Monday, December 21, 2009

Falling Short

I recently took the plunge and purchased a “smart phone”.  My particular model is an HTC Droid Eris.  For the record, it’s cooler than cool.  At a cost of $500 without a contract, the phone is still well worth the expense.  I’ve been enlightened.

One of the things which I’ve found incredibly cool about my phone is the Pandora Internet radio application.  The cost is minimal, and it streams radio directly to your phone.  It’s great.  Part of the reason it’s so cool, though, is that you can purchase Bluetooth headphones.  Unlike the cliché wireless headsets, the headphones look good and they service both ears.  They connect wirelessly to my phone, and allow me to listen to music with no cords attached.  After a few minutes with the headphones, I was compelled to recant my dislike of Bluetooth technology.

My problem with Bluetooth has been largely in the failure of general Bluetooth adoption.  Bluetooth devices are (headsets aside) still rare in terms of consumer adoption.  After my revealing phone experience, I had to have Bluetooth on my laptop as well.

An E-Bay Bluetooth dongle cost me a whopping $5 plus shipping.  It’s USB and sticks out of my computer only a very small amount.  When it arrived, I eagerly plugged it in and powered up my headphones.  The ensuing antics reminded me of why Microsoft completely failed with Windows Vista. 

Vista on my home laptop works well.  I don’t have any major complaints, however I was infuriated to find that Microsoft removed the level of Bluetooth support from Vista that’s available on my phone.  Vista cannot recognize an a high quality audio device, and it cannot even use a simple HID device (as in…mouse).  But my phone can.  Go Google!

It quickly became clear that in order to use my Bluetooth device with my laptop, I would need to purchase a third party Bluetooth stack.  At this rate, I thought “Well, they probably did Windows 7 right…maybe I’ll upgrade”. 

Windows 7, Microsoft’s new flagship OS cannot use an elegant, mature technology like Bluetooth any better than my phone.  Buying a third party stack (Bluesoleil’s stack) cost me an additional $30.  If Microsoft had decided to properly equip Windows 7 to meet the demands of it’s consumers, I would have purchased that instead.  Unfortunately, despite the catastrophic losses Microsoft took on Windows Vista, it has made an active decision to make the exact same mistake again.  Nice work Microsoft!  The good news is that at least this time, they have more practice when they execute the marketing blitz to convince people that they want an operating system which has been specifically built not to meet their needs.

The silver lining is that it sounds as though Google is building a PC operating system.  If it’s anything like my phone, I’m confident that it will become the operating system that Microsoft failed to deliver not once, but twice.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Phone power

I've been eating a lot of terrible food lately, and exercising very little. It is really starting to show, so I recently got the bright idea to enlist the help of my phone for tracking my nutrition.

Google market has lots of applications for people who want to track their calorie intake. I found one simply titled 'Calorie Counter'. While poking around the program, I noticed an option called 'barcode scanner'. It does just what it says. Point your phone camera at a food product barcode and the phone will identify the product in its database.

Phones have come a long way!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Some Well Deserved Rest

On Friday afternoon, I commented to a coworker “I think I’ll try to spend some time in the basement this weekend.”  That’s where my workshop is, and for some reason it’s relaxing just to hang out in the basement and put things in order.

Today I decided to get off my duff and install the new shocks I bought for Aimee’s car.  They’re air shocks, so I had to drill some holes.  After drilling the holes, I went to retrieve some tools from the basement.

The floor was wet.  Our basement hasn’t been wet since we had a B-Dry system installed, and that’s been three years!  My first suspicion was a leaking furnace humidifier, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.  As I rooted around a bit, I finally noticed water coming out of the water heater…except that it was coming from places where is wasn’t supposed to be coming from!

So, it turns out that I really did spend time in the basement today.  A lot of time.  More than I could ever have expected!  The really annoying part is that I probably aided the failure of our old water heater.  We recently installed a water softener, and despite advice to install an expansion tank, I did not.  Plumbing never turns out well, and there had previously been a softener installed without a tank.  I was really afraid of upsetting our delicately balanced, non-leaking plumbing.

