Lest We Forget

Last night I sat comfortably in front of the television watching “Hockey Night in Canada” on the NHL Network (It is actually broadcast on Canada’s CBC television network). The Toronto Maple Leafs were playing the Buffalo Sabres in a Northeast Divisional matchup. For anyone who does not follow hockey, the game is broken into three 20-minute periods. Between each period there is an intermission where the players can regroup and the Zamboni machine can resurface the ice.

CBC airs a segment during the first intermission called “Coaches Corner.” In this segment coach Don Cherry and CBC Sports commentator Don Maclean will discuss the games in progress and any other hockey related topics. Anyone watching “Coaches Corner” will have a few surprises thrown their way. The first thing that comes on the screen is the suit Don Cherry wears. His wardrobe will stand out in a way that cannot be ignored no matter how much the effort. Here are examples of his wardrobe.

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Need I say more about his dress . Don does not stop there. He is a man who has no fear in expressing his opinions on anything hockey related. He can give heaps of praise or criticize in the strongest terms. Ron Maclean is there to keep the segment moving along and help keep Don in check.

Last night’s “Coaches Corner” dedicated its entire segment to remember those who have given their lives so that Canadians can enjoy their freedom. Men who played professional hockey and then answered the call to duty were featured. There is video of Don in France paying respects to fallen Canadians from World War One. The final segment gives respect to Canadians who have given their lives in the current conflict in Afghanistan. To view this segment, go to one of the following sites below

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http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Sports/1221284063/ID=1635676361.

or

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdPpyreagjM

I found this edition of “Coaches Corner” to be very moving. November 11th is the day we set aside to remember all the men and women who have left their homes and families, sacrificed their livelihood, and even their own lives. They sacrificed for something larger than themselves. The freedom we enjoy is the result of their actions.

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November 11th is an international holiday. To read more about this special day, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembrance_Day.

Let us never forget those who made the sacrifice so that we may be free. As an American, i will remember not only our fallen, but those from our friends around the world including Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, France, and New Zealand to name a few.

To watch the segment of “Coaches Corner” from November 6th, 2010, go to one of the following links:

http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Sports/1221284063/ID=1635676361 (from CBC.ca)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdPpyreagjM (from youtube.com)

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Working As A Team

Every Saturday I work at the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market in Layton, Utah (Store #5205). It is not a typical Wal-Mart – it is essentially a grocery store. Neighborhood Markets were introduced in 1998 as a way to attract shoppers who are looking for the basics without the hassle of navigating a larger store and larger crowds.

I have been a cashier at the Store #5205 for over 3 years. I started there to earn extra money for paying my bills. I continue to work there to supplement my income (I work for the government during the day) and put more away into savings. The benefits I receive from my employment there are great. I save 10% off purchases at any Wal-Mart. I also made many new friends during this time.

Saturdays are busy at this store. Most people do not work the weekends and wait until then to shop for groceries. Others wait until then to purchase the goods for a big party or barbecue. This Saturday brought about an increase of candy sales for the upcoming Halloween holiday. Inclement weather, as was the case with rain most the day, brings more customers to the store.

As more customers come and shop, our store’s sales increase. More sales increase our profits which also increases associate quarterly bonuses. When customers are ready to make their purchases, we must be prepared. If we are not prepared, our sales could drop in the future as customers may choose to shop somewhere else. A shortage in associates staffed and operating outdated, broken equipment can adversely affect sales and a customer’s shopping experience.

One associate was unable to work. Having one less associate than scheduled can impact the store’s performance. Store #5205 works very hard to ensure there is adequate staffing at all times. If an associate is unable to work, management will telephone and ask other associates if they would like to work for other associate. However, another could not be found at that time.

Anyone working or shopping at our store frequently knows the store’s equipment (debit card readers and self scan registers) often fails to work properly. This equipment has been at our store since its grand opening in 2004. When equipment failures occur that cannot be corrected by an associate, a technician is called in for repairs. Nothing frustrates customers more when they use self scan machines to make their purchase than when those machines fail to operate properly.

Yesterday, the shortage of associates and broken equipment combined with the increased customer flow to create a storm of chaos at the front end. Every associate went into overdrive. We wanted to help our customers make their purchases so they could leave and enjoy the rest of their day. When all seemed dark, the associates of Store #5205 came together as one and shined.

