30 Days of Gratitude – Day #2, Layoff Bliss

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Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I take a different view. We all have challenges and hardships we encounter of various types and degrees. For me, getting laid off after 15 years at my last job just as the economy was tanking was very difficult … and rewarding.

Day #2 – Getting Laid off Was The Best Thing Ever

It was a moment that I remember vividly, Lisa coming home and me being there and her jokingly asking ‘what, did you lose your job’ and me saying ‘yes’ and her jaw dropping. But let me back up … I lost my job on the 3rd of October, the day after Danny turned 11, three days after the end of the third quarter. No one was surprised that more layoffs happened – this was the fourth straight quarter of by-department layoffs. First manufacturing, then engineering, then research, and finally quality and operations. I wasn’t even that surprised when I was pretty sure I was one of those being hit with the layoff … but that doesn’t make it easier when you have a mortgage and family and bills to consider.

But that same day I got a call from an old friend and former co-worker named Hemant, and he told me something that resonates with me still seven years later: although it is hard and shocking, you were not happy and will soon realize this was the best thing that could have happened. And he was right.

In 2004 when parent company Rohm & Haas fully took over and integrated all systems, all of the promises made when they bought out the Shipley family in 1992 went out the window. They instituted new structures and policies, and then executed a large layoff that was handled about as poorly and dehumanizing as I could possibly imagine. I never really forgave the company for that, and as I have discussed before I made a resolution in 2007 that one way or the other I wouldn’t enter 2008 at the company.

But we had also been looking at the possibility of moving towns in the Boston area, because what had started as a great school system in the early 90s when we moved there had consistently gone downhill ever since – and we knew we didn’t want the kids going to middle school there. We’d had our house appraised and were looking at selling – then suddenly we knew I would be working somewhere else and would likely have to move.

I have also talked about the job hunt and how lucky I was to have been cut before things got really bad for the economy, and also how if I had taken any of the other four offers made to me I would be in a different job now due to the other places eliminating divisions or going completely out of business.

But I chose Corning. And it has been the best move I could imagine. Lisa noted it within the first year – I am different, more happy than in years, and definitely more chatty. Suddenly I am outgoing and will talk to anyone, and that has only grown the last couple of years as I have grown as a runner. Now I see people out everywhere who see me running and I chat with them, and really in general lead my life much more integrated with everyone around me.

It is hard looking back and knowing that it took me so long to leave a job I knew I should have left long before, but I am glad I did eventually leave. And while I would love to move back to Massachusetts someday, it will be on my terms and I will carry this new outlook along with me. I still love reading about all of the great people I used to work with and how they and their spouses and kids are doing all over the country. It was an amazing 15 years that changed my life.

Is there a life moment that seemed negative that you now feel was fundamental to becoming who you are?

Inspiring Blogger Take 2, the Epic Story Edition!

Hey everyone! Happy Wednesday – yeah I know I skipped posting Tuesday, but when you see the length of this post you’ll understand why! haha

A few weeks ago I did a post based on nominations for the Very Insiring Blogger Award, and rather than the 7 things I chose to do a ‘TMI post’ … which was fun. Since then, I have been nominated 4 more times for the award! Yay! So I wanted to take the time to do another post to share more useless info about myself!

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As a reminder, the steps for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award are as follows:

1. Thank the person who nominated you. Thanks again!
2. Add the Very Inspiring Blogger Award to your post-done
3. Share seven things about yourself.
4 & 5. Nominate a list of bloggers that inspire you and (5) Post on their blog about it.

I definitely want to thank Laura, Sara and Kate – two of my very favorite ladies and a new blog I am following!

I have decided to do ‘7 stories’ similar to Spiritual Creaminess … though not taking the ‘full post narrative’ approach! I decided to do a set of ‘small’ anecdotes … let’s see how it goes!

1. The Story of Our Dogs – And the Nearly-Fatal Cookie Platter

If someone ever told me I would pay $2000 per dog for pure-breeds rather than getting a dog from the pound … I would have laughed at you. Lisa and I had talked about it – we loved breeds like beagles and so on, but wanted the kids to be a few years older before getting a dog. As the kids started school we decided we were ready to start looking at dogs, but there were two fairly major things:

– Lisa had always had allergies (including significant dog allergies) … but after having kids they got worse.
– Christopher was already taking allergy shots, because if a dog licked him his entire face would break out with hives.

So we had to do some research, and find dogs that would work with Lisa & Chris’ allergies. We came up with a few breeds of terriers and poodles. The boys loved the looks of the small-ish terriers – Norwich, Norfolk, etc … not small and fragile like a Yorkie (more of a toy dog, really), but a classic ‘sporting’ terrier that was high energy and ‘sturdy’.

We found a breeder in our area and were able to basically ‘pre-order’ a puppy … basically we were on a wait-list depending on the size of the litter. We needed to sign a ‘no show’ and ‘no breed’ agreement, which was fine … and 8 weeks later we had our baby Rosie! She was all terrier – led by her nose and nearly boundless energy, she was mountain climbing with our cub scout troop at 3 months old, and has never stopped since.

Two years later we got Riley … by this point the breeder had closed their ‘shop’ and moved to central Massachusetts and focused exclusively on breeding and showing rather than being a full-service kennel as well. When we were getting Riley, they were still building out their house, yet had one litter of Norfolk Terriers, and THREE Weimaraner litters at once, with more than 22 babies all at the same time! Riley ended up with worms – they said they were having an issue – but even worse, we put Riley there to board because we were going on vacation a week later and thought it made more sense to board there … and he ended up with Lime’s disease, which deteriorated his vision. Yay.

