ninety-six hours

Today at work I sat down to make a list of all the things I want to get done, or get to some defined state, before leaving for our trip.

As part of this, I mapped out exactly how many working days I have left to accomplish these things.  Like any analytical person, I then tried to divide the estimated hours of work into my available working hours to see how much of a challenge I have ahead.  Shockingly, I have a scant twelve working days before I’m gone for six weeks.  Upon seeing this, I was struck with two emotional reactions: panic and guilt.  Twelve days is not going to cut it.  And I am working fast.  I’m going faster than I’m normally comfortable with, fast to the point where I sacrifice some of my meticulousness for raw results.

Twelve days is not just scant, it’s impossible.  I changed the name of the column on my spreadsheet to read “Desired leave-ready state” instead of “Estimated date of completion;” it’s not all going to get all done.  I decided that I’m going to start going in at 7am to get an extra hour on each day, I have some false hope that this will make a material difference – and some real hope that it’ll at least ease my conscience.

I don’t know why I feel guilty.  I describe this to some of my friends and they look at me sideways.  I can’t help it; I want to leave things in perfect order and leave without feeling like things are unfinished.  But things at work are in a state of high-flux; fluid, changing around me and some of it beyond my control.  Too many times I feel like I talk about work like it’s more stressful than it is, but really it’s just what I make it to be.  Right now I’m making it to be really, really difficult.  But I do feel guilty about leaving when things are so up-in-the-air.  I feel bad for dropping things and running, and then at the same time feel good about taking advantage of the opportunity to do just that.  Someone told me, “Don’t worry Dave, the sawmill will be here when you get back, just the same as it was when you left.”  I know this.  But the waning days have me sweating nonetheless.

I suppose like I feel like I’m letting my boss down.  Because things haven’t gone according to my supposed-to-be-spotless plan.  Hell, things have gone 180° out from that plan and continue to slide from bad to worse.  Maybe it doesn’t matter in the long run, except it does.  I hate feeling like my image is besmirched.  That guy who always packs exactly days+one pairs of clean underwear when he travels, who never pays a bill a day late… that guy’s plan went to pot.  What happened to that guy, anyway?  I heard he let the wheels fall off then split.  You sure that guy is of the mettle we want?



all i can stands

Hey there Wednesday internet people.

You guys watch old animated Popeye episodes?  As a teenager I got into all things “old.”  If it predated my own era I assigned it extra cool points.  A form of hipsterism even then, no doubt, it led me to do things like using the VCR to record reruns of the original-cast Saturday Night Live, shows like I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, and Leave it to Beaver.  Even then I was obsessed with things one or two generations removed from my own.  Anyway, I used to enjoy watching the old Popeye animated shorts – especially the WWII themed ones.  Even today I still use the phrase, “That’s all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more,” when the situation warrants.

And o’ Daniel in the lion’s den did the situation warrant today.  Today was all I could stands, and I can’t stands no more.

I feel like I shouldn’t complain about work… you know the whole “I’m so blessed so why sweat the small stuff” thing… and I suppose that’s right.  Yes I suppose that’s right.  Anyway my beef really isn’t with the work part of work.  I’m killing the work part of work; I always do.  I think stress lately is compounded by the looming deadline of our RV trip.  Four weeks away and I feel like I have to get so much in motion before I drop everything and run.  I know I won’t be able to do it all, and things are complicated by a host of unsavory workplace goings on.  So maybe I’m not complaining about work.  I’m complaining about some kinda crap at work.  Or… man I don’t know… I just know that I’ve got these stupid feelings of guilt creeping in around the edges of the anticipation I’ve been feeling around our coming trip.  I want to get it all done and make it all perfect before we split and it’s not going to happen.

It’s going to be a race.  RV trip vs. my waning sanity.  I have to bet a certain way.


in gray contrast

I had a triumphant day at work today.

Well, a half-day at work, as I spent the morning working from the kitchen table while we got a whole-house fan installed.  But man, I got tons done and it really improved my outlook – which has been somewhat sour and dire of late.  I pride myself on my planning, call my anal or whatever but I truly enjoy preemptively solving problems that will never happen because I understood and accounted for them through my prescience.  Today that’s what I did, flexed my planning muscles, played some what-if games and wrote some contingency plans.  Tried to cover as many of the bases as I could dream up on my own, paint in all the corners, plug up every hole in the dike.  I like days like that because I walk away feeling accomplished.  And with this and that to tarnish me lately, feeling accomplished is what the doctor ordered.

Been working a bit here and there cribbing down albums and thoughts for my annual best-of-halfway post.  Sara, I’m counting on you, at a minimum, to read and enjoy it.  OK, you don’t have to enjoy it.  Just read it.  Funny first half for music, most everything up until April was pretty underwhelming.  Glad for some later entrants to buoy the front-end.  If you like music, maybe of the softer, feyer kind, you could do yourself a favor and go ahead and check out the new Fleet Foxes record before I finish writing that it rocked January through June.  Took a few days to grow on me but I can’t get it out of the rotation to save my life.  Even Sharaun is singing along at this point.  But I don’t want to give away the ending…

I’m going to be random today, Sorry.

Tonight, Sharaun came into the living room a little freaked out saying she was experiencing what she called “odd visual disturbances.”  I asked her to describe what she meant, and she said there was a “shimmering sliver arc” in one of her eyes which was obscuring her vision.  She said it was “lattice-like” and had “wavy rainbows” and she could hold up her hand and it would disappear behind the thing.  I was intrigued and did Google search for “rainbow visual disturbance” to find the following description of something called an “ocular migraine” or “retinal migraine:” An arc shaped sliver that is wavy, almost mirror-like in appearance and has rainbow colored shimmers. She was shocked by the accuracy of the description, almost as much as I was that what she was experiencing is a for-real, well-documented visual anomaly which is extremely consistent from person to person.  No really, a Google image search brings up at least ten folks’ recreations of what they see (the image heading up this post was the one closest to what Sharaun said she saw).

Craziness.  Goodnight.

PS – Today’s title is a holdover from an old draft which had nothing in it.  Rather than delete the draft, I decided to reclaim the database space with this entry.  I liked the title and, not knowing what I was on about when jotting it down, decided to leave it.  So yeah, “in gray contrast” to something… apparently.


At work today I had this moment where I had to tell myself, “Shut up, Dave.”

It’s a somewhat cyclical thing with me.  Work begins taxing me more and more and I have these little Popeye moments where I say to myself, “That’s all I can stands and I can’t stands no more!”  I start daydreaming about vacation, start thinking towards the weekend, developing a case “senioritis,” as they used to call it in those final months of high school.  If I let my thoughts linger there for too long, my productivity is impacted.  I get in some kind of work-depression funk where I start questioning the meaning of it all.  That, my friends, is when I have to give myself a figurative slap across the figurative cheek and tell myself to snap out of it.

My job is awesome; my life is awesome; my family is awesome; buck-up and be thankful.  I told someone today that the first problem on my brain when I wake up each morning is which car my wife is going to want me to drive to work, the big one or the little one.  Some guy in India wakes up in a hovel and the first thing he worries about is feeding his kids for the day.  Perspective.

Also at work today, and not related, I wondered to myself why my team can be so cynical all the time.  I thought about it and realized, I’m a cynical person.  Someone challenged me on this once, saying that if you studied the behaviors you most dislike in your team (as a manager), you’d find that most of them are modeled after the very same behavior exhibited by you.  Ouch.  A damning concept, but one that I think is probably true – at least in the case of my team’s cynicism.  I’m a pretty cynical and sarcastic person, or at least I like to entertain all reactions to things, a primary one being cynicism.  So, your team is cynical and you’re likely a cynic yourself.  How to fix it?  How to change the collective thread of behavior?  Model it.  You change, they change.  A tough, but thrilling, concept.  Sigh…

Yeah, time to get some perspective.  Goodnight.

the only constant is

Back from the rainy, windy, cold Oregon coast.

