Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

Leap Day happens every four years. This is it. Some very fortunate (unfortunate) people are born on Leap Day, which is pretty cool in my mind.

Some famous people born on Leap Day were Dinah Shore and Pope Paul III. Terence Long, baseball player. And Tony Robbins. Wow. The guy started out with a Leap and just kept going.

I don't really have anything to say today. I simply ponder the oddness of it.

My best selling app so far is one that Apple rejected, Vayne League Champion. John wrote the text. So far, just on the Droid side, we've sold over 100 of them.

Well, they're free, but still, it's cool.

Just like Leap Day.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Time Management

What a misnomer. Nobody can manage time. People can only manage what they do with their time, not the time itself.
Many things in life fascinate me. Sometimes I take notes. Once in a great while I make a cheesecake. Or can pickles. Or pickle jalapenos. Or pick ripe tangerines from the backyard of a foreclosed house that Darling and I happen to be looking at. (Here's a tip - most citrus trees have thorns.)
The tangerines are delicious. The jalapenos are gone, but I may be able to make some more soon. Pickles are a long-term goal to make, but the store-bought ones are still tasty. I bought a cheesecake to remind myself that mine is so much better. And I found some notes.
Apparently I studied something on time management, and I do recall the speaker, Franklin Covey's famous James Cathcart, saying that the concept of "Time Management" is an oxymoron.  As a matter of fact, that's my first note.
The notes are in my handwriting, lightly in pencil, on a couple pieces of ordinary paper. I don't recall the notes, nor where I was when I took them. They were neatly tucked under my computer, which is surprising because I don't know where they came from and I don't recall the content. But some of it is good stuff, and I don't want to lose it, and I don't want the paper to disappear again without a bit of attention. So here is what I captured, along with present-day thoughts.

This course is "self-leadership" and follows Habit 3: Put First Things First.

There are four needs of all people:
Leave a Legacy

Relationships NOT Schedules
Effectiveness NOT Efficiencies

Six Step Process
1.             Connect to your Mission
2.             Review Roles
3.             Identify Your  Goals (most misunderstood)
a.    What one thing can I do in each role this week that will improve my role
4.             Organize Weekly (Daily Planning does NOT work)
a.    The weekly perspective - daily is too close
5.             Exercise Integrity in the moment of choice
a.    Taking your Mission and making it reality
6.             I don't have this one written down

When will I use this process? Friday afternoon -> Monday morning
The best place to organize? Den, Living Room -> quiet and uninterrupted
How long does it take? 30-45 minute average
Three person process

Teacher To Student (Seek to understand, Capture without judgment, Research) to Share

Efficiency is doing things right
Effectiveness is doing the right thing
See things -> Do things -> Get results

Four Generations of Time Management
1. List Keepers with priorities
     a. Manage their lives by what people think of them
2. Calendar List
     a. Deeper sense of prioritization
3. Clarify and prioritize values (Guiding principles)
     a. Goals (long-term, intermediate, short-term)
     b. Prioritization to achieve the goals within the context of values
4. Quantum Leap
     a. Humility of principles
          i. Eternal natural laws govern
          ii. Principles are in control (God)
     b. Passion of Vision
          i. Frankl "You don't invent your Mission. You discover it."
     c. Balance of Roles
          i. People, not schedules
          ii. Leadership, not management
     d. Power of Goals

Apparently I also was privileged to listen to Leigh Stevens. She is also a Covey expert.

FTF - First Things First
Run Into (Action Items)
List things I can forget until I get to them
Appointments - time sensitive
Daily record - this is what I'm missing
Index - monthly table of contents

QII: Important, not urgent -> no time pressure
Spending time with spouse
Six Step Process

You detect your mission statement
Write it as if it will never change, but it will
The key to use it is by connecting to it. Visualize living it - that day, that week, that year. It is a constitution governing your life.
A philosophy, credo, value system, vision.

Connect to mission
         Get in Touch
Review Roles
         Why write them? To define them, to delegate time to them each

I was excited about Covey for a long time. The Habits are great! The Covey system doesn't really fail, but I do.
Live, Love, Learn, Leave a Legacy. I don't know what these have to do with anything, but I certainly don't disagree that they are driving forces, especially in a man's heart. This is echoed again in a fantastic book Wild at Heart.
I see schedules take the place of relationships at every turn in my life. I try not to do it, sometimes making a conscious effort to avoid the pincers that life tosses at you to disregard a relationship for an appointment. Sometimes I fail. Yet, ultimately, our deaths will come unscheduled, and only the soft hand of a loving relationship will be there.
It took me decades to realize that daily planning and making lists just doesn't really work for me long-term. I need the bigger picture, the over-arching goal.
I probably added the note about spending time with my spouse. It seems I never do that enough, regardless of how long I live. And I have no idea what the six step process was. I guess I was getting tired.

The final bit that hits me right between the eyes is that you detect your mission statement, not define it. I read something like that the other day in a book. In the book the girl says to the main character "You have to find what your purpose in life is, and then live up to it." Something similar to that anyway.

Some of us still search for our Missions. More on that some other post. 

Find your Mission. Live the Life you were Meant to Live.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Couch, A River and Eternity

Dreams are short.
It's true. They must take almost no time at all. I know this because my alarm went off this morning and I hit the snooze. Then I dreamed.
Yes, it was this ugly in my dream
In the dream there was a couch. I sat on the couch and was joined by my three younger brothers. I don't know what age I was, since it seemed to vary. Let's just remember this is a dream and give me some leeway on the details. I'll give you the same consideration.
Now this was a time traveling couch, or a space traveling couch, or both. I'm not sure. I do know all four of us were on it. We traveled to Grandma's cottage. (Isn't that interesting how I always think of it as Grandma's cottage, not Grandpa's, even though it was his refuge? Or we simply called it The Cottage, and everyone knew what we were talking about.)
At first the cottage wasn't there. The couch was simply on the riverbank, and we had a good view. I manipulated something, I think it was shaped like a football and had a few buttons on it, and we moved forward to the present day. Grandma's cottage still wasn't there, but now the bank was lined with vacation homes, some quite elaborate.
We didn't like the vacation homes, so we moved the couch back a little into a small park that overlooked all the homes. Now I remember The Cottage pretty well, including the area around it, and there were no hills to do this from, so it was just for the dream. That doesn't make any difference, but I wanted to be clear.
At this point I noticed we each had some sort of card in our hand, a program of some sort, perhaps one for our lives. When we were on the undeveloped bank of the river these were blank and clean, now they were covered with glitter.
We moved forward in time and space and ended up in a gleaming tower, the kind of place you see in the movies outside a successful lawyer's office. Nice carpet, glass tables, fancy paintings on the wall and all the couches were leather, although I don't know if ours was. I didn't like the place at all, but I couldn't get the couch to move.
One of my brothers got off the couch and went into the lawyer's office, which was behind us. I pushed the couch off the carpet and decided I could get it to work from there. "I'm going back," I said. "Who's coming with me?"
Dreams are funny. I think the ones who got on the couch with me were my two sons, and they were both still young. But you know how dreams are; it's as if they were there the entire time, and they had the programs in their hands.
The couch went back to the river, but it was the place overlooking the vacation homes. That's not where I wanted to be. I didn't like the glitter on my program, and I wanted it to be clean. As I pressed the button to go back to the pristine river, the people on the couch changed again, and now they were Darling and her mother, but her mother was younger and sound asleep.
And I was a preacher. I had a pulpit, but my congregation was the couch, with Darling awake and Frau sound asleep, although I was aware others were watching.
I'll just put the sermon below, as best as I recall, without quotes.

Some people might say they are a good man, a good person. No doubt they are. They look at the people around them and they are better than what they see. They try to be better. Some succeed.
People might look at me and say I am a good man. Some might say that I am an awesome man. (Now, I don't think that, but this is to make a point.)
Let me point out how fragile being good, being awesome truly is. Spend thirty minutes with a trash-talking sailor and you're no longer awesome. Spend twenty minutes with some of these trash-talking workers in a Houston chemical plant, and you are no longer awesome. You become like them. And you do not become like them for just twenty minutes, the time you spent with them. No, now you are no longer awesome forever.
I spent most of my young life trying to be the best person I could be. I didn't cuss. Only occasionally did I say a bad word, and if I did I was immediately ashamed. I spent ten years in the chemical plants with some of the operators there and I didn't even see the change. One day I was called into the personnel office. Someone complained about me. They were offended at the language I used when I was talking to someone in an office near them. I was dumbfounded. I stepped back and took a good hard look and they were right to be offended. The sad part was that I didn't see it. My shame was gone.
My shame returned to me that same day. But I fight the fight against bad language even today.
It's the same with any sin, any impurity of mind, body, spirit or intellect. When the shame disappears, you're lost in a sea of non-awesome.
I need salvation, and I know that my salvation comes through the cleansing blood of Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, my God and Savior, the King of the Universe, the One True God. Through his sacrifice I am made clean so that I can enter into Heaven.
Now I'm not going to preach salvation through Jesus Christ to you. I don't preach it to anyone. That offends some of the people in my church. They think I don't love my neighbor. If I loved them, I'd want to save them from Hell and Damnation. Since I don't love them enough, I must not be saved. I won't even address that issue.
What I will say to all the good people listening to me is simply this. You don't know that Jesus is salvation, the one True path to an Eternal Heaven. You think there is another Way, another God, another Leader, another Path, another Option. You think you can be good enough to get into Heaven by your own merits. That's okay with me. Try your way. Explore it. See what it demands of you. Honestly evaluate your choice.
My salvation doesn't depend on my perfection, which is a really good thing, since it simply isn't possible. One pornographic picture and my mind is imprinted forever. I have a fight that I must combat forever.
And I'm not alone.
But go ahead. Test your salvation. It's more than life insurance. Life insurance you give to those left behind in this physical world. This is Eternal Life Insurance, and it's the gift you carry with you into Eternity, beyond this plane of existence.
When you have that empty feeling in your heart, when you wonder if you have chosen correctly, come talk to me, because I have one thing that you don't have.
My salvation comes with a guarantee - an ironclad, eternal guarantee.
Rom 6:23 (NIV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
My eternity (Baptists call it "salvation" but it really is eternity) doesn't depend on my behavior, but simply on one action. I must accept the gift of Eternal Life that Jesus Christ offers me.
It's a gift He offers everyone.
My heart is at peace with eternity. How's yours?
Only one way out

My dream ended when the snooze alarm went off. So in a few minutes I traversed space and time and faced Eternity.
I have no idea what the couch meant. I have no idea why the people in my dreams were with me. I have no idea why I was preaching.
But I am at peace.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cover Me

It's not a prime day. It's not a bonus square or cube day. It IS first double-digit day, so we get a bonus post.
No, really, what happened was that I was thinking about my resume yesterday (and actually sent it off to someone who might be able to help) and then I saw this post today. And now I realize why my cover letters don't get interviews, why my resume doesn't excite HR to stop the presses and call me. I don't have this guy's sense of worth. Enjoy!

This link goes to the article, but here's the letter, copied directly.
Dear Open Source Staffing & NYC PHP Meetup Group:

I'm super awesome and have incredible experience compared to this - it
includes the required experience below plus I am trained in MMA
fighting, am the mayor of multiple Chipotles, Starbucks, and locally
famous restaurants in downtown NYC, and I type really fast. You want
to hire me more than anything and you'll be disgusted at how fast and
responsive your API is when I'm done.

You'll have to pay me ridiculous amounts of money but after the job is
done you'll wish you paid me more to stick around because you'll know
whatever company hires me next will destroy yours. It will be worth
it, you'll feel like I just got ripped off every time you write me a
check. Each week you'll feel worse and worse and increase the amount
of money you are paying me until one day you realize there's no amount
of money that could add up to the value of my insanely awesome skills.
It's ok, it happens to everyone.

You're welcome,

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Happy Place

We all need a happy place, somewhere we can go and things are just - better. When I was a younger man, already in the workplace (so in my twenties and thirties) my happy place (in my mind's memory) was a spot in Washington State. I actually wrote a short essay on it when I was in a Creative Writing class in college.
Living in Washington State was a happy time for us, my three younger brothers and I. At the time I was in the end of fourth grade and all of fifth grade. I don't really know how happy it was for Mom and Dad, but I'm pretty sure the four of us thought we were close to Heaven. That includes the times we went with Mom to pick strawberries, and the time that I popped a strawberry, complete with attached stinkbug, in my mouth and chomped down on it.
We lived on about five acres of land. When we first moved into the house almost all the land was covered with trees. I helped my Dad build a chicken coop, which is a subject and story all its own, and would include my two youngest intrepid brothers climbing trees and falling into the coop. B would climb any tree around, but I wasn't too far behind him. Since many of the trees were pine, our hands were covered with pitch and dirt most of the time.
For a while we had a horse. We grew crops in a huge vegetable garden. I still remember how the rows of beans and corn looked. Magnificent doesn't do it justice in my mind.
Then the bulldozers came. I didn't know why Dad did it, not at the time, but I realize now that he got some cash for some of the better hardwood trees in the middle of the patch of woods. The 'dozer came in to get to the trees it wanted and piled the broken husks of my beloved forest in the middle of what Dad promised would be pasture land. That wet pile of broken trees burned forever, even in the damp and rain of our Pacific Northwest home.
The money was handy. The money bought a new room for B and me, in the back of the house. A big room. I remember doing the tiling on the floor with Mom. In those olden times we warmed the tiles up with a space heater until they were a little pliable and used real buckets of glue to put them down on the floor.
The money is probably how we got a horse. Much as we kids loved that horse, we eventually parted ways.
Still, for years, there was this one spot in my mind, a spot not bulldozed down with the rest of the trees, a place sacred enough to be left alone. That spot had a large boulder on it. I'd go there, climb on the boulder and watch the sky, sucking on butterscotch candies, and dream of my future. I was going to be a lumberjack. Maybe a cowboy. I wanted to be an Indian, but didn't know how to do that.
That was my happy place, a sun-warmed boulder in the middle of a croft of trees, gazing upward at the white clouds floating over the azure sky. The scent of pine trees and summer berries was almost always there, at least in my mind.
Things have been tough at the house lately. Financial issues arise and need to be handled. We worry about cancer and Darling healing well. We wonder if she should do chemo or not, though it looks like not. Darling gets tired quickly, and when she is feeling well, she forgets and then does too much, paying for it later with recurring pain and sciatica acting up. At work the Sword of Damocles dangles over all of us, with most of us waiting for some notification of a layoff. With the shuttle era ending, it is likely just a matter of time, and not a lot of time at that.
I know the Happy Place from my childhood is gone, probably destroyed in the expansion of Port Orchard, WA. I suspect the house is gone, as is Mr. Kajander's house across the street, as well as his apple orchard. The strawberry field down the road is no doubt long faded into memory.
So I searched in my mind and found a new Happy Place. Now, when things get a little tough and I don't know what to do, how to cope, I take my mind on a short vacation into the future. I take the issue of job security out of the hands of my employer and decide that I will retire at the end of October, when I reach the still-functional age of fifty-five. I imagine that Darling and I are driving through a green countryside, turquoise sky overhead, maybe even a sun roof open and our hair tossed by the cool breeze and we travel to Costa Rica, looking for a quiet place in the sun, a place where we can be revitalized after so many decades of simply surviving.
Costa Rica, Lake Arenal beach
A place where the future is still very much ahead of us, and it is full of joy and happiness. Oh, and butterscotch candy.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Seeking Honest People

Thieves and scoundrels, that's what they are. May they be cursed with misfortune and may all they stole slip from them, giving them no prosperity, but only grief.
Thieves stole Darling's purse, which included her wallet, driver's license, credit cards and <gasp> her new iPhone 4S, which they promptly turned off so it couldn't be tracked.
And they have no parking lot camera.
What bothers me most is that Darling blames herself. That's ludicrous. She had her purse in the basket at the 99 cent store, loaded the car, forgot the purse and drove off. Within minutes she came back, realizing she forgot her purse and it was gone.
Some people will jump on that and say that she's to blame, but wait a second! If I found a purse in a cart, I'd take it into the store, totally untouched, and turn it in. If any of my children found it, they would turn it in. Any honest person would do so. Only a thief takes what doesn't belong to them.
This wasn't Darling's fault.

My brothers won't know this story first-hand, since it happened in Rhode Island and I was in second grade, so my youngest brother probably wasn't even born yet. I don't know where they were when this incident happened, but I was the only one with Mom.
A thief stole my mother's purse. I was there, which is probably what scared her the most. We were downtown in Rhode Island, and I don't know what that meant back then, but we had to drive, so it wasn't in walking distance. My Mom got me in the front seat of the car, passenger side. This was the days before car seats and child safety laws, and we probably didn't even have seat belts. She went around to the driver's side and slid onto the vinyl front car seat behind the steering wheel. Just as she went to put the key into the ignition a guy ran up to my side of the car, reached through the open window, grabbed her purse from between us and took off down the sidewalk. Mom was shocked and frightened out of her wits. I remember she cried for quite a little bit before she managed to start the car and get us home.
This wasn't us, but could have been
We pulled into our driveway and our elderly neighbor, Mr. Mancini, saw that Mom was upset and probably figured she was crying since her makeup was undoubtedly smeared. She told him what happened and I distinctly recall watching Mr. Mancini's face cloud with anger. I always knew him as a kind guy next door who trimmed his hedges and kept his yard nice and neat and tolerated me and my friends running through the neighborhood playing Cowboys and Indians. We never set foot in his yard, though. We knew better than that.
Still I had never seen Mr. Mancini look so angry. He gave my Mom a hug and calmed her down, then said he'd take care of it. Somehow that made Mom feel better, so life was back to normal for me.
Here's the thing, and I distinctly recall this. Mom had only fifty cents in her purse. Now, I'll grant you that fifty cents in the early sixties was worth more than it is today, but that's still not a lot. That was all the money she had. I'm sure that Mom, like Darling, was more upset over the contents than the money (although Darling had about $300 with her).
Later that day Mr. Mancini came over and told Mom that the problem was taken care of and it would never happen to her again in this town. I don't know if she got her purse and fifty cents back, but Mr. Mancini was her hero that day. Truthfully, he was my hero too. He made Mom feel better and solved a major crime spree.

Darling couldn't even report the theft. She was technically in Houston, so when she called to report the theft a recording told her to go to the web site and follow the directions to fill out the form. No personal interaction at all. Not that I blame them. I suspect there are thousands of small thefts every day in Houston.
Diogenes seeking honesty
Still, there are hours of hassle with the banks and phone calls to make to stop credit cards. Of course they have her Driver's license, right from her wallet. The thieves also have access to her social security number and mine because they are on our insurance cards. Identity theft is a distinct possibility in the future. Oh, and we need to contact the Passport office to let them know also, just in case someone tries to get a new passport with the stolen information and id cards.
If the world was full of honest people, none of this would be an issue. But it isn't. Not here, not in Belize, not in Rhode Island. I'm looking for a world of honesty, and I don't see it (especially not in an election year!).
I can't track Darling's iPhone. The thieves knew that if it was turned on it would allow me to track them (thanks for advertising that feature so well, Apple™!). I'm not sure what I would do if I could track them. I'm pretty sure Mr. Mancini would know, though.