Saturday, August 30, 2014

Small Business Ice Machine

My wife and daughter have a small cafe.  When purchased the ice machine worked.  After cleaning it stopped working.  Ice machines are actually pretty simple.  Water runs over a chilled panel in the 'F' (freeze) mode.  Once the ice is of a certain thickness you move into 'H' (harvest) mode and the ice is released into a hopper and on and on.  That first ice machine had a couple of adjustments.  As I recall it was 1)thickness of the ice and 2) F time.  For two days I fiddled with the adjustments, knowing that the control panel had been replaced since it did not match the wiring diagram.  Finally I looked closer and realized the two controls were reversed; everything I did for two days was opposite of what the indicators said.

That machine was replaced with a new Scotsman Ice Machine.  Scotsman once had 75% of the world market of ice machines and happened to be from my home town.  It's corporate legacy was the American Gas Machine company which became large from a natural gas regulator for space heaters that began to appear after WWII as homes switched from coal and fuel oil to natural gas.  They also created what was to become widely know, the Coleman Stove and Coleman Lantern.   AGM was purchased by Coleman and then I think they were purchased by King Seely Thermos.  AGM was owned by my cousin's husbands grandfather, one of those 'who cares?' facts.

My daughter cleaned the ice machine FRI afternoon.  Living closer, I checked to see if it was producing ice this morning.  There was an error code and to make a long story short there have been three trips and four or five disassembly and re-assembly cycles.  For a while it errored out when I put the cover back on...which of course covered the error code panel.  In the IT world my help desk staff would always go to the first question "have you re-booted your computer."  At this moment that seems odd that anyone would know what 're-boot' means.  Looking up bootstrap would be a good start.  Sometimes you'd have to do a warm boot (software only), other times a hard boot (power off).  The hard boot would clean out most of the cooties.  I try to do a hard boot every night for about seven hours.  Finally I pulled the plug on the ice machine and started over.  There have been five successful 'harvests' of ice.  Once more should be occurring in six minutes.  At that point I'm headed off for other labor on my Labor Day weekend.

In retrospect much of this falls into the 'who cares?' category.

Sunday Update

As of 9 AM everything was great with lots of ice.  As of 6 PM it errorred out again.  Now it's time for an expert.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Legacy; seminar du jour & Sloan Valves

Mid-week Retrospective...

Tuesday was a major event day.  I'm still a bit haunted by the "walk toward the light" comment from my physician.  It seems that Wednesday was a logical following to Tuesday and Thursday seems logical, too.  Either I've died and being dead is just like living or the whole "...light" thing is one more urban myth.

Legacy Seminar...

A seminar at the outplacement firm carried a title about "Create You Own Legacy."   "How do you want to be remembered?"  LHH knows a lot about people in transition (I think).  There have been a lot of conversations, web sessions, etc. about making changes, picking new opportunities, buying into a franchise (yuck), retiring and just giving up.  One of my recent blog posts contained my observation that no one really cares about your past work.  Your children and grandchildren likely will have some good memories, but of course they have to.  I've always thought that doing some good work and being a decent person was enough legacy in and of itself.  Quite of few of my former charges indicated that I was the best manager that they ever had.  If that's true they haven't moved around enough but it does make me feel like I did good work there.

The #1 provider of online obituaries is .  I found the seminar title a bit haunting.  One of the presenters did use the idea of writing your own obituary as part of the exercise.  In 1974 or 1975 I did do that as part of a class at the University of Minnesota.  As a student and having been a student for a long time there was a notion of a University or Washington AV bridge demise.

Around seventeen people attended the seminar.  Three or four were LHH consultants.  All were quite candid in their introductions of their concern for their own legacy.  Two focused on family and their work at LHH.  The head of the office and one of the seminar leaders spoke of broader legacies and more in terms of the work they wished to do rather than how they would like to be remembered.  Several attendees referenced grandchildren (I guess they skipped children).  These people all were in some sort of job transition and the departure from a corporate entity led to a perspective of not wishing to be part of that any more.  There was a comment something like "do you want to be part of a corporation or do you want to be a real person?"

Corporate jobs always end.  Your legacy, the public work, your real creations may last a bit longer.  There are a few legacy issues from my twenties that I wish would whither and die.

Can one have a corporate legacy as an employee and is it rewarding?  Yes, but at an age and stage it's all a bit shallow.  Some of the LHH consultants were seeing that for themselves.  

