Wednesday, February 29, 2012

22 February 2012

This one surprises me. It's going to #1 Son even though he received one just last week, and he even called to thank me for the card. So why are we here again? Because he let me edit one of his papers. No. Because he gave me a coat for Christmas.

Now, before you read me the riot act because I've reached back for a note, which is something I've consciously chosen to avoid lest I don't find things for which to be grateful in daily life, this is okay because it's about the many compliments I receive when I wear the coat.

Josh's idea was to make me more visible at night, especially when I'm out on my bike, and people do seem to be better able to aim for me now.

Generally, my wardrobe comes from Goodwill, and I don't try to follow whatever surface feature is style. I do not ir la moda much. However, Josh might have changed this a little, and I do find myself enjoying the compliments. For brightening my day, he's getting another card. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

21 February 2012

It's not often a bitter old queen shows up at the clinic with a broken foot bone that won't show up on an xray and two zits in uncomfortable places, but it happened today, and I know because I was there. The admitting clerk had some trouble wrapping her head around the disparate complaints, and the truth is I would not have taken either to the clinic except that I start a two-week road trip tomorrow.

OK, there's nothing they can do about a stress fractured metatarsal, but I was hoping, maybe, for a immobilization boot, but it was not to be, at least this time.

The attending PA was quite matter of fact as she sorted through the mess that was me, and then took the items in order of proximity to her chair. I would have done the same.

So I'm headed out on the road with a prescription of what nearly killed me last month but at double strength. This is going to be an interesting fortnight on the road. Nonetheless, I'm sending her a card for being a good sport about it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

20 February 2012

I never did make good on my threat to park an RV next to Lily's dorm, and now that she's in her own apartment making her own money and living her own life, I'm not sure I could pull it off anyway, but we all know I'd try, or at least act like I was going to, just to see her eyes shoot those lightening bolts she shoots so well.

And then she had an uninvited guest. He entered through a window while she was at work, and proceeded to steal what little stuff she has, not the least of which was the bag of birthday presents for her beau, but the neighbor saw the act, and the neighbor's son gave chase, only to be met with a pistol, though by then the police had arrived to bring the matter to a close.

Lily returned from work to find CSI sprinkling fingerprint dust all over her apartment. She might get her stuff out of an evidence locker before it's all out-of-date. The cats went for a walk in the wide, wild world with their fingerprint-dust-covered paws, but it was too chilly out for a house kitty, and they came back in through the window.

Hearing of these matters is not exactly the way a dad would start his day, if a dad could get his druthers once in a while, and I really don't get used to it, but I'm not sure what I'd do dashing up there a day late and a dollar short. Besides, her BF has boarded the windows temporarily, and that'd block my view from the RV. He gets a card for looking after my Lily.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

19 February 2012

You might wonder how a man, known to be insufficiently immature to have a roommate, can be talked into sharing an office. Well, aside from making good on my claim that we waste a lot of office space in this world, and what with all the prattle that the Internet makes the world my office, we both travel a lot, and by sharing an office, we also save our little company a little rent. At least, that's where I'm hanging my hat for the moment.

The thing is many people would cringe over the thought of sharing quarters with me as I can be a bit difficult to live with. To this end, my new office mate has been nothing but an agreeable gentlemen. We're planning an aquarium. A few extra plants. One huge blackboard to support planning sessions. Lots of colored chalk. Probably a magnetic wall upon which we can stick all sorts of odd things. And yes, we'll also work in there once in a while. Imagine that.

For putting up with me as all this mess happens, he's getting a card.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

18 February 2012

I mentioned a few days ago that we have formed a Tough Mudder team. I initially thought to keep this a private activity that I'd share with Lily and Josh to give us an afternoon of uncompromising bonding. There's nothing like running through a field of naked wires at 10,000 volts to to bring a daddy and his doods together.

However, after thinking a little more that evening, I decided to extend the event to the office, and some half-dozen jumped at the chance. We're going to have a good time getting ready for this event over the next many months, and I can only imagine, at least for now, the positive change our team will bring to corners of the office.

