Me and Dr. Kathy Sullivan

This photo:

In 1999, COSI, the Center of Science and Industry, moved from one location to another. On the last day at the old facility, we marched down a few blocks to the new location, which was still under construction. At the new digs, there was a big event to celebrate the move. Everyone on the COSI team had an opportunity to go up on a platform hand get a handshake and a photo with our CEO Dr. Kathy Sullivan and Dimon McFerson, CEO of Nationwide Insurance.

As you can see from this other photo from the event, Stuart (a man who knew beards before they became popular) is posed in the proper position with everyone following protocol.

I had a different plan.

I knew that Kathy and Dimon would continue to follow the procedure of:
1. position team member between the two
2. thank yous
3. hand shakes
4. pose for photo
5. push them off the platform and wait for the next person

My plan was slightly modified in that right before the photo was taken, I was going to turn and kiss Kathy on the cheek.

It was the perfect plan. All my other co-workers were following the rules and doing a great job of keeping the process flowing. I knew that no one else would think to do the turn-and-kiss and once I did it, no one would be able to copy it.

It was finally my turn.
Up on the platform.
Thank you. Thank you.
Handshakes.
Pose for photo.
And...

At the moment that I turned my head to kiss Kathy on the cheek... SHE DID THE SAME.

Our lips met. We both recoiled in surprise with laughter. CLICK!

So now, take a second look at that first photo. We are laughing and wide eyed in surprise. Dimon didn't know what had happened and was a little confused.

I was shuffled off the platform and we all had a good laugh.

I didn't know for a few weeks that the photo was not of us kissing. That's what you got back then with film. The photo was taken just a second too late. I was disappointed that there was no kiss photo, but the picture I have still tells the story.

I wonder if she tells her friends about the time she got to kiss me?

Should I update my birthday on Twitter? No.

If you lied about your birthday when you started your Twitter account, don't ever update it. Twitter will lock your account until your age is cleared up and that can take months or possibly forever.

Under The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Twitter is locking the accounts of anyone who may of posted anything while they were under 13 years of age. If you update your birthday, they run the math backwards, see that you were under 13 when you posted, and lock the account so that they do not get into trouble. It's dumb, but it's the easy way to make sure they don't run into trouble. 

Q. Should I update your birthday on Twitter?
A. No.

Q. What if I have updated my birthday and I am not locked out of my account.
A. You are screwed.

Q. No, really, what should I do?
A. Follow these steps as suggested by Twitter: https://help.twitter.com/en/managing-your-account/locked-and-limited-accounts

If It Works, It Works


There is the right way to do things, the wrong way to do things, and then the wrong way that is the best right way you have. My favorite type of wrong/best-right is the one that comes through getting cornered and fighting one’s way out of the problem.

In September of 2015, a team of folks from our company traveled to Turkey to help install interactive exhibits at the Kocaeli Science Center in İzmit. In preparation for this trip, we thought long and hard about the tools and hardware we were going to take. The tools were an issue due to the 220 V / 50 Hz power standard incompatibly. The hardware was troublesome because both the metric system and we knew were going to leave the unused hardware behind and didn’t want to blow the budget buying 100 of everything we might need. Our recon team went out a few months early and discovered we would have no problem buying the tools we needed locally. The hardware we would need was also available, but our scout team said we’d need a guide to navigate the maze of hardware. We brought the hardware we knew needed, some standard hardware we knew we might need for troubleshooting, and knew we could figure something out with whatever we could find locally.

When Alpha Team One (I know that’s redundant, but it sounds cool) arrived, they surveyed the space, assisted the client to understand how the space was laid out incorrectly, helped to modify it, unloaded the shipping containers, and ventured into town to buy the tools we needed. AJ went with Metin, our local interpreter, to the hardware store and AJ unwittingly became a local hero. We needed a lot of tools and AJ was like a long-haired, full-bearded kid in a candy shop. As they drove off with the van’s shocks aching under the weight of his purchases, I imagine all the store’s employees on the sidewalk waving goodbye with big smiles on their faces and then jumping up and down and hugging one another once the van turned the corner. Word of AJ got around and for the next few weeks, because he was so beardedly recognizable, seemingly random people would yell out his name and wave to him as he walked around the city streets.

Once Beta Team Two (I know) arrived, we were fortunate to follow in the footsteps and path cleared of brambles by the first team. They knew how to get around, when to drink tea, how to get food, and that any hardware run was going to require a dusty leather jacket, a fedora, a bullwhip, a shoulder bag, a map, and Metin. And several hours. The hardware store had hardware, but it was spread out over three floors of their building and seemed to be grouped by some arbitrary organization system that put bolts next to paint and nuts above the cast iron pipes. I’m assuming the heaviest items were located near the loading doors because when a worker tired of carrying something, it was dropped, and that became its location in the store.

Metin and Keegan at the hardware store.

Along the way, we found out that plumbing in Turkey is different from plumbing in the United States. Aside from the metric system and the normal issues that come from pipe/thread size, we learned that they use horse hair and Teflon tape in many applications where we might use two correctly sized fittings. If two pipes were not coming together as expected, they would wrap horse hair around the threads, keep it all in place with a few wraps of Teflon tape, and force the two pieces together like a couple in an arranged marriage.

I laughed at this until my final days on the project when I had my own plumbing issue. Due to a miscommunication, our team had dissimilar clear braided PVC hose pipe that came from a structure in the ceiling and needed to connect to the house water supply on the ground.  The 1” tubing from the ceiling needed a reducing fitting that would take it down to a ½” tube. We could not find anything in Turkey that could make this transition. We ordered the piece we needed, but it was three days away and we had a sign off with the client the next day. Chris let me troubleshoot this issue and here’s what I tried:
  • apply various metric fittings (failed without even turning the water on)
  • shove the smaller tube inside the larger tube (it fits tightly, but the water pressure pops it out, with water shooting out like a rouge fire-hose)
  • shove the smaller tube inside the larger tube and use a hose clamp to compress (still pops out, water less everywhere as we were prepared this time)
  • all the above and use two hose clamps (STILL POPS OUT)


I needed something to keep the tubes in place and time to do the right thing was long past and I was almost to the point of doing the wrong thing. So I said, “screw it,” literally. I found a few screws and compared them to the vinyl pipe wall thickness. I took the screw with the coarsest thread and joined the two tubes together, making sure I didn’t pass too far through. We turned on the water and the hoses stayed together. Because the screw’s threads were far enough apart, they stayed sealed in the hose wall. I think I covered the whole mess in Teflon tape, not to keep the water in, but to hide our sins from the client.

