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Publish Or Perish: It’s Not Just For Academics

Would you mind peer reviewing a paper I wrote recently?

Sure, what’s the topic?

Income Inequality.

Send it over.

My friend is not a professor. He’s also not a paid researcher. He’s an IT professional. You might wonder why an tech guy is writing a paper on economic theory.

Two reasons.

First, because he can. I’ve known him for years. His knowledge is extensive. Not only IT, but music, economics, climate science and political science.

But, there’s a more important reason. The internet has turned everyone into a potential author and publisher. And especially in the IT computer space, it’s important to have a “portfolio” online. It’s not a formal portfolio, of course.

Several years ago I went to work for a large non-profit organization here in Utah. It was a “career” position. People often stayed there until they retired. The company even had a pension. If I stayed for 20 years, I’d get 30% of my salary as a pension for the rest of my life. Added to the gold-standard health care plan, there was no reason to look elsewhere.

I settled. And then, five years in, they did layoffs. And my entire management chain was let go. Being the company they were, the severence package was very generous. However, I still needed to go get another job. And that’s when I realized the mistake I’d made.

I hadn’t published anything in years. In fact, if you did a google search for my name, you would find about Rodney Bliss, the real estate broker in Connecticut. You had to scroll down quite a ways to get to my first entry. Ironically, it was for a book I’d published years earlier when I worked for Microsoft.

So, I started to build my online resume again. One of the first things I did was start a blog. I remember the day that I took over the top search result for Rodney Bliss.

I’m reading a wonderful book right now, (aren’t I always reading a book?) It’s called “Make Bright The Arrows.” It’s a book about living with mental health issues. It’s written by my sister, Jennifer Bliss.

My older brother wrote a book called “Stealing the Show.” I’ve written a couple of technical books. Don’t bother looking for them. They were written on Microsoft Exchange 4.0 and WordPerfect 6.0. . .for DOS.

The point is that whatever your profession, whatever your area of study or expertise, the internet has given you an opportunity to write down some words and associate your name with them.

We can all be writers. And people should take advantage of the chance to say something, even if it’s a paper on Income Inequality.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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Grateful To Be Scrubbing The Toilets

Serious question: I heard that the Mormon church makes its members clean the church buildings. Is that true?

Yup. It’s kind of a volun-told opportunity.

That’s horrible. That church is worth billions of dollars. They can afford to hire janitors.

Sure, they could. But, as a member, I’m grateful they don’t.

This post is not about the Mormon church. (Which prefers to be referenced by its full name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) I’m also a member of the Masons. We also volunteer to come down and do work on the Masonic temple. Despite, what you may think, the Masonic order is not sitting on a hoard of treasure. Still, I’m grateful that the lodge doesn’t hire all the maintenance and custodial work done.

But, this is also not a post about the Masons.

You are probably a member of an organization like the Masons, or a church, or some other civic group. My friend has been a member of the Kiwanis club for years. They are trying to eradicate polio. If they have buildings I wouldn’t be surprised if my friend helps clean them.

There are many reasons I like scrubbing the toilets. Okay, I don’t actually like scrubbing the toilets. But, I like that the church isn’t paying someone to scrub the toilets.

First off, the church, and the Masons, and the Kiwanis and the Lions and the rest of them, do lots of charity work. Some people say not enough, but I wonder if it will ever be enough for some. I don’t do a lot of charity work. I donate money to the church. I buy tickets for the firemen or policemen or whomever. But, I’m not flying to Africa to feed the starving children. I’m not headed to India to help innoculate a village against polio.

Do I wish I could go help with those things? Sure. Can I help with those things? Yes. But, not by doing the work with the poor and needy, but instead by freeing up money that the church, or the Masons can use to help the needy. Because I believe in the mission of the organizations I’m associated with, I am happy I can do my small bit to further that mission. Even if it’s just scrubbing toilets.

When we go to clean the church, we go as a family. Occasionally there are only a few families there. My family is pretty big, so we can do more than our share. It’s good for my kids to see our family helping. There have been times in the past where we were doing pretty badly as a family. I lost my job. We had tons of bills. And the church was there to help us. I want my kids to see that we can, that we should give back when we have the chance, even if it’s just by scrubbing toilets.

This type of service is also helpful because it plays to each person’s strengths. Even our smallest children could contribute. They could empty a garbage can, or wipe down a blackboard, or pickup trash. As they got older they took on additional tasks. Washing windows, or vacuuming floors. Or sometimes, just scrubbing toilets.

Could my organization, be it the church or the Masons or whatever, afford to spend the money to have someone scrub the toilets? Sure. Is that the most important use of their money? Probably not.

Look for opportunities to serve. It doesn’t matter if it’s in church or a homeless shelter or just helping a neighbor.

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
– Muhammad Ali

Call it “pay it forward” or Karma or “what would Jesus do.” But, we are all of us tied together.

Thos are just a few of the reasons I’m glad my church gives me the chance to just scrub the toilets.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

A Holy Day?

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Book Review: The Power of Habit

You can’t extinguish a bad habit. You can only change it.
– The Power of Habit

That’s the heart of the message of “The Power of Habit.” Charles Duhigg explains not only why we have habits, but how to change them. This book came highly recommended. And it didn’t disappoint.

Duhigg explained that habits are actually a series of steps:

Cue — Routine — Reward

Habits are often triggered by cues. When we get a cue, for example, it’s three o’clock and we you are hungry, we start the routine, for example, getting a candy bar from the vending machine. Then, we get the reward, in this case, we are no longer hungry.

How do we break the habit of eating too much junk food? We recognize the cue, change the routine, for example eat an apple, and get the same reward.

If all “The Power of Habit” did was explain how to eat better, it wouldn’t be much more than a diet book. But, “The Power of Habit” is much more than that. Duhigg ranges into the nature of the brain. He goes into detail on how habits from in the first place. How the brain gets rewarded.

But, despite it’s deep background in psychology, and brain functions, it’s also a very practical book. In fact, the details and background on the brain only help to reinforce the messages and lessons that Duhigg uses to explain how to change your habits.

The book is immediately applicable. But, it’s also enjoyable just to read.

What I Liked

The book is well laid out. Duhigg mixes anecdotes with reports on serious research and then practical applications. He draws research from decades ago and from the last few years. The most valuable part of the book is it’s application. And not in a purely academic manner. I found things I could immediately use.

What I Didn’t

It’s a minor point, but at times I felt overwhelmed. There was so much information, that once I finished I felt I ought to immediately read it again. Next time I read it, I’ll take notes, both in the book, and in a seperate notebook. And one thing I know for sure, I will be reading “The Power of Habit” on a regular basis.

What it Means For You

This book can be of help to anyone. I’m an IT manager. It has direct application in my role at work. But, it also can be beneficial to someone trying to exercise more, or become a more consistent writer, or stop chewing your nails.

The Power of Habit has more universal application than nearly any book I’ve ever read. I cannot think of anyone that wouldn’t benefit from it. If you want to change your habits, this book will help you do exactly that.

My Rating

Four out of four stars

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Book Review: The End Of Jobs

I wanted to like this book. I really did. It was a gift from a family member. She even enscribed it with a personalized message. So, I started off with high hopes.

The reality didn’t live up to the hype.

Taylor Pearson has an easy to read style. And if he were to write a novel, or a play, I think I would quite enjoy it. Unfortunately, this book is supposed to be non-fiction. As such, the errors, leaps in logic and condescending tone simply made it teadious.

Pearson’s premise is that there have been four “economies in the past millenium.

  • 1300-1700 The Agricultural Economy
  • 1700-1900 The Industrial Economy
  • 1900-2000 The Informational Economy
  • 2000- The Entrepreneurial Economy

Not surprisingly, Taylor is selling to the Entrepreneurial Economy.

I don’t disagree with the premise per se. But, Taylor tried too hard to prove it. The harder he pressed the less sure his points became. I’m going to avoid a detailed response to the idea of an Entrepreneurial Economy. Instead I’m going to focus on how Taylor put his arguments together and the things that didn’t work.

First, was an overal xenocentric tone. He makes the point that jobs and knowledge are flowing from the West toward Asia. He does not see this as a positive effect of globalization and implies that those countries are unfairly taking advantage. It’s curious because he titled his book, “The End of Jobs” and then talks about how Asia is stealing our jobs. So, did he mean the end of American jobs?

Countries like China and India. . .don’t need to spend decades developing. . .new products — they just need to read the book, or more often, photocopy it.

A high unemployement rate is important to Taylor’s underlying premise. His point is that since we have fewer traditional jobs, we must plan to create them via entreprenuership. But, he has two things working against him, the first is that he wrote his book four years ago (2015). Since then the unemployment rate has hit a 50 years low.

Taylor’s second problem is that even in 2014, the unemployement rate was improving. I happen to have made a hobby out of studying the unemployement rate and the participation rate over many years. Here’s Taylor’s quote,

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, six years after the recession ended, the unemployment rate was still in the double digits 11.2%.

That number seemed high me so I checked the footnotes. It sent me to a representation of the Labor Statistics. But, it sent me to the U6 number, not the U3 number.

U3 is the rate of unemployment released each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It’s the “official” unemployement rate. It is calculated by measuring the number of people applying for unemployment benefits vs the number of people employed. Anything below 5% is typically considered full employment since a certain number of people are between jobs, retiring or just entering the work force.

U6 is the U3 people, plus people who have given up looking for work.

I’ve always thought the U6 number was a better indicator of the state of our economy, but the number you hear on the news is the U3 number. And honestly, anyone except stats nerds is going to think of the U3 rate when you say, “Unemployment rate.”

Looking at the U6 charts, it appears Taylor took his number from December 2014 when the U6 rate was 11.2%. That’s also about six years after the 2008 economy meltdown. If we look at the U3 number for December 2014 it’s a healthy 5.6%. (The rate as of March, 2019 is an anemic 3.8%.)

Why this lesson in economics and government statistics in the middle of a book review? Because, it strikes at the heart of Taylor’s premise (the end of jobs) and it also exposes the slight of hand he attempted to pull off to support his position.

What I Liked

Taylor’s style was very easy to read. And I found many wonderful nuggets of information that were true gems. He lays out a pattern for achieving goals that blends an aggressive 90 day schedule with a 3-5 year event horizon. It’s great advice. And there are bits and pieces that were rays of sunshine. Sadly, they were surrounded by clouds and fog of bad logic and suspect research.

What I Didn’t

As I said, I really wanted to like this book. In addition to the issues above, there were a couple of major red flags for me. First, he enthusiastically quoted Tim Ferris’ book “The Four Hour Workweek.” I reviewed Ferris’ book here. It was the only book that made me actually angry at the author. Second, toward the end of this book, Taylor was making a point about how a programmer should not go into corporate work in favor of choosing entreprenuership.

It’s also unlikely he’d do anything useful. When’s the last time something innovative came out of Goldman Sachs?

What Taylor has no way of knowing, (nor should he care) but one of the engineers who used to work for me is now a VP of Global IT at Goldman Sachs. Not only is the work he does useful, it is also quite innovative.

What It Means To You

If you are interested in entreprenuership, this is a good book to add to your reading list for research. Taylor is definitely a true believer. He will give you a fair introduction to the field, in the same way a multi-level-marketer will give you a fair introduction to the field of sales. But, if you are sick of your J-O-B and looking for something else, don’t be drawn in by Taylor’s syren song. The world is very much not as he describes it in his book. And a 3.8% unemployment rate suggested that we are a long way from the end of jobs.

My Rating

One out of four stars

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Book Review: Crucial Conversations (Updated Second Edition)

Crucial Conversations is one of the first business books I ever read. I’m not sure when I bought it, but my first edition was published in 2002. I reviewed it three years ago: Book Review: Crucial Conversations.

