Monthly Archives: April 2009

Airplane Adventure #2

Before I owned an airplane, I rented from the local flying club.  I had just been checked out in a Cessna 182 TR (Turbo/Retractable).  I summoned the most daring soul (in this case it was John Horstman) to assist in this assignment and flew from 3V5 downtown Fort Collins, to Nebraska to inspect an egg ranch.

I loved the airplane as it had some giddy-up-go and with the high wing had great visibility.  Seeing the ground below, however, is not the same as finding your destination as you will see.

Our destination was O’Neill Nebraska, where we had reserved a courtesy car.   For those unfamiliar with the general aviation community, a courtesy car is the most junked out car they can find that is mechanically functional(meaning it has a forward and reverse), and is sure not to pose a theft risk.  I once had one that had a rat in the glove box, but that’s another aviation story.

Back to the flight, we were using a loran guidance system which was the precursor to GPS.  It was good, and we backed it up with VOR guidance- which is WWII vintage technology.    We were supposed to be there by now, and still had about 45 minutes of fuel remaining.  No airport in sight.  I dropped to 1000 feet in altitude to get the best legal look of the area, cross checked the instruments and map… no airport.  Just then, a glaring siren came on over the speaker system.  My flying companion started to turn a little white and I saw that elevated heart beat sweaty palm look envelop him.  I wasn’t ready to panic.  It was summer time and there were many fields I could substitute for an airstrip.  Still, imagine the siren screaming in our ears, destination undiscovered, with not much fuel remaining.

I decided at that point to follow the river north; deducting that any community would likely be on the river.  I saw the river on the map and guessed the destination would be north near the river.    Just a few minutes later, the town and airport came into view.  A quick downwind—-I now dropped the landing gear.  At that moment, the siren in the cockpit stopped.  It turned out that the siren would come on due to low manifold pressure and low altitude if the landing gear was not dropped.  Great safety feature… especially if you know what it means.

The courtesy car had painted on its side in large bold lettering “NOT TO LEAVE THE TOWN OF O’NEILL NEBRASKA.”  I was raised in Wyoming so city limits don’t apply.  We drove 50 miles to the egg ranch and felt like fugitives the entire time- there is a reason courtesy cars are free!  You can find an egg ranch without a map or navigation equipment if you are down wind… all part of the fun.

Lessons from this adventure:  When in doubt, follow the source of life (in this case the river) to the promised land.  Pay attention to the warning signs and, if possible, find out what they are in advance!   If you don’t want to feel like a fugitive, go ahead and pay for a rental car- but you will miss out on part of the fun of these grand adventures in general aviation.

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Posted by on April 29, 2009 in Uncategorized


Straight Talk

In Warren Buffet’s annual management letter to his company, he gives undiluted truth without spin.  As an example of some of his statements:

“I didn’t do that job very well last year.  My hope was to make several multibillion acquisitions that would add new and significant streams of earnings to the many we already have.  But I struck out.”

“Rather than address the situation head-on, however, I wasted several years while we attempted to sell the operations…..Fault me for dithering.”

In one of his memos to staff, Alan Greenberg of Bear Stearns said:

“We were recently forced to fire a trader for mismarking positions in his trading account to conceal a loss.  Let there be no misunderstanding:  this is stealing and will not be tolerated……Absolution can be granted for losing money but never lying about it.”

We are living in a world where absolute truth is diluted to put off natural consequences, or to simply hide the facts for a later day.  All this does is create ultimate distrust and destroy relationships, companies, families and culture.

Recently I had to address some nasty rumors a competitor was spreading about our company.  I simply used facts and truth to set the record straight.  Still the deliberate acts of this situation cast a momentary doubt toward us in the eyes of our client, which took time to rectify.  Personally I believe that the pressures of the current economy and the degradation of values have led to situations where “white lies” are often acceptable to some.  The tax of not being truthful and straightforward is enormous.

The world we live in does not need to detract from the people we ought to be.  Tough times should steel the values within us, not erode them.  There is no justification in telling “White Lies”, in degrading others to move ourselves forward, in being anything less than totally honest.

Ultimately, this is expressed in our corporate vision, which is to ingrain in our clients and associates, a complete confidence and trust…..this can only happen in an atmosphere of transparency, honesty and truthfulness.

I’m so convinced of this, that the quote on my e-mail by Mark Twain has become a permanent fixture:  “The best thing about telling the truth is you never have to think about what to say.”

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Posted by on April 23, 2009 in Uncategorized



One of my favorite authors, Robert Fulghum, wrote a book called “From Beginning To End, The Rituals of Our Lives”, wherein he makes this statement:

 “Everyone leads a ritualized life:  Rituals are repeated patterns of meaningful acts……If you understand them, you may enrich them.  In this way, the habits of a lifetime become sacred.  Is this so?”

 Let me tell you of a ritual I was introduced to in the high Wind River mountains of Wyoming.  It should not have come as a surprise, being in camp with some Slovenians from Rock Springs Wyoming (I have no idea how they got there).  My observance of this ritual first hand initially caused me some consternation about the company I was keeping.  I was raised with a sense of awe toward things sacred, and up to this point in my life, didn’t understand the truth that rituals and sacred are not necessarily in the same sphere as mine or other people.  This experience opened my eyes to a world of possibilities.

 In a hallowed meat processing plant in Rock Springs, is made a sausage wiener called a Kronski.  That this hot-dog/sausage type food apparently carried with it ritualistic and sacred qualities was a surprise to me—-but then again, I had a friend who truly believed a dill pickle could cure any sickness, so why not give this ritual I was about to witness a chance.

Dinner at dusk in the high wilderness qualifies as a ritualistic experience all by itself; and given the high altitude and lack of oxygen, could have lent itself to what came next.  The Kronski’s had been boiling on the camp fire, and dinner was about to commence.  But not before instructions came from the grand poo-bah John Kovach Sr., (father of Jon Kovach, Jr.), to grab a bun and prepare for the “Kronski Dance of Joy.”  It’s not like I could hale a cab and get the heck off this mountain while I was still alive—-so I grabbed a bun.  In it was placed the sausage-weiner called a Kronski. 

 ”Hold it high above your head” he said, “face east, and start to dance.”  OK, in case you think I’m pulling your leg, here is some proof before I continue—below is a former (I guess  the holistic promise of this dance doesn’t last forever) client of USR, doing the Kronski Dance of Joy.

Jon Kovach, Sr. (son) and John Kovach, Jr. (father) look on as a former client performs the Konski Dance of Joy ritual. Jon Kovach, Sr. (son) and John Kovach, Jr. (father) look on as a former client performs the Konski Dance of Joy ritual.

Some phrase was instructed to be uttered here, which I thankfully can’t remember, but it was something like “live long and prosper”….  You would have to receive the complete initiation in person to have it be valid anyway. 

 Then the sausage-wiener was consumed, and the promise of a new life began.  Wow—-only from Rock Springs Wyoming could such a fantastic ritual begin.

 As I reflected upon this experience, I realized that our lives are full of unique, fun, and even sacred personal rituals which are practiced at home and work—with our families and associates—which add meaning and value to our daily lives.  If you don’t have a “Kronski” ritual, create one.  If you need a ritual to bring some fun and life to the work place of otherwise mundane activities, create one.  Give it purpose, make it repeatable, let your hair down and enjoy the moment. 

 I believe the qualities of this ritual will eventually bring back to the USR fold, the client we lost through this experience.  Time will tell, but I am now a believer!

 When you create your rituals may I suggest that you don’t allow pictures—-that way some blog writer won’t mock it 20 years from now!

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Posted by on April 20, 2009 in Uncategorized


Never Look Back

I love packed lunches.  The love stems to my childhood days.  My father worked in the oil fields all his life-50 plus years for Marathon Oil Company.  He had a big metal lunch pail and a Stanley thermos.   Though he passed away a few years ago, I sill have his thermos in a prominent place in my office.  Mom would usually pack his lunch.  I tried to get my wife to do that- using my Moms example to prove why she should do it- and quickly learned that asking my wife to do it because my Mom did was not the best approach.  What can I say, Wyoming may be the “Equality State” but all things are not equal.

I would ride with Dad around the oil patch, and he would make sure an extra large lunch was packed when I came along so that we could share.  I even learned to like sardines on crackers… the ultimate protein food.  Sitting in that “pumpers” truck, listening to the oil wells groan and squeak as we chowed down on delectable treats like Zingers and canned peaches, this was the good life.

So it is not surprising that when my children asked me what I wanted for my last birthday, I pondered and said “a lunch pail.”  Ya, the good metal kind with a nice handle.  The kind that you could use as a weapon if need be to protect yourself.  The kind that would even hold the thermos.  The kind you could use as a tire block.

When I took off the wrapping paper, I kind of knew my kids had come through for me.  I could taste those sardines and hear the oil wells and smell the hydrogen sulfate just thinking about the great lunch pail experiences that would ensue.

As you see this picture of the actual lunch pail, I know it’s unfathomable to imagine my delight.  Wow, a “Little Mermaid” plastic lunch pail.  Thanks??  Now that’s manly!  I don’t think the Little Mermaid would approve of sardines.  So I packed up a nice lunch (by myself because my wife isn’t my mom; thank goodness after all) and off to work I went.   I received such perplexing feedback that I didn’t have the courage to bring it home to re-load the next day.  My thoughtful Admin, Kerstin, was so amazed that I would actually use it after hearing my longing for a for a manly lunch pail that she ordered me a metal one.

Out of respect of not looking a gift horse in the mouth, I have both lovely lunch pails on my shelf, each bringing fond but different memories, and I now take my lunch everyday in a plastic grocery bag.

Great childhood memories can never be replaced, and in most instances we ought not to try to do so.  The magic of memories makes us long for the good ole’ days, when in reality, we should focus on the present and enjoy that even more!  Here’s to Stanley Thermos’s and lunch pails and sardines and crackers!!

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Posted by on April 12, 2009 in Uncategorized