Monday, July 18, 2005
It is with sadness that I take a moment today to announce the passing of my Grandpa Frank. He passed away yesterday in the home he has lived in for over 60 years, surrounded by his children and grandchildren. While the official cause of death will most likely be listed as kidney failure, Frank was 94 - or as he liked to insist - in his 95th year. His death, while not un-expected, leaves a void in the lives of those he touched that is unlikely to be filled.
All men die, but few men truly live. Frank was a man who truly lived.
Born in 1911 to Danish immigrants, he learned a strong work ethic early in life. He often said he came from good stock and made sure his children and grandchildren understood what it meant to work. He expected much from us, and I'd like to think we've done him proud.
He saw and witnessed much during his many years. When Frank was born, the only thing flying in the skies above him were the birds. During his life he read about the Wright Brother's slipping the surly bonds of earth. Man broke the sound barrier, journeyed to the moon, and made space travel a habit while Frank was with us. His descendants include Navy and Air Force pilots.
Frank was an avid Scouter. He encouraged all of his sons and grandsons to join and progress through the ranks of the Boy Scouts of America. While I cannot give a concrete number as to how many Eagles can be counted among his progeny, but I know of at least 12. Franks scouting awards include the Silver Beaver, Buffalo, and Fox. Last year, evidently upon learning Frank was still alive, the Boy Scouts saw fit to give him an award I have never seen before. Numerical year pins are (or at least were) given out for years of service. Some people have 10 year pins, fewer have 25 and 30 year pins. Frank has a pin for 85 years of service.
He met and married the woman I would come to know as Grandma LaRae while he attended Utah State University. They lived through the Great Depression and World War II early in their marriage. Frank was too old (even back then) to be drafted for military service. He never really spoke of what he did during those years. One day, as I was looking for something else at his house, I stumbled upon a signed certificate thanking Frank for service to his country. I asked him about it. Turns out Frank was one of the many thousands of people working on the Manhattan Project. For those of you unfamiliar with that historical reference, those are the people who created the Atomic bombs that ended World War II.
Frank was very unassuming about his role. He did what his country asked of him. They all did.
He and LaRae would go on to raise six children. He held many different jobs before finally becoming a safety inspector of sorts for a well known insurance company. In the years immediately following World War II they bought a small house in the Sugarhouse neighborhood of Salt Lake City. His job required him to inspect many a building in Salt Lake City, including the Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Many stories are told of the inspiration that went into that building. Frank got to witness the uncovering of many of them. Engineers were very concerned about the work required to install elevators in the Temple, as it is built out of granite. Frank tells many a story about their relief when they found shafts had been left in place - ready for the as yet un-invented elevators. The shafts were exactly the right size for the first elevators. When new elevators were to be installed - they were larger than the originals and left no room for the counter weights. It took several weeks to chisel a out a space for the counter weights. One can only imagine how long it would have taken to blast the shafts into place.
Of all the things Frank taught me, there are two that stand out most in my mind.
First, its important to be able to make a decision.
When my family moved to Colorado and purchased our first house, we decided to wall off a section of the downstairs basement to create another bedroom. In order to do this we had to create a door where a wall existed. Mother Cordeiro (Frank's daughter) was unsure of exactly where to put this door. After about an hour of her indecision, she went over to a point in the wall and said, "Maybe this would be a good spot for the door. But I'm not sure."
She then turned her back for a second, furrowing her brow. From behind her came a large CRACK! Frank had taken his hammer and punched a hole in the sheet rock. "The door goes here," he stated. Then he went to work.
Second, think for yourself.
I was in the middle of moving myself, and my family (which at that time consisted of the Ravishing Mrs. Cordeiro and the very young Corderinho) from Montana to California. Mother and Father Cordeiro had tried (and failed) to convince me that Utah would be as good a place to go to grad school as would be California. As was my custom any time I was in Salt Lake City, I passed by Frank's house. He was sitting in his usual spot - by the window overlooking the front porch - and we had the following exchange:
Frank: So you're moving to California.
Me: Yep, Grandpa. Got the truck loaded up and we're ready to go.
Frank: Your mother probably thinks you have rocks in your head.
Me: That she does.
Frank (after a very long pause): Well, at least they're your own rocks.
I should mention here that Frank quelled Mother Cordeiro's fears about my marrying the young woman who would become the Ravishing Mrs. Cordeiro. He simply told his daughter "Cordeiro needs to marry this girl." That was the end of that.
As marriages go, Frank had a very discerning eye. Most, if not all, of his grandkids would bring their prospective mates by to meet him. Some passed his tests. Some were weighed in the balance and found to be wanting. None of those found to be wanting made the cut. Rumor has it they didn't bring chocolate.
Frank was preceded in death some 25 years ago by his beloved LaRae. Reunited after such a long separation, they are no doubt enjoying each other's company in the eternities.
There are many, many more parts of Frank's life I want to share, and perhaps someday I'll get around to writing them down before memory fades. For now, let me just say farewell, Frank. We'll miss your wit, your wisdom, and your company. You were surrounded by loved ones here on earth and are no doubt surrounded by them now.
Rest well, you've earned it many times over.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
The Right Stuff
Sometime tomorrow, barring any delays, glitches, or other unforeseen circumstances America will return to space on the wings of the Space Shuttle Discovery. It has been a long, tough, and painful return since the destruction of Columbia.
It's about damn time.
There is something uniquely American about space flight. Yes, I know the Europeans have something akin to a space program. I know the Russians launch rockets every now and then. China even managed to get some guy into a few low-earth orbits.
