributed a minimum of four hours each, that is a lot of hours :o)

This is my second year, but first time going to the dedication. It was very uplifting and inspiring. The agenda was as follows:


Opening Prayer

Sponsor Remarks

Welcome Basket

Thank You Volunteers

Presentation of Bible/Home Dedication

Presentation of Keys

Reflections from the Family

Closing Remarks

Closing Prayer

We arrived at 11:50 A.M., and I dropped off a baby basket that one of my co-workers asked me to deliver. It was anonymous, as she said it is not important who it was from, it is for the Mom and Baby. That really touched me when my co-worker said that to me. And with that in mind, that was our mode of operation today. We went, we experienced, and we left. I did introduce Beth to a few people who I have mentioned to her because they inspire me, but we avoided making the rounds. We were on the road again by 12:30 P.M.

This is not about the volunteers or individuals, it is about the family and their new beginning. Below are the highlights I was able to capture. If you get a fraction of the warmth and happiness that we did from watching the images, then the objective of this post will have been achieved.

Stock Investment Returns

If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in Delta Airlines one year ago,you will have $49.00 today.

If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in AIG one year ago, you will have $33.00 today.

If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in Lehman Brothers one year ago, you will have $0.00 today.

But, if you had purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, drank all the beer, then turned in the aluminum cans for recycling refund, you will have received a $214.00. Based on the above, the best current investment plan is to drink heavily & recycle. It is called the 401-Keg.

A recent study found that the average American walks about 900 miles a year. Another study found that Americans drink, on average, 22 gallons of alcohol a year. That means that, on average, Americans get about 41 miles to the gallon!

I am proud to be a below average American :o)

Noah's Ark Replica in Netherlands

I received the following information from a friend of mine (Thanks Lee :o). I included a few of the pictures and the original text of the e-mail. I clicked through to the site referenced, and construction started in July on a fill size ark that will travel the world. My text is red, other text is from the e-mail.

This is truly amazing! I cannot even imagine the loving labor, time, and money that went into this project. It's built to the specs as stated in the Bible, so it's incredible to see how large the vessel really would have been. Enjoy!

Working replica of Noah's Ark opens in Schagen, Netherlands (April 2007). The massive central door in the side of Noah's Ark was thrown open Saturday for the first crowd of curious Pilgrims and townsfolk to behold the wonder.

Of course, it's only a replica of the biblical Ark , built by Dutch Creationist Johan Huibers as a testament to his faith in the literal truth of the Bible. The ark is 150 cubits long, 30 cubits high and 20 cubits wide. That's two-thirds the length of a football field and as high as a three-story house. (1/2 the length, and 1/3 the width of the biblical version)

Life-size models of giraffes, elephants, lions, crocodiles, zebras, bison and other animals greet visitors as they arrive in the main hold. A contractor by trade, Huibers built the ark of cedar and pine - Biblical Scholars debate exactly what the wood used by Noah would have been. Huibers did the work mostly with his own hands, using modern tools and with occasional help from his son Roy. Construction began in May 2005.

On the uncovered top deck - not quite ready in time for the opening - will come a petting zoo, with baby lambs and chickens, and goats, and one camel. Visitors on the first day were stunned. "It's beyond comprehension," said Mary Louise Starosciak, who happened to be bicycling by with her husband while on vacation when they saw the ark looming over the local landscape.
"I knew the story of Noah, but I had no idea the boat would have been so big." There is enough space near the keel for a 50-seat film theater where kids can watch a video that tells the story of Noah and his ark. Huibers said he hopes the project will renew interest in Christianity in the Netherlands, where church attendance has fallen dramatically in the past 50 years.

Oct 10, 2008

Hoping Things Do Not Come In Threes

I received an unfortunate e-mail this afternoon at work (it came in the morning, but as has been the situation all week, I was performing evaluations in the mornings, and could not start my work until about 1:30 P.M. daily, which creates a backlog).

One of the board members for the Project Management Institute (PMI) local chapter, of which I have been the President for the past five years, passed away unexpectedly yesterday. He recently broke his ankle, and was at our meeting in mid-September. Turns out, he had a blood clot in his lungs.

So, I made an entry earlier this week about the husband of a co-worker that passed away from a tragic accident. So, please join me in hoping and praying that there is no credence in the saying that "Things Come In Threes." I do not want a third untimely and unfortunate death.

