Impressive Political Moments

imageOn most days I travel through 5 or 6 towns on my way to work. New England is like that; a collection of tiny, congested, parochial little towns with identities confined within boarders that fly by, one after the other. By contrast to my 17 mile journey, the 35 mile trip from Des Moines, Iowa to Ames, Iowa (where my brother lives) appears to take you through precisely one town. As I cross the Bulkeley Bridge, I move seamlessly from Hartford to East Hartford. The best part of my commute is the fact that I am usually traveling against the flow of rush-hour traffic. That wasn’t the case today. Joe Biden came to East Hartford today.

For the benefit of my readers in other countries, Joe Biden is our Vice President and we don’t see him very often. Nobody has ever characterized the office of Vice President as well as Tom Lehrer did on his satirical album “That Was the Year That Wasimage back in the mid-60’s. The song “Whatever Became of Hubert” (only 1:32 if you care to give a listen) highlighted the fact that the VP spends most of his or (maybe someday) her time in the shadow of the big man or (maybe someday) woman. But today Joe Biden visited Goodwin College to attend a “roundtable discussion” on Workforce Development and Skills Training. CT Gov. Dannel Malloy (not a typo, his name is Dannel) also attended.

For all intents and purposes, Joe could have been attending a roundtable discussion on congestion on undersized highways, like Rt-2, the road that Joe traveled en-route to Goodwin College. He wasn’t there for the discussion, Dannel is running for re-election. Congestion wasn’t a problem for Joe and Dannel because Rt-2 was probably closed for the Vice Presidential motorcade.

I’m not sure when they started closing major highways to insure the safe passage of visiting top brass politicians, but I recall being stuck behind President Clinton from Hartford to the airport (BDL). Since I practically live at BDL, I was following his parade for 90% of my commute.

According to the news reports, the roundtable:

highlighted the school’s Certified Production Technician program, a collaboration between small and large employers and local industry partners…”

Did you notice “State and Federal Government” in that partnership? No, I didn’t either but it was a chance for Dannel to have his picture taken with Joe – the Governor of the third-smallest state and the least valuable politician who is capable of closing a highway. This is why I don’t have to remove my socks to count the impressive political moments I’ve experienced.

Ironically, the most impressive act by a politician that I ever witnessed, involved none other than Hubert Humphrey. Hubert wasn’t VP at the time, he was back in the Senate. Hubert was visiting Pittsburgh to stump for John E. Connelly who was running for the US House of Representatives seat that was left empty when Robert Corbett died. John Connelly also happened to own the Gateway Clipper Fleet, where I worked. Technically, I worked for a catering company that supplied the Gateway Clipper fleet with food for the shipboard events.

For the nightly Captain’s Dinner Cruise, we served imageRoast Beef, Ham, Rigatoni and Au Gratin Potatoes. In addition to driving the food from the catering kitchen to the dock, I scooped out the pasta and potatoes. For John Connelly’s fund-raiser, we served franks and beans. I say “we” but professional waiters had been hired to dish out the weenies and beans to the people who had paid hundreds of dollars for the privilege. I, along with the kitchen staff and deck hands, had been instructed to remain in the kitchen or on the tug (the boat that pushed the Party Liner on its nightly journey).

After dinner and the speeches, Hubert Humphrey started walking toward the back of the boat. John Connelly’s eagle-eyed entourage intercepted him as he got within a few yards of the kitchen. Not close enough for us to see, but close enough to hear:

You’re going the wrong way sir

I know where I am going

No, sir, that’s the entrance to the kitchen

I know that. If I’m going to be shaking hands, I’m going to start by shaking the hands of the men and women who made this night possible. You should remember that!

They had gotten close enough to see that that last line was directed at John Connelly.

As Hubert Humphrey walked through the kitchen, he shook our hands and he said something to each one of us. As he shook my hand, he said:

“What do you do here son?”

“I work for the company that prepares the food.”

“You’re doing a fine job.”

How I wished we hadn’t served hot dogs and beans.

