Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ford F-150, Bakken Oil Field Versus Saudia Arabia & Signatures

Bakken Oil Versus Saudi Arabia Oil

Minnesota is not too far from North Dakota.  There were never really many people in North Dakota.  As I remember it had the highest per capita income of any state and the highest percentage of bachelor farmers and a unicameral state legislature.  Undoubtedly one would have to leave the state to have any fun or excitement.  The Bakken Oil development has changed that.

During 'the gig' one of my employees (an NDSU graduate) mentioned that he
Bakken Oil Gas Prices Saudi's
had a friend in North Dakota who suggested there was a huge opportunity for commercial construction companies in ND because of the developing oil fields.  This was around 2001 or 2002.  My group was an information technology group.  We brought that information to the business development people who did nothing with it except to say more or less "there's nothing in North Dakota."  Apparently they did not read newspapers, the internet, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, etc.  In 2012 they actually drove to North Dakota to look around.  Upon return they said "we believe we are too late to that market."

A couple of years ago I filled my Ford F-150 at a pump that stopped at $100 charges.  I think it took $130 to fill it at four something a gallon.  Now the tankers pass my home four or five times a day with locomotives pulling 100+ cars.  Apparently the Bakken oil is actually affecting the market.  The Saudi's who have he best oil in the world, requiring little refining before being able to burn it, have lowered the price to $50/barrel.  In combination with the Bakken oil the price of gas is crazy low.  At a pure consumer level that's fine but it does nothing to solve the degradation of the planet.  Dependence of domestic oil is no better than dependence on foreign oil in the long run. 

Ford F-150's
Far in the past it seemed prudent to purchase a pickup.  My first was a 1980 Dodge D-50 manufactured by Mitsubishi who also happened to manufacture heavy battleships and combat aircraft for Japan during WWII.   We also added a 1981 Dodge D-50 purchased at a great price from an air conditioning company that had gone upside down.

The small pickups were fine but we had a child and moved up to a new 1987 Ford F-150.  There is no memory of what it cost but it seems it was about $11,000.  Details:  short box, straight six, four speed manual with manual hubs.  In 1994 it was replaced with a F-150, also a straight six but an extended cab with a five speed manual and air conditioning (wow).  After 133,000 miles my wife convinced me it was time to replace the 'up north' traveling vehicle so we moved up to a 2004 F-150 which was an unbelievable vehicle.  I felt like I was riding down the highway on the living room sofa with V-8 and audio system power that seemed to be without limit.  

During 'the gig' I went through a few commuter vehicles.  The last was a 2008 Ford Fusion purchased new.  The Sirius radio kept me sane during my 'moving parking lot' commutes, travels to Chicago and points afar.  This past summer I hit a few road hazards which included a new set of tires and a week later another.  Recently it turned over 134,000 miles.

This blog thing has been an effort to document and ponder and plan my 'post gig' world.  When one does not have a job one does not really need a commuter car.  I've scratched around on a few things but realize my upcoming income will come from Al Gore's internet or some telecommuting location like my home or somewhere nearby with good wireless (I have sat in my car in Target parking lots more than once).  

Yesterday the commuter car went away.  The previous commuter car was a 2003 VW Passat which left with my favorite White Stripes CD's in the player.  The Ford Fusion left with my favorite Joni Mitchell CD's firmly entrenched with "Disk Error" on the panel.   I felt worse about the CD's than the car and pondered why I'd not uploaded them to my Amazon Cloud player catalog.

Car Logic
1.  You don't need a commuter car if you don't have a job.
Car Logic
2.  A 2004 F-150 with 148,000 miles should not be an issue if you don't have a job and it's well maintained and there's nothing wrong with it.
3.  A new F-150 will take me a decade past my Social Security retirement age of 66 if the 7-10 year history of the 1987, 1994 and 2004 F-150's are any indicator.
4.  The 2015 F-150 is made of aluminum and built for $4/gallon gas.  Certainly there are executives at Ford pondering their strategic shift and wondering too if they missed the Bakken oil emergence or the craftiness of the Saudi's in controlling the world petroleum market.

So it makes not sense but I do now have a new truck and since I'm becoming a total telecommuting guy I really have no where to go and nothing to haul.

Six employees could not get the tonneau cover to open.  Once it was open they could not get it to lock
Ford F-150 & Ford Tonneau
closed.  One salesman with a bit of a Middle Eastern accent kept repeating "it is very simple."  No one could get it to work.  My wife sat quietly and said nothing.  Finally I stood up, spent ten minutes trying to open and close it with the Middle Eastern guy at my ear "it is simple, very easy.  This is very good" over and over.  Finally I announced to the sales person and the showroom "this is a piece of s***."  I own a new truck that is a color I did not want, without the compass I wanted, without the automatic light switch that I wanted, without the sound system I wanted and with a tonneau cover that requires a Middle Eastern guy to open (or close).  Somewhere around 2024 I'll be in the market for another F-150.

Hopefully I'll find a job soon and purchase a commuter car so I can just park the F-150 in the driveway (the 2004 F-150 is leaving soon).

Postscript
Apparently you don't need to have a job or income to buy a vehicle.  You do need to sign your name many times.  

Finance' lady:  "You sign your name really quickly.  Most people take a long time and make it all artistic."  

Me: "I was an executive and I signed a lot of stuff.  This is cool.  I've not had to do this for fourteen months.  This might be one of the things I miss."  

Finance Lady:  "What did you do as an executive?"  

Me:  "I thought about things, made plans, resolved conflicts of all sorts...and signed my name a lot."  

Finance Lady:  "That sounds like a good job." 

My Wife:  "Are we done?  I have stuff to do."

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Job, Non-Job & Cultural Small Business Gift

Former Job Connection:
Friday, the first day of 2015 I'm having lunch with my boss of the first 25/27ths of the 27-year gig.  Typically we meet at Matt's Bar, home of the Jucy Lucy, a big burger filled with cheese that explodes all over your shirt when you eat it.   Usually I want to take a shower after eating there.  We'll have a nice chat.  He'll pay for lunch.  We'll avoid talking about the organization.  It's pleasant that our working relationship became a friendship.  That took some work and compromise on each of our parts.
Matt's Bar ... Jucy Lucy

Job Offer:
It's a crazy New Year's week so I've not followed up on a good job lead.  Having been in the corporate world for a long time I know that little gets done between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day and nothing happens the week of Christmas and New Years.  During the gig it was a good time to organize one's plans and strategies.  Now that I'm not really employed but busy more of the time it's difficult to plan and think strategically.  New Year's Day seems like a good time to re-work the resume but it's also he day that we need to count inventory for the small business.

