November 22, 2008

Photo of the day, Saturday

This morning I went to my Men's group and I'll tell you, the economy is leaking into nearly every conversation anymore. What the government should do about the Automakers made for some lively debates at 7AM.

It was really chilly here today. We went out and did some errands in the afternoon and we noticed that several ponds were iced over already. Wow, I hope we get some snow before the freeze goes too deep into the ground.

The boys and I played Up Words today. It's kind of like scrabble, except the board is smaller and you can cover old letters and create new words. I discovered that they knew how to challenge and how to look up my more creative words. It's a harder concept than it sounds and I was pleased that the boys lasted as long as they did. I got down to one tile at the end, the letter Z, Ian was holding 3 N's and Spencer was stuck with the X and few other bad tiles. It was fun to watch them plot out their next move only to have someone steal the spot, oh the groans.

Holly had a video series that she needed to watch tonight so the boys and messed around. We started out with the guitars. My guitar is an acoustic that has a nice wide neck to make it easier for a guy with fat fingers. Ian has an electric guitar and so he brought that up. Then Ian and I taught ourselves the main riff, or lead guitar part, for Smoke on the Water. Pretty easy really, but it was lots of fun. Once I had it down, Ian wanted to have me play it on the electric and so once I did he went crazy with the camera, here are three shots that seemed pretty good. A "Guitar Hero", I am not.

Have a great day!

November 21, 2008

Photo of the day, Friday

Good evening! I hope that ya'll have had as good a week as I have. I've been to Boston, where they tend to speak very east coast. I have had some fun with that, though, I did try to keep it low key while I was actually there.

Early this morning I was requested/demanded to be at my customer's site to get things moving along on a very critical project, I went and we got it done. Not a lot of fun, but it needed to be done. I thought I'd be there for an hour or so, Ha! At 12:30 they took me to the cafeteria for lunch. I cajoled and coerced the guys to use the data that we provided to complete a critical (to them) step in the design process to no avail, they would create it themselves. Yep it was going to be a long day. I was back at my own desk by 4:3o in the afternoon.

Question: How can you tell if you are being successful?

It's many different ways to many different people, but for me, I can tell when one of my customers, a guy that I've been working with for 6 years, tells me first that a divorce is coming his way, or when a co-worker looks to me for direction on a project that you're not involved with, or when one of your boys walks up and hugs you, for no apparent reason. All of those happened today, but I am still struggling with the concept that I could succeed. Then I felt a thump on my forehead and realized that God believed in me too. It was subtle, but effective, if you know what I mean.

Here's an interesting picture. Ian took the shot using my long arm technique. I told him that he couldn't accomplish it and there you go, he succeeded. I would like to point out that my arm is longer and so, I usually get even more in focus when I take a shot. Yet, with that all said and done, with this shot, I think that he's on the right track.

November 20, 2008

Photo of the day, Thursday

Back to work and so back to meetings. I seem to get so bogged down with meetings that I just cant seem to do actual work. I tried to work in the car while we drove to a customer meeting and it was only half successful, otherwise we were chatting.

I was really tired today, I got home about 1 in the morning. Yes, travel is very glamorous. Although I did meet some nice people and actually talked with some folks from Massachusetts that we're too obnoxious. My apologies to anyone from there, I've just met some pretty tough characters from there, almost as bad as some of the Michigan fans I've come across.

Monday night I missed the boys Court of Honor. They had made First Class Rank the last few weeks and so they were awarded their badges. Spencer also picked up his finger printing badge. The shot is from the Court of Honor. Ian is turned sideways, near the center and Spencer is on the right. Mrs. Newman is the Advancement Chair.
Have a great day!

November 19, 2008

Photo of the day, Wednesday

I am posting from Jerry Remy's, a sports bar at Boston/Logan airport. A good place to get a bite. They were incredibly empty. Not a good sign, but it is a Wednesday at the airport, not a really busy day.

