Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Day #117 1/28/2014 Actual Work


  1. Had followup conversation with another consultant regarding our networking project for IT professionals in the commercial construction industry.  We missed our meeting yesterday because my phone was without a charge at -20F and he was jackhammering the floor out of his house.
  2. Reached out to only one of the two commercial construction firms in North America that I have any interest in working for.
  3. Spoke with a former vendor/contractor regarding CIO positions in the metro area.
Small Business
  1. Finalized the second large accounting issue on the table.
  2. Worked on inventory and order fulfillment issues.
  3. Putting framework around six-month strategy.
Real Estate Rennovation:
  1. Bought a new trash can for demolition on closeout for $15.00 (regularly $29.00).
  2. Bought shims for door installation.
  3. Pulled out some old carpet
  4. This a very exciting (not) project.
Reading, Writing & Media:

Unfortunately, I've been really busy, drinking too much caffeine and watching too much online stuff rather than reading.  On the upside of that I did appreciate the internet which allowed me to re-enjoy the Pete Seeger catalog today.  Somewhere in the unclear past I did see him in person at least twice.  As time passes It's 11:23 PM.  We're sitting in the family room.  Charlie Rose is on the TV.  I have my headphones on and am listening to The Best Radio You Have Never Heard and the TV and my wife.  Both of us have been typing for at least an hour.  I'm trying to remember the world before personal computers and the internet.  At 63 I remember life before television.  People used to talk and read books.

A Final Word on Careers:
I am one halfway through my sabbatical of working with LHH to find a new gig.  In two weeks I'll make a decision if I re-start that process in March or April.  All is good.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Day #115 1/26/2014 number sequence meltdown

Weather is Work...
One of the blogs I follow is written by a gentleman who I believe lives in Oregon.  This week he wrote about planting oats.  I believe the seeds are drilled into the ground which is all part of this no-till approach to farming.  The seed catalogs have been arriving at our home here in MN for a couple of weeks, right after Christmas.  It does give a bit of hope for spring and warmer weather.  Drilling seeds into the ground is what you would have to do here after you scraped and shoveled your way through a few feed of snow.  It's been a very cold winter, the coldest since 1997, which means the ground is frozen at least four or five feet.  That not like just hard, it's like a rock.  Fortunately we've had early snow which insulates the ground.  Were it not for that the ground would freeze down six to eight feet and make a mess of the rural (mine) septic systems.  Tomorrow morning it's going to be -15F with wind chills of -45F.

Snow has been arriving every few days and shoveling starting to be not only tedious, but a chore since the piles on each side of the driveway are about five feet high.  My snowblower is one-half as old as me.  I should be using it more to save me but given it's age I don't use it on the small stuff.  My plan is to never buy a replacement.  Given the inevitable failure I'm planning on simply walking (or snowshoeing) away and moving where I can plant oats in January.

Number Issues...
The last few days have been consumed with a couple of accounting issues.  One of our customers thought they owned us $10.  We thought it was about $1000. That one is done.  The second involves doing some recaps of income and profit/loss for the past few years and that should be done tomorrow.

Given the temperature forecast Monday will be a good day to hunker down inside and start pursuit of the 2013 income tax challenge.

This blog is about my quest for a new source of income and "worthwhile work" enjoyment.  It's been about one hundred and some days since the end of the 27-year gig.  The plan was to write a blog entry each day about that pursuit and I began numbering the posts to coincide with the number of days unemployed.  A relative said writing every day would be impossible.  Another said "why put yourself up against that?  I'm been unemployed for years and attempting to do something like that makes no sense."  Having missed a few days (like this week) and at least two other times the numbering sequence might be messed up.  It's unclear if I inadvertently started to number posts rather than days unemployed which would be the same if I'd missed no days.  It's probably not important but it probably is important to resolve this.  If I had a job I would not even waste a moment on such a stuff thought.

The X Files...
I found the "X Files" to be a most interesting TV series and David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were engaging and well-cast.  Under the umbrella of my Amazon Prime account and my Kindle Fire "Californication" presented itself starring David Duchovny as a once-hot novelist struggling to write and straighten out his alcoholic, promiscuous, directionless life.  It's extremely well cast, with good snippets of dialogue in most episodes and likely to be explicitly offensive to many in terms of language and nudity.  There has been something pretty funny and thought provoking in each episode...and a slight excuse for not writing and working.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

#110 1/21/14 MLK Day

A Facebook acquaintance of mine posted the attached photograph of Dr. King and then Vice President Nixon.  The commentary accompanying the photograph was about Dr. King and Vice President Nixon meeting to discuss how to overcome Democratic opposition to civil rights initiatives in 1957 and the thought that you would not hear about this meeting or association in today's liberal press.

