Thursday, April 28, 2016

All thumbs...good and bad

all thumbs thumbs up pope
Facebook's icon for 'like' is an icon of a 'thumbs up,' a universal 'OK' or 'I agree' gesture.  The prehensile thumb evolved somewhere between 2.3 and 2.6 million years ago long before Homo Erectus 200,000 years in the past.  Certainly it allows the unique grips that distinguishes us from other mammals and allows us to create and use tools.

thumb evolution
It's the combination of the thumb and the fingers that allow the male hand to form into a fist when needed and the female hand to remain slightly different but more dexterous.  Of course the more awkward among us can be labelled "all thumbs."  Mechanical tasks, fine motor skills and certain tactile accomplishments remain outside their reach grasp.

Texting on our legacy flip phones and now all applications on our smart phones have made us all "all thumbs."  The QWERTY keyboard, used correctly or even with a caffeine motivated hunt and peck user offers advantages, the most obvious that you don't have to look at your hands thumbs.  Driving and using your phone is dangerous.  With a separate set of hands you could probably use a QWERTY keyboard and drive without unanticipated contact.

It would be nice if we all focused on using all our digits, write long sentences, perhaps paragraphs, short stories, biographies, complex thoughts, plans and solutions, emotional expressions, poetry and novels much less look at people and where we are going other than that hunk of silicon and glass and software and monthly service fees.  Thumb typing seems to be moving backwards in this evolutionary journey.  What happens 2.3 to 2.6 million years in the future when our fingers are purposeless (from a typing perspective) and we have just a thumb and some sort of fleshy pad for holding our smartphone?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tool failure...insignificant legacy

Job transitions often happen quickly.  In my case the "leave" part happened quickly.  The "new start" part doesn't really lack traction but I do feel like a mud bogger on a quarter mile oval track.  The finish line is obscured but it's all about the journey.

This blog was intended to document the change of careers, stature, passion and hopefully a change in income.  That's probably too many goals.  The income part has fallen by the wayside.  Often in the other jobs I spent hours, really days writing plans and presentations.  Eventually I found those written in a few hours or minutes were better.  Where I once began presentations with twenty or thirty slides (I was passionate about technology) I progressed, eventually using a single slide.  It's time to focus on writing or talking.

Coming across "You Are A Writer" by Jeff Goins has been good.  Focus.  Eliminate distractions.  He talks about social media distractions, the tendency and the urge to be on many platforms.  My email is worthless but I check it often.  Twitter is great but filled with nominal contributions.  Facebook has a lot of cats, guilty dogs and Bernie Sanders speeches.  I've checked all of that as I sit here.  The TV is on (not my choice) and I'm listening to Led Zeppelin on YouTube to drown out the TV. Simplify.

I'm looking for this...
unusual equipment
Possible interpretations have been suggested.  I'm going to go with the notion that I have the tools I need to be successful.  If they are not used life will continue but less successfully than it might. 

It's clear, as it has been, that focusing is important.


Each of my children left home with a complement of tools.  It seemed appropriate.  My son's tool box accompanied him to Chicago but not to Denmark.  This past summer it left with him for a new gig in London.

Unfortunately it was stored at one of the remodeling projects.  Before I brought all my tools I used his hammer.  When he arrived in London he needed his hammer, dug through the tool boxes and found no hammer.  Now he has a London-purchased hammer.  Recently I have written about Vice Grip tools.  I'll repeat that 75% of all Vice Grip tools are in static applications.  Today, working on the same remodeling project I reached in "my" tool box for a Vice Grip.  Finding that I've pilfered a second tool from an offspring who is now a seven hour flight and numerous time zones distant is not a good feeling, certainly a tool and legacy failure.

If you cannot get a new job or traction in a new career you can always do some remodeling.  This project has taken a long time to get started.

It's about finding your art, landing your craft.  This time it was a borrowed (not stolen) hammer and Vice Grip.  More legacy-like opportunities will present themselves.  I just need to act like what I want to be.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Your Browsing History May Define You or Your New Job

big data analytics
Ten years ago my 'to read' pile was excessive.  Subscriptions to multiple information technology rags filled my office.  Every few months I'd commit a day to scan most of it, pulling out topics of interest.  This actually was prior to 9/11.  Our corporate office moved shortly after 9/11 and that's when I stopped most paper subscriptions and gravitated to electronic versions.  This also identified a moment where I realized too much info was presenting itself and I consciously eliminated most television except occasional PBS and most magazines.  This allowed a strong focus on technology and during the period of 2001-2008 we made some great business process changes that captured evolving technology.  

I do remember having a copy of Adobe Acrobat 1.0, converting a mass amount of corporate process documentation to the Acrobat PDF format and then failing miserably at internal selling and deployment.  The internal customers weren't asking for it and were a decade from the consumerization of IT.  

Accomplishment comes with sacrifice, commitment and investment of resources. 

Since departing I've continued to follow technology, chased a few gigs and worked a couple.  A recent conversation with a like-aged executive focused on the opportunities for technology-based process improvement over the next few years.  While the past decade has embraced continuous process improvement, lean process improvement, etc., focused on continuous incremental change the real deal changers now appear to be Uber-like and industry-based 'internet of things,' pervasive connectivity, predictive analytics and big data.  Of course in a broad sense we need more serious invention (e.g. Tesla), not just 3D printers.

Reviewing my browsing history...

Amazon does a good job of reminding me of what I'd like to buy or what's caught my interest.  Frequently distracted by some marginally meaningful Facebook post my Amazon inclinations will show up thanks to Mr. Bezos and Mr. Zuckerman.  Thirty-five or so years in the IT world and it's rare that those two guys present me with IT interests.  Don't they know my history?  I suspect that down the road they will know does Google, now.  

Reviewing my browser history would indicate that IT reading is no longer my primary interest.  Big data and analytics pushed back in my own face. Is this a distraction of indication of core or new interests?

What my browsing history has shown me about my own interests:
  • blogs from north of the Arctic Circle and Antarctic (the first pretty primitive living, the second high-tech research in a harsh climate)
  • batteries, cables, chargers, connectivity (this is a bit embarrassing since I claim not to be a nerd)
  • interest in fundamental fine arts...printmaking, painting
  • strong interest in folk arts
  • continuing interest in innovation, creativity
  • java development environments
    • I would like to spend time on R, PHP, Ruby, etc.
  • wwii history, North Africa and Pacific Theater
  • writing motivation, becoming a better writer
  • creativity, innovation
What am I going forward...

  • do what you enjoy
  • follow the data

While at coffee, waiting for a ride, supporting the "repair my car" industry...

The wall had about twenty images on display.  This one stood out.  I appreciated the  movement.  The exhibition was of students' work.  This kid was six.  At six he might not see this as a future.  Hopefully he'll spend his life bringing joy to himself and others.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Last Vestiges of A Job & Real Wastes of Time

Dental Insurance Teeth Job
Somewhat before I left the job that I no longer mention I was asked how long I planned to work.  It seemed an innocent question.  "Probably until 65 or so when I'm eligible for Medicare."  Health and dental insurance were a good perk and there appeared no reason to abandon that and a paycheck (and the nature of the work challenge itself).

Medicare is a wonderful benefit but a pain to figure out and a sinkhole of options.  It appears that one can certainly overspend on supplemental and drug coverage. After attending half a dozen seminars and a few free meals the logical decision was to go cheap on the supplemental plans.

While I used to carry two ID cards for health/dental/drug coverage I think it's double that number.  As noted by my better half I now have to carry a Medicare card which clearly displays my SSN which everyone tells you to's the key to all your assets.  FYI I carry mine in a small wallet in my front right pants pocket.

If I'd understood the questions intent I would have said that I planned to work until 66 when I could collect Social Security or perhaps any year after that up to age 70.  Social Security goes up 7-8% for each year you delay.  That's a good deal: 1) you get a higher benefit 2) the government probably pays out less over your lifetime.  Your death is certain.

Dental coverage is expensive when you pay your own.  Somehow I think companies encourage their employees to leave not because they can collect Social Security or Medicare but because their teeth start to go.

So today, April Fool's Day, marks the end of any vestige of my former life.  The money's gone, benefits ended, logo shirts worn and discarded, co-workers have ceased calling and I don't get invited to others' retirement events, etc.  That's all good.

Small Business...
 Everyone is on spring break in March.  As the weather warms and we role into April it's been getting crazy busy.  Unlike my executive job where the day was spent talking and thinking about opportunities and challenge this small business is an active job, preparing product, taking orders, delivering, restocking, etc.  There's not much inefficiency with exception of activities you'd like  to do were it not for the lack of staff resources, most often your own.  

It's quite a contrast with the large organization life (including government where I long ago spent five years) where you spend most of your time attempting to acquire staff, re-allocate them or get any of the time you see wasted in other groups.  During my lean process improvement tenure the whole notion of eliminating waste became more clear.  Including items that are obvious such as product or time lost due to errors is also time spent waiting for products or services or for others to complete their work.  The odd part is that from my experience the bigger the organization and the more waste there is the more you will paid more.  Small businesses struggle for resources and are challenged to pay competitively, even when you own it yourself.  The sole-practitioner is at an even greater challenge and likely resides at the bottom of the pay scale.  I'm at a point where sole-practitioner may have the most appeal.

Political Waste...
This political campaign appears to have set new records in campaign spending and time spent by the media and by us on candidates who have no potential to win an election.  It's important to have an ego, perhaps bigger than the average person on the street, but for everyone's sake, keep it in check.  We now have narrowed the field but the news is saturated with info on two candidates with no possibility to be effective world leaders.

I'm going to re-visit my lean process improvement work on waste.  As I recall standard nomenclature includes seven kinds of waste.  It's time to add political blah-blah time to waste (and distraction).  We need some sort of elevator background noise, better yet the infamous white noise to block it out.

During my corporate world during one office move we changed from individual offices to an open work space with cubicles.  Concerned about privacy and distraction we added some sort of technology to cover the office with 'white noise' which was to block conversation distractions such as overhearing someone in the next cubicle from hearing your phone conversation.  People hated it.  Often we'd turn it off completely or increase it's volume until people became obviously agitated.  April Fool's Day was appropriate for that sort of work.    

We need a football coach approach to the Presidential election..
Trump: "We're going to be great. We're going to win all the games I know the best players. They are my friends, great friends."

Cruz: "We're going to play football like we used to play football. It's going to be leather helmets or no helmets at all and I assure you we'll pray as Christians before and after everything and we'll restore all aspects of the 2nd Amendment.  Furthermore, no one will cross any lines that they are not allowed to cross."

Clinton: "We're not going to win every game. Not every play will be successful. We are going to get everyone some time in the game."

Kasich: "Listen. I've coached a lot of teams. None of them were major league teams but I'll have it figured out in the first 100 days."

Ryan: "I do not want to be a football coach. I may have misspoken when I said I don't want to be a football coach."

Sanders: "We're not going to play football. We're going to play soccer and Wall Street is going to pay for new uniforms and they won't get free advertising and they won't get free tickets or perks."
For whatever reason I've never been a big Apple fan.  During the early days of personal computing I leaned first to the Commodore/Victor/CPM devices and then went mainstream IBM/MSDOS.  Apple was a bit all over the board but certainly with iconic innovations that moved the industry.  I've never owned an Apple personal computer.  My current phone is an iPhone 5.  It's very good.  iTunes has been confusing.  iCloud is OK.  

The recent controversy over personal privacy warrants considerable thought and review.  Snowdon's releases of intelligence procedures did bother me.  He's not a great patriot. It's a challenging age.  Governments need intelligence gathering.  Government needs review.  Despite many conversations it remains my position that Apple should have stepped up to the plate on cracking the San Bernadino phone.  Many people died.  More have and will in this evolving senseless terrorism.  While I don't want everything I do shared in the public domain...because it's not the public domain's business, I know that most devices, most first tier security can be hacked and for the purpose of saving innocent lives and our freedom to live it should be.  

From a professional and ethical position I think both sides are correct.  That's the complexity.  As the wind blows an Israeli firm successfully cracks the phone that Apple said was uncrackable.  Apple will move ahead with an even more secure device and more people will crack more devices.  This argument lies at the 99.9th percentile.  Most of us, actually 66% if I remember correctly lie +/- one standard deviation of the mean; we're not really affected and we don't really need to care.

April Fools Day...
I have nothing.  I have everything.