Weekend Reunion

•April 2, 2011 • 2 Comments

Four and a half hours worth of Saturday driving brought me to the little town Jacinda lives in. I left early in the morning hoping to dodge most if not all of the wine country sightseers that plague my county; it usually results in below the speed limit tourist traffic jams. My route out of town took me just North of Calistoga on back roads towards Clear Lake. Passing through the bottom end of Lake County I headed East out of the hills. It was a somber road trip, the sky was a soft gray overcast from horizon to horizon. There wasn’t a speck of blue to be seen anywhere. As I dropped down out of the Western foothills to central California flat land the trees gave way to endless farms growing everything from almonds to rice. I had the volume up on my car’s stereo and I cruised along single lane roads without seeing another soul for long periods of time. I wondered what Jacinda looked like after thirteen years, all I had was my memory of her when we were both in our early twenties.

Eventually I crossed over I-5 at Williams. Further East my planned route would take me over lonely farm roads named only with a number. Out there the land is a simple grid of interconnecting roads with no real designation of any kind, farmers hauling out their produce or bringing in supplies to the ranch are the only people one would run across. Time passed slowly as the miles came and went. I was looking for an intersection at highway 99 where I would turn North into Jacinda’s home town.

Arriving at her address I parked my car and killed the engine. I sat inside for a few minutes thinking of what to say when she opened her apartment door. She was expecting me, but I was ahead of schedule by a couple of hours. Realizing I was somewhat nervous and unsure of how things would unfold I sat in the car watching one of Jacinda’s neighbors. She was an old black woman dressed in light blue sweatpants and sweatshirt. The old woman walked about the single story rows of apartment buildings mumbling to herself as a lit cigarette barely hung from her lower lip. Her hair was jet black, cut into a page-boy that reminded me of numerous characters from a 1930’s swashbuckling adventure movie. Perhaps she was a Musketeer that escaped from an insane asylum. When I got out of my car and locked the door I decided to steer clear of the old woman and not invite any conversation. Her dialog with an invisible friend would hopefully keep her plenty busy until I was long gone anyway.

Walking between two rows of run-down first floor apartments I began scanning each door for Jacinda’s number. Figuring out the ascending order on Jacinda’s building I headed straight up until I stopped at her next door neighbor’s concrete steps. Piled high on the final step was a large mound of half-burned and visibly wet blankets. There was also a couple shattered glass candle holders with melted wax remains mixed in with all the broken glass. It appeared as if someone had almost burned down their apartment the night before and got very, very lucky that the whole building complex did not go up in a firestorm. I had to wonder if this whole place was filled with fuck ups and meth freaks.

Knocking on Jacinda’s front door I backed away and waited. There was no answer. A calico cat sat in the window peering at me silently with light blue eyes. I waited a moment and then knocked again a little more loudly. Still there was no redhead at the door. Was she asleep? Maybe she was in the shower. Maybe someone kidnapped her and tossed her body into the Feather river? I had no idea. I did get there early after all so I decided to drive around town and see what there was to see. Kill some time and then come back later. As I walked back towards the parking lot and my car the old black woman was meandering about near the street mumbling to herself in a loud tone of voice and smoking a fresh cigarette.

Nearby I found a few blocks of gold rush era buildings that housed antique stores, a thrift shop, and a book store. Most of the frontier town buildings appeared to be vacant of any businesses. I spent some time browsing in the shop windows as a slight cold breeze kicked up. The day was much colder than I would have expected, I was not wearing a warm enough coat so the chill was becoming uncomfortable. I stepped inside one of the few antique shops to warm up for a few minutes and see what they had for sale. Walking through congested aisle ways I didn’t see anything interesting or worth having. The vast majority of this store’s wares were junk if anything else. And severely overpriced at that. I speculated how long they would be able to survive before going out of business.

As I headed back towards the door I spotted a small collection of glass telephone pole insulators. Laughing to myself I remembered that was my vote for one of the all-time dumbest things to collect. On swing shift at work someone came up with the bright idea to hold a contest for the most useless hobby. Each of us had to make a vote before the end of that night’s shift. During my lunch break I did some generic web searches for things that people liked to collect, and I stumbled across people who were into glass insulators. Some folks were so obsessed with this particular hobby that they had amassed a large photo collection of each year and manufacturer of the damned things. Other people created web sites posting insulator “sightings” on top of old crumbling wooden poles in the middle of the desert. It seemed so pointless and retarded that I made it my choice for that evening’s contest. I could not remember if I won the contest that night or not.