Non-Job Blog Monetization
The small business has taken time from the blog monetization project.  There actually has been a small return from the Google Adsense ads.  Unfortunately Google sends out a confirmation card via snail mail which contains a PIN that needs to be entered online before the buckets of money start flowing.  The card appears to be lost in the holiday mail.

Small Business Customer Appreciation
Swedish Dala Horse
During a typical day we are pretty generous with our customers.  That's something the corporate stores cannot do...perhaps they choose not to.  We're actually friends with many of them on Facebook.  One of our regular (elderly) customers is of Swedish ancestry.  Not only is she a regular customer but she's a good customer, eating often and buying items from the 'pantry.'  I noticed that she 'liked' a post from Sweden of an early primitive dala horse.  In consideration of her patronage I've made one for her, with a few historical and cultural compromises.

Back To The Former Job Discussion:
Bad House
Over the years I worked a lot.  That was my choice.  My intent was to spend my last year working to fund a number of initiatives, attempting to "give back to the community."  When I'd explain that
concept to people they'd look at me like I was crazy and state "why would you work and then give that money away?"  The simple reason was that I started with nothing, growing up in an inadequate house, lacking guidance and poor.  It took years for me to realize that I was one of the disadvantaged of America.  It's played into me working a lot, perhaps too much, but that's the way it goes.  We are from what we came and we make the best of it.  Leaving the gig a bit early compromised this community funding idea.  The blog monetization project is, in part, an effort to find resources to finish this project.  The attached photo is not my childhood home but other children live there.  It's cold in MN.  Without even going inside I know what it's like.


Mars Beagle 2 or Voles




1) Shawdow of the Mars Landing Vehicle 'Beagle 2'
         or
2) Vole Paths Under the Apple Tree








Lee Hecht Harrison
Over the course of the next few months I hope to finish a few projects with my outplacement firm, Lee Hecht Harrison.  It's also time to harass my consultant there if his book is complete.  They've been helpful.



Friday, December 26, 2014

Envisioning

In the early 1970s my good friend, Steve Peaslee introduced me to single lens reflex cameras.  For  a
Minolta SRT 100
number of reasons I was in the midst of a five year stint in a factory, Universal Milking Machines, that manufactured pipeline milking systems and bulk milk tanks.  Steve was a couple of years into the University of Minnesota and had become a lingerer in the West Bank Art Department.

Following many conversations I purchased a Minolta SRT 100.  My first roll of transparencies were reviewed by Steve's critical eye:  "These are pretty good."  I still have that SLR and the box of transparencies.  A Minolta SRT 101 was added shortly thereafter, which I also still have.  The 100 had a mirror lockup and a faster shutter speed.  Each accommodated me for a long time, one loaded w/ varying color film, the other always with TRI-X.

During my oft-mentioned stint, the 27-year gig, I kept very few objects of personal interest in my office.  Others had regularly updated family photos, flowers, and just things.  I found all of that distracting.  There was very little personal that was visible.  About twenty years ago my daughter and I took a road trip to Chicago, visiting the Chicago Institute of Art. There was a traveling Monet collection which was delightful, but what caught my attention was Van Gogh's "The Bedroom," part of CIA's permanent collection.  As it turns out there are several versions.  I could go into that but Wikipedia is more or less accurate on that topic.

Vincent Van Gogh "The Bedroom"


It is worth mentioning that this actually is his bedroom.  The room was trapezoidal (that would be nice) and the corner in the rear left is somewhat representative.  Apparently in several versions of this image that corner remained somewhat inaccurate...but of what matter is that?

Two years ago during the era of my iPhone 4 I added a high end "point and shoot" digital camera.  Shortly thereafter I replaced the iPhone 4 with an iPhone 5 and that has remained the point and shoot device of choice.  Every couple of months I pull out the camera, located the correct charger and refresh all the batteries which have virtually no use.

Today during a discussion with my son I mentioned that I was on the verge of buying a digital SLR camera.  It's not clear what caused me to start thinking about that.  If I remember correctly the Minolta SRT 100 was either $100 or $200 at the time, both numbers were big.  My weekly gross in the manufacturing plant was usually around $150.  The entry point for a digital SLR today seems to be around $500.  Our discussion was not about features but batteries.  My long ago conversation with Steve was about features and functions and he was a fan of German cameras.  My son and I discussed the disadvantages of proprietary batteries versus AAAs, the hassle of SD cards and the need to have the correct chargers and cables.  Back in the day I used a military surplus tool bag to carry my cameras, gear and a few days supply of film.  It was pretty simply.  Creativity prevailed, not electronic functionality.

After the trip to Chicago I put a small reproduction of "The Bedroom" on a shelf in my office.  There was some intent of framing it but the image initiated a transition thought.  The SRT 101 started me down one path that's lasted a long time and the Van Gogh refreshed the motivations for that journey and change.  When I left "the gig" I brought home about four copy paper boxes of files, reports, etc.  Fifteen months later all but a couple of folders has been recycled.  At my primary home workstation I am surrounded by a lot of paper more than a couple live and dead computers and more adapters and cables and CDs and memory sticks and SD cards than I care to acknowledge.  On a shelf to my right, as in the office is "The Bedroom."  It's there to remind me that this, too, is a transition to yet another point of creativity and production.

James Patterson is responsible for 17% of all hard cover fiction books sold in the US each years.  It's not clear to me how old he is but he cranks out fourteen books per year in adult and juvenile literature. He does not use a computer. This all does require seat time.  There's a farmer whose blog I follow that is also quite productive in his writing but cites that time is the problem.  During the gig that was the time consumer and during this transision I can only hope that the transition has been the time consumer and that we're getting to some mileposts.

There are no computers, outlets, adapters, batteries or cables in this image.  During a visit Gauguin stayed in an adjoining bedroom which also had no computers, outlets, adapters, batteries or cables.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Plastic Money Vanishes

During the early days of the 27-year gig we'd receive $100 in cash at the holidays.  That was nice.  Over time that changed to a check, adjusted to a net payment of $100 (the PR people hated that).  Finally it evolved to a $100 gift card.  My last gift card was received in DEC of 2012.  

This morning I was thinking about blog monetization.  Currently my efforts with the Amazon Affiliate program provide payment (little) via Amazon gift cards.  That reminded me to look for a few cards received for other purposes that I had put in an envelope last summer with the intent of using them for something meaningful.  At a point in life one does not really need much more stuff (i.e. George Carlin) so I probably should have somehow converted them to gas cards.

In the envelope was the 2012 holiday gift card for $100.  On the front was a sticker indicating that $2.50 per month would be deducted from the value each month as an 'administrative fee.'  That reduced the value to $70.  Then I noticed that the card had an expiration date of "11/20/14."  Today is 12/22/2014.  

Seven percent of all gift cards are never cashed and almost thirty percent have not been cashed after twelve months.  In the case of this gift card my former employer netted $70, assuming there were no fees on that side of the card, and that is unlikely.  The issuing back did quite well.  Retailers make sizable profits on unredeemed cards.

This is all sort of annoying.  Over the past few days I've been thinking about the Sony hack, the Target hack, the Home Depot hack, the mortgage crisis leading to the 2008 recession, the migration of car ownership to car leasing and the ever-increasing costs we pay to execute personal commerce.  Our small business pays 1/30th of our revenue each month just for bank card fees.  Why is it that I don't own any stock in banks or card processing companies?

Bottom line:  don't put expiration dates or processing fees on good will gifts. 

Update:  I also received a gift card a few years ago for a project that was completed "on time & on budget" which was and is a rare thing in the software deployment world.  All this thought about administrative fees made me think about that card and it was quite certain that I'd not used it.  After looking in all the logical and illogical places it was found.  It's value, too had been reduced by almost 30% by administrative fees.  

Debate:
My son gave me some Sonos equipment it's great.  I also do some chainsaw carving for which I already have more equipment and stuff than I need or use.  By 12/27/14 I'm going to decide whether to dump more plastic $$ into additional Sons equipment or another carving saw.  One keeps me inside and the other outside.  One provides some direct income and the other not.  The quiet option is good background for keyboard and monetization thoughts. 


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Distractions: SAT PM

Making Gas Money Without Annoying People
The web monetization project started because I had several registered domain names that were pointing at nothing or at something that only I found clever.  Most of the domain registration sites offer a hosting program where they will direct advertising and you will get paid.  My big error was not registering a few hundred back in 1998 and 1999 when you could still find four letter (e.g. abcd.com) and lots of real names.  I did register a number of meaningful .net names.

If you have never registered a domain name you should at least register your name.  This the first step in establishing your personal brand.  If your name is Seymour Nixon, www.seymournixon.com might be handy.  I did check and that name is available.  Now if I was really on top of things and I knew that Seymour Nixon read my blog I'd include a link to one of the registration/hosting sites and I'd get at least a $50 spiff he he click through.  Seth Godin and Austin Kleon both provide good perspectives on establishing a personal brand.  Austin Kleon's personal brand is problematic for me to remember since I once did a lot of business with a guy named Leon Kline and I get the two 'brands' confused.

It's been a busy week at the small business so I've not been able to start narrowing the ad presentation on this blog or on the blog we write (not well) for the small business (which is a cafe) and which chronicles the challenges of having a small business in the boring suburbs where people seem to only want pizza and we want to put healthy and tasteful food on the table.  We also talk about our quest for food in the Twin Cities 'www.questforfood.com' is already taken.  'www.isthisdomaintaken.com' is not taken.  That could be the gold coin.

Distractions Abound

I've been attempting to write a post for four days.  Often I grab an image with my iPhone and then attempt to wrap something meaningful in words around a mundane image.  On Sunday we're having this big 'event' at the small business where people come between 11 & 3 (we're not usually open on Sunday) and buy lots of holiday items.  My better half was doing some details that I purposely do poorly and I attempted to find a corner to write.

"Can you package these?"
"Can you price these?'
"Can you dig out the buckets of x and y?  I can't lift them"
"How many of these should I do?"
"What do you think about this?"

Good grief, Charley Brown.  The bucket contains some stuff we melt and use but it comes in blocks about 30 pounds heavy.  I whacked at it.  As I sat down to write I noticed some laminate that was falling off so I went out to the car and retrieved some Gorilla Glue which was frozen (it is winter in MN).  I thawed it in about 3 minutes in some water out of the coffee machine and then went back out to the car to get some duct tape to hold down the glued laminate.  Finally I decided that I'd had too much sweet stuff and found a container of spicy trail mix.  This gave me another few minutes of distraction.

"What are you going to do with that poinsettia?" 

"What about these?  Do they look OK?"

"Did you price those things?"

Between being distracted by a never-ending string of unclear directives and questions and my propensity to be distracted it's difficult to get to the point of these blog posts.  This afternoon I received the small electric winch purchased online.  Other purchasers mentioned that the supplied mounting plate really does not fit and one needs to drill out a couple of holes.  Without even looking at it or holding the parts up and saying "that's not going to work" I've been pondering the next step of getting my farmer/beekeeper friend to partake in this.  I've been keeping bees much longer than him be he has been much more successful.  It's attributed to him milking cows for thirty years.  He does give me a "didn't anyone teach you anything?" look when it comes to welding, large farm animals and equipment stuck deeply in mud or cow stuff.  I've found that almost everything is far more costly and consuming of time that the stuff or the parts that we buy to get things done.  In the 27-year gig we used a three-year payback on equipment purchases.  Shown to save hard or soft costs over three years, those decisions were made very quickly.

Literal Windfall Profit
We burn a lot of wood.  Our suburban lot was full of large red and white oak tress.  Three years ago we took down on that died.  Approximately 48" across chest high it was a monster.  There could have been a lot of saw logs but there was no way to get a vehicle where it came down and it was too large to manipulate for a portable mill.  Over the course of a mild (not much snow but still cold) I converted that into about ten cords of firewood (split by hand.  Checking prices seems to indicate that that was about a $5000 profit not counting my time, wear and tear on me and my saws (Stihl all the way).  

Where is this heading?


There are many instances where the options are limited.  There are no blended choices, no opportunity to innovate.  Commuting is much like that.  You can sit on the bus or the train, put some tunes in your head or act like you're reading.  I've never ever been able to read anything of any value on a bus, train or aircraft.  Unfortunately it's a bit of a zoned out time.  People Magazine, were it longer, would be good for air travel.

You could take the unusual action (Fantasy: hotel elevators [w/ cameras]) but in a confined space it may result in you going nowhere or literally raising an alarm.  Established organizations are a bit like this.  We have x number of products or our delivery channel is like this or here is how we do planning or we like employees like xyz.  Outside of that really does not work.  I used to think that some of the places I labored were a bit like being in prison.  As of this moment they are being re-framed as being in a four floor hydraulic elevator (hydraulic versus cable is another good topic).  Perhaps elevators should have some sort of rheostat control...I guess that's what elevator operators did.  


Now that I've "not worked" my way out of the daily freeway commute my travels take two forms.  The first is back and forth to the small business and the handful of places I go to quietly think about my personal brand, the small business brand and leveraging those in a "new economy" or "new commerce" income stream.

