Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Tribute to Farmers

I have the utmost respect for farmers…yes dad it is true. Honestly they are the true jack of all trades…only a farmer will take a piece of equipment that costs more than their yearly salary, completely disassemble it, modify it, reassemble it, and then claim that they don’t really know what they are doing. My current favorite country music song I think does a great job of capturing part of the life of a farmer so I figured I would post an entry explaining the lyrics. The song is “Amarillo Sky” by Jason Aldean, and I hope that this will give everyone a little more appreciation for the farmers of America.

Verse 1:
He gets up before the dawn
Packs a lunch and a thermos full of coffee
It's another day in the dusty haze
Those burnin' rays are wearing down his body

I’m so thankful to have been raised on a farm because hard work isn’t something you avoid…it is simply something you do. No one will ever yell at a farmer for being to work late, but farmers are typically working earlier than anyone else. I remember when I was 6 years old our whole family would get up at the crack of dawn so we could hoe in the fields before the sun got too hot. That work ethic has paid off in everything I’ve done, and will always give me an edge. I actually was talking to my father a couple months ago and was telling him how I have to work 12 to 17 hours per day, and his response was “that’s good…isn’t it.” That is such a refreshing response compared to the typical “man that must really sucks.” I really should just be thankful that I have a job and that each day there is something that I can do that is productive.

And diesel's worth the price of gold
And it's the cheapest grain he's ever sold
But he's still holding on

These are my favorite couple lines…it really portrays the reality that every farmer has to face. Everyone in the United States knows the price of gas just keeps climbing just like all costs. So for a farmer the price of diesel to run the equipment climbs as well as other costs, but the price of grain doesn’t move much and can actually drop. In fact the cost of a bushel of corn in 1980 was about $3, and today in Pigeon a bushel of corn sells at about $2.

He just takes the tractor another round
And pulls the plow across the ground
And sends up another prayer
He says Lord I never complain I never ask why
But please don't let my dreams run dry
Underneath, Underneath this Amarillo sky

First of all if anyone doesn’t know a round is driving from one end of the field to the other and back…farmers do this many, many times. In fact my dad often decides if the day is over by whether or not he can get another round in before sunset. The rest of the chorus brings up something that ever farmer must have…faith. As my father says, “there is no such thing as an atheist farmer.” You take everything you have to purchase these dead little seeds, put them in the soil, and pray that God brings life to that dead seed and multiplies it. Farmers work hard but are always aware of the fact that their success or failure is really out of their hands (don’t get me wrong…there is a lot of knowledge required to be a good farmer).

Verse 2:
That hail storm back in '83
Sure did take a toll on his family
But he stayed strong and carried on
Just like his dad and grandad did before him
On his knees every night he prays
Please let my crops and children grow
Cause that's all he's ever known

To most people a hail storm is a bad thing and they worry about a couple dings in their car, but to a farmer it can completely destroy their livelihood. If the crops have sprouted then a heavy hailstorm will just destroy them, and that is basically the form that all their money is currently invested in. This is obviously a problem that we are completely unable to avoid…as a fluid mechanic I can assure everyone that at least as long as I’m alive we won’t even be able to predict the weather accurately more than 5 days in advance let alone develop methods to avoid severe weather (at least on a large scale). The only thing anyone can do to avoid this is prayer.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Looking the Part

Over the past few months I’ve been the manager for a seven figure project funded by the U.S. government. The facility that I was using cost us approximately $10,000/day and nothing happen with the tunnel unless I gave the call. Therefore if we divide that by the number of hours I’m allowed to use the tunnel per day (~15 hours), we get that my time there was worth about $670/hour. So why am I throwing these numbers at you…obviously to impress everyone right…no actually this is one of those occasions that I get to share some irony (my favorite form of humor).

The obvious source of irony would be to compare my worth per hour with my pay…I’ll spare my dignity and not share what the second number is (lets just say that it only takes a few hours to equal my monthly salary). However there is a better one that made me crack up quite often. Lets say you are aware of those numbers and then go to meet the guy that is running all of this…you would probably expect to meet someone that was pretty decently dressed. Perhaps not a tie but at least nice clean shirt and khakis would be worn. When I compare that image with the one of me it just simply makes me laugh out loud. I looked so bad that one of the professors asked for my waist size so that he could buy me a new pair of shorts. Let me share with you my typical attire.

You might think that these clothes simply need a wash and besides that they aren’t too bad. Well lets take a closer look.

I’ll start with the shorts. First thing you should notice is the red stains…this would be rhodamine 6G. You might say, “Brian what is rhodamine 6G,” well it is a toxic dye that I was constantly covered head to toe in during the test. This dye stained basically every piece of clothing I wore in Memphis and washing has a minimal effect on it (side note that I also managed to stain a large portion of the facility…I don’t think they appreciated it). Secondly you should note that the right pant leg is ripped nearly in half. The rip was slowly growing from about the half way point in the test until the last day when they finally ripped all the way down. To get through the last day of work I took electrical tape (I couldn’t find duct tape) and taped my pant leg together…I got some sweet looks when I went to Home Depot to pick up a few things. I even had this one guy see me walk in then went and got his buddy and came looking for me to show him…they tried to be sneaky about it, but it was really obvious when they were spending more time looking at my shorts then at the hammers they were supposedly buying.

Now to the shoes…these things looked almost this bad after the first two weeks I was in Memphis. So really it is impressive how well they held up. Sadly this picture doesn’t fully show the damaged that has been inflicted on these shoes. Even still you get a good look at the nice big rip that runs along the side of the shoe, the rubber in the front that once went nearly to the top of the shoe but now stops on the bottom, and like everything I have it is covered in red dye. I’ve had many suggests for what to do with these shoes once the test was over. My favorite two are either cover them with gasoline and burn them or get them bronzed and leave them in our office as a memorial to Hiplate.

The real kicker is that not only did I look like this when I worked at the facility, but I didn’t change when we went out to eat. As you can imagine I would often draw a few looks when I walked into a nice restaurant (I even had a real nice double take once from a guy…you know he glances over then quickly wipes his head back to take a second look). There was only one restaurant that I actually didn’t feel comfortable eating at…I’m fine with going into a place that has candle light at each table and slightly dimmed lights, but the one that had red roses at each table was too much. We all agreed that perhaps this place was a little too nice for us and we went to a different restaurant.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I'm Back

So after 3 months hard work my experiment has finally come to an end. Thus everyone can look forward to regular updates once again on my blog. I'm probably not in the right state of mind to right much of anything, but I'll share a short story from my drive back to Ann Arbor.

I decided to take all the data and personally drive it from Memphis to Ann Arbor because I don't trust anyone else touching it (the 3 months of work now would be completely wasted if the data was lost). I originally planned on driving one set with me while shipping a backup separately, but since I wasn't sure exactly which drives had what data I opted just to drive everything myself. I was a little nervous about this because if I got in an accident or something everything would be lost, but hey I'm a good driver. When I went to leave Memphis I heard there were tornados to the north so I decided to cut east over to Nashville then head north. My hope was that the storm would die down somewhat and I would just get some rain. I was over 200 miles into the drive without a single drop of rain when I got to Elizebethtown, Kentucky. Instantly the weather went from calm to severe. I knew it was bad when I saw the rain moving horizontally and lightning hitting so close that it practically blinded me. Luckily I was right at an exit and was able to pull off the highway and right into a gas station where I parked around a corner from where the storm was coming from. All I could think was that this is unbelievable, I've never been in such severe weather in my life yet the one time I'm carrying irreplaceable cargo it finds me. After sitting there for about 20 minutes I decided to go inside the building and try finding out the status of the storms. When I went inside the gas station had just lost part of its roof from the storm, but the damage wasn't too major. They said for that spot the worst of the storm had passed by, but there was a good chance of a flash flood now that would last for the next 3 days. I decided to try to push on because I didn't want to get stuck in some town for 3 days. It was relatively calm for about another 40 miles, but than I got hit by another severe storm (I heard the gusts were between 70 and 100 miles/hour). At this point I conceded defeat (I was really trying to get back so I could go to the Michigan football game with a bunch of buddies from out of town). I checked the Weather Channel in the morning and found out that there were a total of 36 tornados that hit along the path I was driving, and even though the one I drove into at Elizebethtown wasn't a tornado the Weather Channel talked about how bad that storm was. I then finished up the drive in the morning/afternoon on Saturday. I didn't make the game, but it is still pretty sweet to be back in Michigan.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Random Stuff

Since my last update nothing totally awesome has happened, but there have been some random things that are mildly interesting. Therefore I shall make a list of them (I love lists…personally I think more things should be put into list format).
1) I actually went to the Rendezvous (you know the place I mentioned previously that has the best ribs in the world). Last time they were delivered, but this time we went to the restaurant. For a place that has fed presidents, the prince of Monaco, prime ministers, and numerous celebrities, it wasn’t in a very nice part of Memphis. In fact it actually is in kind of a rough part of the town. We went at night and getting to the place requires you to walk down a dark alley…can’t say I felt all that safe getting there since Memphis is currently vying for murder capitol of the US. However it was certainly worth the danger…they are the best ribs. Earlier this week I drove past the place and began salivating.
2) While making a one day trip to Memphis Thursday I found myself in the middle of American Idol tryouts. I was wondering why the place I was staying at was so busy and then while a couple of people were talking about the tryouts. Turns out that the new hotel I was trying out was just down the street from them and nearly everyone staying at it was trying out. They said I should tryout, but I decided I would go ahead and keep my dignity.
3) I’m starting to think I travel too much…I’ve befriended the lady that drives the bus from the Memphis airport to the car rental place. I know all about her prison ministry, plans for moving to the country, and her work schedule so we know if I’ll be flying in about the time she works. I’ve also recently obtained executive status with National Car Rental…I’m not sure exactly what that entails besides I’ve rented way too many cars recently.
4) There are plenty of things to complain about when in comes to Memphis, but I’ve got to share with you a positive thing about it. It has a beautiful view along the Mississippi River…I’ve attempted to get some pictures of it in the past, but due to my camera’s battery dieing I couldn’t. Then when I went back on Thursday I finally managed to get a few pictures of the riverside. I would like to share a couple with you.

Top - Mississippi River, bridge to Arkansas, and the pyramid
Bottom- The riverside park and the city

5) Best for last…I’m currently getting a short break. While I have trips to Memphis both this upcoming week and the past week, I’ve been spending most of my time in Ann Arbor. I still have work to do but at least it isn’t in Memphis. I was even able to attend the first Michigan football game today…Go Blue!