23 November 2016

Shorter line

At the grocery store earlier this evening and the ladies room was down to one stall. The very nice maintenance guy offered to let us use the men's room, an offer I promptly took him up on. He guarded the door until I was done and there was one man waiting to use the facility, looking very annoyed at having to *wait* for *a bathroom.* I said "thank you!" and thought #CheckYourPrivilege.

11 November 2016

Meanwhile in America

I wear my freedom rings to say that I stand with my LGBTQ family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. I stand with them and want them to have all of the rights, privileges, and safety that I do.
I wear a safety pin on those rings to tell any woman of any religion, color, or nationality that I am a safe person to approach if they feel unsafe.
I attend a church that defies the idea that 11:00 Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.
This election changes none of those things, it only underscores my need for them.
To all my friends, liberal, conservative, and all others, I ask that we look to our best selves and our highest ideals, to listen to each other, and to encourage love and respect for all.
The future bends toward justice but we need to help prepare the way by how we treat each other.

05 February 2015

I made a math joke

Oh, God, what's become of me.

An email exchange between me and one of the contracting staff:

Me:  Remind [project manager] that typing in the names of the folks up the chain [into the form I'm processing before he sends it to me] makes me think that they’re already seen / approved the [form] which will bite me one day.  And then I’ll be looking for revenge.

Contracts Administrator:  Yes, I’ll remind [project manager] (again) not to fill in names.   I think he is trying to be helpful, sigh.

Me:  Yeah.  Tell him that he’s being (helpful)

09 July 2014

This is your pilot speaking

I've been researching twin engine aircraft for work recently and my favorite part about that is reading aviator-written descriptions of planes, handling, and the trade-offs with a second engine.  And my favorite part of aviator-written descriptions?  Their fondness for off-hand understatement.

For example, these are from AVSIM Commercial FSX Aircraft Review's* description of the Cessna Skymaster.  And, again, the first one is my favorite.  The last is my second favorite.

It has two of everything to maintain and replace, increasing operating and ownership costs. But, of course, it has two engines and that second engine just might save your life one day. Owners usually agree the extra cost is well worth it within minutes of an engine failure at a critical time.

My favorite Skymaster quote is from a pilot who had an engine failure in IFR** over the mountains at night. ATC asked, "Sir, are you declaring an emergency?" The Skymaster pilot replied, "No, I'm declaring an inconvenience."


In early days it was not uncommon to see aborted takeoffs of the C337 simply because the pilot failed to notice the rear engine had conked out somewhere along the taxi stage and the pilot also evidently failed to do a proper engine run-up and mag check prior to takeoff.  Posted placards state, at the insistence of the FAA that the normal operation should be to lead with only the rear engine for takeoff then follow with the forward engine.  This is to ensure the rear engine is actually running at normal power for takeoff.  Rotation and climb out would not be a good time to discover your twin is actually a single.  Single engine takeoffs are prohibited.

This is one of the reasons you see the C337 taxi with the tractor engine completely shut down.  One, you don’t need two engines to taxi, two, you save on fuel and wear and tear on parts, and [three], you probably won’t attempt a takeoff if the prop you are looking at is not turning.


I like the engine sounds*** so much that I load up the C337H in FSX, start the engine or engines, turn up the volume, minimize FSX, and then work on my writing or editing or forum surfing with these sweet sounds in the background.  It reminds me of those old days sitting in the hot sun in Miami waiting for takeoff clearance surrounded by big iron.  It drives my wife nuts.


The standard line is that there is very little indication of a rear engine failure. Other than the sputtering sound, the sudden and noticeable pressure on the restraining harness against your chest and the rapid loss of about 15 to 20 knots in airspeed, there aren't many clues. If someone cannot feel this and see the drop in fuel flow and cylinder head temperatures, they probably should not be flying anything.

*An aviation simulator.  The actual plane is described as part of the complete description of the simulator. 

** "Instrument flight rules (IFR) is one of two sets of regulations governing all aspects of civil aviation aircraft operations; the other is visual flight rules (VFR)."  So saith the Google and the Wikipedia.

*** Having two 210 hp engines hanging forward and back rather than off to the sides means that the plane is consistently described as being very, very noisy.  Like being inside a lawn mower.

08 July 2014

We are not the droids they're looking for

One of the more interesting things about having my name and email on the company website is that I am the person most likely to get emails from random-ish strangers.  Specifically, I get mail for people looking for customer service for companies with initials like the one I work for. 

