Tuesday, December 31, 2013

#91 12/31/2013 This is the 2013 wrap-up and 2014 does not suck, yet.

Uncertainty
As 2013 wraps up over the next 55 minutes I'd like to say that this has been a good year.  It is in the sense that I'm still vertical and horizontal at the right times of the day and it's still on demand but it has been a year of losses and challenges.  People close to me left for the next phase of their life, actually afterlife, there were health challenges, small business challenges, another year of no rain and the end of the 27 year gig.  It has been a year of learning, seeking and accomplishment and 2014 looks great with an increasing focus on creativity and innovation both professionally and personally.

Job Search
Officially I've decided to take a sabbatical from my LHH coaching engagement.  JAN and FEB are going to be busy.  There are some major remodeling projects that need to be done to dispose of some real estate and a few other big challenges.  I've made very good progress in putting the 27 year gig in a box; that needed to occur before moving on to the next challenging engagement.  Without that I'd be looking for more of the same, a replacement of what ended or something equally defined and comparably mind-dulling.

Let It Go...
New Year's resolutions tend to be pretty lame and often abandoned but I've decided that 2014 will be the year that I put a focus on letting things go.  You cannot change people.  At a point everyone has to make their own bed and you have to let them do it as they choose, as much is it may not be as you wish.

Reflection...
This blog was intended to chronicle my search for a new job.  My commitment was to write every day.  That's been my intention for quite a few years, perhaps a decade or more.  For the past ninety or so days I've made an effort to do just that; sit down, uncross my legs and put some words on paper.  Since Thanksgiving a few days have been missed and that is simply time compression at work.  I'm going to download the Blogger application for my iPhone.  I'll try to not missed a day, even if it means typing with my thumbs.

Parents and New Year's Eve...
The following story is offered as evidence that my parents were much better at partying than me, and a bit of reflection on loss and love.

Many years ago my parents, in the years shortly following WWII, celebrated New Year's Eve at the Albert Lea American Legion Club.  As the story goes they celebrated pretty aggressively, dancing and partaking.  When it was closing time they decided not to drive.  In those days you could get away with a little partaking and driving so it must have been a really good night.  As they walked home my father kept complaining that his overcoat did not feel right.  There was something wrong with the fit.  My mother laughed at him and said that he must have grabbed the wrong coat because...well, they were partying hard, and that he could go look for his own coat when he walked back uptown to retrieve the car the next morning.  When they arrived home he started to take off his coat and found that the hanger was still in the coat.   This story was shared more than a few times over the next few years.  Unfortunately he died just a few years later in a car accident.  My mother left peacefully a year ago today.  We think she was planning a evening of dancing after a long, long wait.  Hopefully they did, ending the evening with a walk  home in the cold night, under the stars, with hangers in both of their coats.   

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Crazy since Thanksgiving

Work & Weather...
My son, who is visiting from Denmark, and I headed up north for a couple of nights.  As we drove down our road there was comment about the amount of snow.  It did look like more than the last visit.  At the
driveway there was confirmation of that observation.  With some 4WD assistance we blasted down the 400' driveway ending up stuck relatively close to our destination in about 18" of wet, slippery snow.  With some shovel and snowblower assistance all is good.

This father/son retreat is a 48 hour break for both of us.  The intent was to have a lengthy list of topics that we would discuss, solve, ponder, etc., and advise, of course, because of my advanced years.  In lieu of that we are watching Duck Dynasty.  We did read the interview in GQ, first.  It's unclear 1) why so many people watch this show and 2) why everyone is having a meltdown.

Ongoing Schedule Challenges

  • Emergency room
  • Small business labor safety net
  • Small business
  • Sciatica
  • Broken toe
  • The weather
  • The economy
  • Health & welfare issues


Finding Balance
Two nights ago (my birthday [a bad time to have a birthday]) I dreamt that I was walking somewhere and ran into some people with whom I used to work.  They were working on a strategic business plan and asked for my input.  This did not happen often in my non-dream world.  After offering a few comments I offered "I have to go" and walked away.  This is a good sign.

It's now 99% certain I'm putting the LHH effort on sabbatical.  I need JAN & FEB to finish the real estate remodeling project.





Wednesday, December 25, 2013

#85 12/25/2013 Christmas (without a job)

Every so often when the world seems a bit complex I look into our living room.  Like in many homes, I rarely go in their or sit in there.  Normally I place my weariness in the family room which now is made up of just my wife and I and each of our piles of magazines and books which pass the time and may hold the secret to our futures.

This was an interesting Christmas and when we came home I glanced into the living room.  Next to the fireplace in the bookcase are my Tonka trucks which I received at Christmas probably in 1954, 1955 and 1956 or perhaps one year later.  Along with new pajamas getting one toy was pretty much Christmas back in those days.  You received things you needed and perhaps a single toy.  I still have my Erector set which was wonderful.  That was probably somewhere in the 1957-1959 range, also not an inexpensive gift.  In those days the Sears catalog was the place to find everything and the toy catalog was special.  More time was spent looking at things than asking for things because there was not much to be had.

Now kids like electronics, devices and games.  I'm assuming that the useful life of those things might be a year, perhaps three.  Certainly they will not be looking at those things fifty-five years after the fact and I'm not sure how they really foster creativity.  The Tonka trucks and the Erector set still evoke memories of sitting on the living room floor of our little house and imaging, truly playing, creating scenarios.  I'm still creating scenarios.  This blog is an effort in that space.  I'm sitting at my desk.  What should I write about?  I've delved into my aged keyboard, the miscellaneous items in the middle drawer (I've not yet touched on the top right drawer or the file drawer or the spider that descends in front of me routinely) and it's been pretty satisfying.

My daughter, who follows this blog, as does my son, says I think about lot of stuff.  I guess I do, but now after the 27-year gig I'm trying to move into a new zone, beyond the Tonka trucks and Erector sets of the past and the resources, relationships, palette and blank slate of the 27-year gig into the next space.  I'm moving some pieces around and am now successfully past the past (more or less), prioritizing tasks and putting some important pieces on sabbatical.  It's really helpful to have the opportunity and capacity to do that; the 27-year gig was a drain but leveraging forward some of those resources have given me some freedom to do what I like (or need) for a while.

