2009

Stacie Kariger (future daughter-in-law) passed the California Bar Exam.  Results were posted yesterday. [JAM 11/21/2009]

RVacation - Day 16 - 806 miles - Home!  We logged 6,708 miles, crossed 19 states, visited 25 relatives and Bella played with six dogs.  Today we drove from Utah to Kingman, Arizona to visit my parents (Homer and Nyla) and my sister (Betty).  We decided to drive home and arrived just after 11:00 pm.  Now, I need a vacation from our vacation. [JAM 6/10/2009]

RVacation - Day 15 - 395 miles - The GPS lady got lost 50 miles from Farson, Wyoming.  We were at 8,000 feet and the wind was howling.  She suddenly started saying "turn left" and "turn right" where no roads existed.  Then the screen went blank and it took her ten minutes to recalibrate.  The same thing happened in the Utah mountains 15 miles from the KOA campsite.  We had to call the camp to get directions.  Tomorrow we head for Kingman, Arizona.  Pasta for dinner. [JAM 6/9/2009]

RVacation - Day 14 - 174 miles -  The Big Horn Mountains had a new blanket of snow from yesterday's storm.  It was just like Christmas in June with pristine Winter-like scenes all the way.  We made the short drive from Sheridan to Thermopolis to eat dinner with Aunt Delores.  Thermopolis, Wyoming is the home of  the "World's Largest Mineral Hot Spring."  The trailer park has a free hot-spring swimming pool.  As for most cities in Wyoming, the elevation (4,326) exceeds the population (3,172).  In 1896, a treaty was signed with the Shoshone and Arapahoe Indian tribes to allow the public free access to the hot springs.  Bella is very tired tonight because she could run and play with lots of kids and dogs all day. [JAM 6/8/2009]

RVacation - Day 13 - 498 miles - Lorna had breakfast with second-cousin Teresa in North Dakota and then we drove through North Dakota and Montana and into Wyoming on the second day of rain to have dinner (pizza) with second-cousin Stephanie in Wyoming.  Bella has become accustomed to our rest-stop pattern.  However, if we deviate from the schedule, she will remind us with several ear-splitting yelps.  It's her way of saying: "Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?"  We did not have time for lunch.  [JAM 6/7/2009]

RVacation - Day 12 - 597 miles - Rain.  Wisconsin-Minnesota-North Dakota. Ribs.  [JAM 6/6/2009]

RVacation - Day 11 - 520 miles - We spent the day on the turnpikes.  We paid toll six times just to get out of Illinois.  For this trip, we have already paid $71.90 in tolls.  New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois are toll-happy states.  Bella likes to bark at the toll booth attendants.  The origin of the word "turnpike", according to the Oxford English Dictionary is: "... a spiked barrier fixed in or across a road or passage, as a defense against sudden attack ..."  However, it may also be a variation of the old Seneca Indian word: "timetopokeyou" which is loosely translated as "pay through nose every fifty miles."  Anagrams for turnpike are trunkpie, tirepunk, prunekit, turkpine, pureknit, tripnuke, perkunit and truepink.  The traffic south of Chicago on I-90 was terrible - far worse than any we have seen during the trip.  Because of the delays, we arrived at the Wisconsin KOA just before dark, much later than planned.  Pork roast, rice and peas for dinner. [JAM 6/5/2009]

RVacation - Day 10 - 440 miles - The richest person in Pennsylvania is the one who sells traffic cones to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.  The state of Pennsylvania had its entire collection of cones on display this week.  We drove through Pennsylvania and halfway through Ohio (more of the same) today.  We stopped at the Sandusky KOA which is very close to Lake Erie.  The "Lake" looks about the same as an ocean from our perspective.  Bella was a very good traveler today and she is completely back on schedule with her daily routines.  The lack of grass in Brooklyn caused her much confusion during the last three days.  It looks like Mexican food of some sort tonight with tamales, red chili sauce, tortillas and refried beans - my favorite. [JAM 6/4/2009]

RVacation - Day 9 - 107 miles - Lorna went shopping with Stacie and her parents.  After shopping, they went to the Broadway show, "Wicked".  I stayed in Evan's apartment with the dogs.  When the show was over, we drove out of Brooklyn and back to the RV in Pennsylvania in a pouring rain.  Home sweet home.  We were glad to have the Tom Tom GPS while driving in Brooklyn. [JAM 6/3/2009]

RVacation - Day 8 - 214 miles - Stacie Anne Kariger (Evan's girlfriend) graduated from Brooklyn Law School today.  After the ceremony, we had dinner at P.J. Clarke's in Lincoln Center and Evan proposed to Stacie and gave her a diamond engagement ring.  This morning I drove back to the RV in Pennsylvania to get Stacie's gift that we had forgotten yesterday.  Bella played with Oliver all day today.  [JAM 6/2/2009]

RVacation - Day 7 - 107 miles - We picked up a rental car in Allentown and drove to Brooklyn.  We are staying in a very nice hotel that is less than a mile from Evan's apartment.  We walked with Bella to the apartment and had dinner with Stacie's family at a local restaurant.  Bella stayed at the apartment with Stacie's dog, Oliver (French bulldog).  Tomorrow is the Brooklyn Law School graduation ceremony.  Stacie is one of 499 graduates. [JAM 6/1/2009]

RVacation - Day 6 - 546 miles - Pennsylvania and Ohio are forests.  Some of the trees have been removed so that roads could be built.  Pennsylvania means "Penn's Woods" after Admiral Penn, father of William Penn.  Ohio is the Seneca Indian term for "more of the same" or "large creek" in some dialects.  The highways in Pennsylvania were the worst we have seen on the trip.  There were numerous construction zones and we rarely saw a speed limit over 55 mph.  However, we arrived at 7:30 pm to the most beautiful and secluded KOA that we have seen.  Bella was restless during the ride.  She did not want to go on another 500-mile road trip today.  BBQ sandwiches and niblets corn for dinner.  [JAM 5/31/2009]

RVacation - Day 5 - 550 miles - We crossed three skinny states (Missouri, Illinois and Indiana) today and stopped at the camp just west of Ohio.  We had high winds in Missouri that made this high-profile vehicle hard to steer.  Also, we had an unplanned detour south of St. Louis.  Then, in Illinois the speed limit for motor homes is 55 mph (bummer).  Finally, we hit our first thunderstorm east of Indianapolis.  These obstacles all contributed to a late arrival (8:00 pm) at the KOA just as they were closing the camp office.  On the trip today we saw the Gateway Arch (630 ft.) from the south end and the giant cross (198 ft.) in Effingham, Illinois.  Bella was a really good traveler today.  She must think that we live in the RV now.  Lorna is cooking BBQ beef tips with noodles and vegetables. [JAM 5/30/2009]

RVacation - Day 4 - 431 miles -  What can I say about Kansas?  It was mostly green and it was very good for the cruise control.  XM radio reception was better than Colorado.  Other than that, there is not much to it unless you like to look at giant prairie dogs, five-legged cows, munchkin statues and the world's largest Czech egg.  Bella took over the passenger seat for most of the day so she could see the wheat fields and cows.  Lorna had to sit in the back.  We had a shorter travel day but ran into rush-hour traffic in Kansas City.  We arrived at the Oak Grove, Missouri KOA at 5:30 pm.  Homemade tacos for dinner - always a winner. [JAM 5/29/2009]

RVacation - Day 3 - 554 miles - There are 451 miles of I-70 in Colorado and that is where we spent most of the day.  We are now camped just 17 miles into Kansas at the Goodland KOA.  Lorna said that we started at the top of the world as we passed many of the famous Colorado ski resorts.  The highest point for us was 11,158 feet at the long Johnson Tunnel east of Vail.  Out of the mountains, we dropped down to mile-high Denver on a long 6% decline through which our RV mostly coasted.  After Denver, Colorado is all wheat fields and giant grain silos.  We stopped at a very nice campsite that is operated by a Polish couple with limited English.  Lorna has just prepared gumbo for dinner.  Bella thought this was an especially long trip and demanded to stop several times for recreation. [JAM 5/28/2009]

