Motivation, Determination, Procrastination, Destination

Motivation & Determination:

I wrote previously about why I spent the Labor Day holiday weekend repairing valve lifters. Well, 2 days before the Christmas holiday I touched down in Kansas City and texted my son – already well on his way to pick me up – to let him know I was early and he could pick me up curbside. He texted me back with this photo and message:

"We're going to need a rental car"

Now, when you look underneath your car and find parts that should be contained by other parts that should be attached to your car, “we’re going to need a rental car” is a very calm and understated conclusion. Those certainly weren’t the first words out of my mouth (nor, I doubt, his – in spite of his unflappable, Zen-like character).

So while he called Triple-A to arrange a tow, I made my way to the Avis counter… Continue reading

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Premiums Given For Horses, Cattle, Hogs, Sheep

This post is rated NV-17: No Vegetarians under 17 years of age…

For those of you who have never made it to the end of one of my long-winded posts, this is your chance. Today’s post is just to share an interesting artifact from the butcher shop and to introduce the topic of a future (and likely long-winded) post.

Here is a photo of the 1960’s era item, which measures approximately 6 inches by 15 inches:

This is what a display ad looked like before the internet: you printed your advertisement on something useful like a clock, calendar, bottle opener, or in this case a thermometer. Yes, this is real, although the fact that it looks completely unbelievable is one of the reasons I really like it (I also enjoy the juxtaposition of the somewhat faded but clearly enthusiastic “Wanted!” with the subject at hand).

The first unbelievable thing is that the phone number for this business is 79. Now, by the time I was using the telephone you had to dial (and yes, the phone had a rotary dial) an entire 4-digit number.  That’s right, you could call anyone in town by dialing a 4-digit telephone number (for a good laugh on this topic watch this Louis CK clip – the rotary phone part is 30 seconds in).

Of course the other unbelievable thing is that there was a company that would come and collect dead animals – or in the case of the butcher shop, collect all the unusable parts (bones, guts, trimmings) – and pay you for them. You’ll notice the company name has the word ‘rendering’ in it, but since this is a pet-friendly blog I won’t mention what these parts might have been rendered into.

The other (and more valuable) byproduct was cowhides (I know it’s unpleasant to think about all this, but you know you love your leather shoes and jacket so suck it up). In a future post I’ll discuss the dirty job of preserving the hides until they were sold, and the importance of good timing to success.

Have to go for now, time to feed the dog…


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Repairing Software is Easier than Repairing a Car

My loyal fan base – which I currently estimate at approximately 1 (plus or minus 1… Hi Mom) – will note that I haven’t posted here since before the Labor Day holiday. That’s because absolutely nothing happened in the last 4 months. No, that’s not really true. The more accurate (but probably still a bit lame) reason (ok, excuse) I can offer is that I was consumed by my job during this time. But I did make notes on many ideas that I do still intend to write about (really Mom, I will).

That introduction was necessary because despite the current holiday being the New Year’s celebration, I’m going to write about Labor Day. I will attempt to explain the relationship between software development and this photo:

and why debugging and fixing software is so much easier than debugging and fixing hardware. Continue reading

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The Art (and Power) of Asking Good Questions

I’m reading the book The Innovator’s DNA. It describes 5 key attributes exhibited by disruptive innovators, one of which is a “passion for inquiry”. Innovators are skilled at asking questions. The authors also relate how Apple, Inc.’s Chairman of the Board Steve Jobs states that the “beautiful typography” introduced on the Macintosh may not have been created if he hadn’t dropped-in on a calligraphy class at Reed College ten years earlier (after having already dropped-out of Reed College). This ability to connect seemingly unrelated ideas and experiences is another key element in the DNA of innovators.

Steve Jobs tells the story himself in his 2005 address to the graduating class at Stanford University. I encourage you to take 15 minutes out of your day to watch the 3 stories Jobs tells in this video, but if you are impatient you can hear the calligraphy story in the first 5m30s.

Now, I should probably know better than to try to hold your interest after you just watched the consummate innovator dispense his wisdom. Especially when my story involves dirt, tractors, farming and making a big mistake because I didn’t ask the right questions.

I once worked from sunup to sundown plowing the wrong field. Continue reading

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To Spur Out of the Box Thinking, Don’t Create a Box

I wrote in my initial post that one of the things about working for my Dad that drove me crazy was that he would give me a job to do but would refuse to tell me how to do the job. It drove me crazy, because at the time (which could have been at any age of 6 years old or older – once you were old enough to go to Kindergarten you were old enough to go to work) I thought there was only one best/right way to do something. If somebody had done the job before then they must know the best way it should be done. I thought: just tell me how to do it and then I’ll get it done.

That’s not how it worked with my Dad.

He was convinced of the possibility that there might always be a better way to accomplish a task than the way it had been done before, Continue reading

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The People Who Know Things Should Get to Make Decisions

After preparing for vacation, taking vacation – and then recovering from vacation – I am hopefully back on a regular schedule of posting here.

The topic of this post is on the importance of building a great team and a great organization. If you manage people, the single most important thing you do is make decisions. Of all the decisions you make, the single most important decision you make is who you invite to join your team. You should always aspire to hire people who you feel can grow to perform the job as well or better than you could in that same position. Then be willing to mentor them, protect them from distractions, clear roadblocks for them, provide them with the resources they need – and then get out of their way and let them do their job. This is a recipe for success.

If you don’t trust your leaders Continue reading

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Esri CEO Still Does Landscaping

Below is a link to a CEO profile that I found interesting. Jack Dangermond, founder and President of GIS technology company Esri talks about what he learned growing up and working in the family nursery business. Here is a quote from the article that demonstrates a lesson and mindset that I learned in the butcher shop as well:

When I see an unresolved issue, I jump in.  When I’m walking around our campus, if there’s some trash there, I pick it up.  There’s no elitism here and no detail’s too small. In the Continue reading

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Quality Issues Can Bring Entire Company to Halt

This is the first post where meat and software meet. It deals with the topic of quality, and how poor quality in the butcher shop can bring a company to halt in the same way that poor quality in the software shop can bring a company to a halt. In both cases producing high quality output from the start results in higher efficiency, lower costs and a more satisfied customer. Alternatively, when quality problems are discovered at the very latest stage – by your customers – the cost to mitigate immediate damages as well as the cost to correct the underlying root cause of the problem can be orders of magnitude higher than detecting the problem at an earlier stage.

The USDA is responsible for the meat inspection process. There is a licensed Federal or State inspector on site who has the authority to bring the entire operation to a standstill if there is any issue with quality. Prior to anyone starting any work activity for the day, there is a site inspection covering everything from the cleanliness of the grounds outside the building, to ensuring Continue reading

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Breaking Internet Silence

I mentioned in my first post that I would explain why I couldn’t be found on the internet prior to this week. That explanation is the subject of my musings in this post.

Being invisible to the world wide web is an especially remarkable feat given that I work in the high tech industry, and furthermore that I work for a communications company. How did this come about, and more interestingly, why? In other words, WTF?

I can tell you it was a deliberate decision (however crazy it might seem), and it really does take some effort to fly under the radar and beyond the grasp of Google, Inc. But why am I finally throwing in the towel in this quixotic effort and breaking my internet silence? Why – for better or for worse – I am now writing in the indelible, eternal ink of the internet? And why, therefore, am I now risking eternal embarrassment and ruin, Continue reading

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Old SOB Comes Out In San Francisco

OK, OK, I admit to a bit of sensationalism in the description of this post. While it is entirely accurate, it probably means something completely different than what you imagined. Let me explain by dissecting the title.

Old: I’ve worked in the technology industry for 20+ years, and I’m clearly not a digital native. Digital natives like my own children (the youngest of which turns 21 years old this year) think that I’m old. And besides, whether or not I really am old, I definitely wanted to use the words ‘Old SOB’ in the title.

SOB: I’m the Son of a Butcher. I’ll return to this later in this post, and throughout the blog. Enough said for now.

Comes Out: Before now you couldn’t find me on the internet. Unbelievable but true, and it was certainly not by accident. I’ll expand on this in a later post as well.

In San Francisco: I live in San Francisco, one Continue reading

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