There still has not been any paint on paper; As I've committed to this process of writing I'm going to commit to the process of graphic/tactful imagery next week.  There will also be a commitment to the process of the two book projects.


#84 12/24/2013 missed this one

Monday, December 23, 2013

#83 12/23/13 can a flat panel monitor be your studio?

Small Business...
At one point in the far past we owned four small retail stores in the greeting card and gift sector.  They were creative, progressive, a bit "out there" and were a lot of fun and a lot of work.  Since that time we've had other ventures, including a small importing business that actually advertised in Rolling Stone magazine.  I've never met anyone else who advertised in Rolling Stone magazine.  That makes me feel special.

Now my daughter and wife own a small cafe that features home made soups, great sandwiches and salads and a pantry section that includes regional products and preserves and jams developed by my wife over the past fifteen years.

This is all about twenty or so years after the previous retail venture.  It's creative, progressive, a bit "out there," is a lot of fun and a lot of work.  The holidays were the major part of our retail store sales and the holidays are a major part of this cafe venture.  We've had to sort of forgo Christmas this year and will celebrate in about a week.

Small business is great.  I would much rather do this than work for someone else but of course you can usually do better working for someone else than yourself in a financial sense.  When you work for yourself you can never quit.  There is always something else to do.


Process Versus Goals...
"Set some goals for the New Year"

"Set a savings goal"

"Set a goal to eat better"

"Set a goal to lose weight"

In the business world we set goals all the time and most of them are about financial performance or the work we need to do to get the those performance metrics.  Frankly most of those are failures.  You usually are successful or a failure because of something that you did not or could not anticipate.  The 2008 recession was missed by many, even though all the warning signs were there early in 2008.  Our early small business retail venture did not anticipate the move to electronic messaging nor the dramatic increase of mail.  Our current venture took a deep breath when a Chipotle, a Five Guys and a Leeann Chin opened just down the street and Target's 10% weekend discount in response to their credit card theft was totally unanticipated.

So you mediate the ups and downs of goals by running through scenarios.  In my former life I pushed scenarios for years to no avail.  With my own IT staff I would periodically order lunch and beverages, call them into a room and give them some sort of doomsday scenario and give them three hours to do a workout and move-forward plan.  The scenario exercise turns goals into working sessions.  Goals become an ongoing process improvement project, not just a metric that is reviewed quarterly.  The bean counters rarely understand this approach and those within who you can see a light flicker can rarely pull it off.

Commit to a process.  Work on it every day.  Incremental improvement and accomplishment will reward you.  Despite comments that real creativity cannot come from a flat panel display, it can when your world is one of ideas, of words and phrases.  Setting a goal of writing each day is worthless.  Committing to a time and a place and making the keys on the QWERTY keyboard move, regardless of volume or quality will get you the volume and quality.

More on this to follow...the small business calls.  It's 11:32 PM and I have to be up and active about 6:00 AM.  Christmas Day will be a nice day, quiet but a time for reflection and .... process.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

#82 12/22/13 children

It is such a pleasure to have responsible, successful children who also happen to be kind and have a good sense of humor.  They each fell very far from my tree.

Cloud Apps and Devices...
Over the past few years virtualization of network servers put us back where IBM had us thirty years ago; large computing appliances that run a lot of things efficiently and securely.  Of course we now all have our own PCs and tablets and smart phones...and the ability to type with our thumbs or some sort of stylus, and that is truly progress.  It's unfortunate that IBM was steered to the side of channel for concerns of monopolization, but now we have the same with Microsoft...but it's changing.  About 140 days ago I purchased a high-end notebook with quite an inventory of software and the standard accessories.  It took about two weeks of diddling around to get Windows 7 working correctly, the software installed and it all appropriately recognized where it should be.

For all practical purposes I've used my $249 Samsung Chromebook for ninety-five percent of my work and "in pursuit of work" over the past eighty-two days.  The $2500 notebook is in my briefcase.  The Chromebook runs almost all day on a charge.  The $2500 notebook is good for about three hours, less than a standard airline flight for a good C-level guy like me.

There seems little point with the exception of really graphics intensive work to use other than the Chromebook.  At a personal level I'm totally cloud in terms of the device and I'm a heavy user of cloud storage solutions (e.g. www.dropbox.com) and backup tools (www.backblaze.com).  Cisco's recent purchase of a firm deep in software defined networking certainly foreshadows the direction of enterprise and personal connectivity data/voice solutions.

Target Security Breach...
Target's move of a 10% discount the weekend before Christmas as appeasement for their security breach seems 1) a bit light and 2) a predictor of a perpetually escalating pattern of discounts to keep shoppers.  Red Card (Redcard?) users already get a 5% discount and I get coupons from Target all the time for additional 5% off shopping days.  I usually misplace those until after the expiration date.  If it's an incentive to shop I'm not sure why there is an expiration date.  Target wants my business but only until mm/dd/yy, not mm/dd+1/yy.  Penny's fell on their face when they dropped coupons and you have to be an idiot to shop at Kohl's without a coupon and no one eats at Arby's without a coupon.

Given Target's strategy of greatly reduced SKUs and a narrowed target buyer (women 20-40) it seems that this storewide discount strategy will become commonplace.

Target and Walmart already offer a price match on advertised items.  If I was in the driver's seat at Walmart I would have lowered prices storewide.  At a point the Arkansas giant will simply move a few percentage points below "match" and that will be the match.  The old story used to be that Target would be in trouble when WalMart figured out retailing; they have.

I have no idea why I"m talking about Target and Walmart.  Yes, I started because of the security issue.  We'll not ever get the whole story because that would be remarkably valuable to the the next shark but you can be assured there was some inside work and some collusion.

Monday...
The arrangement with the outplacement firm, LHH, was for twelve months.  I've not been there or used their services for somewhere between four and six weeks and I've probably consumed five months of the twelve month arrangement.  I'm going to try to negotiate a sabbatical from services for a month or two while I regroup.  This seems entirely logical and an option that would set LHH apart, even though they have not competition.

That's on the MON schedule.

12/21/13 skipped a day

Thursday, December 19, 2013

#79 12/19/13 Breach, breach and more breach

Target Security Breach...
I worked right across the street from the Target Headquarters and our offices were on top of a two-story Target store and our building was occupied by Target and Target vendors.  Starting early last year there was a considerably greater presence of Target security.  Apparently additional physical security was added this week.