The second route is literally "up north" where my outdoor stuff, artistic work, workshop, etc., provide an even better palette for thoughts about the "new economy" or "new commerce" income stream.  We have timber wolves about, too.  They have eaten a lot of cattle and the deer population in central and north central MN is down.  For the past three years there has been a limited hunt in MN, WI and MI but a federal judge closed the door on that yesterday.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Sony Hack

During the 27-year gig we were subjected regularly to "spear phishing" hack attempts.  That's defined by someone contacting internal people via email and soliciting or evoking information that allows for greater intrusion.  It's easy to find someone's internal email address, that's often published or if not, it probably follows a standard format.  If you are any good at talking to strangers you can probably write an email that an employee will respond to.  Generally you want to avoid the representation that you are a Nigerian prince in exhile.

The first was a situation in which a senior employee received an email that appeared to be from USBank.  The logo, font and contact information was all correction.  There was a reply link that took you to a web form, also all correct looking.  At that point it asked for verification of account number, home address, you mother's maiden name, etc.  Our senior employee filled out the form and his Visa card was used about five minutes later in Ireland.

A very recent event, during my last 'transition' months involved a senior accounting member.  On a Friday afternoon they received an email requesting a wire transfer of money for a legitimate project.  The message included the name of the company's CFO and mentioned that he was unavailable according to his calendar but had approved the wire transfer.  The accounting person did several back and forth emails getting further information and was ready to sent the money.  That would have been a significant amount into a black hole. These people are good.  I would have fired the accounting person for even getting that far down the path.

So what is the implication of the Sony hack?  Anything you do on the internet is more or less recorded.  Some companies are good about keeping private what more or less should be private.  Unless you are a terrorist, Google is not going to cough you up.  The North Korean's were able to solicit via spear phishing enough information to get to a senior network administrators user ID and password.  That is all it takes.  In the 27-year gig there were just four of us who had those rights and we check on each other's integrity and practice standards all the time.

You should have complex passwords, something other than your childhood dog's name.  Don't right them down.  Don't give them to you spouse.  Don't ask computer's to remember you.

The Koreans had political intent.  There are just as many security trolls out and about doing this stuff for fun who may just like messing with people and companies.  There is also good money in this as evidenced by the hacks of Target, Home Depot, etc.  My USBank card had been lifted three times and our three small business cards from Wells Fargo have been lifted five times in total.  Cash might be good...although 20% of the $100 bills are fake.

Cloud storage is pretty convenient.  I used it all the time.  Not everything that I store on the cloud is encrypted.  Some of the cloud storage providers are a bit brazen about declaring the security of their systems and the lack of intrusions.  The Sony intrusion occurred through a relatively simple approach and may have destroyed their reputation and put a lot of movie goers under a threat of violence in theaters, and we know there's some bad stuff that has happened there in the past.  Are there Korean sleeper cells her?  That's my conspiracy comment of the day.

The really big hack, bigger than Sony, is that ICAAN was hacked recently.  This is the organization that provides all the addressing and domain assignments for the internet.  A good hack there would affect all internet traffic.

I'm going to rethink my information stored in the cloud, probably ensuring that all of is is encrypted on my side before being uploaded.  I never had a dog as a child but I do remember the name of dog that lived directly across the street.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Traffic: roadway versus internet

 This morning I headed off about 7:40AM to do a pickup of merchandise for the small business. I was headed northeast.  Over the past fourteen months I've slowly forgotten that everyone in the Twin Cities heads southwest about that same time.

The tall building in in center is the IDS Center.  Completed in the early 1970s it is certainly the icon on Twin Cities downtown business architecture.  Well placed on the Nicollet Mall, this image does not serve it well.  I worked about two blocks of the IDS Center and this was my morning commute for 27 years.



The MnDOT live traffic info confirmed congestion in the NW burbs.  Over the past few years there have been a couple of light rail lines opened which have very heavy ridership in spite of the pre-construction critics.  The Bakken oil reserves of North Dakota seem to have played into the low fuel prices and people seem to be responding by...well, driving more.  

Of course driving more, adding to the warming of the planet is all crazy.  Our local premier weather meteorologist made a good explanation of the odd weather patterns we've been experiencing over the past six or seven years (like wind blowing from the east in the summer).  The polar regions are warming at a faster rate than the more southern regions creating a vortex situation.  It no longer rains much after the 4th of July and the birch trees are all dying because it's a few degrees warmer.  It might be time to to change the hose from 'suck' to 'blow.'

Internet Traffic
It's easy to become distracted in this job/career/income pursuit.  I've gone down a good path by chasing the blog monetization route.  Everyone deserves to pick up a few bucks from ads, not just Facebook or Google.  They have enough money.  I have not jumped into the ad monetization opportunity for mobile devices but if I remember my facts five years ago 75% of the advertising on the internet was directed at notebook/desktop users and now 75% is directed to mobile users.  Mobile would include smartphones and tablets and we know that tablets are becoming de facto devices in many process control applications (e.g. agricultural gps).  

There an interesting application for my iPhone called Cheap Gas.  Users enter in gas prices as they drive about.  There's some advertising but the data might cause you to drive an extra few miles to save a few bucks.  As I've begun working remotely, pretty much out of a notebook slipcase I've chased internet traffic (good connectivity).  Most of the Caribou coffee locations have about 20 people plunked on their chairs consuming and consuming.  Burger King has decent bandwidth.  I've never seen anyone else with a notebook at Burger King.  It is a pretty low class workspace.  

Seth Godin publishes a lot of books on marketing and business issues like strategic planning.  He gives them away on the internet before beginning to charge.  That's a similar approach that bloggers are using.  Write or produce something of value.  Let 50,000 people have it free and they will all suggest it to their friends when you start charging $19.95.

At times I've created lists of "good ideas" but I cannot remember ever executing on and "good idea" that I put on a list.  My idea of the morning is a "Cheap Gas" application for public or quasi-public internet access.  More than once I've sat in my car outside a Target and used their "guest" WIFI for a quick internet check.   Motel/Hotel parking lots aren't bad either but the cheaper the facility the less security is the access. If I was really good this could be combined with Google Maps and you could get driving directions to the nearest "good" or "adequate" free WIFI.  Of course as data plans continue to get cheaper we all sort of travel with WIFI in our pocket. I'd just like to save on that cost.

On the way back into the traffic I stopped at a Starbucks.  Some generous person had handed the attendant a lot of money and apparently everyone was getting free coffee.  I'd left my hearing aids at home so it took a few explanations for this all to register.  Being a bit disheveled, having thinning grey hair and not being hair probably put me in the near-homeless-appearing category.  Along with the Good Free Internet application I could do some sort of Good Free Coffee application.  I'm not going to put that on the list.

In the midst of this I did work the social media aspect for the small business with some tweets about upcoming sales and events and checked in on the Facebook advertisement progress and started to work on the next ad.  FB is interesting because you can target by geography and demographics.  Google ads certainly have the geography component.  I'll have to check and see if I've ever put my age in my Google application profiles.

  





Monday, December 15, 2014

Blog Monetization

There are people who've made significant money from their blogging efforts.  The first criteria is that you need to have people who frequent your blog or you need to have people who really don't read your blog but do a lot of clicking and purchasing from ads presented on your blog.  It's an interesting approach.  There is no doubt that Amazon is a good place to purchase just about anything (to the detriment of local and big box purveyors) and the prices are generally good.  Amazon Prime adds free shipping for many items along with a huge video and music resource. 

So how does a blogger make money?  In the simplest form you may write about a product.  We'll use the Samsung Chromebook as an example.  If you are a member of the Amazon Affiliate marketing program and include some of their ad widgets on your blog you can specifically display an ad for the Samsung Chromebook.  One of he interesting widgets reads the context of your blog posting and pulls an appropriate item to show in the ad.  There are also widgets that you can configure to display specific categories.

Along with this blog which details my non-linear approach to re-employment or replacing income we are starting a blog to detail our four-year old cafe and market store and our personal quest to find reasonable,interesting and healthy food.  Today I wrote a short post on that blog about honey, specifically raw honey.  Generally the intent was to provide some information ( I have been a beekeeper for fifty years) and to draw a few customers into the cafe to purchase said raw honey. 

The Amazon Affiliate context sensitive widget picked up on "raw honey" and presented a couple of ads for raw honey that you can purchase on Amazon; not mine, of course.  If someone were motivated to buy I'd make a few percentage points instead of my standard profit.  Obviously I need to work on ad widget configuration and parameters.

When a user clicks on an ad a cookie is written to their computer.  That's standard practice of virtually all web sites.  It's lets the server side computer application know that you've been there before and presents information appropriate to a re-visit.  Unfortunately it allows sites to understand you interests and past activity from reading all your cookies.  It's a good practice to delete your cookies periodically.  If you don't want anyone to track you look into your browser's private browsing options which actually blocks cookies from being written to your computer.

In the case of an Amazon add click a cookie is written to your computer.  It's coded to associate any sale within a short period of time to you.  That's how the commission comes back.  Affiliate programs use a variety of durations for the cookies.  Some programs have single day cookies.  The Walmart program leaves a cookie good for three days.

A few years ago two bright coders made millions on the eBay affiliate program by writing a cookie that never disappeared.  Actually it did not appear if you reviewed or viewed your cookies (which is an interesting task) but it did appear to the eBay servers.  Commissions were paid for a long, long time and they made millions.  Apparently this was a violation of the program contract.  The perps claimed that eBay knew of their cookie effort.  Given the FBI's interest and the possibility of twenty years in the big house would indicate some misunderstanding.

My goal is simply to make a little money off the blogs.  Personally I'm pretty good at ignoring ads on the internet and certainly my intent in starting this blog was not to present annoying ads.  This is about a journey, not about ads.  Well, you can't do much in life without the advertising dollars having their influence.  I also happen to be working my way through Mad Men.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Job Offer - What Goes Around

The old expression "what goes around comes around" came around.  Ten years ago I had a contract consultant, a very qualified network engineer, working for me.  My guideline in most management responsibilities is to treat people like you'd like to be treated, know something about them personally and ensure that you help with their growth and be fair.  At the moment I don't remember why he left but it probably had to do with money.  He's bounced around a bit but strangely enough about two years he wandered into my wife and daughter's small business.  We "caught up" on children, spouses and a few other topics of shared interest.  Yesterday he stopped in to make a purchase and I happened to be there.  One thing led to another as we discussed his current employer and my transition.  I described what I wanted to do next.  "We have a job exactly like that.  You would be perfect and you could do it part time."  My response: "Awesome."

Other Thoughts on Work
In my past 27-year gig the user community had gone a big gadget crazy.  As an employer we paid for cell phones, cell phone plans, laptops, tablets and tablet data plans and once in a while we'd also pick up home internet service.  My position had always been to follow what I interpreted from the owners to take a conservative approach in doling out the gadgets.  The conservative side of my thinking was that everyone already has a cell phone and internet service, bundled or separate.  Paying all of this seemed a bit like paying some someone to have electricity or indoor plumbing at their house.

Looking backwards I suppose there was a time that there were people with and without home telephones (~1940) and I guess I might have been inclined to hire the person progressive enough or advanced enough or reachable enough to have a phone over someone without.  If you follow the work of Nicolas Carr he makes the premiss that IT does not really matter and that it's becoming a commodity and the cost for all companies will decrease as standardization occurs (via the cloud) much as costs were driven down as electricity production was consolidated.  The recently torn down Ford plant in St. Paul had it's own Mississippi driven power production.  Companies located near power sources or the resources to generate power.  At point during the gig we actually gave preference to people with experience in "Windows."  Now I would look for employees who were totally self-sustaining and self-funded on technology.  Paying your own way ensures knowing how to do things and be productive.

Cisco allows all their sales people and system engineers to purchase whatever endpoint technology devices they wish.  All access is via highly secure portals to corporate applications (e.g. ERP).  It's a huge cost saving and raises the bar on expectations of companies.  We had an overworked Support Center that was overwhelmed with calls about how to do simple smart phone tasks or challenges like understanding a worksheet formula.  It might be the case that progressive companies should not have support centers or help desks.

Observation Over Coffee
This afternoon's visit to Caribou for a coffee affirmed my position that we spend a lot on personal technology without really doing much with it.  There were about thirty people there, most with Apple notebooks.  About three people seemed to be doing something real.  The others were chatting or watching YouTube.  I remain convinced that unless someone is heads down reading online or typing they're probably not really doing much at all.

The more I did into affiliate marketing and monetization of blogs and other web pages I am convinced that the mainstream venues are far from the "people's internet" vision of  a few years ago and much closer to the the marketing and sales driven influence of big money.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

My Fifty Year Part Time Job

My first salaried, actually hourly, job was at the Dairy Queen where I made .75 an hour.  In the day that was  not all that bad.  Adults were making $2.75.  A year or two before that I started a hobby which has always been a small business.  Somewhere I have my first year's record of beekeeping written in my now strange looking 14 year old handwriting.  I distinctly remember harvesting 30 pounds of honey from my hive the first year.  Minnesota ranks high on the list of honey producing states and in good years 100+ pounds of surplus hone could be expected.  That would be surplus in excess of what you need to leave on the hive for the colony to consume through the winter.  

Beekeeping  is much the same as it has been for the last 100 years but there are also big industry changes.  Commercial beekeepers rarely winter their bees in MN but send them off to OK or TX where they can forage enough to survive in the mild winters.  Winter losses in MN  used to be moderate (~10-20%) but with influx of mites over the past 20 years and the complex colony collapse syndrome over the past seven or eight years  winter losses can exceed 50% and summer losses will also occur.  Wintering a colony also leaves 150 pounds of honey per hive unavailable for harvesting and human consumption.  That cost alone warrants moving colonies to the south.

