Shopping carts

Our local Meijer’s (regional grocery chain) has replaced all of their shopping carts with a new type of cart. The new carts are all metal with some sort of blue coating on the metal. The coating looks like baked enamel but I’m not sure.

Personally, I liked the old carts better. They were a combination of metal and plastic and were much lighter. But, I guess the new carts represent progress.

One of the features of the new carts are dual beverage holders, one on each side of the handle. While the beverage holders seem to be functional, I am just not sure why you would need them. It is not like I am going to swing over to the beer cooler and grab me a 42 ouncer to drink while I am shopping. I suspect if I did, I would get into trouble.

You can buy hot coffee and fountain drinks in the store. But most people either buy them and then leave or they buy them and sit and drink them. I don’t think that I have ever seen anyone walking through the store, drinking a slurpy.

Grocery shopping is not an outing. It is a purpose driven event. When most people go to the grocery store, they go there for one purpose; to buy groceries. If they want a latte and a biscotti, they will go to Star Bucks.

On a side note, my cousin, the late Bob Adams, once pushed a shopping cart with his truck.  He reported that they fall apart at about 60 mph.  Alcohol was a factor.

Great geysers!

Many many years ago, Lansing, like most cities, used their sanitary sewer system to handle their storm water from the streets. And at a time when most cities dumped their raw sewage directly into rivers and lakes, a little storm water didn’t really matter.

But, when the feds stepped in and said that all that sewage must be treated, that storm water became a problem. A sudden down pour could flood the sewage treatment plants and cause an over flow. And over flows resulted in fines.

So, cities, all over the US, started separating their storm water from their sanitary sewer. And to do this, they had to dig up their streets and install new underground drain pipes for the sole purpose of handling storm water.

For the past few years, Lansing has been making the transition of separating their storm water from their sewage. They have been digging up their streets and installing large culverts just for the storm water.

Unfortunately, the culverts that were installed were not large enough to handle the storm water. So, when Lansing gets a good hard rain, not only do the streets flood, but the storm drains blow water up into the air, much like a geyser.

Now, street flooding is not a big issue but building flooding is. Those same storm drains that were blowing out water in the streets are connected to the floor drains in our parking ramps. And since all of the street water has no place to go, it backs up into the parking ramps.

Yesterday, after a flash flood, we had about 3 inches of water in the parking ramp. This occurred just before quiting time. But a little water can not deter a state employee at quiting time. They just walked through the water, shoes and all.

If this continues, they are going to have to make the parking ramp a “no wake” zone.

A slice of lime.

I really like the Southwest Chicken Salad that Micky Ds offers. I tell myself that it is healthy because it is a salad. But since it tastes so good, it probably isn’t.

I usually do a drive through and take it back to my office so that I can eat and work at the same time. And because I am doing the drive through, I get napkins, forks and everything that I need in one bag. But, I am always at a loss as what to do with the lime.

Every Southwest Chicken Salad comes with a wedge of lime but what is it for? At first I thought it was to be squeezed on the chicken. But, when I tried that, I found that it did not have much juice in it.

Then I thought that maybe you are suppose to lick it or something. After all, those people in the southwest have some pretty strange traditions like putting a lime slice in their beer. After a couple of licks I decided that it was too bitter and abandoned that idea.

Maybe it is just for looks. Garnish perhaps. Something more for a southwest theme than actual use. But who puts garnish on a salad. After all, by rights, most of a salad is garnish.

I have been in restaurants where they gave you a slice of lemon at the end of the meal so that you can clean your hands. But this seems unlikely since I didn’t actually touch the lettuce with my fingers.

The best that I can do with the lime is to find a home for it in a gin and tonic. Yes!

Baltimore Orioles

The other day, someone from my family announced that there was a Baltimore Oriole on the humming bird feeder. Since we do not put out chewing tobacco in our feeders, I suspected that they meant an Eastern Oriole. Though, the way those baseball players like to party, I suppose that anything is possible.

But, yes indeed, we do have Eastern Orioles in our yard each year and yes, they do like drinking from our humming bird feeder.

Of course, once the bug season gets into full swing, we hardly see them as they spend all of their time hanging upside down from tree limbs, looking for bugs. We only know that they are present when we see the tips of a branch rustling strangely.

But, for the few weeks that they are present on the feeder, we enjoy their brilliant beauty.

Modern Yatching.

I was sitting in the office of a group of doctors the other day. For the most part, they had the usual selection of magazines; Time, Newsweek, Road and Track, etc. But, there was one magazine that caught my attention. It was Modern Yatching.

I couldn’t believe all of the boats that were listed in that magazine. Both sail and power boats of all different sizes. Along with the boats were boating products that I usually don’t think about such as generators and water purification systems. There was even a yatch sales and service in Nebraska.

Now, when I think of yatching, I think of places like Florida, California, Texas; places that have a lot of coast line. Some how, Nebraska doesn’t strike me as being the Mecca for yatching.

Any way, it occurred to me that the person who subscribes to this magazine probably has more than a passing interest in this magazine. He/she probably own a yatch. And who do you think helped pay for it?

Sun sensors

In an effort to save money, the state is changing the way that they light the buildings. The overhead lights that are the closest to the windows will shut off when it is sunny outside. The idea is that when it is sunny outside, the lights aren’t needed. So, the state hired a contractor to rewire the lighting system and install sun senors.

Now, when the sun comes out and shines into the office, the sun sensors kick in and shut off the lights next to the windows. Of course, when the sun shines, it is too hot and people have trouble seeing their PC screens. So, they shut the blinds. This, in turn, causes the sun sensors to turn the lights back on.

Well, at least the contractor made some money on the deal.

Peregrine Falcons

In an effort to reduce the pigeon population in downtown Lansing, Peregrine Falcons were introduced into the city.

Peregrine Falcons prey mainly on other birds and like to nest in high places like ocean cliffs. So, a city with tall buildings and a lot of pigeons is an ideal match for the Peregrine Falcon.

Unlike most raptors which soar for hours looking for its prey, the Peregrine Falcon sits high on a building and waits. Then, when it sees it intended victim, it takes flight and climbs high into the air.

When it is high enough, the falcon dives down at its prey at speeds estimated to be 180 mph. That’s right, 180 mph. At that speed, the impact instantly kills its prey which tumbles in a clump to the ground. The falcon then glides gracefully to the ground and begins eating its meal.

The other day, I had the opportunity to witness this spectacular event. Looking out of the third floor window of my office, I saw a pigeon flying along. Suddenly, there was a burst of feathers and the pigeon tumbled to the ground. Moments later, the Peregrine Falcon landed and began eating its prey.

After about 15 minutes, the falcon took to the air and left behind what it did not want. A few minutes later, I examined the remains. It consisted only of the feathers and the wings. Everything else was gone.

Reflecting back, I recall seeing bird wings laying of the sidewalks in Lansing but didn’t think much about it. Now I know.

Perhaps if the falcon had had access to some Tabasco Sauce, it may have eaten the wings too.

Meter readers

The parking enforcement staff for the city of Lansing, ride around all day long in little gas powered vehicles checking for expired parking meters. If they find a meter that is expired, they sit in their little vehicle and write out a parking ticket. When the ticket is complete, they emerge from their little cart and put the ticket under the recipients windshield wiper. They then drive off to find their next victim.

Well, because of budget constraints and the high price of gasoline, the city has taken their little carts away from them. In short, the Parking Enforcers now have to walk and they are upset about that.

They contend that the carts allow them to quickly and efficiently patrol the area and that this ability to travel produces more revenue for the city. Plus, they point out that some times they have to make a hasty get away when an irate driver spots the parking ticket.

Now, I really think that walking is a good idea. After all, postal workers have been walking for hundreds of years and it doesn’t seem to have hurt them. And while the postal workers usually don’t have to face irate people, they do have to face the occasional irate dog. And to that end, they are equipped with pepper spray. So, if the Parking Enforcers are fearful of their life, they too could carry pepper spray.

But, more to the point, if some is close enough to their car to make the Parking Enforcers nervous, then maybe they shouldn’t be issuing that ticket in the first place. After all, if the driver is headed back to the car it is usually for one of two reasons. They are either going to leave or are going to put more money in the meter. In either case, the Parking Enforcers should grant a stay of execution.

And judging by the size of some of those Parking Enforcers, walking would do those folks some good.

The Acrobat.

Back when I worked for Calvin College, I need to put a communications run in the ceiling of of one of the buildings. But, before doing so, I wanted to secure the blessing of the plant manager. So, I met him in the lobby of the building.

One of the problems that I faced from time to time was that the ceilings were sometime full of ductwork for the ventilation systems and therefore not usable for communications cable. And, since I had never been above this ceiling before, I didn’t know what to expect. But, I figured if anyone would know, it would be the plant manager.

When the plant manager arrived, he admitted that he did not know what was in the ceiling either. So, I suggested getting a ladder.

But, even though there was a ladder in a closet just around the corner, the plant manager had his own idea. Noting that there was a long folding table in the lobby, he grabbed it and moved it into position.

Now, when I say it was a folding table, I need to point out that it was a homemade folding table; an 8 foot long piece of half inch plywood with pair of folding legs attached. In short, it was pretty flimsy.

Once the table was in position, the plant manager carefully climbed up on it and tried to reach the ceiling. Unfortunately, it was a 12 foot ceiling. And while he was able to pop out the ceiling tile, he couldn’t see what was in the ceiling.  Once again, I volunteered to get a ladder and once again, he had a plan.

Spotting an old metal waste basket up next to the wall, he jumped down and grabbed it. He would stand on the metal waste basket which he would place on the table.

Now, this was no ordinary metal waste basket. This was one of those old tall green metal waste basket which no respectable school in the 40s would be without.

His intent was to turn the waste basket upside down and stand on its bottom but unfortunately the waste basket had, well, waste in it. But regardless, he was going ahead with his plan.

Since he couldn’t turn the waste basket upside because of the waste, he modified his plan. He put the waste basket on the table, right side up. Slowly, he put first one knee and then the other on the rim of the waste basket. Then, he proceeded to move from his knees to his feet and then proceeded to stand on the top rim of the waste basket.

He was able to see into the ceiling, but the table was wobbling terribly. Plus, it was making funny squeaking sounds.

Suddenly, the table made a shift and started listing toward one side. The waste basket started sliding and the plant manager decided to jump.

He managed to jump clear of the waste basket just as the whole thing came tumbling down. Fortunately, he was not hurt, but he was quite entertaining.

I wonder if he can juggle?

The motion detectors.

The state is always looking at ways to save money, particularly on their building operating costs. A number of years ago, they installed a system which would automatically shut off the building lights at night and on weekends. So, every week night, the lights go off at 6PM and come back on at 6AM. And on Friday night, the lights go off at 6PM and return on Monday at 6AM. So, if you need lights during the off hours, you have to call Central Control and they will turn on the lights for your particular area.

All and all, the system works well, but there is always room for improvement. And the area for improvement was in the bathrooms.

Since the bathrooms lights are operated by a light switch, they are not on the central lighting grid and therefore have to be manually shut off when not in use. And, since there is usually someone in the bathroom at any given time during the day, the bathroom lights are left on all of the time. This is where high tech comes into play.

Using some money, presumably from the Homeland Security funds, the state has replaced all of the manual light switches with motion detecting light switches. The idea being that when it detects motion, it will turn on the lights. And conversely, if it doesn’t detect any motion after a certain period of time, it will shut off the lights. Seems simple enough, but wait, there is always a catch.

The catch is in the placement of the motion detectors. The bathrooms have two sets of doors, an outer door and an inner door. Unfortunately, the light switch is located just inside the outer door so that as you open the outer door to go in, you reach in to turn on the lights. And, since these motion detectors replace the light switches, that is where the motion detectors are located.

Now, because of their location, the only motion that they really detect are people entering and exiting the bathrooms. And this is fine as long as there are people going in and out of the bathroom. But, if someone is in the bathroom, their motion is not detected because the motion detector can not detect motion beyond the inner bathroom door. So, if you are in the bathroom for any length of time and no one else is in there with you, the lights may go off. And if the lights go off, it is really dark since there are no windows. And this was the case the other day.

As I entered the bathroom late one afternoon, I noted that the lights were off. And of course, as I entered the bathroom, the motion detectors captured my movement and turned on the lights. From a stall at the far end of the bathroom came a “thank you.”

The moral of the story is to be sure to get enough fiber in you diet or you will end up in the dark.