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Never Forget

Flags should be up by 8:00AM on Monday.

Not Sunday?

Well, it’s observed on Monday.

But, it’s really on Sunday.

Our boys put up flags on Sunday. It was Sunday November 11th, 2018. A significant date. Some would say a monumental date. We place special emphasis on anniversaries ending in a zero: Extra emphasis on an anniversary ending in two zeros.

November 11 is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, the official end of The Great War, The War To End All Wars. It didn’t, of course. within a generation, the world was again thrown into global conflict.

But, on that day, at 11:11Am, the world was finally at peace. The War (it wouldn’t gain the distinction of “1” until years later,) cost ten million military dead. Probably three or four times that many civilian casualties. The War lasted four years, although the fighting in Turkey predated the 1914 start by another four years.

The United States joined The War late, fighting in the last 18 months of the confict. By then it had committed 1.5 million men to the fight with 2 million more training and ready to join. It tipped the balance for the Entente Powers, or Allies.

Twelve countries commemorate the signing of the Armistice. In Canada they have Rememberance Day. In the United States, it’s Veterans Day. Great Britain also has Remembrance Day. France celebrates Armistice Day, as does Belgium. New Zealand and Australia celebrate Anzac Day on April 25. It commemorates the soldiers lost at Gallipoli, and those who died in World War II. In Germany they celebrate Volkstrauertag. Italy honors it’s WWI soldiers on November 4. The Netherlands celebrate Veteranendag in June to honor their veterans. Nigeria was part of the British Commonwealth during the Great War and celebrated Rememberance Day on November 11. Sweden honors their soldiers on a day in May. Norway honors it’s soldier on Veterandagen in May.

I find myself in a sort of doughnut hole of military service. My father was a veteran, although a reluctant soldier. My brother served for years in the National Guard and Reserves. He was a “redlegs,” a captain in the artillery. My daughter is a second lieutenant in the Army. She’s in the last years of grad school studying to become a veterinarian. I spent one semester with the ROTC cadets at BYU, but chose a career in computers over a military career.

I sometimes wonder how my life would be different had I chosen differently. I’m grateful that others made the choice that I didn’t make. That they paid the sacrifices that I didn’t pay. Veterans, deserve our thanks at all times. I’m grateful we have a specific day to honor them.

As long as armed men need to stand ready to defend their homes and families we will #NeverForget.

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
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LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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Once More Into The Valley Of The Goblins

Three times I’ve tried this summer. Three times I’ve tried to go camping with the scouts. First there weren’t enough leaders. The second time there weren’t enough scouts. Today is the third try.

I didn’t need to even repack my bag since the last failed campout. (But, I did anyway, because. . .CAMPING!) We’ll head south from Pleasant Grove to a Goblin Valley state park. Goblin Valley is filled with hoodoos, strange rock formations that rise from a few feet, to dozens of feet or more from the sandy valley floor.

If you saw the movie Galaxy Quest, the scene on the planet where they get the Berillium sphere was filmed in Goblin Valley. It really looks like that. . .minus the miners, of course.

Miners, not minors, you idiot.

You lost me.

Growing up in the shadow of a rain forest and withing sight of Puget Sound, it was hard to learn to camp in the desert. But, I’m now to the point where I’m looking forward to it. I don’t think as much about rain gear and think a lot more about water: Do I have enough? How can I get more?

It’s only a single night, but I’m planning to cram an entire summer’s worth of enjoyment into 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 (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

My Son’s Football Game From The Eighth Century

Most of the courses I taught were multiple days long. The longest was a two week course. The shortest was just a couple of days. It’s important when a group of trainees will be together for several days it’s important to help them feel comfortable working together.

One of my ice breaker techiques was to ask each trainee to introduce him or herself and tell us the name of their high school mascot. I went to Timberline High School in Lacey, Washington. It’s a suburb of Olympia which some think is a suburb of Seattle. In any case, our mascot was a Blazer. He’s kind of like a lumberjack.

One interesting thing that happened every single class was that no matter the class size, at least one trainee would have attended a high school that had no mascot. Often it was someone who attended school outside of the United States. Schools in Europe and Asia typically don’t have mascots.

Today was the semi-finals for the Utah 6A high school football playoffs. My son’s team, Pleasant Grove, played against Lone Peak. They were vying for the opportunity to play American Fork who had won the earlier game. Pleasant Grove has never come this far in the playoffs. It was a great season.