During the winter bees do not hibernate but move into an elliptical cluster about the size of a football with the queen at the center where is remains about 60 degrees.  The bees rotate position slowly sharing the time at the outside of the cluster consuming about five pounds of honey per month.  

These are not my hives but show a healthy wintering hive on the left, one in trouble and dying in the middle and the one on the right is dead.

My colony count has ranged from one to thirty colonies.  Thirty is too many.  It's a challenging enough hobby (business) that the more colonies you have the more you lose.  Normally I make a little money.  When my kids were little I sold it as "college fund honey."  Certainly products like "raw" honey, single source honey and stranger products like pollen and propolis are profitable but labor intensive.

Each year for the past five I've said in the fall that it was my last year.  A thermal camera would my diminishing energy.  I would have enjoyed a career in entomology.

Why write? Why work?

At three AM I awoke, widely awake.  I had dreamed that my daughter fell backwards hitting her head on the dresser, could not stand up and said her legs were hurting and tingling.  In the dream she was five or six.  She's thirty.  

Yesterday afternoon I was walking behind a young man who looked my son, wore the same self-made haircut and had a similar gait.  Five minutes later my son called from Denmark at an unusual time.  It had the forbearing of bad news but it was all good.

This morning I'm at the car dealer getting some maintenance done of the 2004 F-150.  With a somewhat heated workshop and a few additional tools it's work I could do.  I'm not very good at that sort of thing, not bad, just not very good and it's all stressful.  So alternately I'll sit in the "guest lounge" and attempt to do the work I can be good at.  Fox news is playing a bit loud and my headphones seem to be offering an odd blend of background and podcast music.  
The cubicle is full of distractions.  It's not clear how long it's been since Iused a phone book.  Now when they show up at our door they're about 3/4" thick and I walk them out back to the recycling without even a passing look.  This one is interesting.  The ad on the cover is from a guy who's been doing bankruptcy cases in the Twin Cities for decades.  I thought he was certainly dead.  The building on the cover is the Minnesota State Capital.  Designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert it's certainly one of the most beautiful capital buildings in the U.S.  

Out of the picture about 250 yards from the front entrance is a statue of Floyd B. Olson.  Considered to be one of the greatest Minnesota governors he was a prominent populist politician of his day and was considered as a presidential candidate.  The statue is next to a bus stop.  I'm certain most of the people don't know anything about Governor Olson, a founder of the MN Farmer Labor Party which became the Demcratic Farmer Labor (DFL) party.  This is not Washington D.C.  There are not a lot of statues here.  People should pay attention.  Many years ago I attended an ERA rally on the capital mall.  A then somewhat unknown college professor gave loud rallying speech.  Senator Paul Wellstone later died in a plane accident near Hibbing, MN.  I remember standing with my camera, the image of Governor Olson in the foreground and behind a sea of change enthusiasts Paul Wellstone, arms in the air talking about what could be.  That would have been a great image.  Actually it was.





This phone book (Yellow Pages) is from 2007.  At some point a young person is going to look at this and comment "they printed out the internet."

The service representative just came out to tell me other things wrong with my vehicle.  This dealership has gone down the route of impending doom diagnostics.  Whatever you bring it in for they find another issue which is always "something you should take care of" and it's always another $1500.  I've also caught them twice recommending maintenance (e.g. fluid changes) that they've already done).  This all makes me ready to change dealerships.  My favorite service guy who was good at filtering all these issue left a few months ago.  It makes no sense that I'm even here today.  During the 27-year gig one of the corporate mantras was "honesty and integrity."  The car dealership is honest about things that might be leaking but there is a question of integrity; is this really something we need to deal with?  When I look at all the fluids on the parking lots and roadways the world should be filled with dead cars.  Now that I'm effectively not working I need to shop maintenance issues going ala carte rather than relying on a resource of questionable honesty and integrity.


The honesty and integrity issue brought the 27-year gig to a point of decision.  Continuing was not an option.  Left or right on a similar path in a similar vehicle or mode of working was and still is an option.  The better option seems to be getting out of the truck (which the dealership would indicate is about to collapse in a heap) put on my boots and snowshoes, go around the sign and continue with a direction that seems natural.

Somewhere about my age people begin to "downsize."  Currently I feel encumbered by a number of things, all nice to have, but all "needing some work."  There's not enough time in the day or my remaining time to deal with all of that so it's time to prioritize.  I'm losing interest in jobs like those I used to have or at least working at them like I did . 






Our past and coupons have the tendency to keep us on the same tracks.  This is been a long period of putting the past out of mind but it's happening.  Next I'm going to start throwing away all the coupons, as soon as I recover from waking at 3:00 AM.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The "Bob's"


During my thirty five years of working in "an office" there were many Bob's.  For the uninitiated anyone working in an office or a cubicle, an information worker per se, should watch Office Space.

As a manager I'd make my staff watch it at least once a year.

Whenever I was out of the office doing real things like getting my car repaired (which I should have done myself) or getting my Stihl chainsaw tuned up (which I should have done myself) or getting any one of several outboards/inboards tuned up (which I should have done myself) the people hired were doing real things.  That seemed special.  They did real things.  I worked with abstract ideas, forms, software platforms, switches, routers, etc., all of which were a bit difficult to explain to people doing real work.  Usually I'd get a question like "what?" or "do you work up a sweat doing that?" or "that does not seem like much of a job."

In hindsight it's possible that I may have been more of a "Bob" than I thought.  Never did I wear suspenders or a tie with a short sleeved shirt but the more I look at this image the more they look like people I worked with and the more I think they look like people I worked with the more I think I might have fit in at that table.

The last fourteen months have been an interesting perspective introspection and self-discovery <<<<GOOD GRIEF...the corporate cliche buzzer just went off.  During strategic planning sessions some of us would agree to play sort of a corporate cliche bingo game.  We prepared a list of corporate cliches, including the previous and others like "how does that resonate" and of course the standard collection of vision statement and mission statement issues and the never-ending debates about their definitions.  Anyway...we'd listen and participate attentively marking off the cliches on the list as we heard them or said them.  At some point if your bingo card or list were appropriately checked off you were bribed into shouting out "bingo."  There was some money involved in this because you might have to yell it in the middle of a presentation on the global financial market.  At the shout out everyone would look and of course you'd have to explain yourself coming up with some explanation like a recently diagnosed Turrets Syndrome case.

The previous was an attempt to deny any inclination, tendency or track record of being a "Bob."  I've failed.

