I'm leaving in the morning.

I have had a VERY busy week. In addition to my regular work schedule, I took some last minute "Sick-call" overtime, and have been away from work on a two day training seminar called "Mission Crititical Communicatons". I actually walked away from this training with some new ideas, and a little "renewed excitment" for what I do. All and all, it was a pretty good training session.

Well, I am leaving in the morning for a 3 day duck/grouse/squirrel hunting trip to Ed's cabin. I am looking forward to this trip, but also feel bad - It's a busy weekend at home for the family, and I am leaving it all for Michele to handle.

I will be back on Monday Night, and I have the rest of the week off to make up for being gone for the weekend. Maybe I can talk someone into watching the kiddos Friday night so I can take Michele out.

I hope to have a new entry for my very infrequently used "Dad's Hunting Joural" blog. You will have to watch for an update there.

Until then, wish me luck!


Coaching Football

This is embarrassing to admit (I am (after all) a "Father-of-five" and a father to three boys.) but I'll air my dirty laundry. . .


All my boys are involved in sports. They love playing Baseball, Basketball, and / or Football. They are enrolled through the city's "Community Education" program, and coached by volunteer parents.

It should be no surprise to some of the people that read this blog that my knowledge of sports, and sports related information is very, VERY limited. I played a very little bit of Baseball (tee-ball) as a kid. Ben (my oldest son) played baseball every year since he was 5 years old (now 18). I have a pretty basic grasp of baseball concepts. I played 3 years of basketball (6th, 7th and 8th grade). My kids also have played some basketball, but not as much as they play baseball. Football is another story. I have never played, and only recently have my two younger boys started playing the game. They have played flag football until this year where Jonathan (my 5th grader) is playing tackle football with pads, helmet, playbook, and the "whole nine yards". Zachary, my 4th grader is still in flag football.


A couple of nights ago, our neighbor (who has a 3rd grader on the same team as my 4th grader - and also is a parent volunteer coach) called me asking a favor. He was unable to attend the game, and asked if I would be willing to take his 3rd grader with me. (No problem, my boys and his son are very close friends). He then asked me if I would be willing to check in with the other coach to see if he needed any help (The third coach was not going to make it either). After explaining how much I know about football (zero) I was assured it would not be important, and my roll would be to just help maintain the kids. I agreed, figuring it would be doubtful that I would even be needed. There are, after all, other parents present who know more about the game than I do. Zachary was so excited to hear that I was going to be a "coach" that night. After seeing the expression on his face, I had to other choice but to offer my help. Upon arrival, I did in fact find the one coach there with no other help, so I was required to help coach the team.


I will tell you what I do know about football. I know the most basic of concepts, such as - run or pass at least 10 yards to keep your "downs" less than 4 - On the 4th down you can punt - a Touchdown is with 6 points - and when you get a touchdown - you get to try for an "extra point" - If you are close enough to the goal post, you can try to make a field goal for 3 points - I know what "offence" and "defense" means - I also know what the center and the quarterback does.

While "coaching" (if that is what you want to call what I did) I had 10 eight-to-ten year olds all screaming and shouting, raising their arms and bouncing up and down like they had to pee asking things like "Can I be half-back", "Can I be full-back", "I wanna be safety". and so the list goes. What is a tight end? What is an offensive blocker? What is a Tackle"? I was good for telling the kids to hush up and listen to their coach (the other Dad), and stand on the sidelines and yell the count to five before the kids could rush the quarterback. Thank God the other coach knew something about football, because it was obvious that I knew NOTHING.


That was until the other coach said he had to take his little one (on the sidelines) to use the bathroom. Then it was embarrassingly obvious. Kids all yelling out that they wanted to play the certain positions, me not knowing anything what position plays where, how many of any certain position are played, etc, etc, etc. It was a lesson in futility. My answer was "Same position - Same Play" for each of the three plays I was left alone with.


Truly sad. . . That's all I am going to say.


- - - - - - -


I will share with you a couple of other observations I had during the game.


First - While my lack of knowledge in some of the most basic interests of my children bothered me, I found the other end of the spectrum just as bothersome. The "ex - high school star quarterback" wannabe coach who squats down and gets in the faces of these 3rd and 4th graders, yelling at them to block left, block right, and to run deep, with all the intensity of a NFL coach is so disturbing to me. I honestly do not know which is worse - not knowing enough about a sport or knowing so much you can not control yourself). Sheesh - these guys could sure use a Quaalude or two.


