October 13, 2016

  • 25 Years Away from "Anchors Aweigh"

    October 13, 1991 officially ended my  9 years and change of service in the Navy as a Petty Officer First Class.

    It's very sobering to realize that a quarter of a century has passed since then. I can recall often wondering if my term of enlistment would ever end. I learned a lot during that time, but would never  wish that learning experience upon others. The Navy intentionally taught me how to run a nuclear plant and leadership and teamwork skills. It unintendedly taught me how to deal with abusive people, situations, and bureaucracy. I am most certainly better for it, but never like to be honored when people ask "will all our veteran's stand?".  I often tell people who care to listen: "Keep your public recognition. Keep your parades and bumper stickers and yard signs. Three things I would ask to truly honor veterans:  1) Excellent heath care service - especially for the wounded in mind and/or body 2) Easy access to housing - especially for the wounded in mind and/or body. 3) Vote.

    Voting is the most fundamental element of democracy. It is why we have a national defense, especially one led by a civilian leader. Even if you don't like ANYone ... just go to the ballot box and write NOBODY on the ballot.  Choosing not to vote is certainly a right, but all that does is allow a minority of people choose leaders for the majority population. Eventually, only the passionate enough (angry enough) people will be the voters, and politicians with enough money and influence to align angry people behind him or her will be the ones who get into office.


    Here are a few random pictures I've taken that I thought I'd post.  I can't bring myself to put anything substantial on FB, so you remaining Xangans are my audience. :-)  I'm VERY good with that.

    This first picture is a house in historic New Castle, where I often take walks. If you look closely in the smaller window, you'll see a dollhouse of the bigger house. I thought that was kind of neat.2016-10-10 12.29.18

    The picture below was taken outside of may apartment building. It's poignant. The woman on the back was simply walking the streets of Wilmington, DE when she was shot from behind and killed. The bullet was likely a stray from a gunfight, but the culprit(s) have not been found. She left behind an infant child.  The story was in the local news, but I hadn't realized that the family is apparently close to someone in my building, as I've seen the van a couple of times.

    2016-10-02 16.34.14

    "Battery Park" is also in the historic district of New Castle. I was blessed to see a mom and her daughter flying a kite one lovely September afternoon. Pictures sometimes capture the emotion of the moment well and other time, not so much. This one is a "not so much," but is a moment that remains in my head, all the same, as one of innocence and love.


    2016-09-23 13.25.24

    The last time I was home in Baroda, I spotted this butterfly on my butterfly bush next to my grapevines.

    I treasured those moments in my beloved garden and was quietly thrilled to have one during the very short time I was there, last.

    2016-09-05 11.11.44



October 8, 2016

  • Adventure Aquarium ... or Playground with Fish

    I've been wanting to see the aquarium that's just on the Jersey side of Philadelphia. I love aquariums and thought that it would be a fun way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon.  Well ... $27 for the ticket and $10 for the parking, I'm not sure I got what I was looking for, but it beat staying in the apartment all day.

    My pictures don't reflect the hoard of children and mothers that were there. Lots of dads too, and a few grandparents ... but the kids and mommies ... OMG!

    It was much less an aquarium than a mall playground of crawling-under toys, push buttons, touch-sealife ponds, souvenir vendors, and food court. (I don't think they served fish sandwiches, as I recall .. hmm.)  I had been hoping for many more exhibits of aquariums and aquatic life.

    Sadly, I had the feeling that in today's world, quiet and beautiful don't pay the bills. The shark exhibit was huge ... because sharks sell. Touching creatures were all over the place, because kids want to touch creatures. Playground equipment was all over the place, because kids have energy to burn. There was an aquarium with Nemo and Dori type fish because ... well, you get the picture.

    That said, there were a few exhibits that caught my eye. I've put some pictures of them below.

    And by the way ... I'm posting here because it's been a while and FB is ... ugh  .... well, "FB."  Nuff said.

