Skip to content

A Simple Insanity Test

You’re given a bucket and told to empty a pond. How do you respond? Your response shows whether you are insane or not.

I was listening to the banter between the radio DJ and the caller. While it was a country music station, the subject was money. 

So tell me, Carl, are you a financial expert?

No. I just know how to spend money. Ha ha

Because, I’m trying to decide. I have some credit cards with really high interest rates. I’m wondering if I should take my savings and pay them off?

The caller wanted nothing to do with handing out financial advice to the DJ. As I listened, I thought about that insanity test. The answer to the DJ really depended on whether or not he was insane. 

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.”

– Educator Jessie Potter 

I thought a lot about the debt question. There was a time where I was $80,000 in debt. I’d just lost my job. My house was being foreclosed on. And I had 12 kids at home. It forced me to take a hard look at myself and decide what was really important to me. I watched my hungry children not ask for seconds because they knew there wasn’t more. Winter was coming and I had nothing to heat the house with. I stared into the abyss and it was terrifying. 

I didn’t file bankruptcy, but just barely. With some help from my extended family and a lot of hard work I clawed my way back. I paid off my debt. I paid off my cars. I eventually was able to buy a house again. We restocked our pantry. And like the child that burned his hand, I had finally learned not to touch the stove.  I cut up the credit cards, the few that weren’t canceled. And vowed to never put my family in that situation again. 

So, what made the difference? What had convinced me to finally change my spending habits? I quit being insane. I quit doing what I’d always done because I no longer wanted to get what I’d always gotten. It was hard, but along the way, I learned a few things. I learned I can do hard things. I also learned this important definition of interest,

Those who don’t understand interest pay it. Those who do, earn it. 

Should the DJ use his savings to pay off his high interest credit cards? It depends. Is he insane? 

The test with the bucket and the pond goes like this.

If you take the bucket and attempt to start bailing out the pond, you are insane. If you first divert the stream feeding the pond, you are sane.

If you are insane about debt, no matter how many much money you have, no matter how often you pay down the balance, no matter how much you say you hate the high interest rates, you will continue to paying that interest. Because you are insane.

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

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

(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

A Story 71 Years In The Telling


1945 – The world was just exiting the horrors of World War Two. The Baby Boom generation was about to be born. Gas was $0.15 per gallon. And it was the last time the Chicago Cubs baseball team went to the World Series. 

They lost. 

But, then, that’s a theme with the Cubs. In fact, no team in history has made as much of a tradition out of losing as the Chicago Cubs. 

2016 – We are entering our second decade of the War on Terror, with troops in the Middle East and attacks at home and abroad. Everyone is worried about the Millenial generation entering the workforce. Gas is $2.35 per gallon. And the Chicago Cubs are headed back to the World Series. 

I came to become a baseball fan late in life. My dad used to make the drive from Olympia, WA up to Seattle to take me to games when I was a kid. Looking back, it was an odd thing for him to do. The Kingdome, despite an audacious name, was a terrible stadium. It was a dual-purpose stadium, home to both the Seattle Seahawks football team and the Seattle Mariners baseball team. Neither one of which was very good in the early 1980s. The stadium wasn’t very good either, especially for baseball. The sight lines were terrible. Some seats had no view of the right fielder, even when he wasn’t trying to dig a double out of the corner. My dad was both afraid of heights and claustrophobic. The Kingdome, ironically made him feel both at the same time. But, he wanted to attend baseball games with his son.

Later, I moved to Chicago for a couple of years. I lived not too far from Comisky Park, the home of the South-side Chicago White Sox, although I never attended a game. I did go to a Cubs game and when they made their run in 1984, I was one of those who suddenly discovered a love of this ancient game. . .They lost in 1984, and I went back to ignoring baseball. 

It wasn’t until I moved back to Seattle in the 1990s that I really caught baseball fever. Those were the glory years for Mariners fans. Griffey, the only Mariners player in the Hall of Fame was hitting home runs out of a beautiful brand-new Safeco Field. Alex Rodriguez, was a hot young shortstop, as opposed to the jerk he became later in his career. Joey, Jay, Randy, Dan-the-man. Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus was yelling for Grandma to get out the rye bread and mustard because it was “grand salami” time! I fell in love with this game and I fell hard. 

I’m one of those annoying fans who loves to talk about the game and the game around the game. For example, I can tell you that the 2001 Seattle Mariners hold the American League record for the most wins in a season at 116. That is the exact same number of wins as the National League champions hold. However, the National League record was set in 1906 when the season was 152 games long. Today’s season is 162 games long. So, you could say the NL record is actually a more impressive record than the Mariners’ mark. I could also tell you that neither the 2001 Seattle Mariners, nor the 1906 champions won the World Series that year. 

The 1906 team that holds the tie-record for most wins in a season and holds the record for highest winning percentage in a season at .763 but didn’t win the World Series? The Chicago Cubs. 

Saturday night, the Cubs, playing in Wrigley Field, the oldest stadium in baseball, at 102 years old, beat the Los Angles Dodgers. The last time the Cubs went to the Series, the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn. The Cubs will play the Cleveland Indians in the best of seven, Fall Classic this year. The Indians have their own run of bad luck they are trying to break. They haven’t won a World Series since 1948. But, while the Cubs haven’t been to the Championship series since 1945, you have to go all the way back to 1908 to find the last time the Cubs were World Champs. 

Any team can have a bad century.

– Famous Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse

There is lots of history that goes into any baseball game. Every time two teams take the field you might see something you’ve never seen before. Records seem to be made up on the spot.

This is baseball. We count everything.

– Kevin Costner in “For Love Of The Game”

So, Tuesday night, history will be made in Cleveland, as two teams who haven’t won a championship in a combined 166 years, line up to play a boy’s game. I’ll be glued to my 21st Century version of the old transistor radio; streaming the game online. 

I’m rooting for the Cubs, but as a Mariners fan, I should point out that since the team’s founding in 1977, the Mariners have never attended the World Series. So, while the Cubs and Indians haven’t won in decades, the Mariners haven’t even ever been. 

There’s always next year. 

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

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

(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

…And More Pictures Of Southern Utah (Dang Canyon)

The thing about going up, is that you have to then go down. Yesterday I showed you some pictures of our trip up Ding Canyon outside of Goblin Valley State Park in Southern Utah. What goes up has to come down and we went up Ding and came down Dang. Here are a few more pictures of pretty mountains and canyons and stuff.

Three of my sons went on this hike.

This is a Juniper tree. It kills off parts of itself during drought years. 

With so little vegitation, it’s easy to see the different layers in the rock. This “white” structure is sitting on a bed of “red” rock.

As we headed into Ding, we walked along this “road.” It’s actually a dry streambed. 

I’m pretty sure that’s stable.

This hole was our first big obstacle in Ding. There is normally a rope to repel down. The rope was gone so several of our boys searched until they found a way to climb down the crock face. 

The second big obstacle was this section of canyon. You could wade through the pea soup water. . .

Or attempt to “walk it” bruising your back against one wall while bracing your feet against the other.  The line from Emperor’s New Groove got said more than once. 

Good think you’re not a big fat guy, or this would be really difficult.

After crawling across the water feature, the was the final section of canyon. The base was just wide enough for a single foot. The walls were so close that at one point I thought, 

If I “fall” while walking through here,  I’m not sure I would know. . .or move.

We do this hike every October on the weekend of the full moon. 

A while year for the bruises on my back to clear up. 

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

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

(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Some Nice Pictures Of Southern Utah’s Ding Canyon

Last weekend we took the scouts to Southern Utah, Goblin Valley state park. Just outside the park are a pair of canyons, Ding and Dang. We went up Ding and tomorrow, I’ll share some pictures of coming down Dang. 

The terrain was mild to aggressive. It started off pretty easy. 

The  Cliffs of Insanity.. . .sort. Of.

We could have walked through the water, but we weren’t sure if we might end up walking on the water. Pretty full of dirt and rocks.

We saw plenty of evidence of previous rains. The temperature was mild: mid-70s.

The scenery is beautifully brutal. 

My Indiana Jones stance.

That tiny shadow in the lower right corner is me up on the opposite canyon wall.

Lunch was spent in the remains of a giant ant colony. 

Finally, a picture of water because in the desert, water is life.

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

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

(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Are You Claustrophobic? (and I can’t feel my face)

I laughed at the question. 

No. No, I’m not claustrophobic. 

But, they kept asking. I answered the same way every time, but it was starting to make me wonder. Good thing I wasn’t afraid of small places. 

My arm hurts. Not all the time, but often enough when I turn a particular way, or when I try to move it to a certain position (like the position I need it in to use my mouse and keyboard.) A slight shift of position and a conscious effort to turn my head left generally relieves the pain. A few times I have forced it to stay — just. . .need. . .to. . .finish. . .this. . .sen. . .ten. . .ce. . In those cases, it hurts. . .a lot. 

I worried about my trip to Southern Utah last weekend. Climbing like this means you CANNOT move your arm. Not unless you want to take a swim. 

The doctor’s initial diagnoses was not my shoulder, but a problem with my neck. (Sadly, she didn’t use the phrase it was a pain-in-the-neck.) She scheduled me for an MRI to be sure. One of the side effects of the new healthcare law is that at the end of the year, if you have a big family, you have typically met your “out of pocket” maximum. So, $1000 medical procedure? Sure, let’s do it. 

The test was scheduled for yesterday. 

I’ve also gotten out of the habit of going to the dentist. Not because I’m afraid of small places. . .I mean, not because I’m afraid of the dentist. I just got off track. And no, I’m not claustrophobic. I had a dentist appointment scheduled for yesterday as well. The MRI was first thing in the morning and the dentist was after I got off work in the evening. 

As I checked in for my appointment at the hospital, they had me answer a series of questions.

  • Do you have any metal in your body? 
  • Are you claustrophobic?
  • Have you ever had an MRI done in the past? 
  • Do small spaces make you uncomfortable?
  • Do you have a living will?

Wait, what? 

It’s just routine. We need to ask. Oh and any issues with claustrophobia?

You’ve probably seen pictures of an MRI machine. They lay you on a table and slide you inside a big machine that will take a 3D picture of your spine, or whatever part they need to look at. My lovely wife had done the procedure in the past.

Just close your eyes so you don’t have to look at the tube that is about 4 inches above your face.

Right. Like I need help to get through this. The snow caves we built last winter were pretty small. The ceiling was a few inches above my face an I did just fine. No problem. 

The technician had some final instructions. 

Here are some earplugs. It can get pretty loud in there. And if you need anything just talk normally. I can hear what you are saying even from the control room. You’re okay with small spaces?

I laid on the table and placed my head between two pieces of plastic designed to keep it perfectly straight. Next, he placed a plastic guard over my face. I closed my eyes and tried not to think about it. Intentionally, I hadn’t looked at the tiny hole that they were going to feed me into like sliding a pizza into an oven.

Just relax. It’s just like a snow cave. Keep your eyes closed. You won’t even know when you are in there.

The table jerked slightly as it started to roll in.


Just like the snowcave.

Won’t even know when I’m in

The ambient light through my eyelids abruptly turned black. 


That’s totally fine. Should have expected it. 

Eyes closed. 

Won’t even . . 

My elbows brushed against the sides of the tube as my upper body made it’s way in. 

My elbows? They were tucked in pretty close.

It’s even smaller than I thought. 

Brea. . .I just need need one good deep brea. . .

Okay. Calm down. This is silly. 

Snow cave



Don’t open your eyes

Don’t try to move your arms



One deep breath

Head is locked in place




You’re fine

Don’t panic

“Hey, um. . .Could you pull me back out just a minute?”