John Connelly lost the election to John Heinz, the man whose family’s business probably made the franks and beans that we served that night. John Connelly wasn’t much of a politician, but he was a visionary businessman. He is credited with starting a movement to recapture the energy of the waterfront in Pittsburgh. That movement spread to many other fading industrial cities, including Hartford where Goodwin College is part of an effort to recapture the waterfront in the region.

Posted in Advice, History, Nostalgia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

5-Second Rules

imageM&M’s, Ritz Bits, Grapes, Twizzlers and Skittles are all subject to the standard 5-second rule. Drop it, and if you can pick it up, blow it off and eat it quickly enough, it’s not contaminated. Sure, you’d tell your kids to throw it out but if they’re in bed, you’re eating that bad boy. And the closer you are to the end of the bag, the longer it takes to count to five.

Hard-shell candy is a pretty easy decision. Unwrapped chocolate like Reese’s Minis raise the awareness of time and floor conditions a bit. Stuff that can be washed off is subject to the rule, but sticky stuff can’t be saved. Rice Krispy Treats – yeah those are going out – especially if you have cats.

The notion that ill-effects can be reversed if we act quickly enough is one that I think needs to be embraced by a much larger audience. No, I’m not talking about restaurant spills (although there is the spaghetti sauce story from my catering days…). I’m not even talking about food. I’m talking about the other inconvenient momentary lapses that I’ve suffered. Recently, I’ve been snared by a few online reservation dilemmas that have brought me to reach for a non-existent 5-second rule.

Two weeks ago, I was making airline reservations for a business trip later this year. I’ll be traveling on Southwest. I’m leaving some parties anonymous but this is necessary to the story. You see, sometimes when I fly, I try to include a stopover in Iowa – to visit my brother.

Southwest is a difficult airline on which to book a 3-city trip. You can book the first two legs of your journey on one reservation, but you can’t complete the loop. You need to book that last leg as a separate flight and then stitch the two flights together. It’s a bit unnerving because, for a few minutes, you’re not coming home.

First, I checked the regular round-trip fare. I need to do that to be able to split the cost with my employer. Then, I checked the cost of adding a stop in Des Moines to the trip. Des Moines (DSM), like nearby Bradley (BDL) where I start and end my trips, is a small “terminal destination” airport, meaning flights to and from it are expensive. The next step is one every husband will recognize. I checked with my wife to verify that the travel dates and costs work with our schedule and budget. Cleared for takeoff, so to speak, I checked the availability and pricing of hotel rooms in Iowa. image

Rooms were available at what I have come to accept as the normal price for staying at a Fairfield Inn in the middle of a corn field, albeit a corn field in a college town during the semester. Off to Southwest to complete parts one and two of my reservation. Back to the hotel site where I was greeted by a price that was now $110 more than the price I had been offered 10 minutes earlier. I called. I complained. I was told that not only was school in session, but there was a football game during my stay. “Prices change pretty quickly as rooms get scarfed up during football season” I was told. Small consolation.

I should have known better. I do know better. “Book the room” because you can cancel the room. You can’t always cancel a flight without paying a fee. In fact, I should have known this because of an earlier brush with an absent 5-second rule involving a side-trip to Iowa.

I had worked through the same reservation scenario with a different airline to extend a different business trip to include a stop in Iowa. That airline offered “multi-city” but I was flying from Boston to San Diego to Des Moines and then returning to Hartford so it was a bit more complex. I booked the hotels, the flights, and a rental car in one city and then I started to draft an itinerary for my wife. When I got to the last entry on that list, I realize that I had made the return flight one day later than I had planned. I called the airline:

I’m sorry but you’ve waited too long to correct this error for free. There will be a $125 fee to change your reservation.”

“$125? You have to be kidding. I made the reservations less than an hour ago.”

An argument ensued but ended when I realized that it was cheaper to stay in Iowa an extra day than it would be to change my flight. Coincidentally, this is when I started flying Southwest. I can hold a grudge a long time.

I mentioned the hotel brand earlier because in both cases, the people at Marriott were as gracious and helpful as they could be. In the “I hate your airline so much I’d rather stay an extra day in I-O-wa than give you $125” incident, Marriott not only changed my reservation, but the customer service representative pointed out that I had two free-night certificates that were expiring. Using those allowed me to both extend my stay and lower my cost. In this most recent reservation snafu, the customer service representative couldn’t invoke the 5-second rule I requested. However, he resurrected an already expired free-night certificate for one night, and he applied a Triple-A (AAA) discount to the other nights. His kind actions brought the cost to within $20 of my original budget.

