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This Was The Real Reason I Wanted An Office

It was one of the few perks of senority at Microsoft. Whoever had been at the company the longest on a team was the first to get new hardware. The next most senior got their hand-me-down. And so it went until the newest guy turned his old equipment into the recyling teams. But, honestly Microsoft updated hardware so often, it wasn’t a big deal.

The real perk for being the most tenured employee on the team was that you got your pick of office spaces. My friend CK once joined a team that was mostly new employees. When the team moved buildings, CK got the big corner office. His boss got the smaller one next door.

Personally, I’ve never worried too much about offices. I figure that if I have a desk and a phone, I don’t need more than that. So, it was with mixed indifference that I recently made the switch from a cubicle on the North side of our building to an office on the South side.

Offices have some advantages, don’t get me wrong. You have actual walls that you can hang stuff on. You have a door that presumably closes. You also have more room to bring stuff in. I call it “office art.”

And that’s the part that I appreciated the most. Office Art has two purposes: public and private.

Publically, people will see what you choose to put in your office. Some people will post awards. I have a framed copy of a book I wrote. It hangs in my home office. I also have a slew of Ship It awards from a career in the software business. So far the only real public Office Art I’ve put up besides a couple of trophies from company events, are a series of books.

  • The Art Of The Deal
  • The Art of War
  • The 70 Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries
  • The Prince

Those particular books were chosen specifically. I have a library of a couple dozen business books. These four send a message just by being on the shelf.

I’ve indulged more with private Office Art than I have with public art. I have some sports memorabilia.

  • Football autographed by former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhal
  • Three mini-bats, one with my company name, one with the Mariners logo and one that I received at the Louisville Slugger museum
  • A mini football helmet autographed by my brother’s friend Ronnie Lott
  • A basketball bobblehead autographed by my former neighbor Desmond Mason

I have the requisite pictures of my family, and a mini-fridge. But, frankly, I had all that stuff in my cubicle. But, there was something that wouldn’t fit in my cubicle. It’s definitely a private piece of Office Art. It fits nicely behind my door.

I don’t much care if I have an office or not, but if I do, I’m going to be office mates with baseball hall of famer, Ken Griffey Jr. He didn’t fit in the cubicle.

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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Pray For Mexico

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Of Pirates, Dates And Mercenaries

Today, September 19, is a holiday. You won’t find it on your office calendar. Outlook isn’t going to pop up a reminder for you, but it’s been a holiday for the past 20 years. Today is International Talk Like A Pirate day. The holiday is the brainchild of John Baur and Mark Summers. The holiday is evidence of two important facts.

FACT 1: Geeks have a sense of humor — you just don’t understand it. Make no mistake, International Talk Like A Pirate Day is a holiday almost universally embraced by geeks. Ask the Marketing Manager if she’s ever hear of Talk Like A Pirate day and you’re likely to get a blank stare. Ask the IT guy fixing your PC and he’s likely to respond with an

Arggg, me hardies!

FACT 2: Anyone can create a holiday. Summers and Baur invented the holiday because of a raquetball ball injury. On June 6, 1995 our two heroes were playing raquetball and one of them was injured and yelled “Aaarrr!” And just like that an idea for a holiday was born. If you are going to invent a holiday you get to pick the date. June 6 already had a pretty important holiday (Allies invaded France during WWII in an event known as D-Day.) So, Summers picked September 19. Why that day? It happened to be the birthday of his wife. . .sorry EX-wife. That explains a lot.

Today is also the start of the Kickstarter campaign for Random Access Memorabilia. This might not seem like it has anything to do with Talking Like A Pirate. However, Random Access memorabilia is book 13 in the wildly popular web comic series Schlock Mercenary written by Howard Tayler.

Schlock Mercenary is the story of a group of Space Mercenaries called Tagon’s Toughs set in the far future. In the words of the author they “Travel the galaxy. Meet exciting new life forms. And kill them.” But, it’s all done in a family friendly way. And it’s funny. The Toughs are not pirates. They are mercenaries. Mercenaries get paid to hurt people and break things. Pirates do it for free.