RVacation - Day 2 - 513 miles - The day started slowly because there was road construction on I-95 going into Las Vegas and road construction on I-15 getting out of Las Vegas.  However, the roads were clear through NE Arizona and Utah with a 75 mph speed limit but this boat does not want to go more than 65.  The cruise control works half the time (the downhill half).  Utah has a minimum speed limit of 45 mph.  I am sure that we were below that a few times.  Our highest elevation was 7,886 feet above sea level.  The thin air made Bella sleepy.  She dozed through most of the day.  The drive from Salina to Green River, Utah (110 miles with no services) was spectacular with mesas and buttes and more mesas and buttes.  Some of the formations look like they must have been sculpted by hand.  We arrived at the KOA just before dark again.  Lorna is preparing carnitas for us in the expansive RV kitchen. [JAM 5/27/2009]

RVacation - Day 1 - 276 miles.  The RV rental place said pick-ups were between 1 and 4pm but I decided to pack a lunch and a book and camp in their waiting room.  They gave me the keys at 10:30 a.m.  It took us an hour to pack and we hit road at noon.  Bella (one-year-old, female pug dog) is very confused.  She must have thought that we were leaving her.  However, she has been a very good rider.  The gas tank was half full when we got it.  I put in $62.85 more to fill it.   We stopped in Corona to see Ron Davis.  He was grading high school, Art History term papers for Carol who is teaching today.  We stopped at two rest stops for Bella but she was not impressed (too hot).  We finally arrived at the KOA just before dark.  It is a very nice location near the Avi Indian casino in Laughlin, Nevada.  It appears that some people live here.  Lorna is moving stuff from boxes to cabinets and trying to find us some food.  [JAM 5/26/2009]

I quit my day job today.  After 36 years with one company (although the name changed from American Gas Association Laboratories to International Approval Services to CSA International), I took early retirement (62) to leave a stagnant situation and find out what life is like without bosses (and regular paychecks).  Jean Armstrong and crew planned an excellent party that was the intimate pizza lunch that I preferred.  In a very nice gesture, they named the hallway after me, put my name in a DQD, and gave me too many presents. [JAM 4/30/2009]

 

(This is the first draft of my retirement speech: I decided not to give a prepared speech and spoke off the cuff.  The people who needed to hear this were not in the room.)

Thank you for the party.  I have been dreading this day for about three years.  CSA/AGA has been a very good place for me to work.  It has paid the bills, allowed me to travel to exotic locations and has given me a comfortable life.  I met my wife here and made many friends along the way.

I started with AGA as a test engineer (now known as project holder) in 1973.  I decided to stay because I thought the job was important.  CSA is in the consumer safety business.  The important people here are the project holders.  They do the work that allows CSA to be in business.  The rest of us are just here to support them.  If the project holders cannot do their work, there would be no revenue, no business and no job for you.  The support staff should come to work every day asking themselves what they can do to help the project holders.  When we hire good people, pay them well and give them the best equipment, there will be no shortage of work.  And, everyone will get salary increases and bonuses.

I accepted a management position in 1984 because I was frustrated with the problems that management was not solving for engineers.  I thought I could make a difference.  In the last 22 years I have tried to make improvements but I am not sure that I have been very successful.  The same problems occur over and over.  The people who do the billable work should have the best equipment and the best support system.  However, it seems that CSA spends an inordinate amount of time focusing on the bottom line at the expense of safety and quality.  I believe that if you focus on safety and quality, the revenue will come.  CSA should be viewed as the safety certification agency that provides the highest quality.

Our project holders cannot perform at the highest level using equipment and systems from the last century.  Computer systems should be designed to make their jobs easier.  Too often, systems are designed to work easier for management or support departments.  I have seen this happen over and over again.  The greatest evidence of this is the fact that every project holder spends more time trying to negotiate computer mazes than performing safety tests.  When I started working at AGA, the opposite was true.  I spent most of my time on my feet.  Report writing was a small part of my job.

Project holders, inspectors and other staff members should take all things into consideration before accepting a management position.  There is a little bit more money to be made but a lot less job security.  A good project holder will always have a secure job here but management positions are expendable especially when goals are not met.  In my present position, I have four levels of management above me.  It is very hard to wade through all of the politics to affect change.  We spend too much time on mission statements and business plans without considering how high-level decisions will affect our important employees.  If you like office politics, then management is for you.

Thank you for allowing me to stand on the soap box.  Good luck in your careers and maximize your 401K if you want to leave early like me.