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Riding The Streetcar Around The Ship

There’s a Garth Brooks song about Papa Loves Mama. I can’t remember how it starts.

Papa drove a truck. . .

Of course, you would know that, Rodney.

We were sitting in a piano bar on board the cruise ship Oosterdam. It was actually a dual-piano bar. The piano-players (pianists?) were Pearson Keating (Pearson Keating Music) and Rachel Solomon (Rachelsolo.com). Pearson was getting ready to play a song during their “Salute to Country” night. A few minutes earlier Rachel had played the intro to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” but couldn’t remember the opening line.

Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen. . .

Thanks, Rodney.

I felt uncomfortably like some 50+ year old groupie. The fact that Pearson and Rachel both knew my name was evidence of the amount of time I’d spent sitting in a chair at the bar between the two pianos. A cruise ship is a floating city. There’s a movie theater. There’s a performance stage. There are tons of shops. There’s a pool. There’s a spa. There’s a blues bar. There’s a classical music performance area. There’s walking on the deck. There are tons of free movies in your cabin, and there is lots and lots of food. I mean, all-you-can-buffets hang their heads in shame at the sheer amount of food available on a cruise ship. And, of course, there’s a piano bar.

The cruise director (ours was a wonderful young lady named Erin) is responsible for finding stuff to keep 1900 passengers entertained during the days at sea and each evening after we leave port. And yet, I found myself spending most of my down time simply sitting next to a piano nursing a soft drink. ($2.55. FOOD, not drinks are free.) I got to thinking of why.

When I was 12, my parents took my brothers and me to Disneyland. The same two brothers I was on the cruise with. My dad passed away years ago, but my mother was on the cruise with my wonderful step-father. When we were at Disneyland, my parents let us three brothers loose with the instruction that we could go on any rides we wanted, but we needed to stick together. My younger brother and I promptly ditched my older brother on Tom Sawyer Island. As we were sneaking away, my younger brother slipped away in the crowd. Yes, he was 8. No I’m not proud that I contributed to the delinquincy of an eight year old. He was fine.

I soon grew tired of standing in line for rides. I hit the big ones, but an hour of line standing for a 4 minute ride seemed like a poor bargain, no matter how exciting a ride. I found myself eventually on the horse-drawn streetcar. You could hop on or off the streetcar at any point. At first, I simply sat in seats like everyone else. But, eventually, I was invited to sit with the driver. He didn’t really drive the streetcar. It was on rails. The horse had made the circuit around Main Street enough times that the driver was really only needed to let him know when he was done and to keep him from running over guests.

I sat and talked to that driver for hours. Even now, 40 years later, I can recall the conversation. The driver was hired personally by Walt Disney to work in the themepark. He talked about how Walt knew every person’s name, even down to the janitors and concession workers.

I don’t remember how much my parents paid for the all-day passes all those years ago. I think they were in the $150 range, although that was probably for two days. Whatever it was, I’m sure it was a high price to pay for a ride on a streetcar.

Nothing against Disneyland. It’s a wonderful place with many interesting and exciting attractions. But, I can honestly say I remember the day and a half on that streetcar as a highlight of my childhood. I thought of that experience as I sat and listened to Rachel and Pearson work their way through classics such as Great Balls of Fire and Folsom Prison Blues, and new songs from Justin Beiber and Selena Gomez. Some I didn’t know, others I could sing along to every word. The highlights were on the first day when Pearson played my all time favorite Billy Joel song, Summer Highland Falls, and at the end when Rachel played an original composition from her CD, Right On Time.

Sitting at the piano bar was easy. I set my iPad up on the bar and typed blog entries between sets. I enjoyed the other cruise activities. And getting to spend a week with my wife and my family was a rare treat. But, when the rest of the activities were winding down, I found myself back at the bar with my iPad keyboard, a coke and maybe a request slip with Devil Went Down To Georgia written on it to hand to one of the people at the keyboards.

