Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Not quite back in the saddle again

I am back in Eaton Rapids.

There is still swelling which is expected. My lower-leg is a busy reconstruction site. The only thing my doc was not thrilled about was the center portion of the long incision was still weeping a little bit.

 

In general, the doc was satisfied with my progress but wants one more week of no-weight on the broken bones.

She went to medical school. I did not. I paid for the medical advice through my insurance premiums. I will abide by her advice.

Zeus was happy to see us.

Presented without comment

 


Are all "Made in China" products crap?


I used to drink coffee with a gentleman named Bob Crist. He died a few years ago which is why I use his actual name.

He retired in the early 1990s when he was in his mid-50s. His wife told him to go back to work because he still had a lot of good years left in him.

He spent several years in Egypt and in Com-China helping part suppliers adapt "Western" quality models. The reason "Western" is in quotes is because these methods were honed and refined in Japan by people like Taguchi and corporations like Toyota.

According to Bob, Chinese tools come in three distinct quality levels. Or at least did in the 1990s.

Take a set of vernier or digital calipers as an example.

The lowest level was of dubious quality but could be made to work with enough tender-loving-care. The "stainless steel" might not be stainless steel. The jaws might wobble. The vernier etched on the slide or frame might not be square to the world and a tenth-of-a-millimeter might be something other than 0.100 millimeters.

But they can be made to work with enough tender loving care. A quality expert can sort through twenty of them and pick out the five that are the least shitty.

A line can be painted across the jaws to indicate exactly where the object being measured must contact the jaws.

A piece of drill-rod of known diameter that is at the part's specification can be used to verify drift or if it is a digital device it can be zeroed to the drill-rod and then the part can be measured relative to that zero.

Each caliper can be assigned to a specific measurement technician who will learn the tool's quirks and learn how to work around them.

The next level

The next level of quality is industrial-commodity

This is the level that was intended for use in the industry and in Universities.

Materials were usually an appropriate tool-steel that had been heat treated and cryogenically-treated to stabilize it dimensionally. They might not have been as good as a Japanese, Swiss or US product but they were entirely satisfactory for making bicycles, commodity bearings and so on.

The next level was military

Com-China typically bought Swiss tools for military arms production. Chinese still dislike the Japanese because of WWII. Bob was not able to buy these kinds of tools for his company. It was forbidden.

How does this translate to diesel engines?

Projects and products the Chinese government approved of were allocated material and tools that were "good enough". Since reliable small-diesel engines are critical for irrigation and other food production, shabby quality or under-the-table dealing would be dealt with in a draconian manner.

Another Bob Crist story

Every six months the jails of the big city where his factory was located would fill up. The Chinese method of making more room in the jail was to take the prisoners who had been there longest to an auditorium and line them up.

An official would methodically walk down the line and execute them with a semi-automatic handgun. It was a slow process because his assistant had to collect the spent brass casing and put it in a zip-lock baggie, along with a mugshot of the deceased and a "toe-tag". The baggie was mailed to the deceased's family along with a bill for the cost of the bullet and the cost of the cremation.

Culturally, having a felon in the family was not a failure of society but a failure of the family. Therefore it was the family's financial responsibility to deal with the fallout.

But...but...but... you might be sputtering. What if his wife (or parents) didn't know?

A. She knew he was bopping people on the head and stealing their wallets.

B. Or she was in denial. She did not want to know.

C. Or she was complicit.

In China, you don't want to FAFO.

That is why I don't think a Chinesium is necessarily a piece of junk. Of course, it would be far better to find one that has been on the market for five years and have access to reviews by US users.

Diesel engines are different than gas engines. Gas engines accumulate far more damage at high load, high RPM. Diesel engines accumulate almost the same amount of damage per RPM regardless of load or speed (unless you do crazy stuff like remove the governor). Since each cycle adds damage it behooves the user to run them at 2500RPM instead of 3600RPM if the work allows it.

Another thing that I get out of the reviews is that the air induction system is undersized or the filter too restrictive. "Runs too rich" is another way of saying "Not getting enough air".

Two of the reviews involve the compression release. One stuck on, the other stuck off. That suggests that the machine staking the compression release pivot is over-swedging the end of the pin or the that the pivot has burrs in the hole. The fix is to lube with 90-140 diffy lube and switch the compression release about fifty times. If that is insufficient, add a mild, abrasive cleanser like Comet to the lube to make a slurry and repeat the fifty on-off cycles. Clean all of the slurry off because Comet is corrosive. Or, since I have some diatomaceous earth in stock, I will just use that. DE is inert.

I am still leaning toward getting one (or two) of these engines. 500 gallons of heating oil could rototill a lot of gardens.

Let the buyer be beware.

Industrial Fiction: Miracle on Ice

 
The Keystone cops action continued right up until lunch. Carlson told him to hit the restroom, grab a quick sandwich at the cafeteria and a couple of bottles of gatorade. He needed to be back at the station in 24 minutes with hands washed and gloves on.

He barely made it back in time. There was a rush to the johns and he had to wait five minutes to use a stall. All the motion had convinced his bowels it was time to unballast.

He grabbed some chips and the gatorade and rushed back to the station.

Things were under control. Ganzer had been sorting parts through lunch and hanging the good ones on the rolling Christmas tree and pitching the bad into a bin. 

Snodgrass watched as Ganzer bend the part  to see if it would snap when being assembled. By the look of it, 2/3rds of the parts were failing.

“What happens to those?” Snodgrass asked.

“We ship them back to the supplier” Ganzer answered.

“What do they do with them?” Snodgrass asked.

“I don’t know for sure but an engineer told me they grind them up and reuse the plastic to make new ones.”

Snodgrass filed that away in his head.

Carlson took no chances that his student had forgotten the job over lunch. He had him reread the written instructions. It made a lot more sense now and he understood some of the cryptic notes penciled in the margins.

Then Carlson repeated the layering of job complexity the same as when Snodgrass started although Snodgrass was able to demonstrate proficiency much more quickly. He only needed a few reminders of which pins went into the low-runner model because he had not had that many repetitions.

Then, forty-five minutes after coming back from lunch, it all clicked together in his mind and hands. As long as nothing goofy happened, he could keep up and not make mistakes.

Carlson grunted his approval.

“Tell you what I am going to do” Carlson said. "I am going to move to the job down-line so I can keep an eye on you and I am going to give that operator a break.”

As far as Snodgrass was concerned, Carlson could do anything he wanted to do. “Sure. You bet. I will holler if I get too twisted around.

The operator Carlson kicked loose took a twenty minute break. Sh opened her tote and pulled out a paperback book and read. Then she came back and relieved the operator on the opposite side of the line from Carlson.

Snodgrass didn’t say anything. He just raised his eyebrows in an unspoken question.

“Usually” Carlson responded “training people is a pain-in-the-butt. It is disruptive to the rotation. In your case it isn’t too bad because you are training on the hardest station in the team so the operators get to rotate around that station.”

“The way management squares it with the teams is the standards are a little bit generous for training and once you “got it” the other team members get extra breaks because we are running +1 in the team.”

“Just my luck. I got started on the hardest job” Snodgrass said.

“That is by design. So was starting you on the most difficult job element, the push-pins. If you started on the easy parts then a new team-member is tempted to drag his feet about learning the rest of the job” Carlson said.

“So how much time is allowed to learn a new job?” Snodgrass asked.

“Three days” Carlson said.

“So, did I set any kind of record learning it in 5 hours?”

“Yes and no. A really good operator would have picked it up in 2 hours but I would still have to keep an eye on them for two thousand jobs to ensure they were bulletproof. The shit-heads who don’t care what their teammates think of them take all three days” Carlson said.

“You said ‘yes and no’” Snodgrass said. "So what record did I set?"

“You learned it faster than any person from Headquarters ever learned it” Carlson admitted.

Mid-afternoon, Snodgrass saw the team-leader sweeping up the push-pins and other small parts. Snodgrass was gratified to see that other operators didn’t always get it right every time. The team-leader didn’t attempt to sort them out. He dumped them into the trash. Snodgrass was oblivious to the fact that the team-leader had been sweeping every two hours because small parts are a slip-trip hazard. Only now was he on auto-pilot and could attend to his surroundings.

Ten minutes before the end of shift Paula Stevens swung by. She too had been by every couple of hours to see how Snodgrass was struggling.

“Can you spare him?” she asked Carlson.

“Yep” as Carlson slid into the station and the team-leader picked up the operations Carlson had been doing.

“You survived” Paula said.

“More or less” Snodgrass agreed.

“OK. I want you to do a few things. Get your clothes out of the locker room. Buy a bottle of ibuprofen and an eight-pack of electrolyte because you will be doing the same thing in a different station tomorrow. Find some running shoes if you have them.”

“The other thing that you have to do, and it is mandatory, is to watch the movie “Miracle on Ice”.

Snodgrass gave her a look to see if she was joking. Clearly, she wasn’t.

After stuffing the cover-alls into the laundry chute and a hot shower, he changed into his street clothes and went looking for an office and a computer.

The office suite was almost deserted. One of the offices had a cleaning person in it and she was arguing with somebody on a phone. There was dust on the keyboard of the cubicle he picked out.

He logged in and pulled up the engineering drawing of the part that had caused the train-wreck while he was building.

Three hours later he had seen enough. He logged off and then wandered back onto the floor. Standing there, watching the second shift build jobs, he pulled out his phone and asked “Are you still in the plant?”

“As a matter of fact, I am. What is on your mind?” Paula asked.

“Can you meet me at the station where I was working?” Snodgrass asked.

Snodgrass gave her a very condensed brain-dump. He had the offending part on the stand-up table.

“Every other part like this has a maximum of 25% regrind. Reprocessing the material damages the material properties. The spec says these parts are allowed up to 35%. Lots of “Green” and “Sustainable” awards for that decision. The thing is that all the regrind ends up in black parts like the flubber because black hides well and this supplier is notorious for not keeping track details like how much regrind goes into each batch.” 

"This part is source to Magenta Engineering. They are a top-notch outfit and it is hard to believe what you are saying" Paula objected.

"And they sourced it at Gatineau Industries" Snodgrass informed her.

Paula winced. EVERYBODY knew about Gatineau Industries. "I thought they went out of business."

"They did and their assets were swallowed up by another supplier who promptly went out of business. That is when Magenta swooped in and bought them up. They were actually pressured to pick them up because we needed the factories to keep running" Snodgrass informed her.

"The other problem" Snodgrass said "is that the engineering notes specify that all inside-angles...the kinds that want to crack...are supposed to have a 1.0mm radius. None of these do.”

Snodgrass took the point of his ballpoint pen and ran it along the offending features.

“We keep shipping scrap parts made from degraded material back to the supplier. They keep grinding them up and adding to the parts they turn around and ship back to us. There is a difference between material that has been reground and reshot once and material that has been reground and reshot countless times. Add that to skipping the die-maker labor required to hone-down the sharp edges and we have problems.”

"I want your permission to file a Problem Reporting and Resolution case against both Gatineau Industries and Magenta. I also want to over-night deliver bad parts to both places. Sending things over-night sends a message.  Gatineau will probably blow us off but I bet Magenta won't" Snodgrass said.

"Do it. But then go home and watch Miracle on Ice" Paula said.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Small, Air-cooled Diesel Engines

I am Jonesing for a small, air-cooled diesel engine. I don't have any good reason that I can articulate. It seems like there are a dozen potential uses for a prime-mover: Pumping water, turning a generator, powering a rototiller and so on.

The sizes that are available are 196cc and 3hp, 247cc and 5hp and 406cc and 8hp.

Running at its most efficient RPM (2700) it produces 5.5hp and will consume about 1.05 liters of fuel. Said another way, a gallon of diesel will last 3.6 hours at that operating point.

Fuel economy is pretty good.

A Chinesium diesel engine is twice as expensive as a comparable gas engine. I am not sure why I want one, but I do.

I asked an internet friend if I should buy one. He was horrified and answered "Absolutely not. You should buy two of them"

Any opinions? I am leaning toward the 247cc, 5hp model for $350 bucks, delivered.

I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow!

I am pretty pumped-up about visiting the Orthopedics doc tomorrow. They will shoot an x-ray of the leg, take off the current cast and then I meet with the doc after she decides what happens next.

One of Dr. Cynthia Koelker's tips to squeeze the most value from your medical dollar is to type up a list of the questions you want addressed and email them to the doctor's office the day before your visit. That way your doctor will not be caught flat-footed and you will not waste time hemming-and-hawing as you try to remember your questions.

So, that it this morning's task.

I also have a doctor's visit with the Old Curmudgeon, my personal physician, on Friday.

God willing, I will be back in Eaton Rapids in the next few days.

It is good to have a plan

I want to have some kind of plan that does not involve in-home visits of Occupational Therapists or Physical Therapists. The discharge plan from the hospital informed me that I would have an OT visit within three days of discharge. That never happened. Two weeks on, we still have not had a visit or a phone call. Again, I think it is because medical staffing is flat on its ass everywhere.

That wasn't a big deal for me because I had Mrs ERJ attending to my every need and Mom's house came fully furnished with every kind of mobility aid imaginable this side of a Hoyer lift. 

The only question I had for the OT was "How would I transfer from the floor to a piece of furniture should I fall?" At this point, I have enough physical strength back that it is a non-issue.

But before I reached that degree of strength, I watched a few videos to see what other people did.

Ten minute run-time

I actually enjoyed this one where a paraplegic (no function below arms) transfers herself from the ground to her wheelchair without anybody's help. This woman has a great attitude and this video is a great remedy if you are feeling sorry for yourself.

Industrial Fiction, Working on the line

The story starts HERE


“I am going to get you used to the plant by having you investigate a list of parts that might be re-sourced” Paula said.

“There was already an effort to identify parts that were...um...over-priced when you kicked over the apple cart. One of my associates worked with a database and statistics animal at headquarters. His regular job didn’t keep him busy enough so he built a regression model to predict what a part “should” cost. Then he sorted through our bill-of-material to identify parts that are over-priced.”

“Fortunately, the contracts for all the parts in the new product have a clause where we can reopen bidding if the volumes go above or below a certain point. In a few months we will have the opportunity to put out requests-for-bids on every part in the unit because of sales volume” Paula said.

“So, you want me to investigate these parts?” Snodgrass asked, confident he was on comfortable ground.

“In a way” Paula said. “But maybe not the way you are thinking.”

Paula beckoned over to a couple of men who had been waiting just out of Snodgrass’s sight in the team room.

Joining Paula and Snodgrass, John saw it was Ganzer and a short, squaty man who resembled a walking fire-hydrant.

Paula said “You know Ganzer from the tryout. This is Matthias” gesturing to the other man. “Matthias is the chairman of the Union local.”

Snodgrass was instantly wary. He had very conflicted, and mostly negative views of the Union. “Hello” he said, tentatively.

