Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Joys of Home Ownership - Dishwasher Edition

The things you learn as a homeowner. In Kentucky, code requires that an air gap device be installed on the drain line from the dishwasher. Conceptually, I understood that this was a backflow prevention device that kept waste water from flowing back into the dishwasher during the drain cycle. However, I was ignorant of the exact mechanical workings.

Well, the past few weeks, the air gap was overflowing into the sink whenever we ran the dishwasher. Naturally, my wife was concerned about it and wanted the problem fixed. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and various DIY sites and videos on YouTube, I now understand how these things work, and what usually goes wrong with them.

The good news is that the air gap itself is a very simple device, mechanically. There are no moving parts whatsoever.

Dishwasher Air Gap
The dishwasher drain line connects to the nipple at the bottom of the air gap. The water flows up into a reservoir, and then is gravity fed back out through the nipple that sticks out at an angle. That outflow line is a 7/8" inner diameter hose that connects to the garbage disposal (if you have one) or to the plumbing stand pipe under your sink. The number one cause of overflow is constriction in that outflow hose. That constriction can either be a kink in the line or a dip (a u-shape) that drops below the connection point to the plumbing, or it can a build-up of gunk in the line.

In my case, it was a build-up of gunk. The link was a straight shot from my air gap to my disposal with no kinks or dips (it was "downhill all the way"). I removed the hose and upon visual inspection I could only see a pin prick of light through one end. I flushed the hose with water from my outside hose. I didn't bother washing it out with soap or other cleaners. Once it was nice and clear, I hooked it back up to the air gap and the disposal.

I haven't run a load through the dishwasher since I fixed it, but I'm fairly confident my issue has been resolved.

Oh, the number reason for the outflow device to overflow? That would be an incorrect installation of your garbage disposal. There is a nipple on the garbage disposal for your dishwasher drain line. Well, since not everybody has a dishwasher, the inlet hole is covered with a knockout plug. If you don't remove that knockout plug, obviously there's no where for the water to go. I almost made that mistake myself when I replaced our garbage disposal a year ago.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The ACA, Utilization, and Premiums

An overlooked aspect of the ACA (at least, I've not seen anyone talk about this specifically), is what will happen to utilization. In a letter to employees about our 2014 benefits, the following comment was made: "However, premiums are directly affected by utilization and, as determined by our actuaries, utilization increased requiring the increases that we have implemented." That is specifically talking about why our insurance premiums are increasing.

But, that statement encompasses a more general central truth in insurance. Premium levels are set to cover the costs of utilization, or the amount that the insurer will have to pay out in claims. Think about auto and home owners insurance policies. Everyone knows that if you have a bunch of claims, your rates go up. This is because you are more expensive to insure. This also explains the popularity of "good driver" or "accident forgiveness" discounts. If you have a track record of low or no claims, they're "making money" on your policy, so they can afford to overlook one bad act.

Now, extend this thought model to health insurance and the ACA. A significant number of people who either had catastrophic plans or had no insurance at all will now carry insurance per the individual mandate. One of the core basket of services are annual check-ups/physicals, at no cost to the policy holder. Please notice I didn't say "free", as the physician will still be reimbursed for their time. I don't know about you, but if my policy says I'm entitled to something, I'm most likely going to get it or use, especially if it's "free".

So you will now have this spike in utilization. Imagine what this will do from a supply and demand perspective. Demand (for physician services) will increase, and supply is fairly static, and may actually be decreasing as doctors change how they run their practices. This means that you will wait longer for appointments, and delays will inevitably increase. So there will be a negative impact just on being able to see your doctor.

And now back to my primary point. "[P]remiums are directly affected by utilization." Utilization is going to increase. After a year or two of solid actuarial data, what do you think will necessarily happen to policy premiums?

In other words, if you think the ACA plans are expensive now, you ain't seen nothing yet.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Praise Matters

I started teaching a Wednesday night bible study at my church this "semester". We're about 7 weeks into it, and it has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience so far.