Rachel and Pearson meet a lot of people, I’m sure. Their act requires them to be personable and approachable. The key to a successful piano bar performance is to connect with your audience. Most times, I wasn’t necessarily interested in them connecting with me. I wasn’t part of the act, and I felt no need to be included in the show. Again, visions of “creepy old guy groupie” sprang to mind. But, I enjoy getting to know performers. I work in IT, but could certainly see myself taking a different path and ending up a performer. Still, I tried to not let familiarity confuse me into thinking I was more than just one more enthusiastic fan in the crowd.

I realized I’d struck the proper balance, or at least avoided the “creepy old guy” tag as we were standing in line to be processed through customs in Seattle after disembarking for the final time. A voice from behind me said,

Rodney, so good to meet you.

Pearson! Where are you off to now?

A flight to LA.

When do you next perform onboard?

I really don’t know. They’ll call and if my schedule is open, I’ll be back.

With that, we took a quick picture, exchanged contact information and he disappeared back into the crowd. You can find Pearson’s video blogs here. And you can find Rachel’s music here, or on iTunes.


Me, Pearson Keating and my Lovely Wife

I very much enjoyed riding that horse-drawn streetcar this week. Thanks, Rachel and Pearson.

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 

And That Was On A GOOD Day

A guy died and went to the afterlife. He was somewhat surprised when he was met by his Spirit Guide.

Isn’t this heaven?

Well, you actually get to pick your eternal reward. But, you were kind of jerk in life, so you choices are somewhat limited.

What choices do I have?

I’ll show you.

The Spirit Guide took him to the first location. It was the classic picture of hell. Fire and brimstone everywhere constantly burning, but never consuming the poor souls condemned there.

What else have you got?

Next, the Spirit Guide took him to a frigid wasteland. The land, if there was any was buried under ice and snow. The wind howled incessantly as the wretched souls huddled together, freezing, but never frozen.

Is that it?

There’s one more choice, but I have to warn you, it’s pretty bad.

The Spirit Guide took the man to a literal cesspool. The smell was overpowering. He saw countless people standing neck deep in the filth. Other than the smell, the place didn’t seem too terrible.

I guess I’ll choose this one, if those are my only choices.

You’re sure?

Yeah, I’m sure.

Okay, just remember it’s for eternity and you can never change your mind.

With that, the Spirit Guide disappeared and the man found himself neck deep in the muck. Just then an authoritative voice boomed:

Okay, break’s over. Everyone back on your heads.

I spent the day in Sitka, Alaska yesterday. Don’t let my leadin mislead you. I had a great time. We took the city tour. Our guide, Clint was funny, knowledgeable and very, very punctual. The 9:30AM tour left the dock at 9:10. At the first stop he announced we were leaving at exactly 9:45am. He even made us pull out our cell phones and synchronize our clocks.

At 9:45 on the dot we pulled away from the Russian Orthodox Cathederal. The two ladies who stayed to take that one last picture eventually rejoined the tour later in the day, but the trains in Italy should run this precise.

Sitka, has a population less than 10,000 and it’s the 5th largest city in Alaska. It’s located, like many Alaska cities, on an island. The airport and one of the three high schools is located on an another island connected by a bridge. In between the two were a few islands just big enough for a house. The weather was nice. It was overcast and about 65 degrees.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but I’ve lived in the Utah desert long enough to be awestruck by the greenery. We walked through forests of Douglas fir. We wandered along the pebbly beach. We watched sea lions frolicking in the bay. The salmon were running, and the sea lions were taking full advantage of it.

In short, the day was great. It was 100 degrees in Pleasant Grove, Utah yesterday. Knowing that made wandering the temperate Sitka streets even more enjoyable. I think it’s natural when you go on vacation to think, “What if we lived here?”

It would suck.

Seriously, it would be terrible.