Matthias was almost jovial. “Hello” he boomed. Decades in the factory and hit-or-miss hearing protection had left his slightly deaf. “Good to have you aboard”


“I am loaning you to Matthias until the end of the shift. I will swing by and see how you are doing throughout the day” Paula assured him.

Seeing his stricken look, Paula said “70% happy. Remember that.”

“Come with me” Matthias said as he turned and started walking away from the table. Snodgrass had no options but to follow him.

“First, we are going to swing by the locker rooms. Ganzer will give you a lock. You are going to put everything but your wallet, your phone and your skivvies in a locker and put on a set of blue cover-alls.”

“Then, we are going to take you to the line and you are going to learn a production job today” Matthias said.

“Wait. I thought there were union rules where management is prohibited from doing hourly work?” Snodgrass said, confused.

“Actually, the are rules that prohibit management from replacing union workers to do hourly work. You aren’t displacing an hourly-worker. In fact, he will be there the entire time training you” Matthias said.

In for a dime, in for a dollar. At least he had worn a comfortable pair of shoes.

A production worker handed Snodgrass a three-ring binder and told him to take ten minutes to read through it. The binder had a cartoon enhanced explanation of what the job entailed. Four different products were built in the plant and depending on which product was in station, similar-but-different work had to be done on the job. Snodgrass was a quick reader. He read through the job descriptions twice.

Then his trainer had him stand in station and watch for ten minutes while the trainer chattered away. The trainer never rushed but he never stopped moving. As soon as he finished one job, he looked to see what the next product was, swung by the parts bins and “reloaded” and started working on the next product as soon as he could reach it. His pace was carefully calibrated so he was never walking any faster than he needed to.

“The way I like to train is to have you start doing a little piece of each job. Then, after you have mastered that I have you work on a different part of the job.”

“I am going to start you on using the push-pins to attach the flubber pieces. Grab a three-pocket apron over there and put the push-pins in exactly the way I do” the man said.

“Oh, by the way, my name is Carlson.”

“Why is it important to put them in exactly the way you do? I am not arguing. I just remember things better when I know why” Snodgrass said.

“Great question” Carlson said with good humor. “The push-pins are not interchangeable. I have mine set up so the when I am standing in front of the bins my pockets are one-for-one matches with where the pins are in the bins. That way I don’t have to think. Pins in the left bin go in my left pocket. Pins in the right go into the right and so on”

“By the way, if you drop some pins, and you will, don’t re-bin them or put them back in your apron. Mixed stock is the curse of this job.”

So Snodgrass started out learning to pin flubber, load parts and clip together wire-harnesses.

It took Snodgrass an embarrassingly long time to master pinning the flubber. The four different products used different numbers of the different push-pins and the Snodgrass could not look at the holes and tell which pin went in. He had to rely on brute memorization. 4-2-1 for one model. 2-2-2 for another 0-3-2 for a third.

His trainer watched him, silent, as Snodgrass pushed the pins. “I am responsible for your work. I am the one signed into the station so if it is not done right, I am the guy who is called on the carpet” Carlson told him.

There was one other person working in Snodgrass and Carlson’s station. His name was Juicer. Just down-line were another two operators, Nguyen and Hendershot. Except for introductions at the beginning, they didn't interact with him much. It was just as well. He was completely focused on learning the elements of the job; a job that seem really simple on paper but was complicated and intensely unforgiving in the actual execution.

Shortly before lunch there was some excitement. Snodgrass had become “solid” enough at push-pins that Carlson had started him on the “stuffing flubber” part of the job. The piece of flubber that Snodgrass was loading tore as he loaded it.

“Shit!” Carlson swore and Carlson hit the andon cord which started music singing.

“Yank that piece out of there. When you grab another piece, check to see if there is a crack in the corner. If there is, then throw the piece out in the aisleway and check the next piece. Keep pulling pieces until you find a good one.”

People started coming out of the woodwork in response to the music.

That is when Snodgrass noticed that the piece that broke had been pulled from a bin of material that the tuggers had just dropped off.

Monday, May 16, 2022

A weird question on a job application

"If you were a function in Microsoft Excel, what function would you be and why?"

Well, I suppose if I were allowed an expansive definition of a "function" I would be the Solver add-in. Solver can be used for goal seeking and to regress black-box functions to map input-output relationships.

Otherwise I would be Conditional Formatting because it makes data interpretation fast and intuitive.

How about the rest of you? And please, don't offer to be a macro because it tastes great with cheese.

Hammer-and-tongs race for Michigan's new 7th District for US House

Mrs ERJ was going through some old mail while I was cruising the internet.

She said, "I think we should give some money to Tom Barrett."

Then she showed me this letter

Front Page

Back Page

 Last line: "P.S. – Governor Whitmer hates me more than any other member of the legislature. If I’m elected, I will become the Governor’s congressman and nothing would make her more angry. If you want to make Gretchen mad, send a check today!"

If I was a betting man, I would bet that the ERJ household was going to donate to Tom Barrett's campaign.

Bonus picture

Hat-tip to Bill

Restoration agriculture

 

I cannot add a thing except to say that sod is very competitive for nutrients and your woody-plants will grab hold quicker and start growing if you do something to beat back the grass. 26 minute run-time with very little "dead" time.

It is difficult to make rational decisions when the "data" is garbage

Mrs ERJ went to a bridal shower yesterday and my brother who is an accountant was the designated "responsible adult" who volunteered to watch me.

We had a very wide ranging conversation with a heavy emphasis on investing. My brother likes to invest in "Value" plays. Those are companies that are making money the old-fashioned way. They make and distribute goods and services that customers are willing to pay more for than those goods and services cost to produce.

Non-recurring items

The challenge is that special accounting entries for non-recurring items like tax-writeoffs, divestments and the like dominate the gross financial metrics like Price/Earnings ratios. My dear brother is looking for businesses with solid core businesses. He is looking for businesses that make solid profits from normal operations year-after-year.

The non-recurring items are so pervasive and so large that it is hard to see the dog that is being wagged by the tail. That frustrates my brother.

Scrubbing away the accounting fou-fou is a big job and you cannot understand issues unless you can do it. The problem is not limited to the world of financial investments, either.

For example, most intellectuals in New York City would agree that it would be desirable to have every state in the US to urbanize to reduce energy consumption. They might point to the fact that New York State ranks 49th in terms of per-capita energy consumption as support for that argument.

Source
Surely, they think, we would all be better off if we just followed the enlightened example of New York State.

The devil is in the details

New York State uses very little energy in their industries because finance and media and hospitality use very little energy.

Compare and contrast to Texas, a state that NYC dwellers like to look down upon.

Twenty-three percent of the energy used in industry in the United States is used in Texas. It takes a lot of energy to extract oil and gas from underground, especially off-shore. It takes a lot of energy to refine it and strip the sulfur from it and then to ship it to the end-users.

The spread between the two states narrows considerably if one were to take the energy costs of extracting-and-refining and assign those costs to the point-of-use.

Those costs can be stunningly large if you scrupulously account for every cost. For instance, the US Military determined that once all costs were rolled in, the cost of a gallon of fuel (probably diesel) delivered to a forward operating base in Afghanistan was $600 a gallon.

Life in the city may give the appearance of  a small resource foot-print but that illusion is subsidized by expenses in other places: Energy in TX and LA, heavy pesticide use and Cartel violence in Mexico, child-labor in Asia and so on. The moral high-ground they claim is not all that high.

Embedded, difficult to maintain infrastructure

Another complication is that the infrastructure that supports NYC was never designed with ease-of-maintenance in mind. Sewers, water distribution lines, underground wires, subway tunnels, elevators, steel reinforced concrete and the like all have finite lifespans.

