Skip to content

The Man Who Taught Me The Meaning of Ad Astra

Rodney, WordPerfect crashed on me this morning. Do you think you can get the chapter back that I wrote?

The year was about 1993. I was in Naples, Florida visiting my agent Barbara Bova. And I met her husband, Ben. Ben was a science fiction writer. A really good one.

He wrote what was called hard Science Fiction. That didn’t mean it was hard to read. Instead, it meant that his stories were grounded in science. Physics has no support for faster than light travel. Hyperdrives, warp drives, ion drives. They are really fantasy inventions masquerading as science fiction. Ben’s science worked. And lacking the option of simple zipping his characters from system to system in the blink of an eye, he had to write very cleverly.

His book Mars could be a training manual on how to conduct a mission to the red planet.

I was working for WordPerfect when we met. I was a muddling non-fiction writer with dreams of writing fiction. Ben was more than happy to encourage a young writer. I stayed in the software industry and continued to dream of writing. And I have over the years.

This year, nearly thirty years after our meeting that day in Florida I’ll finally see my fiction in print. As I created my universe, I remembered my conversations with Ben. I created a world, a system and a galaxy. I filled it with people and most importantly I invented science to go into my fiction. And I found myself trying to cleverly write keeping my science grounded in reality.

My space ships don’t go faster than the speed of light. I had to figure figure out how get my spaceships between systems. I had to figure out my farmers can raise a crop on a world with no metal.

A writer answers a thousand questions about his or her universe. In fact, world building is one of the most enjoyable parts of writing. The writer is an all powerful wizard spinning life out of nothing. And I have nothing against writers who build universes that have break the laws of physics. I might even do something similar.

For now, I’m excited to finally see in print what Ben encouraged me to do all those years ago.

He once autographed a book for me with the inscription “Ad Astra,” To The Stars. Ben’s passed on now. But, his books live on. The stories he told remain. And the inspiration he provided me and generations of writers will continue long after he’s gone, “to the stars.”

Oh, and that day when he asked me about WordPerfect 4.2? Nope. I couldn’t do a thing for him.

Stay safe

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) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Listening To Music Is Hard Work. . .If You Do It Right

I like music. I really like all types of music. Seriously! Yes, OF COURSE “including country!”

We have both types of music here, country AND western.

– Blues Brothers

I own some rap albums. I own heavy metal albums.I own A LOT of country albums. I have a small, but carefully curated collection of Jazz albums. I even have an eclectic collection of baseball albums.

I own several hundred CDs. I don’t buy them anymore, but I did for a long time. And of course, I download songs. I haven’t really embraced streaming services. There are over 7700 songs on my iPad.

Occasionally I’ll pick a genre, but often I’ll simply shuffle the entire playlist. Billy Joel might be followed by Twisted Sister and then followed by Take Me Out To The Ballgame. It’s easy to listen to my iPad.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have CD’s. We didn’t even have cassette tapes. We had records, LPs. Vinyl wasn’t vintage it was modern. My mother liked music. She dated some musicians when I was a kid. She had a collection of LPs. I don’t remember if she had a lot of a few. I do remember some of the titles. There was plenty of Elvis, some Simon and Garfunkel. In fact some of the albums are in my current collection.

My mother’s stereo had a spindle that would let you stack a number of records up and as each one finished the next one dropped down and played. You could get maybe 10 albums stacked up. Sixty songs before you had to turn the albums over.

Listening to albums when I was a kid took some work. Even switching albums was some work. I once destroyed my bother’s copy of the Beatles White Album when I dropped it and scratched it.

I own a record player. It looks old, but is actually very new.

It has a bluetooth option.

I have a small collection of albums. Five actually, although one is a triple album.

  • Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
  • John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
  • The Beatles – Abby Road
  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller
  • Garth Brooks – Triple Live

I admit that the Garth Brooks album is the odd man out. But, when a triple album LP is available for $17, you buy it.

The Chris Stapleton album has 14 songs on two records. Some sides have only three songs. Even the B-side of Kind of Blue only has two tracks, although they are a little longer.

My point is that using my record play to listen to an album doesn’t last long. As you can see my record player has no spindle to stack 10 records up and listen for a couple of hours. Instead, I have to continue swapping the record. Listening to Traveller on my iPad is a matter of clicking PLAY and then putting it on as background music.

To listen to Traveller on my record player, requires putting the first record on. Then, not long later, I have to turn the record over. Again, after a little while I have to switch to the second record. And not long after that, flip it over to hear the entire album.

And during all that time, you know what I’m doing? I’m listening. I’m not forgetting that I started to listen to an album. And while my record player has excellent fidelity, it still has just a hint of the magic of the needle gliding down through a track on the vinyl record.

I started seriously listening to Jazz a few years ago. I have a friend who is a brilliant performer and conductor. He pointed me at several albums including John Coltrane’s masterpiece A Love Supreme and Miles Davis’s incredible Kind of Blue.

In fact, Kind of Blue was the first album I bought. Jazz is a wonderful music to listen to as background music. But, Jazz can also be a listened to deliberately. I own several jazz albums on my iPad. And, of course two for my record player. I find I enjoy listening to Jazz on the record player.

I have to really want to listen. I have to make time to listen. I have to. . .well, LISTEN. Really listen. And that’s the point.

A record player adds warmth to an album, and especially Jazz or whatever the soulful music Chris Stapleton sings is. But, more importantly, it forces you to listen with a purpose. It takes work, hard work.

If you do it right.

Stay safe

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) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

When You Say Nothing At All

People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never shared

– Sounds of Silence

I love this song. It took on greater meaning when I learned American Sign Language. Using ASL I can talk without speaking. My friends can hear without listening. And I’ve seen multiple songs that voices never shared.

During my missionary service for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I worked with a man named Elder Randal. He was a CODA. A Child of Deaf Adults. He was deaf from birth. At one point we were at a McDonalds. Our name tags and white shirts marked us as missionaries. Our signing conversations attracted some stares.

At one point a man caught my friend’s eye. The man passed his hand in front of his face and then made a thumbs up sign. I’m fluent in American Sign Language. Those two signs together meant nothing to me. I had no clue what the man was trying to communicate. My companion seemed to understand him perfectly.

What did he mean?

Ah. . .he was telling me. . .how nice he thinks I look

Oh. . .

The old guy was hitting on my friend. Ugh.

Maybe it’s my background in sign language, but I’ve always found unspoken communication fascinating. What are we saying when we don’t say anything?

We have a staff meeting every Tuesday morning. It’s a small company. Many of the employees have been there for years. I’m new. And recently we added another new face. It’s interesting to watch people come into the meeting. My first meeting, I took a seat in the middle. It happens to be at the head of the table. I chose it on purpose. It didn’t put my back to either door. It was equally distant from both sides of the table and all the chairs.

It was someone else’s seat. As more people came in, there was a disruption in their patterns. I’m not sure whose seat I took. But, that person sat somewhere else. But, he bumped another person. As they entered the room, you could notice the same disruption in their pattern. After a few weeks everyone was comfortable in their new seats.

And then we hired another programmer. And he came to his first staff meeting and the entire pattern was repeated. Being prepared for it, I watched it unfold. There were no words spoken, but an entire conversation took place.

In my church, communion, or the sacrament, is delivered to the congregation by young men aged 12 and 13. They take trays with bread and water and deliver them to every person sitting in the chapel. Sometimes that is a lot of people. Generally 10 or 12 boys carry the trays to the members. It’s important that EVERY member have the opportunity to partake of the sacrament.

There’s a pattern, of course. The first boy (they hold the priesthood office of deacon) delivers the sacrament to the people sitting on the stand. The second deacon starts at the first pew of the people sitting on the left. And so on. They are actually very efficient. It only takes them about 10 minutes to cover 200 people or so.

It’s sometimes interesting to sit in the back of the chapel and watch them go through the pattern. At times things get out of sync. Maybe a row is only half filled. Maybe someone got out of step. Maybe one of the boys is new. At that point the boys have to make sure everyone has a chance to partake of the sacrament.

They communicate. But, often not with words. A senior boy might nod his head to indicate a missed row. A new boy might give a confused look that is answered with a glance.

I do a lot of Zoom meetings. Even with people in my own office. We leave our cameras off, but even with meetings where they are on, we lose a lot from our communications when we don’t interact.

A lot gets said when we don’t say anything at all.

Stay safe

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) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

A Chance to Serve Those Who Serve

I love the military. I mean, I REALLY, love the service. I stand for the flag. I have an entire playlist devoted to patriotic songs.

I have a daughter who is on active duty serving over seas. She’s a captain in the Army. She’s also a veterinarian. . .in the Army. I couldn’t be prouder.

I have a son-in-law who is in the National Guard. Pretty sure he’s a private or maybe PFC, but not much above that. He’s been in less than a year. He’s in a construction engineering unit. I’m very proud of him.

My family has been serving in this country’s military since before we were a country.

I also have a friend who is in the Army. He’s serving on the Southern Border. He’s been deployed for several months. I think he’s in Arizona or California at this point. As a native Spanish speaker, and being part of a Military Intelligence unit, I don’t ask too many questions.

We’ve been friends a long time. We were both Scout leaders. We live two blocks away. I taught his kids when they were Webelos. They are the same age as my boys. My friend doesn’t work on cars. But, he’s happy to let me work on his.

He has a truck. A couple years ago he asked me for help on his truck. It was having trouble starting. It didn’t take long to figure out that his battery needed replaced. Once I told him that, he took care of it himself.

He’s been gone several months and his truck has been sitting in front of his house. He thinks he might be back in a few weeks. He asked me to take a look at his truck. His wife thinks it might be the starter.

I tried to jump start his truck and while it would crank (slightly,) it really wasn’t interested in starting. I pulled the batter out of his truck and took it to my workshop. . .I mean garage. That makes it sound like I have a mechanic’s garage. I just have a regular garage. But, it’s full of tools. Including a battery charger/tester. I put my friend’s batter on and after just a couple of minutes the BAD indicator lit up.

So, I went to the auto parts store. My friend bought a Super Start battery back when he replaced his battery three years ago. I go to this auto parts story a lot. As in, if my wife wanted to find me on a Saturday, this would be the first place she’d look.

They REALLY wanted to help me replace the battery. But, all I had was my friend’s name but no receipt. Who keeps a receipt from two years ago?

I really want to help. And you come here a lot. The easiest thing is if I can find where someone else bought one of these batteries and I’ll just return that one.

.

Not to put any pressure on you, but the battery is for a US Soldier who’s currently deployed.

.

Well, I’ve found one here that might work. What did you say your friend’s name was?

Yes, they tried to pull a random purchase and it was my friend. They printed out the original receipt and the replacement receipt. I tend to keep all my automotive receipts. . .forever.

So, I got to call my buddy and tell him that his truck was good as new. And because I have loyalty to my local auto parts store, it was no charge. And I’m certainly not charging him for my work on it.

I may not have ever got to serve. But, serving those who serve is almost as good.

Stay safe

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) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

A Thing To Hold My Other Things

My brother called me this evening,

Whatcha doing?

Just puttering around in my workshop.

What are you building?

A challenge coin display case.

Aren’t those normally a military thing?

Y’all shouldn’t have told the rest of us about them.

How many do you have?

About 25

My workshop is my garage. That’s pretty common for hobbyists like me. My workshop is full of beautiful projects in their native state. It’s like Ikea, but without the instruction sheets.

This board had a display case hiding inside it.

I inherited these 12″x1″ boards. From someone cleaning out an old storeroom. They are wonderful seasoned pine boards. I’m not really a pants-er when it comes to projects. Even simple projects, I design them first.

This one required just the table saw and the chop saw.

And after just a couple hours in the shop, some glue and a brad nailer, I had a display case.

Technically, most of these are not true challenge coins. As my brother said, a challenge coins a “military thing.” Each military unit had their own coin. It identified them as a member of a unit. The reason they are called “challenge coins” has to do with drinking. (Of course, it does. I already mentioned military.)

When at a bar, a member of the until can take out his coin and put it on the bar as a challenge. All other members of the unit have to show their own coin. Anyone who doesn’t have their unit coin must buy the next round. If everyone has their coin, the original challenger must buy the next round.

Unit commanders and higher level officers can also give out challenge coins as a token of gratitude. None of my coins are military. The closest is a USAA coin.

Not exactly military, but from an organization that does a lot with the military. A lot of my coins are scouting coins.

Scouting has a program called Woodbadge. I’m a member of the Fox patrol.

And I collect coins from national and state parks and monuments.

Even the city just south of us, Orem, created a coin a few years ago

Anyone can create a challenge coin. I do a lot of work with the Follow The Flag organization. Last year they brought out a challenge coin.

This year is the 150th anniversary of Masonry in Utah. The Grand Lodge of Utah issued a coin.

Not all the items on my display are coins. I have some pins as well. Including the one my uncle gave me when he was Potentate of the Calam Shrine. (Yeah, the Shriners.)

I also have a collection of Schlock Mercenary coins. Probably the rarest coin in my collection is this Volunteers coin from the Schlock Mercenary collection.

Still plenty of room for further adventures. Who knows, maybe my daughter will even get me a true military challenge coin someday.

Stay safe

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) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

No Good Reason

Welcome to Autumn. Days get shorter. Temperatures drop. We FINALLY got some rain. Snow in the mountains. And, of course, the gorgeous fall colors arrive. Did you know there is no real reason for leaves to change color?

This summer, my neighbor’s yard was full of beautiful flowers. The area under his trees was full of reds and yellows, purples and blues. They were beautiful. But, there’s a reason flowers are bright. . .and smell pretty. There’s an evolutionary reason. The brightest flowers attracted more bees. More bees meant more pollination. The flowers that got pollinated more reproduced more. So, nature had a reason to make flowers bright.

We just get to take advantage of nature’s reasons for making pretty flowers.

Charles Darwin, of course, wrote the book Origin of Species. He talks about evolution. But, it’s not a book about how life started on earth. It’s a book about how species evolve. Darwin went to the Gal├ípagos Islands. There he saw species that had evolved in a way to fit their unique environment. Nature does that.

I saw a picture one time of what some activist suggested humans might look like a couple hundred years. They were sure the seas were going to rise and humans would have to go live underwater. The “humans” in the picture had gills and web feet. This would be useful if we were going to live under water, right?

The problem is that’s not how evolution works. Things, animals, plants, even people evolve from generation to generation. In nature, it’s whichever individual gets to pass on their genes. It even happens with people. Each generation is slightly taller than the previous generation.

Napoleon Bonaparte was born in 1769. He was 5’6″ tall. Obviously, that’s why we say that short men have a Napoleon complex. Here’s the thing. Napoleon was about average height for his time. (The English propaganda called him short.)

So, the problem with the web feet, is no one is going to marry someone with web toes specifically so they can pass on the genetic trait of webbed feet. And I don’t even want to imagine how we’d evolve gills.

So, nature selects. And scientists are really good at figuring out WHY nature does certain things. Sometimes birds may develop longer beaks when they are in an environment where the seeds fall into cracks between rocks. Short beak birds can’t get as much food. The longer the beak the more food. The more food, the more baby birds. . .who also have long beaks.

So, what’s that have to do with fall colors?

Nothing, actually. But, it should. We know why birds get longer beaks. We know why humans are getting taller. We know why flowers are bright. But, we don’t know why fall leaves change color.

There is no reason, no natural selection reason, for leaves to change color. Brighter flowers get more bees. But, there’s no advantage to brighter leaves. None. The leaves could all be grey and the trees would do just as well. So, why are the leaves so vibrant? Why are our hills suddenly ablaze with color? Driving through the Alpine loop last week felt like literally being inside the color yellow. It was amazing.

The maple trees in my yard have started to put on their Fall finery. I have eight of them. Only two have started dropping their leaves. Soon, my lawn will be awash in leaves. The entire city and the mountains around us will be bursting with color.

As you enjoy the beauty of Autumn, just remember that there’s really no good reason for it. Sometimes God just does stuff because He can.

Stay safe

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) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Feeling Less Stupid Today

I started a new job a couple months ago. It’s in my field. I’m good at my job. Well, I’m good at my field. But, the job was new.

And it’s a hard job. Not hard as in physically challenging. Most jobs in the IT field are embarrassing light. It’s comforting to say we get paid for our brains, but I don’t think that’s true. I once volunteered for a day on a Habitat For Humanity house. We were putting siding on a house in Orem. Four of us were volunteers under the direction of the one guy who knew what he was doing.

We were putting siding on a large dormer. It had sloping angles and it had a window in the middle. We had to install the siding around the window and the weird angles. The guy in charge was amazing. The four of us volunteers were up on the roof and he was doing the cutting.

Measure that section right there. Yeah, from the corner to the window. Now how far from the top of the bottom piece of siding to the window bottom edge?

We would measure and shout the measurements down to him. He would pause, do some quick calculations in his head and then make several cuts to a siding piece. He’d toss it up on the roof for us to install.

And every one fit perfectly. The man was very good at what he did. Add on top of that he had to train volunteers daily. He also managed the schedule. Arranged for inspections. He was doing a lot of jobs and doing them all really well.

I’ve spent the last few weeks learning my new job. I’m learning our software product so that I can be the project manager on an upgrade. I’m a smart guy. Or, at least I’m not a dumb guy. But, at times I’ve felt positively stupid.

One day I was more stupid than usual. I got a flu vaccine shot. And for whatever reason it made me stupid. I went to work the next day and couldn’t remember a single thing I’d learned about our product. Unfortunately, my boss wanted to review what I had learned.

He seemed worried that perhaps he’d made a mistake in hiring me. Fortunately it was a passing stupidity. And I started to make some headway. And then, suddenly I topped out on the learning curve and it was difficult to remember being stupid. Of course, I know how to provision a new user. How could I ever have been confused about how to set up Domain Codes?

We were going over some configurations topics today. He was recapping.

They have logins in each of these environments.

Domains

What’s that?

Well, we’re creating accounts in domains.

Oh, yeah. Right. In the domains.

It wasn’t a big point. And he obviously knew. . .knows the system much better than me. But, it was clear that I was finally past the stupid part.

At least until I have to learn the next part of our program.

Stay safe

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) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Pray for Norway

Stay safe

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) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

It’s More Beautiful, Because It’s Yours

My friend Jason is a photographer. I don’t mean he takes pictures. He creates memorable images. He mixes light and color in ways that I can appreciate, but couldn’t begin to duplicate.

Autum is a wonderful time for photographers. Especially in Utah. Utah colors are beautiful in the fall. We got our first significant snow this week. It hasn’t touched the valley floor, but it’s clothing our mountains in white. And the high meadows and lakes are already putting on their winter finery.

Jason is happy to share his work on Facebook. I enjoy following him, not only because he’s a nice guy. But, because his pictures are magnificent.

He posted one earlier this week of Silver Lake. It’s up above the snow line in American Fork Canyon. Jason posted his picture like he often does. Among the many complimentary comments that people posted, one fan posted a similar picture. It was nearly the same shot, taken about the same time of day from the same location. She captioned it,

Similar to yours, just not as good.

In addition to posting on Facebook, Jason is also active in the comments thread. And, as I said, he’s a really nice guy. His response was one of the most remarkable I’d ever seen. It managed to both acknowledge his own skill, but the skill of fan. He was more than willing to share the experience and the praise. He said,

It’s better, because it’s yours

And knowing Jason, He was being honest. He wasn’t only being humble.

Art and artists are funny folks. What they do is something that anyone can do, but no one can do exactly the same. I think my friend Jason was saying we are all artists. And while it’s okay to appreciate art created by others, we need to appreciate our own art, whether that’s photography, painting, drawing, music, dance, or whatever your muse inspires you with.

Absolutely, it’s better because it’s yours.

You can find Jason Robison’s photography here.

Stay safe

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) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

How To Say “That’s Not In The Contract”. . .(Politely)

The more experience I got in showbiz, the less I read the contracts. Now I don’t bother. If I can’t make the deal in a phone call, and have them understand it, then it’s not a worthwhile deal. You’re making a deal with the people, not with the contract.

Penn Jillette – Magician, author and producer

I love Penn Jillette. He’s a wonderful magician, an extraordinary entertainer and seems like a really nice guy. (Although I’ve never met him.) And if I were to ever book him for a show I would be confident that whatever we said over the phone, or accompanying a handshake would be good enough.

With that said, I’d really like to take his advice on contracts. Basically, just decide what you are going to do, talk about it with the client and everyone just does the right thing. It’s my experience that is not how business works. Even when two companies want to work together, a contract, like a backyard fence, helps keep straight the boundary lines.

In my previous role at Teleperformance, we had a very large and detailed contract to cover how to would build a call center for our clients. The contract had multiple pages and multiple sections. It included sections on

  • Facilities
  • Backups
  • Inspections
  • Computer types
  • Headset make and model
  • Outage notification process
  • Call trees for escalations
  • What could be shown on the televisions
  • Turnstiles
  • Security
  • Background and drug tests

And dozens more. Most of the contract was fairly standard. And while each call center was slightly different, the processes and procedures were virtually the same across all sites. I became very familiar with the contract language.

Business relations, especially between companies are a little like negotiating with my teenagers about curfew.

Can I come home at 12:30 on Friday night?

You’re curfew is 12:00.

I know. But, the party might go a little late and Jamie is my ride. I didn’t want to have to ask him to leave before it’s over.

Okay. You can come home at 12:30.

Jamie might be dropping other people off also. How about 12:45?

If you have raised teenagers then you know this discussion only has one conclusion. It will continue until you, as the parent say, “No.” Typically negotiating with my kids meant they were going to attempt to get as much as possible and would only stop when they reached a boundary.

Companies are similar. Even companies that are on good, great terms with each other, are obligated to increase shareholder value for their own shareholders. And that’s where contracts come into play.

In my previous role, I often did audits or inspections with our client’s team. And sometimes (pretty much all the time) they would press for additional items or restrictions.

Rodney, we’d really like you to encrypt your harddrives on all the workstations.

We haven’t done that in the past.

I know, but we feel it would add an additional layer of security.

I’m all for security too. But, with a remote workforce I would have to arrange for 2000 employees to unhook the computer at home, bring it to my call center, have my desktop team disinfect it, have the same desktop team encrypt the hard drive and have the agent take the computer back home and then plug it all back in.

Oh, and the agent gets paid for their trip to the office. And since we only get paid from the client when the agent is taking calls, this represents a pretty substantial financial commitment. All so they can feel a little better about security. (We didn’t store ANY data on the hard drive, so encrypting it was kind of like locking an empty cupboard. Even if someone broke in there is nothing to steal.)

Before telling the client yes or no, I went to the contract and to my security team. We all scoured the requirements and no where did it say we had to encrypt the hard drives. Okay, the contract is in my favor. Now what?

What I didn’t do at this point is say, “It’s not in the contract. We’re not doing it.” Granted that is what I wanted to say, but it’s not good for business relations. What I did say was,

My team agrees that we can encrypt the hard drives. I’m not sure the business folks would sign off on the time off the phones. We are looking through the contract to verify our obligations. If you could look your copy of the contract and help me identify where that requirement is documented, that would go a long ways toward convincing the business to block out the time for it.

I knew it wasn’t in the contract. And I’m pretty sure my counter-part at the client knew it wasn’t in the contract. But, I didn’t want to tell him no and I also didn’t want to spend the money to go through the exercise. This answer prevented me from having to do either.

Stay safe

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) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

%d bloggers like this: