Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Take All The Time...

I had one of those events that leads the average worker to hold management in low regard.  Last week I went through a series of three day meetings that focused on transition planning and the transition process.  We reviewed the high level transition schedule and reached (I thought) consensus on the timing.  Basically, senior management emphasized that it was important to "do it right" and "take the necessary time" to insure a complete and successful transition.  They stated "we don't want to hurry it".  All heads nodded.

Fast forward to this week and suddenly - they want the transition done by the end of March.  Somehow they expected to transition 12 years of knowledge and experience, literally hundreds of nuances and incidents and events, in twenty working days, while everyone does their other, full time job.  The ensuing discussion was not pretty and I continued to advocate a more orderly, deliberate transition.  I have no idea if I am going to win the argument, but I have got my opening salvo out there. In pursuit of the truth, I can freely admit that - if they decide to short the transition on time I am perfectly fine with that.  I simply want them to understand that it will be choppy and incomplete, with certain items falling by the wayside.

I have long held the opinion that slow and deliberate is, in the end, faster than fast and chaotic.  It is one of the paradoxes of both work and life - go slow to go fast.  You should approach transitions like a distance race, not a sprint - be slow, be deliberate, be complete - and in the end you will be successful before you would have been if you tried to hurry. My thoughts tonight are flowing around work, but at the same time, that process - go slow to go fast - holds true on many fronts.

On the personal level, other then good conversations and time spent with TR and the occasional movie, dinner, reading - there really hasn't been a lot of time for personal issues in the last couple of weeks. I am hoping to move through this week without over-working myself, and so far, so good.  Yesterday, I got wrapped up and carried a heavy load of stress into the evening and from there into the night. I tossed and turned during the night and each time I woke my brain was spinning around work related items, which I personally dislike.  I feel like I am in a little bit of a better place tonight, having had a fairly productive day focused on two items (transition details and a particular project).  I am looking forward to a quiet evening tonight, maybe a little online, maybe a little reading, maybe "Spartacus: Vengeance" on DVR.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Change and Coconut Rice Balls

Today, as I moved through the day, I thought
about the high pace of change lately, it has
at times hurt, simply hurt, too much, too fast,
too sudden, but then, as the laundry tumbled
and I sat on a red brick wall eating lunch from
the Thai restaurant down the street I realized
without all the change, without all that turmoil, without
that strong and unpredictable current, I never
would have landed here, this wall, this day, these
wonderful coconut rice balls

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Salamander Song

Spinning through the half light of a twilight

borne dream, inside a dense forest of inverted

trees, from somewhere deep in the earth I

heard the distant salamander song, beautiful

and secret

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Late Thursday afternoon my voice is hoarse and I am simply tired of talking.  I’ve spent the week in transition meetings here at the office, working on transferring my remaining personnel to their new management.  The meetings have been productive, though I did have a moment on Monday where my frustration boiled over and I spent a sleepless night, tossing and turning, contemplating things.

By the time Tuesday rolled around I was back on an even keel and consequently the meetings themselves have been very productive.  I am going to have to do a couple of hours of work tomorrow, which is my day off, simple because it has to be done. My plan is to come into the office for a couple of hours and knock them off, rather than let them drag through the weekend. 

Busy, busy, busy.

I am looking forward to the three day weekend (though weekend work is going to be part of the weekend as far as the horizon can see). I plan on having as domestic a weekend as I can – a weekend of ordinary things, some laundry, some cleaning, some cooking, time writing, time listening to an audio book, time cleaning. Time, time, time.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Business Travel Eats

Well, that was a quick week.  I flew out to Washington DC for a company meeting on Monday - it's basically an all day spot of travel, with six hours on the plane and another three or four getting to and from the airport and hotel. I flew out with my boss, so we were able to carpool up to SFO and then split a car to the hotel.  On arrival at the hotel we had dinner with the other analysts who were flying in for the meeting, then called it a night.