Of course, there's the matter of getting this event through corporate management, even with two VPs planning to participate. It was not a Herculean task, but it was a task, an unexpected task, presented in the context of the half-bazillion others that come as a matter of course when running a corporate enterprise.

Today's note goes to the VP who made it all happen. What's an extra Death Waiver among friends?

Friday, February 24, 2012

17 February 2012

I do not live in a vacuum, and I certainly do not work in one, though I've known many people along the way who appeared to think they did. Life is certainly simpler for the independent contributor. They just do their thing and move along. I wonder what that's like? Never having to align with the schedule of someone else. However, I doubt there's much reality there anymore. This world is becoming more and more tightly knit.

As I've mentioned before, this is the season of the professional presentation for us. There's another season, but it comes much later. We can discuss that in November, assuming I'm participating in that one.

A few days ago, our editor did her magic and made us look good. Then my coauthor took another look and caught a few things. One, in particular, was the use of “data” as a singular noun. That one might have jeopardized my degree if the right one ever saw it. I can honestly say I did not write that sentence, but I must also admit I'd previously read right over it.

You can see now the kind of details we sweat.

Enter the unexpected peep. She offers to take a look with the company style guide in hand. She returned the file a few minutes later with five title capitalization errors corrected.

I write very little by myself anymore, aside from these pages, and as you can tell, I often need help. For that unexpected gift, I'm sending a card.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

16 February 2012

A long time ago, #1 Son had to give a talk to his Boy Scout troop about planes and how they fly. As an early teen, he gave that talk without notes, without practice, without anything more than what he already had in his head. He held the group spellbound, stating in a matter-of-fact voice during his description of takeoff that once the plane was going fast enough on the runway, it would take off, and there wasn't much you could do to stop that, except slow down.

He flew airplanes before he drove cars. Well, except for that one time he sat in my lap and managed the truck in 4x4 low-range, but I did say cars, not trucks, and that should leave me just this side of a truthful statement. That was close.

I flew with him once. I get horribly sick in small planes, what with being susceptible to motion sickness, and that one flight would have to do. We were in a classic VW beetle, only smaller and with wings. He flew that plane with two feet, two hands, and his knees. Nothing was automatic. He was one with that machine. He might have been born in it.

It was at that moment I knew this boy was a natural pilot. The problem was that I was so sick at that moment I couldn't even have dinner with the rest.

Yesterday, after much patient waiting after application, think about a year, he gained admission to the the USAF flight school. I'm going to be grateful for that today and for a long time forward.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

15 February 2012

This is the season when we prepare for presentations at professional conferences. In my case, these are presentations about specialized statistics delivered to relatively smart people who need a passing understanding but who are prepared to dive deep into the underpinning. It's much like teaching the undergraduate classes, that's very close to how I conceptualize the preparation and delivery.

The content of these presentations is not a problem, as long as I remember that I'm not speaking to a class of doctoral students. I also have to remember to remind the audience that the next hour is not for the psychometricians. You might wonder why another psycho would be in the audience, as do I, and I'm pretty sure it's not for the enlightenment. It's more likely an endeavor to gather ammunition for later use.

Sadly, the rules of engagement require that we use PowerPoint, and that alone can be a kiss of death for most of the people watching. Bundle that with the standardized template that is rarely complementary to the slides we build, and you have a sure recipe for audible and visual Ambien.

Enter our editor who is quite adept at taking our content and rendering it acceptable for human consumption. She make us look good, perhaps gooderer than we are, but I won't go there. I'll just mail a card.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

14 February 2012

A colleague in another state went for a long vacation in Egypt back at the end of the year. For as much as I like to imagine a life as Indiana Jones, I'm not sure I'm sufficiently skilled with a whip to visit the countries in that part of the world. Besides, I'm a particularly poor tourist, and I don't like being one. For me it's much better just to be somewhere for a while, buy groceries, wash clothes, and otherwise learn how the folk there live. Of course, that's just me, and I recognize mine is a minority opinion. As usual.

To that end, I my colleague on his way with a single instruction: Bring me back a camel. Two humps.

A month or so later, I receive a package in the mail. It's a camel. One hump. With a note that he owes me a hump. That alone is worth a card.

Monday, February 20, 2012

13 February 2012

While building the Tough Mudder team for the October event, I invited our CFO to participate. She's a rather determined woman not to be trifled with, and she'd be a good ally through those 11 miles, but she declined, offering instead to serve as documentarian because she was quite unlikely to miss watching the rest of us run through 10,000 volt wires.

As the calm settled following the start of the planning during which all sorts of talk was coming forth, we received an email from our documentarian. She had found a training site that plotted the course to being able to to a bazillion pushups and situps in about six weeks. We're going to need that sooner than later, and even if she won't run the course with us, she helped us out and agreed to document the event.

She also brings us chocolate in the afternoons.

That ought to be worth a card.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

12 February 2012

When I first heard of the Tough Mudder event, and then decided to participate, my thinking was that I'd do it alone, or with a team I'd join the day of, or possibly with Lil and Josh. After sleeping on it a night, I decided to bring the even to work, and the response was about what you'd expect. Most people rolled their eyes and ignored me, a few made the expected comments regarding my sanity, comments which I feed daily, and a small number enlisted instantly.

A few days later, the CEO walked by on another matter, noticed the TM conversation, and smiled as big as I've ever seen him smile. It was like the dawn after a storm. He has even decided to participate in the documentation of our training, practice, and participation.

The next nine months are going to be fun, if we survive. As I told the doc, if the training doesn't kill me, the event might. Either way it's going to be one rocking year. That our leader is engaged, accepting, and promoting only makes it batter, and he's getting a card for that.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

11 February 2012

For all the quantitative methodology I have studied lo these many years, I spend a lot of time executing qualitative studies with focus groups. So far, the university has not chosen to recall my diploma, but I keep waiting for that letter to arrive. Perhaps my habit of moving frequently has kept them off my trail.

These focus groups typically involve a dozen people in a hotel meeting room in a city somewhere. What most people do not see is the mountain of work that goes into the successful execution of such a meeting. People have to be selected and invited. They need rooms to sleep in. They need food to eat. They, often, need special handling in the evening because we, usually, ask them to work for free.

Get you mind out of the gutter! They go to very nice and often eclectic restaurants and other venues for dinner.

My work through the past three days went off without a hitch because of the hard work of two people at the agency that hires my company for this work. In addition to their willingness to work hard, they are also very good people, and I enjoy my time with them.

For making my life and work simpler and, also, more fun, these two are getting a card.

Friday, February 17, 2012

10 February 2012

Ages ago, I groused that many companies waste valuable resource on physical offices. Having that building and all the stuff inside it is a simple waste for a good many examples, mine included. I do most of my work outside the office, and having that space with it's furnishings, heated or cooled as necessary waiting for those rare days I’m in town is purely wasted resource.

Frankly, if we need to gather for some purpose, we can converge on mall food courts or Starbucks for that hour or so a week. We don't need the expense of maintaining a structure. However, who am I?

Enter the office rearrangement. Another traveling bud and I will now share an office, and we need new furniture that works for two. The old style battleships were just too big, and the boss decided IKEA might have something useful. It did, we picked it out, and he ordered it. It might even be there in all its minimalist glory when I return next week from this road trip. (I’m working in a hotel this week.)

Once that's all settled, we're adding an aquarium and a painting a wall with chalk board paint. I've long bemoaned not having an expansive area on which to capture fleeting thoughts as we plan activities, and now, it's about to become a reality.

The boss has been nothing but supportive on all these matters, and for going the extra mile, or light year, to make our workspace more inviting, he's getting a card.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

09 February 2012

I often work in hotels, and by often I mean about weekly, usually on weekends, but occasionally during the week. These hotels are all over the country, and I'm rarely in the same chain twice in a row. I wish I were because then I might accumulate enough hotel points to sponsor a vacation more than once in three years.

All of the hotels bend over backwards to make our stay as pleasant as possible. However, do recognize that hotels do not bend. Hotel staff bends, and I go out of my way to make sure my groups do not take advantage of that hospitality. It's just not fair to delay lunch by 45 minutes just to accommodate some, generally unnecessary, conversation.
Hotels operate on very thin margin, and they refined the charge-per-use concept long before the airlines ever got a clue. Internet access, wireless or wired, is one of these, and it's exactly where I was having a problem today. After some silent swearing, I stalked up to the front desk where the clerk solved my problem in a matter of seconds, and he did so with a brilliant smile and a fist bump.

I returned moments later to let him know his advice worked. I also got his name, telling him I wanted to write a short letter he could wave at his boss. I hope it gets him a raise, or better, health care insurance, but that's expansive thinking, and we'll likely have to settle for him having a pleasant moment opening the mail.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

08 February 2012

Like most work groups, we often go out to lunch together, and like every other group out there, we take the opportunity to discuss and vent, depending on who's at the table at the time.

Recently, our CEO accompanied us to lunch. Now, before you break something with that cringe, you need to understand that our CEO is different. He actually likes to converse about things. We discussed current politics, how ugly the current slate of conservative presidential candidates are, the weather, families, and those things we do when we're not working.

It was a delightful extended precision lunch, made even better when he picked up the tab for the table. That was unexpected and unnecessary, but he did it anyway, and although we all expressed our gratitude at the moment, a written note seems reasonable, and it's headed out in a California mailbox.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

07 February 2012

It's often the case that we spend more time with the folks at work than we do with our own families. That is certainly true for me. However, my work takes it up a notch. How so? We travel. A lot, and often together. My colleagues know just how poorly I can behave, especially at the end of a long road trip.

This also means we bond is manners that are typically uncommon in the other work groups across the company. It is common to hear talk of “family” when referring to the peeps at work, and while that's a worthy goal, I think we often miss that mark widely, though with one exception, that being the people who travel together.

I recently finished a road trip with a fellow across the building. Our paths rarely intersect because of the differences in our work, but periodically, we're on the road together. When I first met the man, I figured he was a bit of a jock-wannabe for my taste, and follow-up encounters have driven that point home. However, I will say that when we first met and it was hand-shaking time, I was taken with a sudden cough that I covered in my hand. I looked sheepish, I’m sure, but he extended his hand anyway.

This road trip was no exception to our norm. He was collegial, as he always is, and nothing but friendly in manner, speech, and action. I don't see that I could, or should, ask for more when I’m hundreds of miles from the Bones of my Fathers.

Monday, February 13, 2012

06 February 2012

I used to bake bread frequently. A wedding present even included a huge, heavy bowl specifically designed to withstand the rigors of kneading bread without sliding all over the counter. Of course, things change, they always do, and that bowl stayed where I I was while I moved on. It's not like I have room in my little kitchen for more than a coffee pot, and I already have my grandmother's biscuit pan anyway, the one carved by my grandfather some 100 years ago.

Yes, I’m better off, and that's for many reasons.

So, last month, a peep brings a bread maker for me to borrow. I had one of these back in the day, and I used it a lot, but making bread was something that changed along with the rest of the world, and that was likely a step backward. The problem now is that I'll likely wear this machine out, and that'll leave me having to buy a new one some day, assuming these things are still made.

In the meantime, there's a plenty of good bread for all sorts of purposes, not the least being cinnamon toast. There's also bread to ship to Lily and Josh, and that's expensive bread, what with the shipping, but there's not much to compare with receiving a package from home. The gift of being able to make a little bread for the peeps is worth a card, probably more, but we'll settle for the card until that lottery win comes through.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

05 February 2012

I work with several extremely effective women, and one of them is quite lucky this evening because of the limited bandwidth I’m finding in this hotel that prevents me from uploading a report and its appendices. You probably heard her happy feet when she discovered that I was leaving her alone for a few days.

She's also on the cusp of a project I started last week when I lost my mind and starte something, that being the newly-formed Tough Mudder team. I want her on the team, but she's holding back, mostly because of the extreme pictures and videos. However, her decision processing is far more complex than that, not that I'll give her such credit. I just want her on the team because I know we'll need her.

Nonetheless, she will agree that my job description includes making her life a living hell as I crank out one report after the next that she gets to make right, and in doing so, she makes us look so very good, all the while being a very good sport as I beg, whine, and wheedle to get her on the team. Yes, I have no shame, but I do have some cards, and she's getting one.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

04 February 2012

Facebook is interesting in that it permits a reconnection with people from the past. Recently, I started adding students I knew back when I taught high school, and yes, it took some time to remember some of them. That's more a statement on me than them.

The same is true for colleagues. One of my favorite appointments involved academic computing at UNCG. We had a crew of very talented and creative people coming from all sorts of backgrounds. It was there I started playing Dungeons and Dragons, one of the few games I could tolerate for more than five minutes. I even started dreaming those games.

Things change, and those days are long gone. However, many of us are on FB, and several of us are FB friends. One bud has a busy life, and she only goes online every week or so, unlike the people like me who are rarely removed from an online presence.

One day a few weeks ago, she commented on something I posted, and in what she wrote, she brought up a something I needed reminding of, that being the importance of laughter. I have a propensity of laughing at odd things, and often laughing very loudly. However, there was the one who, I thought, had my better interest in mind, and a frequent comment involved toning down the guffaws. That was very bad advice, and I see now that it was rooted in a weak personality prone to paranoia.

I'll be unleashing that guffaw more often now, and that motivates a card. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

03 February 2012

More birthday mess. Mess? It's quite flattering, but I'm pretty sure the peeps more like a chance to get out and eat well. Regardless, I'll take what credit there is, due or not.

My birthday lunch was free. The one peep picked up the tab. Pork BBQ, eastern NC style. Vinegar. Just the way the deity require us to enjoy her piggies. Please note that I did not partake of the $3.99 bag of home fried skins, some with hair. Those things are so satisfying. And deadly.

The BBQ is my second favorite comfort food, chicken stew being the first. You might call it chicken pastry. I have to cook that myself because I'm not sure there's anyone left who can replicate my grandmother's recipe. It took me some 20 years to figure it out. Perhaps one day we can share a bowl.

After the healing BBQ, we chowed down on a dessert of real Coke with salted peanuts, the peanuts poured into the Coke. It does not get any better.

For yet again saving my life, this peep gets a card.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

02 February 2012

When we went out for my belated birthday lunch last week, one of the peeps gave me a red balloon. I doubt her color choice was an accident, what with the festive occasion. She later took the balloon and tied it to my chair. Yes, I'm older than most, and sometimes I need a marker of some kind to tell me where I should go.

This peep is particularly well-read, and I suspect she's quite familiar with the video and story of The Red Balloon. If you're not, just use Google to find the Wiki reference. From there, you can learn how to rent the video, You want to watch this video as soon as possible. If you were ever on the receiving end of a bully's attention, only to have a kindly hand reach in and lift you up and out, you'll find a certain warmth in this 1956 video that will leave you knowing there is still some vestige of hope for this world.

For this, the good peep gets a card.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

01 February 2012

After a few days delay to accommodate a variety of work detail, about a dozen of us headed out to Smithfield's BBQ for a some decent barbecue for some birthday lunch. On the way out of the office, the one peep offered to drive, and three of us hopped into his car for the ride.  

The weather was warn and cloudy. Halfway to the restaurant, the bottom dropped out, even though the weather forecast indicated that the morning rain would not continue.

We reached the restaurant safely, our driver parked near the door so my hair wouldn't muss in the rain, and we all piled in for a big mess of BBQ, fried chicken, and the usual sides. Comfort food. It had been a long while since I'd eaten like that, especially with a large group of friends, and the whole shebang just hit the spot. There was even a red balloon.

You might think that'd be enough, but no, there's more. On the way back to the office, our driver took us by Dairy Queen where I got a cone of vanilla, which I ordered as a comb of vanilla, but no one appeared to notice.

All in all, that's not a bad way to spend a belated birthday, especially for an old fart like me, and if that's not a reason to send a card, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

End of January interlude

This seems like a good time to stop and think about what I'm doing, what with a few over 31 cards mailed.

On the practical side, a new, if relatively inexpensive, Shaeffer pen does better with the writing if nothing for my penmanship. The cards from Peter Pauper Press are far superior to the Hallmark cards with which I began this project. I still don't get why Hallmark would make cares that do not absorb ink from fountain pens.

Yep, I ordered both the pen and the cards from Amazon. Surely, you don't expect me to actually enter a store and speak to a clerk, do you?

I spent some time over dinner last week discussing several points regarding this project with a friend, She expressed surprise that I would have several self-imposed rules, especially since I often spend a lot of time working out ways to get around the rules.

For example, she thought the requirement that the gratitude be expressed for something current left me failing to express gratitude for the larger, and perhaps more important, things years past. She expressed interest in letting people know how important they have been in her life.

I see her point, and I think her intent is worthy. She should do it. However, the intent of this project is to find at least a single something every day for which to express gratitude, and that means, often, I'm looking into the little things that most of us, especially me, would simply take for granted.

She also thought the one card a day rule was restrictive, and I suppose it could be. I've broken it twice so far, both times in instances where a group of people were responsible for the act I was grateful for. However, I still think this restriction is beneficial. Without it, I'd be likely to write a lot of cards one day, and then have a long dry spell during which I'd be disinclined to to see those things for which I should be grateful.

It's not so much that I have to look for things in the world for which I am grateful, though there have been days, especially last year where the cynic in me might wonder about that. It's more a training exercise where slow and steady wins the race. It's the story of the Tortoise and the Hare applied to something that I now find sadly lacking in our world.

This is not to say that I find only one thing each day. Some days, there are several, and I use Evernote on my phone to keep a list of the people and their actions for which I am grateful lest I become forgetful. Yes, I could write the list in a paper notebook, and I almost started doing that, but the phone is with me most of the time.

Yesterday, I added three lines to the list, and now I'm up to seven items in waiting. This suggests that at some point, I'll have to bend my rule and write several cards. In that event, I believe that'll be a very good problem to have, and I look forward to taking care of that queue. For the moment, though, I'm going to hold to one a day just in case I run into a streak of bad luck.

I have noticed a certain and quite pleasant softening of my world in the past 31 days. Perhaps that is a natural course of events that would have occurred anyway. Perhaps it's in some manner a product of sending the cards. I might never know, but I am glad to see it happening regardless of the source. We could use more moments of gentler expression in this world, especially as the current slate of Republican presidential candidates go out of their way to express hatred and contempt for so many otherwise harmless people.

There is one matter that is beginning to bother me, and that is the imbalance of work and life. I've long worked to blend work and life because I, generally, see the two as variations on a theme. In part, then, that this project is sending a lot of notes to the work address does not surprise me. Think about it. We spend a lot of time with the people at work, enough time to rival what we spend with friends and family.

With that said, it is becoming evident to me that I need additional outlets that are not work related, not so much to alleviate any boredom that might arise with work, but more to add enrichment, to add other types of thinking and other manners of thinkers. Now, what this diversion might be remains a mystery. Take a class? If a class, what class? There're certainly enough political activities this season and this year to keep a fellow occupied. Whatever it is needs to be complimentary, and we'll get to it soon. Maybe I'll start back harassing fish.