What? Another rerun? Well, yes. You totally get what you pay for at Down the Road. This is a favorite post from 2010.
Though I’m a city boy through and through, I have a soft spot in my heart for vintage farm equipment, especially vintage Oliver farm equipment.
You see, my dad worked in quality control for Oliver Corporation from about the mid 1960s, through the time the company became White Farm Equipment in the mid 1970s, to the day the plant gates were locked for the last time in the mid 1980s.
Every time I go to the Indiana State Fair, I wander through the rows of vintage tractors hoping to find some Olivers from the years my dad worked there. I hit pay dirt this year.
I don’t care at all about the White tractors. During the White years, Dad grew weary through repeated layoffs and the South Bend plant’s closing, after which he spent months unemployed. I associate White with bad times in our family. But Dad always seemed proud to make Oliver tractors. I remember no time when he was happier. The Oliver years were good to our family.
After Oliver gave way to White, my dad came home with stacks of castoff Oliver logo stickers like the one below. I’ll bet he still has some.
Also spotted at the Indiana State Fair:
a 1939 International farm truck. See it here.
A couple years ago I told you the story of the 1910 Glossbrenner Mansion, on Meridian St. at 32nd St. in Indianapolis. Read it here. The preservation advocates at Indiana Landmarks had just purchased the home and held a holiday open house there, which I attended.
Indiana Landmarks has completed a number of improvements to the mansion, including removing a 1950s addition, and is about to place the property on the market. But first, they’re opening it up to the public for one last chance to see it. The event is this Thursday, April 4, fom 5 to 7 pm. It’s free, but you need a ticket; click here to get one.
If you can’t make it, here are a few photos I took when I visited in 2010. This is the main entry.
This parlor is on the first floor.
Everywhere you look, rich woods surround you.
Another historic Indianapolis house is for sale:
the Boardman House. Check it out!
On this Good Friday, I’d like to repost a story from a few years ago. I’m now a member of the little church in this story, and we will observe this Good Friday just as described here.
I went to an evening church service last Friday, Good Friday. I’d never done that before.
My Christian heritage has its roots in Restoration Movement churches (Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and Christian Churches). These churches’ original goal was to restore Christianity as practiced in New Testament times. They mostly ignore the liturgical calendar. The ultra-conservative Churches of Christ ignore it altogether; they don’t even observe Christmas and Easter. (The Bible, they reason, doesn’t explicitly authorize those holidays.) So while we’re all aware of Good Friday, it’s often not held up any higher than any other day.
My Christian Church congregation hasn’t had a Good Friday service while I’ve been a member. Other congregations in our fellowship do, however, and one of them invited us to join them this year. West Park Christian Church has served its Westside Indianapolis community for more than 100 years. 1910s and 1920s neighborhood photos hanging inside the church show tidy new working-class homes; today the houses are dilapidated, the residents are poor, and the streets are unsafe after dark.
We began by walking the neighborhood. A couple men hoisted a large wooden cross onto their shoulders and we headed out, about a hundred of us, calling out greetings to the people sitting on their front porches and out in their front yards enjoying an unusually warm early-Spring evening. We stopped at the homes of several ailing church members and of community leaders to ask them out so we could pray with and for them. We stopped at the community center and at the neighborhood park and prayed over them, too. There’s no way this neighborhood doesn’t know about West Park Christian Church and what it stands for. This church is clearly in a ripe mission field. I envied them their opportunity to serve.
So many modern churches today have rock bands and sing nothing but upbeat praise songs. I understand why; it reaches so many younger people. I’m all for what’s effective. But while I was in the Church of Christ, we sang the old hymns and spirituals a cappella in four-part harmony and I really loved it. I came to have a deep affection for many of those old songs – It Is Well with My Soul, When My Love to Christ Grows Weak, Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?, I Surrender All, When All of God’s Singers Get Home, and many others. I have missed them. We sang the old songs this Good Friday night. A pianist accompanied us through five or six songs, but after the first verse of Onward, Christian Soldiers, he stopped playing. Everybody was really singing, raising their voices to God, almost clamoring to be heard. I heard a few voices in the back singing the bass and tenor parts, emboldening me to do the same. Then the pianist played the opening notes of When I Survey The Wondrous Cross and, as we began to sing, again let his hands rest and our voices carry. After the first verse I was so moved by our blended voices lifting so powerfully to God on this day we specially gathered to observe Christ’s death that I began to cry.
The joyless work of selling our church building and planning to build a new one as we try to keep a financially challenged congregation afloat has taken me away from the real point of service. I was reminded of it on Good Friday night. We are to go bring the lost to God and turn our faces to Him in worship, giving him ourselves to use for His purposes. And it was the death of Christ on the cross that makes it all possible.
See a 1914 photo of West Park
Christian Church and its congregation here.
We had another pitch-in recently at church, and I took my camera along again. I was thrilled when several members were very happy to see my Pentax ME hanging from my neck and asked if I’d be sure to photograph them at some point during the meal.
Morris was first in line, asking me to photograph him with his wife, Diana. I love the expression on Diana’s face, though I wish the lighting were a little more flattering on Morris.
Mitchell was eager to flash his muscle for the camera. All the teenagers were pretty animated for my lens.
These boys were eager to be photographed together, and sat very nicely for me. They asked to see the photo right away, which of course wasn’t possible with my old film camera. My explanation was met with puzzled looks, so I showed them that there was no screen on the back of the camera. I wish I could have photographed the surprised looks on their faces! They simply had no concept of a film camera.
The boy on the left sat with his mother for another photograph. Can you tell by his body language that he loves his mama?
I was shooting with a SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/2 lens. Even using moderately fast Kodak Tri-X 400 film, the available light let me shoot only at f/2 or f/2.8. That made depth of field pretty shallow, leaving little margin for focusing error. I’m pretty sure that the lens goes a little soft at f/2, too. Both may have contributed to this shot being a little less than crisp. I have an SMC Pentax 55mm f/1.7 lens; I might try it next time in hopes that its f/2 is crisper. I might also move up to ISO 800 film to give myself another stop of headroom.
This is Rob, our pastor. He’s been my friend and a mentor for years.
I had prints made of these and gave them to all the subjects. They were delighted. In an age when digital photos are so disposable, there’s still something a little special about a black-and-white print, even if it was just a quick print from the Walgreens photo center.
I’ve been shooting more black and white
film lately. See more b/w shots here.
I’ve heard it again and again at work. “We need to hire a real A player for this job, a total rock star.”
This statement usually comes at a time some critical task or function isn’t being done well (or at all) and it’s causing projects to fail. “If we can just bring in a super-skilled specialist,” the thinking goes, “it would solve all of our problems!”
Sometimes this gets stretched into a one-size-fits-all approach to hiring. “Let’s hire only A players,” the thinking goes, “and then get out of their way and let them perform.”
No doubt about it: A players are extremely talented and deeply experienced. They are heavily self-motivated and especially hardworking. They are creative problem solvers who focus on getting the job done.
But don’t assume that putting A players on the job is like sprinkling magic fairy dust that makes problems go away. That’s setting them up to fail – and setting your company up to fail, too. Companies are much better served building high-performing teams.
A players are no substitute for leadership. The most important step in that leadership is to help your people form solid teams. I make software for a living, and I’ve been in leadership roles for more than 15 years now. I’ve delivered many, many successful software projects with teams made mostly of B players. That’s because company leadership:
- Created a shared, common vision that everybody rallied around and focused on
- Built a process framework within which team members worked, which set standards for workflow, quality, and completion
- Praised and rewarded team members for jobs well done
- Hired for fit within the company culture, as well as for skill
A players are hard to find. A reason why I often hire B players is because most people aren’t A players. I’d say maybe one in ten people I’ve ever worked with are that good. Many of the truly outstanding geeks move to the coasts or to Texas, where the opportunities are greater. Here in Indianapolis, anybody who wants to hire only A players will soon run out of them and will sooner or later be forced to hire B players too. Those B players will work best under strong leadership and in highly functioning teams.
A players often have the biggest egos. A little swagger is part of the A-player territory. If you don’t lead well and help them gel into a team, conflicting egos will put your projects at risk.
A long time ago I used to follow rec.music, a once-popular Internet forum about music. In a recurring discussion thread, members wrote about which musicians they’d put in the best supergroup ever. The debate raged — Eric Clapton on guitar, and Neil Peart on the drums, and Paul McCartney on bass, … no no, Phil Collins on drums and Jeff Beck on guitar! …no! It must be John Paul Jones on bass!
It was fun to fantasize about such things. But do you really think a band with some of the biggest egos in music would gel? I’m reminded of We Are the World, the 1985 charity song recorded by a supergroup of pretty much every popular musician of the time. The famous story goes that someone taped a sign that read, “Check Your Egos At the Door” on the recording-studio entrance – but that didn’t stop arguments over many of the recording’s details, with at least one musician walking out and not returning.
Still, A players can be mighty useful. There are times when it’s right to hire A players. Here are the times when I’ve settled for no less than an A player:
- Lead roles – I needed someone to figure out some thorny problems, and to set the pace and point the way for the team.
- Lone wolves – I needed someone for a highly specialized job where I was unlikely to need more people in that role for a long time, especially a role where I lacked the skills to do it myself and therefore would have a hard time managing its details.
Really, I’ve never not hired an A player just because he or she was an A player. Who wouldn’t want their skill and determination on the team? I’ve only passed on A players when they would be a poor cultural fit in my company and in my teams.
Technical problems are easier to solve
than people problems. Read why.
I first published this in 2010 but have been thinking of it recently as I’ve been upgrading some furnishings in my home.
This was my favorite mug.
A long time ago I worked in a museum’s gift shop. We sold works of local artists and for several weeks featured a talented potter. I was taken with this fellow’s work for its bold color, especially four coffee mugs in this motif. I wanted them all, but could afford only one, and chose this one.
This mug was as much a pleasure to use as it was to behold. Its slender angled lip felt good on my lips. The thumbprint-sized indentation pressed into the top of the handle made it very comfortable to hold.
I’ve had very few possessions that satisfied me as much as this mug. I drank my coffee from it for 21 years, first at college, then in my first apartment, then at home after I was married, and finally at work. But sadly it was damaged when I moved it to my last job. Something must have struck the box it was in. When I filled it with coffee, a puddle quickly formed wherever I set it.
Buddhists have a saying: “This cup is already broken.” It’s meant to teach us that nothing lasts forever, so enjoy it while you have it. (The book of Ecclesiastes agrees, by the way, if you aren’t too keen on Buddhist teachings.) Enjoying what I have has been a recurring theme on this blog. For example, I’ve written before about how I was so focused on taking care of my first brand new car that it robbed me of some of the pleasure of driving it. I have struggled with this lesson all my life.
I grew up in a working-class family. We weren’t poor, but we earned every thing we owned, and little was handed to me. I saved to buy things I wanted, such as my bicycle and my first old cameras. Every purchase was dear because my money didn’t stretch very far. I was always very upset when something broke or wore out, because I would have to save for a long time to replace it. This shaped my attitude toward my possessions. I have tended to buy used or inexpensive things, because when they broke or wore out I could soothe myself by saying that I hadn’t lost much. When I have received especially nice or new things, I have tended not to want to use them.
After my grandfather died, I got his pocket knife. It was a gentleman’s knife, two small blades in a slender silver body. I left it in a dresser drawer for years, afraid to carry it lest I lose it. But I couldn’t very well enjoy my grandfather’s memory that way, and so one morning I finally slipped it into my pocket. When I got home that night, I found that it had fallen out somewhere along the way, and I never saw it again.
Stinging from the loss, I became even more parsimonious in using my possessions. At about this time I realized I drank more coffee at work than at home – and I resisted taking my mug to work for several years out of worry that it would more readily be lost, damaged, or stolen there.
And then I found it necessary to sell almost everything I owned. I kept clothes, photographs, and some furniture, but most everything else went. It was not easy. But after it was all gone and I carried on with my life, I was surprised by how little of it I missed. Today, I occasionally wish for a couple old cameras I especially enjoyed and a few of my old record albums that have never been released on CD. That’s it. I can’t even remember some of the things I owned. It was, I am stunned to have learned, just stuff.
That my mug escaped being sold was merely an oversight, but one I was glad to have made. As soon as I came across it, I took it right to work where I could enjoy it best. And sure enough, that’s where my mug met its demise. But I got to use it for seven years at work before that happened – and in that time, I figure I drank at least 3,600 cups of coffee from it. I enjoyed it to the hilt!
And so I’ve been thinking about how to extend this idea. How will I behave differently if I think as though my kids are already grown and gone? As though I’ve already moved on from my current job? As though I’ve already remarried and left my single life behind?
What else can you think of?
It never fails that about the first of March I start itching to get out onto the old roads. The old roads are there all year, of course, but I prefer to drive them when it’s warm!
One of my sons is learning to drive. I usually have him chauffeur me around while I run errands, but city traffic has been unnerving for him. (His dad’s anxieties probably play a role there too.) I thought it would do him good to get out on a lightly traveled highway and find out that driving can be a pleasure. There’s no better highway for that in Indiana than US 40, the old National Road. With nearby parallel I-70 bearing the lion’s share of traffic, US 40 is often empty.
My favorite abandoned bridge is next to US 40 just beyond the Indianapolis sprawl. I’ve written about it before; check it out. There’s a good place to pull off the highway right by the bridge, so I drove to it as a convenient place to let my son start driving. But first, we explored the bridge. I had always visited this bridge in the summer, when foliage obscured it. It was great to look it over on this late-winter day when it was so visible.
This bridge was built in the early 1920s, but carried traffic for less than 20 years. In about 1940, the road was widened to four lanes and routed across two new side-by-side bridges. My educated guess is that this bridge wasn’t used because its lanes are narrow. US 40 was widened to be part of a nationwide highway network that could rapidly move troops and military equipment should it become necessary for national defense. (That’s a major reason our Interstate system was built, too.) The new bridges are a lot wider than this one, making them sufficient for the military task.
Time isn’t kind to an unmaintained bridge. Trees are growing through the crumbling deck! Concrete-arch bridges are filled with dirt underneath the deck, which must be providing the foundation for these trees’ root systems.
Shortly we got underway with my son behind the wheel. We drove to Terre Haute, had a little dinner, and then came home. My son seemed to enjoy the trip.
You can virtually tour this part of
Indiana’s National Road here.