The leaders had a few slides and handouts with ideas for creating a legacy which included writing a blog, writing a book, volunteering, starting a business, etc.

Everyone had a small introduction and comments.  Always trying to be humorous I commented that I thought my legacy work was already behind me and that going forward I just wished to do things for me, do things I enjoy.  The intro also included a plug for the blog.

People seemed together but searching.  A younger woman had trouble expressing her desire to be a public speaker.  A guy gave a general, vague introduction but later asked on one really needed to have a legacy.  LHH blasts you with the need for networking, a marketing statement, a resume, ides, etc. and I think he thought this to be one more step in the LHH process.  I thought he might be a displaced Amish person.

My goal for the session had little to do with my own legacy.  I wanted to see two presenters in action.  This is another venue to make an income.  My better half regularly comments that we carry a lot of valuable information on many topics, have and are business owners, and probably have a wealth of information that we simply need to package and get someone to buy.  One of the leaders was a former government planner and now helped individuals do small strategic plans for their legacy projects.  The standard engagement was one day with the end product a one to two page plan following the the standard corporate format (vision, mission, goals, objectives, tasks, etc., etc.).  Being remiss I did not ask the fee structure.  Let's assume that it was $500-1000/day.

My notion of 'legacy' was more abstract than what the seminar described, but I'm always a bit more abstract.

Sloan Valves...

Three trips (900+ miles each) were made between the Twin Cities and Chicago to deal with a faulty Sloan Valve commode. When flushed the water would run without end.  Over the course of the three trips there were four or five plumber visits.  I don't think we appreciate indoor plumbing as much as we should.

You've all seen the Sloan Valve in commercial buildings.  They are water efficient and provide a tank-free solution.  I'm assuming that we don't use them in homes either because they are expensive or we appreciate the beauty of a toilet tank.  It's an interesting company and I'd take a quick look.  There first product, the Royal Flushometer was introduced in 1906 and was not well received in the marketplace.  You can still get parts for it.

While giving the new tenant an orientation I explained the water shutoff  procedure should the water keep running.  It's simple.  Turn a big screw on half a turn.  I left a screwdriver.  Then I explained that I'd left a bucket should there be a need to turn off the water.  The look I received made it clear that she thought I was telling her to defecate and urinate in the bucket.  Realizing that after the "what?" look I explained how to fill the bucket with water from the tub and then to pour it in the commode. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Event #2

I'm waiting for my son at the Hubert H. Humphrey terminal.  He is leaving for a convention in Washington DC and then returning to Denmark via Iceland.  In 1969 I was returning from Ft. Lewis, Washington (as a soldier) with a planeload of young men who had just had their orders changed to Viet Nam.  Halfway back to MSP then-senator Humphrey stood up in first class, walked through the plane and shook the hand of each of those soldiers.  It's one of those Viet Nam things I think of, wondering how many on that plane came home in a body bag not long after shaking Senator Humphrey's hand.  Hubert Humphrey had a great memory for names, remembering just about everyone.  It's possible, watching the evening news in that time that he turned to Muriel, stating solemnly, "I know that young man."

During my son's time at Northwestern each trip was a parking challenge or at least a bit parking stressful.  Coincidentally Northwestern's color was purple and today I ended up on the purple level.  My son is a political science professor.  He was fortunate to meet Senator George McGovern, presidential candidate and Viet Nam objector, also a Northwestern political science graduate.

This is one of those days that is clearly being woven together by a remote operator.

I also forgot to mention that in Event #1 of the day, my doctor asked me, shortly before advising me to walk to the light, what I really want to do, what I really enjoy.  It seems that I must be living with a sign on my back these days.

Event #2 & #3...Tuesday

The haircut was fine.   My barber is young and hip and updated me on Comic-Con 2014.

Lunch with my former boss was fine.  For 3/4 of the 27 years we had a supervisor/peer/friendship relationship.  Now we're just friends.  That translates into no negative stuff and probably even caring a bit about each other.

Crave was fine.  They have very nice salads.

First Event of the Eventful Day

Over the course of 63 years I've gone through a lot of dentists.  One was murdered, one became a crazy homophobic, another went to trial as a key player in a big shoplifting ring, another really had hands too large to be a dentist and another was simply personally unpleasant.  Those experiences have not carried over to physicians where I've always been more or less pleased.  My current physician is a a 49 year old woman with a great sense of humor who is helping me manage a couple of things and being supportive to the effort of becoming a bit more healthy.

My visit today was fine.  It started off well with a discussion of how the Irish change phrasing when swearing.  I recommended a Robin Williams routine on how difficult it is to understand the Irish.  Now, after the
appointment, I find that the routine I thought to be about the Irish is really about the Scottish.  It's still funny.

We went though the health issue of the day and reviewed my recent annual lab results, which like much of my accomplishments, are unremarkable.  Finally I'd exhausted more than my appointed time and I thought all was well until her departing comment "walk toward the light."

I'm obsessed with the thought and likely dialogue later today.  "What did you do today?"  "I went to the Doctor.  I had hoped she'd say 'no more monkeys jumping on the bed' but instead it was 'walk toward the light."  Does this mean my monkey days are done?

In a few minutes I'm headed off to my third haircut (fourth?) in eleven months.  Given the doctor experience my barber (a twenty something young woman) will probably tell me I have head lice or some sort of scalp issue.

As I left home this morning I grabbed a "good" laptop.  For some reason I think one might do "better work" on an expensive, feature rich PC.  Once in the car I thought about the sequence of commitments today and
ran back in the house and grabbed the $219 Samsung Chromebook as a backup.  The doctor appointment and the haircut were separated by ninety minutes and it seemed reasonable to get an iced tea and steal some wireless connectivity.   The "good" laptop needed a charge and no outlet was to be found.  Leaving my tea on the table I ran out to the car and grabbed the Chromebook.  We used to go out for coffee to talk with friends.  Now I leave with two PC's and an iPhone and obsess about connectivity and hotspots.  As I look about this coffee and bagel place I wonder how many of these individuals, all alone, all occupying a four person booth or table left their home with two PC's and a smartphone.  I know not all of them are writing thoughtful blog posts and planning changes to their life...or just killing time until their haircut appointment.  Maybe they are sitting alone because they have head lice.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What is one's legacy...

TUE=Busy Day

This is a weird week near the end the end of month eleven in the "no dumb job journey."  Tuesday I have several commitments; 1) visit my doctor who makes me feel good about irreversible aging and provides encouragement and hope for everything else 2) my third haircut in eleven months with the best barber I've ever had (and that's another story) 3) lunch with my boss of 25 of the 27-year gig 4) meeting my son at the airport for an hour or so before he leaves for Denmark via Washington D.C. and Iceland.  It's possible that there will be a "5," a rooftop beverage at Crave with former co-workers.

Such a schedule.  The downside and the good side is that it keeps me away from the small business which has been growing each week.

THU=Legacy Day

I'm attending a seminar given by my LHH outplacement consultant who is in the process of writing a book, which any of us would like to do.  We just can't seem to get it done and neither can he.  Recently I found a five-day session at the Madeline Island Artist School taught by a woman who has published 13 books.  She has a formula.  I've missed the last session of this year but will attend next summer whether I am working or not.  The other person teaching the seminar focuses on what one wishes to leave as a legacy.  In some ways this sounds like "ok, you are done working, you'll probably run out of money, so what do you want people to remember about you?"  I guess that would be other than your family.  Our family has shrunk to a handful.  I have seven cousins left who I talk to at funerals.  The aunts,  uncles and parents are all gone.  Our two children certainly will miss us but I think they'll be too busy dealing with our life debris to be concerned about what others consider a noteworthy legacy.  On the positive side there is at least another 18-20 years to be productive, perhaps a few more.  There is time.  It's not my goal to be remembered by the 27-year gig but by the creative work that began last Oct 1.

I've learned a lot from books and seminars but I have read a few too many and attended a few (or more) too many in search of key information, looking for that person or approach that will answer all the questions, dot all the "i's" etc.  It's not there.

Squirrels & Mission Statements

A red squirrel chewed up the wiring in all three cars which has cost about $2500 to diagnose and repair.  My friendly, never-helpful insurance company says I have a $1000 deductible per vehicle.  I argued that it was one squirrel and they've insured all my property and cars for more than twenty years.  They suck.

