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The Strange Fascination With Pants

I’m sorry for the inconvenience.

Yeah, it appears I made the trip in for nothing. And I had to put on pants!

It was an accusation. But, one tempered with understanding. I was explaining to an engineer that we were cancelling the work scheduled for tonight. He was going to be our on-site person at our data center in Cincinnati. We were working with our client to install some new routers. We’d been planning the work for months. It was the final preparation step for a massive migration project we’d been working on for over a year.

And I had to tell him at 10:45 PM, 15 minutes before we were supposed to start that the work had been scrubbed and he didn’t actually need to be in the data center at eleven o’clock at night.

It’s strange, I’ve never met Sean, our engineer. Sure, I’ve talked to him on phone conferences. And I used our company’s Skype program to interact with him. But, Sean and I had never been in the same room together. In fact, I don’t think we’d ever been in the same state, unless he lived in Kentucky and drove across the bridge to work in Cincinnati. But, with his comment about pants, I knew exactly who he was.

I can’t tell you where the reference comes from like I can with references to “It’s only a flesh wound” (Monty Python and the Holy Grail), or “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means,” (Princess Bride) or even “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges,” (Blazing Saddles or Treasure of Sierra Madre.)

The irreverent reference to pants, specifically putting on pants, is lost on me. But, what’s not lost is the inference. And it’s one that I’ve seen from many technical people. Typically always men working in IT.

Any day you don’t have to wear pants is a good day. And they are not talking about pants vs shorts. No, they are talking about pants vs no pants.

Howard Tayler is an award winning, world famous cartoonist. He created Schlock Mercenary ( and has turned it into one of the most popular web comics on the internet. He’s won awards. He’s been invited all over the world as a guest speaker. He’s one of the most articulate and well spoken men I know. . .and he enjoys not wearing pants.

Howard used to work in IT. He was a director of development for Novell GroupWise email system. Howard likes his current job better for several reasons:

  • He’s his own boss
  • Get’s to be creative and stuff
  • Doesn’t have to wear pants

Howard works from home.

Most of the engineers I work with work from home. I end up working from home half the time. And yeah, there are days I don’t get around to putting on pants until the afternoon. In my case, I’m wearing pajamas. I have a house full of kids and we’ll just leave it at that.

But, when Sean announced that he was frustrated with the maintenance cancellation not because of the inconvenience to our schedule, or the late notice, but that he had to put on pants, I knew that Sean and I understood one another. I apologized again for not being able to let him know before he’d arrived on site at the data center. He seemed to take it well.

Yeah, I guess I’ll have to find something to do. I’ve already made the trip in.

And he’s already gone to the trouble of putting on pants

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



How Would I Feel About Me?

He was honest about it. I have to give him credit for that. It would have been hard not to be. The rim had a huge dent in it. The tire had blown out from the side when he hit the curb. It was only later I discovered that two other rims were bent and the driver’s side rear tire had a broken belt.

I was only going about 25. . .maybe 30, and there was this car that was parked too far out of the lane, and I went to go around it and then there was this other car and I just turned and I wasn’t even going that fast.

As accidents go, it wasn’t horrible. No one had been hurt. I suspected I wasn’t getting the entire story, but the damage was consistent with driving 25 MPH and hitting a curb at a 45 degree angle.

I had to decide what I was planning to do about it. He’d put on the spare tire. In fact, he seemed surprised at how convenient it was to have one.

Yeah, it was really lucky you had that tire. I mean, I was looking at it and I thought, ‘Well, maybe I can drive it home’ and this guy came up and he said, ‘Do you have a spare?’ And I hadn’t even thought of that and I opened the trunk and there’s a spare tire and a jack and a wrench to take off the lug nuts. And I thought, yeah, that makes sense, because Dad is always reminding us to take extra water on our hikes and I’m like, ‘I don’t want to carry and extra 5 lbs of water.’ But, later it’s totally saved me.

He may have been trying to appeal to my “good dad” side. Or, maybe he really has learned the extra 2 liters of water (which weighs slightly over 4 lbs) is worth the weight. In any case, his delight at finding a fully inflated spare tire was fun to watch.

However, I have a dilemma. Yesterday I spent a long lunch taking the car to get new tires ($175 used), and a new rim ($20 also used). And then to get the alignment checked ($60) and any damage repaired. (The suspension on the left side was pushed back about 6″ and needed to be pulled forward: $125)

It wasn’t the cost. He’s paying that out of his paycheck. Except for two of the tires which we were going to replace soon anyway.

When I was a young man of about 17. I had use of a 1979 4 door Subaru sedan. It was a reasonable kid’s car. And considering the year was 1982 the car was pretty new. And unlike my son, I had exclusive use of it and I also didn’t have a job.

One day I was mad about something as 17 year old young men often are. I got in my car and headed to the mall. As I made the turn from College street in Lacey, WA toward the mall, I realized too late I was going too fast. The road was wet. Not an unusual circumstance in Western Washington. And the front tires lost traction and rather than whipping around the turn as I had envisioned, I headed straight for the curb. The right front tire was turned 90 degrees to the left and smacked the curb straight on. I was probably going 25 or maybe 30 at the time.

I think I managed to limp the car home and I told my dad. And here’s where my problem arises. I don’t remember what he said. I do remember the car got fixed. And since I didn’t have a job, it wasn’t me paying for the parts and labor. I don’t remember any serious restrictions being placed on my car usage.

So, I’m trying to decide what needs to happen with this Honda. This is not the first time I’ve wished my dad were still around.

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

Corrupt Movie Moguls, Heartless NFL Owners, Star Trek And Wonder Woman

I went to see Wonder Woman yesterday. I know, I’m really late to the party, but I don’t do a lot of movies. As I sat in the theater and waited for the main feature, the theater showed some exciting scenes of coming attractions. The first one displayed the familiar white lettering on a green background letting us know the Motion Picture Association deemed it fit to be seen.

The image on the screen was a mere blip. Hardly long enough to even register. And had I seen the trailer last week, or last year, I wouldn’t have noticed it. After all, the name of the studio is a minor consideration when you are watching a movie or a preview. But, not this time. I don’t remember what movie the trailer was for. I was too startled by the movie company logo. In fact, hardly a logo, it was really just a name.


The NFL owners recently made news by announcing that they will not force their employees to stand when the national anthem is played. Some people might think the NFL decided this because they respect the players right to protest. Some thing the NFL was considering forcing them to stand because the league is concerned with the perception of not respecting America’s military. Neither is true.

I enjoy playing a table top game called Star Trek Attack Wing. It’s played with miniature models representing ships in the Star Trek universe. Each player picks a Star Trek faction (Federation, Romulan, Vulcan, etc) and builds a fleet to compete with the other player. Interestingly, Star Trek Attack Wing, does not allow you to play the new Captain Kirk as played by Chris Pine. Chris Pine also starred in Wonder Woman. That has nothing to do with my point, but it’s an possible bit of random trivia.

Anyway, Star Trek Attack Wing is sold by a company named Wizkids. The game has been out for a while and Wizkids recently revised the rules and changed some of the underlying costs for the various ships. On the facebook forums players were speculating on whether Wizkids will issue an errata and retroactively change the cost of existing ships to bring them in line with the new rules. You can still play the old ships, but since they cost more, they cannot compete as well with the newer version. I explained that in my opinion, Wizkids will never “errata” the earlier ships.

See, Wizkids is a company who makes money when they sell products. If they reissue the old ships with new costs, the players will have to decide to play with our older expensive ships, or upgrade to the newer ships. In this case, “upgrade” is an option that means Wizkids makes money. And as a player, I’m actually okay with this. If the company makes money, they will keep producing the game. If they no longer make money, then the game shuts down.

The NFL owners, in my view don’t care a bit about the flag. And that’s not a bad thing. The NFL, like Wizkids, is a business. They are in the business of making money. If they can make money, they will keep the league going. If they cannot make money, they will go with the way of the XFL and the USFL.

Company Loyalty Only Ever Goes One Way

Companies are not people. Companies cannot have emotions. They don’t get mad. They aren’t patriotic. They aren’t mean. They aren’t anything. They are an engine that takes input and produces outputs. People ask why the NFL is so concerned with the current protests when they have admitted wife beaters playing. They have drunks, drug users, people accused of crimes. Why would the NFL let them play, but have such a problem with people peacefully protesting now?

Because it’s not about the protest. It’s about the fact that the protest seems to be driving down viewership. The stadiums are not as full this year as last year and the owners are trying to figure out why and how to correct it. The drunks and the wife beaters didn’t impact the bottom line. If the current protest wasn’t driving away advertisers and alienating a group of fans, the NFL wouldn’t care. If the protest drew more people to the game, the NFL would be thrilled to give its players a platform to exercise their rights.

The Weinstein company has been a pretty successful movie house. They won a lot of awards. They put out some very popular movies. And they would have continued doing that so long as they could make money. But, they now have a problem. Just like me, people are starting to notice their name and it has a pretty negative connotation. Of course, the company fired the founder for allegations of some pretty henious acts. The company itself is considering changing the name. Most likely it will be bought up by some other company and the name will disappear from the title credits for movies.

I enjoy my job. I’m pretty good at it. I’m proud of the work I do. And yet, if you read through the 1200 or so blog entries I’ve written in the past 4 years, you’ll not see it mentioned once. My value to the company has a particular worth assigned to it known as my salary. If I make some comment here, on my own time, on my own blog that brings disrepute to my company, that potentially causes it to lose customers, or value, or goodwill, it maybe that my value is not greater than the cost of something negative. So, I don’t associate my company’s name with this space.

Companies are in the business of making money and returning value to the shareholders. If you approach the news of the day with that idea, it makes much of the actions by companies, Weinstein company, NFL, Wizkids and my own company make perfect sense.

(The movie was excellent, by the way. Really enjoyed 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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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

How Do You Score This Game?

I love baseball. I’m what you would call a fanatic. Not just a fan, a true fanatic. Get me started and I turn into a complete and total bore. My passion in the Seattle Mariners. But, I’m a fan of the game in general.

The Cubs made a big deal about not having won the World Series in 108 years before winning it all last year. Did you know that Seattle is the only Major League Baseball team that has never sent a team to the World Series? Sure, the Washington Nationals haven’t been either, but back when the Texas Rangers were called the Washington Senators, and played in DC, they went to the Fall Classic.

So, sure the Cubs were 108 years without winning (only 71 years since they had been there and kicked a billy goat out of the game, thus invoking the curse of the goat) but I consider the Mariners have actually gone longer than the Cubs did.

Cubs: 108 years
Mariners: FOREVER!

Yeah, it’s that kind of stream of consciousness baseball trivia that gets me disinvited to parties.

As much as I love the game, there is one thing I cannot do. I never learned to score a baseball game. You might think that scoring the game is as simple as figuring out which team scored the most runs. It’s way more complex than that.

Billy Chapel: I lose. I’ve lost 134 times.
Jane Aubrey: You count them?
Billy Chapel: This is baseball. We count everything.

– “For Love Of The Game”

In baseball, everything gets counted. Not just ball and strikes, but batting averages, on base percentages, combination of on-base percentages and batting averages, runs, hits errors, numbers of pitches, wins over a replacement player, hitting percentages during day games at home with the stadium’s retractable roof extended.

If it happens in a baseball game, there’s a way to put it on the scorecard. By reading the scorecard, it’s possible to completely reconstruct the game. Ever wonder why when a pitcher strikes out a batter fans hold up the letter “K”? Because “K” is the designated letter for strikeout. That’s because “S” was already used. In fact, it’s used three times: Steal, Save and Sacrifice.

Yesterday the Chicago Cubs won the final game of the National League Division Championship series. It means they move on to National League Championship series. If they win that best of seven series they will be back in the World Series as the defending champions.

I was thinking about baseball last night. I had a maintenance activity that started at 11:30pm and went for several hours. I was planning to take off early this afternoon from work. Didn’t happen. I was there until about 4:00pm. And that was after getting into the office slightly later than my normal time around 8:00am.

Tuesday night we did several hours of maintenance as well. And Tuesday and Wednesday I worked full days.

I got an email from my boss today asking if I had taken any personal days in the past two weeks. Like I have for the past couple months I reported: None.

Now don’t feel sorry for me. I don’t. My job is demanding. I knew that when I took the gig. The fact that I’m still here after four years means that they must think I do a reasonable job. And I enjoy it. But, I do struggle with how to score the game.

My boss doesn’t set my hours. He only cares if I get my stuff done. In fact, he lives in Virginia and I live in Utah. We rarely see each other, although with email, phones and Skype, we “talk” multiple times per day. So, why did I work a full day and now am working half the night?

It’s because I decided it was important. And if you empower your employees typically they will give you more than you could reasonably expect by micro-management. So, I may not know how to score the game, but I’m pretty sure I’m winning!

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

Why Does It Take So Long To Fix IT Problems?

Twenty-six days.

It took my team 26 days to resolve our latest issue. We resolved it yesterday. The problem occured on September 15. Initially we thought it was going to be easy.

On the night of September 14, we updated to the latest version of software for one of our core systems. While Windows pretty much forces you to install updates, and Apple products really encourage you, with large enterprise systems, it’s not quite so easy.

I used to work for Microsoft when my mother owned a CPA firm. I was not only her tech support, but because she was family, I was her software update service. Everytime Microsoft updated their software we would have the same conversation.

Rodney, I see the new version of Windows is out. Should we update all our computers?

Mom, what does the new version do that your current version doesnt’?

I don’t know.

Is your current version causing you any problems?

No. It’s been running great.

Until the new version gives you something the current version doesn’t, you shouldn’t upgrade.

Enterprise systems are sometimes like that. But, at the beginning of September we had a different issue. Our agents were having random problems with their tools during busy times. We spent days working on it and narrowed it down to one of our enterprise systems. The manufacturer suggested that we upgrade to the latest version of the software.

We did. It fixed our first problem and introduced the second problem.

Now, this seems like it should be easy to diagnose, right? We updated this piece of software and a problem showed up. It must mean the problem is with this software, right?


Sure, that’s the first thing we checked, but when you are dealing with big complex systems, there are lots of parts that have to work with each other. The parts are often supplied by different vendors. You might have a phone system from Avaya. Network hardware from Cisco. Telecommunication circuits from Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and your local teleco provider. Desktop computers from Lenovo. Desktop software from Microsoft. And the list goes on and on.

For our problem that started last month, the first thing we did was check the software we just updated. Except it came back completely clean. Not a ripple.

Next we started trying to isolate the problem geographically. It was only affecting my users in Savannah. The other three sites were fine. It must be a problem with that location right?

Wrong. Each site is configured within the system with a series of group designations. If we took a user in Salt Lake City and reclassified them within the system as being in Savannah, they suddenly also had the problem.

We have a partnership with our client. They own part of the infrastructure and we own part. We started holding daily calls. My engineers would get on the phone with their engineers and we would invite engineers from the company that makes our software.

Didn’t I just say it wasn’t the software? Yes, but all we did was verify that the new update was working correctly. We knew that something was broken, but we didn’t know if it was on our side, the client side, or the vendor side.

We met everyday at noon.

I used to be an engineer. I used to be smart. I’m now a manager and the engineers quickly lose me when they start talking technical. But, I was on the calls because ultimately I am the person responsible for our IT infrastructure. The VPs come to me and say,

Rodney, what’s the status of the issue in Savannah?

Well, we met again today. We sent the vendor more logs of both good calls and bad calls. We have another meeting tomorrow.

Okay, keep us posted.

As I said, yesterday after weeks of study and hundreds of hours of engineering time invested, we fixed it. The solution was a single setting on one of our grouping’s configuration. The problem had existed for months. In fact, it was a holdover from a project that we tested and then cancelled last year. This location was brought online during the period we were testing that project.

Because the project was ultimately cancelled, none of our other group configurations used that same setting. The older version fo the software was not as strict about letting a badly formed packet get through. The updated software started checking that setting and that’s why it failed.

In hindsight, the problem is pretty easy to identify. And it was simple to fix. In fact, the engineers fixed it in the middle of the day and everything started working. But, it took weeks of careful study to realize the different configurations between a good group config and a problem one.

A hotel in Albany New York lost their furnace in the middle of the winter. The manager called an emergency repair service and the technician arrived soon thereafter. After the manager explained the issue, the repairman descended into the basement and opened up his toolbox. The only tool inside was a large rubber mallet. The repairman carefully measured a certain distance down the ductwork and when he’d found the right spot, gave it a tremendous blow with the hammer. The furnace immediately started up and the manager was thrilled.

Two weeks later he got a bill for $10,000. He called the repair company, “That’s outrageous. I was there the whole time. All you did was smack it with a hammer! I want an itemized bill.” Two weeks later the new bill arrived:


If you know where to hit with the hammer, it’s easy. The tricky part is figuring out where. That part takes a bit longer.

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 

Losing At All Costs

I’m pretty competitive. It’s a tendency I actively work to suppress, especially with my kids. I also don’t think you should lose on purpose.

Last Saturday was an Organized Play (OP) for Star Trek Attack Wing (STAW.) STAW is a table top miniatures game. You literally use small models of the USS Enterprise and any of a dozen other ships and push them around a 3’x3′ tabletop. An OP is a specific scenario that will pit two players against one another with the goal of achieving a specific goal. The particular OP on Saturday was “Chronological Chaos.” The players tried to race around the board to four random spots.

Mostly STAW OP events are variations of “smash” each other. This one was unique in that it was all about maneuvering and going fast. A ship in Star Trek Attack Wing can be almost endlessly modified. You can add captains (Picard, Kirk, Janeway, but also some you’ve never heard of) plus crew, tech upgrades and weapons.

I won the last OP I went to by buying 12 copies of a specific ship to exploit a particular rule. I like to win. I started building a set of ships for Chronological Chaos. Naturally, I picked the fastest possible ship and upgrades combinations. About a week before the event I mentioned to my 17 year old son that I was planning to attend the OP on Saturday. It was at that point that I realized that I was going to lose.

I love my son. He graduated a year early from high school. He’s a few months away from turning 18 and is really ready to move on with his life. But, as a minor he is limited on what he can do. As a result, there’s conflict in our relationship.

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.
Mark Twain

I think the same can be said for a boy/man of seventeen. I remember being that age and how difficult it was to talk to, let alone associate with my dad. It’s part of the process of growing up and letting go.

So, when my son suggested that maybe he might like to also attend, I readily accepted. He also quickly took over the building of the racing fleet made up of Star Trek Federation ships. I started building using a different species in the Star Trek universe. There was no way that my fleet was going to be able to compete with the racing fleet he built. I tried some other strategies designed to slow him down.

Saturday we drove an hour North to the Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS) that was hosting the event. We play three games with a different opponent each time. I narrowly lost my first game. I ended up with a bye the second round and the third round was against my son.

A typical STAW ship moves about 6-8″ each turn. My son’s ship, nicknamed “The Rabbit” moved about 35″ the first turn. Of the four checkpoints we had to pass through, he was through the second one before my ships had touched the first one.

I recently watched a clip of an old movie called “Final Countdown” where a modern US Navy aircraft carrier traveled back in time to 1941. Two F14 Tomcats (modern jet fighters) went into a dog fight with a couple of propeller driven Japanese Zero’s. The battle with my son was something like that.

He easily won every game and was the overall winner of the OP. I realized that if he hadn’t attended, I would have won easily. But, I had absolutely no regrets.

He’s moving later this month to go and live with his older sister in Logan, Utah. He’ll apply at Utah State University in the fall. He’s anxious to move out, and honestly, I’m ready for him to move, too. But, I try to keep in mind that we’ll be father and son for a long time. While he’s at home I only have a few opportunities left to strengthen our relationship.

If it means I lose a game that I should have won, it’s worth the cost.

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

Writing Without A Net

Hey, you’re a clown fish. Tell us a joke.
– Finding Nemo

I was worried. I’d been writing for almost a year and my blog, this blog, was doing okay. I’d kept up my stated pace of publishing daily Monday through Friday. Still I worried. Each night as I sat down to write the following day’s entry, I had to convince myself that it was going to be okay.

When Cortez reached the new world, he burned his boats. Therefore his men were highly motivated
– Hunt For Red October

In the movie, Sean Connery plays a Soviet submarine captain who decides, with his senior staff to defect. One of his men has a change of heart and suggests that they go back. Connery’s character explains that he sent a letter to the Kremlin announcing his intention to defect. He wanted to make it clear that they were fully committed and there was no going back.

I have a friend from high school named Shawna. We went to high school a long, long time ago. And were it not for facebook, it’s unlikely we would still be in contact. Last year Shawna decided she was unhappy with the way her life was going. She decided to change her life, goals, career from top to bottom.

She’s now a “life coach,” a volunteer leader for the Seattle Seahawks fan club, and seems a lot more happy. But, she fully committed to her lifestyle change.

I had a list of topics. Actually, I kept two topic lists for my blog. One was the list that I created to pull ideas from on a daily basis. As I thought of interesting topics, I’d add them to the list. Soon, the list included dozens of topics. Sometimes I had a complete idea, other times just a fragment. But, they all went on the list. As I sat down each night to write, I’d open the list and find a topic.

Even with that exercise, I was still afraid. I was worried I’d run out of topics. What would happen if I couldn’t think of anything to write? So, I added to the topic list.

But, I had a backup plan. It was another list. This one was of “Management Rules” I’d come up with over the course of a 30 year career. There were 16 rules in all. I didn’t write about them even though they were topics with which I was very familiar. They were my backup plan.

I figured that if my topic list failed, I at least had 3 weeks worth of content while I was trying to figure out where to find inspiration next. My friend Dave Brady called me out.

I think you should write those 16 topics.

What? Why?

Because until you do, you’ll never really be committed to your writing.

Dave was right. Eventually, I eased into them slowly. I picked a different management rule each Friday and wrote about it. As my safety blanket got smaller, my anxiety increased. Sure, I still had the topic list, but I was eating my seed corn. And it scared me.

Eventually the Friday came that I wrote the last Management rule. I had no backup plan. I wish I could say that over the previous 16 weeks, I’d grown in confidence. I hadn’t really. I still used the topic list. If anything I clung to the topic list even more.

Each December I would compile a list of all the topics I’d written on that year. And I had the list of topics for the future. Like someone learning to walk again, my steps became more sure and I became more confident. I found myself going to my list less often. An idea would strike me during the day and I’d write about it that night.

My writing started to take on a flow and an ease that I hadn’t had before. I started to trust myself. It’s been over a year since I looked at my topic list. The last time I pulled it up, the topics seemed old and tired. Some of them were definitely “safe.” None of them were timely.

It was at that point that people started to show an interest in my scribblings. The feedback and the popularity of my writing increased dramatically once I started working without a net.

You can find 16 Management Rules that Make No Sense, here.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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