Lower population density areas will have higher per-capita infrastructure costs due to longer runs of pipe between residences and more square-feet of pavement, it is two orders of magnitude easier to service that infrastructure at 2500 residents per square-mile than it is at 25,000 residents per square-mile.

Bonus: Update on recovery

I thought I had a relapse yesterday morning.

I am an early morning person and Mrs ERJ is at her best after noon. So I was awake in bed waiting for her alarm to go off.

I had been doing some leg lifts with my broken leg on previous mornings to pass the time. Nothing radical, just a few inches off the surface and just a few reps.

Yesterday morning I was not able to lift my leg. Not an inch. It was pretty distressing.

The problem resolved itself after Mrs ERJ woke up. She reminded me that I had asked her to tuck in the blankets at the foot of the bed. Not only was I fighting gravity, I was also trying to yank the edges of the blankets out from beneath the mattress.

This morning the blankets were not tucked in and leg-lifts went off without a hitch.

Industrial Fiction, Offer made. Offer accepted

 
The story starts HERE


“You just had to drop a coupla hand-grenades into the septic tank, didnt-ya?” the graybeard softened the accusation with a chuckle.

For a change, the graybeard had called Snodgrass. It was 9 in the evening and it had been a very long day.

“Point being” the graybeard said “going back to the office in the morning might not be the wisest thing for you to do.”

It had not occurred to Snodgrass to NOT go to the office the next morning.

“Should I work from home?” he asked.

“Nope. Go back to the plant and report in to the Project Launch Manager. You don’t work for her, of course, but wheels are turning” the graybeard said.

“What is going to happen to my boss?” Snodgrass asked. It was inconceivable to him that Lonnie Cross would be able to hang onto his position as manager of the site purchasing department.

“That is a question you are not supposed to ask. It really isn’t your concern. Suffice it to say that he is in your past” the graybeard informed him. “NOTHING good will come from you having any information about what happens to him.”

“You said ‘wheels are turning’, can you educate me about that?” Snodgrass asked.

“Normally, at this stage of a product launch the launch team is dissolving. People are finding positions to return to” the graybeard told him.

“The project manager agreed to take you on to smooth the transition. You are going to pick up the bits-and-pieces of team-member jobs as they leave. In effect, you will be the project manager’s man-Friday.”

“I am not sure I want to be somebody’s executive assistant” Snodgrass said, bristling. He wasn’t the one who had screwed up so why was he being punished.

“You are looking at this wrong. You won’t be glorified secretary. You will be how the project manager can be in two places at once. You will get a very close look at how a fast-tracker operates. Most of our Vice Presidents cycled through a job like this. It is a great way to see how all the pieces fit together but on a smaller, more comprehensible scope.”

Snodgrass showed up at the plant at six in the morning. The place was already humming.

He went to the station where the can-opener was installed and watched for a while. Half of the product going through the station was the new, high-profit model. According to chatter Snodgrass heard the day before, there were other bottlenecks that prevented them from running 100%.

He had been watching for about 20 minutes when he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Paula Stevens, the Launch Manager. “Come with me” she said, beckoning him with a crooked finger.

Snodgrass wasn’t any good at guessing women’s ages but he guessed she was a little bit older than he was.

Her skin glowed with the deep luminescence of supremely good health. She glided the way a cheetah walks just before dropping down into the final sprint to catch dinner. Her hair was pale, straight and in a short, practical cut. Her fingernails were closely trimmed and her polish was clear-matte. Otherwise she appeared to not be wearing a speck of makeup. Her clothing was on the casual-side of business-casual, heavy on cotton knits that were loose enough to allow free range-of-motion yet tight enough to not have danglely bits that could get caught in machinery.

She led him to a small stand-up table near the end of the segment of production line dedicated to the can-opener. The other pedestrians moving down the aisle subtly adjusted their paths to create a bubble around the table. Instant privacy in a crowd. Plants tend to be rich in ambient noise. Nobody more than ten feet away could hear their conversation.

“Thank-you for agreeing to take me in when I needed a place to stay” Snodgrass led. His mama raised him to say “Thank-you” when he couldn’t think of anything else to say. The habit had served him well.

“I asked for you” Paula said, brushing off his thanks.

“But there is one thing we need to be crystal-clear about right from the get-go. In case you don’t recognize it, I am giving you an official ass-chewing” Paula said.

“You will never, never leave me in the position you left Lonnie Cross”

Snodgrass started to say something but she cut him off.

“I don’t care about extenuating circumstances. I don’t care that he never made it back to the office the night before. I don’t care if he is sloppy about reading his emails.” It was clear that Paula Stevens had a very solid information network.

“You will not contact management two levels above me unless you are absolutely sure you got me in the loop first.”

“Call me. Text me. Find me….I am on the factory floor twelve hours a day. I am not hard to find.”

“We are going to argue. I only recruit passionate people. We will argue and you will win some and lose some. We do not undercut the team by running to top-management or going behind people’s back.

“If you cannot agree to that condition, I have no use for you and we are done here.” Paula said.

Yup. The kind of lady who got down to brass-tacks.

“What if I cannot agree with the team?” Snodgrass asked.

“It depends on how much you disagree. I never get 100% of what I want but I have learned to be very happy to get 70% of what I want.”

“If you cannot do that, or if the team goes in a direction is something you absolutely cannot support then resign.” Paula said.

Snodgrass thought for a few seconds. Nobody had ever come right out and talked so plainly about commitment and loyalty.

“I can and I will abide by those conditions” Snodgrass said without reservation.

Paula Stevens extended her hand and said “Welcome aboard, Mr Snodgrass.”

Sunday, May 15, 2022

American with Disabilities Act

If the Progressives who seem to dominate "fact checking" have been documented as claiming that conservatives are stupid and mentally ill

and if the American Disabilities Act requires that people with stunted mental abilities and emotional disabilities be offered "reasonable" accommodations in the public sphere

then how can a social media platform that makes material viewable to the general public censor conservatives.

I can totally see it if they have a pay-to-view policy for every set of eyeballs, but if I can type a person's name into a search engine and the social media outlet offers me (a non-registered user) a page filled with photos and personal information (like city of residence), doesn't that sound like the "public sphere".

Sidebar

I will no longer make sport of Joe Biden.

My sense is that people who are sitting-on-the-fence, people we NEED to come over to our side are starting to see our ruthless mocking of Biden's declining mental ability as being cruel and being the equivalent of mocking an eight-year-old child with Down's Syndrome.

While it may be momentarily satisfying to harpoon Biden, my goal of a saner, less radical group in Congress and the White House will be better served by gentle invitations to "just think about it" than by rubbing supporter and fence-sitters' noses in the mess.

This is not about my getting joy by smacking folks on the other side. It is about achieving the mission.


SOCMOB

There I was, standing on the corner minding my own business when I was mugged by a story.

The characters in Industrial Fiction kicked me in the slats, held a knife to my throat and told me to keep writing.

Consequently, there will be more installments. I don't know how many more, yet.

In other news

Day-by-day I am getting stronger and want to do more. I had a conversation with my nephew who is a Physical Therapist. He gave me a pep-talk and pretty much told me to cool it. I am chomping at the bit to do a little more and he told me to sit tight. My next doctor's appt is Wednesday and as an adult I should be able to wait that long.

So little traffic that somebody decided to store there boat there.