Over the years I've spent countless hours in meetings arguing about content and phrasing and interpretations
of mission statements.  There were many discussions, too, of vision statements versus mission statements and just to make sure we have this in the legacy knowledge base the vision statement is about where you want to be and the mission statement describes how you will get there.  As well as I understand all that stuff and as much as I've participated and facilitated there are times I don't care.  Friday I picked up one of the squirrel-damaged cars, paid the $1300 bill and drove about half a mile before the "engine" light came on and it noticeably started running on four of it's six cylinders.   I don't think any mission statement or vision statement that I've been involved in or read has resulted in me feeling better or getting better service or giving better service.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Work Residual

We look at the exterior of a building and describe it's character and often it's attractiveness or lack thereof.  Cleaning garage usually starts at the door.  Usually we don't look at the supporting structures of the building and we rarely get to the back corners of the garage.  We start where we should be finishing.

Eleven months has gone by quickly and slowly.  Regretfully I've not put my hands or eyes in all the recesses and dark corners that I had wished.  This morning I started at the darkest corner which happens to be the electronic collections of my life (computer).  That was overwhelming so I had a Coke and decided to work on the debris surrounding one of many of the household's workstations.

When I left my 27-year gig I brought home four or five boxes.  Most of that has been recycled.  What I have remaining fits in a legal sized expanding folder, primarily documents from before my move to almost exclusively electronic storage.  The work ranges primarily from 1986 to 2001 with a few documents later, and nothing after the great recession of 2008-2009.  There is no reason to keep this.

One of my favorite dark films is About Schmidt.  Jack Nicholson plays an
insurance actuary in Omaha who is retiring or being forced out.  His legacy, in his mind, is an actuarial forecasting model for one of the company's insurance products.  During a later visit he finds it next to the dumpster.  Interestingly, I believe it was about four or five boxes.  Hopefully in the imagined world surrounding this movie he has one remaining legal sized expanding folder.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Neighbor, the President

My Neighbor, the President...

My neighbor has ALS.  This ice water over your head ALS craze on YouTube and Facebook really does not seem all that humorous.  Hopefully people are putting real effort into fundraising.  When public radio does their fundraising I donate 1) because I listen to public radio and 2) I want them to shut up.  

For whatever reason thinking about my neighbor who has ALS led me to thinking about having a President as a neighbor.

Barack Obama
Living next door to Barack would be OK, I guess.  "Hey, Barack, can you help me shingle my garage on Saturday?"    Without a doubt this would lead into a long answer with finger pointing and a lot of serious looks.  We'd probably have to take breaks to shoot hoops.  His wife seems nice, as do his kids.  I'd me more discreet than him on covert operations.

George W. Bush
"George!  If you are not doing anything Saturday I could use some shingling help.  He's
pretty fit, probably strong.  I guess I'd have to have some near beer on hand but that's better than my President neighbors who just want to pound down the brewskies.  He was pretty content to have his staff tell him what do to so I don't think he'd try to take over.  He'd probably be good doing some sort of mid-day barbecue lunch.  George was a bit slow in making decision...I could move faster than that.

Bill Clinton
"Bill!  If Hillary is not around could you help with a shingling project Saturday.  I'm assuming you're not tied up with Hillary?"  "Well, John, I won't be tied up with Hillary but perhaps someone else (laughing)."  "Can I bring some of my friends and interns to help, too?"  I am praying for a hot, sunny day just to see Bill's "friends."  It's possible that he'd just start talking and the sun would cross the sky and we'd not be done (but move right into the evening celebration).  My ego would not get in the way.

George H. W. Bush
"George!  I need some shingling help.  It's nothing like the Kennebunkport house and it should not take more than a day. "Well...I'd like that.  Could we just do some sort of parachute drop of shingles right on the roof?"  This guy always seemed nice.  He was a dedicated federal appointee, WWII veteran and like fast boats and jumping into the ocean.  It's possible that he'd been away from real work a bit too long to be of actual help on the shingling project but I know he'd be supportive and willing to be a gopher..."can you go get us some Gatorade at SA, George?"  I have no criticism of his presidency.

Ronald Reagan
"Ron, I could use some help shingling a roof."  As hard as it was represented that he worked on his ranch, Ron slept late and took a lot of naps.  This is a tear-off roof project and we need to get it done.  I'm going to avoid "Mr. Gorbachev!  Tear that roof off!"  Certainly it's good to laugh but all those one-liners is simply too much Jay Leno.  We need to get the shingles done and he'd probably require too much supervision and I don't have time to write a lot of cue cards.  People consider him an iconic President for the conservative cause.  I could not be that.

