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Where Were You When They Shot JFK?

Posted on: November 15th, 2013 by admin 2 Comments

Where Were You When They Shot JFK?

Every generation, it seems, witnesses an “earth shattering” event in their lifetime to which, regardless of the age obtained, they can answer the question “Where were you when….”

I have only queried one member of the Greatest Generation that was unable to answer the question “Where were you when you heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?” For that generation the world was shaken (literally) by the events of a seemingly average Sunday morning in a far-off paradise known as Hawaii. The events of that day had a profound effect on the future of an entire generation of not only Americans, but the entire human race. We are barely three weeks away from the blackened anniversary of that event, yet every year for the past seventy two, we hear and see reminders of how the world as we know it was molded by the tragedy as well as the world’s response to it.

For my generation (currently referred to as “old farts”) that event was the assassination of President Kennedy. Most “boomers” were too young to have fully comprehended the sordid affairs of world politics back then. But we knew that the youngest President in our history had replaced the oldest President in our history. His rhetoric, more than his actions, drew us in to a belief that our lives held promise unimagined prior to the election.

My parents, staunch Republicans for as long as I could remember, were mightily disappointed in the election results that slowly trickled in over night in November of 1960. They had made no secret of their support for Richard Nixon and were open about their misgivings over the actions, or inactions, of a wet-behind-the-ears Democrat, despite his being a Navy Veteran and a fellow Catholic none the less.

President Kennedy, from my point of view, was solely responsible for my eventual withdrawal from under my desk at school with the defusing of the Cuban Missile Crisis. His proposed Peace Corp resonated with the youth of my time, opening our eyes to the possibilities we held in our hands and how the world could be influenced by the actions of those willing to step outside of their comfort zones and “do” instead of talking about doing. I did not observe his reluctance to enter into the Civil Rights confrontations of his time, but saw the results when he finally acted to quell the discord in Alabama with the support of Federal Troops. The cascade of events that blossomed into Civil Rights legislation in the coming years was directed by his movement from rhetoric to decisive action.

I vividly remember sitting in Mr. Reichart’s World Civ classroom, having just returned from lunch in the cafeteria, while waiting for the bell to signal the commencement of the afternoon routine. One of my classmates ran in the door and stunned the room with the news she had heard while returning to school from her lunch at home. The President had been shot!

Surely she had not heard correctly. Kennedy was too young, too well known, too popular, too well protected to have been felled by an assassin’s bullet. Communications, being what they were at the time, were creating more questions than they were answering. The next four days were spent, sitting in front of radios and TVs. With the internet today it is difficult to imagine rumors and facts emerging with equal veracity. We still didn’t know who Lee Harvey Oswald was when we saw what was probably the first murder ever carried live on TV unfold in front of our innocent eyes. From a crowd of reporters stepped Jack Ruby, his single gun shot unleashing a fury of activity, and launching generations of investigation, rumor and conspiracy theorists. Our entire world was thrown into chaos; events taking place faster than their consequences could be comprehended. The world seemed to be spinning out of control at a dizzying pace.

Then, as if a grand conductor had orchestrated it, the world screeched to a halt.


The televising of a funeral procession would not be the type of activity that would draw an audience in ordinary times. But this procession brought the entire country to a halt. For what seemed like an eternity, hundreds of thousands of people sat motionless in front of television sets while a horse-drawn caisson marched from the White House to the Capitol Rotunda. There was not a sound from the crowd of people gathered along the route, only the haunting notes of horse-shoes on pavement, accompanied by military drummers.

A line of people, hundreds of thousands of people, filed past the flag draped coffin that lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda. The line stretched as far as the eye, and TV camera, could see. It is little wonder that my world had seemed to halt in its tracks. The line had no discernable end from my position in front of our black and white television set. NBC broadcast uninterrupted coverage of the throng filing continuously past both sides of the casket all night long. I probably fell asleep in front of the television that night, there being no sign-off and test pattern to indicate bed-time.

The next morning I, and nearly every American who had access to a TV, watched in silence as the horse-drawn caisson marched across the bridge to ArlingtonCemetery for the funeral. The low, nearly mono-toned voice of Walter Cronkite narrated an event that was still beyond belief to most of us.

Fifty years ago this month, my world, if not the entire world, was re-shaped by the events in Dallas. A lone gunman, if the Warren Commission is to be believed, erased the future and it’s vantage point of observation, and re-wrote the historical references to the Kennedy Administration in a hue of speculation. Events that took root in the fertile ground of President Kennedys’ speeches went on to change the face of history and the mind set of a generation. The promises of a future full of hope were painted in words that still ring true today. Hope guides us. Hope moves us. Action trumps words every time. If we are to survive in a world unlimited by borders we need to take a humanitarian view of our place on this earth.

Politicians must recognize that action, and only actions, direct our future. The rift that separates the aisles of congress is surely smaller than the chasm that stood between the US and USSR during the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Kennedy found a bridge across the abyss that allowed us to back away from the edge of nuclear destruction. Congress need only to look to our recent history for hope that a solution exists that will allow our government at the Federal level to flow back from the edge of shutdowns and dysfunction. Stalemates, divisiveness, and party lines must give way to co-operation and compromise for this country to attain the greatness first hinted at by a young president that lit the imagination and optimism of a generation of wide-eyed kids over fifty years ago. Do they remember?

Do you remember? Where were you when they shot JFK? I’d like to hear from you at

A Basic Discussion of Torque

Posted on: November 5th, 2013 by admin No Comments

A Basic discussion of Torque


First of all let me be up front about this – I am not an engineer (although I have owned a few pocket protectors in my day). But if there is one thing I’ve learned in over 45 years in the motor service industry it is this: You need to be able to speak on the same level as your customer or they won’t understand your explanation. One of my pet peeves is technicians (or business owners!) that speak in acronyms and buzz words, as if their audience had any idea what they were saying.

I have met some very well educated people that know a lot more than I do about a lot of subjects. However, by the time they finish impressing you with their knowledge level you still don’t know what the answer to your question was.


A customer asked me recently what the comparison was between the torque of a 20HP motor and a 15HP motor. The easiest answer is that…. it depends. Let’s see if we can come up with a relatively simple answer and leave the caveats standing in the wings to amuse the engineers.

Before we answer the question we need to confirm a number of issues and before we get into those issues we’ll take a look at a definition of torque. Many people mistakenly interchange the terms “torque”, “horsepower” and “power”. So let’s look at the definitions to discern the differences:


Torque – “A twisting force that tends to cause rotation”.

Horsepower – “A unit of power equal to 745.7 watts (electrical) or 33,000 foot-pounds per minute (mechanical)”.

Power – “The rate of doing work”. In electrical terms, this is measured in watts.


Given the three definitions we can say that electrical power and horsepower in an electrical system are interchangeable. They both are (or can be) measured in watts. In the case of an electric motor there is a direct mathematical relationship between horsepower and power – one horsepower is equal to 745.7 watts (typically rounded to 746 for ease of calculation). The European standard for measuring power output of an electric motor is, in fact, the watt. We prefer to measure power in horsepower because we like horses. Someone, many years ago, decided that his horse could lift 33,000 pounds one foot in one minute and declared it a standard of “one horsepower”. Someone in France heard about this and responded “Watt?”

The one thing we need to note about our definitions is that horsepower and power both include a time factor in their calculation. They are the measurement of power over a period of time. Torque, on the other hand, does not contain an element of time. This then tells us that torque measured over time is, indeed, horsepower.

The mathematical formula that defines the relationship is:

Torque = Horsepower x 5252


where torque is measured in lb-ft and 5252 is a mathematical constant used to accurately convert the units involved in the calculation.


We don’t have to be a math major to see that, as horsepower increases, torque increases; as speed increases, torque decreases.

So now we can go back to the original question – what is the comparison between the torque of a 20HP motor and a 15HP motor?

In order to answer this question we need to make some basic assumptions, namely that other than horsepower all other factors remain the same. They won’t be*, but we’ll keep it simple. Therefore the relationship between the torque of a 20 HP motor and a 15HP motor of the same speed is simply: 20/15 or, put another way, you can expect approximately 33% more torque from a 20HP motor when compared to the output torque of a 15HP motor.

A rule of thumb used when calculating torque of an electric motor is that you can get approximately 3 lb.-ft of torque per horsepower from an 1800 rpm motor. From the formula we can see a higher speed motor will reduce the available torque, a lower speed motor will increase torque. It is important to understand these relationships before changing speeds. The resultant change in available torque may catch you off guard. You may not need an engineer, but it may be wise to talk to the motor experts at Gem State Electric (I did warn you that this was a basic discussion). We are always happy to assist you.


*other factors that may change will be the power sources ability to provide sufficient power to the system to run a higher horsepower motor, losses in the system when using a higher horsepower motor, the efficiency level of the two motors, inertia of the two rotors and even the rpm. The actual rpm that an electric motor runs at is dependent on its ability to produce the needed torque. Given the same load on both motors a larger motor will run at a (marginally) higher rpm. This change in speed may be negligible, but in certain situations it may not be. Call Gem State Electric at 208-344-5461 if you need to discuss your application.

If we have the technology…

Posted on: December 13th, 2012 by admin No Comments

If we have the technology, are we obligated to use it?

The question has been around since man invented the wheel.

There is a saying in the RV business – Man invented the wheel 5,000 years ago, the next week his trailer lights stopped working.

Technology has been improving in our industry for nearly one hundred years, with motors becoming so efficient that efficiency levels have risen into the mid-90% range. You can now buy an electric motor that, coupled with the proper electronic drive and programmed properly, will perform just about any task you demand of it.

However, the fact that we have the technology to do something does not always justify its existence. We can couple an electric motor to a drive that will allow us to rotate the shaft 3,786.145 revolutions, then stop and hold the shaft in that position all day without overheating the motor. But if you’re interested only in running your air compressor in the garage would the cost of extra bells and whistles be justified?

If you have ever used a GPS you likely know this situation all too well. I recently used my Smart Phones GPS Navigator to locate a street address. A problem arose when the GPS was unaware that the street it had directed me onto did not go from where I was to where I wanted to go. Between points A and B was a large valley, with a creek at the bottom, and no bridge forming a navigable link. I had to drive back nine miles to where I had spotted a sign (you remember what those are don’t you?) that directed me to the other end of the same road.

Another foray into the unknown with my GPS found me at the dead end of a street, staring across a railroad yard at my objective, visible but just as unobtainable as if I’d gone east bound onto the west bound lane of the Highway to Heaven.

Often it boils down to an “old” term that was invented to explain the failure of technology – G.I.G.O. Garbage In, Garbage Out. We didn’t have G.I.G.O. when I was growing up in Wisconsin. If you stopped at a service station (remember those?) to ask directions you could be sure that at least three of the four guys that were sitting out front on up-ended Pepsi cases would know how to get you from wherever you were to wherever you wanted to go. If they didn’t know where Ma & Pa’s Drug Store was they’d look it up in the Yellow Pages. The only Yellow Pages in town (and usually the only YP in the four surrounding towns too)!

Now we have three Yellow Pages in town and, if that’s not High Tech enough, there are thirty seven on-line Yellow Pages, each one extolling their services over the others. But what if none of them can “get it right”?

We moved into a larger building in March of 2011, to better serve our customers. In December of 2011 the new phone books came out and, despite having been notified of the address change, two of the three YP have our listing wrong. It turns out that all three print information from the same source. They’re not about to reprint thousands of phone books so that our customers can locate us (read the fine print inside the cover) so we’re stuck with G.I.G.O. for the next year.

Luckily, no one uses the printed phone book anymore. “Everyone looks up information on-line” I am told by the thirty seven companies who call us every other week to try to sell us advertising space in their on-line service. The problem here is that no one is responsible for the information contained in their listings. We spent hours sending notices to the plethora of on-line folks who claim to be the best at what they do. If we are successful in getting them to update our listing we seem to magically regress to G.I.G.O again if we don’t pay for their services. Even GoogleMaps and MapQuest had trouble keeping the updated information on their service sites. After a couple of tries, we seem to have straightened that out now but heaven only knows what will show up on the next “search”.

For the record, Gem State Electric Motors and Pumps is located at 112 E. 45th Street, Boise, Idaho 83714 (we’re actually in Garden City, but if I told you that you would still be trying to figure out where Garden City is). Our phone number is now, and has been for many years: (208) 344-5461. See our web-site for our toll-free number, fax number, e-mail address and even my cell phone number!

Call me and we’ll send you a list of twelve things you can do with your phone book. Now that’s service!



Wake Island Remembered

Posted on: December 10th, 2012 by admin No Comments

Remember Wake Island

While the nation recognized the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, we honor all veterans for their sacrifices.

The surprise attack was an act of war against a country that still had not entered the conflict, although the US had begun to ramp up preparations for doing so, while still facing divergent opinions at home regarding US involvement.

Simultaneous with the attack on Pearl Harbor was the beginning of the Battle of Wake Island, 2300 miles to the west ofHawaii. Within 4 hours of the first bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor (it was December 8th on Wake by virtue of the fact that it lies just across the International Date Line) the Japanese began their invasion of Wake Island, occupied at the time by about 250 US Marines and about 1200 civilians, many of whom were from the Boise area and worked for a large construction company named Morrison-Knudsen. Morrison-Knudsen was a member of a group of approximately eight large construction companies that had been awarded a government contract for improvements on islands in the Pacific. The M-K workers didn’t know it when they signed on for the project, but the “luck of the draw” had placed them directly in harms way.

Some of the Morrison Knudsen workers were killed during the 15 day siege, many more were taken prisoner when the island fell to the Japanese invasion and were held as prisoners of war until 1945 (despite being non-military). Only half of the POW’s survived the war.

Approximately 96 M-K workers were kept on Wake to complete their construction project, the building of an air strip. When the air strip, which would be used by the Japanese throughout the war, was completed, the Morrison Knudsen workers were lined up and murdered. There were many heroes during WWII. These workers, as well as the Rosie the Riveters and other civilians who answered the call to duty are among that group.

My father served during WWII. He had to lie about his age and arrange to enlist in the Canadian Air Corp before the U.S. Navy would agree that he should be allowed to serve his country. My mother was a “Rosie”, working in a machine shop doing light machine work and lacing cables on aircraft electronics.

If you would like to show your support for the heroes of WWII, check out the following web-site:    or make a tax-deductable donation by calling toll-free (800) 383-2267


It’s anIRS501(C)(3), started by my brothers, that has provided all expense paid trips for Wisconsin’s WWII Vets to Washington D.C. to see their Memorial. Time is running out for these Veterans. It would be great if more of them could receive just one more show of recognition for the sacrifices they made for the generations of Americans to come.


Pied Piper of Poop

Posted on: October 29th, 2012 by admin No Comments

Pied Piper of Poop?

I have been asked by several people in recent years where the moniker “Pied Piper of Poop” comes from, and why I embrace it, rather than trying to stomp it out.

When “stuff” happens (to steal a phrase from Forrest Gump) it usually collects somewhere, and that somewhere is seldom where it should collect. In order to move “it” from where “it” is to where “it” should be, individuals, companies and municipalities often employ the use of electric submersible sewage pumps.

I have been repairing electric motors and pumps for more than 44 years now. Over that period of time I have worked for 6 different repair facilities. It seems that, regardless of where I have worked, I have been called upon to repair submersible sewage pumps. As a by-product (if we can forgive the use of that term) of my years of experience I have been generally regarded as an authority on the rebuilding of Poop Pumps.

Over time, each of my employers has leaned on my reputation and experience to create a faithful following – a group of loyal customers that come to rely on this capability. It’s something that most people don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about so, when I move from one place of employment to another, the Poop Pumps follow.

When I came to Gem State Electric in 2005 my merry band of faithful customers followed. GSE quickly became specialists in the rebuild and replacement of submersible sewage pumps. In the years that followed, our reputation has grown and our circle of friends has expanded to include many of the municipal waste treatment plants inSouthern Idaho(and as far north as Orofino).

This loyal following has resulted in my adopting the moniker “The Pied Piper of Poop”.

I don’t mind, seriously. In fact, I invite you to join the crowd and follow me to affordable quality pump repair. It won’t be a song and dance routine, just honest old fashion service.