Court and Chris working on a boiling water fountain


Then I left the county, missing the client review (we passed the review), and hoping that I would not be stopped at the border (a story for another time.)

Later, the correct part arrived, Chris cut out the offending plumbing, and installed the proper fitting. Instead of throwing my little Frankenstein’s Monster away, he brought it home.



This little guy now lives at my desk. It’s a trophy. If it were mounted to a walnut plaque with a little bronze plate, I think the inscription would say, “If It Works, It Works – September 2015”.

(But then, on a small piece of paper rolled up on the inside and held in place by that screw, there would be a message to the curious. What would that message say? I don’t know… how curious are you?)


Quiz: Quote from a Porno or a Han Solo line from a Star Wars movie?


1.     Thanks for coming after me. I owe you one.

2.     No, no, no! This one goes there, that one goes there.

3.     She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid.

4.     Oh. I thought they smelled bad... on the outside!

5.     Great, kid. Don't get cocky.

6.     Besides, I know a few maneuvers.

7.     Get in there, you big furry oaf! I don't care what you smell!

8.     Great shot, kid, that was one in a million!

9.     Now let's blow this thing and go home.

10. Sorry about the mess!

Answers:

1.     Han Solo, “Return of the Jedi”
2.     Han Solo, “The Empire Strikes Back”
3.     Han Solo, “A New Hope”
4.     Han Solo, “The Empire Strikes Back”
5.     Han Solo, “A New Hope”
6.     Han Solo, “A New Hope”
7.     Han Solo, “A New Hope”
8.     Han Solo, “A New Hope”
9.     Han Solo, “A New Hope”
10. Han Solo, “A New Hope”

The Big Yummy vs The Big Weenie


In 1999, COSI opened at its riverfront location in downtown Columbus. Once the building opened, the COSI Design and Production Studio, the group of folks who envisioned, designed, built, and installed COSI in its new location, broke up into three groups. Some people left to pursue other projects. Others remained in-house to help maintain the newly opened building. And the last bit became what was to be COSI Studio; a group of folks developing new exhibits for COSI and for other science museums, children’s play areas, and aquariums.

The first exhibit this group worked on was Space, which opened the following year at COSI. But during this time, COSI was approached by several Ohio Agricultural groups to help promote healthy eating and Ohio farmers. What finally came of this was “The Big Yummy,” a lunchtime, animatronic talent show with various foods competing to win The Big Yummy award.   In 30 minutes, kids were rotated in, they would eat their lunch, watch the show, and then cycled out.
The Big Yummy door graphic hanging behind me.
The show was even set up with three different endings that were determined by the volume of the audience’s applause. (The Pinto and Soy Beans almost always won due to the fart machines hidden in the lunch seats that were activated during the beans’ performance.)
Soy and Pinto Bean sketch with color callouts

At the outset of the project, we worked on the concept and the script. We designed the space and determined the necessary refurbishment and modifications. We developed the characters and worked on their art direction with the animatronic company.  The show had several songs, an original score and when the script was finalized, we flew out to California to a recording studio to record the music and voice actors.
A scale model of the stage with sculpted maquettes Johnny Rotten, Soy and Pinto Beans, Corn Cob Bob, and Leche Es Bueno
Corn Cob Bob and Pat O'Butter final animatronics

Egg, the heckler in the back of the audience

Leche Es Bueno, the milk carton host of the show
The show trophy sketch with color
This is where I stop and tell you that up until now, you think I have been talking about The Big Yummy, but I haven’t. I’ve been talking about The Big Weenie. The show we worked on up until this point was called The Big Weenie. The logo, the songs, the lyrics, the characters’ lines, and even the grand prize trophy all referenced The Big Weenie. In the science museum world, a "weenie" was the best exhibit in the gallery, the one that got the most attention. Weenie is also a food, so that was part of it. It’s also laughingly enjoyable to say out loud. Try it… weenieweenieweenie See! But not everyone thought it was a good choice of word.
One of the early logo concepts

The final (we thought) logo

As Allen and I flew westward to Burbank, California and the Theta Sound Studio, there was a management meeting at COSI. Even though we had been working on The Big Weenie for several months, management was unaware of the name or perhaps their ears finally perked up when it was mentioned at this meeting. After we landed, we went to the Studio and arrived mid-session as the musicians were laying down the music. As we were settling in and working on some last-minute edits, Allen got a call from COSI. We were told that the name “Weenie” was absolutely not allowed and that any reference to it must be removed from the show. I assume this was because “weenie” can also mean “penis.” The Big Penis show.

After Allen hung up and told me this, we started to realize the situation we were in. This wasn’t just a simple name change. The word Weenie was throughout the lyrics, usually at the end of a line. This meant that our replacement word needed to be:
-two syllables
-end in the “ie” sound
-be food related
-it had to fit in the flow of everything
-determined in the next 18 hours before the actors were in the studio to record their lines and songs
-not have anything to do with penis

What we came up with in those first few hours was, “The Big Smörgie,” short for Smörgåsbord. It fit with most the replacement criteria, except that it was a made-up word and didn’t quote flow. But that was the best we had. And the best was mediocre.

Allen had another meeting across town, so he left me at the studio to oversee the recording and to make sure we didn’t have any other odd references in the script to Weenie.

Allen called twenty minutes later in LA traffic. He had an idea. He told me about Jerry’s Famous Deli. It’s a landmark in LA and they have an awesome menu. On that menu is (was) a delicious dessert (or breakfast item depending on how you wanted to frame it) item that consisted of a cream cheese and jelly sandwich that was soaked in egg and deep fried.

The item was called a Yummy.
Jerry's Famous Deli menu with The Yummy

The Yummy


The Big Yummy! Yummy was the perfect replacement word! It met all the criteria. It was the next best, closest thing to Weenie that we were going to get. We swapped out all the Weenies with Yummys in the script, changed the logo, and moved on.

There are still secret stashes of The Big Weenie floating around. Sketches. Original scripts. Logo development concepts. I think the biggest one in clear sight is that the trophy the “winner” of the show received is a hot dog or weenie. 
Note the W on the crown and faux Latin on base

In 2004, a financially burdened COSI had a failed tax levy and the institution made some major cuts. The Big Yummy was a staff intensive show and went on the chopping block. LifeFormations, the animatronic company, bought back several of the animatronics and repurposed them at different venues. One of the most popular is Corn Cob Bob and Pat O’Butter at Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati. You can still see them there at the front door today.

I was extremely fortunate to work on The Big Yummy project. There were many, many creative people involved that I still interact with today. We all made something outlandishly creative and heartrendingly original. When I am at COSI, I will go into that room and look for the hints and shadowed fingerprints that were left behind by that experience. Seams in the drywall. Bumps under the carpet. They are there if you know where to look. But the biggest, lasting impression, which you can also see, if you know where to look, is on me.

Fortune and Fame,
A heartbeat away,
Lights flashing your name,
This is your day,
It’s the Weenie,
The Big Weenie,
Ennie, meanie, miney, moe,
Where will the Big Weenie go?

The Top 10 Causes of Traffic Jams in Columbus

Traffic in Columbus isn't bad, but it is the only traffic we have and so we need to make the best/worst of it. Here are the Top 10 traffic jam causing elements in Columbus.


10. The Bramble Trailer
There is some money to be made in Columbus by hauling branches in a rickety, old two-wheeled trailer that looks to be made of twigs itself. In going from the location where the branches were picked up to the inevitable illegal dumping location where they were supposed to end, the two-wheel trailer becomes a one-wheeled trailer and winds up alone in the road. This will cause traffic to stop as people stop to admire how well the sticks were packed into the one-wheel trailer.

9. Red, White, and Boom
There will never be a traffic jam before Columbus’ annual 4th of July event because people will start arriving two months ahead of time to stake out property. Fortunately, Columbus outlawed barbed wire in 1998. But after the event… it’s like taking three Polaris Amphitheater traffic jams (Polaris Amphitheater traffic jams were #11 on the list) and cramming them into very large bagpipe and sitting on it, slowly. The easiest way to get out of Red, White, and Boom is to fake a heart attack and get Life-Flighted out.

8. Dead X on road
Columbus has dead things on the road. Usually one every thirty feet. They range from small dead things to really big dead things. Sometimes they are not dead things, but are soon after you hit them. The reaction to a dead thing in the road, by of a small percentage of Columbus drivers, is to come to a complete stop, put on their blinker, and wait for rush hour traffic to clear up so they can change lanes and go around the dead X.

7. and 6. Ohio State Football Games (tie)
These get you coming and going. Going early doesn’t help. Leaving early doesn’t help. Taking an Uber is very unhelpful in either direction. You can only avoid this by walking there and then stumbling home. Another good work around is to fake a heart attack in Dublin and have them Life Flight you to the OSU Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital and as they roll you in, say you need to step out for a smoke.

5. Not a pothole
Columbus drivers are familiar with driving over potholes. When they come to a stretch of road without a pothole, then panic and swerve. This will cause accidents and traffic jams.

4. Nothing
Columbus is well known for the traffic jams that cause all lanes to come to a halt. For traffic to surge a few times and come back to a halt. Then right when you expect to see a bramble trailer or dead x, it opens up and traffic goes back up to the normal 45 – 87mph.

3. Rubber Necking
C is for cookie. It’s also for curious. People in Columbus are a curious folk. If they see a flashing light, or pulled over car, or even another traffic jam, we need to slow down and investigate: “Is that someone I know? What car were they driving? I bet they were texting.” And because we can’t do two things at once, Columbus drivers have to slow down to be curious. I hear tell of a rubber necking traffic jam in 2014 that had a domino effect all the way around 270, both directions. In the end, a group of construction workers had to lift one car up and out and throw it over the 270 Dublin bridge to create space so that all the other cars could get by.

2. Rain
Someday, we will learn to drive in the rain and Columbus will be as popular as Chicago or Miami. Until then, when it rains, we drive poor.

1. Everyone Else
Everyone else in Columbus is a bad driver but you. No one else knows how to drive in Columbus but you. Everyone either drives too fast or too slow and that when you go over the speed limit it is just the right amount. You pay the exact right attention and you don’t look at your phone for too long like other people do. And on the day that you do get into an accident and cause a traffic job, it most certainly will not be your fault.



 

Panties just don’t do it for me anymore

I used to love the word panties as much as I loved panties themselves. Panties. It’s a fun word that elicits excitement and opportunity, or at least it used to. The only reason to talk about panties was when a girl was getting into them or, hopefully, out of them. And imagining if the panties matched the bra or maybe even no panties. No panties!

Panties!

But now… panties have lost their luster. We are potty training our daughter and what I hear now is, “Ann pooped in her panties!” or her yelling in defiance, “NO PANTIES!” No panties used to be good. Now it means a two minute chase around the house and five minutes more of wrestling them on. I never thought I’d have to fight a girl to get her panties on.

I rinse out poopy panties in the sink. I watch my daughter gleefully point out Dora the Explorer on her panties. I go to pick them up off the floor and realize she took them off because they were wet. I rinse more poop out of panties.

Panties. Not fun anymore. Goodbye panties.

Luckily, I have another ten years or so of liking bras.

Church Wine

There was a time in my life when I was Catholic.  As a kid in a Catholic family, we sometimes got to sit up on the altar with the priest during mass.  All the families rotated through. It was a great time for mom to practice pinching four children simultaneously to keep us from wiggling, nudging, squirming and what boiled down to dicking around up there in plain view of 200 or so judgmental people.  The view from the altar is much better than from the pews.  More people to look at. You can see the nails in Jesus up close. See the priest from the backside. (Insert your own Catholic priest joke here.)

It was the job of the family on the altar to present the gifts to the priest during mass. The gifts are the sacramental bread and wine that represent Jesus after he died, quit drinking and went gluten free. Before mass, the priest would prepare the wine and wafers in the priest green room and the family would sneak them out to the altar before mass started.

In the secret lair of the priest, the wine was stored in a locked cabinet.  The key to the cabinet was on a woven purple string.  It was probably just a piece of string or something simple, but it seemed special.  The priest would need to get the wine and pour it in a golden chalice for transportation to the stage…  err, altar.  Church wine was special. I knew it was special because it came in a small, odd shaped bottle with letters and numbers on it.  There was also a picture of grapes on it in case anyone needed to be reminded that it was wine. When he opened the locked cabinet, I saw that bottle and it was burned into my memory. I could see the priests that worked in the wine fields, picking those same illustrated grapes, stomping on them, putting the liquid in barrels with God smiling from above.  In time, the holy liquid would be bottled in those very special bottles and shipped to churches across the world.

It was poured, recapped and locked back in the cabinet.

When you are 12 and Catholic, you get a sip of wine during communion. My brother would dare me to take a gulp, but God would get pissed, and I was already in trouble with him for the constant masturbation.

At the end of communion, the priest would drink any leftover wine. I remember thinking that being a priest has its perks!

Everyone would leave the church. The family would help to clean up. The priest would say thanks and be thankful that our family wouldn't be back for another 18 months.

It’s now years later. I’m no longer 12, but I am not yet 21.  I am in a car that is going through a drive-thru to illegally buy beer.  Doob is in the front seat, questioning the guy about the different beers.  We are all silently yelling at him to shut up, order a 24 pack of Old Milwaukee and move on. Trying to look busy not looking at the beer guy, I pretend to take interest in the other beers in the coolers.

Church wine. Church wine! They had church wine at the beer drive-thru!

I turned to Russ. “Hey, they have church wine here.”

Russ didn’t know what I was talking about. “What are you talking about?”

I pointed. That wine. “The one with the numbers and letters. And the grapes!! It’s church wine. It's a special Catholic Church wine.”

“You mean the Mad Dog?”

I had heard of Mad Dog. It was like a liquor or something. “No. The one with MD and 20/20. That’s church wine.”

The car was now pulling away. Doob was somehow able to buy the beer and not get busted.

Russ said, “The one with the MD is Mad Dog. MD. Mad Dog. It’s fortified wine. It’s what bums drink because it’s cheap.”

My whole life was a sham. The special wine. The locked cabinet. The priests in the field. God smiling down as the bottles were shipped around the world.  It was all one big lie. One oddly shaped bottle with screw top cap, numbers and letter and a picture of grapes lie.

It’s been a long time since I have had church wine. I remember the taste. The dare to take a chug. The special bottle with the M and D. Numbers. And a picture of beautiful, plump grapes.

DB Used Christmas Trees

Every once in a great while, someone comes up with that one in a million idea. The “Why didn’t I think of that?” idea. The idea that will shake a generation to its collective knees.

Well my friend Dave (DB) thought of one and he’s going to make millions. I’m glad I am getting in on the front end!

Presenting:

DB’s Used Christmas Trees



Here's how the business came together:
Trees harvested from local curbs are gently dumped in yard


Wire and banners hung (special thanks to the flag pole!)


Trees arranged alphabetically according to genus, needle count and amount of tinsel left on branches.


$5,400 spent on logo design


And here is the final product


So here's to you Dave! And here's the team of folks that helped you get there. We hope you enjoy your profits once you return home from vacation.


BONUS MATERIAL

Deer head on door


Someone actually had this tree in their home


This tree came complete with lights and pre-attached stand



Religious Backlash against saying “Turkey Day” instead of “Thanksgiving”

COLUMBUS, OH (FD)– Joyce Withers stands outside the Kroger’s grocery store in the 43 degree weather with her three year old grasping on to her leg. The sign Mrs. Withers holds reads, “Thanksgiving: Thanks to Jesus.” Her daughter’s sign, which is lying forgotten against a row of carts reads, “It’s not Turkey Day, Give Thanksgiving to the Lord!”

Mrs. Withers is part of a growing group of religious devotees that believe Thanksgiving is losing its religious focus. “Saying Turkey Day is just as bad as saying X-Mas or Bunny Day. It’s downright evil.” She and hundreds of others plan continued protest today across the United States and California.

As many are aware, the Pilgrims sought religious freedoms when they came to America. Miss Wither’s explains, “The dinner with the Indians was a lot like the Last Supper. Bread was broken in the name of the Lord. Now days we celebrate in a similar way: The Turkey represents God. Jesus is the gravy and the Holy Spirit is the stuffing. I like the Holy Spirit part the best. Especially when it is cooked inside God.”

Mrs. Wither’s plans on protesting through the end of Wednesday and into Turkey Day. “We’ll be here through Thursday night and then we go and stand in line at the Wal-Mart so that we can get in on the early morning sales for Christmas.”

Memorable Work Phrases


It’s difficult to suggest that we have “legends” where I work. We've had legendary people work with us (Ray Morrow) but I really don't recall any great feats of impossible accomplishments that are remembered and passed on to new workers to inspire them. Instead, we memorable stories that have titles that become work phrases that we bring up in meetings or laughingly mention in an email. These summaries usually have an implied moral or warning to those who would forget the past.


One Man, One Hour

In 2003, I was on a project at a science museum in Charleston, WV.  We would drive down from Columbus on Monday, stay the week and drive back on Fridays. We managed our client, their GC, our vendors, and ourselves. Towards the end of the project, we planned for the client to bring in a few school groups to test the activities to see what was working, what was not working, and what was breaking, both physically breaking and breaking our hearts.

My last piece of work was to install some painted, metal trim around a small platform. I had previously dry-fit the metal to the platform before sending it out for paint. That morning, we got to the site at 7:00 am and gathered for our daily meeting. Everyone knew the school groups would be showing up at 10:00 am and that we should be finished with our work by 9:00 am so that we could absolutely be cleaned up and ready. We went around the circle with everyone sharing what they were working on. When it came to me, I said that I had to install the trim and then I would be available to help others with their work. Allen asked, “What is it going to take to get done?”
I said, “One man, one hour.”  The group broke up and I got to work.

I opened the box my trim pieces were in and immediately found out the marks I labeled them with were covered in paint. My first task was figuring out what was what. In normal Doug fashion, I did figure it out, but did not re-mark them knowing that I would easily remember which was which and the two minutes it would take to mark them was way too long.