Jimmy Carter
"Jimmy!  You know what to do with a hammer.  Can you help me with the garage this weekend?"  "Surely, John.  I roofed all our buildings back in Plains, GA.  Most of the roofing I've done recently was in Central America where they make roof tiles out of dirt, you know mud shingles that they dry in the sun.  If we started Monday we could make enough by Saturday.  Rosalyn and I also taught the Hondurans how to build outhouses so we should put one of those next to the garage."  Jimmy would be great and I know Rosalyn could make some good biscuits and gravy for lunch and the day would start and end with some words of God to keep the job site safe.  If we could avoid a big debate about Palestine we could get done.  He was also a submarine commander and I love submarines.  He was a bright but overly cautious President but has done wonderful work after that.  Hopefully I'll still do my best work, too.

Gerald Ford
"Gerry.  You are great guy.  I've asked a bunch of ex-Presidents to help shingle the garage but given your Chevy Chase tendencies, let's just play some golf after I've rested up."

Richard Nixon
"Dick.  I have a roofing project this Saturday and thought of you, you sweaty bastard.  As a Quaker I thought you'd be familiar with this kind of service work.  If you are not being impeached could you give me a hand?"  Regardless of the answer I just don't think I would be confident that he'd show up.  In lieu of Nixon I'd just hire a Hispanic crew.  As President he did open trade with China which has pretty much destroyed US manufacturing and led us into personal spending frenzy that will bury us, and of course China owns all our debt.  "Dick I've re-thought this and since all our tools and fasteners (yes, roofing nails and staples) are made in China why don't you ride one of those empty containers back and find a Saturday project over there."

Lyndon B. Johnson
Before I even ask I know it's going to be another Texas barbeque lunch.  Lyndon really won't be of much help on this roofing project per se but undoubtedly will find some federal money for EEO labor, probably be able to get an interstate highway exchange next to my garage and start a war in Indonesia. The roof will get done but it will take far longer than expected, cost millions and result in the death of everyone working on the project.  If he gets up on the roof he'll be the first guy to take off his shirt.  The war on poverty and the civil rights movement owe much to this guy, a powerful and persuasive lifetime politician.  As President I would not be as good and could not be as good, just different than him.

John Kennedy
"Jack.  Do you think you could be part of a shingling project on Saturday?"  "My back has been bothering me but I still have connections with my father's people to get some Irish beverages and I can get all the materials as a deal, like free, don't ask."  Marilyn can stop by, too, and show you a few things.  Jack displayed a great sense of humor.  During the election campaign everyone made a big deal of his Catholicism and thought the Pope would be running the Presidency.  Given Jack's connections on materials, if he could get Pope Francis to show up this would be a great Saturday."  Jack was a good President but he had Bobby at his side.  As an only child I simply don't have any sibling support and likely would not be as effective as President Kennedy.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
"Dwight!  I need some help with a roofing project, actually my garage on Saturday.  Do you think you could give me a hand.  It's just one garage.  We're not putting new roofs on the entire European theater."  Dwight's wife is a major frump,  nice but a frump.  If he can get that hot WWII driver of his to give him a ride I'm sure he'll show up.  If I remember, he, too, is a farm boy and while being quite rusty on the practical aspects of all this I'm certain he'd be able to prioritize, make some ordered lists and make sure that we don't forget any technical details.  This time around I'm sure he'd make sure we did not invite any British workers, even though this garage is being re-roofed to help defend Britain from the Germans.  Dwight was a five star general, commander of the Allied Forces in Europe.  I was an E-4 infantry and artillery guy.  It's unlikely that I would have been an adequate Commander of the Allied Forces.

First Draft Conclusion
I think I'll get George Bush and Jimmy Carter to help with the garage shingling project.     

Monday, August 18, 2014

Eleven Month Update To The Place I Used To Work

Since leaving my 27-year gig at the end of last September I've given two updates to a handful of people at the place I used to work.  My staff was about fifteen people and internal customers numbered about 700 across the country in seven or eight regional offices and many commercial construction job sites.  While I miss many things about that position it's a handful of people who I spoke with daily that I miss.  There were people I spoke with daily that I do not miss, too.  The following letter was sent as the second update, at eleven months, today.  It's taken much longer than I expected to "be done" with this 27-year engagement and that's probably reasonable.  It's possible that this will be my last communication to this "handful," narrowing it down to three, maybe four individuals.  Perhaps they are the four friends that came out of this investment.