There was a single, battered pay phone on the edge of a nearby parking lot. I pumped a couple of quarters into it and dialed Jacinda’s number. Her answering machine kicked in. Guess she really wasn’t home. She knew I was making the effort to drive all the way over here to see her. We planned the visit last week. Over the phone she sounded excited about the weekend reunion and told me she couldn’t wait to hang out. So what the hell happened? Evidently I had a lot more time on my hands with nothing to do. Getting back in the car I drove around Jacinda’s town with no destination in mind. I passed the time driving around neighborhoods getting lost and seeing if I could find my way back again. I had a greasy lunch at an old run down restaurant called The Cornucopia that back in the Seventies was most likely a Denny’s. My guts weren’t taking kindly to the sandwich and fries I ate. Later on I would experience an unpleasant brown cornucopia atop a toilet thanks to their bad cooking.

Afternoon hours drifted by slowly like the low hanging gray clouds above my head. I was bored out of my fucking mind. Concern for Jacinda faded as I became angry with myself for making the effort to drive all the way out here. I could have been doing anything else with my time off from work. I felt like a chump. There was no one to blame for that except myself of course. Driving back to Jacinda’s place for one last try I knocked on the door and got no response. I wrote a quick note to her and placed it under a rock on her apartment steps. I wanted Jacinda to know for certain I showed up as planned. She really screwed this up by pulling a no-show performance. Then I started the four plus hours drive homeward, with luck I could get home before dark. I felt entirely stupid and somewhat depressed.

Charged With Assault

•March 20, 2011 • 2 Comments

Jacinda and I spoke yesterday. Curiosity was eating away at me something fierce. Would she voluntarily tell me why she suddenly went missing, or was the latest phone call just going to go over small talk? I chose to lay low and take the small talk path and wait to hear what had happened. Much to my surprise she brought up her disappearing act all on her own.

A female neighbor in her apartment complex saw Jacinda peeking into her windows as she walked by to her apartment. She explained to me that this particular neighbor is on a corner of one of the buildings across from where Jacinda’s place is so she has to walk by the neighbor’s each time she goes to the laundry room or the manager’s office. The two of them have a poor neighbor relationship- this isn’t the first time both girls have fought. Anyway this woman didn’t take kindly to Jacinda peering in at her so she came outside to confront her. The two women started shouting insults at each other, Jacinda was enraged. Like an angry eleven year old girl she decided to ratchet things up a few notches by kicking this female neighbor as hard as she could in the shins. This of course resulted in the police being called for an assault.

Sounds like the district attorney is going forward with the assault charge against Jacinda and a court date is to be set for the near future. I think Jacinda is somewhat frightened about the situation but there is nothing she can do about it now. It’s too late. She is going to have to sit tight and wait to hear from the D.A. then figure out what to do next. The more I talk to Jacinda about her living situation there in that small town I realize how isolated and miserable she must be. She’s got few if any friends, next to nothing as far as income, and the apartment complex seems entirely depressing. Her family is in the vicinity but I am unsure how often they are able to check in on her.

Badly needed social services are pretty much non-existent in Jacinda’s area. She has told me a few times that when she has gone to local government resources for help of one kind or another the response she gets from people sitting behind a counter or desk is that it’s all used up. There is nothing left she can take advantage of. When I asked why, she mentioned that state workers tell her they are broke. Budgets are strained so thin and most of the state resources she is eligible for have been consumed by illegal aliens from Mexico. So she is turned away at the front desk and told to go home.

I realize Jacinda’s town is a backwater. It’s a tiny place in the middle of nowhere surrounded by agriculture as far as the eye can see. The nearest place of any real size is twenty miles away. Since she can’t drive and public transportation is scarce it complicates her isolation. Maybe if she was living back in the Bay Area she would have more opportunities, support from friends still here that remember her, and a much larger pool of social services to utilize. I have a spare room in my house. It’s small, but I could easily rent that out to her which would be a fraction of what she has to spend on rent at her apartment. I am thinking of inviting her down here to stay. It’s risky, I have not talked to Samson about this at all. Not yet anyway. What I should do first is take a trip out to see her and spend some time with Jacinda on a weekend at her place. I’ll ask her that question next time we talk.

Caged Redhead

•March 6, 2011 • 2 Comments

I haven’t heard from Jacinda in a while again. Weeks went by without a single phone call. So I suspected something bad happened once more. Figuring she may have had another run-in with the law I did some snooping online. Many sheriff departments and local police agencies are posting daily logs of crimes and arrests, I easily found both sites for the town Jacinda lives in. Sure enough on the county sheriff’s site I read about an incident that took place at her apartment complex. Names weren’t released but from the sound of it I could easily picture Jacinda being the cause of a ruckus.

