Saturday, December 26, 2015

Channelization

Turning 65 has been weird.  For whatever reason it reminds me of being 15 when I thought people 30 were ancient.  Fifty years of working is a while.  As I look at some of my friends it appears that they've done more, made more, contributed more, etc.  Considering that is probably a waste of time.


Channelization walk this way Today was a decent day.  Highlights including using a new 'stick' toothbrush now that my second Sonicare Elite toothbrush has failed from a dead battery.  Actually that would be my fifth Sonicare Elite that has failed.  The fourth is in a drawer with the replacement battery, some desoldering tape and a lack of motivation to repair it.



Channelization shop this way




Over the course of the past two years I've been obsessed with the transition from a C-level executive to a self-employed, self-directed existence.  It's fine.  My original goal when starting the last job (which will no longer be referred to as the 27-year gig [I know longer mention the employer by name]) was to stay for 18 months.  That was a perfect plan.  The reason I failed to execute on that mid-year in 1987 was we'd just had a child.  Now I know whose fault this blog is!

Lift gets complicated. Goals are set, often too many, often interdependent (intradependent?) and we do a sidestep.  Sidesteps can leave one marching out of sequence, mis-ordered. It's time to re-group.

I distinctly remember writing a very good piece of satirical work in 1960, 1961 or 1962.  At the time I knew it was special...but did not following the 'special' I was kid, what did I know?  There was a similar experience in 1978...I backed off.  Recently I wrote what will be one of the chapters in my book, "Stories from Pop (my grandfather)." 

Throughout my professional career there were many successful creative endeavors although all within the bureaucratic and commercial business world, all within disciplines which only recently decided that innovation and creativity were good words rather than wastes of time.  Leaving my job two years ago the first thing I did was consider continuing to do what I'd done for a while, registering a domain name representative of that discipline.  The operative part of the domain name was 'innovation.'  The past two years have been consumed with the small business and certainly that has provided some creative outlet, technical challenges it's not quite right.  It seems that re-grouping is near.

The core of engineers has a legacy of channelizing meandering rivers prone to variation and unpredictability.  That's a disaster.  I'm not interested in straight lines any more.

Friday, December 25, 2015

When it comes to jobs really what does matter?

This morning I received an email from a friend who has built a great agribusiness career and is now working in rural China.  I'm working about 100 miles from my home town and all my significant jobs and small business activity has been in a ten mile radius of where I live now.  That's not all that unusual.  We all have a relatively small footprint when considering the teaming mass of humanity.  The friend in China might say that all his work has been within a hundred yards of two or three locations.  His work impacts the food opportunities for thousands. A recent acquaintance, an F-16 and Airbus pilot has spent his entire working career in a cramped aluminum cockpit traveling at 500 MPH, his real work all within arm's reach.  Other than that confining spaces, he jokes, as all pilots joke, they simply want as many landings as takeoffs.

This afternoon I received another email from a classmate who started working at Intel early, when that company thought their future was putting computers in washing machines. Following a stint working internationally for Siemans he now heads his own Malaysian LED commercial lighting company.  His community contribution is commendable.

Even within a large organization our influence and accomplishments are measured normally by what were are doing today, even at the moment.  Our lives, too, are probably judged by others not in total but in the points of contact with each of them.  I know that gifts to the disadvantaged are forgotten, not even acknowledged, lost in the many.  There have been opportunities to mentor and be a good manager.  Those I feed good about.  We had more than our share of family challenges, taking care of seniors and chaos,  our circle of benevolence and community small in diameter.

Oddly two of my friends, each the same age as me, are facing health challenges.  One following heart surgery now has blood cancer and while improving thinks it might be time to sell the boat.  The other struck by an autoimmune issue in his liver might be adjusting his plans, now more conscious of his future and mortality.  Each of their friendships, each different, is more important than what I may or may not have accomplished from a business or economic sense in my working career.

This time away from an office, cubicle and predictable 'teaming spaces' and conference rooms, status meetings, PowerPoint presentations, planning sessions and networking opportunities has awakened me, too, to my mortality, the time left.  Independent of all financial obligations my choices would be different.  It's time to work backwards from that inevitable mortality date, focusing on the creative and innovative and giving back before being gone.

Monday, December 21, 2015

General George S. Patton, JR...good mgmt quotes

General Patton Lean Process Improvement Management
Apparently everyone on the planet has seen the movie Patton.  It's epic.  Patton is well-played by George C. Scott.  It's easy to come away from the film believing Patton to be a crazed, overbearing warrior.  That's not all incorrect.  He is, or was, a great leader, flawed deeply as many of us are.

This morning I was struck with his management insights from a Facebook feed of his famous quotes.  It goes without saying that he was quite a racist but we need to peel away flaws often to find value.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.
War As I Knew It (1947) “Reflections and Suggestions”


There is a great deal of talk about loyalty from the bottom to the top. Loyalty from the top down is even more necessary and much less prevalent. One of the most frequently noted characteristics of great men who have remained great is loyalty to their subordinates.
War As I Knew It (1947); also quoted in Patton’s One-Minute Messages: Tactical Leadership Skills for Business Management (1995) by Charles M. Province, p. 88

The first quote played directly into the lean process improvement program I lead.  The second is what defines a legacy worth remembering.  Great leaders have the character to win with the cards they are dealt.

 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

2015 Blogging Income...

Earlier this year I started to look at advertising programs available to bloggers.  A tenant in the building in which our small business is located started as a food blogger a few years ago and they have done very, very well.  During the course of several conversations it's clear that making money in the blogging world is somewhat elusive with certainly more hype that reality.  As is most cases a very small percent of bloggers are able to make significant earnings; most earn nothing.

