Saturday, December 26, 2015


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. 

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 for most domain name registrations, pointers, email, etc. 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:


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.


 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)