Today, of course, I finally picked up a tank when I bought the heater.

It cost $40 and installed with a saddle valve that pierced the copper line.  If I had simply taken a few minutes to read about the expansion tank, I would have known that the installation was brain-dead simple, and I might have prolonged the life of our heater.

Of course, then I probably wouldn’t have spent time in my workshop today either.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ghouls Beware

We’ve had a lot of evil spirits rooting about our neighborhood lately.  Frankly, it was simply becoming annoying.  We tried calling professionals first, but nobody was answering at Ghost Busters.  They probably get a lot of crank calls this time of year.  Can’t say I blame them for not answering.

Finally, we realized that we needed to take matters into our own hands.  The only option left was to carve up some very scary pumpkins, put on our scariest duds, and save our corner of town from certain destruction and even lower property value.

Pictures of our assault follow.  Brace yourself though…they’re graphic!


DSCN7610DSCN7607   DSCN7613a

Saturday, October 24, 2009


The other day Aimee reported that a deer had sauntered across the road in front of her.  In Lansing.  Crossing Michigan Avenue.  At first, I thought “Those dumb deer”.  After some longer reflection I amended myself.

A car outside the city is usually travelling between 55 and 80 miles per hour.  A car on Michigan avenue doesn’t travel any faster than 40, and has a lot more time to see a deer ambling across the road.  The kicker?  You can’t discharge firearms inside the city.

Dumb deer?  I’ve decided that deer is pretty smart.  Progressive, in fact!  I suppose it can saunter wherever it pleases!

Warning Signs

Three of us are travelling to Chicago in two weeks for a concert.  Stu and I got together today to find a hotel and finalize our plans.  We decided to take a train from Battle Creek, which is a bit pricey…but it gets us completely out of navigating Chicago traffic.

After getting train tickets, we started searching around the venue for hotels.  The venue is The Riviera.  When we first purchased the tickets I did a Google search around the venue with limited success.  A street level view of the venue didn’t reveal much of anything.  There were a lot of well maintained, but otherwise inconspicuous buildings.  No hotel signs to be found.

Travelocity didn’t show any hotels closer than 1.5 miles from the venue, and obviously we have no intention of walking that distance through downtown Chicago in the middle of the night.  We tried Expedia and Orbitz too.  No joy.  Finally, I resigned myself to doing a Google hotel search around the venue.  One of the hits was on the same block.  Chaching!

We did some searching for reviews on the hotel, but didn’t find much.  Finally we decided to take a chance, call the place, and get a reservation.  I dialed the phone, and a nice enough gentleman answered.  When I enquired about the distance to the venue, the man indicated that yes, it was very close.  When I asked to make a reservation, he said something that surprised me: “We’re first come, first serve.  No reservations.”

We decided to stay downtown and take a cab the five miles to the venue.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


This topic came about as I was lamenting my absurdly poor measuring skills. I can never measure anything with any accuracy. My tolerance for measuring with a ruler is +- 1” per 1/2 linear foot. And that’s gracious. I can’t even measure a 2x4 accurately…I keep coming up with 3”x1 1/2”!

When I was in high school, I was a terrible student. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the work, I just wouldn’t. Thus, it makes even less sense that I refused to take shop class. There would have been minimal homework, and it probably would have been a lot of fun.

The reason I refused to take shop class is that I was an elitist. I refused to “lower” myself to take a preparatory class for people who would enter the skilled trades. Never mind that many of the people who did take shop class graduated with higher grade points than I did.

Fate has a funny sense of humor, though. When I was 19, my friend Gary got me an internship at a tool and die shop. I worked in the computer aided design department. Ironically, once I saw the marriage between computers and shop equipment, I would spend an absurd amount of time trying to learn what I missed out on by not taking shop class in the first place.

Now…the real kick in the gut is that as an adult, shop classes are pretty hard to come by. If I take classes at LCC, I’ve got to take at least one introduction before getting to the “good” class, and then…I doubt we’re going to get to pour molten aluminum!

