Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Annie Lennox In My Ear

Midway through Wednesday and I am paused for lunch, listening to Annie Lennox's "Bare" album. The sun is shining out the window to the left and the leaves are slowly turning in a cool breeze. It's a beautiful lunch and I am going to give a lot of credit for that to the restorative power of music and the creative genius and talent of Ms. Lennox.

It was a quick morning. I'd finished five different meetings by eleven, on five different subjects. I don't have any meetings scheduled this afternoon and my plan is to focus on achieving one of my goals for this week, which is to deliver a set of requirements for a phase of the project. I'd hoped to deliver them last night, but it didn't happen. Yet more requirements were levied during the meetings yesterday, so I need to rework them a bit. I've got about a two and a half hour window this afternoon, so I am hoping I am going to make some headway.

I had a flash of insight last night, while in conversation with Don while I helped him move his furniture around. I need to be learning new things - learning is an integral part of being alive for me. Lately I don't feel as if I've been learning and I think that might be a part of the unfulfilled sense I have. More of a sense that I am not living up to my own potential. So, what I need to do is start learning a little something every day, use the power of incremental learning over time to find that feeling that I am mastering something.

And having documented that little piece of insight, with Annie Lennox singing in my ear, its time to wander back to the office and have a productive afternoon.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kirk's Burgers

On Bascom - the best place for a burger or dog, in my opinion. Always fresh, always tasty. I was there Friday with my friend Bob.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

The Dead, Whispering

Last night I dreamed of the dead, whispering secrets to the lost.

Let me start with that simple entry. I've been having rich dreams lately, in part due to the time of year, in part due to work, in part due to the particulars of the journey that I am on right now.  Last night, I dreamed that I was lying in bed with a lost lover. On the other side of her was my dead cousin.  (In life we had both known her.) He was whispering in her ear and I could not hear what he was whispering.  It was a strange and vivid dream that has stayed with me most of the day.

At work, the day was basically one long meeting, including hosting two meetings that were not my own.  I managed to get about an hour or two of work done, a small bit before the day began and another pair of hours tonight when I came home.  The chaos proceeds on the project I'm working, but I am distant from it, at least emotionally.  There are limits to the amount of insanity we can absorb.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Watcher - Original Photograph

I thought I would share this picture - this is an Asian Eagle Owl, the largest species of owl. The photograph was taken at the 2012 Highland Games. There are few things in this world that match the pure predatory stare of an owl.  You just know that they are looking at you saying "My, aren't you a tasty looking morsel."

It was a full day today.  I started with an early work email, then a call with T.R., and then off to run a friend of mine back and forth to the medical clinic for an outpatient service. (Think...roto-rooter.) While I was running that errand I went to a pair of work teleconferences, grabbed a simple breakfast at a diner, then took a walk around a local park.  I actually went to a teleconference when I was in the park, which was very nice.  I think I should do more teleconferences from the park.

From there, when my friend got out, we grabbed lunch and I headed off to run a pair of personal errands in the late afternoon.  By the time I got home I realized the day had flown by and I was simply tired.  I took a quick nap, then up for dinner, then logged on for another round of email, then offline and some quality time with T.R. (whose day was as hectic as mine).  Then, finally, to this point, here and now.  Whew.  A Monday.

My plan for the immediate future is to watch "Bones" and then head off to bed and read some more of the novel that I am currently working on, William Gibson's "Zero History".  Whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope your day ended well.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

All Of That Aside

(Image is "A Bowl of Flowers" from the 2012 Pleasanton Highland Games, an original photograph.)

I'm sliding into the evening watching the Emmy awards.  It was a pretty good weekend. I feel rested and ready to tackle the week ahead of me.  It would be nice to have a couple of more days off, but isn't that always the case.

Tomorrow I took the day off from work to run a friend of mine in (and out) for a medical procedure and I plan on taking the day entirely as it flows. I will most likely log on at some point and do some work, as the opportunity presents itself, and there is at least one meeting that I would like to attend that is scheduled for the morning.

