Making Jets

Diorama Depicting Boeing’s First Aircraft Factory

Boeing adds 900 St. Louis jobs—Today’s Post-Dispatch Headline

Anne joined me last night, as I took a stroll down memory lane. A group of us, all former collogues, gathered together to honor our former boss, who happened to be in town on business. Like many of us there last night, he no longer works for Boeing, but unlike some of us, he is still working. We met at Third-Wheel Brewing Company for happy hour. A brewpub that I had thought was affiliated with bicycling, but its name turned out to be in reference to a three-wheel motorized vehicle, an example of which was sitting out front of the place. I am sure that there is a story there, but it just is not mine.

Kudos to Dave for organizing this shindig and also for bring his not too hot salsa. In conversation, I was able to get up to date on the comings, but mainly goings of my former coworkers. A lot of the old guard has already left, going on to either the greener grass on the other side of the fence or like me out to pasture. One in our number there is planning to retire next month. Another, a younger guy, the guy who took over my old job in this group is now a vice-president. Out with the old and in with the new. By way of serendipity the headline of today’s paper touted robust job growth within the company. Interesting news, in that this contradicts all of the gloom that I heard last night and for the last forty years. 


Maren texted us this morning to announce that David has just gotten a promotion, his first. He is now a Senior Technical Writer. Senior? I guess that means that he is getting older. The associated bump in pay ought to go far with making their future mortgage payments. I remember, back in the day, when I was a young engineer and I got my first promotion. It and subsequent promotions didn’t really change my job in any way, but the extra money was good to have. Promotions and regular annual raises were announced separately, six-months apart. That year was a very good year, with an overall annual increase in pay of 14%. Well above the inflation rate, even then back in the eighties. In related news, Anne also got a promotion today. She is now a Royal Senior II in her spider solitaire game. I feel so passed over.

Election Day


Today, is municipal election day. No big deal. Just, a few school board members and some propositions. Nothing too controversial. Anne is working the polls today as an election official. She got up at uh-oh dark thirty and was gone well before sun up. It should be an easy, if long day for her. Unlike last November’s election, turnout should be pretty light. Giving her plenty of time to work on her knitting and get paid for it too. Her polling place is the neighborhood elementary school, site of her old favorite substitute teaching position. It has been more than a year since she last substituted. For a long time school was only virtual. Now it is reopened. With its reopening requests for her services have also reappeared. So far, she has ignored them, but today she might actually see someone who wants her to come back to work. It’s a lot easier to dismiss a text message than someone you know, in purpose. Of late, she has been seriously toying with the idea of permanently retiring, but you know what they say, “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in again!”

Anne had suggested that I come to her polling place to vote. A recent innovation in election technology allows a voter to vote at any polling place in the county and not just the one that they are assigned. But there was a bad wreck on the highway. Anne had taken the car, so I wasn’t going to be on the highway anyway, but traffic was such a mess. I first learned of this accident by helicopter. The weather was nice enough that I had left the back door open and through it I heard the steady thump-thump-thump of a traffic copter that had parked itself above the nearby scene below. I biked to the polls. Crossing an overpass, I could see the accident site. It was on the headed downtown side of the road. The opposite side was flowing west, but so was the eastbound half of the highway. The police had turned around the cars trapped by the wrecks. I later learned that the accident involved a semi and a car. The driver of the car died.

Make Like a Tree and Leave

Make Like a Tree and Leave


It looks like Dr. David will be “graduating” from Harvard and getting a job-job at MathWorks, makers of the popular scientific software package MATLAB. His offer is still contingent upon background and reference checks, but his fourth interview on Friday went well and he should be good to go. With this new job, he will remain in Boston and enjoy a nice pay bump. He’ll no longer need to do math just for food anymore. With this move he will be leaving academia, which for him has spanned thirteen years and encompassed study and work at Rochester, NIH, Purdue and Harvard. We wish him well as he departs the ivory tower and enters the real world, where I’m sure that he will do very well.

Meanwhile back here on the farm, Ma and Pa Kettle are making last minute preparations for the imminent arrival of Jay and Carl. Jay has a conference in town and will combine business with pleasure and extend their visit and do some sightseeing. Too bad the Cards couldn’t provide any face-to-face baseball.

Out to Lunch

Out to Lunch, Anne Coe, 1990

Friday, is the traditional day for working people to go out to lunch. I am no longer a member of the proletariat, but since other luncheon goers still are, it worked best for everyone. Dave, my former colleague, organized today’s affair. He has been trying to lasso me since August. I really appreciate his patience. The original venue did not workout. Lunch was at eleven and the restaurant didn’t open until 11:30. We decamped down the street to another establishment. There were five of us at the old guys table, two working stiffs and three retirees. The still working lasted about an hour and Dave and I went on alone for the last hour, making for a total of a three-hour tour. We had three years of history to catchup on. In the end, the time to pickup Anne from school drew nigh and I had to bid farewell, with promises of let’s do lunch again on our lips.

Like A Rock

Big Surf

I chose my initial career path one night in my senior year in high school. I had accompanied my dad on one of his nightly runs to the University of Michigan’s computer center. As he punched a few cards for his next job, I looked around. It must have been at the end of the term, after years into his fellowship. The gleaming clean of the computer rooms counterpointed the trampling dirty footsteps of final’s week. Somehow this dichotomy captured my heart and I longed to be on the other side of that computer room glass. I majored in computer science and at times scrounged dirty, but un-punched cards off of those totally unsanitary floors, but never did I break that glass. I graduated, just barely. My first boss was originally my college advisor’s babysitter. After two years on the job, I had become disenchanted to the point of insubordination. I was got a second chance in Saint Louis.

Anne and I married and moved to Saint Louis. We enjoyed our great adventure, before settling in and buying a house and having kids. My computer company was shot out beneath me. I jumped from the frying pan into the fire and hired into the defense industry, just as the Berlin wall was coming down and my prospective employer was also experiencing its own financial difficulties. What ensued was ten years of layoffs. My employer’s workforce shrank to 20% of my hire in numbers. I still remember my new hire orientation instructor touting his weight loss, while wearing his now oversized suit. Still, I persisted. Those ten year probably took twenty off my life. I survived and eventually prospered. What did I do? I like to say that I made paper airplanes. It tends to fend off further questions and keeps me square with the government. When I calculated that I had made enough money, I punched out.

When I look back over my career, there are a few things that were of note, awards, promotions and innovations. What I value most from my work was that it provided for my family. All of the petty crises that once populated my day-to-day work life have melted away. I can look back and see that my success was founded on three principles: 1) staying healthy 2) staying married and 3) staying employed. I wish my children my kind of success, because I love my life, I love my wife and I hope that they enjoy our kind of success. Show them the money!