Soul Food for the Week of April Fools with no Fooling

Happy Soul Food Friday!

You don’t have to be an engineer to appreciate this story…
A toothpaste factory had a problem. They sometimes shipped empty boxes without the tube inside. This challenged their perceived quality with the buyers and distributors. Understanding how important the relationship with them was, the CEO of the company assembled his top people. They decided to hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem. The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, and third-parties selected.  Six months (and $8 million) later they had a fantastic solution – on time, on budget, and high quality. Everyone in the project was pleased.

They solved the problem by using a high- tech precision scale that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box weighed less than it should. The line would stop, someone would walk over, remove the defective box, and then press another button to re-start the line. As a result of the new package monitoring process, no empty boxes were being shipped out of the factory.

With no more customer complaints, the CEO felt the $8 million was well spent. He then reviewed the line statistics report and discovered the number of empty boxes picked up by the scale in the first week was consistent with projections, however, the next three weeks were zero! The estimated rate should have been at least a dozen boxes a day. He had the engineers check the equipment, they verified the report as accurate.

Puzzled, the CEO traveled down to the factory, viewed the part of the line where the precision scale was installed, and observed just ahead of the new $8 million dollar solution sat a $20 desk fan blowing the empty boxes off the belt and into a bin. He asked the line supervisor what that was about.

“Oh, that,” the supervisor replied, “Bert, the kid from maintenance, put it there because he was tired of walking over, removing the box and re-starting the line every time the bell rang.”

It is better to give than to receive:

We have all heard this notion and some of us have difficulty internalizing it. This article might help…

How much does a teacher make?
We value education, but as a culture fail to value the real contribution teachers make to young people, our communities and by extension to our society.
This poetic slam recalibrates our thinking and provides a healthy vent for all those educators who make a difference every day!

I love quotes. Here are 10 quotes that changed Robin Sharma’s life.
Hopefully, one of them will strike a resonant chord in yours.
As he says, “keep releasing your excuses + pursuing outright mastery + making the world a better place because you’re in it.”
10 Quotes That Changed My Life

Creativity can come in many flavors:
Up for a good time? Check out what these young ladies can do…

Cranes on the Brain:

Courtesy of Charles Smith
Diane and I spent last week in Nebraska. Needless to say, we didn’t go for the dining. We went to witness the spring migration of the Sandhill Cranes and their dining habits on the Platte River. Last September in Colorado, we came down with a hopeless case of “cranes on the brain” after hearing Jane Goodall remark that she heads out to Nebraska almost every year for the show — when a half million cranes make their way out of their winter refuges in New Mexico and Texas, winging their way to Canada for making baby cranes, known as colts. By the time they are landing on the Platte, the cranes have been airborne for 800 miles, give or take. Goodall called it one of the greatest migrations on earth. Who better to know?

Here are a few shots…


The best images show up on the gloomiest, snowiest days. Something about the muted nature of the backgrounds seems to fit my impression of these animals.


Cranes are mischievous and slightly crazed when the race is on to breed and get to the feeding grounds. Some of the males will dance and show off in the most wondrous ways — springing up and chucking various bits of debris at rivals. That’s my interpretation as a fellow fella, but take it with a grain of salt. Some say they are merely relieving social stress with their antics.


Sandhills are very easily spooked and it’s quite hard to get close, especially when the polar jet stream has looped down into Nebraska and the temp is 16 F with wicked winds out of the north. It’s hard to creep up on them before freezing in place. Indeed, my camera froze up a couple times and I’ve never seen that before. This is probably my favorite shot from the trip – a blast of life in muted tones of brown and grey.


Although there is some bit of controversy, Sandhills are thought to be the oldest birds on the planet with a fossil from Nebraska dating back about 10 million years. The closest other extant bird species seems to be about 1 or 2 million years old. That means there is something within cranes that somehow withstands the ravages of unlucky circumstances and extinction. They’ve made it through 23 ice ages.


There are about 1,800 cranes in this one view (yes, my OCD made me count them on the hi-rez image). All of them are chatting with each other as they fly (some call is bugling) and the sound of them passing overhead is one of the great earthly pleasures. It’s a sound that reaches back into deep time, the sound of a few million annual migrations. The cranes of March should be on everyone’s to-see-and-hear list.


A group making their final spiraling approach with landing gear deployed.

Jane Goodall was not the first to put me onto cranes. That would be Aldo Leopold who in 1949 wrote the astonishingly beautiful and, at times, heartbreaking Sand County Almanac. That one book, page by page, turned me into a conservationist. Aldo’s language is evocative, emotional, visual, auditory, anthropomorphic, and remarkably similar to that of J.R.R. Tolkien, except the subject matter is this very real earth, its varied inhabitants, and their plight. Here are a couple passages about cranes:

“A dawn wind stirs on the great marsh. With almost imperceptible slowness it rolls a bank of fog across the wide morass. Like the white ghost of a glacier the mists advance, riding over phalanxes of tamarack, sliding across bog meadows heavy with dew. A single silence hangs from horizon to horizon.

Out of some far recess of the sky a tinkling of little bells falls soft upon the listening land. Then again silence. Now comes a baying of some sweet-throated hound, soon the clamor of a responding pack. Then a far clear blast of hunting horns, out of the sky into the fog.

High horns, low horns, silence, and finally a pandemonium of trumpets, rattles, croaks, and cries that almost shakes the bog with its nearness, but without yet disclosing whence it comes. At last a glint of sun reveals the approach of a great echelon of birds. On motionless wing they emerge from the lifting mists, sweep a final arc of sky, and settle in clangorous descending spirals to their feeding grounds. A new day has begun on the crane marsh. 

 …Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language. The quality of cranes lies, I think, in this higher gamut, as yet beyond the reach of words.

This much though can be said: our appreciation of the crane grows with the slow unraveling of earthly history. His tribe, we now know, stems out of the remote Eocene. The other members of the fauna in which he originated are long since entombed within the hills. When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men. 

 And so they live and have their being–these cranes–not in the constricted present, but in the wider reaches of evolutionary time. Their annual return is the ticking of the geologic clock. Upon the place of their return they confer a peculiar distinction. Amid the endless mediocrity of the commonplace, a crane marsh holds a paleontological patent of nobility, won in the march of eons. The sadness discernible in some marches arises, perhaps, from their once having harbored cranes. Now they stand humbled, adrift in history.

… Someday, perhaps in the very process of our benefactions, perhaps in the fullness of geologic time, the last crane will trumpet his farewell and spiral skyward form the great marsh. High out of the clouds will fall the sound of hunting horns, the baying of the phantom pack, the tinkle of little bells, and then a silence never to be broken, unless perchance in some far pasture of the Milky Way.”

–Aldo Leopold — Sand County Almanac, 1949

Enjoy the remarkable wonder of Antarctica:

Which of these is your favorite pic?

Please give it a few moments to load. Breathe…

Click here

Thanks this week go to Marianne H., Gailya S., Dan M., Robin S., Heidi D., Charles S. and Larry H.

P20 Once social change begins

Pay it forward you can’t take it with you…

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”    –Patanjali

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