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.

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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

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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