I’m running up against my self-imposed word limit, but the other place I would add a 5-second rule is on line choices. Toll plazas, supermarkets, ice cream stands and TSA all need a 5-second rule that you can invoke once you realize that the line you just chose is moving slower than the next one over.

Posted in Customer Service, Family, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Music of the Road Gone By

imageLater this year, my daughter and I will be on a road-trip. That used to mean that we would have to plan the music, but that’s no longer a chore. The car is iPod ready and we both have iPod/iPhone collections of music. Faith has about 4 million songs and I have 25. I do have some that she doesn’t, including the theme song from Patton and Eric Clapton’s cover of Robert Johnson’s “They’re Red Hot” which (video) looks to be more fun than musicians should have.

I remember when road trips were a constant struggle to tune the AM radio in search of a station with decent music or if we were lucky, the Pirates game. Fortunately, the airwaves weren’t that crowded and KDKA had the power (it seemed) to reach halfway around the world. Then, sometime in the late 60’s, my father bought an 8-Track player for the car. Suddenly we had music. Our own music. Music that we could carry with us and control. 8-Track wasn’t the best quality sound, but it was way better than an AM radio signal drifting in and out of the static as we traveled from western PA to central Virginia.

On the first vacation drive with that 8-Track player, my dad decided that we would alternate choices between our favorite tapes. Dad cheated by bringing a 90-minute tape – “The Patsy Cline Story” which may have started my love affair with country music (I still sometimes get “Walkin’ After Midnight” stuck in my head). I had two Neil Diamond tapes that I had picked up in a bargain bin, the album with “Cherry Cherry and “Brother Loves Traveling Salvation Show.” Mom had some musicals. Dad also had a 90-minute country / bluegrass mix-tape a friend had made for him.

I was still listening to 8-track tapes when I moved from NY to Seattle in 1977. Although cassette tapes had started to rule the world of portable music, I stuck with 8-Tracks until I got rid of my Pontiac Catalina in 1979. Auto tape players were expensive, time consuming to install and if you switched formats, you had to replace your music.

Trust me, if you’re driving across Nebraska, you don’t care about
the form-factor of the music, you just crank it up to keep you awake.

Four years later, as I moved back east, driving across Canada and the Canadian version of Nebraska, the car was a 1979 Triumph Spitfire, the media was cassettes and 70’s rock was the music of choice.

Cassettes piled up in the 80’s and coexisted imagealongside my CD’s through the 90’s because I had a cassette player in my truck and I had that truck for over 10 years. Pickup trucks are made for country music. I had lots of country music mix-tapes and country favorites like Highway 101 Greatest hits. On the road trip through Washington State that my daughter wrote about, Faith and I listened to that tape so many times as we tried to put the songs in order of the relationship that must have inspired them. The worst mistake ever was when that band’s founder, Paulette Carlson got all cocky and decided to start her lackluster solo career. I guess that happens a lot in music.

A couple of years later, Faith and I had a music malfunction and the worst road trip as far as music was concerned. We drove along the coast from San Francisco to Portland, OR. We toured around and bombed back down I-5. Faith was in charge of music and had brought a bunch of CDs. Unfortunately; the rental car had a Cassette deck. She had precisely 1 cassette. We listened to Fleetwood Mac “Greatest Hits” 5,000 times.

Two years ago, Faith and I teamed up for another 1,500 mile plus road trip, this time on a loop from Connecticut through Gettysburg and Pittsburgh. We had CDs, a CD player an iPod ready car and devices galore. Music had ceased to be an issue. In fact, while heading home through the middle of Pennsylvania, I added to our playlist when I purchased John Lennon’s “Imagine” on my iPhone. The only bad part about that purchase was discovering that Faith likes “Oh Yoko!

