Sunday, April 20, 2008

Farewell to a Patriot

The man wearing the navy sport coat in the above picture was a recent new friend of mine. I met him only six months ago when I joined the Military Order of Purple Heart, an organization chartered by the United States Congress for military veterans who were wounded in combat by enemy action. George Carter was a Korean War veteran with decorations for valor in combat. He was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star as well as the Purple Heart medal.

George was always nice to me and made it easy to befriend him. George was friendly and welcoming as we participated in a parade in D. C. after traveling there last November 9, 2007 on a bus loaded with fellow veterans. We carpooled to Mt. Airy last December to be in a parade there. Click here to see a another picture of him at the parade. He visited my home twice to drop off chapter materials.

We met at a prearranged place one day to exchange writings of our military experiences in war. I remember standing beside his van as we talked through the open window of the driver's door. He talked about his activities and errands that day. As I became impressed by his report, I looked him in his eyes and said, "you are a real patriot, George." He looked back at me as if to measure the sincerity of my remark followed by a look of satisfaction on his face. We said departing pleasantries as he put the gear shift into "D" and motored away.

George was a hard worker for the MOPH Chapter 638. He volunteered often at the VA Clinic where many people knew and loved him. He was very popular with people and stayed active until the last three weeks of life.

His obituary is below and a picture of his shadow box of military awards which was on display at the memorial service.

Farewell, my friend and patriot!

Everyone else, have a good week!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

In Pursuit of Quality

As a substitute teacher, I sometimes begin high school class by telling students to pretend I'm their boss and this is the first day on the job. I say to them, "pretend I hardly know you and you know little of me except I'm your new employer and supervisor. You should want to make a good first impression on me since I hired you for a responsible job that pays well."

Usually one or more students will ask, "how much are we getting paid?" I cheerfully respond by telling them to apply whatever pay rate that makes you feel good.

The regular teacher's assignment might be for students to read an article, internalize its message, and write a summary of its content. I ask them not to copy verbatim sentences from the text, but to relate in their own words as much as possible a summary of the article. I ask them to feel free to express an opinion if they have one about the written material they will soon read.

I warn them that I will evaluate the quality of their written report. I tell them, "before I read a single word, I will hold your paper at arms length and look at how your text is balanced on the sheet; I will notice how clean and wrinkle free your paper looks; I'll notice how large or tiny your letters and words are formed; I'll see if it's written in cursive and will not be impressed if it's printed. I'll look for a name, date, and class period."

I tell students that their writing on the paper is "package quality". Their written words are packaging that will go a long way in determining if they are judged as mediocre or high quality in perception by others. After packaging, the accuracy of spelling, punctuation, grammar, clarity of sentences, and logic will further determine the quality of the report. Finally, their interpretation of the article will weigh least of all attributes in "my assessment" of their written summary. (The regular teacher will actually evaluate and grade their work.)

After students read the assigned text and begin to write, I move up and down the rows between the desks looking over their shoulders. Some students comment about their sloppy writing style. I use this opening to encourage them to improve through practice and desire to get better. I observe many students putting forth serious effort to do a quality job in the presentation of their writing assignment.

When all papers are finished and turned in to me, I observe that each paper is unique as each student in the class. Each paper is different. When I closely examine them, I see most as acceptable and a few extraordinary in quality.

The pleasing thing to me is to watch students put forth effort to impress me with their work. I verbally express to the class how satisfied I am with their effort and desire for quality. I urge students to retain that desire to improve as they approach future assignments. Many times in the future, family members, friends, customers, and a real boss will see their written words.

Hopefully, their words will be viewed as quality.

Have a good week!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Clip Newspaper Coupons

My wife and I have been married almost 39 years. During this period, my wife clipped newspaper and magazine coupons regularly and used them when shopping for our household needs. Scissors are nearby when she reads Sunday's Winston-Salem Journal newspaper as she cuts and stacks coupons that offer price off incentives. She maintains a stack of coupons that probably measure an inch thick. She routinely flips through them to remove the expired dates or products she changed her mind about a purchase. When she sends me to grocery shop or she goes herself, we take coupons that match items on the list of needs that week. She schedules shopping to match days when our food store triples the value of coupons. Last week her coupons totaled $38.49 when HT tripled the value. See the circled amount on the actual Harris Teeter receipt above.

This amount doesn't happen each week. The average weekly savings is probably between $5 and $10 when combined with VIC specials. Over the period of 39 years, savings from coupons and VIC specials probably saved us between ten and twenty thousand dollars of after tax money. This amount could pay tuition, room, and board at many universities for one year.

My wife is an intelligent shopper. She spends time in stores getting familiar with products, new products, and prices. I never complain or admonish this activity the way I hear some men express about men or women using their time this way.

I'll share a couple neat products we use in a future blog update.

Have a good week!