Monday, September 28, 2009


When I rode my bike to and from the office, I used to pedal as fast as I could down the steepest hill on the route.  The highest speed I was able to achieve was 30.2 MPH, as tucked as I could get on my commuter bike.  It felt less like slicing through the air and more like pushing against a mattress.  The reason can be found in the quadratic drag equation.

The last variable in the equation is velocity.  It might seem sensible that drag at 10 MPH would be double drag at 5 MPH.  In fact, drag at 10 miles per hour is four times drag at 5 miles per hour because velocity is squared in the quadratic drag equation.  In other words, the faster you are going, the more difficult it becomes.

Drag is insidious.  Travelling about in our cars, we easily forget how much energy we expend fighting it.  Drag does not exist only in the realm of physics, it occurs in organizations as well.

Many of us have worked with someone who brings “negative energy” to work sessions.  Some people seem to be capable of only the most direly pessimistic predictions.  Sometimes, drag exists and we don’t even know about it until a key person is absent from a meeting, and the meeting is doubly productive.

Just because we get used to the drag that some people bring to an organization does not mean that the effect is harmless.  Take a look at the product marketing life cycle and decide where you want your organization to sell products.  The second stage (product growth) is the most lucrative, with firms enjoying low competition and high demand, which leads to higher margins.

Firms playing catch-up are likely to find themselves arriving on the scene during product maturity or decline, where margins are lowest.  If your firm, department, or group seems to struggle with offering the high demand products and services at the right time, perhaps you have gotten used to too much drag.

Put a Fence Around That Yard!

Quite a while ago, I was out for a run.  I was about 1 1/2 miles into my run, when I encountered a runners’ nightmare.  My first thought was pretty typical for this sort of situation “If people can’t control the behavior of their minions, why can’t they at least put a fence around their yard?”

The next moment, they were upon me.  Three of them.  I kept my pace, calm and cool, not wanting to provoke them.  The two females made it about a block before they tired out and ran back home.  To his credit, the male lasted two blocks before he turned tail and ran back home.

Ok, to be fair, they did ask if they could join me.  And none of them had shoes on either.  Still, if people can’t keep their teenagers from chasing people down the street they really should put a fence around their yard.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It takes a village

In the United States, the general populace has the opinion that people should just mind their own business.  In fact, we have an entire political party based on the idea.

On the surface, the logic seems pretty sound.  Live and let live.  I’ve often wondered what social problems result from this attitude later on.  For example, in other countries, it would not be terribly uncommon for someone to scold a stranger’s child.  In the US, this is essentially taboo.

Perhaps my musing on the topic was premature.  Aimee arrived home a few minutes late.  Her delay was caused by a very small boy standing next to a very busy road.  It would have been bad enough if he were just standing at the end of the drive, but he wasn’t.  He was throwing rocks at passing traffic.  The poor creature made mistake of throwing a pebble at Aimee as she passed.  Within seconds, she was speaking to his mother while he spied on the affair from around the corner of the house.  It didn’t sound like the experience ended well for him.

Today I had a more positive experience in the same vein.  A couple of young girls were in line in front of me at a convenience store, buying candy.  The clerk was patiently working through their options and helping them sort through their change.  This is a pretty common site for very small children, but these girls were about thirteen.  She didn’t lose patience or get short with them.  It was probably the best math lesson they have had in years.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bad Parents

This weekend we had a very special treat for Evelyn this weekend.  Sesame Street Live!  Elmo holds a very special place in Evelyn’s heart…second only to Minnie Mouse.

The show was at 7 pm, but we got to East Lansing a bit early.  We killed some time perusing Sears and picked up a set of pajamas for Evelyn so we could get her ready for bed when we left the show.  As the show neared, we drove to the Breslin Center and parked in the event lot.

Strangely enough, the lot was empty except for perhaps two other cars.  A family was walking into the parking lot with a youngster holding an Elmo doll, so I asked why they were headed the wrong direction.

