Today we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US, an American holiday where we count our blessings, and in that spirit, I give thanks for my health and well being.
I’m extremely grateful to be able to say I’m happy and healthy and not fighting the mental health problems that nearly 1 in 4 adults in the United States will experience this year.
Many men find the stigmas associated with mental health lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment, which often prevents them from seeking help and taking action.
I’m very grateful for Movember, because they are working tirelessly connecting and funding the best scientific and clinical minds in the world. They are working towards two urgent goals: to fast track a time when no man will die from prostate or testicular cancer, and to rid the world of discrimination against men and boys with mental health problems.
The Movember Foundation is working tirelessly to rid the world of this discrimination and to ensure men and boys experiencing mental health problems know the signs and take action early.
Today I went to work expecting a great day. My young friend Chris Merris was coming back to TheraDoc, and it’s always a good thing to have sharp people around you.
The mood of the day suddenly shifted as I found out that Jeff Knell, another new friend at work had died over the weekend. I felt extremely sad all day, not so much because I’d lost a close friend (although I thought that Jeff and I were going to be good friends).
Instead I think it has more to do with the loss of that growing friendship, and the reminder of the transience that is life.
When I was in third grade, we lived in Fairbanks Alaska, and I wanted to be a grown up. Because Alaska is frontier wilderness, a lot of the activities I remember were around doing things in the outdoors with the family.
I wanted to be grown up, so I got a paper route (at eight years old I was the youngest one they’d ever had). I remember that I had to borrow my Dad’s typewriter to write the circulation department telling them why I wanted to be a paper boy.
I also remember my parents making me take my little brother with me so I wouldn’t get into trouble and getting into trouble anyway (but that’s a whole bunch of different stories).
I decided I’d walk through creating a new app to replace one I’ve used for years on my iPhone that no longer appears to be maintained. The app in question is called GasBag which as near as I can tell stopped being updated in 2009 (see: http://blog.jam-code.com/).
I could just write a quick and dirty web app to store my mileage, but I figured I’d approach this as an exercise in building an iOS application with a design first approach.
At a high level, what I want is an app that easily captures my mileage, and allows me to save that information somewhere that won’t get destroyed. There are a number of features that GasBag had that I liked (for instance being able to send an email with my mileage information), and a number that it doesn’t have that would be nice (like allowing me to use it for multiple cars, or to do some data capture from a gas station receipt).
Prosecutor (clearly frustrated): Now let me get this straight: your name is Paulie C. Governance, right?
Prosecutor: And Mirriam Carver gave birth to Paulie C. Governance ?
Paulie: No, she only added to the theory, it was John Carver’s idea.
Prosecutor (grinning): It usually is the man’s idea. Let’s try something else: you are proposing the board use an integrated set of concepts and principles that describes the job of any governing board.
Prosecutor: and that system is called Paulie C. Governance, but it’s not named after you?
Prosecutor: then what is your name?
Paulie (now frustrated): Paulie C. Governance is my name, and the system is Policy Governance® which is an integrated set of concepts and principles that describes the job of any governing board.
At this point, the prosecutor tried to strangle Paulie, so court had to adjourn until a new prosecutor could be found …
It was a classic example of project management at it’s finest: we made plans, with allowances for expected risks, and the world accommodated our plans by giving us additional challenges along the way.
We had decided to try and save the chapter some money by carpooling over the mountain to Reno from the Bay Area. Knowing that there is always the possibility of snow this time of year, we made sure to rent an SUV with 4WD, and made allowances for extra time in case there was snow. I’d driven in that area in the snow quite a few times, and a couple of others in the car were OK with driving through the snow as well.
No surprise, a big storm blew in the Friday we were due to travel. There was a mixer that we were due to attend Friday evening at 7pm, so we left in the morning leaving around 10am for an anticipated 6 hour drive.
Once we got to the mountains, the snow started coming down. It wasn’t too bad and it was looking like we had left early enough to miss any problem in getting over the pass. We stopped at Ikedas market in Auburn to enjoy a nice lunch, and were on our way into the snow around noon.
