Friday, September 28, 2007

Westbound and down!

This is the weekend my truck goes on it's first real road trip. Pulling a 3,000 pound metal flatbed with a '67 Galaxy on it from Lawrence, KS. to Laramie, WY.. I've had "her" a year, and she barely turned over 8,000 miles this last week...

No real news at work; they are taking the "higher ups" in all the locals to Memphis this weekend to explain the contract to them, so they can come back and explain it to us this next week so we can vote sometime late in the week or on the weekend. I was told we won't see anything on paper 'til around Wednesday. Rumors abound...

So I'm going to figure that worrying won't change any of it, and that no matter what they throw at us I will be all right, somehow. My depression of a few days ago (that feeling of being relegated to the scrap heap) has given way to a resolution to survive.

Thank you all for the kind words and kind thoughts; they meant very much during some dark hours!

May your weekends be fantastic!


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Here we go...

At 3AM they say they have an agreement. The preliminary things I'm seeing look like GM got most everything they wanted...I'm almost afraid to speculate on exactly what at this point, hoping parts of what I'm reading are guesses instead of fact!

But as it stands, I'll be back to work this evening, for which I'm grateful! From there, we'll see what the "highlights" of the agreement are, which are what they give us to vote on.

Thank you all for the kind words and well wishes through this; they have meant more than you could ever know! My heart has been in my throat for most of these last few days, and the emotional swings have been extreme. You all have been very kind, and I appreciate it so very very much!


Monday, September 24, 2007

When I grow to old to dream...

I might finally be there...

I just finished reading about the 11AM strike deadline the UAW has set. It seems that they've agreed to what GM wanted, but GM doesn't want to listen to what the union wanted in return. So by the time I wake up, I may be on strike for the first time in 29 years.

Though I'm dreading it, if not now, I don't know when. The media keeps printing numbers that are outrageous; they seem to think I make at least 1/3 more an hour than I do, and that my benefits are worth more than twice what the company is telling them I make. I've never known anyone in skilled trades to make an hourly rate like I've seen them printing, let alone a line worker!

I remember a few years ago they told us we needed to pay taxes for our parking lot because parking was a benefit we would have to pay for if we worked somewhere else. We do have to pay taxes on some of our other benefits...

They keep spouting off about the cost of labor; the cost of labor for my car from the time the first piece of metal goes on the line 'til it rolls off is about $600. Even if my benefits are worth as much as they say, that only amounts to $1300 for labor and benefits.

The CEO got a 3 million dollar bonus last year. I don't know what those below him got. I probably don't want to!

Oh well, off to bed and we'll see what "tomorrow" brings!



I got up at 1 and found out they had walked; I've been reading the Detroit Free Press and Reuters since, channel checking CNN and now our local news, along with checking my local's homepage. I don't know what to think about all this, other than just hang on and ride it out. I have picket duty Friday morning if it goes that long; if it does go that long I expect them to be out of the car business in the U.S. before the next contract it up no matter what terms they get.

I got a phone call from someone we've had loans with through the years a little while ago; the Beneficial rep just wanted to know if we needed anything. Her Dad retired from GM in '74 and so when she saw the news she thought she would check in on us! I was a bit shocked...

Hope it doesn't come to that!

Thank you all for the kind words and thoughts!


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Weekend Rising!

As I write this, Talia is asleep on the couch and my clock is set for 10:30. That probably means a caffeine tab and up at 11, but that's what happens when you try and shift your hours for the weekend!

Tomorrow's plans include some errands, whatever she wants for dinner and I've been told "Dora the Explorer". I haven't met Dora yet...hopefully she's aDorable!

Meanwhile, I looked up another old friend on YouTube and thought I'd let her knock your socks off. I've seen "Jazz on a Summer's Day" before; Mahalia Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Gerry Mulligan...everyone was there! If I had a time machine, Newport in '58 is of the many places I'd visit...(though if I go back much further I'm taking a kit with antibiotics in it, thank you!).

Anita O'Day first rose to fame with Gene Krupa's band, and throughout her life, she never forgot how to swing! She was still active last year, until right before she departed for a kinder place!

May each of your weekends be wonderful!


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Vacation day!

Tuesday off! A movie at the theatre early: "Shoot 'Em Up". Definitely better than you might think from the title; I'd of sat through it again immediately. I was one of those rooting for Clive Owen
to be the next Bond. They decided he was too old, and though Daniel Craig was good, I think they might have missed a sure bet!

We beat the rain home, and settled in for a 2nd movie, one Dottie didn't think she had seen until we were a bit into it. "Kelly's Heroes", from 1970. All star cast, led by Clint Eastwood. Dottie decided that might be one of her favorite WW2 movies. I hadn't seen it in years, and on DVD it was a treat.

Along with dinner we watched "Eureka", a Sci-Fi channel series we started watching last year. One we both look forward to each week...

We have a DVD recorder that my oldest and his wife gave us for Christmas and birthdays two years ago, and I two movies I had recorded for her skipped in the same place, so I put in one I had recorded for our 3rd movie of the night. She grumbled a bit when Leo the lion came on in black and white (she says that it reminds her of growing up poor with black and white TVs when everyone else had color). As we eased into "The Americanization of Emily" Paddy Chayefsky's writing along with James Garner and Julie Andrews won her over, and at 12:30 she went off to bed with a smile on her face. (No skips, either.)

I finished the last half our of a 3 hour documentary on Kansas City Jazz I had been working through this last week, recorded from PBS a year or so ago, then put in another movie I had bought last year. I don't know if any of you might remember Veronica Lake, but I fell madly in love with her back in my early teens. She walked away from Hollywood about the time I was born and only did two more movies after that, the last of which is called "Flesh Feast" from 1970. She died a few years after that much too young. Though it would be called a camp horror movie, a "B" or even "C" pic, it's better than you might think from the title and was worth watching just for her. I have a paperback copy of her autobiography I bought last year around here that I will get to at some point; it's so yellowed and the pages are so brittle I don't dare carry it to work, not that I have much reading time there anymore...

Meanwhile, the 5th load of laundry is in and I need to go move it. As I wander off, I ran across something very very special the other day. Many of you know my love of jazz. One of my idols was Gerry Mulligan, and I was fortunate enough to see him here in the early 90's before his untimely death (complications from knee surgery). He was an extraordinary talent; playing, writing and arranging some very fantastic things from the time he was in his teens.

One of the highlights of that concert was when he added singing to that list; though he might not be a Tony Bennett, give him a chance and then wait for him to pick up his horn...please?

May the rest of the week be kind to you each!


Sunday, September 16, 2007

I wish I were an ostrich...

and could just bury my head in the sand!

I've been avoiding writing a post for a couple of days now, hoping that by now our UAW contract would be settled and I could quit fearing a strike. No such luck at this point...rumors abounded all week at work and none of them were good. I remember my Dad telling me that while we got 4 pages of highlights to vote on that corporate lawyers had already vetted every detail in the "book" we won't see for 6 months while they have it printed...he said all that contract really does "is legally define how many ways they can f*** you". At the time I thought him very cynical; now at almost the age he was when I lost him, I know he wasn't...

He was meatcutter for years...I don't think his union even exists anymore!

When I hired in 29 years ago this month I believed that in return for my showing up every night and giving 100% to whatever task befell me that they would live up to their end of the bargain and provide me with the retirement and medical insurance they had promised. Others had walked picket lines and given up raises to get those benefits for us; now it seems that not only do they want to get out from under the obligations they agreed to, but they want to take money back as well. They keep referring to them as "legacy costs" etc..

How many shareholder dividends and executive bonuses did we pay for back when they were supposed to be putting money away for these costs? Had they put Roger B. Smith's "golden parachute" and the money they used to buy Ross Perot out to get him off the board when they didn't want to hear him tell them to "take care of the workers first" would that now cover this legacy? The money they used to buy EDS? The money they used to buy Hughes? The money they squandered on Fiat? (2.4 billion dollars when they bought in in 2000 and another $2 billion when they bought themselves back out last year!)

It's not like our medical is what it used to be, either! I used to have to pay the first few dollars of a prescription, and little else. Now it's all of the office visit, $10 to $15 a prescription, and any tests they don't feel like covering (including my wife's last pap smear)! Yes, I could go to an HMO and avoid some of that...I also would lose control over who I see, so I guess I shouldn't bitch about paying for the privilege of picking my own doctor off their list. That I was lucky enough to have one I trust be on it should be enough.

I know, it's still better than a lot of insurances, or none...

but somewhere along the way a promise has to mean something, someone's word has to mean something other than "until I can figure a way to get out of it"!
Just because you incorporate shouldn't make it mean less!

Beyond all of that and my little corner of it...

I heard a piece on NPR yesterday about the American Cancer Society changing the focus of it's next ad campaign. It seems that the biggest cause of cancer death is no longer cigarettes; it's a lack of access to medical care! Too many people have no insurance or not enough insurance to cover their illness.

So it's cheaper for them to die...

We claim to be a civilized nation; a caring nation; the "leader of the free world".

But don't get in the way of our profit structure!

Somehow we have to take the shareholders out of healthcare...


While I've been checking in here constantly to see if things have been settled, I've also been looking up old friends, musicians I admire, etc.. I ran across this clip and though most of you won't know Dizzy Gillespie you'll probably recognize the guy who comes in to join him. Some of you might know the host who comes in at the very end of the clip as well...


Monday, September 10, 2007

My crew...

Caleb spent the night on Friday; Saturday afternoon Dillon and Talia came to spend the afternoon and stay overnight as well. Laura brought Bill's Neon in from Lawrence as I was worried about one of the brake pads that was very thin. While she worked on her homework, my crew changed the brake pads...

(Since they didn't come with clothes that could get really dirty, Dottie dug through the rag barrel to come up with stuff to keep them from ruining their clothes and shoes.)

Talia pulled all but the last lug on the driver's side by herself; Caleb had done 3 on the passenger side with my holding the body of the wrench and him pulling the trigger but Dottie (our photographer for the day) was still putting together clothes for Dillon at that point.

Caleb was off playing with pieces of rope he found in my garage while Dillon and Talia took turns tightening the caliper pins; then they learned about torque wrenches and got to tighten the pins until they felt the wrench click.

They were very proud of their dirty hands. The GoJo dispenser inside the garage door was an even bigger hit! When Talia first rubbed it on her hands she said "This is only good for smearing the dirt around, Grandpa". Then I gave her a rag and when she wiped her hands clean she really grinned. She was so impressed she went back out and picked up on of the old pads and rubbed it all over her hands just so she could use more of it! (I'm glad the pads aren't asbestos anymore!)

Everyone got to take a turn starting lug nuts by hand, learning what to feel for. Then they each got to take a turn spinning them down with a 4-way, learning how to tighten every other one in a star pattern so you don't warp a wheel or a disc rotor. I showed them the big torque wrench for tightening the lugs, but they've got a ways to go before they can generate 100 foot pounds, lol!

Dillon learned how to work the floor jack and he pulled one jack stand and Talia got the other as we let the car back down onto the ramps. (The Neons are so low in the front that my old Hein Warner floor jack won't clear the front of the car without it being up on ramps first.)

Then Dottie wanted everyone to gather in front of the garage for one last picture.

Yesterday was spent building models, watching "Care Bears" and "Stuart Little" and "Tom & Jerry" along with the IRL race. Dinner was leftover tacos and gorditas from Saturday's dinner. Their Mom and Dad came to pick them up as they were finishing, so they ate as well.

I don't think they ever realized yesterday was "Grandparent's Day", lol!

Quite a lovely weekend! I hope each of yours was as well!

Off to play carpenter for a bit before I go to work...


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Corners and curves...

Saturday slipped away without me getting much done. Dinner turned out well, though some of you would think I cheated...

One of my favorite "quick and easy" meals was always Italian Shake and Bake on boneless pork chops. I had been craving it for a while, and finally remembered to buy the Shake and Bake last week when I shopped. Either the Italian flavor has been discontinued or they were out; what I found was two new ones, a Parmesan and a Ranch.

So dinner after Dottie got home and showered was the Parmesan variety on boneless chops with fettucine alfredo and garlic toast; it was great! Dottie like it better than the Italian flavor, and I liked it as much.