Which brings me to my second "observation" - Should I be disturbed that (because of my job) I know more about illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia, and their usage than I do about the basic rules of football? Does that make me a bad dad?


And lastly (related to my first observation) - Back at home I had a chance to talk to the neighbor (the one that was not able to make it to the game that night). I discovered that he also volunteers as a referee for the 5th and 6th grade league. While talking about how bad I was at coaching, and how "overzealous" some of these coaches get, he started telling me stories of how the coaches, and even parents of the 5th and 6th graders (ages 10-13) dispute, disagree, yell, scream, get in the face, and call names at the referees. His friend that refereed with him for the past two years refused to do it again this year. He told my neighbor it's not worth the hassle the coaches and parents dish out.

Perhaps my greater knowledge of drug culture over the rudimentary aspects of most sports may disturb you, but in my mind, these coaches and parents that go postal over elementary school sporting events, have some serious mental malfunctions!

My new Bass Guitar came on Friday!

The day my new guitar came (and the next few days after) I had very little "free time" to check out my new toy! After work on Friday night, and before meeting out of town guests Saturday morning, I did open the box, and fumble around with the guitar a bit. My original plan was to open the box, check it over for any damage done in transit, and pretty much go to bed. Three hours later (when I could hardly hold my head up anymore) I finally went to bed. Here is what happened, and a few of the extra bonuses that I discovered along the way!


First thing I noticed when I opened the box. The guitar was in a "gig bag". Although it is of the most basic variety (non-padded), it was still in a gig bag none-the-less. (Bonus 1.)


Next, I opened the gig bag, and got the guitar out. It was packaged very nicely. Foam wrapping around the guitar, and bubble wrap around the foam padding. By the time I got all the packaging off, and had my eyes on the guitar, the first thing I noticed is that (for supposedly being "blue") it was VERY dark. The lighting in my basement is the "energy efficient" flourescent bulbs in ceiling can lights, therefore, colors often look dark and a bit "off". Honestly, the guitar looked like a very dark blue, almost navy blue. Although I could not tell what color it actually was, it looked better (in my opinion) than the blue guitar in the auction photo. (More on this later.)


The guitar was already strung, but the neck had a bit of a convex arch to it, so the strings rattled on the frets. I was a bit disappointed, but on some level, expected this. I had read about how some of the "lower end" guitars needed to have several adjustments made to them to actually be playable. I was going to call it a night. I started packing up the guitar, when I noticed a zippered pouch on the gig bag, with something in it. I opened the pouch, and found a small tool kit, a guitar strap, and an amplifier patch cord! (Bonuses 2, 3, and 4.)


Now my curiosity was peaked. I took one of the Allan wrenches, and started adjusting the saddle height on the bridge. This helped the rattle some, but I still had quite a bit of fret buzz.

I took the other wrench and started (carefully) adjusting the truss rod. I knew how to do this; because of some prior reading I had done on about "lower end" guitars, and how to tweak them. I loosened the nut, and the neck starting straightening out. This cleared up most (if not all) the fret buzz. I still need to make some final "fine tuning" to the truss rod, and the saddle, but (it was still doing pretty good as of the next morning) and you are only supposed to make subtle changes at any one given time.


Well, now that I had the guitar out, and the fret buzz taken care of, I could not go to bed without tuning it! I got out my tuner ($4.99 Guitar Center Special), and (because I had gotten a patch cord) I was able to patch the guitar and the tuner. It was only a few short minutes before the deep tones from my new bass were grumbling away, and it sounded goooood!.

Now I was getting excited! I had previously found a couple of on-line sources of information for bass guitar players (and for those just starting out). They contain warm ups, lessons, tabs, etc. I went to activebass.com. This site is great! It is full of little "mini-lessons" for beginning, intermediate, and advanced players. I went to one of the first lessons "Learning the Neck". The lesson was to strum each string once then move up the neck fretting on the dots. Ok, it teaches the "notes" which I need to learn. but I wanted a little something "more" - I was not going to really "learn" anything at 2 am on the first day I got the guitar. So I went to the "Beginner Bass Line" lesson posted by Russell Pickavance. I plucked around with the tab listed below for the next 30 minutes.