China thought that was a big deal. Americans (and Russians) yawned. After all, Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepherd did that some 40 years ago.
They did it in an age where computers were considered phenomenal if they could fit in a single room. Neil Armstrong landed on the moon using technology that today would be considered unsafe and dangerous. My PDA has more processing power than the entire NASA Apollo program used to fling men to the moon and back.
And, just to be a little America-centric, the only flag planted on extraterrestrial soil is Old Glory. Memo to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee - that flag is on the moon, not Mars. We haven't landed astronauts there - yet.
Critics will decry the money spent on space exploration and whine that said funds are more desperately needed here on earth rather than being spent chasing the stars. Perhaps.
The urge to explore is innately human. Space truly represents the Final Frontier, and despite the critics, man (and woman) will continue to push the barriers of human endurance and experience to go where no one has gone before.
Such exploration is inherently dangerous. Apollo I, Challenger, and Columbia are very stark reminders of that painful reality. Yet we continue - fully aware of the perils and dangers inherent in our endeavors. Why we do so can never be fully explained to someone who does not understand the driving factors behind exploration.
There are some 2 million parts (all built - as Armageddon's Rockhound so eloquently stated - by the lowest bidder) to a Space Shuttle, and thus 2 million things that can go wrong. Somehow we still get seven of the best and brightest to strap themselves on a towering pillar of rocket fuel to be flung into space. Some people think they're crazy.
Well, add me to the list. Memo to NASA: If anyone of your astronauts wants off this mission (or any other for that matter) give me a call.
Godspeed to the crew of Return to Flight - STS-114.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
The Contractor Conversation
Here's the conversation I want to have with the Warthog Faced Buffoon otherwise known as The Contractor:
Warthog Faced Buffoon: First things first. To the money!
Me: No. To the pain.
WFB: I don't think I'm quite familiar with that phrase.
Me. I'll explain and I'll use small words so that you'll be sure to understand.
WFB: That may be the first time in my life a man has dared insult me.
Me: It won't be the last. To the pain means the first thing you will lose will be your feet below the ankles. Then your hands at the wrists. Next your nose.
WFB: And then my tongue I suppose, I took your money too quickly the last time. A mistake I don't mean to duplicate tonight.
Me: I wasn't finished. The next thing you will lose will be your left eye followed by your right.
WFB: And then my ears, I understand let's get on with it.
Me: WRONG! Your ears you keep and I'll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out, "Dear God! What is that thing," will echo in your perfect ears. That is what to the pain means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever.
WFB: I think your bluffing.
Me: It's possible, Pig, I might be bluffing. It's conceivable, you miserable, vomitous mass, that I haven't sued your sorry carcass because I lack the legal understanding and representation to do so. But, then again... perhaps I have the knowledge after all...
Now to find a biscotti receipe...
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Lesser Life Forms
In my life's experience, I have come to know the truthfulness of a phrase penned by George Orwell in his book Animal Farm:
All animals are created equal. Some animals are created more equal than others.It is so with people. Some people are just better people than others. Some are more honorable. Some have a better sense of duty and responsibility.
There are professions that are held in higher esteem than others. For example, the trauma surgeon is held in higher esteem than is the used car salesman. Here in the US, used car salesmen rate just above lawyers and members of congress. While the Lord is not a respecter of persons, human beings are - and I count myself as a human being - for now anyway.
On my scale of humanity, the rating slides from used car salesmen to members of congress to lawyers to (as defined in the SOTR Glossary) Waste Of Skin And Breathable Air (WOSABA) to finally Miserable Vomitous Mass (MVM). I was satisfied with this Sliding Scale of Humanity up until this past week.
I have now discovered a Lesser Life Form than even a MVM. I did not think it was possible. This form of life shall be defined as a "Contractor".
In the ongoing saga of the Cordeiro Manor Remodel, we have been plagued with delays and cost over-runs. This is to be expected. I was prepared to deal with a one month delay and a cost over-run of +/- 20%. I know business. These things happen.
Well, last week the Contractor announced he was leaving the partnership he was in at the start of the Cordeiro Manor Remodel. He swore upon all that is holy (evidently to him this is not very much) that our job would be finished. "Don't worry," he said. "I give you my word it will be finished."
TOP GUN COUGH. (If you don't know what that is, go watch the movie - the unedited version.)
Turns out the Contractor owes his workers about 25 Large in back pay. Some, most, and possibly all the materials (read toilets, vanities, lighting, etc) have been neither ordered nor received. Count that as another 5 Large.
So I've got workers who won't work, and a house - 3/4 of which I can't use - and the word of a Contractor that "everything will work out". If I actually believed him - of course now my calls aren't returned - things might be different.
I'm normally a very nice, easy going, and understanding guy. I don't anger easily. I have a thick skin and can deal with hardship.
But, you see, the Ravishing Mrs. Cordeiro has put her heart and soul (and almost a year of her life) into planning for this Remodel. In a few weeks we will have family coming from all over the country to witness the baptism of Corderinho. While the significance of this event will overcome any terrestrial concerns we may have at that time, the fact remains we will have no house to show our respective families.
And that, dear reader, is where the Contractor has catapulted himself past the stage of WOSABA, blown right by the sign marking MVM, and planted himself squarely on the tail end of my Sliding Scale of Humanity.
You see, he made my beautiful bride, the Ravishing Mrs. Cordeiro, cry.
And for that there is no forgiveness. Perhaps from the Lord, but not from me.
I am now angry. Very angry. For the Contractor, this is not a good thing.