The show was interesting. I have been in this industry long enough to bump into people that I know at these kinds of shows. I learned a bit, I studied a bit and I hung out a bit. In all a good show. Most memorable moments:

  • People in one of our customer's booths, saying that they knew me and appreciated what I was doing for the environmental side of things.
  • Seeing one of our customers display our product as an environmental solution.
  • Listening to the very, very, very long presentations that I fit in and realizing that we are on the right path.
  • Leaving my phone charger on my desk and having the phone die.
  • Chatting with Holly via email this afternoon.
  • Riding the bus to get around and since I was staying out by Logan, all the bus routes that I chose went through the airport complex.
My brother, Chris, posted today that he's an officially sanctioned Cub Scout dude, way to go! Why don't we all go check out the patch and say hi at his blog?

I have no picture, but here's a night shot of the Boston Convention Center, very cool building.

Have a great day,


November 17, 2008

Photo of the day, Monday

Since today is a travel day and since Cindy was kind enough to pass along an impressive article in the New York Times business section, I offer up the following for your consideration. I have not checked out all the links. I did read the article and again, it is directly taken from the NYT:

Allen Brisson-Smith for The New York Times
Austin, Minn., has 13 restaurants with Spam on the menu, including Johnny’s.
Spam Turns Serious and Hormel Turns Out More

Published: November 14, 2008
AUSTIN, Minn. — The economy is in tatters and, for millions of people, the future is uncertain. But for some employees at the Hormel Foods Corporation plant here, times have never been better. They are working at a furious pace and piling up all the overtime they want.
The workers make Spam, perhaps the emblematic hard-times food in the American pantry.
Through war and recession, Americans have turned to the glistening canned product from Hormel as a way to save money while still putting something that resembles meat on the table. Now, in a sign of the times, it is happening again, and Hormel is cranking out as much Spam as its workers can produce.
In a factory that abuts Interstate 90, two shifts of workers have been making Spam seven days a week since July, and they have been told that the relentless work schedule will continue indefinitely.
Spam, a gelatinous 12-ounce rectangle of spiced ham and pork, may be among the world’s most maligned foods, dismissed as inedible by food elites and skewered by comedians who have offered smart-alecky theories on its name (one G-rated example: Something Posing As Meat).
But these days, consumers are rediscovering relatively cheap foods, Spam among them. A 12-ounce can of Spam, marketed as “Crazy Tasty,” costs about $2.40. “People are realizing it’s not that bad a product,” said Dan Johnson, 55, who operates a 70-foot-high Spam oven.
Hormel declined to cooperate with this article, but several of its workers were interviewed here recently with the help of their union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 9. Slumped in chairs at the union hall after making 149,950 cans of Spam on the day shift, several workers said they been through boom times before — but nothing like this.
Spam “seems to do well when hard times hit,” said Dan Bartel, business agent for the union local. “We’ll probably see Spam lines instead of soup lines.”
Even as consumers are cutting back on all sorts of goods, Spam is among a select group of thrifty grocery items that are selling steadily.
Pancake mixes and instant potatoes are booming. So are vitamins, fruit and vegetable preservatives and beer, according to data from October compiled by Information Resources, a market research firm.
“We’ve seen a double-digit increase in the sale of rice and beans,” said Teena Massingill, spokeswoman for the Safeway grocery chain, in an e-mail message. “They’re real belly fillers.”
Kraft Foods said recently that some of its value-oriented products like macaroni and cheese, Jell-O and Kool-Aid were experiencing robust growth. And sales are still growing, if not booming, for Velveeta, a Kraft product that bears the same passing resemblance to cheese as Spam bears to ham.
Spam holds a special place in America’s culinary history, both as a source of humor and of cheap protein during hard times.
Invented during the Great Depression by Jay Hormel, the son of the company’s founder, Spam is a combination of ham, pork, sugar, salt, water, potato starch and a “hint” of sodium nitrate “to help Spam keep its gorgeous pink color,” according to Hormel’s Web site for the product.
Because it is vacuum-sealed in a can and does not require refrigeration, Spam can last for years. Hormel says “it’s like meat with a pause button.”
During World War II, Spam became a staple for Allied troops overseas. They introduced it to local residents, and it remains popular in many parts of the world where the troops were stationed.
Spam developed a camp following in the 1970s, mainly because of Monty Python, the English comedy troupe. In a 1970 skit, a couple tried to order breakfast at a cafe featuring Spam in nearly every entree, like “Spam, Eggs, Sausage and Spam.” The diners were eventually drowned out by a group of Vikings singing, “Spam, lovely Spam, wonderful Spam.”
(Familiar with the skit, Internet pioneers labeled junk e-mail “spam” because it overwhelmed other dialogue, according to one theory.)
Here in Austin, local officials have tried to capitalize on Spam’s kitschy cultural status, even if a decidedly unpleasant odor hangs over the town (a slaughterhouse next to the Hormel plant butchers 19,000 hogs a day). Austin advertises itself as “Spamtown,” and it boasts 13 restaurants with Spam on the menu.

