Kaizen – Change for the Better!


harass fur leather

“People are more violently opposed to fur than leather because it’s safer to harass rich women than motorcycle gangs.”

~Alexei Sayle

pensacola-helen backTonight is my next-to-last biker night before moving to Okinawa.  It’s hard to imagine that it’s all coming so close now.  It’s almost August, and that’s when it will really finally sink in….

When I settled in Pensacola I didn’t really know if it would be long-term or not.  However, the longer I stayed, the deeper and further my roots grew, and I find myself very torn about leaving.

You see, Okinawa is a second home to me and something I am very familiar with already.  I am stoked about scuba diving there again.  About the polite, non-violent people.  About the food, the culture, and yes, all the weirdness (it abounds in Japan!!).Biker Night

However, Pensacola has become my home – my first and really only home.  I have worked the best job I’ve ever had here in Pensacola, and was instrumental in building something meaningful and lasting (National Flight Academy).  I retired from the Navy here, and lived, for the first time, on the water here.  I have grown two strong and lasting branches of my family tree here:  skydiving and bikers.  My home Dropzone is here, where I trained and literally obtained my human wings for flight.  My first brand-new motorcycle was purchased here, and it was here that I really lost my motorcycle training wheels.

DSCN0716And although these are “things” I am describing, what makes those things even possible, let alone memorable, are the people of, in, and around those things.  People like Dan “Danno” Flynn, Thomas “T” O’Neil, Time Mueller, and Jake Muehls.   I will certainly miss these family members here, every bit as much (and even more) as I’ll miss my own family spread across this country.  There are very hard to leave behind.

Although there won’t be skydiving in Okinawa, there is a motorcycle in my future there.  And who knows what my soon-to-be-discovered Japanese biker family has in store for me! Biker Club

As we bikers say, it’s not the destination but the journey.  I’m ready for this one to begin.

Bike Quotes

Money grows…


“…on the tree of persistence.” ~Japanese Proverb

– or –

“Use the same measure for selling that you use for purchasing.” ~Abu Bakr

 

A sweet ride we can only dream of aspiring to!

A sweet ride we can only dream of aspiring to!

Well, since we can’t take our vehicles to Okinawa, we’ve got to do something with our three cars and one motorcycle.  If you read one of my previous posts you know we finally figured out how to get the motorcycle in storage, which in reality is the only vehicle we want to keep.  So, what to do with the Acura and the Ford Escape?  Well, we’ve got to generate a substantial cash-flow for a sweet ride such as this!!

The Escape is going to my son.  He is working full-time, in graduate school, and he and his wife just had his first baby, and are what I would characterize as eking by, but very happily so.  I have not had the fortunes to be able to assist much or very often; nor do I believe in financially assisting your children once they are grown, gone, and make their own decisions.  So the gift of my truck – still in very good shape with many years of safe life left in it – will, I hope, in some/many ways make up for my otherwise lack of financial support.  It’s a good thing I can do for the boy.

The Acura was another issue.  We needed to sell that car, but Jody and I didn’t really want to run through the “hassle” of selling it privately.  2004-acura-tl-1Although things are probably much different, faster, and quite possibly easier (although I personally find that technology is generally a big fat lie when it comes to making things “easy”) with the internet and such things as Craig’s List, we still didn’t, quite honestly, want to be bothered with monitoring email, answering phones, and making appointments to see, inspect, and drive the car….  Oh, and then the haggling.  Neither of us care much for that at all, unless I’m in some Asian market working a vendor down from $3 to 50 cent for a T-shirt or small piece of pottery.  Jody had previously sold a car through CarMax with good results and little trouble, so we figure, what the heck.

Problem is, the nearest CarMax is 250 miles away.  Off we go, caravanning down the highway in our two vehicles, setting off early to try to be back in time for dinner – and to continue packing!  Believe me, it was very hard to bypass New Orleans and the newly revamped National War World II museum, twice, once each way!  We get to CarMax, and everything starts off a-okay.  We figure, with a Blue Book value hovering around $7K for the model, miles, and condition of our car, we should be good at no less than $6K.  After about an hour, the staff is finally really to review our quote.  No Speedracer or Trixie in this joint.