We had these richly-appointed rooms at a brilliant little seaside resort.  There were fireplaces and deckchairs on porches and tiny little nautical touches.  Very bed and breakfast feeling.  Too bad, then, that most of the weekend felt like being aboard a trawler hunkering out a winter squall.  The rain was sideways and the wind howled outside the conference room.  I got only one small chance to get out and walk on the beach, during some God-aligned moment where a thirty-minute break aligned with a slackened downpour.  I had my black dress shoes on with jeans (I really need new shoes) and my coat buttoned tight against the wind.  A cold gray beach can provide for a really decent moment of solitude and contemplation.  I imagined that near-end scene from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

The “work” bits of the days were good, but I realized something; hear me out.  I propose that the fundamentals of “how to be a great manager” were more or less identified, let’s say 90% pegged, sometime in the 1950s.  You know sometime after Harvard Business School really hit its stride and research there and elsewhere coalesced.  Sometime back then in the 1950s we collectively managed to categorize what makes a good people-manager, along with how best to train and grow those skillsets.  Since then, many people have made much money re-packaging, re-wording, and re-branding that initial revelatory philosophy.  They’ll assign new mnemonics, write tenets onto diferent geometric shapes or use new analogies for processes –  but it’s the all pretty much same thing once you boil it down.  Maybe some temporally-aware nuance gets added along the way to account for things like the internet, but the underlying physics of the management universe remain.

Don’t get me wrong; I love it.  I really do.  I eat up the practice of trying to draw conclusions from trends and data; man I get a kick out of looking across some disparate set of happenings and stuffs and having that light bulb flick on where you go, “Oh!  There’s a pattern here; there’s some truth.”  And that’s what these conferences always are: a bunch of managers taking a few moments to feel self-important (it’s a good thing, a little self-acknowledgement with moderation) and talking about things like goals and actualization and Lord knows what.  Maybe you think it’s silly but I find it affirming.

Got to see good friends too; spend some time enjoying good company.  And now I’m back home and back to a busy couple days of the remaining week.


but it’ll do

Tomorrow morning early it’s off to Oregon.  It’s not a cross-country trip with my family.  No, not yet; but it’ll do.

We’ll be posted up on the beach, a gaggle of managers (I don’t know what the right term is for a group of us).  I catch the plane at 5:30am.  On the drive over to the Oregon coast I hope to stop at this former logging camp place that’s now a killer breakfast spot.  Have some eggs and bacon and coffee and enjoy the smaller parts of conversation.

Once we get to the hotel I can maybe put a little piece of the past week behind me.  Take the three days to conference and network and wine-taste and come back to things which have progressed a bit.  I’m brining some cigars and I like to think we might be close enough to the beach that I might walk along the strand in the Oregon mist and smoke one.  One day at a time anyway, right?

I expect another slow week for writing, but I’ll try.



Mid-week we flew to Oregon, the whole family.

I had to be here for an all-day meeting Friday (today, as you read this), and had planned on spending a full day Thursday in the office pressing flesh and networking (it’s a verb).  But, none of that (including Friday’s all-day manager-moot) happened, or is going to happen (this writing about the future knowing it’ll be the present is hard).  See, Portland got some snow.  A dusting, really; a winter’s pittance.  It melted, in fact, completely away by a few hours before noon.  While it stuck, however, it made for a beautiful morning.  I love the way snow lines up on the limbs of trees, thin little piles.  Keaton woke up and looked out the large picture windows at the front of my folks’ place in wonder.  We made plans to make a snowman if it kept coming down, if it stuck around long enough.

But it didn’t.  By noon it was sunny and the snow had melted off the roofs and was dripping off the eaves and down the downspouts.  By noon it was a perfect day for walk outside or a pickup game.

But there was snow.  It did snow.  And Portland doesn’t do snow.  The powers that be at the sawmill, the same ones who flew me up here to spend two days meeting and greeting and talking, called off the whole deal.  “Don’t come into work,” they said.  “Stay at home where it’s safe and don’t get on the death-trap skating-rink roads,” they said.  So I did.  I mean, why wouldn’t I?  Every trip to Oregon is double-your-pleasure for me anyway – half work and half weekending with the folks (the benefit of your folks living near the local sawmill).  Now this one becomes no work and all weekending.  Not a bead deal.  I’ll still have to work, but not a bad deal at all.

But really; people flew here from halfway around the world for this meeting to instead stay inside and cower at the melt-as-they-fall flakes.

Owell.  Goodnight.