I was not great. . . I would not even say I was "good" at it by any stretch of the imagination, but I was starting to "feel" the rhythm, and I HAD A BLAST! (That was the best part of it! Really, that is why I decided to try and take on the Bass.) I wanted to have a good time, relax and enjoy myself a bit. It is not about being great, being in a rock band, or anything else except to have a good time.)

I finally went to bed at 2:30 am with, (and woke up with) sore fingertips. . .


When I awoke in the morning, I had to hurry and get ready to meet our out of town guests, but I had to see the color of the guitar in the daylight. Here is where Bonus #5 became evident.


I bid on this guitar because of the price. It was listed as "Blue" in the EBay auction, and (as you can see in a previous post) it looks like it is "Royal Blue". When I won the auction, I contacted the seller (who sells many of these guitars) and asked him about the possibility of getting it in black instead of the blue. The seller said he was sorry, but he only had blue basses available at this time. I was disappointed, but only just mildly. I did get the guitar for a good deal after all, and if we get along well (the Bass and I) I will pick up something a bit nicer in the future. I just wanted something to "cut my teeth on". . . Anyway, in the daylight the color was very evident, and confirmed by my wife. It has a hint of blue in it, but it is defiantly what I would call a dark forest, hunter, or deep teal green color. It is actually pretty darn cool! I like it significantly better than the blue, and I think I like it better than the black too! You can even see some of the wood grain through the paint. (They call it "transparent blue" or "transparent red", etc).



Something to get started off with.

Well, today I made the plunge and bought an "Entry Level" bass guitar. It is by far not the best, or even what I would call my first, second or even third choice... but the price was great for something to start off with. If the bass guitar and I get along, then I'll pick up something a little nicer.. But for the mean time, I wanted something to callous up my fingers, and to practice with. (Oh, yeah... Michele knows about it, and even thought it was a good idea. She said it may help Ben motivated to keep playing his guitar.)

Wish me luck!

The end of one era, and the beginning of another.

Today, the first day of school rolled around again. Ben (not pictured) starting his Senior year, Jonathan entering the 5th grade, Zachary entering the 4th Grade.... and Rebecca...
Rebecca starting off her elementary years with her first day in Kindergarden...

You would not believe how excited she was for school to start

(and how much her brothers were not...)


Last night I was pulled over by a police officer. I was going down a backroad two lane highway that changes from 55mph to 45mph as it went thru a small town. The officer had slowed down, and pulled into the shouder before I even passed him.

Right away (before he even turned the lights on), I pulled over. He did indeed activate his emergency lights and pulled up behind me.

He approached the car, and I already had my drivers license in my hand.

Officer: "Good Evening"

Me: "Same to you. Sorry you had to pull me over, I bet I was speeding huh?"

Officer: "So you know why I pulled you over then?"

Me: "Yes sir, I do."

Officer: "Do you know how fast you were going?"

Me: "Honestly, no. I belive I was doing more than 55 mph, maybe close to 60."

Officer: "You were doing 61 in a 45 zone"

Me: "I am sorry. I am driving my wife's van, and am not used to a smooth quiet ride. Normally I drive a dilapitated Ford Escort, and this road feels so much like a freeway. I have no real excuse for speeding execpt my inattention. I should have been paying closer attention."

Officer: (Looking at my License) "Mr. Melin, please be more careful, slow down a bit, and watch the speed limit signs a little more carefully."

Me: Yes Sir. I will be doing that.

Officer: (Handing back my Drivers License). You can pull out as soon as I turn off my emergency lights.

Me: Yes sir... Thank you sir.

(Notice, not one mention that I work for another nearby police department - Heck I did not even have my work ID with me for the officer to accidently see.)

What a cool cop. Using the "Spirit of the Law" rather than the "Letter of the Law", he used his discrestion in dealing with me. Considering I have a clean driving record (and thanks to this officer, I still do), the rural road I was on, my cooperation, and the honest account of what I did helped convince the officer that this is not my nomral behavior, and that the warning he gave me was sufficent to keep my attention a little more focused on the speed limit, and how fast I was going. (Which it did by the way!)

When I thought I was doing (around) 55mph, I thought there may be a chance I was going to get off with a warning. When he told me 61mph, I told myself that I was getting my first speeding ticket (and rightfully so).

I was shocked, and nicely surprised to not have not gotten a (deserved) tag.


The Origins of a Police Dispatcher - Final Chapter.

You may or may not have read about my Pep in a couple of earlier posts. Pep was a Police Officer for the University of Minnesota Police Department, and a HUGE influence in my life. You also may or may not have read about the hours spent with my Mémère listening to her police scanner. As I look back at a couple of the "forks" in the road of my life, I see the influence that my Mémère and Pepere had in making the choices I did, and how they got me to where I am today.

I want to document this story. I am actually getting pretty damn tired of telling it. I frequently train new employees at work and, as part of the training; I ask them how they got to where they are at. I then share with them how I got where I am at. This is the story you are about to read. It is long. I am going to spend the time getting this story down into an electronic format so that perhaps I can just give the new trainees (or anyone who is interested) the URL to this story. I may even have some printouts available as well.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

After high school, I started the Law Enforcement program at Normandale Community College. I took three years to complete my two year Associates Degree, and after finishing school I was placed on the waiting list for SKILLS. (SKILLS is a "Police Academy" and a requirement for all persons interested in being a police officer in the state of Minnesota.)

While waiting for my SKILLS class to start (I knew ahead of time it was going to be about one year), I took a part-time job as a Security Officer at the Canterbury Downs Race Track. It was a "Seasonal" position, which would give me some good experience, and the season would end before I started SKILLS training. I started working the "front side" during racing days and racing hours. My position required me to patrol the areas accessible by guests the betting windows, seating areas, lounges, and the paddock. I also guarded the locker room for the Jockeys. The job was... well... Ok. Soon after the season opened, there was a full-time, overnight opening on the "backside". The backside is where the horse barns, training areas, and dormitories for the workers are at. During hours of operation, there is a Security Dispatcher on duty, who operated the computerized lighting, HVAC, and fire suppression systems at the track. After hours, the work of maintaining the "SIMPLEX" system is turned over to the guard shack at the backside entrance. Part of my job while working the backside was to maintain the SIMPLEX system overnight. The season ended, and soon afterwards I started SKILLS training.

Upon completing SKIILS, I took (and passed) my P.O.S.T (Peace Officer's Standards of Training) test. I was put into the "eligible for a license" status. That means I could now take a job as a Police Officer in the state of Minnesota at any time. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) was going to school in Mankato, and I was commuting 90 minutes (each way) to visit her. The long distance phone bills were expensive too! I decided this was now the time for me to move out on my own, and a chance to be closer to Michele. I found an apartment, moved to Mankato, and started looking for a job. I had applied to several departments, both in Minnesota, and other cities and counties that were not far outside of Minnesota (but limited to the "Five State" area).

It is important to understand that both my high school and college transcripts reflect how much fun I had during this time frame. Friends were my priority, then work, and finally school. I spent a lot of time at parties, get-togethers, dances, hanging out with friends, skipping school, you know how it goes. I was not a "bad" student, but I was not a "great" student either. I finished in the middle of my class.

At the time I was applying for jobs, openings were not in abundance. I applied at a number of agencies. (I frequently sent a letter of interest, and a resume out, asking for it to be kept on file.) I had tests and interviews at about a dozen agencies, but they never materialized into anything. The time came (while I was living there) that Mankato advertised that they were accepting applications to create an "eligibility list". They did not have an actual opening, but wanted to create a new list. I was ecstatic! I thought for sure that this would be "the one". Well to make a long story short - When the morning of the testing came, they had underestimated the number of applicants, or overestimated the size of the room they had available, and when the room reached capacity (300), they were turning people away at the door. I made it in for the test, but never heard back. This was a turning point for me. I was devastated. It was the straw that broke the camels back. This was the point that I decided re-evaluate my decision of Law Enforcement as a career, and I started looking to find something else. I was considering Social Work, or the possibly of work in the Probation field. I had to really face the facts. When up against 300 (or more) applicants, I did not have what it took to stand out. This was a difficult time for me. I was making the decision to give up all that I had worked towards for the past four years, while trying to re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my life. I really did not want to give it all up, but I did not know what to do.

