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The Million Dollar T-Shirt

It was a fairly typical scene. Fans clammering for free t-shirts, as booth workers tossed them out as fast as they could pull them out of the stack of boxes.

We were at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. The home of the Seattle Mariners. But, we weren’t there for a baseball game. In fact, the number of people in the stadium that day was well below the 47,943 capacity. It was closer to 6,000.

I was there for a Microsoft company meeting. Microsoft held company meetings once per year. It was a a full day event. We had speakers and new product demos, as well as plenty of food and occasional alcoholic beverages. We also had plenty of SWAG handed out.

The t-shirts were pretty simple. They were white with a stylized American flag with computer monitors in the field of stars. Microsoft was locked into a battle with the Justice department.

The year was 1999. Microsoft was the big dog of the technology world. Google was still not even the biggest search engine, let alone the biggest IT company.

I was a technology guy, not really a business guy and certainly not a legal guy. Microsoft hadn’t really lost a battle in their history. They had knocked off the biggest companies in the history of IT. They beat IBM, although they didn’t kill it. They beat Novell, the leading network company. They beat WordPerfect, the leading word processor software company. They beat Borland, a leading programming language company. They beat Apple and then gave them $100M to not die. Microsoft was riding a pretty big winning streak.

And that made them arrogant. Steve Ballmer famously said, “We could put a ham sandwich in Windows if we wanted to.”

Eventually, Microsoft would lose to the Justice department. And eventually they would lose to Google and ultimately Apple.

But, in 1999, we were on top of the world. We were kings of the IT world. The Microsoft stock price was making many of us millionaries. And yet, we were still just a bunch of IT geeks clamoring for a free t-shirt.

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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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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My Greatest Mistake (At Least That I Remember)

It was a casual conversation. Back before I knew that there are no casaul conversations in business. We were reorganizing our teams. I would no longer be manager of my team. A team that had been disfunctional when I inherited it, that was now among the top performing teams in the unit.

I was talking with my coworker, one of the other senior managers and I mentioned that I had shared with my team the fact that I would no longer be their manager.

The problem was the announcement hadn’t been shared with the rest of the unit yet. I knew my team would not talk to anyone. I was right. But, I was also wrong.

It was a mistake to tell them. I had the best of intentions, but the responsibility of leadership is sometimes lonely. I also put my coworker into a tough spot: either report me, or “go along to get along.”

I’d like to say I was young, but I was old enough to know better. Like I said, it was a mistake. It cost me a promotion and moved me off the career track. I deserved it. The consequences, I mean.

But, a mistake can be a learning opportunity too. In fact, if you don’t learn from it, you are likely to continuing making the same mistakes over and over.

I had a conversation recently with my counterpart at our client. Our client has multiple suppliers, of which we are one. Likewise we have multiple clients. Mine is one, of course. During my conversation the question came up about other clients we might have with a similar infrastructure.

I didn’t think back to the casaul conversation I had so many years ago. I didn’t need to. The lessons I’d learned over a lifetime of business came easily.

I can, of course, tell you that we have other clients with similar architectures. But, you must understand that I can’t share any details of who they are, or how their networks are set up.

I understand.

We may be able to get you in contact with them under NDA. The request would need to go through Account Management.

That’s fine. I just thought I’d ask.

Realize that not telling you about our clients means that I’m not telling them about you either.

It’s a lesson I wish I would have learned much earlier in my career.

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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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

But Are There Any Jewish Pirates?

My friend announced that he was not eating or drinking today. I didn’t think much of it. Maybe a medical test coming up?

My religious ignorance normally isn’t this bad. Today, September 19 was Yom Kippur. I guess it started yesterday on the 18th and finishes up today. It’s the holiest day of the year in Judaism, also known as the Day of Atonement.

I admire my friend (whom I didn’t know was Jewish) for his devotion to his faith. I’m not sure of the proper salutation for Yom Kippur, if there even is one. But, whatever the proper greetings, I hope all my Jewish friends had a meaningful Yom Kippur.

I didn’t know today was one of the most holy days in Judaism, but I did know the slightly more irreverant holiday associated with September 19. It’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day. (It’s a thing, you can look it up.)

It was started by a couple of guys who came up with the idea on June 6, 1995. They realized that there was no way they could make June 6th (the anniversary of D-day) somethings so irrelevant. They picked September 19 because it was co-founder Mark Summers’ ex-wife’s birthday.

So, whether you were fasting today, or whether you greeted your confused office mates with “Ahoy, m’hardies!” happy September 19th.

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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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

I Cursed My Favorite Team

Today is September 18. There are 12 days left in the Major League Baseeball Season. The Mariners, my favorite team, have 11 games left. They don’t play on the 20th, but other than that, they play every day for the rest of the season.

There’s a saying that unless you are thhe champion, your season ends with a loss. I’m not sure who says it, but I’ve heard it said.

It’s not true.

In fact, the Mariners will have a winning season this year. A Major League Baseball season has 162 games. (Yes, it’s as long as you always felt it was.) The Mariners have 83 wins and 68 losses. If they lose the rest of their games, the worst they will finish is 83 – 79. More likely they will finish somewhere around 89 – 73. They might even win their final game on September 30 against the Texas Rangers. But, unless something drastic happens, they will miss the playoffs.

They are currently seven and a half games out of the second Wildcard spot. And Tampa Bay is a game and a half in front of them.

It’s tempting to say that the Mariners season is a disappointment. After all, it’s been 17 years since the last time the Seattle Mariners made it to the playoffs. And they have never been to the World Series. The odds of them making it this year are not looking good.

The Mariners last went to the playoffs in 2001. That was the same year they set a record by winning 116 games. I was living in Seattle at the time. I told my friends that I would rather the Mariners set the single season wins record than win the World Series. My reasoning was that the single season wins record lasts for decades, the World Series champion changes every year.

I’m afraid I may have jinxed them. I’m sorry.

So, 2018 will be another fruitless season, but I’m not disappointed. I’ve listened to nearly every game. I’ve had a chance to watch a few of them online. The reason I’m not disappointed, is that we are less than two weeks away from the end of the season and the Mariners games still matter. While they odds are long, the fact is that the Mariners are playing meaningful games in September. That doesn’t happen every year.

So, I’ve felt guilty for 17 years about cursing my team, I am excited to still be caring about baseball games at the end of the season.

The end

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

Free Shouldn’t Take This Much Work

I’m sure glad I married you.

Really? Why is that?

Because you think this is important.

It’s fall, my favorite time of year. Baseball playoffs are starting soon. Football season is starting. The days are getting cooler. The leaves are starting to turn. And it’s canning season.

I never thought I’d be one of those people who not only can their own fruit, but look forward to it.

Correction: I don’t can my own fruit. I can other people’s fruit that they give to me. But, I do look forward to it.

This weekened was all about grapes and apples. My daughter’s mother-in-law has grapes that she let us go and pick for free. We made 49 quarts of grape juice. The term is “put up” 49 quarts. That’s over 12 gallons of grape juice.

My neighbor gave us free apples. We put up 43 quarts of applesauce and 17 quarts of apple juice.

And the only cost for 25 gallons of preserved fruit was 109 canning lids. Sort of.

There’s two types of free. Free like a lunch and free like a puppy. Free fruit is more like a puppy than a lunch. Grape juice is incredibly easy to make. You take a bunch of grapes, put them in the top of a juicer. Fill the bottom with water and let it steam for an hour. Then, you draw off the juice, throw out the dregs and put the juice into jars. The jars need to be in a steam canner for 14 minutes. You get about a gallon from a single batch through the juicer. So, when you include the canning time, it works about to about 90 minutes per gallon. I made 12 gallons this weekend. And that’s not even counting the time needed to pick them.

Sure, it was free. And so was my Saturday before we got the grapes.

Applesauce is also really easy. You wash the apples. Then, you cut them up. Next you boil them for about an hour. Next you send them through a food strainer. It helps to run them through multiple times, like five or six. Next, put them into jars and process them for 25 minutes. I never worked out my rate of gallons per hour, but it’s probably about the same as grapes.

Next February when we are pulling out concord grape juice for my daughter’s birthday I’ll appreciate the work we put in this weekened. But, for now, I’m just trying to get through them while keeping up on everything else.

Oh, and my aunt called. She’s also got a bunch of grapes for us. Probably will make about 13-14 gallons worth. She said, “Come get them. They’re free.”

And it’s a good thing too. They’re expensive at that price.

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)
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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

Learning To Love My Umbrella

I grew up in Western Washington. You can think of it as growing up in Seattle. Although if you are from Seattle, I will tell you that I actually grew up in Olympia. If you are from Olympia, I’ll explain that it was really the suburb of Lacey. Unless you know how to pronounce “Puget Sound,” you’ve probably never heard of Lacey. (It’s pew-jet, not PUG-et.)

I lived most of my life in Washington before moving to Utah. And in all that time, I cannot tell you if I ever owned an umbrella. I can tell you that I don’t remember ever using one. Not once. Ironically, Seattle’s city festival is called Bumbershoot. That’s another name for an umbrella. But, it wasn’t just me, no one owned umbrellas. You know what they did own? Lots of sunglasses. Weird I know.

I own an umbrella. I own several in fact. I’ve become a fan. Again, ironically, Utah is a desert. t doesn’t rain much. In fact, I don’t typically worry about umbrellas when it rains. Instead, I use an umbrella to block sunshine.

I guess you could say that they are actually parasals. Whatever you call them, They are now an important part of my weekly activities. I quit worrying about getting a tan years ago. Living in Utah, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors, it’s almost impossible to not get a tan.

On all of our hiking and camping trips, I wear a lightweight long sleeve shirt and lightweight long pants. Oh, and a hat. And then I avoid standing too long in the sun.

I didn’t worry about an umbrella.

But, then my son started playing football. He’s in 10th grade. The Varsity play under the lights on Friday nights. The sophomores play Thursday afternoon at 4:00pm. The home side of the aluminum bleachers faces West. . .right into the face of the angry Utah afternoon sun. No amount of lightweight clothing and hats was enough to protect me from the relentless sun and the heat reflecting off the bleachers.

Pleasant Grove is a 6A high school. Our bleachers are built for a student body in the thousands. Not many fans attend the sophomore games. Mostly just parents. It’s a good thing too. We all have those soft seats you buy at Costco. And we all have umbrellas. Some small, but most are huge. Our friend’s bring the umbrella from their patio furniture. You have to be strategic in not blocking others’ view and making sure your view isn’t blocked.

We’ve been to three games so far. The weather has been brutally hot for each one. Fall is coming to Utah. It’s possible that we might even get some rain on a Thursday afternoon before the end of the season.

I might actually get to use my umbrella for rain. They can be used for that, right?

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 Most Important Business Lesson I Ever Learned

I hate changing jobs. Oh, I don’t mind getting a new job. I actually enjoy interviewing. The part I struggle with is actually applying, picking a job and saying, “Yeah, I could. . .I should have that job.”

It’s not that I lack confidence either. I’m comfortable in as in individual contributor, or as a second level manager. It’s simply the visualisation of myself in a new position, a new role.

My first real position was a support operator for WordPerfect corporation in Orem Utah. When I started in IT in the late 80s, it was enough if you could touch type. I excelled at support. It was a job I could do well. I had more than a little experience with computers already. And I was good with people.

I quickly moved up in the support organization. But few people make support a career, and I was no different. Eventually, I started looking outside of the support organization for a new position.

I had a good friend who was a WordPerfect Sales Rep in Washington DC. He recommended me for a position on the sales team. I had been travelling as an escalation engineer. I would work with the sales team setting up and later troubleshooting WordPerfect email installations.

My friend Jim knew I was good in front of clients. I wasn’t easily rattled. I obviously had a great handle on the technology. In other words, I was a great fit for the position.

I didn’t get it.

Jim was part of the interview process. Although he had to remain objective. I interviewed poorly. I was tentative. I was everything I later worked to overcome.

Jim and I talked about it afterward. And it was then that he gave me this piece of advice,

If you really are the best person for the job, it’s not arrogant to admit it. In fact, you owe it to your employer to put yourself out there and push for the position.

I had been overly deferential. In an effort to not be boastful, I’d gone too far to the other side and downplayed my accomplishments. Jim knew the work I’d done, but I hadn’t adequetly explained it during the intview process.

It’s a fine line between modesty and bragging. But, if you are the best choice for the job, don’t be afraid to let people know. If you don’t, no one else will.

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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