Happy Curmudgeon Day
Friday the 29th
For the past however long1 we have worked at the Valve Store (tm) we have had 9 holidays off. They were New Year's Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, the Friday after, Christmas Eve & Christmas Day.
Depending on what day Christmas & it's Eve fell on it was mostly always turned into a 4 day weekend with the exceptions being if Christmas fell on a Wednesday or Thursday. A large group of employees would combine this with the New Year's Day holiday and most of their 2 or 3 weeks of vacation disappear from the middle of December and not return until January 2nd.
I say we had 9 holidays, because the company decided that starting this year they were replacing Christmas Eve with a Floating Holiday of the employee's choosing. This floater had to be scheduled like a vacation day by filling out a vacation request, but noting that it was your Floating Holiday. But it would have to used like a holiday in that you couldn't take it in 2 half days and it was not allowed to be carried over.
Around lunch time yesterday Donna decided that maybe it would be nice to turn this into a 4 day work week by taking today off. We decided instead of wasting a vacation day we would go ahead and burn that floater. So I hearkened back to my bicycle club newsletter days and went looking for a esoteric holiday to celebrate. Found several and opted for Curmudgeon Day. So I put on the vacation request handed in to our supervisors, January 29th, Curmudgeon Day (in honor of William Claude Dukenfield's birthday.)
When my acting supervisor asked me who William Claude Dunkenfield was I told him it was W.C. Fields. Ever the smart-ass he said, "Oh, I know him, he makes the cookies." Not to be out smart-assed, I replied, "No, that's his wife."
1. cough, cough twenty-seven years, cough, cough
$500 Car Wash
Monday the 1st
The Purple Whale just got back from his 60k service appointment and before they give you car back as a “free” perk they wash and vacuum it.
We dropped off the car yesterday, so this morning I called the Service Adviser to see how how much this was going to set me back I was told it would be $491. When we showed up to get the car back he told me the total was $527 which I figured was the price + tax. We I got home and looked at the back page of the sheet he gave me there were itemized costs for labor, parts, misc and tax with a total of $580.33. Right underneath that he had hand written in -$53.08 bringing the total to the paid $527.29. WTF? The math isn’t even right! The original $491 plus the 7% sales tax should have totaled $525.37.
The recommended service is to inspect a zillion things, the major items are changing several filters and draining, flushing and replacing the big three fluids (oil, coolant & transmission.) Where did the $580 come from, hard to tell, because the inspections aren’t itemized so all the cost is lumped in the blocks for the 3 fluid changes.
While he was in the shop he also had a couple recalls taken care of. One was some sort of brake pedal stopper which might cause the car to not start needed to be replaced. The second was inspection for engine block noise which might indicate possible main bearing failure. Some engines apparently didn’t get all the chips flushed out during manufacturing. The Purple Whale was fine on that count.
A couple of other observations:
1) They noticed a clunk when turning and replaced a steering coupling under warranty. I have been hearing something like that when backing out of the driveway when transiting off the little curb there, but thought nothing of it. In the write up section for this it says, “Replaced steering coupler per TSB 14-ST-002. One time good will for customer satisfaction.” So they changed something per a Technical Service Bulletin and it is goodwill?
2) In another shining example of car dealer math, Hyundai recommends changing the oil every 7,500 miles and in a little note towards the end of my service print out it says “next oil lube service due @ 63,258 miles, or about 3,746 miles more than the car has now.
Saturday the 19th
Monday when we got home from work, Donna checked the mail and she came out with a padded envelope, looked at me and asked accusingly, “What did you order from Moss Motors?!?” I thought for a moment, couldn’t come up with anything.….then it dawned on me, it was our prize package for finishing as one of the 50 runners-up in the 2015 Motoring Challenge. Sure enough, that’s what it was, a nice t-shirt, a cool little sticker and our $50 gift certificate.
This year for the Motoring Challenge instead of a T-shirt they are giving everyone who scores 50 points a nifty hat, well last week’s “Slow Children Playing” sign put us over that mark. All they wanted as proof was a photo of your entry sheet with your progress so far marked off. So Wednesday after work I took a picture of ours sitting on the trunk of the Sonata and wrote 52 pts, so far with my finger in the coating of pine pollen. I then spent the next 1–1/2 hours washing the pollen off both the Sonata and the Miata, even though I knew they would be covered again to the same thickness in a couple days.
In this afternoon’s mail was another padded envelope from Moss Motors. This time, she didn’t ask what I bought because we knew the hat was on its way. Now I have to figure out what I want to spend the fifty bucks on so I can get another padded envelope from them in the mail again.
Bamboo Dog Repellent
Friday the 1st
What started out as my usual Tuesday evening post-work rollerblading excursion about a month ago1 turned exciting a mere 50 yards from my driveway.
From my left came a barking blur. Closing in on me fast from about 8 o'clock was what looked like a collie based hybrid mutt about 2-1/2 feet high. As he2 got close, he leapt trying to grab my left arm. I managed to raise my arm just out of his reach. When the dog missed, he stopped, barked a couple more times and ran back towards the house it came from.
Good thing it didn't get me, the dog probably weighed 30-35 pounds and had it got my wrist my forward momentum would have come to a sudden stop. I would have hit the pavement hard. I wear my bicycle helmet while rollerblading, but that wouldn't have been any guarantee it would been in the right place to totally protect my noggin as it impacted the pavement from 6-1/2 feet up.
Another 50 yards down the road with my heart rate returning to near normal, a Honda CRV eased on up next to me with mom driving and her high school aged daughter. They were obviously not too far behind me and witnessed the near miss. The passenger window glided down and the girl asked, "Did he get you?" "No," I replied, "but it was close." The window rose back up and they drove off.
I reached the halfway point of my trip and made a u-turn to head back home. Knowing I would have to pass right by that house again, I started to think about how I would handle that dog if it took another run at me. I needed some sort of stick. Just then I noticed at the edge of the road, as if my Fairy Godmother had heard my thoughts, lay a tree branch about 3 feet long and as big around as my thumb. I did a quick spin around and picked it up. Now, armed, I was ready for my return trip.
Sure enough as I got near that house the dog repeated his earlier run at me. This time he was approaching from the right and that was the hand I had my stick in. When he got about three feet away I swung the stick at him. I didn't see because I was looking forward and continuing on my way, but I felt a thwack and heard a yelp plus the receding doggie paw steps. Yikes! It worked!
Two days later as I got suited up to go rollerblading again, knowing that I would be traveling that same dog protected section of road, I looked around in the garage for a suitable piece of something to use as protection. I found in the dusty corner behind my tool box a 3' piece of bamboo probably left over from an old matchstick blind from Pier 1. Perfect. I wrapped a little duct tape around one end as a sort of handle. I have skated this route literally hundreds of times and have never seen a dog at that house before. I have now skated that route a half dozen times since then, carrying my piece of bamboo dog repellent and have not seen my attacker again.
Come to think of it, I haven't seen the mom and daughter in the CRV again either. Coincidence?
1. Since then, this title (and nothing else) has been sitting in my drafts folder just waiting...
2. Didn't really have time to look underneath.
Phish And Let Phish
Thursday the 5th
In my work email this morning was the below email:
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2016 11:52 PM
To: Bogardus, Brian [INDAUTO/ASCONUM/USAK]
Subject: Account Owner Questionnaire
As of May 1, 2016, all account owners will be legally required to digitally sign and provide response to the employment history questionnaire. This questionnaire helps develop a more complete profile of our employees for reporting purposes.
Please confirm and update your questionnaire immediately via the link below.
Career Services Team
It has phishing scam written all over it. Because the Valve Store™ is part of the Emerson Corporation all our email addresses are @emerson.com, this email, if you look quickly, appears to come from the home office, but it doesn’t, it comes from er nerson.com. Career Services? Never heard of it. And if this sort of action was required of us we would have already had a couple of emails ahead of time informing us that this action would be coming up on a certain date.
The clincher was if you hover over the Click Here link in the email (go ahead, I copied it here) you will see the URL that you would be taken to and it was the word phishing right in the link, thus signifying it probably really wasn’t a phishing scam. To double check, I opened a browser and entered mediapro.com and I was taken to website that sells Privacy and Security Awareness Solutions.
It was a phishing test from corporate. Every couple months we get one of these things to test our awareness of this type of scam. From my informal survey around the engineering area we are definitely getting pretty good at not falling for them.
Later in the afternoon this email showed up in my inbox:
From: Help Desk, ASCO Numatics US
Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2016 2:57 PM
To: ASCO Numatics US DL
Subject: Phishing Attack Notification
Account Owner Questionnaire
OVERVIEW: Reports have identified a malicious email circulating on the Emerson network. The attack appears to be related to an online questionnaire in an attempt to lure users into clicking on and opening a malicious hyperlink.
DATE EFFECTIVE: Immediately
IMPACT: All Emerson Employees and Contractors
DETAILS: The following malicious email is an example of what has been reported throughout the Emerson network. Please be aware these e-mails may vary slightly.
Please report all suspicious e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please note that the phishing e-mails quarantined by IronPort in your Outlook mailbox need not be reported; only the e-mails that gets through the spam filters.)
ACTION: Always use caution when opening an e-mail from an unknown or untrustworthy source. As an e-mail and web user, beware of any suspicious e-mails, e-mail attachments, or unknown Internet locations. Blah, blah, blah…
So this second email effectively kills the test.
I went up front and asked our new IT guy Matt why. He of course recognized the phish for what it was and he had a few people ask him it was real or not. And he had a couple people ask him if he was going to send the warning email like John Smith used to, but he couldn’t because he had emailed the Help Desk in Florham Park to ask if he should send out that boilerplate email, but was told no. So I asked him why did one finally come out. His answer was probably one of the Division IT Directors or maybe the VP of IT got tired of answering the “Is it real” question and ordered it sent.
I asked Matt do they ever get the results and he said no, but you can bet if enough people clicked on the link we’d hear about it in some form of company-wide email phishing recognition training.
Thank You For Your Service
Sunday the 19th
Yesterday morning we drove the Miata to lovely downtown Trenton, SC. We were with 9 other Miatas from the MMC and we were on our way to drive in the 46th Annual Ridge Peach Festival parade. This was the 13th year the Club has driven in the parade. Donna and I were among the 8 cars that first year, and while we haven’t done it every year, but I bet this was the 8th or 9th time.
During the parade you are allowed to throw candy to the crowd and we always spend about $20 so that we have enough to last the entire 2/3 of a mile route. When we could drive 2 abreast we would and Donna would throw candy to the crowd-side herself, but when the crowds thickened and we had to drive single file she would throw to the right and in between, hand me candy so I could toss some to the left. It was during this time when I tossed a few Starbursts at a couple of kids that I happened to make eye contact with the mother and she said to me, “Thanks. And thanks for your service.”
That woman at the parade was thanking me based solely on the hat I was wearing. A month ago when we toured the USS Midway I bought a hat in the gift shop to commemorate our visit and my time aboard almost 40 years ago. This has happened a couple other times too, once in Barstow, CA and once again here in Aiken, both times it was just because of the hat. Not that I don’t slightly deserve it having spent 10 years in Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club, but any schmoe who’s toured the ship or spends around twenty bucks can get one from Amazon or eBay and that weirds me out because they’ll get thanked for possibly no service at all. I’d like to wear the hat, but I’m going to have to only do it when there will be little chance of interaction with people and definitely not on Memorial Day or Veterans Day.
And then again maybe it is probably just me who has a problem with this, but when I joined the Navy in 1973 people were still into calling servicemen returning from Vietnam baby-killers and now after the middle-east conflicts it has become fashionable to call servicemen (and women) heroes and to thank them for their service and I am of that era, not this one.
Inattention Giveth and Inattention Taketh Away
Tuesday the 5th
We went to Bed, Bath & Beyond on Monday to buy a couple of new pillows. We have two different sleeping styles, so we usually buy two different styles of pillows. I am a stomach sleeper and Donna is side or back sleeper, so I get a regular pillow and Donna gets a thicker one. Mine is $10 cheaper. I plopped both pillows down on the counter and the kid checking us out didn’t really pay attention, so he just scanned one pillow twice. It was my cheaper pillow he scanned, so in essence we were gifted ten dollars.
Later on we did a little mop-up shopping at Krogers. As we usually do whenever we are not doing our weekly shopping, we used the self-checkout. Donna asked if we should go to the express line because we had a coupon, but I waved her off noting that there was a clerk at the station. Donna also recommended I take $20 cash out for the work week, I agreed. I was buying wine, so I knew I’d have to show ID and scanned the first 4 items, saving the alcohol for last knowing that I wouldn’t be able to go any further until the attendant came over and looked at my license. Beep! “Attendant Has Been Notified To Assist You.” The attendant didn’t hop to, she was tapping away on her phone possibly making plans for when she got off shift, so I went to her. She came back, scanned my ID, then scanned the coupon before heading back to her station and texting. I grabbed the bags, the receipt and another $5 off coupon for my next wine purchase. It wasn’t until we got home that I remembered I never picked up the $20 bill.
Karma? Had pointed out the ten dollar undercharge at B,B & B would I have remembered the twenty at Krogers?
NO to ND
Thursday the 11th
This morning as we backed out of the driveway, I got into the street and when I shifted from reverse to first — I stalled it. Just exactly like the last time I drove when David came over for the swapping test drive thing. I am sure I will probably get used to giving it a little more gas before letting out the clutch because of the lightweight flywheel. Just as sure as I am I will get used to the 1/2″ higher take up point of the clutch. Hopefully sooner than later.
At 6:30 in the AM around here there is hardly anybody awake except for usually one other neighbor going to work in the opposite direction from us and sometimes a person out walking. It was kind of damp and misty morning, but I could easily see a neighbor up ahead coming towards walking his two mouse-sized dogs. So I restarted the engine and while I did, simultaneously started turning the steering wheel to the left to go around him.
This time I gave the car a little more gas and got the clutch engagement just right, so I got a smooth forward motion, but it was accompanied the sounds of a large pack of excited howler monkeys emanating from engine compartment. I pushed in the clutch and coasted by the dog walker with a meek wave and only one or two monkeys saying hello to him as well. About this time, Donna joined in on the screaming too as she was mortified at the noise we were making (me too, just not so loudly.)
I shut the car off and the belts stopped squealing and then Donna did too. I started the car back up and the monkeys were still at it a little, so I slowed down a bit to make a u-turn back to the garage for the belt dressing spray. I pushed in the clutch and the noise stopped, so I slowly let it out and normal quiet had returned to Dunbarton Oaks. I chanced one more start from the stop sign at the end of the block and when the squeal didn’t happen again we kept on going. The car was quiet for the rest of the commmute in.
Third Time’s Not The Charm
Sunday the 4th
Our first two attempts at floor mats came from the cheap throw rug aisle at Wally World. Both the red and the gray didn’t look as nice in the car as they did in our heads while looking at them in the store. Plus they were a bit flimsy and moved around when they were stepped on getting in and out of the car.
Last weekend we were in Home Depot looking at their in-stock commercial grade carpet because we had so much success with the remnants from the Valve Store’s office remodeling. No luck there as everything was browns and tans with nothing in gray. But over in the rack with some other stuff we thought we had the perfect solution to our mat desires. There was something that might have been an outdoor mat or an internal dirt catching carpet protector that was a solid gray, not too dark and not too light with a nice square high-low texture, so we bought it.
When I got home I used my usual procedure to turn carpet into mat: Trace the upside down OEM mats onto the back of the newly purchased mat material with a sharpie. I cut out the new mats using a utility knife and a retired pair of kitchen shears. Then the finishing touch, running around the edges with my butane charcoal grill fire starter to seal them. They were just the right weight and stiffness, plus the back side was covered in a rubbery #10 grit sandpaper-like stuff. They seemed perfect. After several days of use the mat’s Achilles heel showed itself though, the fine fibers it was made from started to shed like the fur of an Angora cat in the summertime.
So, we’ve now tried three different times to find a floor mat that would meet all our stringent criteria, spent around $50 and are nowhere near happy. Might be time to go ahead and bite the bullet by spending the $130 on the Zeromotive Checkered Floor Mats in black/light gray I’ve been eyeing for a while now.
12–1/2 Years Later
Sunday the 2nd
In March of 2004 at the MMC Tech Day I brightened the otherwise vast expanse of blackness in a fellow Club member’s 2001 Miata interior with the random aluminum bits from the Emperor. Today I did it again to our “new” Miata with the help of Steve from Panic Motorsports.
When we sold the Emperor to Steve he said he’d give us a check for the sale amount, plus $50 in cash for lunch for driving it to him in Columbia. When we got there we got to chatting and forgot all about the cash. When I remembered, I sent him an email and said instead of the cash I’d take it in trade, the random aluminum look bits from a 2003. The very same ones I traded away 12–1/2 years ago. He said, “OK, next ’03 to ’05 that comes in as a donor car, you can have their stuff.”
