A Service Recap

I thought I would take the time to recap some recent service experiences I have had.  If you recall, I was complaining about having to load just about all of the cement bags at Menards by myself.  I am still a little torqued about that, but I ended up patronizing their store again to purchase the treated lumber for the bridge span (which will sit atop the cement purchased previously).  In this load (and there will be multiple) I purchased 25 2x12x12x10′ and 15 2x2x8′ treated boards.  Pulling into the wood shed, my heart sank noticing that the 10’s were on the end of the  SECOND floor of the shed which has one set of stairs a loooong way away.  The worst part of it, is the distance from the second to first floor which made it impossible to simply slide the boards over the edge and then move them to the truck.  A close second was the weight of these boards.  If you want to test your strength wrestle a few of these babies out of their storage location in a small aisle.  I made it through 3 and quickly decided this was going to take a few hours.  Although my history of help is less than stellar at Menards, I noticed an employee on a forklift helping someone on the other side of the shed.  A few internal pride discussion ensued before walking down and asking the guy to help me when he was done.  He agreed and promptly came over to help once his other business was completed.  Turns out the railings of the aisle come off providing a means to simply slide the boards straight out and across the raised forklifts.  He helped load the 25 boards on the lifts, assisted in moving them to my truck and then went with me to help get the 15 8 footers which are stored in another location (I have no idea why by the way).  So I need to keep some credit to Menards and their employee (ironically named Bryan) some credit for saving some sweat and allowing me to get out of there in under 30 minutes.

Contrasting this with a Burger King visit last week in East Peoria.  Hungry after a night out, Linda and I decided to catch a late quick dinner.  This place actually keeps a display in their back kitchen area that grades their service for the day.  Rarely have I ever seen it over a ‘C-‘  but that night it was at an ‘A’.  We walked up to the counter and looked for someone to take our order – everybody was back in the prep area.  Minutes passed before one of the employees said he would be there in a little bit… waiting … waiting …. waiting.  Finally he comes up and takes our order where I explicitly state I want onion rings instead of their fries.  I go to pay and he walks away and says someone else will be back to get my money.. waiting … waiting …. waiting.  A lady eventually comes up and takes my money.  The food arrives the original clerk asks me if I want sauce for the chicken fries – thankful for him asking since I always forget, I requested one ranch and one sweet sour.  He then stuns me and questions “You do not want more than that?”  I responded that I really wanted two sweet and sour (which I did) and he said sure, “We don’t charge you like some stores try to do!”  I knew exactly who he was talking about and thanked him for the free extra condiments.  Although I had to wait, this experience put a satisfied smile on my face… which lasted until I was driving back to the house and Linda informs me they gave me crappy fries instead of the requested onion rings – Sigh.

Note, as a confession I was early to Menards on Sunday so dropped by Micky D’s to get a quick breakfast sandwich.  I order a sausage and egg (no cheese) bagel.  Forgetting to check before I left, the prophecy came true about carry out and there was cheese on the sandwich.  I honestly though that the service industry was better when the unemployment rate was high but  it is cresting over double digits now (thank you current government and oh great no change orator) and the service is not improving.

Oh well, shame on me for not validating the orders I guess.

Cheating Death Again

You may consider the photo to your left to be of a  charming Autumn day in the woods.  In agreement with that assertion, it is indeed an Autumn picture taken this very day.  It is also in the woods down from my house.  However, there is NOTHING charming about this specific location.   I can count the number of times I have almost killed myself on my two hands.  In fact my ring finger represents a time where I took the full blunt force trauma of a piece of wood thrown from a table saw right to the chest.  In that particular incident I do not know who was more shocked, my Dad who was running the saw or the mental tape measure I put from the impact point on the chest to my head.

