If It Works, It Works (Updated)


(Author's note: I've updated this story with some new revelations and photos at the end. You can skip down if you wish, but this story is good enough to read again.)

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 museum 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 where AJ unwittingly became a local hero. We needed a lot of expensive tools and AJ was 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 the 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 got paid), 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?)

UPDATE:

Since writing this article in March, I've taken a new position with another company. Last night, we had a going away party at a bar and many of my co-workers showed up to say goodbye. AJ was one of those folks and he said he had a gift for me.

The day after I told people I was leaving our company, AJ secretly came by my desk, took the "If it works, it works" hose assembly and replaced it with a decoy. You can see from the image below that the decoy was so close the the original that I didn't notice and brought it home in a box with my other desk crap.

The decoy - damn good!


Just in case I did notice, AJ slipped a note in his decoy.


So last night at the going away party, AJ presented me with this:


And like I said above, "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”.

Quite possibly the most thoughtful gift I have ever received. Thanks, AJ. And goodbye. I will miss you.



The Step at the C.I.


I went to Ohio University from 1988 to 1992. Technically it was 1993, but I wouldn’t want it to seem like I flunked a grade or that my parents held me back. The friends I made then are the friends I still have now. We are planning a reunion for the end of June and there are about 24 of us coming back to Ohio University. More than likely, we will end the night at the C.I.

The C.I. was and still is our favorite haunt. I know many of my friend have individual bars they like to go to for other reasons, but for when we are all together, it’s the C.I. Our favorite pastime is to get a basket of peanuts, halve the shell, eat the peanuts, and then secretly place a half shell on someone’s shoulder as they stood at the bar or walked by. Bonus points for getting a shell on both their shoulders. That was a good way to make friends. We also like to run and try to jump on the high shelf that runs the length of the front wall parallel to the bar. Few could do it then. Fewer now.




In 1993, I was at the C.I. with Crazy Jill. We were manning “The Step.”  Before renovations, the C.I. had an odd step up to a platform at the end of the bar and then step down about 20 feet later. I assume there were pipes running under the floor or possibly treasure. Either way, The Step was a hazard to many a drunk, both stepping up and stepping down, and someone needed to help! Jill and I would stand on either side of the step and ensure that C.I. patrons were aware of the step. I, being a boy, would focus on telling the girls to watch their step, usually offering a hand to help them up or down. Jill would help the boys, usually frisking them on the way past. Both of us always with a, “watch your step!” The people sitting on the shelf behind us probably wondered what we were doing, but enjoyed the show. I just thought it was a good way to possibly pick up a girl for the night. Jill thought she might find her future husband, but that was silly.

On one particular night, Crazy Jill and I were both very drunk and very helpful in escorting people up and down the stair. At some point, Jill began to help the boys down the step with a solid swat on the butt. This continued for several minutes until a boy, staggering to the exit, happened to the top of the step. He was quite drunk and, surprisingly, carrying a camcorder in the palm of his hand. In 1993, a camcorder you could cup in one hand was expensive and not something you haul around drunk at an Ohio University bar.  He approached the stair and began to step down. Jill said, “Watch yer step!” and as he started to descend, she swung and hit his ass. At least she tried to. She missed his butt and instead hit the camcorder in his hand. He was not holding on through the strap and it went flying forward. It missed everyone in front of him and hit the floor with a noise that sounded like five or six pieces of plastic breaking Without missing a stagger, the guy lumbered forward, picked up the largest chunk of camera, some of the plastic bits, and walked out the door without a head turn backwards or an angry word out of his mouth.

We stopped manning the step after that night. I don’t think it was because of the camcorder incident, but the quarter was over for me and we never found time to do it again. You never know when your last night at a bar is going to be. Later the C.I. went through some renovations and The Step was removed and now there is no The Step.

There is one last bit to this story. On that last eventful night, one of the people sitting on the shelf and watching Crazy Jill and I help people up and down the step thought to herself, “What the hell are these people doing.” And then later, “They just broke that guy’s video camera!” It wasn’t until my wife and I were married for a few years that the story of The Step came up and that I was that guy standing in front of her helping ladies up and down The Step and she was the girl sitting behind me, knowing that was the wrong way to try to pick up girls.

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

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.