Tick, tock, tick, tock He can hear me. Patience. Wait. It’s only a second

“Sure, I’ll be right there.”


The technician removed the plastic faceguard and I sat up and drank in the oxygen that was so much thinner inside the machine. 

I’m not claustrophobic, but what do you typically do for people who are?

Well, we can put a washcloth over your face so that you can’t see the inside of the tube. That often helps. Or, we can cancel today and you can get a prescription for valium from your doctor and then come back. You typically need someone to drive you because you’ll be pretty hammered. Or, there’s a place not too far from here that has a machine like this but half of it is cut away. It’s designed for obese patients, but some people are more comfortable with that. Do we need to reschedule this?

No. I’m fine. I just need to know, if I had to, could I climb out of that machine? 

Sure. I do the same thing. Once I know I can get out, I’m okay with it. The machine is open on both ends. If you needed to you could crawl out the other end. 

Okay. I think I’m ready. 

Do you want the washcloth over your face?

No thanks. I’m fine. 

Here, hold this sensor just in case. If for some reason I can’t hear you, squeeze this ball and it will shut down the machine.

What, what? Can’t hear me? 

I laid back down and the technician readjusted the face mask. I held the panic trigger in my hand althought I knew I wouldn’t need it. I remembered to tuck my elbows in tight. The movement of the bed was expected. And because it was expected, It wasn’t scary. I started the relaxation breathing that I’d practiced from the time I was a teenager to get through the pain and discomfort of  procedures around treating Crohn’s disease.  The rattling of the machine had a certain techno-punk beat to it that was not all together unpleasant. 

Just knowing that I had an escape route reassured me that I didn’t need one. 

Later, as I laid back in the dentist chair, I thought again about escape routes. The “tiny prick” of the mammoth needle putting in the Novacane that makes your face feel like it’s sliding down the side of your skull. The “mouthguard” that locks your jaw at a 180 degree angle and forces you to swallow in tiny gurgles. Maybe it was the familiarity. Maybe it was knowing that the dentist was right there to stop if I needed him to. Maybe it was the fact that I asked for this procedure. Maybe it was the realization that I cannot always be in control. 

I’m now less certain of my answer to “Are you claustrophobic?” Oh, and I still cannot feel my face. 

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

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

(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Layoffs And Junipers

Last weekend I was hiking in Utah’s backcountry. The backcountry in Utah, especially southern Utah is marked by sand, sagebrush, rocks, blue skies, more rocks, and hardy trees. (Okay, maybe the blue skies are not necessarily specific to the backcountry, but you couldn’t tell from the pictures.)

This is a Juniper tree. And by the look of it, a healthy one. You might think, just to look at it, that’s it’s sick or dying. After all, there’s a lot of dead wood hanging off that tree. We’re into the fall here in Utah. Plants in my garden are nearly all dead, their dry stalks will serve one more purpose as Halloween decorations before getting tilled back into the ground. 

But, Junipers are different. Dead branches are not a sign of the death of the tree. They are actually a healthy sign of progress. 

Two weeks ago, my supervisor at work made a startling announcement. Some of the departments had done layoffs. My team wasn’t impacted, and eve the dapartments that were might have trimmed one or two positions. It’s what is sometimes referred to in business as a haircut. Just a small cutback. 

The idea is that by cutting back a little now, we can keep the company healthy going forward. These haircuts can be a vital part of a successful company strategy. And they are a lot like the Juniper trees.

Junipers are adapted to a desert climate where water, the lifeblood of all living things is scarce and inconsistent. Junipers have adapted to the desert. In times of drought, the tree will stop sending water to certain limbs. Essentially killing part of the plant to let the rest of it survive. The dead limbs look to the casual observer like a sign of death or disease. In fact, they are evidence that the tree is actively working to survive. The green part is stronger because it was willing to sacrifice some of the rest of it. 

Companies do layoffs for the same reason. Fortunately with layoffs, teh employees who are let go can move on to other opportunities. But, still, it was an interesting business lesson as I hiked the high desert of Southern Utah last weekend.

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

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

(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

I’m Going This Way Not Because I Think It’s Correct…But Because There Is Someone To Blame If It’s Wrong

The canyon floor was littered with house sized boulders. The canyon walls, no longer perfectly straight, were a jumble of broken rock and narrow ledges. The ledges were deceptively inviting. They started at the floor of the canyon and gradually sloped upwards containing a broken collection of shale, sandstone and granite. I say deceptive, because occasionally, after winding their way for 100-150 feet along the canyon wall, they simple disappeared. Sucked back into the walls to leave the adventurer with no choice but to backtrack down and look for another way.

We were hiking a canyon named Ding outside of Goblin Valley, a state park in Southern Utah. It was a beautiful fall day with the temperature in the mid 70’s and an occasional cool breeze blowing down the canyon. We make this trip with the boys from our church group every year on the weekend of the full moon. The previous night was all about playing capture the flag among the rock formations called Hoodoos in the valley of the Goblins. Today was a five mile hike, up Ding canyon and back down a sister canyon named Dang. 

This was my third year on this campout, but the first time I’d made the hike up Ding and Dang. We had 18 boys and six leaders. Many of whom were experienced with the hike. However, even with experience, choosing a route through a canyon, especially one as cluttered as Ding or Dang, is not a straightforward process. 

As we approached one set of boulders nearly choking the floor of the canyon, we had a decision to make. As one of the slowest hikers, I could see in front of me that people had gone to the left to find a route above the blockage. Some of the boys could be seen scrambling over and around the rocks in front of us, and two of the more adventurous leaders had taken the route up the right-hand canyon wall. Greg, one of the other leaders, was paused, considering which path to take. 

What do you think, Rodney? Looks like some of those boys are coming back from the middle section. Might be blocked. 

I’m going to the right.

You think there’s a way around going that way?

I’m not going this way because I think it’s right. I just figure we can blame those other guys if it’s wrong.

The business version of this statement is 

No one ever got fired for buying IBM.

Before the explosion of the Personal Computers starting in the 1980s, business computers were ruled by “big iron.” And no one was bigger, or ironier than IBM. IBM was the computer company. If you were going to buy computer equipment, you did have other choices, but IBM was far and away the biggest company in the field. Buying someone else (UNIVAC, NCR, Honeywell) was a risk. Buying from IBM was safe. It was safe for a couple of reasons. 

First, IBM was a good computer company. Their products were typically well built and they had a good reputation for service and support. If you needed something done on a computer, IBM could probably get it down for you. 

Second, all of your competitors were buying IBM. That meant that you were going to have the same positives and negatives that your competition had. Computing ability was not going to be a distinguishing factor in the success or failure of your business. As a CEO, you might want to look to your IT department for a strategic advantage. As an IT manager, you were DELIGHTED to standardize on a known safe platform. 

It meant that you could more easily find people to hire with the skill set you wanted. It meant that there were hundreds, or thousands of other companies that were (hopefully) going to find the bugs in the equipment and software before you. It also mean that if something went wrong, you were not the one on the hook for the problem. You could easily justify to your bosses why you bought IBM. 

IBM is not the #1 computer company anymore, of course. In the 1990’s the safe bet was Microsoft and Intel based personal computers. Today the move is to cloud-based computing. It’s not wrong to pick the path that has been marked by those who’ve gone before. IBM was a good bet because it was good company. Windows and Intel PCs were a low cost option that allowed companies to quickly expand. You do not always have to be the pioneer. 

As we made our way through the canyon last weekend, we eventually found ourselves looking down on the boys making their way through the maze of boulders and scrambling along the opposite wall. 

We shouted directions to a route we could see for them. One of the leaders shouted directions to a route down that we, given our vantage point, couldn’t see. In the end, we helped them and they helped us. That’s often how communication works in IT. 

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

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

(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

%d bloggers like this: