Monday, July 18, 2016

"So You Are A Big Shot"

My paternal grandfather was a Norwegian immigrant.  Arriving in the States with a small bag and the address of a farm in rural MN he worked for seven years as a hired hand, glad to have work.  After retrieving his wife-to-be from "the old country" he rented land and farmed.  The birth of no sons and the third daughter brought the proclamation "you can't farm with girls" and he moved his family to town.

"albert lea" "wilson & company" "meatpacking plant"

For thirty years he worked at Wilson and Company.  At the center of the photograph is a six-story ramp that led from the stockyards to the killing floor.  Without fail for all those years he drove livestock up the ramp all day.  He was in pretty good shape but retired at 70 and lived to 100.

"josef albers" "work on paper" "big shot"
When I was first starting in my professional working career he asked me what I did.  At the time I wrote reports, did statistical analysis on crime data and dabbled in the computer world.  None of this seemed relevant to a guy whose first trip across the ocean took 21 days and who's life's work was at the fragrant end of some exhausted horses or panicked beef cattle.  Finally I said that I did "book work" and sat in an office.  "So you are a big shot!"  I think, in his Norwegian stoicism, that he did care a small amount about me but really I think he thought my work was pointless and a waste.

For most of the next 40 years my "work" became increasingly digital and abstract in nature.  In a big corporate move in 2001 we moved to a new corporate headquarters.  My input to that plan was broad but specific to the nature of storage and work stations.  "We don't need to buy very many file cabinets.  Our world is going digital."  By 2008 we were giving away scores of thousand dollar file cabinets and three thousand dollar architectural plan tables. During the eleven years I spent in that office I put total of about five file folders in a file cabinet.

Were I having that conversation with him now I could not really even claim to do "paperwork" and I'm not sure how to explain "digital" other than saying it's "electronic" and that's no better explanation.  Broad multi-dimensional applications that integrate systems, resources and real-time and future-time and imagined/conceptual/virtual (pokemon) systems are the new "big shot" jobs, I guess.  Here I am trying to put that in words.  My almost three-year reprieve from that "big shot" job world  has been good.  I'd like to go chase some cows up that ramp to reflect on his real work but the building is gone.  Beef-processing technology has changed.  Gravity is not as important a factor as it once was. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Cloud Storage, Negatives, "About Schmidt" (Jack Nicholson)

Jack Nicholson cloud storage negatives
The 2002 film, "About Schmidt", profiled an insurance executive, proud of his actuarial legacy, who leaves his job (reluctantly), finds his life work in a dumpster during a visit to the workplace, and embarks on a journey unencumbered.  It's a tough trip.

With regrets at mentioning the '27-year gig', I must.  Had I simply printed out all that was important (most of which is not) or made copies and placed in boxes to accompany me on 'my journey' they'd certainly been dumped on the desert by now.  Unfortunately I uploaded it all to a couple of fee-based cloud storage sites.  Almost three years have passed and I don't want to pay for any further storage and decided to download it to storage at home (and forego concerns of backup).

Each of those documents was important for content, creative, innovative work, etc., or something that I might need on my next gig.  Austin Kleon's books have made it very clear that even creative people steal from others and leveraging work from one organization to another, while perhaps questionable, would be creative...and creative is always good.  So goes the justification.

Reading each document before determining it's retention in this 'almost three years later' pass has caused me to smile, chuckle, reflect and be annoyed at some of the same roadblocks and tools (that's 'tool' in a negative personality sense).

This afternoon my daughter asked me if disposable cameras were still available.  She talked about the process of taking in a camera or film, waiting for the film to be processed, deciding on 3x5, 4x6, matte or glossy and then waiting.  Digital has made us all film processors as much as photographers.  What we lack is that box of prints and negatives that sit in a closet for years, until we die, and our relatives pick through them, remarking about changes, parties, events and vacations sites of past.  With digital we rarely print.  Dying without a URL, user name and password leaves our image legacy in the cloud.  It's probably not even deleted but remaining without access.

Negatives were always a challenge to review.  In the lab we'd do proof sheets, aggregations of small images, select from that and printer larger that we wished to print, mount, distribute and enjoy.  It would appear that I'm doing some sort of electronic proof sheet (no, not a thumbnail).

It seems that my electronic work legacy is all about negatives, too.  I have to open them and transport them and that causes me to review and revisit.  My childless 100 year old aunt asks who would want to look at all her photographs but struggles to throw them out (ironic even more as her vision fades and she cannot see what she has).  We hold on to things under the illusion that we'll use them, need them, share them or that someone else will want them.

After moving most of these files from a fee-based storage to a storage device in the office (it feels like moving valuables from a temperature and humidity controlled storage facility to a damp garage) I wish someone would have simply checked all the boxes and hit 'Delete.'  'Someone' always limits forward progress.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Garrison Keillor, my material, his balls

Garrison Keillor
Garrison Keillor's last show was good.  The midwestern guy underplayed the transition, made it sound a natural process, timely.  It might prove to be a struggle.  Not being in charge of something you created is a challenge.

He is a writer, remarkably creative and cleverly funny, taken in doses.

I've talked of being a writer.  Lately Amazon has delivered numerous tomes on the craft of writing.  Similar, they've encouraged me to simply write about the round-about of reading books and watching videos, but like many wanna-be's is a passing idea.

Long before personal computers Mr. Keillor used some material I sent in.  At the time Bertha's Kitty Boutique was a recurring topic in the weekly Lake Wobegon news.  Perhaps I have a copy, but probably not.  Generally the story (my story, his presentation) was about sending your feline pets to Cat Camp in the Catskills, the days spent catamaran sailing, mandatory catnaps, etc.  The 'etc.' is lost to time but it was several minutes.  I would have appreciated "John from St. Paul..."

Years later a friend who lived on the first floor of a Grand Avenue duplex asked me to go golfing.  Not having any clubs he said the the upstairs tennant's clubs were in the basement.  That summer, numerous times, I borrowed the clubs without asking, and yes, played with Garrison Keillor's balls.

Small Business...
Brent Olson Inadventent Cafe
Several years ago we drove from Arkansas back to Shoreivew on US 65. We passed through many small towns, most with the lights off in the historic downtowns, some with no business districts (or businesses) left at all. Buying groceries or finding a place to eat was difficult. 'Beige food' from convenience stores seemed to be the only option for the rural midwesterners; that's not healthy.

About the time we began the Marianne's Kitchen adventure we crossed paths with Brent Olson who was attempting to keep a small town cafe alive in Clinton, Minnesota. You can follow him on Facebook at the Inadvertent Cafe. His commitment was for four years, the deadline soon approaching. We traded commentary on the returns and challenges of small food venues in the sparse prairies and the food-sparse suburbs. Before he closes we're going to drive almost to South Dakota for breakfast.

The remodeling project is done.  The carpet installation was a scheduling disaster.  After it was in the quality of the install was awful.  Complaining led to the troubleshooter (carpet guy) who found the carpet was delaminating.  A few days after going in it's coming out.  My work is done.  Now I want a real job.