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Winter Has Come And The Driving Is AWESOME

Winter arrived in Utah last week. Snow, wind, cold temperatures. Did I mention snow? Utah loves snow. Some of my neighbors will complain about it, but don’t believe them. We need the snow. It fills our reservoirs. That’s important for a desert state. It covers our mountains and ski slopes. Important for a state that has a small population (3M, less than population of Los Angeles) but a large area (84,899 sq miles, the size of the state of Utah.) 

But, people will still complain. We had to shovel our sidewalks twice over the weekend and there was a new 1/2″ of snow this morning. The streets this morning were unfortunately bare and dry. It’s true, I love to drive in the snow. And even more, I love snow when my kids are learning to drive. 

That’s crazy, right? I mean, you have worse traction in the snow. You have less control in the snow. You have a greater chance of an accident in the snow. What could possibly make winter driving attractive? 

It’s hard. 

Seriously, that’s what I like about it. I enjoy the fact that you have to pay closer attention to. . .everything. And more than that, I like to push my car to the edge of those limits and beyond. Not in a way that puts me, or anyone else in danger, of course. But, doing doughnuts in a parking lot, or power sliding around a corner, or flipping a reverse 180 using the hand brake, are not only fun, they are educational. 

When you are driving in the snow, do you know at what point your tires will lose their traction on the road? Can you spot that point just before you start to slide just by the feel of the car? How often have you had to try to correct a slide? 

They say to “steer into a slide.” But, what if you are sliding toward a ditch?

There’s an IT equivalent of driving in the snow. It’s checking your backups. The worst time to check your backups is when you’ve had a failure. Several things are going to happen during a catastrophic failure. Your stakeholders are going to be stressed. Your employees are going to be frustrated. Your clients are not going to be able to get to you. In the middle of all that is not the time to try to figure out where the backup tapes are located, how to access the backup software. What data might be lost by restoring a backup. 

You should be testing as you go. You should be practicing loading the tapes. Become familiar with the restore software. Understand the limits and what is lost in restores. That way, when you do have an emergency, you can spend all of your team correcting it rather than trying to learn what to do. However, no matter how often you practice restoring, you won’t necessarily avoid the event that destroys your network. But, it will help you get back up and running sooner. 

By intentionally slipping, sliding, correcting and driving in the snow, I’ve become a lot more familiar with what my car is capable of. Does it mean that if I hit black ice at 70 mph on the freeway, I’ll be able to correct? Probably not. But, if playing in the snow lets me correct just a half second quicker, or let off the gas just a fraction of a second sooner, it can make all the difference. 

Yes, it’s snowing in Utah. I can’t wait to get and drive in it. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Circa 2004: What’s This Blogging Thing?

Dr Knutson, you need to add blogging to your CS404 class.

What is it? 

Well, it’s kind of like an online journal, but it can really be about any topic. 

Why would people want to go read those?

I don’t reallly understand that part.

The year was 2004, I had left Microsoft and decided to go back to school at BYU. In addition to a bunch of Computer Science classes, I was the TA for CS 404, strangely named “Computer Ethics.” It was really a class about computers in society. There were chapters on ethics, on history, on business applications for the different operating systems. The class was all lecture and written assignements. Most CS majors tolerated it. I loved it. Coming from a career in the software industry, CS404 was an opportunity to sit around and talk about the things that I’d lived through. 

Being a TA was a bonus. I didn’t do it for the money. In fact, most weeks I forgot to turn in my timecard. But, the discussions were fascinating. And, strange as it seems 10 years later, blogging really was a strange concept. 

In 2004, much of the content was still driven by the major news outlets. If you wanted to know the news of the day you went to, or aol,com or the big dog of the content world, Many of the traditional news sources, ABC, NBC, NY Times, were experimenting with paywalls. The sites that were the quickest to monitize the online ad revenue streams flourished. 

If you had a technical question, you went to the manufacture’s website. had the most up to date inforation. existed to prove that Macs really do have issues at times. There were some speciality sites that were aggregating content, but anything that was not directly from the source was a little bit suspect.  The online search engines were there, but still finding their way. Microsoft was still pushing MSN, Google was cutting into Yahoo’s marketshare. 

And then there were these strange things calls blogs. The word itself, like most computer terms was a shortened version of a longer term: weblog. One of the first sites that catered to blogs was People were starting blogs with random topics. In 2003, Google had launched AdSense, giving bloggers a way to monitize their content. 

But, who would want to get their information from a random writer online instead of a traditional news source? A lot of people, as it turns out. Blogs started in 1994, with a guy named Justin Hall. He created It’s credited with being the first blog ever. It wasn’t called that at the time, of course. It would be another 4 years before Jorn Barger coined the term Weblog to mean “logging the web.” It was in 1999 that Peter Merholz shorted Weblog to blog. And there were some successful blogs was one of the first to gain widespread success. Gizmodo in 2002 would eventually expand into a huge blog presence. 

And people started noticing. A couple of stories from 2002 highlighted the new power of blogs. Heather Armstrong had a blog called Dooce. She was fired for discussing her job on her blog. And in August 2002, a blog called TalkingPointsMemo broke a story about Senator Trent Lott making some racially charged comments. This was a story that would have normally been broken by a large news outlet. The story caught fire and two weeks later Senator Lott resigned as the Senate Majority Leader. 

By December 2004, Merriam-Webster declared Blog as its Word of the Year. Six months later HuffingPost launched. It would grow to become one of the largest sites on the internet. 

Today, there are somewhere between 150 million and 180 million blogs. It’s hard to pin down the exact count since anyone can start a blog and once you start it, the internet is forever. Worldometers calculates that there are 1.5 million blog entries written today. 

The introduction of advertising and the failure of the mainstream media sources to capitalize on the new media of the internet positioned blogs as an entry point for people who want to influence the world. The barrier to entry is literally a keyboard and an email address. This blog, while the address is is hosted on WordPress. 

How often people blog is also a matter of some debate. Professional bloggers might post 4-5 times per day. Social bloggers might post once per week or whenever the inspiration strikes them. One estimate is that for the years 2012, bloggers on WordPress posted on average 3 blog posts in a year. Clearly there are a lot of “dead” blogs out there. This blog updates every M-F. 

Today, we take blogs for granted. We use Google or Bing to search for a topic and are as likely to believe a well written blog as an article on a news site. While there are cases like Huffington Post where a blog sells for millions ($315M is the estimate) there are also plenty of people making a comfortable living by writing stuff on the internet. I’m sure that the CS 404 class taught at BYU today has a well developed section of blogging. 

The beauty of the internet is that there will be a next thing. It may be a technology that is in its infancy today that will change the world 10 years in the future. 

Stay tuned. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Why I’m Thankful For Jobs I Hated

After the first week, I didn’t even need an alarm clock. Out of bed at 1:30AM. At the distribution center by 2:00. The papers arrived about 2:30. Then race like mad to get them folded, bagged, banded and loaded into my Suburban. 

If they weren’t on the doorstep by 7:30, the complaints would start. Most days, that wasn’t an issue. Even with a few hundred to deliver, I could manage it. Sundays were tight. That Thanksgiving paper? Just plan on getting calls from the last couple dozen people. 

It’s easy to say, I hated that job. It had no real redeeming features. I was strictly working for a paycheck, and delivering papers was a pretty thin paycheck. Considering this was 2006 when gas was $4.00 a gallon and much of my “profit” got eaten up in gas for my 12 mpg Suburban, the thin paycheck didn’t go far. 

But, looking back, I am grateful for that job. In fact, I’m more grateful for it than the $80 / hour consulting job I got at Microsoft a few months later. 

I’m naturally a lazy person. Not sit on the couch and eat chips kind of lazy. But, I tend to put things off. I tend to look for the way to make a job fun so that I can trick myself into doing it. I’m also very, very good at my job. I’ve been involved in computers since the dawn of the PC age. I understand a lot about some parts of computers and at least a little about most parts. 

Computer jobs are perfect for me. Regardless of the role I’ve been in throughout my career, I’ve had the chance to teach people about interesting things. I love teaching and especially helping take complex computer concepts and simplify them. I get to write. I get to travel occasionally. I get to work with passionate people who are also really good at their jobs. And I get paid well. 

My newspaper job had none of those advantages. 

I didn’t get to teach anyone anything. The most complex aspect of my job was figuring out the optimal route to get several hundred papers on doorsteps as quickly as possible. There was not only nothing to write, there was no time to do it. My only travel was navigating darkened streets at insane hours of the morning. The people I did interact with were mostly people like me, doing this because they absolutely had to have the money. Motivated? Not so much. And I got paid almost nothing. 