The first thing I noticed as we started through the snow was that there was a low pressure notification for our right rear tire. I was hoping that it was just the cold weather (I’ve seen those sensors go off when the temperature goes down). We adjusted the plan to stop at the next gas station and check the tire pressure.
We got to about Colfax, when the traffic slowed to a crawl. This wasn’t too worrisome, as we expected it to take a few hours to get over the hill. We were still doing OK until we saw the CHP officers waving us off at the next exit and telling us to go back westward because the highway was closed.
Once again, we talked about options and decided to head back down to Auburn and wait for the highway to open in comfort. This also would give us a chance to check the tire pressure.
We drove back down to the first gas station we saw, only to find that the tire was pretty much flat. We pumped it up as much as we could, and headed out to find someplace to get the tire repaired. A helpful chain installer pointed us down the road to a tire store where we got the tire repaired.
Back down the hill, we stopped at a Peet’s inside a really nice Raley’s market to wait out the closure and discuss options. I called my brother-in-law Myles, who works in the area to see if there might be a good alternate route with the snow coming down. His advice was to not to take an alternate route a local had suggested (he drives up there all the time, and if he wouldn’t drive it, I didn’t figure it was a good idea for me to try).
We looked at the DOT site to see whether there were any estimates on when the road would reopen, and asked others who were on the road what they knew. Eventually we heard that there had been a 40+ car pile up with at least one fatality and 20 or so injured. There had been at least two big rigs involved, so it was going to take some time to clear.
We started checking on places to stay in case it started getting too late for us to make it that night. By five or six, we’d pretty much decided it wasn’t going to open that night, and Ray Ju (our current chapter president) had spoken to his nephew who had volunteered to put us up in Roseville. The plan was adjusted again, and our new goal was to get to the conference in time to support our fellow members who were there presenting.
After arriving at Mike and Linda’s house, we got directions to a Japanese buffet called Mizu. Once again we found ourselves adjusting plans as we somehow missed the restaurant and ended up in downtown Roseville. I pulled out my iPhone and got us to where the restaurant was supposed to be, only to find it had been renamed.
By this time we’d realized that the team could respond to just about anything, and rolled with the changes. We had a great meal, returned to Mike and Linda’s and decided to roll out of the house by 5am the next morning so we could try and make Sharawn’s presentation.
Getting up early with a good night’s sleep, we sojourned forward over the pass. The snow started up just above where we’d been turned around the night before, and just kept getting heavier as we climbed. After fighting with ice fighting on the windshield (which we fought by turning the defrost up to 80°) the snow started slowing down as we approached the summit.
We arrived at the hotel at around 8am and were greeted by Alan Yue (the incoming chapter president), checked in and met our goal of being there in time to check-in, shower and support Sharawn in her efforts.
We had a great conference and watched the weather nervously for our expected trip home Sunday afternoon. The weather was supposed to be getting worse, and as time went on, it looked more and more like the pass was going to close again. By 10 or 11am, it was clear that the pass had been closed, and there wasn’t much chance that they’d be reopening before Tuesday.
Image via Wikipedia
The trip home was planned with the best expert advice possible: Victor our new best friend from CalTrans, Google Maps, and some vague experiential knowledge from Rob. The word on the street was that the only remaining open pass would take at least 14 hours to get home at best (since everybody would be driving on that two lane road at 10 mph or so).
So we put on our PM hats again, huddled, considered options (including staying a day or two longer in Reno), and came up with a new plan. The lowest risk approach it appeared was to drive far south, avoiding the passes, and completely skirting the mountains. Our preliminary estimate put that drive at 10 hours or so, which was better than any of the alternatives we considered, and also would theoretically get Myles Lawless (chapter’s PMO Director) home in time to make it to his new client location the next morning.
Well of course it wouldn’t be historic if there weren’t more challenges. Driving south took much longer than what we’d anticipated, and then just as we had realigned our expectations on the arrival time, we ran into (luckily not literally) another snow storm outside Bakersfield.
PMI SFBAC Team
We did what project managers always do, plan as well as we can with the information available, decide on a course of action, and adjust as we go along. It was a great bonding event for all of us, and will make the year ahead even more fun as we already have a really long journey with a shared vision behind us.
I’ve been working with the VA on a large project, where I was recently issued a laptop. Due to security concerns, they only allow VA government furnished equipment to connect to their network.
It’s the first time in a long while where I’ve had a setup where I didn’t have an adminstrative account, and some of the restrictions surprised me. The work I’m doing is for a group in Austin, Texas (located at the AITC), which means the computer was set up in the CST time zone. By default, Microsoft restricts setting the time to the administrator account (I think because it affects all users of the computer, although for a laptop that really shouldn’t matter), so I can’t change the time zone without desktop support.
While trying to see if there was a workaround in Outlook, I learned that you can set up a second time zone there, which helps you see the difference more easily.
Step 1: Go to Tools/Options from the menu:
Step 2: click the Calendar Options button:
Step 4: Add a label to the current windows time zone (CST unless you’ve had desktop change it for you).
Step 5: Check the box that says “Show an additional time zone”, and add the PST zone.
Step 6: click OK, and you’ll see both zones in your calendar.
Note: Some web searches I’ve done have suggested that it is possible to create a policy to allow a restricted user to change the time zone. (Computer ConfigurationPoliciesWindows SettingsSecurity SettingsLocal PoliciesUser Rights AssignmentChange the time zone), but without that you won’t be able to change the time zone as the computer is restricted to only allowing administrators to change the system time (Computer ConfigurationPoliciesWindows SettingsSecurity SettingsLocal PoliciesUser Rights AssignmentChange the system time)
…Or, how to reduce email without leaving the group…
I work with a job search group called Job Connections (http://www.jobconnections.org) which connects to members with a Yahoo group. It’s a moderated group whose membership is generally restricted to people who have actually attended a Job Connections meeting.
It’s a pretty busy group, so there are a lot of emails that get sent out (mostly about job postings that somebody received and is not interested in pursuing). As a result, the most frequently asked question to the group is: “How do I reduce the amount of email I receive from the group without leaving the group?”
Fortunately, Yahoo groups have preference settings that you can use to control the level of email you get sent.
The basic options are:
Individual Email – Receive every message posted to the group
Daily Digest – Receive a summary of up to 25 messages in a daily email.
I am going to break one of the rules of social media and talk about politics. I’ve had lots of conversations with people I know who generally share my views on issues, but being disenfranchised and fear based, have the strong feeling that politics should never be talked about.
And to a point I agree. People are so strongly aligned along party lines, that if you say the wrong thing, you will alienate many people. The weird thing for me is that most people don’t even know why they follow those party lines.
I spoke to a very smart young man a while back and asked him which party he belonged to.
“The X party”, he said.
“Why did you choose that party?”, I asked assuming he would have a logical reason for why he joined that party.
“Well, I guess mostly because my parents were in the X party”, he replied.
And even stranger, the lines shift based on what the other party is saying. An idea that one party comes up with is immediately opposed by the other, even if that idea is a plank in the opposing party’s platform.
Take the recent rhetoric about the healthcare reform work. From everything I’ve seen, what is being proposed is almost exactly the same thing that the Republicans proposed when Clinton was trying to get them to move on universal healthcare. A sort of modified version of what we have today that tries to fix the biggest fiscal problems with our current system.
This is but one example, but there seem to be endless times that opposition is simply a tribal fight. The Democrats reject all Republican ideas, the Republicans reject all the Libertarian ideas, and they all view each other as bad and wrong. It’s one reason I don’t declare a party, and would probably still be independent if I didn’t want to vote in primaries.
I often wonder if we just got rid of the parties, could we have an intelligent discussion about the issues. Are people just naturally unwilling to consider other viewpoints?
For me, health care is broken, and there are simple things we could do to fix some of the big problems. By making sure people could actually see doctors when they need to, we would reduce the burden on emergency rooms and hospitals caused by people who have either had to forgo care that would have been less expensive.
Add to that fixing some of the corruption in the insurance industry (which also prevents people from getting care early with things like “pre-existing condition” clauses), and not only would health care costs go down, but productivity would go up, due to a healthier population.
It’s not rocket science, it’s what we need, and anything is better than the current system that is bankrupting the country.