 

You know these two were always Japanese!

You know these two were always Japanese!

The gentlemen handling our case – and I use both nouns loosely – was flying through computer screens.  You see, CarMax uses, basically, powerpoint slides to help “brief” the customer on the more salient points of the transaction.  The salesman literally flies past a page where I noticed some rather large negative comments with exclamation points, and asked him to go back.  Funny thing with this guy (remember, he’s a used-car salesman no matter what title CarMax bestows upon him):  he backs up two pages, and, in my opinion, feigns confusion when I ask for only the previous page.  After literally like 6 pushes of the forward and backwards keys, we arrive at the screen in question.  “FRAME DAMAGE!” it says in rather large you-can’t-miss-it-lettering that is surely there for the customer’s benefit!

You see, Jody hit a deer while driving on a highway years back when the car was relatively new.  You literally cannot tell, not from appearance, not from driving, not from noise or any other element of the vehicle that over $7,500 of damage was done by said (and stupid) mammal, although it appears the deer survived as it or any appreciable gore were not found anywhere near the accident scene.  She has the insurance claim and full repair report.  There is no frame damage noted, nor frame-classified parts listed.  HOWEVER, CarMax considers the replacement of the radiator as FRAME DAMAGE since mounts to the radiator had to be cut by torch and new parts welded on, as was explained to us by a very friendly and professional assessor that actually did the evaluation of our car.  That finding, however my friend, is cart blanche for CarMax to roll their weighted offer-reducing dice and slice their offer for a vehicle.

CarMax is full of another kind of gas....

CarMax is full of another kind of gas….

 

Their offer.

$4,000.

I literally laughed.

So, we get their quote in writing, all the while they are telling us that they support us doing what’s right for us and what’s best for us.  And we formulate another plan.  Let’s hit up the local Acura dealer and see what they will offer, especially since there isn’t one of those in Pensacola either.  Off we go.  Now it’s about 1 pm.  We’ve driven 4 hours to get to Baton Rouge.  We haven’t had lunch.   We are cranky and just want the car deal DONE and finished so there is one less thing to worry about.  We arrive at the Acura dealer, and are directed to meet Jerry, who is very helpful and attentive.  Now, I think, the Acura dealer is certainly going to be more cash-hungry than CarMax, right?  Well, all they can do is effectively say “no” by coming in under CarMax’s quote.  Funny thing about salesman:  Jerry pumps us immediately by asking what CarMax offered us!  I laugh in response, and basically say, “C’mon Jerry, you think we’re giving up the goods that easy?!?”  What I tell Jerry is that CarMax was insulting, and asked him if Acura really wanted to insult loyal and valued customers the same way.

Another hour goes by.  By this time I’ve put the word out on Facebook, and already have numerous people interested.  The word is getting out.  I’ve got a Craig’s List expert friend lined up and waiting to assist as soon as we’re home.  We are going to get more than $4,000 for this car; it’s a matter of pride at this point!

Finally, Jerry shows up.  Talks to us about the accident – which I assume by this point is fairly obvious to anyone familiar in car repair and/or assessment.  We fess up to it; he simply states it’s killing us on the offer they can make for the car.  And, having thought about it for the last 3 hours, the accident was severe, and if I were to get shown the Car Fax with such an amount of damage, I too would be very wary of the vehicle and want a deep discount.

But, it’s not as bad as we expected.  Their offer:  $5,000.

Jody and I conference with each other very quickly.  We could probably get right around $6,000 if we would privately.  But, as one of my favorite financial guiding principles says, your time (and effort and worry and stress) are all worth money, the going rate up to you.  We could drive back, burn more gas and miles, burn more time and endure more hassle in our move, or walk away clean with money in the bank, and time on our hands.

SCAN0365

 

 

 

 

The check was deposited today.

And somewhere, a deer is laughing with her ultimate revenge.

deer laughing

POV: Point-of-View of my Privately-owned-Vehicles


If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover, is he entitled to happiness?” ~Stanislaw Jerzy

or

“Entitlement is the opposite of enchantment.” ~Guy Kawasaki

Shouldn't You Know Where Your Car is Stored??

Shouldn’t You Know Where Your Car is Stored??

Well, I can count, and I am completely disenchanted with the Navy…so what does that say about my entitlement to be happy?  Let’s talk about POV.  And that means, oddly enough, both my Point of View AND Privately Owned Vehicle, the euphemism that the military uses to refer to your cars.

But maybe not RVs or wheeled campers.

Not boats.

And certainly not motorcycles or mopeds.

So, we are moving to Okinawa.  There are very clear restrictions on bringing POVs (vehicles) to the island, specifically those built after some year in the early 1970s…the actual year escapes me…but is rather unimportant.  The specific restriction is that we can’t bring our western cars to eastern Japan.  The rules and regulations governing what a service member’s entitlements are in relation to vehicles in such a situation are equally as clear:  we, as a married couple with no children, are entitled to store a POV at government expense.

entitlement-usa-america-liberal-democrat-obama-lazy-funny-de-demotivational-poster-1232250678

Now, as you may recall from my previous entries, I’ve done this move not once, but twice before.  Oh, and both times, I’ve stored at least one car (one move I stored twice), so you would figure that I know this drill.

You – and I – figured wrong!

Jody and I own three cars and a motorcycle.  Yes, that’s a lot of wheels for a couple, but the Harley is just for fun and to drive fast and take chances (a bike should never be a primary mode of transport), and Jody likes to have both a car and truck, you know, for those year-long home-improvement projects that requires multiples trips to Lowes and Home Deport each and every week.  Renovating all the bathrooms in our home just before leaving for Japan for 3 years will be the subject of another blog, however (wink).

What we really want to do is to dispose of the cars – by selling two (to create the cash for buying two cars and a bike in Okinawa), transferring one to my son (his young family is in dire need of a more reliable vehicle), and storing the motorcycle.  Remember, we are entitled to store a POV….

But not a bike.  Or moped, if you prefer the European-sheik Vespa/scooter mode of travel.  You see, after weeks of back-and-forth emails and phone calls with at least four different people in the Navy’s “Personal Property” chain of command, it has been proclaimed by a royal “they” that, for the Navy and Marine Corps, such two-wheeled vehicles are “…treated as HouseHold Goods (HHG).”  This means that such vehicles are, for all purposes, treated the same way that your living room couch or toaster or picture frames are treated.  They are thrown into a non-climate controlled warehouse and forgotten.  Even though the Defense Travel Regulations (DTR) clearly state that a member is entitled to store a vehicle “with two wheels” in lieu of a POV with four wheels when there is an entitlement to store a vehicle at government expense.  It seems, someway, somehow, the Navy/Marine Corps gang has decided that there’s “no motorcycle” in “team,” and has restricted POV storage entitlements for some unknown reason through a publication labeled no more than “NAVSUP.”  More on that later.

DTR

 

Okay, at least I have an answer.  But how to work an end-run around such nonsensical regulations?  You see, if I’ve learned anything after spending 20 years in the Navy, it’s there’s always a way, or that anything (and everything) is “waiverable” as long as you can find the right person with the right authority who remains somewhat enchanted with remaining part of the human race and treating the military servicemembers who are asked to already sacrifice so much with sound reason and some measure of respect.  An unlikely proposition I must say.

So, I contact the company I stored vehicles with before during my previous overseas assignments.  They do take care of motorcycles, but charge the same they would for a car, which happens to be exactly what the government will reimburse, which is $222/month!  Businesses aren’t stupid; I would do and charge exactly the same thing.  This company, (ADKOS – look’em up online), owned and operated by retired and ex-military, caters to vehicle storage for the military.  They have sites all over the country, and located a site with qualified and experienced bikers who can care for my bike while in storage (starting, riding, rotating wheels, keeping the battery charged).  Long story short, after explaining my sad, disenchanted story, and after reducing their price for the bike to $160/month(which I am still not paying out-of-pocket), the retired Navy commander running the site in Montgomery, Alabama, made me a deal that as long as I stored a car with him (at the going rate), he would take care of the bike on the side.

ADKOS

Done deal, yes?

Oh hell no.

