A brief history of Mine

Repeat after me – I have value. Yes, I tell myself that all the time. Of course, I wish I had some evidence recently. I have been looking for a job for going on 5 years. I have all of those skills and talents that companies say they are not only looking for, but that they are desperate to find. There is little technology on the planet that I don’t understand. I devour science and technology, and I have ever since I could stand upright. And, I have a unique ability to actually understand it, not just memorize bits & pieces. I know electronics, not the personal crap that has come to be known by that term, but the resistors, capacitors, IC’s and circuits that make it work. I have designed, built and maintained electronics equipment long before it was a euphemism for a PC.

In the Navy in the 70’s I maintained and operated a multi-million dollar state of the art Missile system. Starting with mastering the fire control radar, I also earned a secondary job code on the computer systems that ran it. Along with that I was a part of the deck crew, responsible for the steering gear, and well on my way to getting a Surface warfare specialist designation – which involved learning everything from how to conn the ship, to standing boiler room watches. I was also a member of the ship’s security force, and nuclear security team. An extensive background check, numerous psych evaluations, small arms and self defense training were all part of being on that team.

In my 28 years with the AP as an Ohio field engineer I did everything from install and maintain hundreds of large satellite dishes,  to help maintain newspaper computer systems, in addition to my primary role as a telecom technician responsible for the networks, computer systems, telecom and satellite equipment, and end user processing that delivered the AP newswires, audio, video and photos to 130 Newspapers, and about 200 radio & tv stations within Ohio. As well, since we were legally a phone company (OCC), I also maintained the equipment and systems that delivered stock and financial market data, sports information, weather and agricultural data to nearly 400 commercial customers in Ohio. My position in the AP saw me navigate and keep abreast with tremendous technical change in the 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s, including a revolution in photography, including nursing the newspaper production plants through a move to color photos, a major sea change in how ads are delivered (AP Adsend), and several generations of printing technology – from lead type all the way through digital direct to press. And, in between, I built bureaus, fixed the sink, repaired all the news gathering equipment, and maintained backup generators.

I also do skilled trades. Electrician, Plumber, Carpenter, woodworker and fabricator.  Those skills that the schools advertise as “learn a new career”. And not book learning. I work with my hands, and I have done all those things for a long time. I am easily the equal of any journeyman electrician (With the added benefit of extensive understanding of electrical theory), and I may know more about how houses are built than Bob Vila or Norm Abrahms  – Not Tommy Silva, but…  As a condo manager for 15 years, I also did much of the maintenance for our 10 buildings. I have built entire houses, and remodeled/renovated countless others, as well as working as my father’s helper (who was originally a cabinet maker) for a year in a remodeling business after HE was laid off from Rockwell.

I am also a skilled mechanic. Far beyond “shade tree” I have built and repaired cars since day one. I started my work career repairing cars. As a member of the Navy’s auto hobby shops in the 70’s, I have helped and trained dozens of people how to do everything from diagnostics to overhauls. I have built cars for drag racing, and I was well known in that “circle” for my tuning ability, knowledge of electrical systems, and ability at building carbs. And I fully understand the systems, computers, and electronics that pack our modern cars – something else that is supposedly hard to find.

Yet, not even McDonalds, or the local grocery store, will hire me.

Why?

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In loving memory of Chester “Cat Of Steel”

Chester, Chester roony, Chester man, the Cat of Steel. Chester came into our lives late in
the year 2000. He was one of a litter of kittens brought to my wife Deb’s office. Of course
Deb had to check them out. When she opened the cardboard box full of kittens, Chester came
strutting out, confident, and already sporting what we would come to call his “bah-boom” walk.

It was immediate love. Deb scooped up this incredible kitten, and took him upstairs to her
office, where the bravado soon dissipated. Chester was a people cat from the beginning.
Suddenly separated from his litter mates, his people, he soon was a frightened little
kitten, in a large, busy, place. Deb called me later to say she was bringing home a kitten.
After a few seconds, I asked if there were any more from the litter. Deb went back down,
and there was one kitten left. The shyest one, he would not come out of the box. Everyone
else had passed him up, which was magical for us. It was Oscar, Chester’s brother.

Scooping him up, Deb headed back to her office and Chester. As soon as she got off the elevator with Oscar,  both Chester and Oscar let out an incredible yell, and started crying to each other. They were brothers, connected from the start, and now back together, as it should be. Chester regained his bravado, and snuggled with his brother, they feel into a comfortable sleep. Chester kept that bravado through the
rest of his life.

Oscar was the practical and competent athlete, the protector. Chester
was the adventurer, always curious, always wanting to be around others, always in the
middle of everything. Chester had a huge soul, and a huge heart. He loved everyone he met,
and looked at life as a never-ending adventure. We had two wonderful brothers different as
night and day, but forever joined together in a way only siblings can understand.

Chester was healthy and happy, and enjoyed life to the fullest until this May, when we
realized he was losing weight, and not eating. A trip to the vet ensued, where we found he
had some dental issues. Other than that, his checkup went fine. We scheduled dental surgery
for him, and thought soon everything would be back to normal. We were so wrong.

His surgery reportedly went great, and later that day we were comforted that he was awake
and that the worst was behind us. He spent that night at the clinic, and we brought him
home the next day. Right away, something was terribly wrong,  he was very lethargic, he
just lay there with his head down, not even acknowledging anything or anyone. Later when we
tried to feed him, he would not eat. He was very tired, could barely walk, stumbling this
way and that, and then only a few feet at a time until he had to rest again. We thought it
was still the anesthesia, and convinced ourselves all would be OK in a couple of days. It
wasn’t. He never recovered from the surgery.