By this time I was now engaged, and our wedding date was drawing closer and closer. I decided I needed to do something, so I moved back to Bloomington, and started working in the hardware store I had worked since I was 16 years old. (I worked in the store part-time while at the race track). It was at this time that a friend of mine (from grade school thru college) who was also been through the Law Enforcement program, asked me to apply where he was working. He was a Security Supervisor at the Mall of America. What did I have to loose? Security Officers were making over two dollars more an hour than I was making at the Hardware Store. I applied, and was called for an interview.

During the interview, my prior work experience was brought up and I was asked about my duties at Canterbury. When I started talking about the SIMPLEX system, my interviewer asked me to clarify, which I did. He then asked to stay in the room for a moment, and he would be right back. It was only a few moments before he returned with another supervisor. He introduced me to the "Safety Center" (dispatch center) supervisor, and then the original interviewer left the room. The Safety Center supervisor started asking me all kinds of questions about what I did, and how much I knew about the SIMPLEX system, explaining to me that the Mall's fire suppression system was also a SIMPLEX system. By the end of the interview I was being offered a job as a Security Dispatcher for the Mall of America's Safety Center. I was again disappointed. Another stepping stone to becoming a police officer was taken from me. I knew very little about dispatching, but I accepted the position with the full intention of "transferring" to a full fledged security officer in time.

A couple of things you need to know about me at this point of the story. I am a geek. Computers come naturally to me. I have always had an interest in everything computer, electronic, and radio related. I can never get enough of that stuff, and I am good at it too!
By my sixth month of working in the Safety Center, I WAS IN LOVE! The position of dispatcher was made for me. I got to play on computers, alarm systems, CCTV cameras, and recording equipment - and get paid to do it! It was a perfect match, and I enjoyed it.

My unofficial mentor at the Mall was a dispatcher who also worked part time for the city of Edina as a Police dispatcher. It did not take me long until*


Being a police dispatcher was the perfect blend of my interests in computers & electronics, and Law Enforcement! How many countless hours had I sat with my Mémère listening to police dispatchers doing their job? I had always been excited to hear the police officers, but never realized that I was doing what the other half of those transmissions were doing!

This is where my plan started taking shape. I decided that I wanted at least a year of Mall dispatching experience before trying to be a 911 dispatcher. I wanted to learn more about 911, and police dispatching. I took a home study course for, and got my Amateur Radio Operators License (KB 0 OIM) thinking that it would also help. After my one year mark, I started applying wherever there were openings. I knew going into this that I would not get the first job or two that I applied for, but understood that the experience of applying for and interviewing for these jobs would be well worth not getting the jobs. My life really started taking shape at this time. After three unsuccessful attempts, I was finally offered a position.

My first offer was from the city of Minneapolis. I applied. I tested. I took (and passed) the typing test. I had to do a "sit-a-long" in the Communication Center. I got backgrounded. I ran some dispatching scenarios, and I had interviews. This whole process took numerous weeks. At the time I was applying for the job, the city had a "residency requirement". When I applied, Michele and I were still living in our apartment in Eagan. Living in Minneapolis would not be a significant issue.

After my final interview, we left on a two week trip to San Diego to visit Michele's grandmother. While we were in San Diego, Michele's father called us up and said he had to talk to us. Michele's parents were buying real estate, fixing up houses and selling them for profit. He found a house he liked (we had also seen it), but it required "owner occupancy". The Idea was that we would purchase the house together, and Michele & I would take up occupancy. They needed a quick decision so they could put a bid in on the house, so over the telephone we worked out a deal for buying, fixing up, living in, and selling the house.

Upon returning from our trip, I received a call from Minneapolis. They were offering me the job as a Call Taker for their dispatch center. I had to tell the HR representative that between the time of my last interview and this job offer, I had a purchase agreement to buy a house in Richfield. I told her I would love to accept the offer if there was any way that I would be able to live in the house and work for Minneapolis. This woman just blew her cool. Instantly raising her voice, and all but yelling at me. She called me a liar, deceitful, and was very clear about how angry she was for "leading them on". I sat and listened to this abuse, and began wondering if perhaps I dodged a bullet. By the time of the call was over, the offer was rescinded, and I was back at square one (but in a new house).