Schlock Mercenary is written by my friend Howard Tayler. Howard and I have been friends for literally decades. I envy him since he was able to successfully break away from the IT world and pursue his passion of drawing a daily comic and giving it away for free on the internet. It’s a strange business model, but he makes it work. And the new kickstarter program is how he makes it work.

Also today this happened.

That’s a copy of Howard’s in-world book The Seventy Maxims Of Maximally Effective Mercenaries (Defaced edition.) Just because Howard is my friend, doesn’t mean that I don’t give him money. I’m a friend first, but I’m also a fan. His previous kickstarter campaign included this book as one of the rewards. I’ll be reviewing the book later this Fall, but the funny thing is that I had almost forgotten that this was coming. I backed the campaign last year, but since Howard lives about 10 miles from me, when the book came out, I simply went to his house and said, “Hey, can I buy a couple of copies?”

The 70 Maxims are rules for mercenaries (and undoubtably pirates too.) Things like

1. Pillage, then burn
37. There is no ‘overkill.’ there is only ‘open fire’ and ‘I need to reload’
46. Don’t try to save money by conserving ammunition

September 19 is turning into a pretty memorable day. So, get your geek flag on. Order a copy of the latest adventures of everyone’s favorite green amorph (that’s Schlock) and read your copy of how to be an effective mercenary in your best pirate voice. Of course, I always thought the catchphrase for International Talk Like A Pirate Day should have been “Yes, of course, this is a licensed copy of Windows!”

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Some Of My Best Friends Are. . .

This is not a post about race. Although, my best friend is black. We’ve been friends for nearly 20 years. He won’t read this. Despite being an IT professional with an impressive resume, including a decade at Microsoft where we met, he doesn’t have an online presence. No Facebook. No Twitter. He barely has email.

But, this post isn’t about him. The people this post is about are online.

I have a houseful of teenagers. They are fearless. They are indestructable and they are way smarter than you and me. At least they are if you ask them. I was talking with a friend about my home security system. I have a hardware based firewall system and a software based filter.

It’s not designed to stop my kids from getting to inappropriate content. Oh, I suppose I could continue to play whack-a-mole with their devices and the proxy servers they use to bypass my filters. It’s not worth it. They have cell phones with a data plan. There are numerous locations within a mile of my house that have “free” wifi.

No, my job is to help the kids who want to avoid the inappropriate content. If they don’t want to see sexual content, it’s not going to be randomly jumping into their browser while they are doing research for a school report. My kids still get frustrated with the limits. For example I block Snapchat. Most of them have, or at least had, Snapchat accounts.

Why won’t you unblock Snapchat?

Snapchat is one of the top ten revenue sites for porn.

But, WE won’t use it that way.

I would hope not! I’m not filtering to stop you from sharing. I’m blocking the other people.

They think that is a stupid idea. I’m guessing they will eventually figure out the reason. Hopefully it will be before someone takes advantage of them. Teaching them to navigate the internet successfully is an important skill. It’s like teaching your kids to swim. If you are around water, that could literally be a life saving skill for them to have.

Because not everyone on the internet is a bad guy, or girl. Figuring out who is genuine and who is fake is incredibly hard. Over the course of my career, I watched the internet grow. I was an expert on many aspects of the internet. I can’t say that I always figured it out. But, I do know that I have a couple of friends whom are the payoff for being willing to search through the online swamp.

David

David and I have been friends for at least five years. It might be as long as ten, but when you don’t physically ever meet someone, it’s hard to judge. We have very little in common. We met in a political discussion group. He’s very liberal. I’m very conservative. We’ve, at times, completely been disgusted with one another for some political post. Fortunately, neither one of us feels like politics is a good enough reason to abandon a friend.

We’ve both left the group where we met. We still talk politics, but we are just as likely to discuss theater (he’s an award winning playright) or geography. He’s travelled from his home in Illinois to Utah and this week he is retracing some of the trails through Southern Utah that we take our scouts on. Schedules won’t let me make the 4 hour trip to meet up with him in Cedar City, UT. But, he’s posted numerous pictures that I’ve been able to comment on. (Who knew that being able to identify Scrub Oak and Bristlecone Pine would be so useful.)

David and I may never meet. And yet, I grieved with him as his beloved wife succumbed to a long battle with cancer. He’s expressed similar kind thoughts as my granddaughter struggled for life shortly after birth. He is certainly a friend and I would count him a close friend.

Margit

I’ve known Margit for over 20 years. We’ve met exactly twice. Once when my family stopped to see her perform in a Renaissance Faire during a family vacation to California and then years later when I flew down to attend her wedding. But, our most memorable interactions have been online. We met in a writing forum dedicated to the writing of Orson Scott Card. The writing group eventually folded, but we remained friends. We reconnected on Facebook. I’ve continued the writing in ways she hasn’t, but recently she posted a story that she’d written that the kids at school where she’s a librarian asked her to share.

We’ll probably never see each other again. And I hope we remain friends for many years.

Mark

Unlike David and Margit, I have met Mark in real life. He is literally the friend I’ve known the longest. We met in the 5th grade as a couple of geeky 10 year olds. We were friends through Middle School and High School. I even stayed at his house for a few months after graduation. Like many friends in the pre-internet days, we drifted apart. We each got married, had kids and established careers. And then, Facebook reconnected us. We hadn’t seen each other for over two decades and all of sudden it didn’t matter.

In 2010 Time magazine chose Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder to be the Time Person of the Year. They chose him over Julian Assange, who had set up the wikileaks site and was shaking up the international scene with some of the revelations posted on that site. Mark thought it was a corporate sell out to pick Zuckerberg over Assange.

Well, Mark, I don’t know who will have a more lasting impact on the world, but we haven’t seen each other in 15 years and the only reason we are even discussing this is because of Facebook.

Yeah, I guess you have a point.

I’ve often considered what leads to an online friendship. Sure, Mark and I knew each other, but I met David and Margit online. I think it’s the same thing that leads to friendships IRL (in real life): common interests and developing a relationship of trust. While I’m a person who spends a lot of time online, there is a very clear seperation between what I share and what I don’t. It’s not because I’m trying to mislead anyone. But, the internet is forever. I assume that anything I post online will be available forever and to anyone who may not have my best interests in mind.

And yet, over the past decades, as these three friends have shown they will respect my privacy, I have shared more with them than anyone outside of family. As I attempt to teach my kids to be safe online, these three are examples of how it’s possible to build and strengthen online friendships.

I don’t have anything against online friendships. After all, some of my best friends are online.

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

My Week As A Greek King

Actually it was two weeks. But, it’s not like you think.

There’s an old Twilight Zone episode called The Man In The Bottle about a guy who gets to make a wish. He’s clever though. He understands that genies are tricky so he makes his wish very carefully.

I want to be the head of a foreign country who can’t be voted out of office. But, it must be a major country. Well known. Not some poverty stricken third world place and not in ancient times either; in modern history. A fully instrustrialized country with millions of educated people, where I’m very popular and who can’t be voted out of office.

It doesn’t turn out the way he expected.

My job involves doing many different things; project management, change control, operations and dealing with outages. Some of the things are interesting and kind of fun. Some of them can become tedious and boring. Others can be pretty stressful. So long as they maintain a good mix, I enjoy it a lot. The last two weeks have not been a good mix.

We’ve dealt with multiple outages. Not complete outages that mean we can’t help customers. But, minor to major outages that make it hard for my agents to do their jobs. It’s my job to “run” each outage until the engineers can fix it. A long outage can take all day. I had one start the Monday after labor day and it’s still plaguing me 2 weeks later.

It would be one thing if it were a 100% blackout. But, it’s not. Certain tools stop working. And it’s not like they stop working completely. But everyday around noon, I’ll get a call.

Rodney? Yeah, it’s starting again.

And for the rest of the afternoon that’s what my job entails. Trying to figure out why the system is acting slow. And then about 4:30, like some office worker with a train to catch, the issue simply disappears. And my day is shot and I’m no closer to figuring out the issue. Next day around noon, the same thing. It’s no longer fun. It’s no longer a challenge. It’s beginning to really bug me. I have lots of smart people on my team working on the issue. In fact, I’m the least qualified to actually fix it. My job is just to make sure the smart people are looking at it.

Day after day. . .after day. . .after day, after day, after day.

It’s not always good to be the king, or the popular leader of a foreign country. The twist in the Twilight Zone story was that the man got his wish. He became Adolf Hitler on the day that he killed himself at the end of World War II. Fortunately, he had another wish left and managed to get his old dull life back.

Sisyphus wasn’t so lucky. Sisyphus was a Greek king. He was a clever man. That’s kind of what he was known for. He was great at his job of being king. People liked him. And he was king. It’s good to be king. Anyway, Sisyphus got a little too confident in his own cleverness. Eventually, Zeus, the Greek god, decided to punish Sisyphus for thinking he was more clever than the gods of Olympus. He didn’t kill him, because this is a Greek story. Instead he gave him a really big rock and he told him that he had to get the rock up to the top of a steep hill. Sisyphus worked all day sweating to get that rock up there. At the end of the day, the rock rolled back down to the bottom of the hill.

See you tomorrow, Sisyphus.

For eternity he had to keep rolling that stupid rock up the hill. I wonder how he felt after the first two weeks?

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

It’s Not Really About Me (Yeah, it’s kind of about me)

Well, you have to sign up for the draft, it’s called the Selective Service. . .and you can now write your own notes to excuse missed school days.

It shouldn’t make a difference. I’ve been through it five times already. But, this time is different. This time it was my son.

We had an important birthday at my house this week. My oldest son turned 18. As I said, I’ve been through this with his five older sisters. Some of them had their 18th at our house, some of them were already moved out or living other places. I’m not sure why this one was different.

Maybe it’s because he had to register for the draft. Sure, we haven’t actually had a draft for over 50 years and it’s unlikely his number will ever be called. But, you have to consider the prospect when a son fills out that form. My lovely wife informed me that NO, he did not need to go down to the post office and fill out a post card. Apparently the system has been updated since 1983 when I had to go through the process.

Maybe it’s concern for his safety. And yet, my second oldest daughter is actually in the military. She’s a 1st LT in the Army Reserves. As a future Army veterinarian it’s very doubtful she will ever be in harms way. But as an active duty officer she’s closer than my son.

Maybe it’s the fact that the state is willing to let him write his own notes. I remember my senior year. I skipped school more than I should. I once wrote a note excusing my absence because “Unfortunately, Rodney died.” The school wasn’t amused. My son is a great student who is enrolled in college classes as a high school senior. He missed a class today. He asked if we wouldn’t mind excusing it since he’s not even sure how to do it.

Maybe it’s just the idea that he’s no longer a little boy. In the eyes of the world he’s now an adult. And as he (and in the coming months and then years his brothers) makes the transition to adulthood, it changes my role. My my oldest daughter moved out and then turned 18 she asked me,

Does this mean you can finally stop worrying about me?

Doesn’t matter how old you get. Dads always worry about their daughters.

. . .and their sons.

It’s possible that one of the reasons this birthday affected me differently than my older kids is that just a few weeks before his birthday my son completed the final requirements for the Eagle Scout award. All requirements need to be completed by the time a boy turns 18. The Eagle Scout award is really important to me. Thirty-seven years ago I earned the Eagle Scout award. In the Scouting world, Eagle is not only the ultimate rank, it is always a rank that the recipient holds for life. Once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout.

Throughout my career, the Eagle award has helped me get jobs. It has helped me bond with men across multiple professions. It was only recently that I quit including it on my printed resume. (It’s still in my LinkedIn! profile.) I promised my boys when they entered scouting that the first boy to achieve the Eagle rank could have the physical badge that was awarded to me almost four decades ago. As a collector, I have thousands of patches. I would have never considered trading that particular patch. Giving it away just seems like the right thing to do.

