29 March 2013

Golden appeal

My brother is over in Italy right now and made the following observation:  Goldens are loved...and big chick/dude magnets..

Posso ottenere una mano di un gellato?

28 March 2013

The Color Purple

Call me Barney

Despite my occasional whining about some of the headaches I deal with at the office over parts and people, fundamentally the company's heart is in the right place.  Part of our mission statement is “To improve the lives of people with Epilepsy” and, while it might make for a great marketing slogan or catchy PR phrase, they really do “walk the walk”.  It’s one thing to say you support the patients, actually doing something about it is another.  And it hasn't always been that way.  I've been around here long enough to see the pendulum swing in the opposite direction.  The company used to be all about growing the business, capturing the greatest market share, increasing profits.  I participated, contributed but, honestly, I didn't think that senior management really bought into the mantra.  I did several Epilepsy walks and did not see the CEO or half the senior  management participate.  In my mind,  they never really lived the mission.  That all  changed when the new senior management came on board 5 years ago.  The new CEO is heavily invested  in the mission and the people of the company.  From charities, to corny contests, to holiday notes, he has really inspired people to go above and beyond. 

That said, we got this message from the CEO last week (below).  Tuesday was officially Purple Day.  A day where everyone is to wear purple to increase awareness about epilepsy worldwide.  We were encouraged  to wear purple for the day as a show of support and roughly 2/3rds actually participated including moi (yes, I have a purple shirt – well, actually it is more lavender ).  It was a nice show of support but I have to admit that purple is NOT  one of my primary colors.  

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Cassidy Megan is the Founder of Purple Day.  Purple Day is an international grassroots effort dedicated to increasing awareness about epilepsy worldwide. On March 26th annually, people in countries around the world are invited to wear purple and host events in support of epilepsy awareness. Last year, people in dozens of countries on all continents including Antarctica participated in Purple Day!

Purple Day was founded in 2008, by nine-year-old Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada, with the help of the Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia (EANS). Cassidy chose the color purple after the international color for epilepsy, lavender. The lavender flower is also often associated with solitude, which is representative of the feelings of isolation many people affected by epilepsy and seizure disorders often feel. Cassidy's goal is for people with epilepsy everywhere to know they are not alone. To learn more about Cassidy and Global Purple Day Partners EANS and The Anita Kaufmann Foundation (AKFUS).  

Go to http://purpleday.org/  for additional information, including helpful resources and links….

Thanks to Kim for the idea of encouraging participation and providing this information.


24 March 2013

Primavera (or Happy Barfday)

Been a quite week in Lake Aggbegone.  Trying to catch up at work, dealing with all sorts of crises, planning next year's budget, laying out plans for our next round of audits.  Did a quite tally of the supplier audits we have queued up for the next 12 months and it turns out this year is going to be one of the heavy ones.  So far, we are up to 26 audits, not counting some of the new suppliers we are considering.  And they are pretty much all over the map - 4 on the east coast, 5 on the west coast, 7 in Minnesota, 4 in Europe, 2 in the far East, and that doesn't even include the local ones.  Glad we've got at least 3 lead auditors to spread the wealth.  Looks like I might be up for the European treks again this year.  I don't mind doing the trips (well, truthfully, I do), it is just all the hassles with long flights and airport headaches that make them a real pain in ass.  I've been stockpiling several good books for the flights and just got my hands on the inaugural compelling saga from Lotta Joy.  An spell binding story, but I'm hoping to save it for my flight to Amsterdam in May (that is, if Lotta Joy quits taunting us with excerpts).   
Hot off the press
I know this might be rubbing it in for some of my northern friends who are freezing their tails off, but spring has finally shown up down here, albeit a bit late.  Grass is starting to grow, the oak tree has started to shed leaves and is putting out its frond (here comes the pollen), the local hardware chains are pushing their annuals and plants, everyone is buying new mulch.  Not me.  Not yet.  I won't be fooled that easily.  I will wait until a week or so before I drop new plants.  I've been tricked before into planting flowers only to have mother nature come back with one last freeze.  Primavera is Spanish for Spring.  One local columnist I have followed for years used to take a road trip to south Texas to greet spring and he called it Primavera.  He and an old friend would drive south until they reached a point where the Mesquite trees were starting to bloom and decided that was the line where spring began.  They amassed over 20 some odd trips over the years with all sorts of tales.  The dogs are soaking up the sunshine and cooler temps outside.  This is what we call chamber of commerce weather we are enjoying right now.  Way more tolerable than the 99+ temps we will have by July.          
Enjoying the sun
Claire in her natural state
Of course, Thursday was one more milestone for me.  Another lap around the sun.    Momma wanted to take me out but had to spend more time over with her parents since her dad is in the hospital.  That's ok by me.  I've had too many birthdays before to really get all jazzed up about them anymore.  

