Monday, April 06, 2009

Ol' Man Wishum

One of the great events for me during the overwhelming mont of March was a retirement party given to me by my co-workers. This party comfortably filled the Silver Spoons Catering facility in downtown Montgomery. It was a great event from my perspective and I can't tell you how much it meant to me for so many to spend $23 for a meal and to see me made fun of. There were a few from my past life in the Montgomery Post Office and the retired supervisor and her husband from Wetumpka also attended. It also meant a lot for my supervisor, Ken, his wife, and daughter to attend. Interestingly, when Ken went through the Associate Supervisor Training program, I was his on-site trainer. So I got to train the supervisor I worked for during my final years at the USPS. All my kids and spouses/boyfriend were there as was my mother-in-law. Of course, LaWanna was there as she has been by my side, cheering, through the entire transition. It was so much fun! My good friend, Jimmy Rushing, served as master of ceremonies and did an excellent job. He had secretly contacted LaWanna for several of my more embarrassing stories from 37 years of postal service. Some liberties were taken with the telling, but it was very funny. One of the highlights for me was the presentation of a framed certificate that proclaimed I am now an "Honorary Rural Carrier". For those unfamiliar with the strange world of the USPS, rural carriers and city carriers are two separate species. Rural carrier's routes are evaluated each year and they are paid "evaluated times" whether they hustle and finish early or goof off and work late. So if they want to visit and laugh in the office, no supervisor runs to crack the whip. For city carriers, every minute wasted is money wasted so any talking or unproductive time get attention immediately. Because of these differences, I would often say "I should have been a rural carrier" when I would hear laughter and loud conversation from their end of the office. Now I am one--sort of. Another great feature of the part was rural carrier Michon and her husband and daughter dressed in formal evening wear singing throughout the evening. The family in involved in musical theater often and did a great job. I really appreciate the amount of work that night and for many nights leading up to it. One of the songs was a re-write of Old Man River. The version they sang had to be written by a USPS insider, but Michon's husband protected her career by declaring that HE wrote it and she had NOTHING to do with it. Get the tune for Old Man River in your mind and check these lyrice;

The part was fun and ended with the hosts having LaWanna and me swept away in a stretch limo. Actually, that was not the end for me. My generous co-workers gave me a gift card to Bass Pro Shops and on Wednesday of last week (my first day of retirement) I used it to purchase a shotgun for turkey hunting. Thanks Wetumpka friends!

Saturday, April 04, 2009


I am a fan of DOPPLER. You have seen it. If you live in central Alabama, you have seen it a lot in the past few weeks as Rich Thomas explained signatures indicating possible rotation. Doppler is the newest version of RADAR--RAdio Detection And Ranging. What the National Weather Service uses is WSR-88D from Weather Surveillance Radar--1988 Doppler. That and LOTS more basic info about radar can be found on the NOAA website. The reason I have been reading some of that is to check out some information I heard in a storm spotters class week before last. This is one of the many activities that filled my March to overflowing. I regretted that the class was on a Tuesday because I had to miss a night of counseling at Pre-Trial Diversion, but when I learned of a class in Wetumpka I knew it would be worth the time. Although the class is called Advanced Storm Spotter, most of the information is fairly basic. I did learn some about storm formation and intensity that will be useful. The reason I am writing this goes beyond telling that I went to the class and being silly about spotting a storm EVERY day since. And it is not intended to be instructional about radar. But when I went to verify some information from the class, I learned a lot about radar that I had not known. The bit of information that really struck me was the rate of sending and receiving information. As the radar antenna turns, it emits extremely short bursts of radio waves, called pulses. Each pulse lasts about 0.00000157 seconds with a 0.00099843-second "listening period" in between. The transmitted radio waves move through the atmosphere at about the speed of light. Some of you are much smarter than me and the impact of those number may hit you immediately. For me, though, these tiny fractions are akin to the billions and trillions the government is spending and giving away. If I can't envision a number of balls, coins, or widgets to represent the number, I can get lost in the number of zero's. Here is another way of looking at it that helps and this is really what impacted me; when the time of all pulses each hour are totaled (the time the radar is actually transmitting), the radar is "on" for a little over 7 seconds each hour. The remaining 59 minutes and 53 seconds are spent listening for any returned signals.
Okay, I will wait while you go back and read that last sentence again. Radar--that amazing technology that enables us to see green, yellow, and red indicating rates of precipitation and also shows direction and speed of storms along with much, much more information we could not get any other way--works by transmitting 7 seconds per hour and listening 59 minutes and 53 seconds per hour. Wow, could this explain why I have trouble communicating with my wife, friends, and co-workers? Is this why I can't hear the voice of God in my life? This ratio is shocking to me! While I attempt to work in the direction of 50/50 talking/listening, the reality is probably closer to the reverse of what radar accomplishes. I am more inclined to transmit 59 minutes and 53 seconds and listen 7 seconds. Ummm, actually I don't think I am that bad--but listening takes work and requires a break in transmitting. Of course radar has to transmit and do it properly in order to have anything to listen to.
So that is the best lesson from my Advanced Storm Spotters class--and it was not directly from the class. Actually, I found it because I was checking on some poor communication by the instructor. So I was listening some. This is just one observation I wanted to share from my whirlwind March. I placed it here because the thoughts and observations about birthdays, retirement parties, relationships, an unborn grandchild, and life transitions relate to listening in a powerful way. Thanks for reading--leave a note so I know you were here.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

"It Sounded Just Like a Train"

The saying is "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb". Not so much for me this year. This has been, without doubt, the most busy, hectic, exhausting, exciting March of the 55 I have experienced so far. I simply can not believe how I have neglected the blogosphere. And it is difficult to believe that the traffic counter tells me so many of you still check in for a few seconds to see if there is anything new. Thank you and I apologize. Brace yourself as I spend much of April catching up. So much of March was spent living wide open that I simply did not have time to organize thoughts and record them here. It really has been so much like a tornado that I kept hearing the "freight train sound". The culmination was an 18 hour day that included my last day as an employee of the United States Postal Service. This post is just a quick note to begin the process of telling my stories of March Madness. Enjoy this picture of a crazy postal employee who took a sledge hammer to work on his last day (and made the postmaster a little nervous). We have used the term "hit the clock" for many decades and I decided that the last time I hit the clock should be with a little drama.

Thanks for not giving up on the blog and please come back over the next few days as I tell stories of my half-marathon, retirement party, thoughts on major life transitions and other funny happenings from the past crazy month.