One of his sisters asked him,

So, bro, how’s it feel to be 18?

Pretty much the same as it felt to be 17.

I’m just glad she didn’t ask me. Because it’s not supposed to be about me.

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Is He In A Coma? No? Then Walk It Off

Any thing I don’t understand must be simple.
-Dilbert’s Pointy Haired Boss

Have you ever been sad? I mean really sad? Like someone you loved died? Maybe a grandmother. Did you get over it? Are you still distraught?

Depression doesn’t mean your sad. It doesn’t mean that you had a bad day. After your loved one passed away, you probably went through a grieving process. You are probably still somewhat sad when you think how much you miss being around her, or just knowing she isn’t in the world anymore.

That’s not depression. That’s sadness and grief.

I was talking with a famous science fiction author and his wife about a story set on a world where everyone is deaf. His wife questioned whether a deaf society would be more believable than, for example, a blind one. The author, Ben explained,

Our world is almost exclusively governed by sight. A deaf society would not be that different than ours. A blind person can function pretty independently in the world. A blind person not as much.

We tend to take sight for granted. Think of something as simple as crossing the street. A deaf person just watches for the light to change and then walks across the crosswalk. A blind person needs some sort of audio clue and then needs to identify even where the crosswalk exists. We treat the things we can see differently than the things we cannot.

We tend to approach “health” issues with what I call “the coma” test. If someone is sick with a condition that we can test for if they are in a coma, then we consider them truly sick. My granddaughter, for example, is just a month old. She’s spent that month in the NICU at Primary Children’s Hospital as the doctors tried to figure out what was making her sick. She had enlarged organs and a weak heart. Because it would stress her heart when she got anxious they kept her sedated most of the first few weeks. She wasn’t in a coma, but the concept is the same. They did multiple tests finally discovering she had a rare genetic blood disorder.

No one would assume that my granddaughter wasn’t actually sick. She came very close to dieing during the first week of her life. It was touch and go for a long time, but even after she was stable, the doctors could empirically test her condition. She passed “the coma” test.

Yesterday I talked about Executive Dysfunction and ADHD. These are conditions that can only be observed by how they make people react. There is no blood test for ADHD. Maybe an MRI on the brain might show something, but generally we simply have to base diagnoses on observation. ADHD doesn’t pass the coma test. If someone were in a coma there is no way to test for ADHD.

Why is the coma test important? Because some people think if it’s “all in your head” then it’s not really a condition or disease. Remember your dear departed grandmother? Those people also lost a grandmother. And they were genuinely griefstricken over it. But, (and this is the difference in their mind) they got over it. And, the expectation is “If I can get over it, so should you.”

I have friends and family members who struggle with mental health issues. Some struggle with mental illness, bi-polar, for example. Others, like my friend Rory struggle with less severe issues like Executive Disfunction, or my ADHD.

If your friend broke their leg, you would naturally take them to the doctor to be treated. No one would assume that someone should suffer with a broken leg, or try to resolve it themselves. And, if your friend said, “I broke my leg. It really hurts. I need you to help me get to the doctor,” you wouldn’t think he was being at all unreasonable.

And yet, when the situation shifts to the sickness we can’t see, when we fail the coma test, we don’t have nearly as charitable an attitude. “I suffering from depression. I need you to help me get to a therapist.”

“Geez, man. Suck it up!”

“Everyone has challenges.”

“Take some time and just focus on your own happiness for awhile. That should help.”

“I was really sad when my grandmother died too. You’ll get over it.”

All well intended, but ultimately harmful. We can recognize a broken leg. Or at least recognize the pain associated with it. But, the things we don’t understand? Those are a little tougher to acknowledge. I still get told that ADHD isn’t really a “thing.” It’s just an excuse that lazy parents use to medicate their kids rather than deal with being a parent.

Just because you can’t see it, or don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it’s simple. . .or doesn’t exist.

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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