2000-14 & 2000+14

Prior to starting the 27-year gig in 1986 I participated in a professional evaluation by Personnel Decisions, Inc., a Minneapolis firm that assessed candidates for jobs.  The evaluation included some role playing.  As I remember someone played a crazy or distracted employee.  Your job as the manager-to-be was to advise them or get them off the ledge.  There was also a complex in-box exercise where you were presented a bunch of reports, memos, financial reports and transcribed phone messages.  The instructions were "You are leaving in 90 minutes on vacation.  Deal with this."

Overall it was a good exercise.

After completing all this I had lunch in the International Centre building, the second high rise of three built by my employer to be.  The building was a condo building with each floor owned by different operating entities.  The main floor contained a LeeAnn Chin restaurant, a large and enticing dining experience where you picked up your own food at a buffet line featuring a dozen or so items.  LeeAnn Chin was started by LeeAnn Chin who sold, bought it back and may have sold it again.  I'm not sure.

At a point the LeeAnn Chin restaurant concept changed, moving to smaller fast casual formats.  All of the infrastructure, tiered seating (which was cool) and decor was removed. 

The former restaurant space remains a large public space with very little utilization although remaining a visually interesting interior space.  The large blue wall painting was a work placed in the late 1990s.  As I recall the cost was either $30,000 or $100,000.  It has remained after removal of the restaurant.  There are several large distressed marks on the painting.  I'm assuming at some point it will be removed or covered.  

Today as I walked through the skyway to visit my current long-term barber I was struck with the image and enjoyed it, perhaps the only person who knows a bit of the history and who enjoyed it.  I was also reminded of the St. Patrick's Day when the building cooling tower sprung a leak and all the floor space in this image was covered with 3" of green glycol.  

What does all of this have to do with not having a dumb job?  I'm doing now much more what I want to do and enjoy doing.  Imagery is captivating.  Today's image is complex, comprised of light, dark, lines, columns, angles and intentional, purposeful art and of course complemented with a bit of history.  I did sit at one of the white tables a few years ago.  The space is more enjoyable observed than occupied.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Predisposition To Be "A Tool"

Tools & "He's a Tool"
Our water heater has been making a lot of noise.  That's a good warning that household cooling is imminent.  Never did I "drain the water heater annually" and I'm not going to get out the wrenches and impact things and "change the anode rods to get more time."  The last time I replaced a water heater (with this one) I vowed to buy two and and just leave one waiting for this day to occur.  I think that would mean muscling them around would be cut in half or at least occur only one half as often.  Of course it's highly likely that I'd move the dead one about three feet and it would sit there for seven years.

I squeezed behind some life debris to look at the inevitable and saw a Vice Grip on a copper pipe.  Long, long ago when Vice Grips were still made in the US I read that 75% of all Vice Grips were in static applications simply holding things together as a temporary fix or when nothing else would do.  It's possible that Vice Grips are banned from aircraft carriers and A-10 Warthog tank killer airplanes.  When we moved into this house about 20 years ago we inherited a refrigerator with an ice maker.  The refrigerator died about three months after we moved in.  We saw no need for an ice maker.  The copper feed-in was connected to a water pipe with one of those silly t-valves which, of course, would not turn off completely.  Rather than dealing with it properly I broke off the copper and clamped it shut with a Vice Grip...about 20 years ago.

Over time I've found value in keeping a Vice Grip in vehicles, tool boxes, etc., for the inevitable.  The big ones are substantive and work well if you simply have to beat on something.  In my world, like the larger Vice Grip world most are static.  They have a lot of potential.  People have a lot of potential, too.  I worked with a really bright VP of Architecture in the 27-year gig.  When someone could not see his view of a situation or problem he'd refer to them as a "tool."  I'd heard my kids use that but I did not really get it but I tried to not pick up on every passing word trend of my children.  So the guy explained to me that while the person might be bright or useful they just sat, stood or laid there until someone else put them into action, into usefulness.  They were tools.  So standing behind the radiator I stared and the Vice Grip and made a list of former co-workers who were tools, people who, with some assistance, mentoring and guidance could be leveraged into better production.

Nerves & Productivity
Other than about seven years of hard core blue collar factory employment after high school my jobs have been white collar.  All of them involved writing, more often typing (now lamely referred to as keyboarding [certainly iPads and tablets will lead to classes in 'swiping']).  This "bled like a pig."  Unfortunately it also seems to be the finger that has the highest hits while typing (a.k.a. keyboarding).  Every 'y,' 'h,' 'n,' 'u,' and 'j' is a reminder to not put my finger again at the pre-incision location. It's one of those simple cuts that will not leave a scar and magically be all good w/i 72 hours.

I have to abandon my classical guitar performances for a few days.

For whatever reason I use my right had to clear the infrequent printer paper jams.  I'm left handed but I felt like my left had was a Vice Grip when reaching into the printer.  There are other things, too, that will have to wait.  One can only imagine.

© John F. Leeper "I Don't Even Have a Dumb Job" 2014

what we see & the window test

Seeing and Being Seen
My experience in scratching around the unemployment world shows me that our employment is secured by how our supervisors and peers see us, certainly not just in terms of appearance (although being an outlier might not help) but more in terms of what you can contribute that helps them.  The age factor comes into play somewhat strangely.

With the new millenium employee workforce it's all about them more than ever before.  Hiring someone and actually having them show up is an accomplishment.  During the 27-year gig I hired numerous people for good compensation and benefits who simply did not show up.  There were more who started but left within a short time.  My favorite was a guy who simply left a Post-It Note on his desk saying "I'm not coming back."  We found that on a Thursday, two days after he left the note.

With the exception of the executive hire which is all bound up with options and contracts you really don't hire anyone with the expectation that they will spend their life at that job and if they stay two or three years that's a success.

Given the short tenure of the current or new-age employee it's been interesting to be 63 and 64 and looking at employment options.  It seems that employers use criteria from long ago (hire for life and long tenure) and quickly determine that you might drop dead at any moment.  That's a possibility.

The employment consultants encourage you to stress your relevant experience (not length), your reliability and your interpersonal skills and they also indicate that the  market, while not hot, is good for quality "senior" workers.  Most employment counselors have a tough job, are focused on keeping you with a positive attitude and give you good tools and encourage extensive networking.

As an executive you spend your time looking at others, guiding and mentoring your charges, keeping them from the distractions of corporate life.  For me it's a bit of a 180 degree change.  I don't think I ever passed on a hire because of age and I did make some great hires of people with tongue studs and lots of ink.

I'm probably fine for some short term project management gigs.  Not that I'm not an executive I can skip the politics and budget hassles and focus on innovative, on-time project delivery.  Generally speaking people have enjoyed and benefited working with me.

Warnings
Microsoft asks questions of candidates to evaluate their creativity and thinking.  Often the questions are not about applications or coding.  A past question was "why are manholes round?"