The credit card breach is serious.  We (me, wife, daughter) have a small business and two of our credit cards have been compromised twice at a point-of-sale system at one of our primary supply vendors.  I have to offer the comment that cards with all that info on the magnetic strip is stupid and it's remarkably  more stupid that a third security component (like a pin number) is not required.  The Target situation involved both credit and debit cards.  Users are required to enter their pin numbers for debit card transactions to occur.  Pin numbers are not required for credit card transactions.

The compromise allowed capture of all the magnetic stripe information and the pin numbers entered at the card reader.   This is a big deal.  Once you get the demographics of the the transaction location and a good customer name it is not a huge step to begin associating account numbers from other cards...and you have the CCV number and the pin number.

My personal credit card has been lifted three times from online transactions.  Each time the fraud people at US Bank were right on top of it.  For me it's pretty easy.  My purchases are predictable in terms of good and services and geographic location.

I have a Target Red Card.  Given the vast array of poor quality Chinese-made goods, my aversion to Chinese-made goods and my avoidance of Target stores in general during this time of the year I'm probably one of the few Red Card holders who might not have to worry.

Duck Dynasty Breach...
Over the past few months I actually watched a number of Duck Dynasty episodes.  As reality shows go it's pretty lame.  Watching  adults in too much camo hunting frogs or taking on near Jackass projects does not keep one on the edge of your seat.  They're not bad guys.  They seem honest, affectionate of their wives and children and they pray together before eating.

Pat Robertson shared his thoughts on homosexuality in a GQ interview and now he's suspended from the show and the rest of the family is unlikely to continue with this financial gold mine without him.

Bigotry of any kind is bad in my book.  We also have to consider freedom of speech (extremely big in my book) and freedom of religion, and Pat Robertson's statements are framed in his faith according to the excerpts I've read.  We really have no right to TV but even that is about freedom of speech although more about profits.  We should all be able to say what we wish regardless of how offensive or profane (I've been to Skokie).  The AE network can probably fire anyone they want for whatever reason unless a violation of a contract, and you can be assured that Pat Robertson's attorney's have him well covered in the contract both before and after this breach.

I have to go with freedom of speech on this one.  He was succinct and honest about his feelings and intent.  In Washington no one is succinct and no one is honest and certainly they'll all have something to say on this topic.

Work Focus Breach...
I did accomplish a little networking today, reaching out to former vendors and peers to wish a pleasant holiday season.  About twenty percent of them responded in a manner that indicated this was as much a painful season as anything else.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

#78 12/18/2013 Hump Day

Hump Day...
The term hump day seems to be popular with radio personalities.  That's the only place I ever heard that term.  I guess if you work from four or five AM for four hours you'd like your week to end and in the WED shift sixty percent of the days have started for the week.  It's been such a long, long time of seven day weeks I guess I'd prefer some reference to hump month or hump year, but what is the end point, the end game.  I hate the term hump day.

The Second Book...
"He/She is a great leader."

"There's a lot of leadership potential there."

"That would be a great person to send off to some leadership training."

Failures in leadership are pretty obvious and changes occur quickly.  Quarterbacks who cannot complete passes don't last.  CEOs who failed to provide strategy and bottom line performance are soon replaced.  Some of us get chances to be leaders and our accomplishments are very satisfying.

Most people do not really get the opportunity to be leaders, sometimes because of situations but perhaps more often because we lack the skills to be good leaders.  Where we fail most often is as followers.  There's nothing wrong about being in a support role.  Many years ago I had an acquaintance who had worked at a bank many years and was an assistant vice president.  I was much younger, inexperienced in business and a bit of a smart mouth.  During a conversation I asked about this status as an 'assistant' vice president and he looked back at me and responded that he did a very good job at what he did, was respected by peers with less and greater tenure and that not everyone was going to be the bank president.

I've thought of that conversation often.  Enhancing our skills, honing our communication, listening and working to make our own manager successful and respected and ensuring that our dialogue was fruitful, usually honest and strategic is key.  Leaders come and go far more often than followers.  Don't be a threat or a problem but a team player and hope that your manager was a good follower, too.

Distractions...
A few minutes ago I looked at the wall and saw several empty boxes wondering why they were there.  Seventy-eight days ago I brought home five computer paper boxes of items from my office.  A month ago I threw most of the contents away.  Some of the items that I kept in my desk at work are not in my desk at home.  My office was about eight by eight and my desk was standard sized.  My desk at home is smaller and my office is in another room that is a collection of decades of life. 

The Lufkin measure remains from my factory career as a set-up man at Universal Milking Machine where I spent five years keeping my digits out of the punch presses, power shears, turret lathes, etc.  I think the green highlighter is from my tenure as a Research Analyst at the State of MN which ended in 1981. 

The screwdriver under the scissors ended up here when my IT staff finally took my tools and my network admin rights away from me, reminding me that I was an executive.  The scissors is also from that gig.  I have no memory of ever using it and no idea of how it came to be here.  Perhaps it was in the desk when I bought it in 1983.

These things in my desk, with the exception of the nail clipper and flashlight are of much value.  Having the right tools and perspective for the next gig is important.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

#77 12/17/13 TUE ...lost & found & checking your javelin...

Lost...
From 9:00 AM on I really have no idea what happened to today.  There was a 1.5 hour conversation with a former room mate, an avocado BLT, a middle eastern buffet, a large can of Monster and no other apparent productive output but I was busy all day and started the day with a bang (might have been the Monster) with the intent of treating this non-working day as a working day.  This lends itself to the question of whether I did anything other than eat and consume caffeine and talk at my 27-year job.

Found...
The first Flip video camera that I purchased was wonderful.  I've lost that one.  When Cisco purchased Flip I purchased one of their HD cameras which was not quite as simple as the first.  It's not clear when I purchased this second one.  My weekend vehicle is a 2004 Ford F-150 which is used for all sorts of 'up north' projects and is in my mind a moving tool box and in my wife's mind a grungy truck full of stains with no where to sit.  It would seem that a six passenger extended cab pickup should have room for two people.  Today I found the second Flip camera in the truck where it seems to have been lost for more than three years.  According to Google, Cisco purchased that company in 2009 so it's been floating around in America's favorite pickup for four years.