My dad used to say,

You have to trade all of yours for all of thiers,

when we would talk about how great someone else had it. We typically pick and choose the exciting parts. We do the same thing with jobs. I love my job. It’s very challenging and I love what I do. There are times where I’m walking through our call center and I get a chance to talk to some of our agents. Many of them are jealous of my job. After all, I don’t have a set schedule. I get to take my cell phone on the call floor. (Something they would be fired for.) I can pull people off the phones on a moment’s notice to help me with a project, or a test. In short, my job looks great.

They don’t have to think about working 70 hour weeks, with no overtime, as I’ve done more times than I can count. They don’t have to be concerned with trying to coordinate 12 different projects, each with its own schedule, but all of which have to mesh perfectly with each other. They don’t have to think about the tens of thousands of miles I’ll fly between now and the end of the year.

All of yours for all of theirs.

Sitka is a great town. We visited the “old prospectors” home. We bought a couple of things from the gift shop. While there we had a wonderful conversation with the woman who runs it. A man from our ship holding a very expensive camera came in and mentioned how disapponted he was that the clouds hadn’t cleared off enough to let him take some pictures.

He didn’t realize that yesterday was a good weather day. In fact, it was a nearly perfect weather day. Think of where you live. Think of the best summer day imaginable at your house. For Utah, it’s probably 85 degrees and a mild canyon breeze, with large puffy white clouds floating in an azure sky. Anything else, is a worse day. Yesterday in Sitka was that day. It’s the height of summer. This was the best it gets.

Sitka doesn’t get a lot of snow, but it rains over 300″ per year. That’s two and a half FEET of rain every year. (EDIT: it’s not two and a half feet, it’s TENTY FIVE feet of rain! Even more a reason NOT to live here year round.) It’s a rainforest. That’s why it’s so green. And that ocean view? There are days that the folks in the houses in the bay cannot go to work because the weather is too bad. Think about how bad the weather would have to be to not be able to make it across 30 yards of inner harbor? Stand on your head, indeed.

Today we are off to Ketchikan, Alaska. I’m sure it will be memorable. It might even be the perfect Alaskan summer day: cloudy and 65 degrees.

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 

Forced To Be A Writer

Have any of you gotten the WiFi to work on the ship?

My brother asked me as we waited for the B.B. King tribute band to start their first set.

Yeah, I used it to update my blog the last three nights.

Was it hard?

Not really. You select HOLLAND-GUEST as your WiFi, and then open a browser. If the page doesn’t redirect, type in LOGIN.COM. Then, you have to create a ship account and tie it to your cabin. After you login with your new account, just select PAYMENT PLANS. You have the option for buying minutes. I just use the $0.75/min option. Takes about 3 minutes to upload the blog.

The group just stared at me.

That’s way too much work!

Hey, I’ve updated my blog every day for four years. I’m not going to let a little seventy-five cents per minute charge break my streak. Next week, when I’m camping with the boy scouts, I’ll write it on my phone and then drive out of the main highway to upload it.

Why don’t you just write them early and schedule them?

I’m too lazy.

For some reason they didn’t see my current approach as the “lazy” approach. Then, they decided to “help.” Something you need to understand about my brothers and me, we are a little competitive. Okay, maybe more than a little. My younger brother brought two pair of basketball shoes on the cruise because he knew his brothers would be here and the ship has a basketball court and he didn’t want to let the excuse we didn’t have shoes stop us.

Today was a “sea” day. The ship stopped at a glacier, but we stayed at sea the entire day. They were looking for contestants for a shipboard gameshow. I met my brother at the sign up desk. Fortunately, they put us on the same team. We won fairly easily.

So, my brothers, with plenty of encouragement from my sister-in-law and my brother’s girlfriend, decided they were going to force me to update my blog early.

Go ahead, we’ll each say a word and we have to keep the story going around the circle.

My brother John is an accountant, and a really good one. He’s not really a writer. I just pointed out to them how rude it would be for me to type away on an iPad while the show was going on.

When I was in high school, I made the decision to not drink. It was just something that I decided I didn’t want to experiment with. I have a pretty addictive personality anyway and I didn’t need any encouragement. My high school friends didn’t all make the same choice. I don’t mean to say that they put themselves in dangerous situations, but they would drink a beer at a party.

But, a funny thing happened as we got a little older. I’d had the same friends since I was ten years old. By the time we got to be 17, when we attended a party, I didn’t need to tell anyone that I didn’t drink. When the host would start passing out beers, my friends would speak up,

Oh, Rodney doesn’t want one. He doesn’t drink.

It became easy for me not to drink. My friends knew it was something that was important to me. And while they didn’t make the same choice, they respected mine and wanted to do their part to help me keep the standard I’d set for myself. I’m still friends with those men today. And they will still explain to people that “Rodney doesn’t drink.”

Lots of people say they want to be a writer. The piano player on the ship, Pearson Keating explained that he wanted to be a writer. Becoming a writer is the easiest thing in the world and the one of the hardest. Pearson and his partner Rachel Solomon do a dualing pianos show. They are both amazing muscians. I tried to explain it.

Look, here’s the thing. If I wanted to be musician, I’d have to have at least a modicum of talent. I couldn’t just announce that I was going to be a muscian without a lot of work.

Yeah. . .

But, you could become a writer right now today. All it takes to be a writer is to write. You don’t even have to write good.

Writing is the easiest thing in the world. Scribble some thoughts on a piece of paper. It’s not rocket science. And yet, there are many people who, as a writer friend of mine said, “Like to have written,” but not necessarily to actually write. There are people who will spend a lot of time convincing themselves that they cannot write without a prewriting ritual. Or, if it’s inconvenient. Or, if they don’t feel inspired.

Is it inconvenient to write on a cruise ship and arrange to upload it every day? I guess so. But, it’s not really about the convenience aspect of it. It’s about the process and the content. I’m not really a great writer. I think I’m getting there. I enjoy telling stories, as anyone who’s taken a dip through the archives will tell you. I’m learning to put two or three thoughts together and find some point. I know I’m a better writer today than I was four years ago when I started posting these scribbles to the internet. And, I would hope that four years from now, I’ll be better.

I know many musicians. They occasionally play gigs. I know many comedians. They occasionally tell jokes on stage. I know actresses and actor. They sometimes perform on screen or stage.

But, the writers? The writers write. My friends who are writers write every day. Sometimes the stuff they write gets published or posted online. Other times, it doesn’t. Writing is a solitary exercise. So, I’ll take the teasing from my family. But, then, I’ll pay $0.75/min to upload these musings using the ship’s WiFi, and next week, I’ll drive out to the main highway to post five updates.

Because, if there’s one true rule that I know: Writers write.

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 

What Microsoft Taught Me About Whale Watching

I almost got stranded in Juneau, Alaska yesterday. Juneau is only accessible by sea and air. We arrived on a cruise ship about 1:00PM. We had a full afternoon planned. As we prepared to disembark, the captain reminded us that we needed to be back on board by 8:00PM and the gangplank was going to be raised at 8:30.

The day in Juneau was very fun. I’m on this cruise with my mother, my stepfather, my brothers, sister-in-law, brother’s girlfriend and my sister. Let’s just say I’m here with my family. We all had the same shore excursions planned.

We started with a tour of the city of Juneau. Juneau is a small town. There’s not a lot to do in Juneau, and with four cruise ships in port, the town’s population doubled. The city tour driver was entertaining. He’s a native Alaskan. He is an artist who carves totems and paddles. He works at Tesoro “turning on the pumps” during the winter. He also works as a plow driver. In the summer, he drives a tour bus. His name was Fred. Well, except he explained his native name translated as “Makes Wind.” Yep. He went there.


The city used to be a mining town. They took 70 tons of gold out of the mountains around Juneau. It’s the capital of Alaska and probably one of the smallest state capitals in the country. Juneau has no roads that connect it to the rest of . . .anything. The farthest you can get out of town in Juneau appears to be about 30 miles and then you run into the Juneau Ice Fields, 1200 square miles of glacier maker.

The city tour was an excuse to get us on a bus that eventually dropped us off at Mendenhal glacier. There’s nothing special about this glacier, except that Mendenhal is the closest glacier to Juneau, so it’s the one that the tour takes you to. The glacier is named for some physicist. I couldn’t find anything explaining why a glacier in Juneau Alaska is named for a physicist from Ohio.

After the glacier was the highlight of the day, whale watching. We got on another bus that took us to the waterfront where we boarded a boat captained by Jason and crewed by Jeremiah, and Carter. Jeremiah explained that we would be seeing humpback whales. Unlike the Orca, or Killer whales that I was familier with growing up, humbacks are bigger and tend to travel alone. They are in Alaskan waters right now getting fat for the long trip South.

We saw two whales in our tour. The most impressive sight was the tail as it dove in the Alaskan version of the fjords. It was amazing to think these creatures are 45 feet long and weigh literally tons.

We turned for shore about 7:00. It was about an hour back to shore. Several passengers asked about making it back to their respectrive ship in time. The ride from the dock the tour ended on to the ship was about an 18 minute ride by bus. The tour had obviously gone long and now we worried about the ship sailing with out us. Well, I should say, they worried. Personally, I wasn’t the least bit concerned.

You might find this a strange attitude. Why wouldn’t I care that I was potentially going to be stranded in Juneau Alaska?

Microsoft.

Microsoft taught me not be concerned with being left. I worked for Microsoft for almost a decade. During that time I travelled a lot. I went to United Arab Emerites, Greece, Mexico, Brazil and other countries, spending anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks in each country. But, how did this help me not stress over getting stranded?

Because, during that time of travel, several things came up that might have thrown my trip off schedule. In every circumstance, I knew that Microsoft was only a credit card swipe away. I had a corporate AMEX card. If anything went wrong, I could fix it with my Microsoft credit card. Stolen wallet? No problem. A few calls and I’d be back up and running? Missed flight? No worries. I just book a new one and figure it out after the trip.

It made my international travel almost stress free. I still had to be careful, but mostly, I could relax knowing that if something happened, I was prepared. Generally, anything that might go wrong was out of my control. If I cannot control it, why bother worrying about it? I didn’t.

As we sat on the bus yesterday, waiting for the second boat to come in and realizing that if we sprinted from the bush we’d still miss the 8:30 gangplank being pulled up, we’d still be too late, I thought about my time at Microsoft. I asked myself some questions,

Are we going to make it back on time?

Probably not.

Can I do anything to get us there quicker?

Not a thing.

No need to worry, I can’t change it.

I was completely at peace with our trip back to the cruise ship docks. I was not just pretending to be okay with the delay, I really was. I didn’t consult my watch once. We eventually made it back to the ship at about 8:31. The gangplank was still down and there were no lines since nearly everyone was already on board.

We had a late Dinner on the Lido deck and finally at about 9:10PM we felt the ship shudder and pull away from the pier. I never assumed they were going to leave us anyway. The fact we left 40 minutes late simply confirmed my suspicion that the cruise ship wasn’t going to let us be stranded in a strange city with no where to go.

No more than Microsoft would have left me stranded in some other country rather than buy me a ticket home.

I’m feeling the Zen.

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 

Famous In 24 Hours

Hey, are you related to that writer guy?

The question was directed to my older brother. The question was asked by a young piano player on the cruise ship Osterdam about 80 miles off the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia Canada. My brother had gone up to request a song and the question caught him completely off-guard.

Ah. . . I think you may have me confused with someone else.

No, the guy who was down here writing yesterday. He knows all the words to the B-side of Billy Joel songs.

. . .

. . .

Yeah, I am. But, how did you know that?

My brother is Richard Bliss. He has travelled all over the world delivering speeches. He hosts an award winning podcast caled “Funding The Dream.” He’s written books. He’s an acknowledged expert in several areas in and around the IT world. In other words, if you get with the right group of people, he’s famous.

