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Dude, Where’s My Car?

My lovely wife asked me if I knew what the little arrow next to the gas gauge in a car meant. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d known for years.

I drive a lot of different cars. Mostly, I drive sedans, small cars. Occasionally, I drive a sports car. I really have no choice.

I travel a lot for work. I get some say on the airlines (Closing in on that Gold Medallion status on Delta) and I get to pick the hotel. But, I have no control over the rental car. None. I show up and whatever keys they hand me are what I’m driving. It’s not a terrible deal. The company books those three themselves. I don’t have to worry about getting reimbersed for any of those three.

Of course, my company has a “standard” car they approve. It’s typically a compact car capable of holding four people. Sometimes I recognize the model. I drove a Camry recently. Other times I have no idea. Is there a car called an Echo? A Cube?

But, occasionally luck of the draw, or because I’m checking in late on a popular weekend, I end up with something else. There was two wonderful weeks in Kentucky where I won the luck of the draw and had a 2017 Ford Mustang. My manager ended up on the other end of the luck tree and got stuck in a minivan for the week.

So, on my current trip, I was expecting the standard compact car. As I checked in at the rental counter next to the luggage turnstiles, they told me the location, but not the type or even the color.

You’re in space E23.

They handed me a standard “keyless” key fob.

E23 was a ways away. In reality it probably was not, but after travelling all day, it seemed like it. I dragged my suitcase through the parking garage to aisle E and then counted the odd numbers on the righthand side.

E1
E3
E5
E7
E9
E11
E13
E15
E17
E19
E21
E23
E25
E…

I took a step back. E23 was empty. I looked around for my car. Weird since I didn’t actually know what my car looked like. But, I knew what it would sorta look like.

Nope. No Camarys or Echos or Cubes. I turned to make the (long) walk back to the reservation desk.

But, then I had an inspiration. The key fob. It had a pretty good range. All I had to do was hit the UNLOCK button and see which car flashed at me.

Except it didn’t work. As I hit the UNLOCK the only car that flashed was a full sized Nissan Titan pickup. And then it dawned on me that this was not an ordinary rental car. For whatever reason, the rental car gods decided I needed room for 5 AND a six foot bed to carry their lumber and construction supplies.

 

I did check in with the registration desk to insure they actually meant “E25” instead of “E23.” They blamed it on sloppy handwriting.

Oh, and the little arrow next to the gas guage points at which side of the car (or truck) the gas tank is on. The Nissan Titan has it on the left.

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

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

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Vaguebooking. Do You Vaguebook? Watch Me Vaguebook! Here I Am Vaguebooking

Vaguebooking: Posting an obscure or incomplete message to social media with the intent of letting people know you have something to say without saying it.

Generally considered a rude practice.

We’ve all seen them. The post either on Twitter or Instagram, or sometimes even LinkedIn!, but mostly on facebook with a vague message that appears to suggest some exciting or more often distressing news without actually telling you what it is they are excited or distressed about.

It’s rude. It’s typically an effort by the poster to get readers to respond with a question of

What’s wrong?

What happened?

Sometimes people will even guess.

Did you get a new job?

Is someone in the hospital?

I try not to vaguebook. After all it’s rude. But, there are also times where someone posts a vaguebook post and they don’t want any questions. They don’t want to share news. They are just a little overwhelmed. Caught off guard. In need of a chance to blow off steam without having to go into all the details.

Keep that in mind as you read the next line,

Arggg! He shoudl be in jail. She should not. Lies are never a good strategy. They will catch up with you. And when they do, sometimes exposing the lie is worse than the original truth would be. And lies are going to keep her in jail and lies are going to lead him to jail at some point.

Sorry, that’s it. That’s all I’m writing or saying about it. Maybe I’ll write their stoeis one day. But, it will be many, many years in the future.

Sorry to vaguebook on you. Come back tomorrow for a fun story about “Dude, where’s my car?”

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

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

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

I’m Not Your Friend Today

Yesterday was a travel day. Flying out of Salt Lake City is nice because it’s a DELTA airlines hub. Flying out of Salt Lake City sucks because it takes forever to get anywhere.

I’ve been flying out of SLC for decades. I know that it’s an all day affair to get anywhere, especially to the East Coast. I have control over my travel, so I plan an entire day to travel. I don’t try to go into the office on a travel day. I don’t try to get other work done.

Yesterday, I went into the office and ended up tring to get a lot of work done. My office is in only about 5 minutes from the airport in Salt Lake. And a combination of factors have had me working from home for a couple weeks. If you don’t use your security badge often enough they will turn it off. (Yeah, okay, it’s a first world problem. I get it!)

I did have a couple of really important meetings before my flight left at 11:00 AM. I planned to just dial into my meetings. (And if I hadn’t left the agenda for my 9:00AM touchpoint meeting on the printer, I wouldn’t have had to do it by memory.)

My 9:00 AM meeting went well. My 10:30 meeting, not so much. The meeting still happened, but the outage call I got at 10:00 AM kind of preempted anything else.

There was no way I could miss my flight. And there was no way that the outage was going to be wrapped up before I left. This is why I have a backup.

Okay, a side note, I don’t actually have a backup. That’s a bit of a sore point. I’m a team of one. I’m IT. That means that I know IT stuff. When there’s an outage, either caused by our team or by the client, I’m supposed to help diagnose it and catogorize it.

But, I’m just one guy. Sometimes I’m not available. Oh, I’m available at times when you would probably not be available. Because you have a life and stuff. So, I’m “available” during family outings, and ┬ácampouts and evenings and weekends. But, I’m not available after

We have no closed the cabin door. Please put all personal devices into airplane mode.

As I made my way onto the plane, I put my outage call on hold and called my friend Mark. I work with Mark a lot. Mark is a senior manager in Account Management. He’s currently doing multiple jobs as we open a new center in Florida. Mark is really busy. I was about to ruin Mark’s day.

Mark, this is Rodney.

Hey, what’s up?

Today, I’m not your friend.

Oh, come on. You’re always my friend.

We have an outage call going on and your the backup on-call.

So, what do you need? Do you need me to request downscripting or something?

My plane boards in 20 minutes.

Oh. You don’t mean. . .

Sorry. I do. I told you. Today, I’m not your friend.

Mark had to put his day on hold and live my day. Great trade, right? He does the work. I watch movies on the plane.

No. The problem is that while Mark is smart, brilliant even, he’s not an IT guy. When my plane landed at JFK for a 2 hour layover, I called Mark and got updated on the outage. Turns out it was “s,” as in outage<i>S</i>. There had been two. Well, Mark saw two. As he walked me through the day, I realized that what he thought was a second outage was actually two different outages. There had been three for the day.

After an outage, I have lots of paperwork to fill out. (Weird that we still call it paperwork. It’s all spreadsheets, emails and Word documents.) When I’m not involved in the outage call, I have to try to reconstruct the entire call flow.

That’s why having someone “fill in” for me isn’t really a reduction in my workload. It actually causes more work after the fact. Still I appreciate my friends filling in for me. . .even if it means I’m not their friend today.

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

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

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

How Do You Measure A Successful Day?

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

Most days are like that for people with anxiety.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what my list looked like.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Half A World Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

The Fallacy Of “Break Up Big Tech”

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

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

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

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

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

Hey, Google. Directions to the nearest Walmart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Blood and Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of waiting.

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

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

What someone waiting on something from me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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