I've plugged it into the USB but it will not take a charge.  Who knows what great video is now lost.  The original Flip was simpler and used AA batteries.  That was a good idea.  Cisco paid $590M for Flip and then dumped it a year later.  That's about the time I sold my Cisco stock.

Holiday Travel...
My son and daughter-in-law will be returning from Aarhus, Denmark for a few days.  I wanted to go greet them upon arrival and reviewed their tickets and was struck with the following detail:

1ST CHECKED BAG:  FREE OF CHARGE  UPTO50LB 23KG AND62LI 158LCM
                                   OR HOCKEY EQUIPMENT
                                   OR JAVELIN
                                   OR MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS


That's pretty interesting that you can bring your javelin free of charge.  If you cannot bring a nail clipper on the plane I guess it makes sense that it's also preferable to the airlines that you not bring your javelin on the plane whether it be for recreationally passing the time or, I don't know, poking holes in the side of the plane.  It seemed worth a question and I asked my son if traveling with a javelin was pretty standard in Europe (I am not a big traveler).  "It's good to be prepared" was the response.  I have a baseball bat on the floor of the F-150 but perhaps I should put a javelin in the gun rack.

Work...
My call today to my boss of the first 25 of my 27 years felt good and suggesting lunch seemed timely and appropriate.  He'll pay, of course, and that's good because I don't even have a dumb job.

January is around the corner and I've reached out to my LHH guy and will schedule a time to meet early in the month.  It's time and I believe I can now put some better parameters around my goals.

Monday, December 16, 2013

#76 Monday

On a personal note I don't think I can write better right now than I did yesterday.  I'm pleased on that progress.  Seat time at the keyboard is paying off.

On the career note I did read two issues of CIO Magazine this morning.  This was the first time in seventy-six days that I felt the urge to get into technical issues, challenges, opportunities and the future of AWS, software defined networks, etc.

Interestingly this afternoon I had a call from a networking contact who mentioned two open positions that knew I was available and two people who had temporary CIO positions who wanted to speak with me.  I'm going to be a hot commodity by my new launch date of 1/15/13.

The photo has nothing to do with the preceding but I'm struck with the fact that I'm shoveling snow and leaves and it's already been a snowy, cold memorable winter.  It's always interesting when the ground freezes, you can drive your car on the lake and you've forgotten about mosquitoes and ticks because you're busy scraping ice off your car and trying to stay somewhat warm.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

SUN 12/15/13 Goodbye Peter O'Toole

In the mid 1970s my good friend Steve Peaslee moved to the Twin Cities to attend the University of MN. Steve was the guy who fostered my interest in photography and was pretty blunt about telling me what of my work really sucked.  He was also a film buff and started talking incessantly about Lawrence of Arabia and ultimately entered some sort of film program at the U.

Steve died unexpectedly at about age forty-five and I've thought of him often.  A few years ago I followed up on his recommendation of LOA and I've now watched it at least four times which is three more viewings than any other film in my life.  With the passing of Peter O'Toole, a wonderful actor, unfortunately dying probably because of years of self-abuse I thought again of Steve.  As I drove down our road I looked out over the beaver pond, saw the moon rising and took a quick shot out the window.  Steve would have appreciated the thoughts on Peter O'Toole but he would have been critical certainly of the exposure of the attached image and perhaps the composition and would have suggested capturing something broader, more reflective of the windswept, cold north land in which I found myself today.  I thought about wrapping myself against the blowing sand and prodding my camel into the windswept desert.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"I Don't Want To Be A Pinhead No More" SAT 12/14/13

div style="padding: 3px; width: 400px; text-align: center;"> LyricsRamones lyrics - Pinhead lyrics

Radio Rut (Now that would be a good song name)...
Since March of 2012 or slightly before I've had my car radio set to the Pearl Jam station on Sirius satellite radio.  During that time about 40,000 miles have been traveled so even at an average speed of 30 MPH that's somewhere around 1300 hours of Eddie Vedder, or at 60 MPH about 650 hours.  I still don't know hardly any of the lyrics but I've enjoyed the live concerts, especially in South America and I know some melodies.  A couple of days ago someone at a concert was recognized and dragged on stage because they had attended 100 concerts.  Assuming a standard three-hour concert this guy is at about three hundred hours; a mere quarter of my time.

In a moment of weakness I switched to the classic vinyl channel and hear the Ramones with "I don't want to be a pinhead."  Well, I'm not sure what a pinhead actually is but I'm assuming it's something sort of nerdy and I certainly wish to bring the nerd component of my life to one of less prominence.

Wrapping The Past and Unwrapping The Future...
I'm now referring to my 27-year gig simply as "the place I used to work" and it's occupying much less of my thought.  Another significant insight was alluded to yesterday.  The future (for me) does not reside behind a flat glass panel.  It resides in my hands and it's awkward for me to say, but it resides in my heart.  This is good.

January 15th or so...
Mid-January is my revised day to a new job/consulting/business schedule.  You can only do what you can do and I have a lot of undone items that I'm working on.  The backlog is a big smaller.

Novel Update...
My sleep patterns have been awful and I seem to wake up with winter barometric pressure changes and for all the other reasons that an over-60 guy wakes up.  At those moments I pick up the trilogy of high-tech novels that I'm reading as a bit of a training ground for a novel idea that my better half has planted in my head.  Putting together a six hundred page novel has always seemed a bit overwhelming but with closer scrutiny it's clear that the dialogue and verbiage is not complex and simply wrapped around some intertwined plot lines.  I can do this.

Friday, December 13, 2013

#73 12/13/13 "They Haven't Made The Perfect Job" & Looking At Things Differently

It's been a number of days of broken things, faulty parts and ideas a bit porous.  My daughter had a problem with her sewer line which has been problematic on and off since purchasing her house a few years ago.  In the city we expect things to go away when we flip the handle.  Rural residents are more familiar with those downward directed deposits coming back.  The Roto-Rooter guy showed up at eight o'clock and I showed up at eight-fifteen so the daughter/homeowner could go off to her business where something else would probably break, too, or they would run out of critical cafe components.