I need to put in about four hours of review for the last set of requirements that I need to get over to the vendor and I would really like to do that clear of any distractions, so I am going to do it from home, virtually, when I have the window.

I've been working on getting the spare bedroom re-arranged to be more conductive as an office - I probably only need to spend a couple of more hours, so I might tackle that tomorrow as well.

All of this aside though, there isn't really anything special planned in the week ahead, so I am going to take it like I took the week before - slow and easy and disciplined, one day at a time.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Quote from "The Grand"

"Most people drink coffee but I think that its some sort of beverage of the cowards. To feel alive and get this energy, it is essential that...that I kill something each day".

-The German (Werner Herzog) in "The Grand"
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Very Low Key Day

I did my best to simply disconnect today. It was what I needed, just a simple day of wandering and doing nothing and trying not to think to much. I slept late (about 7:00 AM) for me, the sun waking me as it flooded the bedroom.  A shower, a muffin, a cup of coffee and I blinked my way awake.

I met Tony for breakfast over at Goodies II on Bascom.  After breakfast, I drifted over to the car wash and ran the car through. Then, I stopped at Target to pick up some odds and ends. John D. Morgan park was next on my list.

After a nice, long, wandering walk I met Bob for lunch at Kirk's (again, oddly enough, on Bascom).  From there, I wandered over to Best Buy and picked up a copy of "Snow White and the Huntsman" on Blu-Ray. Then, back to Westgate, for a stop at Starbucks and then just pointless wandering, during which I picked up a couple of shirts on sale and Melissa Etheridge's latest album "4th Street Feeling".

Dinner was a stop at Sushi Boat, then home, feet up, watching a classic movie (this has really been the summer of classic movies for me).  "Paths of Glory" with a young Kirk Douglas.  I wrote a few email and then simply settled in for the evening with my feet propped up.  I think, in about fifteen minutes, I am going to slip into the bedroom and read myself to sleep.  Tomorrow should be as low key as well.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Goethe Quote

"I am fully convinced that the soul is indestructible, and that its activity will continue through eternity. It is like the sun, which, to our eyes, seems to set at night, but it has in reality only gone to diffuse its light elsewhere." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Long Day Quiet Evening

A full day at work doing the thing I like the most - complex, detailed, patient analysis. One item at a time, through and through. That is what gives me the best buzz at work, that is what lets me lose the entire day in work, or like today, allows eleven hours to slide by with minimal burden.  We are at the part of the project (at least in my part of the project) where all the talk starts turning into reality. Or, as I like to refer to it, the best part of the day.

I got home tonight after work made some chicken and coleslaw, watched "Solomon Kane" again (the last day on my On Demand), then settled in for a hot bath.  I was going to work some more this evening, but pacing is also key to success I think.  Slow and steady always wins the race.

The hot bath was nice and while I was in the tub I got a call from one of my nephews.  My nephew had a surprise visit to the hospital last night - due to a bleeding ulcer.  Definitely not fun, but he is home now, with a handful of drugs and a diet and lifestyle sheet, along with a follow up scheduled next week.  I wish him the best of luck!

Tomorrow is my Friday at the office and it is also going to end up as another eleven hour day, most likely.  This week and next week are going to be pretty solidly work focused. But, once I get through the heavy lifting, I should be able to slide relatively seamlessly into the rest of the fall.  Speaking of fall, the turn of the season is almost upon us and I am looking forward to that - fall is my favorite time of year, so lets hope for, or perhaps make, a great fall.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Process Certainty

