Saturday, September 23, 2006

We Are Blessed - Good Friends

We are so blessed to have good friends. I realized this a few weeks ago when we re-started our visitation program after taking the summer off (as is typical in our church community). The elderly woman I visited up through the summer break got hospitalized and no longer lives alone as she moved in with her son. I told Jean that I wanted to begin visiting someone new and we started by visiting an ill church member whose wife is a member of our Sabbath School class. He has not been able to come to church due to his medical conditions (multiple). We went to visit them mid-afternoon and they had us stay for popcorn and fruit salad and then games that night. We ALL had a great time and it wasn't like we were "visiting" but rather just like hanging out with great friends!

Last weekend while we were in the greater Chattanooga, TN area we were invited to go to church on Sabbath with a colleage who used to live in Maine and now works at my company's home office in Chattanooga. We were friends before they moved to TN just under two years ago (I actually am doing the job he vacated when he moved south). We went to their church with our college-aged daughter who goes there every other week and joined their Sabbath School class, worshipped with them during church and went to their Sabbath School class' potluck in the afternoon. When that broke up we were invited to our friend's house for conversation, a walk, supper and more conversation.

This Sabbath afternoon we went and visited our friends here in Maine again and I had contacted another Sabbath School classmate who has an infirm friend whom she cares for who came over as well and we all shared popcorn and fruit salad with time to discuss our various concerns, joys and prayed for the burdens and challenges that are looming for one of our friends. We just got home!

What a blessing it is to have friends to fellowship with, to pray with and to just spend time together with on Sabbath.

On an unrelated side note, our pastor introduced us to a lovely new song in church today: The Power of Your Love by Geoff Bullock - her son had the words matched with wonderful photos and graphics in the worship PowerPoint program.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Life...and Stuff

Unplanned Vacation

Jean and I received a call for assistance from our daughter in the Chattanooga, TN, area where she is attending school on Monday (nearly 2 weeks ago now) and with some quick phone calls cancelled all our plans for that week, packed what we needed for a week or so, loaded the items she needed us to bring and were on the road by 7:45 AM the next morning.

"Bummer," I can hear some saying. But I enjoy traveling and can drive for long periods of time simply enjoying the country side go by while listening to an audio book. In this case Jean and I talked for quite a few hours of the trip, though we also listened to The Splendid Solution, a biography of Jonas Salk, who developed the first (and safest) polio vaccine during the 1950s to halt a raging epidemic that Jean and I both lived through. We were lucky recipients of his vaccine ("Go behind the screen, lower your pants and the doctor will give you your shot" - this in the highschool gymnasium) when we were about 10 years old.

Our trip (both going and coming back) were uneventful except that we drove 16 hours straight coming back, managing to get all the way to just northeast of Hartford, CT, before stopping for the night on the way home. That left us a very short, very manageable drive that got us home just after 1 PM.

Working In Chattanooga

After we got our daughter's needs cared for, we had a "spare" day - Friday - which was not sufficient to get us home to our own church for Sabbath. I had taken my work laptop so that I could look up a file if contacted by one of my nurses by logging in at our motel, or so I thought. I couldn't make it work when I tried as I had somehow forgotten the code for connecting to the corporate VPN. That spare day looked like a way to "save" a vacation day by slipping over to my company's Chattanooga office, connecting directly into their intranet and working from there for a day.

We got directions to the office, stopped by AAA to pick up a downtown map of Chattanooga, and made me a lunch in a WalMart bag from our cooler to take with me. A good friend of mine formerly from Maine but now working at the Chattanooga office found me an open office where I could work right beside him and I put in a full day's work. The tour of the office that he gave me was eye opening! And he showed me more efficient ways to do my work, which I have brought home and shared with my manager. I suspect that we will implement several points that I was shown down in Chattanooga.

I am thinking that it might even be possible to work out of the Chattanooga office for a block of time during the winter months. I planned to talk about it with my manager today when I met with her. When I sat down to eat, I found that Jean had left this article open at my place at the table when she went to bed last night - it had arrived in the mail yesterday. Nice to be part of a new 'megatrend.'

