Saturday, June 27, 2020

A Visit Home

So as you read this, I am on my way Home.

This is somewhat of a plan on short notice but also a logical step following my final day in my previous position:  a hard break between myself and my former reporting structure to reinforce the fact that I am no longer involved.  It is also a break which I need following four months of unanticipated stress and a long rearguard action of managing in place, waiting for a replacement to come.

What am I going to do?  I am flying back home to The Ranch to spend the better part of a week with my parents in Heaven on Earth.  I will get out to see a couple of my dear friends (oddly enough, almost all my dear friend are the ones I made in high school) and stop by my in-laws on the way back. 

I am bringing my computer along to write of course, and a stack of books for the reading and a bokuto for Iaijutsu training.  What I am not bringing is anything related to work or anything that might make me available to work or to consider work. 

I am sure we will take some drives.  I will read.  I will write.  I will think.  I will visit with old friends.  And I will ponder what the new chapter of my life means, and how I can turn this to my advantage to begin to move the needle in directions that I want to go.

The world will go on.  And for one blessed week, I will not have to.

Friday, June 26, 2020

A Sort Of Hammerfall:The Final Blow

My Continuing (and now final) Job Transition Saga:

A Sort of Hammerfall

A Sort of Hammerfall I

A Sort of Hammerfall II

A Sort of Hammerfall III

A Sort of Hammerfall IV

A Sort of Hammerfall V

A Sort of Hammerfall VI

A Sort of Hammerfall VII

A Sort of Hammerfall:  The End Is Nigh

So today is the official day:  after 18.6 years I move from Quality into a new career path in the same industry (that of Project Management, in case you were wondering).

This has been a good career field.  It has done a lot for my family:  it enabled us to buy a house (twice, actually); it enabled us to withstand a rather unfortunate career change on my part (The Firm); it enabled us to send Na Clann to good schools through High School and now has supported most of Nighean Gheal's college and the first year of Nighean Bhean's college; it paid for trips to Europe and Iceland and throughout the U.S.; it enabled me to go train (three times) in Japan for Iaijutsu even as it allowed me to buy all of the equipment to support what has become (outside of writing and learning to be self sufficient in small ways) the greatest study of my life (and, by the way, fulfilled a 10 year old boy's dream of going to Japan and being enamored of Japanese culture).

I (literally) did everything I could have done in the field.  I reached the exalted level of Vice President, which is really the terminal position in the career field (yes, you can be Senior Vice President or Executive Vice President, but that is really just degrees of difference).  And once you are there, there is no real place for you to go except to a similar position.  You cannot go "back", because people either assume you are incompetent (therefore, why would I hire you?) or just trying to find a job "until" the next executive position becomes available.

But it comes at a cost, as well.  Long days, sometimes long nights.  Constantly worrying about if you are meeting the regulations.  As a manager, people issues (I have had more people issues in the last year than I have had in the previous sixteen as a manager).  Having to answer to even more senior management who does not care why things are not done or how hard they are to accomplish, just that they are not done  And oh so many projects that were "critical" at the time but now matter not at all.

So I am ready for the change as well.

I will take my week off - free of work e-mails and concerns about what is or what is not getting done and what will be lurking for me in my in-box when I get back - and come back ready and refreshed, not just to restart the work but to restart a new career, hopefully one that is engaging and transferable and less stressful and allows me to start to prepare for the next phase of life.

It was a long time getting here and not always the best, but today is a good day.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

On The Sorting Of E-mail

One of the more fascinating outcomes of my now near- imminent change in job roles is the fact that my e-mail has dropped to a trickle.

E-mail in the work environment is a funny thing.  I remember back when I first started in the industry in the mid-90's and got my first work e-mail account (on Lotus Notes, if your memory goes back that far).  It was so exciting to get those rare e-mails:  I was in!  I was in the loop!  I was cool!

And then, 20+ years of the paperless office...

By my most recent count prior to the arrival of my replacement, I was receiving 100 to 150 e-mails a day:  some that I needed to act on, a great many that people felt like I needed to be in the know (that is the great issue with e-mail:  just by adding one to a list people feel that they have informed you of the event whereas for those that receive it, it becomes just one more of many), a number of notifications (because everything electronic now notifies you of every time a change is made), and then those that were just advertisements and recruiters trying to get lucky by reaching out directly to you (as if somehow, as a manager with an HR structure in place, I could have just magically broken out of the system and called them to make a hire).  It was, frankly, rather stupid.

By contrast, I am perhaps receiving 20 to 30 e-mails a day now, perhaps 5 of which I need to act on.

