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Dying All Over Again

My friend died yesterday. I was the only one who noticed. It happened in the blink of an eye. I was going through the self checkout line at Walmart. I bought some distilled water for my son’s hermit crab, a bottle of Fanta Strawberry soda bottled in a glass bottle in Mexico and made with real sugar, and a can of compressed air.

If I’m at a fast food place, I hate going through the drivethru. Instead, I’ll walk inside where I can talk to a person face-to-face. And yet, at the grocery store I much prefer to use the self-checkout line. I’m not sure how those two situations relate, but I feel they must somehow. But, I was talking about my friend.

As I scanned the compressed air, the screen beeped and announced, “Assistance required.” It took me a minute to realize what the computer was objecting to. And that’s when I remembered by friend was dead.

Compressed air is a controlled substance. You have to be over the age of 18 to buy it. Weird, huh? The back of the can has the following warning.

MISUSE BY DELIBERATELY CONCENTRATING AND 
INHALING CONTENTS MAY BE HARMFUL OR FATAL.

Contains a bitterant to help discourage inhalant abuse.

The warning actually appears on there twice. The warning is true.

My friend, Clink McKell died several years ago from an overdose. He was younger than me by quite a bit. He was a stand up comedian. I filmed his second to last performance. Comedians are almost always broken people. I used to think that “America’s dad,” Bill Cosby was an exception. Turns out he was one of the most broken of all. When Robin Williams killed himself, my comedy friends were heartbroken and not a single one was surprised. When John Belushi, or Chris Farley died of a drug overdose, my friends in the comedy world said their version of the prayer, “There, but for the grace of God go I.”

As a Salt Lake City comedy family we grieved for Clint. We held a show in his honor where we each told one of his signature jokes. Hacking, or stealing jokes, is one of the most offensive behaviors in comedy. We chose to honor our friend with it. Comics have a weird sense of humor and grief. Even at his funeral, we mixed the pain with laughter. As we stood to one side at the graveside, one comic stated,

Clint was never a hack until he died.

What do you mean?

Overweight comic dies of a drug overdose? It’s been done.

We laughed through our pain. As we each took a turn going past the casket, I dropped a container of ginger into the cement crypt his coffin was about to be lowered into. His nickname was “The Big Ginger.” Later, the family placed it on top of the casket and he was buried with it there.

Clint and I had become close friends. Shortly before he died, the trust had been broken between us. He felt terrible about it and was actively attempting to make amends. We hadn’t gotten totally past it when he died. There were things left to say that will now never be shared. We all move on.

The Walmart employee came to my station and quickly keyed in her override code. Clearly, I was over the age of 18 and wasn’t the type that looked they I’d abuse the canned air. But, for just a moment, I was a troubled ginger-haired comic failing at life and hastening the end of it.

I guess there are some things you never really get over.

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

My Unremarkable Life

…and the heat increases so slowly that eventually the frog dies because he didn’t jump out.

You know that’s a myth, right?

What?

The frog in the boiling water. They’ve actually done the research. The frog jumps out as soon as the water gets too warm.

Okay, but that’s not my point.

The point, of course, is that as things change around us, we simply decide that the added craziness is the new normal. This tendency to accept each new piece of crazy can be dangerous. I recently helped a friend move out from a domestic abuse situation. She hadn’t really noticed how crazy it got. Her boyfriend hacked her phone and later hid it. He had his family hack her social media accounts. They lived with his family in a house with a dozen cars, but she wasn’t allowed to drive any. She was too far from anywhere to walk. She was slowly being cut off from everyone except him.

It wasn’t until she met with a recruiter who showed her all the options she had in terms of education and career, that my friend realized that she’d let herself get sucked into a terrible situation. She’s on her way to enrolling in college and has moved out.

But, this “boiling frog myth” metaphor applies to less serious situations as well. I was listening to a radio show last night. The caller described adopting two kids. The host was pretty surprised. Then, the caller shared that he and his wife eventually adopted six kids. The radio host about came out of his chair.

Wow! That’s amazing. Six kids? And you already had two birth kids? Well, I’m impressed. Surprised, but really impressed. Good for you.

Talk of adoption always affects me deeply. I was adopted by my stepfather when I was 14. My older brother was adopted at the same time. My sister adopted three kids from foster care. My younger brother and his wife adopted 4 kids.

I was impressed with the caller, but not shocked.

My wife and I had three birth kids and then decided to adopt. We eventually adopted 10 from all over the world. Was that remarkable? I suppose. It certainly would be to the radio host. But, maybe I’m the frog in the water. To me, it’s just who we are.

It’s dangerous when dealing with society to decide “I don’t see color.” Although my kids are from various ethnic backgrounds, we haven’t taught them to be colorblind. The world isn’t colorblind. But, inside my house? Yeah, we’re all colorblind. It’s not something we set out to do. But, when two of my boys are fighting, I don’t think “It’s a black kid and an Asian kid,” or “It’s a white kid and a black kid.” I don’t see a multi-cultural “united nations family.” I simply see two of my kids who need to be separated.

Elizabeth Taylor was one of the most famous actresses of the 20th century. However, she was also famous for her love life. She had eight marriages to seven husbands. Scandalous. And yet, while my lovely wife has put up with me for nearly 30 years, I have family members who have been married to as many men as Liz. (All one at a time. I’m in Utah, but not THAT part of Utah.) It wasn’t scandalous. It wasn’t odd. It was life. It was just the way things were.

My brothers and sister and I laugh about the game “two truths and a lie.” If we try to play that with a group unfamiliar with our family, we pretty much win every time. And yet, none of us think our lives are that different. I mean how many people haven’t had a parent pull them aside and say, “Oh, by the way, let me know if you date any girls from Portland. You have a sister down there that you didn’t know about.” Or, who hasn’t been riding in a car with a new coworker and the coversation end up at, “I think we’re first cousins. You mom is my birth dad’s sister”?

But, honestly, it’s not remarkable. Not to the frog in the pot. It is just the life we live. The crazy, amazing, incredible, wonderful, UNremarkable 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. 

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

I Don’t Want To Be The Boss Of You

They say the hardest thing is letting go.

I think they are idiots.

Rodney, I received your paperwork requesting a project manager for your expansion in the Kansas City call center. I also noticed that you set up the project kickoff meeting for Wednesday. That might be a problem.

Oh?

Well, realize that even though you used to be a PM, whomever I assign to the be the project manager is going to need the freedom to run the project himself.

Yeah, that’s what I was hoping. So, what’s the problem?

I have a house full of teenagers. Currently there are seven of them. . .I think. The youngest, twin 14 year olds are still mostly content to do what my lovely wife and I ask them to do. The older ones, the 17 year-olds, are convinced that they pretty much have life figured out and as their parents, we are simply trying to run their lives.

They are convinced that the rules and the correction we give them are because we crave control. That somehow we can’t stand the idea of them being independent. In other words, they think we want to be the boss of them. Telling them the truth makes no difference.

The truth? The truth is that we can’t wait for them to be independent. We are counting the days until we no longer have to be responsible for their comings and goings, their schooling and buying their clothes. Make no mistake, we love our children. We have several who have made that transition to adulthood and we love spending time with them, and with our grandkids.

And there are still times where we get asked for advice or asked to help. And just as we would with anyone, family or friend, who needed help, we try to assist when we can. But, it’s such a relief to not be responsible. One child quit a job without having another one lined up already.

Wow, that’s going to make it a little rough for awhile. Good luck.

We didn’t have to fix it. We didn’t have to do anything except sympathize with our child. We are definitley not helicoptor parents, swooping in to “fix” all of our child’s issues.

That’s what made my conversation at work so interesting.

Well, you set up those meetings. That’s typically the PM’s role. I’m just worried that you will end up trying to manage the project.

No worries. I set the meeting because I knew it might take you some time to assign a PM and with the tight deadline for this project, I didn’t want to delay. But, I’m going to be thrilled to work with your PM and let him run the show. Part of the reason I reached out to you is that I don’t have time to run this project even if I wanted to.

No way did I want to be the boss of him.

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

An Once Of Cure. . .After Years Of Prevention

Car seats, seat belts, smoke alarms and first aid kits

Stuff we hope we never have to use but we keep anyway.

The people I go hiking and camping with are all experienced backpackers and outdoorsmen. Each of us approaches a night out in Utah’s backcountry, especially when given charge of a group of boy scouts, as an important charge. We try to make sure the boys have a chance to grow and explore, but stay safe.

Last weekend we were in central Utah up Maple Canyon.


Our campsite was at about 7,000 feet in elevation and it was a brilliantly clear night. As the sun slipped behind the mountain peaks to the West, the temperature, which had been a comfortable 75 degrees started to fall quickly. Scrub oak gave us a warm fire that would last well into the night.

Two of our boys opted to use hammocks, strung between trees near our well established fire pit, instead of tents.

If you get too cold in the night, build up the fire, or come and find one of us.

The temperatures were going to drop into the teens. The night sky was amazing, but the cold eventually drove all of us to our sleeping bags and tents.

The following morning, a water bottle that one of the hammock-using boys had dropped was frozen solid. But, the boys themselves were none the worse for wear.

We spent Saturday morning exploring the numerous canyons that make up the greater Maple Canyon area.

 

As we started down from “The Arch,” one of the leaders lost his footing and slipped and slid down the rock trail about 50 feet before he managed to stop. The only injury were some gashes on his hand. He triaged them on the trail and did a proper job once he got back to the vehicles.

You know, I’ve carried that first aid kit for years. . .this is the first time I’ve ever used it and it was to treat myself instead of one of the boys.

Just one more day in Utah’s back country.

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

The Stalker In The Canyon

Saturday found me walking down a narrow canyon path in central Utah. Maple Canyon overlooks Ephraim, Ut. I was returning from a hike up to the “the arch.” 


The section I was walking through now was relatively wide, about 40 feet from wall to wall. Utah canyons are typically characterized by steep vertical walls and a narrow path at the bottom. Nearby were true slot canyons where the canyon floor might be only a few feet from wall to wall.

I glanced behind me at the empty path winding through the trees.


Ahead of me, the trail was equally empty.


Through the trees, I could see the walls on each side.


I was completely alone. And yet, I absolutely was not. It’s a bad practice to hike alone at any time, but in Utah, we have cases every year of hikers getting lost, or injured and our climate is so extreme and parts of our countryside so sparse, that you can die if not found. The movie 127 Hours was about just such a hiker in Utah who became trapped in a slot canyon and cut off his arm to escape.

We don’t hike alone. And yet, here I was walking down a canyon path with no one around.

I wasn’t alone, but it wasn’t some stalker in the canyon that was following me.

This hike was done with a group of seven boy scouts. We also had four leaders. When hiking Utah’s canyons there is typically one way in and one way out. Those steep walls mean that you literally cannot get lost. If you start at one end of the cayon and keep walking you will eventually end up exactly where you need to be.

The configuration of the canyon means that as long as we have a leader at the front and a leader at the back, it’s impossible to lose any of our boys. Even if I cannot see them, I know they are there and will eventually end up at the mouth of the canyon. I normally play “sweeper” making sure all boys are in front of me.

On Saturday, my position changed. At the arch, one of the leaders slipped and cut his hand. He and a second leader stopped to patch up his bleeding hand as the rest of the troop, lead by the scoutmaster headed back to the trailhead. As a slow hiker, I didn’t even try to keep up with the boys. And that’s how I found myself all alone hiking in Utah’s mountains, and yet, completely surrounded by people. I knew that the boys and the scoutmaster would be at the mouth of the canyon when I arrived and I knew that if I stopped on the trail, the other two leaders would eventually catch up to me.

I wonder how many times in our lives we feel alone and fail to realize that we have people paving the way before us and we have people following up behind us. We only feel alone because each of us has to make our way through life as an individual. No one knows exactly what we are experiencing. But, if we remember to surround ourselves with friends and family, they will be there even when we can’t see them.

It’s a comforting thought walking through the forest alone.

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Who Let That Guy In Here?

Are you sure?

Yes, Rodney. Our reservation agents cannot get into the GES application.

But, that’s just one tool within the portal application, right?

Yes.

And all the other tools are working?

Seem to be

It was 3:00AM and I was overseeing maintenance some of the backend servers. Specifically we were upgrading the phone switch. We run two of them, a primary and a backup. We’d patched the backup with the latest release and we had just moved all traffic to the backup. (Called “failing over” even though it’s not a “fail.”) The problem was that when my agents logged back in they had an error in their GES application. The client owns GES. I honestly couldn’t see how switching my phone servers could break client tools.

But, we were going through our validation process and GES was broken. After the agents checked it over a second time, I got back on the phone with engineers.

Guys, I’m really sorry guys. I need you to switch us back to the other system.

You realize that system isn’t patched, right?

Yeah, that’s why we need to switch back. I don’t think we broke this, but we need to switch back and see if that fixes it.

Switching back didn’t fix it. But, after we switched one of my agents said, “Members mentioned they can’t access GES from the client’s website either.” At that point I knew two things: First, I didn’t break it and I needed to have my engineers switch us back to the patched system and start patching the other server, and second, I needed to call my contact at the client and inform him that he had a system outage.

Jared? Yeah, this is Rodney. Sorry to wake you up. No, no, our maintenance is going forward just fine. But, it appears that the GES application is broken. I’m positive it’s not a result of my maintenance.

Thanks, Rodney. I’ll check into it.

And about a half hour later he called me back.

Okay, the issue seems to be the GES team decided to do some unscheduled maintenance last night.

. . .ah. . .

Yeah, I know. I’m not happy about it.

Our maintenace had another couple of hours to run and we failed back and forth several times. The engineers did a great job and we didn’t generate any errors.

It always helps to know who else is playing in your sandbox.

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

What Idiot Picked THAT Time?

If you’ve followed me for very long at all, you’ve probably noticed a few things.

  • I like hiking and camping in Utah’s great outdoors
  • I really love what I do
  • I do a LOT of it

I work a lot. It’s not unusual for me to put in 50-60 hours per week. Some days start well before dawn and continue long into the night. We recently changed our organization structure so that I have more flexibility over my schedule. My position went from being mostly task driven to mostly performance driven, and I was granted a large amount of autonomy to choose my tasks. You would think this would be awesome. (And it many, many ways, it is.) I’m reminded of the saying,

If you get to “write your own check,” write a big check!

The issue is the same problem I had when I was self-employed. Being the only person who does what I do in my company, I tend to get caught up in a million different initiatives. People in dozens of departments are working with me to either provide services from them to my other contacts, or expect me to get services from my other contacts for them. And, I really have no one to complain to about my schedule.

Tonight, we have an emergency maintenance that was just scheduled for 1:00AM. It will last at least two hours. Of course, I have to be on that call. Who picked this horrible hour?

I can tell you all the reasons that 1:00 AM is the right time for this work to be done. And I understand how terrible it is to try and work at that hour. I would even listen to you if you wanted to complain about having to get up, or stay up until the middle of the night to do this work.

I just won’t be joining in on the complaining. After all, talking to yourself can be evidence of a serious problem.

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) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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