Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Winding Down The Year

Tuesday was as tranquil as Monday. Free from the restrictions of a heavily laden meeting schedule at work I was able to be very productive and better than productive, smooth. There is a lot to be said for flow. Almost anything is a better experience if it flows. I have my email backlog down to zero. That has not happened since October. It's a good feeling. It's a good place to be.

I even had the opportunity to read a little bit about project management. I feel the need to enter the new year with a more discipline structure for the projects I run. A lot of the work stress I encounter is the result of chaos. Is the result of the opposite of flow which is turbulence. We are very good at turbulence.

I am settling into the evening after a dinner of special K cereal and peanut butter from a spoon. It was very simple and very tasty. I needed that after the indulgences of the holiday season. I am still in the pleasant afterglow of the dinner that Brandy prepared for us. It was outstanding and it's going to stay with me for a while in my memory. She has become quite the amazing Chef.

I am dictating this entry on my iPad. It is fairly good at it. I don't think it is quite as accomplished as Dragon NaturallySpeaking. But it may be that I just need to learn the secrets of dictating to Siri. I'll have to look online and see if there is some sort of guide. Siri seems to struggle more with capitalization and punctuation then Dragon does. Again, it might just be a learned thing. Once I get the hang of it then it may work better. I wonder if Dragon has a version for the iPad. I should check the app store for that.

Other than that my plan tonight is to keep it simple. The new year is rapidly approaching. I started the process of considering my New Year's resolutions. They are partially formed in my brain. I still want to spend a little contemplative time over the holiday putting the gloss on them. I think I am entering the year strong. At the highest level I want to enter the year with a little more focus and a little more discipline. That is sort of a universal resolution. The process with which I want to approach the goals and objectives for the year.

I'm looking forward to the conversation with TR tonight. She mentioned today in conversation that she wanted to start the year on a different note. I'm curious as to what she has in mind. Her beautiful mind is one of the things that I love about her. It amazes me that after eight years we never ran out of things to talk about. On that note I am going to call it a night and slide into the evening. Whoever you are, wherever you are I hope your evening is good.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Holidays and a Monday

I had a very quiet and pleasant Christmas. It was simple, which I enjoy. Christmas dinner was at my friend Bob's house, where we have Beef Wellington, baked yams, stuffing and a big green salad. We capped it off with homemade Angel Food Cake topped with a fresh fruit compote.  All in all an excellent meal prepared by Brandy, Bob's daughter.

Outside of that and some incidental errands I didn't do much.  Had breakfast with Tyrone and Tony, then on Sunday, lunch with Rick.  Rick and I had a wide ranging conversation about - well, pretty much everything.  I tend to enjoy my conversations with him when he is not politically worked up. Rick is one of those liberals that can get a bit passionate and unreasonable about the things he holds as true.  Of course, I can get the same way, so political conversations can have a bit of fire.

I'm going to work virtually today, mainly because there is no real reason to go into the office. I don't have any meetings scheduled this week.  My objective today is to go through my email backlog, which is about 100+ items.  I'd like to get it drilled down to zero or as close to zero as I can. As I weave in and out of email, I'll also knock out a few small things around the house. It should be a very good day, all in all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This Evening Is Quiet

Two easy days at work.  It is so nice not to have a schedule crammed with meetings. I've actually managed to get some things done. Tomorrow should be equally as productive. 

This evening is quiet, so I am savoring it.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Night With Quigley Down Under

Two weeks later I finally find the time to come online and do a spot of writing.  It has been extremely busy at work, combined with a matching business in my personal life.  Today was the first day off where I didn't have a long list of errands to run - so I am definitely just relaxing and enjoying the day.

I had breakfast with Tyrone this morning over at the Hickory Pit, then simply came home and watched a spot of TV.  About noon I laid down and took a three hour nap. A text from TR woke me from the nap and I was really tempted to lay back down and go back to sleep.  But, I resisted the temptation, got up, ordered a pizza and now I am watch the great Tom Selleck movie "Quigley Down Under" with the beautiful Laura San Giacomo.

I've got a couple of other movies on the DVR so that is my plan for the evening - pizza and DVR. I honestly can't remember the last time that was what I spent the evening doing. We're sliding into the quiet time of year at work, so I am actually looking forward to the next two weeks when I should be able to get some end of year things done - close out a few projects, stage a few projects, and anticipate the coming year.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Start of a Day

I slept well last night. I think I went to bed around eight thirty, read a bit, and then dropped right into a deep sleep.  Interestingly, I haven't had a dream in the last couple of days. I assume it is because I've been sleeping very deeply, just glad to be back in California and back in my old bed. I woke up at about five a.m. this morning, which is my normal time.  It felt very good.  I went outside and took a walk down to Maple Leaf Donuts and started the day with a cup of hot coffee and a piece of coffee cake.  I'm savoring those at this moment and contemplating how best to approach the day.  I've got a lot small errands that I want to take care of over the weekend, so I am just sort of plotting out the day, deciding what to do in what order.  I think if I keep moving smoothly through the day I should be able to get through most of them.  So, wish me luck for an ordinary day.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sublime Beauty

It has been raining here in California for the last several days. It is above average rainfall with is a welcome relief from the drought conditions we've been under.  Tonight, after work, after pizza, I went out for a brief walk around the neighborhood.  The sidewalks were slick with a light rain. There was a subtle breeze stirring things about. The ground was carpeted with fallen leaves.  It was beautiful, verging on glorious. I walked and I basked in the sights, the sounds and the scents. I am glad I have the ability to enjoy such sublime beauty.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Nap and Minimalist Decor

I completely ran out of gas today at about 3:30. I am sure my body is recovering from the long distance drive. It is about 1600 miles, so it was a pair of 800 mile days, each taking 12 hours of pure driving time, plus, usually, an additional two hours of stopping for gas and meals.  That is a long time to be sitting in essentially the same position. I got home on Saturday night, rested up on Sunday, then headed off to work yesterday and today, so I reckon that I am still catching up.  I napped for about 3 hours today.

I'm going to work virtually tomorrow since I've got six different meetings and I suspect I am also going to need to take a nap tomorrow as well. That should give me the opportunity to make some progress against the headwinds I am running into on assorted tasks and projects.

I did observe/learn something while I was in South Dakota. I spent the time at the ranch with is decorated in, well, ranch style. My style is more minimalist here at the apartment in California (definitely influenced by TR). Even as minimalist in style as it is, I'm going to take steps in the coming weeks to become, yet again, more minimalist. I have a couple of pieces of furniture and some possessions that I can get rid of since I don't really use them. The time in South Dakota just emphasized my love of the minimalist style of décor.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thirty Three Days

That was a fast passing 33 days. I'm back California. It feels very good.  Today was a balmy 50 degrees with rain. Nice.

It is all relative of course.  While I was in SD the temp ran a pretty constant range between 0 and 20 degrees. I have all the right clothes, so I was never too cold - but I was constantly cold and when ever you went anywhere you had to take the weather into consideration.  So, I compensated and I did all right.

The drive back was two full days but, other then running out of gas in Nebraska because my gas gauge was inaccurate, an uneventful trip.  I'm tired now and spent most of today resting and relaxing. I am having an inner debate concerning whether or not I should take another day off. I probably won't.

My mothers surgery went fine and she is well into her recovery. Since that was the purpose of the trip, it's a good deal.

Tonight, my plan is simple. Rest. Relax. Take a hot bath. Sleep.  Plenty of sleep.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Night Before I Travel

Today was my last day at work for this week.  Starting tomorrow I am heading out cross-country for a drive back to SD.  The Jeep is packed except for the handful of high value items that I will carry out tomorrow morning. There wasn't enough time to do everything at work, so I am leaving with some stuff undone, but I am anticipating that I will be able to get some work done as soon as I arrive back in South Dakota.

I should get them some time Wednesday night, get a good night sleep, then I am going to do a quick turnaround and take my mom up to the orthopedic surgery center in Sioux Falls for shoulder surgery on Friday. We'll end up staying there for two days and then head back to Winner. For there I'll camp out at the ranch and work virtually.  I am looking forward to it, though I am sure I am going to miss California, especially the weather!

So, the plan tonight is to simply unwind and then start the trip tomorrow.  It is about fifteen hundred miles so it will take somewhere between twenty and twenty four hours of road time to get there.  I've made the trip a dozen times or more over the years so it should be pretty routine.  The advantage of car travel is that you're able to carry enough stuff that, in the event it is not normal you'll have enough tools and equipment to deal with anything that might arise.

So, wish me luck!  I will probably have more of an opportunity to write while I am in South Dakota with those nice quiet evenings at the ranch.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Fury of John Wick

Well, it has been a bit of time since I made an entry - I actually had a good reason - my personal laptop got infected by a wicked little piece of malware and I finally got it cleared out this afternoon.  It is nice to have my laptop back. 

I've got a pair of good movies that I wanted to mention - Fury and John Wick - both of them are excellent action adventure movies.  Money well spent as far as I am concerned, I would recommend both of them.

Other than that, it has been just the ordinary stuff of life - a wee bit of chaos, but nothing major. Work is moving along briskly and my personal life has its own adventures and misadventures.  I am going into a heavy cycle of travel, so I'll be working virtually for most of the month of November, combined with some personal travel back to South Dakota. I'll write some more about the details later.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Flame of Thought and Love - Abbé-Jules Montchanin

"Let us keep alive the flame of thought and love: they are one and the same flame. Let us communicate to those around us the desire to understand and to give (and also to receive). -Abbé-Jules Montchanin

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Settling In To Watch SHIELD

Another brisk day at work. It passed very quickly and was moderately productive. Okay, moderately productive might be a bit of an over-statement, but it was productive enough.  The day ended on an up note, with a pleasant one-on-one with my manager and then a nice hot bowl of chili. It's a bit after five thirty now and I'm settling in for a relaxing evening watching miscellaneous programs off the DVR.  I am starting the evening with SHIELD.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Most Likely An Early Night

Today passed quickly, but not necessarily productively.  I spent several hours this morning with the trailing edge of our outage from yesterday - service was restored about 8:00 AM. From there, I spent the next hour or so responding to email related to the outage.  Time passed quickly, but it wasn't particularly productive.  A meeting, lunch, a few more hours of email catch up and the day was over.

I came home and met Tony for dinner (a simple grilled cheese sandwich for me), and then circles home where I am settling in for an easy night.  No working for me, the plan is to just relax, write, read and watch something off the DVR.  Then, most likely, an early night.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Keeping An Even Flow

Today was a good day. The meeting schedule at work was pretty relaxed.  I was able to make some headway on a couple of projects, though not as much as I would like too. The afternoon was chewed up by a system outage (that is still ongoing, so I expect to run into in the morning when I get up again).

I got home about 4:00 PM and had some fried chicken and coleslaw, which was tasty, a near perfect fall evening dinner.  Then, it was back online to work a little more, and finally I settled in with a spot of mindless television, which lasted a short while. The TV turned off I picked up a book and I've spent the evening reading.

I'm planning on going to bed in about a half an hour, curling up with another book - "SPQR: The Cataline Conspiracy". I've been enjoying the series (this is the second book) and I am looking forward to the books that follow.

Since I took my six days of vacation back in July - six days where I stayed home and did nothing except spend a lot of time reflecting, I've been handling the work stress a little better - focus on getting one thing done at a time, beginning to end, then go to the next thing. I've also done a better job at keeping things in perspective (I don't have to look very far for that - it is a challenging time of life for a couple of my friends).

TR is traveling, so our contact has been stolen phone calls and texting, she is having a good time, and then will settle in to work starting tomorrow. I am looking forward to her return, though it will be a couple of weeks.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Simple and Ordinary Weekend

I've been intending to write all weekend, but the intention never turned to action. I've had a good but lazy weekend all in all, following a busy work week. This coming week should be busy as well, but I am kind of looking forward to it.

I saw the new "Dracula" movie this weekend and I would recommend it.  It is very entertaining and, uniquely for the genre, it has a lot of subtleties wrapped into the story, combined with solid acting, all wrapped inside a visually rich package.  Unexpectedly good!

Other than that, I have been kind of engrossed in the SPQR series of novels.  I am on the second one now and enjoying the read.  I've always had a thing for Rome, so any novel, any well written novel, set in Rome can definitely hold my attention.

Beyond that, consider the previous week to have been a simple and ordinary weekend.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Night After An Eclipse

Today was a nice day.  I worked from home and managed to get to the bottom of my email stack for the first time in nearly a month or more.  That should allow me to cleanly pivot to the project related tasks that I am behind on. We're doing a production role out tonight and I was expecting to be notified earlier for some validations, but I haven't heard anything yet.  I suspect something was forgotten or not done correctly, but since my instructions were to wait for the notification - well, I am going to wait for the notification.  I will probably work from home tomorrow as well, just because today was so productive.

On the personal side of life I am sliding into a quiet evening, watching a spot of TV as I get ready to call it a night. I am still reading through SPQR, which I am enjoying.  I'm about two thirds of the way through the book and I am pretty sure I've already figured out who did it, but it is still an enjoyable tale.  The weather was a bit on the warm side, but it is cooling down nicely now.  It actually got cold enough last night for the furnace to kick on in the small hours of the morning.  I am hoping tonight is much the same.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Life Is Made Of Simple Things

It's a little bit past sundown, just inside the twilight hour, and it is a beautiful night outside. I've got the windows wide open and the fan blowing.  The heat of the last couple of days has broken and today was quite pleasant, weather wise.  Warm enough, but not too hot. I had a good day at work, just not as productive as I would have liked. The evening has been relaxed - I watched an episode of Castle and I am about to start another.  I am a big fan of that show.  Dinner was a bowl of potato soup and two slices of pumpkin bread.  I followed it up with a phone call to my step-dad and then a text exchange with TR, who is in NYC on a business/pleasure trip with her posse. After the episode of Castle, I am going to curl up early and read SPQR until I fall asleep.  Life is made of simple things. Tonight, life is good.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday with the Skeleton Twins

We've gone through a pair of hot days here in California with temps in the mid-nineties. One good thing about the heat at this time of year is that it drops precipitously off when the sun goes down. We lose about 10 degrees an hour, sometimes more, for the first two hours. That is nice because it means the evenings are cool enough to sleep comfortably.

I had a decent day today - met Tyrone for breakfast early, went over and got my car washed, then stopped at the hardware store and the bird store for some odds and ends, including food for the bird tribe that I so enjoy when they are on the patio. After that I came home and spent a lazy afternoon relaxing, unwinding and dodging the heat. 

Oops, I almost forgot that in the middle of it I saw an entertaining movie - The Skeleton Twins.  It was an interesting study on relationships, well acted and enjoyable.  I am going to watch a bit of TV tonight and then curl up with the latest novel I've started - SPQR (a detective story set in ancient Rome).  I had to abandon "The Clockwork Dagger" - it just bogged down badly in the middle.  I may pick it up again later, perhaps when I am in a different mood.

Three Hits

Will you trade your love for glory? That's a barter for a blind man.
Three hits to the heart son,
and then it's poetry in motion.

Three Hits, Indigo Girls

Friday, October 3, 2014

Some Thoughts on Complexities

I spent some time today thinking about the various complexities that enter our lives.  It takes a certain discipline and a certain will to learn to ignore them.  Most complexities are imaginary.  They are the result of our minds creating associations between things where those associations really don't exist.  Oh, there is cause and effect - the causal chain is simply how the world works.  But, sometimes we assume a cause and effect and where there really isn't one.  This is illusion in action.  One of the things we can do to attain a greater state of awareness of what is real and what is not real is to simply pay attention to the causal chain, really pay attention to it.  If we focus and meditate on the causal chain, if we walk through the parts of the chain, if we consider the relationships and the sequence, we can often pierce the veil of illusion. Life is not entirely a cluster of random events, but it is very close to that. Our mind loves complexities - we can perceive them, we can understand them, we can even embrace them - but we need to be careful of the illusion.  We need to be careful of the times when we create our illusory complexities and then act as if they are real.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Tiny Fingers of Uncertainty

It has been a succession of beautiful fall days, especially in the morning and in the evenings. I love this time of year – I love the warm days and cool nights, which are perfect for lingering and relaxing. September passed very quickly, life in general was just generically busy – busy at work, busy in my personal life.  Nothing particularly dramatic is either place – just the stuff of life.  That steady flow is a good place to be in.  It has been a while since I’ve found myself locked in combat with the monkey mind, so that has been enjoyable as well.  I’ve been reading a lot of fiction in the evenings and weekends. I’ve tamped down my movie going habit and have only been going to movies that I want to go to and that look to be interesting or good.  The two do not necessarily go hand in hand.  It is nice to be in a place where that monkey mind is not constantly picking at me with the tiny fingers of uncertainty.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Sum of A Day

It was a pleasant and simple day.  Breakfast with Bob (and a late Tony) at the Hickory Pit, then "The Equalizer" at AMC 14 with Tony. Strange movie and not good. 

Act One was a great movie with quiet intensity from Denzel Washington and quiet desperation from Grace Chloe Moretz.

Act Two was long and meandering and never really went anywhere.

Act Three was simply a rather dumb shoot out in a home depot clone store. 

I would not recommend it, except perhaps on cable.  Watch the first third and then turn it off.  After the movie I stopped at Hawg's Seafood in Campbell for an excellent bowl of clam chowder and some cheesy garlic soup.

Following up on that I did some shopping, then stopped to visit Bob, then came home for dinner. I've spent most of the evening watching Henry Rollins "Ten Things You Didn't Know", which I find very enjoyable - count me as a big Henry Rollins fan. 

Now, I am about to settle in and spent some time reading "A Clockwork Dagger", which, so far, has been pretty good.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Eureka Moment

I had a Eureka moment today that was pretty nice.  For the last couple of months I've been working intermittently on a data analysis problem at work (two sets of data that should match up but that weren't).  Today was the first day in a long time when I actually had the time to just sit and think and work my way through the problem and at about 10:00 AM I figured it out - suddenly, I was able to account for the anomalies and create a predictive algorithm.  It was one of those true Eureka moments when I was elated by the solution, so elated that I did the "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy" dance from Ren and Stimpy in the living room.  It gave me a high that lasted through the entire day. I think that is one of the intangible rewards of working, one of those things you cannot quantify.  It also speaks volume of what makes me what I am - that I so love solving problems and that I get a high from that Eureka moment.  Totally awesome.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Fan of the Hidden World

I stacked up a pair of busy days, working virtually.  The race to go live is running full steam, so it has been a succession of ten to twelve hours day.  Moving forward, surely and steadily, though I have a couple of things that are falling slowly behind.  The next couple of weeks are going to be a repeat.

On the personal front - I just finished reading Dean Koontz's new novel "Innocence", which was an excellent read - I did not expect the twist at the end (though the ending itself was typical Koontz.  A very enjoyable book, with great characters and an interesting storyline. I'd definitely recommend it.

That is about it for the night, I think I am going to watch a bit of television and then start again tomorrow morning and see how much I can accomplish.  There are still some tall hurdles between here and the finish line and I am hoping to cross some of them in advance. Quite often though each piece of work unwraps another piece of work that was hidden underneath it.

I have to say though I am a fan of the hidden world in all it's forms.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Odds and Ends on A Monday

I never made it out to the movie Sunday, instead electing a quiet afternoon with reading and napping, which is what my body told me it wanted.  I am anticipating a very busy week at work up ahead since I am behind the eight-ball on a couple of different projects.  I thought about doing some work today but ultimately decided not too, especially since I am going to be bearing down in the coming week.

I've been reading a great poetry book that TR suggested called "chasers of the light" by Tyler Knott Gregson. I would definitely recommend it to people - it is an interesting book both in content and construction.

Monday was pretty busy at work with most of the day spent in meetings, except for a few hours where I managed to get a couple of things done in the course of a 10 hour day. I am anticipating a week full of 10 hour days for the next couple of weeks as we move toward a major release.  I have a tall stack of things to try and get done so I worked virtually today and I am planning on working virtually tomorrow. I am a little more productive at home especially since I am able to skip the whole commute, which shaves more than an hour off the day.

My step dad has been in the hospital with cellulitis, which they now have under control, however he is still having trouble walking. They are talking about releasing him tomorrow and moving him over to the convalescent hospital so he can under go more physical therapy to see if he can get a little steadier on his feet. I worry about him of course, but it is well out of my hands and he is getting excellent care, so the prognosis is good.  He has been doing PT at the hospital and has had good days and bad days.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sparrow Rules

I'm easing into a fairly productive Sunday here.  I started with paying bills - always has to be done - and then segued into breakfast with Tyrone and Bob at the Hickory Pit (ham steak and eggs). We interspersed good conversation and laughter to round the breakfast out.  After that, I dropped them off and then headed home where I have been watching the US Open men's mixed doubles and sort of plotting out the rest of the day.

I am planning on going out this afternoon and seeing "Calvary" with Brendan Gleeson, but it doesn't play for another three hours or so, so I think I am just going to tinker around the apartment for a while, watch some more tennis, read the Sunday Mercury News, and maybe do something more productive, like laundry. I've got a bit of work that I would like to do today, but I think I will do that a little later in the day.  It is a beautiful day, which makes a low key easing through the day work very well.

I've got some laundry to do, but I also have enough clothes to make it through to the end of the week, so I might hold off on  doing that.  I am going to make a phone call to my step-dad in a little bit, just to check up on the folks and see how things are going. My step-dad is going through a good little bout of cellulitis. He appears to be on the healing side of the process, but reports that he is still unsteady on his feet. He's getting good care though, so that is good.

I'm also tempted to take a nice hot bath shortly, that is a nice way to enjoy the day as well.  Right now, the living room is filled with the conversation of a small group of sparrows who are occupying the patio and spending their time eating and loudly discussing current affairs - sparrow style. The bird denizens of my patio tend to be endlessly amusing, especially the sparrows.  I think there is a social law among the sparrow tribe that if you are coming in for a landing, you must land on top of another sparrow.  That's the rule!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


A few weeks ago I downloaded a cool app for my iPhone called Blinkist.  It basically provides you with a fifteen to twenty minutes summary of non-fiction books. I really like it because it serves a need that I have wanted fulfilled for a long time. I've already gone through a couple of books at the summary level and then went on to buy two because the summary was interesting.  If you like non-fiction but can't really decide what might be work buying, then I would highly recommend it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The November Man

I did make it out this afternoon to see the new Pierce Brosnan and Olga Kurylenko action film "The November Man".  I would recommend it as a pleasant diversion.  It is well written and well acted and I enjoyed it overall.  It was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. After the movie I grabbed a bite of dinner and then settled in for some incidental cleaning and alternately watching episodes of "Black Jesus", which is pretty entertaining.  I am headed to bed in a few minutes with the plan of curling up with a book and reading myself to sleep. All in all it was a nice day.

Soft Green Moss

This morning, in the early hour before dawn, I noticed a carpet of soft and delicate green moss had sprung up overnight in the areas of exposed earth around the apartment complex. It was beautiful and unexpected, the result of a late night summer shower, scarcely enough to wet the ground, but more then enough to breath the moss to life. It struck me how beautiful, unexpected and delicate the vast array of life is.

I took the day off from work as vacation to extend the weekend. I am enjoying the morning watching the history channel and just relaxing. I'm hoping to spend some time today doing some incidental and overdue house cleaning.  Nothing is dirty, it is just the side-effect of being a little bit too busy in the last couple of weeks - things are in a general state of disarray and I would like to get them straightened out.  Mostly small things that have to be picked up and put back away.

I might swing out this afternoon and see the new movie "The November Man", but then again I might not. Over the last two months I've been trying, with some success, to just relax when I have time off. I'm also recharging my savings account from buying a new car, a Jeep Cherokee Laredo that I already have fallen in love with.  It is a great car and I've been wanting to get back into a Jeep for a while now.

If the day flows right I am going to meet up with Tony for lunch today, maybe I can convince him to try someplace new and different. I'm often amused by how easily people are trapped in their social map - the tendency to go to the same places and do the same things over again. Among my circle of friends I am the most exploratory, the most willing to look for and experiment with new places and events. I like that aspect of myself.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Lazy September Day

The last couple of months have been pretty lean on entries from me.  Nothing major going on, just a normally busy life.  I thought I would refocus a bit here in the month of September and see if I can't write a little more.  I enjoy writing, I just don't always make it a priority. August was filled with work related stuff and with the beauties of late summer in California.

I went up to the Highland Games with Tony on Saturday and had a good time, eating food, wandering the fairgrounds and listening to music.  The music was a mixed bag this year - there were some good acts and there were some acts that mistook "loud with bagpipes and drums" for quality. One of my favorite acts is "The Browne Sisters and George Cavanaugh" and though they were good, their sound mixer was not particularly on the ball and oft times during their show the music was being drowned out by the crowd noise.  I think that is always a risk at any festival.

Yesterday was almost entirely a restful day.  I had breakfast with Tyrone at the Hickory Pit and then wandered home.  Something I ate didn't sit right and my stomach was churning (I suspect the fruit), so after getting home and watching a movie, I settled in for a two hour afternoon nap. For there, I spent a lazy afternoon watching assorted movies on the DVR and on cable, and then went to bed early.

I laid down at about 7:00 PM to read for a while (Dean Koontz's "The City") and fell asleep by 8:00 PM, which led to my waking up, wide awake, at about 3:00 AM.  I managed to fall back asleep after about an hour and then woke up at about 6:00 AM.  I haven't done anything today either, mostly just reading, surfing the web, and watching incidental television.  I am going to make a couple of family calls this afternoon and then meet Tony & Bob for dinner at El Burro at 4:00 PM.

I am going to take a run at house cleaning and incidental crap sorting today. I took tomorrow off from work because I could and because I needed it - and as a side benefit it will also give me a two day work week next week, which is going to be nice as well.

August was a pleasant month.  In August I focused on just making sure that I spent some of my time off as true time off - doing nothing. (Hence the need to devote some hours today to house cleaning.) I think I am going to carry that trend on through September.  A few restful weekends makes me hungry for a few more restful weekends.  It the fast paced sweep of modern life is it easy to lose track of the need to take time to yourself.

T.R. is on her extended vacation right now, which is something I have always envied. She should be wrapping it up shortly soon and I am looking forward to spending some quality time with her and catching up.  I have undertaken a small personal project that during that time frame that I will share when it is complete, for now I am enjoying it and curious as to where it will go.

Well, with that, I am going to slide back into the rest of the day.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thinking Strategically

I often wonder why it is that some people cannot think strategically (long term) and in contingencies. I've often found myself, in work and in my personal life, trying to encourage people to do it, often without any significant results.

I had a long talk today with my boss at work about the subject.  We've recently implemented a new system that is going to grow at a very fast rate and I can see where the curve is going.  Given the complexity potential in the system it is obvious (to me) that it is going to require staffing at a certain level and with a certain skill set, specifically the ability to design media based communication collateral and the technical skills to implement it in a fairly powerful editing suite. Throughout most of the conversation my boss was stuck on the tactical level.  I think, at the end of the conversation, she may have gotten was I was talking about, but I am not really sure.  I hope so.

On the flip side I have a friend who is going through some powerful life changing events and he is counting on one outcome.  To me, looking at it, there is a whole array of outcomes that are potential. However, he has no contingency plans. I am hugely curious to watch it unfold and half afraid that it is ultimately going to be a train wreck.

I wonder if there are any good books that teach strategic thinking or complexity management.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Recommendations and General Observations

Once again it has been quite a while since I've written.  I've mostly just been busy with the routine personal and professional things that drive our lives. Nothing serious, nothing major, nothing earthshaking or life changing.  Just life.

I've been spending a lot of my free time reading "Tower Lord" by Anthony Ryan.  Previously I'd read the first novel in the series "Blood Song". I'd recommend them if you like to read fantasy - Mr. Ryan is a good story teller and he's got a nice stable of characters running through the two novels.

I've seen a few movies, but nothing particularly spectacular - though I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy.  It is a very entertaining bit of escapist fare that I would also highly recommend.

TR is on vacation, so, as usual, I am missing her and patiently waiting for her to return.  From her I learned something that I would recommend people try - periodically during the year she goes "off the grid".  Not out of contact or anything, but definitely in a position where the vast electronic world has less of an opportunity to intrude. It is easy to lose track of the moment in the midst of all the waves of data that flow at us in a continual high pressure flow.

I've also been reading a lot of non-fiction and poetry lately. This has definitely been the year in which I've spent a lot of time reading.  I enjoy reading in all its levels, so that has been a very nice way to occupy my free time. Other than that, and the fast passage of time in the modern world, things are going well.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Stranger Sarching For A Lost iPhone

Okay - I just had an amusing encounter with a stranger.  I was sitting at home, having just finished dinner and watching an episode of "Ghost Adventures", an amusing distraction, when there was a knock on the door.  I opened the door and there was a gentleman, a little worked up, with his laptop in hand.  He was looking for a lost iPhone and he has one of those iPhone locators which was telling him that the phone was at this address (an apartment building) and the little locator dot was showing it right outside my spare bedroom window.

His attitude was half-deferential and half-confrontational.  You could tell he was convinced he was right on top of the iPhone.  It took me several minutes to calm him down, assuring him I had two of my own and didn't have his. After several times, I invited him in to look around if he wanted.*  He initially declined but, once he calmed down a bit he came in, we hooked him up to my wireless network guest account and he pulled up the application.  The application had pinged on the cell phone at about 11:50 am while the phone was being charged and then the phone had been turned off.

He had already spoken to my downstairs neighbor (Tom) and Tom had told him he did not have the phone (and Tom is a believable guy, a solid family working man and a pleasant neighbor). After a conversation for about thirty minutes, I gave the guy my phone number and email and told him that, if the system calls it up again and it shows near my location, to give me a call and I'll go out and walk around and see if I can hear it while it pings or rings.

From what I have read the accuracy of those pins depends on whether it is connected to the cell phone network (in which case it uses the signal strength from the cell tower) or via a hot spot, in which case it can find it with a great degree of accuracy.  It was curious to me that the pin actually showed it outside of the apartment (on what is, basically, simple grass), which is what prompted me to go online and read up on the accuracy of it. I tried it on my phone and, since it is connected via wireless network, my phone is pinpointed with a high degree of accuracy.

I am now hugely curious as to whether or not I hear from the guy again.  In the little quad of apartments on this end of the building, the guy has yet to talk to my neighbors across the street, who currently are not home.  He left a note on their door.  They also seem to be good people, so if they found it, I am sure they will call him.  Like I said, I am now hugely curious if I will hear from the guy again.

*I am a good judge of character and the guy "rang true", so I didn't hesitate to invite him in. But, unknown to him, I also had this pen in my hand.

This little toy is a Smith & Wesson self-defense pen.  It is a perfectly functioning pen, made from anodized aluminum. It can be used as a Kubotan type weapon (which I am trained to use, as an ex-cop).  Though small, the Kubotan type weapons are highly effective for close in fighting. With a little bit of muscle and speed, it will inflict a considerable amount of pain.  In the hands of a trained user, it can send a powerful man into full retreat or too his keys in pain.  It is a common accessory in my pocket when I am out and about.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Meditations After A Hot Evening

We had a hot day here in this part of California yesterday and the heat carried into the night.  I got, maybe, four or five hours of sleep, well after midnight.  Up until then, I tossed and turned in the heat, even with the windows open and the fans running. It is the still hour before dawn right now and the apartment has finally cooled down to about seventy-two degrees.  I don't think today is supposed to be as hot as yesterday was, so I am hoping for a better night.

I did something I haven't done last evening - I spent three or four hours writing. I enjoy writing but I simply haven't done enough of it in the last couple of months, perhaps in the last couple of years, so last night had its own pleasures, the pleasures of creation. Now, today, I will re-read what I wrote last night and I might find that it is not particularly good, but that really doesn't matter - what matters is I definitely felt the creative juices flowing, all as the result of an incidental bit of inspiration that happened during the day.  I need to move myself into a point where I am in closer touch with my muse.

Today should be a good day - at this time, here in the early morning, it is a wide open day.  I am going to meet the guys for breakfast at eight, then, well, the day is open and I may find something to do.  I've been wanting to get over to the coast for lunch for the last couple of days, but I have balanced that with the need to just relax and do nothing.

Though I miss going to Comic Con, I am glad I made the decision to keep this vacation simple and close to home. I needed the time in solitude, I learned from it, I learned some things about myself and had some interesting dreams.

Two nights in a row I dream about shapes and patterns - specifically about layering those shapes and patterns. I think I have had an awareness for a while that I am not committing fully to the things I am doing as I go through my days.  I am doing things, and I am doing things I enjoy, but I am simply not fully loosing myself in the moment.  That is what I am going to work on for the next couple of months I think - continuing the process of focusing, of being in the moment, and of investing myself in the things that I am doing.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Luc Besson's "Lucy"

I met my friend Don for lunch and a movie today at the Century Theater's at the Great Mall in Milpitas. I highly recommend it.  However, I think I do need to admit that I am totally in the tank for Luc Besson and quite partial to the charming Scarlett Johanssen.  I personally count "La Femme Nikita" high on my list of truly great movies.

