Friday, December 30, 2011
Overall, I am in neutral about the proposed changes.
I have some complaints - I think the whole thing was just poorly handled, I think it is an example of the tendency in large companies for the bureaucracy to win, and I have my reservations about the new structure in terms of business sense.
I have some positives - I have vented periodically over the years about the difficulty in my job of wearing two very different hats simultaneously (project management v. customer service) and the change will finally split those two tasks out, which is something I have longed for for quite a while. Second, I won't kid you that I didn't see it coming, haven't seen it coming, for the last couple of years.
I initial joined The Evil Corporation as a contractor, and then was lured to take a full time position with them because I found it interesting (something that drives me in almost all my job choices over the years - if you have to work, you might as well do something you find interesting). I spent the first half of my career as an independent contributor in a variety of roles, then was asked to take over daily operations of a transactional and customer service center when the organization had grown two unwieldy to be managed effectively by a single manager. When I transitioned into that role I never quite managed to shed my independent responsibilities and I balanced, sometimes well, sometimes poorly, between the two worlds.
When I initially took over I had sixteen employees - over the intervening years as technology changed, positions went away slowly and steadily, at about two year intervals. Sixteen, Twelve, Ten, Eight, Five, Four, Three. The changes were wrought by changes in technology (rendering some of the work unnecessary) and changes in business strategy (outsourcing transactional tasks to a vendor). I didn't always agree with them, but I understood them. Like the changes taking place now, I don't necessarily agree with them, and in this case I don't necessarily understand them from a business point of view, but I have long said that the greatest risk to my organization was the whims of upper management who simply wanted to do things differently.
Basically, as a result of the changes I will return to where I began, which is primarily project planning and analysis, as an independent contributor. I will no longer be a "people manager". (There will be no change in my compensation.) The handful of folks who still report into me will report into another manager (whom I happen to have a lot of personal and professional respect for), and I will become responsible for my own work again.
I am frankly, terribly ambivalent about it, and because of that ambivalence I wind up in neutral, waiting to see the operational details. Though I am entering the year in a very good mood personally, actively looking forward to the year, I am ambivalent about my work for the first time in twelve years. I'll watch and see how things unfold, hoping that the changes are for the better, doing my best to craft them in that direction, and I will see if the ambivalence fades.
So, we look at the New Year as a chance to embrace changes - that is the approach I am going to take. I am not sure what the New Year is going to bring, but I am looking forward to it.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Okay, this are my 2012 New Year's Resolutions. In general, I like to keep my resolutions down to a handful of things, so I can keep them in front of me more easily. I find that if you have too many resolutions, you can rapidly lose track of them and they essentially become meaningless. These are not in any order or priority and I may adjust them in the next couple of days.
2. Be Present.
3. Be Deliberate.
4. Write A Novel.
5. Read. Read. Read.
6. Ride the Bicycle.
Now, let me expand on them a little bit.
For the last two years I've been on a journey of simplification. I have been shedding possessions because I find that, the fewer things I have, the clearer I become. I definitely intend to continue on my journey down this path. I am not sure where it ends, but I am sure it is a journey that I want to continue. Specifically, I intend on simplifying in terms of continuing to shed physical things and attempt to simplify the internal things as well.
2. Be Present
I spent a good portion of 2011 in battle with the Monkey-Mind. All too often, the Monkey-Mind won and pulled me out of the moment - I lost the present to the future or the past. I am hoping that I will be able to win that battle more often than not in the coming year.
3. Be Deliberate
I very much want to make 2012 a deliberate year. I felt in 2011 that I was buffeted a lot by things going on around me, and that I made my own decisions that contributed to that sense of being buffeted. One of the ways that I see of getting past that challenge in the coming year is to simply be more deliberate - to do things with contemplation and intention.
4. Write A Novel
Pretty simple. Pretty straight-forward. I am going to write a novel.
5. Read. Read. Read.
I definitely intend on spending more time reading in the coming year. I love to read and I have the sense that I did not get enough reading time in 2011. So, 2012 is going to be the year of reading, reading and then some more reading.