As part of my transition, I am going through and filing the e-mails to that I can have the information readily available in case my replacement or former coworkers ask for it.  It is a bit of a task:   I had 68,845 e-mails in my inbox that were not categorized and I am barely to 25% of those being appropriately filed (It is a bit of a project that will now run well over my transfer). It has also been an interesting task because, much like layers in an archaeological dig, there is a rhythm and flow to the e-mails:  you can see the projects start to appear, then become of major importance and activity, and then slowly die down until they disappear - or working backwards from more recent e-mails, you follow the chain back to the original item or e-mail that started everything. 

I have never had this kind of record of my work life to review before.

The surprising thing to me has been how much I remember about them - not that I specifically remember them, but as I am reading through the e-mails how I felt about them and the situation at the time comes back to me with a surprising sense of emotion.  It is not that I had forgotten about them - which surprises me, I thought I had - as much as they were just buried beneath new layers of items needing attention.  Everything was still there, just ready to be stirred up.

I have no idea how many e-mails my new career will entail - probably more than I want or need, frankly - but I am not going to make the same mistake twice, of course:  everything gets at least assigned as soon as it comes in, and everything gets filed at that end of the day.

And, of course, no more signing up for newsletters or advertisements.  Recruiters, you have to find your inroad elsewhere.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Death And Divorce of Nations And States

When do nations and states and empires die?

They do not necessarily die when they are attacked - Great Britain survived the Blitz.  They do not necessarily die when they are conquered - much of Western and Eastern Europe survived two world wars and the Cold War.  They do not necessarily die when they are split into smaller components - the Byzantine Empire was separated and came back together (much smaller the second time, to be sure) and the Russia of Old split and reformed into the Soviet Union and split and reformed (again) int the Commonwealth of Independent States (more or less in the same configuration as before).

They die when the idea of them dies and there is no longer a sense of "them".  That the old country is simply not worth living for (or dying for) anymore.  That no-one is a member of the British Empire or Byzantine Empire or Russian Empire but rather Welsh or Greek or Lithuanian.

The belief, of course, is that when this happens they will be replaced by something "better" - a rather nebulous term that assumes that the only thing that makes a nation or a state function is a belief in the worth of its existence and the nature of its existence.  Economy, social life, entertainment, religion - all of these are assumed to just continue on in the spirit of "one big happy family".

The reality, of course, is quite different.

When something as fundamental as a nation or a state is ended, there are really only two kinds of people:  those that rejoice in its end and those that mourn it.  Those that rejoice perhaps often feel that those who mourn will just accept it and come around to see all of the benefits and glory of the new world.  What they do not grasp is that a fundamental relationship, that of citizen to citizen, has been broken.

 If the state or nation is undermined, thereby dying, the relationship between citizens also (by default) dies:  there is neither a legal nor enduring relationship, only a proximate relationship (in this case, both parties still happen to live in the same geographic location as before).  Think of it precisely as a divorce:  two parties, once sharing everything - relationship, possessions, social life, money - are now separated by law and while they (temporarily) may live in the same house, their legal relationship as husband and wife have now ended..  They have nothing holding them together but those lesser items - possessions, social life, money.

Think of the "best" divorce you have known.  And think of the "worst" one you have known.  A great deal of that depends on the maturity of the individuals involved of course, and how bitter the divorce was.  For those that were bad, how often - if ever - does the former spouse want to associate with, speak of, or even speak of their former husband or wife?  Pretty much not at all.

When the belief that the marriage will not go farther, when the conviction sets in that there is nothing for it but separation, at that moment the concept of the marriage dies.  You cannot undermine significant parts of the relationship - by overspending, by infidelity, by constantly running down your spouse - and then expect them to joyfully still want to remain in the marriage.  In fact, in most cases they want to do nothing but get as far away from the former husband or wife as possible.

It is when the individual - or individuals - determine that they are better off by themselves or with more like minded individuals that the nation or the state dies.  And it is that moment that those that were actively pushing for its destruction are suddenly shocked to see that individual citizens are truly walking way - not just with their beliefs but with their money, their talents, their energy.  At that moment, those that are the destroyers will cry out "Where are you going?  Why are you not committed to building the glorious new structure for a bright future?  Are you so selfishly motivated as to not care about your fellow citizens?"

The response will be "Talk to my lawyer".

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

TB Joins The Tech World

Sothis weekend I paid for a VPN.

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network (Truly, I have to look thesethings up):

"extends a privatenetwork across a public network and enables users to send andreceive data across shared or public networks as if their computingdevices were directly connected to the private network. Applicationsrunning across a VPN may therefore benefit from the functionality,security, and management of the private network. Encryptionis a common, although not an inherent, part of a VPN connection.

