Categories
ramblings of a madman

Today is Sunday April 18, 2021

OK, it has been a month since my last posting. It has been a very busy time for me since March 20th. I have been working long hours and not having much time for myself of late. Hopefully that may change but I am not very optimistic for the immediate future. Today it is cold and cloudy outside. Chance of snow in the forecast, but if yesterday is any clue as to today’s weather, the snow will be flurries and it will end and disappear quickly. Let’s hope that the change in weather will curtail my allergies, which have been very bad of late.

We could really use some moisture in the southwest, so any snow is welcome. The first couple of weeks of April have been warm and most of the snow pack on the mountains in New Mexico that surround Los Alamos has melted. Looking north towards the mountains into southern Colorado look better in terms of snow. We shall see what the rest of April and May will bring.

Since my last posting, we have experienced many days where the wind and heat have made the fire danger high. Warm weather this early does not bode well for the summer. I expect that it will be hot and dry, and camping in the forests will be curtailed. So much for hiking. Historically, this part of the southwest has experienced a major forest fire about every 10 years. Based on that statistic, we are overdue. In my 30 years hear, we have had two major fires that caused the town to evacuate. See my postings of May 13 and May 21, 2020 for additional information on the subject.

from the website https://www.wfas.net/images/firedanger/subsets/fdc_o_sw.png

I found the disclaimer on the site most interesting: Note:  Forecasts may not depict accurate fire danger between October and April. There are forest fires already burning in Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma. The map above does misrepresent the state boundaries for Oklahoma and Texas.

The state of New Mexico continues to improve with declining COVID cases. With a couple of exceptions, this trend appears to be the same across the country. Many places are opening up. My kids have completed the second full week of learning in person at school. I have had my first and second shot of the vaccine. I think that the contact with people their own age has helped the kids begin to heal mentally, but it is clear that it will take a long time for them to recover from the lost time and lack of social contacts. I do not believe that the on-line learning has been all that beneficial.

from the NMDOH COVID-19 Public Dashboard.

Daily cases are down, testing is up, hospitalizations and deaths are down.

With a return to in class learning, I have been leaving work early to pick up the kids at the end of the school day. They do not want to ride the bus for reasons of social distancing, the possibility of COVID in a close and confined space, etc. So I have adjusted my work schedule accordingly. That means often starting early and working later. My work schedule is both on site and in the office as well as working from home.

I am OK with this schedule as I get to see them everyday. School ends in May so we need to see what we can plan for the summer. Daughter will hopefully return to riding, or at least daily practices with Willow. Son will be the bigger issue in terms of finding outside activities.

Morning feeding with Willow (near) and Ruby (far).

Ruby has been back to see the vet. According to the lameness locator there has been no improvement. So Ruby is officially retired from competition but can go on the occasional trail ride. Maybe daughter will let me take her for the occasional walk around the stables when I retire.

Next week I will have an anniversary of sorts. I will turn 60. My birthday falls on the same day as Ruby! No plans other than I will probably take the day off. Most days I believe that I do not feel 60, but on some days I do. Health wise I am OK based upon my last physical, except that I could loose a few more pounds. I have been working to do that since the start of the pandemic and fortunately I have not gained weight as many others. I have actually managed to drop about 30 pounds. I have another 25 to go.

The same goes with the dog (except losing 25 pounds) based on her last vet appointment. We both need to reduce eating junk food. No more McDonald’s french fries for either of us. For me, I have been cutting out soda, only drinking it on limited occasions. As I sit here, I am drinking my last Coke. My first in several months. Actually I find myself boycotting all Coke products since I heard their “woke” CEO complain about changes to election laws in Georgia. Read the damn bill people! It makes elections better and reduces the opportunities that others have been shown to exploit. I have the same opinion towards many other companies and their products. I find it just stupid that they have a problem. They make me show an ID showing them who I am when I use their products. Why is it such a problem for when we vote? Elections in America should be a vacation day and everybody should have to show up to vote. And yes there are certain situations where a person cannot be physically present. The pandemic was not one of them. I voted in person.

I do not support universal mail-in voting. I do not support voting from my cell phone.

I also noticed that Facebook was recently hacked but they never communicated it to their users. Thus far this year, I have received several notifications about accounts and institutions that have been hacked. One gets free account monitoring but nobody is held accountable or arrested or put in prison. I think it is time for the US to go on the offensive against these foreign nation-state cyber criminals and shut them down, blow them up, put them out of business. Until these criminals are stopped, I will continue to do business with cash, pay bills by check and in the mail, reduce setting up accounts for everything. And I guess that also means Life Lock and other insurance.

We have a few more weeks before our income taxes are due. Mine have already been filed and refunds have been received. Our national deficit continues to grow, inflation is surging with the stock market, and we have a crisis at the border.

Until next time, stay safe.

Categories
the week in review

Today is Saturday March 20, 2021

Today it managed to get into the middle 60’s. It was a beautiful spring day. Some wind but I think it is the first day of spring!. Some snow remaining on the mountains. Time is just flying by; with spring comes flowers, green grass and allergies.

WOW! I knew that it had been a few months since I last entered TheMcKeeSpot. But I did not think that it was at the end of December since my last post. Well I guess we have much to discuss. Where shall I begin…

Let’s start with the fact that I have been at Los Alamos for 30 years, 3 months and a few days. Wild. For my 30 years of service I got this very nice piece of Nambeware. I had previously wrote about this on my post of November 8, 2020, explaining the history of Nambeware.