“Well, we knew that Sesame Street is in town and we thought there might be a show tonight.”

Odd, I thought there was a show.  We doubled checked our tickets and both of us had that stomach-in-throat sinking feeling.  There was a seven o’ clock show.  Unfortunately our show was Friday, not Saturday.  Having pumped Evelyn up we had to explain to her that we were idiots and showed up a day late for the show.  It would have been easier if she had thrown a tantrum, but she didn’t.  She just started crying quietly.

Aimee explained that we made a mistake, but that we’d try to fix it.  When we got home we found that, much to our relief, there was a Sunday show.  We bought tickets and updated Evelyn.  She reassured us “You not make a mistake!”


So, we caught up to Elmo a day later than we expected.  I’m at a loss as to how both Aimee and I managed to screw up the date, since it was on both of our calendars!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Growler Goes Off-Leash

This evening, Evelyn wanted to visit her Grandma.  We called and arranged a time to visit.  Since I hadn’t run today, I decided to run while Aimee would ride her bike.  She would take the bike trailer and pull Evelyn behind her.

Now, Grandpa would be heartbroken if we arrived without Abby.  We were in a hurry so we pitched Abbey into the trailer with Evelyn, but without her harness or leash.  At this point I need to confess something.  Abby gets very upset when she’s separated from people she really likes.  As I ran in front of the bike, she whimpered and carried on as though we had cut off one of her legs…but we made it to our destination uneventfully.

Things were a bit different on the way back, though.  Abby made the same raucous, except that this time she emerged from the back of the bicycle trailer and landed on the road.  To her credit, she didn’t miss a beat.  Since we didn’t have her collar or leash, we put her back in the trailer and instructed Evelyn to keep an eye on her.

Rriiigggghhhhht.   Suffice it to say that poor Aimee nearly went over her handlebars when Abby crawled out the front of the trailer and nearly got run over.  She would have too, if I hadn’t grabbed the trailer and stopped trailer and bike in their tracks.  The bike trailer is completely enclosed and velcroed shut, so it’s a bit of a mystery as to how our little monster-dog got out.  It probably has something to do with her four pound size.

This time we realized that we certainly could not put her back in the trailer.  I carried her for a while but she was getting jostled quite a bit.  Finally Aimee suggested that I could put her down and try to get her to stick with me.

With Andy, sure, no problem.  With Abby, I dunno.  She doesn’t normally get distracted, and she does normally come when I call her…however she is really terrible about healing.  We didn’t have many other options though, so I tried.

First we ran about two blocks at an 8:45/mile pace.  Her little legs were a blur.  When she finally began to tire I slowed to a walk.  Per usual, Abby tried to get ahead of me.  Also per usual, I chastised her for getting ahead.  Unlike usual, she realized that she didn’t have the comfort of her leash on.  Rather than running ahead and relying on her leash for communication, she realized that she would need to keep track of me herself…and she did.  We walked the remaining three blocks without incident whatsoever, Abby walking next to me.

Not bad for a six month old puppy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009, please?

Our refrigerator was doubling as an air conditioning unit for quite a while. The door seals were miserable, and the refrigerator consistently froze its contents despite being on the lowest setting. Finally, I grudgingly admitted that perhaps we really should look into a new refrigerator.

We went to Sears and found a model we liked. After some consideration, though, we decided to buy a cheaper refrigerator and a low end stove. Both models were still much better than our existing appliances. When we got to the checkout, the trouble began. First, the extended warranty.

The salesman decided to inform us "This refrigerator comes with a 1 year warranty on the compressor. For $140 you can get two years added on top of the factory warranty." Some quick math had me foaming at the mouth. This joker wanted me to pay 25% of the purchase price for the extended warranty. I declined the warranty. Our previous refrigerator lasted 20 years. If our new refrigerator lasts fewer than five years, it will be the absolute last appliance that I purchase from Sears. Ever.