These days, cars have CD/MP3 players, are iPod/device at batcand Pandora ready. My car came with satellite radio, but I prefer my music and I let that contract lapse. I still have an eclectic mix of country music, rock and soft rock CDs to augment the 25 songs on my iPod Nano. One of the things I like the best though is listening to the Pirates game, on KDKA via MLB At Bat on my iPhone. When my brother and I moved my mother from Pittsburgh to Iowa last year, we listened to one of those ball games in the rental truck. Just like old times, only without the static.

Do you have some memorable road trips or favorite traveling music?

Posted in Family, Nostalgia, Perspective | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

Maybe Disorder Wasn’t the Right Word

imageLast week, my friend Brad Lewis shared a link on Facebook to a Huffington Post article titled:

What to Eat To Get Your Sleep Back On Track

Seeing the link made me laugh for a couple of reasons. First, Brad links to food articles that range from recipes for cooking Kale to pictures of mile-high sandwiches from New York delis. I’ve eaten Kale. I’ve eaten at the Carnegie Deli (Brad’s apparent favorite). Deli is better. If you told me that a dish of Kale would add two days onto my normal lifespan and that a Pastrami sandwich from the Carnegie Deli would reduce my lifespan by two days, I would choose the sandwich, hands down. I don’t know what the over under would have to be on that score before I would choose Kale.

The other reason I had to laugh is that the article reminded me of when I was frantically researching the topic of “sleep disorders” because I was convinced that I was suffering from one.

Note: If you actually are suffering from a sleep disorder, I am sorry. You may not want to read any more of this post. I am not going to make fun of people who suffer such things, but you may grow to despise me before you get to the end.

My research took place many years ago. The Internet was imageavailable, but it wasn’t the treasure-trove of medical journals, old wives tales, home remedies and 24/7 Prayer Request hotlines that it is today. So, in addition to my online investigation, I was asking other people for advice.

I got lots of advice regarding what to eat / not eat. What to do / not do in the (1 to 3) hours before going to bed. What temperature to set the thermostat at, how many blankets to use, the type of pillow to lay on and the type of underwear / pajamas I should wear / not wear to bed.

One friend told me that he had been suffering from sleep disorders for years and that the only sure-fire remedy involved the periodic use of a sleeping pill. He added that some over-the-counter meds might help, but that prescription solutions were the way to go. He even offered to introduce me to his doctor.

I didn’t want to go down the medication road, so I suggested that maybe my particular disorder wasn’t yet that severe. Unconvinced, and expressing genuine concern, he began:

What is your nighttime routine?

I normally read for a while before deciding to go to sleep.

Him, still concerned: “How long do you lie awake once you’ve decided that you want to go to sleep?

Me, truly serious: “Sometimes up to 10 or 15 minutes!

Him. No. Longer. Concerned. At. All: “Whaaaaat the…?

I explained that I had been used to always being able to fall asleep as soon as I wanted to fall asleep. No lying awake stuff for me. Lights out. Head down. Zzzzz’s.

My friend explained that sometimes, if he was lucky, a sleeping pill would take effect within 10 – 15 minutes, and he urged me to never use the phrase “sleep disorder” to describe my condition again.

Still convinced that I was suffering from something serious, I continued my research. A couple of weeks later, I stumbled across a documentary on sleep and sleep disorders. I watched as they explored various conditions and various approaches to dealing with said conditions. Finally, near the end of the show, one of the experts caught my attention:

Oftentimes, the problem people have falling asleep can be traced to the time they go to bed. Your body loves a routine. If you go to bed at a different time on weekends, for example, than you do during the week, you might develop a sleep disorder. The best thing you can do is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.”

It was as if he was speaking just to me. I was getting up at 5:00 am for work but sleeping until 7:00 am on Saturdays and Sundays. That had to be the cause of my malady.

The following Saturday, I got up at 5:00 am. While pouring a cup of coffee, my wife (who gets up very early) asked: “why are you up this early?” I guess that that wasn’t the kind of question that was meant to be answered:

I was watching this show on PBS about sleep disorders and one of the experts was talking about how important it is…

You’re talking. Why are you talking?

By this time the cats were staring at me and the dog might have been growling.

You asked…

No, you’re not talking to me at 5:00 am. If you want to be up, be up somewhere else. We (her and the nesting animals) have a routine, and it doesn’t involve talking!


I might be exaggerating a bit, you know, for effect, but that was the gist of the conversation.

Oddly enough, the practice cured me of my “disorder.” In fact, I have imagediscovered by trial and error that I can sleep in until 6:00 am on weekends with no ill-effect. I still get up, get my coffee and make myself scarce. And, I still avoid conversation until one is started by someone else. These days, our dog requires that I sit on a particular couch with her for 15-20 minutes before heading to the family room and my laptop. She’s still a puppy; if our previous dogs are any indication, she will stop needing that bit of attention soon.

Posted in Advice, Family, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Summertime Ain’t Easy No More

And the livin’ is easy

Most Many Some Some people my age will recognize that imageas the opening of an aria composed by George Gershwin for the opera Porgy and Bess. Some people may have trouble with the concept of an American opera, but the song went on to become a jazz standard and there’s no trouble understanding that jazz is as American as the proverbial apple pie or Chevrolet. Being a jazz standard means there is no single way to sing that song so it’s really hard to pick a favorite. I remember my mother listening to the Porgy and Bess soundtrack when I was a little kid. I like that version the best. But, of course I have no idea what version that was, other than it’s the one that’s been stuck in my head for over 50 years. In any case, I’ve drifted away from my topic.

I remember when we described summer using words like “lazy days” and “dog days” but these days, summer seems to be overly complicated and artificially short. I really don’t want to become that guy who writes “back when I was kid” posts, but seriously, back when I was a kid, in summer the livin was easy. We rode bikes. We drove on family vacations and we enjoyed some simple pleasures. I promise not to go down the kids-today-have-it-so-easy road, but those bikes had one speed and “coaster brakes,” the reliability of those cars was questionable and they had just started building the highway system that connects American cities today. As for simple pleasure, think Popsicles.

I starting writing this post on August 5th, almost a full month before an unusually early Labor Day, and many of the people that I know are talking about summer as if it’s over. It might be the weather. We had a brief cool snap last week with nighttime lows in the low 60’s. We also dodged the ugly week of 95° 90% humidity that normally haunts July in New England. Still, that doesn’t mean that summer is over – technically, summer has almost 50 days to go.

Summer has been traditionally defined in the US as the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Of course, that period has been crunched by school systems that routinely start before Labor Day and, due to an abundance of “snow days,” runs well into June.

I could go back down memory lane and talk about walking to school in snow that was at least ankle deep, a condition that would keep schools shut or call for an early dismissal today. I’ll stay in the here-and-now. In addition to frightened school administrators, I think that complex vacations, a near-obsessive need to schedule activities and the whole “if we aren’t doing something, we’re not doing nothing” culture has ruined summer.

People also might be thinking that summer is over because the Back-to-School ads are in full force. Hallmark released their Christmas ornament lineup for 2014 and Home Depot has snow blowers on display. Retail has moved into winter mode, but retail is always way ahead of the calendar.

It seems absurd to me that in a day of 24-hour order-to-fulfillment cycles (even without the use of drones) we still let our emotions be governed by brick and mortar marketing managers.

For the record, I define the seasons by the outerwear that’s involved with my daily commute. Spring and fall are jacket affairs. Winter is a variety of coats that change based on temperature and forecast precipitation, but none of which would be worn in any other season. Summer is clothes-on-my-back weather and the end of summer is that point when I have to start regularly wearing a jacket to work. We are a long way away from that.

Here are 10 more reasons that I know it’s still summer:

  • The Pittsburgh Pirates are still playing baseballimage
  • You can still buy fresh-picked corn
  • The package store is still stocking Mike’s Hard Lemonade
  • We’re still mowing the green stuff that surrounds our house
  • It’s still light out when I get home from work as well as when I leave for work
  • Nobody is playing football that counts yet
  • Home Depot isn’t selling leaf bags yet
  • We’re still eating vegetables from my wife’s garden
  • The boat dock is still in the CT River at Great River Park
  • The 4-H fair, The Four Town Fair and the Big E haven’t happened yet (which means I haven’t consumed a summer’s worth of sausage).

By the way, since I can’t find that soundtrack album, I’ve come to enjoy Norah Jones’ version of Summertime. Give a listen. Of course, if you’re not a fan of American Opera or Jazz, you can tune into Mungo Jerry’s alternate take on the whole summertime thing.

Posted in History, New England Life, Nostalgia, Rant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

On These Two Feet

imageOne of my favorite writers is a woman who authors the Daily (w)rite, “A daily ritual of writing.” Seriously, she is one of the writers that I never skip or skim. Well, back in June, Damyanti asked a question on her blog: “Ever have fun simply walking the streets?” That prompt gave me the inspiration to glom a few random thoughts and stories into this post. So, it’s either her fault or it’s to her credit.

For the record, I love walking and I love experiencing the views and the feel of a city that you can only get from the sidewalk. My daughter and I have visited numerous cities, and we have walked our shoes off in all of them but none as often as New York. The first time we visited New York was to make up for the fact that Faith had been too sick to attend a school field trip to the Statue of Liberty. I took her there but on that visit, we stood more than we walked.

I always get a kick out of the TV shows where someone imagevisits NY and visits the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, sees a Broadway Play and takes a carriage ride through Central Park all in one day. We have done all of those things, but they each take hours and hours to do and most of those hours are spent standing in line.

A few months after that first visit, on a frigid winter day, we visited New York just to walk around. This started three traditions. First, despite freezing temperatures, pouring rain, blistering heat and the wind that is manufactured and / or amplified by the city’s skyline, we visit New York often. Second, I bought Faith a pair of earrings that day. The next time we were in New York, she spied a pair of earrings that she liked and suggested that “since it’s kind of a tradition that you buy me a pair of earrings when we visit New York…” Earrings, I can buy. It’s shoes and clothing that I have a problem with as I wrote about earlier.

The third tradition is just plain weird. Shortly after arriving in New York, we found ourselves standing opposite from the New York City Library waiting for the light to change or the flow of traffic to ebb. A tourist approached us and asked “can you give me directions to the library?” We didn’t know yet how to find many things in NYC, but we both pointed toward the huge building across the street. The man was very happy. Since then, I’ve lost track of the number of times that Faith and I (either while together or while traveling alone) have arrived in a new city, only to be stopped and asked for directions. Ironically, most of the time, we have been able to provide them. I was even asked directions while I was trying to find a train station in London. I was lost, but I had recently passed the street the man was looking for.

Earlier this summer, I spent the better part of a week in Washington, D.C. I arrived the day before a series of meetings were to start and I decided to walk from the train station to my hotel. I hadn’t counted on two things: One, it was hot. There’s a saying that goes:

People from the north think Washington, D.C. is in the south and people from the south think it’s in the north.”

Well, from a weather point of view, hot and sticky Washington, D.C. is absolutely – in – the – south.

The second thing that I wasn’t counting on was construction that would interrupt the imagesidewalk a few times as I traveled 0.8 miles dragging a wheeled suitcase. Halfway through my hike, a man approached and asked me if I knew where New York Avenue was. I hadn’t been to Washington, D.C. in years, but I was heading to a hotel on Massachusetts Ave a block east of where it almost intersects New York Ave. I had seen it on Google Maps right before I left Union Station.

Adding to the heat of the Nation’s Capital and the cold that only New York can imagemanufacture, is the fact that both my daughter and I are prone to stop to take photographs. While in Washington, I took the picture shown at the right and I missed the walk cycle at the intersection. I got some funny looks, which prompted me to tweet:


I might miss a light while snapping a quick pic, but Faith will make you freeze or bake or do that little dance if you happen to have to pee, but she isn’t going to be rushed away from a photo. She’s a pro, and I’ve watched her standing or kneeling with her camera pointed at something and I’ll be thinking “let’s go while we’re young” (cuz I know she likes Caddyshack too) but she will wait for something to be right; until the image she sees in the camera matches the one that she sees in her mind.image



Recently, I was in Woburn, MA (for those of you not familiar with the language of imageMassachusetts, that’s pronounced Woo·burn), for a couple of meetings. I’d been to Woburn before and I have always stayed at the same hotel. Each time that I would drive in, I passed this sign and I thought “I’ve never seen a swan crossing sign before” but I never stopped to see the swans. I’d always been in a hurry. This time, I took some time before dinner to walk around the office park and I found Eunice and Cornelius. That was certainly worth the walk.