My Nambeware for 30 years of service.

I have several pieces around the house. This is probably the largest piece that I own. Guess I can use it as a serving dish when I entertain those parties, Ha Ha Ha. Like the other pieces around the house, they just basically sit around and collect dust.

So on the horse front, Ruby is still with us but remains hobbled with her injury. So now we have Willow. Yes, we got a second horse. That had me remodeling the middle barn at the stables in the snow so that we could accommodate the second horse. Ruby was moved to the middle barn and the new paddock there.

From l to r: Ruby in her new paddock at the middle barn. Constructing the new stall at the middle barn. Welcome Willow.

Ruby was moved because when Willow arrived, she would not settle down. She just kept prancing back and forth. Moving her let her be closer to the front and she stopped pacing back and forth. They are both mares and it may take awhile for them to get along. Ruby is a quarter horse whereas Willow is a thoroughbred. They look alike in my opinion except Ruby has more brown color compared to Willow. Also, Willow stands several hands taller than Ruby.

The kids with Ruby and Willow (before swapping paddocks).

Still working at the lab. Of late it has been longer hours. Working longer but getting less accomplished. I really hate that but it appears to be the new normal, at least as far as work is concerned. Got a call from a former boss the other day inquiring if I would talk to a friend of his who works for a small company in Albuquerque, They are looking to hire people. I said that I would talk to them. Would I leave after 30 years? Unclear but the idea of something new is appealing but it would be tough as I could not move there because of the kids and everything. Still, the offer to return to doing actual Chemistry…we shall see.

COVID cases appear to be on the decline in New Mexico. Things are beginning to open up. Los Alamos County has been at the lowest level, turquoise now for a couple of weeks. Weekly cases continue to decline and things are almost back to pre-pandemic levels in terms of groups. Whether it will be a return to normal or something else is not clear. Vaccine’s appear to be slowly coming as well. Managed to get my first shot about a week ago. Sore arm for a few days. God bless President Trump and Operation Warp Speed to help mobilize the pharmaceutical industry and deliver 3 vaccines in months instead of years.

Kids are supposed to start school in person here in April. Odd that they will only be there for about 8, maybe 9 weeks then it will be summer. I think that it will be good for them to return to school and to be able to interact with friends and people their own ages. They have been locked up with little social interactions for over a year. Seems much longer than a year. Daughter will have much to do in terms of getting Willow ready for summer competitions. Not sure what son will do this summer but we need to find him something besides video games. Hoping to find him some computer-type activities like programming or such to let him see if that is interesting to him.

Tried to get sons drone that I got him for Christmas flying but one of the motors did not work. Could not open it up to repair it. Maybe I can send it to a repair place…or maybe I can buy him one that is not made in China. Emailed the company. NOTHING. Tried to recover my payment from the credit card company. NOTHING. I WILL NEVER BUY ANYTHING THAT IS ADVERTISED ON FACEBOOK AGAIN. NEVER EVER. Emailed them…silence. Must have been too busy fact checking some BS article. Also, I do not really like their new algorithms. Either many of my friends are no longer posting, or something else, I just do not know. Some of them I never see anything anymore. Perhaps they wised up and figured how much a waste of time it is.

Believe it or not but that just about catches you up on the ramblings for the past few months. No travel. Work and home, home and work. The occasional trip out to pick up food. That said, I did manage to go eat at a restaurant about 4 weeks ago. It was good just to get out of the house. Aside from my morning walks with Jewel, locked up in my office at work, or teleworking from home, I am very anxious to get out and do something. I have a birthday in about a month, so maybe I’ll get away for a few days, just to get away.

Well I will leave it here. Until next time…

Categories
the week in review

Today is Sunday December 13, 2020.

It has been two weeks since my last post. If I took a picture from my back deck, it would look remarkably identical to the picture from my post of two weeks ago. Yes we had more snow Saturday night. It is cold outside, but the sun is out. A true representation of life under the pandemic: it is stagnate.

I find myself having a quiet weekend home alone. Yesterday was the first day that I ventured out in a few months. I actually drove to Santa Fe to get some shavings for the horse. Ruby is doing well but it is cold outside. I think the last time I was in Santa Fe was when I had to take one of the kids for a dental appointment, which was back in May or June, I think. I need to get out and do something different. Even the brief trip out of the house for several hours was beneficial.

Also ventured out to get the car repaired. Found a great mechanic in Los Alamos. It was great to get an oil change where they actually put oil in the car. It was great to fix the breaks and suspension by actually putting break pads on the car and aligning the tires. I have been spending more time shopping locally, trying to keep the local small businesses IN BUSINESS.

The pandemic numbers are up again, with much of the country in dire lock downs. Los Alamos County has 206 confirmed cases, up from yesterday but I believe we are still in the RED relative to testing and population. Somehow I think we are on day 256 to slow the spread.

I have spent the past two weeks working from home again because work has seen an increase. Two teams on the project had contact with a presumed positive COVID case early last week and were sent home for quarantine. Fourteen days. It means that the project will start Christmas break with accomplishing very little as far as the project is concerned. Many of the projects are in a similar situation for the start of the fiscal year. Little progress and a bad start to a year where much has to be accomplished.