For the next month, he had small ups & downs, but Chester never really returned. He seemed
depressed, he would not eat, he just sit or lay there with his head down, no doubt in fear
of what had happened to his world. Cats don’t understand the why, only that things had
changed, and it was not good.

We fed him via syringe, we gave him fluids via IV, and we loved, and cared for him every
minute of the day. He spent a night at the vet two more times, on IV’s, and with
expectations and assurances that he would improve, that he would come back, that we would
once again have chester in our lives. We eventually got used to coming home and not having
him greet us at the door. We got used to him not coming up to bed with us, not sleeping and
cuddling every night. Well, we got used to it, but we never could accept it. Things were
wrong, our world was rocked,  as was Chester’s.

Throughout the month, we were sometimes terrified, but other times overjoyed by little
signs of progress. When he licked the juice off some tuna, we were elated, and hugged each
other tightly in happiness. When he once sat there and cleaned his face, like normal, we
wept with joy. Sometimes we thought we saw his bah-boom walk returning a bit, and, again,
we wept that Chester would soon be back to his old self.

Occasionally, he would seek us out, and follow us around the house – slowly and shakily,
but we thought it was a good sign. Looking back, I think he was begging us to do something,
to ease whatever pain he was in, to make things normal again. He trusted us so much. I
can’t help but feel, at least in his mind, we had betrayed that trust. We tried so hard,
but we could not make it better.

Last Friday, after feeding him, and giving him a sub-q, we went to bed. Chester was
sleeping on the couch. HE did not come up to bed with us, but that had become normal. The
next morning, I came downstairs, and found him sitting up on the living room floor,
actively looking around. For an instant, I was elated that maybe some progress had been
made, and he was finally coming out of it.

Those feelings were short lived though as I found he would not respond to anything, and,
while he was anxiously looking around, he did not appear to be seeing anything. In fact, he
was suddenly blind. A short time later, I watched him have some type of seizure, he lay there on the
floor shaking and trembling for what seemed like forever, but was only a few seconds.

We got him to the vet as soon as we could. There was no crate this time. He rode in Deb’s lap on his blanket.  Quiet and barely responsive, we took him inside. He was, in fact blind. His pupils were fully dilated, and he did not respond to any kind of light. HE had gone so far downhill overnight, and we think his spirit had already left him. He was just waiting for us to do the right thing, and let his body go.

Soul searching. Knowing what we had to do, but not willing to admit it, not willing to let go of someone who was that important, that close, that meant so much to us. Not willing to admit defeat, and so very afraid to take the last,  irreversible step. The doubts set in, the regrets were already forming, once we went there, we could never go back, never return, it is as final as final can be. Did we have the courage, the strength? Moreover, did we love Chester enough to let him be free of his failing body? Free of the hurt, the fright the  terror of what his life had become.

We had only the knowledge that he was blind, and that sight would not come back. Chester had so much wonder for the world, without sight, even with some miracle, he would never enjoy life again. And there was little hope for that miracle either. He was done, he was begging to be let go.

We did a lot of crying, a lot of soul searching, and a lot of questioning why before we made the decision. But finally, we tried to accept the inevitable, we had lost our friend, our pal, our Cat of steel. We told the vet to put him down.

The injection was given, and as we watched our boy go to sleep for the last time, watched the life drain from him, watched him depart our world forever, we wondered if we had done the right thing, and we hoped and prayed that Chester knew we were there, that we loved him, and that we were doing the right thing because we loved him so very much..

Chester was a special cat. His heart was full of love for everything around him,  and everyone he met. His loss has left a huge hole in our home, in our lives, in our own hearts. A hole that can never be filled, only covered over temporarily. We know we will recover, that life is sometimes hard, but it goes on, it must go on. But right now, there does not seem to be any possibility of ever getting over his loss. Our lives are devastated, our hearts are empty and broken. We want him back, so very bad, but that will never be. We can only take comfort in the thought that maybe, just maybe, he is still “up there” over that Rainbow Bridge, enjoying his new life, bitter but free. And we must hold on to the hope that sometime, perhaps in another life, we will be rejoined, be together again, with our Cat of Steel.

Right before the injection, the vet once again checked Chester’s heart, and said his heart was still going strong. Chester always had a good heart.

 

Chester is survived by his brother Oscar, His “Little Buddy” Zoomy, Coco the Weiner Dog, Max the Lab, and of course, His (adoptive) parents Deb and Mike. He is missed by all. There is now an empty space in our family that cannot, and never will be,  filled.

The shame of Puppy Mills

Born to questionable parents into inhumane, dirty and crowded surroundings. Raised like a crop, and subjected to the minimum care necessary to keep them alive, beset by disease, parasites and hunger, a puppy born to a puppy mill breeder has a bleak existence.

Then shipped at a young age to a mass commercial retailer, crammed into another small cage, and receiving minimal care, they are sold like commodities to unsuspecting new owners. Along the way they will be handled by numerous wannabe window shoppers, and tended to often, not always, by  persons whose only stake in the entire process is their paycheck. These are the formative years of a new life from a puppy mill.

At each turn, the young puppy may somehow experience hope, or excitement, that they have found a home, only to once again be relegated to the small crowded cage to sleep with their parasites.

When this weak and in need soul is finally sold, it is often to an owner that either does not have the resources to care for them, or who lacks the will to do so. Often impulse buys, often for children, the new puppy fortunately does not know what a bleak future  may lay ahead.

But, just as often, the new puppy is sold to a loving and nurturing family. A family that will invest the time, money and love that it deserves. But, it is a weak puppy. Ravaged by disease and poor conditions from birth, the new owners may not realize what care it really needs until it is too late.

To watch a person, family, or especially a child, bond with their new friend, lavish it with care and affection, and welcome it unselfishly into their lives, and then experience the heartbreak of losing that new friend weeks or maybe months later to an unidentified disease, is to know one more of the horrors of puppy mills.

We need to stop bringing living, breathing, sentient beings into this world, only to peddle them for the almighty dollar. We need to stop the abuse. We need to end the suffering of both these creatures, and the people who eventually welcome them into their lives and hearts.

We need to stop Puppy Mills, and we need to shut down the commercial retailers who support them.

While there is a place for legitimate breeders. Puppy mills are illegitimate. They exist, not for the lives they create, but only for the profits they generate. With all the millions of abandoned and unwanted pets overflowing shelters and rescue organizations, there is no reason for puppy mills to exist, and there is no reason for pet stores to sell their product.

Do not do business with pet stores that sell commercial Dogs and Cats. Do not buy Puppy Mill Puppies. Do not support this ongoing travesty.

Most responsible Pet stores do not sell these commercial pets. Instead, they  support rescue organizations, and make space and resources for those organizations to seek out responsible and loving new homes for abandoned and neglected animals that are already out there. These are the stores we should support. Research before you commit to any puppy. Find out where it came from, and why. Visit Shelters, and adoption centers. Most shelters and rescue organizations have already taken whatever measures are required to ensure the health of their charges.  Never the less, have your new dog or cat checked out. Most organizations require this as part of the adoption process. They will also require spaying or neutering.

And, above all, remember a new pet is a LIFELONG commitment. If you are not ready to make that commitment, you do not need a new pet.

Let’s do what we can to stop this. Below is a link to the Humane Society’s investigation into PetLand – one of the most flagrant abusers.

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/puppy_mills/timelines/petland_investigation.html

Our sun is gonna shine in 2010

Two Thousand Nine, the year of the suck. A year that saw us fall deeper and deeper into debt and financial disaster. A year that saw us not living, but simply existing. My second year consumed by a fruitless search for employment, and little else. A year that was punctuated and defined by the sudden and heartbreaking loss of Zeke over the Thanksgiving holiday. A year that should not have been, and hopefully will never be again.

Yet, even in this, the worst of years, there were two bright spots. Deb has finished her first year at a wonderful Company. She has hit her stride, doing what she loves and does best. Her future looks very bright. The second was the inspiration and challenge of the Harmony Project. A solid reminder that with some effort, an incredible leader and motivator, and a spirit of giving, a group of disparate people can make a difference, and find joy,  fulfillment, and, yes, harmony, along the way.

It is with the knowledge that Deb is finally where she needs to be professionally, with the memories of the  Harmony Project fresh in my mind, and with the understanding that good can not only happen, but triumph, that I present my list of ten goals for 2010. It is a new year, a new decade, and a new hope.

Some of these goals are prosaic and mundane, some are lofty. Some I know I will achieve, some I will have to try very hard to make happen. All are equally important.

To paraphrase, I choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard – and because they are necessary to return me, us, and our family, once again to the land of the living.

1 – I will be a much better communicator. I will reach out, re-connect, and stay connected with friends and associates. I will strive to at least say Hi regularly, even if there is nothing new to report.

2 – I will find significant employment. I will find myself in a challenging and rewarding position, one that allows me to do the things that I enjoy and that I am good at, and one that allows me to make a contribution, and a difference.

3 – I will return my own self to my roots. What I love best. I will find the time, and the resources, to once again  build things, experiment, and educate myself. I will return to the “Mr. Wizard” I once was.

4 – I will write more. From the letters I am putting off, to my blog. I will make time to write. And I will write about the things that really interest me. I will NOT couch everything as an advertisement for my employment, or whine about our situation.

5 – I will find a way to continue creating and expanding my long abandoned web site. With a desire to inform, entertain and pass on knowledge about technology. It could, should, serve as my outlet, my voice, my little place in the internet world. I will strive to make that happen.

6 – I will better myself . I will find ways to pursue further education and certifications, and expand my knowledge and skill base, wherever possible, through any means available.

7 – I will once again put my personal life in the order I am most comfortable with by organizing, fixing, improving, and cleaning out my home and physical surroundings. I will find ways to continue and finish projects around my home even if the finances are not readily available. I will endeavor to reduce and simplfy my collection of 40 years worth of technical things by responsibly passing them on to those who can use them.

8 – I will find ways to allow Deb and I  to return to the land of the living by once again doing things that we enjoy doing together. A movie, a restaurant, garage sales, time with friends, walking the dogs in a  park, or a drive through the country side. All things we have forgone in the past two years because of a perception we cannot afford to do them. These are things we no longer can afford NOT to do.

9 – I will network more and better. I will seek out more ways to connect with people and I will not stand in the sidelines when I find them. I will actively pursue these people, connections and resources. I will expand my professional and entrepreneurial horizon and generate new opportunities. I will seek out many and diverse ways that I can be more productive both financially and personally. I will learn to give back more fully and to nurture those connections. I will strive to better be an asset, not an add-on.

10 – Conversely, I will strive to remember that although the search for employment is a very high priority, it is not the only thing that living is about. I will remember to make time for myself, for my wife, for my family and for our life. I will make time to pursue my interests, hobbies and ambitions. I will remember to make and to make use of  “personal time” “family time” and “us time”. I will make the effort to smell the flowers on a regular basis, not just worry about how to pay for them.

Ten Goals. Ten things that I will do, must do, to move on. I have hope, I have conviction, I have a new enthusiasm for the new year. Our sun IS gonna shine in 2010. I just know it.

My wishes for your own wonderful New Year.

Michael Corder

Understanding the loss of Zeke

I am having a very hard time reconciling our recent loss. I am finding it very hard to deal with. I can find none of the usual comforting “reasons”. I am at a total loss to explain, if only to myself, and to my heart and soul, the reason why Zeke was taken from us, his family, his home, and this world.

I have lost my share of pets. A few from my earliest childhood, I honestly only vaguely remember. I fully understand there is a price to pay for having them in our lives. For having the joys of their love, comfort, trust and companionship. They do not live nearly as long as we do, and there comes a time, inevitably, when we must let go, thank them for what they have unselfishly given us, and say a final goodbye.

That time, when it comes, is never easy. But, we normally have the comfort and solace of knowing a reason why, and most often time to deal with, and prepare for the final consequences.

Perhaps they were old, they had lived a normal, full and rewarding life, now they must move on. I get that, I can deal with that. It is, in fact, the way it is meant to be. We may not know why, but we can accept that it is a part of life. We cannot, and perhaps should not, change it.

Or, they acquired a disease. It happens with animals as it does with people. But these diseases have always proven to me, at least, to be longer term affairs. I think that may be part of the grand plan. To give us some time. In that interim, our hearts get solace while waiting for the inevitable by caring for and nurturing them during their illness. For someone who is doing this, that care is perhaps most important. We are helping them keep the illness at bay, and although the disease will win eventually, we can fight the good fight, and prove our love for them, and commitment to them, while doing it.

Even though I have never lost a pet to an accident, even then, I think I would comprehend, and eventually accept. Accidents do happen. They are the wild card of life. While I know I cannot possibly understand the horror of losing a pet this way, I do think I could find some meaning somewhere, and from that, at least a degree of understanding.

Even if we had done something wrong, exposed him to a toxin, neglected his care, even then, I would at least have a reason. I would be able to turn my regret and remorse inwards, upon myself, and find a way to deal with the loss as a part of my fallibility. We are not perfect, and it is at least possible to reconcile events with our intentions.

These are all coping mechanisms that are as applicable to humans as they are to animals… After a loss of either one we all need to find some reason, some purpose, for the loss. Only then can we move through our grief and emerge back into normal life.

I have yet to find any such reason for Zeke. The mechanism was wrong, the time was wrong, and the end came entirely too abruptly, and amid too much hope.

Zeke was innocent. He was no trouble. He was happy, content, and entirely unaware of the horror that awaited. He was in the prime years of his life. He was active, fun, compassionate, and truly one of a kind. We loved him dearly, as we do all our four legged family. I have found since his loss that even though he was more in the background than any of the others, his was a large presence in this home. His disappearance has left a gaping wound for all of us. One that will not heal easily. The others, of course, notice his absence. Animals grieve also. I see it in all of them. I worry now about Zoomy. Zoomy was Zekes special friend, and Zoom Zoom has now taken to wandering the house aimlessly… Looking for someone who should be there. I hope Zoomy recovers, and I am sure he will, but it is also heartbreaking to see him, and the others, experience the sudden loss of a good friend and family member. It is made worse because they know not why, only that Zeke is suddenly gone from their lives.

And, it is also made worse, as it so often is, because we had to remove Zeke from his family, friends and warm home, and leave him in a strange place – the Vet. It was necessary, but. He probably spent the last hours of his life afraid, alone, and knowing something was very wrong. He may have thought we abandoned him in that strange place. I hope he knew we still cared. We were called by the vet, and got there for his last moments. I hope he was not too gone to know we were there. Watching his last painful breaths, watching the light go out of his eyes, watching his body go limp. I hope he knew how much we loved him. I hope he knew we did not desert him. I hope he knew we were there. I hope he knows how very much he is missed. My fear is, he didn’t. Maybe that is part of what I cannot handle?

Perhaps against the background of all the other things that are going wrong in our lives, the grief that has ensued has experienced a multiplying effect. It has been a tough year. It is going to get tougher, and there is no relief apparent on the horizon, we have little to be happy or joyous about. What joy we do get has come from the love, devotion and companionship of our family – our four legged family. That family is now one person smaller.

I now look around our home, and I want to call his name, I want to know where he is, that he is safe, happy and secure. Indeed I have called his name, many, many times, and he has not come back.

And, I do not know why.

Mike’s Manifesto (And a request for ideas)

Since my days, nights, weekends, and even sleep are filled with trying to find employment, and in the spirit of advertising myself, I offer another look at the things I can (and have) done in my life. This is long, boring, and all about ME. It does have a purpose though. Since, in over a year and a half, I have not found someone to offer me a job, (Or even give me a chance to show how I might help) I am looking for suggestions on how I can create one for myself. I can think of lots I could do. I just can’t figure out how to monetize them. And, right now, that is a key parameter. I apologize in advance for the lack of a plot, and the reliance on a sole character – me. I shall call it my Manifesto. It is what I believe. That I should be a productive, income producing, member of society once again. Please help me realize that dream.

What I am doing is asking for help. No, not money, but help formulating ideas on what I can do, on my own, to support our enterprise while it still exists. While I am not in the least giving up my daily routine of looking for jobs, applying for jobs, reading, writing, and networking in search of jobs, and thinking about how to find jobs from sunrise till sunset, none of that seems to be generating much in the way of job possibilities. What follows is a lot about me. I am over humility, and I am no longer bashful about telling people what I can, and cannot do. I have a lot of talents, in many, diverse areas. For a large part this has hindered my job search. I find it hard to “define myself”. So much for all those ads to learn a new skill. So much for applying a personal talent to a new field or career. That is, in Sherman Potter’s vernacular, horsehockey.

The sad fact is that technology jobs do not exist in Central Ohio. The few that do appear are given to younger, & cheaper people than me. A college degree is mandatory, whether it is germane or not, and some kind of certification on the particular little niche they are trying to fill is required. I would have to have a different certification for every single job I apply for – including McDonalds. Experience, or the ability to actually do the work is secondary. And forget about hiring someone that might need a week or two to learn the new syntax for their Whiz-Bang x2000 production platform. So what if you could do it much better than the guy with the x2000 cert (who has never actually seen an x2000 anyhow). We won’t even touch on the work ethic, the not invented here syndrome, or the ‘need’ to teach an old dog a new culture. No, what few technology positions exist are very specific, and my demographics leave me flapping in the breeze.

So, I need ideas. Ideas on what I can do, by myself, to, as they say, generate income. And, I don’t mean MLM, work at home scams, $2.00/hr filling out surveys, or going to Bernie Madoff university for a refresher course.

First, here is a little (OK, a lot) about what I can do. Some may not be pertinent, but. One thing I have gotten from this job search, I am no longer shy and retiring about my abilities…. (so please forgive me while I ‘honk my own horn’, toot my tweeter, tweet on tooter, ramble on, whatever).

If it is mechanical, electrical, or electronic, I know how it works. I know how to repair, maintain, and modify it. I also can, within reason, design and/or build it. I have a unique and well developed gift to understand how technology, and technical things, work. I also have a gift that allows me to focus on something technical, quickly understand it in depth, and become quite proficient in it. I have had to do this routinely during my time at AP, as technology, and the vast array of things we supported, changed. I am very good at it.

I am a capable programmer, both applications and web. I am quite good at embedded controls, as well as creating the software for them. I am also a competent web developer. Unfortunately, I have not paid much attention to .NET, and I do ASP, not PHP (Of course I could learn pretty damn quick). I also know SQL and databases. Let me digress a moment…

I love information and I have been fascinated by databases since day one. I have done college courses in database design. I have taught database design. I suggested and created the first TWO database systems for AP to track their equipment and customers (all 10,000 customers and 750,000+ pieces of equipment). The first one in assembler – under DOS. The second using Clipper and xbase (37,000 lines of code – a major app for it’s day). I also was heavily involved in modifying and implementing the AP’s first commercial software – fieldwatch. I have done a lot of web development with SQL, ASP and ODBC – some with Oracle databases, some with Access. I have created more reports than should be allowed to exist, including with Crystal reports. Well, I have applied for numerous openings for database designers, maintainers, administrators and managers. I don’t even get considered – read not even interviewed – for the jobs. Why? Because I am not ‘Certified’. Anyway.

I am a quite accomplished mechanic. I know cars and car repair. Including and especially the electrical, electronic and computer control systems that make modern ones function. I understand much of the engineering that is involved in car design.

I know how houses are built, and I am a quite competent carpenter, woodworker and cabinet maker. I can also do all the plumbing, electrical and HVAC – properly, and with better workmanship than most I have seen who are licensed. I have had a major hand in building or heavily remodeling maybe two dozen houses in my life, and helped with many, many, more.

In short, I can competently build most things, and fix damned near anything. I am especially good at figuring out and fixing oddball one-of a kind items and systems. I have a very good sense of aesthetics. I can create web sites, and connect them to the back end data. I think I am good at user interface design, such as web pages. I am one of the best wiring installers on the planet (it is an art), and my workmanship in anything is second to none. If you are going to bother doing something – do it right. Of course, my field is IT, and I am perfectly competent with computers, networking, and all that jazz. Also, I have spent my life in field service, I know that arena very well from every aspect – from managing it to running the road. I recently worked for one (unnamed) company that could desperately use my help… I am also quite adept at documentation, both creating it, and organizing it. Fact is, I can quite well organize anything except a church social. Finally, of course, I absolutely adore most kinds of animals, and I am told I am sort of good with them.

I can, and would like to, educate. Pass on the knowledge and skills, show people how, and explain how the world works. Science, Physics, how airplanes fly, and rockets rocket. How a car works, and how to make it work, how to fix a television, computer, air conditioner or weapons control system. I must digress once more….

I want to teach. Technical things. I want to do my part to get our country back out of the technical mediocrity and apathy we have found ourselves in. I have applied to most of the technical and vocational schools in this area – both for posted jobs, and cold calling. I have spoken to many of them. They will not consider me. It is not my experience or knowledge, indeed they tell me that is not nears as important as – the mandatory 4 year degree, preferably, not in the field you wish to teach, but in education. A carpenter with a four year college education and six months experience is qualified to teach carpentry. Someone with 35 years experience and no degree is not. This strikes me as wrong. This strikes me as one reason for American society’s growing technical ineptitude. Our society is becoming dependent on machines and technology that few really understand. The average American hasn’t a clue how even their car works. That is bad. Don’t make me cite Star Trek Episodes…….

So, why can’t I get a friggin job? What am I missing?

A few more things I can do…. I know a bit about Pro-Audio and lighting, I play several musical instruments including keyboards and guitar (doesn’t everyone?). Naturally, I know a whole lot about publishing and pre-press, and I happen to be a ‘certified’ locksmith. Oh, certifications, one more digression, I promise, just one more.

Certifications, I never thought much about certifications, never needed them. I also don’t ‘take tests’ very well. I tend to not read the question before selcting the answer. Of course now, certs have supplanted ability, talent, skills, knowledge and experience, as the primary qualifier for employment. And  now, I can’t even afford to pay for the tests. A while back I did spend a couple of days pursuing a few, since the AP was paying. I managed to get the CompTia A+, Network+, Security+ and Server+ one day. A couple of days later I added an MCP in Server 2000 (Quite a joke). I signed up with TechSkills last year for a CCNA. Naturally, I ran out of time (I had a good reason) with about two days left to complete that course. I did get a really nice $2500.00 CCNA book out of it though. I have taken, and passed, most of the free tests on Brainbench. I have also, in the last couple of years, taken a lot of practice tests, and passed them in such diverse things as all the ASE Automotive exams, and the prep for electrical and plumbing, and Air Conditioning licenses. I even passed a practice exam for the written part of a pilots license (OK, I cheated a bit on that one). While at Techskills, I tried a number of their ‘test preps’ one day and passed many of them for things such as Access, MS Project , and various others I can’t remember (no, I flunked medical transcriptionist).

Of course, there are a few things I can’t do. Here are the big restrictions on my ability to contribute.
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I can’t sing. (But, I can ballroom dance). Neither am I a mathematical prodigy. Now, I am quite good with numbers, and I can be a useful accountant (I did it for 15 years for the Condos). I can use and understand the formulas necessary for say, electronics design, and I understand what the math is describing – (I have a pretty good handle on things such as physics and aerodynamics). But, my math skills stop, cold, at Calculus. I had to learn algebra to graduate High School, and I had to learn Trig to do what I did in the Navy, but, that is it. Nothing forced me to learn higher math, so I didn’t. Call me empirical, not theoretical. Thomas Edison, not Steven Hawking.

I am not an artist. (Damn it Jim, I’m an engineer, not an artist). While what I do is obsessively neat, and aesthetically correct, I can not draw freehand worth a damn. I am very creative technically, and I can color within the lines – just barely. But, I can’t draw that picture on the comic book page to save my life. Aw well. So, the artsy, crafty type stuff is out. Albeit though, being an engineer, I am a rather good draftsperson (both with Cad, and with the ol’ reliable. More fun, drafting board). My dad taught drafting, maybe that is why?

Although I have helped build many race cars, I am not a fabricator in the current vernacular. In particular I do not weld. Given the status of my heart, I try to avoid touching wires that have large amounts of electricity flowing through them. I can make and design structures out of metal, and I can use most of the tools. I understand mechanical engineering and I do know quite a bit about hardware, fasteners and aircraft construction (Airplanes are mostly bolted together). I also know how to operate a milling machine and lathe, but I am not a machinist. I am very good at constructing control panels, robot parts, small enclosures, and the like.

I don’t know much about biology. Likewise. about all I know of chemistry is that gas and oil don’t mix, and if they have tried to, something needs fixed. I do know how a refinery works. Extra credit?

I do have a few assets left that have not gone to the god of Ebay.

First, there is money. I still have two coffee cans full of pennies. That works out to about $26.00, less the cost of wrappers.

I have a well equipped shop. I am equipped for electronics about on a level with an average industrial lab – albeit one from the eighties. I have an extensive collection of tools, including specialty and automotive, most necessary woodworking equipment, and the ability to measure and test just about anything. I am equipped to do mechanical repair and light mechanical fabrication, as well as any type of electrical/electronic repair. (at least that which is possible).

I have a perfectly good technically oriented website (http://mccworkshop.com), that at one time, before I abandoned maintaining it, had a rapidly growing following and a very good search engine ranking. I am currently using Google ads, and I have a merchant account with paypal. I also have a well respected and rated ebay sellers account. I know quite well how to market on the internet, and I am quite knowledgeable about SEO – including the ‘bad’ stuff. I just have nothing to market. I even have a registered business name – MCC Electronics.

My main problem over the years with entpreneurship, and I have tried, believe me, is charging people money for services. I just can’t seem to do it, and if I do, it just covers expenses – maybe. I can sell stuff, well, let’s say I can accept money for things. I just can’t manage to charge for my services. If I had something to sell, if I could find a way to make my web site generate income, if I could contract project work, if I could find something compelling to build, repair or modify.

So, there you have it. Certainly there is something that I can do to generate some money. I just cannot think of what it is. I may be jaded at this point. I may be depressed. I may just have too much on my plate right now to think clearly. I don’t know, but I am drawing a blank. I do know we are tired of just existing, and that we are going into the dumper REALLY fast. Even if I find that job right now, I am afraid it will be too little, too late. Actually, I used to complain that I was tired of ‘just existing’, now, that would actually be a step up. I will opine that it is hard to find creative ways to win the race, when you are so consumed with just staying in it. But, I am not here to make excuses. I am here to ask friends, colleagues, acquaintances, strangers, anyone who has ideas, please send them to me. One just might strike the right chord, and my new song will start writing itself.

If you can stand it, there is even more on my professional profile page: http://mccworkshop.com/62095/70330.htm

And, even more in my LinkedIn profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelcorder

And, finally, No. I’ll never get over Mucho Grande.

Eulogy for the Worlds best Engineering Technician.

Ever since I signed up for this blog, I have been pondering what to blog about. There are certainly plenty of things I would LIKE to write about, from alternative energy to politics, and I do enjoy writing. But, the truth is, being unemployed and becoming destitute has not served to enhance my enthusiasm to participate in, or write about, the things I used to enjoy. Indeed, it has served to completely suppress any interest I have in anything except searching for a job. So, instead of something interesting and fun, I am going to bemoan —
The details are mine, but the story can apply to thousands of bright, talented, creative and experienced people. People who are being swept under the rug by this country’s relentless pursuit of mediocrity.

Let me sum up my position. The simple fact is, a fruitless search for employment is disheartening, draining, and all encompassing. Not knowing where the money will come from, or if it ever will, serves to permeate every nook and cranny of the mind, leaving little room for anything else. Not having an answer to the common question ‘what do you do’ quickly leads us to question our own identity and abilities. Without some semblance of a routine to call our own, we often develop a new routine based upon sedentary wallowing in depression. Not being wanted causes sleepless nights and wasted days, and a loss of self worth, confidence, and value. I feel I am no longer living, I am simply existing. My profession is futility, and my hobby is nostalgia.

At this point I have been in the employment search for over 1 year. In just the last six months, I have submitted my resume to at least 380 job applications. And, those are only the ones I have some record of. In that time I have not received one single call back. None. Indeed, I have a nice, new, suit hanging in the closet gathering dust, waiting for an interview that never comes. I feel as though my date has stood me up, and the prom is going on without me.

I am also a ‘member’ of more job boards and sites than I can count, or keep track of. Every day I receive dozens of emails from the ‘job search agents’ of these employment sites. I respond to many of them only to find out the job has long since been removed, or it is located in Anchorage, Alaska – as if I could even afford to move, let alone Alaska. I often wonder if the only job these sites are filling is the job of searching for a job.

Additionally, my resume has been posted to countless company web sites. At those sites, I often spend an hour or so going through endless questionnaires, filling out form after form, describing my entire life’s history, and jumping through hoop after hoop. When I finally arrive at the ‘submit’ button, I click, only to find out the job I am applying for has already been filled. The message to ‘make sure to check back often for other opportunities’ is of little solace.

Now, the casual observer may think I am doing something wrong, or that my resume ‘stinks’. Well, I have a professionally done resume – charged to the last remaining balance on my VISA card many months ago. I also now know many experts in the employment field, and I am, for the most part, attempting to follow their advice. I have been ‘social networking’, and that has been satisfying, enjoyable and even useful for some things, but so far it has not resulted in any advancement in my primary agenda – finding employment.

Going further, you may conclude I have no skills, or possibly only skills no one would want – such as candlemaking. Quite to the contrary I have very many skills. Skills and talents that are, supposedly, in high demand, skills bolstered by my 40 years of experience. And that is, in essence, the point of this diatribe.

So, allow me to address that point. I have a unique, and previously valued, ability to understand anything technical. The more complex the system, the more I am at home. I have an inherent, and natural ability, a true gift if you will, to understand how the world works. In the vernacular, I get it. I have a very creative and technical mind. From appliances to rocket science, I know how it works, and how to fix, build, or design it. I can not only fill any technical position, but I would certainly improve the position and the end product. It is equally certain I would find new products, or new applications of the old one. It is more than certain I would bring a high level of competency to any technical position.

And, if I were asked, what I would really like to do, it would be to educate. To help create new engineers. Not scientists, not doctors, but engineers and technicians. The people who design, create, and maintain our technology. The people who at one time were a part of the backbone of this country’s success. I would like to help foster a new appreciation, and wonder, in our technology. I would like to attract new interest to the world of technology, and to have some part in directing that interest into a lifelong passion and career.

But, Alas, I have no degree. I was too busy doing the things to bother with schooling in them. I have learned by experience, as I did things. And, I learned because I want to know, not because I have to know. And now, it would appear that acquired knowledge, wisdom, experience, and ability, coupled with an inherent and extreme ability to learn and understand, are no where near as important as a simple piece of paper. I am left to ponder if maybe that is one of the things that is wrong with this country. Credentials are often more valued than credibility, and the ability to take a test is more important than the ability to do the task. Teach to the test is the new mantra, and memorizing the answer is more important than understanding the question.

I know many people with that piece of paper. A certification, a degree. Can they operate within the bounds of the certification they possess? Certainly. Can they recite the answers to the questions, most definitely. But, can they exceed the authority of their certificate? Can they understand what they are doing, and from that basis go beyond the envelope? Not likely. Many know nothing more about the field they are in than what the certificate or degree requires.

I have found that a person, fresh out of school, with nothing but a degree, is fully qualified to teach, say, carpentry. Yet the actual carpenter who has spent 30 plus years learning, honing, and practicing his trade, but did not find time for a formal ‘education’ is not. I cite carpentry because it is an easy to understand paradigm, albeit, perhaps, an extreme analogy. But the situation is all too true. Our skills and talents, even our enthusiasm, are not being passed to ongoing generations. It is a backwards idea. One that creates a backwards society.

In all the applications I have submitted, I could not only do every single job, not only excel at it, but I could have prospered. And the position, nay, the company, could have prospered with my contribution. I can fix anything. I can understand anything technical, I can conceive of and bring to fruition virtually anything that is technically possible. I can fill any technical role in a company, and, I am quite sure, at least half of the executive roles. I am used to responsibility, and I have the confidence in myself, and my abilities to make the tough decisions, stand by them, and pursue them to a successful outcome. Yet, where is my bonus? Where is my bailout? where is my stimulus? Indeed, where is my job?

Well, My job has gone to the person who can exactly fill that particular little niche that is carved out for them. No more, no less. The person who knows the acronym, albeit one who has no idea what it means.

It has become clear to me that companies do not want to hire technical leaders, thinkers, or creators. They do not want people who understand the bigger picture. They do not desire a person who can see outside that defined box and possibly apply value added talents to it. No, they want someone who has that aforementioned certificate. A piece of paper that says that the person is fully qualified, to – perhaps, someday, with enough actual experience, be somewhat competent to fill their particular, highly defined niche. That is if the creek doesn’t rise, and the challenges do not get too great. Maybe that is something else that is wrong with this country? Companies can not see beyond the immediate bottom line, and have ceased to acquire their most important resource – people – for anything more than to fill a particular function within the bigger machine.

It does cause me to despair that America, a previous technology powerhouse, a country that once defined the state of the art, has been reduced to a service economy. An economy where most of the prosperity comes, not from innovation or technical leadership, not from products, not from enhancing and improving the quality, and even joys, of life, but from paper. The certificate of authenticity, the BSEE, the default credit swap. All are equally fragile, all are devoid of foundation, and all are subject to failure as soon as they are pushed beyond the context they were created in. Indeed, America is now a paper tiger, financially, and intellectually.

To be sure, I have become quite cynical. I look at many others who have gainful employment, from the assembly line worker, to the company CEO, and I say I could not only do that job, but I could do it better, faster, and more efficiently. Why are they there, and why am I here. I have actually learned to not only despise these people, the gainfully employed, but to look on them with disdain. Here I sit with the abilities of 100 people, and no one will give me the opportunity to fill the role of even one of them. This attitude is not healthy, but it is very real.

Some may look at my resume and conclude, he knows too many different things. It cannot possibly be true. Well, it is. My career required this flexibility, and that is one reason I stayed there and made it a career. Every day was filled with finding solutions to new, often different, technical problems. No day was predictable, nor were many routine. On any particular day I could find myself fixing a computer, successfully coercing (nicely) a non-technical person 200 miles away into fixing a problem, building a wall, overhauling the backup generator, designing a data interface, writing a program, eradicating a virus, and rearranging some office furniture. Then, after a break for lunch, I might resolve a network slowdown, re-wire an equipment rack, fix someone’s tape recorder, and end the day driving 100 miles to fix a satellite receiver so the newspaper can publish for the next day. When I got home, I would read about technology, or quite likely, go out to my shop, and spend the evening working on my newest robot, or designing and building some electronic widget that did nothing useful, but sure was a lot of fun (and educational) creating. On the weekend, I might find myself helping restore a house, fixing the neighbors car, building kitchen cabinets, or disassembling some new gadget to see how it works. I might work on a web page, or my newest programming masterpiece, or maybe decide to learn how to use some new functions in ASP. I live, and revel, in technology, not only at work, but 24/7.

Are there things I cannot do? Of course. I am not a salesman. Try as I might, I cannot sell anything, including, it appears, myself. Neither am I a chemist. Most of my chemistry experiments have ended in interesting, if not unexpected, failure. And, alas, despite efforts, I am not an entrepreneur. Whatever gene it is that makes people successful at starting a business, I am lacking. Now, running one, I think I could do, but starting one, no. Not me. I have a hard time charging people money, and I fall too easily into the ‘let me help you’ mode. Neither am I a math prodigy. And, being of a technical mind, I do not say that lightly. Of course, I can do the math, and I am actually very good at accounting, but I am more empirical than theoretical. I think in hard concepts, not mathematical analogies. I would make a lousy theoretical physicist.

Ironically, this past year has been very productive in many ways. I have made many new contacts, and a few new good friends, as well as re-discovered some old ones. I have found many new areas of interest, and I have found many new things I would like to participate in. My nascent website, which held such promise and potential, and now appears doomed to financial failure and the ruins of neglect. I have found various start-ups, aspiring businesses, and projects that I could potentially help with, and would like to do so. Indeed, I could very well be, in many ways, experiencing a renaissance. Alas, though, none of these will help pay the bills. And, without that measure of support, the ship of this state is sunk before the journey even begins.

I have no regrets about the path I have taken, nor the choices I have made. I do regret the place I have arrived at, and I cannot help but wonder how and why. I have made a few bad decisions, we all do, but none of them should have been fatal. I am at a loss. Observing in retrospect, the journey has been enjoyable, challenging, and, until now, productive. Along the way I hope I have done my part and contributed in some way to society. That I suddenly have nothing to show for it but memories is perplexing.

In closing, I would like to leave some food for thought. And, in this day when trivial is in, here is some trivia. This is a list of just a few famous people who lacked a formal degree. Would any of them been given a chance in today’s America? Think about it.

Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Abraham Lincoln, Michael Dell, Steve Wozniak, Ted Turner, Peter Jennings, Paul Allen, George Westinghouse, Nikola Tesla, Guglielmo Marconi, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell. The list goes on. Indeed, this country was created on the backs of people who were lucky to have finished high-school. And, somehow, despite that lack of a piece of paper, they went on to prosper, and they helped this country to prosper because they did.