The Roto-Rooter guy was not a young guy but diligently dragged the monster clean-out machine down the steps and started his work.  Having been in the driver's seat of one of those devices a few times I'm thinking about slime-avoidance and the inevitable moment when the snake snags on something bad and becomes irretrievable.  On a good day it all goes out and back in and at some point in forty to eighty feet of twirling the obstacle is scraped away and it gurgles and we're back in happy-land with the downward-directed home refuse moving and becoming the responsibility and property of the city sanitary workers who dump it in the Mississippi.

He was pretty quiet and it took about fifteen minutes of me telling every sewer story I could think of and asking him all the details of his snake before I got him talking.  It was a nice snake and had  a power option to push the snake out and to retrieve it. Nice.  Finally, upon inquiry, he responded that he had worked for Roto-Rooter for thirty-two years.  As a twenty-seven year washout of the corporate sewer world I was impressed and responded " well they must be a good company to work for or you must really like the work."  It's a manageable job.  You receive work orders via your smart phone application or a phone call, drive to the location, lug in your machine and a toolbox with a BFH and the ever present ChannelLock, open up the cleanout, do your thing, pack up, clean up, get paid, leave and start on the next work order.  

This kind of job probably pays OK, you get to work independently and have time to think about things other than making money for your employer.  Wanting to know how he felt about this as a career I pressed a bit and received a two-point response.  "They have not made the perfect job, yet."  "You have to learn how to let a lot of things go."

In my twenty-seven year gig letting things go was not my standard route because you had to get things done, keep things working and advance the whole environment...all the time.  This notion mentioned in yesterday's post of getting your materials together, get your hands dirty and make things, not anticipating the next world-changing product but just plugging along and good work will emerge probably is complimented by the advice to let a lot of things go.  You're not going to be an expert at everything and it's probably unusual to be an expert at anything.  Just work and try to be good and let things go.

Some of the sewer cleaning people who've worked on my daughter's outbound lines  have created horrible images of collapsing sewer tile and monster trees sending their tentacle roots into the sewer lines to create multiple obstacles and problems.  High-tech people have sent cameras through the line and shared images of all the problems.  The doomsday sewer people always follow it up with business cards for plumbers and solutions costing thousands of dollars.  The Roto-Rooter guy charged $229 and recommended six-month followups with a big dose of copper sulfate to kill the tree roots and then "...you never have to call us again."  "Like the Maytag repairman?"  "Just like that."

So the lesson of the day is to let things go that you cannot deal with and probably a few that you should deal with and the day will go better and it might be a nice thirty-two year gig.  Be good at whatever it is that you like to do or what you might be good enough to do.

On a very positive, bonus note, while standing in my daughter's basement I saw my green Igloo cooler from 1974 that I've been looking for since 2008.  While that cooler has nothing to do with crafting a job/career plan there are a lot of stories and memories.  I was glad to see it one more time and I hope that my daughter and her household add some good stories of their own.

It's still unseasonably cold.  I'm burning lots of wood.  That's a job in and of itself.  You have to let things go and I'm officially deciding today to spend 12/13 through 1/15 re-visiting the LHH resources, picking up a couple of skill refreshers done on their learning/knowledge site and finishing a languishing web project.  That's the plan.

Oh, yes, as I was driving home my daughter called and asked me to pick up something at the restaurant supply place.  "Sure, I can do that.  I don't even have a dumb job."  At the supply place I tried to used my electronic ID but failed because I was using my Veterans Administration card.  A nice person identified the problem.  And so it goes without a dumb job.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

It's Amazing How Long This All Lasts... (#72 / THU / 12-12-13)

It's Amazing How Long This All Lasts...
My better half and I have done a few more than twenty senior moves of relatives entrenched in their homes for thirty years who then transition to senior housing, assisting living, long term care and the last move.  While visiting my ninety-seven year old aunt who lives in independent senior living we talked about some health and personal care issues that I never would have anticipated, like really personal things on and in and coming out of a very elderly lady's body.  Of course her friends are all gone so her sixty-two year old nephew gets to deal with that.

There was some frustration on her part that during a recent doctor appointment for a physical she did not have to remove her clothes.  My mother at about ninety started to complain, too, about not getting to take her clothes off for the doctor.  To both of them I said that they were probably the oldest people the doctor had actually talked to who actually had their wits about them and were more interested in the genetics or lifestyle that kept them alive more than about something that might do them in deep into their nineties.  What are you going to do if you find some issue on a 95 year old.  I'd send them home to eat Ben and Jerry's and to have a smoke.

After running through a discourse on doctors and medication she remarked "It's amazing how long this all lasts..." referring to her body.  I commented that it was amazing that she still had her mental capacities about her.  "Oh, do you think so?"  "Yes, let's have some ice cream."

December & January Issues...
Last December and January were a test of my personal resilience with three family deaths, car accidents and a flurry of family health issues.  This December is a test of my personal resilience with sequential vehicle issues, HVAC issues, plumbing issues, time management issues and a sore should from throwing snow back on my neighbor's driveway after they blew it on mine.  We'll see what January brings.

"Steal Like An Artist" by Austin Kleon
Repeating comments two days in a row or in close days or the same week is probably bad style but this is really a good book.  Not often do I read a book twice and I've never read a book twice in two days but that's what happened.  The advice that has been running through my head in my six-hour, two hundred mile visit to my aunt (other than when yacking with her) was the same thing that I've felt for a decade.  You need to get your hands dirty, jump into the material and the tools and the ideas and move some stuff around and good work will emerge; there will be some dogs, too, but really good things come from the foundations of creative work.  All of my art that is good was not planned, but if I just thought about it nothing happened.  Even practice pieces were of little value.  You need to go out on the two inch ice and hope for the best.


I am also of the opinion, like Mr. Kleon, that very little really creative work comes from sitting in front of a flat glass panel with out hands on the old QWERTY device....the exception of course being what we create in a literary sense but it's possible that a notebook, good pens and some Post-It notes would moves us along more quickly ( I do hold Post-It notes in the highest regard for enabling great things in business and personal lives, perhaps more than the personal computer).  I'd give up my iPhone before I'd give up Post-It Notes.


Ongoing Commitments...
Between ideas and mediums I wish/need to pursue and this crazy backlog of life tasks I'm 97% certain I'm going to stall any consulting pursuits until mid-January.  