While dry fitting them worked out great, I had never added the fasteners to hold them on to the platform. As the fasteners cinched down, the metal would bend slightly, which kept it from laying flat on all sides. Because the front and top were visible, I couldn’t add fasteners on those sides to make them lay flat. On top of this issue, tightening the screws caused the metal to deflect and when the screws were removed, the metal did not go back to its original shape. I had to bend every deflection back by hand.

When I looked at the time, it was almost 8:00 am and I should have been done. Co-workers were peeking in at me, but not saying anything.

Once I did get one piece in and fitting correctly, the next interlocking piece would reveal where things were not flat or where they were still bent. There was a cascading waterfall of failure that kept requiring me to remove all the pieces and starting from scratch.

At 8:30 am, Jim walked over and said, “Do you need some help?”
I said, “No, I’ll get it.”
Jim hunched down and watched for a few moments. He immediately noticed that the holes I was pre-drilling for the hardware were too small. Many of them were large enough at this point because I had run screws through them four or five times, but with Jim making the holes larger, the newer pieces were behaving better.

Ouch! Did I mention the edges were sharp and the holes that the screws had expanded had skin slicing blades coming out?

We got to the last piece and discovered that it needed to be the first piece. The way the metal bent around required it to be the first piece. We took them all off. Jim said, “Which is the next piece? Are these labeled?”

It was now 9:45 am and the groups had already shown up.  Would we be able to let them in early? I think AJ showed up at this point to jump in to help.

At about 10:04 am, Jim, AJ and I were finishing up with others helping to hide my tools as the school kids started running around the space.  

I was able to hang back and watch the kids interact with the exhibits. I was soaked with sweat and sadness, but the kids’ excitement and glee took my edge off.

If you are ever in a meeting and someone brings up a hesitation about the labor and time it will take to do something, a few folks will smile and say, “One man, one hour.” I, too, like to say it, because I dabble in self-deprecation.

Here is that platform with the metal trim. It’s beautiful. Yes, that is astro-turf.




Ham

We build interactive exhibits, mainly for children's and science museums, but many other venues, like zoos and retail environments, are very interested in how we can communicate a message through physical interaction and software. Some of these exhibits are new, untested ideas that we put a lot of effort into making them work or re-working them. Some of these exhibits are tried and true, industry-wide, standard hands-on activities that really don’t change from one installation to the next.  Something like a gyroscope or a zoetrope. You can’t really bend the science to make these phenomenon work in a different way.  But every project is different, and sometimes these standard exhibits are changed slightly based on that project’s needs for different cabinetry or themeing. We find ourselves looking at a previous drawing of an interactive and thinking, “This is what worked before, it must be what will work now for this simple activity.” But something was changed from one project to the next and that modification isn’t needed or could be a challenge if it isn’t caught for the new project. AJ and I were discussing this one day and lamenting about how poor documentation of changes can be an issue when everyone just does what the person before them did. That reminded me of a story my ECON 101 teacher, Mr. Ault, told us about his wife’s ham. When she would prepare a ham, would cut a generous portion off either end. When Mr. Ault asked why she did this, she explained, “It was how my mom did it.”

This stuck with him and at the next family gathering, he asked the mom why she cut the ends of her ham off. The mom replied, “I’m not sure, it’s how my mom did it.”

And to the matriarch he presented himself and asked. “Why did you cut the ends of your ham off?”

And she explained, “My pan was too small to fit the whole ham.”

Sometimes we do things because it’s just how they were done before. And while that seems to save time and money, you can end up doing things for the wrong reason.

For our team, when something is a replication, we take that extra step of making sure that what we did before was the correct way and that we do not keep mirroring unnecessary modifications from the past. When something should be carved in granite, we make sure we document any project specific changes, so that future creators know what they are getting into. But when one does sneak by and the question is asked why it was done that way, we know it’s a Ham.


Voodoo Budgeting

In about 2001, I told my boss that numbers he was moving around in the project budget were either incorrect or wrong or unnecessary. I forget the circumstances, except that I probably should have shared my opinion in some other way then by telling him it was “Voodoo Budgeting.”

Join me in the way back machine to 1986 when actor Ben Stein teaches that George H. W. Bush called Reaganomics, “Voodoo Economics.”


I don’t know very much about Economics (except about the professor’s wife’s ham,) but I did remember that line from the movie. It seemed a fitting way to describe what I was feeling at that moment. My boss did not like that phrase very much.

His displeasure with it was so memorable that this Work Phrase isn’t about budgets or accounting or economics or the phrase Voodoo Budgeting. It’s about when you say something to someone and it sticks with them FOREVER.  

When my boss brings up Voodoo Budgeting, I know that he’s reminding me of that special day and that he’ll never forget the time I doubted him and did so using a clever movie reference. Sometimes I will bring it up in a meeting, just so that I can say it before he does so that I can still have some power over those words.

www.usedbrassmoviestanchionsthatarenolongerneeded.com

A few years ago, we hired someone at the management level who had production experience and seems to know “a guy” in every trade possible. I’ll call him KF for Kung-Fu. He was experienced and seem to be able to give us contacts throughout the industry. The one thing he did not have a command over was searching the internet.

In a project meeting, we discussed resourcing brass stanchions with the velvet ropes. Hugh had been doing some research and shared what the costs were. The new guy thought that the costs for the stanchions were too high and asked if Hugh had done research on used stanchions.  KF said, “You see, the internet, it’s made standing in line at the theater obsolete. Theaters everywhere don’t need those stanchions anymore, so they are in a backroom getting dusty. The movie managers want to make a quick buck so they sell them on line. We just need to find them.”

(I don’t want to get in to how many theaters DON’T have brass stanchions with velvet ropes and that some manager would be creating a website to sell them.)

KF grabs the meeting room keyboard and pulls up the internet. He then starts to speak aloud and type, “ www dot used brass stanchions dot com.” That web address came up empty. Again, “www dot movie theater brass stanchions not being used for sale dot com.” Nothing. He tried several variations on this, each time coming up with a longer, more complicated string of words that he would try to turn into a website address. Of course, nothing came up. Hugh stopped him and said, “I will continue the search at my desk.”

In the end, we bought a bunch of new stanchions and aged them so that they would look old. Not old like they were in a movie theater closet for years, but you get my point.

Now at work, when someone asks how to locate an odd material or obscure product, like a pair of 6’ tall fuzzy dice, we will follow that up with, “Have you tried www.GiantSixFootFuzzyDice.com or www.StoreThatSellsFuzzyDiceThatArentSmallButSixFootCube.com?”

Below is an image of stanchion that were not bought used and use in a themed structure.



Aunt Barbara's Wagon

Back in the late 80s, my Aunt Barbara gave me her behemoth of a station wagon and my friends and I had an awesome time driving it around and causing all sorts of distress and that's the end of the story.

Except that the station wagon never made it to me. I never got to opportunity to create shenanigans in it.

Steve intercepted the wagon and I never got to drive it.

I think the station wagon was about 60 feet long and the back end of it could hold 23 people and 12 kegs. I assume that if it ran into a telephone pole, the driver would feel a slight bump and only notice later that the station wagon was covered in a telephone pole quantity of toothpicks. Its gas tank held 500 gallons of gasoline that would get it to go 45 miles. Aunt Barbara had multiple sclerosis so her station wagon was outfitted with an aftermarket accelerator and brake control on the steering column which made for interesting feet-out-the-window driving opportunities. I could be wrong about these descriptors, but I choose to ignore the truth,

I know for sure that some of you reading this are aware of the station wagon and probably ended up passing out in or under it. You have your own story. I know of two.

Brakes
Steve had the station wagon for a while when the brakes started to go out. Like any good Powhida, he ignored the problem and hoped it would go away. It did not go away and, again, instead of fixing the problem, he created a work-around. As he was driving the station wagon through Toledo, he would watch the crosswalk signs in the distance. If he saw one of them start to flash, he knew that the light would soon be changing. To come to a stop, Steve would do the following:
1. shift from Drive into 2
2. shift from 2 into 1
3. press the brake pedal to the floor just for show in the hopes the brakes would kick in
4. engage the parking brake
5. shift from 1 into Park
6. swear
7. steer the wagon into the curb for a frictional slow down
8. shift from  park into reverse
9. drive up the curb and on to the grass
10. let the final momentum take the wagon off the curb and to the stop bar

Steve did this until he did get the brakes fixed or the wagon died

The Wagon Died
The wagon died. Steve knew it was going to die, it was just a negotiation with fate as to when. For Steve, it was on a road trip from Toledo to Ohio State. The wagon let the ghost go along the side of 23 South. Fortunately, it was a caravan of cars headed to Ohio State, so they were not stranded. Steve gave the wagon last rites and his buddies stripped or obscured every single VIN code from the wagon along with any paperwork that might point back at him or poor Aunt Barbara. They left the smoking husk next on the side of the road where nature would take its course. There are some that say that rusting bits of the wagon are still on the side of the road or that an auto mechanic from Detroit found the wagon and brought it back to life as a bus to take kids to school. Me? I think that the highway patrol had a semi tow truck haul the beast to Lake Erie where it was used to shore up part of the coast and keep erosion from pulling Cleveland into the lake. The wagon couldn't stop itself, but it can keep Cleveland from floating away.

(Please come back in a few days for photos of the wagon. I have reached out to Cousin Andy for photos. If you have photos, please contact me at holyjuan@gmail.com.)


The Between

My brother's 50th birthday was celebrated on August 21st, 2017. His birthday is actually on August 12th, but birthdays are never convenient, so they are celebrated whenever it makes sense and when you can fit in an awesome pool party! Miss Sally and I took the kids to Toledo and we drank and swam and had a great time until we had to leave, because we are responsible adults and knew that the party was only going to get more outrageous. So we went home.

Steve died 27 days later on September 17th, 2017.

No one wants to remember the day someone died. You celebrate the birthday. And you lie to yourself that the anniversary of their death doesn't mean anything and that you'll almost forget.

But I've got this weird thing where I cannot stop thinking about the time between when I last saw him and when he died. The Between. I feel like this is an episode of Black Mirror or The Twilight Zone and I am watching his last 27 days and unable to change the outcome. I only know what he did those 27 days through what people are now posting on Facebook and saying, "I can't believe this concert we went to with Steve was just last year," and the inevitable, "This was Steve's last Rocket's game." I'd like like to think I could slip in between one of those moments and do something that would change the future. But I can't. And I find myself dwelling here in The Between.

I'm sure that many people have Betweens with their loved ones' deaths. Like if it was flipped, with his passing first and his birthday second, we'd be thinking about the time leading up to the birthday he wasn't able to celebrate. Or if someone dies around a major holiday. Those days Between are much shorter than waiting a whole year to celebrate the birthday or trying not remember the death.

I'm not counting down the days. It is possible I will wake up on the 17th and not immediately remember. But at some point, The Between will end, and I will remember it is the day I didn't want to make special by remembering. And I will put on my brave face. And I will graciously thank the people that remember, because I am thankful that they do. And I'll look back on those 27 days and realize that there was nothing I could do then and nothing I can do now.

Personally, I don't think Steve would be at all happy that I'm feeling like a miserable lump of sadness pudding. I guess I am in my own Between. And I look back and see my own 27 days ago when I was blissfully happy and look ahead to when I can deal with Steve's passing and be at peace. I've been up and down. I think I've got a handle on it... I think that it is all behind me... and then I am a mess. I look up and I am still in my own Between. And I'm waiting to be on the other side of that Between.








Weed Tea

Many years ago, when I was about 10, my brother and I decided to smoke the dried, tubular, hollowed out weeds that grew near the creek in our back yard. We’d pluck a nice fat one and break it down to a cigar sized length. Then we would light blue tip matches off of the dry rocks and attempt to fire up the hollow weeds. The weed really didn’t light and we would end up inhaling more blue tip match sulfur than smoke.

My brother got the completely logical idea that we should use the hollow weeds as a medium to smoke something else out of. Sort of a hard cased cigarette. Since we did not have any tobacco in the house or in the seven miles radius of desolation and country farms that we called home, we opted for the next best thing: tea.

We went in the house, opened up four Lipton tea bags and dumped the contents into a plastic sandwich bag. We disposed of the external tea bag material, string and paper by stuffing it way in the bottom of the trash can because we were sure mom or dad would figure out what we were up to if they found the remnants.

In the back yard we stuffed the hollow reeds with some of the tea. We used smaller weeds to pack the tea in cannon ball style. We fired them up. He coughed. I choked. He wheezed. My eyes dripped tears. It was smooth.

When we finished (fifteen seconds after we started) we went back inside and most likely played Atari. He probably won and punched me in the arm because that's how it always was.

Three years later I was in the living room (probably playing Atari) when my mother called to me from the kitchen. I entered. Dad was sitting at the kitchen table. Mom was standing. Between them at the table was a plastic sandwich bag filled with three year old tea.

Mom did the talking. “Is this yours?”

My mind raced back. I ended up tossing that plastic bag of tea in my underwear drawer, way in the back. I’d see it every so often, but didn’t think much of it as it was only tea. I never threw it away. Mom had been going through my drawers, diligently looking for weed, and low and behold she hit the mother lode.

I answered her question, “Yes. It’s tea.”

“Is this marijuana?”

“No! It’s tea!”

My parents wouldn’t know tea from weed so I was in for a bit of trouble.

“You have one more chance… is this marijuana?”

“No! It’s tea! Steve and I tried to smoke it years ago!”

Dad finally spoke up, “You smoked tea?”

“Yes. Out of the weeds by the creek.”

“The hollow ones?” Dad didn’t drop his apples very far from the tree.

Mom couldn’t believe that her snooping was proving fruitless. “There’s only one way we can tell that this is tea.”

Dad put a pan of water on the stove. I was made to sit at the table and wait forever watching for the water to boil. He dumped in the contents of the bag. We all waited more. I distinctly remember Dad wafting the steam to his face and saying, “Well, it smells like tea.”

That was all the proof they needed. The weed tea was disposed of. I was given some sort of punishment that involved not being allowed to play Atari.

My recollection of this story sounds brave, but I’m sure I was whimpering and high pitched stammering and I bet I ratted out my brother in the first ten seconds of the interrogation. When he came home that night, he got three years of backlogged reprimands. His punishment was probably worse because it always was.

What is a Story?


This is how is starts. This is how it begins. A story begins at the start and then once the start recognizes what it’s done, then it’s the middle. The middle wanders around a bit until it gets bored and then the end comes along. The end usually shows up right about at the right time, which is always the wrong time when the story is good. When the story is bad, well, the end is like a smothering pillow and we all look away as business is taken care of.

Sometimes there are characters and they really screw up the middle and the end. The characters are either people or they are not or they are both. Characters tend to change during the story, so try not to fall in love with them. If you are disappointed in how a character turns out, you can go back and read the story, but stop before they change.

The thing the characters always seem to muck about with is the plot. While the middle of the story wanders around, it is usually holding hands with the plot. The middle and the plot are happy just passing the time, but characters usually end up kicking the plot and the plot drags the middle around or vice versa and then the pillow comes in and smothers them both.

But before you can start, you have to know when to start. And even that gets confusing when the start isn’t really the beginning and later in the story they go back before the start and the start starts to get a complex. The start is now the middle and the middle is all over the place.  The plot’s arm is sore and the characters start to doubt that this was ever a good idea and the pillow looms above. But luckily, many stories play it straight and their "when" is somewhere reasonable like the 1800s or the 80s or now or in the near future or future future.

Don’t get me started on where stories take place. All stories take place by a lake. Lakes are nice and provide everything a story needs. Any story that doesn’t take place near a lake isn’t a story and is not long for the pillow.

Fortunately, I’m not a writer and I don’t get caught up in all of this. I'm just the guy with the pillow.

Forgetting the Unforgettable

(Author's note: I'm not ruining this article by telling you that I am now at peace with myself and Steve's death. It still hurts. And his family is still hurting. But I'm not kicking myself anymore about it. I think Steve would say that I've sucked it up. I won't forget, but I'm over the forgetting.)

I need to write this and you will be the surprised and unprepared reader of my sadness. HolyJuan usually makes you forget about all the horrible things that life has to offer, and HolyJuan usually does so through such self-referential methods as making fun of people who speak in the 3rd person, even when the 3rd person isn't even a person. But I would appreciate if you would stick through this and then we can all go back to irreverent, relevant nonsense.

I keep forgetting that my brother is dead. I will forget, time passes, and then I remember. And while those instances of remembering are not as shocking as the initial revelation, it's just as debilitating in a numb sort of way. I am endlessly forgetting. Then I remember. Then I feel sad. And then I move on with forgetting again.

And here, outside of him being dead, is the worst part about it: I feel guilty that I keep forgetting. If I would have been closer to Steve, I think that I wouldn't forget as often. That there would be a constant Steve haze of sadness that wouldn't leave that would cause a constant ache. Instead, I keep remembering that I forgot and I feel terrible about it.

I would like to get to the stage where I feel guilty about beginning to not think about him, except that I immediately know he's gone. Right now, those few milliseconds of remembering never start with him being dead. They are filled with the next time I see him. Then I remember, I realize I've forgotten, and then the guilt. I know it's a horrible analogy, but when I think about Santa Claus, I don't think about him as someone who is real and then I remember that he isn't. He's not real right from the get-go of thinking about him, even though a younger HolyJuan believed differently. I want to remember Steve, knowing that he is dead. And I can't. Not yet and seemingly not ever.

Did I ever tell you that I absolutely hate wind chimes? Their only purpose is to piss off the neighbors and possibly to keep the Local #45 Less Than 16" Long Pipe Union in business. My favorite noise a wind chime makes is a tie between when it isn't making noise or the clattering thud it makes as it falls in the bottom of a trash can. I do not like wind chimes.

After Steve died, Susie and Larry bought us a set of memorial wind chimes. They are silver tubes with black lettered poetry about how you are going to have a difficult time forgetting the deceased with these things clamoring all day and night. We sent a nice thank you card and I never thought they would leave the box. But they did make it into the sunlight and I hung them on the deck. "Sunlight" and "on the deck" being merely suggestive as they are tucked off the side in a low-to-the-ground corner where neither sunlight or wind make their presence known and they would remain silent.

But somehow the wind does swirl up and give the dangling weight enough momentum that it creates a few notes. Quiet and gentle notes that creep into the house when I am having my morning coffee. For just a brief second, they will tinkle. And I will be reminded of Steve. While my sadness at the beginning of all this was about remembering Steve, this wind chime reminds me of Steve. A subtle difference. I'm OK with being reminded of Steve by wind chimes or by friends or by Steve's family or Facebook posts. I love being reminded of Steve. I fucking hate wind chimes and the set that Susie and Larry gave us will always be hanging from somewhere near my home because they now remind me of him.

That is where I want to get with my own internal struggle: I want to be reminded. A gentle nudge that makes me smile or that makes me sad he is gone. Like on a chilly spring day, when the sun is forgotten behind the clouds, but then it secrets through, and nonchalantly hits the peripheral. Eyes closed you can turn into the light, welcome it, and take in the warmth. Then it moves on and so do you. The chimes warm me. The stories keep his memory alive. All these reminders I appreciate, welcome, and love.

I just want to stop forgetting.

What No One Tells You About Moving

Moving is highly underrated. Both in time and treasure. I’ve helped several friends to move and here’s what I’ve noticed that you should consider before moving.

0.5 The PLAN
(It’s best to have the PLAN in the #0.5 spot so that you can sneak up on the #1 item.)
Create a PLAN for the move. Write it down. Stick to it. Even if you are wrong, because once people begin to doubt you, they’ll start to argue and that is a time suck. Be willing to take advice, but don’t let anyone tell you what to do. This is why you do not invite your dad to the move.

1. Packing takes 20% longer than expected
OK, you’ve heard this before, but no matter how you plan, packing will take 20% longer. Even after you read this, you might think, “I’ll just increase the time by 20%.” Wrong. Because it will take 20% longer than that. It’s a losing proposition. It is in your best interest to schedule five hours to pack so that it will only take six. (And don’t think you can plan on five minutes of moving so that it will take six. Fate is not stupid.)

2. Pack Everything
Put as much as you can in boxes. It makes packing the truck so much easier. Leave stuff in drawers if you want, but make sure you cover with cardboard and tape. Take this opportunity to throw out all your lamps. They are hard to pack and just not worth your time. DO NOT PACK THINGS IN SUITCASES. It is a well know fact that suitcases are the number one item that get lost both at the airport and in a move.

3. Don’t Pack Everything
Screw that last bit. Take the time to get rid of stuff. Have your friends take stuff. Call the local charity that will haul it away. Put it on the curb so the local junk-truck-guy can come by and take the good stuff. Especially those lamps.

4. Color Code
In the end, you will be much happier will all your crap in well marked, color coded boxes You can write the details of the box in small letters, but use large words or color to help guide the unpackers to the room they need to go. The night before the move, go to the new house and make signs with arrows. Color code rooms and doors. This will alleviate you standing at the front door of the new house, blocking the door deciding what the hell you were thinking last night when you wrote KT BT 9 FR on the box.

5. Rent the bigger truck
Rent the biggest truck you can get your hands on. Find a friend with a Commercial Driver’s License if you have to. Two trips SUCKS. Spend the extra money because you will save it in the end with mileage and time.

6. You can have too many people to help
It’s easy to understand that if you are the only one moving your furniture, you are screwed. But is it possible to have too many people? YES. One of my favorite economics terms is “diminishing returns.” It basically means that the more people you throw at a job, at some point, the amount of work that can get done is reduced. When you have too many people standing around, they will have the time to stop and criticize your PLAN. If you invite too many people to help, divide them up into smaller teams for continued packing, labeling, cleaning, lifting or send some over to the new place to get rid of them. Have them buy the beer and put it into the new refrigerator. Part of your PLAN should be a list of things for the ne'er-do-wells to do while the real help is doing their job.

7. Inside help / outside help
Your job during the move is to coordinate. Try not to get stuck moving anything. You should be able to freely move in and out of the house. If you have the personpower, have someone in the house, who is familiar with the PLAN, that can guide the movers or get you in a hurry if there is a question. You can then be near the truck to help with loading, unless you suck at Tetris.

8. Tight Pack
If you are crappy at Tetris, I would suggest getting a friend who has move experience to pack the truck. You want a tight pack as this means less damage and more stuff on the truck. Have room outside the truck for staging items that should go on later or when you have a futon shaped hole to fill.

9. MOVE EVERYTHING NOW

Damnit! I’ve seen it a hundred times. Towards the end of the move, little stuff is still lying around the house and the owner will say, “I’ll get that stuff later.” Don’t do it. MOVE IT NOW. You’ve got the people and the truck. For fragile stuff also have a fleet of cars that will be going to the new house. Just do it now. If you are moving across the country, you might want to keep personal items or papers with you, just don’t overthink it, champ. Move it now.

10. Don’t Feed in the Middle of a Move
Hungry people work harder. Full people nap. Don’t schedule your move around a meal time. Wait until the move is over to order the pizza. Even if it is late. By then, people will be sick of you and they will leave so you can order less pizza. Only keep cold water at the house you are moving out of. Make sure that beer is only at the new place so they have a goal. Drunk people drop shit and argue with you.

11. Don’t get fancy

Provide water. Provide Pizza. Provide Beer. Don’t try and cater. Don’t even think about cooking out. Your friends knew this when they volunteered to help. They will move someday and you will get the same crap from them.

12. Unpack Now
If you do not unpack a box, it will remain packed until you move again. This falls in line with Move Everything Now. People are there. Unpack.

13. Thanks

You need to thank your friends for helping. If someone loaned you a truck, fill it with gas or leave a $20 in the glove compartment. A real friend will not take money if you hand it to them, so if you really need the $20, try to hand it to your friend instead of putting it in the glove compartment. Thank your friends that night and the next day for their help and apologize for being a dick and not listening to them and not having beer at the house and for making them work so late.

BONUS HINTS
14. Take the next day off work
You will definitely want to take then next day off from work. All the stuff that you are too tired to take care of at midnight will be there for years unless you take care of it immediately. If you go to work, you are going to come home, exhausted, to unpacked boxes and no cable. If you take the next day off, you can sit around and unpack boxes while you wait for the cable guy to show up three hours late.