Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Forgive, Never Forget

I am tired right now, fighting sleep. I was up at 4 AM this morning and into work for a meeting at about 530. That makes it a long day. I'm struggling to do two things. First I'm trying to stay awake so I don't fall asleep too early. Second I am updating Dragon naturally speaking on my laptop. It is updating my original profile right now and the process is supposed to take about 20 minutes. So, that will help me in the struggle to stay awake!

Yesterday I had the best news I've gotten in 3 1/2 years. After 3 1/2 years under the evil director I am free. Due to a reorganization my entire department has transferred to a new directory. The evil director who used to have five managers reporting to her now has none. She still has a few direct reports, I feel sorry for them. Some of them are my friends so I will do my best to keep a weather eye out for them.

But right now I just feel as if a tremendous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I am sure my boss feels the same way. For the first time in a very long time the monkey mind did not fight with me on the drive into the office. Working under a bad leader who is unpredictable levies a tremendous amount of stress on a person. When that stress falls away you feel as if you are reborn.

As much as I feel that stress ball away I am sure my boss, who reported directly into the evil director, and was our buffer, feels an even greater degree of stress relief. I am trying not to harbor ill will toward my ex director now. It's difficult because I think that her very presence damages the corporate brand. But, in this life, we have to learn how to forgive and forget. Or perhaps forgive, but never forget.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Bit of A Longer Entry

For reasons known only to the universe Dragon does not work well in Internet explorer. It seems to end up with strange trailing or leading letters all by themselves. I blame Internet Explorer because it doesn't seem to do it in any other application. For example here in the DragonPad it works great. So, I pivoted over here to write a bit more about today.

It started out simple enough. I woke to the sound of rain. I wasn't expecting it because I hadn't been paying any attention to the Weather Channel so it was a pleasant surprise. I lingered in bed for a while just listening to the sound of the rain. That is a truly wonderful sound. Eventually though I rolled out, took a hot shower, shaved and started the day.

The work day was divided into three big blocks now that I think about it. The first block was to productive part of the day. I got us couple of smaller projects knocked off and I got permission from my manager to pursue a bit of a vanity project. One of our customers keeps requesting a system enhancement and the request keeps dying on the vine. Having watched it happen through two or three cycles I've come to the conclusion that the root of the problem is they are not adequately prepared.

It is in the nature of conservative corporations such as mine to begin from the default position of no. If they don't like the idea that no. If they don't understand the idea then no. It can be a tough environment to get any change in. So I asked my management for couple of hours to work with them and help them build their business case. It made me laugh because my managers initial response was also no. I don't know I guess I have a totally different mentality where systems should bend to the will of the users and not the reverse.

In our case I think sometimes the people who controlled the administration systems are so swept up in the chaos of their days that they're not listening to the customers. They know they should, they would like to, but they're just too damn busy. But I want to do when working with the customer is show them how to build the business case that will force the decision they want. There is always a chance of course that the decision won't go the way they want it to go but if that happens then I want them to understand exactly why so they can drop the request and not keep resurfacing it.

Work aside, I am looking forward to the weekend. I don't really have anything planned except the usual breakfast with the guys but I'm sure I'll figure something out. Maybe catch a movie, maybe take a short local trip. Definitely get some laundry done, spend a little time cleaning the spare bedroom, and of course a little bit of that all-important time relaxing. With that I'm going to wrap this entry up and officially settle into the lazy evening.

A Simple Entry

It was a busy week at work. Not particularly productive due to the high volume of meetings but busy. Wrapped inside of it I had about six hours of training which at least led to me learning something new. You can never go wrong when you learn something new.

I came home from work today, made a bowl of soup,  and then stacked up some crackers and cheese.  It was a simple dinner but it was exactly what I needed .  I chased it with a short nap and then a long hot bath.  So far the bath was the most enjoyable part of the night.  But I say that without knowing  what remains for the night.  I'm looking forward to a call with TR.  Then I am looking forward to curling up with a good book.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Home Again

Just a quick note tonight - I am downloading weekend photographs from my iPhone and my camera and I am going to begin the enjoyable process of going through them and seeing what sort of gems I managed to capture.  I've been back at work for two days - hectic days - but the afterglow of vacation is still on me. Tuesday was a little bit of a hectic day in my cranky pants, but I managed to get through the day. Today was just busy.  Just busy can be kind of nice because it makes the time fly, but, on the other hand, I prefer busy and productive.  However, it is the end of the day and I am settling in for a beautiful evening, so, in the scheme of things, I really have nothing to complain about.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day Three of Vacation

I woke up at my normal time on Saturday. Splashed through the shower and then went down to the breakfast buffet long before any crowd had a chance to gather. It was a simple breakfast, which I am prone to, and which the buffet lent to itself too. After breakfast I got a cup of coffee and sat in the lobby for a while people watching. One of the best parts of vacation, and especially of this type of vacation, is the people watching. All shapes, all sizes, I truly amazing array of humanity.

Today was my photography day at the convention, so I carried my camera everywhere and snapped quite a few shots of the amazing cosplay. We started the day wandering the floor and covered about half of it, maybe a little more. I picked up a graphic novel, by Milo Manara, from his early days. It is a nice addition to my collection.

From there we went to a presentation on the greatest science-fiction movies never made. It was pretty entertaining. Then we went to a screening and panel on the new TNT television series The Last Ship. It looks pretty interesting, it looks relatively well done, and one of the stars is the always beautiful Rhona Mitra, a personal favorite of mine.

We spent a little more time wandering the floor and then headed out for a simple dinner at a local restaurant. Nothing fancy, good food good conversation. Then, back to the convention for the late-night programming. We split up there Tony and I went to see the premiere of season two of Orphan Black and Rick went to see a presentation and panel on The Blacklist.

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel. I bowed out and called it a night at about 10:00 PM. Rick wandered off to partake in some of the late-night programming. I got a solid nights sleep and woke this morning to exchange happy Easter wishes with TR, and then a succession of family and friends. I am about to wrap it up with a call home to the folks to wish them Happy Easter.

Then it will be down to breakfast and back to the show. I still have about a third of the vendor floor to cover. And there is some programming today that has caught my eye and should be enjoyable.

Sent from Wondercon

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Day Three of Vacation

Friday, the first day Wondercon was enjoyable. We had breakfast a little late, the buffet here at the hotel, but it was a good breakfast. They do a nice buffet. From there we walked over to the convention center, which is really right next-door, and picked up our badges. Considering the volume of people they move it was a smooth experience. We split out, Tony headed for the main arena and a presentation on several television shows. Rick and I headed upstairs and we caught the tail end of women writers in comics panel and then an animation short film Festival. Both of them were very enjoyable, especially the animated short films.

From there we basically just wandered the floor. They have a good size vendor hall here so in reality we scratched maybe a quarter of it. I focused down on artist alley and picked up a handful of comic books, graphic novels and art collections. At some point in there we had lunch over at the Marriott. So, all in all a good day.

After the show we went out for dinner at Joe's Crab Shack down the street. It was crowded, but the food was good and the ambience was enjoyable. At one point during dinner they played the song Cotton Eyed Joe and all of the poor waitresses had to dance. It was entertaining to watch but there was an element of guilty pleasure. I have fond memories of the song from my childhood but those memories do not include waitresses dancing in Southern California. I suspect that was a different childhood and an alternate universe.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel, watch a spot of HBO, and then I fell almost instantly to sleep. I was up bright and early this morning and headed down to get breakfast to beat the crowd. Now I'm sitting in the room drinking a cup of hot coffee and waiting for the day to start. It looks to be a very good one. Today is going to be my picture day so I'm going to try to have my camera in hand all day.

Sent from Wondercon

Friday, April 18, 2014

Elizabeth Mitchell

Tony and I just rode down the elevator with the very charming Elizabeth Mitchell (currently starring in "Revolution"). Tony managed to resist the urge to scream like a little girl!

Sent from Wondercon

Day Two - Vacation

I am starting with an entry for day two of my vacation. Day one was long but very nice. We drove down from San Jose to Anaheim for Wondercon - Rick, Tony and I. We drove down in Tony's new car, his Ford C-Max. It was a pleasant enough drive, the car was comfortable enough. Traffic down the I-5 flowed pretty smoothly.

At highway 138 we diverted off into the desert toward Lancaster. One of my coworkers had told me about the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. That was our destination. The trip took us out through some beautiful country on the northern side of the Angeles National Forest. The destination was well worth the detour. Imagine rolling California hills covered with brilliant orange poppies. It was quite a sight to see.

From there for reasons known only to the gods of GPS we drove down through the national forest to LA. Now, it was a beautiful drive, but it was twisty and turny. By the time we got to the end I was threatening to use Tony's denim jacket as my airsickness bag. But we made it safely…

Right into that awesome experience that is rush-hour traffic in Los Angeles. It took us about an hour and a half to get through LA, most of it about 5 miles an hour. But once we're through it was a quick hop to Anaheim, and a smooth check in here at the Hilton. We had a late dinner in the hotel restaurant, a place called mix. It is very good and we split between steak (me) and halibut (Rick and Tony). Very good on both counts.

Then off to the wonderful world of sleep. I slept well and woke up at my usual time about 6 o'clock. I padded around a bit and then crawled back into bed and slept another two hours. During the night my subconscious released at torrent of the dream images. I love it when that happens when I go on vacation because it means that I'm clearing my mind out and settling into the moment. So, from that moment to this one – where I am sitting here savoring the morning cup of coffee, watching the sunrise over Anaheim, and about to dive in the shower.

Sent from Wondercon

Monday, April 14, 2014

Busy From End to End

Today was one of those days where the best thing that I could do was...just keep going.  I knew as the day began that it was going to shape up like that.  I started with a three hour round of meetings, then left home for a routine medical appointment, then, a quick lunch and into the office to get my work laptop replaced. Not overwhelming, just constantly busy from beginning to end.  At the end of the day I came home, settled in for a bit of dinner, and am watching the return of "Mad Men".  I think that is going to sum up the day, though I might spend a little time getting my new laptop configured.  Rather than just moving everything over from the old laptop I asked the technicians to allow me to do the restore so I can use the move to the new computer as an excuse to leave a lot of junk behind.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I Speak On A Meteorite

It is almost 7 PM Pacific time. I'm sitting in the living room with the golden sun at my back casting parallel lines on the kitchen wall. It's quite beautiful. I'm writing this entry in Dragon, the commercial voice recognition software. I've been using it for about a year with the Logitech headset and microphone. Periodically while I've been using it the wrong word would drop in. Sometimes not just the wrong word but in entirely strange sentence.

I've also taken to using Siri on the iPhone. Something that happened on the iPhone prompted me to take a different approach to Dragon on the computer. I noticed on the iPhone when I was using the voice-recognition software that it was dependent upon the quality of the Bluetooth that I was using. That led me to wonder if Dragon on the computer was dependent on the quality of the microphone.

The answer is yes. I invested about $40 in a meteorite microphone. It's a small relatively high quality microphone. The difference in Dragon, in Dragon's ability to accurately type what I'm saying, is remarkable. In this entire paragraph Dragon has only made one mistake and that wasn't really a mistake but an antonym. Most voice-recognition software struggles with them and generally takes a best guess based on context. If you have a tendency to write in short sentences, or to talk in clipped phrases, it can often miss them. So if you are using Dragon or a similar voice-recognition software I would highly recommend investing a bit of money in a microphone. Though there is probably an upper limit a good microphone seems to make quite a difference.

Let me fill you in on the rest of the day because it was pretty busy. I slept in a bit then drove up to Fremont to meet Tony for breakfast. Tony had to take his new car into the dealership give vacuum valve replaced. So I met him at his apartment and then followed them over to the Ford dealership there in Fremont. We drop the car off and headed over to the Black Bear diner for breakfast.

After breakfast we wandered Fremont a bit. I don't know Fremont very well so when I do drive up there I like to take the side streets and just kind of see where they go. This gives me a better feel for the city. This is how I learned that Tony gives crap directions. The standard set of directions he gives people to get to his apartment take them about 2 miles out of the way.

Anyway, after a bit of driving we swung over to the Fry's electronics there in Fremont, on Osgood, and just walked about the store that. Were both technical geeks so there are plenty of things we can simply look at and dream about when we are in an electronics store. I picked up some odds and ends there while we killed time. We weren't there very long, maybe 45 min., when the dealership called and told Tony his car was ready.

So, I drove him over, dropped him off and then headed south. I stopped at McCarthy Ranch, at a men's clothing store there and bought some new sport coats at a two-for-one sale. I already had a nice selection of sport coats, but they tended toward business casual, that is black or gray or navy. I wanted to pick up some lighter colored sport coats for a little more casual look. I got some very nice ones and am looking forward to wearing them.

From there I went over to the great Mall and met Don for lunch at outback steakhouse. I've been doing really good with my diet the last two weeks so I treated myself to a steak lunch. It was as good as I imagined it would be.

After lunch Don I took a walk through the great Mall just to stretch our legs. That place is always an amazing zoo. The press of humanity is something to see. From there I headed back over to McCarthy Ranch and stopped the Best Buy and it was at the Best Buy that I bought this new microphone.