She worked Sunday as well, and I rolled out early and rearranged the garage as things had been moved when I worked on John's brakes last week, so it took until noon to rearrange things and get to the carpentry tools and the wood. I had gotten the eave boards back up a few weeks back, and the soffets ripped, but needed to rebuild the ends of the eaves before I could put the soffets up. Of course, I cut the first one with the angle backwards; hopefully it will fit the other side. It took about 2 hours to cut the pieces and fit them to get the first one together. Now that the roof doesn't leak I had my little black and white TV uncovered for the first time in a year or so, and kept checking in on the IRL race, hoping to see Danica Patrick win her first. As it drew to an end I came in to make a glass of iced tea and cool off; the finish wasn't one I cared for, but at least everyone walked away!

Back outside and on to the back corner; of course, the one I cut reversed when I did the front came nowhere near to fitting the back. I measured it out and cut one; I reversed the top angle the time I cut a 2nd one Dottie was backing into the driveway. She came in to shower while I put things together and then put everything away and locked up for the night just as the "vampire" mosquitoes decided I was their fix.

Dinner was leftovers from Saturday and just as good the 2nd day. Bill called as we finished and said his check engine light was on; I asked if the oil or temp lights were on and he said no, then I asked if it rattled or did anything funny. He had been complaining of a miss when he first started it, and I had told him some weekend when he had time he needed to put a set of spark plugs in it. He decided to take a night off work and come do them on Monday.

Dottie and I slipped out to see "Rush Hour 3" on Monday morning early as Bill wasn't going to be here before 2. If you've ever liked Jackie Chan in anything, go see this movie on the big screen! I don't want to give anything away, but it has some of his very best work ever, and the setting is absolutely fantastic!

Bill came about 2:30; I had already looked up part numbers and once we got the diagnostic code and looked it up (when Dottie had her Neon I bought the Dodge shop manual and Bill's is the same car a year newer) it said "number one plug misfiring". They were due at 30,000; he has 54,000 on it. We also changed the air filter, the oil, and rotated the tires. He has a brake pad getting thin, so he's supposed to get it back to me this next weekend for me to change them even though he has to work. I told him if he can get it here on Friday before he goes to work his Mom will take him back to Lawrence and I'll do the pads and return it Saturday evening...I'd rather do that than have him chew up a rotor in the next few weeks, or end up doing them after it starts getting colder outside! I had him headed back home by 5:30 so he could get some sleep before he went to work at 10.

So today it was back to work and if I get my tail in bed in the next half hour maybe I can get up in time to put another one of those corners back together tomorrow before I have to get ready for work. It's supposed to rain off and on the rest of the week, so if I get up and it's raining I'll take my truck in for it's oil change (the dealer is still doing them for free).

I had planned to blog hop tonight, but it's 4:37, so I'm not going to get too far before my eyes cross...hopefully tomorrow night I can "make the rounds".

I hope the week is being kind to each of you!


Saturday, September 01, 2007

3 days off!

This weekend has kind of snuck up on me...I knew it was coming but had my doubts about ever really getting here!

I slept later than I should have today, got up and paid bills and then went out to run errands; in a few minutes I'm going to go start dinner.

I thought of titling this "And Another One Bites the Dust", but don't want to seem to be gloating over someone else's misfortunes. Suffice it to say that were all the hypocrites out of office, DC would be a ghost town!

Tonight, a leisurely dinner and some TV with my wife; tomorrow back to work on the garage and possibly a grandchild to keep us company overnight. Dottie is off on Monday for the holiday (hooray).

I'm really looking forward to this!

On other fronts, I'm officially "old" now; after over a year of my nagging, my wife has consented and I just signed us up for AARP. Later this month I'm towing a car to Laramie, Wyoming for one of my nephews so the older nephew can put an interior in it as his final school project. Hoping that between AARP and AAA I could get a decent room rate, among other things, it seemed like it was time!

This will be a flying trip, though, leaving at noon on Saturday after I work the night before and driving back on Sunday. Dottie gave up two of her vacation days in November (one was her birthday) to co-pilot, for which I'm grateful, since she's the only other one going who's ever towed anything that big!

The fun part is going to be going back to get the car when Brett graduates in December...somehow I'm not sure the weather is going to cooperate! I'm looking at a set of Blizzaks for the back of the truck, just in case!