I was going to let the Martin Luther King Day pass as I normally do with thoughts about the disenfranchised, the oppression of poverty and many lives lost and destroyed in the pursuit of civil rights and we might as well say human rights here in the U.S. and elsewhere.  The day was almost over.  Then I read Sarah Palin's Facebook post which started with sort of a "have a happy MLK day" like it was a free ice cream cone day and which ended with a suggestion to President Obama that "he stop playing the race card."

Without getting into a discussion of the successes and failures of the Obama administration I want to go first to Palin's comment.  "Nice white girl card."  Enough said.

Secondly I'm posting my comment on Facebook to the photograph and original comment:

Nixon had a fairly decent record on civil rights which was at the time of this photograph primarily about voter rights for blacks. Democratic opposition to civil rights changes were concerns over loss of the southern Democratic vote, which was obviously in the face of obstacles to registration a white vote. It's always about strategies to get the vote. It was then and it is now. Nixon bailed shortly after this photo on his support for King. Lyndon Johnson was the senate majority leader at the time and did lobby for a weaker version of the civil rights initiative. By the time of the 1960 Presidential election between Nixon and Kennedy Nixon had all but abandoned his communications with King. Politics at it's best by both parties. Now the southern Democratic vote (white) has totally shifted to being a southern Republican (white) vote.

King was arrested on a phony charge in 1960. Nixon ignored the whole situation in fear of losing Republican votes. Kennedy intervened on the arrest at the risk of losing the southern Democratic vote. Nixon won only 32% of the black vote, less than Eisenhower's 54% and Goldwater's 92% and lost the election by 112,000 votes. Politics at it's best. The big guys play the small guys.

Today's conservatives would paint the world simply, as we know, in black and white.  It makes a nice sound bite or visual bite to show Dr. King with Vice President Nixon (Republican).  In reality one of them was changing the world for all minorities while the other was positioning for a Presidential Election.  There's no question that John Kennedy's action in the 1960 election in regards to Dr. King was also about positioning for the same Presidential Election.  Either Nixon or Kennedy may have been doing what they thought was right to get to the Oval Office where they could do whatever right and better thing they thought should be done, just as Senator Lyndon Johnson was doing in the Senate with the civil rights card and as he would do during his Presidency.  The same games are played today with the addition of live, dynamic media, and as the more right-wing faction has their issues the left-wing liberals similarly have trouble picking any color other than not black and not white.  It's a mess.

We should all have the dream of Dr. King.    We live today in a diverse culture and barring unspeakable options that is our future. 

Finally I have to post my own Facebook comment of the day (intentionally short to flow to Twitter):  I am not sure that anyone who calls themselves either a Democrat or a Republican understands what it truly means to be an American.

If not just some of use, but all of us were set upon by dogs, beaten or sprayed with fire hoses and shot at by bad guys in the Middle East this democracy might get something done.

P.S.  This is a blog about not having a job and the trek to find one.  Even as a geezer white guy I'll  find a better one, more quickly and easier, with more pay than most minorities, some of whom will never find a job.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

#109 1/19/2014 Sunday (workless)

As a kid Sundays were clearly about church, eating with family and constraining playing with the neighbor kids.  Certainly there was no shopping and even gas stations were closed.  I'm talking about the 1950s in southern Minnesota, Albert Lea to be direct.  Everyone seemed to go to church then, in a wide variety of denominations.  Our neighbors across the street went to a bar in Manchester, a town with nothing but a bar.  I can remember their kids saying "we go to the bar in Manchester" when I complained about going to church.  In recent times, although I've not kept track, but I may have frequented more bars than churches on Sunday.  Assuredly I've worked more Sundays than anything which is a major contrast with my youth.  Most of those working Sundays were for the 27-year gig.  I'm not doing that or anything like that again, that which is primarily in the pursuit of money or compensation.

Today everything is open except things like dentists and car dealers but I'm sure there must be a place somewhere where I could have had a dental cleaning and checkup if I wished.  Now we seem to work all the time and even the big holidays have stores and venues for shopping and buying frequently more open.  What if Amazon was closed on Sunday?  Or if you could only buy certain goods on Sunday?  It gave us a day or rest and reflection.  For a while I've been thinking about an electronic gizmo sabbatical.  Maybe I should stay away from computers one day a week or not carry my cell phone.  For two days, including today, I've not carried my cell phone, not because of making that sabbatical choice but because I took it out of my pocket while working at the computer.