After the Best Buy I went up to Baylands Park and took a long walk. It was a beautiful day for it that's for sure. After the park I came home with a stop at the drugstore to pick up some odds and ends for next weekend's trip. Then back to the house and a simple dinner of homemade vegetable barley soup. It was outstanding. I have a fairly good recipe and I'll have to post it here online. Right now I am watching the clock tick off the minutes and I am hoping to talk with TR tonight. They are out to a movie so I'm not sure what time they wrap will wrap up.

A Persistent Work Dream

I have a rather persistent work related dream that I thought I would write about this morning. One of the challenges we face at work is that we are often trying to manage and execute multiple overlapping projects.  This makes traditional project management techniques challenging and ineffective.  On several different occasions I've dreamt that I had some sort of elaborate software program, with an interface that is Windows 8 like, which allows me to track and manage all of these projects.  I have no idea what it is, but I like the way it works in the dream. I think I am going to have to look around and see if I can find something like it in the wild.  I am at a point in work where things are fairly intense in terms of moving deadlines and shifting teams, so, unfortunately, work has been permeating my dreams. I would much rather dream of more pleasant things!

Friday, April 11, 2014

I Slip Into Friday

I am looking forward to the weekend.  I began this Friday with pizza and a nap.  I'm easing into the evening watching an episode of "The Vikings". Tomorrow I am planning on heading up to Fremont for breakfast, to meet Tony.  Tony has to take his car in for some repairs and I offered to pick him up afterwards.  We'll probably hang out there and catch a movie while we are waiting for them to replace some vacuum system on his C-Max.  It will be a good reason to get out of my current groove.

I've been reading a pretty good piece of fiction, the last of Joe Abercrombie's "The First Law" trilogy - "Last Argument of Kings".  I've had sort of a love/hate relationship with Abercrombie's writing - I love it enough that I am slowly working my way through his catalogue, but I get frustrated because, often, I think he falls short of his own bar. An inconsistency that can be maddening. But, I always contrast that by saying - I like his books, I like his story telling, I like his characters - he just is a hair short of greatness.  With that caveat I would recommend him as an author though.

I am excited this weekend to see a new movie that is coming out - Scarlett Johansson's "Under the Skin". I've seen several interviews and read several articles about the movie - enough to pique my interest.  As always with independent films, I hope it lives up to the hype.

So, it is with all of that in mind that I am sliding into the weekend.  TR is snugged in early tonight, sliding into sleep, which is one of my favorite visuals.  I've got a lot of work that I actually want to do over the weekend, both because I want to move forward on the project that I am working on and because I want to offset some of my vacation time with work time.  Depending on how much work I elect to do this weekend I may be able to offset at least half of the vacation, which will be nice because I am trying to build my vacation store back up having spent it down last year.

Then, finally, as I wind through the weekend I am going to continue my ongoing quest in the process of once again simplifying my life.  I have made some pretty good headway but I am aware that I have a long way to go yet ahead.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Temper, Temper, Temper

I skirted against the edges of my temper today.  At work, we are going to move from the area where we are currently located by ourselves to a new area that we will share with another group.  I am apprehensive about the move. 

The other group is larger than we are and in our history with being co-mingled with other larger groups - we often end up struggling for the essentials, since the larger group can simple overwhelm us.  The complicate matters, we are moving into an area with a group with which we have bad history.

Now, it is always a challenge to not let the history influence the present too much - but it is also a mistake to forget the lessons of history. In a rather heated discussion with the manager of the other group today, I made it clear that I am sincerely worried about the issue and the potential issues that are going to arrive. 

I am further exasperated because I think the other group gave our group the short shrift in planning the move and in how the area is going to configured.  And I am further frustrated because I think our management was asleep at the switch while this was going on.  Now, I am going to have to push fairly hard to make sure our group is taken care of.  A frustrating day all in all and I get even more frustrated because it all could have been handled much better.

This seems to be one of those things where I should probably just let it go - but that is difficult for me. I have deeply buried within me an unwillingness to just go along to get along.  The dehumanization that is possible in large companies is always very difficult for me to swallow and I refuse to (it is the Kool-Aid that I won't drink, LOL, which is what started the whole conflict with my Director, when she told me I had to drink the Kool-Aid) just let it go.  Is it a battle I should fight?  Probably not...probably not.  But, well, temper, temper, temper.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Like A Giant Lizard

The heat of the day is lulling me to sleep.  I want to just lay in the sun and soak it up through my skin like a giant lizard.  We are in the second day of 80+ temperatures here in this part of California and it has been very enjoyable.  It is nice to feel the return of spring and the promise of summer on my skin. I am not up to much tonight - I think I am going to curl up and read a book for a while, maybe tinker around the house again - in short, keep it easy, keep it simple.

Monday, April 7, 2014

My Quantum Portal of a Closet

The day kept the promise of heat and tomorrow is going to keep the same promise. However, it was pretty nice.  It felt good to let that sun burn slowly into things, including me.  I got home from work about the usual time and settled in to watch the first episode of "The Game of Thrones", which was outstanding, and then put together a quick dinner. 

After dinner I seriously contemplating taking a nap, but decided against it.  With the heat, I was afraid it would become sleep and then I would be waking up at two a.m. and wondering why I couldn't sleep. 

So, I spent a good two hours of the evening cleaning and arranging things in the master bedroom closet.  I still have plenty of work to do in there, but I managed to get through the parts of it that were bothering me so that when I tackle the rest of it, I will be moving rather smoothly.

Typical of closets there is "stuff" in there that I  am not sure what it is or why I have it. I am, of course, completely convinced that all closets are quantum portals and stuff comes from the multiverse to land in my closet.  That is the only reasonable expectation I can come up with to account for the fact that I keep simplifying, and simplifying, and yet, again, simplifying.  But, at the end of the day, there is still "stuff" in the closet.

A Brief Thought About Work Pay Offs

Five hours into a typical work Monday and I need to pause.  It was a beautiful dawn this morning, a pale blue sky, cool breeze, and the promise of sunshine.  I paused in the parking lot to enjoy it and I should have paused longer. But the sweep of the clock of the day is inexorable.  I came into the office and immediately went into my first meeting.  I’ve basically been on solid meetings from 7:00 AM unto 10:45 AM - and I am grateful that the last meeting wrapped up a little bit early as it gives me an opportunity to take a breather before flowing into the next series of meetings.  Later in the afternoon I have a window in my schedule to attempt to get something done, but I know very well that, on Monday’s, that is a mostly futile activity. I am looking forward to the week ahead though - I have a lot of work that I need to get done, but I definitely feel like the tasks ahead of me are within my ability to accomplish.  I dislike the feeling that comes on some work days (weeks, months, years) where you feel as if your best efforts are going to accomplish nothing.  That is not a good feeling.  We all like to feel as if we can accomplish something, as if the hours and thought and effort we invest in work will pay off.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Thoughts on The Darkness

Fortunately, I am all happy shiny puppies and such.  A few weeks ago I read a great little quote by the author William Gibson that I am going to paraphrase here:

If you think the world is an angry, depressing, and dark place; and everyone around you agrees with you, then you are surrounded by assholes.  Get out now!"

I love that quote.  I wonder why people let themselves be swallowed up by the darkness?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Maybe Tinker

Early evening.  I am sitting on the couch.  I've just finished installing my Brother wireless inkjet printer.  It was a bit frustrating, but in the end, it worked fine.  The frustration wasn't in the installation process, but rather in the instructions for that process. As I well know with years of experience, writing instructions is not an easy task.  Or rather, let me say, it is a deceptively simple task - and very hard to get right.

It was a relatively good day at work, though I started with a six a.m. meeting.  However, in the form of temporary redemption, the meeting went well.  A bit of deft maneuvering by the team resulted in the answer everyone wanted to hear.  From there, I just kind of swept through the day, weaving from meeting to meeting, and then wrapping it up with a bit of productivity and successfully completing two tasks.

Tonight leads me into my three day weekend and I am looking forward to it.  I don't have any meetings scheduled for tomorrow, but I will probably check in on work a time or two, since my boss is on vacation.  It should be quiet though. (How many times have those been famous last words?)  I don't have anything planned for the weekend, I just want to relax, enjoy the passage of these beautiful spring days, maybe read a bit, maybe tinker around the apartment.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Ability to Simplify - Hans Hoffman

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Hans Hofmann



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Low Energy Day, With Allergies

It is the first time in a long time that I ended up calling off sick for work. I went into work this morning, but even when I left I was feeling out of sorts, just generally run down, mostly due to allergies.  After a couple of hours at work I had developed a nice little headache, so I decided to go home, take some Benadryl and a nap.  It helped clean up the headache, but the rest of the day was just sluggish and low.  I didn't work much.  I monitored email for anything urgent, but I didn't see anything that could not wait until tomorrow.  Now, I'm sliding into the evening and I am still rather low energy, though I do feel better overall.  I think a good nights sleep will make a big difference, then I can charge into the day tomorrow.