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Democracy In Action And Shirking The Burden Of Responsibility

Last night I attended our local caucus meeting. I live Utah, in the city of Pleasant Grove, in the PG08 precinct. I attended last night’s caucus because I believe it’s important to participate in our democratic process.

And I figured it would make a good story.

I wasn’t wrong on either count.

Precincts are pretty small. My small town of Pleasant Grove has about 38,000 residents in 9.1 square miles. We have 14 precincts. That’s a couple thousand people and a little more than a half square mile in each district. People in my neighborhood know each other pretty well. Our kids play togetheer and attend school together. We attend church together. We have community events like Strawberry Days that tie us together. So, when you show up to a caucus meeting, you typically will know many of the people there.

Caucuses are simply a political meeting of registered voters of a particular party. I attended the Republican caucus for precint PG08. we met in the cafeteria of a local elementary school.

Rodney, I also enjoy that 100 feet of smooth road.

Excuse me?

The article you wrote about the new road section in front of you house. I enjoyed it.

Oh. . .yeah, okay. I’m glad you liked it. It would be great if all our roads were like that.

I forget. I sit down each evening and tap out 800 or 1000 words and post them, and I sometimes forget that you, dear readers, are not just numbers of visits to my site or views of a story, but often my friends and neighbors.

The caucus meetings were supposed to start at 7:00pm. Maybe I should have planned to arrive a little earlier, but I figured, I’m just going to slip in, get registered and sit quietly in the back taking notes. It didn’t quite work out that way. In fact, I almost walked out.

As I went to register I was asked,

Do you have a smart phone?

Why is that relevant?

We are doing the voting and registration via the VOATZ app. You’ll need to install the app before you can check in.

My training is in IT. I work with computer systems and lately I’ve become somewhat of an expert on rolling out new software to a large group of new users. This is not how you do it. I, along with everyone else in line started trying to download and install the VOATZ app.

And somewhere a server that had access to our voter registration information was getting hit with dozens of requests from our caucus and presumably thousands of requests from across Utah. This was probably a server that was not tuned to accepting thousands of requests in a very short amount of time.

This is not going to end well.

And it didn’t.

However, I’m glad I didn’t let the issues with the software turn me away. Democracy is a messy business at times. Forty minutes later, Jennifer Bautista, the Precinct Chair announced we were abandoning the online voting and instead we were going back to the paper ballots and pink wristbands.

Oh, and we were finally ready to have the opening prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

After that, the meeting went pretty smoothly. We were treated first to multiple speakers and even a video about why SB 54, otherwise known as the “Count My Vote” initiative, was a bad thing for Utah. The allegations got a little hyperbolic.

SP 54 is a law that says candidates can choose to try and be nominated through the caucus system, or they can collect signatures. A candidate needs to collect signatures from 2% of the registered voters for the office they want to try and win. So, if someone was running for a state house seat in a district that had 50,000 registered voters, that candidate would need to collect 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot.

The members of Precinct 08 were told that those who gather signatures are “buying our votes.” That they are paying for signatures. That we shouldn’t sign any petition for a candidate to get on the ballot. Oh, and there’s a petition going around for an initiative called “Keep My Vote” which would let citizens vote on whether to repeal SB 54. The 49 attendees at the caucus listened carefully and I think we all signed the petition.

I thought that the 20 minutes we spent being encouraged to sign the petition was really so much “preaching to the choir.” We were here at the caucus on a Tuesday night in March. Our support for the caucus system was pretty obvious. And the night was getting late.

At 8:10 we finally got to the business of the evening, electing precinct officers and county and state delegates. It started quickly, as the new chair and vice chair ran unopposed:

  • Chair of PG08: Blaine Thatcher
  • Vice Chair: Ken Clark

No one was interested in being the secretery/treasurer, so that office remained unfilled. Next up was county delegates. We needed to elect four. People yelled out nominations.



Do you accept?




Do you accept?




Do you accept?




That’s awesome. We should be out of here in no. . .



Do you accept?

Who said that?

This was not part of my plans for the evening, or the coming weeks where delegates interview the candidates for office. But, democracy is not a spectator sport. Service is the price we pay for liberty.

Do you accept?

Yes. Yes, I do

The nominations were now closed. Each of us got to give a short speech and then we voted. While the votes were being counted we started nominations for the three state delegates. Mercifully the nominations stopped at three.

Michael Wirrick
Julio Homer
Roy Spindler

All that was left was the results of the county delegate voting. It was odd. I didn’t want to win. And yet, I didn’t want to lose either. I didn’t want to spend the time needed. And yet, I wanted to be invovled. I think my internal conflict swayed the voters. I was not elected as a county delegate. I’m okay with that. Just as I would have been okay with serving. These are my neighbors and my friends. If they entrusted me with the responsibility to represent our caucus, I could not have let them down.

Democracy, or more accurately our Republic, is not a system of government that runs efficiently. It’s a messy endeavor. And yet, it works. It’s worked for over 225 years. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of this Grand Experiment.

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. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved


Getting Credit When You Don’t Keep Score

Sunday night I ended up working late. Like really, really late. I finally got to bed around 2:30am.

But, I was at a loss how to account for the time. I’m a salaried employee. That means that whether I work 40 hours a week or 80 hours a week, I get paid the same. There are obvious benefits to being salaried. Typically, salaried positions pay better. Okay, not if you are making consultant rates, but in a typical IT organization, the higher up the food chain you are, the more likely you are salary.

The biggest benefit is that you get paid by the day, not by the hour. That means if you arrive at work and 30 minutes after sitting down, you have a family emergency, and you’re gone the rest of the day, the company has to pay you for the entire day.

That rarely happens. What more often happens is you put in an 8 or 10 hour day and then something blows up after hours and you have to work on that until it’s fixed. And if you have a job like mine, where I’m on call 24×7, if something breaks on a Sunday, you fix it on a Sunday.

This particular issue hit about 11:30AM. Agents reported issues with their phone systems. My family typically goes to church at 1:00pm on Sundays. My lovely wife is the music director. She was feeling a little under the weather and asked me if I would lead the music. It’s not hard, right? I mean, you wave your hand up and down and the congregation follows the organ player anyway.

When my phone rang at 11:30, I had to inform her that I would not be available to wave my hand up and down. The kids and I went to church. They took seats in the chapel, I sat in my car with a phone in my ear. Church is three hours long. The first hour is in the chapel with the entire congregation. The second hour is Sunday School, and the third hour, the youth break up into groups divided by age and gender. My responsibility is to teach the 12-13 year old boys. They are called Deacons in the Mormon church.

My phone call lasted all through the first hour. It lasted all through the 2nd hour. As the third hour came around, I told the folks on the conference bridge,

Yeah, I’m going to be teaching a class. I’ll keep on the bridge, but I won’t be saying anything.

I kept the ear piece in and taught my lesson on faith to a room full of pre-teen boys. It went great. I love teaching. I wish I didn’t have to do it with a phone stuck to my ear. Finally, about 5:30pm, my team reported they had not seen the issue for the past hour. The client was still working on it, but my agents were fine. I dropped off the bridge.

Now, when we have an outage, I have an entire team that helps manage it. I kind of run it, but there are plenty of people who are actively engaged. One team sends out “Outage Notifications.” Emails describing the issue and the current status. At 5:30 they sent the final notification saying the issue was resolved.

It wasn’t. It was still appearing on the backend. We just couldn’t see it on our production floor. It got worse around 9:00pm. The client called me and I, along with one of my overnight supervisors joined the call. But, my agents still weren’t seeing an issue. However, the client was seeing it. So, we sat on their bridge and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, at 2:30am, the client announced that they had successfully replicated the issue in their offices. That meant they no longer needed us on the line.

As we dropped from the call, I considered my options. I’d just spent an extra five and a half hours on a call on a Sunday night. I was going to miss my 7:30AM Monday meeting. (Because: sleep.) But, because we hadn’t seen the issue in our production facility, there was no outage call on my side. There were no emails announcing that we were still working on it. In other words, I was getting no credit for the time I worked.

If a tree fell in the forest and all that.

Now, maybe I shouldn’t care. Maybe it should be enough that we helped the client isolate an issue and that means that customers have a better experience. Maybe. But, I still somehow felt slightly cheated. I lost most of my Sunday to an outage call. My company doesn’t practice comp time, so I wasn’t getting those hours back. My only compensation in those situations was the office cred I got for working crazy, stupid hours. But, who do I tell?

I finally decided on a plan just before I went to bed. There was a chance the problem might show up the next day. So, I decided it was important to warn everyone that we might have an issue first thing in the morning. I wrote a brief email explaining the problem and reported that we had worked on it and work was continuing. I sent it to all the people who might be interested. Conveniently that was also all the people who know of my work schedule.

Yup, they all had an email waiting in their inbox Monday morning. And as the opened, it, right there at the top was the time stamp: SENT AT 2:30AM.

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. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Manage To The Results Not The Metrics

You’re expected to make 100 calls per day.


Because if you don’t make at least 100 outbound calls you don’t get paid.

Okay. . .but, why?

What does your company do? I work for a call center. I’m in IT. My job is to make sure the computers stay running. But, that’s not what my company does. My company doesn’t even answer phone calls. Sure, that’s a metric, but it’s not a result. We measure our success by satisfied customers. If I took 50 calls but everyone was mad when I got done, is that preferable taking 40 calls, but everyone is pleased when they hang up with me?

I hope you said no.

As managers we often confuse metrics with results.

I have a good friend who drives about 2500 miles per week. He’s a blood courier. He literally picks up blood from one location and drives it to another location. I call him a blood-runner. But, you can just say he “deals in blood.” The point is my friend spends a lot of time in his car. It’s an easy to measure metric. He can tell you how many miles he drove on a particular day. He can tell you how many hours he spent in his car that day. (He probably would prefer you not do the math to figure out the miles per hour.)

But, my friend’s job is not to drive a certain number of miles per week. His job isn’t to spend a certain number of hours on on the road. His job is literally to get lifesaving blood to the places that need it most. Suppose he was supposed to drive from Salt Lake City to Boise, ID. Google maps thinks it is 345 miles and will take 5 hours and 1 minute. Now, suppose he picked up the blood in SLC, drove North for exactly 5 hours and then turned around and came back?

Did he do his job? Of course not. He spent the time, he drove the miles (minus the last one) but he didn’t get the blood to where it needed to go.

The key to breaking out of the “manage by metric” mold is to figure out what it is you do and what it is that your team members do. In project management it’s called figuring out “what does success look like?”

Once you figure out what it is that you and your team does, then you can think about pertinent metrics. Chances are they aren’t what you think.

I worked for a manager one time who had a tough time figuring this out. We were a project manager team. We worked with people all across the company running projects. We even had team members in other parts of the world. Project Managers were the glue that held the virtual teams together. We literally could be on the phone at any time of the night or day.

My manager picked “time logged into the phone system” as one of his key metrics. And not total time on the phone, but where you physically logged into the phone between the hours of 7:30 and 2:30. Oh, and you could only log into the phone from your desk phone.

No amount of discussion could convince him that phone time was not a metric that was a key indicator of our success. In fact, we had one team members who logged into his phone and then headed up to the 7th floor to visit with his buddies to discuss their March Madness bracket. But, he got good reviews because he logged into the phone at 7:30am.

I have friends in sales. Imagine you run an outbound sales team. Their job is to make 100 calls per day. You’ve done the math and you know that if they make 100 calls they will get 30 people willing to listen to a sales presentation. Out of those 30, you’ll get 4 sales. It’s just basic numbers and it all starts with that century mark of calls.

Now, consider Mark. You notice that Mark is only making 60 calls per day. You’re about ready to fire him, but you decide to coach him and see if he can boost his numbers to the acceptable level.

Mark, thanks for stopping by. I’ll get right to the point. Your call numbers are way down. If we can’t get them back in the acceptable range I’m going to have to let you go.


Because, when I hired you I explained that the minimum acceptable effort was 100 calls per day.

No, I mean, why 100?

We’ve been over this. One hundred, thirty and four. Our entire business model is based on volume and it starts with contacts.

Have you looked at my close numbers?

No, that’s Paul’s department.


Twelve what?

My calls lead to 12 sales per day.

That’s not the point.

I thought you just said that was the point. How I work my call sheets is leading to three times the results of anyone else here.

That may be, but how can I hold everyone else to 100 calls if I let you skate with 60% of that? What are the other guys on the team going to say?

Who cares? Tell them to take a little more time to get to know the contact like I do and maybe they’ll get a better conversion rate.

Okay, fine. Let’s go your route. You’re saying that with just 60 calls you can get three times the rate the other guys are getting with 100 calls, right?


Okay, what I’m hearing is that if you actually put in the effort of making 100 calls which is in your employment contract you would actually make 20 sales per day. So, your sluffing off and only putting in 60% effort is costing the company 8 lost sales per day.

You know what happened, of course. Mark went back to making 100 calls per day and getting 4 sales.

Manage to the results, not the metric.

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. 

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

It’s Not About The Room

I’m sorry, Mr. Bliss, all we have left is a suite. I hope that will be okay.

The front desk clerk had the practiced smile that is designed to say, “Imma hook you up.”

Sure, that will be great.

I didn’t really care. I wasn’t upset or mad. I honestly just didn’t care. We were in another city for another week’s worth of meeting. I would be arriving on the site between 7:30 and 8:00am. We’d go to dinner after and I’d probably be back in the room around 10:00pm. A few emails, an hour or so of mindless TV and I’d go to sleep to start the whole thing over again.

Honestly, the complementary breakfast was more important to me than the room I was in. I have a very specific breakfast diet when I’m travelling.

  • Raisin Bran cereal with 2% milk
  • Two peach yogurts
  • A bowl of fresh fruit
  • Eggs or bacon, but never waffles
  • A glass of orange juice

I actually don’t eat yogurt at home. I also don’t eat as complete a breakfast. But, when I travel it’s both a ritual and fuel for what will probably be a longer than normal day. And I’ve heard that eating yogurt helps prevent food issues when you travel. It’s probably more accurate for international travel than the it is for the domestic travel that I do, but it can’t hurt.

And wifi is super important. I don’t need the fee-based high speed version. As a writer, I’m not stressing the connection. But, if there is no option, it wouldn’t matter what size room you put me in.

Recently my boss and I ended up in South Florida in a city on the Atlantic side. We opted for a Holiday Inn since it literally shared a parking lot with our call center. It was probably one of the more basic hotels I’ve been in when travelling for my current company. There was no closet, just a bar with some coat hangers on it. No microwave or mini refrigerator. Pretty much a bed and a TV. It was the epitome of “fine.” But, not in a nice way.

Honestly? I didn’t care. It was really close to the center. But, it didn’t have the breakfast bar. That I did care about.

We went to dinner with the client at a nice restaurant on the beach.

So, where are you guys staying?

There’s a Marriott Courtyard right next door. I slept with the windows open last night. The sound of the waves was pretty cool.

Guess where we are staying next time we go to that city in Florida?

I’m sure it will be fine. As long as it has a bed, wifi and a breakfast bar, I’ll be great with 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. 

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Two Physicists Sat Down To Have Some Pi

Stephen Hawking died today. I know, I already wrote about him dying yesterday (Ad Astra: Stephen Hawking.) But, quite literally, that was yesterday when he died and this is today when he died.

I stopped and bought pie on the way home from work. A razzleberry pie, a peach pie and a coconut cream pie. It was pi day and the kids wanted pie. After all, it’s pi day: March 14, or expressed another way 3.14.

Albert Einstein was born today. Well, not today today, but on this date, March 14 back in 1879.

And of course, that’s why we are talking about those three topics: Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, and pie. I wish I could say I was the first to notice the similarity of the three topics. I wasn’t. But, I did think of this topic before I realized that literally every newsite in the world was going to run with this angle.

Here’s the thing. All three of those coincidences are a lie. Not a single one of them is true. Oh, it’s true that Albert Einstein was born on March 14. It’s also true that Stephen Hawking died today (yesterday.) But, those two dates have less to do with pi than pie, which really only shares a auditory homonymic pronounciation.

But, Albert and Steven, while it’s mildly interesting that they share a birth/death date, were not born/died on pi day. In fact, the entire idea of pi day is very American-centric. It’s not pi day in the rest of the world. Really.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a bigger celebration in the United States than it is in Ireland.

Cinco de Mayo is a way bigger holiday in the United States than it is in Mexico.

Clearly, we love to party. Especially if we can associate food with it.

St Patrick’s day? Beer!

Cinco de Mayo? Margaritas!

Pi day? Pie!

But, the United States is virtually the only country in the world that insists on putting the month first when entering a date in numeric format. We type MM/DD/YYY. The rest of the world uses DD/MM/YYYY. Their way makes sense, if you think about it. The international standard goes from smallest measurements (days) to progressively larger unites (months and then years.)

And that’s why Einstein was not born on pi day. He was born in Ulm, Germany. So, his birthdate, using the format of the place of his birth is 14/3/1879. Not a silly math joke to be found.

The reason I can say that Hawking died yesterday on March 14, is that he died in England, early in the day. It was still March 13 here in the United States. For example, Americans know that the attack on Pearl Harbor that signaled the entrance of America into WWII happened on December 7, 1941. As President Roosevelt stated, “A date that will live in infamy.” However, the Japanese admirals planned to attack on December 8, 1941. They did. Because by the time the attack started it was already December 8 in Japan.

Stephen Hawking died on March 14 in Cambridge. The fact that I found out about it during March 13 is a quirk of the fact that our planet is round. England, like the rest of the world sans the United States writes dates as DD/MM/YYYY. So, Professor Hawking died on 14.3.2018. Again, not a date that lends itself to clever math jokes.

But, considering we are the counry that gave the world “International Talk Like A Pirate Day” (Sept 19) and got the rest of the world to to celebrate it with us, go ahead and think of two of the most brilliant scientists of the last three centurires entering and leaving this world on a date represented by the one of the most famous numbers in the world.

And have some pie, because . . . pie!

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. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Ad Astra – Stephen Hawking

He was brilliant. Of course, he was brilliant. He was a theoretical physicist. I’m guessing not many of my regular readers are involved theoretical phisics. But, I’m guessing virtually all of my readers, or most at least, have heard of Stephen Hawking. He died today at the age of 76.

Professor Hawking was one of those rare men who transcended science. He became a pop icon. He was a regular on the Big Bang Theory. He wrote a bestselling book called, “A Brief History Of Time.” I read it. I even understood most of it. I’m pretty sure that Professor Hawking dumbed it down for most of us.

He was brilliant. And yet, we never heard his voice. He explained the vastness of the cosmos, but he couldn’t so much as take a step. ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, crippled his body.

It’s telling that no one says, “He was pretty successful considering his handicap.” Or, “He accomplished a lot for someone in his condition.” He wasn’t defined by his handicap. He was successful. He was brilliant. He also had a wicked sense of humor. The most famous scientist in the world died on Pi Day. Well, played professor. Well played.

He’s an inspriration to many people. If Professor Hawking can do what he did with the challenges he had to overcome, what’s my excuse? When I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, I can consider that he couldn’t get out of bed on his own. And yet, he was successful enough for several lifetimes. His work on black holes is amazing. His efforts to bring physics to the masses is extraordinary.

He spoke out about the need for space travel. Not just because he was a scientist that studied space, but for the survival of mankind. He worried about how dangerous it was to remain on a single planet.

He’s now free from the physical limitations of his body. He may not have believed in an afterlife, but I like to think that rather than “Resting in Peace,” Professor Hawking is now free to travel the cosmos. Ad astra, Professor Hawking.

Stephen Hawking
January 8, 1942 – March 14, 2018

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. 

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

No Where To Go But Down

You have not achieved perfection. You have merely guaranteed eventual failure.

Our clients grade us as a supplier every year. It’s a ten point scale and the competition is pretty fierce between the account managers for the T-Scores, as they are called. It’s not just the number. It’s the fact that the number is representative of how well we are meeting the client needs. A happy client is more likely to give us additional business.

I work very hard to satisfy my client. Last year, after coming close for the past several years, we finally achieved a 10. The score wasn’t only for my contribution, but I was an important part of the team. I was understandably happy with the results. My manager pointed out the downside of achieving a perfect 10.

Two things, Rodney. First, it’s going to be more difficult to get additional resources for your projects going forward.

What do you mean? The client is really happy with us.

Sure, but you’ve shown that you can achieve success with your current resources. Why would management need to give you additional?

Oh. . .I hadn’t thought of it that way.

And there’s another thing.


There’s only one direction to go from here.

He wasn’t denegrating my work. He was rightly pointing out that the best I can hope for next year is to maintain my level. It’s impossible to achieve a higher score. Naturally, I can still improve. The entire team can improve, but we need some other way to measure it than the T-score.

Or, we might miss a step and drop down to a 9, or worse an 8.

My personal review was this past month. I did really well. I work well with my team. I’ve been in my job long enough to completely understand what’s expected of me. I obviously work great with the client. And my evaluation score reflected it.

And I considered my former manager’s comments on our T-score. There’s a tendency to say, “What have you done for me lately?” You are often only as good as last success and potentially as bad as your next screw up. And there will be a next one. Just in the past week, twice I’ve shared what turned out to be confidential information with my extended team. Didn’t mean to. Just didn’t know it was not common knowledge.

I screw up. But, I also work very hard to minimize the screw ups and make sure I’m exceeding expectations in other areas as a sort of buffer against the inevitable setbacks.

So, yes, strive for perfection. When it comes to work and career, there is really no downside to being absolutely the best you can be at your job. Just realize that if you do achieve the highest possible ranking, there’s only one direction to go from there.

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. 

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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