Facebook tells All

A colleague of mine posted the following on Facebook:

I have screwed up as a Man, as a partner, as a parent, as a Son, and as a friend simply because… I don’t always do or say the “right things”.

I have a smart mouth, I have secrets, I have scars because I have a history.

Some people love me, some people like me, and some people might hate me.

I have done good in my life. I have done bad in my life.

I go without shaving sometimes and I don’t get dressed up half the time.

I may even be crazy, random and silly. I will not pretend to be someone I am not. I am who I am. You can love me or not.

But if I love you, I will do it with my whole heart, and I will make no apologies for the way I am and if I do not like you I promise you that you will know that too.

I AM ME….And I would not change it for the world.

GENTLEMEN, I dare you to put this on your status, with a picture of yourself, if you are proud to be who you are.

— William Jackson on Facebook

Thanks Mr. Jackson for the writing prompt. But, but, but! There are some changes I might make. I am older and like many older adults wonder, what if? I have no regrets about the path I chose through life. Looking back, some small things I might have done differently. There are, however, one or two big what ifs.

At the end of my first college career in 1972 the country was in the midst of the Vietnam War and coming out of a mild recession. We were married. Our first child was on the way. My greatest focus was on finding an income to support my wife, who had supported me through my last two years of university life, and our family. I needed a paying job.

Networking works! I found two positions within forty-eight hours of each other. Looking back from fifty years, I embellished it a bit in my mind. I had interviewed at a company with the engineering manager through a contact of my father on a Monday. On the Friday of that same week the company offered me a job. On Monday of the following week the head of the department of Engineering Technology asked me to visit with him in his office. The ET department offered me a position of teaching assistant. The position had a stipend and the benefit of paid tuition as I was expected to work on my Master Degree with doing my TA job.

I accepted the engineering position and never looked back except occasionally when I read things like Mr. Jackson’s post on Facebook. What if I had accepted instead the TA job at Miami. Who knows?

I never lost the mindset of learning. Eventually much later in life, Cheryl encouraged me to focus my efforts and I achieved a M. Ed. from Xavier. But who knows? Who knows what academic heights I could have achieved? Who knows? Impossible to know! Time travel is unavailable. Face forward and go where life takes you. Carpe diem (from Horace)

As we, Cheryl and I, live with Parkinson’s disease, I am more cognizant than ever that we cannot go back. There is no benefit to looking over one’s shoulder and wondering what if. There are so many things in life that unfortunately cannot be changed without prescience. The idea of unintended consequences must be considered.

undefined A Chrystal Ball is a wonderful thing. But I do not own one.

… the Adjunct Wizard

There is a lot going on or Nothing going on

..undefined Virus pandemonium will cause me to not watch any television news anywhere mainstream media or minor-stream media. Too much like the weather report.

I quit watching the weather report years ago. What a great job — weatherman. Death by PowerPoint with a guy (gal) in the picture as part of the slide set. What is it going to do today? The answer is usually one word but talented weather guys can make that word last for several minutes. There is a teaser early in the society report to get you to stick around for the first set of commercial ads. Weather in 10 but first this…

I may have first noticed this sitting with my widowed mother who was an avid cable news fan. She was not discriminatory. She watched all the news channels. Soap operas were boring to her. She watched news shows. News shows are repetitive. The news outlets allowed opinion to creep in. The morning cable shows modeled themselves after the NBC Today show. three or four folks sitting on a couch or around a table yakking. Easy to let opinion in when folks are yakking around a table like folks do. Folksy.

Mom would say, “The world is going to hell in a hand basket.” I would answer, “Maybe. But it’s not that bad. What’s a hand basket anyway?” in a feeble attempt to distract her away from the stupid tube’s opinions. If you are house bound as many elderly are it sure seems like the world is going to hell in a hand basket especially if your only source of information is cable news outlets all of which come with the cable television package.