After class last night, one of the regular attendees came up to me. He asked "Are you a teacher? I mean, a real teacher?" He was asking if that was my trade or profession. I told him that no, I did computer stuff, but at one time I'd thought about being a teacher.

He gripped my upper arm, stared me in the eyes and said "No, you ARE a teacher. You're doing a great job leading this class." As many times as I've felt inadequate to the task of teaching this class, that moment meant a lot to me. I left church last night encouraged in my spirit much more than usual.

Sometimes the simplest of encouragements can mean the world to the recipient. You do have to be extravagant or over the top in your praise, but sincerity does matter. This gentleman didn't just say "good class" or "good job tonight" as he walked past me. He took the time to stop and engage with me, to stare me in the eye, and to speak from the bottom of his heart.

When is the last time you offered someone sincere praise for a job well done?

Praise matters, and sincere praise even more so.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Unused Employee Access Groups in Kronos

Back in April, I wrote about how to clean up Employee Access Groups in Kronos. Specifically, I looked at how to identify inactive labor levels that were still assigned to an access group.

Another bit of maintenance that I like to do is periodically removing unused access groups. I frequently create user-specific groups. When that employee is no longer with the organization, there is no need to keep their access group hanging around. It just clutters up the list of available groups and is one more item you may have to audit.

Fortunately, the query to identify unused groups is very straightforward. All we have to is join over to the 'prsnaccsassign' table, get a count of how many managers are assigned to an access group, and then limit the output to those access groups with a count of 0.

    laboracctsetid 'LAS ID',
    shortnm 'Mgr Acces Grp Name',
    count(personid) 'Count of Mgrs Using'
left outer join
    laboracctset.laboracctsetid = prsnaccsassign.mgraccesslasid
    labacctsettypeid = 2
group by
    count(personid) = 0

Again, just like last time I'm filtering on labor account sets being used as Employee Access Groups (labacctsettypeid = 2). Also, I'm running this across all employees, not just active ones. If an access group is assigned to a terminated associate, it will still get a count and be excluded from this report.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

12 Years Later

12 years ago today, I was sitting in a conference room in an office building on the North Dallas Parkway, getting ready for a vendor demo from PeopleSoft. As more and more people arrived, word started trickling in about the planes crashing into the WTC towers. At the morning break, all of the consultants were busy trying to catch up with friends and co-workers that had been traveling that day, to see if they were safe. Everyone else was glued to the TV screens in the lobby of the building, trying to make sense of what happened.

We canceled the demo, and my company shut down. I was working for Greyhound at the time, so a shut down meant that all of our buses came off the roads. They were allowed to continue to the nearest Greyhound terminal, and then they stopped. Passengers were stranded, and emotions were running high.

Living in the D/FW metroplex meant that you got used to all the air traffic. A major international airport, and another regional airport, will fill the skies with planes. It was a surreal experience to not see any contrails arcing across the sky, or hear the roar of a passenger jet clawing for altitude.

To my knowledge, I didn't know anyone that died that day, but it still had a profound impact on me. It made me more aware of my surroundings, and unfortunately less trusting of those around me. It showed that our physical life is ephemeral, and can end in an instant. It proved that there are those in the world that seek harm for harm's sake.

And yet I'm comforted by the words of Joseph to his brothers, upon the death of their father, "as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good." God is in control. We might not understand why something happens, but that doesn't mean God is clueless. Life is not a series of random chaotic events. There is a Maker, and He still reigns.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Serving Christ by Serving Others

During my social media fast, one of the things I realized was just how much time I had been spending on social media. A quick stop by the computer to just check up on Facebook real quick turned into a 45 minute dive down the rabbit hole as I followed links, chased stories and otherwise wasted time. Likewise, what was intended to be a quick perusal of my Twitter timeline turned into 30 or minutes of watching the various columns scroll, in some vain effort to keep up with a vast information flow.

While I wasn't on social media, I found that I had more time to read, more time to spend with my wife and family, and more time to just simply do the things that needed doing. Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't suddenly become some productive machine of a perfect little angel. I found new ways to waste my time, but that's a discussion for another day. So, even though I'm dipping my toes back into the social media ocean, I'm trying to be much more cognizant of exactly how much time I'm spending on it. I'm trying to set firmer boundaries, and do more productive things with my time.

So what does all of that have to do with the title of this post? Exactly this. We need to be more intentional about what we're doing with our time. I've often heard it said that we must be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. I had thought it was a scripture reference, but it appears that it's actually a quote from Mother Teresa:
"Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now."
~Saint Teresa of Avila
This goes along with the story of Jesus washing the disciples feet, found in John 13. But the more important verses immediately follow, when Jesus talks about what he did. Take a look at John 13:12-16:
12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
"For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you." Is he saying that we should go around washing the feet of our friends? Not quite, unless they're laid up and need the help. He's talking about service. The job of washing feet was relegated to the lowest servants and slaves in a household. It was definitely not a job of high honor. Jesus is telling us that we need to debase ourselves, get off our high horse, and get dirty helping our neighbors.

What does that look like? It doesn't have to be any huge undertaking. For instance, when I got home from work this afternoon I knew it was going to be at least an hour before dinner. Everyone was off doing various different things, and I had some free time. Instead of getting sucked into a social media time waste, I thought about going for a walk. But then I thought about my next door neighbors. She is a single mom, and her son, who usually mows the yard,  broke his leg last week. He's still in a cast and hasn't been able to get it mowed. So, instead of walking in circles around the neighborhood with buds jammed in my ears, I dragged out the mower and walked in circles around their yard. It was probably a better workout for me too. I'd hoped to get it done before she got home, but she caught me in the act. The was the most welcome "confused" look I've ever seen.

This is what service looks like. And we need to talk about it, and tell others about it, but not to brag on ourselves. We need to brag on Jesus, and we need to model what servanthood looks like. We have to be a model for the younger Christians in our church, and for our families. As I was heading outside, my oldest daughter commented that I was "so kind." I'm glad that she noticed, and that she thinks that. But I also want her to understand that it's not just kindness that leads me to do that.

It's serving Christ by serving others.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Social Media Fast

I was listening to a podcast yesterday from Desiring God entitled "Sacred and Secular". One of the themes discussed was how Matt Reagan, a college minister, responds to students asking him "Is it okay if I do this or that?" Part of the discussion he has with them revolves around how much control that activity has in their lives. Is it something that makes you twitchy when you've been away from it for a while? Are you constantly thinking about when you can do it again? In short, does it control you or do you control it?

As I was reflecting on that, I was reminded of a discussion I'd read about fasting. It was said that fasting will show you what's REALLY important to you. As you try and cope with your hunger for food, other internal hungers can come to the fore. When we are stressed, more of our true inner nature is revealed.

Putting all of this together, I came to the realization that I was spending way too much time on various social media sites. I was stuck in a rut, where I'd be sitting in front of the computer, refreshing the page or just watching my timeline scroll by, waiting for the next interesting nugget to pop up on my screen. There are so many other things I could be doing instead, like writing this blog post. I haven't posted since the end of June, to commemorate my anniversary. There have been many things I've wanted to write about, but I've wasted my time and not put deed to intent.

So, yesterday around lunch I posted on both Facebook and Twitter that I was taking a break from social media for at least one week. I removed the tabs from my default home group in my browser and logged out of the applications on my various electronic devices. The time that I would have spent there I intend to spend reading, or writing, or studying or with my family.

I know others, like Rod Dreher, tried something similar. I believe it was last summer he and his wife implemented a "no electronics" policy with their kids. As I recall, it wasn't a total ban, but they dramatically limited the amount of time the kids spent with their noises 6" away from a 4" screen. He said that the difference in attitude and behavior was palpable. I'm hoping for a similar result through this effort.

Fasting from food is intended to have us focus more on God and our spiritual appetites, and less on our physical appetites. I think fasting from social media can be used in much the same way.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)