Well folks, I can add another finger to the count due to an incident today.  Continuing the saga of building our bridge, my brother Dan offered to come over and help out with the project today.  To prepare, I needed to purchase the 2x12x10’s and 8’s for the support structure.  This equated to 25 of the 10′ boards and 15 of the 8′ treated lumber that needed to be hauled home and then transferred to the job site.  The haul home was fine, but the transport to the stream posed a dilemma.  The ground was pretty wet from all the rain this past week so driving the loaded truck down the hill was out of the question.  The only other option was to haul it down with the ATV and a small 4′ trailer. Do not laugh, I have accomplished a lot of things with that cart.   I hitched the cart to the ATV and loaded up 4 2x12x8 boards along with a 4′ 6×6 post.  Thinking it might want to bounce out of the cart, I decided to put a bungee cord across the top of the boards at the back.  Perfect, now to simply drive down the hill and drop them off at the stream.  One minute later I was questioning my strategy… and I mean really questioning my strategy.  Halfway down the hill, I looked to my right and there is the cart sliding down the hill perpendicular to the ATV (and the hill).  The common sense alarms were in full squeal.  I braked the ATV to get control of the situation which caused the ATV to start sliding down the wet leaf covered ground and it too started turning perpendicular to the hill.  Crisis mode as I knew the ATV was going to flip if this kept up.  Eventually I got it stopped, but the cart was still turned 90 degrees to the ATV which was now facing mostly to the left side.  Holding the brake with my left, I transferred my weight to the uphill side so I could dive off if required.  So there I was hold the brake and standing on my left foot (upside of ATV).  I decided to reach back and pull the wood off the cart to lighten the load, but the stupid bungee was preventing me from accomplishing that.  Brian just got himself in a whole lot of oops.  All of a sudden, my left foot slips off the running boards and my legs proceed under the ATV and now I am pretty much convinced I am going to die.  Somehow my left hand stayed clasped around the break and held my weight even though I have some torn cartilage in it (and let’s just say it is worse now).  I took my right arm and grabbed the utility rack on the back and hauled my body from underneath the belly of the ATV.  Stepping back on the running boards I took a minute to reflect on how beautiful life is, reflected on the life that flashed before my eyes and took a couple of breadths to take inventory of the situation (and the health of the body parts involved).  Somehow the left shoulder held through this allowing me to once again take my right arm and attempt to offload the wood.  The bungee was still causing me problems so I simply bundled the adrenaline and ripped the wood through the bungee hooks.  It literally straightened the hook flat, but the wood was successfully discarded on the ground.  EXTREMELY relieved, I got back on the ATV and gave it enough gas to maneuver back in front of the cart and proceed safely down the hill.  This one was close boys and girls and there is absolutely only two things that allowed me survive (from my assessment).  One is pure luck and the other is physical strength.  I have always felt there was no true substitute for strength in life and found it essential in my martial arts days (all the technique in the world doesn’t matter if you can’t power through your opponent’s attack  – this includes the redirection styles – trust me I have studied those as well- or if you can’t deliver enough power to disable your attacker).  Along with that, strength can also be the means out of an error in judgment.   I’ll definitely remember this the next time I try to talk myself out of my scheduled workout.

That which doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger … and wiser – I found another way to get the lumber down the hill.

Be safe out there!

Book Recollection: Chosen Soldier

Admittedly, I am a rabid reader of books covering aspects of our military.  Specifically, the various special forces.  One of the reasons is due to be very curious as to what type of individual that willingly signs up for this occupation and with that said, what it takes for them to succeed.  I like to consider myself somewhat in shape until I read what these soldiers have to do and it motivates me to do more.  It has been awhile since I had the time to actually read a book, but a few weekends ago our dogs were showing in the Teacup Dog Agility Nationals in Racine Wisconsin.  If you know anything about this event, you are aware there is a lot of down time between the runs.  This was a perfect opportunity to finish a book on my list.

Today’s book review is Chosen Soldier: The Making of a Special Forces Warrior by Dick Couch.  Without hesitation, I can declare this book is right up there with Lone Survivor which is my favorite book (if you have not read or listened to that book, do it immediately).  It also has the distinction of being a 100 fold better than the last military book I read called Warrior Soul.   A big reason for this is the author.  Mr. Couch is a former Navy Seal who was offered the opportunity to observe and write about the process of becoming a Green Beret (contrast that with the Warrior Soul which felt more like a look at me I’m great work).  It was honest, frank and most of all very informative.  I had no idea of the diverse backgrounds this military branch pulled from or its focus as “head of the spear”, tasked with going in ahead of our military might and disrupting the establishment.  They infiltrate, link up and organize local fighters and train them to take control once the military goal is achieved.    Unlike the Seals and Marines who are primarily attack forces, this branch stressed language, culture teaching, medical, engineering and adaptive thinking.  This, of course, is in addition to the elite fighting skills of the other groups.   Even Mr. Couch admitted the stunning difference which means a lot from someone trained as a Seal.

I could barely put this book down to catch the dogs’ runs.  I am completely impressed by the approach taken by the instructors and have a lot more respect for every individual to make through this ordeal and earn their tabs.  To be honest, I even respect those who try their best but find they can’t get to the required level.  As Dick quotes in the book, the Green Berets may lose a candidate in their ranks, but the reassigned branch gains a better soldier.  Those that do make it through are in my opinion as good as it gets both in conditioning, judgment and very apparent in leadership.  Once their job of protecting the interests of the United States are completed, they are more than prepared to excel in any business activity they chose to set their sights on.  My respect and gratitude to those who have earned the Green Beret.

Catch the jump for my recollections:

Continue reading Book Recollection: Chosen Soldier

Another Set of Fails… or Wow, My Hands Still Hurt

The feeling is starting to come back in my hands, but rather than push it, I’m going with another set of fails to provide some humor in your day.  Hoping to get back to some in depth blogging for the next blog… but then again, why start after 1.5 years HeHe.  Okay, let’s start with a save the environment pamphlet.

So here we have an Earth Matters music festival, but what band is selected to participate in this event?  That would be the Backyard Tire Fire band of course, because nothing says I love the Earth than burning tires.

I think my mother clipped this one from the Springfield State Journal Register.  It appears Springfield has as entertaining a Police Beat section as our local Journal Star.

A pretty poor scan, but essentially this entry relates an apparent car burglary at their Best Buy.  It is not clear from the context, but either the Viper Car Alarm was not installed and thus diminished the value of the system or it was installed and the customer needs to call up Viper and have a little chat.

Since we are on the topic of newspaper entries, here is another one from the Springfield IL. paper.    After 50 years of wedded bliss, the Walmire’s are looking forward to a …

a trip to Menards.  I can imagine the scene around 6 o’clock when the guests of honor proclaim everyone has to finish their cake and leave because Menards is closing in a few hours and they need to make sure they get the fresh licorice and Spechter Root Beer (which is quite good by the way)  before the doors close.

It is Halloween time (although most of the stores around here have their Christmas stuff out) so pulling this morbid display out for your viewing.  I can’t remember the exact store this was in (some small shop in a small town), but it definitely caught my attention when I walked by it.

This brings new meaning to hanging the doll up.  I would think the clerk would notice how uncomfortable this was for the customers and wrap it around the arms or chest instead.  Fortunately, they didn’t leave a plastic bag on the head to help protect the hair!

Lastly, I never get enough Ass Signs.

This was taken at the Springfield State Fairgrounds while my dogs were competing in the National Teacup Agility competition.  In fact I have another sign picture on my phone from a recent team building outing I had to attend for work.  Bowling with my coworkers apparently makes me a better employee.   The same probably applies to the Women’s Bowling Ass that are meeting there later in the week.

That’s all folks, but I’ll keep the camera at the ready for more fails I stumble upon.

Taking A Rest, Going With Some Fails

I spent the day today haaaammmmmmeeeerrrrr drilling 24 3.5″ holes in some cement pillars I constructed for a bridge I am building on my lot.  I had no idea it was going to be as difficult as it was and now awaiting a nasty bruise to appear on the inside of my knee and my hands are just about numb.  Oh, a quick word of advise, when your 3/4″ bit is in the cement, don’t relax on your grip as you slowly bring the bit out of the hole.   If you just asked why (which means you probably experienced it yourself), it is because the heavy torque in the hammer drill will rip it out of your hands and if you are position as I was, it will crack right into the inside of your knee.  I was a quick learner on that one.  Anyway, to give my hands a rest (not having to make a logo or work a lot with images) I went with a collection of fails for this post and likely the next one as well since my production is again behind schedule.

Starting off today’s fails is a picture my brother took in Naperville.

He noticed this sign on Plainfield-Naperville Rd.  He even took the time to notify the park district, however, as of a few days ago they have still not corrected it.  The interesting part of this is obviously someone spent a significant amount of time building it, more individuals spent time setting it in concrete and working on the landscape and NONE of them either noticed or cared enough to bring it to someone’s attention.  Thanks for the photo Ron.

Next up is the deceitful marketing arm for Hersheys.  Although I try not to eat lunch out of the vending machines, every once in awhile I have to.  I figured I would at least get some nutrition from the peanuts so I took the king sized PayDay.