Creating regular, creative content is the challenge.  Readers are interested in shorter, hipper, and more upbeat posts than most people (I'm one of the 'most') produce.  There is also considerable cross-promotion among the bloggers that are doing well.  Much of the 'hits' on blogs are from bots and that is changing the world of data surrounding marketing spending and reimbursements.  Successful bloggers also fall prey to the lure of talking about companies that advertised on their sites.

This year was challenging.  This blog was ignored.  Our dining/food blog is in its' infancy and two of my others are about two feet off the ground rather than the two miles as intended.

The goal early this year was to make $5,000-10,000 this calendar year.  That was a reasonable goal and had I remained diligent it was doable.  As of today, Amazon has dropped me for both of my prevalent blogs for lack of readership and orders through the context sensitive ads.  Interestingly I've left those ads on my blog just to be a nice guy.  If you order through the ads displayed by Amazon I get nothing...but I'm a nice guy and Amazon and I may still have a future.

Adsense, the Google advertsing program has not dropped me but they have not paid me yet, either, not because I've not earned anything but because I've not earn enough.  I've earned $42.73 from Adsense.  On one hand that's not very good.  I've written a lot.  On the other hand the writing has been inconsistent.  I've still not found the sweet spot of this blog or an appropriate audience.

For 2016, along with finding a real job, I'm going to leave the $5,000-10,000 goal in place.  I'll reapply to Amazon, anticipate payment from Adsense and work harder.

"What would you have done differently?"

Note:  I'm simply attempting to write as often as possible about issues relating to work, not having a job and building some income opportunities.  Not much of this is really all that epic.

After closing the small business to the public for the day we drove around aimlessly for for twenty minutes.  Halfway through the aimlessness my better half asked "What would you have done differently? (at the 27-year gig)"

That question has gone through my head a few thousand times but I responded as if it were new.  "Do you mean what would I have done better to have been more successful and still there or are you asking what I would have done in a broader sense in a not-specific-to-that-organization sense?"  After some back and forth dialogue I responded more or less in the following points:
  • No, there is nothing different I could have done.
  • I was a progressive IT leader, quite ahead of the curve.
  • The organization never valued IT.
  • The organization was deal-focused (real estate).
  • None of the owners were interested in IT.
  • The successful ($$$) executives were those that brought in real estate (and construction) deal dollars.
  • Cost-saving IT and process improvements were secondary to big-deal revenue deals.
  • At the prompt of the then CEO we started a 'lean' process improvement initiative in 2006.  I led that.  We made significant progress but were derailed by the 2008 recession which slashed employees, wages and spending across the organization.  The program ended.
  • While I had kept responsibility for IT while starting the lean program the recession also ut IT staff by 50% and all discretionary spending.
  • The new CFO had no experience in IT, wanted to eliminate all IT-initiated spending and move strategy and spending allocation to the user community (which also lacked any meaningful IT development, spending/budgeting or strategy experience).
  • The cards were dealt.

In an earlier post I was critical of the Target board of directors and C-level staff for being experts in their own disciplines, driving vertically rather than horizontally.  The organization I served likewise worked vertically within disciplines or departments or functions.  Strategic planning sessions typically involved deal people talking to everyone else about their deal plans, marketing talking about marketing, IT talking about IT, etc.  Obviously each function's focus should have been on defining and requesting resource needs from other disciplines that would make their groups successful or each department selling itself better to the others, both logical and not.  That cannot be done in an abstract fashion.  

Each department head needs to know more or less everything about their discipline and that discipline's place within the organization but each department head needs to know key performance opportunities about each other department; it might have served a good purpose to rotate executive positions for a day or week every so often.  Target did a good job of this in their lower management ranks, encouraging extensive networking and rotation of managers frequently.


  • From an IT perspective I saw and developed opportunities early, but too early, as much as a decade.  That should have been a warning that I was in the wrong organization.
  • I should have worked harder to find someone in the organization sweet spot (e.g. real estate deal person) to latch onto.  This started to happen in the process improvement initiative.  Also unfortunate is that real estate deal people are tenacious and goal focused...but this goal, not really the next one done the road.  I guess the opportunity would have been to latch onto a younger person who had show promise in the deal business but who also had and affinity or interest in IT/process improvement.
  • I do not believe that in this organization any national or regional exposure via industry groups or associations would have been appreciated.
  • My networking within the organization was decent.  Outside the organization (which would not have mattered) could have been better.

You don't become a successful farmer by simply planting and harvesting.  You need to understand biology, animal husbandry, mechanics, welding and repair, chemicals, accounting, finance, commodities, meteorology, IT, etc., etc.. and you need to find the balance.

Friday, December 18, 2015

100 People, Venn Diagrams, Nails & Nails, All-In-One

Social Media Time Commitment...
It's difficult to keep up with all the social media.  Doing a good job at being contemporary pretty much demands that you do no work, do not read books but simply follow your feeds.  It's a relief that Google+ never found traction.  Facebook has too many cat pictures/videos.  Twitter is overwhelming (but good).  Pinterest, image-based, is great, but it always makes me feel like I'm missing out on the world.


Earlier today I saw a Twitter feed that a former co-worker had been named to a list of 100 people to know in the Twin Cities.  That was nice, I guess.  Quite certain that we were connected on LinkedIn I logged into that application and was browbeaten for a few screens about new features to increase my connections.  Opting out of most of them, I'm not sure that I did not receive a 'Really?' second chance...sort of 'you are an idiot if you don't take this option.'

Rather than using his company email (my former) I decided to do a LinkedIn message.  It's unlikely that he'll ever read the laudatory message.  I've found that every business person and coach suggests a LinkedIn account but people create them and let them go dormant.  LinkedIn then asked me to endorse my contacts for various skills.  There was no option to say "that's not their strong suit."  Then I was prompted with people who I should connect with and some jobs I might be interested in (I am) and then I started to feel guilty about not reading my LinkedIn feed every day.

There were 99 people on the list that I did not know.  I imagined people sitting around comparing how many they knew.  Not finding that interesting I thought about making my own list of "100 people I'm glad I know or have known." 

Venn Diagrams...
One of my Facebook acquaintances posted the following:

     Venn Diagram:  People who save gift wrap and people who save
    nail clippings.

This guy also likes superhero characters, extensively.  Was this good behavior, something enviable?  There was a time that I saved gift wrap, at least bows when I thought that mattered.  Any saving of nail clippings has been inadvertent. 

For a moment I was motivated to open Gimp or Inkscape and create a Venn diagram of 100 people I should know and 100 people I'm glad to have known but concluded not from geometry but set theory (probability?) that these would be disjoint sets.

Nails & Nails
As mentioned before any saving of nail clippings has been inadvertent, however...growing in the 1950s you could always find 'parts.' Everyone had a coffee can of used nails in the garage (they were in short supply during WWII and immediately after), extra car parts, pieces of metal stock, etc., all ready for the next handyman or ambitious kid project. I've worked to rid myself of computer equipment, extra cables and miscellaneous that probably will serve no 'handyman or ambitious kid project' going forward. What would I do with this Courier modem? Am I awaiting failure of the internet? How will I use this with cell phones replacing land lines? Can I get an acoustic coupler to connect my iPhone to my ancient modem? An who else would I communicate with? Who else may have saved a modem? The red box is for a USB drive that did fail a long time ago. I bought a replacement drive on eBay which ended up costing more than a new USB drive. Not visible is my Visicalc Manual from 1981. Clearly none of this rumination prose, like the previously mentioned items, is worth saving, hence Facebook or a blog rather than paper, all of which is all throwaway.  It's just like the Nixon tapes...unreadable.  

One of the blogs I follow is comprised of journal entries, pre-WWII, of a Canadian prairie farmer, documenting weather, farm maintenance, births, deaths and trips to town.  Once or twice I've downloaded all my Facebook posts (some worthwhile, interesting or humorous) and my blog posts.  Of course I've saved these as XML documents in (on?) 'the cloud.'  I should have just printed them out and stuck them in a coffee can.

HP 6210 All-in-One  
3-in-one WD-40






Prior to WD40 the go-to product for miscellaneous lubrication issue (mechanical for clarification) was '3-In-One' oil.  I've never know what the three in one was, perhaps "3 Fluid Ounces in One Container?"









HP Officejet 6210 All-in-One
The often referred to distinction between humans and other animals is the opposed thumb and the ability to use tools. Certainly other primates have similar ability as do candidates in election years but I'll let that go. Over the past few years I've cycled through a number of computers and printers. The HP 6210 OfficeJet probably purchased almost a decade ago has been a workhorse. While not having kept count I'm certain we've gone through at least 100 pairs of cartridges. 




Hinge
This morning while responding to a cartridge message the left rear hinge broke. This appears to be a common problem. A replacement hinge from HP is $50.00. Following the path set by others when facing this problem I removed the six screws and removed the hinge, now replaced with a double layer of duct tape. Looking at the hinge I've been trying to determine what sort of mind would design a hinge this complicated, actually unidentifiable as a hinge. Tool-designed hinges  could be the issue.

For final clarification I do know what the three components of the HP Officejet 6210 All-in-One are but I'm going to think a bit more about this complicated hinge which the guy in The Martian could have described better than me.  He used the Mars equivalent of duct tape.  That would have worked fine there, too, as it did here had he needed a printer repair on Mars.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Leadership & Immobilization

 Good decisions require good facts, deductive reasoning and intuition.  My best staff have always been those who sense the right direction from past experience, an eye to the future and comfort with the unknown.  Making order with not enough information or total disorder is the challenge.



 Unforeseen events are often often outside our most extreme 'what if' scenario planning.  My approach was to challenge my IT staff with the routine scenarios (e.g. server failure, security intrusion) and the extreme.  "How do we recover if we're hit by a meteor?"  "How do we process payroll, as required on Tuesday, if two super hero's destroy our internet connectivity?"  Good comes from the extreme.












Keeping your staff challenged, happy and productive during times of overwork, lack of resources and corporate oppression requires one to find opportunity in hopeless situations.  Shackleton, who's ship, Endurance, was hopelessly locked in sea ice.  "Put up the sails."  The ship was ultimately crushed but his leadership gave hope and saved his crews life.  Our challenge as managers is often no less.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

9:35 redux

It's a day later.  Oddly it's 9:35 again.

John Leeper Seth Godin
Skate Fast and Stop
Seth Godin writes a blog (and short books) that are simple and insightful.  He seems to write to many of us. Today's post was about going as fast a you can and stopping abruptly when needed.  He uses a hockey player metaphor.  Executives operate in a similar fashion.

Hockey team have three rotating lines as I recall.  Executives are 'on' all the time.  Spouses, friends and significant others have trouble with this.  It's part of the game. The cows need milking.  Get done what needs be done.  We're all operating with a limited amount of time.