Lucy was extremely well done - it is a curious movie, part science lecture (Morgan Freeman's character) and part pure Luc Besson action/adventure (Scarlett Johanssen).  Both parts are excellent and they meld together in a nice tight little story.  It is a very visual movie and I saw it, entirely by accident, in Century's XD format, which fit it perfectly.  I will definitely recommend it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Quiet Vacation

It is about 4:00 AM here in California and I woke up a short while ago.  It's not as early as it seems since I went to sleep last night about 8:30 PM.  It is nice at this time of the day - quiet, still, dark, and beautiful.  Dawn is still an hour or so away and I may lay back down here and read for a while.  I am entering the third day of my vacation and so far it has been nice and relaxed. Yesterday was an easy day.

I went out and saw the new Zach Braff and Kate Hudson movie "Wish I Was Here".  It was a very good. It was definitely a showplace for Kate Hudson, whose performance is the emotional core of the film.  The other cast members turned in excellent performances as well. I would recommend it if you are searching for a solid little movie.

Other than that, it has been a quiet and introspective time off, which is exactly what I was in the mood for. I miss going to Comic Con, but that is okay - this is the vacation I needed. I can always make Comic Con next year. It has been so nice to just coast through the days, doing only those things that arise naturally.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Quiet and Introspective Day

It honestly doesn't feel like 10 days since my last post. I was pretty sure I had posted something earlier this week, but it appears that I didn't post it this week - it was last week. Work has been pretty intense, but the project that I was working on has gone live, officially, on Friday, so I am looking forward to getting a little bit of my life back.

I was pretty quiet and introspective today. I was being careful of the words I used and the things I said, trying my best not to let any negativity creep in, trying to be in the moment and savor each one as best I could. It led to my being quiet, as I carefully considered each thing I said.  All in all though, it was a good day - nice and productive.  I managed to get through a bunch of small errands and a stack of email that I had sitting in the living room.  That was a good feeling.

TR is traveling for work for the next couple of days, so our contact has been sporadic (her work, in terms of time, is more demanding than mine when she is on the job). I am missing her a bit, but happy that she is at the work she does best. I am looking forward to her return.

As I went softly and slowly through the day today I watched an excellent movie off the DVR - The Hunter, with Willen Dafoe.  Beautiful, poignant, and a perfect example of what a good little movie can be - simple but not simplistic, a pure piece of story telling.  I was personally very impressed with the movie and enjoyed it a lot.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Chaos, Ascending

So, there we are at work, lined up for a go live in about two weeks on a fairly major project.  The check boxes are being checked off, the final pieces of the puzzle are being moved into place - and - as I expected, at the last possible minute there is a hard curve ball flying in from the pitchers mound.  In order to coordinate with another group who has a project hitting the same technical space our management decides to advance the project a week. Suddenly, the available time to get everything lined up disappears.  We have just a little under a week to get all the pieces into place.  Fortunately, it is possible.  Difficult, but possible. The plane, on final approach, starts to shake from turbulence and there is a strong and unexpected crosswind...and I, I...

Feel exuberant.  I saw it coming.  Not this particular bit of madness but something of this nature so I held a bit in reserve.  I made sure that our top speed was being measured with my hand on the reins so that when this pony needed that extra bit of get up and go, it was there. I let go of the reins and barring an unforeseen accident we will cross the finish line with all things in good order.  Still, I do get tired of the madness and the stress associated with the sudden change has made folks, well, a bit testy.

Our functional project manager, who is otherwise doing a good job, is bouncing off the walls due to his own stress levels.  This is his first major project for the Evil Corporation so I am sure he wants to do well and that has got him spinning in all kinds of circles.  Our trusty project engineer, whom I had my own clashes with earlier in this project, is feeling pinned against the wall. The functional project manager had the same conversation I had with him - about who is in charge. That there simply just reflects the eternal battle against bureaucracy.  He is a good guy, he is just a little too deep into the bureaucracy.

The next seven days or so are going to be highly chaotic as we try to slide across the finish line. I am going to try and stay tight, stay focused, and keep a good sense of humor. It is always a bit of a struggle, since the stress will be flowing freely in all directions.  Fortunately, I am confident that we are ready to go, even if we are going into Chaos, Ascending.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Thoughts On The New Work Area

I think it has been quite a while since I’ve written anything from work.  Today is already starting out to be a strange day. I came into the office early in order to attend a pair of meetings, only to discover that the meetings have been cancelled, which suddenly alters the shape of the day.  Rather than immediately leap into the next task, I thought I would take a few minutes here to savor a cup of coffee and write a little note.  I am sure I had something to say when I started to write, but it seems to have slipped my mind, so I am going to have to go all free association on you here!

We’ve settled into the new building here at work and while the work area is nice, it has a few drawbacks.  First, let me focus on the good things about the area – though the building itself is a piece of junk (typical of many of our older buildings), the area we are sitting in has been remodeled and is not bad.  There is some natural light from a bank of windows along the east side of the area and the cubicle furniture has been built in this century at least. We are just across the courtyard from the main building and the cafeteria, so that has been a nice little treat and has led to more healthy breakfasts, along with the occasional donut run, which probably cancels out the healthy breakfast.

There is a serious drawback in the new work area though.  Basically, we are really stacked in on top of each other and the cubicles have low walls which means that there is no privacy.  And when I saw no privacy, I mean zero.  The area is shaped like an L and we are on the short end of the L.  There are ten people who sit in this area and basically any conversation that is held in the area might as well be held in the same cube as you are, you can hear everything that clearly.  This has created some friction and will continue to create additional friction.  There is no easy solution to it.  I am pretty good at mentally tuning other people out and I suspect that, in time, most of the people will adjust to it, but I also anticipate a good blow up or two before we reach any sort of equilibrium.

However, on a personal level, I am considering the whole thing to be a net gain and I am enjoying the new area.  For me, on a personal level, the presence of natural light makes a huge difference.  I used to crash into a hard wall in the afternoon, after sitting all morning without natural light.  Since we’ve moved into the new area I have not run into that crash.

The old area was down right depressive and here, in the new area, I have yet to feel that sense of depression and frustration.  Now, part of that might have been an artifact of the old organizational structure as well – the curse of poor leadership, but we are through that dark phase of my career here at the Evil Company and we seem to be in a better place.  Our new leadership seems to be competent and I am hoping we’re able to work with them and put the structures in place to upgrade our operational capabilities.

Monday, July 7, 2014

There Are Moments...Robert Henri

"There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual - become clairvoyant. We reach then into reality. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom." -Robert Henri

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Trip to Mount Diablo

I took a nice little day trip today, sort of a first road-trip to break in the Jeep.  Don and I drove up to Danville for lunch at Santorini and then, from there, up to the summit of Mount Diablo.  It was a nice drive, a climb of about 3,500 feet from the valley floor to the summit.

This is the observatory at the top of the mountain.  It is pretty cool, if you are into these old stone type structures, which I happen to be.  The view from the summit is very beautiful, a wide and panoramic view of the entire Bay Area.  The picture below is just one direction...
From the summit, this view is looking north. The column of smoke you see in the distance is the current wild fire that is burning in Napa Valley - a long, long way away. It is an amazing site to see.  After the trip to the summit, we headed back to San Jose and I got home in time to enjoy a simple dinner and ease into the evening, relaxing as deeply as I can.  My plan tonight is to curl up and read myself to sleep again.
I am currently reading this book, which is pretty entertaining...I'd recommend it.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Deliver Us From Evil

It was very nice to have the day off. I tried my best not to let the monkey mind get too firm a grasp on me, though I had an "oh my god what a horrible industrial design" moment at the AMC Mercado in Santa Clara, in regards to their snack bar lay out. 

But, I recovered after watching a fairly good movie - Eric Bana and Olivia Munn in "Deliver Us From Evil" - an exorcism movie about a NYPD detective that was fairly well done for the genre and had half a dozen jump moments, plus rock solid performances by the cast. I'd recommend it if you're into that type of movie. 

I followed the movie with a stop at Fry's to look at a new computer, the next major purchase I have on my list.  I want to go to an ultra-light with 3.0 USB connections. I was considering a Mac Air for a while, but a lot of the new ultra-light laptops are just as good, as far and weight and durability, so why mess with a new OS. 

After spinning through Fry's I dropped Tony off to pick up his car, then grabbed some lunch and stopped at a sporting good store and picked up a pair of very light hikers. Then, a quiet and easy afternoon at home, watching the DVR. 

I watched "The Counselor" and now I am on the third episode of "Band of Brothers".  I think I am going to watch the episode and do some assorted inner errands here at the house before I call it a night.  TR and her family are out at a concert and sound like they are having a great time.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Like Dew...

Like dew that vanishes,
Like a phantom that disappears,
Or the light cast by a flash of lightning-
So should one think of oneself.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Trauma Kit

I am a person who is prepared.  I thought I would share with you the contents of the trauma kit I carry in my car, under the passenger side street.  The kit is designed to deal with two life threatening wounds simultaneously. It was assembled after a dream where I was trying to care for multiple gunshot wound victims. I am a firm believer in the importance of being prepared - even if you go through your entire life and nothing happens - you should be prepared.

The bag is a blue Eagle Creek mesh packing bag, double sided. It was purchased for size, shape, and durability.  One side is packed for severe trauma.  The other side is packed for routine first aid instances.
So, what have we got here:
-Top left, two large 16 square inch trauma sponges, designed to treat severe blood loss, as in a torso GSW.
-Bottom left, three Israeli combat trauma bandages, intended to stop bleeding from GSW's.  Their wrap around, cinching design means they can also double as tourniquets if necessary.
-Upper left center, two HALO chest wound packs, designed for treatment of a penetrating wound to the lung.
-Bottom left center, six 4x4 sterile gauze sponges.

-Top center right, in succession:  1 roll of athletic tape. 1 roll of duct tape. 1 Buck Knife. 2 triangular bandages. 2 packs of nitrile gloves. I CPR kit (includes airway and protective shield). 1 small container of Vaseline.*

-Bottom, center, right: 1 small container of Vaseline.* 1 EMT pack (1 pair of high tensile shears, 1 medium EMT scissors, 1 small sharp pointed scissors, 1 large hemostat, 1 small hemostat, 1 pen light)

-Bottom right:  2 sterile 4" gauze rolls.

-Johnson & Johnson Travel Safe First Aid Kit (with a few additions, mainly in OTC medications to cover a wide variety of temporary conditions - Ibuprofen, Advil, Bufferin, Benadryl, Electrolyte Replacements, Imodium AD, Alka-Seltzer, a few more durable bandages, a pack of butterfly enclosures and two sterile scalpel blades.)

-Top upper right: Two 1 gallon Zip-lock bags** and two Cureaid anti-viral facemasks.

*Vaseline is a very efficient tool for stopping small bleeding wounds, especial to the face and scalp. Professional fighters use it all the time.

**A simple zip lock bag is a great first aid tool.  It has multiple uses.  First, it can be used to deal with a sucking chest wound (a poor man's HALO), second, in a pinch it can be used as an improvised glove (mitten) to handle things (bleeding wounds, vomitus, fluids) in an emergency, and finally - get the gallon size because it can be used as improvised eye and face protection in the event of spurting wounds. It looks goofy but simply pull it over your head, down over your face, nose and mouth. Leave the bottom open and there is no danger of asphyxiation (try it yourself to make sure you're comfortable with it.)

Today, I Battled Mara

Today I fought Mara.

It was a chaotic day, from the beginning until now.  Let me just run through it quickly.

1. I started the day with a 7:00 AM meeting.  It probably took the meeting presenter twenty or thirty minutes to get the technology to work correctly - and then had to rush through the remaining thirty minutes.

2. I had an appointment for a contractor to come out and do some work in the 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM
window, so I stayed home. Then, the contractor was late - I was just leaving when they arrived, but that through off my schedule for the rest of the day.

3. In order to facilitate the contractors work I moved my car out of the garage onto the surface street.  (This one sounds simple enough, but it is coming back a bit later...)

4. I accepted a software update for my personal iPhone.  It failed.  And wiped out my phone which compelled me to have it recovered and restored, a slow and laborious process.  Fortunately, I had a good and recent back-up.

5. At work we log out test case results in a piece of software called Quality Center.  Quality Center would not work for me today.  It showed that the test run window was open - but it wasn't.  I spent an hour on the phone with technical support and they could not figure it out.

6. Lunch was good - three minute eggs and western cheddar sausages.  All protein.

7. My afternoon meetings moved pretty smoothly and I managed to get a few tickets advanced.

8. As I was sitting there I heard the sound of the street sweeper passing outside. I slipped on a pair and shoes and...yep...parking ticket for not clearing the car off the street on sweeper day.  Fifty dollars.

So, here I am, waiting for the end of the day - relaxed and amused at the battle with Mara that consumed most of the day.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Simply Avoid Writing About Work

I am still trapped in this place where I am spending too much time writing about work.  I am trying to break out of the habit, but I seem to be struggling with it.  I think it is because, at the end of the day, writing about work is easy and superficial.  It effectively prevents me from writing about the deeper things that are happening in my life.  I think I am going to have to meditate on that for a while.  And, perhaps, simply avoid writing about work.

I Try To Be Present

I made the decision this morning to try and be present, as authentically present, as I could, given that I anticipated a chaotic day at work. I wasn't perfect, I wasn't anywhere close to perfect, but I did well enough. There was a part of it that definitely amused me. 

Shortly after I had made the decision to try and be present through the day, to try and move softly and deliberately. the electricians showed up.  Two of them.  Then, all around me they climbed up on their ladder, with their drills and tools, and adjusted the lightning.  Loudly.

Still, in spite of  the interruption, I was able to stay present through most of the day - or at least aware of the times when I was venturing off center.  I think I am going to try and repeat the exercise tomorrow and see how it helps me move through the day.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lost On The Way To Work

I am always fascinated by the territory of dreams.  This weekend was no excuse.  I had a dream about trying to get into my office and in the dream I was having to make my way through all kinds of construction sites and detours, some of which were incorrect.  Once again, it is an apt metaphor for the working environment.  I've said that one of the more significant challenges at work is that no one really seems to know who is responsible for what.  It is something I am hoping we manage to overcome in the next year. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I Am Not Climbing Mount Everest

I had a strange dream last night.  I dreamed that I was preparing for a trip to climb Mount Everest. Let me state, for the record, that I have no intention of ever trying to climb Mount Everest.  Inside of the dream I was on a shopping trip to a mountaineering type store and I was in the process of picking up the equipment, specifically the survival equipment, that would be required for a successful ascent of that majestic mountain.  I woke up and my immediate thought was – uh, no.  I am not climbing Mount Everest.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Weekend of Napping

It has been a weekend of the napping. I napped for four hours on Friday and I followed it up with a two hour nap on Saturday. It remains to see what sort of napping I’m going to get out of Sunday. I think that a lack of solid sleep and intermittent work stress kept me from getting solid sleep through the week. Fortunately it was a quiet weekend, with nothing planned, and I was able to take advantage of that overwhelming desire to nap.

I slept well both nights, Friday and Saturday, deeply and peacefully. So I think I should be going into the new week well rested. This morning, Sunday morning, has been productive. I woke up early, with a desire to attend the first mass, so I did. After that it was breakfast with Tyrone at the Hickory pit, then a trip to the Laundromat in Campbell. Not a lot of laundry, three light loads, enough to make the trip worthwhile.
While I was watching the machines spin around I called my stepdad Bill and wished him a happy Father’s Day. From there I need to stop at big lots to look at patio furniture. So far, they are the ones who are the closest to having what I’m looking for. I’m looking for a couch at least 6 feet long the patio. I want something that I can comfortably lay down on. They have a nice one for about $400. It looks to me like the price on most of them, on most of the ones I’m looking for, is pretty consistent across the board. It just dawns on me, sitting here, that there may be something at one of the secondhand stores that meets my need. I may have to take a run to their.
After that I stopped at target to pick up some incidental things including a small birdbath for the patio. Nothing fancy, a ceramic vessel that looks like an oversized juice squeezer. It should work well. Right now there is a small coterie of birds on the patio chirping merrily away as they munch on the black oil sunflower. These birds are the larger brown sparrows and they are quite a talkative lot. There are a couple in the birdfeeder and a couple more on the patio floor. One of the interesting things about the brown sparrows is they definitely have their own internal pecking order. I think one of the fascinating things about watching the birds at the feeder is to watch their social order, is to watch how they are organized, how to go about the process of eating and socializing. With the brown sparrows there is always a bit of jostling as if no one is quite satisfied with the social order. The Red Capped Sparrows on the other hand seem content with their social order. The doves are the most fearless of the birds. If I come home and open the patio they will, at most, move from the feeder to the rail. Then they will sit there on the rail and look at me as if they are waiting for me to make the next move. If they ultimately decide to take flight it is grudgingly. The sparrows, in general, will eat and take off. The doves will eat, then find a comfortable perch, and linger for a while. Sometimes even go to sleep, which is very cool.
My plan for the immediate future is that I’m going to meet Rick and Tony for lunch over at the Sonoma chicken coop in Campbell California. I may change my mind upon arrival but right now I’m looking forward to their chicken Cobb salad. It is very good. After that I want to go out and catch a movie. I am in the mood for light fare so I want to see either 22 Jump Street or Angelina Jolie in Maleficent. Either of them looks like they would be very entertaining. After that, maybe a light dinner, then home for the evening. I have a spot of work that I may do this evening. A couple of email I want to get out. So I’m going to wrap this up and publish it online. I’ve been very negligent in my writing over the last couple of months it feels. No real reason, just the way it has failed to flow. It’s not that I’m not writing it’s just that I have been not inclined to share it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Half Life of Time

I often have a hard time deciding where to start. I think that is why, so often, I immediately segue into work. Work is an easy place to start. So, let’s skip the easy place today and start someplace else.

I just finished a wonderful bath. It was hot and filled with some sort of lavender scented bath milk. Lately, when I bathe I’ve been setting a timer beside the bathtub. It serves two purposes. First, it makes sure I don’t stay in the bath too long. Second, it makes sure that I stay in the bath long enough.

Time is a pretty amazing thing. I am often dazzled by the thousand different rules that seem to govern the passage of time. I can also be mesmerized thinking about the past and the future and the present and their complex relationship.

I periodically tell my friends that lately perhaps for the last couple of years, I have been semi-obsessed with lost time. Lost time is that time between events when you are not doing anything but you are also not not doing anything. It is time spent in sort of a half-life. I think I spend way too much time there. Those times when you are not fully present but you are also not not present. The half-life of time.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Child of the Long Summer Twilight

Today was the first day back to the office after my vacation. I kept having to field the question “how was your vacation”? The question itself left me kind of ambivalent. A trip to South Dakota is time off from work but it isn’t what I would consider to be a vacation. To me a vacation is going someplace very nice and spending a large amount of time doing nothing or doing only those things you want to do. A trip to South Dakota is, well, a bit different.

When I go back to South Dakota the day begins, usually, with an early morning departure – around 6 AM or 7 AM. There are no direct flights into South Dakota from California so my choice is to go, generally, either through Denver Colorado or through Salt Lake City Utah. Inevitably, there is a layover at either airport of anywhere from an hour to four hours before the connecting flight into Rapid City South Dakota.

Once I am in Rapid City I either rent a car, or have someone pick me up, or borrow a car and drive about three hours to the ranch, or now, to Winner South Dakota. Depending on the length of that layover, and the weather, it can be either one very long day or two days to get home. The same rhythm applies on the return trip.

Then, I find myself in the bosom of my family. Now, make no mistake, I love them all dearly but… there is always a but… family can always be challenging. There is always some drama to navigate. There is always some ongoing crisis within which I can either intervene or avoid. For me it is an extraordinary event to go there. For them it is me arriving in the midst of their ordinary days. I have stepped out of my ordinary days, but they have not stepped out of theirs.

Adding to the mixture warring siblings, aging parents, a sick nephew, and the usual internal family politics and you have a great visit but not a vacation. This one was no exception. They’re much more working vacations. But, in spite of that, I enjoyed the trip. I love my family, all their faults included, just as they love me with all my faults included. And it is always great to set foot in the land that gave me birth both physically and psychologically.

I am a child of the Great Plains. I am a child of an endless horizon. I am a child of a long summer twilight. The journey from that place to this place marks the course of my life. That place contains within it numerous essential landmarks and milestones, memories tied to the land of my birth. It’s a great journey whenever I go home because many of those memories are flat out wonderful. So, at the end of the day, I am glad I am a child of that long summer twilight.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Glad To Be Home

It's always good to come home after traveling.  There is a great comfort in slipping into your own bed and sleeping on your own pillow.  This return was no different.  I was gone for the last ten days or so on a trip to South Dakota to visit family.  It passed fairly quickly and it went fairly smoothly and I am glad to be home.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Somewhere Normal

Somewhere along the line my personal blog became my work venting blog. I guess that is bound to happen sometimes. With the recent decisions at work to transfer us out from underneath the evil director I’m hoping to return to some semblance of order in the work world. We seem to be moving in that direction, though we have a lot of territory to cover. For several years what I would call the project control mechanism was broken.

Each of the feudal baronies in our kingdom was once again pursuing their own goals and their own systems to attain those goals. We found that in several cases the company is at varying degrees of implementation of duplicate systems. I suspect it will take us a couple of years to get them under control.

The first step, the first challenge facing our new management is going to be to put into place a process to control the creation of technical projects. Once they have control of the faucet they can then control the flow. It’s going to be fun.

I’m getting ready for vacation at work right now. I’m trying to knock off the things that have to be done in the intervening week. I made good progress in that direction today and I expect to make a little more progress tomorrow. I should be in good condition when I come home tomorrow night. Then it’s just a question of easing into the vacation.

I am looking forward to going back to South Dakota, I’m looking forward to visiting family, I’m looking forward to seeing the old country and I’m looking forward to moving outside of the world I’ve been moving in. One of the great things about travel of any sort is that it reminds you that there’s an entire world out there that you are part of. That is a wonderful feeling.

I think I’m going to keep this entry simple tonight. I’m in a good mood, I have lots of work to do, but I’m not feeling that crushing stress that came from the unpredictability of the evil director. I’ve got a lot in front of me but like anything it can be divided and conquered with a little bit of work and a little bit of imagination.
I went to bed last night with the intention of reading some more of the serpent of Venice but I only managed to knock off a couple of pages. Tonight I’m hoping to do a little bit more than a couple of pages. I love a good book and I count myself a great Christopher Moore fan.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Just An Evening, Post Nap

Today was a fast day at the office. I went in early for a meeting that started at 6:30 AM. With the exception of lunch I then pretty much spent the entire day in meetings. They were long, but they were productive.

I left work about 3 o'clock, came home, and took a two-hour nap. I'm not sure if I was short sleep from last night or tired from allergies. Either way I definitely needed the nap.

Dinner was a vegetable soup, some hummus and cinnamon toast. After that I watched an episode each of Madmen and The Good Wife.

For the rest of the evening, which only be another hour or so, I'm going to curl up and read some more of Christopher Moore's The Serpent of Venice, after an attempt to call my brother in Arizona.

Monday, May 19, 2014

I Am...The Law

Like the song says, "busting rocks in the hot sun, I fought the law and the law won". Except in this case to quote Judge Dredd, "I am the law!"

Last week at work I thought that perhaps, finally, I have found the dragon to big to slay. After a couple of months of dancing around and trying to find a place of compromise I sought out a final ruling on the question of who ran the program. I was pleased to learn this afternoon and then see it in writing that my team ran our projects.

In that great battle between creativity and innovation versus bureaucracy and conservatism we won a tiny battle, a simple battle, the battle to determine the parts of a project. In some ways it's kind of tragic that we actually had to fight it. But corporations have a tendency toward stagnation so it's the constant pressure of creative destruction that keeps them moving forward.

I'm actually looking forward to the next conversation with my friend the project engineer because I sincerely believe he did not expect to lose. Now of course all I have to do is deliver and prove that how we work is the best approach. Either way I am kind of just relieved that that particular struggle is over for now. Let me switch gears real quick.

Three days of work ahead of me and then it's off to South Dakota for a weeks vacation and a nice visit with the folks. I'm going to spend a couple nights at the ranch and then I've got a room in a Holiday Inn Express in town, close to the assisted-living apartment where my parents now live. I didn't see any real value in driving back and forth to the ranch every day. My nephew is staying there of course and I look forward to seeing him but we live on different schedules. He is very much a night person and I am very much a day person so even if I stayed at the ranch we would probably barely cross each other's paths.

He is going to meet me in Rapid City on Friday and we're probably going to spend the night there. Get a good dinner somewhere and see the new X-Men movie. However it unfolds I am definitely looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to the conversation with TR tonight like I do every night. And I think on that note I'll wrap it up here.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

An Evening With The Serpent of Venice

I've reached the end of a fairly decent Saturday. I slept in, lingering into the dawn listening to the birds singing outside in the cool green morning. It was a very pleasant way to start the day.

When I finally decided to get out of bed, I ran through the shower, and then started that first morning cup of coffee. I might have watched something off the DVR early in the morning, but I forget what it was. At the usual time I headed out to meet Tony and his friend Matt for breakfast at the Hickory Pit. It was an enjoyable breakfast, a little heavy on the woes of the city of San Jose conversation, but enjoyable nonetheless.

After breakfast I stopped at Fry's Electronics and picked up a headset. I bought a Steele Series V2 gaming headset. I've been wanting to get an around the ear gaming headset for quite a while. It is light and it seems to have good quality sound and good-quality pick up on the microphone.

I also bought a pair of noise canceling headphones that were on sale. Unfortunately I'm going to have to take them back tomorrow – the right side is dead. We will see if they're willing to do a simple exchange. If they are all crackerbox staring the store and make sure I get one that works. It is possible but they've got a bad batch.

At home, in the afternoon, I caught up on the latest episode of Elementary, then settled in for a two-hour nap. As typically happens when you want to take a nap as soon as I had settled in and dozed off everybody in the world decided to text me, so it was a fitful afternoon of napping.

But, the rest of the afternoon was exceptionally lazy and enjoyable. It is from there but I slid into the evening, and then having slid into the evening, slid into bed. My plan is to round out the day reading some more of Christopher Moore's novel The Serpent of Venice.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Wall Approaches At Full Speed

Corporate politics. It is its own breed of stupidity. I slammed against it pretty hard this week at work. I ranted about it in an earlier entry so let me just cannot catch you up on the way of the world. Earlier in the week I had the conflict with the project engineer over who controlled the project, how it was supposed to be run, and who needed awareness/approval. We had what amounts to being a sincere difference of opinion. 

The organization within the company that he works for is very bureaucratic. Typical of bureaucratic organizations they think their way is the only way. We skirted around it multiple times in the project life so far. He gave, I gave, and we kept going forward. Then I realized that unless we settled that it would be a never ending struggle that would rise up every time, every project. 

So I suggested we have a meeting with the key project people, my manager and his manager. 
I suggested the meeting so we could talk it out, resolve our differences, and keep going forward. Instead, for unknown reasons, he decided to escalate by forwarding the email that was asking for clarity to multiple people on his side of the fence. I talked with him briefly today trying to get a little information out of him and he intimated that he had inadvertently touched off a firestorm on his side of the fence and that he had a meeting scheduled with his manager and the impression he gave me was that his manager was not happy. High above us, at another level, at the level of vice presidents and directors there is an ongoing internal struggle about which model works better. 

On our side of the fence we have a very fluid model where the project manager is able to determine the approach that is proper to the project and has a tremendous amount of leeway to determine the process steps, the various milestones, and the reviews. The Corporation has recently stood up in independent organization under a new vice president and directors in order to increase efficiencies in the delivery of key software and technology services where speed and innovation triumph over the rigid bureaucracy. This represents a loss of power on the part of the rigid bureaucracy and the rigid bureaucracy, typical of creatures of their nature, is responding by trying to tighten their grip. 

This project engineer is caught in that cycle. Bureaucracies do not like people to rock the boat. They tend, if at all possible, to crush them. That crushing mechanism has swung into action. The only question is who's going to get crushed when it finally stops. Because the project engineer was basically brought up inside the bureaucracy moving outside of his box is a frightening experience I think. Because I could give a flying rat's ass about the bureaucracy banging into it, bouncing off of it, going around it, even getting battered by are things that I'm used. I'm always amused at how the bureaucracy wins until such time as it gets in the way and then everybody looks the other way while something gets cowboy through the cracks. 

I'm curious as to how all this is going to work out. I suspect that the end of the day there be a compromise at the levels above us. I just hope that my project engineer friend survives. I do feel sorry because I caused him stress, because I caused my own management stress, I'd rather move much smoothly through the waters. However there is a particular type of bureaucrat that this organization within our Corporation seems to grow. 

These are the people who have the mindless obedience to the machine. It takes place in a sort of passive aggressive way. Even when pushed outside of the box they just try to climb back in and pull the cover down. It's crazy to me. I think that any project in order to be successful must be organic. By organic I mean that the methodology, the style, the scope, the tools and the process must be tailored to the project. Whereas the bureaucracy believes the project must be tailored to the process. 

I think were my friend the project engineer makes his logical mistake is in thinking that the procedural direction, the templates, the processes of his bureaucracy must be adhered to as if they bore the weight of law. When in fact if you read the actual processes they give a tremendous latitude to the project management. It is down that opening that I've driven many a project to success. Of course every now and then I crashed into the wall at full speed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Thoughts on Conflict

I have a complex relationship with conflict.  I don't like it, I don't want to do it - but I sometimes, personally and professionally, find it necessary.  Today, at work, I crashed into some unresolved issues and they rose to conflict.  I apologized profusely because I did not want to go there, but I found myself there.  Let me run through the scenario.

At work we are split into multiple groups.  As different groups we all have different processes. Our IT Support group is very process and procedure driven.  They have all kinds of process maps that they must follow, all kind of matrices they must adhere too.  We have a project engineer who comes from this group and insists on processes that I don't think are necessary, that our group, in general, does not follow.  For the most part, on the project we've been working, we tend to be able to find middle ground - many of the steps in their process documents run in parallel with the steps in our processes. We use a very general, very broad process milestone approach, which is very flexible and our project managers have a lot of latitude to determine which steps we do and don't do.

Their process requires a certain set of review meetings with their upper management - these meetings are required, they are not optional for them on their projects.  On our side of the fence, we have similar meetings (reviews, approvals, etc.), though we structure them differently and time them differently.  According to their processes "you must do A, B, C" in sequence.  According to our processes you must do A. B, and C - but the sequence timing is up to the project manager and the project team to determine what is the best approach (our approach is more organic and fluid).

Because they are so process driven they become fixated on their process and, at times, their bureaucracy means they are driving very hard to check the boxes - whether those check boxes add any value or not.  We've been hung up over a series of meetings that my management tells me we do not have to do (and I agree) and the project engineer keeps insisting we have to do them.

So, today, we are in a meeting the new project manager and the project engineer starts going over how we have to have these meetings and these are the slides we have to have and we need to schedule them immediately.  I gave him a brush back and said "wait until we have the new PM up to speed", but he kept going.  My temper got the best of me, and I explained it was an area of difference between us. (What I didn't like was the language he was using - we must, we have to, we are required to, we need to.)  So, I suggested that, once and for all we need to go to our respective management and figure out who is the tiger and who is the tail. 

The source of my objection is their process drives us through specific steps, processes, documents and reviews that we do not need.  I want to establish that WE run the program, not him and not his process.  It is a challenge and now we're trying to draft up an email to engage our management and get a decision as he insists that he is doing it the right way and the way that has to be done.  I content that this is not a technical group development project - but that it is an IS SaaS vendor implementation.  We are going to be working together closely on multiple projects in the coming year and we need to establish that we run the project, not them, since our model is different then theirs.  Their process will add time and cost to the projects -  potentially significant time and cost.

I thought we had it straightened out earlier, but I don't think we did - he keeps circling back to wanting to do it their way.  I hate to go to our management - but we need to so, going forward we do not have all the conflicts where we're subtly trying to figure out who is in charge and whose processes and process steps apply. 

And of course, one of the things that made the conflict even more difficult for me is that I happen to sincerely like the guy, and I felt bad that we ended up there again, so I apologized repeatedly for getting hot. Mara in action. I am very sure that I have the right of it at the end of the day, but I would have much preferred that it did not go to conflict.

I will segue for a moment here and say this - it is actually a problem with the people from that group on other projects as well (though the lines over there are drawn a little better).  The challenge is that they just relentlessly push and don't listen to you because that is what their organization rewards.  Oh, the challenges of corporate life.