Tuesday, June 28, 2016


When I worked in a factory it was a shocking experience in more ways than one.

First of all I had never worked in a factory. Most of the jobs I have worked had a different atmosphere than a factory. I was not used to being totally dependent on the person before me to do a task the right way so that I could do my task the right way before I passed it on to the next person.

In my other jobs even if the person before had made a mistake (it happens) all I had to do was take a closer look and fix it. In a factory sometimes the mistake could go back several people before the problem was solved. And sometimes it was not a human problem. Parts defects might cause things to go wrong.

Second the factory I worked at actually made shocks! We built industrial shocks rather than the kind found in the suspension system of a car.

The shocks we made ranged in size from maybe ten feet long to about 3/4 of an inch long. There were all the sizes in between.

Shocks are used to cushion the sudden stops of rides at an amusement park. Or they might be used in machines doctors use to do micro-surgery. Some are used to lessen the recoil of military guns. We did all that and more.

Most of the very large shocks we made were made for amusement parks. A lot were shipped to Florida for example. And there is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the United States which is not too far from where our factory was. If you ever ride a "drop" ride like the Demon Drop chances are our shocks are what kept your head from exploding when you hit bottom.

We even made shocks that operated Batman's cape in the Dark Knight trilogy. A simple mechanism would cause the shocks to hold the cape open and stiff looking. Then a release would relax the cape so it draped as a cape should.

We had in-house engineers whose sole reason for being there was to invent shocks for new applications. Most never panned out but sometimes we had a new type of shock to build.

Most but not all shocks consist of an outer tube made of metal, a bladder inside to allow the flow and holding of a liquid (usually some sort of oil), a rod that is pressed and released, and ball bearings and washers. Sounds fairly basic, Doesn't it?

Each different type of shock has its own unique set of building instructions. They are stored in the computer system and should be pulled each time a particular shock is to be built. Most of the time they are built in multiples so machines and parts can be set only once.

Of course testing is necessary to detect faults. Each and every shock is water tested to make sure it is sealed properly. A leak will cause it to not work the way it should. Then the pressure of the shock with the fluid inside is tested to make sure it has the correct pressure.

If they fail someone needs to find out why. Many times the whole thing needs to be taken apart and all the components examined as well as the build.

I was still a trainee but I had been working there a while. The woman training me was a saint.

She never not once heaved a heavy sigh or rolled her eyes with disgust when I made a mistake or needed help. She was always so nice about stepping in to give me a hand.

In that department one person often built the shocks from start to finish. The runs were usually not more than 20 pieces.

She was building one kind of shock and had me working on another kind.

I was in the final testing phase. To test those shocks we put the rod against the edge of the metal build table and pushed. It should have no give.

These were pushing all the way in. I called my trainer and she tried to help me.

We tried refilling them with the oil. They failed.

We took one apart and rebuilt it. It failed.

We examined the parts. They looked to be fine.

We rebuilt again. It failed.

Finally she called our supervisor. He came over. If anybody could find the problem it was him.

He pushed on the rod and it went all the way in. He tried refilling it with oil. It failed. He took it apart and examined the parts and decreed that they were not the problem. He rebuilt the shok. It failed.

The three of us spent almost a day and a half trying to find the problem.

Then the supervisor asked about the number of washers in it. I showed him that the build instructions called for one. Except that it said two were needed. That second washer cost us a day and a half of time and product.

Who would think that a little bitty washer or a bearing makes such a difference. Each one had to be built exactly according to specifications. There is a reason for instructions.

So we took them all apart and rebuilt them with two washers. We filled them with oil. We tested them and the rods all pushed back! Success.

There is one thing to remember... if the shocks do not work properly Batman could fall and break his neck!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Blow, Ye Winds

This has been a most unusual experience. You must read on to understand my befuddlement.

At the beginning of the week we had a terrible storm. Late in the morning everything turned dark. The wind began to blow... hard.

I watched as the branches on the trees blew around and around. They did not blow straight in one direction but in a circular motion. I watched for signs of a tornado.

Then came the torrential rain. For several minutes it came down in barrels full. I thought I heard hail but it was just the rain hitting so hard.

I expected to lose power but we did not. Thank goodness.

As often happens during a storm our satellite dish service was interrupted. I was not terribly concerned. It always returned to normal eventually. It does not take long most of the time.

After some time passed I could get CNN and Fox News. Nothing else. I waited and nothing changed.

A day passed and I decided to reset the receiver to see if that would correct the problem. It not only did not fix things I no longer had any service at all.

I called the satellite company and spoke to the nicest woman. She tried everything to fix my problem from her end. After much searching she found that some connection between the dish and my house was disconnected. She would send someone out... Monday. It was a week away but the best she could do.

I was prepared for life without any television. I like to watch the news to see what is going on in the world. But this was the week following the awful events in Orlando. I was beginning to feel bombarded by all the information and repeat information. So the television stayed off.

Then the strangest thing happened. A couple of days passed and a few more channels came back. I could watch my ballgames and a few other channels along with the news. Oh joyousness! But the High Definition did not work.

I was still looking forward to the repair crew though. There were a lot of programs that I normally watch that I could not get. All the local channels were gone. That meant no local news.

So I sat and waited for Monday... afternoon.

Last night we were watching the ballgame. (We lost... bad.) It was night time but it grew even darker than a normal night would be. I watched as the winds grew stronger and stronger.

Every now and then We heard small things roll across the roof. Once we even heard a crashing noise and some clanging sounds.

The wind was not as strong as from the first storm but it was still blowing harder than I feel comfortable with.

I read a weather warning on the computer that said that any animal including a human outside WILL BE HURT. It is not a warning that I have seen before.

We lost power off and on for several hours. It was never off for more than a minute but it was annoying.

When I went to bed I noticed the porch light for the neighbors was on. He works the night shift and she leaves the light on so he can see to get safely in the house if it is still dark when he comes home.

I realized that I could not see the porch light as clearly as I usually do. There was a fallen tree branch partially blocking the view.

I called my son from his room and asked him if we should go check on the neighbor and her daughter. He looked closely and said that the branch had not hit their house. It was late so we decided they were okay and we would not bother them.

This morning when I woke up I looked out the window. Holy Cow!

The branch that fell was a big one. It fell toward our house. It took out most of a crab apple tree in our back yard. It hit the wood stove enclosure behind the house and knocked the chimney off. That was the clanging noise we heard.

The fallen branch missed our house by only a couple of feet. It is a big one. Most of the back yard is full of tree branch. We were lucky.

There are branches down all over town. None as big as this one but there are a lot of them.

The neighbor burns wood so he can use the branch this winter. Something good came of it. And it did not land on any houses.

We decided to see if there was any news of weather on the television. I halfway expected no television again.

WE HAVE TOTAL TELEVISION RECEPTION! Our HD is back. The local channels have returned. All the programs I have scheduled to record are once again scheduled to record. Can you believe it?

It sort of reminds me of Gilligan's Island. Someone accidentally gets hit in the head and has amnesia. His memory does not return until another blow to the head.

In my case one storm took my TV. The next one gave it back. No one can tell me that life is not stranger than fiction.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Here is something fun. I stole it from Coco's Momma. Click on the link if you wish to see her answers.

Question 1: Do you have any pets ? Technically Isabella is my son's dog but she does live here.

Question 2: Name three things that are physically close to you: A bottle of water, the half of my sub that I have not put in the fridge yet, and my shoes that felt so good when I slipped them off.

Question 3: What's the weather like right now ?   Partly cloudy and about 79 degrees. Very nice.

Questions 4: Do you drive ? If so, have you crashed? I do drive. I have not crashed myself but someone crashed into my car.

Question 5: What time did you wake up this morning ? I woke up at about 9:30 and made myself get out of bed about 11:00 to watch the storm.

Question 6: When was the last time you showered ?  Sponge bath today. It was really storming.

Question 7: What was the last movie that you saw ?  Alice Through The Looking Glass.

Question 8: What does you last text message say?  No texting for me.

Question 9: What is your ringtone ? Ring, ring.

Question 10: Have you ever been to a different country? Only Canada.

Question 11: Do you like sushi?  I do not eat raw flesh... parasites you know.

Question 12: Where do you buy your groceries?   Walmart and Hy-Vee. It depends on what I need. Hy-Vee does the shopping for me and all I have to do is give them a call when I get there. They bring out my order and load it in my car.

Question 13: Have you ever taken any medication to help you fall asleep faster? Only a couple of times. They gave sleeping pills to all the mothers when my second son was born. We were up all night. You could hear the giggling up and down the floor all night.

Question 14: How many siblings do you have ?  I am the oldest of seven. There are only five of us still alive.

Question 15: Do you have a desktop computer or a laptop?  I bought a laptop when I moved here and I love it.

Question 16: How old will you be turning on your next birthday?  I will be 69 years old in a couple of months.

Question 17: Do you wear contacts or glasses ? I wear glasses. I cannot stand the thought of putting something foreign into my eyes.

Question 18: Do you color your hair ? No. Even at my age I still have very little gray hair. It is creeping in though.

Question 19: Tell me something you are planing to do today: I went to the grocery store earlier. Now I am watching the baseball game (so far we are ahead!). Then I will go to bed.

Question 20: When was the last time you cried?  When my ex-husband died a few years ago. I am fortunate to be a happy person.

Question 21: What is your perfect pizza topping? Either Hawaiian pizza (ham and pineapple) or a good veggie pizza.

Question 22: Which do you prefer, hamburger or cheeseburger ? I like cheeseburgers but I prefer a tavern burger.

Question 23: Have you ever had an all-nighter ? Much too often. I used to work the night shift.

Question 24: What is your eye color ? I have blue eyes.

Question 25: Can you taste the difference between Pepsi and Coke? I used to be able to but I no longer drink colas. I drink either water or iced tea.

Want to try your hand at this? I am sure Coco's Momma would not mind.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Humming-Bird Moth

It was another exciting evening at our house.The ballgame was over on TV. (We won!!) My son had let the dog out to bark at the dark.

She (the dog) finished letting the whole town know she exists and is ferocious. She was ready to come back inside. My son opened the door to let her in.

Then he hollered, "A big moth just flew in! That's the biggest moth I ever saw!"

I had not seen anything but he kept saying, "There it is."

When I finally saw it I told him it looked like a hummingbird moth. And he said it did look a little bit like a hummingbird.

Hummingbird moths are called that because they behave much the same as a real hummingbird. You can see them hovering over flowers collecting nectar the same way hummingbirds do.

There are several species of hummingbird moths. In Europe they are called Hawk Moths or Sphinx Moths. They are of the Sphingidae family. In the United States they are of the genus Hemaris.

The hummingbird moth moves and flies just like a humming bird. They hover above a flower to be able to insert their long tongues into the flower to drink the nectar ust like a hummingbird. If it is quiet enough and you listen carefully you can even hear the hum caused by their wings moving so rapidly.

Hummingbird moths are often mistaken for real hummingbirds even though the moth is smaller. If you look closely you will see that the feathers that seem a little out of place on the head are actually antenna. And you will probably not be able to get that close to a hummingbird because it will flit away.

Hummingbird moths are sort of plump rather than the sleek look of a real hummingbird. The moths have a tail that opens into a fan.

They have scales instead of feathers. Sometimes the scales are lost from the wings as in the case of clearwing hummingbird moths. Some have stripes similar to a bumblebee.

The wingspan of a hummingbird moth is from 2 to 3 inches. The length of their bodies is 1 to 2 inches.

Hummingbird moths can be seen during the day but prefer the night . They especially like early evening when the sun is setting or has just set.

The moth is a pollinator and likes many of the same flowers a hummingbird likes. But it seems to prefer flowers that are less bright in color. Hummingbirds like the brighter colors.

The larva of a hummingbird moth is a green caterpillar. They feast on the leaves of plants not the flowers. Then they go into the pupa stage in a loose cocoon partially hidden by leaf litter. They lay dormant all winter and hatch when the weather turns warm again.

My son finally decided to take a plastic gallon ice cream container like the one he uses for water for the dog. He captured the moth by enclosing it against the wall and covered the plastic container with an aluminum pie pan. When he took it outside he released the hummingbird moth and off it flew.

And the next time you see a pretty hummingbird take another look. It might be a pretty hummingbird moth.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Red Light, Blue Light

I went to town the other day to do some shopping. I waited for the light to change so I could make a left turn. I had my turn signal on.

Imagine my surprise to see a police car turn right behind me. I was surprised because the lights on the police car were signalling that I should stop.

As soon as I found a safe place I pulled over. The police car was right behind me with the lights flashing.

Now I knew that I had not been speeding. I was stopped at a red light. I knew that I had flipped my turn signal on. That is a habit for me and I do it without thinking. I was puzzled.

The policeman stepped from his car and came forward. He leaned forward toward my open window, smiled pleasantly, and said, "Hi. I'm Officer So-and-so of the city police department. Were you aware that your tail light is not working?"

I was not.

The dog was with me and she began to bark. He looked at her and said, "He sounds like a big one." I explained to him that she does not trust most men. (She was a rescue that had been abused.)

The officer chuckled and told me that he must be in double jeopardy for being a man and being in uniform. He politely asked me for the necessary paperwork which I gave him.

He went back to his car to make sure I was honest. When he came back he handed me all the documents. He told me I would need to have the tail light fixed as soon as possible.

I actually thanked him for pulling me over as he walked back toward his car.

Now let me tell you the main reason I am telling you about this.

I lived in the big city for far too long. If I had been stopped the officer would have sauntered up to my car. He would not have introduced himself.

He would have demanded my driver's license. Then he would have demanded the paperwork for my vehicle. Then he would have snatched them from me a marched back to his squad car.

After determining that I had all my affairs in order he would have written a ticket. He would stomp back to my car and shove all the papers including the ticket into my face. Well... into the window so I could grab them.

I would drive away knowing that I had to repair my tail light. Then I would have to appear at the police station to prove that I had fixed the problem.

All in all it would have been an extremely unpleasant experience.

The way it was handled by the officer here was not unpleasant at all. I will have the light repaired. I do appreciate knowing that it was not working. But I felt human rather than criminal and a waste of space.

I went from the experience the other day feeling good about myself and the situation. What a difference a smile and a good attitude make.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Little Girl With A Big Heart

 My daughter had complained about her "weird" feet since she was a child. She said they were shaped funny. I figured it was because she just did not appreciate her feet. They looked fine to me.

When she was a pre-teen she ended up with plantar warts. The foot specialist I took her to see treated them over a period of time and she was fine.

But her feet became a problem over time. She worked at a job that required her to be on her feet all day. She visited the foot specialist often.

They finally decided it would be best to remove the bunionettes. He recommended doing one foot at a time. She had the worst one taken care of then put off doing the other foot.

The foot specialist retired. My daughter ignored the remaining bunionette for years.

In the meantime she had two children. Her doctor and the doctor who treated the children was a nice young man. He was the father of twin girls who were the same age as my granddaughter.

He saw to it that my daughter had the final foot taken care of.

Then my daughter needed to have her tonsils removed. It would be an outpatient surgery. As fate would have it one of her doctor's daughters was scheduled to have her tonsils removed the same day.

My daughter was in a little area that was sectioned off for a patient awaiting surgery. She had been given a mild sedative to relax her. She waited. She waited some more. She waited longer. The sedative began to wear off.

She and her children's father heard the sirens of an ambulance. There was a lot of commotion inside the clinic.After a very long wait they came and restarted the procedure for my daughter and she had her tonsils removed.

Several days later my daughter had to see her doctor to see that she was healing properly. Another doctor was filling in for him.

After some detective work my daughter found out that all the hubbub the day she had her tonsils removed was because of her doctor's daughter. When they went to remove her tonsils they discovered something else which turned out to be throat cancer.

That poor little girl had a really hard time. Eventually her father took time from his ob to take care of her and her twin sister. He shaved his head to match hers when her hair fell out from the chemotherapy.

Every year there is a cancer walk which raises money for cancer treatment and research. It is held at a high school track field. People ask for sponsors to donate money for them walking.

Many of the people who walked were pat of a team. The doctor's little girl had a team of her own. Her sister and classmates walked. There was another team of people who worked at the doctor's office. There was another team of his patients and their families. It was glorious and inspirational to see.

After a long battle the doctor's daughter died. But she had been the driving force behind a lot of money raised to fight cancer to benefit others.

The walk became an annual event. A team named after the doctor's daughter still participates.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Let There Be Light

I was sitting here minding my own business. The ballgame was on television and for a change the Tigers were winning. My son was resting in his room.

Suddenly there was a quick flash of light outside. The television screen went black. The lights dimmed.

There was still sound on the TV and I was afraid to turn it off for fear it would not come back on. I wanted to hear the end of the game. I could not check the score on my computer because the internet was not working.

My son came from his room. He said, "We're having a brown-out." I knew that. We waited to see if the problem would fix itself. It did not.

I was going to make spaghetti for supper. With no lights (or very little) in the kitchen I could not see to cook. We decided to take a run into a bigger city for fast food.

As we walked out to get into the truck the woman across the street came out of her house. She said that the whole town was without power but the electric company was on its way.

She lives with her son but he was out for the afternoon with friends. I asked her if she was okay. She was. Did she need anything? She did not. After I was sure that she just wanted to be the one to tell someone about the news we left.

As we were driving toward the highway we met a man who was towing the remains of a tree he had cut down behind his pickup. I told my son he was trying to remove the evidence that he was the cause of all this. We laughed.

It was a bit over an hour when we returned home. It is a long drive to get fast food here. There was no power at all.

My son went to his room before he sat down to eat. He was halfway there and the lights came on. Yay!!

The satellite dish had to reset the receiver before we could see if the TV was damaged. Thankfully it was fine.

There was a replay of the ballgame that night so I was able to see the end. Yay again.

We use CFL light bulbs to conserve energy. Unfortunately they do not adapt well to power outages. We had to replace several of them. That means we will have to replace them the net time we go to the store.

And I hate having to reset my alarm clock. The wall clock is battery operated so it needed no attention. And the telephone flashes after a power outage until an incoming call. So I had to have my son call me using his cell phone.

All in all it was an exciting day in my mundane life.

Oh by the way, the problem was not the man who cut down his tree. Whatever it was I saw the repair crew coming back from the opposite direction.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Run, Emma, Run!

I never have been able to run well. As a child I was awkward and slower than the rest of the kids. Because I was not graceful my ankles would twist and slow me down even more. It still happens.

As a child I was active. I liked to play tag and other running games. Football, basketball, and baseball were sports I liked too. Those are the ones that require running.

I barely passed the 50 yard dash time for President Kennedy's fitness challenge. And I do mean barely.

So I learned very early that if I was playing baseball I would have to hit the ball hard and far to make it safely to base. I am a good batter. I do hit it far and hard. I usually make it to first base.

As an adult I have been on a few softball teams. Softball is similar to baseball. For some reason women are expected to play softball rather than baseball. Do not ask. I have no idea why.

One softball team I was a part of was pretty good. It consisted of many women who were younger than me. One of them was even a physical education major in her last year of college. I managed to hold my own most of the time.

There was one day in particular that sticks in my mind.

I was up to bat. I hit the ball way out to right field. I managed to make it to first base.

The phys ed major was batting next.  She also hit the ball long and hard. I started to run to second base. I made it. Unfortunately the phys ed major was right behind me.

I ran at my top speed toward third base. With the phys ed major breathing down my neck all the way.

I had to keep running after I touched third base because the phys ed major was ready to touch the bag too. And of course we could not both be on third base. So I kept running.

The phys ed major stayed right behind me. She was not quite touching me but she was close. I wheezed all the way to home plate with the phys ed major right behind me.

She hit an in the park home run. It took me until the next inning before I was breathing normally again.

It seems that if I am forced I can run a little.