Today was hectic.  There was lots of small business activity, the hands on type.  Behind the scenes I've been working web site revisions and turning the screws on social media.  Our small business is in a relatively high SES (social economic status) and income suburb.  Ironically it's not very dense.  While in a large metropolitan area our suburb lays along an interstate corridor flanked by open areas, industrial parks and more or less dormant space.  Our major clients are not neighborhood people but business lunch people in the area M-F.

We've noticed that Facebook and Twitter activity is heaviest in the 9-4 time frame, M-F.  Weekends and holidays people must not be at work and have more important things to do than socialize digitally.

Providing meaningful content, leveraging content other than that which you create and keeping and acquiring media followers is a challenge.  Of course it's even more of a challenge to use social media as bait to get them into a brick and mortar location.

Before I forget...the real issue in Seth Godin's post is that when you exit make it clean and fast.  Everyone leaves sometime. Don't dawdle. Make a clean break.  My break was as clean as one can be physically.  Getting re-established in a new venue has been interesting and less quick.

So today in the web space I was working on our web site.  I use www.mydomain.com for most domain name registrations, pointers, email, etc.  www.wix.com has a complete range of services for creating decent web site, most of which can be done with dragging and dropping rather than hard coding.  Several utilities are in play to associate Facebook and Twitter. Today has been effort in Pinterst.

Now having said that I think that the number of people really using social media is pretty overrated.  Advertisers are finding that out that eighty percent of 'hits' are actually via bots, automated servers.  If you look at the Amazon turk options it appears that there is a lot of near-slave labor also creating pseudo-hits.

Communicating with customer is tough. They want to know when they want to know and they don't think everything you have to say is all that cool or interesting.

Seth Godin is also one who encourages brevity.  Long blog posts (like this one) have people dropping like flies.

Minnpost had a great story in a recent day.  I follow Minnpost on Facebook and would have normally
missed this.  Too many topics, not people, are followed and it's as massive as the internet.  One of my Facebook friends has blocked all political posts, negative people, etc., returning Facebook to a friendly place.  Personally I'd like to block anything showing cat pictures.  The last two paragraphs could have stood on their own:

"It was a godsend for this prodigal son to see up close and personal how each of us have been participants in the same human comedy, sharing a plethora of trials and tribulations, triumphs and tragedies. Along this haphazard pilgrimage, all we really have is each other. To the remaining members of the class of 1963, a heartfelt thank you for sharing the early morning and late evening of my brief, but eventful, sojourn on this earth.
Don’t be a stranger."

It was a timely reminder that it's not all that important to be that important.

(Note:  It's 10:17...43 more minutes of creative opportunity)






9:35 PM countdown...

This blog is about re-working my work life, building new opportunities, innovating...being creative, all with the cloud of not having a job.  It's easy to use a dark cloud metaphor or impenetrable fog.  The goal, which I need to remind myself of regularly is that it's a clearing of the sky.  Turn off the wipers and the fog lamps.

At 9:35 PM my challenge doing my best work between 10 and 11 PM was in front of me.  That's been stated numerous times.  In the twenty-five minutes up until 10 PM I used the following distractions:
  • lit a candle to either add chemical smell to the air or remove it
  • Did online deposits of two checks I'd harassed two people to send on time...I sat on them for a week
  • Thought about doing another drawing in Inkscape a nice public domain vector graphics program
  • Struggled doing the same drawing with MSWord and their convoluted drawing tools
  • Thought about but forgot to charge my phone
  • Considered doing the free MSWindows 10 upgrade on this PC.  Checked for adequate disk space and processor speed.
  • Pondered why I've spent a total of ten minutes on another PC that I did upgrade to MSWindows 10.
  • Lamented the 2016 end of my favored Chromebook OS and move to 'Droid by Google
  • Pondered the novel I'm going to start reading after finishing this


This has been a creative failure but better than nothing.

Monday, December 7, 2015

What I was not, what I was, what I'll be

Secret Words


This morning I remembered two 'secret words' that two individuals seperately told me long ago to remember:

Creativity
Chronometer

Unfortunately I cannot remember why I was instructed to remember those two words.  I do remember a password from 1978...'tinulave.'


Odd Dreams

Earlier this week I dreamed of being on a trip to North Korea, not something that I think about.  The overall odor was of jet fuel.  Numerous military planes, knockoffs of the A-10 Warthog were flying about with sort of Asian dragon graphics.  That is something I think about.  (Note:  my better writing, from my perspective occurs between 10 and Midnight.  It's 10 AM right now and I just wrote 'graffics' instead of 'graphics.'  If the spelling is bad my thoughts may be, as well.) 

Last night I was lead around by a woman insurance agent.  That's not unusual because I need to get my Medicare coverage nailed down this month.  The strange part was that we were walking on Lakeview Boulevard in my home town but part of it was also inside a Dayton's Department Store.

There are lingering dreams of endless strategic planning meetings but those usually cause me to wake up.

Single-Mindedness

 William de Kooning was a driven guy, single-minded, creative and had a lasting impact on American art.  Not all of it was well-received but creativity, whether it be pure art, business, relationships, etc., is good.  Partial success is far better than no success.

de Kooning was also an immigrant who came to America with nothing.  There are many strong immigrant stories.  With the exception of a couple hundred of thousand of us, we're all immigrants.





