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A Post That Makes No Sense

The calm before the dawn

The dark before the storm

It’s a form of control, of manipulation. There’s even a word for it:

Vaguebooking is any update on a social network (although primarily Facebook) that is intentionally vague. Status updates which fall under the category of vaguebooking can be long or short, but most comprise just a few simple words.

It’s the misunderstood, hiding in their shadows and lost in their own crisis, crying out, “Help me without me asking for it.” We are imploring for someone to introduce our own deus ex machina to magically “make it all better.”

And yet, we cannot look away. We cannot walk away. Too often we have heard the stories, “If only I’d known,” “I didn’t realize she was crying for help.” So, we engage. We write back, “What’s wrong? Can I help? Call me.” And for those truly in danger, we help. We give them what they want. For the simply manipulative, well, we also give them what they want. We dance as they pull the puppet strings. And like the little boy who cried wolf, they laugh. They laugh as we come running with our comfort and our understanding.

I’ve never been to war. My brother served, although his unit was never called up. My daughter is serving now, although she’s in grad school and unlikely to see combat. But, I read. I devour stories of wars and battles; heroes and cowards.

I try to imagine what it’s like, as the landing craft makes it way toward the beach. The thick steel plate providing a measure of cover until it doesn’t and the soldiers scramble, some to engage the enemy, some simply to get out of what has become a kill box.

What did that soldier think, feel, as he huddled in his foxhole waiting for the expected enemy attack? Knowning he was safer standing still, but the adrenaline pumping through his veins screaming for movement, any movement. And yet, to move was to die. Safety and ultimately victory rested with his, and every other soldier’s ability to be still when every impulse was to run.

Under attack
Under cover
Being patient
Being a patient
Waiting
Watching

Is my indecision base on cowardice or caution? Am I the hero waiting for the right moment to act, or am I a member of the chorus? A nameless, faceless Star Fleet officer in a red shirt?

I’m sorry if this didn’t make sense. I did try to warn you.

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

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

What Quantum Particles Teach Us About Management…And Dungeons & Dragons

It’s a universally accept maxim of performance improvement:

That which is measured, improves

It’s true. . .except when it’s utterly false.

The two paladins rode side by side, their employer a few paces behind. They had assured him that they were LAWFULL-GOOD characters. He apparently didn’t believe them as they were hit with a DETECT ALIGNMENT spell. Of course, the results came back as LAWFULL-GOOD, but the damage was done.

“We cannot work for someone who thinks us liars and breaks trust. You are on your own, Rodney”

“Argg! Now I’ve lost my paladins. Why would you do that?”

My brother was the DM or Dungeon Master. In a game of D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) the DM is basically an omnipotent, omnipresent and all-powerful deity. His word is law and cannot be appealed.

Why did you cast DETECT ALIGHNMENT on them?

I wanted to know if they were really LAWFULL-GOOD or if they were lying.

So, you didn’t trust them.

Right.

Then what makes you think they would trust you?

My brother was attempting to teach me a very important lesson. The idea that attempting to prove trust might actually destroy it. It kind of flies in the face of the idea that “What is measured, improves.” Not, when it comes to relationships, it doesn’t. “Prove you love me” is a pretty quick way to destroy a relationship.

Quantum particles are some of the smallest detectable particles in existance. They aren’t actually observable. That’s one of the frustrating aspects of them. A quantum particle both exists and does not exist in a particular point in space. If you don’t look at it, you can assume it exists, and it does. If you attempt to observe it, it disappears.

In the field of quatum physics it is certainly not true that “What gets measured, improves.” In fact, you could say,

What gets measured, disappears

I had an employee, Milan, who didn’t fit our corporate model when it came to timing. His clock and my clock seemed to perpetually be set on different time zones. This was a problem for me, but seemed to be unconcering to Milan. There was no performance issue. He did good work. He met his deadlines. He kept his clients happy. He just did it on his own schedule.

Finally, I decide that I needed to do some “managing” and I started holding Milan to a more strict schedule. I started watching when he came in and went home. I started “measuring him.” In my efforts to turn a good employee into a great one, I nearly destroyed one. The more I “managed” him the less he liked being managed. The less he liked it, the worse his performance got. The worse his performance got, the more I felt I had to manage him.

Milan was a quantum particle. . .or a LAWFULL-GOOD paladin. When I let him focus on results instead of the process, he seemed to always be there. As more I watched for when he was there, the less he wanted to be there.

I wonder if he was interested in physics? Or maybe rollplaying games?

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

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

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

In The Middle Of A Crisis. . .We’re Having A Baby

My grandfather was born at home in the Benawah country of Northern Idaho. I have a friend who is a midwife and helps modern women have babies at home. Everytime I’ve watched a movie where a baby is being born at home, people are frantic. The midwife or doctor is preparing for the deliveyr. The nurse or helper is fetching and carrying. The mom is trying to push and not die from pain. Everyone has an important job to do. The dad also has a job and it’s always the exact same job: go boil some water.

I suspect that despite the hackneyed Hollywood aspect of it, there was a good reason for assigning the dad to boil water. And it had nothing to do with the water.

Much of my job is involved with computer system outages. My system outages fall into two categories. First are the outages that are my fault. And by that I mean outages that are caused by my engineers, or my agents. When I am on an outage call for these type of issues, I’m very involved. We have to first identify the problem system. Then, we have to analyize why it’s broken. Next, we devise a fix for it. The fix is implemented and finally we have to validate that the fix worked. I’m involved in nearly every aspect of that process.

The second type of outage is one that is caused by our client. My agents use the client’s systems and databases. If one of those systems goes down, the client has to follow the same process to get it fixed. The issue for me is that I don’t have access to the client engineers, or their systems. We spend a lot of time sitting on a phone bridge waiting for updates.

However, on every outage, at the beginning, I’m given the exact same job: gather impact counts.

And impact count is a record of how many agents are staffed and how many are affected by the current issue. I might have 300 agents, but only 10 are having trouble opening the Widgetcounter tool. Or, I might have 10 agents assigned to a particular line of business and all ten are having trouble opening the Widgetcounter tool. When you consider I have 4 sites, and several dozen different lines of business, the maxtrix to find the number of agents impacted for each line of buisiness is pretty big.

The impact counts let us know how widespread the issue is. However, they really aren’t necessary to determine that we actually have an issue. Occasionally, on a particularly long outage, the client will ask me to get “updated” impact counts. I can’t help but hear, “We need more boiled water!”

NOTE: Truth in advertising – Two of my lovely daughters are expecting babies. One in April, the other in August. . .You’ll find me and my son-in-law with a pot of water at the stove.

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

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

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

You Can Endure Anything For 15 Minutes

How long can you hold your breath? I used to be a swimmer in high school. It was for one year and I never made it very far out of the “newby” stage. When I started I could swim maybe 25 yards or half the length of the pool, while holding my breath. Consider that I was also swimming and using up my oxygen. But, still not a particularly impressive feat. By the end of the season, I could swim from one end of the pool to the other and back, all while holding my breath. Many of our top swimmers could go farther than that. Much farther.

The point was that holding my breath was a temporary thing. I knew that eventually, whether it was at the 25 yard mark, the far end of the pool, or a round trip, I was going to hold my breath for a set amount of time and then get to breath again. That “get to breath again” knowledge is what kept me going “just a little more,” “just a little longer.”

I got very sick as a kid. I had Crohn’s disease. It’s basically an ulcer in your intestines. Fortunately, I got better. But, during my treatment, I had to endure some pretty uncomfortable examinations. And they were scheduled on a regular basis. I kept telling myself, “It’s only 15 minutes. I can endure anything for 15 minutes.” By looking at the end, I could get me through the middle.

No pain, no gain.

Okay, it’s a stupid phrase, but it illustrates the concept that we are willing to endure a short amount of discomfort for a long term payoff. In fact, without the pain, we don’t appreciate the payoff. Back in the 1970’s there was an antiseptic spray called Bactine. It was developed in teh 1950’s, but I remember my mom using it on my scrapes and cuts when I was a kid. At one point Bactine realized they had a problem. The ingrediants in Bactine were effective, but didn’t discomfort the patient at all. In other words, it didn’t hurt when you sprayed it on a cut.

And that was the problem. People tended to not trust it was working if it wasn’t painful, at least a little. The makers of Bactine added a slight inert irritant to make it sting slightly. Kids everywhere felt better because they felt worse.

We are similar to those kids. What is too easily optained is too lightly esteemed. Interesting that a man with the last name Paine said that.

Whether it’s in our exercise program, our personal study, or our careers, we should expect to endure some pain and discomfort. But, just like my swimming experience, the process will change us. We’ll not only get better and stronger, we’ll become more successful. We’ll find that we can hold our breath for a lot longer while swimming two lengths of the pool.

Just don’t try to hold your breath for 15 minutes. Pretty sure my metaphor doesn’t extend quite that far.

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

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

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

It Wasn’t Business. . .Just Personal

There’s an old joke,

Two women are staring at a freshly erected tombstone. One woman says, “We had 20 happy years together.” The other woman responds, “I thought you were married for 25 years?”

“We were.”

I’m not like that. I’ll celebrate 30 years of marriage this year. I definitely married above my station. I did subject my lovely wife to a lifetime of “wedded Bliss” jokes, but it’s been good. I can’t say the same for those around me. Society tells us that half of all marriages end in divorce. I can certainly see that in my extended family. My siblings and I are batting about 50/50. Half the marriages have ended in divorce, half are still going. My parent’s generation was even worse.

Although, I’ve escaped it myself, I have watched it unfold. It follows a typical pattern.

Everyone is excited at the beginning. Your first day, you get a new desk, meet your coworkers. You find out where the best local restaurants are and start to learn everyone’s name. Everyone loves the start. And from there, where it goes is not always up to you. Sometimes, it changes around you. You might have been asked to do a particular set of tasks when you were hired and then the needs of the business change. Your role shifts and changes. you need to shift and change too.

Sometimes, the people change. You start with one group, through promotions, demotions, retirement, and new hires, the group changes. Sometimes, the changes are for the best. Sometimes they aren’t. And sometimes, the changes start to tell a story.

I’ve “lost” several jobs in my career. Lost is a funny word. I didn’t lose it, it’s still there. There’s just someone else doing the job now. Sometimes, I deserved to lose a job. It changed around me and I couldn’t adapt quickly enough. Companies are in the business of making money. If they can make money by keeping you they will. If they can make money by “letting you go,” they’ll do that.

Other times, I’ve lost jobs that I didn’t feel I should have. A large non-profit went through a downsizing. Eight percent of my department got let go, including my entire team. I was doing good work. I had turned around a project that was losing money and turned it into one of the star programs of our department. It didn’t matter. I’m not bitter. It wasn’t personal. . .just business.

Often the signs are telling: increased scrutiny, increased reporting, your start to be placed under the microscope. And if you happen to be an employee who doesn’t do well under a microscope, it quickly spirals into a cycle of poor performance, which leads to more scrutiny which leads to worse performance.

If I had the answer to what to do in that situation, I’d write a book. I don’t. I think I’ve learned to recognize it, and the best things I’ve found is to avoid it. Don’t find yourself manning the bilge pumps on your personal Titanic.

My lovely wife and I have weathered our share of storms. We’ve had tragedies that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. We’ve had heartbreak and overwhelming joy. We’ve always believed in each other. Looked out for one another. Thought the best of each other when things got rough. And we’ve avoided starting down the road of suspicion and distrust.

It wasn’t business. . .just personal. 

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
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LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Phoning In A Strike

I’m sorry, it’s very loud here. Can you say that again? You are or are not seeing the issue with the Secondary Lending calls? Are? Okay. Go ahead and start tracking them. Same drill, have them help the clients if possible otherwise ask them to call back. Hold on just a minute. I’ll be right back. . .

I placed my phone and the ubiquitous one-sided headphones down between the pizza and the pitcher of rootbeer. Picking up a marbled black ball, I took a deep breath and threw it down the alley at the waiting ten pins.

I barely noticed as the ball connected perfectly and knocked them all sprawling. Good. I didn’t have to throw the second ball to try to pick up a spare.

Yeah, this is Rodney. I’m back. Can you give me a status check on the agents in Lexington? Are they seeing any improvement at all?

Such was my Saturday. My company had a charity bowling event to benefit Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Utah. It was planned months in advance. We’d held bake sales and sold raffle tickets and put up posters around our buildings in Salt Lake City asking employees to donate, or form a team and join. I was invited by a former manager to join his team.

I didn’t want to go. It’s not that I’m against helping others, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters is certainly a worthy organization that does fantastic work. It’s just that I work a lot of hours and Saturdays are generally reserved for kids and family. But, I also know that it’s the extra things we choose to do that people remember. Much of my work is accomplished via influence and relationships. And if it took a Saturday bowling to help strengthen a relationship with that team, then, it was a worthwhile tradeoff.

What I didn’t expect was to get a call at 7:30 Saturday morning that one of my sites was down. It quickly became obvious that all of my sites were down. I reached out to the client and joined their outage bridge on my headset, and assembled my team on a conference call on my other headset. But, 7:30 is a long way away from the bowling start time of 11:30. I figured we’d be done in plenty of time.

But, I did have to shower and get dressed.

Hey, sounds like we’re in a bit of a waiting period. Give me a few minutes and I’ll be right back.

The clock kept ticking and we were no closer to solving the problem. Well, I should point out that the problem existed on the client end. We were waiting on their engineering team to fix the problem. And we waited. And waited. Soon, it was time for me to leave for the event.

I need to switch to a single phone. I’m going to be using my cell phone and bouncing back and forth between the two calls. Bear with me, if you need something, it might be a minute before I check back in.

Off to Fat Cats in Salt Lake City with my Apple headphones with the left bud cut off, firmly planted in my ear. I arrived shortly before the 11:30 start time. The parking lot was packed and there was a line of people out of the door. Fortunately, as a team member, I assumed I got to skip the line. (I was going to anyway, but it was nice to know it was allowed.)

Rodney! Where have you been? Hurry up and get your costume on. We’re about to start and they want to do pictures.

My friend had purchased “Rock Star” Halloween costumes for the members of the team. I wore the bright red jacket and zebra striped pants. Other team members had stars and lightening bolts painted on their faces with “big hair” fake wigs. As we gathered for multiple pictures, I discretely removed the earphones as each photographer took their turn.

I still had a job to do.

We worked out a strategy where I would stand on the far side of the arcade, away from the noise of the balls hitting the pins, the music and the really loud announcements. As it was my turn to bowl, my team waved me over and I put my call on hold.

I’m not a great bowler. Apparently being distracted helps. I bowled a 123 for the first game. I upped that to a 133 for the second game. But, more importantly, I managed to get my four sites to validate the client changes were effective. I also then reviewed the spreadsheets from each site that track our number of impacted agents. When the outage was over (about half way through the first game) I quickly tracked down the site director for our Salt Lake City office and updated him on the impact. (He was bowling three lanes over from us.)

The company provided pizza and drinks and multiple prizes, including trophies for the team with the “best costume.”

Yep, I’ve now joined the ranks of middle-aged American men everywhere. I own a bowling trophy.

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

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

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

My Car Runs On Bottled Water?

No, that is a completely misleading headline. This post is about cars and bottled water, but not together. Sorry, if you want the hydrogen powered car post, you should probably stop reading now.

Dad, where are the different cars made?

Well, most cars are made in the US, Japan or Germany. For example, Dodge is an American brand.

What about Chrysler?

That’s the same thing as Dodge.

Then why do don’t they call it the same?

I saw a movie a few years ago called, “Return To Me.” It was your classic romantic comedy that centered around a woman who dies and donates her organs. Her boyfriend ends up dating the woman who got her heart. (Yeah, not your typical funny premise.) Anyway, there was a scene where a woman at a restaurant demands a certain brand of bottled water. As it’s delivered, she remarks, “You really can tell the difference that quality makes.”

What she didn’ know, but we as the audience got to see was the waitress dumped out the bottled water and refilled the bottle with tap water before serving it to her. The woman was impressed with the bottle, not what was in it. I carry around a water bottle. It’s the evian(r) brand. That’s often considered an “expensive” water.

I said, I carry the bottle, I don’t necessarily like evian(r) water. In fact, I only have it so I can reuse the bottle. It’s the perfect size for those powered drink mixes. And the evian(r) bottle, unlike other water bottles is completely smooth inside. I spin the water into a mini tornado and quickly dump the drink mix in to get a more even mixture. I’ve tried removing the label, but the glue they use is really high quality.

The point is that people see the outside and instantly make judgements about the inside.

Actually, Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth are all owned by the same company and are often just different names of the same car.

What do you mean?

Well, we used to own a Dodge Caravan. That is pretty much exactly the same car as a Chysler Town and Country. It’s just cheaper. It’s also the same basic car as the Plymouth Voyager, just with some added features and more expensive. People will pay more for the name even if it’s the same car.

Make sure when you are evaluating something, be it a job candidate, a book, a car or a bottle of water, that you are paying at least as much attention to what is inside as what is outside.

(Oh, and don’t try to make your car run on bottled water. Not even if it’s evian(r).)

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

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

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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