Thank you for this job

At 7 o’clock this morning I found myself standing in the kitchen, waiting for water to boil for coffee before I headed out for my first day at my new job. Maly walked into the kitchen still in her pajamas.

“Hi, Sugar. I’m starting my new job today. Do you think there’s anything that I should say on my first day?”

“Thank you for this job.”

I don’t know exactly what it was that I expected, but I was hoping for something silly and irrelevant. What I got was relevant, profound and exactly what I needed to hear.

Leave it up to the child, just short of her 4th birthday, to put things into perspective and to set me off on the right foot in a new adventure.

Last day on the job

Today was my last day of employment with the company that I’ve been with for a little over three years (which seems to be a long time for my generation). I put in my resignation on March 10th after I accepted another position with a great company here in Austin. Since then, I’ve dutifully and happily done my job to the best of my ability and, when it was time to go to, I left. That’s really it. The departure was a little bittersweet on my part, and now it’s time to move on to new and exciting things.

My last job sort of fell into my lap. After losing my job at Wellness Works, I kicked around different career opportunities — I tried to help a really little startup dot com and quit when I quickly realized that I didn’t (nor did the company) have any kind of lucrative future. After professionally and politely, um, quitting, I called John as I was driving home. I called him to ask if he wanted to go get a beer because I’d just quit my job (I don’t think I’d ever just quit a job before without having anything else in the wings). Totally unexpected by me he said, “why don’t you come up to our office and see if you’d want to work here.” I had nothing better to do, so I did. And things just sort of fell into place after that. John ran the company and grew it tenfold. I made sure our clients were happy and were paying us. And there was a great team of folks who helped make it a great working environment. And we had a blast for a couple years. We all made a real run of it.

Time passed. People left. Actually, John left. Then people just started getting fired. I learned a lot during the hay days, and during the not-so-hay days, and I’m better for the entire experience. I’ve built strong, lasting relationships with peers, partners and customers alike. And I’ve reaffirmed some personal tenets:

  • Add value – If you’re not constantly adding value, what are you adding? Nothing to help you, your customer, colleague or the company grow and succeed.
  • Promote integrity – Be honest and sincere. Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
  • Be of unbridled service at all times – Let go of your ego and help other people at all times, even if it seems to be of no direct benefit to you at the time. That goes for coworkers and clients. Every single customer that I call on, regardless of title, is my boss when I’m on the phone with him or answering his email.
  • Practice acts of humility – Be humble and know that from everyone that you meet, you can learn something.
  • Be happy – If you’re not having fun, what’s the point? Who wants to be miserable at work every day? If you’re not happy, your customers aren’t going to be happy. Unhappy customers don’t want to pay for your product or service. We were designed to be happy.
  • Live like a dog – Put yesterday behind you and don’t fathom tomorrow. You’re right here, right now. Smile and wag your tail at everyone you meet. Well, you get the point.

I’m stoked about starting my new job. I have the next couple days off, so that’ll make for a nice, long weekend. I’m going to my new office tomorrow afternoon to meet my new team and to learn how to be of service to them.

Business card robot

Late last year I was looking for something creative and constructive to do with my old business cards. I found Ned’s “how to make business card cubes” write-up and made a single business card cube.

Over the next few months, and with the help of some cohorts, I found myself with 318 folded business cards and 53 cubes. So we glued them together and made a business card cube robot.

More photos can be seen here.

My backup strategy

Over the years, I’ve “lost” lots of digital files — photos, music files & documents. By lost, I mean that I actually lost them. I don’t know where they went (they’re obviously gone or stashed in the recesses of a hard drive somewhere). I (thankfully) haven’t endured a fatal hard drive crash, even in all my years as a Windows user, prior to making us a Mac-only household 5 years ago. I’m not slapping my forehead right now over those lost files. Granted, there are probably some digital photos that we might miss, but most of the important photos are in print format, and many are in our online photo gallery. As far as music and documents, well, we’re not missing anything that I don’t have backed up. Any important documents are printed and kept in a fire-proof safe. Digital documents are triple backed up (two are off-site should the house burn down). Music files just aren’t really important to me. Those are a luxury and can always be re-acquired by restoring from backups, ripping CDs or downloading from iTunes.

What’s most important to us are photos and videos — especially those taken since Maly was born. If I lost those, well, I don’t even want to think about how upset the family would be. Ever since Maly was born, I’ve been pretty good about backing up digital photos and videos, but I wasn’t totally confident in my backup strategy. Here is how I used to backup our digital photos and videos (keep in mind, this is all done using OS X):

  1. I create a “Smart Album” in iPhoto on the first of every month. So on April 1st, I’ll create a Smart Album, name it “March 2010” and specify that I want the album to contain all photos and videos in the date range 3/1/2010 to 3/31/2010.

  2. Once the Smart Album has been created, I open said Smart Album in iPhoto. Next I do a “Select All” (Edit > Select All or ⌘ + A).
  3. Then I export all of the photos and videos from the selected photos in the Smart Album (File > Export or ⌘ + Shift + E) and save the photos on my desktop in their own new folder with the following naming convention: “201003 – March Photos & Videos”
  4. Once the photos and videos have finished exporting and are saved in the folder on my desktop, I burn the folder to a DVD. Recently I’ve been having to burn the photos and videos to dual layer DVDs as video files are large in file size.
  5. I also copy the newly created folder to an external 1TB hard drive.

A couple years ago I signed up for and installed Mozy Unlimited Backup, which is an application that runs in the background on two of our computers and backs up all of our files off-site (to Mozy’s servers, where our data is double encrypted and, according to their website “We use strict security policies, military-grade encryption, and world-class data centers to protect your information”).

And just recently I finally duplicated the 1TB external hard drive in step #5 above to another 1TB external hard drive. I use Carbon Copy Cloner to create a block-level disk-to-disk incremental clone, and I’ll keep one of the drives off-site.

So between monthly DVD backups, cloned external hard drive backups and offsite backups using Mozy, I don’t worry any more about losing documents or those precious family photos and videos!

Father Forgets

I’ve been reading Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” because it’s just such a great book, full of the basic, fundamental values that we all too often plainly forget. At the end of chapter 1, Carnegie republishes W. Livingston Larned’s “Father Forgets”. This short story reminds me to not harshly impose my expectations and “measure you by the yardstick of my own years”. I’ll admit, it’s hard as hell for me to do, but well worth the practice.

Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.

There are the things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, ‘Goodbye, Daddy!’ and I frowned, and said in reply, ‘Hold your shoulders back!’

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive — and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. ‘What is it you want?’ I snapped.You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.

Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding — this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: ‘He is nothing but a boy — a little boy!’

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.

Our (unofficial) Five Rules of Cooking

I don’t know how or why, but I started making up “the rules of cooking” with Maly a month or so ago. I think it was at some point when we were making a pizza, or it might have just been one of those random nights where I was cooking (which is a rarity these days) and I found myself trying to dispense knowledge to my offspring. These are just some basic “rules” that I’ve kind of abided by since I started really cooking 13 years ago. I figured I’d pass these along to Maly so she can learn to be efficient in the kitchen. So here they are, my (unofficial) Five Rules of Cooking for our kitchen:

  1. Mise en Place. This roughly translates into “everything in its place.” For me, it simply means keep the kitchen in order. Put things up when you’re done using them. Keep your work area tidy.
  2. You Can Always Add – You Can Never Take Away. Maly learned quickly that when she added too much salt to her soup, it became inedible. It’s fun to play with food, especially pinch the kosher salt from its vessel, but a pinch too much and there’s no going back. Granted there are some culinary tricks and voodoo if you add too much salt, spice, or milk, but as a rule of thumb, you can never take away. You can’t uncook a well-done steak and return it medium rare.
  3. Clean as You Go. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with #1 above, but really it’s to help eliminate having a bunch of pots, pans and utensils to clean after cooking, especially if you don’t have any help in the kitchen.
  4. Sample Before You Serve. You can’t serve food to your guests that you wouldn’t eat yourself. Plus, if you sample while you’re preparing, you’ll afford yourself time to make any necessary adjustments.
  5. Waste Not Want Not. Simply put: don’t be wasteful. Food is a gift of nourishment. Plus Murphy’s Law applies here — if you decide to throw away those extra mashed potatoes tonight, tomorrow you’re going to stumble across an unbelievable latke recipe.

Five “rules” are manageable, and they’ve definitely helped me hone my culinary skill and enthusiasm over the years. It helps to lay a good foundation before you start experimenting, screwing things up, learning from mistakes and eventually surprising yourself and others with a fantastic meal from your own kitchen.

Daddy and Daughter Date Night

We sat there together in silence, just with each other’s company. She had the cotton candy ice cream cone while I had a white chocolate gelato.

It was mostly quiet, and I was okay with that. I think we both were.