As kids we used to compete. . .a lot. We competed playing games, of course. We also competed in school. We competed for parental affection. We even competed when it there was not a competition. I still remember the day as teenagers that we met a friend of my brother in a grocery store. He wanted to know if I was older. Richard was not happy and 40 years later, I still remember it. It became a running joke to ask people who had just met one of us who they thought was older. We are about 2 years different in age. As kids we liked being the older looking kid. We are both now well into our 50’s. Now we compete on who can be mistaken for the younger brother.

When I left Microsoft in 2001, we found ourselves working in the same field supporting Novell GroupWise. When people would meet me for the first time, they would notice my name and invariably ask,

Are you related to Richard Bliss?

Yes, but only by blood.

I’ve had some success in some areas. I’ve written a couple of books. Many of you are kind enough to follow my scribblings here at http://www.rodneymbliss.com. Still, it’s much rarer for someone to ask him

Are you related to Rodney?

And for some random performer on a cruise ship to Alaska to ask seemed absolutely improbable.

The performer is a talented pianist and singer named Pearson Keating, who is working on the cruise ship that my brothers, our wives, my sister, my mother and my stepfather are on this week.


The piano bar has become a favorite end of the day destination for us. The first night I stayed up for the all request show. I requested “Summer Highland Falls,” a beautiful but rather obscure song off of Billy Joel’s album “Turnstiles.”

Billy Joel happens to be Pearson’s favorite performer. I own a copy of every Billy Joel album ever made. I’ve seen him in concert multiple times over the past 20 years. Suffice to say, he’s my favorite. Pearson and I got to talking the first night. He wants to be a writer. I am a writer and I tried to explain that the only difference between those who want to be a writer and those who are writers is that writers write. Even if no one is listening or reading, a writer is a writer by virtue of writing.

In fact, Pearson and I met because I sat at the bar between shows writing on my iPad. Writers write.

That still didn’t explain how Pearson guessed my brother and I were related.

I don’t know. You guys just look a lot alike.

So, which one do you think is older?

Let’s just say that Pearson is a better piano player than he is at guessing ages. But, knowing that my brother got to be known as “related to that writer guy” made it worth 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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

How I Prepared To Sell my Inbox

I have been in the reply business for so long that now that it’s over I don’t know what do with the rest of my life.
– Comedian Steve Hofstetter upon finally clearing out his Inbox.

It was a momentous day for me yesterday. I’ve worked for my company for nearly four years. In all that time, I’ve never accomplished this. But, yesterday, I finally cleared out my Inbox. It’s the type of event that you write down in your journal. . .or post about online.

I get a lot of email. Everyone says they get a lot of email and everyone is right. It’s relative. In my case, it’s not unusual to get 100 or more emails everyday. Many of them are replies to earlier messages also in my Inbox. So, that tends to inflate the numbers a little. But, still, it’s a lot. 

When I sit down and create goals for my day I pick a number, typically 50, as my goal for the maximum number of emails still to be dealt with. During the day, I’ll build a table that lists the current number of unread and total emails. Then, every 30 minutes, I’ll make a mark and record my progress. On a good day, I can cut the number of emails in half every hour. So, if I start the day at 300, by 9:00am, I can cut that number to 150. By 10:00, if I really focus, I can be down to 75. By 11:00, assuming I haven’t gotten distracted, I can account for the new ones and still cut the number to 40. That’s often all the time I have to devote to email, and anything below 50 is a good day.

Fortunately, email doesn’t interfere with my job. Email, often is my job. By closing out emails, I end up making progress on my current projects. But, there’s always more to do. There’s always those ones that have to wait on a reply from someone who’s on vacation, or notes for an upcoming meeting. Occasionally, on a Saturday, I might get below 20, but that’s an exceptional day.

Until yesterday. I honestly thought my copy of Outlook was broken when I later opened it and none of my email showed up. “Oh, that’s right. There is no email.” But, as exciting as this event is, and I really can’t adequately explain the sublime feeling of accomplishment, it’s all a waste. I won’t get to enjoy it.

