Entries Tagged 'Life' ↓


So, yesterday was a terrible day in history. A 20 year old murdered his mother 7 other adults and 20 young children… 5 year olds.


The news is filled with stories of tragedy and examples of the worst behaviour of people, and I confess I usually consume this information with indifference. A tsunami kills thousands, eh, that happens. Bloody conflict around the world isn’t even interesting enough to anyone to bubble up in our media outlets.

Somehow this was very different. I’m not ashamed to say I cried, Hell I’m still crying. But beyond crying I’m trying to think about how I can change. What can I do to prevent this from happening again. This is not the beginning of a post about gun control. It’s about people control.

I suspect there will always be the occassional individual that defies all logic and prediction that does some horrible thing but I have to believe that most incidences are preceeded by something we could notice. But, even more than that, there are millions of less sensational transgressions that hurt our friends and neighbors. Each of these chips away at the foundation of our society.

I’m guilty of a behavior of indifference. It has many masks: None of my buiseness; beyond my control; that’s life; etc.. but no matter what I’ve called it, it’s indifference to the plight of others. In another case, I really did feel as though it wasn’t right to be “nosey” or to “gossip”. I still agree with this, but suggest that I could demonstrate genuine interest in peoples lives, especially my neighbors who make up the community in which I live. Maybe if I can learn to genuinely care about them and thier lives, I can positively contribute to thier lives… and they to mine…. maybe it will catch on, maybe people with care about and for each other, maybe this will help avert another tragedy or many tragedies perhaps not so newsworthy.

I hope my neighbors are patient as I learn to be a busybody. I’m sure I’ll be akward at it, since I spent my whole life avoiding it.

Oh… wikipedia, how I love you….

So… here is an example of wiki wandering….

 I was doublechecking a quote from the Gettysburg address to make sure I got it right… I am writing a blog about the Constitution. In particular about the 2nd ammendment. So, I was also looking for State Constitutions, many of which predated the US Constitution, and I came across a page showing the Massachusetts Constitution.

 On the page about the Massachusetts Constitution, it says that Chapter 5, Section 1 is specifically about Harvard College. So I clicked on Harvard College. The Harvard College page says that Harvard University is a private college founded by the Massachusetts legislature… confused about how a private anything could be founded by the public government, I read on.. (I have to admit, I was secretly hoping for an angle that would guarantee acceptance to the Kennedy School of Business, and free tuition to boot).. so I read on…  It talks about the College and later the University, and John Harvard, and Fancis Eaton of the Mayflower… At this point I became bored with the founding of Harvard, and interested in the Mayflower… how many people were on it? Would I recognize the names? So I went to that page… I wasn’t on the page very long… long enough to find out that it to 66 days to cross the ocean, and that it was almost half crew members… when I noticed a notation for the dates… Old Style and New Style… I followed this to a page that explained the transition from Julian Calendar to Gregorian Calendar. The Julian calendar had too many leap years, basically… Portugal lost 10 days in October the year they converted (went from Oct 4 to 15th in one day)… I wonder if that had a big effecton payroll and taxes? Anyway, so this led to some information about non-european contries and thier use of lunisolar calendars, which led to the discovery of the Japanese use of eras… now is the era of Heisei… in Japan it is Heisei 21 now… Heisei is the name by which the current emporer of Japan will be know after he has died. For some reason, it’s not socially acceptable to call the emporer by this name while he is alive.

 So, basically, if you want to find out more about social graces required while in the presence of an emporer in Asia, just look up constitutional law, and follow where it leads…

Cash for Clunkers

So, I’m in the market for a new ride… even more so since my existing ride, the family’s only ride, came up lame on a trip yesterday, with my wife at the healm… This is causing a considerable amount of stress, as any event that requires a husband and wife to sit and discuss preferences, priorities, and budget… (hint: throw pillows will ALWAYS be a high enough priority to ignore any budgetary constraints preventing thier purchase.)

 So… I’ve been looking for cars… autotrader.com, cars.com, craigslist.org (not at work because no one wants the seedy dealings that go on there to come back to an office computer – oh yeah and also because I’m an honest, hard working individual who is loath to conduct personal business in the office.) I looked in the paper, researched in consumer reports, edmunds.com, and the manufacturers websites… I even visited dealers… ok, I visited 1 dealer, did I mention we only had 1 car?

 There’s a buzz in the auto industry! CASH FOR CLUNKERS!!!! The new government incentive that gets you a whopping 4500 for your vehicle.* (*certain terms and conditions apply)… Awesome! the government is now in the slightly ambiguous, narrowly applying, here’s the best case scenario Auto incentive game…. Seriously, this is a great deal if you have a car that is about to die, and happens to be a real gas guzzler, AND you are looking to purchase a subcompact… if any one of thos isn’t true, then it starts to become less of an incentive… Which is fine… the intent was to get the high emmissions vehicles off the road. So, as big a fan as you are of Who’s the Boss, maybe its time to turn in you’re sweet van with grandma’s old couch bolted down in the back and the trail of smoke billowing from the tailpipe (amongst other places). You’re never going to get another offer for 4500 for that thing (even if you throw a spoiler on it and paint it just like the A-TEAM’s van.)

 But for the rest of us, its rather alarming that our government is complicit in what amounts to an advertising campaign… perhaps its not the classic bait-n-switch… but it sure is analogous to the standard MO of auto advertising. As in: BMW 325i convertable for only $199 /mo. * (*for qualified buyers)… come to find out, that you can only qualify if you are so rich that you wouldn’t be caught dead in a cheap ass BMW… your strictly a Bently man, and if they don’t have what you want right now, you’ll just start your own damn car company. Oh yeah, and even if you are qualified you still have to put $6k down plus tax, title, and fees. Oh yeah, and also only if the dealer you go to is a participant in this offering.

 So, its a good deal if you can get it, which you can’t, but please don’t leave, we have many exciting offers just for you….

 So, I’m looking for a car… and I’m sorry, but I have some pretty high demands…. has to go from Point A to B with my whole family (with room for 1 more) and the stuff we need whenever we get where we’re going… I’m not too worried about gas mileage, though I prefer not to be a huge contributor of pollutants to the environment, or cash to oil companies…. I care about style, but want to be able to tell people I don’t… comfort is key… and I want to be able to see pretty well while driving (so I don’t run people over or smash into things… read this closely Jeep Cherokee designers you current offering stinks in this category.) If I could get some fun bells and whistles, cool… I like the nav system with back up camera and entertainment systems, but I can live without em too. But here’s the deal… I don’t want to lay out more than $200 a month… I’d be willing to part with a couple of grand down… and I want everything about the car covered under warranty (I’ll change the oil)….  I guess I’m perusing the fine print again.

i tried

Last night I set up a special email address which should allow me to post by email. This would let me send pics from phone to blog easily and remotely.

It didn’t work. I think that I need to take a look at the port setting.

I also found a theme for the zen photo gallery that Adam turned me on to and Karen likes, where there is a slideshow, but it didn’t work.

I’ve got more work to do.

No running, I got home late due to some last minute changes at work. A poor excuse but i’m sticking to it.

I will have it done by the end of the weekend or never.

Update: more of the same

So, yesterday I didn’t run at lunch- big suprise.

And I haven’t figured out the whole photoblog thing yet.

I was sidetracked by a few things at work, that ate through my lunch hour. And at home I spent my time trying to add a slideshow to my family photos site.

Let’s see what I set out to do today, but skip… lunch run is out – meeting… after work is also out – watching Catie.

 maybe I’ll try to nail the photo blog thing.


I get up every day at 5:20AM, leave for work at 6AM,  do whatever it is I do at work, and then around 4:15 or 4:30 (on a good day) leave work… take a 4:50 train that gets in around 5:30, which puts me in my house around 5:45p… am I BANANAS!!!! 

Business Ideas….

So, for a while, I’ve been racking my brains for a business venture for a while now.

 Here are my criteria:

 1. Has to be buildable – I don’t want a business that is soley based on selling the value that I add. I want to create something that is cumulative in nature.

2. Has to pay the rent…

3. Has to allow me time to spend with my family.

 4. Has to allow me to do things that I find rewarding/ enjoyable.

 I have a few ideas… but I’m trying to figure out the best way to evaluate them…

One of my ideas is to open a brew-on-premisis in my neck of NJ… there is one in NJ, but it’s about 1.5 hrs away… I suspect that there are plenty of brewers and would-be brewers in the area, so I’m thinking about it.  I think the hours would be good… probably a 1p-9p daily plus weekends… I might even be able to spend all day with my daughter…

 The other idea was a mobile brewing party… I just get a brew bus and go whereever I’m needed… I think this would be costly to the consumer though, and may not have a market as a result…

 A more mundane idea is to open or purchase a laundromat… basically just keep the machines running, how tough could it be? Maybe have the attendant do wash-n-fold. I gotta see if there is anything around…

I have a few other ideas that I’m not ready to reveal yet…

So, I’m getting ready to buy a car

Karen and I have a 1 month old now, and its probably time that I purchased a car… Having a 2nd car would be convenient for many reasons.

 I was in the process of getting a year old Mazda 3 hatchback, when the dealer tried to slip in an extra $500 or so of charges and fees. That really was more that I was willing to pay, so I walked… After already spending a day at the dealer and then having to make a second trip to pick  up the car, only to find out that the deal was still in negotiation, I became frustrated with the whole thing and reminded why I don’t have a car in the first place – they are a constant source of frustration.

With all the money and attention that a car demands, you would think it did more than just bring you from here to there…  The average new car costs $27k (USA today 11/16/2005) and the average home costs $185k (RealEstateABC.com 2004). That means that the average new car costs more than 10% of what the average home costs… now most people don’t buy new cars, but still… A cars depreciation is unbelievable, where as home prices generally go up (at least, eventually).

 Anyway… so I’m thinking about the car, and I can see that there are a lot of cars that I might like for under $10k, but with high mileage. Then I saw a bunch of cars that I would like for really cheap (under $6k) with very high mileage… Then I saw some classic cars and it got me to thinking….

 People buy and restore classic cars.

If I buy a car for $15k with 60k miles on it, am I getting a similar value to what I could get for $6k with an extra $9k invested in it?

 If I replace the brakes, transmission, engine, clutch, seats… how much would that cost?

 Does it make sense to get one of these $1500 cars and fix it up?

Anyway… I still have to think about it.

The Law of Deadlines

Today is week -15 for the Marine Corps Marathon. What that means is that I have 3 weeks to lay down base mileage, before I begin the ramp up to marathon performance level. I know this because I have a reminder that pops up on my Blackberry and my Laptop every Monday morning telling me what week it is. I placed the reminders in an effort to encourage myself not to fall behind.

So here I am, its late, but not TOO late, and this brings the topic of todays blog.

Deadlines are a major factor in my performance. But how does a deadline influence me, and perhaps others?

There are several types of deadlines.

 1. Deadline that is truly impossible to meet: This generally serves to aggrivate. If it is imposed by some higher power, and it is very clear that it cannot be met, my first instinct is to ignore it and put efforts into preparation for the consequenses, if any (generally an unrealistic deadline is indicative of little planning, and, if things are right with the universe, little importance.) However, in those cases where 0 effort toward the task is unacceptable, a token effort will be put forth.

 2. Nearly impossible deadline. Though a deadline alone is not enough to drive performance, I think the nearly impossible deadline is the best scenario. There is a certain clarity that comes from a monumental challenge. And while stressfull, these have the greatest potential for greatness. If I can envision making the deadline, and see the value of the work, then the barely-in-reach deadline will drive optimum performance.

3. The right on target deadline. This should be the best. But often this simply leads to slippage until it becomes the barely-achievable deadline. In many cases though, depending on the mix of other deadlines, this is optimal, getting sober, quality results.

4. The padded deadline… padding can have a very cruel effect. One would think that the padded deadline is the easiest to make. I would argue that it often isn’t. The feeling of complacentcy lingers thoughout the project or task. There is a sense that since this item does not have urgency, then it is not a priority. This discussion is going to quickly turn to priority, but first to finish this thought. The lack of urgency persists even when urgency exists. It is in the “plenty-of-time” folder in the mind from start to finish, or at least from start to chronically late.  The bigger the padding, the slower the reaction to the urgency.  Forgive me, I’m an engineer, but it is very much like the overshoot on a convergent controls scheme… hmm…. that works for me, but how about a more universal analogy? Ok, its like driving a boat (may not work for everybody, but it’s the best I’ve got).  It takes a moment for the driver’s actions to translate to motion with the boat. The driver turns the wheel, and the boat goes straight, (the slower you go the more pronounced this is). When parking a boat, the driver turns the wheel hoping something will happen. When nothing does, he turns the wheel more. All of a sudden something happens, the boat turns, but it turns too much. He has to learn to anticipate the response, so he doesn’t overcompensate. It’s the same with the throttle. The boat will rev up, but kind of sit there, until it lurches forward. The novice boatsman will find parking the boat very challenging because they will overturn and overthrottle constantly, because they are reacting with too much force, too late. Often this is the case with the padded deadline, reacting too late.

 So priorities….

 Deadlines drive priorities. Priorities drive deadlines.

Can they both be true?

Sure, in a perfect world, where everything was resourced and priorities were established in a timely manner,  and deadlines were “real”.  But, in the imperfect world, it really depends on the governing philosophy. My philosophy is that priorities rule the roost. Priorities should be reviewed continuously, and adjusted as necessary. There will always be a need to determine how to best use resources. There will always be a need for prioritization. The question, ‘is this the most important thing that can be done right now?’, must always have the answer ‘yes’. As with everything there are exceptions. I would venture to say that many tasks that are very close to completion should be completed first, regardless of priority. It is practical to continue something that has momentum. There are some cases where everything must be abandoned for the critical task. But for instance, if it will take 3 hours longer to wrap up something, but there is a new #1 item. If the new #1 item is a 10 day item, realistically, the 3 hours won’t kill you and its better to complete the task before moving on. (It makes no sense to flip-flop priorities, there has to be some “common” sense applied).

 This principle is VERY important. Because, what happens often, if common sense is not applied, and strict adherance to the #1 priority is applied. The inefficiency of abandoning tasks snowballs. As a result the #1 priority continually shifts, until everything is hopelessly urgent. Sometimes a sacrifice is necessary, and there is no way to justify it though priority (as least in the simplistic sense). It is the mastry of this subtlety that makes a good manager.

 What about the no deadline item? Extreme padding and no deadline can have a many results. The most important result is that the deadline doesn’t matter. Something else is driving the work. (Something else should always be driving the work in conjuction with a deadline, a deadline alone only means that a date is met, there are always other criterea that describe quality.) If there is a desire to have the task(s) completed, a deadline is necessary, if not, then with all the other driving elements in place, perfection will be pursued. As perfection is only attainable in the imagination, this pursuit will continue ad infinitum. This can be a good thing, or a bad thing. It depends on what the intention is.

It was good to relieve myself of this. I’m sure its crap. But it was nice to stretch the noggin a bit this morning.

Honing my skills

I want to write more. Hopefully volume will lend itself to skill.

I probably spend more time reading what I have written that I do reading anything else. Its not indicative of ego (I don’t think) but of my desire to get writing right.

 One thing that has always amused me is how easily the same words can have different interpretations. Of course I can’t think of an example at the moment, but when I run across something, I’ll come back to it.

 Anyway, the point is, I’ve started, the toughest part. Let’s see where it goes.