Seems even though the regulations again state that we, since we are entitled to vehicle storage, are also allowed to self-procure commercial storage, the local Personal Property office claimed (initially) that we could only use the government’s contracted storage system…which will not accept a motorcycle….  You see, the government has their own vehicle storage contract, but anything the government can do, private business can do better.  These VPC’s as they are called collect your vehicle at like seven different locations across the nation.  So, for starters you may have to drive a really long way to use one….  Worse, they then sub-contract our storage of your vehicle, which literally – and get this – may be anywhere in the country!!  So, there is yet another contract for transporting the vehicles, and even another subcontract for warehouse space for the vehicles, since the company responsible for the storage leases storage space.  I dare anyone to explain to me how that’s cost-effective!  Further, there are so many additional middlemen in the chain, and so many more chances for damage to vehicles that there is no-doubt increased claims against the government for damage and failures in providing quality service.  With a self-procured company, you can visit the site, meet the people who will take care of your vehicles, and avoid additional risk from transportation and uncaring and non-value-added middlemen.   This whole government vehicle storage program is in desperate need of Lean Sigma Six initiatives…

Not only that, Personal Property claimed that we are only allowed to use the “Vehicle Processing Center” in New Orleans…when we wanted to use Atlanta if we were going to be forced into this option.  There are rumors of kick-backs from the various VPCs to specific personal property offices for directing vehicle traffic, but I won’t pursue such hearsay here.  However, I don’t take “no” that easily.

hearsay

After numerous other phone calls and emails to people in Pensacola, Panama City and Jacksonville, and even talking to the Commanding Officer of personal property in Jacksonville, Florida, I finally am referred to someone that agrees that we are “allowed” to self-procure storage.  But of course no one really seems to know the process….

We can’t be the first people to do this, right??

I’m still slightly worried that we’ll be gone and in Japan, I’ll have a car and bike in storage, and the Navy is going to reject our entitlement because of some SNAFU in paper or what seems to be multiple interpretations of governing instruction.  Fingers crossed and breath held.

Now, let’s take a journey down a logic by-way.  Two or four-wheeled, doesn’t matter to me – whatever moves you.  The central question I have is this:  why does the Navy care about what type of vehicle I intend to store?  If I have an entitlement to store a vehicle, and storing that vehicle results in no-cost difference (and maybe even lower cost), what does it matter to Uncle Sam?  In my particular case, it is the exact same cost to the government whether I store a car and bike, or just my bike.  Surely Uncle Sam is a closet-biker; it’s simply too American to think differently.

Uncle-Sam-Biker-Large

There is not an increase in paperwork.  There is no additional staffing that is needed, no hidden costs, no supplementary per diem or travel expense to worry about.  It is, as politicians and policy-makers like to say, “transparent.”  But we know that many policy makers are at least color blind, and most simply see with eyes-wide-shut.   All that results from this business transaction with the Navy is a HUGE amount of frustration on our part, increased workload with the Navy as we chase rabbits down through a series of Wonderlands of rules and regulations, and ultimately, a large degree of disenchantment with the service.  Businesses realize that such chasms of loyalty are tough to put a price on and are to be avoided at almost all costs; government often fail because it/they never apply rational, logical business sense to completely analogous business transaction situations….  And don’t get me started on the personnel they hire to front the customer.

project-management

Occam’s Razor would conclude these parting thoughts.  First, that one of the modern great evils to the Navy is owning and operating motorcycles, and second, that people are really not their most precious resource.  It is, in the end, their dollars that are most precious.

OccamsRazor

I am more disenchanted with the Navy than ever, but my own POV remains bound in a complete refusal to allow any type of flavor of POV – car, bike, unconstructive, reticent, or other – to taint my search for that four-leaf clover.

One assuredly is waiting for me across the pond in Okinawa.

Okinawa Here We Come!


Okinawa 2013, Okinawa here we come!

Konnichiwa!  It’s been official for quite some time now, but now that it’s right around the proverbial corner, Jody and I have finally started our blog “Far East Fling.”  We’ll use this medium (and media) to help keep in touch with friends, fans, and family while deployed overseas, so far to the east that it’s actually closer going west.  Please help us keep in touch by interacting early and often; although we are very excited about our upcoming move, we will miss all that we are leaving behind.

Compai!!