Monday, November 28, 2005

It’s all about the work…

Isn’t it?

There’s a certain sense of satisfaction in a job done, and especially in a job well done. Sometimes it isn’t even about money; it’s just about the work, the process of getting from where you are, to where you want to be. That, in and of itself, is a reward all its own at times.

I found myself thinking that on Sunday as I looked out the back door at the woodpile, safe from the rain that was falling, covered in a tarp I put over it when I finished Saturday night.

I felt the same sense of accomplishment I’d felt years before when putting in the wood up in North Bay. Although that process was a much bigger project, and spanned weeks rather than days, at the end, when that last piece of wood was tucked away in the woodshed, I’d feel like I’d really done something.

It struck me as I sipped my morning coffee and watched the rain fall that, for me, there’s this incredible feeling that goes along with getting a project finished. In being able to see the results of my labors, in having a tangible, visible result, which is sometimes missing in the work I do for a living.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a sense of accomplishment there too, but it’s different somehow.

There’s something in being able to see, touch, experience in all three dimensions, the fruits of your labors, that to me, is one of the sweetest moments in life.

I don’t know as I’ve really thought about it, exactly this way, in the past. But now that I have, it explains why it was so difficult for me to give up the work with tangible results, and pursue a trade where your results are often invisible to anyone except the programmer who follows you.

I remember like it was yesterday, that day, five years ago after we’d put the last coat of paint on everything and the carpet installers had left. Maryan and I were sitting on the front steps, drinking a beer, as the sun set, and I was looking through the front door at what we’d done.

I remember thinking that it looked like a new house, one that had just been built. A ‘model’ you’d see in a new development. I actually had vivid four color flashbacks to what it looked like before we started. How it looked after I’d torn out most of the ceilings and walls, and had about half of the roof torn completely off. The look on Maryan’s face when she first saw the destruction…

Then I looked over at her and saw she was gazing inside too, and had this little smile on her face. One that said to me… “Look at what we’ve done”… “I had my doubts, but he just kept at it, and I kept helping… Look at where we are now”…

You see she’d tasted it too… that sweet taste of success, of accomplishment… of finishing something many told you, that you couldn’t do… and yet, here you are, standing in the middle of what you’ve done.

I doubt I’m doing the actual emotion involved justice. If you’ve ever felt it, you know what I’m talking about, and you’re feeling it all over again. If you haven’t, well I’m not sure anyone else could ever really make you feel it in words. About the only thing I can say is go out and build something, do something, anything, do the best job you possibly can… and then enjoy your success.

It may not be the best birdhouse, paint job, floor refinishing, etc ever done… but it will be the best one you’ve ever done!! It will also be the worst one you’ll ever do, as each one you do after this one will be better than the one before.

In there lies the bittersweet taste of success. The knowing, that the next time will be better, and this will only stand as the best until you undertake another project. I choose to partake only of the sweet taste though, as it far out powers the bitter.

Do you get this feeling too? Does ‘not knowing how’ stop you from trying? Do you know why it does? If it doesn’t, why do you brave the unknown?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Some unrelated randomness...

Found a new (to me) blog today. “The Analog Alternative” it had a number of posts that made me think, and left me with much to ponder. If you have a minute, stop in and say hello to this fairly new member of the ‘blog-world’.

Under the WTF category… in looking at my stats I saw someone arrived here after doing a Yahoo search for “elbow length enema gloves”…. Two questions… What in the hell would someone need those for… wait one question (I don’t really want to know the answer to the first one)

How in the world did a search engine find over 2,000 links for that group of words… and how did this site get in that mix?? Search engine logic remains a total mystery to me. Every single time I think I’ve managed to grasp one aspect or another, something else happens that lets me know I really don’t have a clue!

Maryan and I managed to put up about four (maybe five) cords of wood in the past couple of days, that should be sufficient to get us well into early (or maybe late) January, we’ll probably need another cord or two before winters done with us here though.

We’re relying on wood a little more this year, than in the past several, as the price of natural gas has jumped 50% from last year, and in all honesty, we both love a warm toasty house and ya can’t get that on the current gas prices and still pay all the other bills!! I sort of thought that when I moved South, I’d be done with the firewood thing except for maybe a cord or so a year for an outdoor fire in the summer and indoors during the holidays…

Like most things in my life, it just hasn’t turned out the way I originally thought it would!!

So, with my old body aching nicely from all the ‘wood-work’ there wasn’t much left for the truck project. It sits, in my nice clean and orderly garage, waiting patiently for me to return to it.

That’s one of the nice things about a project like this truck. I’ve got no real time sensitive deadline, and when other projects are moving to the front of the line, it can sit, and wait, for me to return to it. I know I’ll be stringing Christmas lights next weekend, and giving the lawn and leaves a final going over.

I’ve also decided we need a couple of those outdoor floodlights on the back of the house and I’ll be installing those next weekend too. It’ll be nice to be able to walk outside to bring in an armload of wood and actually be able to see what I’m doing!

Maryan and I have a rather lazy day planned for today, just her and I, watching a couple of movies cuddling on the couch in front of the fire this evening.

I hope you’ve all had a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I’m sure there are a couple of hundred bloggers all writing up their lists of reasons they’re thankful this year.

For once, I’m going to be a joiner, on this one thing.

I am thankful this year. I’m thankful every year, and it seems that every year I find some reason that I’m feeling particularly thankful.

This year, hands down, it’s the fact I have my Mom around for at least this one more holiday.

It wasn’t looking very good a week and a half ago, and the truth is, I really didn’t know how bad it had gotten until early this week. Mom was in congestive heart failure when she got to the hospital. Yeah, I know, we nearly lost her.

I may have really turned out to be a good thing, in a way. I called her nearly every night, and we’d talk until she wanted to rest. In the course of those talks I had occasion to tell her I thought she’d been not only a good Mom, but her and my Dad had led by example, not simply by words.

She paused for a moment and said “That was a really nice thing to say”, I said “Mom, it’s the simple truth, and I know you don’t like compliments, but you need to know this, and know it in your heart”

Well… it was emotional, sure, but it was something she’s really never taken any credit for. She’s been filled with shoulda, coulda, woulda done this or that kind of ideas for many years. She felt she’d been to ‘hard’ on me, that there wasn’t a need for her to be so strict. I’m sure there are many of you who know exactly what I’m talking about.

You see, I know though, that had she (and my Dad) been any less ‘hard’ I may have gone down and entirely different path. Hell, I nearly did anyway!

So not only am I thankful she’s still with us, I’m extremely thankful for having had the good fortune to have had each of them as parents. I didn’t know how fortunate, until I was in my late 30’s really and began to see, for the first time, some of the things they’d tried to tell me when I was younger.

