Friday, November 30, 2007

Wednesday was Mariel's birthday.

She's now a four-year-old.

I've always considered that to be a milestone. It's an age that has a whole lot going for it.

The walking and talking skills are pretty well-developed by this point. No more of that "toddler fall down syndrome" that Maggie Simpson displays.

There's a certain small amount of autonomy at this age; children are able to amuse themselves. Mariel is making up stories and acting them out with her toys, for instance. She can sit and watch some videos and actually pay attention to them. Best of all, she's able to turn off the TV before moving onto the next activity!

Mariel is not yet in kindergarten, so her days are full of play and self-motivated discoveries. She'll be sucked into the K - 12 school machine soon enough.

Right now she has the all-too-rare luxury of a stay-at-home-Mother and a Father who works a steady, first-shift job. This is much how it was for "Li'l Craig" back in 1962. It can be a very reassuring, "Leave It To Beaver" sort of feeling!

I remember my own turn as four year-old as being pretty sweet.

I hope Mariel's year is just as good.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Snap, Crackle and "Pop!"

This past weekend was the last regularly-scheduled "Father-Daughter Day" weekend.

It was nothing special. We did the "usual" stuff, with one exception.

I made Rice Krispies Treats for the first time ever.

Now, I like Rice Krispies Treats. I mean really, really like them.

My mom never made them, though. I'd have to scrounge them at the very rare functions where someone might have brought them to pass around. As a result, I've never had the opportunity to really pig out on them.


Last Saturday, I happened to notice there was a giant box of Rice Krispies sitting in the kitchen cabinet. It had been opened a couple weeks ago and it seemed as if it wasn't being eaten. There, staring me in the face, was the recipe for RK Treats!


All that was needed was 4 tbsp of margarine (check!), 6 cups of Rice Krispies (check!) and a 10 oz bag of marshmallows.

"Come on, Mariel!" said Daddy. "Let's go bye-bye to Food Lion and get some marshmallows!"

One trip to the store and eighty-nine cents later, we were back home and Daddy was melting 4 tbsp of margarine in a large sauce pan. Mariel was perched on a kitchen chair so as to watch the majesty of a ten ounce package of mini-marshmallows melting into a soupy tub of goo.


Into this mess, I poured the six cups of cereal. Then I scooped the resulting mixture into a prepared 9" x 13" cake pan and pressed it down into a 1" thick slab of goodness.

After an hour in the refrigerator, I cut off the first square so that the blue-ribbon panel of judges, i.e. Daddy and Mariel, could sample the results.

I bit into my square. MMmmmm! Perfection! It was everything a Rice Krispies Treat should be; a solid TEN!

Mariel took one bite, made a face and asked for a "vanilla bar" instead. (That's what she calls granola bars, folks.)

Model father that I am, I gave her a granola bar and finished her square.

Then I cut and ate another.

And another.

And another.

And another.

Yes, the pan was half-gone by the time Mommy came home from work at 5:00. And, also yes, Daddy was feeling pretty green.

Then it dawned on me. By eating a half pan of Rice Krispies Treats I had also eaten a half-bag of marshmallows!


What sort of an idiot would just sit down and start gobbling a bag of marshmallows with one hand while cramming down fistfuls of Rice Krispies with the other?

That would be, um, me.

And so ended our regularly-scheduled "Father-Daughter Days."

Happy Day After Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Culture Wars

The new Quality Manager (i.e. "my boss") came on board today. After he had spent a couple hours filling out various HR forms, the VP of Quality had a meeting with us.

Seems the recently-fired Quality Manager was mired in the "old culture" and wasn't getting the administrative-type Quality Systems stuff done. My observation was that he seemed to be spending 97% of his time gaging product or fighting fires.

The new QM and I are the great white hope for the "new culture."

I have a hazy idea that this means everyone in the plant is expected to follow the established, written procedures, so that we will have a system that will stand up to our customers' plant audits. Seemingly simple things like signing and dating forms are not consistently being done.

I wish I could say that I have a warm, fuzzy feeling that upper management is totally committed to this concept. I've asked some very basic questions about the list of duties I am to perform and I have have gotten in return what a less charitable person than myself would call "ye olde blow-off."

I am going to try to use this indifference in a positive way. That is, I'm going to interpret these sort of non-responses as carte blanche to re-invent whatever I feel needs to be re-invented. I'll find out what the road blocks are and see if there are ways to make compliance "user friendly" for the folks on the floor.

I'd like to see an in-plant PR campaign to get people on board with the "new culture concepts." Things like fifteen minute departmental meetings, notices, posters and the like would help to promote the "right way" of doing things. It's corny, but unless you know what your targets are you can't know if you're hitting them.

We'll see, we'll see...

Next: Too Many Marshmallows

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pegging the Pragmatometer.

Well, folks, I strolled into work at 7:00 Friday morning to complete my first week at the dishwasher rack factory. I was greeted by George, the Quality Manager.

He was in a bit of a manic mode, but he explained he had to leave early.

He rattled off a short list of some things I should take care of after he left:

  • Hang the receiving tags I had filled out for the 20 boxes of components for which I had finished the incoming inspection. "Find Kenny. He'll help you hunt them down," he said.

  • Enter a half-dozen new gages into the calibration system.

  • Start working on the gage R & R studies, using the samples in the gage drawer.

Well, OK, fine. At least I now have a "to do" list.

While I was out on the floor looking for this Kenny guy, an announcement cave over the PA. "All supervisors report to the front office."

I couldn't find Kenny, so I doubled back through the front office, just as all the supervisors came trucking out of the Plant Manager's office.

"Oh, hey, Craig," the PM called to me. "I should have had you in here with the other guys just now."

"Oh, Hi, Rab," I replied. "What's up?"

"We just let George go this morning," he stated.

"Oh, really?" I said. (Left unsaid: "You mean the guy who was going to train me?")
"Yeah. Sorry to do that on your first week," he said, "but it's a done deal. If you need anything, just come and see me."


Just. Great.

I am so screwed, people.

More to come: "Culture Wars!"

Thursday, November 15, 2007


As youngsters will, Mariel banged her head last week.

It was far for ER-worthy, but she did scream, cry and resist all attempt at being comforted. When she calmed down sufficiently I told her the following story.

One time, when Daddy was just your age, he and his Mommy went across the street to visit Mrs. Morton and her kids. While Mommy and Mrs. Morton had coffee, Li'l Craig scampered down to the basement to play the the Morton children.

One thing led to another and it was decided to have a race, clear across the basement, to see who was the fastest runner.

"On your mark. Get set. GO!"

I put my head down, like an Olympic sprinter, and took off at top speed across the room.


I saw stars.

My head felt as if it was going to split in two.

I was screaming louder than an air raid siren.

I had run, head first, right into the cinder block basement wall!

Both Mothers came running down the stairs to see what had happened.

Finding me sitting on the floor, screaming, my Mom tried to comfort me.

"Craig!" she said. "Craig! What happened?"

"Whaaaah!" I wailed while windmilling my arms at her.

"Why are you hitting me?" she asked. "I didn't do anything to you!"

"Whaaaah!" I replied.

I eventually sprouted a big, cartoon-like lump on my head.

Mariel found this anecdote to be so funny that she stopped crying and started giggling.

In fact it has entered her repertoire of stories.

"Bam!" she'll howl between giggles. "Craig, Craig, what's wrong?"

Ah, Daddy's little girl...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Calibrating The Pragmatometer

As I think I mentioned at least once before, in an ideal world a Quality Assurance person would be 100% dogmatic. In fact, this goofy belief cost me 'way too much capital at my first major Quality gig.

I've had to learn to be "pragmatic" about how a company really wants their Quality System run.

On "Day Two" of my new job, I became aware that I would have to recalibrate my expectations about how things are handled at the dishwasher rack factory. I had, like, three documents that were referenced in doing an incoming inspection on some components and none of them agreed with each other.

After talking to several people, including the fellow who had retired from the job, I've come to the pragmatic conclusion that this is how they want it and I should just do what had been done previously.


After spending the morning coming to that conclusion, I returned from lunch and "got on with it."

It's hard to believe that it was only a week ago that I was planning my "last day at the printing plant" festivities with the biscuits and everything. It truly seems like a lifetime ago and, I guess it really was.

My first paycheck from the new gig should be in my hot little hands a week from tomorrow. Talk about a "Happy Thanksgiving!"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Work and Play

Well, today was my first day as "Quality Engineer" at the dishwasher rack factory.

I spent the first half of the day poring through their Quality Manual. The second half of the day was spent reviewing the gauge calibration records and daily quality reports.

Good News: The gauge calibrations appear up-to-date and none are due until sometime in 2008.

Bad News: The daily quality reports have been piling up for two weeks and many of them are not filled out completely. Little things like the operators' names and the date the records were compiled were missing. Don't know how I'm going to catch up, especially since so much vital info is missing. Huh.

I met some of my fellow QC team-mates. I made some really mild comment which earned the remark, "Oh, good. he has a sense of humor; he'll fit in here!" Whew.

I'm looking forward to finding out more about the processes and what they expect me to do. In the mean time it'll be orientation, orientation, orientation.
In other news...

Mariel, along with Mommy, went to a birthday party at a local roller rink today. They both had a blast! She had fun on the skates, played some games and enjoyed palling around with her friend, Trinity.

This is good news as the three of us tried to go out to dinner with the folks from Michelle's office Saturday night and we didn't even get to order before it became obvious Mariel was not going to settle down.

She became obsessed with some sort of computer monitor at the bar that was flashing trivia game questions. When I pried her away from that she glommed on to this giant gumball machine they had by the front door. When it became apparent that she was going to throw a fit if forced to go back to the table, we booked.

We went home for an extra-long "time out" after which we feasted on cold cereal and bad vibes.

I'm so happy Mommy and Daughter had a good time at the roller rink!

It will be interesting to see how my new job schedule affects the frequency and quality of these here posts. My apologies for the inevitable reduction in both. With any luck it will be a short-term situation.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

More Transition Stuff

Well, as it turns out, my wife has officially handed in her notice at the urgent care office.

The other two Radiologic Technologists can't re-arrange their schedules to cover the 12 hour shift Michelle was working on Friday prior to my scoring the five-day-a-week gig. The Doctor is not in a position where he feels he can hire a fourth tech to cover that one day, so my wife is bowing out.

Otherwise, we'd have to find some sort of child care option that would look after Mariel between 8AM - 5:30PM that one day a week. The idea of her working all day so we could afford to pay stranger(s) to look after Mariel didn't seem like "good value for the money."

(Maybe I'll suggest she do that "bag o' biscuits" thing on her last day..?)

Michelle will continue to teach her two-nights-a-week course at the Community College, though. The next session is slated to start up again on January 28th.

Next weekend will be the last couple of regularly-scheduled "Father-Daughter Days!"

Mariel seems to have picked on the vibes associated with the coming changes and has been anxious lately. Yesterday she started to ask for her "binky" and then corrected herself.

"Big girls don't need a binky," she stated with her lower lip jutting forward.

"Sometimes it 's hard to be a big girl, isn't it, Honey?" I responded.

"Uh huh," she sighed.

It put me in mind of a brief scenario I remember from when I was just a few month older than she is now.

One day, in what I'm guessing was the Spring of 1962, four-year-old Craig was home with his Mother and infant brother, Scott.

Sister Kim was off at school and the baby must have been taking a nap.

Mom was standing in the living room, probably in transition between household chores.

I walked up to her and said, "Mommy, can you pick me up?" I remember "needing a hug" at that moment.

"Craig," she responded. "You're getting too big to pick up, any more."

"Yeah, I guess so," I admitted. "But just this last time?"

What Mother could resist?

She picked me up and we hugged for what seemed like a good, long time. I imagine when it reached the point where her notoriously bad back couldn't take it any longer, she set me down.

"Thanks," I said.

I think we both knew it was the end of an era.

Soon, and sooner than any of us want it to be, we'll be re-enacting a similar scene with Mariel.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Good Day

Yesterday was a good day.

A very good day.

I awoke at my regular time, but didn't have breakfast. Instead, I grabbed a large sheet of white cardboard and made a sign. It said, "Hey! It's been great workin' with you! Have A Biscuit!"

I got showered, shaved and dressed and left the house early.

I stopped off at Hardee's and bought two dozen bacon-egg-n-cheese biscuits. (My apologies to my vegetarian readers. Hell, my apologies to anyone who eats sensibly!)

I got to work a few minutes early and taped the aforementioned sign to the wall above the counter in the break room. I heaped the breakfast biscuits on the counter beneath the sign. Snagging a coffee and a biscuit bomb, I booked over to my office and booted up the computer one last time.

A steady trickle of co-workers stopped by to thank me for the HardeeGrams and to offer their heartfelt wishes for the new job. Others stopped me and were kind enough to let me know I was one of the "best people" they had ever worked with. I let them know that the feeling was mutual, because it was. The pressmen, QC people and the rest of the "floor staff" and I got along famously!

The Vice President stopped by to ask, "Now, tomorrow's your last day, right?"

"No, Boo," I replied. "Today is. Remember, I gave it to you in writing? It's also the last day of the payroll cycle."

Slapping her forehead, she said, "Oh, that's right! Well, you have some earned sick time coming, so I'll make sure Michelle works that into your check this week."

Bonus! I thought I wouldn't be getting what turned out to be 7.49 hours of pay. Schweet!

That morning I finished up the Corrective Action Responses for a customer audit, made copies, got the SOP manuals and controlled documents files all up to date and street legal.

When I was going around getting the final approval signatures, the QC Manager was amazed.

"Hey," she joked, "This is your last day, you don't need to be doing this kinda stuff!"

Yep, I cleared off my "to do" list and spent the rest of the day purging my desk of all the crap that accumulates over the course of not-quite-two-years.

It was a great feeling. The folks I worked with appreciated me (as I did them) and for the first time in my life I was leaving one job to go to a "better" job.

No tears, no remorse, no being escorted out of the building carrying a hastily-packed copier paper box. Just good vibes!

"Now, Craig," the Plant Manager said. "You always got a home here. If things don't work out y'all come back!"

As I was getting in my car at the end of the day, the QC Manager yelled across the parking lot, "Bye, Craig! Take care of yourself!"

"Oh, like I'm gonna start to now?" I hollered back.

It was a good day.

A very good day.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Veep Boo-Boos

As I look back on the job I'm leaving, I feel compelled to list some of the Vice President's "Greatest Hits."

These are things she has said or done that are either rib-tickling funny or jaw-dropping terrifying, depending on which side of the fence you're on.
Po-Tay'-To / To-Mah'-to. This exchange took place while the VEEP was interviewing someone for a front-office job. She was right outside my cubicle which explains my "participation" in the hilarity.

VEEP: (Looking at applicant's resume) Oh, it says here you're a phlebotamist.


VEEP: Oh, so you collect stamps!

ME: Bwah-hah-hah! (This took me so by surprise I burst out laughing. Good thing I wasn't drinking anything or it would have shot out my nose.)

VEEP: (Puzzled) Isn't that what a phlebotamist does?

ME: A phlebotamist collects blood! A philatelist collects stamps!

Fun With Microsoft Word.

VEEP: (Working on some sort of document) Toni! Come here and show me how to cut and paste again!

It's the twenty-first century everywhere but here, where it is perpetually 1979.
Designer Pandemic Panic.

The VEEP became obsessed with (and that would be putting it mildly) the thought of a nation-wide, infrastructure -crippling outbreak of the Bird Flu.

As a result, the plant was put through a two week drill.

The employees were broken up into two groups, each working separate twelve-hour shifts. Everyone had to wear surgical face masks and latex gloves at all times. We were instructed to wash our hands with hot soapy water while singing two choruses of "Happy Birthday To You." We had to label all our pens & pencils so as not to accidentally cross-contaminate via shared writing implements. We were given our own spray bottles of disinfectant cleaner so we could disinfect our work areas.

I have since asked people who work at major and minor health care facilities (eg. Duke University & my wife's urgent care office) if they had done such a drill.


It would appear that none of our customers had made such contingencies, either.

Ultimately, this was used as a marketing tool to prove that we were ready for the impending pandemic.

What does "Minimum" mean?

Here's a classic bit from when I was offered this job, back in December, 2005.

VEEP: Craig, we're very impressed with your resume and job history.

ME: Well, thanks.

VEEP: Now, on your employment agency application, you put down that the minimum wage you'd accept is [X] dollars an hour.

ME: Uh huh. The last time I did contract work it was for [X+8] dollars an hour, but [X] is pretty much the least amount I can squeak by on.

VEEP: Will you take [X-1] dollars an hour?
Arrrgh! Here I was, three months past the expiration of my unemployment insurance payments and this was the only company, out of the fifty-plus I had applied to or interviewed with, that was offering me any kind of job. I swallowed hard and accepted the gig at [X-1] dollars an hour as a contract employee.

Later, I found out that the company was paying [X+50%] dollars an hour to the employment agency for my services. It amounted to very nearly an extra $200/week! Well, I guess that's how employment agencies work...

Flash-forward to when their Quality Systems Manager handed in her notice. I was brought back into the office.

VEEP: Craig, as you probably heard, So-And-So is leaving.

ME: Uh-huh.

VEEP: We'd like to bring you on the payroll and offer you her position.

ME: Wow, that'd be great! (Here, I'm thinking that they would pay me the [X+50%] dollars an hour they had been paying the employment agency.)

VEEP: Now, we have to let the last few weeks of the employment agency contract run its course. But once it does, you'll become a full-fledged employee and we'll bump your salary up to [X] dollars an hour!
What a sweet deal... for them! They were agreeing to pay me the previously-stated minimum amount to take over this job and in the process they would be paying well over $100 a week less for my services.

It's good to be the Queen!

As a bonus, I've brought last Summer's "professionalism" posts out of moth balls.

Bon apetit!

Monday, November 05, 2007


Well, you know, boys and girls, Halloween is over and November is here. We are now entering that giddy time of the year where the stress and anxiety becomes so thick that you can cut it with an axe!

Let's take a look at some of the random stuff coming up in this glorious month, shall we?
1. My Last Day of Work. I'll be leaving the printing plant's employ on 11/07. I'm thinking of bringing in some sort of treat for my coworkers as they've been a pretty great bunch. This being North Carolina, I'm considering making it a whole bunch of breakfast biscuits, but we'll see...
2. My One "Day Off." On Thursday, 11/08, I'm hoping to carve out a couple hours to finish installing the operating system on the computer may pal, Bill, sent me. This will entail getting the modem working so I can register it with the good folks at Microsoft. Also, the sound card will need to be brought back to life. Then, maybe I can get the scanner and printer functional. Dare to dream, says I. Just found out I have to be at the new plant for an "employee orientation meeting" Thursday morning. Well, maybe I can do the computer "thang" in the afternoon. As I said, "Dare to dream!"

3. Last "Father-Daughter Day" Friday. 11/09 will be the last in a long series of "Father-Daughter Fridays." My wife has put her employer on notice that she can no longer work 8AM - 8PM on Fridays because of my new work schedule. The idea that strangers should be paid to watch Mariel while Mommy works, so she can afford to pay the strangers just doesn't make sense.
4. First Day at the New Job! This Monday will usher in a new era of 90 mile round trips to the dishwasher rack factory. Insert all the "new job stressors" here.
5. Pre-Thanksgiving Preparations. Sadly, Michelle's Aunt Kathy, her dog, Gus and her friend, Mayme, won't be able to come down for Thanksgiving as originally hoped. Some folks from Michelle's Urgent Care Clinic will be, though. The house will have to be cleaned out and cleaned up from top-to-bottom. With any luck I can attend to some lawn care chores, as well.
6. Thanksgiving. Baking, cooking, cleaning, hosting, more cleaning!
7. Mariel's Birthday! My sweet daughter turns four on 11/28. We're hoping to have some folks over, so that means more cleaning, cake, wrapping, unwrapping, etc.

Whew! Then, on 12/4, Michelle's parents and her sister will arrive for a week-long stay. I love my in-laws and the feeling is mutual, so it is not a bad thing that they're coming. It will just mean more cleaning, skewed sleeping arrangements and keeping company entertained for a week. I'm so happy to have company, I don't care.

Oh, and then there's that whole Christmas thing...

Down we go! Yaaaaaaay!!!

Friday, November 02, 2007

What Went Right?!?!?

So how did this new job come to pass?

Some time ago, there was an ad in the local newspaper looking for a "Quality Engineer" at a manufacturing plant in Clinton, NC. I had applied to this company at least two other times in the past, but they were for positions that didn't quite fit my experience and skill set.

Well, I once again sent in my resume and promptly forgot about it.

The plant's VP of Quality called the house and wanted to talk to me about the position. We arranged to chat on one of my "Father-Daughter Fridays."

The phone interview went well and we arranged for an "in-person" session at the plant.

I met with the VP of Q and we talked about the plant's quality system, my history in QA / QC and various other related topics. We must have jawed for at least an hour. We went down the hall to the Plant Manager's office and I chatted with him for about fifteen minutes. He even gave me a better route back to Fayetteville!

A few days later, the VP of Q called to arrange another interview with the VP of Operations who was to be in town from their corporate HQ in Cleveland, Ohio.

I came in and talked with the big VEEP for another hour or so and then drove home.

Then, the HR Director form Cleveland arranged for another phone interview on yet another "Father-Daughter Friday." There was yet more talk followed up by a request for contact information for my previous supervisors. I gave him the info and rang off.

There was a slight glitch with this last part, as my most recent supervisor had moved since the Spring of 2005. My wife fielded the call from the HR Director and got him the new phone number. Whew.

The VP of Q called last Friday and offered me the job, whereupon I went into shock.

"Could this really be happening?"

They couldn't formally hire me until I passed a company physical and drug test, so once again I drove out to Clinton, NC to fill out forms and make with the specimen.

On Tuesday, the results were back and they were favorable. The VP of Q called me at work and finalized the deal.

So, what went right this time?

I don't know.

But missing from the above were idiotic things like personality testing, four-hour 360 degree multi-departmental review sessions and employment service pimps.

The fact that I was able to do my initial interview with the actual Quality Department Guy and not some intermediary may have helped.

Perhaps I was so worn down by the myriad of bogus interviews over the last few years that I was finally able to give a series of employer-pleasin' interviews.

Maybe it was sheer pity on the company's part.

Who knows?

Who cares?

I'm still asking myself, "Can this really be happening?"

With any luck,the shock will wear off and I can get back to posting what Dorky Dad has called "Classic Craig" stuff soon.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Transition Time Ahead!


Gonna start the new job on Monday, 11/12/07.

I hope the illustration, at left, is not prophetic.

Naturally, my noggin is spinning with all kinds of random, yet related, thoughts.
This is the first time since 1981 where I have left a job "on my own terms!"

Back then, I had been working at the Carborundum company as a Quality Control Technician and I tendered my resignation to go to Toronto to work as the "Production Supervisor" on an animated feature film. Sounds impressive, but a few months later the crew had imploded and I was back home, licking my wounds.

As a result of being "at large" I applied to an electronics company to be their QC Technician, and that gig lasted nearly 16 years!

Nice save, eh?

The new job offers much more affordable Medical Insurance than the current one. Mariel will come off Children's Medicaid and go on Daddy's policy.

The rub is that the Health Insurance won't be available to me until after I've been on the payroll for 90 days. Hmm... seems to me that the magic number for disallowing benefits under most plans is a 62 day lapse in coverage.

This means I'll need to lose the rest of my meagre savings by paying the full-price of my current plan for the next three months.

See how that works?

COBRA is a cruel, cruel joke.
Friday, as "Father-Daughter Day," will become a thing of the past.

Michelle is making arrangements to drop her 8AM - 8PM shift at the urgent care every Friday, because I'll now be working a standard five day work week.

She'll no doubt maintain her every-other-weekend Saturday/Sunday schedule, so Father-Daughter Day will continue. Just not on Fridays.
Things about my current job I will miss:

  • The people on the shop floor were very friendly and cooperative. They were easily the nicest bunch I've ever encountered.
  • The short, seven mile commute. The new plant is 45 miles away!
  • The shop was kept very clean and is climate controlled.

I'll hold off on a list of what I won't miss, because I don't have the energy for it, right now.