6. Ride the Bicycle.
I have a perfectly good exercise bike that I ride regularly, but I do not ride it often or far enough. I am going to focus on riding the bicycle - more often and farther, over the coming year. It's an excellent source of both exercise and stress relief and I need to do it again and again and again.
Today is the last working day of 2012 for me. When I wrap up in an hour or two, I will have managed to make it through another year, with all the attendant challenges, incidents, accidents and opportunities. Looking back, though the work year had it’s fair share of challenges, it was all in all pretty good. It certainly could have been a lot worse.
I have a couple of points of irritation that I seem unable to resolve – the level of uncertainty is very high, my upper management can’t communicate well, the pace of change is hard and fast, and it is a continual struggle to get items into the hands of the groups who can actually resolve them, due to all of the preceding issues. Still, these are pretty much exactly the same problems I entered the year with, so nothing there comes as a great surprise.
Work-wise, I am glad the year is done and I am looking forward to the New Year, mainly to the things that I am going to do in response to this tremendous sense of ambivalence I feel toward the current work environment. Here at the tail end of the year there was a development that I personally considered heartening. After a year or so of being under the command and control of “The Children’s Crusade”, there was the movement of a VP into a key support role – and this happens to be a VP who has a tremendous amount of respect from me, both personally and professionally. I am not sure what impact it is going to have immediately, but I am looking forward to the impact of someone in the upper management chain who is both competent and compassionate.
So, with this tiny set of notes, I am going to close out the 2011 working year, attend a few more meetings, and then slip into the long four day weekend. I hope your working year was good and I hope your working year is also over!
"Genius is eternal patience." Michelangelo
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
I've been obsessively listening to Adele's 21 in the car, a truly talented young lady and a great album. If you've somehow lived in a cave and haven't heard her, run, do not walk and get her album. Layer on top of that rich musical experience the movie "Hugo", which I saw last night at Cupertino Square and both of the fundamental elements of the dream are in place - great music and a train yard.
I did notice a similarity between this dream and the previous dream I recorded, and that was this - in both dreams I was walking in an isolated place, so there seemed to be elements of a journey through relative solitude. I am going to have to think about that for a while and see if any insight arises from it. Meanwhile, it is a blissfully quiet day here at work, and so far the "bridge week" between Christmas and New Years, when most of the company is no working, has been a very pleasant experience.
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Monday, December 26, 2011
Last night I dream I was walking into my office via a secret tunnel that stretched underground the length of Sunnyvale-Saratoga road. This was a deep subterranean tunnel, far underground, sizable and made of vaulted concrete. I was alone in the deep stillness of the tunnel, lit in the amber glow of mercury vapor lights, cool but not cold.
I was walking through this long subterranean silence, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts and my employee badge. I had already completed my errand at the office and was on my way home through the tunnel, moving at a brisk pace, when I encountered a security guard, walking in the opposite direction, stopping to clock his rounds in the card readers alongside the many mysterious doors on the side of the tunnel. I nodded as I walked by and he simply stared, dumbfounded.
I continued briskly on my way and woke from the dream, amused and a little chilly, since it was cold outside and I'd gone to sleep with the thermostat turned down. I woke up long enough to kick it up a few degrees and then climb back into bed to resume my sleep. I woke and mulled the meaning of the dream.
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Saturday, December 24, 2011
I was a big fan of the books, having rabidly consumed all three in short order. Layer on top of that I saw (and own on Blu-Ray) the three Swedish movies starring the incomparable Noomi Rapace. With all of that in place, I was still looking forward to the American version, with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.
So, let's cut to the chase.
It was an enjoyable movie. It was slickly shot. It was well acted. Ms. Mara created her own Lisbeth Salander, which was definite necessity. But, if you haven't seen it already, I would definitely still recommend the Swedish version. Rooney Mara did a good job with her portrayal of the character. But, I think for the duration of three movies Noomi Rapace inhabited the character completely. She was both more vulnerable, more believable, and more intensely sociopathic - in short, she broad a wider range to the character.
One of the key things I came out of the American version of the movie with was a difference in scope. The new version is slicker, it is more tightly shot, it is a much more beautiful piece of film and Mara and Craig are great. But, it is also a movie on a far more limited scope - fewer sets, fewer exteriors, fewer actors. Fincher glosses over a lot of the story, while remaining true to the core of it, and for me at least, that chopping off of the edges detracts from the scope of the story itself.
However, with all that said, I would still recommend the movie - it is a slick piece of entertainment and Lisbeth Salander is one of the great characters of the last decade, so though Rapace and Mara differ significantly in their portrayals of the character - both turn in excellent performances. I was curious, as I left the film, whether I would have felt the same way if I had seen the movies in the reverse order. Of course, the answer to that question is something I can never know.
So, with that quick review, I am turning toward Christmas. I have a good conversation with T.R. this morning, where she is nestled tightly in the bosom of her family across the country. I followed that up with a desultory conversation with my brother D., and then I've idled my way into the morning with black coffee and the morning paper. Today's plan is breakfast with friends, then a get together at my friend Bob's house, which will probably run into the early evening.
So, with that said, I wish you all a merry day before Christmas, whoever you are and where ever you are.
Friday, December 23, 2011
-i want to make it a focused year, where rather than scatter my energies across a variety of things I pull in a tight focus on a few things that I can have a significant impact against.
-i want to make it a year of actively embracing change and new, different, and interesting things.
-I want to make it a year of slow and steady transformation.
-At the core of it I want to read more, write more, and ride my bike more.
-i want to continue on my journey of simplification, giving away half my remaining stuff and not accumulating any new stuff.
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Thursday, December 22, 2011
Its not a season of answers. It's more of a season of questions, a season of observations. Those questions and observations will be mixed together, sorted through, picked over and will eventually combine and take form as my resolutions for the New Year. I think they've already got their rough forms shaped out, but their finished forms remain to be polished.
I am looking forward to the New Year with a certain level of optimism, a greater level of optimism. Inside, I feel as if I am in a good place. I am looking forward to the New Year and what it is going to bring. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I think I am going to try and make it a more deliberate year and a more focused year. With those two attributes as the twin pillars of a temporal and secular faith, I am going to focus on Cathedral building. I am going to direct thoughts and activities toward creating some grand.
Of course it is all deliciously vague at this point, but that part of the fun of it, part of the joy of it. There is where that sense of optimism is rising from. A sort of gleeful desire to create in the coming year. A sort of tantalizing sense of an impending and anticipated journey. That feeling of excitement when you're about to embark on a trip that you've been anticipating for quite a while.
It's a great feeling. It's a good way to end the year. It's a good way to start a New Year.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Now, here are the tricks I use to fight a cold. (Though, in all truth, they say a cold will run from three to seven days, and I don't know if any of the things I do make any difference - but, they do make me feel better, so I do them.)
First, stock up on Kleenex and blow your nose, gently, one nostril at a time. Repeat as necessary, which will be often. The nasal membranes create mucus to encapsulate the cold virus and expel it from the body, so let the mucus do it's work. This part is gross, and everyone will deny it (just as everyone actually does it) - do NOT sniff and swallow the mucus. All that does is spread the virus.
Second, gargle with full strength Listerine (or any other alcohol based mouthwash). Gargle frequently. This will help kill the virus. I have no idea if it actually does or not, but it seems to work for me.
Third, drink a lot of water to keep fully hydrated. Skip the juice, skip the soda, skip the tea, just water, lots of water.
Fourth, take a good nasal decongestant.
Finally, at night, I am personal a big fan of Nyquil.
Finally, sleep, sleep, and sleep some more.
Those are the tricks I use to battle a cold - they will not magically cure you of the cold, but they will ensure that it stays at a manageable level. At least it seems to work for me, and maybe it will work for you - one or all of the tricks.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Actually, sitting here, belly full of a mediocre seafood alfredo, I think that would be a good new years resolutions. To try and make 2012 the year of a few deliberate things. The only remaining question would then be - what should those deliberate things be?
I want to continue forward in the journey of simplicity. I want to spend more time reading. I want to focus more on work. I want to focus more on writing. Will that be enough deliberate things? Or too many? I suppose it is something I should deliberate on.
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011
One of the hard choices you may be call to make in the course of your career is "what do you do when you think your company is making a bad call". The exact circumstances can vary in a hundred ways, but the overall structure of it is almost always the same. The "Powers That Be" have reached a conclusion and announced a course of action and you have serious misgivings about it. They may be legal, they may be ethical, they may be strategic or they may be purely functional. You have a choice - and the choices is - what do you do.
I am not a plastic saint, you'll never see a statue of me mounted on anyone's dash board, but I do try to be as true to my own values as I possibly can. For me, that means I am compelled to speak up. Now, how you handle this type of event can have a big difference in the impact. Always start from the assumption of innocence - that the decision, whatever it was, was reached by a logical process and is driven by solid reasoning that you simply don't understand. Then, ask someone to help you understand the reasoning that went into the decision. If you approach it delicately, with a sincere desire to understand and that assumption of innocence several things may be the outcome.
First, they might actually be able to persuade you that it was the right decision. It is always possible, and indeed, often the case, that we don't understand things because we don't have the full picture. So, often enough, you'll discover it was the right decision. But, not always. Then, you have another decision point. Fortunately for me, right now, I am only at the first decision point. I became aware of a decision that was made at work and some actions that were implemented and they raised a pair of red flags for me. So, I documented when I perceived and what I understood, then contacted my immediate manager and asked for a teleconference to raise my concerns. My immediate manager agreed with my concerns and if facilitating a discussion somewhat later in the week between myself and the director who is in charge of the questionable activity. I have my fingers crossed that they can convince me that I am not quite understanding what I heard, and I freely admit that may be the case.
But, it could be that I understood correctly - and then we will land in a place where we have a serious disagreement. If that arises, then I will do what I have always done - I will push a bit harder. Fortunately, we are a large company and we have the mechanisms in place for just such a push. As I am going through initiating this whole process today, I couldn't help by thinking of Cersei Lannisters line "When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die". Whether I win or die in corporate terms I am always happy to be able to look myself in the eye.
Monday, December 12, 2011
I was at lunch today with my friend Don and he expressed the desire to find some author he hadn’t read, who had a sizeable catalogue, so he could delve deeply into their works. When I got back to my office after lunch I quickly composed this list and sent it over. All of these authors have three things in common – I like their work, they have multiple books in print, and they are all genre writers, though they are in a variety of genres. In no particular order of importance:
Martin Millar (Start with “The Good Fairies of New York”, then do “Lonely Werewolf Girl” – and then, delve into her Thraxas series, under the name Martin Scott)
Neil Gaiman – one of my personal favorites. Any and all. A brilliant story teller. Start with “American Gods”.
Steven Pressfield – start with “The Gates of Fire”, if that one does hook you, nothing will.
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (both write alone, but together, they are awesome – the “Pendergast” novels, all 10 of them, are great adventure/thrillers with a science fiction/supernatural bent. Start with Relic, which is awesome).
Jack McDevitt (Science Fiction, start with “The Engines of God”, a very prolific author)
CJ Cherryh (fantasy and science fiction author, start with “The Gates of Ivrel” – she has a huge catalogue).
William Gibson (this is the guy who literally invented the term “cyberpunk” – start at the beginning with Count Zero.)
F. Paul Wilson (writes mostly supernatural thrillers, I am a big fan of his “Repairman Jack” series)
John D. MacDonald (this might be a little off kilter for you, but his series about the private detective Travis McGee is great – I devoured each one.)
Edgar Rice Burroughs (another hugely influential series in my late teens, that I have revisited several times over the years – read his “John Carter of Mars” series, start with “The Warlord of Mars”, there are about ten books, and a movie coming out from Disney this spring.)
And, I do not know if you are a short story science fiction fan, but if you are delve into the rich catalogue of Harlan Ellison, start with “The Beast That Shouted Love At The Heart Of World” or “Deathbird Stories”, both collections of short stories.
Oh, and check the library (or Barnes and Noble) for Bill Willingham’s “Fables” – great story telling.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
I was industrious today. It was mostly just the mood I was in. I slept in an hour or two, then showered and started the day. I ironed and folded laundry. I cleaned the bathroom. I cleaned the kitchen. I had breakfast with friends. I strung Christmas lights. I wandered Fry's. I stopped at the market for groceries. I watched two episodes of "Once Upon A Time", I shot two hours worth of pool. I had dinner at an Italian place (Mama Mia's on Hamilton). I visited with TR. Now, as the day winds down, I am going to continue finishing up George R.R. Martin's "A Dance with Dragons", A good day and an industrious day under the belt.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
I spent another day semi-obsessed by questions of time. I have a prevailing sense that I do not have enough time, or that time is slipping through my fingers, or that I am not spending my time wisely. I am not sure what drives this semi-obsession - yeah, work is a little hectic and I am behind the eight-ball there, but really, almost no more that usual. In particular I have one report that I have to assemble and analyze and I just wasn't able to get to it during the week, and I have another small project where, basically, I am two weeks behind schedule - but that project is low enough on the radar that the only one noticing the slip so far has been me. It is that huge challenge I have at work being caught between the two masters - the short and immediate cycle of customer support and the longer and deeper cycle of project work. We're waiting for the re-organization shoe to drop and I'm hope that I will ultimately end up doing one or the other, so I can properly focus on it.
But this sense of time I have, it is more of a sense that i am not using the time I have wisely, that it slips away from me, that there are things that I want to do that I am simply short on time to do. I am well aware of the element of it that involves choices, but it seems to me that, all in all, I make fairly good choices. It is a puzzlement, that is for sure.
Other than my semi-obsession with time, it was a good day. I slept in, until about 6:45 AM, which is late for me, lazed through the early morning, then met my friends for breakfast. From there, I took a walk through the electronics store, the visited for a while, then ran three loads of laundry through, then socialized for four or five hours in the afternoon, then a dinner of potato pancakes and scrambled eggs, followed by the short drive home on a dark and cool night. All of that journey of the day brings me right here, right into this moment. I can here the clock ticking away the seconds as I sit here in silence, the clock ticking competing with the ticking of the keys on the computer.
I am not sure what I am going to do into the evening here, I think I will see what is on TV, then spend some time reading, then spend some wonderful time talking with T.R., and then just ease into a deep and rich nights worth of sleep. When I look back on the day I see a day well spend, balanced, productive, social and now reflective, so I am not really sure where the semi-obsession with time is coming from, other than - somewhere, somewhere inside of me, time is on my mind.
(The eye image is from http://www.arcus.org.)
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Though I managed to do a couple of things at work today, I can't really lay claim to having accomplished anything. I worked. I gained a little ground and I lost a little ground. I did close out my I'm and ignore my phone in order to accomplish a bit and it definitely helped in making it a zero sum day. Tomorrow is the A Friday, which is usually productive for me, so I am hoping to make it that way.
All in all though, or work madness remains. Just in general companies need to learn to better identify bad leaders and get them the hell out of the way. My current director is, simply put, the worst I've had in my tenure with the Evil Company. Its like she has a need to do a little damage each day. Unfortunately, she is usually succesful. Its particularly frustrating because, up until this go round, I've generally had mediocre to good leadshership at the directorial level.
Ah well, so turns the world. The pendulum from good to bad and back again always swings. I am just waiting for this one to swing back, hopefully without being driven totally insane between here and there.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011
There are moments when the working world, with all its hustle and bustle, pauses long enough to be enjoyable. I took my department out for a holiday luncheon today, to TaoTao on Murphy Street in Sunnyvale. TaoTao is always an excellent choice for lunch and the Tao Tao beef is a must have dish. The good part of the day is we were able to set aside the hectic pace, set aside the rapid change, set aside the frustrations and just have a pleasant lunch.
Other than that, it was a mediocre day, marginally productive, fragmented and interrupted. I managed to get a few items off the plate, but I am hoping to circle back around tomorrow and re-focus. I’ve got a big report that I am working on and I really need a few uninterrupted hours to work my way through it, but an uninterrupted hour is a pretty rare thing. A big part of the fragmentation of today was the semi-regular interruptions to deal with pressing issues as they arose.
My plan tonight is pretty simple. I’ve got a rib-eye steak waiting at home, I am going to pair it up with a salad, and then I am going to slide easily into the evening with some writing, some online shopping, and some time with TR, not necessarily in that order. I may even write another entry tonight, and I have some pictures from my last trip to South Dakota that I wanted to get loaded into Flickr.
Monday, December 5, 2011
I feel as if I am living in a half-state. As if I am waiting for "the other shoe to drop", rather than just charging ahead and not worrying about that other shoe. It related back to my ongoing struggles with, with the sense that I simply don't have enough time.
However, wrapped in the realization of that, I also realize that I have all the time I am ever going to have - I'm just not spending it well. I keep letting myself get pulled into this half-state of waiting. And I am not really waiting for anything specific. I need to find within me that old source of reckless courage.
Along that theme today, as I was pulling together a quote related to work, I came across this in an act of synchronicity:
"Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein." -Life's Little Instruction Book.
Quoted on http://exploreforayear.com/clarity/45-inspiring-quotes-change
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Sunday, December 4, 2011
Last night I dreamed of iPads, iPods, and dogs. I don't remember the particulars of the dreams, but they were basically extensions of a conversation I'd had with T.R. before falling asleep. I must have been in a susceptible mood - next time that happens I need to turn the conversation to something more sensual! If I am going to get a dream implanted, it might as well be a good one.
It was a pleasant day yesterday - breakfast with Bob and Tony at the Hickory Pit, followed by a trip over to Camera 7 to see "The Descendants", which is an outstanding movie and will be a strong contender at Oscar time. It is funny, tragic, emotional, amusing and throughout very delicately done. If anything impressed me with the movie it was the delicacy of the performances by the cast, doubtlessly under the directors hand. The movie managed to be a slice of life that actually felt very much like a real slice of life. One of my complaints about slice of life movies is that they might be a slice of life, but they are rarely a slice of life of anyone I have every known. They are not slices of ordinary life, but slices of extraordinary lives that are pretending to be ordinary lives.
After the movie I stopped at the market to do a little some shopping, then came home and settled in to watch another movie, this time, one I had captured on the DVR - "Unknown" with Liam Neeson, Diane Krueger, Aidan Quinn and January Jones. It was what it was, which was an adventure/action movie, but it was also enjoyable. Liam Neeson is an incredibly charismatic actor and of course, if you put January Jones in a evening gown in any movie, I'm there. She is a stunningly beautiful woman.
Then, I wiled my way into the evening, looking at art over on Red Bubble, talking with T.R. and just sliding safely into the end of the day. I slept deeply last night, waking once at about 3:30 AM for no apparent reason, but quickly falling back to sleep. I'm now moving into an ordinary Sunday morning, conversation, shower, cup of coffee, packing my bag for laundry, making a blog entry. The plan today is breakfast, laundry, a few hours of shooting pool, and then coming home in the afternoon to put up the Christmas decorations. I might even put up the tree here before I go out to breakfast.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
soft and pale
seeped in around the edges
in the living room
the clock counted the seconds
each an unfolding
I lay still
the sheets caressing
I fell into the sensation
closed my eyes
let it swallow me
simple and sensual
each rise and fall
of my chest
the subtle, slippery, cool
Thursday, December 1, 2011
My folks are back home at the ranch, as of last night, a little sorer and a little wiser. Okay, I actually have no idea if they're any wiser. I'd always like to think so. I like to think we keep learning as we go through life.
Here at work I got a lot of task work done, weaving in and out of the mix of a working day. I am sliding into the weekend with a need to sit down and spend probably two to four hours writing email. I'd like to tell you I am going to get it done over the weekend, but that would be stretching it! I might get it done. My intentions are good. But, the best laid plans of mice and men...
I am going to slide into a three day weekend, so I am definitely looking forward there. I don't really have any major plans for the weekend, but I'm sure I'm going to figure something out. I want to spend a little time thinking about my new years resolutions for 2012. I've got a rough framework of ideas, but I still want to refine it a bit. I'd like to spend a lot of time in the new year reading and writing - both things I feel as if I haven't gotten a lot of opportunity to do in 2011.
We'll see what comes of that meditation. Meanwhile, I am going to wrap some things up here at the end of day and then head for home.
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