Next, the Sears card. If I would be so kind as to apply for a Sears card, I could have free home delivery plus 5% off the purchase price. Now this sounded pretty good. I really didn't want to have to dispose of my old appliances. I started in on the paperwork. Now, any reasonable person would have put their pen down when they saw the word "Citi" in the contract. Apparently, I am no such person. They accepted my application and put the charge on it.

The bill arrived yesterday, and I paid the balance before they could earn any interest. Why so eager to pay the balance? Sears shouldn't be commended for their unfriendly practices. What's so unfriendly, you might wonder. I'll tell you what...I've got a 740 credit rating and these sheisters tried foisting off a card with a 20% interest rate. I can't put cash into a safe investment which returns more than 1% right now, and these idiots think they are going to get away with this kind of robbery? Seriously?

What is Sears really thinking? Do they really believe that trying to take advantage of their customers is a good long term strategy? Obviously, that's exactly what they think. Unfortunately, they are hardly alone.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

CNC Cutting


Our friends came to visit yesterday, and we got to meet their new dog Cookie.  Gary is an electronics whiz, so I thought he might get a kick out of some CNC goodness.

When I first purchased my mill, decent CAM software was really expensive, and you couldn’t necessarily trust the results.  Using CAMBAM I was able to create the text, and the three programs to cut it out. 

The first program profiled the text (which reads “Crum”).  The second program pocketed from the text to the edge of the wood, and the third program cut around the edge of the wood.  CamBam automatically added holding tabs to the edge of the wood, which keeps it in the wood in the fixture.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Aimee has been working tirelessly this week painting our bedroom.  It looks great, incidentally.  This evening I was outside repairing our utility trailer.  This endeavor involved using a reciprocating saw, angle grinder, and MIG welder.  All of these take their fair share of electricity.  It was thus no surprise when Aimee peeked out the door and asked if I had blown a breaker.  A quick tug on the saw trigger verified that my own power was still available.  As it turned out, the lights in our bedroom no longer worked.

A quick check in the breaker panel revealed that one of the breakers had tripped.  I reset it, but it tripped instantly.  Like an idiot, I tried three more times before reaching the conclusion that something in the line was a direct short.  I sauntered up the stairs. 

Due to the painting project, all the covers were off the light switches.  It didn’t take long to find the switch with soot along one side.  Closer examination revealed that someone had placed a screw across the terminals.  There could be only one such person.

“Aimee”, I inquired, “did Evelyn say anything?”

“Yes.  She said ‘The lights are broken.  I’m gonna go help Dada.’  Then she took off.”

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Defensive Sociopathic Behavior

This week at the office was difficult and long.  Three events which I caused created an enormous amount of trouble.  Two of them were for a very good reason, and the other was for a very bad reason.  As we evaluate our personal behavior, the litmus test for performance is the “repeat offender” quiz.  Could this event occur again?  If I had the chance to do it over, would I change what I did?

Regardless of how well we perform, even making the right decisions can be stressful as we evaluate personal needs vs. corporate needs.  In my own case, I didn’t sleep much last week.  When I spoke with a friend about it, he cautioned me against taking such events too personally.  He’s right in many ways.  The higher a person’s responsibility, the more stress they will encounter during the course of making decisions…even if they are the right decisions.  A good leader who becomes paralyzed as a result of making difficult but necessary decisions is destined for burnout.

On the other hand, meltdowns at large companies such as Enron and Tyco have elicited the same question from different people: “How do such self-righteous, uncaring people become CEOs?"  In light of my week and the advice I outlined above, is it really possible for someone who doesn’t exhibit some of these behaviors to be an effective CEO?  How long would it take them to burn out? 

Robert Hare, creator of the Psychopathy Checklist observed that a surprising number of corporate executives scored quite high when his checklist was applied to them.  Are these officers sociopathic before they become powerful, or do they change as they gain power?  What if the sociopathic behavior displayed by corporate officers is defensive?  Is it possible that they endure so much stress that their defense mechanism is to stop allowing themselves the luxury of stress?

