4/30/07 Keeping bees

I've been a beekeeper here for about three weeks. My dad gave me an empty Top Bar Hive last summer and this is the time of year to start new hives, so I was planning to buy some bees and put them in the hive I had. I got hooked up with my mom's, brother's, wife's, brother Lenny who lives not far from here in Sacramento and he has been having all kinds of luck capturing swarms this year. So much so that he has all he wants and gave me this one. It is in a temporary cardboard hive that will not hold them for long. I am working on building them a bigger hive where they can expand all they want. Anyway this is a video of me opening the hive to see what is going on. I did this a week ago for the first time in a full bee suit but the bees were so mild that this time I didn't even bother. Lenny put them in this box when he captured them with a frame of comb and four empty frames. His frames all have plastic foundation so it would be hard to transfer them to my dads Top Bar Hive which is unfortunate. The hive I am building will hold normal frames and in that way will not be a top bar, but I am planning to make it long and horizontal so it will not stack more like a top bar. It's an experiment on my part. I'm hoping to get the ease of working the hive and managing it of a top bar with the convenience of being able to use off the shelf frames and the ability to swap frames with standard stuff.

4/29/07 Customers

Well Ok it's been a while and I am starting to hear from my faithful readers that a dark void is forming in their lives. In fact there has been a lot to blog about in the last few months. That indeed may be the problem. Getting a blog post out just hasn't made it to the top of the "to do" list in a while. I have a supply of stories about customer service I would like to tell.

Firstly, at work one of our customers bought two of our pumps to prelube a large pleasure craft. They called us two weeks ago and told us that they are drawing to many amps, and they are about to take it out for sea trials, so something must be done right away. Now they bought this thing out of our catalog and didn't really tell us what they would be doing with it. So we sold them. What became very clear is that the pump was too big for their application and pluming. As a result the pump was being asked to do the impossible act of delivering 30 sum gallons a minute through small hose without causing the pressure and thereby amps to go too high. We explored several possible solutions over course of the next few days. As time was short we considered with the customer rewiring the motor, re-labeling the motor, and different motors, but in the end the only solution to stay afloat was to make custom pumps that have built in pressure relief valves. The design for this happened simultaneously with exploring the other options so that by the time it was clear that no other solution could work we were ready to start making the new parts and modifying existing parts. With the help of my coworker Chris I was able to turn the first batch of parts out in less then two days. Performance tests however, quickly yielded disappointing results. This is where the overtime started to kick in. As we started to discover the reasons for the poor performance we went through several iterations. Each time I would make some change to the part either on the mill of by hand. This cost us another two days but we were finally able to get two pumps shipped out overnight to the customer the day before they needed them. I feel proud to have been a major part of the company's ability to deliver a custom product solution in only about a week. I defy you to find me another company that would even try.

Next up, the chronicle of the wrecked new car. This story begins of a bright and clear Monday morning. I was sitting at my desk programming a part or something when my cell phone began to buzz in my pocket. It was Kelly. "I hit a deer". The timing could not have been worse. For starters the car was brand new. My first new car in fact. It didn't even have its license plates yet. On top of that we had an 1800 mile trip with a planned departure in just four days. AND in an effort to counter the increased cost of insuring a new car, I had canceled rental car coverage and increased my deductible from $100 to $250 only two weeks earlier. I made a few calls and no one would be able to get the car fixed that fast. A fact that would latter become all too clear. That night she got home from work after I did and she was feeling blue. I didn't want to make her feel bad so I tried to play it down. I think I did a poor job of masking my disappointment however. I really do not blame her. The deer are crazy thick around here and it could happen to anyone. I guess it just comes down to the fact that it sucks for all the reasons listed above. The hood would not latch all the way down and was only holding on the safety catch, and the left headlight is gone, but I concluded that if I rigged some way of holding down the hood and we only drive in the daytime that we will be able to drive it on our vacation. As we drove through Las Vegas on 15 it started running kind of hot and I picked up the smell of coolant. I was thinking the accident had made a small hole in the radiator and it had taken that long to really become problem. It turned out however that my inadequate job of tying the hood down let the hood lift at times as truck passed or when we drove fast. The air coming under the hood then managed to suck the coolant out of the reservoir. Once I refilled the coolant in north Las Vegas we were fine for the rest of the trip. So we got home fine two weeks after the accident and I call the insurance outfit to set up time to get the work written up. They would not come to me I had to bring it to them, all the way on the far side of Sacramento, 40 minutes away at a body shop that they recommended, and where there agent had an office onsite. A friend of mine had just had some work done at a place in Folsom and was very happy with the results. The place they wanted me to take it was owned by the same guy and had the same name so I figured what the heck. They told me it would be about 6 days. It was a Wednesday so figured I would be out the car for the weekend and get it back on the following Thursday. It all sounded reasonable enough. They did tell me it may need more work then they could see and that they would have to take it apart to see if there was any other damage. They said that would happen later that same day so parts could get on order fast and that they would call me if there was anything else. Again reasonable enough. This was all Wednesday the 21st of March. Days went by and I didn't hear from them, so I figured good no supplement, they must not have found any surprises. The following Monday the 26th they finally call me and tell me there is a supplement and that there is more damage. Why did it take them so long to take the fenders and grill apart? At this point I'm a bit annoyed but still holding out hope that it will work out in the end, and hoping to have the car back for the weekend. No call for the rest of the week, so Friday morning I call to see what's up. They tell me its been painted but has to cure and then it will be put together on Monday. I'm a bit disappointed at the prospect of another weekend without my car, but the end seemed to be drawing close. Finally not Monday but Wednesday the 4th they call me and tell me it's done. Kelly got off work a bit early so we could go pick it up before they close a 5:30. As we pull in the lot at about 5:00 I see the car but I decided to just go in and follow their lead. There is a lady ahead of me at the counter picking up her car. "Do you want to come out with me and look it over before you sign the receptionist says". "Oh no" the lady said. "I'm sure you did a great job". I get to the counter, and tell her I would like to look mine over. She walks out with me to where Kelly is already inspecting the car. As we approach I see things that don't look right. As I get closer I see that a first grader could tell you that things aren't right. The fender is markedly not parallel with the hood. The headlight assembly is way to far forward, to the point that I can see behind the rubber seal that is supposed to seal against the hood. On closer inspection I find that they also did not pull the subtle dents in the hood and that there are three evenly spaced chips in the paint along the edge of the fender that was not involved with the accident. Clearly they had dragged something along the edge or set something there. The lady was very apologetic she said she had no idea how this could have happened and that it would get first priority in getting fixed quickly. I ask how long will it take. She tells me they will have to bump some other jobs but she thinks I could have it back Friday. I leave very disappointed. Friday afternoon I call them. The parts are painted but not back on the car. Another weekend without my car. Monday afternoon I call them. They think they may have it don't by the end of the day, and they will call me and let me know. Later that day, at the last minute for me to organize Kelly getting off work and going to pick it up, I call them again. They tell me they are done. I ask the lady if she has looked at the car. She says no but she will and she will call if she finds any problems. I get there at about 5:10 this time and the car is nowhere to be seen. She calls on the intercom for someone to bring it around. About 5:25 they bring it around. I looks a lot better this time but the back of the hood is sitting just a hair lower they the fender such that if you look at it from the front it looks fine but if you look from the side with a critical eye you can see that it's not quite right, and one head light is still perceptibly further forward than the other. I sign the papers. My level of dissatisfaction with the car has been surpassed by my level of loathing any further dealing with these people.