Friday, August 28, 2015

Can't Switch & "Probably Bad"

NetGear Switch Not Switching
Back in the day we had dial-up modems attached to a PC.  You could use a computer attached to the emerging world, or not.  Sharing internet access is much simpler now that we're all using 'wireless' and 'mobile' devices, connecting either via somewhat too expensive 'data plans' or home or public wi-fi networks.

Our home has been blessed (?) with high-speed internet since 1999.  During that time there have been periods of connectivity issues. We're still on DSL via original and very tentative 1969 home phone wiring.  I remain amazed that it works at all and worry quite regularly about chipmunks in the garage destroy any part of the two-pair wiring.  Of course I worry about many issues.

Over the past few months we've had connectivity issues.  Usually a reboot of the router/modem solves the problem.  As an education point, 'modem' is an abbreviation for modulator/de-modulator.  Our unstable phone wiring does occasionally drop internet connections when it rains.  There are also two or three notebooks, two, actually three phones and at least three desktops competing for bandwidth...and two Kindles.  I have multiple access points and devices sharing resources via an eight-port switch.  Switches rarely fail, switching resources dynamically without notice. Lately one device would connect, the others, not.  Duh.  A sharp person might have immediately tested thoroughly and identified a non-switching switch.  

During my 27-year gig my Help Desk team would pull equipment that was failing.  Users are a pain.  Often it was more cost effective to simply pull a piece of equipment (e.g. PC, printer, etc.) and hand out a new one.  After all this is all cheap Chinese electronic stuff; do you really expect it to work?  In some situations they'd put the equipment back into our storage room with a Post-It not attached with the written words "Probably Bad."  If you went in search of a device it was a point of frustration looking at stacks of notebooks, some already stripped of key parts, others looking complete but carrying the suspicion-inducing label 'probably bad.'  My uncles and grandfather saved bent nails, old screws and bolts in coffee cans.  Those were redeemable.  For every ten pounds of nails it seems that you would use a couple.  Saving 'probably bad' computing devices is more like saving cross-threaded nuts and bolts.

I've replaced the switch with a new $49 switch.  Everything seems to be working.  There are many devices connected.  Some devices 'go to to sleep' and successfully awake (I am a proponent of powering down PCs not in use).  People and dogs should sleep, not computers).  Hence, I am making a list of other issues in my life that can be solved with a $49 expenditure.

I've placed the unstable (and removed) switch in a box of cables, connectors and parts that is valuable every couple of years as is a coffee can of old nails.  I did not label it with a 'probably bad' note.  Actually since I started to use a nail gun I've not straightened any nails.  Best Buy recycles computer devices for free.  I just need to find a place to recycle those Folger Coffee cans of bent nails, orphan screws and cross-threaded bolts.  

Managing a staff is a challenge, too.  At times you keep someone around for a niche skill that you might need or someone who with a little work can be productive and you go through the mental process of labeling people 'probably bad' in the difficult process of determining their future or not.  If there is any notion of 'probably bad' you should move on.  Get new fasteners and new staff.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Not Amenable to Coaching...

Writing well (sort of)
Note:  This post has been a struggle.  As a result I've left all my pointless words as strikouts  strikeouts.

This blog's intent is to document is supposed to be about not having a dumb job, really and the effort and challenge of finding a new job.  but I've lost my way on that discourse. Is a blog really a discourse?

Earlier today I was involved In a discussion earlier today I and mentioned that I simply was not interested in reading self-help books.  This came up in a discussion conversation with a customer with parent of young children.  My children are 27 and 30.  I said that As a young parent I made an effort was made to read a few parenting books since I'd not ever been around young children.  Actually I might have read two.  In  corporate speak, the 'how to raise a child' books simply did not 'resonate.'  Having lost the commitment to read more of that type I've wondered how I did.  Neither of my adult children will respond to that question with a response other than "drop the drama."

Over the years I did read, at least start or browse, most of the business best sellers and consumed mass quantities of information technology material, perhaps to no avail.  I have this notion that time was spent reading the wrong stuff.  Of course I'm fully qualified to step right back into a position like the one recently departed.  It's good or bad that all that business book reading left me so well qualified for something that might not be at all close to the best solution.
Snake under wood pile...has nothing to do
with this post.

Later today I found that I'm on the fringes of social media., not that I'm not an overactive user but that Apparently few people my age participate.  It makes me an anomaly, a frequent synonym for which is 'oddity.'

This evening, which two minutes ago became a new day, I followed a link to Inc. Magazine (inc-link?) on to an article about people who are not coachable.  Some people want validation of their perceived organizational 'wronging.' Buried within that paragraph was the point that was sort of 'so what,'  the rules change all the time in employment. Shame on you for not seeing the train coming with a full load of rule changes. (that's a really bad metaphor for me to use but that's a topic for a later post).   I have to repeat thatThe rules changed dramatically during the recession, far more than most anticipated.  We need to add to our list of potential changes in employment the recession repeating.  Most changes are much smaller but one is not immune to changes in 

So, one should learn from these things.  During my tenure with the outplacement firm they talked about all sorts of transitions, from job to job, from career to career, from job to retirement, to delayed enjoyment (e.g. travel)  , etc.  Early in this transition I crossed paths with a number of good writings on envisioning this 'next' phase of your life.  The road bump in the process was that I was having a pretty good time working creatively in my former world.  I've not come to the point where I need to leverage the full potential of this very large, blank (but shimmering) palette.  

The loss of your position in your former space  typically pairs the loss of good with the loss of bad.  I lost my critics of my strategies (my creative work) who annoyingly helped me refine my strategies (creative work).  The outplacement services were all positive with conversations and supporting activities focused on the world ahead, correctly the envisioning of the future experiences. I missed an important point:  rather than jamming your resume about they encouraged a 'marketing statement to share with people and to ask 'what do you think?' That was a good idea but I believe two oversights occurred on my part.  

 In hindsight it might have been helpful for them to say 'you screwed up either 1) because your performance eroded or 2) changes were raining down and you failed to see them or react to them or 3) focus a bit more on how you might better frame yourself.  Perhaps that's negative and their forward-looking approach is the nicer version of the same.   The second oversight was missing the importance of the critics.  What was not an oversight was the fact that I could be successful in many venues and the one that I'd happened to have success in is probably not the venue moving forward.

The Inuit have something like 50 words for ice or snow because their survival is dependent on the subtleties.  We need more words for the full scope of changes that an employee might need to be ready for, more scenarios: 
  • supervision changes
  • economy changes
  • technology changes
  • health changes (good & bad)
  • lifestyle
  • family obligations
  • mission/vision
  • competition
Being this age and active in social media and pounding out a few blog posts seems pretty hip.  It's possible that it's entirely the wrong stuff, once again.

I need to work on scenarios for the next stage. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Advice & More...

The small business has been very busy.  All of the more conservative candidates talk about small business being the backbone and the dream of America.  The more liberal candidates seem to be focused on equalizing pay and benefits and since most people work for small businesses that hits home.

We have three people, two are owners, on the payroll.  The small business has it's moments of fun and enjoyment but there are more moments of frustrations; equipment breaking, unforeseen costs, employees who don't show up or care, customers who don't show up and perpetual road construction that impedes traffic.  I'm momentarily missing the 'backbone and dream of America' part of this.

One of our neon signs quit working.  Of course it was made in China.  We have no room for things that don't work.  The first inclination was for it to go in the dumpster but I took it home and stuck it in the garage which is also sort of a dumpster.  Today I called the company regarding repair.  The customer service rep asked what sort of noise it made.  I said it was a neon sign and it made no light and no noise.  He wanted a part number so I said I'd call back and headed out to the garage/dumpster where the sign stood alongside the original packaging which had been there since 2011.  For whatever reason I decided to plug it in and confirm it's failure.  Of course it worked fine.

Signage is important in our small business.  We've concluded that our outside sign needs replacement.  That's takes discussion and thought.  While considering my points of argument I came across a legacy sign from our 18 years of doing farmer's markets.  This was a prototype, poorly constructed.  It's odd enough that it actually has attracted people.  Some of them think we actually do give advice but of course they don't want to pay.  I tell them to go to China for advice.

Donald Trump
Normally I'm listening to some sort of music podcast while writing blog posts (farvorite: TBMYHNH.  In my real job listening to music was frowned upon so everyone used one-sided phone headsets.  Since I don't even have a dumb job I now get to listen in a much more audio-satisfying manner.  Unfortunately I'm listening to the Donald Trump interview.  We have a local radio station that features a couple of guys talking about sports and how everything in the world other than sports is more or less stupid.  I believe the name is 'garage logic.'  Mr. Trump talks like those guys.  He just said that the best information he gets is from watching television.  My television viewing ended five or six years ago.  I'm way behind Donald Trump in knowledge about running the country.

During the 27-year gig I managed to find the right caffeine balance probably due to having to show up at a designated time, being awake all day and having an endless supply of caffeine options.  Without a job sleeping patterns change, demands change, sleeping for a few minutes in the middle of the day, etc., are all OK.  I was just reminded that as a soldier you learned how to sleep for brief moments, alert with your eyes closed, your ears attentive and running at about 50% cognitive.  

Each time I query an opportunity three things come up in my mind: 1) having to wear respectable clothes 2) commuting 3) caffeine allocation.  On the first issue I've decided to adopt the Steve Jobs look should I return to the work force.  In the last gig I narrowed my wardrobe to all blue slacks, black cap-toe shoes and an endless variety of blue hue shirts.  That is too complex going forward.  Like Jobs and Zuckerberg I need a personal uniform.  Of course the body hugging t-shirt is not going to work.  I digress.  Standard caffeine options would be good.  Now I find myself stopping at convenience stores, digging in the backseat of the truck and examining the back of the fridge.

I probably need to go cold turkey.

Retro Tech...
For the past week I've been refreshing myself with tech info from the last gig, thinking about storage arrays, cloud/legacy infrastructure solutions, service level agreements (SLAs), envisioning trends and intermediate and long term strategies, blah, blah, blah.

I was so needy for some IT thought that I watched a couple of videos on configuring Linux systems including disk partitioning, logical volumes, etc.  This fractured photo reminded me to focus on the future, not the past or the present, the last two of which are disjointed.


Earlier this week I spoke with one of the handful of people that I keep in touch with from the 27-year gig.  He's of the same vintage.  When I left we had some nice conversations about organizations.  He felt that any amount of time spent with a company in this day and age was significant and that companies and executives should freely clean house and that those cleaned should accept the good part of the run.

My position was built on a base of honesty and integrity.  I believe that there should be no difference between personal honesty and corporate honesty.   Over time I've reflected upon this and now have partitioned honesty into two types, personal and corporate.  The corporate version is don't lie but you just don't say everything.  In personal honesty you come clean, putting it all on the table.  

I choose to have a single definition, a single standard.

So this friend is in the process of leaving.  He's having trouble actually being gone.  His wife tells him what he's doing is crazy.  My wife told me that what I was doing was crazy.  I know crazy. I agreed with his wife.

There is also a pattern of asking hard questions.  Honestly you probably either have to be very wealthy or have little interest in wealth if you want to be the person asking hard questions.  This campaign has one guy for whom 'hard questions' has become a daily mantra.  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Work Until You Die

Most of my relatives worked until they died or until they fell apart.  When I do my semi-annual walk to clean up overgrown gravestones I'm reminded of what they did for 'work.'  Few had any significant leisure activities or memorable vacations.  It seems like the pleasure in life was "a good steak at the Legion Club" or a new winter coat.

Uncle D**
D**, like most of the men in my family served in WWII.  Prior to the war he had a job in a lumber yard.  After the war (Army) he and his brother (who was in the Navy) partnered up with their father.  Their father was a Danish immigrant and a good entrepreneur starting an ice business.  Hauling vast amounts of heavy ice from the lake started to wain after the war as the industrialized nation started to crank out refrigerators rather than weapons.  Moving heavy stuff led to moving houses.  D** and his brother worked well into their sixties being the only moving game in town.  It was dangerous, hard work.  They survived.  D** died withing six or seven years of retiring.  All of the conversations and time together was sprinkled with descriptions of moves done and customers.

Uncle R**
I'm not totally familiar with this uncle.  He was married to my father's sister, H****.  A bit older he may have been too old for WWII.  He either received an early discharge or worked as a civilian in Greenland during those years.  Following the war he worked at Queen Stove.  This company purchased the American Gas Machine Company, was purchased by King Seely Thermos and through various mergers, acquisitions and sales became the largest manufacturer of ice machines in the world, know as Scotsman.  R** worked in the manufacturing plant in Albert Lea,  was a nice guy and had a propensity to lift heavy things and hurt himself.

Aunt H****
H****, like her husband R**, worked hard.  They were both drummers and my recollection from long ago is of cars, always carrying drum sets.  She had a great laugh, was well know, loved her family and would give you the shirt off her back if needed.  Much like her father, there was a compulsion to entertain, to converse and be kind.  She was drumming at her 85th birthday.  My father died at much too young an age but I think H**** and my father would have been quite the party.  I have to counter my comment about lack of vacations.  She did travel to New Zealand to visit her oldest son, and I have a picture of her and  Princess Diana taken while there.

Uncle E****
A former professional wrestler, this guy had a thousand jobs, his entire work and personal history quite shady.  The trunk of his car was always full of stuff, guns, fishing gear, tools, etc., and it was always changing, always for sale.  For a time he owned a resort in northern MN but his bread and butter was to work as a welder, feign injury and collect worker's compensation.  He was probably a step ahead of the law.  He was a bad, negligent father.

Aunt R****
My father's younger sister was married to E**** until they divorced to get more Social Security.  I have no recollection of her working but simply listening to my uncle drone on about one scam after another.  They had two children.  They were not great parents.  The daughter left home and lived with my grandfather.  The son followed in his father's steps, much better practiced in 'making deals.'

Grandfather A******
Self-taught as a high pressure boiler guy he progressed from working at a small town power plant to being the head building engineer for the local school district.  He knew a lot of practical things about power, plumbing, electricity, etc.  Following his retirement (I believe the school district forced him out) he started a small business repairing mechanical clocks and did that well into his eighties.

Aunt O****
O**** was a school teacher back in the day, in a small 'country school.'  At the time you needed to be a high school graduate and have a year of 'teacher's education.'  When my grandmother abandoned her family, O****, who was adopted and older than the other children, quit her teaching job at nineteen or twenty and became the home maker and lived out her life living with my grandfather, really without much in joy, love or possessions.

Uncle M***
Another WWII uncle, this one was a cook in the Navy in the South Pacific.  When he came home his dream was to be his own boss.  There had been enough taking orders during the war.  He worked double shifts as a meat cutter in the local slaughterhouse, saved up enough to start his own small cafe and a few years later opened a small offsale liquor store.  A shrewd and hardworking businessman he did well but died just a couple of years after selling his business he'd built over twenty years of many, many hours.

Grandfather F***
 A Norwegian immigrant who left poverty at age 21 and came to "the new world" he was happy to work his whole life, always saving before spending on his four daughters.  He first worked for a decade as a hired hand on a farm.  Later, renting a farm he gave up when his third daughter was born, stating "you can't farm with girls."  Moving to town he worked at the slaughter house chasing cattle up a six story ramp to the the kill, many times every day, losing an eye in the process, working until 72, looking 20 years younger.  He lived frugally until leaving at 100, the only day he did not feel like getting out of bed.

The meaning of this...
My intention (while at the 27-year gig) was to work for a few more years, perhaps cutting back to three or four days per week and wrapping it up about age 70.  While I spoke of leaving early my concern was that two or three years after leaving I'd just tip over, too, so leaving seemed like a bad idea.  None of my immediate relatives attended college, for the most part they worked with their hands and on their feet.  Throughout high school and before and during college I followed that same track, working in a manufacturing plant and even spending time in the slaughter house.  All were good experience jobs and I regret none of it.  The fortunate aspect of the 27-year gig was that it opened my horizons in the kind of work I could do.  Now having said that, in retrospect setting higher goals might have been better.  My almost two years of 'not being employed' has been refreshing and has reminded me of opportunities open and activities that warrant my time that are not compensation-rewarding although some are.

A good friend of mine and I recently had a conversation that centered around the topic that we had always needed to work.  Our families were clearly blue collar.  We found our way to college with little encouragement and no financial support.  When our peers went off to spring break in Florida or bumming around in Europe we were groveling for jobs and money to get through the next nine months.  My wife and I talk about breaking the cycle which is actually the cycle of children being raised (barely) in the shadow of their parent's lives, without the ability to step out of that shadow.  We managed to do that and our children have managed to step or fall out of our shadows, probably on better paths than we were at the same time.  So...I think part of my remaining life's work is to help a few others, to put some light into the dark corners of their lives.  It's not all about working until you die.