If I am ever in a hiring position again I'll ask "would you lean your child against a screen window or encourage the to lean against a screen window?"  I expect that someone will say "Of course not.  There are warning labels on window screens."  I will not hire that person.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

No Satisfaction

Several weeks ago at the recommendation of a friend from Iowa I started watching "Mad Men."  There's really no reason to include the Iowa reference with exception that I grew up on the southern Minnesota prairie just eleven miles from Iowa.  I value the opinions and the practical advice from people of the prairie. 

Mad Men is very well written and well cast although a bit repetitive.  The main character, Don, has made a truly major error in his life which carries throughout every job and relationship in his life.  It's possible that we all need to review our life's mistakes along with our successes.  The show starts in the 1950's.  Now in season four it's sometime in the 1960's.  Viet Nam is weaving it's way into the story.

Much has changed in the workplace.  Women have made some inroads but certainly not to a point of equality.  There are some organizational exceptions.  During the first five or six years of the 27-year gig people did smoke in the office and opening some alcohol around 4:00 PM was not uncommon.  

This past few days I've been working on getting my arms around blog monetization and have made significant progress.  The opportunity to make some money does exist.  All of my blogs so far have been hosted and created in Blogger.  During the last year of the 27-year gig I did dip my feet into WordPress and that's where this effort needs to go.  Between Friday, Saturday and today I spent about eight hours figuring out how to correctly insert javascript widgets featuring Amazon tools.  There appears to be an underlying effort on the part of Google to not make that simple.  Of course not I've figured it out and it's simple. The real challenge is creating interesting content.  I've been looking at many food blogs which have large followings   We have casually done some blogging in the small business, which is a food retail and wholesale operation, but it needs to be done more seriously.  This goes back to my often referenced fallback book on writing,  Writing Down The Bones.

 Overall the goal here is satisfaction.  This is a later video but I believe the first release was around 1965.  Hopefully not all of my reference points are mid-1960's in this search for employment, jobs and a little cash in my pocket.  So far it's been interesting but without broad appeal and satisfaction.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Monetization & "Been Around the Block"

Employment Recap:

  • Dairy Queen: Ray gave me my first job, challenged me and gave me a lifetime of Dairy Queen stories and references.
  • Berglund's Sporting Goods:  Pete and Harold groomed my retail skills, taught me a great deal about everything outdoors and established some key life-long interests.
  • Wilson & Company:  Being a dishwasher in the cafeteria of a meat packing plant paid $2.00/hour and all the gore you could stand.  My German WWII war bride manager continually tried to convince me that no one in Germany knew of the Holocaust.
  • U.S. Army:  11B40 designation teaches you how to kill and how not to be killed.  I am alive.
  • Universal Milking Machine:  Laboring on the factory floor and with my first management responsibilities (at 20) taught me lessons used throughout my career.
  • University of MN...Data Center:  First programming challenge (DEC PDP 8/L).
  • University of MN...Teaching Assistant:  Standing in front of an auditorium classroom requires preparation and confidence.
  • Governor's Commission on Crime Control & Prevention:  Heads-down data management and statistical analysis and the best group of people I ever worked with.
  • MN Department of Public Safety:  What more can be said than writing the "Minnesota Motorcycle Helmet Study" and "Minnesota Crash Facts" was the beginning of the end of government employment.
  • Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Minnesota:  Two weeks and I knew it was time to move on but...I had the opportunity to get my first exposure to personal computing (1980) and write an innovative medical claims analysis program with a rogue implementation of mainframe Basic.
  • North Star Casualty Services:  This was a good gig with an enthusiastic group of professionals, competing with very large companies as a start up.
  • The 27-Year Gig:  There is much to be said.
Around the Block
One of the advantages of having been around the block a few times is that you have been around the block.  Without a major effort to be oblivious you learn things, hopefully taking the time to apply them.  My first exposure to personal computers was in 1980.  I worked for a large health insurance concern.  Doing analysis of the data was quite difficult.  All the systems in place were for claims processing, underwriting and billing.  Our only tool was a report writer called ASSIST.  How I remember that name I don't know.  We'd fill out forms for  ASSIST and send them via inter-office mail to someone who would key them on punch cards and submit the job.  The report would come back in a couple of days.  Usually you would make errors on the ASSIST forms.  Turnaround was eternal.  Somewhat undercover we visited a few other people who had purchased personal computers, kept them well hidden from corporate pundits but leveraged them for special analysis and purposes.

Over the course of the later gigs I was hands-on on the IBM 34, 36, 38 and was in an early adopter of the AS/400 following that through numerous hardware and software upgrades to the iSeries and then on to network servers, and then the evolution of virtualization and cloud services.  Frankly it all ends where it began.  Certainly personal computers have delivered computing to the masses, changed all of our lives and perhaps made us happier.  From a technical point we're not applying to the personal computer world much of what the mainframe world mastered and deployed thirty-five or forty years ago.  

As I sit here at home writing on a Samsung Chromebook, using Google's SAS 'Blogger'  I'm reminded of a lot of time spent at a mainframe 'dumb terminal.'  It seems that I've seen this before.

Monetization
My efforts have been a bit vertical and lacking integration.  Historically as a reader I'd check each of my email accounts individually, monitory Twitter for a while, check into LinkedIn and read and post and of course check Facebook to see if any of my quips attracted attention.  A dashboard for dealing with that would be more practical.

On the writing and creative side that would be likewise prudent.  Yesterday and today I did research on integrating Blogger and Twitter (Blogger to Twitter).  www.twitterfeed.com provides such integration and also to LinkedIn and Facebook.  I'm not exactly sure how much of this particular blog needs to go to those other social media sinkholes.  That's to be determined.   Clearly there are many venues for adding viewers/readers and ultimately impacting monetary return.

"Sign Your Work"
A week or so ago a blog that I follow showed a repair of a leaking oil filter with a large hose clamp and a beer can.  In the military that's called "field expediency."  You use what you have to solve a problem or make a repair that allows the mission to continue.  I thought it warranted recognition.

Another blog that I follow is Seth Godin.  His focus is marketing, promotion and public relations and initiative and action.  His posts are succinct, clearly done frequently in a practice of active writing.  Some are very good, others of nominal or passing interest.  Carpenters often sign their work, leaving names and dates on hidden components of dwellings and structures.  Whenever I have a wall opened up I leave a record, as nominal as the work may be.  Seth makes comment that more work should be signed.  It's not limited to artists and songwriters.  Often I find things in buildings that are placed in a particular location because it's logical (e.g. a place to hang a removed padlock) or a place to hang a tools where it is used, not where it is stored.  The filter repair may have warranted some sort of hang tag with a name and date, too.  

Summary
This is a test to see how the integration tool work.