The Great Penguin Obliteration

I would say that Lisa and I shouldn’t be left alone on Fridays to plot, but things like the coffee cup shenanigans and today’s penguin obliteration have both come with encouragement from other co-workers who are present at the time. So, up until today if you had walked through the development side of our building on just about every whiteboard you might have noticed a small caped penguin. I am told he is Tux the Linux penguin and that he is waging a war against the marmots. Marmot’s for those of you who may not be familiar with them, are a type of rodent and include animals such as squirrels and groundhogs. Our company mascot is Ce Marmot and we even celebrate Marmot Day.

The Penguins vs. Marmots battle predates my time here, but there seems to be some intensity to it. Today the battle increased in depth with the introduction of the caped vampire spork.

The War Room Vampire Spork

I inquired if he had a name and this is the response I got:

From @firstcrusader

@AlainaRachelle The spork is a creature of such awesome power that one ought never say its name aloud. You know, like Voldemort.

During lunch today he began to wage a war against the penguin population.

There was once a penguin here

He takes his cape off to avoid the mess

At first the penguin’s master seemed not to have noticed but then these began to show up. Apparently the penguins are kicking up their defenses.

Why is he looking for the rum? Hmmm...

One even showed up in Marketing, where Lisa lives.

Doesn't he look stern?

But this is far from over. The Spork still keeps watch over the War Room and has even sent an emissary to keep watch over marketing as well, cleverly disguised as a part of the newsletter template.

Emissary of the Spork

Today is almost over, but the great Spork vs. Penguin war has only just begun…

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Reflections on an Afternoon with Mr. George Hoddy

I attended the funeral of a great man today. He’s someone I wish I could have known better, but feel blessed to have known at all.

I first met Mr. Hoddy two years ago, not long after his 103rd birthday. I was working for the Boy Scouts of America at the time and he was one of our big supporters as well as a consistent donor. Even though I had met him briefly at church, I was rather nervous about calling at first. I had been hearing for some time what an important man he was and here I was wanting to sit down and talk with him when I’m certain he had bigger, more important things to do. I missed him on the first call, but on the second a slightly wavery voice answered who seemed not at all perturbed by my interruption of his day and, after he checked his calendar, we set a day and a time to meet. I know that may sound a bit odd, but that is the kind of man Mr. George was. Even at 105 he was still serving on local boards and often was harder to find a time to meet with than much younger business folks.

On the appointed day of our meeting I arrived at his home with butterflies in my stomach and waited patiently as he made his way down to let me in. He led me through his kitchen and dining room, both rife with antiques and history, to the family room where we ended up sitting and talking for going on three hours. He spoke of his childhood and how much had changed in since then; how he studied engineering at Ohio State before being recruited to come up to Owosso to help build jobs, which he did. The motors that he patented and built not only became integrated into the machinery in homes across the country but internationally as well.

I still remember clearly just staring at him in disbelief as he spoke of taking the train out to work on the Manhattan Project. To him it was just a passing thought to mention. He was more proud of helping bring Baker College to our town and all the good it had and continues to do. He spoke of the future and how important youth are, which is why he invested so much time and money into organizations like Baker College and the Boy Scouts. In the short sermon that Reverend Eaton preached today at the funeral he made a comment about Mr. Hoddy that struck me so much I had to pull out a pen and write it on the program. He said –

“He came to start a business and stayed to build a community.”

Mr. Hoddy was more than just the biggest employer in town for years or the international businessman who traveled the world. He was passionate in his beliefs and the need for us each to invest in the future. He was also one of the most humble people that I have ever met. In spring of 2008 I went to visit him for a reason I cannot recall and in the course of our conversation it came out that he wanted to get a Boy Scout uniform shirt to wear when he was Grand Marshal of the Curwood parade. My supervisor was with me and we assured him that that was something we’d have no problem getting, but when we offered to get him a full uniform he told us no. He didn’t want to wear a full uniform because he wished to support the Scouts but he didn’t want anyone to think that he was trying to say that he was the boss. This from the man who, when I first googled him, came up in a blog/article from an Indian businessman who spoke glowingly of the impact that Mr. Hoddy had had on his life during his visits to India for business.

On my last visit with him he gave me a small jade figurine from one of his business trips to China. It sits beside my iPod dock and every time I see it it reminds me of him and the kind of legacy that I would like to leave behind.

“You don’t ever want to give up, if things don’t work, try something else. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned in my life.” ~George Hoddy

Life Lessons from Theatre

When I started this blog a few months ago I had this idea that I would post really consistently. Then, as my mother says, life happened. This past weekend was a great example of that. I had a lot of determination to finish up a post before Monday morning, but that determination got derailed into finishing our set so that we’d have one when The Odd Couple opens on Friday. Therefore I decided that since theatre derailed my best laid plans that’s what I’d post about (not the derailing, but the theatre itself).

To put things in a bit of context, this whole consumption of my life by theatre thing isn’t really new. Despite my current employment in the realm of software, I have a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre/Speech.  I just had a hiatus for a few years while I worked for the Boy Scouts. Anyway as I put in yet another full work day on our set on Saturday I found myself reflecting on this life consuming currently hobby and some the things I’ve learned along the way. Here are a few of them.

Value the older people you know while you can.

One of the gentlemen in The Odd Couple is a lovely chap who is 92 years old. He doesn’t move very fast, but he has quickly become one of my favorite people. I really didn’t know much about him when we started. I’d seen him around and called his house once about costumes, but that was about it. Then we started rehearsals and he is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, which he only honed in the 40 years that he did radio. Not only is he funny, but he’s a sweetheart who is always willing to lend a hand and I feel blessed that he was suggested to be a part of our cast.

Al is just one of those that I’ve met to reinforce the Bible verses I grew up on about respecting your elders. While I was in college I had the privilege of being part of a small cadre of volunteers for the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC). As one of their sets of hands and feet at the conference I got to meet a lot of the gents and ladies of the theatre world. These are the folks who quickly accustom you to kisses on the cheek and tell you that your walk is the kind they wish they could teach their male students to do in heels. That is a compliment by the way, not an insult. The point is that these people and their stories have stuck with me even though its been over five years since I’ve been there. They are beautiful people who are willing to share their life experiences and wisdom, but it can be easy to miss in the whirl of life. When we miss that time with them it is we who lose the most.

Take the time to build a good foundation.

Another benefit of hanging out with theatre veterans is picking up practical skills from them – like the best way to put in supports on a platform. These past three weekends I have invested a lot of time and sweat into the building of our set. Looking back I am 99% certain this is the most work I have ever had to put into a set before. This is partly because whiel I have some construction skills  I’ve got a much greater history of constructing with fabric than lumber. Either way, patience and flexibility and creative problem solving are vital to achieving a good end product.

With this current project the portion that ate up so much time was that we had to raise/construct 4 additional platforms to expand the stage for our show. Until that was done most everything else was put on hold. We moved back the walls and could have wallpapered, but all of us working on the set those first two weekends knew that the most vital thing we could do was finish those platforms. They were essential to the visibility of the actors and even with them we had to cut back on set furniture due to space. That is not to say the show wouldn’t have happened, but it would have made things a whole lot more difficult. Besides, my stage manager learned some useful skills like how to use a chop saw and drill. Once we’re open I intend to get us some ‘Real Women Use Powertools’ shirts in honor of this.

Ranting is best done with a pint of ice cream.

Preferably this would be Ben & Jerry’s. Coffee Heath is a particular favorite of mine, but really just about any kind will do. If there’s not ice cream then chocolate works as a great substitute. It seems that there is this almost meta-physical calming effect that makes everything a little bit better when you have that combination of sugar and fat in your hands, melting in your mouth.

I know usually pints of ice cream are usually related more to post-breakup emotional breakdowns for girls, but when I was between my senior years of college I spent a summer working at Horn in the West Outdoor drama. It was a wonderful experience that has yielded many stories, some others of which will come up before the end of this post. The summer that I was there started out with the level of drama most would expect from a theatre company when our director quit over artistic differences. I understood his position. I think we all did, but the events following led to many evenings in one of the cast apartments with Ben & Jerry’s in hand sharing our frustrations in a fattening but otherwise non-destructive way.

Family is more than flesh and blood.

I did not become fully introduced to the world of theatre until college, but one of the first things I realized when I became involved is that thespians are family. Yes, there’s the strange uncle that half of the other relatives aren’t sure of and the other half swear are harmless. There are the older folks I mentioned earlier that love to share their ‘war’ stories. Then there are the young ones who are so bright and shiny with idealism and, of course, the ones who don’t really fit in with a particular group beyond theatre. Our local community theatre lost their building to a fire just before I moved here and in one of the videos done as a part of the campaign to rebuild a woman who is a part of the extended local theatre family talked about how when she moved here she had no family in the area and she found one in the players. My experience has been the same. The people who I have met and worked with have many of them become a part of my family. My mother hears about some of the bickering and frustration and wonders why I stick around, but part of that is because at the end of the day I love them and we are bound together by more than just our names being printed by each other in the program.

Dont’ be a diva and if you are, be a nice one.