A bad habit of mine is to quickly look at the nutrition label and translate it into the miles I need to run that night to work it off.  So I pulled it out of the machine and turned it over and winced.

I read the calorie content and quickly located the serving size (standard marketing gimmicks to make it seem better than it is) and noticed it was 2.  Then an odd little line at the top of the box caught my attention.  I’ll let you figure out why I bothered to save the wrapper for my blog (okay, I did give you a big hint).


So how would you like to a Fireman in this community?  Big thanks to my friend Rocket who gave me this shot.

This actually reminds me of the ambulance service in my area.  Basically it is the Brimfield, Yates City, Elmwood ambulance service so the last thing you see before being put inside the ambulance is the sign on the side that says B.Y.E.  Not exactly what you want to see on your way to the hospital.

Here is one for the do-it-yourself people out there.  Apparently Homax Products Inc. thinks you are an idiot… or has been sued by an idiot.

It is a bad scan, but it basically says Note: Once trimmed, the notch cannot be made smaller.

And the last one for this post, an entire wall reserved to the honoring all the great dogs and their owners  in their club.

Hmmm, well, at least there will be plenty of room when they actually have the need.  I really like how high they put the lettering.

Oh well, catch you next time

One Headache Too Many

So if you read my previous blog entry, you are aware of a recent situation we had regarding our Dodge Durango having more electrical problems.  As an update to that post, the salesman that called me after the service was completed (to sell me a new car) has never called me back regarding my request to find an Aspen.  A week or so ago, Linda decided to head out to the car lots and see what we could find.  This turned out to be a very interesting event.  First off, we went to some lots in Peoria and came to the conclusion that most of these dealerships had very little on their lots and what they did have were either vans or crap looking boxes on wheels.  Now it was a quest so we took off to Morton to check out their lots.  Same situation on the Dodge lot, little inventory or was so ugly they were not even worth getting out of the vehicle to look at and definitely nothing in the SUV category.  We then headed over to the Ford lot.  They actually had a couple of Explorers on the backside of the lot so we stopped and got out to take a look.  In a first for this trip, a salesman came out to help us who promptly told us they did not have any new Explorers left due to being wiped out by the Cash for Clunkers program.  Does this seem odd to you?  Apparently everyone was turning in their clunkers for gas guzzling SUVs which seems contrary to the supposed intent of that program.  When we asked when more would be arriving we were told possibly in 6-8 weeks while he handed us his business card and walked away.  So here we sit wanting to purchase a vehicle and a) there are no vehicles to actually buy and b) the salesman doesn’t even seem interested enough to ask us our name so he can contact us when they do arrive.  We are no longer surprised why this industry is in the toilet.  Unwilling to give up, we headed to Pekin to check out the Dodge dealer there.  As we entered the now common empty lot, we spied a Dodge Aspen (the Durango replacement) and what seemed to good to be true it had a reduced sign on it.  Jumping out of the car we quickly located a salesman to inquire about the vehicle.  Turns out, it was a 2 wheel V6.  I can’t imagine that this configuration appealed to anyone in the market for this type of vehicle.  We also learned that the Aspen was not being made anymore and Chrysler decided to completely exit the SUV market.  This was the final straw and we decided it was time to check out the imports.

A mile or so down the street, there was a Toyota dealer and as it turns out, I actually knew the owner of that dealership (we met at my neighbor’s redneck Wednesday events which consists of everyone bringing over their firearms for target practice – our constitutional right to bear arms and don’t ever try to legislate it away).  Sure enough, this lot had a number of vehicles on it and a couple of Sequoias that were right up our alley.  A helpful salesman came out, we got all our questions answered, took a test drive, negotiated a price (helps if you know the right people) and signed on the bottom line.  We are now the proud owners of a new Toyota SUV and very happy with the decision.  Oh, and before we get the flood of comments trying to criminalize large vehicles, we live in the country in the Midwest (I chuckle every time I pass a stuck Prius in the snow), raise agility dogs that require traveling to competition and still looking for verifiable FACTS on the Global Warming myth (especially ones that justify the record lows we are currently experiencing).

I thought I would give a quick comparison of Toyota experiences with our previous Durango (hit the jump to see)

Continue reading One Headache Too Many