So, why am I grateful for that job? Even more than the $160,000 per year job that I eventually moved to? 

That job taught me things that I never would have learned any other way. 

There were some practical things. I learned that my mirrors folded in after I banged them by steering too close to some mailboxes. I learned that people steal other people’s papers in the morning. I learned that just because there’s no rain forecasts doesn’t mean it’s not going to rain. (Put the papers in the bags anyway.) I got really good at driving with my knees while tossing papers out the window. 

But, those were lessons that I probably won’t use a lot in the future. I also learned that all jobs have dignity. I watched single moms drag their young children down to the distribution center at 2:00am because they needed the job and had no one else to watch them. I watched affluent parents drive their teenage children around on their paper route to give the child a chance to hold their first job. I met people who were on the brink of going under financially. I saw the fear in a father’s eyes as he desperately tried to keep his family afloat. I met people who had very little who were generous with their time and their talents when another driver had a problem completing their route one day. 

I learned humility. It’s easy when life is good, money is sufficient, to think “I earned this,” “I deserve this.” No, we are all one bad decision away from losing it all. I learned that I can do hard things. I gave up my love of playing basketball because I had to go to bed at 7:00 pm. I gave up TV because we didn’t want to pay the cable company. I gave up eating out. I gave up things that I thought were, if not necessities, at least really imporant. 

And the most important lesson of all, I was able to set an example for my children. The younger ones don’t remember, but the older ones will never forget. They realized that their dad was willing to do just about anything to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. 

Yes, I hated that job. I hope I never have to work that hard again. And I am eternally grateful for it.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

The Liar, The Comedian And The Fat Jew

That was a tough headline to write. Clearly it’s pejorative. It’s offensive to many people. In fact, it’s kind of offensive to me. But, this post is about several things that are offensive. 

The Fat Jew  – The Liar

Josh Ostrovsky is an entertainer. He recently released a book, Money Pizza Respect. He has nearly six million followers on Instagram. He recently was in discussions for a show on Comedy Central. Despite having what he describes as a “dad bod” he was signed to promote Virgin Mobile, Burger King, Bud Light and Beats Electronics. He has a wine label called “White Girl Rose.” He is by just about any definition a social media star. He’s also a liar.

That’s not my description for him, it’s his. Ostrovsky, who is @thefatjewish on Instagram or simply, @fatjew on Twitter, built his Instagram following by reposting clever memes and jokes written by other people. You might wonder why this is a big deal. The problem that many people had was that Ostrovsky stripped any identifying information about the original author, making it appear the memes and jokes were his. 

If you aren’t familiar with the comedy world, this is called plagiarism. In fact, it’s pretty much referred to as plagiarism no matter who you ask. Everyone seems to agree that it’s a bad thing except Ostrovsky himself. He defended his reposting of memes as acceptable behavior. 

The internet is like a giant weird orgy where everything gets shared.

The problem for Ostovsky is that the memes he was reposting, (“aggragating” in his view) were often written by struggling comics and writers trying to make a name for themselves. A name that Josh Ostovsky was more than happy to make for himself. 

The Comedian

Steve Hofstetter is also an entertainer. But, unlike Ostrovsky, Hofstetter hasn’t built his success by aggregating the work of others. Hofstetter regularly performs stand up comedy around the country. He’s the host of Finding Babe Ruth on FS1. He’s written for Maxim, ESPN and Sports Illustrated. His youtube channel has more than 30 million views. Some of his most popular videos are of him being heckled. It doesn’t go well for the hecklers

I’m smarter than you and I have a microphone.

Steve is one of a several comedians who led an effort to raise awareness of the issue of plagiarism, or “joke stealing.” He was instumental in getting Barnes & Nobel to cancel a book signing event for Ostrovsky last month. I recently had an email conversation with him about the controversy around Ostrovsky. 

RMB: You recently started a facebook group called “Writers and Comedians United Against Plagiarism.” Originally the group was called “Writers and Comedians United Against Josh Ostrovsky’s Plagiarism.” You seem to be attempting to raise awareness. What is your goal for the group in general? 
SH: I want to change the culture. I would like to see intellectual property held in the same regard as physical property.

RMB: You state that you want to cancel or protest all of Josh Ostrovsky’s appearances until he 

1) Understands why what he did is wrong (and explains it to his fans) 
2) Apologizes to everyone he stole from individually 
3) Pays everyone he stole from. 

 Have you been in contact with Josh? How likely is it, do you think that he will do any of this? 

SH: I’ve included him in many of my tweets. I do not know him personally. I don’t want to guess at the likelihood of any of this – all I know is that bookstore cancelation was either one heck of a coincidence, or a major victory for the good guys. 

RMB: He’s now gone back and added credit to the memes he plagiarized. Why isn’t this enough? 

SH: Why isn’t it enough that he retroactively added credit that no one will see unless they’re searching for it, for some of the jokes he stole, when he made millions of dollars off of them? Seems like an odd question to me. 

RMB: Do you see Josh’s “career path” as a natural extension of our “reality TV” culture; the idea of fame being the goal and any means to accomplish that goal being justified?

SH: Yes. Some people see fame as the prize, and have no ethics about how they get there. That needs to change. 
RMB: There was a recent viral video of an 89 year old man who did stand up for the first time. None of his material was original. His timing was not bad, but his material was all street jokes or jokes hacked from other comics. Do you feel as offended by this performance as you do by Josh’s actions?
SH: No, because he is someone that did it once that didn’t know any better. Ostrovsky did it for years despite being called out on it, and defends his actions to this day. 

RMB:Is any publicity that draws people to comedy a good thing even if it is the result of plagiarism? 

SH: Absolutely not. That’s like saying stealing a painting from a museum is positive for art because the story got people interested in it. 

RMB:Social media has changed comedy in a lot of ways. Several years ago Sarah Silverman talked about how hard it is to work on new material when people will film her on their cell phones and immediately upload it to youtube. Michael Richards, obviously wasn’t considering the fact that his Laugh Factory melt down could end up online. Now Josh Ostrovsky has harnessed the power of that medium in ways that weren’t possible even just a few years ago. You obviously have embraced social media. How do you think we can balance the benefits of youtube, facebook, instagram, etc and still protect ourselves from the abuses? Is it even possible? 

SH: We’re all adults, and deep down we all know what is right and what is wrong, no matter what the tools of technology allow us to do. The existence of twitter and instagram doesn’t make us immoral. It just exposes immorality quicker and to a larger audience.

What do you think? Social media has changed how we communicate. Has the immorality  always been there and we are just quicker to notice on instagram and twitter? Or have the media themselves given rise to a new morality? 

I wonder if my kids, and their peers see the problem with what Ostrovsky did. I wonder if they even care. I hope so. 

(Josh Ostrovsky did not repond to an emailed invitation for an interview.)

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Am I Adding Value Or Just Noise?

I read your blog entry about writing letters.


Yeah. I’ve decided something. 

What’s that?

I’ve decided to start writing letters.

I think we all want to feel we are adding value to the world. I get a certain amount of satisfaction out of my job, but I know that if I quit tomorrow, they’d find someone else to step in and do the job I’m doing. And imposter syndrome hints that maybe that other person would do it better than me. 

But, this blog is not part of my job. And while I appreciate people clicking on the ads, I don’t even get any money for the ads. I do it for me. Some days I think I have something important to say. More often than not, I simply want to tell an interesting story, or explain a life lesson that I learned. 

Frankly, I’m always amazed when I meet people who have read something here that made an impression. And then occasionally I get a comment like the one above. It came from my brother, who to my great pride and chagrin is a much more popular writer than I am. 

It was a great post. I mean it. When you can write something that makes someone else change their actions, that’s powerful.

Friends have commented how wonderful it will be for my kids to be able to go back and read the camping stories and other memories I record here; kind of like an online journal. And while there certainly are aspects of a journal in the things I choose to write, I’m careful to not tell other people’s stories. I don’t do a good job of keeping a journal. Wait, that’s not true. I do a great job. I have the same journal that I’ve had for the past 20 years. It’s not full yet. But, I don’t do as good a job writing in it as I think I should. 

So, this blog is not a journal, although I use it to tell stories. Originally, I started writing while I was between jobs. I wanted a place to write an extended resume. And while I keep future employers in mind when I write, even that purpose has kind of faded from importance. 

Why do I write? Why do you write? Why does anyone write who doesn’t get paid for it? 

I think we want to make the world a little better. Most of the writers I know are optimists, but just slightly introverted. They have things that they want to tell the world, but would rather do it behind a keyboard than behind a microphone. 

I look at each day as an opportunity to share something that might make someone’s day better. Maybe, someone starting out in their career will be able to avoid some of the pitfalls I’ve experienced. Maybe someone will draw inspiration from stories of camping with my kids. Maybe I’ll actually offer a business principle that will help someone. 

Maybe I’ll inspire someone to do something as simple as write a letter. 

Whatever it is, I simply hope that I add value and not just noise. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

A Good Muse Is Hard To Find

But how do you find topics to write about?

Where do you not find things to write about? If you are alive, you have something to write about. 

It’s a question that every writer has to confront at some point; often at multiple points. It has various names. Like superstitious sports fans, we often tend to attribute success to some mythical process. 

My muse has deserted me.

It means I can’t seem to write. Muse was a mythical group of goddesses. They were the daughters of Zeus and mnemosyne. These nine goddesses presided over the arts and sciences, song and poetry. 

  • Calliope: Epic Poetry
  • Clio: History
  • Erato: Love Poetry
  • Euterpe: Music
  • Melpomene: Tragedy
  • Polyhymnia: Sacred Poetry
  • Terpsichore: Dance
  • Thali’a: Comedy
  • Urania: Astronomy

There is no muse for technical writing, but a mixture of history and tragedy might cover it. As a writer you crave the influence of a muse, but also dread the “I have to write this idea” impulse that makes us so neurotic. We love it and hate it. 

I’ve had times were I could both write and not write. I could write on one topic, but was empty when trying to find ideas in another area. It’s easy to blame the muses, but that’s really a cop out. The best quote I ever on writer’s block was from noted science fiction author Ben Bova:

I never got writer’s block. I couldn’t afford it. If I didn’t write, we didn’t eat. 

We are told that “necessity is the mother of invention.” I think a more accurate phrase is “Desperation is the mother of invention. Many writers I know can spend 80% of their writing time doing “research.” It’s not until the deadline is just short of too close that they kick into gear and produce their content. 

It would be so much easier to simply write a little each day. If you write 200 words per day, just 1000 per week, in a year, you will have enough words for a 50,000 word novel. There are no doubt, authors that have mastered that daily bit. I’m not one of them. 

That’s right. I’m not an author who can take a big project and write a little every day until it’s done. 

And yet, here we are. Today marks the 719th blog entry on So, what gives? The blog has updated every weekday since March of 2013. Most blog entries are between 500 and 1000 words. But, I don’t see it as having written between 500,000 and 750,000 words on a project. I see it as, with a few exceptions, 719 self contained projects that happen to be stored in the same place. 

While I try to stick to a theme of team building, and leadership, I tend to take side trips to camping, or computer history, or home canning. And that brings me back to my original question. How do you, or more accurately, how do I find topics to write about. 

I draw my inspiration from everyday activities. As a writer, I try to look at events and activities from a storyteller’s perspective. There is inspiration literally in everything I see. Of course not everything that passes in front of me is going to be interesting to readers. That’s the real challenge. How to make topics interesting. I typically use two strategies. 

First, I like to connect what would otherwise be separate topics. Comparing baseball ERA, GPA and system availability helps me see that lessons learned in one area can apply to other areas. 

Second, I tell stories. People connect with personal experiences. When I spent five days to tell the story about the time I had to move my children into a barn, my brother called me.

I know how this story ends, and I can’t wait to hear how it ends.

But, as Ben Bova alluded to, the best way to be successful is to write. Nothing invites a muse like the noise of fingers on the keyboard. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

What Would You Ask Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary?

I’ll soon be interviewing Howard Tayler, the creator of Schlock Mercenary. The interview will be posted in December over the course of a week. The schedule for that week will be:

Monday: Interview with Howard Tayler, award winning cartoonist for Schlock Mercenary, co-creator of the Hugo Award winning “Writing Excuses” podcast

Tuesday: Interview with Sandra Tayler, business manager for Hypernode Press

Wednesday: Making Sausage – a photo essay of the cartoonist process from concept to print

Thursday: “Ask Howard”  Q & A from the fans

Friday: A very special surprise. More info as we get closer

I need your help for the Thursday post. What would you like me to ask Howard? There’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to ask him every question and of course, he (and I) may edit the question for content and length. 

But, here’s your chance. What do you want me to ask? Put your question in the comments. I’ll collect them and get him to address as many as I can. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 


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