The Eleven-Month Email

One of the noticeable changes when you leave an executive/professional position is that the phone stops ringing.  Vendors, as friendly and chummy as they might be spend their time calling people who still have a budget, discretionary spending, etc.  You have no worth to "internal customers" and peers once you are officialy "out of business."  Money cannot buy you friends, only vendors and transients.
LinkedIn has been interesting.  There are a lot of good feeds and a certain amount of networking that takes place.  I'd recommend going beyond simply positing your profile.  There are many 'groups' with specialized interests, whether that be some niche part of IT, everything you ever wanted to know about concrete and on and on.
Several "positions" have been of interest.  I am quite particular about the kind of organization and work that I'm willing to commit to.  After eleven months the notion of getting up and going to a job five days a week is becoming less attractive.  There are a lot of opportunities outside of the 8x5 paradigm.  One of my profile photos is of me at my desk at that place I used to work. You all know the casual, fake wood desktop, vinyl wall covering, file cabinets and credenzas that represent the way people used to work.  Work and the nature of work and the nature of work spaces (check out ) changed.  Forbes has been interesting in their progressive moves in the media and publishing world and their reliance on a world of contributors.  Clearly companies are decoupling functions into specialized networked organizaitons.
Working today is remarkable.  While I still like my home office setup I spend a lot of time writing and creating and networking and working while out an about.  Wifi creates a remarkable opportunity.  At the moment I'm sitting at a Ramsey County Library in front of a window overlooking a delightful small pond surrounded by large one-hundred year old oaks.  This experience also includes sitting next to a nice guy covered with prison tatts who offered up an extension cord when I ran out of juice.  I switched offices about two years before my departure.  To the best of my recollection I put nothing in the file cabinet or desk other than a few office supplies and my nail clipper.  Upon my departure I missed a couple of things.  If there have been any company messages about a found nail clipper or two bottles of "Five Hour Energy" please let me know.  Actually I brought home four or five boxes of past work that I thought might be useful; I've thrown (recycled it all, now).  It's a nice world out there.
While employed I did have access to a lot of computing resources.  During this post-work time period I've employed and explored a lot of web resources.  I will confess that 98% of my work is done on a $219 Samsung Chromebook using Google applications, including spreadsheet, and presentation tools.  I have versions of Microsoft Office, both fat-client and hosted solutions but rarely use them.  I believe they are close to a non-necessary expense.  LibreOffice and Ubuntu also play into this phase of my working.  One should still remain cautious of "cloud" tools, resources and storage.  Many of these solutions still remain unprofitable and as we've seen in the past year cloud storage certainly is totally open to the eyes of the cloud vendors and government.  You might want to consider encryption and an anonymous proxy server solutions.

I have not been to Denmark yet to visit my son.  I am a terrible father but you can't be good at everything.
Some of you know that I've had a few lose end in the real estate world and that has taken some time.  I'm still working on my mother's condo and hope to have that on the market by this weekend....the tattoo guy just made me have a mental flinch...I hope to have it on the market by this fall.
Tim **** and I have kept in touch and will be having lunch in a week or two.  Years ago, before his racing career, I told him that golf was a pretty boring game.  Traveling around a track at 100+ seems to have caught his attention much more than a 15mph golf cart.  Tim and I share some small town upbringing experiences but it ends there.  We were of dramatically different work styles when we began working together.  I learned a lot from Tim.  He was a quick study, requesting just the needed information to make or confirm and decision and let you do your job.  Once after a couple of years I tested him a bit asking about a performance review (we never had them back in the day).  His response 'Why would we do that?  I'll tell you if there's something we need to talk about."  I loved working for Tim.  Never underestimate his compassion and caring for people and employees.  When you fall out of boat or end up in the deep end of the pool you want him holding the life ring.
The creative side of my head and hands is getting a bit more time.  I've written several articles submitted for
publication, kept up a couple of blogs, one serious, the other profane and tested the limits of friendship on Facebook.  I've restarted "Marriage for Dummies" after the loss of the first rough draft.  Attached is a recent small project, one of many.  My plan is to take a carload of work to the Nova Scotia Folk Art Festival in 2015.
When I consider taking a "real" job I think of Dave S*****.  Dave and I were left-handed, shared a birth year and seemed comfortable with our ad hoc conversations.  When I asked him why he was retiring his response was simple.  "I can and I have things I want to do."  We spend a lot of time as employees doing what others want us to do.  Certainly we perform professionally and enjoy some parts of our jobs but at the end I don't think we'll surround ourselves with proposals we've written, contracts negotiated or work done long ago.  Once in a while I create an image of some old geezers standing around a shuffleboard court, all of them retired programmers or network administrator (or perhaps even a long-ago CIO) talking about some algorithm implemented, a unique VLAN solution or a Ruby subroutine.  Nobody cares about your past work.  Being gone from the corporate world helps define and narrow the definition of what you really like,  what you want to spend your time doing and what you may or may not be good at.  It's a good transition.  The fish was a simple little thing, a basswood log culled from a acreage clearing effort, a slab sawed off and tossed aside and then a notion of something that might look like a fish to hand work and then it turned into something else.  I follow other artisans and craft persons' work on Facebook and have found some delight in international collaboration.  This would not have happened if I was still doing the commute, parking in the ramp, walking past the local, pondering the mall sights through the four seasons and gluing myself to that fake wood desktop.  Spending your time on lasting work and lasting friendship should be a priority.  Dave Sterk retired and died two or three years later.  Going back to an office 8x5 (or more) seems like a pretty illogical thing to do (some sort of 3x10 thing might be good).
Dave H*** repeats the same lines pretty regularly.  "Life is short.  I try to enjoy each day."  It's good advice.
I've reconnected with some of my past employees, even some who left not of their own choosing.  Jobs and companies change, dissolve, morph, grow, shrink get better  and sometimes disappear.  The connections (other than vendors), relationships and friendships persevere. 
Years ago I worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota.  During the new employee orientation this hard nosed old HR woman stated simply that there would be a six month review to determine if they had made a mistake.  At that very moment I decided that I had made a mistake.  I waited two weeks and then two more but then began a job search and left successfully at eleven months.  It was the best bad job experience ever.  Following that experience I had a great five year run at a startup  and then provided the IT infrastructure for the growth from $35m to $750m at that place I used to work.  There were other jobs, too, that  are topics for the future.  Now I'm enthused about each day in this era of my creative life.  

Other than one business casual funeral I've not worn any business casual attire in almost eleven months.  Not once have I pondered a departmental budget statement or attempted to explain the core issues of IT governance to people who just want free iPads.  The place I used to work was OK, but it was the place that I "used to work" and the work there was of a certain type, not necessarily the work I'm doing now or in the manner of working that we are evolving to.  

As I mentioned in my earlier update I do miss a few people, those with authentic greetings, smiles, a sense of humor and a commitment to unconditional teamwork.
You can follow my life, even be a part of it, if you wish.

Best wishes.

P.S.  What do I miss (other than the previously mentioned):
  • summer on the Mall
  • lunch on the Mall
  • evenings on the Mall
  • walking down the Mall with a hot coffee on a cold day
  • smoked chicken enchiladas at Rock Bottom
  • rooftop at Crave
  • coffee at Cafe Pateen where the owner thought I was a cab driver.  good service comes quickly when your hack is double-parked

Monday, August 11, 2014

Work Until You Die


My maternal grandfather, Fred, was a Norwegian immigrant who worked his entire life, farming, being a hired hand and "chasing cows" in a meat packing plant.  His accent was long lost but his enthusiasm for working never ended.  He was a laborer, had not time for bosses or "big shots" and appreciated the opportunity make money, have a roof and food on the table.  He did not expect much more.

As the story goes, Norwegians work until they drop and eat until they sweat.  Working until you die must be part of culture for the immigrants.  Those who stayed in Norway have benefited greatly from North Sea oil and are more comfortable with less working and more vacations.

Peer Group Deaths...Early Death

Both sides of my family have pretty good genetics and many live into their 90s and even over 100.  There are issues with that.  This past weekend was my 45th high school reunion.  There have been reunions every five years.  This is the ninth.  I attended the first one at five years and none of the others...for a variety of reasons.  Wayne Larson drowned the night before our high school graduation.  I was sitting on the other side of the lake watching the recovery effort, wondering who had drowned.  John Gill died in a poorly driven VW bug a couple of years later.  Bruce kratzke was a Viet Nam fatality.  My friend from elementary school, John Johnson, was a victim of diabetes.  Ione Grove died of cancer.  Bruce Mathiason was a Christian Scientist and went home to die at 21 from curable leukemia.  Mike Hall, tormented by his role in NVA deaths took his own life.

The high school graduating class was five hundred and something.  Fifty or more people have died.  As I looked at the photos and the names there were some that I thought "that's logical that they are dead" and others of whom the names and pictures trigger nothing.

It's possible some of these people died doing their life's work.  It's unlikely any of them died chasing cows in a meat packing plant.  Did they leave their mark on the world?  What was their contribution to the GNP, world peace,  culture, the arts, or were they slackers.

In the many comments on Facebook people from the 1969 class commented "it is so sad," "there are so many,"  "I knew of some but not this many."  Some of those living have stopped working, other not.  It's a time of transition.  Certainly looking at this poster board of lives' gone short might encourage a change to stop working (until you die) and enjoy that which is there or be an incentive to put your head down and finish the work undone,  to impact something in this world that will be around after you are gone (other than the dumb comments and dancing cat videos you uploaded to Facebook).

This morning I awoke to overcast skies, the basswood trees moving gently and
an evolving list of what I wanted to get done today.  When I left the 27 year gig everyone (well some) congratulated me saying "enjoy your retirement."  I'm not really retired.  Actually I'm not retired at all.  There is a lot of work to be done.  Every job, every contract, every project has had its' rewards.  I expect many more rewards.

The Cost of Working...

Since leaving the 27-year gig I've not purchased (or worn) any "business casual" clothing but I've destroyed pants, shirts and shoes doing "real work."  The plan is to need more "business casual" this fall or winter.

I need to find work of the legacy type.  In the real world of work the last ten days has consumed my Stihl weed trimmer ($250), a set of tires ($700) and some belts and miscellaneous on my "better" John Deere mower ($200).  It's costly to do either white collar or blue collar work.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

One Thing Leads to Another - 6 AUG 14


Language is quite interesting.  This past week there was an interesting conversation between my son and me regarding the absence of "script" writing instruction in schools and the implications for cognitive thinking.  My better half claims that texting is also the demise of conversation whether that be social or business.  It's clear that most young people working at fast food restaurants can only use a touch screen and are lost with complex transactions...or complex people.  I like to test them.

The article addressed cognition and socialization.  Admittedly there are times that I do not like being around a lot of people and perhaps am a bit selective about with whom I wish to socialize.  Most of that can be attributed to the Norwegian half of my gene pool and the entire gene composition predates clicking and drop and drag by many years.  

My point initially in the heading was to address the challenge and flexibility of our writing.  Were I speaking I'd say "it's August 6th" and that would be more or less understood and probably obvious that I was speaking of the current year, not last year or some other year to come.

My military experience comes back in strange ways.  Often it's in the presence of bad people or certain sounds or smells and always in the presence of weapons.  The title today evoked the military style in dates; "6 AUG 14."  This was always remarkably simple, clean and short, much better than August 6, 2014, 8/6/14, 8/6/2014, or some other variation.

One Thing...

Reluctantly I made another trip to the windy city last week primarily to deal with a small plumbing problem.  This brings the tally to 2800 miles and nine days committed to a small plumbing problem.  It is now resolved.  My intent was to drive my own car but I kept thinking about breakdowns, tire issues, road hazards, 70 MPH meetings with deer, etc., and chose to drive a rental car in full anticipation of using the rehearsed "I am on I94 near Mauston and I just had .... can you bring me a replacement vehicle."  The trip included two near-encounters with road debris and three or four no-fault near meetings.

Arrival safely back home was in the cards but yesterday I headed to the small business to take care of about ten minutes of work.  As I headed over the interstate, glad that I was not on the interstate I hear a loud "thunk" followed by a second.  "This probably was just two flats starting."  Only one tire was flat.  Removing the lug nuts tested my manliness and I cursed aluminum wheels, air wrenches and rust.  Upon removal that shank of something was sticking out of the tire. Premonitions are to be respected.

... Leads to Another

During the past few weeks every time I go somewhere or work on a project something is lost, broken or in need of repair or replacement.  The weekly outlay of dollars during this non-job period has exceeding that of the employment period.  This pretty much sealed the deal.  I'm back on the job pursuit trail and took a few steps this AM.  Right now I'd work for gas money ...and tire money...and equipment repair/replacement money...and standard vices money, and so on. 

  • having lunch w/ my boss of 25 of the 27 years in two weeks
  • meeting with my friend w/ the professional services firm next week
  • looking at temp CIO positions
  • reaching out to my LHH guys who probably has given up on me