My Visit to Gary Coleman’s House

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Today was kind of a slow day at work so we decided at lunch to drop by Gary Coleman’s house. He lives in Salem just 10 minutes drive south of our work. Apparently Mr. Coleman doesn’t like visitors because there were lots of signs ever 15 feet along a perimeter fence saying “Stay Out!” I was hoping to see him in the yard or something so I could tell him how much I loved him in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

Maybe we’ll drop by again sometime and get lucky and say hi.

After that we went and ate at the Wildflower Cafe in Payson. They have awesome shakes and scones.

On the way back to the office we decided to drop by the Relief Mine. The Relief mine has a colorful past surrounded in intrigue. We drove up to the fence and saw a big “No Trespassing” sign with a phone number. I called the number hoping to talk to someone would would let us in and give us a tour. The voice message was hilarious and you should call it at 801.423.1492. It basically says they are only in the office for a couple of hours each week and are impossible to get a hold of. If you ever wanted an example of poor customer service there it is.

Why I Loved 2nd Grade

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Yesterday morning I drove Annika to school because it was “Books and Bagles” day. We ate bagles then went to the book fair they had in the library. I bought Annika two books and then we went to her classroom and hung out until class started. As I was leaving her teacher said “Aren’t you going to stay for 2nd grade today?” I answered that I wasn’t but that 2nd grade was my favorite. The teacher, in true form asked “Really? What was it about 2nd grade that you liked?” Well, I couldn’t very well tell her the first thing that came to my mind so I went with my second answer which was “I learned about mythology” which is absolutely true. I remember learning things at my own pace and that one of the subjects was Greek mythology. That was the first time I heard of a pegasus or the gods of Olympus. I was also in love with my teacher, Mrs. Letizio. As was the custom of the time (1977) she did not wear a bra.One day I was out playing at lunch time with some older friends in 4th grade. The lunch times overlaped so when the bell rang for them to go inside I realized I was very tardy. Not knowing what to do I felt sick and decided to go home. I got as far as Whittier Ward then sat on the steps that led up to the side door of the chappel. I didn’t know what to do and started to cry.

I decided to just go back to school and pretend like an older kid had hit me in the stomach and I was hiding on the playground. So I poured on the tears and walked into the office. The secretary was very glad to see me and sent for Mrs. Letizio immediately while she helped me lay down in the nurses office (becuase of my punched stomach).

Mrs. Letizio came in and I stood up and was too afraid to look up from the floor. She came and bent over putting her hands on my shoulders and told me that everyone thought I had been kidnapped. As she scolded me I looked up slowly and saw right down the deep-cut v-neck sweater she wore and saw her breasts hanging there in plain sight.

I was astonished and a little ashamed. I remember at that point her scolding voice drifted away into a faint murmer and my periphial vision got cloudy. All I could see were her swinging breasts, nipples and all. I was mezmorized and time seemed to slow and they gently swung side to side like a hypnotist’s pocketwatch.

Suddenly I was being shaken and Mrs. Letizio was yelling my name. I looked up and she hugged me. All I could think about were those breasts and that they were now pushing up against me. I was thrilled. I faked the rest of the afternoon sick and I think they called my mom who came and picked me up. I made up some fake scenario about some 6th grader punching me and running off. It was the first time I sluffed class, and the first time I had seen breasts like that. 2nd grade was the best!

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Aparently I knew about this website quite a while ago but forgot about it until just a few days ago when my friend Joe showed it to me. is a web-based universal Instant Message client that runs entirely in a browser. Do I hear you saying “Why would I want to do that?” Well, sometimes you are not on your home or work computer or a firewall has been configured to prevent IM messages. So when I’m on the move, or using someone else’s computer for a while (like when I’m at a relative’s house and I have to fix their computer) then I can just go to the Meebo website, log in and I have my IM available.

Another situation is when I’m at home and I have 5 different computers I can be working on depending on the need and which one the kids are using. This way I don’t have to have any IM software installed on the other machines to have my IM. — It’s a great thing.

The Seinfeld Principle

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I’ve been writing a lot lately about management strategies. This is one I call the Seinfeld Principle because it’s best described and illustrated by one of the Seinfeld episodes (which one I do not know, but if you do please post a comment).

This principle works in situations where you think you should be doing something that another group is currently doing. It also works best where you know you can do a better job at it than the other group. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say that your IT department has a reputation for being slow, stand-offish, unhelpfull and smug. Let’s say that the marketing department, knowing your department’s reputation, is willing to hire their own technical person to help them with some projects they think are very important. Typically, being marketing people, they don’t really know what kind of computer skills the person they are hiring really needs to complete the job and they usually wind up getting someone affiable but not as competent. Clearly what that new marketing “technical” person is doing could be done way better by the IT department and in a fraction of the time. But Marketing hates IT so how do you take over without creating animoisty? Here is where the principle comes in.

Do you remember the Seinfeld episode where George makes an off-hand remark to a woman and says “you could do better than him” (refering to her husband) which facilitates a breakup? Jerry and Elaine are strategizing about how each can step in and hook-up with each of the newly split couple. They don’t want to come blazing in and take over the relationship so Elaine comes up with a plan. She says “We talk to them and say ‘I’m there for you’ then eventually we get rid of the ‘for you’ and we are just ‘there.’”

So you casualy make friends with this marketing IT person and get interested in their work. Then you offer to help them if they get stuck or need advice or help. You are “there for them.” As you help them more and more they figure out that you really do know what you are doing and eventually you are doing all the work for them. Eventually you are “just there.”

This can be a lenghthy process sometimes taking many months and lots of patience but I’ve used it to great effect many times in very dificult situations. It’s one of my secret weapons.

Use Your Wits, Not Your Wallet

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Here is another management guideline: Use your wits, not your wallet. A lot of times a creative IT staff can think of a way to leverage existing systems, knowledge and Open Source initiatives to achieve something close to what is needed if not exactly what is needed. I have a good example.

My parent company installed a point-to-point T1 data line between our two main offices. The original order for the data line was put in at the whim of a former IT Director at our parent company. We never really knew what was to be done with it but being IT people we can be creative and imagine all sorts of things. But nothing really goes over that line but some product orders.

Communications between our companies go through e-mail systems or over the internet. We recently were requested (required) to access data on a Sharepoint system on the parent company network. Users from our network cannot access it unless they run a VPN client to connect over the internet. The problem is, most users don’t understand how VPN works nor do they like VPN because their e-mail client doesn’t work nor can they print while VPN is running. They don’t remember passwords and it’s too cumbersome.

So I requested that the parent company open that website to us (since they are requiring its usage) but restrict it to our address and they could even encrypt it. This solution was free and easy to implement.

Our parent company refused saying that it should necessarily travel over the T1 even though we aren’t configured to use it like that. Their answer: a $10,000 router and complete re-addressing of our network (of course). After more begging they came up with a $4,000 solution with a layer 3 switch (and more network addressing).

After thinking about it, I installed a reverse proxy on one of our Linux servers. The program was yxorp and  very nice but didn’t handle NTLM authentication. The program was free and worked… almost.

Then Josh tells me that he can set up a conduit using a single SSH command. Sure enough, it worked.

We didn’t spend $10,000 or even $4,000 and we didn’t have to re-address anything and in the end the solution is fiendishly simple. All it took was a few hours of trying to figure it out.

I’ve found that a lot of problems can be solved better with wits than with money. Of course, some things can only be done with money but even then you can usually be prudent and save a lot.

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