A nice diva? It may seem to be a contradiction, but they really do exist. It’s the self-absorbed snobbish divas that give all the rest a bad name. I’ve known some wonderful divas. They’ve got quirks but, let’s be honest here, we all do. I would even say that the vast majority of us have a little diva inside who tries to escape from time to time. I think that’s part of why I survived working in Pontiac schools so well. The kids there recognized my inner diva and respected her attitude. Where the inner diva gets you in trouble is when it inflates your ego to the point that you can’t even learn from those around you anymore. When I was at Horn there were two gents I worked with that provide examples of both sides. One was a good diva. He was a talented dancer with a taste for the glamorous and knew his place in the order of things was upwards, but he was also a sweet lovable guy who I still find myself missing at random times. Then there was the bad diva. Unfortunately for me I shared a house with the bad diva, not the good diva. He was of the ‘I am older than you and therefore know better even when I don’t’ variety of diva who through his airs, aloofness and lack of respect for others managed to not only alienate several of us in the house but a good number of those in the greater cast and crew.

Stretching is good for the body and soul.

In the realm of theatre there is a certain type of person referred to as a triple-threat. These are the folks who can sing, dance and act. I personally am a singer-actor who can dance with a bit of practice, but am by no means an expert dancer. So when I am called upon to dance I know that I need to focus and prepare my body for the job. A large part of that is stretching. As those who are avid yoga practitioners will tell you stretching not only helps the body but it calms as well. It’s a time to think and find focus. It actually can be rather addictive.

Beyond stretching physically, I have found my experiences in theatre to be stretching in other ways as well. Whether you’re an actor, costumer or director that creative problem solving I mentioned earlier will push you to find new ways and in turn learn more about yourself through the process. While at times it may seem to be stretching to the point that its surely meant as torture, on the other side is generally a gem that you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

There are other things I could talk about – preparation, research, being true to yourself – but I know this entry is getting long and I have another full day ahead of me tomorrow. If you, dear reader, are a thespian as well I would love to know what little treasure nuggets you’ve stored up through your experiences so please feel free to share them below :)

Coffee Cup Shenanigans

Yesterday was in many ways the epitome of a Friday.As such, it really should be no surprise that mischief worked it’s way into our work flow.

It started fairly innocently. Lisa (@firstcrusader) had traversed the building to join me for lunch in the communal cubicle my development team refers to as the ‘war room’.  We were discussing how it was so odd not having my manager around the last few days and the various semi-plottings that had been discussed if he didn’t return soon.

Ambitious as one can be on a Friday, we chose not to move his entire desk, but instead took the most important component in the absence of his macbook – his coffee cup. We even got executive approval from our VP. I know there are many, many jokes and cartoons about software developers and their caffeine needs. We fulfill the majority of them without shame. Anyway, on to the caper as it unfolded…

Subject: Oh No!

Over lunch today Lisa and I made a discovery we felt we should appraise you of. Your mug appears to have been kidnapped in your absence. Since you’re not in we’re going to investigate and will keep you appraised of the situation.

Alaina

Oh No!

Subject: The Ransom Note

It’s confirmed. We’ve found an image of the mug with a ransom note.

The Ransom Note

Subject: On the Trail

We started in the obvious place to hide a coffee cup and just missed the perpetrator, but he left an image behind.
On the Trail

Subject: Silence of the Ducks

Heading around the corner it appears the kidnapper stopped in new biz, but the duck’s bills were sealed.
Silence of the Ducks

Subject: The Dark Side

Have we found the kidnapper?!? Darth Tater was obviously in on the scheme, but could not give us any further leads on the mug’s location.
The Dark Side

Subject: A Rescue Attempt

It appears that Trevor stumbled upon your mug, but the perpetrator got away before he realized that a crime was in progress.
A Rescue Attempt

Subject: An Empty Line

Heading back to the other side of the building in search of clues, we noticed a coaster on the table with this underneath it.
An Empty Line

Subject: Snack Attack

Perhaps Ron saw something while he was working on the vending machines?
Snack Attack

Subject: Sweet Disguise

Since we weren’t having any luck on the east side of the building we headed into the warehouse and found this.
Sweet Disguise

Subject: A Strange New Place

Cherubs? What?!? We didn’t know either.

A Strange New Place

Subject: Filing a Report

We were going to report this theft to Thor, but he was at lunch. While in scoring we found the kidnapper had been there as well.
Filing a Report

Subject: Lobbying

It’s too bad Jackie C. in on vacation. She may have caught the kidnapper otherwise.
Lobbying

Subject: Another Kidnapping?!?!?

When we stopped to ask Donald if he’d seen anything we found evidence of another kidnapping! Being so involved in our investigation we turned it over to Donald, but perhaps the two incidents are tied together…
Another Kidnapping ?!?!?

Subject: A Clue!

Could this be a clue to the kidnapper’s identity?
A Clue!

Subject: A Little Relaxation

Due to good behavior it appears they allowed the mug to bask in the afternoon humidity.
A Little Relaxation

Subject: Foiled!

There was an escape attempt but it couldn’t reach the pedals.

Foiled!

Subject: Camouflage

It tried to hide but…
Camouflage

Subject: Intimidation

In order to keep it in line they’ve moved on to intimidation efforts
Intimidation

Subject: Hiding the Evidence

It appears they tried to get rid of the evidence, but when we looked closer it was just another picture (and a blurry one at that).
Hiding the Evidence

Subject: Captured!

We finally caught them! It turns out these people weren’t just mug thieves, they were identity thieves as well! How dare they impersonate us, the good detectives!
Captured!

Subject: Back at Work

Back safely in it’s home environment.
Back at Work

Subject: Have a Great Weekend!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip. We miss you, so have a great weekend and feel better soon!

And we hope that you have enjoyed the Coffee Cup Caper as well! Have a great day :)

Belated Memorial Day Thoughts

I had every intention of posting this on Memorial Day, but I’m afraid that this week has been rather on the insane side. So, I decided that since the purpose of Memorial Day isn’t something that should be contained within the 24 hours set aside for it in the 8,765.81277 hours of a year, I would go ahead and post it a little bit later than scheduled.

Here in the United States it seems that everyone over the age of eighteen is jaded about something. I know that I am. Take holidays for example. Every time I sync calengoo on my ipod with my Google calendars it reminds me of the 40+ American holidays it’s  go to go through with the update. That’s approximately 1 holiday every 9 days. Craziness, right? I know I don’t actually have time for that many holidays. So instead they get prioritized. Some are marked as family time, some as federal no mail days and some are barely on my calenderic radar; which is probably pretty common for everyone who doesn’t work for a greeting card company.

It doesn’t seem at all surprising then that somewhere in this myriad of holidays we’ve seemingly worked our way into losing the value in even having them. Just think, we hear complaints about commercialization at Easter and Christmas every year. You can count on it. I would argue that Memorial Day is in the same shoes as both of those. In fact,  I’d go as far as to say it’s in even worse shape. Sure there are flags on the ads, but they’re more concerned with kicking off summer three weeks before it begins than showing your support for our military.

When did we forget what Memorial Day is all about and turn it into an extended vacation weekend?

About a year ago a local author visited our Rotary club to talk about his books, all of which are set during the last year of World War II, and one of the things that he talked about was how the nation came together at that time because every family was touched by the sacrifices that were made during the war. I couldn’t help but wonder as he said it how we modern Americans would measure up against that standard.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, there were 2,350 deaths; 68 of which were civilian. The nation solidified behind a common cause and stayed together through three years of sacrifice. Not only did every family either have someone who served in the war or know someone who did, but there were personal sacrifices on the homefront as well and when the veterans returned from the war they were honored as heroes as they well deserved.

A little less than sixty years later we were attacked again. September 11th, 2001. I still remember it clearly. It’s kind of event that you share with your childrens’ children when you’re old an gray and they’re studying it in history class. by comparison, there have been 2,995 deaths linked to those attacks – the majority of which were civilian. For a brief time we banded together as a nation, but  that quickly dissipated into complaints of being called into duty from the reserves and bickering over the federal defense budget as well as our own petty differences.

How many of our modern veterans came home to find protests and hatred from the very citizens that they have been working to protect? In my personal opinion it has been far, far too many. No matter what one’s personal views are on the war, these men and women deserve more from us – the people they sacrifice of themselves to protect.

Monday, a pair of A-10s flew over my hometown as a part of Memorial Day. How many people didn’t even realize why they were there? The parade to honor the veterans passed by in less than 20 minutes because not enough people are willing to take the time to be a part of it when they could be off on a three day weekend.

Perhaps, as a descendant of a long line of military servicemen and women, I’m oversensitive. After all tears came to my eyes just telling my mom about a short video played at church to honor the veterans and Memorial Day. Even thinking about it now I can feel my tear ducts working up a sheen of misty eyes.  I don’t expect other people to have the same type of deep emotional reaction as me, but I also can’t help but feel that in our jaded, forgetful, ADD mindset we have lost a part of what made the United States of America into the great land that it is.

Remembering the sacrifices that have been and are being made for the freedom we enjoy shouldn’t be limited to one day a year.

The next time you hear an opinion you disagree with or complain about the current crop of political candidates; take a moment to be thankful for those who gave up so much, some their lives, so that you have the right and the choice to do so.