Over the past two days I've probably put in 10-12 hours of heads done computer time, primarily on accounting and tax challenges.  The sabbatical choice could not include the computer because I just cannot write as quickly by hand any more and I want to keep writing and putting a few thoughts together.  That's what my work going forward will be.

Monday is Martin Luther King day.  It warrants reflection for disadvantaged and those the subject of all ranges of discrimination.  We're not the kind of country today that any of us wish to have.  I'm headed up north later in the day to work on snow removal, re-starting that renovation and to work on some craft/art projects.  Progress is being made there.  Most of our back yard oaks were recently removed.  In the process of that we needed to take down a nice sized black cherry.  Most of that will be carved into spoons and bowls.  It's nice carving and beautiful.  Over the years I've turned a lot of trees into firewood but turning even a small log into usable art is tremendously rewarding.  It's the kind of work that I want to do and it's the kind of work that would be acceptable and appropriate on Sundays, now and long ago.

#108 1/18/2014 More Shoveling

There is little question that the winters in MN are much less severe than they used to be with less snow and fewer really cold days and much shorter durations.  We get teasers of the past, now.  We had a few days of -20F when we used to get that and colder predictably.  As a kid we'd frequently have several days a winter when the wind and snow would blow in off the prairie leaving us housebound.  Really good blizzards would sweep the snow off the prairie dump it on the small downs like small windbreaks and then top off the drifts with sprinkling of frozen black loam. 

This winter has been cold and damp and we've had a lot of snow.  At the end of the driveway where I come face-to-face with the Ramsey County snowplow in defining and debating what should be snow free the white skyfall is now about five feet high.  Each shovelful needs to be heaved a bit higher leading to smaller shovelfuls and more time at the task.

Difficult projects require seat time.  You don't sit down and write a great book or article in fifteen minutes.  I've heard that songwriters put together really great songs in short periods of time but I suspect that they put together really mediocre sons in a short time more often.  I find that I have to find my grove before things start to flow.  During my long employment gig I used to lobby for quiet space for my programmers.  The office Nazis always fought that and they almost always won, lobbying that open spaces create collaborative spaces.  When working in your own head, your primary space, distractions are like leaving the windows open in a blizzard.

Today I spent about three hours working on an accounting task that was challenging because of some people's expectations and because I was missing some critical information that I could not make up (not that I ever make up accounting information in case the IRS or NSA is reading this).  At a point it was time to work on some sort of commentary for #108. 

I can see some progress on all or some of these ignored life projects.  The reading pile and magazine pile is shrinking.  There have been some donations to Goodwill.  Demo has started on the real estate rennovation project.  There is progress on accounting issues.  Nothing has been done on taxes yet but the 1099s are starting to come in and that's good.  In the midst of this the most important thing I've been able to do is find some time to work on projects like this, without distraction.

This upcoming week I'm going work on a couple of potential income-producing projects.  Taking a break for LHH and the job search was good.  There is, was, and will be value in that resource but it was a distraction.  Making the decision to wait, to approach projects (and jobs) in some logical fashion, with some put on hold, was correct.

On a legacy note I ordered replacement bees.  My first bees were ordered in 1964.  At that time the cost was $8.  Now the same unit of bees is $99.  The span of bees in my life is now fifty years.  I'm still learning.

Friday, January 17, 2014

#107 1/17/2014 we are who are online

Online ... who we may be
As this day winds to a close I thought about this commitment of writing every day and looking to the future as a I craft my next gig. It's been a frustrating but good couple of weeks with some real positive reinforcement.  During a conference call this week I was conversing with a couple of high-end IT project consultants and drove the conversation weaving in perspectives on the future of IT and past experiences in a $1B company.  That was stimulating.  The past couple of months have been occupied with a lot of catch-up activities and a fair amount of caffeine.  From a very practical perspective the recycling barrel and the trash can have been full every week and my electronic world is a bit more tidy.

The Target security breach, which is now much larger and extensive than expected, has given me cause to be more careful in my online activities.  My browser perspective has always been one of leaving and collecting as much good and bad information as possible.  Private browsing is fine but you also are identified by your IP address and sites can collect your visits and some computer information so I'm now using a service that routes my access through a proxy which presents an anonymous IP address.  Having had my card lifted in several online transactions and having had our small business cards lifted multiple times on point of sale equipment it just seems prudent.

Entering my name and my 27-year gig employers name provides interesting results, far more than I expected.  It turns out that I've been quoted far more that I realized, with some of those quotes, perspectives and insights ending up in books. Where are my royalties?  Tomorrow I'm going to revisit some of these sites.  In our small business I've been pushing hard on leveraging social media and there may be opportunities for some self-promotion via social media and web penetration for my work in my previous gig...I'm not looking exactly for that kind of position but it is a wonderful reference in and of itself.  I can say to a prospective gig "my accomplishments are on the web."

Thursday, January 16, 2014

#106 1/16/2014 keeping track of days, walking familar corporate trails & barbers

Keeping track of days...
While a soldier, back in the 1960s and 1970s you knew what day it was because you were in a countdown...so many days and a "wake up."  Then you were gone.  FTA all the way and all such stuff.  At one point I kept track by hours which was probably overkill.

Yesterday I thought it was January 16th. Today is January 16th.  At points I always new if it was Wednesday.  That was the day the Powerball was picked and that would mean the end of going to work.  Saturday was Powerball day, too, but it was clearly Saturday since I was not at work although there was probably some work ocurring.

In the absence of a real job, a dumb job the days do begin to flow together a bit.  It's possible that this flow opens up the creativity a bit rather than compressing it between a start time and an end time or putting a bad taste on it in the concept of "really long work days."  

For the last couple of days I set my alarm (iPhone) with the intention of getting up and getting to work, in all the contexts I've previously addressed.  For the last couple of days when listening the the alarm, I "swiped" it to put it rest, thought about getting up and delayed the conversion from horizontal to vertical orientation.  As a nerd I should have said moving from a landscape orientation to a portrait orientation.

I've also been obsessing about getting a haircut, not having had one for three months, and thinking that I might want to impress someone.  At 63 I'm not sure that you can impress anyone positively on appearance but it's never been my style to be unkempt.  Casual would be the standard.  Formal the exception.

Walking Familiar Corporate Trails...Barbers
Barbers are important.  With a couple of very brief exceptions I have two barbers in my adult life.  The first lasted from 1973 until 2010.  The second has been from 2010 through today.  Nina was a recommendation from a co-worker at the 27-year gig and she was located close by and on the Skyway System.  For those unfamiliar with downtown Minneapolis, all the primary buildings are connected with second floor corridors for pedestrian traffic and skyways between buildings.  

Downtown Minneapolis is a thirty minute drive from our home suburb and parking is expensive.  I decided to park in the Target store parking garage, make a quick trip to the barber and then buy $20 worth of miscellany at Target to get my hour of free parking.  This happens to be  the same building in which I worked from 2001 to 2013 of my 27-year gig.  It was inevitable that I would encounter a former co-worker wandering the Skyway.  I did.

It was an easy encounter with quick waves and a few words.  He asked if I was coming upstairs to visit. "No."  "Hey, everyone would like to see you."  Not everyone would.  I declined citing an appointment.  That was true.   I was on the clock trying to avoid $5-7 of parking fees.

Nina and I had a nice chat.  She does a very professional cut and has a lot to say.  We talked about our families, Facebook and good TV series to follow.  She has blue hair.  Always she asks me "are we going standard or what."  I always respond "standard, I guess." I can only imagine what would happen if I suggested hair liberty.

When I left downtown I committed to Nina that I'd keep going to her for cuts.  I'm not going to park in my old building next time.  It felt bad, more of an old trail than something new and fresh. 

So now I have a haircut and look good.  It's Friday and I've been trying to get the same two projects done for two weeks.  Friday AM I'm lining up some caffeine and putting in 2-3 hours before helping at the small business for an hour or so and then heading back to the home office.  Given that it's Friday (the day before Powerball day) I may cut out early since I'm pretty much cut out all the time.

I have been thinking about Javascript and Ruby on Rails a lot.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

#106 1/16/2013 ...on knowing a couple of Mennonites...

This is the southbound portion of a quick "up north" trip.  The repaired furnace is running fine.  We go on assuming that some things are going to keep working...like our furnaces.  Although the simplicity of good water flowing from our faucets may be uniquely American (not the case in the 3rd world) we expect it.  We take it for granted.  The West Virginia river contamination was extreme, even in a state where surface water is often polluted from strip and mountaintop mining.  The following is an unusual statement for me (offered without explanation).  We strip away slowly at God's gifts slowly but surely in the pursuit of profit.