Peace to all of you, and may you have a great weekend :o)

Oct 9, 2008

Wildcat Service Announcement

For those of you that followed me yesterday and went over to Wildcat's Lair, and if you did not sign up for the RSS Feed, and would like to follow Frank's adventures, click the title of this entry, copy the URL, go to your Blogger Dashboard, see the section that indicates Blogs you are following, hit add, and copy the URL address. Voila, you will see when Frank updates :o)


Obama continues to expand his lead in the Electoral College, adding Virginia (13 EV) to his column while Colorado (9 EV) moves back to toss-up status. For the second week, Obama has more than 270 electoral votes, with 277 electoral votes to McCain's 163, and 98 as a toss-up. Several other states that went Republican in 2004-Florida, Nevada, and Ohio-are also on the cusp of changing categories with Obama ahead by 2-3 points in each of them. These polls do not reflect any interviewing done after Tuesday night's presidential debate, but McCain will need to change the trend quickly to begin closing Obama's lead over the next three and a halfweeks.

Oct 8, 2008

Want a Laugh???

So, after my last post, being a glass-half-full type of guy, I wanted to leave you with something more positive. So, look to my sidebar, do you see the blue-striped cat? If you do, then please click on the picture, because, if you dare, it will take you to laugh ville :0)

Sad News :o(

Sometimes, we never know what little, or major, deviation life will send our way.

Today, when I went in to work, I heard about an unexpected death for a coworker that many of us know. It turns out that her husband experienced an unexpected (or should it be untimely?) death. That is tragic, and as Indigo would say, prayers on the smoke!!!

He was only in his mid-forties, and my first thought was something heart related. Turns out it was a tractor accident. So, please send out your prayers to M. and her family. I know that all we were capable of saying this morning was; Wow, Wow, Wow.... what more is there to say for such a tragic and unexpected situation?

Oct 7, 2008

Tuesday Thoughts :o)


Blogger sure has created a new dimension in my after work "ketchup". While AOL e-mails are down, the GoogleReader updates are sure up. It is great to have our little community migrate, and I am pleased that a few more J-Landers made the leap today :o)

Day two of the Dynamic Learning environment was interesting. My second evaluatee was a two month employee who had not worked at a nuclear power plant previously. His initial training provided a good foundation in the fundamentals, but not the details. So I had to "fail" him [sorry Indigo, that is the phrase on the forms we need to complete] for the first attempt. But I spent a lot of time coaching and training him. The rules require that one of the other evaluators perform his remediation, and I am pleased to say that he passed attempt two :o) He was a great person, Midwest born and raised, and we spent a lot of time visiting while we did the evaluation. He shook my and and gave me a big smile at the end, and said, nice to meet you! What a great disposition to have that attitude. He knew he was new, and appreciated the support and coaching more than the stigma of having to go through the evaluation again.

Getting ready for the debate, and I am looking forward to discussion of the economy based on the two day 875 day redux in the market. Always looking for the silver lining, I bought some stock of one of the companies that I am trying to recoup some recent losses from. Will be interesting to see how the next week or two plays out.

Good Night Spotters :o)

Oct 6, 2008

Dynamic Learning :o)

Today was a different day. I had the "opportunity" (used very loosely) to be an evaluator for a Radiological Protection Dynamic Learning Activity (RP-DLA).

Lots of words for a simple activity, we have procedures to ensure we to not spread contamination at our nuclear power plant, and our workers need to practice good behaviors to ensure this is met. We have a similar activity for industrial safety.

The DLA is basically a series of tasks that need to be performed, and if they are not performed to requirements, you loose points. There are "circuit breakers" that if you get the activity wrong, you fail.

Being an evaluator is just a step above having to fire someone. As an evaluator, if they do not perform the circuit breaker activities properly, then you must fail them, and they need to re-perform the entire activity. If they fail again, then they need to go to their management for determination of the next steps (i.e., this is a performance issue).

Today, someone that I used to work with, missed a critical step. It was a terrible feeling, having to tell him that he "failed" the evaluation. He took it well, stayed around, and he re-mediated successfully.

There are four evaluators per week, with three classes per day (12 students per day). Today, we failed five on the first attempt, but luckily they all passed the remediation. Only four more days, I hope our success rate increases, because I do not like having to "fail" folks.

It makes for a long day, multiple sessions of watching people perform these activities. It is physically, and sometimes, emotionally taxing. Sounds a lot like every day life!

Oct 5, 2008

Early NFL Results

Early Games result in Da Bears winning, the Colts winning (in an ugly manner, but a W is a W), and - for Joyce, the Titans remain undefeated.

Hope you are all having a great Sunday :o)

Sunday Silliness - Agony

Not all pain is gain.

Oct 4, 2008

Saturday Football - A good day

The fighting Illini (my Alma Mater) did some as* kicking against Michigan today. This is the biggest game for me, even bigger than the national championship, because I dislike Michigan due to Illinois and Notre Dame. So, Go ILLINI :o)

On a separate note, the Fighting Irish had an okay victory over Stanford today. They should have put it away, but let it be close. Bottom line, they are now 4-1. Go IRISH.

Science Scene - Birds' Sixth Sense

Today's entry comes courtesy of PopSci.

The key to a bird's navigational prowess.

Scientists have known for years that map sense stems from the magnetite in birds' beaks, which measures the strength of the Earth's magnetic fields so they recognize home when they get there. But how do they know which direction home is? Researchers at the University of Oxford have pinpointed a mechanism, in the lab at least, that may act as a bird's compass. The compound, called a CPF triad, was used for the experiment because it's similar to proteins found in migratory birds' retinas. When illuminated with a blue light typical of dusk, which is when birds orient themselves, CPF formed two unpaired electrons that spin in opposite directions.

A magnetic field forced the electrons to align, providing a fixed location for the birds to call north. Avian specialists think it's like having a fighter pilot's eyes, like a head-up display, birds can activate a layer of vision to see Earth's magnetic field lines.

Now, I do not believe that birds have a head-up display, or special vision, but I do believe that there is interesting information regarding magnetic fields, and the magnetite in their beaks. The whole migration phenomena is amazing.

Oct 3, 2008

Habitat Picture :o)

Look at the smile on her face,

What more is there to say???
Click the picture to view full size :o)

Oct 2, 2008

Habitat Part Deux

Today, I had the opportunity to spend the entire day at our Habitat build. It was great. The home-owner-to-be was there again today (Habitat requires sweat equity, and she is only 12 hours away from meeting her commitment). I discussed briefly tonight with Beth, and we are going to go to the dedication on October 11th.

Today, I had the chance to learn how to install faux tile floors (not ceramic tile, but the 1/8" sticky type, but we also put down the same paste that is used for ceramic tiles), to do door trim, and installation of counter-tops and a new sink. We also connected the water and electric for the dishwasher, and installed the range hood and connected the electric. I also installed the trim around the attic access hole to make it blend in (it was very rough before I started).

It has been such a fun and educational experience to really get involved this year with Habitat. As each year goes by, I will ensure that I can devote more and more time. It is a great cause for a great charity, and a deserving home-owner-to-be :o)

Oct 1, 2008


Today was an awesome day. Fairly quiet morning. Based on some safety incidents and injuries over the last several months, we have implemented a new Dynamic Learning Activity (DLA). You get some classroom training (five hours, OMG :o) on safety, that includes how to coach others that are not practicing expectations, and then a 1-2 hour practical. I had my practical this morning, and passed (phew :o)

After that, and a little of this, I headed out to our Habitat for Humanity house. Today, I had the opportunity to hang kitchen cabinets. I learned some great tid-bits to use for the future. I am heading up tomorrow for a full day, and expect to learn how to install kitchen counters and such. It is a great experience, and the future owner was there today (she is only 12 hours shy of meeting her 150 hours of sweat equity). I am a firm and solid believer in Habitat, and plan on making this part of my annual activity profile :o)

Hope your week is going well...

J-Land No More???

So, here we are (at least some of us).

As a person who works in an environment where change is non-stop, this has been a learning experience. I actually find some aspects of this new home, that frankly, are not too bad :o)

In order to make a clean break from AOL Journals, I think we need a different name than J-Land. I acknowledge that there are a lot of fond memories in J-Land, but we need to create new memories here, both with old friends and some new friends. I notice that I have some new "followers" that were not part of AOL, so again, I say, lets make a new start.

So, I recommend we retire the J-Land moniker, and come up with a new one.

I got the following idea from an entry at Coastal Comfort II. I say, lets call ourself "Spotters" in honor of our new home at BlogSpot. Let me know what you think, or leave a comment with an different suggestion.