JT's Blog

Things that interest me, things that happened to me, things that I like, even some things that I don't like...

My Cousin Kimmie

My cousin Kim is one of the warmest, most caring, and compassionate people that I know.

In addition to raising her own children she has also been a foster and adoptive mother, and she has counseled others in times of stress.

Having said that, I need to add that I find her religious and political views abhorrent, and I'm unable to reconcile how such a caring individual can hold such hateful and hate-filled opinions.

Because of the huge difference in our views, I stay clear of any political or religious postings she makes, as I realize there is little chance of either of us persuading the other one. But last evening I saw that she had put up a sisterhood poster. I forget exactly what it said, but it was something along the lines of sisters should support each other, stand up for each other, that sort of thing.

Which reminded me of a Sondheim song, "Old Friends" from Merrily We Roll Along (actually just about everything reminds me of a Sondheim song these days). Anyway I thought about this passage (the lines are song variously by three characters):

And old friends let you go your own way.
Help you find your own way.
Let you off when you're wrong?
If you're wrong?
When you're wrong?
Right or wrong, the point is:
Old friends shouldn't care if you're wrong.
Should, but not for too long.
What's too long?
If you're wrong?
When you're wrong.

So without really thinking, I posted a comment, something to the effect: “Should they tell you when you're wrong? If you're wrong.”

Now I realized that it was possible Kim might not see that as the whimsical comment that I intended, so as I went to bed I was thinking I should expand on it a bit. Maybe by posting an excerpt from Jerry Herman's song "Bosom Buddies":

Orphan Annie and Sandy
Like Amos and Andy
If I say that your sense of style's
As far off as your youth
It's simply that who else but a bosom buddy
Will sit down and tell you the truth.

Yes, my free associations can take me far and wide.

Anyway, I woke up this morning to find that not only had Kim deleted my comment, but she had unfriended both me and my sister.

I think unfriending someone is one of the mildest and most socially responsible ways that one can register displeasure, so good for her, though why she unfriended my sister as well is a mystery. She and my sister used to be great friends, bosom buddies, if you will.

Oh, and no, we don't call her Kimmie. I just thought that made for a more light-hearted title.

Frank Coccia

The Defense Personnel Support Center

In a year when it seems that way too many people, celebrities and regular folks, were taken from us, I won't be shedding any tears for Mr. Coccia.

It was August 4, 1980, when I began working as an Inventory Management Specialist (or item manager) in the Directorate of Clothing and Textiles (or C&T) at the Defense Personnel Support Center (DPSC) in South Philadelphia. I had a lot to learn, not only how to perform my duties, but also about the corporate structure and internal politics.

My duties were pretty straightforward; our task was to decide when to purchase the various garments and associated textiles used by the five branches of the military services. I was assigned to the Navy section (part of Branch 1), so I managed Navy items, or I did once I had learned the ropes from people like Joe Duca and Hampden Moon.

Those early days are a blur, but I distinctly remember hearing the name Frank Kohsha bandied about, partly in fear and partly in awe, though I wasn't clear on who he was. I also recall seeing a lot of documents and memos that were signed by the Deputy Director, Frank Coccia. Eventually I figured out that they were one and the same person and that the name that was spelled Coccia was pronounced Kohsha.

Mr. Coccia, nearly everyone called him Mr. Coccia, ran a tight ship, and he used fear to keep subordinates in line. Item managers in particular feared his wrath because we were the ones who had to brief him directly whenever it was time to buy items where the contract value was over a certain dollar threshold; we were also the ones to brief him whenever there were problems with an item, regardless of the reason for the problem.

I realized pretty early on that Frank Coccia knew what he was doing. As our Branch Chief, Col. Joe Lavin, put it: “Frank Coccia is probably the most competent man I know.” I also realized he enjoyed his fearsome reputation, as he tended to be toughest on those who radiated fear.