I’ve bought and sold multiple houses over the years. There’s something magical about buying a house, about owning the building. When we bought our first house, it was a small 1100 sq ft two story home in Spanish Fork, UT. The first night we attempted to get our queen sized mattress up the steep stairs. The doorframe at the bottom of the stairs limited the amount of room we had. Try as we might, we couldn’t fit the mattress through the doorframe and then get it up the stairs. In a flash of new homeowner enlightenment, I realized that . . . I could just break down the wall above the door. . .This seemed wrong. There had to be someone I needed to ask, a parent, a landlord, someone?

I pulled out my large framing hammer and somewhat hesitantly smacked the sheetrock above the door frame. After the first blow, I actually paused to see if anyone was going to object. My new bride thought it was hilarious. But, this was serious stuff. I soon literally got into the swing of it. Sheetrock rained down on the carpet as I gleefully destroyed a section of my new house. After the sheetrock was gone, I went to work on the cripple studs and then the doorframe itself. I new exactly how I was going to redo this doorway. I would get a nice ten foot long 1×6 and replace the doorway. The trim would run all the way up to the ceiling and it would open up our cramped house just a little.

That was the plan. It was about 6 months later that I finally got around to installing the wood trim piece. And another month before I managed to get it painted. That’s the other “magic” about owning a home. The list of projects become ever larger. It’s never ending. Well, it’s never ending until you decide it time to sell the house. We built a house in Maple Valley, Washington and decided we’d do the trim ourselves. We moved out of the house about two years later and one of the last things we finished was the trim.

The problem with that method is that your house is always in a state of disrepair until right before you leave. You never get to enjoy the finished baseboards, or the painted kitchen, or the empty Inbox.

Today, I’m out of the office (more on that later this week.) But, back at work, people will be doing work, holding meetings and sending emails. I emptied my Inbox in preparation for going on vacation. And I don’t get the enjoyment and freedom of not being tied to my email.

I’m not complaining too much, of course. An empty Inbox means that hopefully I managed to arrange for people to cover all of my projects for the next two weeks. I hope they enjoy the finished baseboards.

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 

Not Actual Validation

I know why it says it, but I still like to hear it. It’s not even sincere, but there’s just something about positive validation that makes me feel better. . .even when it’s a credit card machine that is validating me.

It’s stupid. I was buying something today and I paid with a debit card. I haven’t actually had a credit card for nearly 10 years. I think there might be one in my name still, but I’ve long since lost the card somewhere in one of the “junk” drawers in my house.

A debit card gives you all the same protections as a credit card. The difference, of course, is that you can’t run up a big bill on a debit card. You can only spend the money you have in the bank.

Several years ago, my family went through a really tough time financially. I ended up $80,000 in debt without a job and my family living in my brother-in-law’s horse barn. That was kind of a low point. We didn’t declare bankruptcy, but it was close. We eventually paid off all the debts. I drive an old car with a lot of miles, but it’s paid for. We owe for the house, but that’s it. It’s a wonderful feeling of freedom.

So, that’s why I use a debit card. The worry with a debit card is that someone will find out your PIN. Even with the new chip cards, the PIN is still a weak link, security wise. Many stores offer little shields around the keypad to help you hide the numbers from prying eyes. I’ve found a foolproof way of hiding my PIN.

When you go to enter your PIN, put your first three fingers across the keys like this.


Now, when you need to push a button, just depress whichever finger is over that key. Slide your hand up and down for the other numbers. I defy you to watch me enter my PIN and be able to capture my PIN. 


Being a good father, I was explaining this technique to my 17 year old son.

Yeah, I know I already do this.

Really? Where did you learn that?

I watched you enter your PIN one time and realized I couldn’t tell what numbers you were typing.

Oh. . .wait a minute. . .

After you enter your PIN, the reader goes out and checks your bank account and transfers to the money. And that is the point at which I always smile. Oh sure, I’m happy that I have money in my account, but the part that makes me smile is when the machine announces that it is okay with my life choices. I feel unjustifiably validated when the card reader announces that I’m

APPROVED

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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