I continue to despise working from home. I should not. Rather I should consider myself fortunate to be employed and have a regular salary coming in during this pandemic. My progress in getting things done is very limited and things just continue to pile up in terms of what has to be done. It continues to add to my funk and frustration. Yet I felt that long before the pandemic. It has only exacerbated it!

I think the same could be said about the kids, who will have their last week of on-line school this week. Finals and an end to the semester that has seen nothing but lots of homework. Son has done well. Daughter not so much. The homework just keeps being pilled up on her to the point that she just doesn’t do it, or does it so as to just get a passing grade. I think that it is because she doesn’t have her usual outlet (riding Ruby) whereas he stays inside and plays video games. Not sure if they have learned anything. A whole school year down the drain. I can see the toll that not seeing their friends and in classroom learning has taken on them. While the virus has taken away many lives, it has also taken away much in terms of the soul of individuals. It will take years, if it is possible, for people who have lost, to recover.

Looking at the weekend press, I see that the current President still believes that the elections was stolen, that the Democrats are now working to rig the election in Georgia for the two open Senate seats, and that United Airlines did not let a two-year old and her family fly because the kid would not wear a mask. Penn State played a good football game, but the Ohio State-Michigan game was cancelled due to COVID. I find much of the press anymore little about telling the news. It is more about the opinion of the newscaster. Liberal, left-leaning, not consistent with my values. Very little journalism, digging into the truth. Now that it appears that Trump has not been re-elected, the fake press think that it is OK to return to trying to be fair and impartial. I actually think that they ran several stories about the Biden family and their dealing with foreign governments, tax evasion, and cashing in. From my point of view, the damage is already done. They defeated Trump and now think that all can be forgiven. I will no longer connect or read the mainstream media. I am currently deciding whether to cancel my subscription to the Wall Street Journal and save myself about $500. I find that I get much enjoyment reading the articles on Zerohedge and a few other on-line sites. I see that Zerohedge is starting an ad-free premium subscription because they were blackmailed by Google to control comments. The 1st amendment and Freedom of Speech are so under attack in this country. The cost is a dollar a day so I might have to check it out since there was a suggestion that it might focus more on financial information. I can purchase this, save money cancelling the Wall Street Journal, and feel good about someone standing up to the monopoly that is Google! At any rate, Zerohedge is so much better than the Business Insider.

Looks like Biden will start on January 20 with Obama 2.0 or the third inning, third quarter, or whatever sports analogy you want to consider. Obama 1.0 was bad enough and I am sure that the sequel will such even more. The predictions for 2021 are for the bulls to continue to run the stock market. I do not understand how this can be. I guess that I should be happy as I contemplate retirement. But businesses are going bankrupt, millions are unemployed, millions could be thrown out of their homes come January because of not being able to afford their mortgage payments for months. Our Congress continues to play games in terms of relief for the citizens. Biden’s plans for government will not help us, they will only make things worse. I will lose freedoms, I will pay more in taxes. I will see a future that is not better for my children. It will be worse.

In my post of May 17, 2020 entitled “America, Elections, FaceBook”, I found myself writing about being banned from the FaceBook for 30 days because I posted something that went against their community standards. Well reader, I find myself again banned for another post that went against their community standards. Another 30 days. It has been a great 30 days as I have diverted my attention to the site Parler. It’s not as sophisticated as FaceBook, it lacks the liberal bend in the news, the advertising is limited in that your Amazon searches or your Google searches don’t end up as feeds in your feed. I was glad to see this week that the FTC and 47 state attorney general’s sued FaceBook for its monopolistic business practices. I hope it is broken up. I hope that Google is broken up.

On February 13, 2020 I wrote about “The Tree of Liberty” and the Jefferson quote. As I sit here and continue to write today’s post, I am sipping on some Jefferson bourbon. So here’s is to all of you as Christmas will soon be upon us, peace on earth, good will towards all. The year 2021 will soon be upon us and I hope that it is better than the past year. Sadly, I am not an optimist but we will write about all of this in future ramblings of TheMcKeeSpot. Mr Spock would say “live long and prosper”. I will just bid you goodbye until next time.

Categories
the week in review

Today is Sunday November 29, 2020.

I find myself up before 4 am today. Typical of my sleep habits of late; seldom do I get more than four hours of sleep.

It has been a very lazy several days over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Outside it is cold and we even managed about one inch of snow.

Snow from the night before…

The state of New Mexico is supposed to come out of another two week COVID19 lockdown tomorrow. Over the past few days, the state has announced that it will shift to a three-tiered system in which it will impose COVID19 restrictions in each county based on its level of outbreak rather than curtailing activities statewide to slow the virus’s spread.

The new system will enable local communities to ease restrictions after public health data shows an outbreak is waning within their borders. The restrictions will be based on three colors: red will denote the highest risk of spread to yellow with green being the least restrictive. Not a return to normal as restrictions will still apply. As of today I think all counties are red with the exception of Los Alamos county.

The good news is that even a red coding is less restrictive than the current lockdown. Of the businesses that remain, they will be able to operate at 25 percent capacity as the holiday shopping season gets underway, whereas now they only can offer delivery and curbside pickup.