Incidentally, Mr. Hare has written a book about his observations titled Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To work.  Perhaps he should consider writing a book about environments that foster psychopathy as well!

Monday, June 29, 2009

If Only Baby Knew

Evelyn’s Cabbage Patch Doll, Baby, has a bunk bed sized just for


her.  Our puppy, Abby, has taken over the bottom bunk of the bed in the evenings.  Last night she was there again, despite having a perfectly comfortable dog bed available to her.  The other night Evelyn slept her bed with a foot hanging off the side, and Abby slept in the bunk with her foot hanging off the side as well!

Click the picture for a larger view.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


About the time that I was born, my father had brought home two image579 puppies.  They were pit-bulls, but they didn’t get to stay long thanks to my severe allergies.  Mom mentioned them on occasion as I grew up, and this piqued my curiosity.  These were the dogs that had such a terrible reputation, yet my Mom the church lady thought these puppies were worth mentioning fifteen years after she had them.  One day Mom announced that she had found an advertisement for someone who had pit-bull puppies, and that we should go over just so I could see what they looked like.  We went.  I brow-beat Mom until she allowed me to plunk down $75 for a puppy.

2001-10-22@011 The puppy’s name was Precious, but even as a small dog she was incredibly muscular.  I changed her name to Andy, and we soon became fast friends.  For the next several years, I refused to go anywhere without my dog.  She went to every high school party, every park in the county, and into the homes of more than one chagrined friend.  I routinely took her into local shops as a protest against the exile that most dogs endure in the United States.

A close friend, who delighted in issue orders to her, once referred toimage0735 Andy as “The Machine”.  Such was her training that I had complete confidence in my ability to control her on walks without a leash.  I would purposefully seek out noisy, distracting environments to take her into in order to advance her training.  Not only would she heel and sit crisply, she could climb barriers, crawl under fences, and retrieve hidden objects.

Even as a swimmer, Andy was amazing.  She would swim for hours on end, even diving to retrieve sticks from under the water.  On one DSCN6898 particularly memorable occasion, a fellow approached us on a walk.  He completely disregard me, while warmly greeting my dog.  He had seen her years earlier, trying to drag the floats out of a local dam.  She had tried in vain to pull the cabled buoys to shore for well over an hour, and had thus emblazoned herself in this man’s memory.  He couldn’t remember me, but he remembered my dog.

When Evelyn joined us, some of our family members warned us DSCN5592about a child in a home with two pit-bulls.  Our first pediatrician was one of those people, and it was that first day in the hospital that we knew this was not the doctor we wanted for our child.  In fact, both of our dogs were incredibly patient with Evelyn.  Despite being hit, screamed at, “walked”, and generally tormented by Evelyn, neither Andy nor Hades ever expressed any ire with our small child.

Today as I watched Andy, I realized that her foot was infected again.  Her health has been deteriorating over the last year and half.  After a candid discussion with our veterinarian, it soon became clear that while we could treat her symptoms, we could not restore her quality of life.  This topic is something that has preoccupied my thoughts frequently over the last year, so today I was neither surprised nor unprepared.  Given her poor health, there was really no decision to make.  Andy was almost precisely 15 1/2 years old.  She will be much missed, but much remembered as she was in her prime.DSCN7235


DSCN6489 DSCN5579



 image0736 DSCN0495-1 small_CNXT0071-1 042601@7

Friday, May 29, 2009

Life is Too Short

After returning from lunch yesterday, I stopped at our office coffee machine for an afternoon cup-o-joe. A quick assessment of the coffee pot revealed a burnt, acidic aroma. The coffee had clearly been sitting there untouched for well over an hour.

Fortunately I had an epiphany a couple of weeks ago which prepared me for burnt office coffee. Life is too short for bad coffee. I retrieved the french press and bag of premium grounds from my office and proceeded to brew a bold, delicious cup of coffee.

My wife recently shared a conversation she had with another student teacher who had refused a job offer in Hawaii. I marveled that someone would turn down such an offer, but it was not until this morning that I finally put several pieces of information together.

