A day of opposites.

Trip Start Jul 22, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Got up this morning, turned on the TV and started watching the news. Weather, weather....weather! All the channels were talking about the same thing. Rain, rain, and more rain. Today was going to be worse than yesterday.

I decide to stay in and catch up on some blog writing, but I start watching a movie. Movie over by noon and the rain has slowed. I decide to take a drive over to Mare Island and see the shipyard that was closed in 1996 after 140 years of operation. The museum in the oldest shop on the island has over 3000 artifacts for viewing.

I get there and the sun is shining. The old machine shop is huge. I chat with a couple of the volunteers for a while. With one of the volunteers we chat for quite a long time about change, life, the current economy. He heads off to go fix some leaks in the old building that has buckets everywhere and plastic covering the displays.

Read all about the process of building ships and submarines. The craftsmanship and creativity of each worker in insuring that everything fit perfectly. The CNC machine shop equipment built huge pieces to exacting specifications. Read about the role of women in learning the trades and taking over from the men during the wars. There was also information about the various ethnic groups that worked in the shipyard.

As I'm reading all this material the building was getting darker and darker. The lights weren't on as the ceiling was mostly a glass skylight. The clouds had reappeared and the rain came back. My plans of walking around along the bay scuttled. Off to plan B.

The Jelly Belly Factory is located in Fairfield not far from my hotel. Stop in there for a tour and lunch. Jelly bean shaped food is on the menu...pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs. The tour starts and cameras are forbidden. I guess industrial espionage is a big thing with jelly beans. So no pictures of the jelly bean making process.

My first thoughts are about the contrast with the shipyard. The first stop is the packing area where bags of jelly beans are counted and packed in cartons for shipping. The workers are like robots. No thinking required.

We walk along a second floor walkway seeing the buzz of activity on the plant floor below. We hear about the kitchen area where raw sugar, corn syrup, and natural flavorings are mixed together and poured into molds. After a couple of days the beans are put into giant drums where additional sugar coatings gets added and poured into giant trays for additional curing. Then the beans are put back into the giant drums for the final polish coat. From there it's to a sorting machine where only the perfect jelly bean drops down the chute for packaging as Jelly Bellys and those that don't make the cut get rerouted for packaging as has-beans or odd-beans.

The whole manufacturing process was quite interesting and the ingenuity that was required to design and implement the process was amazing, but the manufacturing process itself is down to a procedure where very little thinking is required. Millions of jelly beans manufactured to satisfy a snacking craving that leads to an overweight nation.

What a conundrum of opposites. From an industry where nearly every worker had to think in his job, was usually very creative and often had to find ways to resolve minor design and building issues, to one where the whole manufacturing process is set up where creativity and initiative has been taken away.

If we take this as a minor example of where the world is now, and that everything happens for a reason. Where are we going?

Think It! Feel It! Live It!

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