I don’t really understand the increase in numbers. Everywhere I turn, I see people in masks and practicing safe distancing. Maybe I am just being foolish in believing that people are remaining vigilant. For example, I know that when I take the dog for a walk on the streets, I do not wear a mask. But then again, there is nobody around me. I carry one in case but usually there is no one around when I am out walking my dog.

At the lab, COVID19 infections are also up. Again management is directing us to maximize teleworking. So, for next week I will find myself working from home, with only 5 hours onsite authorized. I expect that things will continue to be restricted for the remainder of this calendar year.

In general, I have found my productivity to decrease significantly. From bad computer connections to the ease in raiding the refrigerator, I have not enjoyed work from home. There needs to be a separation between the two. Otherwise, the lines get blurred and the whole stress of work stays with you. There is no time to relax and recharge the batteries. Many say that it is the future. Sadly, it is just another evolutionary decline in America. Because if we are able to work from home, that means that close to 170 million of us are not really creating things. We just keep moving the paper along.

While I am thankful to be employed, I can imagine how bad things are for those who are not.

I see the terrible effect that this has had on the kids. Unable to go to school and see their friends. Having to get school online offers limited socialization, the ability to have conversations with people of their own age or interests. It is clear in the few times that I have watched the whole teleschool effort from across the room that the solution being applied is more homework, less instruction.

So I had the kids for Thanksgiving dinner and they stayed until Friday afternoon. Thus, I got to practice the only Chemistry that I can do anymore, and that is cooking. As usual I prepared a turkey (herb seasoning, butter, onion and bell pepper and sausage filled the inside of the bird) with mashed potatoes, stuffing, glazed carrots, rolls, cranberry sauce and apple pie for desert. For some reason, we were not in the mood for pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving 2020.

As usual, I opened a bottle of red wine for my Thanksgiving meal. The kids had soda.

Son and I played video games and a few hands of GO FISH. Daughter was in a vegetative state in her room, watching videos and doing some art work. They both keep in touch with friends by texting. Even I keep tabs on daughter, not by going up the stairs to her room, but by texting or FaceTime. Technology has embellished our ability to be lazy. Black Friday was not spent in the store. It was in front of the computer. What to get the kids for the holiday coming up?

We had to venture out a couple of times to feed Ruby. A welcome respite from house arrest. Beyond that, I think we all just took it easy and did those things that keep us sane. Burned out by the COVID19 changes in our daily lives, we need a return to normal.

As I write this, Christmas is just 27 days away…

Categories
the week in review

Today is Sunday November 15.

Another sunny but lazy Sunday afternoon from Los Alamos, New Mexico. I spend most of my Sunday’s resting on the sofa, reading or cleaning up around the house. If the kids are here I find myself trying to entertain them, help with their homework. Then there are two trips to the stables to feed Ruby. But not this weekend. No kids. No Ruby. Sadly, Ruby is back at the vet after having survived another bout of colic.

The past few weeks have been rather hard on Ruby. Two bouts of colic (one before and one after the most recent snow), and a separate incident in the middle of our recent snowstorm recovering from stepping on a nail in her hoof. Coupled with the general summer of being injured and out of competition, the lack of eventing due to COVID, she has not had a strenuous workout since July. That has certainly taken a toll on my daughter because it was exercise and a distraction for her that she enjoyed and was good at it.

Colic is defined as any abdominal pain although horse owners typically refer to colic as problems with the gastrointestinal tract. Common causes of colic in horses include issues with diet, stress, changes in weather, sand digestion (caused by eating off the ground), or inadequate exercise, to name a few.

Ruby and daughter early November treating her for stepping on a nail.

Her summer injury is due to arthritis and it has it’s own set of issues and complications. More to come in a future post I am sure. As for her condition at the moment, we expect that she will be home from the vet this Tuesday. I will be glad to see her.

As I said above, Sunday is also the day that I try to read. In general I try to up on things that are of interest to me. Books, news articles, internet web sites, even magazines. And that is what I have been doing for the past few hours before I started to write this post. As I had much to catch up on this week, between the election, and the happenings in the news, I can expect that I will probably ramble about all of that as I write this post.

As always, I find myself here on the sofa with my companion, Jewel. The picture below is how I started this post several hours ago. Several starts and stops to let her out, get her water, her desire to be a lap dog when she knows that she cannot be a lap dog.

Jewel this Sunday, November 15.

I have the computer set up so that the TV is the monitor. This makes it great for downloading movies from internet sources, playing DVDs, or working on the computer itself. The large screen makes it easy to see what I am writing.

Here in New Mexico, the Governor has started another two week lock down of all things nonessential. Schools were trying to resume but now are retreating back to learning from home and on-line. I have concluded that there is no learning, there is only lots and lots of homework.

The other day I had to help son make a catapult. It was an assignment for his Makers Space class. After we fabricated it, we then had to shoot 10 different projectiles and record the distance. As a twist, I had him weigh the items, which comprised of 6 different rubber and plastic balls and then a penny, nickel, dime and a quarter.

Catapult project.

He started with a few ideas from the internet as to how to construct the catapult. That had us run to the local hardware store for the supplies. For safety purposes, I used the table saw while son supervised fabrication of the catapult. It was actually a fun afternoon and diversion. For me, the diversion was from work. For him, the diversion was from video games and the opportunity to get his homework completed.