Yesterday was a bit of a challenging day, from a work standpoint.  The computer problems in the morning through me off for the rest of the day.  I was able to salvage some of the day, the afternoon, once the computer issues had been resolved, but it still felt like a mostly squandered day. I am at the point right now in the project I am working where I’m deep into the details of design and configuration. That is just a process of details, finding them, documenting them, communicating them and double-checking them.  It leaves room for error, especially since, right now, we are working in solo silos, without the covering effect of peer reviews.  It is a time of focus and I really struggled with focus yesterday.
So, today is going to be an exercise in deliberate focus - staying tight, staying crisp, staying clear.  There are three major phases in my portion of the project and at this point it is just a question of focusing on the first phase.  I would like to get the first phase handed off by close of business today.  It is the complex phase, since it involves the most configuration change. Phase two is straight-forward and phase three is more a process of reduction then change.  It would be nice if I had process certainty beyond myself, but that is wishing for something that simply doesn’t exist on this project.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I Saw Resident Evil Retribution

On Sunday I went out and engaged in my Resident Evil addiction with the latest movie - Resident Evil: Retribution.  I loved it. It might not be for everyone, but from my point of view it was thoroughly enjoyable.  Milla Jovovich. Guns.  Explosions. Monsters. Milla Jovovich.  What more can a guy ask for in a movie?

All kidding aside, it was a very enjoyable movie and I have to give much credit to the director for the opening sequence, which was nothing short of amazing and enthralling in my book.  If you are a fan of the franchise, don't miss it.  If you just like kinetic action with a beautiful actress in leather or, as Michelle Rodriguez says "What's with the S&M outfit?", you'll enjoy the movie.

One of the things I've always enjoyed about the Resident Evil franchise is the movies never pretend to be more then they are - simple, brilliant, enjoyable entertainment.

My Laptop Is Possessed

Well, it's pretty much been a wasted morning here at work, at least as far as productivity goes. I started the day early enough - at 4:30 AM when I woke from a dream about work. In the dream I was venting to HR about the conditions at work and realizing that it was all kind of pointless.
I had a simple breakfast - a bowl of cereal and a whole wheat muffin with cream cheese, and then headed into the office. I had every intention of leaping into my tasks but I ran right into a technical wall. We use encryption software to protect our companies information in the event of a lost or stolen laptop.

After I logged in I noticed my laptop was lagging and not behaving correctly. I tried doing some work but all I managed to do was frustrate myself badly - about half my applications wouldn't open and when they did open I had a difficult time working within them. Activities were slow and unpredictable and the applications kept locking up. Twice I lost work, which is very irritating. I fired up my system monitors and discovered the encryption process was using up about seventy five percent of my processing power.

It was very frustrating, then I realized what I needed to do was step back, take a deep breath, and let the system do what the system was going to do. Which I did. I then watched about three and a half hours of the day slip away. I was able to do small things - work email, return calls, but any time I tried to do anything significant the computer would go wonky. It appears the bulk of the processing finished up a few minutes ago, but I still can't reboot and half my applications don't work.

Since I am going to take lunch in about twenty minutes, quite frankly, I've pretty much written the morning off as far as productivity goes. I will circle back around after lunch and attempt to tackle the one task I want to get finished today. One simple thing.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Solomon Kane

It was a nice low energy day today.  I didn't do much, breakfast with Bob and Tony, a trip to Fry's, a trip to the lumber yard, an afternoon nap, a cheesy by enjoyable SyFy movie, Dragon Sword with James Purefoy and Piper Peraboo, surfing the web with T.R., and now I am about to order a movie On -Demand that I have been waiting to see.

Solomon Kane!

Let's start in the beginning. I love Solomon Kane.  Solomon Kane is a character created by the legendary Robert E. Howard (of Conan fame). When I was young and wandering my way through Howard's books, I enjoyed Conan, but it was Solomon Kane that captured my imagination.  He was the classic pulp fiction hero.  I also happen to like James Purefoy (loved him as Mark Anthony in Rome), so I am looking forward to watching the movie.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Evening, Covert Affairs, Work Life

While I was on my little zen-cation there I took a leave from writing here online. I took a week off work and spent most of the time just being.  It was very nice and it contained several lessons that I am attempting to incorporate into my daily life.  The primary lesson there was the importance of just sitting things down every now and then.

I am back in the full swing of the absolute insanity that is work, driven ultimately by a director that is, charitably, in way over her head and less charitably, incompetent. The project has slipped back to a more reasonable schedule, but on the high level they are still going totally insane. I could rant and rave for a while about it, but in the end I just have to lean back and laugh.  I keep thinking a grown up somewhere has to be watching.

It is a quiet evening tonight, I am at home watching the most recent episode of "Covert Affairs" with the lovely and talent Piper Perabo. It has been a very entertaining series of episodes.  A little later in the night I am going to curl up and read for a while.  Hoping to get a nice chat in with T.R. tonight, but that is going to depend on schedules.

I thought I would write a bit more about what is going on at work, minus the ranting and raving.  Let me see if I can summarize the problem in a nutshell.  I am an information system analyst - I design and implement information processing systems, I am not a programmer, I provide the direction to the programmers.  I've got close to 25 years of experience - I am very good, and I am currently at the staff level. In system design and implementation process matters.

There is a classic story told by Deming, used to emphasize the importance of process.  In the story, you have a bowl of beans, some brown, some blue and a cup.  Your job is to use the cup and scoop out a cupful of beans. You scoop out the first cup and you have 80% blue beans. You are told that is very good, but you need to do better.  You scoop out the second cup and you have 85% blue beans.  You are told that is great, but you need to do better still or you'll be fired.  You scoop out the next cup and you get 70% of blue beans - and you're fired on the spot. The moral of the story is this - you can only be as good as the process that is being used.  It doesn't matter what you want, will, or intend.  You're only as good as the process.

We have well developed and mature processes at work. It's our job to hold customers to the process. But, in this case, the person who cannot hold to the process (who doesn't seem to even understand it) is our director.  She has zero process discipline and consequently this project has been all over the map. It is constantly one day, one moment away from disaster. It is burning people up and it is burning them out.

I am in a unique position - most of the worst behavior of this director I am not a direct witness too.  About two years ago now the director and I had it out in a high tension teleconference that lasted in five hours, during which I was told I had to "drink the kool-aid", which meant toe the line and not engage in any form of dissent, even constructive.  I refused. I told her flat out that I never drink the kool-aid.  That was the end of that and other then large group meetings she has spoken to me directly twice.  Which is fine with me.  That leaves me in an awkward point though - some of the things I have heard about her conduct I would never tolerate, but for me, they are only hearsay.  It's frustrating.

So, we continue forward in fits and starts, one moment from disaster.  If nothing else, it sure is a learning experience.  I am not sure how to go forward, but I am sure I will figure something out.

A Simple Healthy Lunch

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The End of the Cake

The remnants of coffee cake from Hobbee's at lunch yesterday. Today is going to be a challenging day, which will include 7 hours of meetings in a 9 hour day and I've already gone through the 2 non-meeting hours. I've just started the first meeting - and that will be the sum of the day, more or less.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Monday, September 10, 2012

Boxes of Thoughts

Today is the day back after a week off and it has been tolerable. A stack of email and a slew of meetings, but nothing unbearable. I've slipped out to lunch at Hobbee's in Sunnyvale and ordered a chorizo scramble, one of my favorites.

My thoughts are around the boxes we find ourselves in and how many of them are boxes where we've cleverly constructed our own walls. Work contains a lot of self-constructed boxes and a lot of boxes constructed by other people - boxes that exist strictly because someone thought they should.

I think that, being out of my self-constructed work related boxes, it brought a greater degree of visibility to my self-imposed work related boxes. The question then becomes "Can I get out of those boxes." I don't know the answer to that question. I rarely do.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Monday, September 3, 2012


Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sushi for Lunch

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Celtic Rolls

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Tiny Flower in the Sun

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Saturday, September 1, 2012