Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I forget that the smarter people in this world don't follow the news all the time. There was a point at which I didn't either, but 30 years in the auto factory drove me to NPR because between the commercials and the continual cycling of 100 or so songs on mainstream radio, I just couldn't take it anymore! Plus, having jazz as a first love led me down to the left end of the radio dial as well...

So I apologize for the vagueness of my last post! Knowing I'm not the smartest guy in the room, I tend to assume that if I know something the rest of the world does as well. Whether it's the horrific beating to death of Angie Zapata with a fire extinguisher, or the women of Zimbabwe that are in such fear of the stigma of having a "legal" abortion that they are instead showing up at doctor's with sticks broken off inside them, or ground glass, or battery acid. Whether it's the lady in Dallas yesterday, waiting 2 hours in the doctor's office with a 103F. fever because she's 8 1/2 months pregnant and fears she has "swine" flu, or the ongoing lack of real body armor for our children in Iraq and Afghanistan I figure that by the time it trickles down to me, the rest of the world already knows.

For those of you who don't, I'm glad! I'm glad you don't feel the ache that haunts me as I listen to the stories or read them; I'm glad you don't wake up wondering what you might have done to change things, or shed the tears of empathy for the victims. I've tried to "wean myself" away from the radio and the TV and the things I read on-line and actually have cut down since I retired, but like the moth and the flame, I just can't stay away. My addictive personality has found yet another way to let me down...

In the old days when I worked the assembly line I kept a little notebook in my stock rack and when things got to be too much words would find their way into it...

From those years:

“A Life Lost”

“Shiny brown hair
strewn over the snow,
her eyes staring
at the sky”
Says the article
in the New Year's
“New Yorker”.

Someone's daughter?
Kosovar freedom fighter?
Serbian rebel?
Another sacrifice
on the altar
of ethnocentricity...

How many millennia
have we left to learn
that teaching tolerance
brings life and
for our loved ones;
teaching hatred
reaps death!


Words fail me more often now. Whether it's their futility, my lack of reading of late failing to expand my vocabulary and my thoughts, or the onset of cynicism and old age, I wish more and more often now I could just pick up a trumpet and bend a blue note or two...

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


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

At last...

After too many deaths...

too many snickered jokes...

too much pain...


Rest in Peace, Angie!


Monday, April 20, 2009

Sinking curveballs...

This was "the weekend" for the family birthday party we usually throw for our two sons. We rent a shelterhouse at one of the local parks, take the grill, the bicycles, play baseball...those of you who have been around a while have seen pictures from some of those outings.

With our oldest living in DC now, we hadn't counted on him getting home. That's the 1st time in 31 years he hasn't been here for his birthday; we've gotten pretty lucky to get this far into life before it happened.

Saturday my oldest grandson had a car entered in a Cub Scout "Pinewood Derby" for the first time. He and John had spent an afternoon here last week cutting and shaping it then took it home to paint. Dottie was off, and Noel and the other grandkids went and it was quite an affair.

Since their troop holds it at the GM plant I used to work in, an affair in more ways than one. It was my first time setting foot back in the door since I retired; though it wasn't a production day, I saw a lot of Union officials I hadn't seen since then, along with management, some currently employed, some who had been forced out last fall but were there because of their involvement with Boy Scouts. We got to see the final production ready version of the new Buick that we were getting in parts for the preliminary builds for as I retired; it looks very good and if the quality we've always built with holds then between it and the Malibu the Fairfax plant's future should be assured as long as the corporation's is.

Though Dillon's car didn't do as well as we'd have liked, for his first time entering he was happy and we learned much of the technical stuff we need to know for next time. He had a great time and was still carrying his car around yesterday at the family birthday party to show it off.

Saturday evening we cooked a birthday dinner for John and his family and gave him some of his presents. Though we've cut our spending we shopped well and he seemed delighted with our choice of Wii and DS games.

We had rain Saturday morning, then thunderstorms Saturday night with a real deluge we didn't need. When John put his dogs out Sunday morning he lost a sandal in the mud things were so soaked and Dottie and I woke to water in our basement again, though we caught it before it became a major issue.

On top of that, the temps had dropped into the mid 50's with a 30mph north wind, so the party at the park got revised into a party at my sister's house in Lawrence. The only things that really changed were us not having to take a grill or crockpot and baseball got changed to basketball in their driveway late in the afternoon when the wind died down and the sun finally came out for a bit.

Since they had bought a Wii "Fit" to go with their game machine, we watched the grandkids attempts at snowboarding and soccer while cooking brats and such...quite interesting, lol!

Saturday my sister had taken my nephew to Emporia to enroll in college; he is all set, classes picked, ID/debit/key card made and ready to go. She on the other hand isn't ready to let go and will cry at the drop of a hat if you mention it. I keep reminding her that at his age (19 now) I had already been halfway around the world; she doesn't want to hear that either!

So now it's Monday and I'm running laundry and getting ready to wander back out to the garage to try and sort some more and organize things. I should mow, but think that with the water still draining down the hill I'll give it at least until tomorrow or Wednesday just so I don't tear up more than I cut!

May the week be kind to each of you!


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I guess it really is Spring...

though it feels like it's been drug kicking and screaming into being!

After more rain than we've seen all winter (we're actually ahead for the year now) they called for another frost on Monday evening. These are what I had before...I really figured they were so wet that covering them wouldn't help, but did anyway.

So when I uncovered them yesterday, unable to even stand up, I wasn't sure they would open, but when the afternoon sun came around the corner of the house and down the driveway...

Angel has wanted to be outside every minute she could; at 14 she has one hip that bothers her a lot and has been on MSM for it for over a year now. In the beginning it rolled the clock back to where she was like a 5 year old again, but now she has good days and bad days like any 100-something human would. We already clipped her fur because she was panting a lot more than she used to and would always feel "hot" under it when you patted her, so she may get clipped 3 or 4 times this year instead of the usual spring and summer ones.

Things are ramping up for the annual trek to the park for the spring birthday party this weekend. It used to be we split the difference between Bill and John's birthdays but with Bill living in DC this year, we won't have him home on his birthday for the first time ever. Guess we're lucky we got to 31!

My nephew was in Orlando with his choir, singing at Disney World when his birthday went by in February and with his preparations for graduation, college and job we haven't managed to slow him down enough to have his yet so he'll be finally having his this weekend with John.

Of course, after these last two days in the upper 60's, they're saying 56 and showers for Sunday...

May the rest of the week be kind to each of you and some glimmer of green brighten your spring as well!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Just a fly-by...

to say I'm on the mend. Slept on the couch Sunday night because I was coughing so badly and didn't want to keep waking Dottie up, but had to get off the cough syrup and the drugs as they weren't helping anymore.

I slipped outside and took a photo of the 3 tulip buds yesterday before I covered them yet again as we went back down to 34F again last night, about 1 above Celsius. When I uncovered them today they wouldn't stand anymore...I'll get that photo uploaded in the morning as I've been picking up limbs and running errands today.

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


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spluttering Saturday...

I'm still trying to fight off Dottie's cold...a few hours good then a few hours miserable. I get to where I almost feel like doing something then I'll cough myself into a splitting headache and decide not to...

I mailed that paperwork off Priority with a return receipt to make sure it was there by Friday afternoon. I've done my part and now will sit back to see what happens!

Tomorrow Dottie is off for the holiday and we'll be spending the day at John and Noel's, watching the grandkids hunt Easter eggs and such. Hopefully we get the egg hunt in before the rain begins again.

I'm giving up on my tulips for the year; last year I had over a dozen, but this year they've been covered so much that only 4 buds had come up and one of them snapped off under the cover in the wind the other night. It's supposed to freeze again tonight and perhaps again later in the week...perhaps next year!

I saw someone's photos of flowers in her neighbors yard, ones planted by his wife and now she's gone and he's in a nursing home and no one was there to enjoy them. I acquired my tulips that way...the women who owned the house up the hill from me gave almost everything she had to Jim and Tammy Faye "back in the day". I had kept her car running for her and such, helping her mow on the hot days and doing what I could without intruding too much. When she died and the house was sold, the next tenant didn't care a bit about the flowerbeds and such, so finally I asked if I could transplant the tulips and did. Each year I think of Mabel Rose and wonder if anyone else does...

The house has been through a half dozen tenants since then and been vacant the last 3 years. I'm sure no one but me remembers where those flowers came from, but I'm glad they aren't mowed under like her iris bed was!

May your weekends each be wonderful!


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I got a letter from GM today...

that said the Union negotiated language into the "Special Attrition" agreement to cover those of us who were under 55 and penalized like I was when we took the "buyout". It said if I mail them copies of the right papers, I will be reimbursed as long as I do it before June 30th.

With all the bankruptcy rumors flying, I'm on my way to the Post Office now!

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


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Election Day...

Though it's only local issues, some of them are looming very important over the heads of all who live on "this side" of the river.

Largest among them are the shenanigans at our local "public utility" as outlined in this summary I found online when I "Googled" up the keywords:

BPU's Challenges Could Boost KCK Electric Bills

We have been hearing these stories for quite a while now; two weeks ago one of the indicted in the State probe of the missing $400,000 took his own life. Then there are the mentioned millions in EPA fines the utility is liable for...In the run up to the current election one of the sitting board members said that the board members aren't responsible for what goes on at the utility!

Needless to say, he didn't get my vote!

If they aren't responsible then why are we voting for them?

The evening news should be interesting!

May the week be kind to each of you!


Friday, April 03, 2009

The view from here...

The other day when I checked and found I had managed to get one more pension check "before the end of the world" I said something about it on my Facebook page prompting an e-mail exchange with someone who said afterwards I should post something like it here.

I try not to climb on the soapbox too often, as we all have enough people who feel obliged to do that in our lives and I'd rather not be a part of that club!

Yet with all that's gone on of late, perhaps some of you might find parts of it interesting, so I'm pasting and doing a bit of editing...

My friend, seeing my Facebook note, wrote and asked if I thought Obama was doing the "right" thing by the auto industry, or was he going to make things worse. My reply:

"We all tend to fear for ourselves, for our own best interests, myself included. I beat myself both mentally and physically for 30 years in return for a promise, one written and signed and supposedly guaranteed. One that others gave up payraises to get in the generations before me so that there would never be another generation to go through what theirs and the one before had gone through. (The Great Depression)

People gave up dimes and quarters in an era when that was 30 minutes pay for those benefits; that some judge can wipe it away as though it it were nothing is somehow not only terrifying, but wrong. When the airline industries went through bankruptcies these last 30 years many of their workers, given the same promises I was, ended up receiving $1 on every $4 they were owed. Many others have ended up with far less. My wife's father, 30 years in a woolen mill in Vermont, got a severance check and told:

"Sorry, new ownership!" At 64, his world come to an end, he sat down on the porch, started drinking and never stopped.

Why should the banks and the creditors "get theirs" first, other than their control of the levers of power?

Through my years I've known so many people. I knew the man that was the highest paid employee at Consolidated Aircraft at the outbreak of WW2. He was an inspector who had worked his way from machinist to tool and die maker to the most important hourly man in the plant in San Diego. He was considered critical and though he tried to enlist was told he was too important. He made $.40 an hour...

I knew several that hired in in the first group when GM took over the old North American B-25 plant where my grandmother and her sisters had worked during the war. They hired in in 1946 at $.47 an hour...

When I hired in I got $5.44 and came up to scale at a tick over $7 at the end of 90 days in 1978. At that point our insurance covered us immediately, including my already pregnant with our 2nd son wife (now it's 18 months after you hire in) and also covered office visits and most everything else; prescriptions were $3.

So to have Richard Shelby or anyone else tell me that I was or am the problem is like throwing gasoline on a match. We were within a dollar of the same wages and benefits as his non-union Japanese transplants before this last contract was opened up yet again! The entire industry was "off the hook" for retiree health care, paying only part of it's estimated cost into a trust fund to be managed by the Union. Now they are trying to get out of paying even that by substituting stock instead.

For years if Chevrolet came up with something that sold, management diluted the market by changing a bit of trim and badging Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac variants. They created Saturn and diluted the market so badly they killed Oldsmobile, a name that had stood for over 100 years. Yet like AIG execs getting their bonus checks, they already took their money and ran, leaving the workers to pay the price.

I am sure that Obama had good reason for asking for Rick Wagoner's resignation. Probably to do with the fact that they still weren't killing entire divisions of products and eliminating the dual and triple badging within them.

Yet Wagoner was the first one to knock down the levels of "white shirts" within the plants, let alone the layers between us and them. He did away with thousands of salaried jobs for the hundreds assembly jobs that left, the first time I had seen that. We went from 1 white shirt in the plant for every 8 to 10 hourly people to about 1 in 15, a step in the right direction...though those offices in Detroit and elsewhere seemed to have a knack for hiding their friends out in "temporary slots" out in the factories, so that they didn't show up in the census of management/hourly ratios.

When I hired in in 1978 there were 5,000 of us on 2 shifts to build 549 cars per shift. When I left there were about 1500 of us building the same number of cars. The number of white shirts never reduced as dramatically as our ranks did until Wagoner took the reins.

Though he tried to reduce those numbers, there were good salaried people that were forced out so someone's buddy or wife or relative could have their job...these cuts weren't always done by merit. So we ended up with mid-level people from the Detroit offices or elsewhere trying to manage line workers when they had never built a car in their life and us building cars despite them. Some of them have since been forced out as well, others I'm sure are making other lives miserable still!

With all of that going on, the Malibu and Saturn won back to back Car of the Year awards, something never done by another assembly plant. Ever! The Buick they were getting ready to bring on line as I retired has apparently done the same.

The man who headed the design team for all of these, Bob Lutz, is also retiring and that worries me because he did have a knack, much like Harley Earl in the years gone by.

I read a Wall Street Journal story night before last that illustrates a lot of my frustrations:

"Malibu Shows Road to Revival Is Bumpy"

It was hard not to look up that man's address in the phone book!

For the same reason that it was hard to swallow my pride and quell the ache in my heart when my older son's wife went and paid cash for a new Hyundai a few weeks go because her Dad told her GM and Ford were going under...

I told Dottie I'd never speak to him again...I can't do that to my daughter-in-law, but don't think I could let it in my driveway! I'd walk or call a cab before I rode in it, I swear!

It's not like I haven't ridden in them before, I even rented a Volvo once to see what the fuss was about!

I told my son that it's not about her buying a foreign car, but that she bought one built in Korea, right now, when keeping as many dollars here as we can is more important than it's been in 75 years! If she wanted a Toyota or Honda or whatever, at least buy one built there that paid American workers instead of the couple of longshoreman and truck drivers that unloaded and delivered it!"


Since I wrote that the Union has offered to accept stock in lieu of the money the companies were supposed to have paid into the VEBA fund on condition that the government offer to warranty it as they have the cars themselves...I haven't heard of anyone approving that idea yet.

I hope none of you take offense at this...none was intended!

May your weekends be kind!