Anyway, the kids will continue on-line school and I will continue to work from home more days than I care to. The two week imposed lock down starts tomorrow, November 16 and is to last for two weeks, although it may be extended. We have seen a spike in cases since mid-September and are currently seeing over 1000 cases daily. This increase is causing strains on hospitals and other medical resources.

We have seen a similar uptick in cases at work. Recently over 500 people had to quarantine associated with contact tracing. A confirmed COVID-positive resulted from an individual who attended a Halloween party. There is also concern being raised because of the upcoming family celebrations associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The experts suggest that the increase in COVID is the result of changing weather, which is resulting in more indoor activities due to the cold weather that is approaching. I think some of it is COVID fatigue. For the first time in over 7 months, I actually went out and had a beer. Although I must point out that I sat away from people and I was outside. It was good, albeit brief, to do something different for a change. I think the coworker who joined me also had a good time. Certainly was a stress reducer. Hopefully a vaccine will soon be available because our society cannot continue this way. People are suffering. People are hurting. I know that I need a change of pace.

Anyway, I was trying to spend today reading up on this latest phrase that I have seen in the news, daily readings on the internet, etc. Called the great reset, it sounds like some people want to use the pandemic to push through their own political agenda. My reading takes me immediately to the source, the world economic forum ( https://www.weforum.org/great-reset/ ). I immediately conclude that it comes from those who have different set of beliefs and agendas than I. To me, it is liberal. It is a mindset that is not to my liking, not consistent with my upbringing and beliefs. But I need to research it further and keep an open mind. A quick scan of the website causes me to venture across the subject of the 4th Industrial Revolution. I presume that this revolution covers the technological advances in computing and artificial intelligence to biotechnology and nanotechnology. I read that these technologies come with a potential to help us solve some of our most pressing global challenges. Somehow I recall reading about “The Third Wave” a number of years ago, and wonder if this too was another revolution where different technological advances shape our lives, the environment, how the world around us is interconnected and how we are to advance as a society.

Of late, I find my interests in reading are often derived from history to political science to economics. I visualize it as an interesting Venn diagram. A Venn diagram is a diagram that shows all possible logical relations between a finite collection of different sets. These diagrams depict elements as points in the plane, and sets as regions inside closed curves. I view this Venn diagram as having a cause and affect relationship where the size of the circles and the overlap changes as time marches forward, as technology advances. The sum total of the Venn diagram is what I believe describes the total human condition.

A Venn diagram of what I would suggest shows the overlap of history, political science and economics.
A competing Venn diagram for one to ponder.

At any rate, lots to ponder with today’s ramblings. One thing that I have noticed is that I need to work on the format of my blog in order to make it more appealing to the reader. After all, this is an experiment of sorts for me as I ponder the next 50 plus years in terms of the direction of my life. Add that to my research over the next few months.

Much to research and read up on in order to figure out where they take me, or where I am heading. Until next time…

Categories
the week in review

Today is Sunday November 8.

Lazy weekend here in the McKee house. It is my weekend with the kids. Neither one wants to talk about their on-line homework. Son finally had a play date…only four hour’s straight of video games, two medium pizza’s and several soda’s. Daughter has a riding lesson this afternoon and is sequestered in her room doing art and stuff. As for me, I think about work, spend some time reading and cleaning up around the house.

Outside it is cold and windy. Rain last night with snow and cold weather in the forecast for the week. Haven’t spent much time on the computer since the election. Still collecting my thoughts and have read some stories about where things are heading. Not surprised by either outcome. That said, I am not happy with the outcome either.

In 40 days I will eclipse another milestone. I will have worked at Los Alamos for 30 years. Even I cannot believe it. So I will get some Nambeware, lunch with the lab director (not sure how that will work under COVID restrictions), and then the hard decisions: How much longer do I want to work?

Nambeware example of Butterfly bowls.

Nambe is an eight-metal alloy whose major component is aluminum. It was created at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1940s and is exclusively produced by the Nambe Mills, Inc., which was founded in 1951 near Nambe Pueblo, some 10 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Nambe was made by a small group of Santa Fe craftsmen using sand molds. A bowl or platter is broken away from its mold and shaped and polished to a silvery luster that, with age, acquires a patina all its own. Because each sand mold is used only once, no two pieces are exactly alike.

Was is the key word because like just about everything else, it is no longer manufactured in the USA. So where are those distinctive, silverlike dishes and housewares made from a special alloy and named for an Indian pueblo north of Santa Fe being cast now? “In India and China”, said Nambe President Bob Varakian. “To our exact specifications and quality.” Nambe’s Santa Fe foundry, off Siler Road, is not operating, although it’s possible the plant will reopen, Varakian said. That was reported in 2009 in the Albuquerque Journal. The overseas casting started “probably a year ago,” Varakian said.

The company was sold in 2019 to a British manufacturer and worldwide distributor for $12 million. The headquarters is in Santa Fe, distribution and polishing operations still exist in Española, but none of it’s products are made in either New Mexico or even the United States. Nambe is now considered a design company. The company’s crystal comes from Europe, and wood pieces and dinnerware from Thailand, flatware, currently produced in China, and castings from India and China.

In order to turn this country around, we need to do more than design (think of Apple), finance (Goldman or JP Morgan), and retail (Amazon or Walmart). We need to make things. Very little is made in this country, and that is another lesson that we must learn from the pandemic. In America, we assemble automobiles from parts manufactured elsewhere. In America, we develop new drugs, but most of the manufacturing is outside the country. To make things, we need to use automation and computers. This will rebuild the middle class, create well paying jobs, improve education.

We lead in science and discovery but we somehow cannot take those achievements and capitalize on them. It is much easier to license the work and collect a fee. And while that is OK for the short term, it is destructive for the long term. There is much science to explore, much work to do to help America rebuild and restore the country, independent of the election.

Arial view of the Standard Steel factory in 2011.

In my birthplace of Lewistown, Pennsylvania the local steel mill still exists. Standard Steel has been in existence since 1795, one of the longest continuously operating forging operations in the United States. The company’s history throughout the 20th century was punctuated by several milestones. In 1904 it produced the first solid forged and rolled wheel in the United States. By 1939, Standard Steel was making one-fifth of all the locomotive tires in the United States. During World War I, commercial operations modified to include artillery shells and howitzer forgings. Then, when World War II arrived, the factory was retooled to include the production of gun barrels, tank castings and military forgings. Annual steelmaking capacity was 160,000 tons.

But around the time that Standard Steel celebrated its 200th anniversary, the steel industry in the United States was under assault from both foreign imports and from a general decline in manufacturing here. In 2001, the company, which had been calling itself Freedom Forge again for about two decades, filed for voluntary protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an effort to reorganize, although it continued to operate during the bankruptcy process. The firm also made some very difficult choices, one being to focus solely on its core railroad business. In 2003, the company slashed its payroll when it exited the product line at the plant that produced steel rings for jet engines, power plants, mining and oil exploration.

Their singular product today is wheels and axles for railroads around the world. That’s what they made when I lived there in the 60’s and 70’s, where members of my family worked, and they still do this today.

From http://www.standardsteel.com/history.php

Currently owned by a Sumitomo Corporation, a Japanese Company, Standard Steel is a leading manufacturer of forged steel wheels and axles for freight rail cars, locomotives and passenger rail cars. It is the only producer of forged steel wheels for rail cars and locomotives in North America. Much of their steel comes from recycling.

Well that about sums up the thoughts for today. Hope you liked today’s post as it offers some though about where I may go with some future posts.

Categories
the week in review

…It is all a blur now

Today is April 21. I think that I have entered the 5th week of the mandated “stay-at-home” orders from our governor. I can’t be sure. It’s all a blur now. It is rumored that she plans on extending them through mid-May. As of today, the state of New Mexico has a total of 2072 cases. This represents less than 1% of the population in the state. And we have only tested about 2% of the total population in the state. Where I live, in Los Alamos County, we have 6 confirmed cases.

https://cvprovider.nmhealth.org/public-dashboard.html

I continue to work at home, often logging in as early as 5 am. It has been very problematic. The system automatically logs us out after 2 hours. For almost all of the work, I can network to the computer sitting on my desk in my office. How cool is that! It is cool. It is also stressful. I find myself working at about 50% productivity, feeling twice as stressed. Working longer days to get less done. My body aches because my work area is not economically sound.

By any measure, I feel very lucky as I see what is happening across this country. Yes I can continue to work. Yes I can continue to be paid. Yes I am thankful that myself, my children and friends and family here and elsewhere have avoided this dreaded illness. Given my age, general health and such, I certainly do not want to catch this illness. Some people have no symptoms, others fall quickly. I find myself checking all the websites. What does the Johns Hopkins map show today for the country? For the world? I check to see if the market is up, or down. How much has my 401k been decimated. Time to take your temperature again.

I make the occasional trip to the grocery store for supplies. Was able to get toilet paper this week. Many of the restaurants are open, continue to serve take out. I try my best to support them at least several times a week.

I try to continue the routine. Get up at the same time, do the same things. Go to bed at the same time. I try, but yes I can hit the snooze alarm a few more times because I don’t have as far to go to work. Jewel still gets her daily walks, but they often come later in the day to break up the monotony. We go to feed the horse, take daughter to ride. Son tries to continue Jazz Project through weekly video classes. Both kids are still at home. Schools has been cancelled for the rest of the year, but the teachers are still giving them online assignments, daily meetings, trying to stay connected.

Jewel on her daily walk. We are practicing our social distancing.

I understand the stay at home concept. Minimize interactions, practice social distancing. Wear a mask when you go out and about. But the rules are so all over the map. Grocery stores limit the number of people based on square footage and such. Outside construction. Take out food but no sit down service. Pools closed. Gyms closed. Parks open, Hiking trails open. OK I can go for awhile without a hair cut, a tattoo, getting my nails done. The casinos around the state are closed. But I can buy a lottery ticket? Gun stores closed. Hardware stores opened. Dentist no. Microbrewery no. Liquor store no. Pet store yes.

Our government has now passed three laws to help during this pandemic, a fourth is on the way. We will have spent close the $3 trillion dollars to help people who are out of work, help big and small companies stay in business, keep people for when this is over. We have about 22 million citizens out of work. Last month we had something like 164 million people employed. I see may people on edge. We are probably in a recession, if not a depression. The market has become a bear market. It will not come back right away. What took literally days and weeks to unwind, will take years to recover. I am lucky and thankful on this, the eve of my 59th birthday.

I have many questions for our leaders. Why, in a nation so rich, so prosperous, with so many intelligent people, why were we not prepared? Why did the basic necessities that we need to get through this, get outsourced to the other side of the world. Bring all of those jobs back home now. We need to invest here! We need to manufacture here! We need to understand what failed? How did we get this far, with over 40,000 deaths. This is tragic. Oh its like the flu. Flu takes months, we can test for the flue. We have a vaccine for the flu. Every year I decide whether or not to get the flu vaccine. Those years I get the vaccine, I get the flu. The years I don’t, I don’t get sick. Just lucky? I guess. Wash my hand a lot. Don’t venture out into big crowds I guess. Practice rugged individualism.

Every day I stop work to catch the President’s daily brief. Yes it is to long but I understand why he is there every day. Every day we get an update on what the government is doing, where there are problems, where there are glimmers of hope. I like it when the press ask questions that are clearly meant to make him look bad, and he puts them in their place. We can save the general politics for a future post. It is good that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

This past 5 weeks has provided me with a bit of insight into my future that I plan to venture on down the road. I have had much to ponder, much to reflect upon, which way do I turn. That part of my future is also a blur, but I can begin to see where I might be heading.

Categories
ramblings of a madman

Without heat in the modern age

For the past few weeks, I have been troubleshooting a problem with my gas furnace. It was kicking on and off frequently. It was having difficulty reaching the thermostats set temperature. My three level house was cold on the inside. It was colder on the outside.

My daughter’s horse Ruby had gotten clipped about two weeks ago. The shaving of the thick coat of hair requires that she be blanketed when the weather becomes bad and when the temperature falls below 40F. As it often does in northern New Mexico for this time of year, we have rain, freezing rain, snow. The temperatures can fall into the teens at night. The wind chill can make it very, very cold.

This morning, as I write this post, it is cold and raining. Snow is in the forecast. It is a dreary day outside with no heat to speak of. It’s 33 as I grab my boots to get daughter up in order to go feed the horse. Inside is equally cold. It is only 62 and son is out of control playing with the dog.

Ruby has no problem with the cold weather. She gets plenty of hay, a warm and waterproof blanket, and a stall to keep her covered if the weather is bad. But she is a horse, so often we find her outside when the rain or snow is falling.

Now to the furnace. It was inspected when I bought the place a few years back. Worked fine. Of late, it hasn’t been very efficient in keeping the house warm. I figure it is about as old as the house, but not that elements have been upgraded based on the dates of various pieces of equipment. The furnace is a gas-fired water boiler that is the center of a hydronic heating system. The system heats water and circulates it through the various radiators on the three levels of the house.

The furnace appears to work fine in that it kicks on and heats gas. The problems appear to be (1) the zone valves are not working in all zones, and (2) the water lines that circulate during the heating cycle do not have water. This may be why the zone valves have stopped working. This explains why the heat wasn’t getting to the set thermostat setting. No water to circulate, no water to heat. Time to call in the repairman because I am not very good at things mechanical.

Easier said then done. I called on five different outfits. Left messages with three. No return call. Talked to a nice lady on Thursday who could not fit me in until Friday. On the fifth attempt, I was able to get a technician out late in the day. He spent an hour looking at the system. Didn’t fix anything. Couldn’t understand where the circulating water went or why it wasn’t filling. Clogged valve? He took many pictures and said he would call on Friday. Friday came. He called and said that I needed some new parts that would take time to order and receive. So there I was. This weekend and into next week without any heat. Was suppose to have a follow up call to authorize the parts. Nothing. Called Friday. Email and called Saturday. Nothing. Finally, a woman called me to acknowledge the email but had no information. No knowledge about parts, or when then could work on the system. Would call me first thing Monday.

In the mean time, I found the replacement parts on the internet. Some can be purchased at Home Depot and Lowe’s. Wanted to gauge the price of the parts because I am sure they will be marked up significantly. I get skeptical when they say that they need to bring it up to code! Cha-Ching! Wanted to see about ordering the parts if the repair company decides not to call me back. Caution…Based on experience.

So what are The kids and I doing for heat? The house has a fireplace so we have wood. Will probably do that today as it is cold and raining outside. We also have a space heater that has been working nonstop since Friday. Sleep has been great with a couple of blankets and a warm dog to curl up with me.

The question is will they call back? When. When will they order the parts and how long before they arrive? Will they even call me back? I leave for business travel next week. My house will have no heat for a couple of days but it looks like the weather will cooperate. The aquarium has a water heater so the fish will be ok. Jonny the hamster has lots of bedding so he should be fine.

Will it be fixed for Christmas? May be that is what I’ll ask Santa as my present?

More importantly, when will I learn that things don’t last forever. They do require maintenance. Things, and animals, and people, do require proper care if they are to last for a long time.

Categories
life

It has been over a month

It has been about six weeks since my last post. I started writing several posts but never finished them. They are drafted and sit. Unfinished, they will probably get wrapped up in future writings. The last one that I drafted was about taking the kids out for trick or treat on Halloween night. Daughter went dressed as a squirrel, son as Michael Meyers. We did the usual route which is around their mothers neighborhood. They took their usual haul of candy. If previous years our any gauge, eating candy will grow old after a few days and it will sit, get hard and then be thrown away. I get all of the Almond Joy’s because it’s my favorite. This year, as in years past, two houses had treats for the adults. Scotch at one place and rye whiskey at the other. That was the most alcohol that I consumed in weeks.

Weather is getting chilly here in New Mexico. This year I finally bought a new winter coat after a few years. My previous coat was a ski jacket that I bought about 25 years ago. This was for the very cold days, when it gets in the teens or lower. I had a couple other coats for most of my winter years. The ski jacket wore quite well, but the zipper would break after a few years. Send it back to the company (Columbia) and they would fix it. After about four returns, they didn’t fix it. They just sent me a new coat. Cool. Then the zipper breakage would continue. I would send it back and they would fix it. I point out the zipper because I have quite a collection of fairly new coats that the only problem is a broken zipper. Two coats from Patagonia, a North Face jacket, and a few others.

I considered it a conspiracy: one of planned obsolescence. The zippers would break and I would be forced to get a new coat. Need to find a place to get the zippers fixed, or learn myself. As it is, some of the coats probably no longer fit. It’s always the zipper. Never a tear, or hole, or ripped seam. It’s always the zipper.

Now I have observed that my pants have a planned obsolescence in another way. All my Lee jeans would rip in the same place…the crotch would rip at the seam. For Wrangler jeans, I first loose a belt loop. It is typically the one on the back left above the pocket. I guess from trying to pull my pants up. In all cases, all of my jeans would shrink and be too tight to fit.

Work has been hectic of late. Nothing positive to note there. Just going through the motions. Another day in paradise. Management is a joke. Thinking of late about retirement. Some of my coworkers have cut the cord, others are like me. Thinking about it. Some have dates in mind. I do not. Still trying to define a post retirement plan. Clearly still in a funk.

Well I will try to get back on track and post more often. Enough rambling for the night. Thanks to all of the folks who serve.

Categories
the week in review

Yes, it has been a few weeks

…and that frustration funk within me continues. I have been to work. I have been on travel for work. I have gotten out. I have stayed hidden. I find today that I am no different than yesterday, last week, or last month. Thought that I might have had an epiphany while I was on travel. Trying to sort through it now. Something is weighing on me but I cannot define it, I cannot break away from it, advance it, articulate it. WHAT IS IT? Not optimistic but will meander through it, much like now as I meander through life. Cannot give up. Too much to do. Too many roads left to travel.

Life is good. The kids have been in school for over a month. Son continues to plow through. Got new glasses. Broke new glasses. Taking ukulele AND trumpet lessons. Now if I can get him to just practice! Encouragement doesn’t stick. He excels in math and does ok with the other things, but he doesn’t like to talk about it. Daughter continues to just do enough to get buy. Homework has her slammed. That’s ok but it is a single subject, what we old folks would have said was English back in the day. Rounds it out with algebra, physics, world history and Latin. Yes, you read that right. She is also taking photography, learning to develop on film. As a former chemist, this is so cool.

Work continues to get me up, get me angry, pays the bills. No longer a career. Just another necessity in getting through the day. Management sucks. The contract transition brought in a new group. Never see them around. They are focused on what will make them the most money and not on what the government pays us to do. There is politics, there is greed, there is sex and drugs and it’s human toll, stress, infidelity. A regular Payton Place if I dare to dig into the past. I have long said that if the American population was smarter, that I could write a half hour sitcom that would be watched weekly by millions. Think of the Big Bang Theory meets Get Smart in the daily soap opera. Am I being too negative?

For 21 years I have worked on the same project in different capacities. Stagnation, yes. Belief in mission, yes. Challenging, every day. Good at it, I’d like to think so. The different capacities evolved from managing people to managing money to managing technology. Now it should be just turning the crank yet nothing is ever easy or simple. It was the belief in mission that kept me around the longest. Focused on a belief that I was actually doing something to better mankind. Now that mission set is gone. Replaced with a different mission set. It is cheaper, therefore it must be better. I think not. It has changed from something great to something stupid. In the end, we don’t really advance, we just continue to kick the can down the road. Sadly, as humans we never learn simple realities. They are like fables. This one is equally simple. We will spend billions, but dilution is not the solution to pollution. Sadly, we will learn that lesson somewhere in the future, again!

As humans, we constantly strive to be better. Sadly, we loose too many along they way. Our common human frailties pull us back, knock us down, keep us from being better. One step forward, two steps back. We become greedy, savage, we look at everything in a microscope created by our education, our upbringing, our environment. I see myself, as I am writing this, out of control, rambling words slung together, not knowing where I am heading, or what I am doing. It’s back to that frustration and funk that I cannot solve, that I cannot figure out. Too many cliches?

And now for something totally different. Today is Ullrfest at Pajarito Mountain. Pajarito is northwest of Los Alamos and is the local skiing establishment. Ullrfest is an annual festival where People come to party, to pray to the Norse God of snow for a good ski season in 2019-20 and have some fun! Ullrfest features live music, lift-served mountain biking and hiking, food from Pajarito Mountain Cafe, and a New Mexico Brewfest. I don’t ski but the hiking is good and looks like the weather will cooperate in that it will be nice.