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My Vacation Starts Today. . .Or Maybe Tomorrow. . .Or Maybe Thursday

I am taking a few weeks off work. Starting tomorrow, I don’t have any more work days scheduled. Well, I have a short trip to Arkansas, but it’s two travel days and two days on site to help with a migration.

Other than that, I’m OOF.

OOF: O_ut O_f o_F_fice.

I’ve never understood why OOF became the abreviation for Out of Office. Maybe no one wanted to say they were going to be OOO. It makes more sense than the more recent phrase I’ve heard for being on vacation, “Out of pocket.” That’s not what that phrase means.

Out of Pocket: To need to pay for work related items out of your own pocket.

But, I’m not exactly sure when my vacation starts. I’m not even sure if it will start. I’m on call. I may have a quiet month with my family. Or I may spend hours and hours on the phone with people from five different states working through outages and problems.

I really can’t control whether we’ll have issues or not. It’s not really up to me. So, as we head into December, I’ll either have a wonderful vacation or spend the month working. It’s like reading a book with a surprise ending.

I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Mormons* And Masons

They both have temples. Both are old institutions. The Mormons have been around for 189 years founded in 1830. The Masons were founded in 1717 and are formally 301 years old, but probably closer to 625 years based on a reference found in the Regius Poem in 1390.

Both claim a much older heritage however. The Mormon Church views itself as a restoration of the ancient Church that Christ founded. It’s why the Mormon Church has a quorum of 12 apostles and the president of the Latter-day Saints holds a position of prophet.

The Masons also claim an ancient heritage. Their mythology dates back even further than the Mormons. They trace their lineage back to Old Testament and the Temple of Solomon.

Both have ceremonies that are not for public viewing. For the Masons it is the initiation ceremonies and the oath that every Mason commits to. For the Mormons it’s a ceremony performed in their temples called “the endowment.”

The Mormons and the Masons share even more commonality. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was raised as a Master Mason in Nauvoo, Illinois. Shortly after that he revealed the endowment ceremony. The Endowment is a ceremony for both men and women.

One of the tenets of Masonry is that it is strictly a fraternal order: no women allowed. In fact, sharing the masonic secrets with a woman is one of the things that will get you kicked out of masonry.

The Masons decided the Mormons’ temple ceremony was a little too similar to the Masonic ceremony. They kicked out Smith and all of the Mormons. The animosity between the two groups followed the Mormons to Utah. In fact, the Masons would not consider a man for Masonry in Utah unless he could prove he was not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Although they just said he couldn’t be a Mormon.) Although Mormons could petition in other states, it wasn’t until 1983 that the Grand Lodge of Utah lifted the prohibition on Mormons joining the fraternity.

I requested to join the Mormon Church in 1976. I was baptized in Olympia Washington. I’ve been a member in good standing ever since. I petitioned to join the Masons much later. It was about ten years ago. I’ve been a dues card carrying member ever since.

When I decided to join the Masons, I consulted my uncle. He’s been a Mason his whole life. He’s never been a Mormon.

Are you sure those Mormons are going to be okay with your joining the Masons?

I think so. They have a Masonic temple in Provo.

But, I had some trepidation. I talked to some friends in the Church.

Are you sure those Masons are going to be okay with a Mormon joining?

I’m pretty sure.

Turns out both groups were just fine with it.

I attended a Masonic ceremony today. It’s one of the three that are public. The others are a cornerstone laying ceremony and Masonic funeral rights.

Today’s ceremony was the installation of new officers for my home lodge “Story Lodge #4.” The new Worshipful Master is Craig Call. He will be in charge of lodge for the year 2020.

Good luck to Worshipful Brother Call and all the new officers of Story Lodge #4. I count myself privileged to be among you.

*The Mormons no longer want to be called Mormons. The term they prefer is Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, or simply Latter-day Saints, but not LDS. The Masons, on the other hand are perfectly happy to be called Masons.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

A Business Trip On PTO

PTO: Personal Time Off, Employee Vacation or sick time

My company doesn’t offer sick time. Instead they offer PTO hours. It’s up to the employees to decide how to use it. It can be used either for sick time or vacation time.

The company also has a use-it-or-lose-it policy. Any PTO hours unused at the end of the year are lost. I’ve been with the company long enough that I get 25 vacation days each year. That’s more than a month.

And that’s the problem. I don’t take a lot of vacations during the year. Even when I try to take vacation time, it doesn’t always work out. I’m a salaried employee. So, if I work for any amount of time during a day, by law it becomes a work day. My of my previous supervisor said, “If you take a phone call, it’s a work day.”

So, given the number of outages we have and their tendency to follow me on vacation, I end up in December with quite a few days that I need to take vacation for.

This year I 96 PTO hours headed into December. That’s 12 days. We get Christmas day as a company holiday, so I requested from December 13 through the end of the year off.

I filled out the forms and since I don’t need to have anyone cover my “shift that was the end of it. Oh sure, if we had an outage call during the last two weeks of December my PTO days will turn into work days, but otherwise I’m all set for a long vacation.

Except. . .our client decided to make a trip to our Arkansas location in two weeks. I sent email to the VP,

The client wants to visit our Arkansas site on December 18 and 19. Do you want me to arrange to be onsite?

Yes.

And there it was. Could I insist that “I had those days scheduled off!!”? I suppose. But, the fact is if the client is going to be onsite at our call center in Arkansas, I needed to be there too.

So, now I’m requesting PTO for December 9 – 16, and then again from December 23 through then end of the year. A couple of travel days and weekends round out the rest of the month.

My friends suggested that I should insist that I wasn’t going.

I simply replied, “Who wouldn’t want a couple of days in Arkansas in December?”
olp

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

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Tis The Season. . .For Broken Computer Systems

It happens every year about this time. Even before Thanksgiving, and certainly by the time Christmas rolls around, computer systems start crashing.

Most corporations institute what is called a “change freeze” for the last couple of weeks of the year. One of the largest reasons is financial. Or, more accurately, financials. Companies have to close out their books at the end of the year. They have to get out W2 forms in the first thirty-one days of January. They don’t want to risk anything delaying their ability to get those financials posted by the end of the year.

Okay, great, a change freeze sounds like it should help prevent outages at the end of the year, not cause them. So, what gives?

Project Managers. Many projects have the end of the year as either a formal or informal deadline. Also, many companies do their reviews based on a calendar year. That means, if you are a PM and you want to get that big bonus (ha ha, actually, I’ve never heard of a project manager getting an end of year performance bonus. But, I digress) you want to get your project rolled out by the end of the year.

That doesn’t mean December 31. That means before your change freeze date. Many projects get rolled out in November and the first half of December.

It’s said that the greatest period of instabiility for any system is the week after your team gets back from a tech conference. They just can’t wait to try out the new tips and techniques they learned.

The same thing happens with end of year changes. Modern computer systems are terribly complex. And sometimes just terrible. But, even the best architected and maintained system has an incredible number of moving parts. In fact, most systems are too complex for any one person to understand all of it.

And new systems and programs have to integrate smoothly into the existing architecture. You do that by testing. But, testing, no matter how good, can only get you so far. It’s typically impossible to truly test a complex system without actually having a test system that is as big as your existing system. Even if you could do that (and virtually no one can,) you still couldn’t replicate all the users on the system at once.

What happens is that much of the testing is actually done in a “live” system. And the whole point of testing is to find weaknesses. Those weaknesses, when exposed in a production environment results in problems and outages.

Every year we see it happen. It’s like clockwork, or the turning of the seasons. We’ll spend the next couple of weeks “testing,” putting out fires, testing some more, and finally, the change freeze date will arrive to relieve the stress. Almost like Christmas. . .Just a couple weeks early.

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.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Me And Don Quixote

Don Quixote was crazy. Okay, I’ve never actually read Don Quixote. Not in translated English and certainly not in the original Spanish. But, I do know all the words to the musical “The Man of La Mancha.”

We know Don Quixote was crazy because at one point he decides to attack a windmill. Or maybe he attacks multiple windmills. I’m not sure. That part wasn’t in the “Man of La Mancha.”

Anyway, attacking a windmill because you think it’s a giant is so crazy that we’ve even incorporated it into our lexicon:

Tilting at Windmills – To attempt to accomplish an impossible goal.

I realized today that I’m just as crazy as Don Quixote. Why? Because I too tilt at windmills. (Tilt is olde english for jousting. . .I think.)

You might tilt at the saem windmill I do. It’s my email inbox.

I’ve been on vacation for the past week and a half. My inbox had 373 unopened items when I returned to work today. One of my goals was to get that number below 50 by the end of the day.

I even tracked it throughout the day.

8:00 373
8:30 355
9:00 278
10:00 200
10:30 177
11:00 152
12:30 111
1:00 97
1:30 74
2:00 53
3:00 33
4:00 29

Yes, I met my goal. But, the crazy part, the Don Quixote and his windmills part is that I felt like I had actually accomplished something.

But, tomorrow, my mailbox will start to fill up again. And when I take a couple weeks vacation at the end of the month (gotta use those use-it-or-lose-it vacation days)I’ll come back to another huge number of unread messages in my inbox.

There’s an old proverb. It was described to me as Chinese, but who really knows? It was a test of insanity. The person is shown a pond and handed a bucket. The test is to empty the pond. If a person starts to immediately bail out the pond, they are deemed insane. If they first divert the stream feeding the pond, they are deemed sane.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the pond is starting to fill back up and I need to find my bucket.

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

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Games In The Snow

It’s called the Turkey Bowl. It’s played on the morning of the 4th Thursday in November. It’s pretty much an annual tradition in many parts of the US.

It certainly an annual tradition in our neighborhood. It occured yesterday morning. Something else happened yesterday morning as well; it snowed. In fact, we had a winter storm warning starting at 3:00AM Thanksgiving morning and continuing to Saturday at 10:00am.

The snow really started getting serious at 8:00am when we met for the game at a nearby park.

Being a church group we started with a prayer.

Just like in elementary school, they picked sides.

The ground was covered, but they used endzone markers.

The snow was coming sideways.

One of the participants creates the line markers.

Okay, they weren’t straight, but it wasn’t that kind of game.

And they kicked off in the snow.

Tom Brady was less than his NFL stats would have indicated.

Flag football

Utah fans were well represented. (Although he’s a BYU student.)

Plenty of high school Varsity and JV players including the starting QB for the local high school.

At the end of the day there were handshakes and smiles all around.

Thanks for playing in the snow.

The local Missionaries also came by. The Elder form Australia got his first taste of American football. . .and snow.

Snow on the footballs.

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

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Thankful To Work On Thanksgiving?

In a word, Yes.

We had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We had turkey, two in fact. We had potatoes, four kinds; potato salad, mashed potatoes, potatoes ah gratin and potatoes baked in the same pan as the turkey. There was salad, olives, deviled eggs, pickled okra, cranberry sauce and jello.

There was also pie. We had 15 people and 19 pies. My daughter and her family of five brought five pies.

We have too many pies.

There’s no such thing as too many pies. There should always be more pies than people.

Well, I guess it’s a good thing we brought five.

After we had eaten the dinner, and the pie, and watched some football, we went around the room and each named five things we were thankful for.

As the dad, I went last.

I’m grateful for my job. I’ve had to work everyday this week, despite saying I was on vacation. I even had to take a call this morning. But, I remember not having a job. Having a job is way better than not having a job.

I’m grateful for my lovely wife. She is the one who makes sure we have these dinners. Even though we might be working in the kitchen. She’s the one making it happen.

I’m grateful for the Gospel and all that entails including Jesus Christ as our savior.

I’m grateful that I can fix stuff. Whether it’s cars or woodworking projects, or home repairs, I appreciate the fact that I have the skills and that I enjoy it. Many people don’t.

And finally, this time of year. . . I’m grateful for pie.

Hope your Thanksgiving was safe, memorable and spent with those you love.

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

Follow him on
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LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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