One of the tough things about traveling east to west is adjusting to the three hour time difference. Your body wants to get to sleep at the normal time, which means you usually don't fall asleep until 1:00 AM or 2:00 AM, and then you have be up early to start the day.  Consequently, unless a trip is long enough for you to adjust to the time difference, you're chronically short on sleep and living on coffee.

An average day on work travel looks something like this.  You spent the night in a strange hotel. Regardless of how nice it is, it is still a strange hotel -strange beds, strange textures, strange sounds.  You sleep, but rarely deeply and refreshingly.  You wake in the morning, run through whatever your morning routine in, get breakfast (usually at a cafe or restaurant, so it takes time).  Then head off to the place you're having the meeting.  There is usually coffee and usually some sort of high carb, high sugar snack - sometimes fruit if you're lucky, but it is all from a corporate caterer so its not particularly good - edible, but nothing stands out. 

Then, you spend the next nine, ten, eleven hours in a conference room, in a meeting, talking and listening to people talk.  When it wraps up, you usually have an optional (but no, not really) dinner with your co-workers. If you're new to business travel, do not skip these get together's, this is often where you get to network and where more decisions then you would think get made. It is a place where informal arguments are made and rejected and a place where political allegiances are formed.

Then, you head back to the hotel.  Usually, you squeeze it a quick work out (if your hotel has a gym) and then you settle in for a couple of hours of work - since your ordinary job doesn't stop while you're on travel and since, more then likely, the meeting involves some sort of homework for the next day - either something you need to read or something you need to prepare.  You might get an hour to unwind, then you slip back into that strange bed and try and fall asleep.

Then, repeat that for three or four days of running on five hours of so-so sleep, then a long travel day and six hours sitting in a plane and by the time you get home - you're fried.  Now, the more you travel the better you get at it.  You learn the tricks of traveling light, you learn the flow of certain airports, you learn how to navigate your way around certain cities, you learn the in's and out's of life in hotels.  All of these things do add up and travel becomes more routine. But, generally, at the end of a long trip you're fried.

I was totally fried on Friday, though I went into the office, mainly to deal with the big backlog from the week before.  It was a productive day, though more or less I floated through it.  I went to El Burro in Campbell for dinner on Friday with Tony (an excellent cheese enchilada), then came home and collapsed.  Yesterday, it was breakfast with the guys, then we went out and saw "Ghost Rider II" which was - what it was.  Wait to catch it on cable unless you're a serious Nick Cage fan.  After the movie, I went to the market, stocked up on groceries, and came home.  I spent the afternoon just...being.  I watched some of the back log off my DVR, read some, wrote some, and just relaxed. About 3:00 in the afternoon I felt like myself, having successfully recovered from the trip.

So, today is planned as a routine Sunday - breakfast at the Hickory Pit, probably a walk-through at Fry's, then a lazy morning. Going to drive up to Edgie's and meet Don for some pool, then an early dinner and an early evening and I get to start the working week all over. It should be a good week, we are going to have the first official transition meeting with the manager who will be taking over my three analysts who are moving into the new organization structure.  The plan is a three day extended meet and greet to give everyone the opportunity to connect on a personal level. (One of the good things about the transition is those folks I used to manage are going to end up under a very good, very human and  personable manager.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

77 Shadow Street - Dean Koontz

Consider the boy, the songwriter's son, who dreams of being a hero like those in the books that he incessantly reads. Yearning to be a hero, to live a life larger than life, he is not less a threat to everything you believe than he is to me. By their nature, heroes leave outsize footprints, overblown and dangerous legends; therefore in a well-ordered and efficient world, there can be no place for them.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Sunday, February 12, 2012

When Mara Attacks

Yesterday morning T.R. and I were talking about G.K. Chesterton's "The Suicide of Thought".  If you have never read the work, in his essays, you might find it interesting.  There are also numerous websites that talk about the work. T.R. had send me this link, to the Snoring Scholar:

The Suicide of Thoughts on the Snoring Scholar


Which, combined with the conversation, started my mind thinking about it.

"Every act of will is an act of self-limitation. To desire action is to desire limitation."

