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How Do You Measure A Successful Day?

Every have so much to do that you don’t do anything? You could do any of a million different things. Maybe you even have a lot of things you are supposed to be doing. But, too much is. . .well, it’s too much.

Most days are like that for people with anxiety.

The way most compbat it. The way I combat it is lists. Maybe it’s the ADHD combined with the anxiety. All I know is that lists help me not only organize my thoughts and tasks, but it helps me move when I’m stuck and don’t want to move.

That’s easy to say. It’s easy to write. It’s sometimes hard to do. Because among those million of things that you have to do, the list that is too much, is the task of “Write a list.”

It’s ironic because I know that if I will write a list, I’ll be able to get stuff done and make progress. But, anxiety can be ironic that way. Not only does the list help organize my thoughts and tasks, there’s also something therapeutic about checking items off the list.

On days I do manage a list, I can do amazing things. Saturday was one of those days.

Fortunately there were no work emergencies. And I had no other commitments. No appointments, no kid’s activities. I had the whole day to devote to the ‘honey do” list, except my honey didn’t make the list. I did.

Here’s what my list looked like.

Most of it’s in shorthand. I did the following:

  • Textured a bathroom wall
  • Built a brace for the kitchen sink pluming
  • Installed a carbon monoxide monitor
  • Repaired the doorbell
  • Tinted the windows in my garage
  • Hung curtains in the garage window
  • Had my son install a new doorknob on a bedroom
  • Rescheduled appointments for next since I’ll be out of town (piano tuning, windshield replacement, therapy
  • Installed new interior door handles in my car
  • Replaced the lights in the garage
  • Worked on wood working projects for Christmas
  • Bought a bunch of supplies for the next honey do list

I also listened to the Astros beat the Yankees to advance to the World Series. Then, I watched unranked BYU beat thirteenth ranked Boise State in college football.

I didn’t get everything on my list done. I still have car repairs that are undone. I need to schedule a dentist, and eye exams. I didn’t get all my projects completed. And that’s the thing, I never get everything done.

The difference is that while there is always stuff left to do, without a list there’s a lot more stuff left to do. On days like Saturday, I feel like I can conquer the world.

I just have to make sure I start with a list.

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

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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Half A World Away

I love clocks. . .and watches. My home office is about four feet wide by seven feet long. In that 28 square feet I have four clocks, and six pocket watches. They all have a purpose or a memory.

The watches are mostly family heirlooms. I have watches that belonged to my father, his father, my son, my great-grandfather, watches that were gifts from my son, my wife.

The clocks are mostly functional. But, they have some symbolism as well. The tabletop grandfather clock was handmade by my daughter.

The backward clock is in honor of Dr Grace Hopper, one of the original computer programmers who created a backward clock because she could. The backward clock and the grandfather clock are set to Mountain Time Zone. (Where I live.)

The final two clocks on my office wall are for work. One is set to Central Time the other to Eastern Time. One of my call centers is located in the Mountain Time Zone. One in the Central Time Zone. And three in the Eastern Time Zone.

I talk to each of my centers on a daily basis. Last night we had an scheduled maintenance activity but our tester from Kentucky didn’t join the phone bridge. I got a call, because, well, that’s what I do. I had to reach out to my center and find someone to help us validate our testing.

Question, if it’s 10:35 pm in Pleasant Grove, Utah, what time is it in Kentucky?

I got tired of doing the math in my head. I just have to look at the red clock on my wall. If I have to call Louisiana in 90 minutes what time will that be? I just look at the white clock and count forward an hour and a half.

There’s probably some symbolism in the fact that every one of my clocks and watches is analog. Of course, I also have dual computer monitors which display the time, an iPad with the time displayed, a digital desk phone with its time display, my cell phone and an iPod. All of which will show the time in digital format.

But, it’s really the analog clocks that I use.

I decided I need to add another clock. Next month I take a trip to Manila. There’s a neighborhood in my little town called Manila. The neighborhood is called Manila. The town is called Pleasant Grove. Anyway, I’ve been to the Manila neighborhood. I’m headed to Manila in the Philippines.

I’ll be there for a week. I have to do a lot of coordination with the folks who work in our Manila office. Many of them match their schedules to our local (Salt Lake City) time zone. But, not all. I have to try to keep track of day and night here and there.

So, I did what I always do: I bought a clock. I figure I’ll add a new clock set to Manila time. That way, I can do the same thing for Manila that I currently do with Central and Eastern time zones.

Manila is 22 hours different than Salt Lake City. Or is it 26? If it’s 11:30 pm here, it’s 1:30 pm there but the next day. Anyway, that’s what clocks are for, right?

Great, I’ll just set my new clock for two hours ahead of Salt Lake City time. It was at that point I realized the problem. Not a serious problem really, but my Manila clock wasn’t going to be as useful or necessary as I’d thought.

My clocks are all analog, remember? That means that 1:30 pm looks the same as 1:30 am. And that’s what my new clock showed me. That when it was 11:30 pm in Utah it was 1:30 in Manila. And the Manila clock showed the exact same time as the Eastern Time Zone clock.

I think I’ll still put the Manila clock up. I’ve already purchased it, I might as well. But, keeping time will be easier now that I know that Manila is literally half a world away. . .plus or minus a couple of hours.

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

The Fallacy Of “Break Up Big Tech”

I don’t trust computer companies. In a capitalist society, a corporation has a responsibility to maximize profits on behalf of its shareholders. Companies are “good stewards” only so much as it makes good corporate sense. This isn’t a failing of the companies. To assume that companies will somehow be benevolant is an unreasonable assumption.

It’s even worse in a authoritarian society. China, for example, uses corporation, and especially social media companies to not only keep tabs on their citizens, but to actually assign them a social media score. This score will influence all aspects of citizens’ lives; work, travel, etc.

Companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon know information about you that you don’t even know yourself. You probably have location services turned on for your Android phone. Go into the settings and look at history.

Everywhere you’ve been. . .ever. But, you can prevent that by turning off location services, right?

Sure, but Google can find the informaiton other ways. GPS? Check ins? Shared information with Facebook? And numerous other ways. I have location services turned on for my phone. It’s just too much convenience to give up the ability to say,

Hey, Google. Directions to the nearest Walmart.

However, I don’t have Google Nest, the “smart” thermostat in my home. I don’t have a smart doorbell. I don’t have any smart home appliances. My cars are dumb. And I like them that way.

Security is always a tradeoff with convenience. Our computers would be more secure if we all had 16 digit passwords that were a random mix of letters, numbers and special characters. But, it would be a lot less convenient.

So, those large tech companies gobble up all of the personal information they can get. How should we protect ourselves? Or, more accurately, how do we protect those people who will choose convenience over security and give way too much information to Big Tech?

Some suggest that the companies are too big. We should “break them up.”

I think that’s a terrible idea. Because I do believe in capitalism and I remember Word*Star.

Word*Star was a word processing program. In the early days of the PC it was one of the early success stories. Pretty much everyone used Word*Star. Its marketshare was an insane amount around 80% or more.

Its market position was so strong that it could virtually dictate standards in the word processing space. And then, suddenly (over the course of several years) it was done. It only lost it’s marketshare, it pretty much disappeared. It was knocked out by a product called WordPerfect.

You probably don’t remember Word*Star, but if you are a certain age, you probably heard of WordPerfect. It took. over the word processing market and helped to fuel the explosive growth of the PC market. It was so dominate that even competing programs had to adopt its archaic and complicated function-key commands. (F7 was Exit. Shift-F7 was Print.)

One of the programs that built a template to allow its users to use WordPerfect commands was a very unpopular and inferior program called Microsoft Word.

WordPerfect was a much better program. Microsoft was a much better marketer. Eventually Word took over the top spot in the word processing space. Today, WordPerfect is literally a fraction of it’s former self.

Word helped Microsoft become the biggest and most powerful software company in the world. The link between Microsoft Windows and Microsoft’s applications like Word became an unstoppable force. It ruled the PC landscape and had a lot of influence over the Apple Macintosh landscape as well. It was huge, powerful and considered a threat to society.

So much of a threat that a judge named Thomas Penfield Jackson decided that Microsoft needed to be “broken up.” Without government intervention, Microsoft would control too much of America’s life. It was a public menance.

That ruling sparked a recession. (And took my portfolio from “retirement” to “use these papers to start a fire.”) Ultimately the order to split the company was appealed and Microsoft got to continue dominating the world.

We don’t hear alot about Microsoft’s influence any more. In fact, when we discuss which companies need to be broken up, Microsoft doesn’t make the list any more.

Google wasn’t even a consideration when WordPerfect was dominate. And Microsoft wasn’t a concern when Word*Star was king of the hill. And that’s what will happen if we allow the industry to control the tech industry. I’m not saying we shouldn’t regulate the industry. There are several privacy considerations that I’d love to see Congress require.

But, the industry has shown us that the dominate company today will see a time when it’s influence is reduced or even eliminated.

I don’t want the giant tech companies broken up because I am a capitalist. . .and I remember Word*Star.

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

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Blood and Tech

I hate hospitals. Not their purpose, of course. Just being in them makes me uncomfortable. I know why. It has to do with an attack of appedicitis that wasn’t appendicitis, but still painful, a brutally painful night in the hospital, months of recovery, an diagnosis of an incurable disease. (I got better.) But, I ended up with a severe case of PSTD. I was known to pass out if anyone just tells me about an operation or injury.

But, here’s the thing. I could teach the first aid merit badge with it’s descriptions of various broken bones and injuries. I had a houseful of kids who got their share of bumps, bruises and bloody noses. I was even there when three of my kids were born.

So, how do I mix those two traits? Being capable when I need to deal with hospitals or trauma, while being affected by PTSD?

One of the tasks in my job is to deal with outages. “Outage” is a broad term. It could be everything from a weird “beep” when a call drops in to an entire site, or the entire enterprise being offline.

I’m really good at this part of my job. When things get their craziest, I am at my best. ADHD helps, a lot. I can quickly shift focus from one line of thinking to another. I can even manage multiple outages at the same time. What’s even harder, is I can manage an outage while also participating in a conference call. My most involved time was three separate calls all going at the same time. (That’s why they invented MUTE buttons.)

An outage call involves a lot of down time. You are waiting for engineers to join the call. You are waiting for testers to validate. You are sometimes just waiting for systems to run.

Lots of waiting.

Here’s where ADHD is no longer my friend. You would think that an outage call is simply another event happening during the day. You just do the rest of your job during the downtime right?

Wrong.

The very brain chemistry that lets me bounce from one topic to another during an outage, makes it nearly impossible to focus on regular work tasks during an outage. I cannot devote my exclusive attention to the outage call, of course. Not if it lasts nine or ten hours with over 2/3 of that being down time.

It happens occasionally. I’ll get caught up in another task. And I forget about the outage call. And during down time, it’s silent on the phone bridge. A silent phone bridge sounds a lot like a non-sphone bridge. And I’ll work away at my other task. I might even slip into hyper-focus.

Hyper-focus: A side effect of ADHD that causes a person to become so engrossed in a task that they lose track of everything else, including time.

And then, I realize, “I haven’t eheard anything from the bridge recently.”

What someone waiting on something from me?

No, we are still waiting on desktop engineers to get on site.

Oh, okay. Let me know if you need anything.

Worse is when they were waiting on me. And now I have to backtrack and remember where I was in the situation.

Better to not get too involved. Stick to tasks that don’t require any thinking. Organize my inbox, for example.

ADHD forces me to hold both habits in my head at the same time; the ability to jump from topic to topic and the abiltiy to hyperfocus. Like the Asian concept of Ying and Yang, you can’t have one with out the other.

It’s like my PTSD around blood and hospitals. During an emergency, I can concentrate on the task at hand and I don’t have any issues dealing with blood, or injuries, or pain, or even hospitals. But, after the crisis is passed. When I have a chance to sit and think, then, the PTSD kicks in and I have to go sit down and think of a happy place or something.

And during an outage I have to do just the opposite. Once the situation settles down and I’m no longer bouncing from topic to topic, I have to remain focused and not allow myself to focus on something else.

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

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Freedom Isn’t Free

I don’t often write about politics. There are plenty of places online you can get your fill of politics and more. I would hope that my few scribblings here can appeal to both the political and the apolitical.

So, today’s post is a departure. Because sometimes if you have a platform and refuse to use it, you might as well not have a platform at all.

I don’t have a clever duality in message to share. I don’t have some intricate logic path to share with you. I’m not even totally sure I’m right. I’m only sure that I need to say something.

Free Hong Kong

The citizens are fighting for their lives. Twenty years ago it was Tiananmen Square. Students protesting. . .peacefully. And then, the tanks rolled and the blood flowed in the streets and we were shocked and horrified and some of us vowed it should never happen again.

It’s been twenty years.

Don’t let it happen again.

Free Hong Kong

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

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Traditions Kept And Broken

It’s fall. That means cooler weather, football, leaves turning, canning and thoughts of Christmas.

Well, almost.

We broke a tradition this year. Our canner and our juicer are staying put on the shelf. Not a quart of peaches, or apples or our famous grape juice.

It’s not because we didn’t have the fruit. There were grapes to be had for the picking. An entire apple orchard about two blocks from house has gone unpicked two years in a row. We could literally pick more than we could can in a month.

I’m not completely sure why we aren’t canning this year. It was just. . .too much. One more thing. It’s been a busy summer. I’ve travelled nearly every other week. My lovely wife has kept house and home together even has her health has gone up and down.

My aunt has the grapes. Each year she tells me when they are ripe. She lives in Salt Lake City, about 30 miles from us. Picking grapes is simple, if somewhat tedious. And the process of turning it into juice is a simple process that I actually enjoy. It takes about an hour per gallon. We typically picked about 4 bushels and got about 13 gallons out of that.

Last year we did about 8 bushels and 25 gallons. We still have plenty. I guess we won’t miss not having the 2019 season canned. We’ve still got plenty of the 2018 to last.

Applesause are best done as a family affair. It’s much more involved than grapes. It takes hours and a lot of people. We have the people, but we just aren’t up to getting everything put in place.

Does this mean we are getting old? Or tired? Or perhaps both.

We aren’t really cancelling the tradition, only postponing it. Or so, I’m telling myself now. We’ll see next year.

However, I have started in on keeping track of another tradition. Readers of these scribblings know I love to work on cars. Even this weekend I changed the oil in one, ordered parts for two others. Helped my daughter fill the AC on hers. And I didn’t get half of the items on my car list completed. That’s the beauty of having running cars; you can afford to only get part way through the list.

But, I also enjoy woodworking. In fact, I have often created Christmas gifts in my workshop. My most complex project was a footlocker that I designed and built. I’ve actually built three. The first one I made for one of my sons. It was the first one I’d ever done. I tend to build things according to the “Helicoptor Standard.”

HELICOPTOR STANDARD: Built strong enough to support a helicoptor.

It meant his footlocker was strong. . .and heavy. With the later ones I managed to keep the strength and cut down on the weight.

I actually haven’t done much with woodworking for over a year. I have a multi-function woodworking tool called a Shopsmith. It’s a tablesaw, a drillpress, a bandsaw, and several other tools. It’s been broken. It would start, but as soon as I put it underload, as soon as I actually tried to do anything with it, it would blow my circuit breaker. The Shopsmith weights about 200 lbs and isn’t easy to move. I threw a tarp over it and thought, “I’ll get to it someday.”

This weekend was someday. I pulled the motor out to figure out what was broken. Being a woodworking tool, it was very dusty. First thing I had to do was blow off 20 years of sawdust and dirt.

When I finished blowing all the sawdust off, the motor looked fine. Because it was. Turns out that was literally all it needed. I put it back into the housing and I no longer had an excuse to not start in on Christmas gifts.

I’m building more footlockers year. Along with shelves and boxes and maybe some some carved names. Yesterday I completed a support platform for our garage deep freezer. It was a simple project and supported by 4×4 posts. Yes, I’m pretty confident a helicoptor could land on it.

A few years ago we had a Christmas where everyone made handmade gifts for each other. We draw names for Christmas. But, it’s a secret who has your name. One of my daughters had me make a pencil holder shaped like a car for her to give to the person who’s name she had.

Yup, I got a car shaped pencil holder for Christmas that year.

So, we’ll continue some traditions this year and skip some other ones. The point is to make the traditions brighten the holidays. If they are a chore, it defeats the entire purpose of having them in the first place.

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

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Two Tech Guys Walk Into A Bar

Back when the Internet was young and Microsoft was King of The Mountain, I worked for the “evil empire.” It was a different time. I was there from 1994 to 2002. It feels like a a lifetime ago. In Internet, or IT time, it was.

It was also a different time in terms of what companies could get away with. I spent several years on the Microsoft Exchange team. Brian Valentine was the VP over Exchange. The team took it’s direction from him.

Brian wasn’t much of a believer in following rules. He held Ship-It parties that were legendary within Microsoft. The Art Department had to ask for a Ship It schedule so they knew when to remove the paintings and statues from Building 43 before the drunken rowdiness started.

There was one statue too large to move. It was a circle of stones walls. During a Ship It party, someone decided it would be a good idea to fill the circle with water. It was probably several hundred gallons. That wouldn’t have been a problem if the art structure hadn’t been on top of the parking garage.

In addition to legendary shipping parties Brian also had a Friday afternoon meetings. They were mandatory. They also provided taxis for anyone who wanted one afterward. (This was before Uber and Lyft.) The meetings were just an excuse to have another party, complete with beer. I loved those parties.

I don’t drink.

I’m travelling to the Philippines next month for a business meeting. I’ll be there all week to justify the time and expense of going. I’m going because part of our team is in the Philippines. In fact, many of our teams are at least partially based overseas.

A friend on another team reached out recently.

I heard you will be in the Philippines next month?

Yeah, I’ll be there for about a week.

We should get together and have a beer.

That would be great. I don’t drink beer, but it would be great to meet.

I’m more of a whisky drinker.

Actually, I don’t drink alcohol at all. It’s kind of a religious thing. But, I love bars.

It’s true. I’m a huge fan of bars. I love the atmosphere. I love the ambiance. (Okay, those mean the same thing, but they sound different.) Maybe it’s because my grandparents’ home had a bar. One back room was literally a bar room. It had dark panelling, A 15′ bar. Neon bar pictures. I don’t remember sneaking any of the alcohol. My cousins do so maybe I did too. Anyway, my memories of that room are about family gatherings and happy times. Maybe that’s why.

all I know is that I’ve always felt comfortable in a bar room.

And I never drink.

Many of my friends also do not drink. However, unlike me, they don’t feel comfortable in a bar, or even around alcohol. (Probably because their grandparents didn’t have a bar room in their house.)

While I like bars, I don’t much care for drunks. I don’t find “drunk” videos funny. I feel sorry for people who cannot control their urges and so end up allowing their urges to control them.

However, not everyone that drinks is a drunk, just as not everyone who drives speeds.

We recently finished a major project. The team was from multiple states. We met for dinner after the final sign off was done. My friends all drink. After dinner they started sampling various craft beers. Then, they started custom ordering speciality drinks. The only one I “recognized” was a White Russian. And by recognized, I mean I can remember the name and have no idea what’s in it.

After dinner, we all went our separate ways.

Did they drink too much? I have no idea. I know they drank more than I did. And to my completely unprofessional view, they weren’t impaired.

The point of the evening was that alcohol is part of the culture of IT. We once had a late night strategy session one time with the division president, senior VPs and various members of the project team. We had an important client presentation the following day. About half way through our evening one of the senior VPs handed me an unopened beer. It only seemed natural to him.

To be successful in my position, I have to be comfortable around alcohol. Fortunately, I am. I know some former coworkers who would not be.

For you, it might be something else. The thing about business is that your comfort zone and someone elses very likely might not line up exactly. You have to be willing to either become comfortable, or find a new position.

Hopefully, you had a grandmother who liked bars. I know it helped me.

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

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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