Posted in Family, Humor, Photography, Prompt | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Remembering the Orchid Grower

imageBefore I started this blog and before my daughter started The Sound of Swarming, we managed and wrote a lot of material for a blog that focused on lifelong learning. I’ve been trolling through those posts and pulling out some that can be edited for this site. Last night, I stumbled on the post below. I am repeating it here because Carl recently passed away and I miss him. I’ve edited the original post, in order to remove it from the context of the previous blog series and I added a bit of the personal side of Carl that I knew.

I spent four days in early December 2009 attending AIIM’s Electronic Records Management (ERM) Master certificate training. Having already completed the ECM Master course, I knew the class would be great and I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait to talk about it. As it turns out, this class was also a perfect example of the use of transitions, which was a presentation technique that I was trying to master at the time.

Teaching a four day technical class takes a special kind of instructor under the best of circumstances. In my opinion, the best of circumstances would be a class on judging beach volleyball, or bacon recipes; did I mention that this was a class on Records Management? Our instructor, Carl Weise, pulled it off with ease.

Like any good instructor, Carl began with great material; since it was prepared by AIIM, I wasn’t expecting anything less. Still, 32 hours of even great material can be painful if the students aren’t engaged, and keeping those students involved and motivated to participate falls to the instructor. Carl started off like several other great instructors that I know by taking a few minutes to learn a little bit about his students and why we came to the course. Then he began to adapt.

From that point forward, he tailored his examples to our backgrounds, our industries and our needs. He encouraged discussions, and if they didn’t occur spontaneously, he started them. These transitions kept us awake, kept us participating and gave us the chance to share our experiences and learn from each other. I’m not sure if he was testing our understanding, but he was certainly gathering information. I lost track of the number of times Carl wove our discussions into his examples in a later topic. The class, which could have been a dry presentation of several hundred slides, became a dynamic exchange that seemed like it had been written specifically for the students in the room. The quote below is from the original blog in 2009.

I am writing this blog post before leaving for the last day of this course and I can honestly say I am eager to get to class – remember, this is Electronic Records Management”

Whenever I am in a class like this, I take several sets of notes. One set is the stuff I need to remember for the exam and the case study required to get the ERM Master certificate. The second set is the things I want to remember to apply back at the office and the third is a list of things that I can do to improve as a presenter. One of the things I noticed about Carl is that although he adapted his presentation, he remained Carl. This was something that I really couldn’t jot down in my notes, but I had the privilege of talking about that with Carl over dinner. I told him that I admired his ability to drift in and out of conversations and, without any overt efforts on his part, to always remain in charge of the class. Carl was gracious, suggesting that we (students) were responsible for participating and that he had had some classes where the students “just sat there like bumps on a log.”

We also discovered a common interest in woodworking. Carl’s father was a cabinet maker who had left Germany for Toronto. Carl explained that his father made furniture as gifts for family members and as those people passed on, Carl was collecting some of his father’s work. He shared several sets of photos with me that showed the handiwork of a skilled craftsman.

Carl might not have been a woodworker like his father, but he was a skilled craftsman. His expertise was Records Management and his craft was teaching. He knew how to read the grain, make connections, assemble and properly finish the product that was represented by the students in the room. Sorry for stretching the woodworking metaphor a bit there, but when I saw Carl at the AIIM Conference each year, he would always ask me about my latest woodworking projects. The two pictures below are from the group that Carl sent me in 2009. Both pieces were made by his father. The coffee table on the left includes some hand carved elements that are amazing to me. The plant stand on the right is a simpler piece, but I like it because, in all the photos Carl sent me, that’s the only one where he included a caption.

I’m the orchid grower!


R.I.P. Carl. You helped many people to be better at their craft. I am proud to be one of them.

Posted in Absent Friends, Learning, Woodworking | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments