Conveying a simple message

In the manufacturing business as in the military, communication, particularly between two speakers of the same language, is not simple nor should anyone assume what you say will be understood by the recipient of your message.

This is painfully obvious when dealing through email.

An email sent to a group of people, including two managers, a technical peer, a manufacturing engineer, a logistician, and a quality assurance engineer, was received very differently. At least two managers told me my report was, in a word, unintelligible. My basic mistake? Adding too much detail, and confusing the recipients. I tried to answer / direct my answer to 3 separate audiences in one email.

To correct this, a man I respect offered this simple formula. In the email, subject line:” <project> <problem> will require < new part/ software/ repair/ test”. In the email body: “Approval request to issue a replacement <widget part number> for <internal customer/ test/ troubleshooting>”. (Period)

In a new paragraph, “DETAILS:”

And keep it specific to that ONE issue. And brevity is key.

After I cooled off, the situation reminds me of the time, long ago, when my Division Lieutenant asked me for a status on some equipment on his problem report. When he stopped me ( I was really a greenhorn then), he asked me to state my response in ten seconds or less:

” System requires a new <part>. $10,000 with exchange. Will arrive next Tuesday.”

Better living through Nature

After a quarter-century of military service, and now somewhere in late middle-age,  I am like many of my peers, working off “sudden” obesity.   I want to enjoy my upcoming retirement and not help fund my health practitioner’s yacht fund.   I am not the stereotypical military retiree: I want to be much more energetic in my next, hopefully several, decades of life.
23467227_10214700064361881_7515546182225330890_oThe stereotypical military member in film and television for decades were depicted as hard-drinking, hard-living, and either “bullet-proof” loners or stressed-out figures off the battlefield.  Many of our popular movies today feature technology or medical science improving people to “superhuman” capabilities.  But reality is more sobering.  In our Twenty-First Century America, the focus on exercise, outdoor activity, and a balanced diet went away in the late 1960s.   Fast-food convenience like McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken,  microwave lunches and Starbucks hyper-sweet coffee drinks and delivery pizza are turning people obese in grade school.
But you do not have to be a retiree or a military member to notice the country has a serious problem.    After decades eating processed food, junk food, sugar additives, and artificial flavors, anyone can look in the mirror and to many around us and see health problems or in the making. We don’t have to live like this. We can minimize or reverse 1527438516044the effects through smarter choices and exercise. 
One of the reasons to practice eating better and  live healthier is a practical one.  Health care in the United States, or for that matter, in the industrialized world is expensive, tied up in bureaucracy, or when available, can be a long series of procedures, painful, and difficult to maintain a “normal” life while being treated.   Cancer, bad hips, bad knees, respiratory diseases, diabetes, and obesity may be more widespread because we hear about them now in daily conversation or may be a result of our eating habits and stressful lives.
I decided to become better informed and to change my eating and exercise habits.  One of these is to drink a lot of water now – half my body weight in fluid ounces daily.  And not flavored water which often have sugar or sugar-imitating chemicals.    I take long walks before the day starts,  during a lunch break and after work.  (I commute long distances to an engineering job).   With training I am receiving as a part of an online community,  I am using the skills I am learning.   
One of the foods I have been consuming in smoothies for a couple weeks now contains various plants that I realize I know little about.  So  I will share my findings in a series of posts, “Therapeutic Uses of Plants”. Much of this is corroborated by the National Institute of Health (NIH):
ROSE HIPS. Contain anti-oxidants. Used as a medicinal ingredient in many cultures. Being studied for its properties in fighting skin diseases, renal (kidney) issues, diarrhea, arthritis, diabetes, and obesity.
CHAGA MUSHROOM. Used in folk medicine for its ant-cancer properties. At the NIH, the anti-cancer properties are being studied using mice. Early research indicates the compounds in these mushrooms inhibit certain cancers.
Results vary.  But guys like me have dropped a lot of weight, and resolved a lot of obesity-related health issues.  And with the weight-loss, improved energy, and better attitude, the result in the bedroom are pretty fantastic too.  If you would like to know more, I invite you to visit my website:
And connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.

Early to rise

With all due respect to Benjamin Franklin,  I have to say rising early for the past forty years has not been due to my body-clock eager to start the day.  It was a habit that I developed before age 18 as I had responsibilities ( I worked before school at a ranch which required me to start there at 5 AM).    I am healthier now due to good eating habits,  wealthier due to a skill that is specialized and in demand -but more likely that I am much less given to the wild living of youth – and possibly wiser because I read a lot  – starting with scripture.  Work stimulates a lot of brain activity because something I build and test at work rarely just functions as designed. And I need to determine why – or correct it.  Participating in discussions with friends, peers, educators, and fellow bloggers across the world stimulates curiosity.

To say that this writer’s mind is a cauldron of seething ideas is not entirely accurate at 5 AM on a Saturday.  By sitting on an idea till it hatches, more fully formed, requires patience, time to actually write, a critical editing process, a lot of coffee,  and   Voila!

And then the dogs realize I am up.  Ideas sometimes come during a dog walk, but more often I am focused on them not peeing on mailboxes, a neighbor’s roses or my not stumbling.

USNS Paltroon

I am trying my hand at some nautical fiction this month

April 20, 2021

As far as the world was told,  late in November 2017,  a rocky asteroid,  a visitor from interstellar space passed through the solar system.  But that was not entirely accurate.  It actually struck the Earth, landing in the Pacific Ocean in a hundred thousand-square mile area northeast of Midway Island.  That was not the unusual part – it decelerated before entering the atmosphere and landing in the ocean.  Our surveillance satellites, as well as the Russians and Chinese – and Elon Musk’s SpaceX (under secret contract with the US Government) were temporarily (electronically) blinded before “Oumuamua” entered the atmosphere.  So the approximate area is calculated and not confirmed.  It is almost three miles to the ocean floor in that area so finding even a large object is no easier than the search a decade ago for that missing airliner somewhere in the Indian Ocean. 

Now a Russian submarine we aren’t supposed to be able to track, we know vanished after it entered the search zone a day ago.   My ship is scheduled to enter the same search box tomorrow morning at 0600.

To be continued…..

appreciating the thorns

I’m trying my hand at fiction today.   I’ve not written fiction before, except for a couple of assignments for a college class a million years ago.    I hope you will enjoy it.   

When Earnest was a small child, age five or maybe six, he was caught with his pants down. Literally.  With two little girls from across the street, they were playing a “you show me yours, I’ll show you mine” between the rose bushes and the side of the house.  Mrs Dahl,  at that moment,  suddenly appeared. All Earnest remembers was her garden bonnet, and rose fertilizer spilling in all directions.  “WHAT ARE YOU KIDS DOING!,” she screeched.   

His parents were appropriately mortified.   This completely shocked their careful world.  They were emotionally very reserved and showed very little affection either to each other, or to Earnest.  They apparently had been raised in the same manner, in a very spartan home,  and the only expectation was to be seen and not heard.  Correction?  Do what was expected of you, or spend time in the closet.   Earnest doesn’t remember much fondly  of those early years, but he was always embarrassed and timid around girls at school after that.   The boys in Grade 5 would call him “four-eyes” and “weiner-dick”.  He  never responded.  The girls would whisper to themselves, and one would run up behind Earnest and give him a peck on the cheek.  Just to watch him turn purple-red with embarrassment.  They giggled.  In high school, the bullying continued until one afternoon,  a week before the summer break in his Junior year.  Apparently, two bullies ganged up on him behind the gym.  He broke one fellows jaw in two places and dislocated his shoulder.  The other bully suffered three broken ribs and was in a coma for two days.  When the principal found Earnest he was sharing an apple with a girl from his English class.  He was calm.  He spent the next couple years, until age nineteen, in a “state school” ( a juvenile detention center).  He was able to apply to college which at the time had a tuition-waiver for formerly incarcerated.   It was one of the state’s least used opportunities (most applicants re-offended within their first months of freedom).

It was different for Earnest.  Twenty years old and being stalked by a strong-willed, sexually-demanding, raven-haired Sophomore in college.   All because Earnest had too much to drink one Friday night at a fraternity party, and woke up in bed  with her – Colleen.   When Earnest met Sandi at a French club social- it was extra credit for the  students – not that he wanted to meet other girls.   But it was Sandi who gave Earnest the excuse to “break it off” from Colleen.   You see, Earnest was gifted physically.   It was one of those whispers that had followed him ever since that day next door to Mrs Dahl and her damn roses.

For the next fifteen years Earnest wandered from small jobs in Phoenix, working in a small restaurant, to the Seattle area – working for the ferry company as a janitor.  Across the country and down the East Coast.  He planned to settle in the panhandle of Florida. renting kayaks and small sailboats to sailors and tourists.  He didn’t like to drink anymore because he often woke up in uncomfortable surroundings.   In each of the “stops” in his travels,  Earnest became somewhat of a celebrity to college sorority sisters, lonely older women and bored waitresses.   

It was during his last year in Florida that he had a dream for several nights.  Not one of those schizophrenic voices, but the tugging at his heart and conscience was God, he thought, prodding him.  He tried ignoring the feeling.  Yet it was hurricane Ivan,  smashing his old Toyota to bits, along with much of Pensacola in 2004, that got him moving west again.   

It was in San Diego, some years later that he found healing for his soul.  He was working on the Boardwalk at Mission Beach, when a couple of Navy sailors and their wives talked to him about coming to a church service.  He said thanks but no.   He’d been hassled before by white shirted, bicycle-riding Mormons, a Pentecostal that wanted him to come to meet women,  a Buddhist who looked every bit the part of Buddha right down to size 50 waist.  Some guy in New Mexico that wanted him to drink green tea and eat some mushrooms.   A Mexican indian shaman that cast demons from him. Church people.  He read their pamphlets.  A guy in the park that said the world was going to end.  Apparently the 3 times this was predicted during his lifetime were all warnings.  “Just kidding!” their god said.   And yet he found a well-thumbed Bible on a park bench that he packed with him everywhere.

One Friday evening enjoying coffee in a little cafe that looked a cross between a Goodwill store and a grandmother’s attic, he was engaged in conversation by a bored woman and her date.  Sure, he agreed.  He’ll come to their church.  That must have been God prodding him still.  He was sober.  He apparently did not hit on the girl.  And her date was walking out, all body parts intact and undamaged.

 Five years to that particular day,  Earnest has been married for three years.  To that gal from the meeting in the coffee shop. Rosie.  He puts his old life in perspective.  His new life is definitely a miracle.   The suffering, the drinking, and the embarrassment are done.  Buried with Christ in that ocean baptismal.  He looks through eyes that see clearly now.
And his “gifts” are a blessing.  So his wife tells him every night.