My second offer (only a couple of months afterwards) was from Anoka County Central Communications. I applied, tested, interviewed for the position. During my interview, there was a concern about me that was addressed. The concern was having grown up in, and currently living in the south metro area, and having to commute to work every day, if I would actually be interested in a career in the northern suburbs, or would they just be "training" me only to take a job somewhere else. I assured them that if successful at the job, I would have no opposition to staying and moving to the northern suburbs when the time came. I was offered (and accepted) the position. I finally started working my first 911 job. Interestingly, I actually took a cut in pay to leave the Mall of America Security and start working for Anoka County 911.

About the same time I applied for Anoka County I also applied for Bloomington (within a week or so of each other). At the time I had my interview and was asked about leaving Anoka County, I had not even heard back from Bloomington. I was so excited, honestly, I forgot all about Bloomington. Well, that was until the Anoka County's supervisor came out to see me in the dispatch center, sent my trainer away, and asked me if I knew why a Bloomington Detective was here asking about me. I told the supervisor the truth. I said that at the time I applied for Anoka, I had also applied for Bloomington. I am not sure that he was convinced, but he asked me (if the time came, and before I accepted another job) to talk to him first. I agreed, and he went about his business.

Sure enough, before I new it, I passed the test, got an interview, and a second interview, then a job offer from Bloomington. Wanting to be a man of my word, I did indeed ask Bloomington if I could take a day to think things over, and then called Anoka County.

The Anoka County Supervisor was not very happy to get my phone call when I told him what I was calling about. He asked me why I was even bothered calling him. I did remind him that he asked me to call him prior to making any decisions. He told me that he wanted an opportunity to tell me why he thought Anoka County would be a better place to work than Bloomington, which I listened to, and we talked about pay. (The starting pay was nearly double.) I told him that the decision would have been very easy to make had it not been for our earlier talk about not wanting to loose me to a southern metro community during my interview, and how I reassured him early on that I could see myself staying at Anoka County. I asked for some time to think, which he agreed to, and I told him I would call as soon as the decision was made. I took the rest of the morning to weigh my options, and talk to my wife.

These are the things I weighed.
Pros for Bloomington
-Double the salary
-Familiarity with the geography (grew up in Bloomington)
-City PSAP more involved with the department
-I had been a Police Explorer, and done my Internship with Bloomington Police Department
-Much Closer (4 miles vs. 35 miles)
Pros for Anoka County
-They took the initial chance on me.
-I felt some obligation to my statement about sticking with Anoka County.
-I had already started a month of training with Anoka County.
-I was doing well in my Training.

After taking the afternoon to weigh my options, and talk to Michele, I contacted Bloomington, and accepted the job. I called Anoka County and advised the supervisor of my decision. He told me I was welcome to come back and return the training materials and pick up my belongings, but my presence was no longer needed (I was, after all, in training and why would they want to continue to pay, and train me for the next two weeks when they did not have to.) The call ended civilly (much more civilly than with Minneapolis) and I waited for my position to start in Bloomington. I went nearly a month (without pay) because of the start date with Bloomington and Anoka County not wanting a two week notice. Thankfully I had saved the money that was my left over from my benefit time that was converted to cash when I left the Mall, and although things were tight, we made it through.

I started working for Bloomington on January 17 1995, eleven and a half years ago. I am still working for the City of Bloomington as a Civilian Police Dispatcher. Although there have been ups and downs over the years, I consider myself a lucky man. I am grateful for the opportunities that the city has provided me over the years. I DO NOT go to work everyday hating my job or hating my employer(s). I feel good about the job I do and enjoy helping the citizens of the City of Bloomington. I am fortunate that I get to work with a GREAT group of people, who make coming to work everyday fun and interesting! What more can a person really ask from their career?

As I reflect on how I got to where I am today, I know that my interest in Law Enforcement came from my Pep, and as I look back on my life, I am confident that the time I spent listing to the scanner into the wee hours of the night with my Mémère may have played a part in my successes as a Police Dispatcher.

Anyway, thats my story, and Im sticking to it*
I hope you enjoyed it and good luck to you now!

Did you reach the Bottom of this blog?

If you have read down to here and are interested in reading more, be sure to click here, click on the "Older Posts" link to your right, or use the "Archive" tool on the right sidebar. Thanks for visiting!