Today is a Friday, but I decided to take the morning off from work. At approximately 7 A.M. I woke up; at approximately 8 A.M. I gave up on trying to sleep any longer. After playing briefly with our puppy, I enjoyed a three mile jog and a hot shower. By nine twenty I was sipping a latte and waiting outside the post office for it to open.

This turned out to be a minor, short lived irritant. Why could the post office not keep hours compatible with working folks? For a moment I contemplated lodging a complaint when they finally opened. The next moment, I had another powerful realization.

life is too short. Too short for bad coffee, and too short for petty grudges. It is too short for enduring unhappiness in ourselves or others, and it is too short for unrequited love. Life is too short not to take job offers in exotic locations, and it is too short not to enjoy. Life is too short to be right every time, and it is too short for regretting things that we have never done.

If we pursue happiness as a destination, we will almost surely fail to find it. If, however, we accept that happiness occurs unexpectedly as we experience new things perhaps we can enjoy more fleeting moments of happiness and fewer fleeting moments of irritation with stodgy institutions that open counterproductively late.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bizarre MS Office Problem

Earlier this week, Microsoft Office stopped working on my computer.  The same thing happened whether I was using Office XP or Office 2003, and it was maddening.  While I might put on bravado and claim that I don’t like MS products, that’s pretty much a lie.  I pay $10 each, every month for my wife and I to have Exchange accounts.  If I’m paying for Exchange, I want Outlook to work too.

The error indicated that “Word [Outlook, Excel, etc] is not installed for the current user.”  So, I did some searching and found a whole litany of reasons why this might be.  After spending an entire week installing and uninstalling office multiple times daily I had decided that most of the “fixes” were simply superstitious coincidences.  Every time I saw a post indicating a fix, I wanted to scream “LIAR”!

My user account is an administrator account, so permissions seemed an unlikely culprit.  Oddly enough, though, the machine Administrator account could run Office.  Strange.  So, I created a test user with limited authority.  That user could also start Office.  Harumph.  My logical conclusion was that my user profile must be corrupt, so I reset my profile.  Still no dice.

The final step was to completely delete my user account and create a new account with the same name.  And (drumroll please….) it worked!  After reclaiming permissions on my original profile, I got my settings back too.

This begs the question “What’s up with that?”  What prompts a problem with someone’s security account?  Should I expect more shenanigans?  Perhaps.  In the meantime, I’m simply happy to have Outlook open and synchronizing in the background.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Honestly honey, it just followed me home!

My big surprise this week was supposed to be that my new business cards from Moo came in.  That really isn’t as lame as it sounds.  They are very cool cards, designed by yours truly.  Anyway, I raced in the back door and nearly broke my neck racing back out the front door to retrieve my cards from the mailbox.

The reason for the nearly broken neck was a very large box.  A brief review of the shipping label had my curiosity piqued.  Hmmm…Hobby E-Store.  There was only one thing that item that I could fathom might come from that store, and be the right size.

I wonder who might have sent such an incredibly cool toy to me without saying anything?  Thank you!

Notes after [trying] to fly…

I’ve had an E-Sky Lama 4 for a long time.  In the picture above, you might notice a lot of tape and aftermarket parts.  There is a really good reason for that.  I crashed it a lot.  In fact, I probably bought the thing two or three times.  By now, I’m pretty good at flying it.  I thought that transitioning to a collective pitch would be pretty easy.

I was wrong.  First, the Belt-CP is bigger.  A lot bigger.  That makes it scary for two reasons.  First, it will hurt more when it hits you…and it will hurt more when you buy new parts. 

Now, the other scary thing is that it’s a 3D helicopter.  That means that faster blades do not really equate to more lift.  It just means that the blades are moving faster.  You have to tell it how much lift to give you.  It doesn’t care for idly sliding sideways, the way my Lama does.  The slightest, tiniest movement on the controls sends the thing rocketing off in a different direction.

After trying to do a simple hover (in my very small living room, where there is no wind), my heart was in my throat and my pulse was in the range that I normally expect only when running away from rabid squirrels.

After a few minutes, I began to remember my humble beginnings with the Lama.  For several days I would get it an inch or two off the floor and then I would have to set it down because it was out of control.  It will probably take the same amount of practice with this helicopter.  The only problem is that I doubt Evelyn will sleep through the noise, or Aimee will permit me to fly it in the living room while she’s here!

By the way, if you’ve ever tried to fly a 3D helicopter on FMS…yeah, it really is that hard to fly one in real life!

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Monday, April 27, 2009

SmartWool Rocks

Having never had a pair of running shoes that fit properly, I finally decided to visit a store which specializes in footwear. The obvious local choice was Playmaker's in East Lansing. A classmate from high school works there, so I asked for him when I went to visit.

Tony was happy to help, and after a few tries fitted me with a Brooks shoe. The fit was superb, owing in part to the narrow (B) width of the shoe. Something that had struck Tony was my recounting of the numerous blisters I had suffered while running. After finding the right shoe, he asked what kind of socks I wear when I run. "Cotton", I replied handily. He advised that I try a pair of SmartWool socks, and he threw a pair in with the shoes.

After running with the shoes and socks for several months, I can honestly report a 100% improvement. Until purchasing these shoes, I had never gone running without earning a blister. Since buying these shoes, I have never gone running and gotten a blister (my running journal is at

Last night I packed up my running bag, but couldn't find a clean and complete pair of my handy SmartWool socks. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to try the Pepsi Challenge between the cotton socks and the wool socks. It might be that my comparison was unfair, as I ran four miles last night (in wool socks) and two miles this morning. Perhaps the two runs were too close together. I don't think so, though. Although my feet aren't nearly as blistered as they would have been in the past, I can feel the distinct burn of rawness on the inside of my left foot.

My conclusion is that the SmartWool socks work exactly the way they are supposed to. By wicking moisture away from your foot, the socks are supposed to remain properly fitted to your foot and keep your skin comparatively dry. By the way, I have also been using these socks when I ice skate (I used to use polyester dress socks). They have worked as nicely for skating as they do for running.

A caveat: I have also tried using polyester socks for running. Believe it or not, they are also superb when compared to cotton socks. If you can get past the snickers when you run down the sidewalk in your black poly socks, give it a try. You may be surprised.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Stigma of Failure

Peter Drucker once observed that "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all."  Per usual Drucker's wisdom is timeless and on-point.  Why, then, do we spend so much time performing tasks only because we have always done them?

The typical answer to this question is laziness.  We are too lazy to question processes, and thus to improve them.  Laziness certainly plays a role in perpetuating inefficient, antiquated processes but there are more powerful elements as well.

A couple of years ago I took a hockey class.  The coach lined up several cones, demonstrated a skating pattern, and then ordered the class to skate the pattern just as he had.  We complied, each carefully skating the pattern in turn.  When we finished, the coach chastised us.  "That was all wrong." he declared.  "Not a single one of you fell down, and if you didn't fall down, you aren't trying hard enough!"

There are a lot of reasons for failure, but the absence of failure does not always indicate success.  It may merely signify a complete lack of effort.

There are both good and bad reasons for failure.  Good reasons for failure include trying a new process, or improving an existing process.  A good failure is one that is endured when a person works outside their comfort zone.  Bad reasons for failure are lack of due diligence and inappropriate planning.

Organizations wishing to improve themselves must learn that failure for the right reasons is an action that deserves praise, not derision.  Too often, employees are paralyzed by fear of failure.  They spend inordinate amounts of time justifying their decisions, or worse, they choose not to make decisions at all.  They are so terrified of blame that they abhor all things new or different.

Companies wishing to succeed must be willing to change.  In order to facilitate change, these same companies must also be willing to accept some level of failure.  Changing employee perceptions of failure is a long process that begins with changing the question "Who is at fault?" to "What have we learned?"