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Let Me Tell You About My Nonexistent Neck Pain

There’s an old joke:

Doctor, it hurts when I do this. . .

Then don’t do that.

My neck doesn’t hurt. In fact, it doesn’t hurt a lot. It doesn’t hurt when I lay on my right shoulder. It doesn’t randomly spasm when I’m typing and send shooting pains down my upper arm and forearm. And to go along with that, my right hand isn’t numb either. No minor tingling in my fingers, or pain across the back of my hand.

Nope, my neck, shoulder, arm and hand all feel fine.

Back in 1997, Roberto Benigni made a film called “Life Is Beautiful.” It was a great movie. Even though it was filmed in Italian, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. It won for Best Actor, Best Music and of course, Best Foreign Language Film.

The tagline for the film was

An unforgettable fable that proves love, family and imagination conquer all.

It was a comedy. 

It was very funny. 

It was set in a concentration camp in WWII and the main character is killed. (Sorry to spoil it for you, but it’s been 20 years, you should have seen it by now.) 

Benigni, who wrote, directed and starred in the film was criticized for filming a comedy that seemingly made light of the horrors of the Nazi death camps.

I think Benigni did a good thing.

I have a friend, Dave, who is a professional writer. He has been a writer almost as long as he has been my friend, and he has been my friend for nearly 30 years. In addition to New York Times bestsellers, Dave writes a blog. He gives advice to new authors. He’s been a teacher to some of the most famous authors of the past 20 years. Yesterday, Dave wrote about the need to follow your heart, if you are a writer. Yesterday, I wrote about the fact that life can be mean and nasty and will beat you to your knees if you let it.

I think we’re both right. And that’s what Benigni was saying. Of course, life in a concentration camp was hell on earth. Even with the separation of decades, we can still smell the stench of the ovens and hear the screams from the “showers.” Nothing that I have to endure can even compare. I will never really understand that horror.

But, even in the midst of tragedy, there can be rays of light. We are the ones to make our lives. And the way we do that is to choose. Life will happen regardless of our involvement. But, we have the choice to be idle spectators, being acted on by life, or taking control.

In my family we pick our relatives. That might seem strange, but a combination of circumstances have come together in a way that allows me, my kids, my parents, to decide which people we want in our lives. I have relatives who are pretty negative. I’m an adult. They are adults. Do we have to interact? I don’t have to pick them.

No. I can simply choose not to choose that person. Sometimes I want someone in my life, a wayward niece, for example, and they don’t want a relationship. In that case, I’m like the single guy in college who really, I mean really wants to have a conversation with that girl in his History 201 class. Sorry, buddy. It takes two to Tango. If my niece decides she wants to reconnect, Facebook is still there. 

We each have the opportunity to select whom and what we surround ourselves with. Want to be a writer? Write. Want to be a comic? Find an open mic and get up on stage. Want to be a doctor? Go back to school.

As my friend Dave pointed out, we have it within us to do what we want. And as I pointed out, it’s not a job, or a certain amount of money that will give that fulfillment. It’s our choices and our ability to look around and find the positive.

Like my non-neck pain. A few months ago, it was terrible. I literally thought it might disable me. (When you cross over the half century mark, everything starts to look like it potentially might disable you.) But, I made some changes. I changed how I carried my computer. I adjusted how I sat. I got a new keyboard and mouse. And my pain went away.

So, when I’m looking for that positive spark. I’m looking for that “Life is Beautiful” moment, I just think, “My neck doesn’t hurt today.” That alone brings a smile to my lips.

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 

Don’t Follow The Money. Don’t Follow Your Passion

It sounds like typical new-age mumbo-jumbo: “Create the life you want to live.” Typically, it’s got a picture of somone on a beach, or a boat backlit by a beautiful sunset. We look at. We sigh. And then we go back to the drudgery that is our lives and think, “If only that were me.”

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much can you take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.
– Rocky Balboa

Life is not what you make it. Life is what you make of it. There’s a difference.

My kids love to cook. My youngest son make waffles this morning before school. He used the waffle mix, but he also knows how to read a recipe and make the batter from scratch. He knows how to make something. However, he’s more at a loss when we are out of waffle mix, and we don’t have any eggs to make the waffles from scratch. He can look at a recipe and say,

Give me the ingredients and I can make that.

He’s less good at looking at a random pile of ingredients and saying,

Here’s what I can make of that.

Life is like that. We don’t get a recipe and all of the ingredients. We get a pile of stuff and are expected to figure it out.

It’s great to love your job. But, even the most exciting job has parts that suck. And if you get paid to do something you used to do for fun, you need to find a new hobby. (Howard Needed A New Hobby.) And work is easier if you at least like your job. Personally, I enjoy my job a lot. There are parts that make me very excited. There are also parts and people that make me question my career choice.

The trick, in my opinion, is to not get your validation from your job. (Company Loyalty Only Ever Goes One Way.)

We all fantasize about what it would be like to ditch our job and our responsibilities and head to the mountains, or the beach, or Paris, or Fiji. We see those motivational posters and think, “Yeah, I should . . .” and then, we’re stuck. You should. . what? Leave your job? Remember how much work it was to get the job? And remember how important the health benefits are? And the money?

I should. . .leave my family? If that’s your thought, get to counseling.

So, what is it that the pretty picture with the sunset and the sailboat is actually doing for us? It’s showing us the sunshine and rainbows that Rocky talks about. That ain’t life. Life is what we make of it. It’s kids with a fever at 3:00am and you have an important meeting tomorrow. It’s that strange knock in your engine and payday is still two weeks away. Life is what happened while you were making other plans. (John Lennon)

The “hard” parts aren’t the hard parts. The hard is what makes it great. (Jimmy Dugan) How you choose to deal with it determines your life, your satisfaction and ultimately your happiness. Bad things happen to everyone, even that guy and girl in the pretty picture on the sailboat.

We have to first accept that life can be hard, it can be mean and nasty. So, what are you going to do about it? And when you accept that life can be unfair and unkind, you can then take ownership of how you choose to react. How much you keep moving after getting hit.

And once you decide to take ownership of how you react to life, you also get to take ownership of the happiness in your life. Happiness is not something that happens to us, it’s something we create. It’s the result of what we make of life.

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 

I Didn’t Even Know What A 4th Cousin Was, Let Alone Anyone That Had One

President Barack Obama and former President George W Bush are 11th cousins. Mr Obama is 8th cousins with former Vice President Dick Cheney. The president is also related to Texas senator Ted Cruz. They are 14th cousins. . .once removed.

A friend of mine recently announced she was leaving Facebook. Some drama had developed and she felt the best way to end it was to step away from social media. I was disappointed because she’s a relative and before Facebook, I didn’t even know she existed. Now it’s how we keep in touch. She’s my 2nd cousin, once removed.

Everyone has cousins if you go back far enough. But, that whole 1st, 2nd, 3rd deal can be confusing. And if you kick them out of your house, are they now once removed? (No, but we’ll get to that.)

I grew up with my cousins. We had birthday parties together, saw each other at Christmas, and of course we resigned to the “kids table” together at Thanksgiving. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I figured out the people I’d been referring to as cousins were actually my 2nd cousins. It’s actually pretty simple.

We all know what a 1st cousin is. Your aunts’ and uncles’ kids. You share the same grandparents with your first cousins. If you share a greatgrandparent with someone, you are second cousins. So, if your grandmother and my grandmother were sisters, we are second cousins. Here’s a picture of me and my cousins.

The man in the chair is my great-grandfather, Tandy Blair. I’m the little kid on the floor between his feet. The girl second from the right with the blond hair is my “cousin” Kris. Actually, she’s my 2nd cousin. Her grandmother and my grandmother were sisters. Tandy was their father.

If you share the same great-grandfather, you are 2nd cousins. If you share the same great-great-grandfather, you are 3rd cousins. At this point it’s easier to switch our perspective. If Kris and I are 2nd cousins, then our kids are 3rd cousins. My friend who is leaving facebook is Kris’s daughter, Nicole. Nicole is 3rd cousin to my kids. Since Kris and I are 2nd cousins, and Nicole is one generation removed from Kris, Nicole and I are 2nd cousins, once removed.

If you have the same. . .you are . . .

parents. . . siblings
grandparents. . .1st cousins
great-grandparents . . .2nd cousins
great-great-grandarents. . .3rd cousins
great-great-great-grandparents. . .4th cousins

Nicole recently had a baby. Kris’s grandchild is two generations removed from Kris. Through the magic that is Facebook, I got to meet my 2nd cousin twice removed. If Nicole is 3rd cousin to my kids, then, Nicole’s child is 4th cousin to my grandkids. In other words, they share the same great-great-great-grandfather, Tandy Blair.

Family is important to me, and extended family is important, but I was struck, again by how much closer social media has pulled us. We look at a story saying Presidents Obama and Bush are 8th cousins and it seems like a long ways apart. And yet, I realized, I actually know people (granted, they are little people at less than 3 years old) who are 4th cousins. Suddenly the world doesn’t seem quite so large.

Note: I’ve simplified the relationship tree slightly. Technically you share the same great-grandparents as your siblings, of course. To determine your “cousin-ness” find the first common progenitor and count down 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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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Don’t Run Your Meeting Like My Dad

We sat there. . .waiting. And if you were late, woe is you. We were never late.

The smells from the homecooked meal wafted up from the steaming dishes tempting our resolve.

But, we waited: my mother, my brothers, my sister and me. . .waiting.

My dad was always the last to arrive. Once he arrived, we could eat.

I’ve been in meetings that remind me of my early dinner memories. You don’t start before the boss shows up and he’s going to make an entrance. I’ve never understood the desire to attempt to exert influence by making people wait. I understand that people do it, but I’ve never understood why. Maybe they don’t realize what they are doing. It’s hard to imagine, but a healthy ego and a lack of social awareness could lead you to being oblivious that you’re wasting people’s time.

I went to a convention one time with my friend Tim. Tim was celiac. He couldn’t eat gluten, found in most flour. So, when it was time to eat, he had a special meal ordered. We were eating in the convention hall and it was a pseudo-catered event. The meals, excepting those for people like my friend, were all the same, but waiters brought them to our table and served us.

At our table, the waiters brought everyone a plate except for Tim. We understood that his, being a special order, would take longer. So, we waited, because that’s what you do. Tim was telling a funny anecdote. And we waited. The punchline was pithy and dry in a Scottish sense of humor way. And we waited.

Finally, Tim clued in to the fact that no one at the table was eating.

Why is no one eating?

We were waiting for your food to arrive before we start.

Oh, please! Eat! Don’t wait on me.

And we ate.

Maybe the chronically late managers are like my friend Tim on that one occasion. Maybe they don’t see it.


When I ran meetings, I typically had an agenda and the meeting couldn’t start before I arrived. At one point I was managing both a team of email engineers and a team of Microsoft SharePoint engineers. I had to figure out how to avoid wasting their time. The SharePoint guys didn’t really care about the email issues. The email guys didn’t care about SharePoint. I cared about both. The solution was to hold a 90 minute meeting. The first 30 minutes was devoted to email issues. The middle thirty was combined issues. The last 30 was dedicated to SharePoint. The email guys stayed for the first 60 minutes, the SharePoint guys for the last 60.

What it really meant was that I, as the leader ended up in 90 minutes of meetings. And that’s the point, the leader should be inconvenienced for the team, not the other way around.

Now that I’m the dad, we’ve adopted a different family tradition. My grandmother, my father’s mom, used to “wait” in her own special way.

We will wait for you. . .like one pig waits for another.

I’m not sure how grandma would run a meeting, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t make everyone wait until she arrived.

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 

That Time I Stumbled Into A Living Postcard

The picture was nearly indescribable, even for a writer. From a hilltop in the Scottish highlands looking down a long narrow valley. The heather was just starting to bloom. The sky, so often gray and rainy in April, was an incredible shade of azure blue. Big puffy white clouds hung like cotton balls illustrating some children’s book. The hilltop was occupied by monuments to the dead and departed. Rock cairns 12 feet high. Grave markers, the names and dates chiseled in granite, had been worn down over time to the point that they were indecipherable.

It was the perfect picture of Scotland. At least to an American. It was what the TV and movies tell us Scotland should look like. And then somewhere down in the valley, out of site came the haunting strains of someone on the pipes.

I’ve travelled a fair amount internationally. When I was working for Microsoft, I often made trips to do training around the world. As any business traveller can tell you, it’s not all that exciting. You see the airport. Then you see the inside of a taxi which takes you to a hotel that looks like any of a hundred other hotels you’ve been to. In the morning, you get into another taxi and go to a training room, or a convention center designed more for function than asthetics. You deliver your speech, or your lesson to a group of people. You go out to eat, typically your one and only interaction with the local scenary. Then it’s back to the hotel. And another taxi ride and airport visit in the morning.

Typically business travel doesn’t let you see much of the city, let alone the country you are visiting.

Several years ago, I was asked to speak at a conference at The Hague, in the Netherlands. My friend Tim was also one of the speakers. I live in Utah, a long way from the Netherlands. Tim lives in Scotland, a short flight to The Hague.

Rodney, why don’t you come a few days early and stay with my family in Edinburgh?

Are you sure?

Absolutely. We’d love to have you and I can show you a bit of the countryside.

Tim is descended from a very proud Scottish family, or clan. His uncle is the clan chief. (Yes, in the 20th Century, clans and chieftains were still a thing in Scotland.) His family isn’t from Edinburgh, though. His family lived in the Highlands. Northern Scotland is unique. It’s much different than Southern Scotland, and certainly different than England.

Hey, Tim, do you know what the difference between England and America is?

You know I’m Scottish, not English, right?

Yeah. The difference is that in America we think a hundred years is a long time and in England you. . .they. . think a hundred miles is a long way.

(I would not recommend anyone confuse a Scotsman with being English. Just a warning.)

Our trip through the highlands encompassed about 200 miles. The roads were in good condition, but narrow two lane affairs that wended their way around great sweeping curves and down into hidden valleys. The hardest part was that they drove on the wrong side; a scary endeavor when the driver is pushing Autobahn speeds.

Rodney, we do NOT drive on the wrong side of the road.

Oh yeah? What side of the road to Americans drive on?

The right side. . .

And the opposite of right is wrong.

Tim picked up speed on the next curve as a response. As we got closer to his family’s traditional home, we drove through small towns, each of which it seemed, had a story. Some were of betrayal and warfare.

So, when did that take place?

About 1670’s. But don’t mention it to anyone if we stop. They’re still a little sore about it.

Eventually we ended up on a green hilltop with an ancient stone shed guarding the entrance to a small, but very old cemetery. As we walked among the tombstones, Tim pointed out the markers of the past clan chiefs. We finally came to rest between two massive rock cairns. One for his grandfather, the other for an uncle. Both previous clan leaders. As the notes from the piper started I turned to my friend,

Tim, this is the epitome of an American’s traditional view of Scotland.

He simply stared out across the heather covered hills as the clouds lazily made their way across the deep blue sky.

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 

Those Are Not Corn Chips

We had planned to meet for dinner in the hotel restaurant. He arrived first and while he was waiting, had ordered an appetizer of chips and salsa.

Bad move.

In honor of my friend Tim, and his incredible career, I thought I’d tell a story about when we had to work together. Got to. When we got to work together. I had recently left Microsoft and was doing work as an independent consultant. Since I had worked for both WordPerfect, the original maker of Novell GroupWise email system, and Microsoft, the maker of the Exchange email system, I attempted to carve out a niche right in the middle. I sold myself as an expert on the migration between the two.

And it was true. . to a point. Truthfully, I was a smart technical guy with a long history of email administration and my friend Tim had assured me that he had access to a wonderful migration tool to take Microsoft Exchange 5.5 accounts and migrate them to GroupWise. The fact that I hadn’t actually migrated any mailboxes was a detail that turned out to not be pertinent.

Microsoft Exchange 5.5 was significant because it was the last version of Exchange that had its own directory system. That might not sound like a big deal, but back ten to fifteen years ago it was huge. It meant that you could put Exchange 5.5 on your Novell NetWare network. You didn’t need Microsoft Active Directory, or Windows NT. For companies that were trying to avoid completely embracing the Dark Side, it was an important distinction. However, Exchange 2000, the next version after 5.5, required you not only upgrade your email system, but upgrade your directory to AD as well.

Novell saw an opportunity to win back some email accounts by offering a migration path to GroupWise. That’s where I came in. Well, it’s where I wanted to come in. And that’s where Tim came in. Tim was (and is) a respected expert on all things Novell, including GroupWise. His company, NDS8, which is sadly closing its doors this week, was respected as one of the top integrators in the world. And NDS8 was Tim.

Tim let it be known that in his opinion, I was the top world expert on Exchange 5.5 –> GroupWise migrations. It was largely as a result of that recommendation that I got the gig. We were migrating 5000 users at a hospital in Fargo, ND. We were there during the summer, and it was lovely. Really, if your only impression of North Dakota in general and Fargo in particular is the movie, you have no idea. First, the movie was shot in winter. . .in Minnasota. Second, the locals hate it when you reference the movie.

The gig went really well. And the tool that Tim supplied me also worked well. I worked with a brilliant group of Novell consultants. The project started in the spring and went all the way through the summer. At one point, our lead Novell consultant had a conflict. Novell came to me and asked if I knew of anyone who could step in and do the network side of the migration?

Yes, actually, I know a guy.

Tim, as an independent contractor had no problem working in the United States, despite the fact he lives in Scotland. I was delighted that his schedule allowed him to join the project. We spent a lot of hours pouring over spreadsheets and log files.

It was one night shortly before we were ready to do the cutover that we had what should have been a typical dinner. He was already at the table and was just about to put another chip in his mouth when I walked into the restaurant.

Tim, I thought you couldn’t eat wheat.

What do you mean?

Well, that whole celiac thing. Isn’t gluten one of the things that you are supposed to avoid?

Yes, of course.

I saw realization dawn as his face fell.

These chips aren’t made of corn?

Slowly, I shook my head.

Oh boy. I may be a little late in the morning. I’m in for a bad night of it.

The next morning as he came down to breakfast, he looked like he hadn’t slept all night. Later, I found out it was because he hadn’t slept all night. Fortunately, he made a full recovery and the migration, the job that he got for me before I got it for him, went smoothly and definitely bolstered my resume.

NDS8 will be missed by all those in the Novell community.

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Mourning For A Friend

It’s sad when a dream dies. Sometimes it’s a relief. A couple of times I’ve run small businesses and while they were successful, they were also stressful. Occasionally, they take off and become bigger small businesses. And sometimes they last for 13 years.

My friend, Tim ran such a business. It was called NDS8. That name was a bit of a technological pun. Novell used to be a software company that made a product called NetWare. The directory that sat behind NetWare was called the Novell Directory System(NDS.) And as it was updated the version number was added; NDS5, NDS6. When Tim created his company the current version of Novell Directory System was NDS7. Tim took NDS8. The versions of NetWare and NDS continued on, but the name stuck. Eventually, Novell transformed. Then it transformed again. And again.

Through it all, Tim was there and NDS8.

BrainShare is Novell’s big user conference. You would have recognized Tim even if you had never met him. He was a fairly typical looking IT person. Average height. Brown hair. Glasses. A logo’d free t-shirt and a kilt. Yes, a Scottish kilt, as in

You know you’re wearing a dress, right?

Tim is also a former British military officer, so I typically say that with a smile.

Yesterday he announced that NDS8 is shutting down. We don’t talk as much as we used to, so I don’t know the background. But, having worked with him for years, I know how much the company meant to him. And having run small businesses, I know how attached I became to mine, and I didn’t run them for 13 years.

Tim’s a brilliant engineer. And an extremely upbeat person. I have no doubt that he will have no trouble moving into another position, whether that’s as a consultant, or joining an existing company. I know, if I were hiring, and had anything that was even close to being a fit, I’d hire him in a heartbeat. There’s the problem of him living with his family in Scotland and me in Utah, of course.

I have a few more stories of how Tim helped me when I really needed it that I’ll tell over the coming days. I’m still trying to process his news. I’m probably taking it harder than he is.

But, then, he’s Scottish, so I’m not sure I’d really know anything about his emotions that he didn’t want to share.

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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