The crime was an assault on another woman living at the complex, starting with an argument or altercation of some sort. Jacinda had mentioned there was a female neighbor there that she’d had problems with recently. Her complaints about this woman all seemed petty to me. Jacinda felt like this girl was always staring at her when she walked by. I guess that makes her angry.

I called the county jail to find out if I could confirm Jacinda was indeed behind bars again. When I got someone on the phone at the jailhouse the woman I spoke with was reluctant to give out any information at first. Probably standard procedure for privacy rights or something. But, when I raised my concerns about Jacinda potentially being missing and having to perhaps make some more calls to the cops to find out where she was the person on the other end of the phone was a little more forthcoming. Also I decided to fib slightly by saying I was Jacinda’s advocate. Whatever that meant. The police woman then confirmed that Jacinda was in the lockup for an assault. She would not give out any other details. Fair enough. At least now I knew for certain where she was.

Surprising, no. Depressing, yes. I decided not to say anything to Jacinda about this the next time we spoke over the phone. Hopefully when I asked where she was for the past couple of weeks Jacinda would be honest with me by telling the truth. If not, well that certainly would make things more interesting.

Fifty Caliber E-mail

•March 18, 2010 • 1 Comment

ASResearch got back to me with a detailed answer on my HIPOT question. It was better than I could have hoped for…

I appreciate you emailing me this question. If your unit is equipped with GFI your shut down times are has follows:

450 Micro amps trip point to earth

Shut down is < 1 milli seconds (.001 seconds)

Hopefully this answers your question.

Rene

Why yes my HIPOT tester is equipped with Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI). So what does this mean? Basically if you placed your tongue on the unit while it was being fried with two thousand volts DC and it shorted to ground the power shut down is so fast you probably would not feel a slight tingle. During a worst-case scenario electrical failure this equipment is totally safe.

Miss Auschwitz will of course be enraged when she discovers the RF Sources department disregards her Cone Of Silence safety initiative. Earlier this week I took an opportunity to brief the Bossman on this idiotic situation. As expected when I mentioned Miss Auschwitz invaded our instrument line again he was immediately disgusted. He approved of my plan to get rid of her post haste. So, when I forwarded the ASResearch email response to the Bossman I received the following reply:

Ya gotta love the ammo. Hopefully we won’t have to use it, but if we do I’ll pretend it’s a mother fucking 50 caliber automatic.

Hipot Wars

•March 5, 2010 • 2 Comments

To defeat Miss Auschwitz this time around I decided to do some hipot homework before I bother to involve the Bossman. He likes Miss Auschwitz about as much as getting a bullet in the forehead, I know he will back me up with regard to banishing her from our instrument line. However if I can figure out a way to eliminate the problem she wants to solve on my own without his help this situation will probably disappear much faster. I can use him as a last resort like calling in an artillery strike.

I took a walk around a few other departments this morning to look at how other instrument lines are providing hipot testing. I wanted to see what kind of set up they are using. Turns out all of them have identical vintage equipment. Their MI/EI test stations include ancient, bulky hipot gear. Those old units appear to be from the 1970s, with heavy mechanical switches and bone white background black needle gauges. Archaic stuff. I guess I have the only modern hipot tester in the division, an ASResearch 7550DT. It’s a digital unit complete with a nice bright green readout display, a set of large backlit red and green pass/fail indicators and it’s fully software programmable. Dr. Fist bought it a couple of years ago for a special Engineering project he was working on. I inherited it from him. The hipot test I conduct with this box floods each instrument with two thousand volts of juice for over a minute.

Engineers around here like to go dumpster diving for interesting items when nobody is looking. Dr. Fist is no exception to that. One evening while he was doing some garbage shopping in the site recycling center he spotted his ASResearch hipot tester in a trash bin. From the way he described it, he was angry someone had thrown it out. His project completed, he moved on to another department. Someone else must have tossed his gear. Funny thing was it didn’t break. Nobody had a need for it so into the trash it went. Typical, this company is wasteful on a scale I have not seen anywhere else. Anyway Dr. Fist salvaged his hipot tester, had it re-calibrated at the manufacturer and shipped back in. He gave it to our area shortly afterward.

Since I have a special piece of hipot gear none of the other instrument lines use I thought it might be a good idea to write an email to ASResearch and ask about the safety specs on their unit. If it has some super fast safety shut down during a high voltage failure maybe I could sidestep Miss Auschwitz and her silly Cone Of Silence. With that in mind I located the ASResearch website and wrote the following email to their customer service group:

I have been using one of your 7550DT units for some time and misplaced the operator’s manual. A question came up about the unit’s safety features and I wasn’t able to answer the question through online resources. In the event a direct short to ground occurs during Hipot testing with this unit, how quickly does the 7550DT detect the fault and shut off the power? I know it’s almost instant but I’d like to know if the power shutoff time is actually specified. Thanks in advance for your time.

The Cone Of Silence

•February 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Work took a turn for the dumb again today. I was back in MI/EI running boxes through final verification tests, no major issues and things were pretty smooth. I got bamboozled by Miss Auschwitz while I was finishing up some shipping documents. Stupid bitch totally took me by surprise- a sneak attack. My sincere hope was that she would not attempt to fuck with me again especially after the epic beat down she got from management over the ergo lift incident. Probably seeking some petty revenge, she made it a point to barge into my area babbling about something she called “The Cone Of Silence.” I had no idea what the fool was getting at until she started focusing in on my HIPOT gear. Slowly I got the gist of what she was trying to do.

Part of the final testing at MI/EI includes a safety test with a HIPOT instrument. HIPOT is a nickname for High Potential. Basically what you do is hook up a piece of gear and you flood it for a specified period of time with high voltage supplied by the HIPOT instrument. It’s a special piece of test gear with only one function- voltage output. During the high voltage portion of the test the box you’re flooding with juice should not develop a short to ground. What this means is, if a device did have a short to ground and you made contact with it by touching the frame you could receive a hateful load of voltage. Shock the shit out of you. In some cases it might be enough to kill you outright. So, if the HIPOT test passes there is no short to ground and that’s what we want. If the HIPOT test fails and the gear trips killing the power then you have a big problem. Something in the box shorted out. The dangerous part of the whole test is if you as the test operator happened to be touching the box while the shit fails there is a chance you could get fried.

Miss Auschwitz informed me that per the ergonomics department new safety regulations all test stations that provide HIPOT must now be clearly marked with warning signs, and a goofy safety shield has to be installed all around the test rack. Special ESD mats also have to be present. She referred to this new unseen safety shield bullshit as “The Cone Of Silence.” I have no idea where she came up with that stupidity. From her description of what the Cone Of Silence is, it’s a new mechanism that has clear plexiglass shields and stands about six to seven feet tall. As she was ranting about the details I knew the whole initiative was going to be a colossal waste of time. I let Miss Auschwitz talk herself out without paying much attention to her inane chatter. Before she was done though, she noted that since I did not have the HIPOT warning signs, a special ESD mat, and a new Cone Of Silence retard shield that I could no longer perform any more HIPOT testing until I got them.

Fuck that noise. She is not going to shut down the line over this horseshit. No way. I have month end shipments to make or else. Factory Peasant vs. Miss Auschwitz round three is about to begin….

Crazy Redhead At The Circle K

•February 21, 2010 • 1 Comment

I have said it before in the past and I’ll say it again now. Nothing ever works out the way I figured it would. Jacinda magically reappeared after a couple of weeks with no contact. Just about every scenario a person might think of ran through my mind as far as what happened to her. Some situations were far fetched, but of the likely things that may cause a person to drop off the face of the earth I didn’t consider one possibility at all. Instead I focused on wondering if Jacinda had gone on a multi-week drug binge, skipped town with her ex, moved back to Oregon with someone else entirely, got herself committed to a mental hospital. Or maybe it was so much more simple. The reason she wasn’t returning my calls was she came to the conclusion that it’s too weird to be in contact with somebody you used to date thirteen years ago. Turns out I was wrong on all options.

Jacinda returned my calls and didn’t bring up what had happened to her at first. The conversation was normal enough like nothing had happened. She wanted to know how I was and what I had been up to. She asked about my work. I answered all her questions while at the same time I was growing more and more curious with Jacinda’s disappearing act. She didn’t offer any explanation so I decided to risk asking directly what the hell went wrong. The other end of the phone got quiet for a moment and then she replied “I was in jail.”

Didn’t see that one coming.

According to Jacinda she was out around town with a girlfriend partying goth-style. The two of them wandered into a quick mart like a Circle K. I forget which chain store she said it was. While the girls were in the store they got into a verbal tussle with the clerk behind the counter. I don’t know what provoked the argument and Jacinda probably isn’t telling me the whole story anyway. So I listened as she told me her side of things. Jacinda gave the cashier endless amounts of shit so he called the cops. And when the cops arrived Jacinda started in on them, too. Apparently the police officers didn’t dig it so they arrested her and drove her off to the county jail. I guess nobody showed up to bail her out.

When I got off the phone with Jacinda I was skeptical about her explanation. I hopped on my computer and did some research. I looked up the county Jacinda’s town is in and found the Sheriff’s website. Then I started doing a search for recent arrest records and jail bookings. Sure enough, I ran across some info that backs up Jacinda’s account of where she has been lately. Heh. Seems she is telling me the truth. So the next question I have to ask myself again is what the hell am I getting myself into here?