Our house did not have cable service until Cheryl started spending more time at home. Faster internet came as a fiber optic cable and with it a package deal with cable TV. And now we don’t really need TV since Big Bang Theory is off the schedule except as reruns. Parkies sometimes have a hard time following any story line. Things that may be inferred from opening scenes need further explanation. For Cheryl focus is hard so she rarely sits through any complete show.undefined

This is Birthday card week. The last week of the month is birthday card week for getting together the batch of cards for the next month. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU ALL! It is an elaborate task made harder by the fact that Cheryl automated her birthday list with Microsoft Access years ago. Now with the PD creeping into her cognition, it will take several days for her to print address labels and correct an address or two in the list. It is way faster now that it is more obscure to her parkie brain.

Birthday card week starts with a trip to the Dollar store for a batch of ten or fifteen cards for the next month. It ends with a memory test to remember which card was selected with care for which person. It is almost complete.

Last week was “Make a Mask” week, as in, I need a different mask so I can get my hair done. Some things take a little longer but they get done.

Life moves on. There is a lot going on or not so much.

A New Day

I write a lot about PD as a way to vent.  Today Cheryl made French toast for breakfast.  Her not me. I mentioned it last night at dinner which I cooked. Most times I cook.

This morning I had to do my standard male task and get the electric skillet out. Then I went to my chair for coffee and the paper. She cooked.  Like old times.  … tearing up as I think about it.  Like good times.

And that’s my complaint today; just when you get used to the everyday annoyances they go away for a while.  Carpe momentum…. didn’t have coffee yet. 

Today was a great day. Cheryl got to exercise in her PCF class. We had a little lunch at home afterward. I went to ride my bike in the afternoon. When I got home she was sewing and listening to music.

She rested at 4:30 until about 5. Pretty normal reaction to the meds in the afternoon. I cooked dinner and she ate it all.

Now she is sewing some more.

Parkinson’s disease sucks and then it’s gone.

Exercise before Covid-19

Don’t Sit on the Sticker Bushes

Good advice! Something Cheryl was looking at on TV prompted this comment from her.

Life is full of little surprise comments. Sometimes funny some times not. They can punctuate our lives and section off unhappy or anxious feelings from the good times.

“There are more things today that don’t mean shit than ever before!”, said Jerry. Then he left my office.

The Valco Saga


Mistakes are made but they are all part of the plan or not.

From 1990 to 1994 I worked for a little company in southwest Ohio called Valco Cincinnati. They manufacture adhesive application equipment for the packaging industry. It was an interesting application of control electronics. And it was a giant leap of faith.

I had previously spent 18 years at Cincinnati Milacron. A stalwart old line Cincinnati company that was the gold standard of machine tool manufacturers. Cincinnati Milacron no longer exists. Remnants of the old company do, the largest of which is simply called Milacron today.

Two weeks into the new job, I began to wonder about the wisdom of my decision to accept the position of chief electrical engineer. The previous holder of the position I had never met. But he had, according to hearsay, a bit of a drinking problem. At the very least he was more gregarious than I, but most importantly, he had the protection of half of the owning partnership.

From the perspective of 25 years later, one might imagine that the memories would fade. They do but I took notes of various kinds along the way. Mostly funny little things people would say. Engineers and technical folks are a cynical group. Most are conservative decision makers. Me included. Most carry thoughts in the background of “prove it to me” or “Oh yeah? Show me.” It is part of the nature of an engineer. If the math works, they will believe it.

Towards the end of my tenure I started to journal. I imagine Scott Adams started down this same road at PG&E, except that he was better at it. He turned it into a career. I kept funny memos that the ownership and other managers would publish. The pointy haired boss in Dilbert reminds me of one half of the ownership of Valco. The half that hired me.

After I was terminated, fired, sacked; a friend and colleague took all my notes from what he referred to as the “wall of shame” and collected them in a cast-off binder and sent them to me. This friend is the Jerry I refer to in the quote above. He had more insight into the workings of a privately held company than I gave him credit for at the time.

It may sound corny but these notes are precious to me. They chronicle my time there. These little messages are in addition to my journalling. Termination from a less than satisfactory job was a much needed learning experience. That I was terminated was disappointing but I now believe that everyone should be terminated at some time in their life. It is devastating. But it helps you to find inner strength. And often a better situation. At the very least it gives you perspective about what has importance and what is unimportant to you.

The Wall of Shame

Some statements transcend time, dates and space…. Somewhere during this experience I received one of those cute little desk calendars with a engineer saying on it for each day. Some of those I kept after I had scissored off the date. Engineering always lives in a cube farm. The walls of which made great bulletin boards. It is on of the few things I miss about working as an engineer, posting stuff on the wall for commentary by others. Much like Facebook but much more intimate and personal.

A favorite: WESTHEIMER’S RULE: To estimate the time to do a task, estimate the time you think it should take, multiply by two and change the unit of measure to the next higher unit,. Thus we allocate two days for a one hour task. — (I added) — and predict April 15th as the finish date.

As I started the wall, others came by and helped. Many added sayings that they had tripped over in memos or simply spoke out loud. Some of the guys would be very careful about what they said around my cubicle.

undefinedParts of the wall at the start.

This actually got better as I and others continued to collect little remarks that people say to each other in an office or elsewhere in the vein of the old sage wise sayings.

At the end of a memo written to encourage moving on with some decision: … I BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A WINNER IF WE MAKE THESE CHANGES AND WE SHOULD PROCEED WITHOUT HASTE (sic) I have no idea why it is written in all caps. I do not have the rest of the memo. I like the thought though — damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead BACKWARDS!

Another: Papoose (def) — consolation prize for taking a chance on an Indian blanket. [anon] And another – God hates a coward!

One of my personal favorites: “We’ll just come to that bridge when we cross it!” spoken by our service manager at the time, Larry, after a meeting. It might be the first time I started to write down misspoken comments by others. This is profoundly true if you stop to ponder it.

More Postings. As time moved on the classic posts came from one or another of my colleagues. undefined

And the wall grew and grew.undefined

1993 Exploded with all of these gems and in some cases I categorized them because context became more important.

  • I wonder how they put up with me? — Dave
  • The bigger the orifice the more shit you get out! — Randy
  • I never drink under the influence. — Scott
  • There is no group that takes more time away from family life than the Church! — R. Cloud
  • It looks reasonably promising (fence sitter) — Lance
  • People are clueless! — Todd
  • Jack Shit running loose is NOT a good thing! — J. Lutterbie
  • Some animals aren’t trainable — Jay
  • Not all boats will rise with the tide. (stock market) — Don
  • … a frozen semi-state (the fifth state of matter)– Jim
  • (sensitivity, empathy) He’s about as sensitive as fire ants crawling up your ass. — Mike
  • ADVICE – help that you don’t want to give out — Dean
  • It’s one of those loose T&E’s — B. Nolting
  • Give them lips a rest young co-op — Paul
  • Nothing comes from being stupid in public — Jerry
  • (control theory) The temperature is set on 75, the thermostat reads 67, everything’s fine. — L Marsh
  • (Social commentary) Stereotypes are typically based on observation — Mike
  • (Administration’s statement of the obvious) Everybody’s busy or they’re gone! — Jim Bornhorst
  • (Conversation) Are you coming back later? we’re having Karaoke tonight. — No thanks I’m on a low fat diet.

1994 brought:

  • (life commentary) Will we ever understand anything? — Jerry
  • (Electrostatic discharge) If we’d just clean up management there’d be a lot less static around here. — Gene
  • (why things often do not work) We didn’t load the bogus values correctly. — Dave
  • (obviousness) That’s going to be blank unless we put something on it! — R Woolf
  • His reality contact is a little low. — Kappeler
  • (fence sitter) I think I’ve got this somewhat under control. — Kathy
  • Some things you get for free you can’t afford. — Keith
  • God, what a Fu-Fu this has been!
  • It was relatively impressive. If that makes any sense. — Jerry
  • Fuck this place. — Paul
  • It was a lot easier when we didn’t have to deal with the Germans. — Paul

This last page was written by the the best of the best when it came to folks that I have worked with:

…. the final word:undefinedSo you have to be aware that if Bornhorst sacks you because he can’t decide how else to suck up to Greg, understand that it is your fault that some projects turned to crap. For a while at least I was pissed at Jim Bornhorst but then I realized that, as a friend once said, nothing good comes from being stupid in public. I hold those words dear. And in 1994 we were concerned about Global Warming but doing nothing.

The Silver Lining

This experience caused my brother to reach out to me.

Bill called me in 1994 after I had been terminated from my job with Valco. I do not remember him calling me much. It was the other way around in my memory. So, his call was a surprise.

He called me, he said to offer some advice. He said, ” You have to decide what you are going to charge.” ‘Charge for what?’ I replied. They are going to trip over some problem that they will need you to fix, because they did not know they had it. Something you would have just handled. They will try to get you to do it for nothing but its a temp job. Figure out how much you are going to charge to fix their problem.

Every worker should be fired at some point in their life. It is not very much fun while it is happening but it is an excellent learning experience. You get down on yourself. What did I do wrong? How will I go on? If you are part of the engineering staff of a company, you often operate under the illusion that you are part of the management cadre. Nothing could be further from the truth. You are a worker bee like everyone else. Your work however is to think, design, plan and create the product.

Bill’s little advice made me realize my value. Anything I did had a price. And that price was value for my time, experience, problem solving ability, cleverness and elegance of design. More importantly that price included time away from things, family, people and situations that might be more important to me than doing some job that the only tangible benefit was a pay check. He had put it in perspective. Life is too short.

Indeed! In retrospect it is unsatisfactory to harbor ill will to anyone. Better things come to you if you spend little time angry and upset about such a small thing as getting sacked. Trust in God to make better things happen but you have to help. Do not sit on your hands.

More Silver

This all happened long ago. I learned from this experience that not everything happens for a reason. Most of the time if one can see past the immediate hurt, one discovers that a better existence is ahead.

I still collect sayings and phrases that engineers use. Dilbert is a favorite comic although Scott Adams is far enough away from daily existence at PG&E that often his take on office life is not as funny as it once was. Perhaps I too am older and less connected.

Some memos and silly comments were forwarded to me after I was gone. If only I could draw cartoons.

A Perfect Day for Biking

It is 73 degrees Fahrenheit. Blue sky sunny. Relative humidity 40 percent. What kind of day is it? Perfect. In Ohio, it is San Diego nice. Sweet! A perfect day to ride the bike a bit. Get some exercise.

And then there is Parkinson’s to consider.

How are you doing , dear? Feel okay enough for me to leave you for a couple hours? It is up to you. You were doing okay earlier before I went to the grocery but you seem like you are struggling a bit now. Should I stay?

… I feel like I need to lay down. I would like it better if you stayed.

Shit. No bike ride today.

Parkinson’s is a stickler for time management.

But the peach fruit pocket coffee cake made last evening with fresh peaches was good. This caregiver has three or four hobbies. Bike riding which I started back up a couple years ago. As a kid I enjoyed riding all over. As an old man I am afraid of other drivers so I stay on the bike paths were the cars do not go.

Baking came along in the late 1980’s as I became interested in bread making and trying to recreate a childhood taste memory of some of the bakery bread I enjoyed as a child. A bakery near us made absolutely the BEST seeded caraway rye bread. Alas that bakery has been closed for several decades. the site became a bank. It is now condominiums as every square inch of my childhood neighborhood is occupied by a new generation with their kids. All the neighborhood bakeries are gone. Lately I have been working on the Virginia Bakery cookbook. I have sort of stalled on the fruit pockets page.

As I became comfortable with making pastry dough, I started experimenting with various fruit fillings and making them. Plain old canned fruit pie filling works just swell except that the can contains about twice what is needed. Take any fresh fruit that you desire; strawberries, apples; black berries, cherries, blueberries, peaches, apricots, about a cup or so and add a half cup of water and a half cup of sugar (brown sugar and cinnamon if you are using apples) to a small sauce pan. Bring it to a boil and then simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes. Crush some of the fruit while it is simmering. Let it cool to lukewarm. (Who was luke?) Add two teaspoons of tapioca to thicken it. Tapioca can be used directly from the box but it actually works better if it is ground. I use a cheap coffee bean grinder which is really a small blender. Set it aside for use later.

I have gotten way off into the weeds here.

A hobby that developed over the summer between my junior and senior years in high school is a love of computers and coding. In the summer of 1966, my math teacher taught a FORTRAN class (there is an old language) that sparked my interest in computers and control systems but more narrowly in computer languages and coding techniques. To me it is a hobby. I have never narrowed focus onto any specific language over the sixty or so years of this interest. FORTRAN, COBOL, APL, C, C++, C^, Java, Pascal, Python, yada, yada and yada. It is interesting to me as to how many different programming languages there are and how similar they are in construction and structure. Like engineering designs, there is always a better one coming. It is better, different and the same concurrently. Like human language there is another one spoken over there across the river. One that can relate the same content and emotions but will always have a slight problem with translation that will prevent the non-speaker from completely understanding the speaker.

More weeds. Philosophy crept into the picture.

And this blog. I have visited journalling off and on throughout my life. I am not good at it but it is a kind of therapy for the soul. An outlet to complain and whine about my lot in life. It is a place to tell stories and relate nuances of daily living. So here I am. No bike ride today but I am journalling instead. Perhaps I can ride tomorrow. (smiley face)

Even though PD has invaded every waking aspect of our lives, something can be learned from adversity. As I wrote that line I realized that not everything is bad or adverse. Just as not everything is good or favorable. Somethings are meaningless and unimportant and simultaneously neither bad nor good. An example might be politics and political speech.

Well being and mindfulness are examples of important things.

The weather tomorrow is predicted to be even better than today. It will be Monday. There may be fewer bike riders out on my favorite bike path. And suddenly adversity is turning into favorability and anticipation for a pleasant ride.

Parkinson’s strikes again.


Occasionally things we do trigger memories, sometimes good, sometimes bad, regardless we should cherish those and seize the moment and emotion that those memories evoke. This is one. Many years ago, perhaps thirty-five, the Boosters was a relatively new organization morphed out of the Holy Name Society. A few of us decided to start a small golf group. There were about twelve of us and we owned the very first tee time at Indian Valley Golf Course; 6:30AM or so, down in the bottom of the valley, near the Little Miami river.

We rotated through playing about every third week through the late spring and summer. It was fun. A bunch of young men, feeling our oats, playing a silly game at an ungodly hour, and trash-talking our way around 18 holes in rain or shine.

Typically we were back in the clubhouse by 10:30 ready for breakfast and beer. On this particular occasion, John Shoemaker ordered an egg sandwich on toast from the kitchen as the Snicker’s purchased at the turn was not holding up. After a couple of bites and a round or two of liar’s poker he said, “This is a Good egg sandwich!” I can still hear his enthusiasm.

I wonder about memories like this. This is very vivid in my mind’s eye. John was seated with his back to the windows. He had given up his dollar to the poker game and took another bite of the sandwich before he made his pronouncement.

I thought of him this morning as I made myself an egg sandwich on toast for breakfast. You are right, John, it is good. May you rest in peace. You still live in my memory of good times.

Semper Fi; Adapt To Change

Our son was a Marine. Their motto Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful, is a sentiment I apply to our union. We made a similar vow to each other fifty years ago. Each day is a new day to renew our pledge.

Some new thing comes up all the time. I have to say this up front so you can understand the rest. Cheryl has Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and generally it sucks. Lately, it seems, I may have discovered a silver lining to this malady. Because after a dozen years or so down the road, we are more sedentary. It is unintentional this sedentariness but it is good preparation for the Covid-19 stillness that is imposed upon us. In the early days of the pandemonium the story seemed to mirror much of the apocalypse fiction written by Steven King – The Stand; Micheal Crichton – The Andromeda Strain; and others.

Apocalyptic fiction, of which I have read much, centers on two themes. Either there is some sort of catastrophic war/explosive event or there is a viral/bug/bacterial disease. Both somehow wipe out 96.4% of the global population. 0.6% wind up in a terrible struggle for dominion with the other 3%. I recommend reading none of this fiction while hanging out and waiting for the Covid-19 pandemic crisis (or non-crisis) to complete God’s plan. I did not follow my own advice and finished Justin Cronin’s trilogy: The Passage, The Twelve, The City of Mirrors. But I have digressed.

This pandemic has taught Cheryl and me much about ourselves. We are able to learn new skills such as ordering food online and picking it up a week later. This of course is a memory test to discover if us older folks are with it. This experience is not as satisfactory as ordering from Amazon or Walmart online and having the items delivered directly to your door. The memory test is still present, however, and it is tricky to not order the same item from three different suppliers because you have lost track of who is sending you what when. Some days are like Christmas, your birthday and St. Nicholas Day. Other days are like meatless Fridays.

For better or worse we have learned how to do video doctor visits, video fitness center visits, video physical therapy exercise visits, video Easter gatherings, video faculty meetings, video classes, video masses, video funerals and video do-overs because the WiFi is overwhelmed. Sadly network television, much of it anyway, is one big video conference. The talkers speaking from their bedroom/office/basement/dining room suddenly had to design background. Looks like the intro to the Brady Bunch. Sorry, I have digressed again.

All this video was put in place to give newly created manufacturers the ability to keep up with demand for buffet sneeze shields that are no longer needed by restaurant salad bars and have been newly located at checkout stations in groceries, pharmacies and doctor office locations. This pandemic could be the death of Golden Corral. I do apologize for another digression.

Parkinson’s causes us to stay in a lot but the pandemic has taken away what little go out time we had left. It was easier when I could see that Cheryl was doing well and suggest we go somewhere for lunch at some arbitrary time during the day. Sometimes lunch was late enough that we had to skip dinner and go directly to Aglamesis Bros. for desert. (Sorry again, I grew up in Oakley.) We would do this because predictability of well-being is difficult with a parkie, so you seize the moment. When the day is good we tend to pack it with goodness. Our life is constant adaptation to new developments. Living day by day is a reality into which one is pushed by the persistent ups and downs of the symptoms of PD.

Improvise, adapt and overcome is another tenet of the Marines. I like to use that attitude when new symptoms and difficulties appear as PD progresses. Over the course of the disease, a complicated and long list of symptoms and medicinal side effects are dealt with by the doctor, patient and caregiver one by one. Medical sources describe them all but not all parkies get all the problems. Those patients dealing with PD (parkies) are susceptible to the regular, run-of-the-mill old age crap that comes along; bad feet, sore muscles, sciatica, back ache, cardiac problems, UTI’s, yada yada, yada. Old age is a bitch and then you get Parkinson’s. Sorry, again I have digressed. (smiley face)

So, why exactly is it necessary for us to curtail our “go out” time in the midst of a pandemic? Are we any more susceptible than others to colds and viral issues. No, we are not. But in general going to a hospital for treatment is bad for parkies. The critical regimen of drugs, food, rest and exercise is foreign to the routine of a hospital. Both non-pandemic visits to hospital, two different healthcare providers, have been unsatisfactory. Hospitals simply appear to be unequipped to care for parkies with the same regimen used to by the caregiver. As caregiver and advocate for Cheryl, it is unimaginable how much worse that experience would be if I was not there to speak for her. It is too scary to think about. The idea is to stay away from hospital.

Adapt to change, always faithful, adapt and overcome, slogans to use for one’s own advantage against the annoying inconvenience of Parkinson’s Disease. Perhaps one day there will be a final solution that is not death.

(You though I would end on an up note, sorry.)