A new wireless modem was installed.  I forget to change the admin user name and password from 'admin' and 'admin' so have at it you hackers...and especially my neighbor internet thieves.  The furnace issue made me really concerned about furnace isseues. Duh.  I have a device called a "FreezeAlarm" which is great.  It calls me whenever the power goes out or the temperature drops below a threshold I set.  The house security system also calls when a temperature threshold is reached.  That system also has a battery backup and I've just replaced all the sensor batteries and the battery in the control box.  None of this would be necessary if I lived in more temperate climate where water, in your house, in your copper pipes or in your pex tubing did not freeze.

LacrosseAlerts makes a nice alert system and now I have three systems to give me temperature warnings.  This system has wireless sensors that I can monitor over the web or on my smart phone.  It's great.

The Mennonite Connection
My son had a very good friend in high school who was a Mennonite.  Her father was a Mennonite minister.  They were very nice and became a good place for my son to hang out.  The father and mother converted to the Mennonite faith which would negate, in their case, the argument for it being an ethnic-religious group.

Our "up north" place is near Friesland, MN, not the Friesland in the Netherlands, a historical location of significance to Mennonites.

Certainly I can understand the pacifism.  It probably would not work for me since for the right reasons I can quickly shift about 180 degrees from pacifism.  I'm going to upgrade my understanding, but not tonight.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mennonites

This afternoon I had a great conference call w/ a couple of collaborators in the construction IT field.  We're brainstormng sort of a Facebook solution for IT workers in the commercial construction industry.  We have an agenda, research to do over the next few days and a second conference scheduled.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

#105 1/15/2014 three months to tax filing

This was a good day.  Late this PM I arranged a conference call with two
like-industry IT experts for tomorrow.  During my 27-year gig I successfully created a group of IT managers from competing commercial construction firms who agreed to share IT experience and perspectives.  During the formation of this group we created an informal charter in which we agreed that IT advances did not provide a competitive advantage for construction firms given the very short time it was an advantage.  All it did was destroy the IT workers and there was no logic in that.

We shared perspectives and experiences with products and vendors without bias.  There were a couple of local companies that did not participate and as a collaborative group we chuckled at the others who cut their teeth learning what we had already shared.

Our discussion tomorrow will center on how we could leverage that experience into a national platform.

This could lead to an income supplement that would involve exactly what I like doing.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

#103 1/12/14 Well it might as well be a full week of meh

7:00 AM...
The alarm went off.  Actually I've given up on alarm clocks and become totally hip, using my iPhone.  That's really not such a huge sacrifice because the iPhone does a much better job of waking me up.  It's almost a paradigm shift comparable to the ever-told paradigm shift of buggy whip manufacturers who thought they were in the horse whip business when in fact they were in the vehicle acceleration business.  The carburator manufacturers likewise missed the move to fuel injection also not realizing they were in the vehicle acceleration business.  The iPhone's alarm app, which could have been put on an alarm device the size of a gnat or included in any watch (which are also passe') just does a better job giving me all kinds of pre-sets and options.

I swiped my finger on the iPhone and turned it off.

Worked on internet stuff with poor results.  I'm trying to get a proxy server to work and have been exchanging support emails with a faceless support person all day, actually for a couple of days.  This seems important to get in place in part due the Target fraud event.  I'm careful about online transactions but should be more careful.

We went out for breakfast which was a disappointment but sat and talked for 45 minutes which was unusual and perhaps good and then headed off to Costco to get a chicken.  Costco roasts about 500 chickens a day and sells them for $4.99.  Every fifteen or thirty minutes they put out a new batch and people fight over them.  Just as we arrived someone bought fifteen chickens.  That annoyed fourteen people.  We walked around and bought a few things, including some Starbucks caffeine drink that I'm now addicted to and returned to the chicken zone.  Rather than being MN nice I just jumped in and grabbed the biggest chicken of the first three hat came out.  As I think about jobs and second careers I'm pondering the self-description of "I roast chickens in a big rotating Costco oven, checking their internal temperatures.  When hot enough I take the chicken(s) out put it in a plastic container on a shelf that says 'Warning Hot' and watch people fight over them and grab them saying "OH!!! That's really hot."  I do that all day long, over and over again.  Costco is a good place to work."  This might be an option but everyone has to wear a hairnet and people with facial hair have to wear sort of a beard cover, a beardnet perhaps?  It made me wonder about nose hair.

2:00-7:00 PM
I have a lot of domain names that are registered with three different companies, Network Solutions, Fatcow and MyDomain.  The result is a web of pointers and DNS entries for browsing and email, not all of which makes perfect sense.  Of course there is the issue of user names and passwords which complicates it all.  I used an open source application, Keepass, to store user names and passwords.  Every time you save the file it sends all that information to the Russian mafia.

Network Solutions was one of the first in the domain registar business.  Now they seem to make money by charging way too much for everything.  Fatcow was committed to wind energy and support people who spoke English.  Somewhere I started using MyDomain which is the cheapest of the three and 25% less than Fatcow.  Now the Fatcow and MyDomain software is identical.  There must have been an acquisition.

Recently I did an upgrade of the small business web site using www.wix.com  which is not bad.  They host their own websites so that added another twist to the mess.  As I worked through all this making sure that the right domain names were correctly pointed and email was getting where it was supposed to be I would pause and wonder "what exactly was the point of this or how is this supposed to work or prior to the internet this would have been time spent outside, skiing."

7:00-8:00 PM
This was primarily blog time, both writing and reading.

8:00-9:00 PM
Haul some tools over to the real estate project and pulled off some molding and pulled up some carpet and had a thirty pound wall mirror fall on me.

9:00-10:00 PM
Off to the small business to drop off and pick up which seems to be never-ending and then stopping for a bite to eat.  Over the years we seem to be eating later and later.  We should probably live in Chicago or New York where such style is not all that odd.

10:00-11:00 PM
Write this, right?
MON I'm headed back to check on the furnace after a couple of AM projects, one of which is calling two headhunters back.  I am committed to not going back to work until after the end of FEB but at the moment I'd take a gig for MON AM.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

#102 1/11/14 Some days are not as good as the day before...

The Week in Review...
Monday:       sucked...furnace issues in the cold
Tuesday:       sucked...furnace issues in the cold
Wednesday:  sucked...furnace issues in the cold
Thursday:      sucked being three days behind self-imposed schedule
Friday:          OK.  Made some small forward progress.  Re-birth of Samsung Chromebook was good.
                     Installation of Seagate Goflex was good.
Saturday       sucked...pulled in multiple direction...struggling with some computer issues.

Sunday is the seventh day of the week and according to some doctrines this should be a day of rest.  I have this hope of waking up and getting some things done, feeling good about them and being able to feel content and better at the end of the day.  This is a hope that I've had many, many times.  I still hope for that hope but realize that it's more likely to be like the recurring reality than the vision with which that hope in intertwined.

This blog posting should have been titled "Some weeks are not as good as the week before" rather than what it is.  I have this hope of titling ever blog posting to be correct, interesting and engaging.  I know that as much as I wish to title them as such, some will be, well, not that.

Friday, January 10, 2014

#101 1/10/14 Work where you make it...

High speed internet was a bit unusual in the 1990s but I recall having a slow DSL connection in 1999.  Connectivity, portability and collaboration venues now thrive where ever one might be.

Working at home is nice and I lobbied for that for many years at the 27-year gig with limited success.  The pundits liked designated desks and cubicles, people at their stations and the opportunity for the occasional meeting room.  Now as a bit of a roving worker (although without a real job [yet]) I'm struck with the opportunities that more or less public places offer. 

The Starbucks and Caribous are jammed with users staring at their Apple devices and nursing day-long coffees.  I think most of them are listening to music or cruising.  Rarely do I see heads-down keyboard work (I dislike the new word 'keyboarding').

So far I've found that working in public spaces is nice but only if I can get a little distance from others.  The Ramsey County libraries, the less-freqented fast food places and the city community centers seem to work fine.  Serious consideration was given to membership at the MPLS CoCo but I found it sort of jammed with people.  Their focus is on collaboration and the closeness probably encourages that.  There are a number of writers there and some SIG (special interest groups) for things like WordPress but I'm still in the early discovery stages of this re-alignment.  I've been conventional long enough and there is a danger in hip conventional, too.  The twenty-year shot clock is running.

The next vocation will certainly be minimalist in nature.  In the early 1970s I moved once with all my possessions in one VW bug trip.  Now I want to be able to work from one messenger bag.  Given my Samsung Chromebook failure I'll probably be a vagabond with two computers but that's OK.

I'm off to handle life logistics.  My iPhone is ringing with calls from the small business place. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

#100 1/9/14 Real work and computer work

Real Work...
The short version of the story is that the oil furnace quit working.  I'd have been suspicious of a bad batch of fuel had it not failed a couple of weeks earlier.  When your furnace is in the basement or a closet it's bad when it fails but it's a different program when it's 100 miles away and it's -27F.

There really was not choice but to drive.  It was less than 50F in the house upon arrival and even after four hours of wood in the wood burning furnace, wood in the fireplace insert, a catalytic heater and a big kerosene heater it remained cool but above the ever critical 32F.

Tuesday I began the quest for a repair person and my first call to a nice guy I've used before was cut short when he responded "I can't help you.  I just had my knee replaces."  My first thought was he could come over and talk me through the diagnostics and I could tell him about all the people I knew who had had knee replacement surgery and what they did right and what they did wrong but he ended the call before I could offer up that idea.  He did give two other names and I called each of them and left messages.

Upon receipt of the first response late in the day I started an explanation of what was happening and what I'd don and what I thought was wrong.  "I only work on gas furnaces.  What you said about your oil burner might be right.  I don't know."  It was still -24F.  I was a bit warmer.  This was day #2 of a three-day "fix."

The third guy called and said it was probably the filter.  Only a couple of weeks earlier I'd discovered that this burner actually had a fuel filter.  This confirmed that I am an idiot.  The guy said change the filter and that will fix the problem.  He asked "do you have a filter?" and recommended the hardware store about 15 miles away as a source.  A trip to the Ace Hardware store and an expenditure of $2.45 set me up for the filter changing process after watching a couple of YouTube videos.  Changing and cleaning was pretty simple, as was "bleeding the line" but I did find that the #2 fuel oil was red and it shot out farther than anticipated.  The furnace ran fine for eight hours and then did not come on.

On day three the third guy showed up.  These oil burners are pretty simple.  The pump moves the fuel oil.  A transformer generates a spark that ignites the fuel oil that shoots out of a jet and an electric eye looks for sparks and fire and shuts the hole thing done if it's not working.  He replaced the transformer.  His time and the transformer were about $300.  I learned all about his life and made a few suggestions and shared a few perspectives on life as guy just trying to make things work.

Real Work...Computers
Computers really don't fail as much as they did twenty or more years ago.  The real failures are infrastructure issues and back office issues and cloud issues and major application fixes, upgrades and glitches.  This was a pleasant reminder of a simple hardware failure.

In many venues I've recommended the Samsung Chromebook which sells new for $249.  As a web appliance used in conjunction with web applications such as Google's it's a great device.  It's my goto PC and I used it far more than my desktops or high-end notebooks.

The case is grey and looks like aluminum or titanium or some other metal that is probably polluting and destroying the earth but it's plastic which is polluting and destroying the earth.  When using it I try to remember to not lean on it too hard with hands.  Starting with my furnace failure on Monday this was not a good week and the Chromebook accompanied me as I went about in the -20F and colder weather talking to people and getting ready for my furnace repair trip.  Usually it's carried in a fairly tight slipcase but the six-hour battery was a bit low and I jammed the power adapter in. 

Somewhere during the day on Monday I either leaned on it or threw it in or out of the car a bit too aggressively.  The screen image is pretty interesting, certainly not something I could have created if I had even had a vision of that image.  My first inclination was to order a new Chromebook and throw this one into the nearest river or stream where it would ooze plastic into our drinking water but YouTube clued me into a site called www.screendoctors.com or something similar and a new screen is on it's way for $67. 

So No Work...
Both of these events have consumed my time and my mind and prevented me from chasing real work...but I did have a call from a headhunter today and will call him back on Friday.  The end of the week looks more promising than the beginning of the week.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

#96 1/5/14 Throw some stuff away...be done with it

Throw some things out...
After 27 years at the last gig, a gig that took a lot of time and energy, there is an increasing awareness of how much was left undone during that time period.  Some are simple.  The gazebo roof is collapsing.  The back entrance door and frame is rotten.  The front porch is collapsing.  The garage is full.  The fourteen boxes of my aunt Helen's "stuff" is still in the garage and she died seven or eight years ago.

Some progress has been made.  All the beige computers that seemed to multiply and stack up have been recycled.  My electronic files are backed up in the cloud and on multiple storage devices, necessarily totally organized, but at least they're on media one can read.

My mother passed away a year ago on New Year's eve.  Within a couple of months I went through all her things and donated her clothes, furniture and miscellaneous household items paring it down to six boxes labeled "mom."  The six boxes have been sitting in the same place for ten months.  It hit me last week that I need to finish that project.  If I don't do it they'll be sitting there when I leave.  Some of it will evoke memories but only for me and it's time to process those and put them away in my head and heart for later retrieval.  The six boxes contain no memories for anyone else.