Recently I was given the second edition as a gift. It was updated in 2012. Yes, my previous review could have been done on the newer version. I didn’t know it was updated. Besides, my first version is autographed.

It’s been long enough since the last time I read this. That together with the new edition, was almost like reading it for the first time. It remains one of my favorite books of all time. The authors, have spent years studying the interaction between people. Crucial Conversations is really about conflict resolution. And more importantly, conflict avoidance. If you use the principles in Crucial Conversations you can avoid conflicts in the first place.

Crucial Conversations is built around seven principles

  • Start with Heart
  • Learn to Look
  • Make it Safe
  • Master my Stories
  • STATE my Path
  • Explore others’ Paths
  • Move to Action

The beauty of the principles in Crucial Conversations is their applicability. They are as useful in business as they are in parenting. They apply equally well to deciding where to go to dinner as they do in resolving a feud between neighbors or satisfying a disgruntled customer.

What I Liked

I hadn’t considered the old version dated, but reading the new version I realized the references were not really contempary. The updated edition keeps all of the value of the previous edition and adds some updated examples. The new edition, despite being slightly longer, is actually thinner. Better paper and updated formatting.

What I Didn’t

When I first read this book over a decade ago, I didn’t realize there was a training course that went with it. Having been through the training course, I realize many parts of the book are less useful without the training course. In addition, the new version has links to online resources. They are useful, of course, but when you are reading a hard copy (dead tree version as my friends say) it’s disconcerting to feel like you’re “missing” something.

What It Means For You

I cannot really add anything to my previous review. The book is literally for everyone. But, if your job involves influencing others, peers, supervisors, subordinates, this book is going to help. The second edition is even better than the first. If you have the chance to attend the training, it will add even more to your experience.

My Rating

Four out of four stars. One of the best business books in the world.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

A Topic Completely Worthless To Talk About

I’m tired of living in Seattle.

I thought you lived in Utah?

I do. I’m so sick of this rain.

That was a conversation a friend had on his facebook wall. I hadn’t noticed. But, now that he mentioned it, I guess it has been raining for a while. It was drizzling and 45 degrees today in Pleasant Grove.

Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.

I grew up in Seattle. Winters were months an months of gray.

It rains 9 months out of the year in Seattle.
– Sleepless In Seattle

The rain in Seattle is slightly over exaggerated. Oh, it rains plenty, that’s for sure. During one year when I was living there we broke a record: 105 days in a row with rain. That’s the official story.

Sounds dreary, huh?

Here’s the local’s take on it Sure, it rained every day for 105 days. It would rain in the morning and typically clear up by noon. Afternoons were typically lovely with scattered clouds, sunshine and highs in the 50’s.

Still, Seattle is the location that coined the terms “black ice” and SAD (Seasonally Affected Disorder.)

Utah weather and Seattle weather could not be more different. Where they are wet, we are dry. Where they are coastal, we are 4000 feet in elevation. Where they are forested, we are desert.

It took me nearly ten years to learn to appreciate Utah’s beauty, to learn to love the desert and get used to the dry.

Not only is Utah a desert, but like much of the West, we’ve had a drought for eight out of the last ten years. This year is not a drought year.

We are far beyond a drought. In Utah we have three precipitation measures in Utah, rainfall, ground water and snowpack. Our groundwater is still low because we are just coming out of the winter. But, we can measure the snowpack, and we do.

This year our snowpack is anywhere from 134% – 247%. The rain that my friend was complaining out was dropping snow in the mountains. We may not be able to do anything about the weather, but that doesn’t stop those of us in Utah from discussing it.

In fact, we have two topics when it comes to weather. Our first topic is drought. We worry about water and snow all the time. And then, when we have a year like this year, we can finally stop talking about the drought.

The weather will clear up this week. By Friday the high temperature is projected to be in the 70’s. That will be just in time to start talking about our second favorite weather topic. . .flooding.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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