Monthly Archives: September 2014

What Will We Be Known For? – Part 1

I have been thinking a lot about this question lately. Not that I have some grave premonition about my future, but that I have been giving some very serious thoughts to retirement.

Credit: Saveup.com

Credit: Saveup.com

After almost 35 years as a professional scientist, some of those years in an analytical laboratory and some in both management and leadership roles, several events began to unfold this year that got me thinking about retiring.

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A few years ago, I thought I had retirement all figured out and even had a definitive time horizon all planned. Then it was announced that the division of my company in which I work was being sold. As more information came out, I realized that my original retirement plan was out the window.

But actually another event occurred of even more significance—I became a grandfather in July of this year. And after spending a week with this little fellow, and being a grandfather in person, retirement took on a whole new meaning and spawned a desire for an accelerated timeline to get there. So thinking that my professional career, at least as being employed full time, would be coming to a close, it really got me thinking about this question.

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Many years ago when I set life goals for myself, the one related to my professional career was that I would become known in my field. If you follow the link to that story, you will learn that I have in fact accomplished that. But what does that really mean? In the very basic sense, what we are known for is what other people say about us. And unless they say it to us, we don’t even know it.

But what people say about us is shaped by what we do, what we say, how we conduct ourselves, even how we interact with others. So what we will be known for starts with us, first and foremost. But it is not just what people say about us at work, it is what people say about us outside work as well.

From a professional perspective, this started for me when I published my first journal article. It was on an issue I became aware of in our industry and one I had a strong opinion about. I was dissatisfied with how I saw a trend occurring and decided to write about it. After it was published, I remember the excitement in getting post cards from all over the world asking for reprints of my article (obviously this was long before the day of the Internet and digital media). It was my first recognition outside of my company. I think my daughter even kept all of those post cards.

After this first article was published, I was asked by another journal to contribute a second article on the same topic, which was published two years later. And it was this second article along with the first, for which I was I awarded my company’s annual scientific achievement award that year. So the recognition I had received globally from publishing these two articles circled back such that I had now gained recognition from within my own company as well.

Individual Winner: Cited for work in chromatographic analyses

Individual Winner: Cited for work in chromatographic analyses

Concurrent with me working on these two articles, I was put in charge of an analytical area for which I had no direct experience. And I was asked by my boss to give a talk at a national meeting on the work I had done over the past ten years. So while I retained my old job, and self taught myself my new job, I prepared to make my first professional presentation.

This presentation went very well and through several serendipitous events, led me into the part-time teaching career that I still enjoy today.

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Also, in my professional career, I have been fortunate to be able to associate with professional organizations outside of work. These are associations that I plan to continue following retirement and possibly expand upon with more time available post-retirement. And it is through these organizations that I have gained outside recognition as being an expert in two separate sub-disciplines of my field. How exciting it is to hear yourself introduced as an “expert” or to be a part of an “expert panel.” It is through this recognition that I can feel satisfied that I have accomplished that life goal.

But while working consumes many of the years of our lives and many of the hours of our days, it is not just what we are known for professionally that matters. In fact, in the bigger scheme of things, it is not even the most important.

To be continued…

Lifetime of Photos

Beyond my wife, children, their spouses, grandchildren (and future grandchildren), and family, my greatest treasure is our lifetime of photos. Photos have always fascinated me and I have them around me everywhere. While I love photos of beautiful places and beautiful items, the photos that are most important to me are the photos of our lives, certainly those capturing special events but even those just showing our everyday lives. When I think about what a terrible tragedy it would be to lose our house in a fire, the items I think of first that I would want to save are the photos and photo albums.

I can’t recall the first camera I had or when I might have gotten it; it might have been when Polaroid came out with some of their inexpensive instant cameras or it might have been one of those small cartridge Kodak cameras. But I do know the first really nice camera I got was when I was in college and purchased a 35 mm camera—a Cannon FTB Single Lens Reflex (SLR)—for a photography class that I was taking. In this class, I learned a lot about taking photographs and even how to develop and print my own pictures. And so it was with this camera that my lifetime of taking photographs really began.

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My first photo album dates back to August 1977. I know this because being the organized and detailed person that I am, I put a sticker at the beginning of each album designating the month and year of the first photos in that album. These first images capture a summer vacation to my favorite spot, Montreat, NC and what has become one of my favorite shots of my Dad.

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This album also includes some trips I took in college with some of my fraternity brothers to Florida and the Smoky Mountains.

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Not long before I graduated from college, I met the woman who would become my wife and so my camera captured events leading up to our engagement…

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…our marriage…

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…and our first years of marriage.

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Not long after we started our family, I recognized that if I wanted to capture special moments or fleeting expressions of our children, I would need a camera that didn’t require manual adjustments of shutter speed, f-stop, and focus. While early “point and shoot” cameras sacrificed some in picture quality with their fixed focus lenses, their speed of use allowed me to capture some shots I would have missed if I were still relying on a manual camera.

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Starting with our first child in 1981, I diligently catalogued, in chronological order our photos into albums until about 1994.

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Then after our third child was about seven years old, I didn’t seem to have time to organize our photos into albums any longer. With three children and all their birthdays, vacations, and extracurricular activities, I was getting at least a roll of film developed every month and sometimes several rolls from a single event. The photos remained in their paper sleeves from the developer along with the developed negatives.

To keep the photos from getting lost until the day I had time to put them into albums, I began stuffing them into a shoebox. After a little over four years, I had accumulated two shoeboxes full of photos.

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In January 1998, I managed to find the time to get back to putting photos into an album. But rather than starting with the two boxes of loose photos, I simply began again with recent photos starting with a trip my wife and I took to Amsterdam for teaching my class.

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I diligently kept up this practice for the next five years although never having enough time to go back and pick up those loose photos.

Then in 2003, I bought my first digital camera, a small point and shoot. When I entered the digital world of photography, I still wanted to keep up my practice of putting photos into albums. I bought a printer and began to print my own photos to put into albums.

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But when I compared my printed photo to the image on my computer screen of the same photo, I was sorely disappointed. The photo seemed to possess such vibrant colors that were simply lost in the printed version.   I debated what to do for a while and eventually decided to give up the paper world and simply store my photos digitally. I even bought a projector to show off my photos in a truly large presentation format, much like people in earlier times displayed their vacation color slides.

At first, this was a hard choice since for my entire life, I was so used to having photo albums around to look through. But to ease the transition, I decided to keep up my chronological practice and so began to store my digital photos in folders by year and event. As I began to build an ever-increasing digital photo library, I became even more pleased with the results. In fact, I decided that I much preferred digital images to hardcopy, paper photos, something about the projected color image having superior quality to the reflected image.

With this digital preference in mind, I began to explore the possibility of scanning in all of our old photos. However, with over 25 years of photos amassed in 23 albums and two large shoeboxes, I quickly realized this would be a daunting undertaking. Then I came up with the idea of scanning in photos of just our kids over their entire lives. While this was still a significant number of photos, I decided to mainly focus on significant events, birthdays, first days of school, Christmas, and the like.

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One fall while watching college football, I scanned in over 800 photos of our children. For Christmas that year, I gave each of our kids CDs that contained almost 900 photos of the three of them, both individually as well as together. They loved them and in fact my daughter used some of them for a slide show at her wedding reception, one of the uses I had hoped they would realize one day as I laboriously scanned each one in.

These Christmas gifts were received so well that year, that for the next year, I decided to scan in pictures of my wife and I over our engaged and married life together. This too was an appreciated gift.

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Then along came those wonderful Apple products, iPhones, and iPads, and Mini-iPads. Suddenly with this technology, all of my digital photos were easily transportable to show off anywhere anytime.

Recently my sister took my parents old photo albums, inclusive of some photos dating back to the 1930s and scanned them in for my siblings and me. Now I had digital photos spanning over eight decades.

With the aid of an iPhone with larger capacity memory, I now have those eight decades of photos all on my phone—my parent’s photo albums and every digital photo I have ever taken or scanned in, up to and including the most recent ones of my grandson. Since I have this phone with me pretty much everywhere I go, I can at any time pull up any photo. And what of that potential fire loss I mentioned in the opening paragraph, well I now keep three separate digital backups, one of which is stored at an offsite location. Because when you are dealing with treasures accumulated over four generations, you can’t be too careful or too cautious.

Mom’s Birthday

EarlyMom

Today would have been my mom’s 88th birthday. And boy did she know how to celebrate her birthday. Whenever her birthday came around, she liked to say she celebrated it all week. There would be multiple meals out that week, each being described as a birthday celebration. And even for several weeks or months leading up to the actual day, she would make purchases that would be described as “for her birthday.” As our daughter was born one day before my mother’s birthday, she would also like to celebrate a joint birthday with her granddaughter.

Birthdays

Often times it is difficult for adults to think of a birthday present to give to their mother or father. But for Mom, it was easy as two of the things she loved most—food and books—provided for an almost unlimited selection of choices. The one gift I remember the most is a book I would buy for her each year. Right about the time of her birthday each year, Patricia Cornwell would release one of her Kay Scarpetta murder mystery novels.

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This was an author and a character that my mother introduced me to—ones that we both loved. So each year, I would buy two copies of the book, one for my mom and one for me. This must have been my gift to my mom for at least seven years as I have seven different Scarpetta novels sitting on my bookshelf.

But my mom was not just into celebrating her own birthday; she was very involved with making sure to celebrate other people’s birthdays as well. If it wasn’t making a birthday cake, it was making sure that a birthday meal was the center of any birthday celebration.

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So it was my mom that really taught me that your birthday was a great cause for celebration. No doubt my mother has continued her celebrations into the afterlife. So, thanks Mom, and Happy Birthday!

Mini Model – II

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In no time, I had the completed engine compartment but when I went to attach the shock absorbers, I again went with red over the suggested color since I thought that would stand out nicely in the black wheel wells.

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Next up was the underside with wheels and exhaust system.

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The interior of the car also required a lot of painting.

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When it came to painting the seats, I decided to leave off the red piping on the seats shown on the box as I knew my hands were not steady enough to paint a thin red line on the seats. It was hard enough just to get a straight line between the black and grey parts of the seats.

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With the interior finished, it was time to return to painting the body. The paint can instructions said it was best to apply multiple thin coats so I took that approach.

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However, even using that technique, the paint surface bubbled.

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To remedy this, I had to carefully sand the entire front of the car and repaint it. Fortunately, this came out much better.

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With the body painted, I was then able to attach the other exterior parts.

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The next assembly step was to marry the body to the chassis. This is always a fun step in building a car model because from this point forward, it really takes on the appearance of a real car and a more finished look.

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At this point, I had detached all of the pieces from the plastic “trees” that they are attached to during the plastic molding process.

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However, I had this one piece left. I did not recognize what it was so I went all back through the instructions to see where I had I missed it. It was nowhere in the directions. Either it was left off the instructions or it was a left over from a different model that accidently got into this model.

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At almost the last step of the assembly process, I next had to glue in the headlights, fog lights and taillights. Here I made the rookie mistake of applying too much glue, which seriously fogs clear plastic parts. One small drip of glue on your finger and when you touch a clear plastic part like a windshield, it is unforgiving. I had already made a few of these novice “boo-boos” in attaching the windows. It would have really been nice if the headlight lenses had been engineered to simply snap fit into the chrome reflectors without glue. But no, this model was going to have frosted headlights.

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Only two steps remained, applying decals and gluing on the roof. But a single piece as simple as the roof gave me trouble as well. This was the one part of the car that was actually molded in the correct color plastic—white—which meant that it theoretically didn’t have to be painted. Unfortunately, during the molding process, cold flow of the plastic occurred which left a long jagged line across the roof surface, almost like a facial scar from a long ago knife slash. As a result, it had to be painted white to hide this mold defect.

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But as can be seen, I had trouble with the paint bubbling again.

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It had to be sanded again and this time I decided to buy different paint from the hardware store thinking my problem was the paint itself, certainly not my technique. After several coats, it seemed successful but then late in the day, I notice it had cracked. More sanding and more painting…

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…and finally a finished roof. While this was going on, I finished applying all of the decals including this one on the top of the engine that was actually suppose to be applied before the engine was installed.

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While I was finishing up the roof, I began to reflect on how the experience had been for me.

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I began to look at the two models that I had previously built, the ones that I remembered having tremendous fun building. These were the models that I recalled where the parts came in all the correct colors and had such detail that I even had to assemble the shock absorbers using real metal springs. One of them even had tiny lug nuts that actually held the wheels onto the car. I knew a Mini was a very small car but these models seemed to just dwarf the Mini. These models were by a brand named Pocher. I looked them up on line and found out these were not 1/12 scale models as I originally thought, they were 1/8 scale—a 50% bigger scale. Well that certainly explained it.

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Having finally finished the model, I think it has actually cured me of ever wanting to build a plastic car model again. Using plastic glue that is unforgiving and alkyd paint that must be cleaned up with organic thinner places constrictions on building a model and demands expert technique. Having built numerous miniature chairs from bass wood and painting them with latex paints was a much more fun and forgiving process. So I think I will give up building plastic models. However, when I was researching the models that I had built to find out their scale, I ran across the current Pocher website where they had new models shown. And wow were they ever sleek! Having had a wonderful experience building the two previous Pocher models, I certainly would be willing to build one of these beauties, no painting, no gluing, just sheer fun. Only problem is it comes with a hefty price tag–$750. Well maybe I will stick with building miniature chairs instead.