Customer Service Managers on duty went into action. They called up backup cashiers and management to assist. Cashiers already on duty were put in positions where they would be most effective. We worked earnestly to help our customers, we helped each other along the way. One Customer Service Manager worked hard to direct the flow of customer traffic. Another Customer Service manage juggled between working at the customer service booth and working a register. Management worked on registers. I juggled between training a new associate, working a register, and working at customer service. Every associate and manager gave more than 100%.

We helped each other in the process. Anyone not working a register on a daily basis may not know all the details for helping customers with their purchase. Every item of produce has its own item number to enter into the register. Are they sold by weight or quantity? How are gift cards processed? Are WIC vouchers being processed properly? Working a cash register in any retail environment is not as easy as it looks. Experienced cashiers and Customer Service Managers helped those less experienced. Customers could see this and were very understanding.

Associates working in all other parts of the store (The sales floor, deli, and receiving) were integral in helping us and our customers. More customers going through our registers also means more shopping carts are being used. When more shopping carts are used this means that sales associates have the extra duty of gathering shopping carts in the parking lot and returning them to the front of the store. Our sales associates help out when a customer needs assistance taking their purchases to their automobile. All of this responsibility added on their demanding workload helps us out greatly. The deli associates work hard to make tortillas, cut meat and cheese, cook rotisserie chickens, bake french and italian bread to name a few. Last but not least, there are the associates most customers do not see – the overnight crew. They restock the shelves and make the store very, very presentable when the day begins (7 AM for our store’s purposes since we are open 24 hours a day).

This is what happened on October 23rd, 2010. It’s not the first time this has happened at the store. It will not be the last. However, I have witnessed this same reaction time and time again. The associates of Store #5205 come together when a need arises and gives their best to see things through. Our associates work hard to make every customer’s experience a pleasant one. Everyone at Wal-Mart #5205 (our store number) should be proud of the work they do every day.

The Layton Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market (Store #5205) is the best. We come together as individuals from all walks of life and come together as a single team.

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The Proper Use of Tools

I am a machinist and sheet metal mechanic by trade. I used my skills in the aerospace industry in the manufacture of engine and flight control components. In the last eight years I have been repairing and overhauling aircraft and power systems components. Everyday I work with a variety of hand and powered tools.

Before using any tools, I attended a trade school for sheet metal. The United States Air Force provided a 16-week training program for sheet metal mechanics. The focus was the repair of structural components on aircraft. I was given instruction on each tool from the screwdriver to the box and pan brake and power shears press. These tools are necessary for the repair and maintenance of aircraft structures. There is a right way to use each tool. Failure to use each tool properly could cause damage to the aircraft or worse – injury to death the person using the tool.

After training in the military, I studied to become a machinist at Weber State University. There were more tools to study and become proficient in using. The tools I studied included manual lathes, manual mills, surface grinders, CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) lathes and CNC mills. The risk of injury and death is even greater if proper safety precautions are not followed.

Tools used in any industrial trade must be used properly or someone can get hurt or killed. There is a right way and a wrong way to use each tool.

There are tools we use on a daily basis making our lives easier and more enjoyable. We use dishwashing machines, clothes washers and dryers, microwave ovens, mobile phones, and personal computers as tools. Any device or implementation that can be used to perform a specific function is a tool.

For purposes of my blog entry, I wish to focus on two devices – the mobile phone and personal computer.

Mobile phones are used to communicate in ways land line phones cannot. Anyone with a mobile phone can talk to almost anyone on Earth from almost anywhere. If someone doesn’t want to use the spoken word, a text message can be sent instead. Video and pictures can also be sent to other mobile phone devices. Messages from mobile phones can be sent to more than one person at the same time. This is only a small sample of what good mobile phones can do for us.

The use of mobile phones alone cannot harm (an idea still being debated), but its misuse can result in injury or death. Mobile phones and automobiles are not a great fit. The use of a phone distracts the driver from their surroundings. Distracted drivers have a higher risk of being in an accident. Did they see the traffic light turn red? Did they see the pedestrian crossing the road? Did they see the car in front of them make a sudden stop? Many states have been passed laws regulating the use of mobile phones in automobiles. For example, Utah made it illegal for any driver to send or read text messages while driving. If law enforcement sees anyone texting while driving, that driver could be cited and made to pay a large fine.