I don’t have network or cable television. Yes, I’m a cord-cutter. We cut it over 10 years ago. I do have an Amazon Prime membership and it allows me to binge-watch shows. It’s a practice I’ve only recently started. I watched the first three seasons of The Man In The High Castle. I also watched the the one (and apparently only) season of Texas Rising. I’m currently watching season three of Vikings.

I enjoy period pieces and Vikings is excellent. Obviously, much of the series has to do with fighting. I was struck by the fact that my son’s school mascot is the vikings. Portions of the school are named after Norse gods and Norse mythological places. They resonate more after having watched the mini series over the past couple of weeks.

The Vikings don’t win every battle, of course. In fact, a good portion of season two saw them fighting in England. Eventually they lost, their settlement wiped out by English knights.

Today’s football game was not a close loss. My son’s team had their chances, but eventually the Vikings lost 28-0 to the Lone Peak team: the Lone Peak Knights.

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 (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Getting Them To Love What They Hate

How many of you enjoy reading network traces?. . .No one? I can promise you that by the end of this class you will not only enjoy it, you will love it.

Krista was teaching a Microsoft training class. The class focused on the low level network communication between Microsoft Exchange Server and the Outlook client.

Our students were Microsoft support engineers and third party partners. Most of the training we produced was new-to-product training. We had a two week course that covered anything and everything having to do with Microsoft Exchange. But, that course was aimed at people new to the product.

This new class was an attempt to create advanced training. Engineers, while working with customers, would often have them create network traces to attempt to diagnose issues.

A network trace can contain hundreds of packets. To the untrained eye they look like a random collection of letters and numbers. But, with the proper training, the random numbers and letters organize themselves into packets, sequences, calls and responses.

Our course was three days long. As Krista noted, students hated the topic. Most had experienced the frustration of attempting to decipher a network trace. Network traces most often were passed along to the Critical Problem Resolution (CPR) team. They were senior engieers and junior programmers.

However, most of the time, the traces were incomplete. Either they were started too late, or only captured one half of the conversation. In that case, CPR had to request a new trace.

And everyone was frustrated.

They hated network traces.

How do you get someone to love what they hate? I don’t know. I can only tell you what worked in this case.

It was education and training.

The course, was unique among our training. It was entirely performance based. We took first canned traces, prerecorded. Then, live traces, as students paired up, one on an Exchange server, the other on a computer running Outlook.

The process was similar to learning a new language. They learned the vocabulary; the meaning of each part of a packet. Then they learned the vocabularly; how the packets worked together.

It was not an instantaneous process. At first, it was simply a matter of the students watching the instructor go through the traces explaining them.

But, on the second day something magical happens. When I was first teaching the course, I noticed it just as people came back from lunch. I always scheduled labs for after lunch. No one ever fell asleep working through a lab.

As the students settled into the act of creating and reading their own traces, the room got very quiet. At first I thought perhaps they were confused. That they were still struggling to understand the content.

So, is there anything. . .

Wait!. . .I’m getting it!

It was amazing to watch a classroom of people all “get it” at the same time. The incomprehensible jumble of letters and numbers were suddenly coming into focus for them. Like a door being opened, or a light being turned on, they finally understood.

It’s why we become trainers. To help people achieve that moment.

From that point on the students really taught the class to themselves. The instructor’s role was to guide them through the self learning for the rest of class. Already working in pairs, they would design their own labs on the fly.

Let’s try public folders!

Yeah, and then let’s see what happens when we add a new user.

As the course designer, I had the chance to train occasionally, but Krista was a full time trainer. She told me about the class where she issued the challenge that the students would grow to love network traces. She had a conversation with a student at the end of the class.

On the first day, when I found out that this course was about network traces, I was planning to leave.

So, why did you stay?

You made that that challenge that we would grow to love traces. Honestly, the only reason I stayed was so that I could prove you wrong.

And?

I can’t. I never thought I’d say this, but you were right, I love to read network traces.

If it’s true we fear what we don’t understand then it makes sense that as we gain understanding our fear is replaced with love.

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 (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

The Hundred Year Old Car In My Driveway

Today, I spoke in my Toastmasters club. This is a speech I gave called, The Hundred Year Old Car In My Driveway.