I have suggested to my boss that we could generate some revenue by billing those companies for the pleasant (and even possibly helpful) replies that I send.  

Here is a selection.  Some were more fun to handle than others, but Number 1 will always have a special place in my heart.  I wouldn't mind having that lady on my side in a similar situation.


From: [name]
Sent: Sunday, February 03, 2013 2:59 PM
To: Hall, Leta
Subject: Poor, Poor Customer Service

I was just at your Sturgis, Michigan store.  Ahead of me in line was a woman with a return.  She had her receipt, but the barcode wouldn't scan and the date was smudged, but it was clearly a TSC receipt.  The manager, Will, was called to the front and turned the woman away, saying that she could not return the item because of the barcode and date.  She was not even given a cursory apology. Then, after she left, the cashier got on the phone and said, right in front of me "Yeah, I have a lady who just got crappy with me about a return" and proceeded to read off the woman's phone number. This entire incident was rude, unnecessary, and a breach of privacy. I was a long-time customer, but seeing how my future returns and private information might be handled in the future, and that I might be described as a "crappy" customer in front of other customers after I walk out of the store ... well, I think this issue should be addressed. The customer was not even being rude; she just said "I don't understand". Wow.
[name and address]

From: Hall, Leta
Sent: Monday, February 04, 2013 10:27 AM
To: [name]
Subject: RE: Poor, Poor Customer Service

Good morning, Ms. [name],

I agree with you – that sounds *awful.*  Unfortunately the TSC you’ve reached isn’t the same as the one you’re hoping to reach.  The TSC that I work for doesn’t have any stores – we provide engineering services.  

If you wanted the Tractor Supply Company their website and customer service contacts can be found at http://www.tractorsupply.com/.  I hope you are able to reach the right person and get a good resolution.

All the best,

Leta Hall
Corporate Administrator


From: [name]
Sent: Friday, March 28, 2014 3:09 PM
To:  Leta
Subject: WX-110110CSO-CBK

Hi Leta –
Can you please provide a detailed spec sheet on the following part # : WX-110110CSO-CBK

The customer isn’t happy with the quality and would like complete details of the material, etc

Please advise
Thank you!

[name and contact info]

From: Leta
Sent: Friday, March 28, 2014 2:30 PM
To: [name]
Subject: RE: WX-110110CSO-CBK

Hi [name] ~

Unfortunately, I can’t provide that spec sheet.  The TSC that I work for are engineers. 

It looks as though the item you are referring to is made by TSC America and while I can find their product suppliers easily on the internet, I am having trouble finding the actual company.  I’m sorry that I couldn’t be more help but hope that you are able to find the information that your customer needs. 

All the best,


From: [name]
Sent: Friday, March 28, 2014 3:33 PM
To:  Leta
Subject: RE: WX-110110CSO-CBK

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond J don’t find that much now a days !

You have a super weekend!



From: [name]
Sent: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 1:57 PM
To: Leta
Subject: Tsc conventionally raised or organic meat?

Dear Ms. Hall,

Is the meat in tsc's tsatziki steak flatbread conventionally raised or organic?


From: Leta
Sent: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 2:06 PM
To: [name]
Subject: RE: Tsc conventionally raised or organic meat?

Good afternoon, Ms. {Name],

I think that you are trying to contact the Tropical Smoothie CafĂ©, rather than [my employer].  We don’t (alas) have any flatbreads, just lots of engineers.

Tropical Smoothie’s customer service folks can be reached at  http://www.tropicalsmoothie.com/contact-us.  I hope they are able to provide the information you’re seeking.

All the best,


Corporate Administrator


From: name
Sent: Wednesday, July 02, 2014 8:48 AM
To: Hall, Leta
Subject: cable inquiry for vietnam

Dear [misspelling of my name],

 I am working for [company], a Austrian company, which produces various kinds of lighting kits for vehicles. We would like to establish a business in Vietnam and therefore we need several cables. I found out that you company as well has a branch office in Hanoi, correct?

If yes I kindly ask you provide me with a contact person, or forward this E-Mail to a person in charge.

I have enclosed you a folder with the several different cables we need!
For each cable type (cable number) you can find a technical datasheet and a picture. Please check whether the production of each single cable is possible for you or not.

If you can produce those cables I need the following information from you:
From each type we need 600 km per year.
We want to have the cables in big cable rolls. Is that possible?

Besides I wonder what the minimum order quantity is?

I kindly ask you to send me an initial price quotation for each cable type /cable number.

Thank you in advance and I hope to hear from you soon

Best regards


Von: Hall, Leta
Gesendet: Mittwoch, 02. Juli 2014 16:53
An: [namen]
Betreff: RE: cable inquiry for vietnam

Dear [name],

I’m sorry to tell you that the TSC that you have reached is not the TSC you were looking for.  I believe that you are trying to reach Tractor Supply Company (www.tractorsupply.com).    Their page for cables and connectors is http://www.tractorsupply.com/en/store/search/cables-connectors.

Our web addresses are similar so this confusion happens a lot. 

All the best,


18 June 2014

A Wider Circle's Great Eight

This year in Silver Spring Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day (held every April) featured volunteers from A Wider Circle,* a local organization which furnishes homes, provides clothing and trains people for the workforce in the D.C. area.  Every year on Free Cone Day, Ben & Jerry’s give away free ice cream** and they host a charity who is allowed to fundraise in the store.***  Give the charity a few dollars and you get a key ring tag for 10% off on ice cream for the next twelve months.  In addition to the free ice cream.

So, really, one isn’t just scarfing down free ice cream, one is being a philanthropist

Anyway, this year was A Wider Circle’s opportunity and the nice volunteers handed out information on the organization and how to help.  I still have the bookmark they gave me with “The Great Eight” on it.  If you are looking for a quick shopping list of “things to buy but not for me” and have donated enough boxes of pasta and cans of veggies for a while, they suggest:

1.  Tissues and toilet paper
2.  Laundry detergent
3.  Whole grain pasta****
4.  Low-sodium beans
5.  Paper towels and cleaning supplies
6.  Cereal and oatmeal
7.  Diapers
8.  Low-sodium, low-sugar canned fruits and vegetables.

I take food with me for the food bank every time I go to church and every so often the shelter gets some of my beloved hotel toiletries.  I’ll probably go to the store this weekend and pick up some paper goods for donation.   

*From their website:  “A Wider Circle’s efforts focus on the provision of basic need items, education, and long-term support. These three components work in concert to create lasting change in the lives of those we serve. A Wider Circle says no to nobody! Anyone in need of help can find it here. In addition to all of the individuals and families that call us, more than 300 government, social service, and nonprofit agencies regularly contact us for help in serving their clients.

Items can be dropped off 7 day a week, 365 days a year at our Center for Community Service: 9159 Brookville Road, Silver Spring, MD 20910.”

**which is awesome

*** Last year it was the Washington Animal Rescue League, so … kittens!  And puppies!

**** Or gluten-free …

15 June 2014

I'm reading Easter Rising: A Memoir of Roots and Rebellion by Michael Patrick MacDonald and got to this passage on page 22 which may be the most surreal thing I've ever read in a memoir.
My first afternoon there I was just about to leave the store when one of the clerks took down a Patti Smith record that was propped on a fireplace mantel that was left over from the days when the shop had been an apartment. I had seen Patti Smith a couple of  years earlier on the Saturday morning TV show Kids Are People Too.  She wore an oversized man's blazer and her gaunt face made her look something like Jesus on the cross.  She sang Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life" surrounded by an audience of entranced eight-year-olds.  The show host* had announced her a "punk poet" and "the female Mick Jagger."  As a kid I hadn't been into rock 'n' roll.  All we ever listened to in Southie was soul or disco even though the neighborhood wasn't safe for black people - or anyone else different from us - after the busing riots.  Still everyone knew who Mick Jagger was - especially after the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" became a disco hit.  If Patti Smith was his female counterpart I was surprised I'd never heard of her.  Seeing her on TV on that Saturday morning gave me the willies, and I couldn't get her blank stare out of my head all day.  I was probably eleven and couldn't believe she was on a show for kids younger than me, singing the worst soft-rock ever but turning it into an intense dirge with her deep and onimous voice.  The show's host asked her "Are you punk rock?"  She simply answer, "No," her blank stare unmoved by the host's enthusiasm.  "Well, we think you're punk rock, right, kids?" the apple-cheeked host shouted, to the cheers of dozens of eight-year-olds screaming, "Yeah!"  I had no idea what was going on. Punk rock?  And the Debby Boone song?  And that frightening gaze?

Oh, look, here it is:

Be sure to listen to the question portion where she says that she wanted to be a missionary.

And if you want to read a more light-hearted description of the whole thing, try this article on Open Culture.

And the rest of the book?  Definitely recommended.

* Michael Young