I already picked out where I will practice walking. It is a school that was closed due to declining enrollment. The parking lot is about an acre in extent and there is almost zero traffic. The surface is flat and smooth and still in good shape. This is the same place I took my kids to teach them to ride "two-wheelers".

Six Degrees of Separation

Lansing really is a small town.

There is a gentleman who lives across the street from Mom's house. I used to cut the lawn of the woman who lived there. She was a spinster who had been a high school English teacher and who lived in retirement longer than she had worked.

When she passed on, her nephew inherited it. He had been maintaining the house while the spinster aunt lived in it. That was a real chore because he lived in a city sixty miles away and his job put a lot of unusual time demands on him.

He and his wife moved into the house after he transferred to Lansing. He is a gregarious guy and quickly picked up jobs mowing the lawns of the widows and spinsters on his block. He does fine, meticulous work even if he does look like he would be perfectly at home on a beach sipping margaritas with Jimmy Buffet.

I happened to see him walking his dogs after work and I asked him "Do you know Doctor Swords?" It seemed like there was a pretty good chance he would. He is an Emergency Room Doctor at Sparrow which is the hospital Swords is affiliated with.

"Which one? The younger or the older?" he asked from the sidewalk.

"The younger" I replied.

"Sure do. I send him work all the time" he replied.

"Let him know he has another happy customer" I said pointing at the cast on my leg.

"Will do" he replied as his dogs reminded him that he was supposed to be walking them.

Ticks

Belladonna and Sprite informed Mrs ERJ that the ticks back home are ferocious.

I guess that is what happens when there is nobody around to mow the grass.

Sprite told us she was going to give it a lick-and-a-promise today.

I need to get back home. I am not big on spraying insecticides but this might be the one year I make an exception.

Referrals

Efforts to get an appointment with the hand doctor for my left-hand have come to naught. It is still the one thing that hurts enough to wake me up and keep me awake in the night.

I think it is probably a staffing issue. EVERYBODY is on their ass for workers and doctor's offices might be hit worse than other areas. The software is specialized so the pool of workers who can flow in seamlessly is small. Doctor's fees are set by insurance companies and Medicare/Medicaid so they cannot just increase fees to keep up with inflation. Consequently, they cannot raise wages to maintain the relative difference between what a medical-office worker makes and what a factory worker makes. The offices bleed workers and struggle to get new ones trained.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Offered for entertainment purposes only: My thoughts on riots

 

 

We have been around a year or two. We might know something about riots

The chart shown above depicts some of the key enablers for a modern riot in America.

Some of the enablers are not things we can do anything about, like University being in session. But it can advise us to avoid medium sized cities (like Mount Pleasant, Michigan) if it hosts a University. It can also provide guidance regarding when things are likely to heat up.

I guess the reporter associated with the van in the upper, right corner was adverse to walking. They are usually a couple of blocks away from the action.

Other enablers are far more interesting, like the MSM up-link trucks. The range of actions are a spectrum from totally passive to very active.

For example, if a protest is starting to build steam and you see a newsie truck pull up, it is past time to get-out-of-Dodge. It is irrelevant that the truck was responding to a tip or if it showed up out of anticipation or its arrival was coordinated by the soon-to-be rioters a week ahead of time. Fact is, newsie truck + Demonstration has gasoline-meets-fire potential.

An action that is slightly more active than using your eyes would be to bless all of the local newsie trucks with Apple Air-tags so you can keep track of them in real-time. Now wouldn't that be handy?

On the more active end of the spectrum one could recruit local athletes to pummel the newsie trucks with dozens of water balloons and water bottles. As far as I know, this is just a misdemeanor. If this happened on a regular basis, the techs and drivers would eventually figure out that it was just a matter of time before the liquid in the projectiles MIGHT someday be more flammable than H2O. Flammable fluid plus high voltage is not pretty. They might opt to have sick-outs on days when riots are scheduled and take this enabler out-of-play for our side.

Cell phone coverage is trickier. Interfering with over-the-air transmissions is a Federal crime. However, I believe it is only a misdemeanor if a garbage bag filled with used grocery bags fell out of the back of your pickup and the grocery bags were carried by the wind to the power-feeds at the base of cell phone towers where they would be sucked up by the cooling air intakes causing the amplifiers to temporarily over-heat.

I only point this out because I would hate to have this accidentally happen.

Logistics and Command-and-control elements

This video is interesting because you can see both the logistical elements as supplies are off-loaded from vehicles (1:25 mark) that are double-parked on the street and you can see command-and-control deployment as men (helpfully wearing high-visibility, yellow clothing) vet people showing up (1:50). Look at how the teams of two-men-each are posted at the sidewalks feeding protestors to the site of the protest. Pretty obvious when you know what you are looking for. By extension, the other people wearing hi-vis are also likely to be command-and-control elements.

One could guestimate the planned scope of the riot planned by the goblins based on the number of vehicles offloading supplies and make your own plans accordingly.

You only need to watch three minutes of the video to see this....if you are looking for it. I am not promulgating any mischief but it is easy to see that the protest/riot would fall apart if the supply vehicles experienced sudden deflation syndrome and the thugs in the yellow suits became uncomfortable.

Anonymity

Geofencing can be your friend. Send them a coupon you know they will want to redeem and they will stand up and identify themselves. If the coupon was for a free download of a desirable and expensive app, one could potentially sneak in an app or two that could be useful to peace-loving citizens or extremely awkward to explain...like certain kinds of images and videos.

Planting cadence

Deadon Savoy Cabbage. Target planting date (at my latitude) of May 15

 

My dad was a teacher. The end of the school year was chaotic. I really cannot remember him getting in a garden before June 10th.

He picked up flats of Rutgers or Bonnie Best tomatoes. The places selling tomato plants never ran out of those two varieties.

He planted Red Pontiac potatoes on 36" by 36" centers so he could roto-till in both directions.

Sweetcorn was Iochief hybrid and went into the garden on that first Saturday after the first full week in June. Squash was planted at the same time.

Raspberry plants were given to him by a co-worker near the end-of-June. He brought them home in a bucket. They were probably a now-obsolete variety named "Latham" but they made incredible freezer-jam. You have not lived until you have eaten raspberry freezer-jam made from fragrant raspberries picked at peak ripeness.

Roses and other plants were purchased clearance. They were beat-up and he probably paid ten-cents-on-the-dollar. Not all of them lived.

We always had more vegetables than we could eat or can or freeze. Even with the sub-optimal planting cadence. Of course, Dad was fanatical about weeding. I am not so good at keeping my garden weeded.

The point is that my enforced vacation from gardening will likely not be catastrophic. A critical look at garden plants reveals that the only class of plant that is hyper-sensitive to planting date are brassicas and root crops that might have critical physiological events like head-formation or bulbing keyed into day-length. Most of these plants are technically biennials which nominally start growth one growing season and complete their life-cycle the next season.

Kale. As bullet-proof of a crop as exists.

It is a balancing act because planting later might be favorable for reduced likelihood of the plants going to seed instead of storing food for the next season but it also slows growth as the days shorten and temperatures cool. This is where gardening becomes an art. Deadon or winter storage cabbages might want to have their seeds started on May 15 at my location while other types of cabbage, say Hwi Mo Ri Chinese Cabbage might want to be seeded between July 10 and July 20.

In a normal year, at my location:

  • Flights of onion sets starting April 15
  • Sugar Snap peas, three flights starting last week of April
  • Potatoes, in the ground May 1, target soil temp 50F
  • Field/cornmeal corn target May 15*
  • Tomato and pepper plants May 27 (look at weather predictions for frost)
  • Beans and sweet corn starting June 1
  • Melons, squash June 7
  • Root vegetables, kale seeds in ground July 4 weekend

 

*Commercial farmers start planting when the soil is above 45F. For the most part, the seeds sit there waiting for the soil to warm up. They are protected from rot and insects with fungicides and insecticides.