Last week, such a car arrived. Friday on our way to Charleston we picked up the 4 air vents, the radio and shifter surrounds and the 2 interior door handles. Saturday they made their way into the CTBNL.
Stop The Madness
Tuesday the 29th
Subject: Christmas/Holiday Gift Giving At Work
Cc: Department Boss
Every year I have been going around and asking (begging/cajoling) for some amount of money to pool together to buy the boss one big gift card. The decision of what store that card should be from is haggled over until a consensus is reached. I then go get the gift card from said place, stuff it in a Christmas card that we present to the boss at our annual holiday lunch at a local restaurant. At that same meal, the boss usually turns right around and hands out an individual gift card to each and every one of us, for about the same value as our individual donation to his card, in appreciation for our hard work during the year.
Well, this year I propose we stop the madness. Lets avoid the whole senseless swapping X amount for the same X amount already. A free lunch on the company, a hardy handshake and a thanks for everything is all that any of us really want during this holiday season. I think it would be better for each of us to take that gift card money and drop it in the red kettle outside a grocery store or donate it to a charity that you feel is doing good work (or buy yourself Independence Day: Resurgence on BluRay.)
If someone else wants to take up the mantle of gathering money to pass along something up the food chain, please leave me out of it. Im not a total Grinch, so if anyone, group or individual, wants to give another individual in the department a gift, by all means go for it. And after this, if someone still somehow feels the need to give me a gift, I will thank them profusely and promptly go out and buy a share in a goat in Zanzibar of equal value in their name.
P.S. Immediate Boss, please, dont take this personally just because this is your first year as the boss and this is the year Id like to opt out of the gift card swaperoo thing, it’s been festering for a few years now.
Backup Man With A Backup Plan
Wednesday the 14th
The Valve Store has actually hired a real IT Guy1 a couple months ago, so I am back to being just a back-up. And right now my only actual duties when the primary IT Guy is off is to change the backup tape every day in the server room2. Occasionally I get called upon hand out a cable or go lay hands on an ill PC, but the tape is really it. I remove the previous night's tape and put in the current day's, then take the used tape over to the main entrance door and hand it to the Security Guard (where later he gives it to a courier for off-site storage.) The highlight of this duty is to make up something different to say about the contents of the tape: "Just fast forward to the hour and 15 minute mark because that is where all the nudity is." or "Don't let Congress get a hold of this, its got all of Hillary's emails on it."
Unless you have been out west protesting an oil pipeline for the last 2 months or so you probably know there is a new Star Wars movie coming out. Well, over Thanksgiving week while the real IT Guy was on vacation I thought it would be cool to make a label for Friday's tape referencing the supposed plot of Rouge One. That way when he pulls out the tape on Monday to swap them, he'd notice my little Easter Egg and get a smile. Trouble was, because I wouldn't be in on that Friday, the guard was going to do the swapping and I didn't want to take a chance he'd notice the different label, not get it, and call somebody because of the "error." So I didn't do it.
But last week I got a second chance. The IT Guy had to visit a sister plant for a project and would be gone from Tuesday through the end of the week. Friday afternoon I scoured the internet for a Galactic Empire logo and I also found out that the "Death Star" had a real name - Orbital Battle Station. I made a label just a touch smaller than, and used a glue stick to paste it over, the existing one on the tape.
Monday morning I heard the IT Guy get paged a half dozen times in the first hour by at least 4 different people, so I knew he was hopping around like a one-armed paper hanger. Around mid-morning I finally stopped in for a visit and asked him how the visit went and updated him on any IT problems that arose. I then asked if he had changed the tape yet. "Yep" "Did you notice anything different? Like the label?" "Yeah," he replied, "I thought the storage site messed up somehow and just put the tape in the box and sent it off." He totally missed my joke...sigh.
1. His name is Matt Somethingorother, but I like IT Guy better. And besides it gives him a bit of anonymity. The previous fellow's real name was John Smith, but that's got the anonymity built right in.
2. This is what the new IT Guy calls it because that is where our plant's servers are. John and I always referred to it as the computer room because it was purpose built to hold the AS400 mini-mainframe we were supposed to get.