    How in God's green earth can ANYone still be supporting Trump is absolutely beyond me ... but that's another topic.

    Delaware and my work in Jersey are going fine. Pretty quiet for the most part, which is better than SaintVi has been having to deal with.

    My work is running near the end of the licensing course for the students. There are no more new topics to teach. It's all doing various drills and examinations to prepare them for their licensing exam in December. The upside of that is that each night is now pretty full for me. That's good, because there were a few where I had nothing to do, so I studied. That's a long 8 hours.

    I try to walk in the sun every chance I get ... but the temps are beginning to turn to autumn and more rain is showing up.  I've also done a little to help a lady who moved from Boston to the King of Prussia area. Just some odds and ends, but it's something in the way of volunteer work. Tomorrow is the local CROP Walk, so I'll be doing that. Hopefully, the rain has ended by then. Fortunately, no Hurricane Matthew, as it looks to turn its back on DE and NJ to go revisit Florida.  Ugh for them. :(

    Think that's about it for now.

    Blessings to all!

    2016-10-08 13.27.43


    Hallway with various aquariums

    2016-10-08 13.35.57

    Some guy taking a selfie in front of a massive aquarium dubbed "The Aquarium Theater"

    2016-10-08 13.36.17

    The Aquarium Theater. Actually, this was just one side. There were several other viewing windows throughout the building. This was the largest.

    2016-10-08 13.48.45

    That guy again.  He's by a rail overlooking a freshwater exhibit that's actually a floor down.

    2016-10-08 13.49.12


    Better look at said exhibit. Logs and freshwater fish were in it.


    2016-10-08 13.51.15



    Probably 75 gallon or so. Nice reef aquarium. I'd like to do something like this when I retire for real.

    2016-10-08 13.52.47



    Another small reef aquarium. Thought of Val when I was looking at the shapes of some of the urchin-ish life.

    2016-10-08 14.00.57

    Not exactly sure what type of water this is. Fresh or brackish, I imagine. If you look closely, there is a dark alligator resting with its head out of the water.

    They always lay so still.  "Walk through a swamp" is definitely NOT on my bucket list.



July 14, 2016

  • Xanga-versary 9 years

    Nine years ... has it been so long??

    Given the nature of Xanga these days, I have no idea if my subscription will die soon, so here are a few pix from the last year.


    2015-09-23 12.16.08

    Wow ... I'd almost forgotten that our visit to the Lincoln Presidential library and tomb was just last September

    2015-10-24 11.17.43

    I love shadowboxes. I saw this one last October. I'm thinking of making a gadget cache or two using a similar concept.

    2015-11-26 18.56.06

    Lovely desserts on a shared Thanksgiving.

    2015-12-24 11.23.17

    The Boo-dog may not understand Christmas ... but he does like his new toys!

    2016-01-08 11.44.51b

    January ... I take a HUGE faith step!

    2016-01-31 18.03.20b

    February I visited my mom in Texas and saw this picture. I don't know that I'd seen it before. She's on the left and her mom is on the right. It's a very rare shot.

    2016-03-19 11.41.26b

    March - speaking of mothers and daughters ... Nita, Melinda, and Teri.

    2016-04-24 16.56.15

    April - doing something I love with people I love.

    2016-05-02 22.06.37

    May .. .WHEW!! Faith step finally finds a footing!

    2016-06-30 11.35.13


    June - A jaunt through Kansas and Colorado.

    Blessings to all you Xangans out there!!



June 11, 2016

  • Separation Day in New Castle

    I've been waiting for a while for the "Separation Day" activities that the locals have been talking up to me for some time. Today was the day. I turned down a visit to an Air Museum with a contract instructor co-worker to see it. I'm glad I did, but I can see why he wasn't interested in going a second time.

    Separation Day is when Delaware declared their independence from both Pennsylvania and England. They were 3 counties of the Pennsylvania colony, all with access to the Delaware river, which gave them some very strategic business advantage. Their independence; however, was about a month before the Declaration of Independence was signed. So their presence as an independent country was very short lived, since they signed on with the rest of the colonies. Pennsylvania was a bit irked by the upstart Delaware, but there were bigger things to be dealt with ... like a war with a super-power.

    The whole thing reminded me a LOT of the Baroda 3rd of July and Memorial Day  festivities. The New Castle parade was longer, but contained pretty much the same entries: politicians, a few almost-vintage cars, a few costumed entrants, lots of old veterans, scouts, and a couple of school band and cheer groups.

    There were far fewer vendors than I anticipated. Most were simply advertising tents for products and services. That was probably my biggest disappointment. I was hoping for something more like St. Joseph"s Arts and Crafts or Antiques on the Bluff.

    I came home for a while and ran an errand, then returned to buy dinner from their Bar-B-Que competition Good thing I didn't wait even 5 minutes longer. I got some of the very last meat from the last vendor who had any ... at about 4 PM. It was supposed to go until 5:00. So, I ate my two meat-on-a-sticks (carefully, as I had no napkins) drank a beer to wash it down and headed home. They have a fireworks celebration to close the day, but after more than 25 years of those in Baroda ... I took a pass.

    Pix below!

    2016-06-11 11.18.29 2016-06-11 11.27.02 2016-06-11 12.02.18 2016-06-11 12.02.472016-06-11 12.26.36 2016-06-11 15.58.36 2016-06-11 15.59.16

May 24, 2016

  • Tiny Update

    Not much to update, but I did want to pass along some pictures of the church I'm attending. You'll recall that it was built in the early 1700's.

    Saturday, New Castle had a sort of "open house" in which many of the homes and museums and churches were open for tours. Unfortunately, it was a cool and rainy day, so not many people came to town. However, it did afford me the opportunity to snap a few pictures of the inside of this 300 year old building.

    I did visit a few of the homes and a couple of small museums, but wasn't altogether with it. I'm still adjusting to working a swing shift and a new living arrangement. Things seem to be falling into place.

    Work has been fine. There seems to be a lot of instability with the training staff, so that (I would presume) bodes well for my longer term employment.  Not that I'm worried, but some fret that as a contractor, you could be fired at any time.  This is true ... but frankly, that's true with just about any job..

    Allergies ... ugh.  As bad for me in Delaware as in Michigan.  Amen for medicine.

    2016-05-21 11.46.23 2016-05-21 11.48.01 2016-05-21 11.45.30

May 15, 2016

  • New Castle Church

    One of the things I want to find quickly is a congregation with whom I can worship on Sundays.

    Last week, I attended a small Methodist church. It was "nice," but I didn't feel particularly moved or connected to the people. Lovely little sanctuary. I'd suppose there were some members who had enough money to keep it up well.

    Today, I attended a Presbyterian Church in the historic district of New Castle. Here are a couple of pictures:

    2016-05-15 14.32.07 2016-05-15 14.32.22

    I was delighted with the outgoing and lighthearted demeanor of their minister, Nancy Rowland. She led much of the service, but didn't preach, as the church was being used as a "neutral pulpit" for a young lady who was candidate for another pastoral position in the area.

    The inside of the church is very 1700's - high wooden pews in a sort of horseshoe arrangement around a really high pulpit. The choir AND piano/organ are in the balcony. I'm glad I didn't have to put them up there. :-0

    Enjoyed time with the small congregation after the service. A gentleman named "Cork," took me to his house a couple of blocks away. Like most in the town, it's been around a LONG time. He and his wife Jo have kept it up beautifully. He's got a pretty good view of the Delaware River from his home.

    Will definitely go back next week.

May 13, 2016

  • New Castle, DE

    My apartment is in New Castle, DE.

    While I'm not in the historic district, I do live very close. I've always loved Colonial American history, so this a bonus for me.

    The residents of New Castle have made an effort for over 300 years to ensure that their town stays tied to their colonial roots. Many of the houses are from the 1700's, one might even be from the 1600's - I need to check on that one. They pride themselves on having retained their historic roots, vice "reconstructing the town like Williamsburg, VA." I guess everyone needs to feel a little better than someone else about SOMEthing! :-)

    Thursday was one of two sunny days that I've seen since I've been here. I was able to spend about 90 minutes checking things out. Tried to find 2 geocaches, but one was inside a museum not open at the time I was there and the other turned out to be a virtual. So - I'll go back and see if I can find one of the "real" geocaches sometime soon.

    I'm sure I'll write more about the town in weeks ahead, but here are a few pics:

    2016-05-12 15.29.33 2016-05-12 15.44.52 2016-05-12 15.06.11 2016-05-12 14.48.28

    The church cemetery has George Read's remains, as well as others who signed the Declaration of Independence.

    The street view has a statue of William Penn. This is where he first set foot in the colonies.

    I'm sideways ... but don't have time to mess with it right now.

    The garden is one of several nooks in the town.


May 3, 2016

  • New Cube

    2016-05-03 16.05.24

    I've got a place to work, now.

    Today, I finished all my training requirements, so now I need to begin working on getting up to speed for teaching.

    I have a checklist of things to review with a "mentor" (very loose term). Most of it is orientation.

    I do have access to the computer, and the size of the cubicle is actually quite nice. Tomorrow, I'll start putting in some of my work desk items.

    I find myself very eager to get back in front of a classroom. I imagine that may happen sometime next week, as it is a necessary part of the qualification.

    Right now, they are giving me the time I need to set up living arrangements.  I was very pleased with an apartment I saw yesterday and applied for it. It's in an older building, but is completely renovated with all new carpet, fixtures, and appliances. They are targeting a Friday move-in date, which would be AWEsome, so I hope to hear something firm by tomorrow afternoon.

    Thus far, the Lord has been clearing a VERY wide path for me!

May 1, 2016

  • May Day!

    It was gray and raining when I left Michigan Friday afternoon.

    It was gray and raining when I arrived in New Jersey early this evening.

    On the whole, the trip wasn't bad. LOTS of traffic from PA to NJ. I had the feeling that I was traveling at the end of some sort of holiday weekend. I saw a few accidents, but thankfully I was not one of them.

    I stopped by an apartment complex that I've been interested in seeing. I hope to formally tour it tomorrow after my first day of work. It's in New Castle, DE.

    Castlebrook is an older complex, but is well recommended by previous contractors. I was very excited to see how large a complex it is, how well maintained it looks, and how large the parking areas are.  My Ram is a big truck to park. The parking situation was something I was looking for. I was also hoping for somewhere that I could take long walks. This already appears to fit the bill.


    2016-05-01 Castlebook building 2016-05-01 Castlebook office 2016-05-01 Castlebook parking

    One picture is of an apartment - you can see it looks older.

    One is of the office. You can see that it seems nicely maintained.

    The last is of a typical parking area. The cars in the center are parked around a rather large median ... almost the size of a small park.

    There are a few of these arrangements in the complex.

    Many thanks to saintvi for provisions of food. I've not had to buy a thing other than gas since I left.  I enjoyed half of a stuffed bell pepper this evening.


April 9, 2016

  • My latest Blah, Blah Update

    Time for an update:

    Friday was three months unemployed.

    Such was not my expectation when I quit work, but it wasn’t not outside my planning for the unexpected.

    Based on several conversations with contractors for several years, I had a reasonable belief that I could be employed in a contract position within about two months, and certainly within three. In point of fact, this is a big part of why I went through the grueling 18-month certification course to be able to teach the control room operators. I expected that when I left Cook (est. 2021 or so), I would do contract work from time-to-time as a semi-retirement endeavor. Even recent conversation with current contractors, and even some recruiters, led me to believe the same thing. Such has not been the case.

    Fracking for natural gas and oil, despite the earthquakes it creates  and toxic chemicals it puts into the aquifers, remains viciously protected by both sides of the congressional aisle. Government subsides to promote green energy have also allowed solar and wind technology to expand into the energy market. (I’m fine with supporting sustainable energy production.) Both have put tremendous economic pressure on the nuclear industry to make electricity at the same cost. I’m confident that this has forced companies to cut back on contract labor, and anticipated that I might run into some difficulty because of it, but saw and continue to see an unusual effect on my job position within the nuclear industry.

    Jobs for permanent Operations Training Instructors remain abundant. I could look at Indeed or Monster and probably find 6 positions open right now.  So – an employment gap does exist. I also know that many sites do employ contract instructors, so what gives?

    It’s fair to say that in the short term, contract labor is more expensive than in-house labor, hence the desire to hire full-time employees. However, working your in-house labor overtime does become costly in the long run.  One way around this is to make those employees salary employees, so that you don’t have to pay as much overtime, and when you do, you pay at a straight-time rate. This was the practice I saw when I left Cook. My speculation, then, is that the nuclear industry is following what many corporations did during the financial collapse. Keep a short-handed staff and work them longer.

    Also, sites prefer to hire contractors who live close to the station (usually retired employees), to avoid paying per diem (usu. $500/wk tax-free, give or take). This was the case at Cook, where perhaps 3-4 local contract instructors were constantly employed. (“No,” I won’t do that. I’d have stayed at Cook if I wanted to work there. Odd how often I get asked that question.)

    So, where does that put me?

    I do have a couple of résumés out for contract positions in Texas near Dallas and Houston, and one in New Jersey. I have no idea what my competition is for these positions, but suspect it may be greater than I’d previously thought. On the other hand, I have three job interviews for full time positions.

    #3 is to do essentially the same job I did at Cook, but at the VC Summer Nuclear Plant in South Carolina. They are building 2 new nuclear reactors on-site, which is interesting, but the position I’m being interviewed for on April 22nd is for their currently operating reactor.

    #2 is for an interesting Environmental/Nuclear Training and Procedure Specialist in Richland, Washington.  The phone interview is this coming Thursday. I think the scope is to create training materials for some aspect of the Hanford nuclear “clean up the DoD weapons mess” site. This would fit very nicely with my professional background, but I have no idea what they pay.

    #1 I had this past Thursday. It’s a Westinghouse training position located in New Hampshire. The Westinghouse Nuclear Fuel Manufacturing division is need of training specialists to help create training materials at various support facilities located in Utah, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and South Carolina. I would be part of that team – alone on-location, but working in tandem with this team. The people at the NH site are “eager for someone to be on-site to help them build their training program.” Currently, there is a gal in PA who is trying to juggle two locations.

    The pay would be about 15% less than I last earned, but is still about twice what most positions for that kind of training specialist would earn. It’s also just about everything I would love to have in a job: it’s project-centered, I would be part of a diverse team, creative solutions are encouraged, it’s a new initiative, occasional travel to various locations is required, and it’s locally near colonial historic sites.

    I should get a call next week to see if they want to follow-up with me. I’d like to hear that they want an in-person interview on-location. As much as I’d love to make the extra money doing contract work - if the gaps between jobs are on the order of 3-4 months or more, that’s not a plus. I would be very interested in taking the pay cut for a year (I think I have a plan to juggle that), and see what happens. If it works out, great and Melinda and I can begin trying to figure out how best to make a permanent transition. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll try spinning the contract wheel one more time next January (but while still employed). If that still doesn’t work, I’ll see about going back to work at another nuclear station for another 5 – 8 years before retiring.

    “So that’s the plan, Stan.”

    But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,

    In proving foresight may be vain:

    The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men

    Gang aft agley,

    An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

    For promis’d joy!


    Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!

    The present only toucheth thee:

    But Och! I backward cast my e’e,

    On prospects drear!

    An’ forward tho’ I canna see,

    I guess an’ fear!

    To a Mouse (excerpt) - Robert Burns