Once I started managing items that required briefing him, I was always prepared, and he practically never gave me a hard time, although he would often toss out a question from left field. Like the time I briefed him on the black Navy shirts, several of which sizes were on backorder, and he asked me about the sizes that weren't on backorder. After that briefing Maggie Rees, our Acting Deputy Branch Chief at the time, couldn't get over that I was able to field those questions.

Anyway I believe it was sometime in 1984 that Coccia got a bug up his ass about one of our contractors, Gulf Apparel. We weren't sure why (the stated reason was that they were behind on another contract, although that was a pretty common occurrence), but Coccia did not want to award the latest contract to Gulf, even though they were the low bidder.

Since it was my item, I had to lead the way in devising a reason for not awarding the contract to Gulf. I recall one of those meetings where someone asked in frustration why we weren't awarding to Gulf, and I replied, “Because Frank doesn't want to.” There was a silence around the table; I'm not sure if it was because I had stated the reason so bluntly or because I, a lowly item manager, had referred to Mr. Coccia as Frank. All eyes turned to Bill Hoban, the most senior person at the table, who nodded and said, “That’s basically it.”

Somehow we managed to find a reason, and we awarded the contract to another company, though I no longer recall the justification or the contractor.

There are a couple other stories that I could tell about Frank Coccia (like the time he overrode John McAndrews’ selection for a promotion and, uh, suggested that he should pick, well, me, instead), and maybe I will someday.

But I did eventually leave C&T in 1986 to take a position involving personal computers in the Directorate of Subsistence.

I was there when the word came out in 1987 that Frank Coccia was one of nine people charged in connection with a kickback scheme involving contracts to supply military clothing. One of the companies involved was, you guessed it, Gulf Apparel.

About a year later Coccia pleaded guilty to taking at least $331,000 in bribes from contractors. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, fined $50,000, and forfeited the $331,000.

I've heard it said, and I think it's true, that competent but corrupt managers are better than incompetent but honest managers. Frank Coccia might provide one data point in support of that thesis.

 

 

Baking Vs. Roasting

This is an actual conversation I had at lunch today, transcribed from memory.

He: I’ve been wondering…do you know what the difference is between baking and roasting?

Me: Ooh, I know I read about that once but I just can’t recall it right now. Here, let me Google it [pulling out the phone]…baking vs. roasting…here it is:  “If you're cooking food that has a solid structure — like any type of meat or vegetables — no matter the temperature of the oven, you'll roast it. If you're cooking food that doesn't already have a solid structure, but will after it's cooked — like muffins, cake, bread, and casseroles — the proper method is baking.”

He: So it’s the same technique, just applied to different things?

Me: Yes, pretty much. You roast things that already have a structure, and you bake things that you want to firm up.

He: Don’t you think it’s odd that one technique should have two different names depending on what you are using it for?

Me: No, not really.

He: Well, what about baked chicken? I’ve heard the term baking applied to chicken.

Me: Googling “Baked Chicken” doesn’t return a definition. Just a bunch of recipes. “Simple Baked Chicken Breasts Recipe”, “Oven-Baked Chicken recipe from Betty Crocker”, “Classic Baked Chicken Recipe”, oh here’s a roasted chicken recipe. The terms seem to be used interchangeably.

He: So people do use the term “Baked Chicken”?

Me: Yes. Ignorant people who don’t know the proper usage.

He: I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.

JT's Famous Burger Buns

This is a simple, can't miss recipe. The buns always turn out delicious enough to eat plain.

time: about 3 hours
yield: 8 buns

ingredients
1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil (or melted butter)
1 egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oat bran (if skipping the oat bran, use 3 1/4 cups flour)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast

directions
1. By Bread Machine: Place the ingredients into a bread machine; select the Dough cycle and start it up.
By Food Processor: Place the dry ingredients in the food bowl and process until well mixed. Add the egg and begin processing, adding the oil and water through the feed tube. When the dough cleans the inside of the bowl and forms a ball, process for another 60 seconds. Put the dough in a large bowl, cover with a towel, place it in a warm location (80°F), and let it rise for about an hour.
By Hand: If you don't have a bread machine, knead the dough like you would bread dough. Put the dough in a large bowl, cover with a towel, place it in a warm location (80°F), and let it rise for about an hour.
2. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into eight pieces. Slap each piece into a bun shape. Place on a greased cookie sheet, cover with a cloth; let rise about 30 to 40 minutes in a warm location.
3. Bake in preheated 375°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes till golden. Cool on wire racks.


I found this recipe in an advertising brochure for King Arthur Flour, and the original recipe used to be found at their web site. I've made a couple changes, like substituting a little oat bran for some of the flour. In my opinion the buns turn out better using olive oil rather than butter. These buns also make great sandwich buns, in fact, many folks enjoy eating them plain. Mold them into other shapes and they can also make worthy hot dog or hoagy buns. Use your imagination.

I've calculated that each bun contains approximately 233.5 calories, most of them coming from the flour.

MacBook Pro Meet LG 4K 21"

As almost anyone who has ordered Apple products knows, Apple tends to under-promise and over-deliver when it comes to shipping dates. So when I ordered my 15" MacBook Pro with Touch Bar at the beginning of November, the promised date was December 15. It arrived 10 days early.

The MacBook Pro and LG monitor. The Mac's display is showing me in the process of composing this blog post.

And when I ordered the 21" LG 4K monitor a few days ago, the promised date was January 23, well over a month away. It arrived yesterday.

Setting up the LG was fun, and I quickly had the Mac's built-in display and the LG's acting as one large virtual display with the LG on top.

But I had a problem with the LG today. When I restarted the MacBook Pro, the monitor didn’t come on. This was annoying, as the LG has no on/off button or LED to indicate whether it's on or off.

The system didn’t even recognize that it was there anymore. But the SSD that I had plugged into one of the monitor's USB-C ports was recognized, so clearly the connection was good.

I called AppleCare, and the friendly tech who answered suggested a few things, things I should have done before calling, actually. Like unplugging the LG from the Mac.

They didn’t work.

(Interestingly, Apple tech support still hasn’t absorbed the fact that the new MacBook Pros don’t have a Power button or startup chime or an LED on the Power Adapter.)


Anyway, she put me on hold to check something, and I tried unplugging the LG again. When I plugged it back in, the LG was recognized.

She came back on and had me restart to make sure. Problem solved.

Except that now the Mac wasn’t recognizing the Seagate 4TB drive that I use for Media (iTunes, Photos, etc.) and that was plugged into the USB 3.0 hub.


A little more experimenting and I decided to plug both external drives back into the USB 3.0 hub. That seems to have fixed the problem. The Mac apparently gets a bit confused if I have a drive in the LG's USB-C port and another in the USB 3.0 hub.


Moral: I think I need to convert to all USB-C ASAP to avoid more problems.

 

1964

Maryann Shelhamer, circa 1964, my good friend and chief adversary

In the fall of 1964 when I was 15, Maryann Shelhamer was my very good friend and my chief adversary; she was a Democrat and I a Republican.

We were sophomores, enrolled in Mr. Kugle's American history class at Eastern Lebanon County High School, or Elco as everyone called it.

That was a momentous year in the history of America. The country was still recovering from the shock of a presidential assassination the previous year, the American war in Vietnam was simmering but had not yet been escalated to a full boil, and civil rights for Negroes (as African Americans were still called in those days) was a major issue with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 having been signed by President Johnson in July of that year.

Barry Goldwater

I considered myself a Republican in those days, the local political atmosphere (Lebanon County was and still is strong Republican territory) having rubbed off on me, so I supported Barry Goldwater in his bid to unseat Lyndon Johnson from the Oval Office.

Now Goldwater was considered an extremist on many, maybe most, issues but especially in the areas of military defense (he was for it, in fact he was for a lot of it), civil rights (he voted against the Civil Rights Act), and well, name an issue and he was either on the “wrong” side of it or could be portrayed as such.

I remember my uncle Curtis teasing me with a joke that went something like: “If Barry Goldwater is elected, the troops will be marching the following week.” The punch line, such as it was, was that Veterans’ Day fell on the following week.

Meanwhile, the Johnson campaign unveiled the infamous Daisy Ad that suggested that a vote for Goldwater was a vote for nuclear Armageddon. Goldwater never forgave Bill Moyers for his part in preparing that ad.

That was also the year that the satirical show “That Was The Week That Was” was imported from the BBC to NBC, bringing David Frost along with it, as well as a rich array of Broadway talent like Alan Alda and Phyllis Newman, and featuring sharp-edged songs by Tom Lehrer. I loved that show, as did Maryann, even though a frequent target of its barbs was my hero Barry.

Nancy Ames, the “TW3 Girl”

A couple months before the election, the Goldwater campaign bought the entire half hour time slot in which TW3 (as it was usually called) normally aired, in order to present a program with former president Dwight Eisenhower giving a tour of his Gettysburg, Pennsylvania farm to Goldwater. It was supposed to be a campaign ad.

It put me to sleep. Campaigns had not yet learned how to use the medium of television very effectively.

The following week the TW3 cast spent a good part of its time having a lot of fun with that farm tour program, and while it pained me to admit it, their satirical barbs were well-aimed. The show concluded with Nancy Ames, the “TW3 Girl”, singing the closing theme song with the added lines:

The GOP bought three more weeks of our space
They could keep us off until after the race
So we'll say Merry Christmas right now just in case  
From That Was The Week That Was.

And yes, I recall those lines from 52 years ago. I can even sing them, if you like.

Barry Goldwater was the first and only presidential candidate that I ever campaigned for. Randy Klopp and I went over to Ray Bollinger's house (he was the Republican something-or-other for Richland Borough) to pick up some campaign materials, door knockers I think they were called, which we then distributed to as many houses as we could, leaving the materials hanging from the door knobs. Needless to say, my parents, who can best be characterized as yellow dog Democrats, were furious when they found out.

Mr. Donald Kugle, history teacher par excellence

Anyway, back to Mr. Kugle's history class. Mr. Kugle spent a lot of time going over current events during class, so of course he had us stage a debate on the presidential campaign. I no longer recall, and history does not record, the details of that debate or how many of us were involved, but I do know that Maryann argued for Lyndon Johnson, while I did my best for Barry Goldwater.

I lost the debate.

Because although we lived in a heavily Republican area, the Democrats had done such a good job of convincing a lot of Republicans that Goldwater was an unacceptable extremist, that many Republicans (including the kids in our history class) voted Democratic that year.

Johnson went on to victory, dealing Goldwater a humiliating defeat, winning 61.1% of the popular vote and 486 votes in the Electoral College.

I, too, suffered a little humiliation of my own. Despite my best efforts to get the word out about Barry Goldwater, my little borough of Richland went Democratic for perhaps the only time in its history.

Maryann Shelhamer wrote a gracious note on the back of her picture.

Maryann Shelhamer wrote a gracious note on the back of her picture.

UPDATE: 12/11/2016

I just found this audio recording of a June 1964 episode of That Was The Week That Was. Commercials and everything. What a different era that was.

Fixing SMS in Messages

One of my favorite features of Apple's iOS/MacOS ecosystem is the ability to share text messages across all devices whether they are Apple's iMessages or the conventional SMS text messages. There were a few bumps along the road while Apple was getting this working, but for the past year or so, it has been wroking flawlessly for me.

Until yesterday.

I started getting Not Delivered error messages when I sent an SMS from my iMac. But the odd thing was that they were actually being received by the recipient's phone. They just weren't being shared within my Mac and iOS systems.

I tried the usual things, rebooting, etc. Then this morning I posted the problem on Apple's discussion forums.

Immediately after doing that I realized there was one thing I hadn't tried: disabling text forwarding and then restarting it. Sure enough, that fixed the problem.

Here's what I did. On my iPhone I went into Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding and disabled forwarding on all my devices.

Then I powered the iPhone off and back on.

Next I went back into Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding and re-enabled forwarding on the devices where I wanted it to appear.

That's it!

 

More Thoughts on South Pacific

Weeks after attending the Walnut Street's production of South Pacific, the music is still running around in my head. Given that I consider it my favorite of the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows, I realized with something of amazement that other than a Conrad Weiser High School production from around 1970, this was the first time I had actually seen it live on stage.

I had wanted to visit the Lincoln Center revival a few years back but just never got around to it, though I did watch (and still have a copy of) that production when it was broadcast on PBS. As wonderful as it was, it just can't have the impact of a good live production.

So practically my entire view of the show has been colored (pun intended, for those who know the movie) upon the 1958 motion picture, which might explain why I had never been much impressed by “This Nearly Was Mine” which received rather short shrift in that film. Hearing it live in the theatre has transformed it into one of my favorite songs from the score.

And it is, in fact, a score, not just a collection of brilliant tunes, as Jim Lovensheimer details in his excellent book South Pacific: Paradise Rewritten. Rodgers used simple motives to, for example, link Nellie and Emile's music together and track the progress of their relationship.

While noodling through the South Pacific Vocal Score recently, I discovered an interesting connection.

The middle section of “A Cockeyed Optimist” uses falling perfect fourths on the words “I hear the human race is falling on its face”

In Nellie's first number in Act I, “A Cockeyed Optimist”, the middle section is based on a couple of falling fourths (at the words “I hear the human race is falling on its face”).

At the end of the act, when Nellie learns of Emile's deceased Polynesian wife which brings her southern prejudices to the fore, the finale to Act I begins as underscoring, playing that part of the melody, but the fourths are now dissonantly harmonized.

At the end of the act when Nellie's prejudices are revealed they are now harmonized with some dissonance

After Lt. Cable sings “You've Got To Be Carefully Taught” in the second act, Emile launches into an angry diatribe against irrational prejudice and sings the words “I was cheated before and I'm cheated again” to similar falling fourths.

In Emile's continuation of “You've Got To Be Carefully Taught”, he uses those same fourths.

Possibly Rodgers intended those fourths to represent prejudice, as the music is entitled “You've Got To Be Carefully Taught (Continuation)”. Interestingly, that piece of music was not in the score on opening night. It was added about a year into the run, a very unusual procedure, so one can infer that Rodgers and Hammerstein felt very strongly about it.

 

Musings on the Election Results

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I'm none too thrilled with the results of the election on Tuesday, where even though Hillary Clinton won a majority of the popular vote, the Electoral College (that antiquated monstrosity that was enacted mainly to appease the slave-holding states) awarded the presidency to donald.

Although I have some reservations about some of her policy ideas, I was genuinely excited to vote for her as she is an exceptionally well-qualified candidate; that she would have been the first female president just made it that much more fulfilling to vote for her.

(And just to get it out of the way, she's been in public service for most of her life, and a lot of mud has been thrown her way by Republicans and sadly amplified by our abysmal ratings-dominated news media, so many folks had reservations about her honesty and integrity. I had none. When examined carefully, all those so-called “scandals” evaporated into thin air.)

I've heard and read several analyses of what went wrong, and I see two major factors: white resentment and the Democrats’ abandonment of unions.

For the last few years there has been a steady drumbeat of news about Black Lives Matter, so there was a segment of the white public that was primed to be receptive to the bigoted, white supremacist message that donald trumpeted.

At the same time the Democratic Party and Barack Obama seem to have abandoned the unions, once the bedrock of the party's base. Obama has championed policies like the TPP that benefit the wealthy and not the middle class or the poors. It's true that Obama has had to deal with an obstructionist congress for most of his two terms, but he has often expressed a willingness to work with Republicans in cutting Social Security benefits and other similar policies.

The Democrats have believed that they needed to have business-friendly policies in order to raise money on a par with the Republicans. But if nothing else this election has shown the folly of that in two ways.

Bernie showed that grass roots fundraising can be extremely effective. And Clinton wildly out-raised and out-spent her opponent. Perhaps money, especially money spent on TV ads, is not as important as previously thought.

I began writing this in the hope that putting a few ideas down would make that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach go away. It didn't work.