What I was not

 During my long-ago job at the meat packing plant it was clear that that was not much of a careers.  Looking around it seemed logical to move away from animals crazed with an about to die adrenaline rush, pools of blood from those that became our food...and a lot of nasty equipment and sharp things.

I'd read some of the really dark poetry and prose of William Burroughs and thought a postal job would be good.  The short version of the story is that I failed the test.  


 The longer version is that the test contained math, logic, spelling, synonyms, analogies, etc.  It was 1972 of so and it's a big cloudy but it might have also had questions about quantum physics.  For whatever reason I thought it involved sorting by zip code, putting mail in boxes and lots of whistling.

One of the questions referred to images like these.  The question was something like "Are these similar or different?"  During the last years we've grown hundreds of squash and I've folded (and delivered) hundreds of lunch boxes.  If I was taking the test now I'd say 'similar.'  At the time I left it blank.  My failure at the test was broader than this one question.

What I was...

The other night at the small business a couple of people came in and wanted some suggestions for recognizing a departing employee.  We all jumped in with ideas, most of which were about gifts.  What doe this person like to do now?  What will they do when retired or more of when retired?  Unfortunately it's sort of a George Carlin routine.  It call comes down to 'our stuff,' things we have with us, things we left at home, stuff we'd like to buy.

My suggestion was that every departure involves stuff.  Personally I think money is good.  The recipient can convert that into stuff, or services, give it away or save it for a later time.  Pondering that I thought about the person and the impact they had on that organization.  Usually when people leave it's like shutting off the tap.  It's over.  They're forgotten.   It would be nice if companies and organizations worked a bit harder on their alumni, the people that defined direction, did work, answered the phone, made a difference, etc.  I suggested that the organization begin an annual dinner where they invited the former employees for a simple meal, thank them for their formative work and remind them that the organization is today because of what they contributed.  This organization has about 15 former employees.  I also suggested naming the event after the departing employee.

One of the people standing, listening, commented "you must have been a manager."  That was nice.  I was.  Coming up with ideas, recognizing employee contributions was a big part of what I did.

What I'm going to be...

  • still working hard on writing and creating
  • working on the book "Stories From Pop, My Grandfather"
  • working on two books born from the small business
  • a bit of a time back in the IT space
  • working the secret word into my day-to-day activities (stuff, color,words, stories, conversation) 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Listening, memory, women's voices

My goto PC for the past couple of years, especially during this period of not having a dumb job has been my Samsung Chromebook which was purchased new for about $250 at least three, perhaps four years ago.  The Lenovo notebook, loaded with MSFT software is rarely used.  The Chromebook in combination with the Google apps meets 99% of my computing needs.  I'm spending a bit of time on the Google apps for business which provide additional functionality...and there are jobs out there.

The high point of the day was chatting Brooklyn, an articulate three-year old, who reminded me that we eat turkeys on Thanksgiving and also showed me how to play a simple game involving flipping a bone in a dogs mouth.  Honestly it was about as much fun as can be, especially when she kindly said  "no, do it like this" and successfully landed a bone in the dog's mouth where I had failed.  I listened to here explanation and still failed.  Kindly she reminded me that I needed to "practice, practice, practice."  I will.   It was some of the best corporate training that I've received.  No criticisim, just directions, positive feedback.

For two days I've been dabbling on a Windows 10 upgrade to a desktop other than this one.  Like this it was running Windows 7 Professional and there is no reason to upgrade given the adequacy of W7 and my affinity for the previously mentioned Chromebook.  Windows backup had consumed all of my storage and I had unwisely saved an image of that PC on that PC so this upgrade has involved movement of files, re-visiting of backup approaches, etc.  With all the cloud options (this PC has Dropbox, Google Drive & MS OneDrive installed) it's pretty simply to lose track of what's what, what PCs are synced and simply leaves me with "where did I put that?" questions all the time.  I'd like a true content management system that would allow meta tagging.

video
In the midst of the upgrade I reached for an open beverage and sent my Amazon Echo three feet to a concrete floor.  There was no apparent damage.  While picking it up I found that the top rotated and thought that I'd broken the case; it's actually another way of adjusting volume and certainly must have other functionality with the ever-expanding Echo.  In conjunction with Amazon Prime it's  very pleasant and simple.  The SONOS system solutions probably provide better sound...actually they do, but that's another topic.

Earlier today I was listening to Minnesota Public Radio while driving about for the small business.  Someone named Amy, a job 'transition' counselor, was being interviewed and was responding to calls from listeners.  It was more helpful than my oddly ended time with the outplacement firm.  There were many tidbits, the best from an incoming call where the guy said the biggest fault in employment is thinking that any company really cares about your success.  This plays into the general premise that most workers today will change jobs every three years.  The caller was correct.  Oddly enough later I received an email advising me of an upcoming survey from the outplacement firm asking how they did in aiding my transition.  My employer paid a lot of money for this service.  I think I should have simply taken the money.

The Windows 10 upgrade involves a bit of staring at the screen and whatever is in front of one. Over the past two years I've been attempting to organize items, thoughts, ideas, images and mental debris.  I put all my USB storage in a pile on top of a PC case after retrieving the components from vehicles, briefcases, envelopes, etc.  They're generally called 'flash drive memory sticks.' That's probably a good name, differentiating them from USB drives, but I remain perplexed on the 'memory' moniker given that I don't remember why I have so many (this is a partial...two more in my left pants pocket) and I can never remember what's on which one... or on any of them for that manner.