VPN technology was developed to provide access to corporateapplications and resources to remote or mobile users, and to branchoffices. For security, the private network connection may beestablished using an encrypted layered tunnelingprotocol, and users may be required to pass variousauthentication methods to gain access to the VPN. In otherapplications, Internet users may secure their connections with a VPNto circumvent geo-restrictionsand censorshipor to connect to proxyservers to protect personal identity and location to stayanonymous on the Internet. Some websites, however, block access toknown VPN technology to prevent the circumvention of theirgeo-restrictions, and many VPN providers have been developingstrategies to get around these blockades." (Thanks, Wikipedia)

As I understand it, this essentially means instead of me floatingaround in traffic and calling from my home phone number, this helpsme to essentially "call in" from an entirely differentlocation - I can talk and interact normally, but to the largerInterWeb it appears I am actually calling in from Canada or Vietnamor Germany or wherever.

In the past I have been a great user of the "free"version of such things:so for example, I have use the free VPNfunction of my InterWeb browser (neither of the major players, whom Idespise because they track me), free antivirus, free tracker blockers(Ghostery, which I do highly recommend), and a free optimization tool(Glarysoft, which I again recommend). Most of these have a paidalternative as well, but I have always opted out as I thought I was"safe enough".

However, given the ongoing and current state of affairs, I nolonger consider that to be the case.

The software I got was from NordicVPN and was attractive for two reasons:The first was that itcame highly rated from a reliable InterWeb resource I have used inthe past to assess such things, and the second was that they wererunning a sale (two years for the price of one - hard to argue withthat).  A third selling point - once I got it - was the factthat it was incredibly easy for me, a complete novice, to set up: within 10 minutes I was safely behind the wall.

Here is an idea of what it looks like:

There I am, a happy little green dot in the middle of the US(Kansas or Nebraska, I think).

But there is a third, and slightly more concerning reason I didit: they are not based in the United States.

In reading up on them, they are surprisingly unwilling to reveal alot about themselves.Here is their statement:

"As of 2020-06-21 we state the following:

- We have NOT received any National Security letters;
- We have NOT received any gag orders;
- We have NOT received any warrants from any governmentorganization.

We are 100% committed to our zero-logs policy – we never log theactivities of our users to ensure their ultimate privacy andsecurity."

You may think me a bit paranoid for going to this length of actionto protect myself, but to frank with you the future I see hurtlingdown the tracks is filled with fear and paranoia and surveillance andthe writ of tyranny we see in the beginnings of "The CancelCulture"At that time, whatever government is in power willwant to know such things as where you go on the InterWeb, and whomyou interact with, and what you speak of (Think I am wrong?Checkinto what China has already undertaken and see the future).It wasfor this reason I also moved the e-mail associated with the websiteto a server in Iceland (unseen.is, incase you are wondering).

I do not pretend to understand almost any of this.What I dounderstand is that an age of censorship and tyranny is rising and Ineed to do what I can to protect myself and be a voice of reason aslong as I can.Even if that means a few more coins out of my pocket.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Cleaning Up

I had a short run through my old items on The Book of Face.

This was really prompted by a comment from Glen, something that I originally just let sit at the back of my mind but slowly worked its way to the front:  what was on there, and more importantly, what was there that could possibly become something that was an "item of interest" for some later on?  Of course, once that thought is there, there is nothing for it but to go back and look at everything.

So I quickly scanned my pictures.  Pretty much as I had thought and remembered, there is really nothing even remotely controversial there:  pictures of family, pictures of trips, pictures of my throwing and doing Iai, memes trying to inspire others.  Nothing in the least bit controversial.

Next, I looked at the other things.  I did have "notes", things that (back in the day) I had posted which were sort of "all about me" lists.  Interesting and - again - nothing particularly controversial, but I am now I am starting to view anything connected with my name as something which is potentially at risk.  So down those came.  

Going forward, of course, even less is going to show up there.  Pictures of family for birthdays and celebratory days, perhaps.  Perhaps pictures if I travel again (mostly to share with family).   But really nothing more than that any more.  

In The New Normal, exposing any information - not just opinions any more, but even likes and dislikes - leave one potentially exposed.  Better to become even more grey, even less publicly visible.  

At the rate that we are going, there will be very little that anyone is willing to discuss about themselves with people that are not extremely well vetted and well known.  Given the potential for having your life ruined for a misinterpretation, who would want to?

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Nehemiah 1:5-11

“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps Hiscovenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments,let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer Yourservant is praying before You day and night for Your servants, thepeople of Israel.

I confess the sinswe Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, havecommitted against You.We have acted very wickedly toward You. Wehave not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws You gave your servantMoses.

Remember theinstruction You gave Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you areunfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you returnto Me and obey My commands, then even if your exiled people are atthe farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them tothe place I have chosen as a dwelling for My Name.’They are Yourservants and Your people, whom You redeemed by Your great strengthand Your mighty hand.

Lord, let Your earbe attentive to the prayer of this Your servant and to the prayer ofYour servants who delight in revering your name. Give Your servantsuccess today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”