I’m also thankful for my wife, who daily reminds me of why I fell in love with her. She’s had a rough couple of years health-wise, several operations and remains in a lot of pain. You’d never know it though, if you didn’t know her. I don’t know how she stays so cheerful, so upbeat and optimistic, day in day out, in spite of the pain.

No, she’s not a ‘saint’, and yeah... she has her down days… but 9 days out of 10 she sucks it up and gets on with living life the best way she can, without any sort of personal ‘pity-party’. In fact, when she is feeling ‘down’ she generally apologizes for it!!

She’s always; got an ‘ear’ for me to bend, tolerates my computer / hot rod / motorcycle / multiple project personality, finds ways to make me smile even when I’m trying to enjoy a good pissed-off, celebrates my successes and helps me ‘dust off’ from my failures.

I still find her sexy in a nightgown, or a pair of coveralls… all she has to do, is smile that smile she has and I’m a goner…

I can’t imagine it gets much better than this relationship-wise.

I’m thankful I’m working on a project that I really enjoy. That I have something new, and challenging to work on nearly every week, because to me, that’s why, I do what I do.

I’m thankful for those of you who stop by here, read what I have to say and share your thoughts with me. I feel we’re all connected, if even only by electrons and if I could, I’d invite you all over for dinner, I know there’d be some incredible conversations!

Last, and certainly not least, I’m thankful to be alive, (there were rumors of my death ya know) and to have learned how to enjoy each day the best I can. That we’re able to give a little back, to the community and those having less fortunate times again this year.

What thankful thoughts are you having as you get ready for the holiday?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Some updates….

On Mom....

She’s supposed to be coming home today, but then again that was also supposed to happen yesterday. I’m encouraged that she’s well enough to go back home, but concerned she’ll let things go again if she begins having renewed symptoms.

I guess we’ll just have to play it one day at a time.

Once again, I want to thank each and everyone of you who sent your well wishes and prayers her way, it means a lot to all of us I assure you!!

On the caboose…

Well Wolleybugger never called over the weekend so I’m not sure what to think about that. However, in Sunday’s paper they did indicate that someone else had already adopted the second car. So, I’ve dropped a voice mail, and an email to each of the folks spearheading the efforts and offered my assistance in whatever way they feel I could be of help.

I guess we’ll just see how it all plays out. For the record, I’m fine with being a ‘grunt’ on the project, in fact I’ll probably have more fun in that capacity!!


On work projects…

I’ve been working on a project for the mortgage insurance company. Mainly a tweak to the call accounting reporting system I did for them last year. I’m expecting to deliver it, after several delays, tomorrow. With any luck it will perform as expected and that one can get moved to the ‘done’ column.

The D&B merge project is heating up on the job. We’ve just placed the latest info from D&B in the testing regions and have run two preliminary passes through the data; with any luck at all we’ll be in full phase testing by the Monday after Thanksgiving.


With everything else that’s been going on, I really haven’t had much to ‘blog’ about.

The impending decision on my contract renewal is still up in the air. I know I’m still ‘in the mix’ at the moment, but the review process is on going. It’ll be good to know, one way or the other, and sooner, rather than later!

Contracts, and especially renewals, are the toughest part of the contract programming business for me. If I know that the gig is going to end, I can simply begin looking for another, but, it’s this period of uncertainty that really tends to drive me crazy.

I’m in the 85-90% confidence category with respect to my contract being picked up, but that 10-15% ‘not knowing’ is just crazy making for me.

I think it’s this sort of thing that keeps a lot of folks who could be very successful as contractors, from entering the field. I know that I got very comfortable in my last ‘real job’, even though, in the end, that comfortable feeling was not at all warranted.

Most of us let ourselves believe, day to day, week to week, that we’ll simply continue to be ‘employed’ by our present employer. Despite hearing about business closings, layoffs, corporate downsizing, etc… we still get up everyday believing our jobs are safe and things will just continue.

I think one of the things I like about contract work is that you know when the job starts, and ends. You know when you have to start looking for a new gig, usually in plenty of time to find one. In this case, knowing they wanted to renew the contract for another year has sort of placed the entire new contract search on hold. It’s a situation I’ve not really been in before.

Time will tell if my decision to lock myself in without a signed deal was a good decision, or not. I know I made it because I’ve enjoyed this project. The company, the people as well as the work have all been great. I’d rather renew here than start another project, but, in the end, I’ll do whatever I have to do.

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and there’s so much to wrap up before Wednesday. Then again, it seems this way every year as the holidays approach.

Are you ready for the holiday? Big plans? No plans? How are you planning to enjoy Thanksgiving?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

I’m Gonna Fix Your Caboose…

It’s a small world…

I met a local guy through this blog a few days ago. He left a comment here; I dropped by his site, we exchanged comments; amazingly we both love bikes, and live here in Burlington.

It also turns out we were also both moved by an article in the local paper this week. I tried to find a link for you, but, it seems the local paper doesn’t ‘do the net’ all that well.

To make this long story a bit shorter, there are two ‘retired’ train caboose cars on display here in town, just outside of downtown. I’ve loved trains since I was a kid, in fact those of you who’ve been stopping by here for a while may remember Maryan and I went to the train museum in Roanoke on our honeymoon.

It turns out the town had been planning to sell the cars, to get rid of them, quietly of course. However as word got out, one local woman stepped up and adopted one of the cars, and this article basically was saying that unless someone else adopts the other, it will be gone.

I wanted to step up, I really did. I’ve restored one of about everything that rolls, except a rail car. I’ve love the chance to give something back to the town, to preserve that little piece of history for kids to see. But, let’s face it, I work a lot of hours, I’m not exactly independently wealthy, and I had doubts I could pull it off on my own.

Enter Wooleybugger.

I drifted into his site today, and there was his post about exactly that topic. He said he’d like to help, but isn’t wealthy, is willing to work and even try to raise some money… I left him a comment, said I was ‘in’ if he was serious.

He dropped me an email Friday night, shortly after I’d sent an email to the newspaper writer looking for information on how to ‘adopt’ this car. I’m hoping he and I can talk on Saturday, begin to put a game plan together and make this happen.

I know I can gather up some bodies for the grunt work, the real work will be getting some money raised.

Burlington is a town that was born of the railroads. It started out as what was known as a ‘Company Shop’. Essentially it was a place the carriers brought engines, and cars for repair. The town grew up around that operation. Later the mills came and went, but the town has remained.

I’d like to see this little piece of the town’s history saved from slipping into obscurity.

I’ll keep you all posted on our progress. Obviously our first hurdle is getting approved to adopt the car, and then the real work will begin. With winter right in front of us, and the car won’t be coming to my shop, it’s going to make for some interesting days and nights!

If there’s anyone else who stops by here, who is also local and would like to get involved, please let Wolleybugger or myself know.

Friday, November 18, 2005

It’s time to talk code again….

But first, a little Mom update…

I spoke with her on the commute home yesterday and she’s doing pretty well. She’s still on Oxygen during the day, but is getting though the night without it. They’re still running a bunch of tests on the old girl, but besides still being very tired, she seems to be recovering pretty well.

The Dr's seem to be debating the next step, one wants to do a cardiac cath, the other doesn't think that's called for... typical.

I told her she’s gotta stop scaring us like that as I’m not getting any younger either!!

My thanks to each and every one of you who’ve expressed your concern and well wishes for my Mom. All I can say is you are all the best… and I appreciate each one of you!!

So… back to code stuff….

(for those of you who have already asked, I formated the code segment with my latest utility "Prg2Html", it takes a FoxPro program, it sets the 'color syntax' and preserves the formatting for posting)

I thought I’d talk a bit today about updateable ‘remote views’ and VFP.

A remote view, is a look, at a table that is not native to VFP (SQL, Oracle or DB2 for example). One of the great tools in the VFP arsenal is the ability to work with these non-native tables almost as though they were native.

FoxPro handles the data translations, behind the scenes, between the two systems so all you have to do is focus on the tasks at hand.

I’ve been working with, as most of you know, a process that writes literally hundreds of thousands of records to DB2 database tables, on a mainframe, from Visual FoxPro.

VFP does a great job with this type of work. However, there are a number of things that can go wrong, that you wouldn’t normally see when writing directly to native VFP tables, or even tables stored in SQL Server, or Oracle that are on the network.

One of the major issues with some DB2 systems is that the administrators place ODBC type access at the very lowest priority, and that the error messages returned to the client are less than clear as to what the problem is. They put the ODBC access behind everything else, primarily (or so I’ve been told) because of the burden it places on the server itself.

As a result, these major updates often take several hours. So I kick them off as I’m leaving for the day rather than tie up my desktop system and network/mainframe resources during the day.

Unfortunately, if one of the several hundred things that could go wrong, does go wrong, I come back in the morning to a partially completed update process.

I hate when that happens, and I’m not at all into ‘baby-sitting’ computers, so, I implement a recovery process in an attempt to mediate that risk.

First, I wrap the actual write/update process in a ‘DO WHILE’ loop, so that the actual program looks something similar to the code segment at the end of this post.

In reality, I’ve actually got a lot more going on between these various routines than what I’ve shown you here. The concept however is identical.

Ok…why do I do it this way?

I find that this cleans up the entry point, allows me to reuse the open and close files code, as well as allowing the process to auto restart if communication can be reestablished with the mainframe. It saves a lot of ‘crappy’ mornings, believe me!

I’ve been focusing quite a bit lately on ways to make programs ‘self-repairing’. With so many of the problems we encounter in the field not being things you’d ‘expect’ to see. But, instead, they’re the result of a problem on the remote system that is not always clearly reported back to your program, for a variety of reasons (usually beyond your control).

The harsh truth is, that network errors are real, fairly common and at times nearly impossible to (easily) recover from. If you’ve ever lost a document, or a spreadsheet, because of some problem that prevented you from saving it, you know that even big companies, with huge resources still can’t get their applications to recover from everything.

The key, in my mind, is to identify those problems you can code around, and code for them. The increased reliability is such a huge improvement in the end result that the additional process times, and coding efforts, are a small price to pay. Or at least I think so.

Do you think so? How do you handle programmatic recovery from system/network errors? Do you simply hope they won’t happen? Is there any initiative where you work to move in this direction?

-- Code Segment Example --

WAIT WINDOW 'Beginning Remote Update....' NOWAIT
STORE 0 TO x1,x2,x3,x4,x5,OpenCount
lStat = .T.
lUpdt = OpenTheFiles()
IF lUpdt
lDone = .F.
DO WHILE ! lDone
lDone = MainProc()
IF lStat
MESSAGEBOX('Done.... - Normal Ending')
MESSAGEBOX('Abend, Could NOT Auto Restart!')


* Functions and Procedures *
* -- MainProc *
x = ALEN(dbArray,1)
STORE 0 TO Y,y1,z

IF !SEEK(CIF_Customer_ID,'vrCifDunsCust')
*-Space fill any NULLS in the fields....
FOR i = 1 TO x
fldName = ALLTRIM(dbArray(i,1))
IF ISNULL(&fldName) OR EMPTY(&fldName)
VarMem = 'm.' + fldName
&VarMem = SPACE(dbArray(i,3))
Y = Y + 1
*--Flush changes to remote every 20 records
IF Y >= 20
lUpdOk = TABLEUPDATE(.T.,.F.,'vrCifDunsCust')
IF !lUpdOk
FOR i = 1 TO 3
lUpdOk = TABLEUPDATE(.T.,.F.,'vrCifDunsCust')
IF lUpdOk
*--Exit FOR
IF !lUpdOk
lStat = UpdtRecover()
*--Exit Scan
y1 = y1+Y
WAIT WINDOW ALLTRIM(STR(y1/(b-a),10,3)) + ;
' Records per second Written.... ' NOWAIT
Y = 0
z = z + 1
IF MOD(z,105) = 0
' Records Processed... ' WINDOW NOWAIT
z = z + 1
' -Records Exist and were Skipped... ' WINDOW NOWAIT

IF lUpdOk
IF Y > 0
lUpdOk = TABLEUPDATE(.T.,.F.,'vrCifDunsCust')
*--If we're really done, this will also
* terminate the entire process
*-- Otherwise returning it will restart the process...

* -- UpdtRecover *
FUNCTION UpdtRecover
LOCAL xlRetVal
'Table Update Failed!! - Attempting to recover...' ;
xlRetVal = OpenTheFiles()
IF !xlRetVal
MESSAGEBOX('Table Update Failed!!' + ;
CHR(13) + 'Could Not Auto Recover')
*--Set global to drop out of loop, we can't recover
lDone = .T.

* -- CloseTheFiles *
FUNCTION CloseTheFiles
IF USED('vrCifDunsCust')
USE IN vrCifDunsCust
IF USED('CifDunsOct')
USE IN CifDunsOct



* -- OpenTheFiles *
LOCAL xlRetVal
xlRetVal = .T.
OpenCount = OpenCount + 1
*-- Set up the error handler
xcCurOnErr = ON("ERROR") && Save original Error setting
ON ERROR xlRetVal = .F.
P:\IRFDATA\PROD\dbtables\cif\cif.DBC SHARED
IF xlRetVal
IF xlRetVal
IF !USED('CifDunsOct')
USE cif!CifDunsOct IN 0 ALIAS CifDunsOct SHARED
IF xlRetVal
USE cif!vrCifDunsCust IN 0 ALIAS vrCifDunsCust
IF xlRetVal
SELECT vrCifDunsCust
IF xlRetVal
*--Wait for View to complete loading
INDEX ON CIF_Customer_ID TAG cif_id
IF xlRetVal


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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

In the blink of an eye…

Life changes, you find yourself in a corner, that’s getting tighter, and you’re moving way to fast.

That’s exactly how I felt last night.

I had a pretty good day at work despite some system and database issues that prevented me from finishing a few items I needed to, I still felt good about my progress as I walked out the door. The ride home was pretty uneventful traffic-wise, which is always a good thing when you have a 50 mile commute!

I had anticipated digging into a project I’ve been trying (and need) to finish for a client, so I could deliver it this week. I also had some good news to discuss with my wife, and a new client to call and set up the first billable meeting with.

All in all I was rolling!

You see, on the ride home I’d called a business associate who’d taken a position with Microsoft about a year ago, and we haven’t talked much since. In the course of talking he informs me that if I’m ever “in the market” he’s pretty sure the folks at Microsoft would like to talk to me!! That might not seem like a lot to those of you not in the industry, but to a guy like me, that’s sort of like a minor league ball player getting a call from the ‘bigs’. Flattering, in and of itself, even if, nothing else ever comes of it

So, I was pretty excited, as you might imagine, as I pulled into the driveway.

One of the first things I wanted to get out of the way was the call to my new client. After a short chat with Maryan, I headed back to the office to do just that. I had to check for an answer from another client before I could make that call though.

One of the first headers to pop up was an email from my sister Kathy.

She’d sent it in the morning; to let everyone know that Mom had been rushed to the Hospital, again, early Monday morning. She’d been in severe respiratory distress along with a number of other problems.

I sat there stunned, I’d talked with Mom on Sunday afternoon. She’d mentioned that she wasn’t feeling well, but, was waiting for Monday to see her doctor as she didn’t want to go to the emergency room.

Fortunately, when I got the number for her room from Kathy a bit later in the evening, and called, she’s feeling much better and this time the doctors seem to actually have a clue on how to treat her.

After I hung up though, I found myself thinking… what would I have done differently, had I known she was this sick? Should I redouble my efforts to find a gig closer to where she lives? Why haven’t I tried to visit more often? As well as a thousand other woulda, coulda, shoulda’s….

In the final analysis, there really isn’t much I could do differently. She’d hate it if she knew I was altering my life, simply because she’s getting older. I wouldn’t be able to do much more for her than Kathy can…. My Mom is definitely her own woman, she’s going to do, what she wants to do, period.

This event did serve to remind me though, that life is too precious and far too short, for us to waste it. That the next phone call you have with someone, could well be the last one. There are no ‘do overs’ folks, we only get one chance to do the right thing for those we care about.

So while I’m relieved today that she’s feeling better, I’ve resolved to talk with Kathy this weekend and find out how to help her feel less ‘alone’ in dealing with these types of issues. She, and our youngest sibling, are the only two of us living nearby, and I know she’s left dealing with most of this on her own. I don’t know exactly how yet, but I’m going to find a way to shoulder some of that responsibility as well.

I’ll find some other things, ways, to help from here as well. When I do, I’ll share them here. One thing I’ve already done is set up a toll free number that Kathy, Mom or Andy can call 24/7 so no one has to worry about the ‘toll’ or finding a pay phone if there’s no ‘cell’ handy.

What would you do?

If you knew, that you, or someone close to you was going to die, and very soon?

Would you change the way you’re dealing with them today? Is there something in your relationship with them you’d “fix”?

Why not do it anyway, even if they’re in perfect health?

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Emergency Services

I watched a show on the Discovery channel the other night (Discovery Health maybe?) that profiled a young man who had his sites set on a career of being a Firefighter and Paramedic.

I didn’t catch his actual age, but from his looks I’m guessing late 20’s or early 30’s.

It seems he’d wanted to be in the fire service since he was a young kid, and to be a paramedic nearly that long as well.

As a result of his years of training and subsequent life saving efforts, he’s now HIV positive. Most likely it’s the result of a needle stick, or blood splatter, from an infected patient. He was fortunate in that he found out in enough time that he did not pass it on to his wife, or children. However, because he’s now a carrier, he can no longer work as a paramedic.

He continued fire fighting for a while, but soon his doctors were advising him that running into burning buildings, inhaling potential carcinogens etc… was not really in the best interest of his health.

I know I’ve talked in the past about how I felt about the men and women I served with in the Fire (and ambulance) service. I’ve not really talked much about this part, or the potential for ‘downside’, of the work.

It is dangerous work folks, not just the visible, ‘in your face’ dangerous, but at all sorts of levels. Despite the years of training, the best gear and special precautions, it can all still go very wrong.

One of the things that really stood out to me as I watched this program, and listened to this young man was his attitude. He wasn’t all ‘Woe is me’, instead I could hear the sadness in his voice as he talked about having to stop being a paramedic, and then his subsequent decision to leave the fire service.

In spite of his own personal hardships, it was evident he’d still rather be doing those things, than anything else in the world.

I’m here to tell you, the folks I’ve talked about to you in the past, to a person, are exactly the same way. They love the work and the sense that they’ve done something “good”, for someone else, at the end of the day.

It’s rarely about ‘the money’ with these folks; they certainly aren’t going to be “livin’ large” on what they find in their paychecks. Instead they’ve chosen to take a different path than most of us would, or could. To put caring for, and protecting, the lives, needs and property of others, in front of nearly everything else, including their own well being.

I remain honored to have had the opportunity, in my life, to know, and work alongside, people like this!

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Choices, choices and more choices…

Choices, life is full of them. Sometimes there are so many we’re almost overwhelmed at the options, at other times it’s difficult to see that we have any at all. The reality is though; there are always at least two.

  • Do whatever it is you’ve been doing
  • Do something/anything different..

I think it boils down, in the end, to how you feel about the life you’re living. If you’re happy, really happy with your life, job, relationship, lifestyle, etc… then the first choice is most likely going to be the one for you.

On the other hand, if you’ve got areas of your life that you’re not happy with, you need to make a choice from the possibilities presented by choice number two.

That’s where things begin to get complicated, for me anyway.

The “something different” options are not often clear, and even if they are clear, they’re not always easy. I know that when it became clear to me that I was not happy in my first marriage, I avoided the clear choice of leaving, for many years. Instead I tried everything I could think of to try and regain that original happiness I’d felt.

I filled my life with all sorts of ‘other things’, tried to focus on what was right instead of what was wrong and spent a year talking with a therapist about ways to work through what I was feeling. I even switched jobs in hopes that change would allow me to get enough stress relief and see it wasn’t the marriage, but the job that had me feeling so bad.

In the end though I saw that neither I, nor my wife, were really ‘happy’ any longer.

I made the choice to separate and get divorced.

It remains one of the more difficult decisions I’ve ever made. I remember thinking, here I am, late forties, balding, a bit overweight and haven’t dated in well over 20 years… this is not going to be a very ‘fun-filled’ adventure. I knew though, that having the chance to find the kind of relationship I knew I wanted, was better than standing still.

Regardless of knowing, staying put sure as hell felt a lot more comfortable than not.

Those of you who are regular readers know that eventually, that decision led to my meeting and marrying Maryan. We have the kind of relationship I was hoping to find. It’s not perfect, everyday, but we interact in ways I’d only dreamed were possible before, so it’s certainly perfect to me!

I’ve also made a lot of choices over the years, based on what I’d call “inadequate” information. Where the decision I made, had I actually had all the information, would most likely have been different. I think those are the decisions, that sometimes come back to ‘haunt’ us (or me at least). Where we find ourselves second guessing our decision, start thinking of what ‘might have been’ if we made our choice with all of that information at our disposal.

That my friends, is an exercise in futility, one destined to be ‘crazy making’. We can’t ever go back, to that exact spot in time, armed with that (what we now know to be) exact information and redo the decision process. Life just does not work that way. I’m not even sure I’d like it, if it were that way.

Life is fluid, a continuum, billions of conditions changing every nanosecond of every day.

I’ve probably made 1,000 ‘bad’ decisions, for every ‘good’ one. Each one though, I made thinking it was a good one. Well, ok, I’ve made some (very few fortunately) knowing they were bad, but even those I thought I’d at least enjoy part of the outcome! The rest where based on what I knew at the time, and believed would bring me the outcome I wanted.

Sometimes, I got exactly the outcome I’d been hoping for, and when I got it, found it was far different than I’d envisioned it to be. Others, the decision got me nowhere close to where I thought it would take me. In each case though, I did what we all do (or should do), I simply decided to make another choice, hoping this time I’d get closer to where I really wanted to be.

What’s the point of this ramble?

The point is, we always have choices. Sometimes they’re not very clear, and often they’re very difficult, sometimes feeling nearly impossible, but they’re always there.

It’s always the same two I mentioned earlier, do nothing different, or do something different.

If you do nothing different, you’ll most likely continue getting what you’ve always gotten. You’ll be in the same career, relationship, house etc… and if you’re happy, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

If, on the other hand, you’re like me, and you’ve always got another dream or two waiting for you to explore them, you’ll have to make a choice to start exploring, or not. To me, often times that’s the difficult part, finding a way, to explore the new dream (or dreams) without losing any of the stuff that makes me really happy today.

You see if I went off to pursue one of my dreams, and achieving it cost me my relationship with Maryan, the price of that decision and achievement would just be too high for me to justify.

I’d give up a lot for a dream I wanted, money, stability, all sorts of material possessions. I know that, because I’ve done it, and several times in my life. I’ve spent every dollar I earned, and every penny I’d saved, sold off everything I could sell, in pursuit of a dream, and ended up without the stuff, and without the dream.

I eventually got more stuff, saved more money, and even though I never got exactly where I’d intended to go, I have the memories of the effort. I remember the ‘rush’ of jumping headlong into (for me) uncharted territory, the thrills at each little advance, the single-mindedness of effort and pure, simple joy of believing in the possibility.

These days, as I’ve begun for the first time to ponder retirement and especially our financial needs in retirement, I’ve found myself wondering (at times) if those choices were wise. If I wouldn’t have been far better served saving the money, focusing on ‘one’ career instead of trying out nearly a dozen and now being at this particular place in time with a hefty ‘nest egg’ of retirement funds.

In the final analysis, I end up saying “No”, that even if I end up living a life (in retirement) where I have to take a job as a Wal-Mart greeter to make ends meet, I’ll be much richer in that life, with the memories of all I've done. I believe those memories will make my life far richer than it ever could have been simply because I'd be able to sit in an easy chair and know I had no money worries.

Rich Denny’s Mom said to me once, while I was still in my early 20’s, “you just do what you want to do, don’t you?”… I remember thinking for just a minute, about what she’d said, and responded with a “Yeah, I guess I do”. I recall she smiled a little, and added, “Good, if you continue to do that, you’ll never have regrets”.

I’ve sort of continued to do that, more often than not, since then.

Sure, I’ve made compromises, continued to work in jobs I didn’t really even like any more, simply because the money was good. Taken the easy road a time or two, simply because I didn’t have the energy (at the time) to venture down a rougher road. Chose to stay put in a place, when I should have moved on, because the unknown scared me more than standing still.

When all is said and done, we make our choices and live with the results. The beauty of life is, if we don’t like the result, we get to make another choice! We can’t go back, and change the last one, but we can make another and alter our path once again.

So, do you have regrets? Do you still struggle with past decisions? Or, do you let them go, make new choices and move on? How do you think your ‘method’ is working for you so far?

Hope y’all are having a great Sunday. Me, I’m going out in the shop and get reacquainted with the truck project!!

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

I’ve been reflecting…again

As a result of a contact last week, I’ve found myself thinking about the years after I got home from overseas.

It’s not a time I’m particularly proud of on one hand, and yet on the other contains some of the more memorable experiences I’ve had.

I’m not proud of it, primarily because I was drinking then, often, and normally to excess. There was a period, of nearly a year, that every night after work a buddy of mine and I went to the same bar, drank and played foosball until closing, went home and got up the next day and did it all over again!

The strangest thing to me is, that then, that felt as though it was ‘normal’ behavior. That it was what every single guy did after work, went out, got drunk (of course hoping to get lucky), went home and repeated the process.

I was an auto mechanic in those days. Mark and I worked in a shop in Whitesboro, NY, normally a 12 hour day from 9am to 9pm, at closing we’d get cleaned up, change clothes (there was an actual ‘locker room’ at this place) and head out to a bar up the road called “Tiny Bubbles” where we’d stay until closing.

I don’t remember either of us ever ‘getting lucky’ in that place, but then again, I’m not sure I’d remember if we had. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure we didn’t, we were always pretty drunk, and the experiences from the rest of my life lead me to believe that most women avoid severely intoxicated men like the plague.

With good reason I might add, for the most part I have no doubt we were obnoxious!!

If I wasn’t drinking, or working, I was restoring or rebuilding a car or truck, and I rarely drank when I had a tool in my hands. Not because I had some ‘safety’ concern, but primarily because back then, if I was in a shop, I worked. If I was in a bar, I drank; each place had its own special set of behaviors, and I never crossed the two.

That activity went on from 1973, until late in 1975. I got a promotion in ’75 that moved me out of the garage and into the front office and a suit. Now we had drinks at lunch, drinks at meetings, and a couple of drinks after work, but no one hung out until closing.

Well, not the work crowd, my other friends though, well they’d started moving Friday (which was the night most of those folks started drinking for the weekend) earlier and earlier into the week. Soon, we were closing bars on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and Monday night was the only night you wouldn’t find us out drinking.

It all pretty much stopped in early 1976 when I took a job as a manufacturer’s sales rep with a firm out of Pittsburg, PA. I was hitting the road, most mornings before 7:00am, and the only time you’d find me drinking was at business dinners and in the hotel bar with the ‘other’ road warriors (automotive industry sales reps) passing time before we got some sleep.

I’m pretty thankful for that job; it broke a pattern that probably would have killed me eventually. I’m, at times, amazed that none of us ‘regulars’ ever had an accident, or, ever got a ticket for driving while intoxicated. We were certainly blessed in that regard.

I say it was also a memorable time because I had some incredible experiences then. I restored my 1959 Triumph TR3 then, Billy Deyle and I took it apart and put it back together, and it was pretty sweet when we finished it!

His brother Jim and I were very good friends then, and we got into climbing and hiking in the Adirondacks. Each of those trips is a memory I’ll have until I die. Each one of the trips was different and wonderful in its own right. I remember one night, where we’d made camp and shortly after dark a group of college aged guys showed up to make camp as well.

These guys had packed (as in carried) in, not only all the normal camping stuff, but lawn chairs and beer as well! It was the first and only time Jim and I drank a beer on an Adirondack mountain top.

It was also during this time that I went to the NHRA Summer Nationals (called the ‘sunburn’ nationals that year) in Englishtown, NJ and got to work with the Accel ignition team.

A year later I was at the NHRA World finals in Indianapolis, IN with Amalie Oil, Raymond Beadle and the Blue Max funny car team. I also got to have dinner that weekend with Shirley Muldowney as Amalie was one of her major sponsors… You know, the famous, only woman to ever beat ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits, Top Fuel driver? It was an honor and a very exciting evening for me, to have met her.

I learned, at that event, that despite my efforts at becoming a ‘world class’ drinker, I was simply an ‘also ran’ compared to those oil industry guys!! I can still remember us being crammed into the rental car, (the trunk full and each of us with several cases on our laps) after having bought all the Stroh’s the grocery store had, and then filling the motor home’s fridge with it when we hit the track infield.

There are probably a dozen or more events, like the ones I’ve mentioned that transpired in those years. All of them incredible memories I treasure. I wonder sometimes though, if they would have been better, worse, or the same, without all that alcohol?

In the end I know it (the alcohol) probably didn’t make any real difference as during these events, it was rarely (well intoxication anyway) a part of the overall experience.

I hadn’t thought much about those years recently, but now, in thinking about them I’ve decided that it was all part of the process. The process of ‘finding’ myself, discovering what worked, and what didn’t in my life. Sorting out relationships, family, work, friends and personal… There were ups, and downs, I fell in, and out of what I thought was love (turned out to just be lust) several times… learning a little about myself, and other folks along the way.

Would I change it if I could? No. Every single thing that I’ve experienced and done has me exactly where I am today. I’m happy with my life today, if I went back and changed anything, I’d be somewhere else and maybe not quite so happy with how it’s all turned out.

I’m going to look for some pictures from those days. I know I have one with the Blue Max team in the winners circle at Indy. I’ll gather them up, scan them and eventually post them over at the photogallery for those of you who’d like to see them.

Friday, November 11, 2005

5,000 Visits…

Thanks to YOU!!

I have to admit, I’m surprised, stunned, pleased, bewildered and elated. All at the same time.

In addition, both hit counters are over the 10,000 page hit count; I really never dared to dream I’d have so many visitors. So many folks who stop by, read my musings and share their thoughts with me. I really don’t have words to express how much I look forward to those comments!

It was May 14th when I added the first ‘counter’, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.

  • How often you post (update) your blog, or website for that matter, has a lot to do with where you show up in the search pages.
  • The stranger the search, the deeper into the results folks will go to find what they’re looking for.
  • There aren’t many folks out there searching for ‘FoxPro’ information as despite mentioning at every possible opportunity, I’ve yet to have anyone land here as the result of a search for it.
  • There are however quite a few folks looking for Jaro-Winkler information (the core piece in my POL utility), more than I would have imagined.

I think though, that one of the most important things I’ve learned out here in “bloggerspace” is that everyone has something they can share. That each of our life experiences, good and bad, can serve to guide others on what to do, not to do, or simply amuse them.

I’ve learned that life is truly for the living, that my life is not mundane (or any more mundane than most others). That we all have our own unique dreams, goals and aspirations. Some of us plunge headfirst into them; others take a more cautious path.

That regardless of the path we take, we all gain a little something with each step we take.

I’ve also discovered that despite how anonymous it can feel, this place is far from anonymous. While I certainly wasn’t seeking a place to hide (I mean, after all I did use my real name), I never anticipated the numbers of folks who would come by here

This blog has been a place where I’ve explored a lot of things. I posted some poetry, got encouragement from y’all to submit some of my thoughts to a publisher (and got published!). I’ve written up my thoughts on all sorts of things and received some incredibly warm feedback in response.

I initially started this place as a venue to rant about some of the down sides of contract programming. However, the gig I landed at about the same time has turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever had, and, as a result there really hasn’t been much to complain about.

So, instead I’ve written about all sorts of things from my life. Things I’m pondering, people I’ve known, places I’ve gone, things I’ve done… and through it all, you folks have been here, and incredibly supportive.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


I love projects. Work projects, hot-rod projects, bike projects, home projects, self-improvement projects… all sorts of projects.

What I don’t like about some projects is that they often involve relying on another person, persons, or even a company to meet the project goals.

Why? Well, I’ve spent a good portion of the day chasing down and ‘beating up’ our D&B folks in an effort to be sure that we get this file reworked and ready by morning. I don’t mind doing the follow-up, but there’s a part of me that says had “I” made this kind of mistake, I would have been calling/emailing the customer, hourly if necessary, so they never had to wonder where things stood.

I did manage to knock a number of other things off my plate today though, which felt very good, as always! I could have knocked off a few more things if I hadn’t had to keep chasing down the D&B folks for updates.

Enough about projects. You may remember, from my post yesterday, that I mentioned a person I haven’t seen, or spoken to, in about 30 years made contact with me through the blog.

Gabbie and I were a real item, back in the day, and I was heartbroken when she told me she’d found “another guy” while I was overseas. (In all fairness to her… the last few months before I came home I wasn’t exactly the verbose writer I am today… I was pretty depressed and my letters were probably pretty sparse) However, I had nothing but surprise, joy and happiness in my heart as I read her email that explained how she’d come to be looking for me.

It seems a patient of hers in the hospital, from my home town, told her years ago that I had died. He was mistaken of course and was most likely thinking of my Dad. Well, she decided to ‘google’ me and see if she could find out what had happened. That search brought her to the blog.

In a ‘catch up’ email she told me she’s been married, happily, to that same “another guy” for 30 years. That they’d raised two great children, a son and daughter, and in general has had a pretty decent and happy life.

I found myself with none of that old bitterness, but instead, found a fondness for her still in my heart, and that I’m honestly glad that she’s found happiness.

I suppose if I was alone, had what I thought was a miserable life and had not found some happiness of my own, I might have hung on to a bit of that bitterness, but I’d like to think not.

I’ve “lived” these past 30 years or so, really lived, following almost every dream I’ve ever had, not looking backwards, but instead always looking forward. Falling down a lot, but always getting up again, dusting myself off and starting again.

I really don’t have any regrets, and to say I did, well it just wouldn’t be true. She and I will probably always have a place in our hearts for one another I suppose. Young love is like that, pretty intense and the memories can last a lifetime.

With that said though, neither of us is wishing for what once was, but instead, happy we shared what we did. Discovered how to love, and be loved, unconditionally.

I don’t know if I would have had that gift, to share with Maryan, had I not known Gabbie.

The other thing with young love, especially when you’re separated by oceans and continents, it can get well, idealized maybe. At least there’s a danger of that happening while you’re apart. It’s easy to idealize a person who isn’t 3D, and right in front of you, if you’re not careful you can find yourself in love with the ‘idea’ of the person, and not the person.

I don’t think that happened in our case, I’m now, and always have been too rooted in reality for that. We loved the people we were then. I doubt she's the same as she was then, I know for sure I'm not!

Instead, now, I remember the good times we had, and I’ve all but forgotten any ‘bad times’ there might have been.

I believe it was Mark Twain who said “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” in a cable to the American press after his obituary had been mistakenly published. I’m glad to be alive, but happy also that my death was mistakenly reported.

The day ended on an up note project-wise as well. The D&B folks called right at the end of the day and said they were uploading the corrected file to their FTP site. I’m downloading it now so it’ll be ready when I get to work in the morning. With any luck at all I’ll have everything prepared by noon, one of the other team members can run her process tomorrow afternoon, and I can run the POL over the weekend.

If that all comes together, we’ll be 100% on target come Monday morning!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and especially for leaving me your thoughts as well.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Strange days….

Did you ever have a day that had one strange occurrence after another?

At first I thought it was just the cold I’ve been fighting for the past few days… but now, I’m not so sure.

It started this morning as I was checking my email, and like most folks in the business, I have a lot of things to check.

First there’s the requisite update of all the filters that attempt to sift out the 100’s of spam emails I get daily, while I’m nailing about 85 or 90% of them, I update the rules daily to keep it there.

After that I check the feedback forms from my websites for new contract leads, and the occasional note from an old friend who just stopped in to say hi. There it was a note from a person I knew a few years ago, but haven’t been in contact with for several years.

If she hadn’t left her real name in the form I would have though it was my imagination.

The next place I go is the folder for the blog comments (my favorite part of the day!) and there, and I almost missed it, is a comment from a woman I haven’t heard from, or spoken to in close to 30 years. She was my lifeline while I was in the service; in fact she and I met at a party while I was home on leave after boot camp, she and I dated regularly until I got shipped overseas.

Things went south between us when I came home early, unexpectedly, though, it seems she’d found another guy and was moving on with her life, and I moved on with mine.

I’ve wondered over the years whatever happened to her, and now, thanks to this place I at least know she’s alive, and drops in here.

If that wasn’t enough strangeness for one day… I downloaded the latest data file from D&B, only to find it was totally screwed up. Again, at first I thought it had to be ‘me’ and the fog this cold has my brain in… but no, it was truly messed up, from the data returned to the format of the file. Something went very wrong somewhere in the D&B code stacks for sure.

Mind you this was all before 7:00am this morning.

The first two ‘contacts’ were strange enough… D&B, a company known for data integrity, screwing up a simple match file return was off the hook weird!!

I’ve got the file in rework and the team at D&B will stay on it until they get it back to us, and 100% correct, but this totally screws our early delivery schedule, and may even make us late!! Those of you who are regulars know that I hate delivering anything late, my fault or not!! Hopefully they can get everything back at some point before the close of business on Friday and I can wind up my processes and have the file ready for mainframe load first thing Monday morning.

If that happens… we have a shot at making the deadlines.

So there you have it, I’m gonna call it a day computer-wise before I create any strangeness!! I apologize to all of you for not being around your blogs the past few days, but between trying to keep this cold at bay, and not fall behind with the project I haven’t had much time for visiting.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Connections #2

I’ve still been thinking about our need to feel connected to others, quite a bit actually. There’s a lot of ‘mental’ time as you sort through things you’ve accumulated over decades, deciding what can go, and what you can’t possibly part with.

Yesterday was a very interesting day for me. Most of the items I’d been sorting though were left over from the days where Greg and I were attempting to build a software business that sold its products through a dealer network.

I found, and threw away hundreds of diskettes.. yes diskettes.. 3.5” disks, 5.25” disks… several hundred at least. Master copies of all of our applications, the Foodbank manager, the Poison Control Center Tracker, Cable Tracker, the Shutter calculator, LazerPrn, and on an on.

Developmental versions, beta versions and shipping master copies, all, at one time with considerable value, today most likely worth less than the diskette they were saved on.. At several times during the day I was overwhelmed with feelings and emotions about this stuff. I thought about the endless hours I (and Ken too) spent designing, developing, testing, refining and finally declaring it all ‘ready’ for shipment. There were literally thousands of hours, sleepless nights, grueling schedules and many, many arguments (with Greg) about what would become the list of deliverable product features.

I started feeling sad, depressed almost, about the time, how I’d wasted so much, time, energy and money on this particular phase of my life. How I would have been better off had I never embarked on that particular path.

Then something pretty amazing happened. I began to see that part of my life for what it truly was. It was a transitional time, one where, once again I reached for the ‘brass ring’, got to feel my fingertips touch it, only to have it slip from my grasp as I tumbled from the carousel. It was near the end of that period, where I was running out of money, (I’d spent every dime I had attempting to keep afloat while we got these applications into production.) that I began to take contract work that involved extended travel.

It was that decision that led directly, eventually, to my being here, in North Carolina, and married to Maryan. Had I not taken the path into commercial development, I would not have gotten that first gig in Nashville (they cited my commercial development as a deciding factor in bringing me there), which lead to the projects here in North Carolina.

So, as I was emptying out closets, unpacking boxes (some of which have been moved three ort more times without ever being opened) and going through all of this ‘stuff’ I realized that despite feeling a little sad, I was proud of having done all of these things.

I hung on to a few trinkets… a “Have Fox.. Will Travel” brochure we drew up, a copy of our complete product listing, some certificates and old business cards, and… my first ever published article!!

I’d nearly forgotten about it, or at least dismissed the possibility I’d actually find a copy of it, so it was sort of a ‘non-event’ … but I came across it, and some copies of it as I was unpacking and tossing.

Nearly everything else went though. In fact, I’ve tossed so much stuff that we’ve nearly filled (say three-quarters) a commercial construction site dumpster! It’s hard, even for me, to believe I had this much stuff tucked away and that by the end of the day today, we’ll actually have ‘storage space’ again!

So, what does all of this have to do with connections? A lot really, as I remembered the connection Ken and I had then, how we worked, and developed almost as a single person. We each knew what the other was best at, and usually, we each stayed focused on those aspects we were best suited for. Our individual components often came together almost as though they’d been written by one person.

I miss those days, and wish we could find that groove again. The world has changed though, while we could, in all likelihood, still develop applications that way, the market is not what it once was.

I had a similar connection to Al DiMauro when we were painting cars, we’d discuss the project and often would work on a car, or truck, without the other there, and yet, when it was done, it was exactly what we’d planned and no one but he and I knew where his work stopped and mine began.

There’s a special connection when something like that happens. I think it’s much the same as the one found between folks who have served in the military together. You have a common cause, common enemy, common goal, and a complete trust in the other person.

When Tim and I rode together for those couple of years our rides were like that. Sometimes him leading the way, other times me, but always with the same end in mind. The ride, in and of itself, was the destination. Where we ended up was a far distant second to how we got there. The ride, always looking for; a new road, new challenges, new sites to see, just relaxing and enjoying the ride was the point, the only point of the ride.

I think about joining a bike club, from time to time. I never do though as I know the only reason I’d join would be to find another person to share rides like that with. Then, I realize that I’ll never find another person ‘like’ Tim, he was, and is unique. Very different from me and from every other person I’ve known. Our only real bond was our love of the ride. He’s also the only other person (besides my wife) who actually ‘got’ that, got, that riding with only the ride itself in mind was the real deal.

I’d love to be able to recreate the connection Mitch and I shared as neighbors, how we were really more like brothers than friends. I’m sad at times knowing that’s very unlikely, but at the same time glad that it was that important a connection. That when we visited this past summer, the bond was still there, that we both remembered it, and missed it. Seeing Whit on that same trip evoked similar emotions.

It was shortly after that trip that I realized something important. These relationships, these connections, were not so much validations, as they were celebrations. We found commonalities to rally around that gave us an endless source of conversational material, as well as plenty ‘to do’ as well. Over time, each of the projects and the conversations we had in the process built a connection that has stood over decades.

While I miss each and every one of these people, the connection is still there, just being around one another again proved that.

Maybe, just maybe, we’re always looking to feel connected to others, not so much to feel ‘less freaky’ in our interests, but to truly be able to celebrate those things we love to do!

I’m off to finish up the ‘Fall Cleaning’ and wrap up the outdoor wiring project. I hope you all have a great Sunday, and, as always, thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


I read an article the other day that spoke to how well (in general) motorcyclists treat each other. How we’re all a loosely coupled ‘brotherhood’, joined by our common love of motorcycling.

I think the author was right, it is a strange connection. When Maryan, Tim, Donna and I were riding in the Rockies, the shift lever on Tim’s bike slipped loose and neither of us had a wrench in the tool kit that would fit it.

We were in the parking lot of an old gas station that appeared to have been closed for years. His bike is stuck in 3rd gear and we were a hundred miles or so from our ‘base camp’ in Denver.

We’d only been sitting there for 10 minutes or so, looking at maps and debating what the ‘best’ direction for me to head out looking for a place to buy a wrench was, when a fellow driving a wrecker pulled into the parking lot.

He climbed down out of the wrecker, and asked if we had a problem, or were we just taking a break. We explained our situation and he immediately started going through all the various tool boxes on the wrecker looking for a wrench that would fit.

He eventually found one, with it I was able to reattach and adjust Tim’s shift lever. I then took the bike for a test spin and returned. As the guy was packing things back onto his wrecker we asked what we owed him. His response was “Nothing”, that he rode too, and hoped that one day, if he broke down, someone would stop and help him out.

It is a strange connection, it’s pretty rare for a wrecker operator to stop and help a stranded auto driver, and then not want to get paid.

However, I think it goes far beyond motorcycling. I think we humans like to be ‘bonded’ to others. To find folks with common interests, who share our likes, dislikes and associate ourselves with them.

There are groups, clubs and organizations of every size, shape and style imaginable. Each has, at its core, the specific interest or desire of the members. These exist both online and out here in the real world. In the early days of ‘collective computing’ the service ‘Compuserv’ called them “SIG’s” or special interest groups and they were full of folks from all over the place who had that specific ‘interest’ in common.

If you talk to most motorcyclists, they’ll claim to be individualists (myself included). If these individualists band together, and if you’ve ever been to a bike rally you must have noticed how they all seem to dress alike as well, it struck me that maybe, we all like to belong to a group.

Not any group mind you, but a group that believes the same things we do.

I’m not really a “joiner”, I don’t belong to clubs, or groups, but I do like to be in the company of folks with similar interests.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this line of thought, but, I do know it speaks to the universality, the commonality, we all share. While we may enjoy some amount of time alone, none of us really wants to be alone, all the time, despite how unique we believe ourselves to be.

Instead we seek out the company of others, we attend seminars, join clubs, or simply gather in chat rooms to talk with those who share a common interest, despite how individualistic we ‘feel’, or want to be.

I think there’s some inner validation, some joy, in conversing with others who ‘get’ our particular interest. That there are others, who enjoy the same things we do, joins us to them somehow, and like the motorcyclist, we share our knowledge, our tricks, tips and so on, and in return listen to theirs as well.

I’ll come back to this when I’ve thought it through a bit more.

Things have been hectic at work this week. New Duns files to prepare and match, the industry was in town this week as well and the majority of my time has been spent in meetings hashing out a spec document and gathering business rules for the match process for both the pre-production and production phases of this project.

Those of you who’ve ever gathered business rules will understand the difficulty of getting a company, let alone an industry to agree on common rules and procedures!!

All in all the meetings went well. We’ve gotten through the questions on the spec document, and answered all of the ‘rules’ questions and are able to move forward once again with the project.

I’m looking forward to the weekend though, the dumpster finally showed up and we’ll be able to get rid of all the ‘trash’ that’s piled up outside the garage. In addition we’ve decided to haul everything out of the closets, and toss anything we haven’t used since we’ve moved in!!