The personal computer has done more to make life easier. They can be used to keep track of finances, provide access to educational material, keep in touch with friends and loved ones on social networking sites, play music and video to entertain, and even plan and make reservations for a personal holiday. This tool allows so many people to express themselves and explore without having to leave the confines of their home or office.

I witnessed individuals at work using their computers for purposes against policy. These individuals were not caught once, but twice using their computers to view material that had no business in the workplace. As a result they were given two weeks off without pay or compensation. Fortunately for them, our workplace is far more lenient than most. At almost any other job, they would have been terminated from their employment. Still, the punishment raises a few questions for the offenders. How would they explain to their families why they had two weeks off? What effects would the loss of two weeks wages have on their finances? If they told the truth of what happened, how would their spouse react? These are questions I would not want to ask myself. I find it better to follow workplace policy and use the my computer or any other tool in a matter that would not violate workplace policy.

These are only a few examples of the benefits and misuse of tools used everyday. The tool by itself does not do good or bad. It is the individual using the tool that determines that. A hammer when used properly can drive nails into wood. That same hammer not used properly can accidentally smash the fingers of the person swinging it. A computer can help us explore and become more productive. As seen in recent news stories, a computer can also be used to violates one’s personal life to the point where the victim commits suicide.

Do I sound a little preachy? Perhaps. Let me know what you think. I can be reached at helpermonkeytim@me.com. I will be back again next Sunday with another blog. I hope reading this has not caused anyone to get a headache or eye strain. Please feel free to provide any feedback (on my topics or the way in which i write). Good Day, Eh!

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My Musical Time Machi

It’s another peaceful Sunday morning at my humble abode in Layton, Utah.  I am awake happily knowing I do not work the next two days.  The next two days will consist of going to church, watching football, relaxing and whatever else I decide.

I choose to do laundry, play on the internet, and prepare a lesson for the Primary class (7 and 8 year olds) I teach in church.  I normally have my iPod docked into my stereo system and listen to the music of my choosing.  However, I an listening to a local FM station.  I am listening to FM radio because of a show I enjoy listening to.

American Top 40: The 80s is on.  It is a rebroadcast of an American Top 40 show from this week in 1986.  American Top 40 is hosted by Kasey Kasem.  He plays the top 40 songs from Billboard Magazine’s Top 100 chart.

1986.  What was I doing 24 years ago when that show was originally broadcast?  Do you remember what you were doing in 1986?

I was a sophomore at St. Joseph’s Catholic High School in Ogden, Utah.  I would turn 16 making it legal for me to obtain a driver’s license (which I didn’t get until I was 17).  This was one of the darkest times of my life.

High school that year left a lot to be desired.  I had few, if any, friends in high school.  I had serious doubts about religion.  I didn’t take care of myself.  I felt that my parents and school were trying to mold me in their images.  I had one good friend during that time I would see on the weekends (we went to separate schools).

During the week, I had no friends to be with.  I was at home and didn’t go out at all.  So I turned to the one thing that kept me company for comfort and solace – the music I listened to.

Listening to the countdown from this week in 1986 reminded me of what happened 24 years ago…..  Now back to the present.

As Kasey Kasem counts down the hits in this week in 1986, I think of music I listen to and love.  I have almost every song on that chart on my iPod.  Enjoying these songs today as I did in yesterday.  Some of these songs sound even better today.

Here are songs from American Top 40 from the week ending October 11, 1986 that reside on a special “5-Star” playlist on my iPod:

“I’ll Be Over You” – Toto

“Take Me Home Tonight” – Eddie Rabbit

“Human” – Human League

“True Colors” – Cyndi Lauper

One song on the Billboard Top 100 chart that didn’t make it on the American Top 40 countdown that week is “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby and The Range.

“Some things will never change

That’s just the way it is

Some things will never change

Now don’t you believe it.”

When did I have time to listen to all this music you ask?  I was lucky to own a Sony Walkman.  I brought it to school with me every day and would listen to it on bus home  I would have a cassette of music I copied from my brother’s records or music I recorded from the radio.  When the batteries in my Walkman could no longer power the cassette player, I would listen to the Walkman’s FM radio for a few more hours.  I would tune into stations playing pop music and classic rock.

I brought my Walkman to bed with me each night.  I would lay there and listen to the cassette I had in my walkman.  The music helped me relax and get to sleep.  It was in my own little world when the lights were out and I have the headphones on .  I imagined what it would be like to become one of my favorite musicians (All three members of Rush) and create something that touches others.

Listening to the countdown on the radio this morning brings back memories of my youth.  Some of those memories were good: other memories were not so good.  1986 was the darkest times of my youth, but music brought me comfort and helped me emerge from the darkness.

Music takes me back in time.  Music brings me to a place where things good and bad have happened.  Music makes me think.  Music brings me solace.  Music heals.  Music is life.

 

 

 

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How hard can it be?

It’s another Sunday and I am sitting here on the porch enjoying this unseasonably warm weather.  It is my gut feeling that today will be the last day we have warmth of this kind for the remainder of the year and that Fall and Winter will soon descend upon us.

I was at my work station thinking of things I could write about.  There are so many topics running through my brain and it’s difficult to pick one and focus.  Then it came to me.  How hard can it be to come up with a topic each week and write something creative about it?

For myself, that question has a simple answer.  It can be difficult.

Why is it so hard for me to come up with something and then express it in writing?  Thinking about this all week I have come to the conclusion that is has more to do with self discipline than it does with creativity.  There are many things I have thought about and had the desire to express them to a wide audience.  However, I fail to do what is necessary to record my thoughts, expand on then and put them down on paper (or the computer in this case).

Hold on a second.  This also applies to every aspect of our lives.  We make decisions from the moment we wake up to the time we go to sleep.  What do we wear?  What do we eat?  Do we go to work?  How are we going to present ourselves to the world?

To become a better writer, I know that it takes time and effort.  That means I need to write and write some more.  With constructive feedback, I will become better at it.  I cannot simply have ideas in my head and think of ways in which to put them to print.  I am sure many of the great authors would never have been if they simply imagined how their thoughts and stories would be if they were published.

Practice and more practice.  This applies to other aspects of my life as well.  My health isn’t the greatest.  I have diabetes and require insulin injections daily.  This requires me to have the self discipline to check my blood sugar levels, maintain a good diet, and take my medication as needed.  I am not the best at it, but I am slowly, slowly learning to take better care of myself so that I don’t suffer from personal neglect.

I keep reminding myself that what one gets out of life is directly related to what one puts into it.  Everyone is remembered for their actions (or lack of).  Nobody, I am sure, remembers anyone who had the best intentions, ideas, or thoughts, and didn’t act on them.  So when I ask myself how hard it can be to do anything, I can say it is only as hard as I wish to make it.  My actions dictate the results I achieve.

More self discipline and more practice is what I need in order to become a better writer.  It’s needed to become a better person in general.

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” – Winston Churchill

I will be back next Sunday with more about what is on my mind.  I hope everyone has a great week ahead of them.

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The last week of September

This is the last week of September.  You would not know it here with the warmer weather we have had this past week.  It has even been predicted that we will have another week of the abnormally warm weather.  This only means that when summer ends, winter will be that much sooner.

The last week of September also means it’s the last week of the fiscal year for the United States government.  I only know this so well because I work for the United States Air Force.  The big question that looms over everyone is what will happen in the next fiscal year.  Will there be cuts in funding?  Will there be cuts in manpower?  What creative ways will there be for people in power to use smoke and mirrors to make their little kingdoms appear so important that they need more manpower and funding?  Good times are ahead I am certain.

This week will also mark the last week of the regular season of the 2010 Major League Baseball season.  I have not watched the sport much in the last few years.  However, my wife is a big Cincinnati Reds fan.  I purchased a television package so she could watch them this during this season.  In the process I figured I could also watch my favorite team play as well.  The Reds are going to the post season, but my Toronto Blue Jays are not.  Oh well.  It was fun anyways.

After this week is over, another sports season begins.  The National Hockey League will be in full swing the first week of October.  There will be some games this week, but pre-season games are not all that exciting to watch.  I have higher hopes this season that my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs will make the playoffs.  Go Maple Leafs!

There are other things I am doing this last week of September.  I am always looking for ways to improve myself.  I hope to spend more time reading, talking to friends, and eliminating those things in my life that are not positive.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a great week ahead.  Keep the peace!

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Another Sunday

Good Day, eh!  How is everyone doing?  I am enjoying this morning relaxing in the living room.  It’s a nice feeling knowing I do not have to work today.  The only work I will be doing is some cleaning and laundry.  I only hope that everyone I know is relaxing in one way or another today.  More to come.

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