 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Day #71 / WED / 12/11/13

Weathering The Weather
The pre-holiday cold continues to challenge us.  A water main down the street broke and one of our vehicles failed to start this AM.  The water main did not affect us but I did have several moments of appreciation that I did not have to work outside last night.  During my many years in the commercial construction industry there was not a day that I did not appreciate the work of the people out in the cold and the heat dodging falling things and trying not to fall themselves.

This afternoon I pulled a set of jumper cables and prepared to hook a working vehicle to a non-working vehicle but one of the clamps was missing.  The cables are kept in a five gallon bucket in the back up the pickup along with a tow strap, a couple of chains and an empty Monster can.   Some digging around located the clamp.  Generally speaking I've found it advantageous to leave a screwdriver (multi-bit) and a vice-grip in every vehicle and tool box I own.  While I could have used a big hammer everything was put back into working order.  A trip to Wal-Mart for a discount battery was marked by the especially interesting crowds.  It was only -4 F so I actually could work without gloves to get the new battery in and this vehicle did not require one to have two additional joints in your arm to get everything in place.

Creative Foundation
I'm working on an outline for a novel.  I have outlines for a couple of business books but after seventy days of not going in an office or cubicle I'm having a short vacation from that sort of environment.  It's likely that I'll hold back on business writing and cubicle/office pursuits until after the first of the year.  Most of my executive peers hated the concept but I'm pretty certain that not much happens between Thanksgiving and the first of the year other than strategic planning, budgeting and holiday parties.

As pre-work for the novel I'm reading a trilogy by Daniel Suarez that starts with Daemon.  It's a pop literature novel with lots of information technology content and large scale internet gaming plots.  I've gone down this path a few times, reading all the work by a particular novelist or trilogies to get a sense of characters, plots, dialogue, etc.  Like most language challenges (that would include Ruby on Rails) it requires seat time and I'm having some trouble getting seat time. 

One of the challenges in this creative space is thinking that your work has to be all that special.   Austin Kleon's work sort of slaps you on the side of your head and trashes that notion of it being all that special.  I'm grinding through Steal Like An Artist and will digest his other work shortly.  There are a lot of books like these that I wish I'd read a long, long time ago.

Feedback and Vacuum
The winter season means more time in the shop extracting folk art and primitive craft items from trees that have been spared from death by fire.  I've linked up with other like crafters on Facebook and that has been very positive.  There are people who appreciate art although it mostly other people creating art; there's a shortage of buyers unless you are really good or talented but at least the craft people like to exchange and comment on other's work.  LHH has some live sessions where out of work executives get together and network and plan.  I've not attended any of those.  I should.  My default tendency is to work independently.  I might not recognize that as a vacuum.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Day 70...TUE...12/10/13

Gimme...
My furnace, fireplace, water (solid), alarm issues were followed up by more cold and vehicle issues.  It's turned into a fourteen hour days with little to show for it except receipts.

Without further explanation, thought or sense of writing failure I'm taking a blog gimme for 12/10/13.

68 + 69 = 137 SUN-MON Oh boy....

Catch-Up & Ketchup
Heading 'up north' was delayed a bit on the home front but it did happen.  With a stop for coffee and donuts (how did my life come to this) I was northbound by 12:30, perhaps 1:00 with the next stop planned for Pine City.  The bottom of the Ketchup bottle has been the  top of the contents since at least August.  Wal-Mart seemed like a good stop.  Somehow the stop for Ketchup ended up being $100 after picking up another 'milk house' electric heater and miscellaneous other food stuffs.

Background
The up north home hit a low SAT night of -27 F and at 4:00 AM the security company called me to let me know that there were a temperature alert.  I don't know what temperature that kicks off on but the sensor is on the walk out level which is usually about twelve degrees cooler than the main floor where I'd left the thermostat set at either 50 F or 52 F last weekend.  A few years ago I purchased a Freeze Alarm which has saved me several times.  You can call into the Freeze Alarm and it will also call you.  That's also placed on the lower level and it calls at 42 F and it had been calling me since SAT evening.  SUN when I called in it was 38 F and at noon it was 37 F so I knew there was an issue.

Snow
About two feet of snow had fallen but fortunately I'd blown about half of it before leaving.  Upon arrival I blasted through the new stuff (thanks 4WD).  Inside the thermostat showed the furnace to be on but it was dead quiet with no fire in the beast.  Downstairs I hit the reset button on the furnace and it roared to life.  There is also a milk house heater hooked up to an outlet that turns it on at 45 F.  That was not on until I kicked it.

Luck is more intuitive that we think.  Adding some clothes I headed outside to get rid of the additional snow which took another 1.5 hours.

Bad, Bad, Bad...
Back in the house I went to the walk out level and turned on the water and then proceed to start a fire in the wood stove.  When cold (as it was) I need to open a window to get the draft going.  The windows were frozen shut so I opened the door but still had a major smoke backup and spent a good twenty minutes getting the fire working correctly.

As I headed back to the stairs I saw massive amounts of water coming through the ceiling.  Eight years ago we had a major freeze issue.  That led to the purchase of the Freeze Alarm.  At first I thought the kitchen sink was overflowing.  When I leave I open all the faucets and then turn the water off.  Running upstairs I saw that the sink faucet was off but water was flowing out from under the dishwasher.  Running downstairs I turned off the water for the house and went back up on a freeze/crack/leak.  The water feed to the dishwasher froze.  Fortunately there was a shutoff under the sink.  Cleanup took several hours.

Today the input lines for the washer (also in the kitchen) showed signs of leakage.

When it was time to go there was a complicated issue with the alarm system and the monitoring company that took another couple of hours to resolve.  It's not worth describing.

There's an App for That...
Really what I wanted to do was be able to pull out my phone and see what the temperature is at the remote location.  Calling into the Freeze Alarm will give you the temperature and power situation but it's a little complicated and a commitment of a solid five minutes.  Amazon searches showed an interesting solution that allows you to see the current temperature and history on you smart phone for $11 per year and the wireless device which is $75.  I also ordered a second device for $45 and will put one on each level.  All of the customer reviews on Amazon said the customer service for this product was somewhere between non-existent and awful.  I does do what I want but will be a problem when the power goes out according to all the reviews which said it fails on a power re-set.

Paranoia is a good thing.  I just called the Freeze Alarm which said it is 50 degrees.  The thermostat was left at 58 F so it appears the furnace is cycling correctly after the reset.  That was the second time in eleven years that I hit the reset.  I have no idea what the failure issue was either time.

Jobs & Careers...
This was two days where a job would have cost me a lot in terms of further freeze damage.  It's clear now why people sell their MN properties and head to AZ.  Trying to fight the cold in person is difficult but fighting it in absences is even more complicated and challenging.

Tomorrow...LHH

December 7, Day #67, Saturday

December 7...
Today should probably be a national holiday but so should 9/11 and a lot of other dates.  All of our nations and states and rogue beliefs do a lot of killing.

-11 Fahrenheit...
On Thursday I had good intentions of a productive, networking, planning sort of day.  The weather this week certainly has been such that one should remain inside next to something that is burning but we are drawn out for practical matters such as snow removal but we seem to want to test the weather.  Signs warn us not to touch hot things or not to jump into the hot springs or warn us that the water is too cold for swimming but we go right ahead and try it.  Outside we go without enough clothes, too light a jacket, not hat or generally in a test mode only to suffer or run back inside or think "next time I'll..."  It's not even the middle of December and I'm ready for spring, or Arizona.

AC/DC...
If you cannot control your distractions, putting some time frames around a particular indulgence you might as well immerse yourself.  In one of my previous posts I mentioned a gentleman whose best advice to writers was to "write about what you know" even if the only thing you knew well was your dog.  Don't attempt science fiction when your expertise is dog smiles.  I'm thinking I might as well write about my distractions from gainful employment.

I've been listening to my favorite music podcast website and have been distracted and listening to the fourth song in the current podcast which is It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n Roll).  I'm not sure if that means getting to the top of anything is hard if you are distracted by R 'n R or if it is about getting to the top of R 'n R.  Regardless, I've listened to it about ten times today while writing and working and here I am writing about a primary distraction of the day.  I'm at a loss.

Forward...

I might simply need more privacy.  I'm far astray from the original intent of this blog.  Entrepreneurs frequently have a number of businesses fail before finding success.  There's no reason to expect creative endeavors to be any different.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013 Day #66

Resources...
Yesterday I sent an email to my career consultant asking when the twelve-month contract ended.  "I'll look it up if we get on a schedule."  OK.  There are some resources I want to use ( training, webinars, etc.) that I want to make sure I exploit, and course I'd like to best utilize the consultant, too.

Growing up in the 1950s there was a distinct legacy of the shortage of basic goods during the years of WWII.  My father, grandfathers and uncles all had coffee cans full of nails, straight and bent, screws and nuts and bolts.  That was where you went first, probably because of the war years.  If not there you groused and went to the lumberyard or hardware store which was expensive and long before the days of competitive customer service.

When I look at the pens in front of me I think of coffee cans that will probably never be empty but will also probably not have want you want or need but certainly something you can "make work."

There are far more words  (and lines for my artist and design acquaintances) in this plastic cup than I will ever need.  Just as we've replaced screwdrivers with screwguns and hammered nails with nailguns very few of us write or create from a cup full of pens and pencils.  It's slower, less convenient and has been replaced by new devices and media.  I cannot write a blog with a pen.  iPad or Galaxy fans might say yes but QWERTY rules for words.

So I need to get on track consuming resources, and I will.  I've taken a broad approach to the next steps and I am in awe of the resources available.  If I needed a job immediately one could be found.  If I define a job or role or position or activity (e.g. creative)  that I'd simply like to do, independent of compensation, there are a lot of coffee cans. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Day #65 Which Happens To Be A Thursday

Snow Removal...
The previous two days were good days to have a working snowblower.  Mine was in for maintenance, but now I have it for the next two days that warrant something other than a shovel.  The repair guy commented that "they don't make them like that any more."  It's a Bolens and about 30 years old.  A number of features were faulty immediately but I've worked around them.  It leaks gas, the tires leak, the auger and drive controls are lame, the insulated handlebar grips fell off a couple of decades ago and the shutoff switch does nothing.  Once off the truck I thought I'd run it down the driveway that I shoveled for hours.  It seemed work but the auger control would not move.  The first thought was to drag it back to the shop but instead I pulled out the kerosene ready heater and heated the whole thing up to near combustion temperatures.  That worked.  It's fine.

Public Health...
While leaving the snowblower repair place I glanced to my left.  I'm not sure if the hardware store sells the
bed bug killer or if there was a phone number in the snowbank.  As I thought about the -20 degree windchill, my gloves, multiple layers, warm socks, hat, etc., I thought "do bed bugs have gloves, multiple layers, warm socks, a hat, etc.?"  Probably not.  I guess it would be the time of the year where if you did have a problem with bed bugs you could just drag your mattress outside and lean it up against the garage or a tree and wait a few days.  With the wind coming out of North Dakota and the Canada prairie provinces tying the mattress to something might be a good idea.

I "Googled" something about bed bugs and freezing temperatures.  The best response was that a winter outside treatment might work if you lived in the Rockies.  Obviously that was written by someone who has not lived in six decades of MN winters which can certainly kill unprepared humans, much less, bugs.  Apparently the outside treatment in more moderate climates causes the bed bugs metabolism to slow down making them even more durable.  That's nice.

Webinar...
Today was a day to participate in a webinar put on by a company that I applied at.  Even though they are a Google Application services company and even though I entered it in my Google Calendar application I simply forgot.  The iPhone need to scream, not ring or vibrate.

Networking...
Today did involve some networking with contacts in the IT space.  Each of the conversations ended open-ended and that is good.  My Friday is clear so I'm going to get caffeine early and make it a good good wrap up for the week.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Day 64 / WED

High Points ...
  • the day is almost over
  • nice dinner
  • heard from my trapper friends in BC...all is well 
Low Points ...
  • I've been moving snow for two days 100 miles apart
    • hence the short, obtuse commentary
  • the temperature is dropping
  • time to focus on year-end accounting & taxes 
Perspective and Opportunity ...
  • there are no ticks or mosquitoes in this weather
  • i've left a lot of baggage on the siding which will make for lean, expedited travel...probably post 1/1/14
  • thinking denmark in feb or mar
  • thursday will be a good day to hunker down, keep the fire going literally and figuratively

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Day 63 / TUE

Some Days Are Totally Different From What You Expect..
Monday I believe primitive instincts kicked in.  Several cords of wood were moved closer to the location or point of anticipated combustion.  A good woodsman is several years ahead of that point.  Twice during the day I hooked up the trailer and moved some nice split and dry oak.  I could have put it off for another day but it just seemed to be needed to be done.

This morning I awoke to 8" of wet snow.  The plans were adjusted and changed to 'snow removal' activities'.  Fortunately I'd just retrieved my snowblower last week.  Making things happen under stress such as time constraints causes poor thinking and the ever reliable machine would not start.  That made no sense so I walked around and looked at the beauty about me, wondering why I would want to leave such a place (or screw up the morning with noise and gas fumes).  Not getting the beast started was a message.  It changed my day. 

It's amazing that after 63 years ( and today only, 63 days) that you can forget how nice snow looks.  Sometime in November I start to think about the last two weeks of January and the first two weeks of February, but winter is not all that harsh.  We tend to think about the worst twenty percent of winter, the coldest days, the biggest blizzards or falling on the ice.

A few years ago we were in the midst of management training and started in on a never-ending list of 80/20 rules.  As managers we spend 80% of our time on 20% of our employees and most often they are the problems or the low producers.  That's just the way it works.  That's the way organizations work and remain dysfunctional.  We talk and talk and talk and make performance plans, etc.  If good managers put 80% of their time into the top 20%, giving them all the resources and support they need we would be much more productive.  Good managers are usually not as bright, as good or as productive as their best employees; they know their value is in providing support and running interference.  Good employees leave because managers cannot do their job.  The top 20% of employees leave because 80% of the managers (or the collective 80% of company 'management') spend their time in the wrong place.

Monday was guided by intuition.  I mange by intuition.  You have do do what feels right, not necessarily what your want to do or what is logical or what 80% of the managers do.  It differentiates you.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Day 62 / Monday / DEC 2 / Late In The Day

Start Then Finish, Start Then Finish and so on...

I'm not exactly done mowing and now it's snowing.

This is the first fall in a long, long time that I've felt a little bit caught up and in synch with the weather.  Unexpectedly, snow was on the ground this morning and it continued all day.  The highway was not plowed and I only had one close call with sliding around a corner in 4WD with a full trailer of oak firewood.

Burning wood is a lot of work but it keeps one outside, working and moving about and you have to think and act carefully and strategically, especially with the chainsaw and tree felling aspects.  It's a good opportunity to consider the physics at work in nature.

Electronic Work...
It seems that hours per day at spent at the keyboard.  Today it was website updates and creation, document reviews and email account management.  When Windows first arrived on the desktop good surveys indicated that workers spent at least 25% of their day just messing with Windows configurations.  That was before the internet.  Last year I was of the opinion that workers spend at least 50% of their time cruising the internet, doing personal email and, of course, making friends on Facebook.  I'm going to re-visit my notion of off-grid days.   

Day #61

The Phone Does Not Ring...
During my last gig my phone rang all the time.  There were always issues, conflicts, problems and requests.  Sales people for telecomm companies, professional service firms, training companies and a host of others called incessantly, wanting my time and the companies money.  Filtering the requests and matching them to the IT needs of the company and the overall business plan consumed a lot of time.   Most called my office phone and others figured out my cell phone.  The good providers, the partners in our success, called my cell phone.

But When It Does Ring...
In sixty-one days I've had a few calls from my staff who were checking in.  It's entirely possible that they missed me or thought I might have something worthwhile to say on the transition.  Since I've left there have been changes in direction, new people hired and people who have left.  The company I knew exists as a snapshot on September 30th.

I've had a really nice letter and call from a former member of the Board of Directors and I'm truly touched by that.  One of our longstanding sales people has also reached out on both a friendly and professional basis and for that I'm thankful.  Others have been in touch via email and text and offered their assistance and partnership and that, too, has been heartwarming.   It was a network of good people and at a point I'll be working them as they worked me.  Somewhere I read that turnabout was fair play.

Turnabout...
Now I need to be the sales person.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Day Sixty On The Road

video
Still Moving Forward...
Each day provides an opportunity.  My focus has been to move forward.  What's behind me is known and tired.  Moving forward is moving into the dark (for about fourteen hours a day this time of the year) but that is just fine.

Shoes...
My daughter is a shoe junkie.  Yesterday she looked at my Columbia pseudo-hiking shoes and commented "those are the kind of shoes that South Minneapolis liberals wear...when they want to look cool.  You know."  After my blank look she added "well...you do chainsaw things and stuff like that so it's OK.  They're nice."

When I was a kid we really did not have much.  "We" was my mother and me.  There was a good pair of shoes for school and perhaps church and shoes for play and buckle boots for winter.  Whenever I buy shoes now I want to hold back.  Two pair should be enough.  About a decade ago when I started to post things on the web, probably before "blog" was common place I did a shoe inventory.  My intent was to keep it up to date indefinitely.  I failed.  I did, when interviewing people, start to ask people how many pair of shoes they owned.  Women easily were in the 50-100 pair range.  Men topped out at a dozen.  I'm not sure how many pair I own now, but I know that I have at least four new pair in boxes in my closet that may never be worn unless I go back to a formal job.  My daughter made me think about my shoes.  Today I'm wearing a really comfortable pair of Red Wing oxfords.  They are pretty dorky.  There is another new pair in the closet.  I'm going to make sure that I can wear either Columbia shoes or Red Wing shoes at my next job.  It would be interesting as the interviewee to ask what kinds of shoes were acceptable.

A few years ago our "operations management team" would meet monthly to discuss important issues about running the company. One memorable meeting of executives included a ninety minute discussion of how much cleavage was acceptable for women and whether flip flops were acceptable on "casual Fridays."  At ninety minutes I interrupted and said that it had been the silliest meeting I had ever attended and stood up and walked out.  Shortly thereafter a memo came out detailing the acceptable amount of cleavage and guidelines for acceptable and unacceptable flip flops.  I concluded that not only were men obsessed about controlling women's lives they were more concerned about controlling the lives of those with cleavage than those without.  Along with asking about shoes I'm going to ask if there are more detailed dress code details for women than there are for men.