Category Archives: Favorites

Some of my favorite posts, both on topic and way off.

RIP Dad

On Wednesday, March 8th my father passed away at the age of 78.

He fell over the weekend, causing a subdural hematoma . They performed brain surgery Monday to relieve the pressure. On Tuesday his vitals crashed and we were advised that there was nothing to be done. He was moved to a hospice center that afternoon. He never regained consciousness after surgery. My daughter (17) went in to tell him goodbye on Monday.

My mom and my sister stayed overnight Tuesday while his breathing became more and more shallow.

Wednesday I got up and had an urge to read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. I thought I had a copy of it already but apparently I never got around to buying it. So my wife and I drove to Barnes and Noble to pick one up before heading to the hospice to spell mom and sis.

When we got to hospice we sent mom and sis home for a shower and food. The plan was for them to come back in the morning. After they were gone I opened up the book and read the first page under the “Dying” section. It said to be honest with the dying and to tell them what they need to hear, that it’s about them- not you.

So, I took him by the hand and said “Pop, mom just left with sis. I want you to know that mom will be taken care of. Me, sis, <my wife>, <sis’s husband>, <my kid>… hell, the grandkids have fights on who gets to be with her. She’ll be safe and we’ll make sure she’s OK. We’ve got this. All you need to do is relax and let go. Love you pop”

2 minutes later he was gone.

I don’t know why I woke up wanting that book. But it told me what needed to be done.

I called sis who literally just got out of the parking lot. She turned around and came back. Now, my wife is a very strong person. I’ve seen her go through multiple deaths in her family and I can count the number of times I’ve seen her cry in 28 years on one hand. However, my mom’s reaction to seeing my dad dead… it was the realest, most heart breaking thing I have ever seen. I really have no words to describe it. My stoic wife was left sobbing in the corner, just watching it.

After a few minutes mom looked at me, still destroyed, and asked “Why didn’t he want me here when he left?”- like it was betrayal. By now the hospice doctor was in the room and she had seen this hundreds of times.  I told her “He was waiting for you to leave so you wouldn’t have to see it. He wanted to spare you that moment.” Hospice doctor just nods and says “It almost always works that way. Men will hang on until the wife leaves. It’s just how things go.”

I then told her what I told him, about her being taken care of and how he was gone less than 2 minutes later. “Mom, he may have been a grumpy old man but there is no arguing that he loved you. He refused to go until he knew you would be OK.”

And that is how my father died.

 

Happy Birthday… Not Really

Hello All,

Long time, no hear. Sorry for the lack of updates, but I’ve been slammed at my day job.

Well, that’s going to change.

I can’t say it was a 100% surprise, but I was given notice today. Yes, I was let go on my birthday and barely a month before Christmas. Sometimes life can really bite.

Positive side: this will let me focus on getting a couple of things around the house done.

Negative side: everything else.

Soooo, if any of you know of a company that can use a very experienced BA/Information Architect, please give me a shout.

Thanks-

Jay

Steven Seagal Points The Way

Hey Everybody!

Sorry for the long absence. Life happened and I forgot to duck.

What brings me back this time?

The sheer genius and acting ability of this man.

The film is “Under Siege”: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105690/

For most of us the only highlight of the movie at the time was Erika Eleniak coming out of that cake. However, I was watching it last night for the first time in more than 10 years and came to the scene where he smuggles this huge backpack into the little wooden rowboat which was for some BIZARRE reason hanging ON THE SIDE OF AN IRON BATTLESHIP!! What could possibly happen to that ship that would make the little wooden boat which MIGHT seat 6 the preferred option?

Anyway, that’s not what stopped me dead. It was when he unfurls this big antennae dish (which he promptly COVERS in the boat- different rant), does some vague button pushing and then goes back inside where a perkily dressed Erika is waiting for him. She sees the “phone” in the pic above and asks “What is that?” He gives her some techy crap about a “SEAL phone” and she goes “Oh, like a car phone.”

1- When was the last time you heard the phrase “car phone”?

2- How different would this movie have been if he had just whipped out a Galaxy S7 Edge and called the Admiral?

Now the scary part. This movie is from 1992. Yes, it’s “celebrating” it’s 25-year anniversary next year. The entire paradigm in communications has changed in less time than it take to mature a good bottle of Scotch.

What will it look like in 2041? Will my daughter just wave at the air and get a connection to her kids? The mind reels.

That’s it for now. I’ll try to be back here more often.

-J

 

 

 

Labor Pickets for the Modern Age

Remember when the idea of being picketed due to a labor dispute would terrify a business owner? The image of hundreds of angry people, marching around with signs and chanting hateful things about the owner, his business and basically his entire extended family splashed across the news and in the papers would keep him up at nights.

Well, apparently those days are over.

The Westin Hotel is being picketed as we speak. Here it is:

 photo westin.jpg

Yep, one large sign and two guys in lawn chairs just sitting there like they were watching a ball game. Usually they have 3 or 4 guys in yellow vests handing out print-outs too. Well, not really handing them out. More like they stand there with one in their hand and hope that somebody takes one. I’m guessing it was too cold for them today. I mean, it got down to 45 degrees.

Here’s the upside to this strategy- they can “protest” more than one site at a time. Here’s the riveting scene half a mile up Peachtree:

 photo flatiron.jpg

There’s a third “protest” going on an Hotel Indigo, literally within sight of the Westin. They weren’t out today. I guess it was their day off from being on the front lines of this grueling labor war waged on the mean streets of Atlanta.

Happy Birthday, Sis

Today marks my baby sister’s 44th birthday.

I haven’t always been the best brother. Two examples of this spring to mind.

First, she had a black tooth for much of her childhood when I caused her to fall into a sink faucet. Also, to this day she has tiny burn marks on her chest when  a snotty 12-year-old me let a trusting 7-year-old her drop an egg into a pan full of hot bacon grease.

However, there were times when I was a pretty good brother. Like the day Bobby kicked her in the stomach and I chased him into his place and dragged him out to kick his butt. His mom screamed at me and I just said “He kicked my sister”. His mom said “Oh, OK then. I’ll deal with him after you do.”

Then there was “Bunnyland”- a place where a sneaky older brother told his impressionable sister that we went when we hid under the blankets and I bounced the bed. I spun entire stories about the “King of the Rabbits” and other such nonsense for her late into the night.

There was “tea fights” and there was all the times we packed our entire room, hoping our parents would take the hint and move us to another place. Smuggling empty boxes through the window of our room and stashing the packed ones in the closet, like our parents wouldn’t notice all our stuff was gone.

If we’re ever kidnapped and have to prove we’re really us to each other we have a simple way- both of us can rattle off the complete address of the apartment complex we lived in more than 30 years ago. I have a hard time remembering my work address but I’ll remember that address on Colonial Drive til the day I die.

When we grew up there was the legendary “I can’t feel my teeth” party… but now is not the place for that tale.

My sister ended up marrying my best friend (a guy she used to hate) when he drove 200 miles to look after her during a hurricane. Funny thing is, when I was first moving my sister and mom to that new city I took him along as cheap muscle, On the way he told me “For all this work you owe me a girlfriend.” Debt paid bro, with 2 cute kids as interest.

Right now, Sis is going through some rough times. She’s taken the lead in dealing with some thorny family issues that have no clean resolution- but she’s doing the best she can under impossible conditions.

I can’t remember the last time I said it, probably Christmas when everybody is a better person, but I love you, Sis. You’re not the cuddliest kitten in the litter, but seeing how we grew up that isn’t a surprise. Everybody deals with the static their own way. For me, it was doing my best to give our parents fits and then leaving for Europe and the Army when I was 17. You opted to stand in there and slug it out.

They say you can’t choose your family, but if you could I’d still pick you for the game. Every team needs a bulldog that won’t ever back away from a fight.

Happy birthday, Sis… from an older brother that realizes, for a sister, he couldn’t have asked for better.

Note: This is probably the most proofed post I’ve ever written. You see, my sister is also a perfectionist with a degree in English.

My Mantra: “Think loud.”

My career began in earnest during the days of the “dot.com bust”.  Of course, I held numerous jobs before then, including stints in a major lab’s accounting department and at Time Warner, but these were simply means to earning money while in school. I count my actual career as starting after graduating with my MBA and moving to Atlanta the next day.

My first real position was with a small web shop start-up that was managed by a couple of guys who had a rich friend that wanted to get in on this new-fangled “Internet fad”. Looking back, it was amazing how unorganized and amateurish the place was. I got the gig not because of my MBA or because of my fairly impressive school portfolio but instead because I was really good at Power Point. I later learned that this was because their “proposals” were actually printed Power Point presentations with pages of org charts reflecting the navigation of the proposed web site and a last page featuring an itemized list of costs.

Their typical customer was a local artist who had a small business selling hand-painted tiles for people looking for a custom kitchen. That is, until the day that they somehow got an inside track for the website for a globally known manufacturer of watches. I have no idea what contacts they had that gave them this shot, but the watch maker made it clear that if the proposal was solid and they came up with an interesting slant on the site that this little Atlanta web shop would get an honest shot at the project.

The boss brought me into the conference room, explained the situation in less than three minutes, told me to come up with something brilliant and then stood up. Before leaving, he unwittingly gave me the mantra for my career from that point on. He dropped a handful of whiteboard markers on the table, turned and; on the way out the door; smacked the board and said:

 “Think loud.”

Over the next two hours I stood at that board, scribbling whatever crossed my mind. A lot of it was obvious or just crap but I tried to make a direct connection from my brain to my hand. Finally, I came up with half of a great idea. I couldn’t come up with the other half no matter what I tried. However, when I stepped back I noticed something that I had scribbled an hour ago and it was like clicking a seat belt. I swear I heard a “click” somewhere in the room. I had scribbled a note that was the perfect other half and had no idea until I stepped back and looked at the whole board.

I circled both parts in red and then went to grab the boss. He stood in front of this 28 square feet of Neolithic cave paintings as I explained the concept. He then pointed at another scrawl and asked about it. I explained what I had been thinking. He asked me another follow-up question and I realized what he was driving at. One simple change and another “click”. The seat belt now had a third strap, a shoulder strap if you will.

The small fry Atlanta web firm got the project and it served to double the amount of staff from two coders to four. Two years later, long after I had moved on, the company went under. It was a good first job out of college, but the take-away for me was those two words:

“Think loud.”

From that day to this I have always had a whiteboard in my office and a stack of blank 11” x 16” paper in my bag. Whenever I get a new project my first hour or day or week is spent standing at that old reliable friend, trying to make the connection from brain to hand without edit. It’s never failed me. At times, the effect is almost mystical- like I’m standing there wondering what revelation is going to appear on the board next. A famous author once said that he has moments like that at his typewriter, that he’s reading the novel as it appears on the page and thinking “I wonder what will happen next.” I totally understand that sensation.

I’ve looked for software that would let me do this on screen for years with no success. I’m an expert at Visio and I’ve tried a dozen “mind mapping” or other such software packages to no avail. The problem is that you can’t go from brain to hand when a software application is involved because your brain is forced to manipulate the UI of the application, breaking the circuit. So, for now I’ve got a large collection of snapshots taken of cluttered whiteboards and scribbled ledger paper.

Sadly, I don’t even remember the name of the boss at that little web shop, but I’m still grateful for my mantra…

 “Think loud.” 

FOLLOW UP:

After I hit “Publish” for this piece, WP displayed the following quote by Isaac Asimov: “Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”

Rarely is life so perfect.

Real Men

First, a link: http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/25/opinion/bennett-aurora-three/index.html?hpt=hp_c1

Three men were sitting in that Aurora movie theater with their girlfriends when a mad man opened fire. Without thinking, all three leaped to put themselves between the shooter and a woman to which they had no legal or familial obligation, dying in the process. Three men, all in their twenties, sacrificed themselves without a moments hesitation.

It’s easy to understand a man risking himself for his family. Ask any father about protecting his wife and kids and you’ll see a look in his eyes more eloquent than anything he can say. It simply says “No. Nothing will hurt them.”

It’s also understood that an adult will put himself (or herself) at risk to protect a child, regardless of whether or not it’s theirs or if they even know the kid. Stories of people unhesitatingly putting their lives in danger, and sometimes losing them, in order to save a child they had never laid eyes on a minute before are not unusual. I remember one story where a child fell into a raging river and THREE adults died saving her, none of them family. Scientist say the human animal has an instinctive hard coding that makes us protect the young because it’s what keeps the species alive.

But why did three adult men unhesitatingly throw their lives away to protect these adult women? It wasn’t to score points with them, that’s for sure. They didn’t have time to think “Wow, if I protect her now she’ll REALLY like me.”

Chivalry maybe? When the girls agreed to go out on the date with them, the men decided that they had some sacred obligation to defend them- laying down their lives if needed. I think this strikes closer to the truth… but doesn’t quite hit it.

Imagine a scene where any of these guys went to the movie alone and happened to be sitting next to a girl who was also at the movie alone:
Him: “Hi. My friends think I’m such a geek for coming here alone for a midnight showing of a Batman movie.”
Her: “Yeah, mine too.”

Does ANYBODY doubt that, as soon as the bullets started flying that, based on that little exchange, any one of these guys would have done everything he could to protect this girl who was there alone… unprotected? Of course he would.

Why? Because they were REAL men. It’s that simple. All of us that pee standing up secretly hope that, when push comes to shove, we will be real men and won’t collapse in a weeping pile of cowardice. We all secretly fear that, deep down, we won’t have it in us to do “the right thing”. That we won’t pass the test.

Jon Blunk, Alex Teves and Matt McQuinn took the test and passed it.