Thursday, May 28, 2015

2015 Failure #1

This is a short post in case that is not obvious.  One of my goals was to post to one of my blogs daily.  I failed at that a while ago.  The intent was to create a small revenue stream.  The Amazon Affiliate program provides small commissions for items that readers order through the context-sensitive Amazon Affiliate widgets.  Not focusing on expanding my readership and/or the appeal of what I share in this and other blogs has resulted in Amazon dumping me from their affiliate program.  A few weeks ago they notified me that this would happen if I did not expand the readership (and 'buyership'?) and that has come to pass due to my commitments to other pointless activities.

We are writing to notify you that your Associates Program application has been rejected and you will no longer have access to Associates Central.
This action was taken because we have not yet received a referral from your account.  Accounts that have not referred a sale within in 180-days of sign-up are automatically rejected.
You are free to reapply to the Associates Program at any time, but we recommend only doing so if your website receives consistent traffic.  

It appears that the ads might still appear.  I simply will not be rolling in the dough from purchases.  It's also possible that this notice was for one of the other blogs which is all about food and dining out in the Twin Cities.  Admittedly few read that.

It's all a journey.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Outhouse / Inhouse Craftsmanship

My good friend, Edd, commented during college a few decades ago that "it's not what you know, but knowing where to look it up."  He purchased a four drawer file cabinet which became his personal repository for information and delighted in explaining his filing and cross-referencing system.  

 Stewart Brand's "Whole Earth Catalog" brought this notion of tools and resources for new living together.  As a child I'd read the Sear Catalog and think about what I might do with all the things that we could not afford.  In that 1970 sort of time frame the Whole Earth Catalog took that to a new dimension, adding not only things but spiritually and meaning to the options.  It became a road map.  In a recent Facebook post including this same image I commented that I've forgotten many, many revolutionary resources and platforms on the internet, but I'll always remember and keep this book.  

For those of us who are information junkies the past 15 years have been interesting as the internet developed.  We all stare at our phones, all the time, 'swiping' away.  That's why I retain a real keyboard for real thoughts and real books for more tangible learning experiences.

The 'house' project has been challenging, a learning experience, and had I more time I'd have shared more 'in progress' photos, and perhaps some of the personality engagements with various staff people at Menard's.  Two days ago I had a great conversation with a young woman which I started with "how deep is your knowledge of plywood?"  She was pretty deep.  Together we worked through a problem, finding 5/16" sanded sheets mis-placed with the 1/4" sanded sheets, etc.

Art is where we find it, or in this case as we make it.

At the moment I'm sitting here LOL since I forgot the purpose of this post.  My daughter's ex-house has a finished expansion space on the second floor which was divided into two rooms.  The upgrades has included a built-in bookcase, new floor and window trim and a closet.  My daughter commented "how do you know how to do this kind of stuff?  Did you look it up on or something?"  My immediate response was that my father died when I was very young and that I just had to figure things out.  Of course the Sears catalog and the Whole Earth Catalog and many issues of Family Home Handyman ran through my head.  The 'father' reference was a bit snarky so I backed off and commented that the only other thing I'd really built was a outhouse for our cabin back around 1990 or so (digging the hole was another story).  Her quick response was that the closet did look a bit like an outhouse, and so it does.

Everything starts with a good foundation, without faults.  Good companies know this.  Solid ideas, honesty, fairness, quality and innovative improvement of products and people.  We see this in the end products.  The new floor involved removing two or three layers of previous vinyl and a 7/16" subfloor.  The new subfloor is held in place with about 3000 staples (7/8" narrow crown for those who care) and I tired greatly of listening to the compressor.  During the 27-year gig I spent company money like it was my own and expected of my employees what I expected of myself.  My daughter won't own this floor (and house) for more than another month or two.  On the bottom of 4x8' subfloor sheet #3 I left a few comments about quality, the project at hand, a couple of philosophical topics, my name and date and a $1 bill.  Twenty or thirty years from now  it will be time to rebuilt, re-structure and re-think.  Business, tools and our own skills need updating.

As a total aside I did need to work through a trim issue mid-project and pulled a 3/4" chisel out of the toolbox.  It was my father's so it was no newer than 1954.  My uncle's Don's level was used extensively (I skipped the laser level) so that was a 1989 inheritance.  My oldest tool was my 1978 Sears sabre saw which was a really well made, lasting project.

Still laughing over "it looks like an outhouse."

P.S.  Test the electrical wires.  The wall switch may not shut off both 'hot' wires in a ceiling fixture.  Shutting off all power is better than finding a second 'hot' while on the ladder.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Periscope & Copyright Infringement

Earlier today I stopped on the way to the 'house project.'  Turning on my iPhone 'hotspot', listening to The Current and finishing a lukewarm Mountain Dew I began this post with some thoughts about this new digital age, artistic work and copyright protection.  Unfortunately all those thoughts were lost.

This past weekend there was a big fight, apparently.  The cost to watch was high.  Apparently the fight was re-broadcast by many people using the Periscope application (Periscope was brought to my attention by my daughter who is attuned to these emerging trends).  Twitter purchased Periscope earlier this year for $100 million.  Periscope competes with Meerkat.  After hearing about HBO being all upset with those who set there iPhones in front of the TV and re-broadcast I immediately downloaded the application.  I watched a couple of live feeds.  One was a bored guy just talking and there were a couple of people eating at a restaurant.

Kids don't call each other much.  They text and use Instagram.  Photographers used to keep the negatives of images they created.  Prints were marked with copyright notices.  I'm not a copyright expert but I have appreciation of intellectual property and artistic work.  During my 27-year gig my intent was always to be in compliance on intellectual property (e.g. software licensing) but that was also wrapped up tightly in contractual language.  Many companies and individuals seem to enjoy beating those contracts, bootlegging whatever they can.

When I started using Instagram I did give a bit of thought to the issue that I was coughing up some good images.  I'd have to go back and read the EULA (end user license agreement) for Instagram (and Twitter and Facebook) but I believe you give up your rights when you upload to those services.  Some people seem to think Facebook is something like Al Gore's vision of the internet or  It's a money making program.  One of the people I follow is a writer who published in several magazines.  When he posts to Facebook he always adds a copyright notice at the end of his post.

What you post on Facebook as public content is fare game for anyone to use.  There is a bit more potential protection on photos and images but at a practical level you've given Facebook carte blanche to do what they wish.  I don't think the writer who adds the copyright notice understands this.

The copyright hitch with Periscope is that Twitter retains the feeds for some period of time.  I suspect that they will cave under protest and Periscope will be live only.  I'll have to watch some more live feeds there and on Meerkat.  Certainly all the pay per view agreements will now have even more clear language and threats as is relates to rebroadcasting.  In the old days we'd go downtown on Friday nights and watch TV on the sets in the Sears windows and before color TV was common we'd look in the neighbor's windows to watch.  We probably should not re-broadcast protected content any more than photocopy (excessively) books and magazines, take screenshots of copyrighted web pages, selfies of classic art, etc.  Periscope is not a deluxe experience.  I'm not sure I can keep up with email, Twitter, texts, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Periscope demands on my time. 

Copyright 2015 John F. Leeper

Saturday, May 2, 2015

More Re-Work...

During the 27-year gig I was responsible for IT and for about three years I created and directed our 'process improvement' program which was focused at looking at standard processes, analyzing the workflow and eliminating 'waste.'  Generally we did not go out into the field.  Most of the processes were internal involving the processing of information and paper/electronic documents.

This past week I've been working on my daughter's house, the one she moved out of, doing a number of maintenance and improvement tasks before putting it on the market.  She purchased at the height of the market.  Once you start working on someone else's work you start to think about the right and wrong ways that remodeling can be done.  This is the upstairs which apparently has gone through a couple of updates. 

The wall around the stairwell had a bit of movement.  I felt like a surgeon.  Had one of those cool fibre optic inspection tools like the Dewalt be available I could have determined without demo how the wall was braced.  Given the lack of that tool I jumped right in with my Dewalt sawzall which is typically better at de-construction than construction.  The wall had a layer of paneling over sheetrock so taking out the sheetrock in a somewhat abusive manner was fine.

In the process improvement world this is about getting at core issues and processes.  You look for the root cause.  With the wall removed it was apparent that the original installation was marginal, the subsequent remodel not dealing with the initial poor foundation and now it was my challenge.

The wall is now re-built and stabilized.  In the process improvement (lean) world one premise is that each time you look at a process you can remove half of the existing waste.  This is how you justify re-visiting the same process repeatedly.  The wall still has a bit of movement but it's now safe.  The next person can look at my work and ponder it and improve.  I'm glad to have not done it perfectly.

Each side of the second floor has a knee wall with the opportunity for storage.  On one side I eliminated the door to the knee wall and replaced it with cubicle storage.  It's trimmed out but can easily be slid forward and out to provide access behind the wall.

On the opposing side I replaced the door with a somewhat smaller one, also trimmed out that is held in place by magnet latches.  We're putting in new carpet and now the doors are about six inches above the floor and the wall below will have a nice baseboard.  Looks are important.  Often we're inclined to say 'this is good enough' but all of our work in life should add value or esthetic improvement.

The question is "will the air conditioner (that is in the storage area) fit through the new smaller door opening?"

Doing all this remodeling which essentially involves prying, screwing pounding, cutting, lifting and grunting makes me feel like a chimpanzee who often exhibit frustration, use even more primitive vocalizations of the same 'special words' I use, have the same opposed thumb and can use tools. Perhaps one point of differentiation with chimpanzees is that I always ask myself 'where is your left hand' when using the mitre saw.

These are decent improvements and improve the usefulness of the space.  Unfortunately this is about not having a job.  My own efficiency in doing the work can be addressed simply by looking at my wallet which is buldging with Mernard's receipts showing far too many trips as a result of less than optimal conceptualization and measurements.  We I lean process improvement purist I'd now add myself as one of the core (problem) causes in this process.  As an executive I'm far better hiring and guiding people than I am as a tradesman actually doing work.