Let There Be Light...

In other work-related news, it is coming the time of year that I dread: the end of Daylight Savings Time. I get up in the dark, drive to work in the dark, [work in my windowless 'dungeon' of an office] drive home in the dark, walk in the dark...You get the picture. If we have a stormy weekend, I may not actually see daylight for a couple weeks at a time.

Ever since arriving at my current position I have requested a window seat: "I'll cheerfully give up the office for a cubicle by the windows." The answer was: "We want you in the office where you will not be disturbed." That was that. I figured it's worth it to try again. So I asked today - 'You wouldn't by any chance be willing to give up YOUR window cubicle in exchange for my office?' She would not but, there is an empty double cubicle right next to hers which she will see if she can secure for my use!!! If people are disturbing me, she will help me run herd control. She suggested a motel doorknob tag: "Do Not Disturb" when I need to concentrate. I'm excited about the possibility of having a southeast exposure waist to ceiling window-wall this winter to keep the 'blahs' at bay!!!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Labor Day 2006

Over the Labor Day weekend, which was rainy for most of Sunday and Monday, I took the opportunity to read a book given to me as a Christmas gift: The Desert Generals by Correlli Barnett.

The book is an excellent read as it details the strain of leadership of 6 generals, 5 British and 1 German, who commanded armies in the Libyan desert between 1940 - 1943 when the desert campaigns effectively ended with the retreat of Field Marshall Rommel's Afrika Korps and Panzer Armee just before the landing of a large American expeditionary force near Tripoli.

Several themes prevail in the book:
1. The ill effects (i.e. - increased loss of life, materielle, and time to achieve objectives) when politicians directed military manuveurs for political gain - a tactic used by both Hitler and Churchill (Why am I not surprised? And BTW, this suggests that the current class of political leaders would do well to study history and learn well the lessons to avoid future repetition).

2. The slow adaptation of the British army to World War II battlefield techniques and the delay in learning how to appropriately utilize armour (i.e. - tanks) and the underlying social and political basis for this with the result that there were no "tank men" in command so the commanding generals of the 8th Army had to "learn" from their subordinates and some, including Montgomery, had a very hard time doing it with significant waste of life and tanks in the process.

3. The change of leadership on the field was typically for political reasons, and typically with poor results. The corellary to this was that the ability to identify generals with the ability to not only command but develop imaginative strategies were few: one of the best, Gen. O'Connor, was captured in the first campaign by Lt. Gen. Rommel and spent the rest of the war in a concentration camp.

4. General Montgomery's prima donna-like behavior in Europe which gave C-in-C, Gen. Eisenhower fits later in the war was already in full bloom when he was taken from training the home guard in England and given command of the 8th Army in the desert. That said, he led the way for the military leaders of today who must not only fight the enemy but also fight the battle for the public's opinion in the public media. In that sense he made a contribution that could be seen as positive. As opposed to failing to credit the originators of the plans for the 2nd Battle of El Alamein (i.e. - Auchinleck & Dorman-Smith, his chief of staff), nearly losing the battle despite huge lopsided advantages in men, tanks, artillary as well as having complete control of the air AND with Rommel hamstrung by lack of fuel and ammunition due to Hitler's failure to provision his troops.

5. Field Marshall Rommel's retreat against overwhelming odds is a tale worth the telling in even greater detail as his 30 tanks held off more than 20 times that number while an orderly escape was effected, taking time to completely destroy the harbor at Tripoli. Granted, Gen. Montgomery's failure to aggressively pursue when pursuit was called for was a significant contributing factor. Nonetheless, Rommel's force came close to defeating Montgomery at El Alamein despite coming off his sickbed with an infected liver and a stomach ulcer to lead "his men."

6. The great army generals were great because they were leaders - they were on the field and their men knew that they were leading from personal knowledge of the battlefield conditions - and they fought accordingly (e.g. - O'Connor, Auchinleck, Rommel).