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That And Taxes

Doug died yesterday. The viewing is 10 a.m. on Saturday with the funeral at 11. I got notified late last night.

It’s not a text you ever want to get. Doug was my brother-in-law. Technically he was my lovely wife’s brother-in-law. But, he was never one to stand on technicalities.

He owned a diary farm in Idaho that he took over from his father. But, he retired years ago and one of his sons took over from him. He was one of the first people I met when I married into my lovely wife’s large family.

Doug was quite a few years older than I was. He was big, loud and opinionated. Or at least that’s the image he wanted to project. I never really knew if Doug believed everything he said, or if part of it was just to see what reaction he might get.

He mellowed as he aged. He told me one time,

I used to know a lot more about raising kids before my kids got older.

He was a rough man with a gentle heart. He was a bible scholar in farmer jeans. We visited his farm often. We went for weddings and funerals. Holidays and just normal days. There were funny stories (he was arrested on the way to a wedding) and tragic ones (his daughter died in a farming accident.)

And now he’s gone. It’s been coming for years. His health has not been good. I’m sad that I’ll never hear him tell stories again. But, I’m glad he’s out of pain. Doug was a man of great faith. I believe we’ll see each other again in a better place.

And, of course, actually, we all have to go at some point. We will each have to look back on our life at the end and realize, that good or bad, we’ve run the race. For my friend, Doug, it’s definitely been for the good.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved


Just Try THAT While Telecommuting!

It was a fairly standard request. We’d missed one of the people in our migration. If you break the steps down, it looked like this:

  1. Recognize user cannot get in
  2. Notify client
  3. Ask user for their ID number
  4. Inform client of ID
  5. Inform user when complete

Had it been a “normal” day. The request would have been completed in a couple hours. After all, the client was in Oklahoma, the user was in North Carolina and I am normally in Utah. We’d start an email chain and forward the request, the question about user ID in response. Then, I’d forward the response on to the client and pass the information back when it was complete.

If everyone was at their desks, a couple hours would be a reasonable expected turnaround. We could go quicker if needed, of course. But, this was not an emergency request. It was just a typical, one of dozens, request that comes up doing a big implementation.

But, it didn’t take hours to complete this request. It didn’t take a single hour. The entire process took less than 2 minutes. The difference? Proximity.

Telecommuting has really come into its own over the past few years. As high-speed internet costs have come down and availability has gone up, it’s become possible to not only work successfully from remote offices, but from home offices as well. Most of the time, my partners don’t know if I’m working from home or working from my office in Salt Lake City.

And that’s the point. I couldn’t do my job if we didn’t have the ability to work remotely. I have centers in four states. My client is located half a country away.

But, for all the advantages of remote work, it’s not always the most efficient. In fact, it’s often not every efficient at all.

We are doing a migration in North Carolina. Our users are here. The client IT department is here. And of course, I’m here. In fact, the request took place in a conference room. The user walked in, told me what the issue was, I passed the information to the client who was sitting in the same room, but focused on other tasks. The client immediately made the change and just like that the user was migrated.

Sometimes, there is no substitute for just being there.

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

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Writers & Singers Who Don’t Sing

If you want someone to pay you for something, don’t do it for free

Barbra Streisand is one of the greatest recording artists of all time. Her accolades are nearly without peer.

She’s an EGOT, one of few people to win an Emmey, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award. She won two Oscars, one for best actress for Funny Girl and one for best song for Evergreen. She’s the only woman to win the Golden Globe for best director, again for Yentl.

She’s the only person to record a number one album in each of the last six decades. She has the most number one albums of any female artist. Sh had nine Golden Globes. She has sold over 150M albums.

Do you know what she doesn’t like to do?


Seriously. She doesn’t particularly like the sound of her voice. Telling an interviewer in a recent Mirror article,

If I sang happy birthday, I’d sound lousy.

I was thinking about Ms. Streisand this morning as we sang hymns in church.

I’m a writer. I’ve had a couple of books published, for which I got paid. I’ve written for magazines, for which I’ve also gotten paid. My first agent explained that if you want to get paid for something, you shouldn’t give it away for free.

In the internet-age, everyone can be an author, and very few of us get paid. Sure, some do, but most people who create content on the internet do not. Internet “exposure” doesn’t count. No one really wants to pay for content. But, they are happy to “give you exposure.” Saying you’ll work for the exposure is just another way of saying you’ll work for free.

As much as I appreciate people coming to my little corner of the internet every day M-F and reading the sribbles I put out, the fact is I don’t get paid for this. I don’t even get the advertising money.

So, am I breaking my rule? Am I giving things away for free and precluding the ability to get paid? I don’t think so.

I do break my rule in one area. I write for my local monthly newspaper. It’s an opinion column. I write it for free. And it means it would be hard for me to ever insist to my editor that I should start getting paid for it.

But, this blog doesn’t break the rule. I’m not doing it for free. That might sound strange since I just said I don’t get paid for it. But, working for free assumes that I’m working for someone else’s benefit. That I’m creating a product and giving it to someone else and not getting compensated for it.

The blog may be free, but I’m not working for free. . .if that makes sense.

What’s this have to do with Barbra Streisand and church? She admits she doesn’t enjoy singing. It’s not something that relaxes her. Again from the Mirror article,

I never sing unless I have to. I don’t sing around the house. Singins is like work to me, it’s professional. It’s something I do. It’s not cathartic – it’s the opposite. I don’t go around singing.

It reminds me of my daughter when she was in high school. She got a 5 on the AP Calculus test. I suggested she study a STEM topic in college,

Dad, I’m good at math. . .I just don’t like it.

What if you were sitting next to Barbra Steisand in church? Would you enjoy it? I love her voice. I can’t imagine anything better than joining her in singing “Nearer My God To Thee” or “How Great Thou Art.” But, to her it wouldn’t be. She would be giving something away for free that she gets paid for. It would be work.

Some people will sing because they enjoy it, church, home, in the car, it doesn’t matter. They get intrinsic value. It’s cathartic. Others of us write for the same reason. Just because we aren’t getting paid doesn’t mean we are working for free.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

The Mayor, The Major and The Flag

Brent Taylor: Photo courtesy of Military Times

Brent Taylor was mayor of North Ogden, Utah. It located about 30 miles North of Salt Lake City. It’s just a little North of the city of Ogden.

His birthday is tomorrow, July 6. He would have been 40 years old. I say would have been because tragically he was killed in Afghanistan back in November. You see, Mayor Taylor was also Major Taylor, a member of the Utah Army National Guard. He served two tours in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan.

After Major Taylor’s death, not only his family, but his entire community mourned. One of the many tributes offered to him was from an organization called Follow The Flag. They took Big Betsy, a 75x155ft American flag to North Ogden and flew it in Coldwater Canyon. Big Betsy is the largest free-flying American flag in the world.

Big Betsy has travelled around the greater Utah area being displayed at baseball games and rodeos. It’s been carried in parades. But, it’s real home is stretched across Grove Creek Canyon in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

When the people at Follow The Flag heard about Major Taylor, they were happy to send Big Betsy North to help pay their respects. The community of North Ogden was touched by the gesture. She really is a magnificent sight stretched across a rock canyon blowing in the breeze. The community was inspired to start their own chapter of Follow The Flag.

The raised the money to buy their own flag. It’s a copy of Big Betsy, 75×155 feet. They named it The Major to honor the mayor and the soldier. It was scheduled to fly for the first time this fall on Veterans day.

Well, like I said, tomorrow is Major Taylor’s 40th birthday. His widow spoke on July 4th at the Dawn’s Early Light celebration in Pleasant Grove. She talked about her husband. She talked about how much it meant to her when Kyle Fox, and the Follow The Flag organization displayed the flag. It was an emotional moment.

And Big Betsy unfurled right on cue. It was a beautiful site. It was a beautiful morning. And a beautiful start to an Independence day.

It didn’t last. In the afternoon a microburst came through. Microbursts are exactly what they sound like: a very contained explosion of wind and rain. Winds whipped through Pleasant Grove at 30-40mph. They swirled, blowing North to South and then South to North. The explosion of weather caught everyone by surprise, including the people responsible for tending the Big Betsy stretched across the canyon. The damage was extensive and irrepairable.

A damaged Big Betsy hangs forlorn after a microburst damaged her

The Follow The Flag team was distraught. Kyle and his team made the difficult decision that Big Betsy had taken her last flight. But, what to do about a flag for the canyon? They have a smaller version called Little Betsy.

And then, they got a phone call. It was from the North Ogden chapter of Follow The Flag. They offered to bring The Major down and let him take the place of Big Betsy in Grove Creek Canyon.

Big Betsy will be retrieved and repaired. She’ll be used as a display flag. She’ll do duty at the rodeos and the baseball games. My friend Eric Scott described it as “retired to light duty.”

There’s currently a GoFundMe for replacing Big Betsy. Flags that size are between $15,00 and $20,000. You can donate here.

Hopefully she’ll be ready to go by Independence Day 2020. For this year, The Major will fill in.

The Major flying over Grove Creek Canyon with our broadcast trailer in the foreground.

And it’s only fitting that The Major will be flying on the mayor’s birthday.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

That’s Not Going To Buff Out

The day, this day of days, dawned bright and beautiful. We rousted our kids out of bed in the predawn morning and took them up to the mouth of Grove Creek Canyon to witness the unfurling of the largest free flying American flag in the world, called Big Betsy. She’s 75 feet wide by 155 feet long.

Last year, there was a problem when the flag was supposed to deploy. It ripped. And the Follow The Flag team had to use the local football field to repair it.

This morning, I asked Kyle Fox, the founder and head of the Follow The Flag organization if the flag was going to deploy correctly. I was joking when I asked it, but he was deadly serious when he answered,

One hundred percent guaranteed.

True to his prediction, shortly after 7:00AM, right on cue, the flag unfurled beautifully. It was a brilliant start to an wonderful Independence Day.

We did holiday things. We went to the reservoir. We bought food for a BBQ. And this afternoon as we started to prepare for our dinner and fireworks, the wind started to blow. And then it blew harder. And it blew harder still. For nearly an hour the wind rushed down from the North, swirled and then rushed back again. And right behind it came the rain. Huge pelting drops. The kind that hurts when it hits you. The kind that can drench you in mere moments.

And then, just like that, the storm was past. But, what destruction lay behind it in it’s path? Not a horrible amount on our street. Although, I worried my young maple trees might blow over. I did leave a car window down and got drenched going out to roll it up.

We cooked our burgers on the stove and baked chicken and dogs in the oven. Corn on the cob, watermelon, ice cream and cookies.

It was right in the middle of preparing dinner that the storm came through. It knocked out the radio broadcast we have set up for Follow The Flag.

My neighbor called me to say the power to our trailer was out. As we made our way to the trailhead, we had a great view of Big Betsy. The flag hung awkwardly as it bunched to one side of the canyon. No longer flowing freely. And a large gash extended from the base of the flag up nearly half way to the middle.

She hung ragged and limp. Forelorn stretched across the canyon. It was clearly broken. And as it turned out, it was beyond repair.

Tomorrow morning at 5:00AM, Big Betsy will come down for the last time. In her place will be another large flag. It’s called The Major. It was purchased to fly across Ogden Utah’s Coldwater Canyon. The Major is literally Big Betsy’s twin.

Big Betsy will be replaced. How, is still to be decided. Maybe it will be a GoFundMe. Maybe someone will step in and donate the $15,000 it cost to make. Maybe the community will do bake sales and cookie drives.

And that’s an interesting metaphor for our country: the flag may be damaged, but it’s not about the flag. It’s about what it represents. And that won’t change.

Happy Independence Day to those in the United States. And to everyone else, happy Thursday.

This post has been edited to explain that The Major is Big Betsy’s twin and is not yet flying in Ogden.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Oh Say Can You See. . .What’s In The Refrigerator?

Question: how do you keep electronics from overheating when sitting in a steel cargo trailer, in the middle of a field, in Utah, in July?

Last year, we tried fans. We have electricity. Of course, otherwise the electronics would simply be so many silicone chips sitting on table. Last year every afternoon the electronics would overheat and shut down. We’d have to open up the trailer, air it out and then restart the Raspberry Pi.

Over the winter we strategized about how to keep the chips cool. We knew we’d be back in the field at the mouth of Grove Creek Canyon in the first week of July.

We thought of several ideas. Most of them impractical or too expensive. We considered building a “box” that included an air conditioner inside it. We considered putting an AC inside our trailer with the exhaust pumped outside. It’s not my trailer, so I’m limited on how much I can modify it to accomodate my annual summer project.

We finally hit on what seemed like the perfect solution: refrigerator! I had an old mini-fridge. It was the perfect size to store the radio transmitter and the Raspberry pi. We drilled a hole in the front of the door to feed the cords through and it was perfect!

The first day we had it up was a couple of days ago. And eventually the fridge decided it was just too hot to try to keep its cool. The compressor was hot enough to the touch to cause blisters. So, we unplugged the refrigerator and the temperature inside immediately started to rise.

Now what? The fridge would provide some insulation from the heat inside the trailer, but the electronics themselves generated heat. That heat was being trapped inside the sealed refrigerator. I wondered if I’d be buying a new fridge just so we could cut holes in it. The prospect wasn’t appealing. We are self-funding this entire project and I had to lay out $40 to license a waving American flag clip.

Finally I opted for the most obvious choice of all. . .ice. I bought a block of ice and moved things around so that it fit into the bottom of the fridge. The ice would melt, of course, but all the wires were above the hole we’d cut for the cords. And the cords were all-weather insulated. Any melted water would (hopefully!) drain out the bottom of the fridge.

Today it was about 95 degrees in Pleasant Grove. Inside our trailer it was about 160 degrees. And inside our ice packed refrigerator? Well, the Raspberry Pi reported its temperature as a temperate 120 degrees.

After an entire day in the sun, there was still plenty of ice left.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

Oh, our project? We are broadcasting a playlist on frequency 87.7FM for the Pleasant Grove based “Follow The Flag” events. Tomorrow, they will unfurl Big Betsy, the largest free flying American flag in the world.

You can see it from all over the valley. But, if you happen to be driving around Pleasant Grove’s East bench, tune your radio to 87.7 and feel a little of the patriotic spirit and realize the station is on ice.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Worthless $144 Hubcaps?

Before we no longer had a van, I was working on getting it ready to sell. We were going to ask $10,000 or so for it. And just like when you sell a house, you paint the baseboards and finally fix that leaky toilet. I was working on fixing the minor little things on our van.

About two years ago my lovely wife was driving our van down the freeway at about 70 MPH when she got a flat tire. Well, not exactly a flat tire. Her right front tire exploded.

Back in the late 1990s, Ford motor company and Firestone tire company had a problem. The problem was that Firestone tires tended to seperate at high temperatures. The lawsuits said low temperature as well. It was no joking matter. Over 271 people died in rollover accidents that happened as a result of the tires failing at high speed.

So, back to my wife’s tire: she was driving a 15 passenger van and her tire exploded. Fortunately, there was only minor damage. A piece of trim and a hub cap.

The trim was going to be a couple hundred dollars to fix. It was a small enough piece that I decided it might not be worth fixing it. But, the hub cap? Sure, that would be an easy one. … .Right?

My first stop was a junkyard. The Silverados, Express Vans, and several other Chrevrolet trucks used the same type of hubcaps. I checked several junkyards. The problem was my van was too new. None of the junkyards I checked had anything newer than around 2001. The hubcaps are different on the older vans and trucks.

I finally decided to go to the dealership. Dealerships charge more than junkyards, of course. But, it would add more to the value of the car to have the baseboards painted. And honestly, how much could they charge for simple plastic hubcaps?

$144. . .each!

I didn’t buy a new hubcap at that time. . .or that price.

I continued to look for hubcaps at junkyards or on the side of the road. No luck.

And then the accident happened. And the insurance company totalled our van. And they gave us a check. A bigger check than we expected. It was a check for the entire van. What about that missing hub cap? Was the check $144 less than it might have been with the extra hubcap? Was the hubcap worth the money or not?

It was either worth the $144 or it wasn’t.

I guess I won’t ever know, but I do know that I’m glad I didn’t buy that hub cap a week before the van wrecked.

And I kind of wish I could have taken those other three hubcaps when I cleaned out the van at the body shop.

They’re worth $144. . .each!

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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