Allen Brisson-Smith for The New York Times
Jerry’s Other Place sells a Spamburger for $6.29.

Jerry’s Other Place sells a Spamburger for $6.29. Johnny’s “Spamarama” menu includes eggs Benedict with Spam for $7.35. At Steve’s Pizza, a medium Spam and pineapple pizza costs $11.58.
“There are all kinds of people who have an emotional connection to Spam,” said Gil Gutknecht Jr., the former Minnesota congressman, who was in the gift shop at the Spam Museum buying a Spam tie, sweatshirt and earrings. Mr. Gutknecht recalled that he once served as a judge in a Spam recipe contest.
“The best thing was Spam brownies,” he said, with more or less a straight face.
No independent data provider compiles sales figures that include all the outlets where Spam is sold, including foreign stores, so it is not clear exactly how much sales are up. Hormel’s chief executive, Jeffrey M. Ettinger, said in September that they were growing by double digits.
The company would not discuss more recent sales of the product or permit a tour of the Spam factory, citing rules that Hormel said prevented it from speaking ahead of a forthcoming earnings report.
However, Hormel executives appear to be banking on the theory that Spam fits nicely into recession budgets. Workers on the Spam line in Austin — more than 40 of them work two shifts —see no signs that their work schedule will let up.
“We are scheduled to work every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Darwin Sellers, 56, a Spam “formulator” who adds salt, sugar and nitrates to batches of Spam. “Mr. Ettinger is negotiating with the man upstairs to get us to work eight days a week.”
Mr. Sellers said he had not seen much of his family in recent months, but the grueling schedule had been good for his checkbook. He bought a new television and planned to replace a 20-year-old refrigerator.
Unlike his colleagues though, he has no plans to stock up on Spam. “It’s not something I’ve ever developed a taste for,” he said.
A rising segment of the public, it seems, does have a taste for Spam, which is available in several varieties, including Spam Low Sodium, Spam with Cheese and Spam Hot & Spicy.
James Bate, a 48-year-old sausage maker, was buying it at Wal-Mart in Cleveland recently. Not only was it cheap, but he said it brought back fond memories of his grandfather’s making him Spam sandwiches.
“You can mix it with tomatoes and onions and make a good meal out of it,” he said. “A little bit of this stuff goes a long way.”
Christopher Maag contributed reporting from Cleveland.
More Articles in Business » A version of this article appeared in print on November 15, 2008, on page B1 of the New York edition.

November 16, 2008

Photo of the day, Sunday

Snow already? Yep, it snowed here last night and today. On the way to church is was the really big fluffy flakes and on the way home it was more sleety. No wonder the Eskimos have some many different words for snow.

Anyway, it seems early, but the deer hunters thought it was OK, I guess it works better to hunt in the snow, not really sure why, but as long as they're happily in the woods, I guess it's good enough for me. Me, I have never been a hunter and really don't see the draw. I enjoy spending time in the woods walking along and seeing what's going on, but to sit in a stand for hours, waiting for the shot, well, I'd rather just head to Meijer and pick up a steak for the grill.

I am heading to Boston for the Green Build Expo and Conference. Our industry is near the leading edge on some of this and I need to make sure that I can speak to it as well as position our company to adopt as many practices as possible. I have never been a true tree hugger, but I really want to leave the boys something that is a bit less damaged than what we have right now.

Here's a couple shots of the back deck. Brrr, and I like winter.

Have a great day!