Corn is a warm season plant and the weeds quickly outpace it in the spring. Herbicides are used to kill the weeds.

The need for chemical interventions drops a bunch if the gardener plants when corn wants to be planted. The reason commercial farmers do not do it that way is because they have enormous acreage (often times geographically spanning multiple states) and they have to start early to get it all in. The economies-of-scale that make modern, BIG commercial farming possible are totally dependent on successful chemical interventions that allow them to plant three weeks before that kernel of corn wants to sprout.

A 40 acre field can be planted in 4-1/2 hours by a 5 row planter (36" wide rows) running 5 miles per hour or 7-1/2 hours at 3 mph.

Man Card


Querulous: Adjective

  1. Given to complaining, peevish.
  2. Expressing a complaint or grievance
  3. Quarrelsome

I can see two dynamics that make convalescing men querulous.

The more insidious dynamic is that we are wired to gain control of our environment. That is what humans do. We find or make tools and use them to achieve the results we seek.

The problem when we are all banged-up is that our caregiver is the only instrument for getting things done that/who is available to us. Consequently, there is a temptation to turn her into a tool. Like the kid in the picture, we yank away on the levers trying to figure out which lever makes what thing happen. 

The other dynamic that can make men grumpy is when we strive to avoid the first mechanism. We can see the path to dependency and we bend every effort to avoid it. Our caregivers, who are almost invariably very helpful by nature, often do things for us that we can do for ourselves. Often it is just habit or they see that it will take us 50 times more effort and time.

Yes sir. I want to do it if I can. Even if it takes me six tries or is (moderately) painful. I do not want to tarnish my relationship with Mrs ERJ by getting into the habit of "manipulating" her and pushing her buttons. That path has no happy ending.

Pitcher plants. The way in is easy

We have both had to slow down. Me, because I am busted up. Mrs ERJ, who is kind and gracious and helpful must now deliberately think through "Is doing this for Joe REALLY the best thing or will it be counter-productive in the long-run?"

I like being waited on hand-and-foot but it is clearly not best for me. It steals my Man Card.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Friday funny with commentary

 

Having purchased a box of rare and incredibly expensive cigars, a North Carolina man had the collection insured against—of all things—fire.

Within a month, having smoked the entire stockpile and without making a single premium payment on the policy, the man filed a claim against the insurance company.

The man claimed that he had lost the cigars in "a series of small fires." When the insurer balked at paying, noting that the cigars had been consumed normally, the man sued and won!

The judge ruled that the company had to cover the loss, because it had deemed the cigars insurable and had not defined what it considered to be an “unacceptable fire.” Rather than appeal, the company paid the man $24,000 for his loss in "the fires."

After the man cashed his check, however, the insurer had him arrested. The charge: 24 counts of arson! With his own insurance claim and the man's own, sworn testimony from the previous case used as evidence, the man was convicted of igniting and burning insured property with the intention of claiming insurance benefits and was sentenced to 24 consecutive one-year terms.

This is a funny story that seems to capture what our leadership is doing with our culture and economy.

They are rapidly squandering any possibility of a soft-landing on this leg down. And then they will have the chutzpah to claim "It is a good thing we propped up our favorite institutions at the expense of the little-people or it would have been much worse" or they will point to Trump and say "Good thing we had Biden running the show. It would have been a 100 times worse if the Orange Terror had been at the helm".

Corrections of various sorts are inevitable. And while they cannot be managed in detail, they can be guided like a herd of stampeding cattle. They can be guided away from densely populated areas into cacti and deep sand where they can dissipate their energy at their own pace with minimum harm to cattle, humans and structures.

Having lived through a few economic downturns, it is my belief that we are likely to face several legs downward. Prices of stocks might seem to bottom-out for a while, new money will enter the market only to watch the market puke again.

The same may be true culturally. If you are a conservative, Trump was a pause in the relentless, Leftist strangulation of our culture.

Stay away from crowds. Keep your family close and your powder dry. Test everything. Keep what is good.

Bits and pieces

A random observation on praying

Previous to my accident, I wondered if I would have the presence-of-mind to pray as my final seconds approached.

Obviously not if I was in a coma or struck down by a bolt of lightning, but what if I was shot or pinned beneath a fallen tree or...hit by a car.

In my particular case I think the answer is YES!

My first memories after getting whacked were of looking down at the pavement, some three-inches distant and seeing the stones in it very clearly. then I realized I did not have my glasses on (I am very near-sighted). Then the pool of liquid below my forehead slowly growing.

Then I heard "Hail Mary, full of grace...." in the back of my mind. BAM! Just like that, no conscious thought applied.

For those of you who are not Catholic, the Hail Mary is one of the rote prayers we learn in our youth. The Hail Mary is a slightly embellished version of Luke 1:41,42

I think the reason the Hail Mary kicked in automatically is that I made a habit of praying while in the dentist's chair, not because Dr Stone is a poor dentist (I think he is an extraordinarily good dentist) but because of my anxiety. My thinking was that if I can power-through my anxiety and pray in the dentist's chair then I can pray in other stressful situations.

What I had not anticipated is that neurons that fire-together wire-together. Huge adrenaline dump? 200 BPM pulse rate? Not in control? Conditions met. Subsys-restart. Activate prayer engine.

As noted earlier, I felt calm and protected through the event. The praying-in-the-dentist chair connection is a little quirky but I thought it worth sharing. You just never know...

Baby formula

I was visited by a nephew and his wife and their new baby last night.

Right now the baby is being breast fed but her mother wants to have a back-up. They have tried a few different formulas but the baby appears to have bad reactions to formulas based on cow's milk. Reactions like hives and whistling breath.

The mother commented that the great baby formula scare has greatly limited the availability of specialty formulas as mothers who otherwise would have bought the commodity type formulas are now buying anything on the shelf.

So far the mother has been able to provide an ample amount of "boobie juice" as she calls it and the baby is growing like a weed but she still wants to have a back-up just in case.

Regarding the Industrial Fiction piece

I wrote the first part as a portrait showing the differences between a "Relationship-based" salesman and a "Challenger" salesman.

As a "Challenger" salesmen told me, "The best way to develop a relationship with your client is to solve one of his big, intractable problems. Your client will call you when he has a big problem. Solving big problems is where big paychecks come from."

If you cannot solve problems, then the only way you can afford to develop a "relationship" with your client is based on golf games, trips and gifts.  The only way the supplier can afford those amenities is to roll a little extra lard into the quote. Once that model is planted, it tends to grow and become a life-form of its own.

Industrial Fiction, Part II

The start of the story


Snodgrass was expecting it. His phone started ringing at 8:05. It was his boss.

“Where the hell are you!” Lonnie Cross blasted across the phone. Snodgrass thought, not for the first time, we use phones so we don’t have to shout.

“I am at a part tryout in the plant” Snodgrass said.

“Get your ass back to the office. Monsted is here and we have a contract to sign” Cross said.

“I can’t do that” Snodgrass said. “I am in the middle of a part tryout. All the players are here.”

“If you absolutely need to talk to me, you can come here. We are at station C-2, 35L” Snodgrass finished. And then he hung up.

Plant tryouts are a big deal. The inspection engineers measure the part to ensure it is dimensionally suitable. One part is fed into the process to see how it processes. If it “crashes” it is marked up and then Ganzer used a die grinder to finesse the next part.