Technically, it’s not 100 years old. It’s only 95 years old. Next year it will be 100 years.

And technically, it’s not a single car. It’s actually five cars.

How many of you have ever had a car break down?

Did you pay a mechanic to fix it?

I used to pay to have my cars fixed. Years ago I had a 1978 Ford F250. It was “mostly green.” I loved it, but it did occasionally break down. When I got ready to sell it, I asked my mechanic how much I should list it for?

Based on how much you’ve put into it, I say about ten or twelve thousand dollars.

However, in recent years I became “a car guy.” I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ve found I am no longer intimidated by car repairs. We were going to be there a week so I opted to drive my Suburban. Somewhere in Northern Nevada it died. Fuel pump went out. It was $1000 to replace. (In hindsight it would have been cheaper to fly.) I was relating the story to my aunt,

You should have called us. We’re great at fuel pumps.

It’s not that I didn’t believe her. But, I didn’t really believe her. It was A THOUSAND DOLLAR repair!

Two weeks ago, I replaced the fuel pump in my son’s 1992 Chrysler New Yorker. To replace the fuel pump in that car you have to siphon out the fuel and then drop the tank to access the fuel pump. Three days later the fuel pump went out in my 1994 Dodge Dakota. To replace the fuel pump in the Dakota, you don’t have to drop the tank, but you do have to remove the truck bed. Once you get the entire back of the truck removed, the access to the fuel pump is pretty easy.

Two thousand dollars worth of repairs if I’d had them done in a shop. The two repairs together cost me just under $300 in parts. In fact, my 1996 Lexus is sitting in my driveway waiting for me to replace its fuel pump.

I’ve found I enjoy my new hobby of keeping old cars running. Obviously, a major benefit is the cost savings. My dad used to say,

Everyone makes a car payment. You either pay the bank or you pay the mechanic.

I discovered there’s a third option. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you pay the auto parts store. My son’s 92 Chrysler is probably worth about $500 or $600. It’s vinyl top is in shreds. It’s been in a few accidents prior to him getting it. Last summer I replaced the power steering pump and alternator. A job that would probably cost $800 at a mechanic. More than the car is worth. I did the work for about $200 in parts.

My daughter recently was in a minor fender bender in her 2001 Honda Civic. Unfortunately it was her fault, and fortunately no one was hurt. Her car ended up with a crumbled hood, broken headlights and a mangled top radiator support. Probably $2000 to repair in a shop. Currently, it’s up on blocks in my driveway. I’ve been to the junkyard twice scavanging parts. It will probably cost $500 to fix.

And that’s the second reason I enjoy working on cars. I keep learning new things. YouTube is a wonderful tool. But, much of the diagnoses and actual work is learn as you go. The top radiator support is spot-welded to the frame. I’m learning to use a grinder to grind through the welds without damaging the frame.

But, even more than the cost savings and the opportunity to learn new things, I’ve discovered that car repairs are “my happy place.” I normally work as a Program Manager. I end up dealing with the intersection of people, computers and problems. I enjoy my job, but it’s mostly conducted via email, Skype and phone calls. I have to involve a lot of people to do my job. I enjoy it, but sometimes I enjoy the opportunity just to “putter” in my driveway with a socket wrench and an old car.

Maybe that’s why I have old cars. My son’s Chrysler is 26 years old. My Dakota is 24. My Lexus is 22. My daughter’s Honda is 17. Our “new” car is my wife’s 2012 van. Together they are 95 years old. Next year they will be 100 years old. And hopefully, I’ll finally have them all running at the same time.

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 (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

The Day I Knew I Wanted To Be A Trainer

How do the routers know which route to use when there are multiple paths?

I’m not sure.

I mean, if one route has four hops, but they are a fast connection, and another route has two hops, but they are slow, how does the router decide?

I still don’t know.

So, if . . .

LOOK! It doesn’t matter how many times you ask me that question, I STILL don’t know the answer! Now, if we can get back to lesson six, let’s talk about subnet masking.

I was attending a Microsoft training class. It was a two week “Introduction to NT Networking” class. Those of us in the class were brand new to networking. Well, all of us except one particular man. He was changing jobs. Like all of us, he was going into the support teams. But, unlike the rest of us, he was coming from the Helpdesk team.

