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42, Triple Play, They Haven’t Got a Shot…And I Don’t Mind

On Sunday, baseball fields all across America looked like a weird scene from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guild To The Galaxy. Every player, coach and manager was wearing the ultimate answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.

That’s right. Everyone on every baseball team was wearing number 42. But, the super computer Deep Thought, probably never spared a thought for baseball. The players were wearing 42 for a much more important reason. April 15 marks the day that Jackie Robinson, 70 years ago became the first black man in the modern era to play major league baseball.

The tribute started because Ken Griffey Jr, one of the greatest to ever play the game, wanted to reverse his own number 24 to honor the great pioneer. The league thought it was such a good idea, they had everyone do it.

There’s a line in the movie “42” about Jackie’s life, where the Dodgers team captain, Pee Wee Reese says to Jackie, “Maybe tomorrow, we’ll all wear 42 and then they won’t be able to tell us apart.”

The tribute is even more memorable when you consider that MLB also decreed that every team would retire number 42. Never again will a Major League Baseball player wear number 42. . .except every April 15 when everyone will.

Baseball season has been going for a few weeks now. My favorite team, the Seattle Mariners are punching above their weight. They are in 3rd place in the highly competitive American League West Division. Most fans assume they will fade down the stretch. They always do.

Seattle is the only major league city to never send a team to the World Series. And this is probably not going to be their year.

A friend lamented that baseball is broken. There are only a certain number of teams that have any shot at winning the World Series. The rest of the teams are playing out a 162 games to see who finishes less than last.

But, I don’t see it that way. Sure, the Mariners aren’t going to the Series this year. But, it’s not just about who will win the last series of the season. Baseball is like fishing. It’s slow and then fast. It’s relaxing. It’s best enjoyed under the sunshine on a Saturday. And when the day is over, it doesn’t matter if you caught your limit or went 0-4 on the day.

The game is exciting for its own sake. For example, two days ago, the Mariners were playing the defending World Champion Houston Astros. The Astros were taking it to the M’s pretty good. And then, in the middle of the 4th inning an amazing thing happened.

With two men on base and no outs, the Houston player hit a soft grounder to third. Kyle Seager, the M’s 3rd baseman picked up the ball and stepped on third base for out number one. Then, he fired a bullet to 2nd base where they beat the running from first for the 2nd out. Meanwhile the hitter had lost track of the number of outs. Although he was safely on first base, he started to walk off the diamond. The Mariners quickly tagged him.

It was a triple play. One of the rarest gems in all of baseball. It’s those little joys that make me keep watching the games even when all hope of a victory is lost.

It really is about how the game is played.

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) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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What’s A Little Thunder. . .When You’re Two Miles Up A Slot Canyon?

The walls at the mouth were 50 feet apart and 80 feet high. There was literally nowhere to walk except in the Virgin river. We’d gotten off the bus at the last stop The Temple of Sinawava. From there it was a mile hike to the start of the slot canyon.

We were in Zion’s National Park. We do the hike every year as the last hike of the summer. It can easily climb into the triple digits outside the park, but as soon as you walk into the perpetual shadow that is the canyon, the temperature easily drops 25-30 degrees.

Today was a moderate day. Eighties in Southern Utah, mid to upper 60s in the canyon. We had a different worry than the heat. The sky was overcast as we drove into the park.

Utah’s great outdoors is not without its risks. As boy scout leaders we do our best to mitigate those risks. But, we cannot eliminate them. Flash floods are serious concern in the desert. Add a slot canyon into the mix and things can become very dangerous very quickly.

The weather wasn’t calling for rain in our immediate area, but that’s the thing about flash floods. It might rain miles away and that water is going to eventually find its way to you.

We always explain the dangers to the boys. Even though they are 12 adn 13 years old, it’s important that they understand to take safety seriously. Our job is to keep them safe, but more importantly to teach them to keep themselves safe.

As we headed up the canyon, the boys were mostly interested in splashing each other and stealing glances at the bikini-clad college students out enjoying the river. As leaders we watched the boys, and kept an eye on the ribbon of sky above our heads. Still nothing but grey clouds.

This section of the Virgin River is called the Narrows. And it quickly lives up to its name. The higher we hiked upstream, the closer the walls closed in. After a couple of miles, the college girls were gone as were the majority of the hikers. The walls were significantly closer. Maybe 20 feet apart at the widest. They were still at least 80 feet high.

We took the turn to go up Orderville canyon and the hiking definitely became more challenging. We were now scrambling over rocks. Helping each other up the steeper sections. The walls were also a mere 5 feet apart at this point. We knew we were about a half mile from the end. Not the end of the river, of course, but having come this way before we knew that we would soon come to an impassable obstacle. One group of scouts several years ago came with climbing gear and scaled it, but for us that was always the end.

As we paused for a break, the scoutmaster, who had been leading came back to where the other assitant and I were largely bringing up the rear.

Say, that grey sky isn’t bothering you is it?

We glanced at the high water marks left from the last flash flood. the walls were still damp to a distance at least 15 feet above our heads.

Maybe a little.

No sooner were the words out of my mouth than we heard the peal of distant thunder. And two of our boys turned and started sprinting down the canyon back the way we’d come.

That was as far as we were goign today. We left one leader to gather the rest of the boys and start them down, while the other leader and I chased after our rabbits.

We were two miles up the canyon. We finally caught up to the boys about a quarter mile downstream. We waited while the rest of the troop arrived.

Is it going to flood? Can we escape if it does?

It’s not going to flood.

I hoped I sounded more reassuring than I felt. The boys were obviously frightened.

We are going to head back now, but its just a precaution.

Because you’re worried it’s going to flood?

No. I don’t think it’s going to flood.

Then, why are we headed back early?

The kid had a point. And he was scared. Was I worried about a flash flood? You bet, I was. At that point in the canyon, a flood would kill us. Later, when it opened up a little there were places you could get out of the path of a flood. But right there? Yeah, that was not the place to be if the water started rising. But, I also needed to reassure these boys and help them understand caution without giving in to fear.

Tell me, what’s the first thing you do when you get in a car?

You put your seatbelt on.

Why?

So, if you will be protected if you get in an accident.

Does that mean by putting your seatbelt on you think you’re going to get in an accident?

No. . .

Right. It’s a precaution. Just because you take a precaution, doesn’t mean you think whatever you are being careful about will happen. We are headed out now, but it’s because it’s the smart thing to do. NOT because we think there’s a flood coming.

That seemed to satisfy him. The rest of the troop had joined us and we started down the canyon in an orderly fashion. As we did, I thought about my impromptu explanation. It was pretty good. In fact, it was good enough it almost convinced 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
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try. . .(Oh, Forget This!)

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

That’s how the saying goes, but that’ not quite the way it worked out.

The water pump on my 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix is no longer leaking. Well, technically, it never was leaking. But, it’s also not leaking. Let me go back a couple of weeks.

My car was leaking radiator fluid and overheating. Now, if your car is overheating, there are typically three thinks to check on.

1. The thermostat: The thermostat is a device that opens and closes and lets coolant, or radiator fluid circulate just in the engine (when it’s closed) or through the radiator (when it’s open.) The problem is that because it’s a mechanical device, sometimes the thermostat can get stuck. If it gets stuck in the open position, that’s not too terrible. Your car will take A LOT longer to warm up. However, if it gets stuck in the closed position, then the coolant circulates inside the engine, and eventually gets really really hot and causes your car to overheat.

2. The Radiator cap: Believe it or not, the radiator cap is a pretty complicated piece of equipment. Long gone are the days when a radiator cap was like the lid to a pickle jar: screw it on and it seals the contents. Today’s radiator caps have pressure release valves. Ever notice that tiny hose that goes from the radiator to the overflow tank? The cap controls that. As pressure builds in your coolant system, when it gets high enough, the radiator cap allows some of that excess fluid to flow out to the overflow tank. That’s why you shouldn’t overfill your tank when it’s cool. It needs room to add more coolant when the engine heats up. Then, as your engine cools down, the pressure goes down and the cap allows the system to suck some of that coolant back out of the overflow tank. If your radiater cap is messed up, then your system can become overpressurized and bad stuff can happen: hoses burst, or temp overheat.

3. The water pump: The water pump doesn’t pump water. It used to, when your great-grandparents were roadtripping on Route 66. But, today’s engines don’t like water at all. If you do add water, it shoudl only be distilled water and then should be mixed with antifreeze. Your coolant is way better at keeping your engine cool than water would be. The water pump is a pretty simple device. It hooks up to the serpentine belt and has a fly wheel inside that pushes the coolant around the system. If your water pump fails, you typically know it pretty quickly. First, your engine overheats. Second, it drips coolant all over your driveway.

And that is why I was convinced my water pump was bad. My car was overheating and it was dripping coolant all over my driveway. I really hoped the issue would be the radiator cap or the thermostat (in that order.) Replacing a radiator cap is about the simplest fix you can make on a car. Seriously, you unscrew the old one and screw on the new one.

Replacing a thermostat can be challenging depending on the car. I have a 1996 Lexus that literally requires you to thread one of the bolts hodling the thermostat housing totally by feel, while wrapping your hand around the radiator hose. It’s not an easy task.

The water pump is a job, no matter where it’s located. Fortunately, for my Grand Prix, the access is pretty easy. Last week, my cousin came over and helped me replace the water pump. . .and my car still leaked. So, I did it a second time. . .and it still leaked.

If at first you don’t succeed, try. . .and then take it to the mechanic.

My thinking was this. I’d done the repair twice. The second time, I had plenty of gasket sealer, but I ended up breaking a bolt. Nothing can turn a 2 hour job into a 3 day marathon like a broken bolt. I thought maybe it would still work. Because it was a small bolt. Nope. Still leaked.

On Saturday, I took it to the only mechanic I trust. He told me it would be Thursday before he could get to it. And so, I handed him my key.

Well, he got to it on Wednesday. As I went to pick it up, he told me that he didn’t replace the water pump. In fact, as far as he could tell, the water pump was fine. And it wasn’t leaking from the broken bolt. Instead, there was a $10 piece of plastic that had broken way down underneath the engine in a spot that is very difficult to get to.

  • Replacing broken little plastic piece: $10
  • Getting to broken little plastic piece: $235

There are times to push through adn figure it out yourself and there are times to call in expert assistance. I don’t feel bad at all that I called for help. I would probably have not found that little piece for a very long time.

As it is, my car has a new water pump (with a small broken bolt that is not leaking,) a new thermostat, a new radiator cap, and new engine mounts, just because we were into the engine already, and the power steering whine corrected, and we changed the oil. It sounds absolutely wonderful.

Oh, and it also has a new little $10 plastic piece.

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) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Did You Choose Your Profession? Or Did It Choose You?

When my daughter was 12 years old, she told me that she was going to join the army and be a veterinarian. She’s now 23, in her final two years of grad school and a 1st LT in the US Army Reserves.

When I was twelve I think I wanted to be a forest ranger, or maybe an astronaut.

I didn’t pick IT as a profession when I went to college. I was studying to be an engineer. But, I ran up against Linear Algebra and despite my best effort (the second time, not the first) I just didn’t have the math chops for it.

Even then, I didn’t really choose IT, so much as I looked at what classes I had completed and picked IT as the most likely to fit my current transcript.

I actually left school to join IT. I was recently married and had a new baby. I needed more than minimum wage on campus jobs. A little computer company named WordPerfect was hiring and that’s how I decided to go into Information Technology.

Of course, at the time, it might have simply been a one time thing, but I found I had an affinity for it. I enjoyed it. It let me interact with people, but also play with computers. Later, I added trainer and program manager to my resume.

WordPerfect eventually started to fail. I managed to jump ship at just the right time to land a gig at a slightly bigger company called Microsoft. When I joined in 1993, it was the biggest, baddest computer company in the world.

After that, my path was pretty well set. After five years at WordPerfect and nearly 10 years at Microsoft, changing careers would have been very difficult. I would have had to start over, experience-wise, in a new industry.

And that would have been difficult at that point. I had ten kids by the time I left The Evil Empire. I needed a senior level salary to support them. And, like I said, IT suited me.

Today, I’m in a role that takes great advantage of the experience of a 30 year career in IT. I get to work with people, sometimes feeling like I spent most of my day on the phone.

I also get to work with computers. I’m the “IT guy” on a senior staff of account managers. They expect me to “figure out the IT side of it.” And I do. That lets me mingle with the engineers. Occasionally, I get to talk to programmers, but most of what I do is pure system admin level, and network engineering level work.

In addition, I get to be involved in really fun and exciting projects. I typically have 10 or more active projects in various stages of development.

Mostly my job makes me feel important. If I do it well, I can immediately see the results. When I do it poorly, the results are equally obvious. Fortunately, I do it well much more often than I do it poorly.

But, despite loving my job, I realize I didn’t really pick IT. If anything, it picked me. It was a convenient job when I needed one. I then was one of 500 people hired in 1993 by the world’s most prestigious software company. And from there, I just sort of went with what I know.

I look at my daughter and realize that she had her life figured out at a much younger age than I ever did. And there are people who know exactly what they are going to do from the time they are young. I’m not one of those people. I’m impressed that my daughter is. That she knew precisely what she wanted to do with her life and she told me so at a young age.

Of course, she also told me she was going to marry someone named George, so she didn’t get everything right.

Did you pick your profession? Or did it pick you?

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) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Be All That You Can Be. . . In IT

“We do more before 9AM than most people do all day”
– US Army slogan

F Lee Ermy died yesterday. You might not recognize his name. I did, but a lot of the news coverage seemed to think his name was relatively unknown. You might remember him as Gunny in Full Metal Jacket. Ermy was a Marine Corps drill instructor who then took up a second career in movies.

Sember Fi, Gunny.

I was never in the service. The closest I got was a semester playing Army in the BYU ROTC program. Dan Fogelberg wrote a song called “Leader of the Band.” One of the lines says,

He tried to be a soldier once, but his music wouldn’t wait.

In my case it was a career in IT that couldn’t wait. I had to decide whether to stay in the ROTC and pursue a military career, or take a job at a little computer company called WordPerfect. I took the computer gig. It’s been a good gig. But, I often think back on what might have been. My daughter is a soldier and I couldn’t be prouder.

I remember the Army recruiting ads when I was a kid. One that struck with me was the one I quoted above, “We do more before 9AM than most people do all day.” I’m not sure exactly how that is an attraction, but I still remember it years later, so obviously it worked.

Today was one of those days that saying came to mind. The first call was at 4:30AM. It was from my client. They had a report of an outage at one of my call centers. My only 24×7 center.

4:37AM I called the center and left a message for someone to call back.
4:43AM I got a call back from the center to say they were not seeing any issues, but they would check on the outage
4:52AM I called the client back to let them know we were not seeing any additional issues
5:08AM The center called me and left a message
5:14AM The center called again to confirm no outage
5:46AM My Incident Management Team called and left a message
5:53AM My Incident Management Team called back to check on whether we had an outage

Ninety minutes and 7 phone calls all before 6:00AM. . .and there wasn’t even an outage. Well, there had been earlier in the night, but it was cleared up by the time I got involved.

As I thought about the Army slogan, I realize I had misremembered it. I thought it was “We do more before six AM than most people do all day.”

Not today, soldier boys.

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) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Now Playing At Your Local Cinema

Theater 1

It’s the story of a lost girl. She’s not physically lost, of course. But, emotionally she’s swept up in a world she doesn’t understand. And not understanding means she’s ill-equipped to handle it. Her friends watch helplessly as she struggles to solve the mystery of her existance and find her true purpose.

Theater 2

It’s a coming of age story. A young man chafes at the rules as he struggles to start his life. Finally breaking away he discovers the world is not quite what he thought it was. A highly intelligent, if somewhat niave young man, he nevertheless quickly gains his footing, only to find he struggles to embrace the world around him and find joy. Finally, he feels he’s found the secret to unlock his mind and truly set himself free.

Theater 3

A young woman faces the world that she unprepared for. A natural born survivor, she recognizes the importance of a social group. But, like a fire that often burns too hot, she ends up consuming her relationships. The bridges are burning as the fire grows hotter. Desperately she struggles to form new friendships, new bridges before the old ones are gone forever.

Theater 4

A nature film. A young lionness is cut off from her pride. She struggles to care for and protect her cubs while also being able to provide them with enough to eat. She desperately tries to identify who is friend and who is foe.

Theater 5

A cartoon feature. A hapless office worker spends his weekends struggling to keep his mismatched fleet of jalopies running. Like Sisyphus and his neverending task of pushing a boulder up a hill only to see it roll back down, each repair is the starting poitn for the next breakdown. Still, he does it with a smile and doesn’t seem aware of the futile nature of his task.

Theater 6

A story of always travelling and never arriving. The main character finds himself constantly forced to take passage on a train that he knows all too well. He fears it, he despises it. Each time he endures a harrowing ride and finally exits only to find he’s back at his point of origin. He looks at the gold lettering above the baggage car. It says “ETW – The Emotional Train Wreck Express.”

I saw “A Quite Place” today. It was scary. It was good. It was scary-good. You should go see it.

It was certainly better than these other pictures. (If this post didn’t make any sense, I take full responsibility and promise to return to more lucid posts next week.)

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) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Springtime In The Rockies

Technically it happened on March 20th. At 10:15 AM here in the Mountain Time Zone. But here in the Rockies Spring doesn’t always pay attention to the calendar.

But, we are finally into the real heart of Spring. I’ll admit that Spring isn’t my favorite time of year. That would be Fall, when the leaves are turning, we have college football, gardens are giving the last of their bounty, and the mountains are gettting their first dustings of snow.

Fall is a time of slowing down. Spring is a time for new beginnings. The leaves are just starting to bud out, we have baseball, gardens are waiting for the rototiller and the mountains are clinging to their blankets of snow. (Not as thick blankets as we would like, but at least lathe previous year was a good water year.)

I’ve looked around my yard this Spring and every corner of it seems to scream “My turn, my turn, work on me next!” I finally decided the lawn wasn’t going to get aerated this year. I put down the first fertilizer. This one is supposed to stop crabgrass. Last fall, we were battling it like an organic rash. Hopefully we’ll get out front early this year.

My trees all seemed to survive the winter intact. We planted ten maples on our lot four years ago. Planting trees is the ultimate “pay it forward” activity. When we were putting our trees in, my 14 year old son asked, “Dad, will I be able to climb on these trees?” I replied, “Well, your kids will be able to one day.” He turned back to the hole he was digging, “I hate delayed gratification.”

The nine remaining trees are now between nine and twenty feet tall. But, like my now 18 year old son, they are tall but have yet to fill out. (The tenth tree didn’t die. It turned out to be an Elm, not a Maple. I’m not growing Elms in my yard.)

Last year we built a terraced set of walls on the South side of our property. It’s a fairly steep hillside and we had previously tried to grow vegetables on it. The cantalopes rolled down the hill.

So, we got some donated dirt, and several tons of rock that a nearby construction project dug up and didn’t need, and with some help from the young men from church, we now we have three terraced walls. I dumped grass seed and fertilizer and spread peat moss over it. More commitments to the future.

We still have a garden. It’s above the terraced walls. We do a garden every year. Typically we spend about $100 buying starters, seeds, fertilizer, and tools. We probably get about $25 worth of vegetables. But, it’s about growing stuff, not saving money. And those $5 tomatoes are extra tasty.

My biggest accomplishment is what isn’t growning this year. Every year that we’ve been in our house, springtime has seen an explosion of dandelions. It’s because before we bought our house, the yard was pretty much left to its own growth patterns. My neighborhood has some very well cared for lawns. I always felt a little bad contributing dandelion seeds to the neighborhood flora.

But, I also knew that I was getting a pass. My neighbords remembered what my lot looked like before we moved in. Anything I did was an improvement. We’ve now been here about 6 years. It’s a good thing that we’ve finally conquered the worst of the weeds. I think I was finally coming to the end of my grace period.

But, everywhere you look around our fair city, Spring is breaking out. Living in a desert, it’s easy to forget that desert doesn’t mean sand dunes and cactus.

Majestic Mount Timpanogos will wear her snowy cape well into the summer, but here in the valley, Spring has definitely come to the Rockies.

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) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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