Monday, January 30, 2012

Image site

This past weekend I discovered a new website that is instantly addicting.  It is http://pinterest.com/  What I like about the site is that is a way to easily collect pictures from around the web.  Photos that you pin to your boards can than be organized by category.   There are default board names but those names can be edited and changed to just about anything.  I am glad I have a place to collect my favorite images that I find from time to time.  I look forward to adding pictures to my boards and giving people a hint at my style, my favorite places, and places I'd like to visit.  You do need to be invited to this site.  Let me know if you want me to add you.  I would be happy to send you an invite.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why I left so soon

Some people may want to know why I left my last place of employment so soon.  Five months was not very long and it may seem like I did not give it enough time.  Several things in the company and several things missing in the company caused my quick departure.  The place I transferred to did not have a trainer, the manager was not on site (he was some place around Chicago), and there was no training manual.  In fact, they wanted me to write my own training manual.  I am not making this up!  I didn't know what I was doing but I was suppose to use One Note (something I had never used before) to write step by step instructions on how to do my job.  Yes, that is crazy and a major gap that I eventually realized I could not over come.  What also drove me over the edge with the training documentation that was being created was that I had entered quite a few detailed instructions only to find them missing after someone evidently deleted them.  I never could find the instructions again, and they were helpful steps, and no one confessed or explained why they were taken out of One Note.  In fact, that was close to the last straw.  I mentioned that there was no dedicated trainer.  In past jobs, there were several people who trained and brought on board newbies where days would be set aside to go over systems, responsibilities, and expectations.  In this place, I was working with a couple of people, one man and one woman, who had my same position.  Often times they wanted to help, were very patient, and explained things to me.  I was very grateful to them while I was there.  However, they would at times work from home so they were unavailable.  I already posted how I am a visual learner.  Without a document to read and follow nor a fellow representative to watch and mimic, I was sunk.  I am not a person who can magically find answers on his own.  It doesn't work that way for me.  The manager being offsite I think also was a problem.  He and I never connected.  I respected and admired him but somehow we just never shared the  same wavelength.  Being that we were so opposite, I never felt he brought me into his confidence and I never felt like I could risk being completely truthful with him.  He also wanted to be somewhat controlling of people and that will never sit well with me.  Another oddity about this place, was that we would go on trips to other offices with the objective of training but it ended up being much less than what it could have been.  I remember one trip where I was underwhelmed with my co-workers and what training we got would be ground we had already covered.  Another trip I took was a disaster where we were suppose to be in training during the day but requests for quoting and ordering work continued to flow in and we were expected to do it.  Then, after all day in the office, the manager would have the bright idea to go out for dinner and drinks.  I didn't want to spend another three or four hours with people that I had just spent all day with.  I wanted to be alone to relax and unwind.  These people couldn't get enough of the happy life and would stay up past midnight at the bar.  Swearing, laughing, and drunk, we all had to take the bus back to the hotel together.  I felt for the driver who had to hear all that but I also thought that the company was put in a bad light.  Being on the road in a hotel room, I would not sleep well and I was fretting about my job.  I hoped it would come together but it just never did.  There were too many missing pieces.  Another big reason for my departure was that this place had its own language.  There were so many acronyms and code words to remember it became jumbled in my head.  Learning this new language never happened quickly enough and would often lead to embarrassment if I stumbled over my words.

I miss the paycheck, my iPhone, and the free coffee.  I also miss work, quite frankly.  I like to get things accomplished.  I like having a place to go each day.  I like getting paid and saving money.  I am not doing those things now and I would like to add those things back to my life soon.  But I don't miss the stress, the uncertainty, the weird lingo, and having to be available deep into the evening.  I will state without hesitation that I am glad I left.  Yes, it could have ended better and more cleanly.  However, I will not stay in a place so void of any peace, clarity, and direction.

I am looking for a good fit in a job.  A place that matches my values and goals.  When I find that place, I will be able to wash this bitter experience from my mouth.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Macintosh laptop

My current computer is a MacBook.  It is the third Macintosh I have had and I enjoy it thoroughly.  It is elegant and simple.  I am still learning how to use it better.  I especially like iTunes, Google Chrome, Pages, Sticky Notes and the App Store.  Updating and improving my computer is something I consider something of a hobby.  I have updated the memory, the operating system, and quite a few applications.  My laptop is a wonderful tool.  It opens a whole world of learning and connections.  I would highly recommend the new MacBook Airs or a iPad.  Both look amazing and a lot of fun.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

TV vs. radio in the mornings

For me, it is definitely the radio.  I have a radio in the kitchen which I turn on shortly after getting out of bed and starting my day.  The morning radio show I choose to listen to is a Christian station.  The hosts make it sound more personal and the variety of programing makes it interesting.  I can tell the approximate time by what they are playing at any given moment as they follow a loose schedule.  The radio was the source of news in the mornings at my parents house.  It never even occurred to me to have the television on at such an early hour.  The only times TV was on early was Saturday mornings and that was strictly us kids and for fun only.  I have been in homes were a small TV was in the kitchen and it was on as everyone got ready.  It seemed to pull my interest away from the people I was visiting.  I would also find myself missing the morning radio programs.  In our home, the TV is placed far away from the normal living places.  Being out of sight most of the time, it is also out of mind.  I would recommend the radio in the morning if you are needing some input from the outside world as you have breakfast and gather yourself for the day.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Visual learner

My learning style leans toward visual.  I think once I see something done, I can mimic it.  When I read something, I will then be able to recall it and give my thoughts.  After printing out someones name and seeing it, I am much more likely to remember someones name.  That is not to say I do not value audio learning.  I listen to the radio and to podcasts daily.  I would like to think I am learning by hearing.  However, I have noticed that I can listen to someone speak and look right at them but I can not specifically recall things until I see what they said on a piece of paper.  This happened to me yesterday in a meeting.  It may come across as rude or like I am not paying attention.  To me, I am a little embarrassed because I am thinking I am a good listener and am giving the speaker my full attention.  But when I see it written, I immediately can understand and give a response.  This leads me to believe that I am a visual learner.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Self imposed hurtles

Be careful about self imposed hurtles.  We often make our own roadblocks to success by claiming we are not qualified for some reason or another.  No one else is blocking our way.  Others think we are smart and would be good at our chosen endeavor.  Others see how it fits and how it excites us.  When we say we don't have the right degree or we have not gone through proper channels, those are excuses that come from within.  It is possible to move on without those so called credentials.  Learn as you go is a good motto here.  Become an expert by doing.  Finding reasons to not do something are so much easier than doing something worthwhile and productive.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Spend money to save money - part 9

Coffee seems to be a norm in most homes.  I have a simple solution that may increase the taste and lower your cost.  First of all, if you are buying your cup of joe at a coffee house, be aware that making it at home can be just as good, if not better, and certainly less money.  Let me suggest something you may have not heard of before.  There is a devise that does not require electricity or filters.  It is called a French Press.  You may spend $20 to $40 but that cost is your last outlay except for the coffee beans themselves.  I would suggest a stainless steal variety over a glass one as glass can easily break.  Here is how it works:  Place the ground beans at the bottom of the press, add boiling water, wait five minutes, push down the material, and pour.  I think you will like it and going this way can cut your food bill.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The 40 hour work week

I have to ask myself the question, is this the only option?  I have worked 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, two week vacation, a hand full of holidays throughout the year, with weekends off.  Is that the life I want to live?  I have lived it and it has been a part of the process and there is a certain stability to it.  But do I want to continue to live that sort of a life?  I don't know that I do.  I would rather work part-time hours but get paid full-time salary.  I would much rather choose the option of less hours and more freedom.  I am all about independence and ownership.  Real ownership.  I want to own my life and give it to what or who I want to give it to.  I want to have ownership over my salary and not depend on a faceless company for my income.  Isn't it possible to set things up so that there is more time off without doing terrible damage to one's finances?  I believe it is possible.  Some people may scoff at this idea but it excites me.  My time is the most precious thing that I own.  I want to be careful how I give it away and use it because once it is gone it is gone.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

How to deal with itchy skin

In the winter time, my skin can get really dry.  Here are some ways that I deal with the problem.

1.  Drink plenty of water.  The air is winter is less humid.  As a result, I have to drink more water.  It makes me feel better, my body runs better, and it alleviates some itching.
2.  Wear lose clothing.  The air around the body needs to circulate.  By keeping my clothes lose and flexible, heat does not build up causing my skin to dry out.
3.  Apply lotion.  I think most men are not too keen on hand & body lotion.  Probably because of the added scents.  I have found that there are many masculine smelling lotions to buy.  It doesn't take much searching.  I apply lotion after showering on areas that have been itchy.  It makes a big difference.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Networking challenges

Everyone seems to say the same thing when it comes to finding the right opportunity.  They say networking is the way to go.  My struggle with networking is that I am not involved with that many groups that would naturally lead to conversations and relationships.  I attend church regularly and I have recently started attending two career networking classes.  But that is it.  I am not part of a bowling or softball league, I do not go out for fish on Fridays and I do not drink so I am not involved with the bar crowd.  I am quiet and not very talkative.  I enjoy being in a group, listening, and observing what is going on.  I like people but I prefer a few close friends.  My preference is to keep to myself because I value peace and an inner calm.  I am better one on one, asking questions, giving my thoughts, and listening with a desire to help.  So this is all to say that enlarging my network is a challenge.  I do not let people into my life very easily or quickly.  I think this is because I need to see something in a person that is admirable before I can trust him or her.  When I see an honest spirit who shares openly, I am drawn to that, then I will open up too, and often that will lead to a deeper conversation.  From my side of the table, I would like to think I am willing to have conversations with anyone.  I hope I am not so hard looking that people won't approach me to tell me something or ask me about myself.  I am using the latest media to network but I find that many people I would like to connect to through Facebook or Linked In are not using those services.  Or they update infrequently.  Being on the computer to network is almost a preference as it allows me to have more time and control over what I am saying.  Although I will still post bone-headed things.  If you are part of my network, please be assured that I appreciate you and I hope we can connect online as well as in person.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Garages

When I drive through the country side or through a neighborhood, I am usually checking out people's property.  I admire some things but other things I would change.  It is fun to think about what I could have by mimicking what other people have done.  It is also fun to put a stake in the ground and say what I would not tolerate.  One thing that I consistently like is the external garage.  I imagine I get all excited about garages because they represent a place where big boy toys can be kept.  Fun things like all-terrain vehicles, boats, and motorcycles.  It also represents a place to go to work on cleaning and improving these things.  I am task oriented and I also like to keep good care of what I own.  Some day I would like to have an external garage built.  I think it add value to the property and gives options.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Home network

At my house, I have built a home network.  It isn't that complicated but it surprises me when I find this is not what everyone has so maybe it is a little more special than I realize.  I enjoy this sort of thing and it gives me a sense of accomplishment.  When I move forward incrementally, I feel that I am doing good and progressing as a human being.  My system includes the following:  a MacBook laptop, Motorola high-speed cable modem, Apple Extreme Base Station, wireless Canon printer, Mini Stack external hard drive, FM Transmitter, iPod Nano and Touch.  It is strange to think that just a few years ago, we had dial-up internet.  It took me a long time to go to cable but I am happy that we have.  Since we have, I will say that Charter Communications, our internet service provider, has been very good.  Their speed is great and we rarely have an outage.  The access speed has increased the things that we can do, video for example is not at all enjoyable with dial-up.  The wi-fi has also given us many options.  We can now take the lap-top to the kitchen table and we can listen to the iPod Touch from anywhere in our house.  This may all sound like bragging but to me it is more about connections and availing ourselves to what is out there.  At some point, I would like to acquire another lap-top, perhaps a MacBook Air.  It would also be nice to have Apple TV and/or an Amazon Kindle.  Those are end user components that would give us more options.

My advice to those who are building their home network would be to start small with something that you can understand, do a lot of reading, pay cash for everything, and progress from there.  It is important that you are enjoying what you have.  I would not buy something or add to your network just because you want to impress someone or others say that you have to have it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Walking the mall

On my way home this morning, I stopped at the Fox River Mall in Appleton Wisconsin.  It is the largest mall nearby.  I had not been in there for quite sometime.  My motivations for going there this morning was to get some exercise.  Earlier this week I had talked with a new friend and he had mentioned that walking the mall was something he did just to get out of the house.  So without much else to do before going home, I went to the mall.  I parked my truck and left my jacket in the cab but took my TracFone and iPod Touch with me in case I needed to contact someone.  It felt good to stretch my legs and explore every wing of the place.  Really, the building is not that big so I was out of there in forty minutes.  This was even after making a few stops to look at a few items.  I think this was a good experience and would recommend visiting a shopping mall to get exercise and have some interaction with people.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thoughts on Tim Tebow

I am a Green Bay Packers fan.  My type of football is the professional level.  Following the hundreds of colleges and divisions is too confusing to me.  I watch the Packers play and maybe do a little reading during the week.  So I don't always know what is happening around the league or on other teams.  One of the major stories this year has been Tim Tebow.  He has been vocal about his faith.  Here are my quick thoughts.  We value diversity and freedom of speech in this country.  Yet when a young man says what he believes, gives credit to someone higher, sings songs that are meaningful to him, he is hit with a bunch of criticism from the media and the world who claim to value being able to say what one wants to say.  It seems like the better, more polite thing to do is to let him do and say what he wishes.  It is his life.  Let him alone to do what he wants to do.  Why does everyone have to do it the same way?  Tim is just being himself.  I respect that.  Now his team may not win this weekend.  But it has been a fun ride I am sure.  His beliefs are not lessened by the outcome this Saturday.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Last born