The Helpdesk team was responsible for fixing network problems. I’m not even sure why he was in the class with us. He was well versed in network topologies and strategies. He was certainly far beyond where the rest of were at.

Unfortunately, he didn’t understand that the class was for beginners. He kept trying to drag the discussion down into the technical depths.

The instrutor’s name was Tim. He introduced himself the first day of the first class.

Welcome to Windows NT, New-to-Product training. My name is Tim and I will be your instructor for the next two weeks. One thing you should know about me, I’m from New York and people tell me that it shows.

He was not a gentle instructor. He was willing to be even harsh in the classroom. Not because it was a good teching technique, but because it was his personality.

At one point during the course, my computer broke. I teamed up with the person sitting next to me. The lectures we did independently. But, for the labs, we both worked on a single computer. It required a certain amount of talking. During one of the labs Tim leaned over the front of the monitors,

Are you done with the lab?

No.

Keep the chit-chat down until you’ve finished the lab.

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I didn’t say anything. His comments, despite my having done nothing wrong, were completely in character. He really did simply teach using his own personality.

And it was fascinating. It was intoxicating. I had been a trainer in the past, but I had never seen someone so comfortable in front of a class. And I’d never seen someone take control of a class the way Tim did.

I realized at that moment, that training, or more accurately, being a trainer, was more than delivering content. It was almost like a performance. The trainer was as important as the material. In fact, the trainer was more important. I don’t remember the content of that class I took all those years ago. But, I do remember Tim. I remember him answering questions. I remember how he took a class with 30 computers and 35 students.

I also remember that he approached me later after he’d made the comments about the lab.

Rodney, I just wanted to say I’m sorry for getting after you in class like that.

No problem.

I didn’t realize that your computer was broken and you were teaming up for the labs.

Thanks.

I finished that class and then took another two week New-to-Product course on Microsoft Mail. Later I would go on to work in the training group. I would write training materials on Microsoft Exchange, and I would travel the world delivering the content.

I can trace my desire to be a trainer to that day in Tim’s class.

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 (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Schrodinger’s Fuel Pump

Have you tried it?

No.

It looks like it’s all put back together.

It is.

So, why haven’t you tried it yet.

Schrodinger’s cat.

Erwin Schrodinger was an Austrian physicist. In 1935 he devised a thought experiment. The experiment is commonly known as the problem of Schrodinger’s cat. The experiment goes like this. There’s a box and inside the box is the famous cat and a bottle of poison. The bottle will break at some point and release the poison killing the cat.

Now, the question: Is the cat alive or dead? Schrodinger postulated that so long as the box remains unopened the cat can be assumed to be both alive and dead.

It’s an observation on the nature of quantum physics. The essense of quantum physics is the idea that a quantum particle can be both present and not present at the same time. If you attempt to observe the particle (if you open the box) then the quantum particle is either there or not, but it no longer has the unique property of being both there and not there.

What’s that have to do with my truck and my broken fuel pump? As long as I don’t actually attempt to start the truck I can consider the fuel pump both broken and fixed. It’s only when I put it to the test, when I open the box, that I will know.

When you suspect that your fuel pump has failed, there are several tests. After all, lots of things can keep your car or truck from starting. A bad fuel pump is just one of them. It could be a blown fuse, a shorted wire, a dead battery, a bad alternator.

The easiest test is to turn your ignition to the on position and listen for the fuel pump to turn on. In a car, you can typically hear it as a low hum. It’s harder to hear with a truck. The fuel pump is located inside the fuel tank. The fuel tank is located underneath the truck bed.

My friend was not as interested in the quantum nature of the repair.

So, give it a try.

I’d been dreading opening the box. I spent a long time trying to fix the cat. If I turned the key and the quantum particle was not there, I would have spent a lot of time and the cost of the new fuel pump for nothing.

And honestly, since I started doing my own repairs I’ve found I have a serious distrust of my mechanic.

My neighbor stood next to the stripped down frame of the truck near the fuel tank.

Try it now.

I turned the key to the On position and listened. I still heard nothing. However, glancing back, my neighbor gave a big thumbs up.

When you install a new fuel pump, the fuel lines are empty. You need to prime them before you can actually start the engine. After a few seconds, I turned the key back off for a second and then turned it back to the On position. After a few more seconds, I cranked the engine and it caught on the first try.

In my tortured analogy, I think that means Schrodinger got his cat back.

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 (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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