Well, that set off, in the course of the day, a full blown wrestling match with Mara. Running the full gamut of my activities and interests and the spheres of my life, Mara probed hard for weaknesses, looked for the chance to divert me from my course, to drag me, kicking and screaming, into the world of attachment.  It was about a six hour battle, a constant running commentary in the back of mind as I moved through the day.  When I recognized it for what it was - it ceased (which is the nature of Mara of course).  All in all though, it was a  pretty impressive wrestling match.

It was played out against the background of a pretty good day.  I had breakfast with Tony, then we went and saw "Safe House" with Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington, Brendan Gleason and Vera Farmiga.  It was an enjoyable action adventure piece.  From there, I stopped at OSH and picked up four new black t-shirts, then over to Santa Clara Billiards and shot nine racks of pool with Don (final score, Rod 7, Don 2 - but don't be impressed, prior to yesterdays session I'd lost 11 in a row).  From there, we stopped at Thea Mediterranean in Santana Row for lunch, where I had the Salmonos Piaki, Eggplant Mashed Potatoes, Sauteed Spinach and Flat Bread with grilled lamb, cheese, tomato and spices.  It was an excellent lunch.  After that, it was home for a quiet evening and a great discussion with T.R., where we talked about my wrestling match with Mara.

This morning has been a good morning so far, I slept it, I showered, I drank coffee, I ran my anti-virus scans, I synched my iPod and my iPad (having completed loading all of my CD's onto iTunes).  Now, I am about to head out and get some breakfast, then I am planning on a walk through of Fry's and probably a stop at Target to pick up some incidental stuff for my trip this week.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sliding Into The Weekend

Well, my scant entries this last week tell the tale.  Work was assorted waves of chaos through the week.  There was a project that needed to be done on a tight timeline and, unfortunately, too many managers and directors got involved and it ultimately contained four (that is right, four) complete cycles of re-work because they kept changing their minds on exactly what they wanted/needed to do.  By the time we reached the end of the process it had taken far longer than it should have and irritated every one. I usually have an even disposition, but I was getting snippy as we got to the end of the process on Thursday.  Even my patience was wearing thin.

So, it was nice that it was a short work week, with only four days.  I was off today and had a pretty good day. I slept in a bit, I had breakfast, I went to a work teleconference and send some work related email, then I slipped out for lunch.  After lunch I stopped at Old Navy and then Macy's and bought a new, middle weight winter coat. From there, I wandered through Valley Fair Shopping Center, stopped at the Apple Store, visited a few of the stores that feed my luggage fetish, then stopped and the bank, shot an hour of pool, went park walking and read "The Pink Institution", then met Tony for pizza at Mama Mia's on Hamilton. That brings us to this moment, right here, where I am sitting at home, writing this entry and uploading CD's into iTunes.

I have been working for a while on getting my entire CD collection uploaded into iTunes.  I am on the last binder, and I would estimate I have maybe eighty CD's to go.  Whew!  That was a lot of CD's, but it will be nice to have it all available to me electronically via my iPod.  In the process of loading CD's I ran across more than a few CD's that I haven't listened to, or that I thought I had lost.  Listening to them has been fun. Annie Lennox's "Songs of Mass Destruction" pops into mind.  Additionally, I bought Rachel Yamagata's Chesapeake last weekend and have had it in high rotation for the last couple of days (it played a role in keeping me from getting to snippy at work!).

I ran most of my errands today, so Saturday and Sunday, I really don't have anything I must do.  As some point in the weekend I want to see a movie (Safe House, with Denzel Washington) and at some point in the weekend I want to do a load of laundry.  I will be off to Maryland for a business trip all next week, so I am going to be able to skip the trip to the market for fresh produce and fresh meat. It is nice sliding into the weekend with nothing that must be done.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention - my novel writing went pretty well in January, with about 12,000 finished words and a lot of lessons learned.  T.R. is writing a alternative type novel (a collection of flash and poetry) that I've been impressed by, and we are doing our best to encourage each other.  Her work has is a very emotionally powerful true story, that I am already dying to read in its finished form.  It is definitely cool to be writing.  February, for me, has been nowhere near as productive, but I am hoping to make up for it this weekend, and probably while in flight.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Studs Terket on Work

“Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.” Studs Terkel

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sharing Haruki on Sandstorms

Things are hectic and busy at the office and spilling into the night, but I did want to share something T.R. shared with me yesterday, simply because is it very cool...

