Skip to content

Best of 2020 #1: How I Guessed The Exact Amount Of Coins In The Jar

Well, it figures. One final screw up in 2020. Most years, I use the last five days of the year to give y’all a recap of the most popular posts from the previous year. That means I should have started posting last Friday so that I would finish with #1 on December 31.

Oh well.

The #1 post from 2020 was the first one posted. I talk about statistics and degrees of precision, but not in a boring way.

Happy 2021 and good riddance to 2020.

Many thanks to all of you who put up with these scribblings every M-F. You have no idea how much I appreciate you all. (But, it’s a lot!)

====================================

How I Guessed the Exact Amount Of Coins In The Jar

January 2, 2020

It’s a common raffle. There’s a jar full of stuff. Maybe it’s gumballs. Maybe it’s jellybeans, or guitar pics. Or, as in my case, coins. You have to guess how many. Or, again in my case, how much.

How much are the coins in the jar?

I like using cash. Despite our society’s continued push towards a cashless society, I actually like cash. I prefer to carry bills.

Maybe it’s a sense of nostalgia. After all, despite having a phone (with it’s ubiquitous clock) I also have a smartwatch, and yet I carry a pocket watch. I have for years. My car is a 1996 Toyota that includes manual transmission, manual door locks and manual windows. I write letters. And I write for a local newspaper that exists only in print edition. I work in IT, but my life is definitely not ruled by technology.

I like cash, but, I don’t like carrying coins. I have a jar that I keep coins in. I don’t collect them. Well, I do collect coins, but not every coin. So, I have this jar and every time I have coins I dump them in. Eventually the jar fills up, of course. It doesn’t fill up in a strictly linear manner. Occasionally, a child will need change for a dollar. Or during Chinese New Year when we give the kids money it typically comes out of the coin jar.

But, eventually, it gets too full to hold any more coins. I then take it to the bank and get it changed into cash. Bills this time. Plus, some remaining coins of course.

I try to guess how much money is in the jar. And this time I guessed it just right. Well, almost. But, really, really close.

Do you ever play the lottery? Maybe you’ve hit the numbers. Chances are you haven’t. But, I’ll bet you’ve been really, really close. Like maybe only off by a number or two.

Yeah, we all have. In fact, I was just as close to guessing the amount of money in my coin jar as you were to hitting the lottery. That is to say, very close and incredibly far off.

Yesterday’s powerball numbers were 49, 53, 57, 59, and 62, the Power Ball was 26 and the Power Play was X2. If you had known these numbers yesterday, you’d be $220M richer. (No one matched all the numbers, so you have still have a chance.)

Someone matched five numbers. They won a million dollars. (Oh, so close.)

Have you ever played the powerball lottery? I haven’t. It’s not just that Utah doesn’t participate in the lottery. To quote a disgraced actor from a good movie, “I believe in the power of large numbers.”

Ever wonder why no one picks the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 as their powerball sequence? Stupid question, right? No one would ever pick those numbers. There’s virtually no chance those numbers would come up.

Actually, the odds are 1 in 292,201,338 that those numbers will come up. Do you know what the odds for yesterday’s winning numbers (49, 53, 57, 59, 62, 26) were?

They were 1 in 292,201,338.

Weird, huh? The exact same odds for both numbers. There’s a pattern here. By this time you can guess the odds of any number being the winning number. Yup, it’s 1 in 292,201,338.

It doesn’t make sense to us. We know that 49, 53, 57, 59, 62, 26 is more likely than 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Don’t we?

I remember seeing a computer parlor trick one time. The website claimed it could read your mind using a set of cards. The website showed you a group of five face cards and asked you to mentally pick one. Once you had picked your card, you clicked NEXT. And it worked. Magically, the website managed to make only your card disappear.

I like puzzles. And this one had me stumped. I visited the website multiple times. And it absolutely worked each time. One clue was that the website didn’t allow the back button in the web browser.

I eventually figured out the trick, of course. The website didn’t just make the card you picked go away. It made all of them go away. It simply replaced them with a new set of four cards. The trick, like all good magic tricks was about misdirection. You, or rather I, was so focused on my own card, that I ignored the other cards. Later, when I was presented with a group of four face cards, which replaced a different group of four cards I didn’t notice.

The lottery is like that. We focused on our own numbers. We hardly pay attention to the winning numbers, except to note that our card isn’t there. All the rest of the numbers look the same.

If the computer had showed me a new group made up entirely of the cards Ace, two, three, and four, I would have immediately noticed that they were different. But, since the face cards all have a familiar pattern, I didn’t notice.

When I took my jar of coins to the bank, I guessed there was $65.00 in the jar. I got it right. Or nearly so. There was exactly $67.72. The distribution was

Pennies: 672  $6.72

Nickles: 158 $7.90

Dimes: 171 $17.10

Quarters: 132 $33.00

Dollars: 3 $3.00

Total: 1,136 $67.72

It’s remarkable, don’t you think, that the total value includes the same numbers that are in the pennies total, the numbers 6, 7 and 2?

No?

No, it’s not remarkable. It’s coincidental, but really that’s all it is. And when your powerball numbers seem oh, so close to the winning numbers, it’s not remarkable. It’s a coincidence. Because the odds of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 being the winning numbers are exactly the same as 49, 53, 57, 59, 62, 26.

When I guessed my total value of coins, I knew it was somewhere between $55 and $75. And since the distribution of coins was random, the odds that it was exactly $65 were the same as the odds the total would be $67.72.

I only missed it by that much.

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

Best of 2020 #2: I Hope You Find This Post Offensive

There were a lot of offensive things said in 2020. But, not everything that was found offensive was actually offensive. Some people viewed lack of offensiveness the same as politeness. It wasn’t the case.

=====================================================

I Hope You Find This Post Offensive

March 11, 2020

Seriously, if I don’t say something in this post that offends you, I have failed.

Now, let’s be fair, as someone who writes on social media daily, I understand that nothing will make a post go viral quicker than a little bit of controversy.

But, that’s not my intent. It’s not about offending for offense sake. I think we as a society have forgotten how to be offended.

15: I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

16: So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Revelation Chapter 3 (KJV)

We find ourselves, as we do every four years, in the middle of a presidential campaign. There are three main people left in the race, President Trump, a polarizing Republican, Senator Bernie Sanders, a progressive Democrat and former Vice President Joe Biden, considered by most people to be a moderate.

Four years ago, Donald Trump was the most polarizing candidate in the Republican field. His critics (including this writer) were sure that he would not last a month. . and then that he would not make it to the convention. . .and then he could not possibly win the presidency. After all, Senator Hillary Clinton, his opponent was much more moderate.

Why did Donald Trump win? This post is not nearly long enough to delve into that topic. Besides, I was consistently wrong all through the campaign last time. But, one thing that can be said with certainty is that Trump was much more objectionable than Senator Clinton. And yet he won.

I got put in Facebook jail today. Apparently one of my comments failed to meet the community standards for Facebook of bullying and harressment. I was naturally surprised since, as a writer, I pride myself on keeping my comments polite and well within the bounds of polite conversation.

It was a thread on a news site. The discussion was about guns. Dick’s Sporting Goods has announced they are going to stop selling guns in more of their stores. In the discussion the assertion was made that guns are only designed to kill people. After a few exchanges a woman named Christine Hall said,

We’ll agree to disagree

I responded,

Christine Hall, you can opt for that, but honestly since you have zero experience, your opinion really doesn’t carry much weight. Your ignorance is not equal to Al’s experience. When you “agree to disagree” with someone who has experience, you are really saying, “I don’t want to become educated on this issue.”

That was it. I asked Facebook to review it again. Two minutes later they sent me an email saying they did. And it was still in violation of the harressment and bullying policy.

I’ve seen much harsher comments on Facebook. So have you. I can only assume that Ms Hall reported my comment. I cannot imagine a scanning robot flagged it.

When facts conflict with someone’s world view it is easier for them to reject the facts than to change their world view.

And if you continue to argue facts, people often become offended. (And on Facebook that can get you thrown in Facebook jail.)

The legendary comedian John Cleese talked about the idea offense is necessary to comedy. And since comedy is often a slightly absurd look at society, society itself needs the ability to offend and be offended.

But, modern society has done everything possible to remove offense. We have trigger warnings to warn use that we might find something offensive. We have safe spaces were presumably we are “protected” from being offended at all. However, rather than improving society, these trigger warnings, and safe spaces, and facebook jail sentences, have turned us into a nation of wimps.

My son is an athlete. He will be a on the varsity football team at his high school this year. He noted that the best athletes get special treatment. “They don’t want to risk you getting hurt.”

He will quickly learn that special treatment doesn’t mean getting excused from exercise. In fact, the better the athlete, the more the coach will want them to hit the weight room, and the track.

Good athletes become great athletes when they are tested. When they subject themselves to hard workouts, grueling two or three-a-day practices. The best athletes understand that it’s the hard that makes them better.

It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.

– Manager Jimmy Dugan “A League Of Their Own”

If it’s true for athletes, it’s also true for our social lives. Being offended and learning to deal with that makes you a better person. Not just better, but stronger. Constantly being protected from being offended is not empowering. It’s debilitating.

Now, I may be a mean cuss. But, I’m the same mean cuss with everybody out there on that football field. The world don’t give a damn about how sensitive these kids are, especially the young black kids. You ain’t doing these kids a favor by patronizing them. You’re crippling them. You’re crippling them for life.

– Coach Herman Boone, “Remember The Titans”

The great British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said,

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.

So, don’t be afraid to offend. Be hot or cold, radical or progressive, but not lukewarm. And realize that being willing to stand for something is what will make you strong.

I will post this to Facebook. . .tomorrow after I get out of facebook jail.

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) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Best of 2020 #3: Not Sure I Can Take Anymore Memories

I wrote this before COVID hit. My class and our high school, has had our share of deaths. And since writing this there are been several more. As the title said, I’m not sure I can take anymore memories.

===============================================

Not Sure I Can Take Anymore Memories

February 28, 2020

Mark Lovelady Class of 1989

Stephanie Cresswell Class of 2015

Jamie Sandifer

Jon Paulson Class of 91

died by suicide 2013

The messages pop up on my Facebook feed unannounced. Some familiar. Most not. All of them tragic. Many of them jarring.

Raymond Estores Class of 2012

Scott Crapo Class of 81 or 82

Nick Walker Class of 84

A fishing accident with his grandfather

I graduated in 1983. My generation grew up with computers. We remember our parents buying their first microwave oven. And we remember our first computer.

We are the “old” people that are the reason the current generation abandoned facebook. But us? We are all over it. We use it to keep up with our grandkids (who are too young to know it’s not cool.) We are friends with our neighbors and church members. We plan our reunions with it. And we use it to keep track of our friends from high school.

Some friends from high school created a new facebook group and invited me. It’s called Timberline Blazers Gone, Never Forgotten. As you’ve probably realized by now, it’s a memoriam group. It’s a group dedicated to remember those from my high school who have passed away.

The crazy thing is that my high school is younger than I am. It opened in 1970. In May this year there’s going to be a celebration of the first 50 years.

What that really means is that most of the people who have passed away are close to my age or less. Despite my earlier comment I’m not old. I don’t consider myself old. And people who aren’t old shouldn’t die.

A couple of the posts in the group hit kind of hard.

Brad Tullis-Class of 83′ in 2012

Brad was part of my group of friends. It wasn’t a huge high school. We had about 350 in our graduating class. I haven’t seen Brad since high school. But, knowing he passed away was a shock.

Some of the posts were personal.

Lavel Godwin – died a few years ago from brain cancer

Lavel was my brother’s sister. I wrote about it a few years ago. I actually didn’t know her. But, knowning she’s gone was a shock.

One of the posts hit closer than any others. I knew it would be there, and yet it was still sad to see it.

Danny Murdock – Class of 83′

While attending College, in a car accident

Danny was the first to die. He passed away before the first reunion. The posts in the forum sometimes are just a name. Sometimes they incude a graduation date. And sometimes they include a cause of death.

My class is in our 50s now. We are dying of the things that people die of. Some are sickness. Cancer mostly. Some suicides. Murders. And accidents.

Danny died in an accident. He was attending BYU. . .the same school I attended. I think I was possibly on a mission for the Mormon church at the time. Danny was driving down Provo Canyon. It was a winding mountain road. Two lanes with a mountain on one side and the river on the other. It winds for 20 miles from Provo to Heber, Utah.

Danny was headed back toward Provo. As he came around a curve, a car coming from the other direction crossed the center line and hit him head on. His car flipped into the river. He died immediately.

Danny’s family and mine were very close. We were in scouts together. We went to church together. We were in classes together. In fact, my brother and Danny’s brother married sisters.

I added an explanitory comment to the post about Danny. He’s buried in Utah. I’ve been to his grave a couple of times. I didn’t think Danny’s death could affect me. I was wrong. Several people posted fond memories of Danny. And there was one post,

It was tragic I was in Utah at the times and saw his obituary, later i met the dude that hit him it was tough.

The group has only been around for a few weeks. People are still joining. I invited a bunch of high school friends to join, just as someone had invited me.

And because it’s new, many of the names keep getting posted for the first time, and some for the second time. And each time a new message pops up on my Facebook feed I have to wonder if it will be someone I knew, or just another stranger that sat through classes in inside the same four walls where I spent four years.

Not sure I can take too many more memories.

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) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Best of 2020 #4: Quarantine

In 2020 we had to endure a 14 day quarantine as a family member had COVID and our household was exposed.

It came in as the 4th most popular post in 2020.

=============================

Quarantine

September 30, 2020

Renee got her results back.

And?

Positive.

Not what you want to hear after you just went on a weekend camping trip with Renee, your college aged daughter, five of your other kids, a son-in-law, your lovely wife and three grandkids.

We found out on Sunday that one of Renee’s roommates tested positive for COVID. Renee left immediately to go get tested. We weren’t too worried because she wasn’t too worried.

I don’t share a bathroom with her. And the only time I’ve seen in the past week was when I walked past her in the hallway.

Still we anxiously waited for the results. I have a daughter getting married on Friday.

But, we weren’t worried. . .much.

And then today, the results came back. So, what happens now?

First off, a two week quarantine. Not a simple, “wear a mask and social distance.” Nope. More of a “lock the doors and use the WalMart delivery service” quarantine.

And we went to get tested, right?

Nope.

Turns out if you don’t have symptoms, they want you to wait until seven days after your exposure. Okay, we just sit around for a week. Wedding on Friday? Yeah, good luck. Not going to happen with us there. Well, it will happen. We just won’t be there.

And I have three daughters who are pregnant. One of them might be induced on Saturday. New grandchild? Not with us there.

But, it’s cool. Sure, we all work from home. . .except my son who works at Burger King, and my daughter who volunteers at a discount clothing store. She’s now at home.

But, I work from home. And my son does his college schooling remotely. But, my high schooler is now stuck at home. Oh, and no football practice.

Varsity football games are by invitation only. We have five tickets set aside for us. My friend, whose son is also on the team texted me before he found out about our quarantine.

Do you have any tickets available for this Friday’s game?

Funny you should ask.

I haven’t been to a Mason’s meeting since February. We finally got permission to go back to lodge. . .this Thursday. Nope, not with me.

I have one son who is waiting to serve a mission. He spends a lot of time playing Call of Duty online. He’s going to be okay you’d think. We don’t let him play when his siter the missionary is home. Oops.

The family meeting was fun. . .in a “let’s disappoint everyone at the same time” kind of way.

We have a big house. We’ll see over the next to weeks if it’s big enough.

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) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Best Of 2020 #5: I’m Sorry I Was Late. . .I Didn’t Want To Come

The fifth most popular post from 2020 was the heartbreaking effort to speak at my sister’s funeral

Originally published September 22,

=====================

September 22, 2020

These are the remarks I delivered at my sister’s funeral on Saturday September 12, 2020 in Olympia, Washington.

===============================

I knew this day was coming. But, knowing it was coming didn’t make it any easier.

Jennifer Bliss was born in 1959 in Anchorage, Alaska.

. . .

That’s as far as I got when I sat down to write the events around Jennifer’s life. I wish I could tell you about my sister. I can’t. I’m neither a good enough writer nor a good enough speaker to even begin to share a fraction of her life story. In fact, she had multiple stories.

She was a sister, the glue that held two sets of brothers together.

She was a daughter to two mothers. Both of whom she loved and honored.

She was a cousin. They were the sisters she never had.

She was a musician. Her hands were too small to play the violen or piano. She played them anyway. She passionately pursued her goals. No matter where they took her. She got a degree in and taught music.

She was a daughter of God. Sharing her faith with her brothers and staying loyal to it throughout her life.

She was a traveller. After high school she earned enough money for a two week stay in England. She returned three years later. Just recently she accompanied her mother to Germany. She was planning at least two trips when she died.

She was a teacher. In addition to music, she taught 5th grade. She taught at the Dragon School at Oxford. . .although, not to actual dragons. She taught her brothers to drive, and how to be better men.

And in the last several years she was an advocate. Her former colleagues speak at length of the impact she had in the Washington Mental Health field and on each of them.

She was a mother to three beautiful daughters and a grandmother to six precious grandchildren.

She was an aunt and a great aunt (in more ways than one) many times over.

And she suffered, struggled with mental health issues throughout her life. We feared at times that would be what killed her. But, she vanquished her demons. . .at least for a time. Mental illness never really goes away. She would be the first to acknowledge that. It was her mental health journey that led her to become an author. She wrote “Make bright The Arrows,” chronically the ups and downs of her journey to recovery. As her brother it was hard to read those stories at times.

She was also a friend. We’ve all experienced her advice, her advocacy, her help and her love.

This is supposed to be a life sketch and as I started trying to write down where she’d been and grew up and when she moved and where, I realized those dry pieces of data aren’t Jennifer. Her life was so rich, full and diverse, there was no way I could do justice to even one of her many life stories and certainly not all of them. And like an overly long Academy Award speech, I would certainly miss people, events and stories that are crucial to who she was. . .So, I’m not going to try.

She was the only sister I’ve ever had. I miss her terribly. I never wanted to be giving this speech. I didn’t even really want to be here. Because being here means she is not. My sister loved everyone I suspect.

I know she loved me, my brothers, our parents, her cousins, her daughters and grandchildren. And having read some of the messages you’ve written, I know she shared that love with you too. And that’s the legacy she’ll leave to all of us; have love and compassion for those around you.

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you a little about my sister. While I appreciate the opportunity, I really didn’t want to be here.

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) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Book Review: The Scarlet Letter

This is the third time I’ve read this book. And the first time I’ve finished it. I wouldn’t say I didn’t like it the first two times. But, it was like eating paste. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad, but eventually you get tired of chewing on it.

I didn’t understand the book at all. I’m not sure I do this time either. After all, this is one of the greatest books every written according to most lists. I don’t pretend to understand the Nathaniel Hawthorne’s brilliant use of imagery, foreshadowing, or any of a dozen other literary devices that he utilized and very possibly pioneered.

Originally published in 1850 in Boston, it tells a story set centuries earlier, before the birth of this grand American Experiment. Many later writers cited Hawthorne and this work specifically as influential in their own growth as writers.

The most elemental aspects of the story are probably familiar to you. A woman Hester Prynne committed adultery. As a result she has to wear the letter “A” as a badge of shame. Oh, and no surprise, the handsome young preacher is the father of her illegitimate daughter, Pearl.

That much I knew from the last two times I tried to read it.

For some reason, this time it wasn’t just paste in my mouth. I was able to peak into the world of 1850 and like a reflection of a reflection, I was also able to see an 1850 view of the seventeenth century and Puritan Salem.

I was surprised at how short the book was. At 180 pages, I had to check (several times) to make sure I wasn’t reading a Cliff Notes version. (Yeah, that’s a dated reference, but I’m leaving it there.)

The story is surprisingly modern for a book that is 170 years old. There were twists that I didn’t see coming and sometimes surprises about the parts I did see coming.

At times reading it was like watching opening the back of a pocket watch and watching it work. I can see great craftsmanship, but I don’t pretend to understand very much of it at all.

What I Liked

Like Tess of the d’Urbervilles, that I recently reviewed, Hawthorne spends much more time than modern stories on descriptions. The action is pretty simple, but the descriptions of the the Custom House, the woods, the stage where the condemned stand, they went at great length and were expertly done. I enjoyed how Hawthorne developed the story and the characters.

He breathed great life into a story from hundreds of years ago.

What I Didn’t

At certain times, I could still taste the paste from the first two attempts. The first chapter, “The Custom House” seemed like a chapter out of the wrong book. Several times, I stepped out of the story to again literally check the copyright data to make sure I was reading “The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne.” Even now, I’m not sure what that first chapter was supposed to do.

Also, like my problem with Tess, there were times where the span of years and their impact on written English was simply too great. Phrases, settings, even social mores were sometimes challenging to understand.

What It Means To You

I put “The Scarlet Letter ” on my list of books to read before I die. If you have such a list, this masterpiece by Hawthorne would be a worthy addition. And it’s a not a long book. But, having finally made it to the end, I have no desire to again tread the streets of Salem with Prynne, Pearl and the people early New England.

My Rating

It may be one of the greatest books every written, but any book that I have to try three times to finish, gets no better than a 3 of 4 stars.

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) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Book Review: Tess of the d’Urbervilles

I read this book because it was my sister’s book. She passed away this year. Many of her novels came to me.

I really knew nothing about it, except that it is considered one of the 100 greatest books ever written. My sister read all 100. Of course, the list of the greatest 100 books ever written is a pretty subjective list. Tess of the d’Urbervilles falls somewhere between 70 and 90 on most lists that books from all over the world.

So, I didn’t have high expectations. I can confidently say that Tess exceeded my low expectations. In fact, if I had high expectations, it would have still exceeded them.

Thomas Hardy wrote Tess of the d’Urbervilles in 1891. Nearly 150 years ago. And yet, the story was a gripping and captivating as anything I’ve read.

The story is about Tess Durbeyfield. She’s both victim and heroine. Despite being written in what might be considered a more genteel age, the story involved rape, murder, illegitimate birth, infant mortality. Hardly genteel topics.

But, the amazing thing was Hardy’s writing. His use of language sometimes made me want to go back and reread a passage just to enjoy the interplay of words. He spent entire paragraphs describing the how a barn looked. Or how to properly milk a cow.

The story at times didn’t move like many modern stories. Instead, it strolled through the English countryside. Hardy’s characters come alive (and some die) in a way that makes you want to meet some of them, and makes you want to punch some of them in the face.

Every hour spent reading this amazing book was an hour, a day or an entire season spent with Angel Clare, Tess, enjoying the beautiful English countryside.

What I Liked

Virtually everything. The settings, the characters, the plot. It was masterful. I especially enjoyed reading someone describing a world I didn’t know anything about, in a manner that was contemporary. It was like time travelling but, only being able to see and hear, but not interact.

What I Didn’t

At times Hardy’s prose is too far removed. He uses phrases or objects that are contemporary to him, but I had no idea what they were. Sometimes I got it from context. Other times, I just allowed myself to be confused and went on. It knocked me out of the story briefly, but it was such an engaging story, I had no trouble jumping right back in.

What it Means To You

While I enjoyed this book, I can imagine those who wouldn’t enjoy it. As I said, Hardy uses words to paint pictures, great sweeping vistas and warm intimate settings. But, if you are reading to “find out what happens next” you are going to go pages and pages before the next piece of dialogue. You might even consider it slow.

My Rating

If I am reading books from the 100 Greatest Books list, I would imagine I’m going to come up with a lot of four our of four stars.

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) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

My Awkward Relationship With “Dad”

Maybe it’s just me. But there are words I have strange relationships with. For example, as a young man I read “The Haunted Palace” by Edgar Allan Poe. It includes the verse:

Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute’s well-tuned law,
Round about a throne where, sitting
(Porphyrogene!)
In state his glory well-befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

The sixth line intrigued me. I had never seen the word “Porphyrogene” before. In the late 1970’s it was harder to find information than it is today. Many of you probably also did not know the definition of porphyrogene.

As an inquisitive eighth grader I set out to find what it meant. I eventually discovered a wonderful magical book called the The Oxford English Dictionary. My school library had the condensed version. The full version is 21 volumes.

It’s quicker and easier to find definitions today:

Porphyrogenite: A Byzantine emperor’s son born in the purple or porphyry room assigned to empresses, hence a prince born after his father’s accession; a person born into the nobility.

Interestingly, Poe’s version porphyrogene is not a normal English conjugation. But, that’s the beauty of being a writer, you can make up your own words.

So, porphyrogenite is one of my favorite words. It’s a word I’m still waiting for a chance to use in conversation.

Dad is a word I’m not as comfortable with. And it’s a word I sometimes have difficulty using in conversation. My mother was married several times. I called my birth father Dad. But, my step-fathers were always known by their first names. I called my step-grandparents “grandma and grandpa.” Aunts and Uncles were given their honorary titles. But, Dad was a reserved word.

My mother married Lloyd Bliss and a few years later he adopted my older brother and me. I had called him Lloyd for those few years. Dad was not a name that came easily. Mostly, I just made sure I got his attention. I don’t think in the decades that I knew him that I actually called him Dad more than a half dozen times.

When I married, I got some wonderful in-laws. Others who had married into my wife’s family called my father-in-law dad. I tried. I really did. Instead, he was Joe. One of the greatest men I ever knew. And a man I’m happy to be related to.

As you all know, I have 13 children. I enjoy being called Dad, father, even Daddy. To my grandchildren I’m Papa. The same name I called my grandfather.

Four of my children are married. I approached each of my sons-in-law to have a conversation. . .about the word dad.

You can choose to call me whatever you’d like. You can call me Rod, or if you’d like you can call me Dad. Whatever you are comfortable with is fine by me.

My sons-in-law are not as uncomfortable with the word as I am. They’ve each chosen to call me Dad. It’s a decision I’m very happy with. They are good men and I’m honored they would call me dad.

However, it did recently create a problem. One of my sons-in-law is an immigrant from Haiti. He’s going through the naturalization process. There’s an interview process where the immigration officials ask questions to determine if the marriage is a sham.

And what is the name of your father-in-law?

Um. . .

Come on, honey, what’s my dad’s name?

I don’t know. I’ve just always called him Dad.

And that’s a name I’ll gladly answer to. Even if at times I had trouble saying it.

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) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Measure Once, Cut Twice. . .or Thirty Times

Measure twice, cut once.
– Woodworkers Proverb

I enjoy woodworking. This Christmas I’m working on several projects for family. I’m making toys for my grandkids. I’m making gifts for my children. I have a lot of kids, 13. I’m not making something for all of them. I also have a fair number of grandkids, 10. I am making something for each of them.

Many of the projects are copies. I’m making multiple copies of the same thing. (Sorry, to be vague, but my kids read this sometimes.) Anyway, as I was working on the projects I got to thinking about the old proverb, “Measure twice, cut once.” It means, that you have to be sure that your measurement is right before you commit to cutting the wood. You cannot put the wood back together if you measure incorrectly.

But, I realized there is an extension to the proverb. I have to cut dozens of 2×2 pieces. Some are 12″ long. Some are 30″ long. If I were to measure each piece, I’d actually come out with a worse project than if I only measure once.

This is a miter saw. It’s used to cut pieces of wood to a specific length. You measure the distance on the wood. Put a mark and then cut at the mark.

The saw blade is 1/8th of an inch wide. So, if I measure 15 1/4″ and I put the mark on the left or right of the blade, I can end up with a cut that is 15 1/8th” or 15 3/8th”, a difference of up to 1/4 of an inch. If I am trying to build a series of projects, it’s important that they all be exactly the same.

There’s a technique to ensure that every cut is exactly the same length. If you look at the picture again, you’ll notice that a cut 2×2 is sitting on top of two uncut 2x2s. The trick is to cut a single piece at the right length. Then, use that piece to “measure” all the rest of the pieces. I simply line up the ends and line the cut piece up with the saw blade.

Using this method, every piece is exactly the same length. Measure once, cut many times.

Some of my tasks at work are being moved to a new team. I spent years designing the protocols that govern this part of my job. I realized that these protocols are my measuring piece. They ensure that every interaction follows the same path. (Because that’s the path that leads to a successful resolution.)

Without a plan, without a template, without a protocol, you have to measure each piece individually. You have to redesign the system every time you have problem come up.

Measuring once allows you to make as many cuts as you want or need.

(Just make sure that first cut is accurate. Maybe measure it twice to be sure.)

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) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

What’s An IT Freeze? And, What Are They For?

First let’s get some terms clear. IT, is Information Technology. They typically have guys with job titles like DesktTop Engineer, Program Manager, Database Analyst. They are the ones who fix stuff when it breaks. (To be fair they are also the ones who built the stuff that keeps breaking, so it makes sense they should fix it. But, why don’t they simply built it so it doesn’t break in the first place? That’s a topic for another time.)

You may have seen reference to an “IT Freeze.” It’s often accompanied by a date range. A typical IT Freeze will be from Dec 11 through January 2: two weeks before Christmas until the day after New Years.

This is a period when lots of businesses are slowing down. I know more than one tech company that required much of their staff to take time off the week between Christmas and New Years.

A Freeze just means that no system changes can be made. Typically there are exceptions. Remember that discussion about stuff breaking? Yeah, fixing broken stuff typically gets an exception. But, no scheduled changes are allowed.

At first this might seem stupid. I mean, what better time to work on the computer networks than during the dead period around Christmas?

But, there’s logic behind the decision. The first piece is absolutely selfish. Do you like to work on Christmas or New Years? Neither do IT folks.

But, there’s a more important reason. Because, honestly if stuff breaks on Christmas, we are going to be working Christmas.

But, the last two weeks of the year are very important to a particular group of employees: the accounting department. In the United States all employers must send out income tax information to all their employees by January 31. If they are late, it’s literally a crime. Like get arrested type of crime.

So, it’s really important to the accounting group that the systems be as stable as possible during the last few weeks of the year as they run massive reports.

You do not want to be the engineer that brings down the network during the last two weeks of the year. That’s what a Freeze is for. It introduces stablity.

Many companies have started pushing their freezes back to the beginning of December instead of just two weeks before Christmas. Again, there’s a logical reason.

Many projects have a completion date of December 31. Often you don’t want to carry the accounting informaiton for a project from one year to teh next if you can avoid it. So, project managers try to push to geth all of their project changes in before the Freeze window. That means a lot of change and churn in the network.

And that much churn often means stuff breaks as new systems are loaded into the network. And IT wants to be able to fix all that stuff before the Freeze starts.

After all, they broke it, might as well be them that fixes it.

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) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

%d bloggers like this: