Monday, May 30, 2005
For today, I really didn't have anything planned, and then this morning I heard a song that I'd never heard before by an artist named Chely Wright. For whatever reason, the lyrics to this song touched me, and sum up 'why' I feel the way I do about this day. So I thought I'd post it here. I found the lyrics here, and if you're interested about this artist you can find find out more about her on her homepage.
So.. here it is the lyrics to the song "Bumper of My SUV" by Chely Wright.
(also written by Chely Wright)
I've got a bright red sticker on the back of my car
Says United States Marines
And yesterday a lady in a mini-van held up a middle finger at me
Does she think she knows what I stand for
Or the things that I believe
Just by looking at a sticker for the U.S. Marines
On the bumper of my SUV
See, my brother Chris, he's been in for more than 14 years now
Our dad was in the Navy during Vietnam
Did his duty then he got out
And my grandpa earned his purple heart
On the beach of Normandy
That's why I've got a sticker for the U.S. Marines
On the bumper of my SUV
But that doesn't mean that I want war
I'm not Republican or Democrat
But I've gone all around this crazy world
Just to try and better understand
Yes, I do have questions
I get to ask them because I'm free
That's why I've got a sticker for the U.S. Marines
On the bumper of my SUV
'Cause I've been to Hiroshima
And I've been to the DMZ
I've walked on the sand in Baghdad
Still don't have all of the answers I need
But I guess I wanna know where she's been
Before she judges and gestures to me
'Cause she don't like my sticker for the U.S. Marines
On the bumper of my SUV
So I hope that lady in her mini-van
Turns on her radio and hears this from me
As she picks up her kids from their private school
And drives home safely on our city streets
Or to the building where her church group meets
Yeah, that's why I've got a sticker for the U.S. Marines
On the bumper of my SUV
So, as you enjoy this day, please take some time to remember those you've given their lives so we can enjoy ours!
Sunday, May 29, 2005
So today, instead of surfing the net, lying in the hammock, or otherwise simply doing a whole lot of nothing, I’m going to go get busy on this stuff.
Oh, remember Whit? I posted about him a few days back, well, I talked with him on the phone yesterday and we made plans for me to be up there at the end of July. He’s throwing a graduation party for Brit so it’s a perfect time to be there, see her all grown up, and spend some time relaxing, or “swattin’ flies and swappin’ lies” with some old friends. I promise to take some pics of the shindig and share them here.
While I was talking to Whit, he told me he’d actually been to the blog, read everything, but hadn’t had time to leave a comment yet... maybe one day soon! Also, another old friend Tom Metcalf was there so he and I chatted a bit too. Seems he’s helping Whit put up a new pole-barn… I’m guessing Whit’s got too much business in his ‘side-line’ shop and he needs a bigger shop! Man I gotta move back to the country!
Tom’s another of those unique characters I’ve known and I’ll write up a story about him one day soon, he certainly deserves one.
So today, I have two goals. First is to finish the custom body work on the truck bed. I’m taking some stuff off a newer bed (like gas tank doors) and a slightly different tailgate and fitting them to this one. Also I intend to reverse the tailgate ‘handle’ and place it inside rather than outside. If I can get both gas tank door sections welded in, and the tailgate customization completed and in primer today I’ll be very happy!
My second goal is to fix the wiring problem on the bike. I have a ‘fix’ in mind, and I think I’ll have enough time, but, if I don’t I’ll do it tomorrow morning!
You see I’ve established a deadline for the truck now… I’d like to have it finished, in paint and tested out so I can drive it up to see Whit. It would be a perfect time and place to show off my new creation, with someone I know would appreciate it! (Yeah, it's a gas-hog, but it'll be fun to drive and if I spend $150 instead of $100 in gas over the trip how much difference will that really make?)
I may be a bit scarce around here for the next several weeks as I thrash to get this done. I’m hoping to chronicle the project here, complete with before and after pictures of each stage. If my back holds out and I don’t run into any real complications I should be able to finish it in time. Worst case, I can at least show folks the pictures at the party!!
One other thought comes to mind as I’m writing this today. Tomorrow is a day we set aside to remember those who’ve paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we all enjoy. Please take some time tomorrow, to think about the country we live in, the freedoms we enjoy and how lucky most of us were to simply have been born ‘here’ and not somewhere else.
The price of freedom has never been free. Let’s all take a moment to thank those who’ve made it possible for us to enjoy it.
As always, your thoughts and comments are always welcome.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Shawn’s another one of those folks I miss from the days in Upstate NY… he almost always made me smile, often think, and in general we’d talk about things not ‘business’ related, which, at the time for me, was a very good thing. We both stopped at a local pub called the “Euclid Hotel” in Clay, NY after work to have a couple of cold ones and relax a bit from the work day before going home. We rarely stayed more than an hour, but, that time let us transition from our ‘business’ persona, to the one we needed at home.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately, and have come to realize I’ve found myself saying those same words, at times, these days myself.
A one point in my ‘computer career’ I had visions of glory, enormous success, fame and fortune a la Bill Gates (so I could measure my wealth in “Gatesian Units” and everything). In looking back, I’ve come to realize that while the money was never there, there was success all the same. However, at the time, I measured success in simple monetary terms. As in, if I didn’t have more money than I knew what to do with, I wasn’t successful, yet.
I was re-reading a short piece my friend Greg had written (a while back) the other day (You can find it here or here) entitled ‘A Hot Dog in Las Vegas’. It’s been several years since he started that piece, intended originally to chronicle our trip to ‘Comdex’. That show was the ‘Mecca’ of all things computer in those days, the show of shows, where the elite gathered to show off their wares and exchange ideas with their peers.
It didn’t really turn out as we’d intended. Oh, we got some new customers, had a major software firm attempt to buy our code to include in their applications and in general had a pretty good time, but there was no ‘brass ring’ to grab. No launching pad to the next level, and no one really wanted to hear about our new ‘process’.
Programming, specifically application programming is an art, not a science. I say that because I could teach you everything I know about writing programs, and it’s entirely possible you’d never be able to actually develop applications. I see it much like learning to play a musical instrument. I practiced guitar for many years, learned cords, proper string picking techniques, pace and rhythm, yet, while I became very adept at the mechanics of playing guitar, I never was able to actually make music.
I could play the notes just fine; it’s just that, well it was just that, notes, not music. Some people are artists with a musical instrument, others, simply are not, I was not.
Programming is much like that. There’s an interaction, a relationship between each and every component of an application. To really function well, they need to be complimentary, have a certain rhythm, to fit together and flow, if the application is to work, and be an enjoyable experience for the person using it.
That flow, is what, in my mind, distinguishes a ‘programmer’, from a ‘coder’. I don’t know how to teach that, I don’t know if it can be taught, maybe, like music it’s one of those things you either can, or can not do. I don’t really know. I do know however, that there are far more ‘coders’ out there than programmers, despite their job title, just like there are far more ‘players’ than musicians.
We’d (Greg and I) developed a process that really changed the way programming could be done. We’d taken ‘things’, anything you could name, and turned them into what I’d termed ‘Meta Objects’. I also coined the term ‘Meta Object Oriented Programming’ to describe what we’d developed.
In short, what we’d done was to remove the ‘knowledge’ from the program, the ‘business rules’ as they’d call it today and externalize them by placing them in a database (oh, wait, they call it the ‘Data Warehouse’ or ‘Data Store’ today).
Anyway, needless to say we were pretty excited about this as it was the culmination of several years of thought on both our parts (so much so we each like to claim ‘inventing’ it).
It was in this time period that I feel I’d actually achieved ‘Fab’ status. I was getting referrals from all over the country, even Microsoft, for a time, would refer folks looking for FoxPro help my way. I was feeling pretty damn popular!!
Things fell apart after that Comdex show however, I was pretty much ‘out of money’ and had returned to contract work to pay the bills and get out of debt.
The process served me well though. I got involved with a project for USAir that involved processing the ‘Call Accounting’ records for payroll purposes for all of their reservation centers around the country. The application I wrote for them was entirely ‘Meta Object’ driven. Now this was all the way back in 1998 (a lifetime in computer terms) and what I did for them was truly one of my finest pieces of work.
I got the best compliment of my life a year or so later when a fellow they’d hired called to ask me how it all worked. As I explained the process, how each rule for a particular call accounting ‘item’ (‘event’ we’d call it today) was assembled from the store of all the possible rules based on the criteria associated with it, he stopped me and said:
“You mean, I change what’s in the database, and that will change how the program actually processes things?”
As I told him yes, and proceeded to walk him though the rules editor, how to change a rule, change the order in which rules processed or the conditions under which they’d actually be applied or ignored, he stopped me again and said:
“This is amazing… I can do what they’ve asked me to do without actually modifying the ‘program’!!”
Finally, someone other than Greg or I, actually saw the potential this process had, I felt we’d been ‘validated’.
A year or so after that, this same guy called me again, letting me know he had been instructed, under corporate mandate to port the application to Visual Basic (more on the ‘language wars’ in a future post) and was concerned about finding a way to take what I’d done and move it to a new platform.
I explained how to access the existing data (in FoxPro tables) from within VB, and that it was possible, not impossible. He thanked me, and (presumably) went about the conversion process.
It was this time, that in my mind anyway “We was Fab”, we’d done something others had only talked about, and at a level beyond where they had even talked about it. I’d implemented it, in a major corporation, in a way that the fellow that followed me was able to continue using, and (again presumably) even take to another platform.
I’m on my way back to being ‘Fab’ again these days. In the past 6-8 months I’ve done more new and exciting things than I had in the previous 6-7 years. Why? Change of environment, change of pace, changes in the way the work I do is being looked at daily.
Even though I’m not truly ‘self’ employed, the environment is one that ‘feels’ entrepreneurial. I’m encouraged to find new ways to solve problems, thanked (can you believe that?) when I do and in general made to feel that my contributions are appreciated.
So maybe, just maybe, I was ‘Fab’ all the time. There just wasn’t any feedback letting me know that. Like Shawn, nothing in me had changed, just my current surroundings and situation. Shawn was still a great drummer; he’d just lost the ‘crowd’ and that regular feedback. (He was a great guy too, loved his wife, his kids, his family and they loved him).
So, the point… I know… I took too long getting here… Maybe, it’s not the voices of others we should be listening to, when choosing to decide our current spot in life. But instead to look inside ourselves, and decide. Decide for ourselves if what we’re doing in/with our lives is ‘Fab’, or not.
I believe, that deep down, we really know. I know I’m often not willing to admit that to myself. That if I admit I’m doing ‘great’ things I’m being narcissistic, or conversely if I’m too critical of myself I’m being self-defeating…
How much better would we all be, if we could truly draw our fabulous-ness, from within, and not from external sources?
Ok… that’s it for today… As always, your thoughts, comments, impressions, etc. are welcomed and encouraged!
Thanks again for reading.
Friday, May 27, 2005
What am I talking about? Well, last Sunday, as many of you know, I sold that Dodge Challenger I’d been hanging on to for ten years, thought about what it had meant to me, how it felt to let it go… a lot of things actually.
So today, after hanging on to a piece of property in New York (you remember, North Bay?) for at least as long, but trying to sell it for at least the last 5 years…. Guess what, it’s SOLD!!
You see this is the absolute, last item my ex-wife and I still jointly own(ed)… It was one of those things that remained, we’re to split the proceeds equally and so on, but it was a reminder of that past chapter of my life, at least 3 times a year. Twice when the listing would need to be renewed, or the broker changed, and once when the taxes arrived.
I’d wanted to get rid of it, hoped for the cash out of it, needed the cash on several occasions… but no matter what I did, who I listed it with, it never seemed to move. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve kicked myself for not taking the offer we got shortly after we moved to North Carolina, but, you can’t live in the past.
A year or so ago, my wife (RealLady) and I took a trip to NYS to visit my Mom and the family, and on our way home we drove up past the old place. I actually understood why that piece of property hadn’t sold, the entire other side of the street had been sold off! I discovered that those lots were priced substantially lower, than the one I had (they were smaller).
So, I'd waited, patiently… and nothing, year after year, nothing.
Then, yesterday the ex-wife calls and says we have an offer, but they want us to pay for the survey. I tell her to go ahead and accept with a ‘counter’ that they pay for the survey. Well, then we’re into this whole discussion about how the realtor told her the other party had already upped their offer to cover the survey (I’m thinking they offered less than we were asking, so how’s that “upping” the offer??)…
Long story short, I finally convince her to make the counter offer, between questions of “What if”; they skip on the whole deal, don’t accept our counter… etc, etc… I tried to explain that they’d take the counter, that they’d put in the part about us paying for the survey, to allow us to save face, accept their lower offer but, they’d have to pay for the survey… She’s not completely sold, but, to her credit, she gave it a shot.
The other folks accepted our counter so fast it almost made me wish I’d countered with more money, and, they pay for the survey… but, I am happy it’s being sold, we should get the paperwork tomorrow, overnight it back and close in a few weeks.
Now, I (we) really will have enough money to re-grade the driveway and put in the patio we’ve been planning and dreaming about.
I know this may sound strange, but I have this partial belief that the ‘Universe’ brings us things only when we’re ready for them. Is it all just strange coincidence, or, did the act of selling the Challenger set off some bizarre cosmic ‘trigger’ that got the land sold too?
Ok, so I know, in my logical brain that it’s all just coincidence... or do I? Have any of you read any of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s stuff? In several of his books he talks about the ‘Universe’ and how it pays back each and every good thing you do, with interest, at exactly the moment you need it (and least expect it). I don’t know if I entirely buy into his whole thought process there, but, I’ve experienced enough ‘strange’ things in my life to know it’s at least ‘possible’.
So… I’m sitting here today, between runs of the POL utility and string matches of the data Duns returned on Tuesday, pondering this sequence of events.
Speaking of the POL, it’s a pretty lean little utility, but when processing a quarter of a million records and making six evaluations per record, it takes about an hour on a slower Pentium 4 to run through the data. I’m going to rerun it later today on a 3.0Ghz P4 and see what the elapsed time difference is!
But I digress… (that's what happens when I work and blog) This whole occurrence seems almost like a dream, I’ve had that land so long that I began to ‘justify’ still having it by entertaining a dream of building another small “Home in the woods” and returning there to retire… I say ‘entertain’ because, in reality, when and if I make it to retirement, it will most definitely be spent somewhere South of the Mason-Dixon, below the Snow-Belt for sure!! (I've promised myself that barring the arrival of a new ice-age, I'm never shoveling snow again)
So I’m throwing it out there, what camp are you in? Coincidence? Cosmic trigger? Or some other bizarre twist of fate I hadn’t thought of?
As always, thanks for reading, your comments, thoughts and impressions are always welcomed!
Thursday, May 26, 2005
I’m a reformed ‘control freak’. Well Ok, not totally reformed, a ‘recovering’ control freak then.
Life as I’d known it changed when I learned one inescapable truth. We are in control of only one small thing in our lives, that’s the choice we make, at the exact instant we make it. Before that moment, and after it, virtually everything else is out of our control.
You (yes, me too) are in control of nothing else.
The belief that we’re in control, is an illusion, and one that can lead to the misery we’ve been talking about being the result of ‘hope’. I thin that it’s not hope, but the choices (or lack of choices) we make that govern the direction of, and the happiness we derive from, our lives.
Dr. William Glasser has written quite a bit about this, in fact it was reading one of his books (Control Theory) that helped to facilitate the change process for me and allowed me to start letting go of my controlling behaviors. He states:
“We almost always have choices, and the better the choice, the more we will be in control of our lives."
Glasser understands that often we can feel as if we've lost control of our lives, or that we feel we're in a hopeless situation. He believes however those feelings are a choice. These choices he refers to include not only how to and when to act but, how we feel as well. How we feel is not something that’s controlled by others or by external events. We choose to feel, however we feel, in other words we ‘choose to allow’ some, or all, external influences to impact our feelings.
Glasser also maintains that: “We can choose to feel miserable or we can learn to make the better choices that are available to us.”
There are ten axioms in Glasser’s “Choice Theory” (he renamed his Control Theory) you can read a little more here if you’re interested. The crux of that theory is that all of our behavior is choices, those choices ultimately drive the physiology of our behavior, and how we feel. In the simplest of terms, if you’re feeling ‘unhappy’ make a different choice!
In reading the comments to yesterday’s post (and once again thank you all!) it’s pretty apparent this is a subject that touches us all. For the record, I’m not immune to any of this. I wrestle with feelings of insecurity, inadequateness, being ‘out-of-control’, powerlessness, being despondent, all of it (thankfully, usually at separate times). Much of what I’m posting here is from my journey, my discoveries, and what works, and doesn’t work in my life.
Here are some of the thoughts others expressed from yesterday:
“I have a lot of experience of unfounded hope breeding despair” – Nic
“Without dreams, and the hope that they will come true, the world would be a black hole of sameness.” – Karyn
“there are people who have to learn not to abuse that hoping reflex within them, since they're no more able to control what becomes of their hopes” – Firehawk
“when hope is used as a complete, full-time substitute in place of any form of personal balance, then most assuredly it will lead to despair.” – Braleigh
“not only to the idea that unfulfilled hopes bring unhappiness, which is certainly true, but also that some people's hopes and dreams are, for want of a better word, evil” – Spirit of Owl
I believe that if we carefully examine those times when hope has bred despair, despondency, we’d find that it was a lack of action that was really at the root of that despair. I can’t dispute that the hopes of some are evil, pure evil, from our point of view. I have trouble imagining for example the type of abject hatred that some harbor to even formulate the incredibly brutal acts they ultimately perpetrate on others. It’s just too far outside my reality set.
However, I do grasp that it’s their understanding, that unless they perform these ‘actions’ their hopes will be doomed to failure. It’s this basic belief that drives their physiological behavior. Or, at least that tenet is at the core of Glasser’s theory. That our actions, our behaviors, are ultimately driven by our hopes, our dreams, and our beliefs, each action is performed in an effort to realize our goals.
But let’s put aside for the moment, the evil hopes, and concentrate on the broader spectrum of what we would consider ‘non evil’ hopes and dreams. To me, it’s the illusion of control that’s at the root of the despair we sometimes feel (I’ll refrain from the whole ‘allow ourselves to feel’ thing). That having that illusion can draw us into unfounded ‘belief’ that all is well, when in fact it’s not. What if, on the other hand, you operate under the assumption that nothing, except your choices, at the exact moment you make them, is under your control? Wouldn’t we then we start to look more closely, and with more frequency, at the results of our choices (at least I do).
It’s this constant, and consistent, re-evaluation that yields new decisions, uncovers new choices, that can ultimately move us around the debris we find in our way.
We have decisions to make when life hands us back results we didn’t expect or desire as a result of a choice and the subsequent action. To use the example of submitting something to a publisher that Karyn mentioned, if the manuscript gets rejected, there are choices, a few might be:
- Choose that the rejection defines you as a writer, and stop writing
- Choose to continue to submit to others and to work at writing.
- Choose to become despondent and do nothing.
In fact, you could actually make any of those same choices, if it had been accepted!
It’s my contention then, that it’s our actions or inactions that ultimately leads to despair. That if we’re actively choosing, and acting, in accordance with our hopes, our dreams, and not sitting idly by waiting for the universe to magically bestow upon us the fruit of our dreams, it’s impossible to slip into that dark place.
In that by taking charge over the one thing we can actually control, our choices and therefore our behaviors, we take control of our lives, and our feelings as well. I’ve certainly become discouraged at times, feeling like life had a never ending series of debris to toss in my path, ways to negate what ever efforts I made, but, in every situation where I persevered, pressed on, was not dissuaded from my goal, I ultimately got where I thought I’d wanted to go.
In some cases however, the all the stuff in the way, should have been an indication I wasn’t going to like, where it was that I was headed. In retrospect, I can see that now, I couldn’t then. Back then, I thought I was in control, that if I just pressed hard enough, paid the price, it would be worth it eventually. Sometimes, it just flat wasn’t worth a tenth of the effort, in fact in retrospect I probably wouldn’t have even attempted it, knowing what I know now.
I’d like to say I have developed this ‘Zen-like’ approach to the world, but I haven’t. I try, to be the ‘observer’ of my life, seeing both the path and the journey, but I can’t always do that. About the best I can really do, consistently, is continue to put one foot in front of the other, each day, and choosing ‘right or left’ at each fork in the road, or roadblock along the way.
I have too much passion for life to simply be an observer, to let life happen to me. I feel a real need to make active choices and decisions about the directions I take. It’s not always easy, and I rarely make the right choice the first time. I know this though. I would not change a thing in my past, as every little thing I did along the way got me to exactly this spot. I’m enjoying this part of my life, my wife, our home, our shared life together. I’m even enjoying my job, the work, the challenges (but not the commute!) and being independent again.
So, do you agree or disagree? Is control a reality or an illusion? As always, your thoughts, comments and impressions are encouraged!
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
I’m not so sure I entirely agree, although I can see how someone could envision it that way. If someone ‘hopes’, or dreams, of things unattainable, yet somewhere internalizes that ‘unattainable’ to being attainable, who’s to say it’s not? Simply because it has not happened, is not proof it won’t.
Sprit of Owl commented that: “Sadly, Einstein died a miserably disheartened man”
I believe Einstein’s disillusionment towards the end of his life was not so much the result of what he wouldn’t have time to achieve, but with what others had done, and planned to do, with his discoveries. He never really imagined that anyone would actually use what he’d uncovered for anything but good. Once he’d seen the destruction, the terror, it could bring in the wrong hands, he spoke of wishing he’d never published his findings.
He said: “If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith.”
Edison, while never creating any weapons of mass destruction, did create, and push for the electric chair. He saw that device as for the public good, today; the jury is still out on that. In any case it wasn’t his design that became the unit of choice anyway. Is it possible his design would have been better if he’d been more committed to the death penalty? I sure don’t know.
Let’s talk about the concept of hope where it leaves the person in despair. What type of hope would cause that? What dream is that person hanging on to that brings them such pain? Is it the hope, the dream, or something else that elicits this despondency?
The simple definition of pure insanity is continuing to do the same things, and expecting that different outcomes will result. Hope, is not an action, it’s a state of mind. To achieve that, which we hope for, requires action on our part.
The simple test (for me) is; are my actions bringing me closer to, or further from, that which I hope for? If the answer is closer to, the only remaining question is one of “what else can I do to move closer, faster”.
If the answer on the other hand, is further from (or simply not closer), the question then is ‘why’. Why are these actions moving you away from what you hope to achieve, and maybe more importantly, why, are you continuing on that course of action?
I can not fathom living with a hope, a dream, where I knew my actions were taking me away from that, and yet continued act in the same manner and to move away. Yes, I’ve dreamed of things I’ve never achieved, but in each case I ended up weighing the ‘cost’ of my dream, of my hopes.
You see everything has a cost. The cost may, or may not, be measured in dollars, but there’s a cost just the same. A cost in forgone opportunity, lost leisure time with friends or family, lost quality time with your partner or children, lost health, something, everything, has a cost.
The question I often ask myself, is do I have ‘enough’ left. Enough, of what ever it is I’m paying to pursue this particular dream. You see, there was a time; I’d pursue my dreams without regard to the cost. I’d pay any price, twice, to get where I wanted to go. I’m no longer quite so willing to pay ‘any’ price, now that I know the true costs.
If I were to achieve any of my dreams and, in the process, lose my wonderful wife, the cost would simply be ‘Too high’… I wouldn’t want it ‘Bad enough’ to give up what it would take to get there. So I’d let the dream go… stop hoping that a ‘miracle’ would happen and I’d get there without the cost (it isn’t going to happen!).
You can look at what many of the people in history ‘gave up’ to achieve their dreams to see what I’m talking about. The number of bankruptcies, failed relationships, ruined businesses that are in the wake of many of the most famous and successful people is staggering to me.
At this stage in my life, I want to be so much more multi-dimensional… to have a much broader focus, than a single minded goal allows.
So, let’s get back to hope, hopelessness and despair. What is at the root of those feelings and emotions? Is it the ‘hope’ itself? Or, is it as I contend, the lack of the correct actions that brings these feelings to our hopes? I know some folks who read this will say, but some people can not do the things they dream of. I contend they can, they just don’t know that yet. Sometimes, you have to take a step, on faith, believe it’s the right step, in order to find out if you’re right, or not.
To remain rooted, in inaction, takes you nowhere.
My blog friend firehawk said:
“Hoping in an idle and forlorn way for something to come to pass via a "miracle" or luck is something that captures people and turns their world to crap. It's these doomed hopes bereft of the energy to ever come true or the real knowledge that they could be, should be...these hopes are like anchor chains across a person's shoulders, because they're just self-deception.”
I couldn’t agree more, except, in my way of thinking, that’s not ‘hope’. Can hope, be, a ‘self-deception’, or is it the antithesis of self-deception? I’ve stated that Webster’s says hope is an aspiration, with an expectation of achievement.
I contend now, as I did in the original argument (oops, ‘discussion’), that delusional, self-deceiving or similar behavior is not ‘hope’, psychiatrists call it ‘self-deluding’ or delusional behavior, not hope.
To me, hope is dreams, imagination coupled with actions, hard work, and possibly a little luck. Let’s face it, there are things that happen that we have little or no ‘control’ over. Events can occur that, despite our best efforts, meticulous preparations and hard work, can or will, wreak havoc with our goals. When those events transpire, it’s time to reevaluate, make new choices and begin to move forward again. Not to cling blindly to the actions that got us here, in a misguided belief that continuing to do the same things will take us somewhere else.
So what do you think?
The next post will be about choice, and the role I believe it plays in our lives, our hopes and our happiness. That post will pretty much wrap up this topic for me, for now. I do hope though that I’ll manage to convince at least one reader that hope is not a bad mental state, but a powerful one when coupled with the right actions.
Thanks again for stopping by. I look forward to your thoughts and comments!
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
I have a good friend that once said to me that ‘hope’ was one of the worst of all things the human mind is capable of. I discussed (ok argued) that with him (as was our normal inclination) for some time, as I see hope as one of the greatest things our minds produce. In the end neither of us changed our minds, and as with many ‘items’ between good friends it just became one of those things we agreed to disagree on.
I still think that hope; dreams really, are the root of everything wonderful we enjoy in our lives today. Cars, electric lights, movies, stereos, televisions, you name it, if it didn’t exist in nature, someone dreamed it up, and then made that dream real.
Webster’s delineates between hope, dream and imagine by adding ‘expectation’, that hope is aspiration with expectation of achievement. I don’t see that line… to me, to dream without anticipation, belief, or expectation of achievement, would be a very empty endeavor. To dream, big dreams, without ‘hope’ of attainment, where’s the fun in that?
Two of my favorite historical people are Edison and Einstein, and not necessarily in that order! In reading about them, these two men shared one important trait. They were dreamers, they dared to imagine. Both dreamed, imagined, what were thought of as impossible dreams by the folks in their own era. Edison spent years developing an electric light bulb, for a world that did not yet have electricity in most buildings. An item that once he’d perfected it, he gave away to government agencies as no one saw the ‘need’ for it. If I was trying to do that today, people would say I was crazy.
Maybe he was a little, crazy, by conventional standards at least. I contend the world needs more, not less, folks who are ‘Edison’ and ‘Einstein’ crazy.
Both Einstein, and Edison, believed that if your mind can conceive something, it is also therefore, something you can achieve. That it’s impossible for our minds to ‘dream up’ or imagine anything, and allow us to believe it, that we can’t actualize. That’s why I believe in ‘hope’… to me, hope is just another form, an extension, of dreaming… when people say they ‘hope’ something will happen, it means (to me anyway) that they’re dreaming of it… imagining... they’re visualizing it, becoming real, in their mind.
How is that different than Edison dreaming of an electric light bulb, or Einstein imagining the theory of relativity? Remember, Einstein said he “knew” or believed the theory to be true long before he could prove it… his dreams told him it was that way and he ‘believed’. What if he hadn't believed, expected, he could solve the riddle? Or Edison for that matter?
Einstein once said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. When I read that, I believe that what he meant was that knowledge doesn’t create anything new… imagination, dreaming does. It’s when we dream, and believe in those dreams that we find the strength to pursue them.
So yeah, I let go of a dream on Sunday, the ‘Beast’ as one of my friends called it, is gone. It was a beast, of sorts, in a couple ways, although I’m not sure if he knew that. It was a beast of an automobile for sure, 2500 pounds of snarling, thumping, snorting, asphalt ripping, tire shredding, white knuckle inducing beast for certain… what the dream held back… that was a beast as well, one of those beasts that dwell within, in places we rarely go because the memories tear at the fabric of the reality of today… so different, so distant, yet so tangible and real.
I actually realized yesterday, as the car was leaving, that so was that ‘beast’, the one I’ve kept caged, locked away. I could feel it leave, like dropping a heavy bag, a gust of wind on your back, the splash of water on your face in the morning. Transient it was, yet palatable all the same. As that car slipped over the hill, I swear I could feel the cords that bound us snap, and the beast was really gone.
As I walked out the door this morning, headed to work, for the first time in 10 years it wasn’t there. I didn’t even miss it.
I’m working on a new dream now, not sure where it’s going to take root, or what it will be, but the wheels are turning that’s for certain. It may be another shop project; it may be that back yard patio... well not a ‘patio’ more of an outdoor conversation, relaxation, enjoy the day kind of thing with a covered gazebo at one end so we can enjoy it even if it rains… or maybe, just maybe, I’ll find the muse and get back to work on the book, I still don’t know.
Once again, thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments and reactions.
Monday, May 23, 2005
Yep, that’s right, sold it. Never thought I would, in fact the other 200 or so folks who’ve ‘dropped in’ and asked if it was for sale were all told pretty much the same thing. “Make me an offer; we’ll see who wants it more.”
Most, either didn’t want it ‘enough’ (which means I thought it was worth more than they did), or, never made an offer, or ever came back… I guess they didn’t really want it that badly.
So last weekend, this guy stops in (by the way this car has never been advertised for sale, folks just pull up in the driveway and ask) and inquires about the Challenger, again, we hem and haw about who’s going to talk money first, but he throws a number out, and we let it sit there… We talked about hot rods, street cars, various 60’s and 70’s muscle cars, he left me his number and they headed off.
During the week, often during my daily commute (it’s about 50 minutes each way so there’s plenty of time to ‘think’), I’d think about actually parting with the Challenger, but couldn’t put a dollar value on it… yet.
You see, the first time I saw a 1970 Challenger (a 440 big block car anyway) was from the back of a Navy bus in Newport, RI. I was riding back to the base from a night out on the town (if you can call Newport a ‘town’) as we were slated to ‘ship-out’ in the morning. I fell in love with that car at first sight, the lines, and the stance, everything about that car epitomized ‘muscle’ to me then. It still does, in many ways. I promised myself that day, that one day, I would own one.
I dreamed of that car the entire time I was overseas, it was one of those day dreaming kind of things that could transport me home again. It’s probably why I never really let it go, I just hung on to the dream waiting for the day when I could own one.
It took me nearly 25 years to finally be in the right place, at the right time, with enough available cash to actually buy one, and I did, in November of 1995. She was a tired old girl with a lot of flaws, but basically sound, with a 440ci engine, ‘all the right stuff’ as they say. Good body, straight as an arrow, no rust and despite a gas tank leak she ran. So I bought it, and towed it home.
After that things began to change in my life and my dream of restoring the car kept getting pushed off. My first marriage was falling apart all around me; I was frustrated at work and worst of all, didn’t have a place to actually work on the car. So it sat, and I looked at it everyday, thinking “One of these days car, you and me, we’re gonna dance”
I got separated, divorced, met my present wife, fell in love, bought a house, remodeled the house, got married… I towed the car from one house to another... and still she sat, tires flat, waiting…
I even started in on the restoration of my wife’s ’78 Silverado this year, and the Challenger sat waiting, more in the way than not, yet the first thing I’d see on the way to work, and again when I got home. Each day, I’d think about it finished, cruising, enjoying the fruits of the work it would take.
Late this week, I was driving home from work, on Thursday I think, and came to the decision that if this guy came back, and would give me the dollar figure I had in my head, he was going to own it. I didn’t mention it to my wife, except to say, if I got this much for it, I think I might sell it.
Why? Well, truth be told I realized I didn’t ‘need’ it any more. I don’t need to escape or get away from my life these days. It’s a leftover from another time in my life, one I survived and is now, thankfully, behind me. I’m sure it’s going to be strange to have it gone, but I also know I can now put new dreams and ideas in its place.
Well, the old boy and his buddy showed up again today. We hemmed and hawed a little more, walked around the car. Him trying to hide that look we guys get when we really want something, me trying to look like it was a first born child he was trying to buy, but neither of us succeeding very well. After a few minutes of this, I told him what I wanted for the car… he looked at me a bit… looked down at the ground thoughtfully… even scratched his chin… then looked up at me and said: “I’ll take ‘er”. Just like that, the deal was done.
As I’m writing this, he’s gone, as he put it, “to get the cash”; I’ve already dug out the title and the keys (thanks to my wife's excellent organizational skills!), so we’re pretty much good to go when ever he gets back with the cash and his wrecker.
So why did I sell it? I’ve thought about that too. I think the reason is, I’ve built that car, so many times in my head, seen her at least a 100 different colors, with 50 or 60 different engine configurations, that in my mind, I’ve already done the job, taken the rides and felt the results.
Some other things:
- That Silverado in the shop. I’ve got it torn down to the frame, and we’re about to start spending money on new parts as I put it back together, this cash will come in real handy.
- I’ve already got more toys than most, I don’t really ‘need’ this one
- Did I mention I made a tidy profit for letting it sit in my driveway?
- That I could really use the parking space in the driveway?
They just finished loading her up and driving off. Sad? Yes, a little, but not as much as I might once have been. I’m more energized about having the $$ to really do up the Silverado!! So, if I get to feeling too sad, I’ll just go hold that cash… I’ll feel better shortly!
So the Challenger is gone, long live the Silverado! Until some other piece of old Detroit Iron catches my eye… then I’ll be reversing all of these rationalizations… and finding a way to sneak that one into the garage!
Thanks again for taking the time to read this. Your thoughts and comments are always welcome!
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Well, balls, and parts closely associated with them….
Ok, so the segue is a stretch…
So what’s the point? There is a point, honest.
The point is, we each see things from our own eyes, thinking that our partner sees us, as we see ourselves. I don’t think that’s true, at least for the majority of people. We each see the other differently than that person ‘sees’ him/her self.
Ladies, when you look at the man in your life do you ‘see’ the weight he’s gained, or the hair he’s lost (or sprouted)? Do you see instead the man you fell in love with, love and want to make love to? Do you see that man you’re happy to see come home from work each evening, to share dinners, movies and life’s ups and downs with… or the ‘changes’?
I don’t believe the majority of men (or women), are so shallow as to actually ‘see’ the imperfections in their partner, I know I don’t. I see the same woman I fell in love with. I see the woman who makes me smile every time she steps outside to meet me when I get home. I feel the same arousal, urges, I always have, every time I see a glimpse of her undressing, undressed or just walking back from the end of the driveway in her ‘yard work’ clothes. I may not be able to act on them the way I could have when I was 20, but they’re still there all the same (and I still want to act on them!).
It reminds me of a little poem that used to hang on my youngest brothers bedroom wall, it was entitled ‘Why Worry” and was listed as author unknown. It went, as I recall something like this:
In this life there are only two things to worry about.
Either you will be rich or poor.
If you are rich, there is nothing to worry about.
But if you are poor, there are only two things to worry about.
Either you will be healthy or sick.
If you are healthy, there is nothing to worry about.
But if you are sick, there are two things to worry about.
Either you will live or you will die.
If you live, there is nothing to worry about.
If you die there are only two things to worry about.
If you go to heaven, there will be nothing to worry about.
If you go to hell, you'll be so darn busy shaking hands with all your friends,
you won't have time to worry!
So that’s my point, why worry. Instead, enjoy each other. If your partner’s not complaining about the things you’re worrying about, you’re worrying without ‘cause’. Why not worry about more important things… like finding more ‘alone’ time together, a way to ‘get-a-way’ for a weekend every once in a while… to do the things you enjoy doing, together… to forget the bills, the leaky faucet, the peeling paint, the lawn needs mowing… all of that… and spend some time together, like you used to…. Life is far to short to spend it worrying!!
As always, thanks for reading. Your comments are appreciated!
Saturday, May 21, 2005
The term is used synonymously with ‘Flat Out”, “Wide Open”, “Full Tilt”, “Peddle To The Metal”, “Full Throttle” and so on. Now I’m not denying that I am a “Balls to the wall” kind of guy, for the most part, I am. I attack new projects, ideas, plans, etc. all the same way.
Full on effort, “110%” … I really don’t know any other way to do things.
Sometimes it pays off big, sometimes I crash and burn big. Years ago when I opened my own garage, I crashed… big time. In the last two commercial software ventures I had… I crashed… again big time… Currently, it looks like it might just pay off on the project I’m currently involved in.
An associate of mine suggested I might want to submit what I’m doing as a case-study, to see if there was interest in publishing it. I felt, that since it’s not my project/company, I should check with the project manager and see how she felt about it.
I did that this morning. Now, next week I’m meeting with the VP of Business Development to discuss the matter!! This would be a huge deal if it comes to be, not only for the company, but for the placement firm, and me, as well. Nothing like big press announcements with your name on them to get the phone ringing!
The interesting thing to me, is, that despite the possibility that this could lead to a ton of work in the future, I really would prefer to just continue to work where I am. I’ve mentioned before that it’s a well run operation, with great, forward thinking management, but the best thing from my vantage point is that they actually let me do, the things I love to do!
It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to ‘stretch’ my developmental legs. To actually have some projects that I can dive into, and be left alone to determine the problem, devise a solution, build it and deploy it. What normally happens is that you get assigned the project and then get pulled in eleven different directions instead of the one you should be headed!
Since November of last year, it’s been get handed a project, give the project manager a time estimate and then just do the job. I’ve completed everything they’ve tossed my way, on time or ahead of schedule, and with a few little ‘bonus’ features each time. This led them to extend the contract first for 30, then another 90 and a little over a week ago through the end of the year.
So, despite having had some hard crashes in previous BTTW adventures, and some less than optimal outcomes in others, I continue to always drop the hammer and have at it.
I’m not exactly sure why I do it. Trust me I’ve thought about it many, many times. I’m pretty sure it’s rooted, at least in part, in the sometimes overwhelming ‘fear of failure’ I have. You see once I’ve immersed myself in something, those fears dissipate; become replaced, by the process. I get so involved in the cycle of development, that the fears don’t resurface until it’s time to demonstrate my work and get sign off on it.
Part of it goes back to the early days of programming PC’s, when there was more work than you could possibly do and everyone was trying to get their ‘piece of it all’. Everyone was promising shorter and shorter deliverable times and it seemed the faster we did anything, the faster the clients would want the next project. So those of us who were ‘in the mix’ back then often referred to the work load as, ‘balls out’, everyday.
One other component, is, I’m sure, rooted in my desire to be the most productive person any of my clients have ever worked with. Deep in my, most likely unfounded but nonetheless real, belief, that if I am, they’ll continue to purchase my time, talent and skills. Hell, if that were actually true… I wouldn’t be ‘working’… I’d be independently wealthy and retired!!
So, I’m done rambling for the moment…. But I’m still pondering… where the term “Balls to the Walls” actually originated…
Ok… so I broke down and ‘Googled’ it…
From the Idiom site:
Dating back to the 1950's, this refers to an all-out effort. The phrase originated from an aviation term. On airplanes, the throttle control handles and the fuel mixture are often topped with grips that are ball shaped, thus referring to pilots as "balls." If you push the ball forward close to the front wall of the cockpit your result would be a top speed.
I would never have guessed this!! I think most of us guys think it has something to do with testicles, enough testosterone, or ‘large enough’ ones to get something done. Instead, it simply means full throttle in an airplane… So who knew?
Oh… (Totally off topic) in another post’s comments, Karyn mentioned that I:
“have an uncanny way of making a six-pack of beer actually sound as wholesome and American as apple pie.”.
Maybe that’s because I think it is. To me, not many things are as satisfying as enjoying a good beer, with good friends and good conversation… especially on a warm summer day as we turn a wrench on something, relax on the patio, or simply are ‘talking trash’ about the weather, the neighbors and anything else that creeps in. I was raised in a family that had its roots in brewing beer; my great grand father was a brewmeister. So as I grew up, beer was always available at family gatherings. It was part of the landscape, the fabric, of the family.
I’m not saying things ‘revolved’ around beer. Rather that beer was a part of the festivities, not the reason for the festivities. So, to me, it’s a part of good times, but it’s not the reason for a good time.
I don’t have memories of drunken family members making an ass of them selves, or causing trouble in any way, just folks sitting around, the grille going, playing pinochle, talking, playing softball, eating and yes, drinking beer. There were other drinks too, water, various soft drinks etc, but beer was always there too.
So, I guess to me, it is as wholesome and American as apple pie.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Mitch, and his wife Debbie, bought the place shortly after it went on the market that year. I still remember driving home from the local hardware store the day they first started in on sprucing the place up. (For those of you who’ve not yet purchased your first home, I can promise you that you’ll be on a first name basis with the Home Center folks within 3 months, if not weeks, of the time you do!!) It was summer, a rather hot and sunny day and as I approach my place I could see the activity in the old Jones place.
I went home, put away whatever it was I’d purchased, grabbed a cold 6-pack and headed over to meet my new neighbors.
Now one of two things was likely to happen, either they’d be appalled at my showing up, unannounced, with beer, and an offer to lend a hand, or, as I was hoping, they’d be hot and thirsty enough to be glad to see me.
Fortunately for me, they were glad to see me!
I don’t remember ‘exactly’ what I helped them with that day, if it was removing that wall to install the wood-stove, or that came later… maybe I just helped slap some paint on a ceiling or two… whatever it was, it was the start of a close personal friendship that lasted 10 or 12 years. Well, as I’ve said before, I truly believe if I moved back to North Bay, we’d all be friends still, again, as I consider us friends now. We just don’t see each other any more as I’ve moved over 800 miles away.
Mitch and I did a lot of things together, more than I could possibly relate here. We were always at his place or mine, building, fixing, improving, adjusting, or removing something. If we weren’t doing that, we were fishing… and man did we fish!!
One of the great things about Mitch and I is that we had nothing in common from a ‘career’ standpoint… he could gripe about his job, I about mine, and neither of us ever felt compelled to help the other ‘fix’ a job problem. I had no idea how to do what he did, and he didn’t know about what I did… perfect synergy in my eyes.
We had plenty of other things in common though, love of family, cars, trucks, fishing… did I mention fishing?
Mitch is one of the strongest, yet gentlest men I’ve ever known. If ever the saying “walk softly but carry a big stick” applied to anyone, it certainly applied to him. He rarely ever has a cross word for anyone, and the only times I can recall his temper even beginning to show was when there was something that threatened his family in some way. In most cases he just didn’t get upset.
Of course maybe that’s because we expended so much physical energy, all the time. We’d cut firewood when the weather was cool (and often when it wasn’t), repair and repaint cars when it warmed up, fix whatever was broken on our ‘estates’ as required, and when we weren’t doing that, well, weather permitting, well…. we were fishing. Walleye fishing….
For those of you from the South, there is one fresh water fish that’s the absolute finest eating fish in the country, and that’s the Walleye. A fish far more difficult to catch than say Bass, or Perch, or even Trout in certain situations, but once you land one, and have it for dinner, you’re hooked!
The process of catching them can become an obsession (oops… Passion) all it’s own. Once you begin to learn the ‘soft touch’ of one of those rascals ‘taking the bait, and are able to start actually catching them, you’ll do what he and I did. Spend every possible moment out on the lake in pursuit of the Walleye.
It was during those fishing days that I really came to appreciate our friendship. We’d sit fishing, sometimes for hours or more at a time, and not say a word. Just drifting around the lake, catching a fish here and there (and we always did catch fish!!) often talking only to exchange information on what lure we were using when we caught that last one. We’d talk too, about work, what bonehead stunt his boss or one of my customers (or my boss if I happened to be employed) had pulled last week. About his kids, what funny things they’d done, our wives (all good of course), the homesteads and our plans, our dreams, our desires for those we loved…
When I decided to move away from North Bay, it was partly because my wife at the time no longer wanted to live there, partly because I’d taken a ‘job’ again and the daily commute was getting harder. I know this, that had I been single (divorced/separated) then, I most likely would not have moved. One of the reasons I really enjoyed living in North Bay was having Mitch as my neighbor.
He spoiled me you see, ruined me for every other neighbor I’ve ever had. There’s been no one like him (and his family, they were a wonderful and inseparable package) since, not remotely close. It’s possible I’ve tweaked the memory somehow, made it better than it actually was. The truth is though; I really doubt that I have. I can still look around my garage today, see a particular tool, and remember something Mitch and I fixed, painted, built, repaired or deconstructed with it. Every time I complete building anything out of wood, I can still hear his Dad say: “Not bad for a wood butcher”.
When ever I’m stressing over one more detail on a project, I can still hear Mitch say: “Bill, it’s good enough, for who it’s for” meaning that given it was him or I it was ‘for’, and we’d be changing it in a month anyway, it was fine for now.
I can still hear Debbie’s laughter the night she came home from a night ‘out with the girls’ and Mitch and I were on the back steps (taking a break and drinking a cold beer) between coats painting that big blue Van.
I remember the ‘Clambake’, man that was good eats and good company. The ‘roof raising’ weekend where his Dad and I outpaced a crew of five, (on the other side of the roof) as we all nailed shingles down. How Mitch nearly had a heart attack as hi Dad sat on the edge of the roof placing the starter strip. (His dad was in his late 60’s then, and could still work most guys in their 20’s to their knees). So many good times, like the time I used his garage one very cold winter morning to throw new brakes on the front of my VW… Mitch went in to make coffee, his Dad was there too, I came in and we sat around drinking coffee, talking and such. Eventually, his Dad said, “You ain’t gonna get them brakes fixed sittin here”. All he did was grin at me when I explained I’d done the job while the coffee was brewing. I remember we went on to fix something else that day, but, for the life of me I can not remember what it was.
Ok... So… The lesson in here? It’s:
I’m hoping Whit runs into Mitch, and that they have some sort of internet access at the Fox household these days, as I’d love for Mitch to stop by and read this. We talked some last fall, there was hope he might stop by on his way to Florida on vacation, or I’d get back up North and have time to stop by, but neither thing has happened yet. Too bad, I’m sure he’s got at least one project I could help with, I know I’ve got one or two with his name on them!
Again, I appreciate you all continuing to read about these folks. They’re unique bunch for sure, and I wouldn’t trade a minute of these experiences for anything!
Please leave a comment if these tales touch you in any way, I appreciate the feedback.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Seems I'm the next player in Fridge Tag
There's a cooked turkey in a moisture saving bag.
It feels like I've never really looked in here before
Milk and eggs, butter and condiments galore.
Look, there in the back!
There's a half pound of lunchen meat still sealed in the pack.
Don't know how long it's been there, it's probably old
As long as this box keeps the beer, cold.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
One of the things I remember about Whit, and that old Falcon, was that he and Jerry were always changing it. A different motor one month, try a different transmission the next, a constant search for a little more horsepower, or a better way to deliver it to the back wheels.
Some people look at working on cars, trucks or motorcycles as work. It is ‘work’, but for guys like us, it wasn’t so much work as it was a labor of love, of pride, of knowing you could make it just a little better than it was before you started.
Whit enlisted in the Navy a couple of years after we first met, and I’d run into him on occasion when he’d be home on leave, we’d have a beer at the Hotel and swap Navy tales, and he’d be gone again.
After his hitch was up, he and Jerry became partners in the garage. Then, when Jerry died, Whit took the place over. For the next seven or eight years whenever I’d get the urge to twist a wrench, do a little bench racing or spend a summer afternoon just hanging around someone who loved cars as much as I did, you could find me around the garage.
I remember one summer Whit had an old Ford pickup we called ‘Big Orange’. It sort of ‘belonged’ to the garage, and had seen at least one previous restoration. By now though years of being the ‘shop truck’ and plowing driveways each winter had taken its toll and the old girl was pretty tired.
At the time, I had an older Chevy Blazer that was also in need of some LC and a new paint job. In typical fashion, Whit and I worked out a ‘deal’, if I’d square up his truck and paint it, I could use his shop evenings to do mine as well.
For the next month or so, every night, and on the weekends we’d thrash on those two trucks. I don’t remember how much welding wire, brass rod, hammers, dollies, beer and ‘Bondo’ we used, but it was a lot! Slowly though, both trucks began to take shape. We painted his truck first, and as was typical on a Saturday afternoon we had quite an audience. In the middle of the paint job, someone (I think it was Greg’s girlfriend) hooked a shop-vac to the same outlet my (breathing) air compressor was plugged into… I can tell you this, it’s a strange sensation to suddenly not have enough air to breathe!
The paint job turned out sweet though, so sweet, that the owner of the local paint shop offered me a job squirting cars when we were finished. Seems he couldn’t believe it had been several years since I’d actually painted anything, and had not had a ‘booth’ to paint in. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d never had the luxury of a booth!
I think what I remember most of all though is that both Whit, and I, thought Collins’ would have been proud of his old truck when we finished.
When Whit’s daughter Brittany was born, he asked me to be her godfather. To this day, she’s my only goddaughter, and I still remember how honored I was he’d asked. I knew he asked because he felt that if needed, I’d step up and be there for her. I would have. Fortunately for all concerned he’s still with us, doing fine and so is she!
I still talk to, or email Whit from time to time. We exchange pictures and stories about what’s going on in our lives. We always talk of trying to find a way to get together and just have a little fun! The last I spoke with him he was excited, you see he’s converted a garage at his house into a shop, and is now doing a few ‘side jobs’. He’s found the fun in the process again; he’s excited about turning a wrench again. It was wonderful to hear that in his voice.
You see, so have I. I’ve turned my garage into a small auto shop, not for commercial work, but for those projects I want to do. Currently I’ve got an old Chevy pickup torn down to the frame, and I’m preparing to slowly put her back together for my wife. She’s going to have the sharpest ’78 Silverado in North Carolina when I’m done and one of the quickest too!
I have a hundred stories about Whit, I picked this one because the memory of that summer, the sweat, busted knuckles, frustrations, laughs and the eventual pride in a job well done is still very vivid in my mind. It captures the essence of how I view him. He’s a man that takes great pride in his work, his family and his friends.
The lesson in all of this for me has been:
Again, thanks for reading. As always I welcome your thoughts and comments.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Ben and Bernie’s, the local diner at the time became a regular stop for me as I’d hit the road for work each morning, in the process of sitting at the counter and eating breakfast I’d, from time to time, get into a conversation with some other folks there. It was one of these mornings that I first met Jerry Collins. Jerry owned the local repair shop, and had a young fellow working with him, Floyd “Whit” Whitney.
I’ve always been a car nut, and had been a mechanic, so it wasn’t long before we started talking cars, hot rods, pick-up trucks and motorcycles. It was in one of these talks Jerry invited me to come by the shop one day and ‘hang out’.
The following Saturday, after we’d had breakfast, I did just that. In the process of hanging out, talking cars and lending a hand, a friendship was struck. As they were closing up the shop for the day, Jerry said to me “You’re all right, come on by anytime”.
I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a rarely made offer.
Jerry and I were never ‘best friends’, but friends we were. I can still remember the day he drove the modified to my house one Sunday morning to have a cup of coffee. (Oh, for those of you who don’t know, a ‘modified’ is a type of race car, mostly driven on dirt, but sometimes asphalt, tracks). That morning was typical ‘Jerry’ as he was well known to be a bit impulsive!
We did a lot of things over the years. When I was working as a Sales Rep, I’d drop off any extra samples I had (for some reason manufacturer’s send far more samples than you could ever really use) for him to use (I remember the 'Armor-All' packets were pretty popular!). I even installed some speakers and a CB radio in his wrecker one Saturday; I think he bought me breakfast in return. When I had quit working and had gone back to school, he’d tell me about any work he knew of, and even sent a couple of car repairs my way.
We’d go to the car auctions from time to time, spend time drinking a cold one (or two) while bench racing and “swapping lies”, but mostly, I’d stop by the garage and just ‘hang out’ and lend a hand where I could.
He was always there though, when I opened up my own shop in another town he gave me a ton of useful advice, pointed me to some excellent suppliers and even tossed whatever work he could my way. If I was looking for a local place to get anything, Jerry always knew exactly who to call.
Jerry was one of those ‘characters’ you meet in life, larger than life and living life, every second of it. I don’t think there was anything he wanted to do, that he didn’t do. He never had a ton of money, but he always found a way. I think he’d mastered the knowledge that you can get anything in life you want, if, you help enough other people get what they want.
There was a huge snowstorm one year; I think it was in the winter of 1977 that started on Christmas Eve. I remember it as I’d gone to my parent’s house (as was my custom back then) and there was little or no snow on the ground when we left. The story about the trip back home is one that deserves it’s owe telling, but I mention it because as we neared home, for the last 4 miles or so there was but one set of tracks in the deep snow. As we reached the intersection to turn right onto our street, those tracks turned left, and into Jerry’s driveway! You see he was the only other person ‘nuts’ enough to be out on a night like that!!
He taught me that everything you dream up is possible, all you have to do is decide what it is you want and then don’t rest until you have it. Most folks give up, without ever knowing how close they really are. Collins never gave up, he’d dream his dream, and then make it happen. I’m sure he had failures, funny though, I don’t remember any. Instead what I remember is the man, who he was and how he lived.
I remember a lot of things about Jerry, and he’s been dead at least 15 years, but mostly what I remember is that he always made me laugh. As many of us who knew him are fond of saying:
“If he who dies with the most toys wins, Collins is ahead so far!!”
I still think of him from time to time, and miss him every time I do. He was one of those folks, who, once you got to know them, are always with you.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
It was the mid 70’s, I was recently married and the new owner of a small home on about 3 acres in the village of North Bay, NY. (If anyone from North Bay happens to be reading this, please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!)
North Bay is a very small village (about 700 permanent residents) on the edge of what’s known as the ‘Tug Hill Plateau’. It’s East of Lake Ontario, and is in fact, a bay on the Northeastern shore of Oneida Lake. Now, I was born and raised in Upstate, NY. (Upstate, for those of you from elsewhere is generally anywhere in New York, North and West of New York City.) and was used to the winters there, but I was not prepared for the difference in winters between the Mohawk Valley, and North Bay.
That first winter the heating oil bills kept trying to outpace the mortgage payment for 1st place! Cold and snow… a lot of snow… that first winter it snowed everyday, from around Christmas, until the end of January. I’m not talking about a daily ‘dusting’ either; I’m talking snow, 4-6 inches a day, everyday.
The strangest thing to me was that often you could be at home, in the middle of a snowstorm so heavy you couldn’t see across the street, and yet drive 10 miles south and it wouldn’t have snowed at all! I quickly learned this snow ‘event’ was called ‘Lake Effect’ snow, so named as it was caused by winds sweeping across Lake Ontario, picking up moisture and depositing it at the base of the ‘Tug Hill’ before it could rise and go over the mountains.
It was in this winter I began to become passionate about self reliance. It was like some switch in my brain had been ‘flicked’ and all I wanted to achieve was a sense that regardless of what mother nature threw at me, I could not only handle it, I would flourish through it.
The fellow that had built the house was a now retired wrecking crane operator, Larry Armstrong, from all accounts he was one of the very best in the Northeast, able to take a building down ‘brick-by-brick’, or at least that’s what the locals told me. In building the house he’d installed an old converted coal boiler and hot water baseboard heat. The first real cold snap that fall, despite the furnace ‘running’ the house continued to get colder.
Being a first time home owner and not knowing what to do, or even who to call, I did the only thing I could think of and that was to call Larry. I called to ask if there was something, anything, I could do. Was there a valve to open, another ‘switch’ to turn on, anything? He listened patiently, and then without answering, he simply hung up.
I was left thinking that making that call was not such a good idea and beginning to resolve myself to the fact that it was going to be a long cold night, when a pickup pulled in the driveway.
I should mention that this is (or was then) a sparsely populated area. You could not see another house from ours and in the evening, traffic on the street was all but non-existent. So a vehicle pulling into the driveway was a very rare event, especially when I didn’t recognize it.
The truck turned out to be Larry’s, he’d gathered together a few hand tools and as I met him at the garage door, he announced we (as in he and I) were going to fix the furnace. In my entire life, I’d never known anyone who fixed their own furnace, and this guy was telling me he and I were about to!
We headed down into the basement and he proceeded to look things over. The first thing he did was open a little ‘check-valve’ and explained that with a hot-water system, the hot water would naturally rise and regardless of what else we achieved that night, the house would stay warm. (Now I attribute this little act as the first inkling I had that self reliance was possible.)
After performing a few more checks Larry informed me that the ‘circ-pump’ motor was not working. I still remember his laugh when I asked where we were going to get one of those. His response was that we weren’t going to buy a new one, but fix this one. I remember thinking that ‘Sure we are”, but he seemed so confident that I had no intention of hanging in there to see if we could.
Over the next hour he and I disassembled the motor, looking over the all the various components, the brushes, windings, the armature and so on. It turned out, as he carefully showed me, that a wire leading to one of the brushes was broken. I went to the garage got my soldering gun and we proceeded to repair the wire, reassembled and reinstalled the motor, and then reconnected the power. (At this point I was still doubtful that ‘this’ was going to resolve the problem, but again I just followed his lead). I yelled upstairs for my wife to turn up the thermostat, as she did, the solenoid clicked, and wonder of wonders, the motor began to spin, hot water began to flow and all was instantly right with the world! (Or at least my little part of it)
I thanked Larry, offering to return the favor, that if he ever needed anything, all he’d have to do was call… Larry never did call; you see he was self reliant.
That was the last problem I ever had with that furnace. It ran flawlessly for several more years, until we decided to replace it with a boiler that burned wood, with an Oil backup.
I did remain friends with Larry, and his wife Rose over the next decade or so. We didn’t hang out, but rather we’d see each other from time to time, always stopping to chat for about an hour, regardless of where we were. They were a very down to earth couple and seemed genuinely pleased that we were enjoying their old home.
Eventually, I did, in fact, get to return that favor. About 10 years later Larry suffered a pretty severe stroke that left him in a wheelchair. One very nasty evening, the temperature was in the teens, the wind howling and snowing about an inch an hour when the phone rang. It was Rose, and she couldn’t get their snow blower started, and wanted to know if I would take a look at it as she was concerned that if they needed to get ‘out’ in the morning they’d be snowed in..
I did what Larry had done all those years before, I simply hung up, grabbed my ‘to go’ tool box, hopped in the truck and headed down to their place. The first thing I did on arrival was plow out their driveway as the snow was too deep to allow me to drive in.
After clearing the driveway, I repaired the snow blower (which simply needed to have the plug cleaned) and discovered that the real problem was that Rose could not start it, nor obviously could Larry. So for the rest of that winter, and any other time they needed it, I handled their snow removal, I’d drive by either on my way to work, or on the way home and if the driveway needed clearing I’d do that and head on. I also started to drop by every once in a while to see Larry and just chat, but every time I did, at some point his eyes would water up and a tear or two would roll down his cheek.
As he couldn’t talk, nor write as a result of the stroke I don’t really know what was going through his head. What I do know, is that seeing that once strong, proud and accomplished guy, shedding a tear over what I believed ‘what once was’, I knew I couldn’t continue to visit.
Rose and I talked about that after his death and she told me that it had been a good thing I stopped coming over. That while Larry really enjoyed my visits, it also reminded him of what he could no longer do and he would, in fact, sink into a depression over it.
I understood. You see in that 10 years I’d become very self reliant. I’d built buildings, converted our heating system to a wood fired boiler, cut 10 full cord of firewood every year (about 35-40 ‘face’ cords), re-piped our well, gutted and remodeled the whole house. Learned to do the plumbing, electrical and drywall work, I cleaned the chimney, fixed the roof, cleared about an acre of woodland and turned it into lawn, in fact the only things I remember hiring anyone to ‘take care of’ were those things that required more ‘hands’ than I could gather, or equipment I couldn’t obtain. Often, I’d hire someone by ‘bartering’, for example, I traded a ’46 Ford I had for the lumber for my outbuilding, and some loader and bulldozer work. I’d paid $400 for the car, and got about $3,000 worth of goods and services for it.
Larry got me started on a cycle of self reliance, one that continues today. Although I’m not quite as ‘committed’ to doing everything myself as I was then. There’s a fine line between passion, and obsession, and I’ve been ‘obsessed’ with self reliance… today, I’m still passionate about it, but, I know where (for the most part) to bring in an expert.
I learned a lot of lessons in those years. Maybe the most important one of all was the lesson that:
“Good friends are hard to find, harder still to hang on to”
Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting more about ‘people’. I've had the good fortune to have made some incredible friends and meet some truly unique people over the years, some, like Larry (and his wife) are gone now, some are still around but I live hundreds of miles away from them now, so while we’re still friends, we rarely see one another. I miss every one of them, their unique take on the world, helping them, having them help me. While I know I still have their friendship, I miss just having the chance to have a beer, talk about what the world tossed in our path this week, and have a few laughs, on a regular basis.
All of these people I’ll be writing about taught me something, it’s my hope, that in relating a taste of my friendships with them to you, you’ll learn something too.
Thanks again for reading, and as always… you’re comments are welcomed!
Saturday, May 14, 2005
A long time friend and business associate of mine (Ken Sheldon) and I are in the initial stages of discussion for a little ‘Joint Venture’. To say I’m excited about this possibility would be a gross understatement.
You see Ken is one of the few ‘other’ programmers (coders, geeks, etc.) that I actually ever called if there was an issue, several ways to solve it, and wanted to get the opinion of someone whose logical thought I valued.
Ken and I met, a little over 15 years ago when I started a job at a small development house in Syracuse, NY. The company was called Application Programming Associates (APA) and had some fairly impressive clients, like West Coast Life, a large local Real Estate Company and a farm cooperative called ‘Agway’.
Ken first got my attention shortly after a design meeting. In that meeting I’d explained my ideas for a ‘File Folder’ to allow the user to ‘flip’ through tabs on the screen as they looked for a particular customer or prospect. Then, once the user had the ‘file’ they wanted, they’d press the enter key and the folder would ‘open up’ on their screen.
(I should mention here, that this was in 1987 folks, Windows was still a gleam in Bill Gates’ eye, it was a DOS, character based environment. The concept was solid, but it would be a hand crafted deal, no ‘graphics’ handlers in place back then.)
That meeting was at 10:00am… as I was heading out to lunch at about Noon, Ken asked if I’d take a look at something. That something was exactly what I’d described in the meeting! It was at that moment I was sure of two things; 1) Ken was what we liked to call back then, a ‘Monster’ coder, able to quickly throw together conceptual models (that worked), and, 2) He was just enough ‘off center’ to be able to see my vision, with out hours of detailed explanation… to this day, he remains unique in that respect.
Unfortunately, my tenure at APA was to be brief at best. The owner, Chuck Gronsbell, and I were just too much alike, and on far too differing agendas for it to work. I was hired to be the Director of Development, but, Chuck was used to pulling members of the programming team(s) off a project to go to a client site for a, as he called it, “show of force”. In and of itself, doing that has merit, however, Chuck would make these decisions over the weekend, not tell anyone else, put the folks he’d selected on a plane and Monday morning I’d find myself with “half-a-staff” and product deliverable promises to keep, with no one there to knock the work out.
So I left APA, and went back to working on my own, losing touch with Ken in the process.
Several years later after I’d sold my company to one of my clients, and in the process of ramping up for an increasing customer base, I’d placed an ad for a programmer in the local paper. Who was the first person to call? You guessed it, Ken. Without hesitation I simply told him to come on in, he was hired!
He and I reconnected then (which I believe was 1989) and worked very closely together, through several economic ups and downs, until about 1993, when I closed the local consulting business and began my US ‘tour’ as a contractor. We had some good runs in those years, many of our applications being sold by other computer resellers throughout the US. He and I also gained a nice (well earned) reputation as two of the most innovative FoxPro developers at the time. Unfortunately, the business ‘nature’ was changing and once again it was time to adapt, for both of us.
Ken and I stayed in touch this time however, the occasional phone call, email, etc. keeping each other ‘in the loop’ on our professional and personal lives, exchanging job opportunities, ideas, tricks, tips and so on. In 2003, after a promotion at the 'job', I was asked to bring in another ‘me’ to pick up much of the FoxPro development I would no longer have time for. I only knew one other 'me'.
I called Ken. To make a long story short, after a bit of negotiating Ken agreed to come on board. He moved his family from Upstate NY to here in North Carolina and once again we were working together.
As expected, Ken did an outstanding job. He began cleaning up many ‘unfinished’ components in the systems, resolving old design issues, adding new features and became instrumental in our efforts to prepare the system for a port to the latest version of FoxPro. It was in this time frame that he and I spec’d out and began developing (but never actually finished) a core component of what I hope will soon be one of our new products, a true conversion tool to take older FPW 2.6 applications and port them to Visual FoxPro 6.0 or above.
In what was to be the beginning of a radical shift in operational strategy by our employer, in early 2004, Ken became the first casualty of an outsourcing process. Of course he quickly landed on his feet, was working and making an impact for another company in very short order! Several months later, I and another programmer, were also gone.
Fast forward another eight months and you have Ken and I having one of our usual ‘check out what I did this week’ kind of talks. In the process he mentions “I really like writing utilities and tools”.
I’d been thinking for the prior week, that I needed to do a complete review of my code ‘toolbox’ and package up the more useful pieces and offer them for sale to other developers. As usual, Ken and I were on the same wavelength.
So here we are, 15 years away from our first meeting, he and I are still in tune and still writing software. We’ve been through feast, and famine, highs and lows, times when he’d slip ahead of me or me in front of him… but through it all we’ve maintained a personal and professional respect for one another.
I don’t know what the outcome of our little venture may be. What I do know, is that what ever Ken and I do, we’ll be proud to put our names, and our reputations, on it. More importantly though, we’ll have fun in the process!
So stay tuned, especially if you’re a FoxPro, Visual FoxPro, or .Net (DotNet) developer, we’ll have some interesting, powerful and unique tools for your “Code Chest” soon.
The interesting thing to me is, that while I’d love for us to make some money (Ok, a lot of money) in our little venture, truly “the life I love is making software with my friends” (to paraphrase Willie Nelson), and Ken is a good friend and we write great software together! So regardless of the financial gain, or lack of it, I know we’ll have fun in the process!
I think I've actually finally figured out at least one of the reasons that working with Ken is really so much fun for me. He makes me a better programmer, he challenges my thinking, my logic, causes me to look at things in a slightly different manner. Which then causes me to respond and essentially do the same to him… in the end; we have a product that not only works, but works better than if either of us had developed it alone. To me, that’s synergy!!
If you develop in Visual FoxPro, VB.Net, .Net (DotNet) and are a reader here, I’d like to hear from you. We’re looking to establish a core group of folks to evaluate the products we’ll be assembling and provide us with some feedback. Our goal is to build you a toolkit you won’t want to live (develop) without!
Friday, May 13, 2005
Late last week Cyli tagged me with what I thought was an interesting project. I'd been tagged earlier by Nic and I'd replied on her site as Mothers Day was approaching... This one however was a bit to long to post back into a comment, so I'm posting it here.
You might want to stop by their sites and contribute to the 'tag list', I had fun both in picking these five, as well as in writing them up.
I don't often sit around pondering the would-a, could-a, should-a types of possibilities, as I view them as past/missed opportunities and don't see what good can come of living in the past. I prefer these days to focus my "bb" sized brain on things I can actually do something about, it wasn't always that way, and, at times it's difficult not to slip backwards into old habits. But that as they say is "another story", for another day.
So without further ruminating here's my selection from her list:
If I could be a doctor . . .
I’d want to be the kind of doctor who wasn’t afraid to say “I don’t know”. One who could empathize with his patients, understand they’re often scared and want only to feel better. To remember that reassurance might just be the best medicine I could prescribe, let them know that what ever it took, I would listen, hear them when they describe their symptoms, and look for answers to their situation. Last, remember to always treat each patient individually, and to not rush to diagnosis.
If I could be a psychologist . . .
I’d figure out what it is that compels people to do, what ever it is that they do. I find the actions of some to be so beyond my reality set that I’m forever fascinated with what could possibly make them do “that”. Recently the guy (Hobbs I think) who killed his young daughter and her little friend... what could possibly compel someone to do that? If I were a psychologist I'd make it my life's work to find out, and "fix it".
If I could be a professor . . .
and pay the bills, I would be. It was one of the few occupations I’ve ever had, besides software development that I really enjoyed. It often provided a sort of immediate 'feedback' most other professions don't offer. Some of the folks who've had the largest impact on my life were educators; it's a calling for sure. Unfortunately I found that if I wanted a reliable car to drive, and a roof over my head, without a doctorate, of at the very least a Masters, as a teacher that wasn’t going to happen. I had neither the time, nor the funds, at the time to continue schooling… the rest as they say, is history.
If I could be a writer . . .
Professionally, and get paid? I can’t imagine anything I’d enjoy more at this point in my life. I’d write, books, articles, poems, stories… everything… that I could get published. I love to write, the most rewarding thing to me, is to know I’ve somehow touched another person with my writing. To have made them think, remember, or transported them, if only for a moment, to a fantasy world where their troubles slip away. Get paid to do that... I'd be quoting Jerry Garcia and saying something like... "The most amazing thing to me, is that, *I*, get *paid*, for doing this!"
If I could be a gardener . . .
I’d be one like my Dad was… he was a master of ‘square foot’ gardening, getting incredible yields from a little 10x10’ plot in the back yard. He grew tomatoes, onions, beans and peas… all high yield plantings that prospered from spring through the first killing frost. Or one like my wife, who turns the hard clay soils here into flower beds that bloom from early spring and continue into early winter, each day is like Christmas wondering what new plant will be blooming when I get home.
So there ya have it... my rare foray into 'coulda' land. I hope you enjoyed reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it.