After yesterday's post, I wanted to clarify something.  Although I am not one that wants to stand out by being neither at the top nor at the bottom, my place in birth order was last.  I am the final child of my mother and father.  I have an older sister who is not quite two full years my senior but was always two grades ahead.  This was actually a good spacing I think.  We were not on the heals of each other but we didn't have such a large gap that we could not relate.  Being a last born, I think I can fall to the symptom that everything is going to be okay.  I have been more of the one who has gone along to see what happens and figuring that things will work out fine.  I have also discovered that I do not have much tolerance for people leaning on me or depending on me.  My hope for others is that they will take care of themselves.  When people are needy or clingy, it repels me.  I am guessing this is because I never had younger siblings to look after.  There are many more aspects of being the last born that I am sure would apply to me.  Books have been written on this subject.  One being by Dr. Kevin Leman called "The Birth Order Book".

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In the middle

In the biography of Steve Jobs, I read about his partner at Apple, Steve Wozniak.  Woz was coached by his father to work as an engineer.  It was a respectable position in the middle of an organization.  Don't get too high in any place, his father advised.  I have similar feelings.  In my Next Job Personality Profile, it says very accurately I think, "Your type blend into groups, quietly enjoying what is going on, but typically feel no need to control or take on a dominant role."  I have not aspired to management because I don't have the voice for it, nor am I a particularly interesting speaker.  I am not one that can keep the attention of a group for long, so I usual defer the flow of a conversation to others.  I also don't want to get into the messiness of other people's lives.  I would be bothered with having to babysit adults and remind them to be on time and keep their comments to themselves.  However, I enjoy strong leadership in others.  When someone is in charge, I feel my role is to support that individual.  I don't feel like I need to bring them down a few pegs.  I want to make their lives as easy as possible so I work with them and try to understand what needs to be done.  I don't want to stand out, get called out, or be singled out.  I also don't want to lower the average.  It maybe a habit or a safety or a security thing.  It is just there within me.  I want to get along with people but I don't need to dominate people.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Spend money to save money - part 8

Consumer Reports is a magazine that has been around for years and is well trusted.  I love reading product reviews and that is all that this company does.  My wife brings it home from the library now and then but you may want to purchase a subscription.  The cost is only $26 for a year.  By using the advice in this publication you can easily recoup this small cost.  I like having a few magazines around the house anyway, to leaf through for light reading and general awareness.  Consumer Reports also has a service for those looking into buying a brand new car.  It is called New Car Buying Systems.  The report is only $14 and it tells you what the dealer paid, what the dealer receives in hidden rebates, and what the Consumer Reports bottom line price is.  This is definitely a way to spend a small amount of money to save chunks of cash at the time of purchase.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Farm Fields

In Wisconsin, there are farm fields all over the country side.  At this time of year, they are of course plowed and empty.  The variations in color are notable.  Some have a deep, rich loam while other can be a lighter brown with remnants of last years crop.  Driving on any county road or even highway will yield a view of many of these fields.  It is a lot of open space and private property.  The fields being empty of any crop means it is empty of almost all life.  Animals don't go there because they would be too visible and there is no food for them.  In someways I like seeing everything plowed, cleared, and cleaned up.  When the crops have been planted and are growing, there is a sort of goodness about the whole thing.  Yet, I do have some advice for the people who work this land.  PLANT TREES!  I would especially encourage this where their property butts up against a road.  This would be good because it will slow erosion, keep snow from blowing onto the road, provide a scenic view for drivers, and allow birds a place to find food and shelter.  The county usually cuts the grass in ditches and the farmer usually plows his field right up to the edge so there is nothing of significance that is growing in these transition areas.  One of the two need to put in some plant life for the better health of our planet.  It would cost very little and be very simple to do.  It saddens me when I see a hedge row or a tree line cut down.  So often it is unnecessary and actually counter productive.  I would like to see these crucial natural systems regrown. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Return to Me

2 Corinthians 6:2b Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Zechariah 1:3 Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Return to Me,” says the LORD of hosts, “and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts.

Acts 17:27 They should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Please seek the Lord today because our lives came from Him and are His.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Services for sale

As you may have read, I am a resident of Wisconsin.  I am responsible, willing to learn, easy to get along with, able to navigate the internet with ease, and looking to make money.  If you have need of someone to research, listen, or investigate, please contact me and I am sure we can come to some arrangement.  Maybe you are looking to expand a business in the Fox Valley area.  I can share my thoughts and opinions on the business climate here.  Perhaps you are interested in visiting Wisconsin or moving here.  I can let you know my experience here and give you some idea as what to expect.  Perhaps you need to have someone hear you out.  I can listen and empathize.  If you are looking to buy something, I can find prices, reviews, and retailers for you.  Post a comment or write to me via my Gmail account.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Snowfall this season

This winter season has been merciful when it comes to the amount of snow we have received.  I have to admit that this has been a big relief.  For the last three or four years we have had tremendous snow amounts here in Wisconsin.  I know it should be expected considering the location but believe me when I say that not all people here are happy with the long winters of the north.  As a result of these past snow storms, I have had to do a lot of snow removal.  Sometimes shoveling the driveway can be peaceful and good exercise.  It gives me sometime outdoors to do something physical.  Other times, it can be a chore that I could do without especially when I am out there several times per week.  Snow can have an attractive look to it as it drapes the trees and covers the ground.  It can look clean and new.  Then it melts a little and the county plow trucks throw salt on it and the next thing you know your car is a mess as are your shoes.  I am glad we have only have a trace of snow on the ground.  Although we have had three snow falls, they have been relatively light and the temperatures have been enough to melt most of it.  I am thinking of getting a snow blower to deal with the snow.  For a long time, I liked the Cub Cadet 221 LHP.  However, I recently found the Troy-Bilt Squall 2100 to be just as good or not better in customer reviews and $150 cheaper.  So I might go with that.  Right now, I am using the old shovel which has worked well enough for what we have received this year.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It is more than just following the rules

I am finishing up the book "Linchpin" by Seth Godin.  What is challenging to me is that I am a rule follower.  I am compliant.  I don't like to rock the boat.  I have not seen myself as an artist or a performer.  Yet, in this world we now live in, we need to be someone who makes a difference, who becomes indispensable, who becomes that remarkable addition.  When we are those things, we become the company or the organization.  It would not be the same without us.  I can't say that I have felt that intricate to any place in the past.  However, I need to reconsider that as a possible goal.  Flying below the radar has been my habit because I don't like criticism and I don't like to stand out.  I am sensitive and not necessarily an original thinker.  Following the rules and reading the map are the safe ways to get through life.  I have lived that way and I can testify that it is not always the most rewarding.  I will need to find the balance.  In all of this, hope is not lost as I think I can add a certain zest and originality to a company.  I am one to strive for simplicity, elegance, and order.  Those could be my unique contributions.  We all want to do work that matters but work that matters is more than just following the rules.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Air dried jeans

One of life's little pleasures is air dried jeans.  After washing my clothes, I take them out of the washer and separate my jeans from everything else which go into the conventional dryer.  I lay my jeans over the drying rack and let them air dry.  In 24 hours or less, my jeans are dry and ready to be folded and put away.  Days latter when I pull them from the closet, I unfold them and put them on.  It is like having a new pair of jeans.  They are stiff and hard which conveys to me that they are clean, attentive, and mine.  Often I have wondered if I could strike a match on them.  No one else in my family cares to have their jeans air dried.  I think they are missing out.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cell phones

I am not a big fan of cell phones.  Mega companies and our culture push them on us like they are something we have to have to survive.  People use them while driving, causing them to be distracted.  They come with a monthly bill which can be outrageous.  They ring during meetings which makes everyone lose track of the conversation.  People speak loudly into them.  Some studies show that using them can be harmful to the brain.

I can be a late adapter especially to things I view as being a fad.  So I have been late to adapt to cell phones.  When I got married, I had my wife cancel her cell phone as it seemed to be a bill we could cut and a service we could live without.  I never really had that many people to call anyway.  Besides, I had lived as long as I had and made it.  Eventually, my wife and I bought a TracFon.  It was small and we put minutes on it when they ran low.  Having it has been a nice option.  I used it to call and say I was coming home from work or some other short message.  In the last couple of years, we piggy backed on our daughters cell plan and this has made for a very affordable plan for us.  My wife usually is the one who carries our cell phone but sometimes I leave the house with it.  For a while I had an iPhone.  In my heart of hearts, I did not love it.  Firstly, it wasn't mine, it was the companies phone.  Secondly, I had an iPod Touch which I did love and the job was causing me to be pulled away from something I loved to something I merely respected.  I would go back to having an iPhone and would recommend it but this time it needs to be mine not someone else's.  I know cell phones can be convenient but they come with a cost and the style of those who use them comes across as shallow which isn't me.  I prefer my iPod Touch with wi-fi as I prefer to listen and to read.