Then two are are run back-to-back. Then four.

Once it appears to be not cause problems with the equipment, operators are cycled through the job. The part caused another hiccup when Sally Sweetfeed, a very short, left-handed Native-American could not install the part. Ganzer and Sweetfeed fiddled around and had something worked out in about thirty minutes. Sally was still not 100% with it but was confident she could master it with enough repetitions.

After that it was a matter of running parts and waiting for problems to pop up.

That is why there were people from HQ and Engineering and ergonomics and a bunch of other people who just seemed to show up.

Lonnie Cross, face red from anger and exertion came boiling up the aisle-way twenty-five minutes later. Monsted was bobbing along in his wake.

Cross was yelling even before he got to the station “Do you have any fucking idea how important this part is!” he trumpeted.

“You are demonstrating a gross lack of maturity and judgement by running a part trial on some piss-ant part when we are losing a quarter million a DAY because we don’t have the part Monsted is going to make.”

“Now I demand that you pull the plug on this trial and go back to the office so you can do the job you are SUPPOSED to be doing.”

Cross’s anger was palpable. You could have fried eggs on his forehead.

Cross had the attention of every person at the tryout.

It was a withering blast but Snodgrass held his ground.

“Do you know what is installed in this station?” Snodgrass asked.

“I really don’t fucking care!” Cross said. “I gave you a direct order and if you do not comply immediately I will call HR and initiate severance, effective right now.”

One of the nameless bodies detached herself from dumb-struck tryout group.

“Sir, I suggest you calm down” she advised him.

“And who the fuck do you think you are?” Cross demanded.

“I work with Mr DeLuca” the woman said.

That slowed Cross down. DeLuca was Cross’s boss’s boss. She was from HQ.

“What are you doing here?” He asked, suddenly wary. He thought swearing in front of production people helped him fit in and made him seem more masculine. People from HQ, especially women were a whole different kettle of fish.

“This is a very important try-out for the company” the woman said. If she had been intimidated by Cross she gave absolutely no sign of it. “As you noted, we are losing a quarter million dollars a day. This is a production trial of the part.”

Only then did Cross and Monsted bother to look at the parts being fished out of the tote and fed into the machine.

John Snodgrass had a multitude of faults. Being indecisive was not one of them. Being unaware of when he was in, over his head was also not one of them.

Snodgrass realized that he was in a no-win situation. If he gave the business to Monsted he was cheating the firm of profit that was rightfully his employers. If he gave the business to Hansen then he would be a pariah and the business would undoubtedly be yanked from Hansen and given to Monsted anyway.

The tell had been Monsted’s comments implying that his immediate management was in on the deal. “The skids have been greased”

Snodgrass called one of the wise, graybeards to ask his advice. Snodgrass could not know that the graybeard had been the one who made a few phone calls which resulted in Snodgrass landing in purchasing rather than the unemployment line.

The graybeard made a few more phone calls after talking to Snodgrass. The boy had done him proud and he wasn’t going to let John take the fall.

Cross started equivocating. “Hansen is not an approved supplier” he barked. He was unaware that he had accepted her authority by addressing her concern.

“Thats odd” the woman mused. “I downloaded the approved supplier list this morning and Hansen Industries Jax is approved for these kinds of parts.”

“Monsted’s company won the bid” Cross snarled. “Now we will have to retrofit all those units with Monsted’s parts.”

The tiny woman looked over to the line. “I don’t see Monsted’s parts here on trial. I don’t see how you can say he won the bid.” she said.

Monsted piped up “These are hand-made parts. They are not acceptable for mass production” voice triumphant.

The woman shot a sideways glance at Hansen. Then addressed Cross “According to Mr Hansen, these are manufactured on hard tooling and the plasma cutting tool is powered by hand around the race-track. Hand-made implies they are cut free-hand out of stock.”

“I don’t have time for your bullshit” Lonnie Cross snapped. “Snodgrass, this is your last and final chance. Come back to the plant or you are fired!”

Snodgrass had watched the woman pin his bosses ears back so calmly and efficiently that his boss didn’t even seem to notice*. Snodgrass knew a thing or two about how the corporation worked.

“I am employed to the end of the regular business day. You can call security to have me removed from the plant but I am not sure they will bend to your wishes. This is their turf and what they say, goes.”

“Call security and have this impertinent twerp removed!” Cross demanded of the biggest guy who looked like he worked in the plant.

“I don’t think I will do that. We will complete his part tryout and if Mr Hansen can deliver parts the way he says he can, and the other members tryout group concurs, we will build for two full shifts.

The tiny woman nodded at the beefy man. “Good call, Dean”

It is a curious thing. The glamour photos of executives that show up in official documents look nothing like the individual. Take them out of the make-up and the power-suit. Put them in plant environment in causal clothes and you would never recognize that the person standing in front of you was a Vice-President. Especially if she was short.

 

*I watched a tiny, Hispanic woman do this to my boss-at-the-time. He thought he was successfully shucking-and-jiving his way through a presentation he had not prepared for.

Her powers of observation, her wit and verbal skills left him in little bloody chunks on the floor. It took him a while to realize that she had not bought a single line of his bullshit and he was a little slow realizing that she was cutting him to pieces with a novocain-coated-scalpel. He dug himself a really deep hole before he had the sense to shut-up.

Mainly, she was pissed at him for presenting uncertain information as factual, information she needed to complete her mission.

Her name was Grace Lieblein and she was 26 years-old when I saw this happen. My boss was 37. It is my opinion that Grace is a class act. His name will not be revealed.

The next installment

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Industrial fiction

Names were changed. Details fuzzed up and so on and so forth. Events very similar to the events described in the story happen.

 ***

John Snodgrass had his tail in a crack and the door was being slammed shut.

Snodgrass had been re-purposed as a purchasing agent for a middle-sized firm. The firm had been losing market share and closing plants across the country. Management saw enough potential in Snodgrass to find a position for him.

Bill LaRue had recently retired from purchasing and they slid Snodgrass into the spot. LaRue was famous for having all of his ducks-in-a-row but that was not helping Snodgrass today.

The firm had just introduced a new product and to everybody's surprise it had received rave reviews and a massive pre-order book.

A week after full-rate production started, the boys in Legal determined that there was a Federal regulation that applied to this new product. The product had been tested for compliance and had failed spectacularly. 

The bright-boys in Engineering worked 24 hours a day to find a solution. The answer turned out to be a piece of steel that was about 12” long. One end had a couple of nuts welded to it. The other end was an intricate cutout vaguely reminiscent of a manual can-opener. The section was hat-shaped and the material was about 0.080” thick.

Based on how purchasing responsibilities were divided, sourcing the part fell into Snodgrass’s university of responsibilities. Every day Snodgrass dragged his feet cost the firm hundreds-of-thousands of dollars.

Snodgrass called in his A-team of suppliers and brought them up-to-speed one at a time. He told them that he required a workable quote the next day.

All but one of the suppliers “no-bid” the job. Peter Monsted represented the one firm that was willing to quote the work. Monsted was the quintessential supplier rep. He had “played ball” at Purdue and then followed his father into the world of being a supplier representative.

Monsted was the point-guy for the suppliers. While there are very clear laws about collusion and company policies against accepting certain kinds of gifts, there are very few secrets in the world of supplier reps. Everybody had a very clear picture of what everybody else was doing. They ran into each other as they took purchasing agents out to lunch (and of course the tab was taken care of before the purchasing agent could grab it), on golf courses and in the box seats at sporting events.

Snodgrass had initially been embarrassed by the largess showered upon him by the supplier reps. The purchaser in the next office explained the facts-of-life to him, that “the system” worked to everybody’s advantage. Transactions were handled smoothly with little fuss. Everybody was happy. Don’t rock the boat.

Monsted’s bid left Snodgrass wanting to puke. Six weeks tooling time. $850,000 tooling cost. After reviewing the documents, Snodgrass looked across the table at Monsted and said “The timing is not acceptable. What will it take to compress the timing?”

Monsted had anticipated the question. “We can start delivering parts in four weeks but the premium tooling time will double the tooling cost to $1.7 million.

“I don’t see a piece cost on this proposal” Snodgrass noticed.

“You really don’t have a choice, do you?” Monsted observed.

Snodgrass cocked an eyebrow. “Pencil in a cost and initial it. Guess high. We can always negotiate a lower price after things settle down.”

Monsted reached across the table and pulled the bid toward him. Pulling an elegant silver-and-rosewood pen out of his pocket he causally wrote a number on the page indicated. He added a few notes and slid it back.

The price estimate was “$7.75 per piece, open”

Snodgrass’s stomach acid shot up. That was more than twice what he expected to pay.

“See me first thing in the morning” Snodgrass told him. I need to run this by my boss.

Monsted stood, smiled and winked. “Don’t worry. The skids are greased. Everybody knows how this game is played.”

The receptionist buzzed Snodgrass shortly after Monsted left. “I have a visitor here to see you.”

“Who is it?” Snodgrass asked.

“Bruce Hansen. He says he is a sales rep”

Snodgrass had to think for a minute before he could dredge up a mental image of him. “Sure, send him up”

Hansen walked into Snodgrass’s office and barely greeted him. Sitting down, he reached out and picked up “the can-opener”. He pulled out a pair of calipers and made a few measurements. Smiling a wicked smile, Hansen asked “Is it still open to bid?”

The differences between Monsted and Hansen were stark.

Monsted was elegant and perfectly dressed in a very expensive, classic three-piece suit. He wore lizard-skin, Italian loafers. His hair was perfectly barbered. His hands were manicured.

Hansen was wearing a pair of blue Dickies work pants, a denim shirt, and work-boots. His hands were battered and he had not been able to clean all of the grease from beneath his fingernails. There was “grunge” ground into the calloused palm of his hands.

Snodgrass really didn’t have the energy for it but it would be another hour before his boss was back in the office.

“Sure, as long as you can deliver it in before three” Snodgrass said.

Hansen pulled out his smartphone and opened an app. He typed in a few numbers. Then he called somebody and said “Harry, I need to have you hang on to a few guys”

The other party said something.

“Make it six of them. Might as well tell the hotel across the street to hold a few rooms for us too. Our guys might be able to catch some cat-naps”

“I haven’t had many chances to tell you about my company, Mr Snodgrass” Hansen said. “We make roll-formed parts out of sheet steel and we have the ability to trim them to virtually any shape.”

“We have a standardized shape we keep in stock that is virtually identical to this hat section. If I can take this part back, I can have my guys cutting them out of stock sections with our plasma arc cutter a half hour after I get back” Hansen said.

“And where is that” Snodgrass asked, fully expecting it to be in China.

“It is in Jackson, Michigan just up I-94. It is only 80 minutes away.

Intrigued, in spite of himself, Snodgrass asked “And how soon could you start delivering parts?”

“We have a great crew; people who want to work and are eager to pull down over-time pay. I can deliver a minimum of 100 parts by 7:00 AM tomorrow morning if you write an engineering note that allows me to dip these in wax for corrosion resistance.” Hansen said.

Snodgrass looked at the note block which defined the required surface treatment. Wax was not one of the three coatings that was approved.

“I am afraid we are out of luck” Snodgrass said, regretfully. This had been the first ray of sunshine in the entire goat-festival.

“You have other parts that are wax-dip approved. They are in a similar environment. Can you call an engineer and ask for a temporary deviation?”

Well of course the bright-boys in Engineering were willing to accommodate Snodgrass. “We are moving away from wax because it makes the gloves of the assemblers dirty. We can add it but you get to field the complaints from the assembly plant”

Fourty-five seconds later a certified email authorizing the use of wax-dip was in Snodgrass’s in basket.

“Ok, I will let you make a bid” Snodgrass said.

“The price on the base stock is $1.85 a foot. Fast tooling is simple tooling. Fast tooling is cheap tooling. The plan is to make a window we drop over the piece to use as a template or a guide for the plasma arc cutter. That will be $200.”

“I am going to have to ding you for $2 a part for the manual labor. It will be a lot less once we get rolling but we have to go slow because I want to keep the scrap-rate down. You know manual processes. Welding on nuts by hand is fiddly. You can have fast or you can have quality. Take your pick”

“In parallel, we will be setting up an automatic feed to a robotic PAC. We have a suitable robot in-stock but I am going to have to charge $30,000 to dedicate it to this project. I need to purchase a couple more plasma arc power sources and associated plumbing so I can keep it running if the original PAC craps out.”

“That will be another $8k” Hansen said apologetically. “Industrial quality PAC power sources don’t come cheap”

“Getting back to delivery” Hansen said, stitching back to what he knew was the biggest selling point of his bid. “I can have deliveries made every three hours to keep the plant rolling while we build up inventory.”

“Are you implying you could have the plant running tomorrow?” Snodgrass asked.

“Well, it isn’t quite that simple” Hansen chuckled.

“Engineering has to buy-off on the parts but they can do that at the plant just as easily as at HQ. The other thing is that every new part has some teething pains. I will want Ganzer there to hold our hand as we start building” Hansen said.

“Ganzer?” Snodgrass asked.

“Ganzer is the re-work guy in the plant. If problems arise, he is the guy who has to trim-them-to-fit. Sometimes a part has a corner or bump that makes it almost impossible for the operator to install” Hansen said apologetically.

“After running a couple of hours, Ganzer will have a pretty good idea of what the contour needs to be to make it easy to build. I want one of the first parts Ganzer is happy with to take back to the shop to program our robot to” Hansen said.

“Let me get this straight. For less than $4 a part and less than $50k in tooling you can be supplying me with parts tomorrow? And you can supply in quantity to support the line and rework the assemblies that are in the field?” Snodgrass asked.

“Yes” Hansen said.

“Do it” Snodgrass said.

Hansen picked up his smartphone and called the shop. “I will be back in 90 minutes with some new work. Put roll-form 147 into the machine and run 2000 feet of 2.0mm stock and start heating up the wax dip machine. We have some business.”

Part II

Devotion

Mrs ERJ has been carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders lately. She was still awake at 3:00 this morning when I asked her to rearrange some pillows for me. I don't know what time she actually got to sleep.

She opted to sack-out on the couch in the livingroom rather than on the more comfortable bed in the bedroom because I might need her.

This is what "love" looks like.

Bargain knives

 

$10 a pound for most lots

The pictures are of the knives you will receive

These are TSA confiscated knives. They will not be high end knives. Most of the knives are China made and have names and engravings. These are good knives to have around and not worry about losing or damaging them

Condition varies greatly from almost new to well worn. I do not go through and check every knife so some may have damage or broken parts. (I do remove any ones that are obviously broken). Most will show signs of use and may have rust, dirt, lint ,missing handle inserts, and etc.

May need cleaned, sharpened, or oiled

Bought as is. No Returns 

Frost Twelve Pack at Smokey Mountain Knife Works

200 blades for your utility knife for $15. That is several lifetimes of grafting trees