[my windows 10 upgrade is now 52% complete...I'm on day two of periodic messing w/ this]

With no particular point to this entire post I'll close with commentary regarding my 12-15 year old beige keyboard (Compaq, now an extinct company [I have a couple more in reserve]).   There's been little use for function keys since WordPerfect/DOS (also Wordstar) but more importantly there is no 'Escape.' [I believe that F3 was FileSave in WordPerfect & Shift+F7 was 'print' in WordStar]



Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris...this is not about jobs

Earlier today I called my son in London.  "Don't worry, Paris is a long way from London" did not totally remove my concern.  Nor did "That kind of thing is much more difficult to happen in Great Britain."

We live in a metropolitan an area with an ever growing Muslim population that is now the target of ISIL recruiters and the FBI working as a counter-force.  Late yesterday I followed the attacks on Twitter, receiving and sharing information, most correct, before the broadcast stations shared similar information.

I didn't have to run, hide, fight or lose friends or family but am consumed with the thought of what if I had.  Recently we went to a movie.  For the first time in my life I really paid attention to the exits, the lighting, the other patrons and my wife, most often not fearful.  Last night we went out to eat.  Earlier in the day I'd thought of suggesting our favorite middle eastern restaurant where we are often the only people speaking English.  When I thought that to be unwise I was angry with myself and with the evil of the world.  We went elsewhere and oddly enough found ourselves two feet from an exit and with a complete view of the restaurant, the patrons and the entrance.  Life has changed.

 The Groningen Farm property remains a work-in-progress (I guess this post is about work, just not compensated work).  The fruit trees and bushes were big producers this year.  Re-forestation with white and red pines is noticeable if you know where to look.   Marlys cajoled one of the neighbors to re-fence a pasture.  She liked steers and took on the responsibility of watering them.  This may have been the task she forgot last.  Each fall I look for Steer A and Steer B considering which to eat and which to sell...until I'm reminded of "The Plan" for which the "Get Two Steers" task has not been done.



Working in the metropolitan area remains a goal after a few more "small business" goals are met and the second remodeling project is completed.  It's clear that more time "up north" and finding my real, purposeful life work is ahead.  The drives back are becoming more difficult.  I'm convinced that someone is throwing weather and obstacles at me.  My Norwegian side keeps me facing into the wind.  The other half of me says "Give up.  Have some fun.  Laugh.  Help children."

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Setting a 'Genuine' Agenda

video

Recently we considered going into the seed business.  One of the small business customers is involved in real estate development and financing.  He's bored with that, but needs the income.  Conversation with him is always pleasant.  We like good customers, good people.  You learn a bit about people's lives, their spouses and partners, past and present, their children and their interests.  Listening more than talking is good.  Living in the woods, his yard was challenged with shade.  He likes grass.  Several years ago he heard about a lawn expert in St. Paul, a fellow with whom you had to make an appointment and show ups with three samples of your sod.

The business is a second generation deal.  The lawn business, seeds, fertilizer, supplements, etc., is widely know.  Most of the revenue comes from the sale of seeds to the Hmong and Vietnamese farmers.  They serve thousands.  Without going into too much detail the lady part of the business developed notebooks with pictures that the customers could look through and buy seeds in large quantities.  Customer loyalty was huge.

Our customer talked to us since we've been doing farmer's markets for 18 years, and along with beekeeping have been growing fruits and vegetables for that entire time.  The beekeeping part has been going on for 50 years (as a kid I was a nerd; certainly I've outgrown nerdness).  He said that he was interested in doing something with his life that was more genuine, something with character, closer to the earth, with more value to people, tangible value, not the abstract financing and commercial real estate development work that he did.

We met with the couple and had many conversations about buying and re-developing the business and how our experience as growers and as retail food people could bring new value to this old business.  After many conversations we determined that the building and real estate were of little value and that the one-year gap in direct selling and the departed employees had left little to work with.  While there had been a wonderful legacy it had faded away.  The three of us came to the same conclusion that it would be like starting from scratch.  What we wanted was the name and the customer list and the sellers and we were far apart on price.

This blog has been about job opportunities, resumes, outplacement firms, the challenges of unemployment and adjusting to the end of he infamous 27-year gig and the many years preceding that.  Chasing a similar job to what I had is pretty simple but what would that give me?  Money-good.  A cubicle or office-so what?  Professional contacts and relationships-regardless of my interest in this I am at the twilight of this kind of work.

Driving to the small business this week I passed over the freeway that I frequented on my daily commute. Bumper to bumper in each direction I recalled wearing out several vehicles going to work, essentially nowhere, laughed about adding satellite radio to my vehicle when I thought I was about to lose my mind and was thankful for only one accident during those years (which happened on the fifth floor of a parking ramp) and thought "I just want to do work that is genuine."  That's not on the freeway or at the historical endpoint of that (or similar) commutes."  The patron who prompted this business review came in for lunch today.  He was too busy to talk, focused on spreadsheets and due diligence documents related to a property sale (I used to work like that, too busy to talk, focused on the information age).  As he left we chatted for a moment and reminded each other of the need to focus on "genuine" work.  This was a good reminder. 

Choosing 'Genuine' Work


Friday, October 23, 2015

A Daily Waste of Time

During the often referred to 27-year gig I put the company on the email track long before our vendors and customers.  There was considerable executive talk about "who asked for this,"  "how much did this cost" and all the other standard questions asked by those maintaining the status quo.

By 2005 or so I started to think about collaboration opportunities as the limitations of email became apparent.  Certainly many of the social media and collaboration tools have shown their benefits.  People have trouble changing.  By 2009 I'd dropped most print publications focusing on digital forms, quickly moving to content pulled by me rather than pushed.

Despite that change I found myself sludging through a lot of email which was increasingly of little value.  Today I have at least six or eight email accounts only two or three of which are used.  I've understood the weaknesses now for almost a decade but still spend time daily looking through my inbox.

Gmail has good spam filters.  Today I received an email from someone letting me know that the federal program to which I'd applied (I'd not) was no longer available but I could call.  Uh huh.  I learned the unwise use of Groupon and the knockoffs but still get three of those a day.  Despite a respite from gardening in 2015 I get four emails daily offering 'deals that won't last.'  The New York Times sends me a dozen emails daily on topics I'm sure to like.  It takes me a lot of time each day to ignore or delete the messages that I don't even want to receive.

I do like to receive Seth Godin's emails.  A recent issue spoke about all the great podcasts but how there were becoming so many that it was impractical to listen.  I cannot even get on any kind of schedule to watch Ted Talks.  It goes without saying that I've also 'Liked' so many things on Facebook that any contact with real friends there is lost just as it is in email.  With texting and snail mail and electronic feeds, email, etc., I'm pretty much working full time without even having a job.

About twenty years ago I  made a conscious decision to cut back on TV news, some newspapers and a bunch of print magazines; it was all too much.  Now I want to be informed, to learn and to grow but it's time to revisit the digital intake.  No one is going to starve moving from a tablespoon to a teaspoon.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How to select employees and Presidents

Presidential Candidate Ties
During the 30+ years that I hired employees I learned a couple of things.  You need to make an evaluation quickly.  Resume's went into the 'reject' or 'look again' piles after about 90 seconds...sorry.  Interviews that took a while were good.  Candidates need to ask questions that show they understand organizations and business relationships.  Without treading into the forbidden topics (gender, age, gender preference, race, marital status, children, etc.) you need to find out how they communicate, what they like to do in their work (e.g. management styles appreciated) and a bit about their personal life.  Musicians were typically good hires in technology.  Heavy metal fans were not.

You do spend a few brain cells determining how they fit in.  If it looks like they slept in their clothes it's not going to work.  My clothing guideline once hired was "don't stink," "don't wear clothes with holes" and "try not to wear the same thing every day."  I had to change the last qualification once I began hiring bicycle commuters.

Tassel Shoe
Odd questions are good.  Good employees need to be able to field those questions when dealing with a manager who like to run the bases backwards.  I also make a point of glancing at shoes if the candidates were male.  I never had good luck with employees who had shoes with tassels.  That included subordinates, peers and my supervisors.

It's been a contentious decade in Washington and the ongoing election run has left me watching the debates, following Twitter and Facebook feeds and having many personal conversations, too...like the old days when we talked to each other in person or on the photo...retro dialogue.

That brings this to the point.  The debates and images are all from the waist up, and with modesty panels on the seating provisions the tassel shoe criteria is off (or under) the table.  Yes, this is about male candidates, not because there are not qualified female candidate but because it's late at night, I'm trying to be serious and clever and I'll have to re-think this tomorrow.

It's down to ties.  Some of the candidates have official photos where the tie is just not snugged up.  I can see part of the button underneath.  My employees rarely wore ties but for a photo you should really check that.  I used photos for the candidates that were one of the first three yielded by a Google search.  These might not be the tie styles that each wears but it is what people are seeing.

One of the candidates, were I interviewing him, would have heard what I rarely said just two minutes into an interview.  "I think I've seen enough."  That tie should be obvious.  There is also another boldly patterned tie and a solid color tie that would have led to rejection.  The brighter red tie with the small pattern was just too bright..also a reject.  The purple tie person would have been asked back for a second interview.  My suspicion is that he'd have worn the same purple striped tie a second time and that would have led to rejection.  First time, interesting.  Second time...don't you have any other ties?

I do like ties but hope to never wear another one in this life.

The red white and blue tie was nice with a good balance and confidence about it.  Actually it was the best tie.  He also had nice hair (not that that influenced me).  The red patterned tie and blue patterned tie would have also been asked for a second interview.  From my Google search I know that the blue patterned tie must be the guy's favorite; it shows up all the time.  Perhaps he buys them in bulk, getting a good deal.  That would be a good sign.

For me it's down to three candidates without considering their party or shoes.  Later I'll find some similar meaningful approach to selecting female candidates.

Monday, October 12, 2015

"My cat is sick and I have to go home"

There's a scene in the movie "Mrs. Doubtfire" where Robin William is talking about families.  It's something like "some families have a mommy and a daddy, some have only one of them and some families have two mommies or two daddies."

During my career of attempting to manage employees it was clear that mentoring them, knowing a bit about their lives and being a resource and a buffer to the corporate world was the key to their growth and the organizations success.  Talented people have sick kids, unfaithful spouses, dying parents, broken cars, etc.  One worker, a single woman, confronted me and said "I don't have children.  Why should xxxx get an hour off to go to a school play?"  I suggested that she take an hour off and go do whatever she wanted.  The next day I asked about her cat which had been ailing.  This led to a suggestion that she take the cat to the vet.  "Don't I have to take vacation for that?"  Frequently we name our pets after someone we know and we all talk about dogs and cats with the expression "they're just like family."  "Just go to the vet but do me a favor and don't tell our department that you left to get a distemper shot."

You have to find a balance.  New age companies have pet days and strive to make the workplace like the home place.  It's a small risk with a huge reward.

Ethics, Vortex, Failure

As I evaluate organizations, their ethics, their market positioning and their 'brand,' how we recognize them and how they portray themselves, 'mission statements' and 'vision statements' are often suggested for review.  More time has been spent crafting those statements than living those statements.  Companies that ensure that these words are 'etched in stone' frequently have missed the changing of the seasons and probably still deny global warming, each of which is an opportunity for looking forward rather than wishing for the past.  It's a whirlpool (or vortex) of compelling but superficial thought.

During the past week I've woken up two or three times around 3:00 AM from a bad, bad recurring dream.  I'm in a corporate strategic planning meeting.  Ninety percent of the time is spent listening to executive presentations about issues most already understand.  Five percent of the time is spent on lunch.  The remaining five percent is spent wishing that it was over.  Since this was a dream I pinched myself and went back to sleep.  Some companies ban meetings that include more than three people.

Robert Deniro, Anne Hathaway
 Aging gracefully and progressively is good.  In the past I never would have gone to see this film, wishing for the Robert Deniro of "Taxi Driver" or "Raging Bull," but my better half thought it would be "fun."  He plays a 70 year old phone book executive.  My experience is not yet as pointless as phone book.

I only fell asleep once.

He contribution to her exploding internet fashion business was honesty, solving ignored but annoying problems and listening and observing more than he talked.  Working executives might want to watch this retired executive.
 Nine years ago we purchased this property.  The intent was to have a couple of steers in the pasture that we would not name and then would eat.  I've parceled off part of it for our orchard.  Not that the gate needs repair I'm thinking vegan.
 In the far distance there are twin towers which replaced a single tower half again as tall which came down during construction, no witnesses, bringing seven workers to their death.  There's also a raptor on a rooftop much closer eating a rabbit.  I've pondered the tower workers every time I've looked at the towers for twenty years.






Selfie Selfie
I guess I'm starting a new trend with the selfie selfie.  Being an early adopter is of little value unless you make money, get to name the process or thing or it leads to world peace.










Not making money is not a failure unless your only goal is to make money. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Emotional Detachment...Various

About jobs...
Slowly finding answers
During my career positions where I had to lay off employees or terminate them...I guess 'terminate' is a pretty bad word...all the work was the preparation to do it.  Typically the meeting was pretty scripted.  You describe what would happen, simply did not negotiate or engage and described what nice things you were doing as part of the 'exit package.'  Usually an HR person was present; my goal is to some day have the opportunity to fire an HR person.  HR people provide some standardization to the flow of people in and out of organizations.  Good CEOs and COOs ensure that HR people do not drive the organization to 'industry standards' in practices, compensation, benefits, etc., where 'standard' is unfortunately 'average.'


Having been gone two years it appears that I've gone through my grieving process.  I miss about five people (it used to be eight).  I don't miss the commute, the politics, the wasted time, the opposition, the esprit de corps.  I miss the money but that can be replaced in other income opportunities.  The same work can be elsewhere.  Solving problems for the owners to make money is being replaced with solving problems for me to make money.  If I re-read this paragraph it appears the logical conclusion is that I miss nothing.  That's good.  I did not miss anyone under my management once they were gone I guess the organization does not miss me, either. That's what I'd expect. 

Someone I know via a blog has taken a job to provide 'security' or money that was inconsistent in his private business.  That's understandable.  Right now I'm glad to be rid of the security.  One my co-workers, himself 'terminated' a year or two before I left once received advice from me to perhaps temper his comments and style.  His response was that he would never change, never compromise his self-directed style and integrity (his description was actually more colorful in a Navy slang sort of way).  In the two or three years I worked with him I came to the realization that I'd compromised my character and become corporate.  This guy was an architect so I'll pay tribute to his influence on me with architect Frank Gehry's photo.

Architect Frank Gehry


Back to termination...once someone was gone I did not think about them much.  Some provided value or intellectual diversity and those were a loss.  Strange as it may be I'm friends with a couple of people I terminated on Facebook.  That probably means something.

Car Connection...
My commuter car became terminal with 140,000 miles on the odometer.  A new F-150 was purchased.  No one seems to want to buy the 2004 F-150 with 14x,xxx miles on it.  Is its' death imminent?  In the last month a left rear axle seal has gone bad, the passenger door window motor has failed, it incurred $1500 in damage from flying concrete and now the seat has worn through.  It looks like a rodent-chewed hole.  It's an ass wear hole.  Now I'm driving a truck where small parts of the seat leave with you, adhering to your pants.  I put some duct tape on the hole, first black which looked bad, later replaced with grey (the basic duct tape color) which also stuck to my pants.  My truck appears to not want to leave.  This, too, might be a message.  The plan was to let the truck go and buy a $6-8k vehicle to drive around.  A clearer head would recognize that I have a $6-8k vehicle to drive around.  The F-150 is trying to tell me that.

F-150 Seat Hole

Politics...
Congress is no longer able to discuss, negotiate, compromise and move forward.  We're becoming a laughingstock.  Organizations (profit and non-profit) clean house when this happens.

Small business...
It's been very busy at the small business.  Fortunately nothing has broken lately.


Job Search...
The arrow points at two things.  The first is a set of double towers about five miles distant.  They replace a single tower fifty percent taller that fell during construction.  Seven workers came down with that collapse.  I think of them every time I drive by, each time I see a base jumper climbing, each winter day as the ice peels off.

In line with the towers is a raptor on a ventilation stack about a block away consuming a rabbit on the roof of a Subway shop.  

Height has it's disadvantages and advantages.

I have just a few more things to work through before becoming more job-aggressive/income-aggressive.