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn't something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step. There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That's the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

An you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You'll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about.”
-Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Rougher Than Expected Day

Well, today at work they announced the reorganization.  It was emotionally a rougher day then I expected it to be. I am going to spend part of the next couple of weeks working my way through the process of grieving, the typical stages of mourning and loss. Change can be difficult. I will write more about it later, but for now, I am glad the day is done. Perhaps I will be able to accomplish something tomorrow. Perhaps not.

Friday, February 3, 2012

All Weekends Count

It has been a relatively fast week, as far as the passage of time is concerned.  Friday rushed toward me on a bumpy path, but it is finally here. Because of the novel that I’ve started working on I am stirring some old memories.  Last night, I dreamed of the first college I ever went to, the University of Minnesota-Morris. I hadn’t thought of that place in years (it was thirty years ago that I was there).  My memories of Morris are mostly very good, though I was to young to appreciate the value of the place.  The dream was just an ordinary dream.  Thinking about it now though – what a journey I’ve been on in this life.  From there is here has been pretty extraordinary.

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with my friend Don, talking about engagement in life in general, about what it means. To me, engagement happens when you do things with a passion – whether it is work, art, relationships, life – whatever it happens to be. Don doubted that many people were engaged at all.  My experience is about a 50/50 split.  Some people are very much engaged in life, others no so much. 

I told Don he was pretty cynical, to which he replied he was realistic.  I told him that is what all the cynical people say. When I used the term cynical I meant it as “an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity and professed motives of others, a scornfully or jadedly negative comment or act”.  It is easy to be cynical. It is harder to be an actual Cynic, but that is perhaps a conversation for another place and time.

Work went pretty smoothly, if quick, because most of the day was spent in meetings. I didn’t really accomplish anything.  Thirty years into my professional career and I am firmly convinced that the value of meetings of more than a handful of people without a well defined agenda are basically a waste of time. Holding that opinion might make me cynical as well!  I am looking forward to the weekend, though it will only be a two day weekend, all weekends count to the working man!


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dreams of Mara

Well, it has been a while since I sat down at wrote.  The last weekend and the first couple days of this week were busy, starting from Sunday morning.  Oddly enough, it was a very simple thing that threw me off on Sunday.  I am a morning person.  I am normally up and about by 5:30 a.m. or so.  In the winter, I like to linger in bed.  On Sunday, I actually slept late - I slept until almost 7:00 a.m.. From there, I went through my ordinary Sunday routine, except it felt as if I was rushed through the entire day. It felt like I was short a few hours all day - which I was.

Monday at work we were supposed to start the day with the director level meeting to discuss the new organizational structure and the changes coming down the road, but it was cancelled because the director was out sick. The meeting was rescheduled for next Monday.  It was a disappointment, as I was waiting to get everything out in the open at work, so I could start working on the transition.  This transition has not been handled well and it is frustrating to me. Monday night T.R. and I had a great conversation about simplicity and Mara and I went to bed that night and...

...spent the entire night tossing and turning in dreams of Mara.  It was an unsettled night, between wrestling with Mara and thinking about work and thinking...and thinking...and thinking.  Then, Tuesday in the office was mostly pure chaos with an assortment of unexpected things going wrong, getting tangled up, getting lost, etc. Late in the afternoon my team and I had a meeting with my manager to talk about the upcoming change and it got emotional (which I expected). We've been together as a department for a long time and as a result of that there is definitely a strong sense of bereavement and loss with the end of our own little era.

Today was not bad, as far as days go. It was brisk and busy and mostly productive and I reached the end of the day and was glad to come home.  Here at home I am watching a few things off the DVR (Glee and Once Upon A Time) following a long, hot, soaking bath. I am looking forward to sliding into a slow evening, free from dreams of Mara.