I have been on the hunt for some of the newest St Arnold's batch of Divine Reserve.  The brew up a limited quantity of beer from a different recipe each year and bottle it for the public.  These limited runs have become a hard to find as an honest politician.  The day each batch comes out, there is a 2 hour line at our local liquor store for just one six pack.  I tried to score one of my own, but every place I tried was sold out.  Thursday night a local pub tapped several kegs of DR13 with a commemorative St Arnold's growler (refillable jug) as a promo for the place, so I made a run over there just to try it out.  Excellent Belgium quadruple bock style beer.  More in line with several of the Belgium ales I got to sample while in Brussels last year.  And at 11% ABV, it ain't a light beer.           
Growler of DR 13
Of course, my enterprising son texted me a picture yesterday where he stumbled across a stash of this beer in Austin.  Almost tempted to make drive to Austin.
Hard to find DR 13
Now that's how I would prefer to quietly celebrate a birthday.  However, when it's your birthday, why not go all out?  I figured I deserved something special so I picked up a nice upset stomach.  Not sure if it was something going around at the office, or from the Chinese food I had for lunch, the burger I had at the bar, or the DR13, but by 0300 I was up tossing my cookies.  By 0530, was pretty worn out and figured this was going to be a while so I e-mailed my boss and told him I was taking a pass on the day.  Was pretty much out of sorts for most of the day and did not really start to feel human again until Friday night.  Slept most of the day, drank lots of Sprite, caught up on several movies in the queue (Flight, Skyfall, Dark Knight Rises, Taken 2).  Yesterday was feeling well enough to take the dogs to the dog park.  

20 March 2013

Quality Control

I mentioned earlier that my company manufactures medical device.  Our products and services are highly regulated by all sorts of government regulations and agencies.  FDA, GMP, ISO, CE are all part of the culture.  Change does not come quickly or easily around here.  I’ve often told people that we are so tightly regulated that we can’t change brands of toilet paper without getting FDA approval.  I wear many different hats but my primary role in this place is to buy stuff.  I run the procurement department for the company.  My group's charter is to find and qualify suppliers for just about everything.  From nuts & bolts to equipment to supplies to contracts, everything comes through our little department.  We get to write the checks.  It is interesting to see exactly what we actually pay some of the consultants we hire. 

Being an ISO company, one of the critical aspects of our role is supplier controls.  We have a very tedious and extensive process were we qualify a supplier.  It can take up to several months and requires a thorough evaluation of the prospective company and their systems.  Usually we wind up going to the facility where the parts are made and conducting an extensive systems audit.  That’s another one of the hats I wear.  That is why I am frequently out on the road visiting with various suppliers around the world (hey - it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it).  Part of my job is to go out to each manufacturer and inspect how they build  the product, how they put things together, how they maintain records, etc.  It is all part of the Quality Control system.  We are ISO 13485 certified (international standards for Medical Device manufacturers) and both ISO and the FDA expect us to maintain a heightened level of control over the products and  processes used to make our stuff.  Quality Control is critical to a company’s reputation and success, especially when it involves medical implants.  We spend a lot  of money and time investigating and exploring suppliers and their quality.  If one supplier cuts corners or creates a defect, it could have a serious impact to our patience, our business.  Recalls seem to be a way of life, especially when it  comes to cars, but in a medical device company it can be the kiss of death. 

lululemon athleticaThat said, I find it mildly interesting/amusing about the saga of Lululemon and their recall of yoga pants.  Lululemon has been making exercise clothing for years has had a recent rash of “sub-par” product out in the field.  It appears that, while the pants have essentially remained unchanged, somewhere in the supply chain, the material formulation has changed and now they are having to recall some portion of their black luon yoga pants because they are a wee bit more “revealing” that originally planned for.  I've gotta give them props for stepping up and owning this.  This faux pas will cost them some serious money but they are working to make this right by their customers.  Normally, I don’t find recalls all that funny but this one just struck me as a wee bit amusing.  If you don’t keep an eye on quality, it may come back to bite you in the end.  Don’t get caught with your pants down. 

Lululemon's quality stand:  Quality is at the heart of everything we do, from the technical features we (sometimes literally) weave into our products, to the people we work with and relationships we build.

Addendum:  apparently this is a bigger crisis than I had originally thought...

16 March 2013


I was driving home the other night in Elvis.  Still trying to figure out the various buttons/settings.  Momma has yet to drive Elvis for any extended period of time - she's a bit paranoid about who will get the first scratch.  I am getting used to driving it but it is a wee different that the Land Barge.    

When I pulled into the neighborhood, I spotted a dog in the yard across the street from our house.  The dog had no collar and looked young/scared.  I was worried that the dog would run out into the street so I parked Elvis and came back to check on it.  Very skittish, but friendly.  A young Australian Shepherd.  As I got closer, I could tell it was: 1) a puppy; 2) female; 3) had no collar; 4) very nervous/shy.  She was friendly but unsure about me (couldn't blame her).  I thought she belonged to the neighbor whose yard she was in so I went up to the house and rang the bell.  The woman came out and said it wasn't hers.  Two neighbors walked by and the did not know who owned it.  Looked to be very young and sweet and a local dog, but no one had any idea as to who it belonged to.  I  decided to take her across the street with me to see if we could hold her until we found her owner.  Was considering taking her to vet to see if she had a chip.  I got Claire's leash/collar but that turned out to be way too big for a puppy so I had to find a back up collar.  Finally corralled her and took her home but you could tell she was not used to walking on a leash.  Let her into my back yard to give keep her safe.    

Hello Maggie

Now, at this point I would point out that my two were just besides themselves cause I hadn't greeted them yet.  They could see the activity outside but weren't involved so they were a bit put out.  With the puppy secured in the back yard, I attempted to introduce my two.  BIG MISTAKE.  Both Grayson and Claire are very loving dogs and not aggressive but as soon as they spotted "fresh meat" in the yard, they had to go check it out.  The puppy, however, had other ideas.  As soon as she spotted two big dogs 3x her size in the yard, she took off wailing and running away.  Of course, my two immediately tried to come to her aide but it only added to her fear/panic.  I had to separate them and bring her into the house to calm her down.  I sent a picture to Mary (DIL's mom) since they are part of the Aussie rescue group and was getting ready to canvass the neighborhood to see if anyone recognized her when the doorbell rang and a girl from down the street asked if we had her dog.  Turns out she is an 18 week old Aussie named Maggie that had gotten out her back yard (appears she's a digger).  No collar cause they had given her a bath.  No microchip either.  Was a happy reunion of dog/owners.  She was definitely a cutie and we would have loved to keep her for a few nights just to find her home, but my two would have probably been too much for her so we would have had given her to Mary and the Aussie rescue group.  That's enough drama for one day.  

Addendum:  Maggie was out again this morning (with a collar).  Apparently, she's becoming quite an escape artist.  

14 March 2013


Happy Pi Day!


Let your inner geek out.  

10 March 2013

Old dog, new tricks

For an old school neanderthal like me, technology can be a challenge.  I spent part of the weekend trying to reprogram a new garage door opener.  The Caddy had a built in door opener so, when I sold her, I had to get a new remote.  Of course, they don't make the same kind as when I installed the garage door opener in '07, so I had to rely upon the latest and greatest remote.  Took several attempts at reprogramming before it finally took hold.  Nothing like the old days when I had to reprogram the door openers by manually setting the binary switches in both the opener and remotes.  

It just goes to show how much technology changes.  I had to go through our files to find the garage door opener instructions to figure out how to program the codes.  While going through the old warranty files, I pulled out all sorts of old instruction/warranties for stuff we have bought over the years.  A vacuum cleaner that is long gone.  The technical book on the Motorola flip phone we once had.  The original contract for the bag phone I bought back in '95.  Or the the high end stereo system I bought with my first Army paycheck back in 1978.  

I saved up my money to buy a modular system with an amp and tuner and tape deck.  Even got a direct drive turntable for my albums.  The CD player came later.  I wanted a really good sound system at the time and spent some good coin getting the pieces.  Started out with cassette tapes and eventually migrated over to CDs.  I made a ton of mix tapes to take on the road for long trips.  Lots of jazz and country music.  An eclectic selection of music collected over the years.    

What I find interesting that is how all of my old tapes, CDs, and records fit in the palm of my hand.  Technology can be really amazing to an old fart like me.    

I am still trying to figure out all the new buttons on the new Edge (still pondering her name, but Elvis is starting to grow on me).  Took me two days to figure out how to program the radio settings.  One really neat feature is the radio sync system.  The car will sync to my iPhone as soon as I get in.  I can not only talk and make calls without touching the phone, it will also play the music I have on the phone without being hooked to the car.  Pretty neat trick.    

I did get one project done this weekend that has been long in coming.  Finally got the new skylight installed on the trailer.  I kept thinking this was going to be a long, complex pain in the assets project but it actually turned out to be incredibly simple.  The new light fit like a glove and took almost no time to install.  I just wish all my projects were that easy.       


02 March 2013

Changing horses

Thanks for all the encouragement.  Negotiating for a new set of wheels is not my forte, but I had planned this strategy out in advance so the day went well.  I have been working through various dealers on the net, fielding offers, countering with updates, looking for the best deal.  I landed a deal with my local dealer that was better than any of the other offers I had from the area, so I stuck with him.  I had pretty much settled on the model and options we wanted, so I was armored up and ready to do battle.   Turned out to be fairly smooth and drama-free.  I had my facts, my financing in order, my target price, the options we wanted.  It was nice to be armed with this knowledge so that I led the negotiations.  I had offers from several other dealers so I was ready to walk away if things did not pass the smell test.  In the end, we came to a deal and I drove away with a new set of wheels.

Now, my wife doesn't really like this part of the negotiations so she leaves it up to me.  Last time I bought a new car, my son was in middle school and just starting out in scouts.  Things have changed a wee bit since back then.  

Still, it had been a long day and, at some point, my personality kicked in for a while.  After working through the logistics of the deal for some time, she texted me about how it was going.  Of course, being a real AH, sent her the following picture with the message:  

Changed my mind.  Decided to get a Mustang instead.    
Size does matter

Holy sticker shock, Batman!
I don't know if anyone can really read that sticker but it is rather pricey.  I really love my old Mustang but $65k?  Holee meirde.  That's one primo ride.  

Alas, I did not go down that path.  I chose something more "sensible".  Something more in line with our lifestyle.  Something that fits our needs for now.  Seeing how I tend to name my chariots, I haven't come up with a name for her, yet, but I am taking suggestions.  In in interim, let me give ya'll a peak at the latest addition to the fleet: 

What to name her?  Eddie?  Edna?  Edith?  Edie?  Elvis?  

Chili times

Sorry for the lack of insightful comments (or meaningful comments on everyone's blogs) but the past two weeks have been wild.  Work has been uber busy (what's new?).  I spent last weekend over at the in-laws on various repair projects.  Much like others, the in-laws are in need of some of the basic repairs and I volunteered (got drafted).  I am slowly making the rounds to catch up on everyone else's posts.     

I sorta opened up Pandora's box this week by giving an inkling that we are looking for a new set of wheels and, OMG, I am now friends with half the dealers in south Texas.  It has been 13 years since we last bought a new vehicle and I am feeling a bit rusty.  Normally, I don't like dealing with car salesmen, but my role as purchasing manager has me dealing with people everyday trying to sell me something I really don't want or need.  This time is different.  I've gotten a more cynical approach.  It's my money and you need to convince me why I should give it to you.  I am heading out this afternoon to talk turkey with a dealer and may wind up with a new ride.  Nothing is set in stone, yet.    

This week at work as been very hectic.  Many deadlines, reports due.  This is our financial end of year and we are doing budgets for next year.  Despite those challenges, we had one of our fundraiser events again - the Chili Cook-off   5th year for this gig and people are going all out for chili and themes.  Everyone works to amp up the event and drum up votes for the best theme and best chili.  My group did a Gypsy Fortune teller theme and they won for best chili.  The Finance group did a "down under" Australian theme and took top prize for best decorated booth.  I really thought it should have gone to the IT group.  They did the Carnival Triumph theme complete with live preservers, captains chairs, port holes and a mocked up display of the bow of the ship as well as the flying orange "Y" smokestack (signature of the Carnival Cruise line).  What made it even more funny was the manager who was actually on the Triumph when it broke down dressed up as the the captain.  He wore his "complimentary" Carnival Bath Robe (most of the passengers were given them when they left the ship).  I talked with him at length and he indicated that it was not as apocalyptic as the media made out.  On top of the booths and chili contest, we had a jalapeno eating contest (same guy won it last year) and root beer chugging contest.  All-in-all, a pretty good time.  And they managed to raise a bit over $14k for the Epilepsy Foundation.  Not to bad.