A Most Helpful Guide...
This blog has been an effort to bring focus to my effort and interest in the "what's next?"  The outplacement firm that I've been working with focuses on getting your personal marketing plan in place, getting a good resume put together, networking, hitting the street, etc.  That's great and they're good at that.  They also talk about the option of retiring and doing what you want.  They are not very good at that.  They also talk about having your own business but they're a bit of an advertisement for franchises.  That's good if you simply want to replace some income by spending some money but it's a bit afar from my notion of creativity and innovation.

There is no question that I'm adverse to self-help books.  That's the Norwegian DNA kicking in.  Work it out yourself.  Don't complain.  It could be worse.  This is probably as good as it gets.  Look around; you'll find someone worse off than you.

Richard Leider is a 69 year old guy who writes like he's talking to to you, like someone who's actually interested in what you might want to do, not what you've done or especially what you've done to make money.  I highlighted one paragraph in the book that was something like "...I'll never do something simply for the sake of money ever again in my life..."

He has a pretty simple plan that involves writing down some thoughts, probably in a journal, committing some time to being reflective about your interests and opportunities, narrowing your options, throwing out some things to simplify your life and most importantly finding a person or a handful of people who will listen to you.

The LHH approach is all outward focused in the networking theme.  Get them a marketing statement and ask them there opinion without asking for a job.  That's sort of like saying here is my resume but I'm not really asking for a job or asking you to do anything.  If you are forty and facing another twenty years in the job space that's good.  If you are a bit past that it's probably important to focus on what you really like.  Find something, or a few things, that you can be passionate about.  That could be a new job or a new business but it's probably not what you have been doing.  Today I sent a link to this book to my LHH contact.  This should be recommended reading for people who are in transition, even people much younger than me.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

#92 1/1/14 So what, exactly, is our job?

Warren Buffett...
Working hard, being diligent, putting in the extra effort, being creative, working as hard for others as you do for yourself and communicating clearly, with a little humility,  some chuckles and a smile seem to be good guidelines for any work, not just being a super rich guy.  Mr. Buffet's success is remarkable, but deserved.  He lives modestly and now has given away most of his money, recognizing that the fruits of his work are not gifts for his children, who can help themselves, but gifts to the many who cannot help themselves.  It's a good model.  We need more like-minded people.  I'm planning on being a fractional Warren Buffett.

Re-Imagining Our Work...
This evening, at the end of a week-long effort to move a few thousand pounds of inventory from one place to a couple of others with way too many stairways, elevators, lifting, putting down and two-wheel cart moves we stopped at D'Amico for a couple of small salads.  It was late and we were very tired.  They closed at 8:30 and about that time a nice young guy stopped and asked if he could clear our table.  "Certainly, as long as I can ask you a few questions."  He was a tall, skinny guy who spoke with enthusiasm looking directly at us.  As a second semester college student at a local somewhat liberal university he was pursuing a degree in journalism and ws soon headed off for an internship in New York City.  I always like to ask waiters and restaurant workers if the work they are doing today is going to be their life.  "Oh, God no" was response from the journalist.

The others I've asked at the same restaurant were students at Northwestern College, Billy Graham's college of choice.  They've been nice.  We helped one with a paper due the next day and another talked about wanting work for a non-profit.  "Working for a non-profit is good.  I've found that when you work for a for-profit you are committed to the process of selling (perhaps depleting) yourself.  That might not be the case with a non-profit."

This brings me the point.  My wife was reading the Star Tribune and handed me an article about a 69-year-old guy who has just written a book about one's life re-imagined .  This looked good and with only a few click's effort Amazon has a copy on it's way.  A review will follow.

Reflection on reflection...
On New Year's Eve I posted a short family story in this blog and also on Facebook.  I was reluctant to post it on Facebook, not so much on my personal page because only friends see it, but on another page which has interesting and no so interesting comments about my home town.  Recently there was a post about a particular downtown building.  My father had a part time job cleaning the Elks Club which was on the top floor and it reminded me of a humorous story that my mother like to tell.  The short piece was also a bit personal, mentioned the long-ago death of my father and the passing of my mother a year ago on New Year's Eve.  The Norwegian side of my brain pulled back, suggesting that it was all too personal and people might say something.  My dad's side of my brain suggested just saying it with the humor, the loss, the reflection and the hope.  Someone will like it.  The Norwegian side lost out and I've had many, many positive comments, good reinforcement for my writing and on my life re-imagined.

Not going to a "job" has dramatically affected my daily schedule, eliminating the 6:00 AM alarm and the 10:30 PM schedule and now I seem to be following a much more natural day not only for sleeping but also for eating and drinking.  This will enhance the next major "work" endeavor.