But ever the indomitable spirit, that winter Riley taught us the value of crating. We used to have the dogs gated in the kitchen & dining room area of the house when we went out. They were too small to get over the gates, too big to get under or between them. It was holiday cookie swap time, and we had a big tightly plastic wrapped tray set for a party the next day … but since it was up on the counter, no problem – right?!?

Well … when we got home the platter was on the floor and there were NO cookies left and Rosie was panting and looking BAD … OH. NO.

What we surmised happened was that Riley got up on the chair, then to the table and counter, dragged the platter around and knocked it down … but then couldn’t get down to get at the platter. Rosie figured it out and ripped through the plastic and ate most of it before Riley jumped down.

Riley was fine – a little sick to his stomach, but no big deal. Rosie spent a week in the emergency vet center near us in a very bad state, really not good for a couple of days … but made it through. That week we went and bought a fold-up crate that goes everywhere with us, and they are in if we leave the house. As for Rosie, she STILL leads with her nose and with a ‘eat first ask questions later’ approach!

2. Taking a Pay Cut for a Better Standard of Living

I am not one to get into personal details such as money, but something Suz said about affordable beer reminded me of the learning experience I went through when job hunting back in late 2007. As Laura is talking about her upcoming move, Ange had a rather sudden move, and Sara recently moved as well. Whenever you move, you need to realize that you are getting into not just a different physical location – but perhaps also a different economic environment!

Before coming out to Corning, I had four offers – in Boston, Seattle, Charlotte and Corning.

Now anyone familiar with those locations can guess hat no two have the same standard of living (well, Boston and Seattle would be closest). That makes evaluating offers very difficult – and also meant a load of time making lists and using spreadsheets. Ultimately it came down to Seattle or Corning – much as I love Boston, I saw now future with the company and the economy was already flailing there.

Seattle and Corning are very far apart in terms of pretty much everything, but for us the main things were good schools, decent house, not a huge commute, and overall cost of living. In Seattle, the best schools were either in super-expensive areas or a long commute … and the more we looked, the more the compromise wasn’t going to work. But along the way we had to get past the $ number on the offer … and that went back to something I remember as a 23 year old sitting at a job fair with a guy who was about the age I am now, offering me unsolicited advice:

Don’t get so focused on the dollars that you lose sight of what goes into them.
Corning is pretty much a one-company town, so coming here meant committing to this company, because if things didn’t work out we’d pretty much have to move. But at the same time we were able to get an all-new house with more than twice the square footage as we had back in Townsend … and the schools are incredibly well resourced and equipped (so long as you are in one of two ‘Corning employee centric’ towns, that is).

So while the number on the offer might be smaller, that doesn’t mean you are actually getting less.

3. The Strip Club Story

Despite apparently being a creepy basement dwelling troll (according to GOMI, anyway), I really have never had an interest in strip clubs. In fact, one major thing I told my brother before my bachelor party was NO strip clubs; heck, I’ve never been to a Hooters! The whole thing … well, I shouldn’t have to elaborate on exactly WHY it bugs me at this point of my blog-life …

But I have been to a strip club … once.

It was the fall of 1985 and I was a college sophomore and an ‘associate member’ (pledge) in my fraternity, and one activity we had to do was called a ‘pub chase’. The drinking age was just shifting to 21 with everyone 19 and older when it changed was ‘grandfathered’ … so it was a different time. The rules of the ‘pub chase’ were that we had to find a bar and stay there from a start time until a finish time, and if we weren’t found we would ‘win’ and they would serve us dinner, otherwise we would have to serve them the next night. The interesting question you probably DON’T have is how we check in at the end of time? We call back to the fraternity house at the end, then the brothers check in to get our location. Ah the days before cell phones!

We were given an hour head-start, and since Saratoga is relatively close to Troy, it wasn’t a big deal to get there. When we did we hit a gas station and asked about local bars, then went to a ‘local’ bar (that was way too obvious) and asked some guys at the bar about the most off-beat bar they knew. One guy responded immediately and we said ‘no, that was too quick’, then another guy had an idea but the bartender shot that one down as too familiar for college kids. Then someone on the periphery said ‘ooh, I got it – Shooters’. The rest of the crowd was silent and puzzled, then a couple of nods started as they realized where it was and explained to those with no clue – we had our place!

So we head to the bar … a non-descript dive in a non-descript small plaza on a less traveled road way outside of the normal popular areas. And we waited … and waited … and no one showed up. Every time a car entered the plaza we thought we were done. But not – no one ever showed. So we won. And let me be clear – we were NOT supposed to win. This was SUPPOSED to be an exercise in futility, concluded with us buying drinks and then cooking dinner and serving MORE drinks the following night as the brothers had a laugh at our expense and we ‘learned’ something. Being honorable guys they followed through on their end … but were not pleased to have lost. But that is another story …

We called the house and let them know, said our goodbyes to the bartender (this was NOT a hotspot), and headed out.

As we were on a road none of us had traveled (I forget, maybe 9N?), we got directions back to Troy from the bar, and headed out. A short distance down the road there was another bar, but as we got closer it was clear it was a really awful looking strip club. The person driving said ‘let’s go in’ … and while for a couple of us it was very much ‘not our bag’, we were all pumped up after winning the challenge so we went with it!

And once inside the no-cover-charge strip club and it was every bit as bad as it seemed from the outside. We were informed they were in between shows so we sat down. Half us WERE ‘grandfathered’ and half were not, so we got a mix of beer and soda (though alcohol to kill anything in the glasses was probably advisable). Soon there was a girl wearing very little clothing carrying a boom box onto the small ‘stage’. She pressed play, started dancing and taking off the little clothes she was wearing (and yes, it was as sad a situation as it sounds, even without hte filter of time and age). A few people threw dollar bills on the stage, but largely the crowd was quiet and motionless – we all found it more than a little bizarre.

Then the song ended and there was silence between songs while the girl continued to dance, and suddenly from the other side of the bar a guy said, not too loudly … “I got a boner”.
The music started again, I looked at the other guys and we all nodded that we were ready to go. But before leaving we all left a dollar – I said ‘that moment alone is worth at least a dollar’. We headed out to the car and were all howling with laughter – when we got back to the house no one could believe we’d actually gone IN to that place, and the story has lived on.

4. I Only Ran >5 Miles ONCE Before 2012 … By Accident!

I have talked a lot about my running history, saying that until 2012 I never really ran more than ~15-20 miles per week. But back in the early 1990s I was traveling for work and was in Gainesville, FL doing installation and training on a research instrument at the University of Florida, and of course I wanted to head out for a run.

So I glanced at the map I got from the car rental place – again, pretty much no cell phones, no web, no GPS – and saw a route that looked like 4-5 miles. It was winter and due to flight schedules I had come out on a Sunday, so I was actually running in the late afternoon.

So I was out running, it was about 70 degrees (compared to snowy and 20 back home), and I really wanted to relish the time I had – so I looked down the road and saw another set of lights a short distance away and kept going, figuring adding another block wouldn’t be a big deal. But without a map or GPS, I didn’t know that at the next light the road sloped sharpy away, and didn’t have another intersection for a while. And since I was only planning 4-5 miles … no water.

So I kept running … and running … and running and was finally back heading towards the hotel. I got there, drenched and exhausted – and I checked my mileage, again using the basic estimate off the map. I had done over 9 miles … about DOUBLE my longest run to date … and a distance I wouldn’t see again for another 20 years!

5. Don’t Worry – Everyone Speaks English!

In high school I took Latin, and while it is not really taught anymore, I give it a lot of credit in helping me with linguistics through the years. Lisa says it is more that I am a natural with languages, but I think Latin helps!

When I was working my first job and doing the joint project with a professor at UPenn, the lead scientist at the main company research center in Germany was also involved. So naturally there were visits all around, and finally I was headed to Germany! I had taken some time to learn German, and it seemed to flow pretty naturally, and I had practiced on a couple of German-speakers and felt OK.

Side story – this was the year before Lisa and I got married, we were engaged but she was still living in Albany. The weekend before I left, our friends were getting married – actually they were Lisa’s friends, but all four of us quickly became friends and I ended up as an usher at their wedding. Cut to the chase, Lisa got ‘blotto’ at the wedding, and was in rough shape the next morning … but I had to drive back to Boston, grab my bags and head to the airport. Her father was giving her crap about being sick and hung-over, I was trying to say goodbye … it is one of those ‘funny looking back’ moments.

So I flew to Germany, and given it was 1991 I was surprised to see airport security with full military gear and automatic weapons by where they were checking passports and bags. Again, changing times. I was able to get through customs, get to the train station, get a ticket and head towards Karlsruhe. There wasn’t a lot of conversation needed, and it gave me the chance to say a few words in German.

Once in Karlsruhe I was supposed to grab a cab to the facility – and the driver didn’t speak any English. Fortunately I knew how to put together enough sentences to get myself where I needed and pay him for the ride. I had flown the red-eye so I got in relatively early in the morning, and actually had a bit of time before people arrived – so I wandered around the area a bit, and ran into shops and people … none of whom spoke English either at all or very well. It set me off guard a bit, but I was rolling with it – again thankful for my studies and skills.

At the research center that day, I was ‘buddied up’ with an American ex-pat for most of the week who enjoyed having an English speaker, but laughed at my being told I didn’t need to speak German. Sure, he said – if you plan to not do anything local you can get by. And since my desire was to actually experience the culture – Karlsruhe is in that area that has gone back and forth between Germany and France through the centuries and bears marks of both cultures.

So I spent every evening the rest of the week entirely out of my comfort zone, mangling the German language with people who enjoyed my attempts and youthful enthusiasm … I had great food, great beer and a great view of the culture I’ll never forget.

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6. Lost at Sea!

For our honeymoon we went to Sandals in Antigua, and it was just an incredible time – we didn’t join in too many group activities (except when Lisa volunteered me to play with the band), no separate boys & girls things … just the two of us having an absolute blast the whole time. We played lawn-chess, took out kayaks, lots of tennis, hot & cold baths, read on the beaches, had fancy and casual dinners, did snorkeling, hit town and so on. Like I said, it was awesome.

But one of the most memorable / embarassing moments was when we took the two-person paddleboat out. It was getting later in the day, and we were having fun and headed out pretty far from shore … but then the tide started going out and we were struggling to get back in. Now we were both young and in good shape, and also full of pride so we weren’t going to give up easily.

We kept paddling and slowly we overcame the tide and started making progress towards shore … but then a power boat came up and one of the very friendly but insistent beach workers said ‘ya mon, we want to go home now’ and they had a great chuckle at our expense.

And when we got to shore, everyone there was joking with us – one person saying the boats weren’t made to go to other islands, and so on. It was funny but definitely embarassing!

7. The First ‘Date’ That Nearly Wasn’t

My beautiful picture

I write all the time about my family, most of all my wife Lisa. That is because she is the center of the universe and has been for the majority of my life at this point. This year we celebrate 22 years of marriage, and have known each other more than 27 years. But there was one pivotal night that could easily have destroyed any chance of a future, but instead cemented our relationship and made us inseparable. I wrote about it here, but I think it is a pretty cool story, and want to share it again.

Lisa and I met in college through a mutual friend at a fraternity party at my house (Theta Xi). It was fairly typical – girls traveling as friends, but as soon as our friend met up with her boyfriend, she ditched Lisa. We hung out at parties several times that year (she was a senior, I was a junior), but never connected after she graduated. To each other we were just nice people we had met and would never see again.

Fast forward to after I was out of school and living back in the Boston area. Our friend was coming out for a visit, so the three of us got together and had a pretty fun time, but I was in the midst of my weight loss and she was living in a crappy apartment and dealing with other stuff, so neither of us made contact and we didn’t connect again until the following spring. Again our friend was visiting, and she and I met and then headed to Brigham & Woman’s Hospital where Lisa was working. When she came out … well, it is a moment I won’t forget. I was in a totally different place, and so was she and we hit it off from the first moment and it was just an epic great day.

Lisa was planning to head to Albany the next weekend and I had planned to visit the fraternity, so I offered her a ride there (we were coming back on different days) and we had a great chat across the 3.5 hour drive. We both wanted to hang out again, so set up to go out the following weekend. When she was back we made more specific plans – we were going to head to Chinatown for dinner, hang out around various places in Boston, and generally just have a relaxing night. Oh, and most importantly, we decided that a great central place to meet would be the Dunkin’ Donuts at Park Street station.

The only problem – there are TWO Dunkin’ Donuts at Park street … one on the inside that only people coming from the north can see, and the other on the street where people coming from the south would depart!

You can probably see where this is heading – in an era before cell phones, where there was no way to reach each other unless we checked in at home, there was little to do but wait. I hung out up top for about a half hour, then hit a pay phone and called her answering machine (cost me a dime, too! Talk about old school!) Waited some more and then called again. During that time I did head back into the station as far as I could go without paying again a few times.

Needless to say I was pretty crushed. I was dressed nicely and ready for a great time.

The last time I headed down I hit a crowd coming up from the trains, and looked through to see if Lisa was there. But then as I came back up and looked back over towards the train station – guess who I saw emerging from the other stairway? That is right!

And as I headed over, Lisa turned and spotted me … and we ran and met each other with a massive hug! After a little bit we got a bit awkward and separated and all of that anger and disappointment quickly turned to laughter as I pointed out the Dunkin’ Donuts up top and she pointed out the one below! From there we had a great night in Chinatown, Faneuil Hall, and so on. We walked around and ended up back at her Somerville apartment late, where I crashed on the couch.

She had gotten dressed up as well and looked really nice, and we had the most fabulous time. I call it a ‘date’ because we wouldn’t kiss for more than two months after that. We had grown into friends so quickly, and she had a neighbor who spoke to me in a way that seemed to assert ‘territory’ with her, and honestly I didn’t think she was into me ‘in that way’.

When I look back at the beginnings of our relationship there are two moments that come to mind – meeting eyes with her that day at the Brigham, and the hug and subsequent night in Boston. You see, we had communicated only a casual ‘hanging out’ … yet both of us were very much dressed up. And neither of us gave up – it meant a lot to both of us. Nor did we hold grudges or seek to assign blame – it was an honest case of miscommunication, and it dissipated as we had a great night, turning now into one of those stories our kids have heard hundreds of times.

Of course, today this entire thing would have been solved in two quick texts and a chuckle. I wonder how that would have changed things?

Do you have a story from the time you met someone in your life?

Nominations

I have been following a couple of new blogs and wanted to get them to share some TMI stories in whatever way they wanted. Here goes:

Sami from Peace Love and Ice Cream has just re-started her blog after several months away!

The Running Schlub

Comments? Still awake? Alive? I apologize if you planned a post for today, but apparently I used #allthewordz!

‘Rough’ Work Day, Running Lately and 5 Ways to Make Your iPad Your Main PC!

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I have mentioned before that I work in the ‘corporate engineering’ organization, but most people I talk to don’t know what that really means (nor did I really ‘get it’ until I started working at Corning. In my last job there were two divisions – one for microelectronics and the other for printed circuit boards, each with their own research, development, engineering and manufacturing people. Within a division we would work on a variety of technologies and products, and often remain linked to them … well, forever. You would report to your boss but the project lead would have your time. By the time I left I had estimated that 40% of my time was allocated to ‘baggage’ responsibilities from the previous 15 years.

For Corning, without being too specific, each business has employees to do development and engineering and manufacturing, and there is a corporate engineering division that supplies ‘center of excellence’ support to every other division. This allows divisions to streamline operations and the corporate engineering groups to focus on their core skills. Operationally, it means that you almost never see your boss or the people in your department. So I have an office in downtown Corning, but have been there less than a half-dozen times this year.

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‘Rough Day’ at Work

With all of that as introduction, you might understand why it matters for our department to have periodic ‘team events’. We have a monthly staff meeting and quarterly division meetings, but again those are functional and don’t help us connect as people, which greatly enhances our ability to work together effectively. So before I even joined Corning, the group started a routine of having a couple of smaller events and one larger all-day event each year.

For example, last year we had a cooking class day at the New York Wine and Culinary Center, have done wine tours, bowling, boat trips, and more.

This year for our ‘rough day’, we spent the day on a two-masted schooner and then eating at a nice lake-side restaurant.

We did a Seneca lake cruise on the ‘True Love’, which was the boat used in the film High Society when Bing Crosby serenades Grace Kelly on the boat. Because of the weather change from warm & humid to cool & dry, the lake was quite windy … making for excellent sailing! Because the boat is relatively small (capacity of 20 people, we had 14), when we were sailing with the wind the boat tipped so the rail was less than a foot off of the water! The weather was great, and the wind and waves made for a fun and active ride – it was possible to walk around and talk, but choppy enough that you wanted to sit when possible and there were a few drinks spilled. All in all a great adventure, and highly recommended if you are in the area!

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We had a late lunch at the Seneca Harbor Station restaurant, which is a place we’ve been to a couple of times before. Our experience was mixed but generally, and that pretty well reflects the experience this time. Coming in on a Thursday afternoon after 2PM the place wasn’t too busy, so we were able to not be cramped at all.

There were a variety of appetizers, then main dishes. They also provided ‘fresh’ bread that was drenched a sort of butter-oil-garlic … I tried it, but not a fan. I got a Southwest Chicken Salad that had fresh salsa (black bean, red onion, tomato, corn and cilantro salsa with tortilla chips and roasted jalapenos) as well as spinach and other greens and grilled chicken. The problem I had (aside from no tortilla chops and the jalapenos not being roasted, neither of which I minded since the jalapenos were fresh and not from a jar) was that the chicken wasn’t ‘fresh’. It reminded me of getting a big bag of pre-grilled chicken breast from Sam’s Club, reheating and cutting it up. In other words, it was fresh cut, but NOT fresh cooked.

As I talked to others at the table that ‘semi-homemade’ feeling was everywhere. My review of Seneca Harbor Station would be ‘Good’ – food was pretty decent, prices for an ‘on the lake’ place were also reasonable. Service was excellent, one benefit of the place having emptied out after lunch.

But the best thing about all of it was how both events allowed everyone to chat and move around easily – I heard about projects, locations, kids and spouses and parents and so on, planned out a possible course to teach next year, and so on. Excellent day in every possible way!

Running

I have only talked a bit about my running since returning from vacation, but a few things occurred to me as I was finishing up my run today and looking at the 9.07 mile distance … here are the bullet points:
– 10 runs since returning
– 92.5 miles total
– 9 out of 10 runs were over 9 miles
– Totally off last weekend, will run Saturday and take Sunday off
– All runs were ‘free-form’, base building … next week gets back to ‘purpose’.

I was concerned returning from vacation and hopping into running, so I ran with the Kinvara 5s for a few days them rotated back into the Virratas … and I have felt great.

Belkin Ultimate1

Five Steps to Make Your iPad Your Main Computer

I talk regularly about using my iPad as my ‘90% Computer’. I also get asked a lot about how to make the iPad useful beyond just ‘a toy’, so I thought I would quickly note a few ways to turn that tablet into your main computing device!

Realize what you CAN Do!

When the iPad first arrived, people dismissed it as an over-sized iPod Touch, and then as a simple ‘consumption’ machine. In other words, some of the obvious capabilities: email, web browsing, listening to music and watching videos. Guess what – the iPad is EXCELLENT at those things.

But very quickly the iPad killed the booming Netbook category and shook up the PC market completely … so it had to be more than just a basic consumption device.

Just by using what is built-in to the iPad and readily available for free from Apple, you get:
– Very capable email client for all common services
– Multi-tab web browsing with most modern features available.
– Calendar / Contacts / To Do
– Maps with GPS and directions
– Messaging and video chat clients
– Camera with integrated browser, separate powerful image editor and movie editor
– Video and music integration with cloud-based playback
– Music making and recording

That is quite a bit – and the hardware is powerful and incredible capable.

Make Use of iCloud, Google+ and Onedrive

One of the great things for me is the ability to quickly shift between iPhone, iPad and Mac in terms of images, music and data files.

For example, I can take a picture on my iPhone, then upload it to a post in WordPress on the iPad without ever downloading it to my device by using the Photo Stream. Using Google+ allows you to add all of the pictures you take to your Google image storage for use with a Chromebook or Android device, and Microsoft’s OneDrive has similar capabilities.

As another simple example, after our New York trip we wanted to look at pictures. We imported ones from our cameras to iPhoto, but the ones from our phones all auto-uploaded so we could just grab the iPad and browse through them all.

Apps, Apps, Apps!

My uses for the iPad?
– Productivity (including all of the stuff from above)
– Data analysis
– RSS browser
– Blogging
– Gaming
– Music making

Doing many of these things requires apps. I love jamming with Magellan Synth, recording up to 48 tracks in Auria, checking RSS feeds in Mr. Brower (uses Feedly), blogging with the WordPress app, and so on.

Whereas most of the best phone games are ‘time wasters’, on the iPad you can play a full game like Baldur’s Gate 2, or X-Com and so on. The screen size gives you the visual space as well as touch-screen space to have a great experience.

The same is true for music – you can use multi-touch to play ‘piano’, manipulate ‘knobs’ and ‘dials’ in real-time, and because of the processing power, an app like AudioBus allows you to string together multiple apps to turn your iPad into a real recording studio!

Accessorize for Success

If you look at the image above, you see I have my iPad in a keyboard case. Specifically I have the Belkin Qode Ultimate, which protects my iPad Air, doesn’t add much bulk, and provides a great Bluetooth keyboard with excellent battery life.

I also regularly use products from IK Multimedia such as the iRig Pro to hook in my guitar, and the iRig Keys Pro as a great portable keyboard.

Temper Your Expectations

Remember … this is NOT a laptop. I think this has fueled some disillusionment and a tapering of sales from all vendors. You WILL need a computer for some things, and to act as a ‘hub’, but you will also find you can use it much less.

That is how my iPad became my 90% computer. When I first got it, I had my work computer for work, but also a smartphone (Droid), netbook and LiveScribe ‘smartpen’. With the iPad the netbook and LiveScribe quickly went away – and so did my use of the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP! And many things I was doing on the Droid I could do more efficiently on the iPad.

When I was in Kentucky last year, I knew I needed my work computer (duh), but I needed some way to do my personal stuff and blogging … and didn’t want to lug two laptops. So I had to do a ‘trust fall’ and hope the iPad would work – and it DID. I was recording and editing and posting video reviews, writing, playing games, making music, emailing, Facetime-ing and so on! So for me, it has earned its place.

And finally – while it seems illogical – maybe you don’t NEED a tablet? As screens get bigger more people are able to use their smartphones for nearly everything. And I look at things and wonder – if Apple DOES release the rumored 5.5″ screen (or even the nearly-certain 4.7″), will the combination of that and my Macbook Air be enough? We shall see …

Have you sailed on a lake? What is your go-to computer / blogging device?

Choose Passion Over Paycheck For True Happiness, and ‘Word Crimes’!

Soul Crushing Work

First off … THANK YOU. What an amazing outpouring of support, awesome comments and emails, and just general incredible kindness and fun this week! After robo-posting through vacation and coming back to a whirlwind week of very busy days, I have been reminded in an overwhelming way why I love this community so much! I apparently forgot to mention one step in my blog process, which is to stop and drink in the great support and use it to power me through writing my next post.

OK, today’s topic … If Your Paycheck Isn’t Fueling Your Passion, Maybe it is Time for a Change!

This might seem like an odd topic for me, since I work for a large traditional company in a very corporate role (senior level statistical and measurement engineer with Corning) and have been here 6 years, after having spent 15 years with ANOTHER large traditional company after a couple of short stints for smaller companies. And there is little chance that I will NOT work for a company where I am just an employee helping further the goals set by managers and executives.

Yet I tell my boys to follow their passion rather than a job; to seek happiness over employment. The reality is that there are very few careers that are a ‘sure thing’ (aside from perhaps nursing, which could possibly saturate by the time they could get their degrees). So instead of chasing a ‘safe paycheck’, we tell them to figure out what drives you and inspires you and grab hold of it with both hands and never let go.

Turning Passion Into Profession

Over the last several months I have loved watching some of my favorite bloggers do some amazing things to follow their passions:
Lisa and Michele recently completed RRCA certification on Cape Cod, and before taking a right turn into a different job Suz also became a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. I know there are others who have fitness job sidelines (Sara), as well.
Danielle left a solid job in order to co-found Ramblen with someone who lives half-way across the country, meaning she is now engaged in one state and living in another while working really hard to see her passions and dreams become reality!
Laura left her job (for very good reasons) and is now living the ‘starving grad school life’ in women’s studies and is REALLY putting herself out there for her cause by running across America next summer!
Megan quit her day job and has gone ‘all in’ as a health and wellness coach, which I think is a natural fit because she is so inspirational and earnest and nurturing and freaking smart.

All of these women have taken steps out of their comfort zone to follow their passions. Megan and Laura and Danielle have made major life changes – and none of them took the easy path! I think it is an incredibly brave and strong thing to do – it is one thing to put yourself out there on a blog, but to make your entire life about putting yourself out there? Wow.

The Professional World Has Changed Forever

When I was going off to college in the early 80s, IBM had never had a layoff, and the tech industry was really just getting started. Money was flowing into the field, and in general the work world looked very much like it had since the 60s:
– You go to college for a degree that more or less sends you to a professional job or a life in th euniversity system.
– You get a job with a small or large company.
– If small, you ‘upgrade’ until you get to a large company.
– You progress from technical to managerial ranks over the decades you stay with that company.
– You retire and life on a decent pension.

That seems like something from an old-fashioned movie at this point. I remember when IBM emptied out buildings in the early 90s, I had friends there talking about waves of people being escorted out.

I bring up IBM because in that era they were a real beacon, one of the last places where if you got a job you had lifetime employment guaranteed … until 1994 when they changed that policy. In that moment the Americal workplace changed forever. Throughout the 90s ‘downsizing and Dilbert’ ruled, and the ‘dotcom bubble’ burst in 2000, and just as things seemed to be ramping again the bottom fell out in 2007 and has never really returned.

Your Passion … is Your Passion

In my ‘behind the blogger’ post, and many other posts, I have talked about my passions – family, music, tech, running, and my job. I have talked about how my AP English teacher thought I should go into writing and had me submit pieces he thought might get accepted into the Atlantic; I have discussed how I won a great award at the huge national high school jazz competition and my band director thought I should pursue music. And I talked about how I ended up at RPI studying electrical engineering.

It might sound weird with everything else I have just said, but the ultimate reason I chose NOT to pursue music (writing was never seriously in play) was NOT about fear or risk-aversion … but because I truly love math and physics that much.

Fast forward 30 years and I STILL love those things – my publications and patent apps all speak to math (data analysis) and physics (optical engineering). I love tearing apart a data set to find meaning, working with measurements and equipment and analyzing and optimizing a process. Sure, I would love to be back in the semiconductor world, but Corning’s massive support for RD&E (research, development and engineering – they spend 10%, most companies are ~2%) means working on exciting projects with really talented people.

That is MY passion.

Chances are it is not YOUR passion.

Intermission

OK, this is feeling rather dry and serious, so how about some mid-post fun? I talk about the ‘pre-internet’ days quite a bit – referencing them in terms of IBM from a completely different era today. And in that spirit – I love this xkcd comic

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How Modern Corporations Work Against Employees

As I mentioned, things have never really fully recovered from the 2007 neo-depression. What has become clear is that many, many companies used that as an opportunity to cut wide swaths of employees, and forever change the balance of power so they wouldn’t find themself disadvantaged like they did in the mid-90s and mid-2000s.

As a result, here are 5 ways you are disadvantaged working for a medium or large company today:

1. Loyalty Makes You Less Marketable

As I said, when I was entering college, life-employment with a single company was a goal, and in general job-hopping was greatly frowned upon. Loyalty was rewarded and was seen as mutually beneficial.

Now we hear about people in layoffs being penalized for staying with a company more than 5 years, “many people have told me I’m disadvantaged by having stayed with the same company for too long.”

The problem? Sometimes loyalty and inertia look the same – in other words, when people were interviewing me in 2007, how could they tell how much of my 15 year tenure was due to a passion to thrive, and how much was just falling into the wake-work-home-sleep cycle and lacking incentive to find something to better fuel my passion?

2. Your Company Uses Your Loyalty To Save Money

A new Monster article shows that staying with a company more than two years can cost you up to 50% compared to people who change companies every couple of years (and perform equally well, of course).

How does this work? Think about it – when we read about Apple hiring a certain skill set indicating they are working on something … it means that they are seeking specific skills they can’t find internally – and are motivated to pay highly skilled people to fill that role. When Intel needs another wafer fab process engineer because someone is retiring, the desire is for another (talented but generic) body to fill an existing role. If they can get that from inside they can give a nominal raise, while the internal candidate gets a job-refresh without having to go through the risk-change cycle of a new company. Win-Win in a way … but over a decade or two suddenly that can add up to big money.

Flip this around – by getting people to stay, a company can save big money over time. So naturally they will try promote and fill open positions from wihtin wherever possible. By giving periodic incentives like stock options and other company-tied perks, they can create further ties to tether you in place for relatively low cost.

3. You Will Never Get the Raise You Deserve Within a Company

This was interesting when I first heard about it, but seeing it again and now more recently it makes sense – if your company knows that you could already get by on your current salary, there is less incentive to give you more money unless they are concerned about you leaving the company … and as I noted, companies used the 2007 recession to slash workforces and create a flatter structure and leaner workforce.

The outcome of this is that the same workload is spread across fewer employees – and those employees work in fear of losing their jobs and know that the job market remains abysmal, with more qualified and experienced people constantly vying for fewer and fewer jobs.

That isn’t to say NOBODY is getting rewarded … but think about it this way: the average wage increase last year was 2% … which is about the same as the rate of inflation. That is actually the first time in several years that wages have seen a ‘real’ increase. This nominal increase even held across many Fortune 500 companies who were seeing double-digit growth in sales and profits over the last couple of years. In other words, someone is getting the money … just not YOU.

4. Your Mobility Decreases With Age and Life Circumstances

A company knows a lot about you – marital status, children, family situations, etc. And they know the reality – that when you have gotten married, had kids, bought a house, and so on … you are less likely to want to change companies.

As I say, companies KNOW this, and as a result they have less incentive to work very hard to keep you from leaving … because simply by giving an average raise, keeping your benefits nominally competitive and otherwise keeping the barrier to exit just high enough to make your inertia kick in and have you stay.

Because risk and change are things people generally stay away from. And the greater the potential risk (losing your home, inability to feed your family), the less likely you are to make a change.

5. Your Employer Is So Used to Holding All the Cards They Don’t Even Pretend Anymore

There are so many articles about all of this it is hard to choose, but I love these quotes:

“Workers are so desperate for jobs that managers can take off the kid gloves without worrying … employees put up with mistreatment in the workplace because managers have made it clear that staff are dispensable, with many other applicants more than willing to take their place.”

Look at how things stack up:
– More workers than jobs – after nearly 7 years of this, it impacts corporate culture.
– More competitive marketplace – narrower profits (due to lower real wages and higher joblessness and underemployment) and faster product life-cycle turns (new iPhone & Galaxy ‘must haves’ every 12 months!).
– Job seekers don’t even get basic respect anymore.
– Unless you are in one of a very few ‘tech centers’ (Boston, Silicon Valley, Austin), chances are you are almost immediately replaceable.
– Rapid company failures in recent years makes moving to a new company more risky than ever.
– Lobbyists pushing hard for corporate-centric laws … and getting them in the name of ‘global competition’ (outcome is also freedom to act against employees without consequence).
– Supreme Court regularly ruling ‘business friendly’ even if it curtails personal rights, and don’t forget their ‘gay marriage’ ruling was really based on business impacts.

And it is clear … most companies don’t need to work very hard to maintain their workforce. And as a result, my LinkedIn feed is filled with articles demonstrating that they DON’T.

OK, THAT was depressing … what is the POINT?!?

First, some of the things above make it seem like executives and HR people scheme all day about how to screw people over. They do NOT. They are people with families and mortgages and plenty of replacements mailing in applications every day. Heck, after I got laid off and then hired at Corning, I was having breakfast at the Staybridge Suites before my family moved out and met a former VP from my old job who had just started with Corning and was waiting for HIS family!

My point? Every company is filled with people, and in general people want to do well by one another, avoid conflict, and avoid hurting others. But corporate policies are about minimizing cost and maximizing profits. Over the last few decades, the term ‘resources’ for employees has been cemented in place, illustrating how people are similar to raw materials used to make products – they have a cost, and a value-add to the company. If they can get the same value add for less money? Do it.

There are many ways running a family is like running a business … but there are also many ways it is not. One of the key items is focus – the executives of a company are focused on the overall profitability and ultimately serve shareholders. In a household it is the members who are the focus, rather than the material items or anyone outside of the household (well, most of the time).

This is why following your passion matters: the CEO of a company doesn’t want to fire anyone (let alone 18,000 like Microsoft did yesterday!), but they don’t have a driving passion about how each individual employee will realize their dreams.

YOU have that drive, that passion, that focus. And so it is up to YOU to determine if what you are doing is serving your passion or just keeping your wallet full. Of course, if your passion is something that doesn’t pay enough money to feed you, perhaps you need to work at a ‘non-passion’ job to fuel your passion – but that is also fine because you are STILL fueling your passion.

My advice? Look to strong women like Danielle, Laura and Megan as examples, seek out your passion – and whether it is your own bakery or working as an accountant … follow your dreams and passions to make the most of your life.

Bonus! Fun Stuff!

Hey – any Weird Al fans? I loved his stuff back in the 80s when MTV was young (yeah, and it played music … ), and have liked some of his stuff through the years (White & Nerdy). He has a new album out this week, and has released a couple of videos. One is a parody of the Pharell William’s ‘Happy’ called ‘Tacky’, and one I thought was more appropriate to share in a blogging context! Enjoy!

What are your thoughts on the ‘corporate world’ versus ‘following your passion’?

Monday Motivation – Counting my ‘Blessings’

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There was an article last week about how the word ‘blessed’ has begun to lose much of its meaning in the Facebook generation, as we now will regularly see people who were ‘blessed’ as they chose the line at the market that moved faster, or that can of garbanzo beans they were getting anyway was $0.10 off!

At the same time there was an article about the connotations of Christianity in ‘blessed’, and also someone who was suing because the only ‘blessing’ given at an official state event recognizing first-responders was entirely Christian. For me these are two things – I am all about ‘separation of church and state’, and very much oppose any notion of our country adopting Christian norms (yes, I AM Catholic). But at the same time, I am all about personal freedom, so if you want to proclaim that Jesus himself guided you to the correct check-out line, well power to the people right on.

ANYWAY … can you tell this was one of those ‘thoughts on a run’ things? Yeah, Saturday on my long run (a glorious 12.5 miles) I was thinking about all of this, and really thinking more that blessed has just become a surrogate word for ‘fortunate’. The first article had the connotation that ‘blessed’ implied a lack of work involved, which I reject – I think that anything worth having in life is a combination of good fortune and hard work.

At the same time, one of the best things I read this week was Megan talking about being grateful for your worst day, meaning that you should live in the reality of the situation and your feelings, but never forget to appreciate the great things you DO have in your life.

So what are the ‘blessings’ I am thankful that I have in my life, and work hard every day to maintain?

1. My Wife

I have to just say upfront that I am saddened and dismayed by the number of kids in their 20s who have already married and divorced. I am not passing judgment of any sort, because I know often it for the best for any number of reasons. I was thinking about this as I was reading a post from Angie on Cowgirl Runs last week, talking about nearly 2 years of post-divorce learning.

Anyone who says marriage is easy is an idiot; I have a very happy marriage, still wake up every morning thrilled to be with Lisa; love spending time and connecting every day; and so on. We always have fun – yesterday we were bringing some outgrown clothes to the donation site and the handle on one of my bags broke, she gave me crap, I said ‘bite me’ … and she did! It was a load of laughs.

But I would be lying if I said there weren’t days, weeks and even a few months where things were less than awesome. Having plenty of bills, two kids, pets, houses, cars, jobs, and so on means dealing with conflict – people get cranky, tired, annoyed, disagree, and more. I’ve said it before – at some time in the last 25 years chances are Lisa and I have had something between a minor annoyance and full-out fight over pretty much any topic you can imagine.

But the one thing never in question was our love and desire to be together. Even at this point in our lives we have people make comments on us when we’re together, calling us ‘cute’ or whatever … and we soak it all up. Our marriage has been hard work – but one thing is clear, that whenever difficult times struck, we united and emerged stronger than before. Lisa makes me and my life better every day, and that is pretty awesome.

2. My Boys

Sometimes my kids REALLY tick me off. And unfortunately very often those times occur when they are doing something I have genetically passed down to them!

But more often than that I am so proud of them, or so enjoy just hanging out sharing things with them, and look forward to seeing them transition to adults.

Kids are ALWAYS a struggle, make no mistake. Especially when they get to the age of making independant choices – because you will occasionally run into a conflict between wanting them to be happy and wanting them to be the best version of themselves. Those moments are exhausting and stressful and emotionally draining.

But then there are the times when you are working together, painting or doing dishes or folding laundry, listening to and talking about music, discussing movies and TV and friends and school and technology and clothes and life in general. And suddenly you get to see the insightful, smart, funny individuals they have become.

I don’t know where my kids will be in a few years, what they will study, where their careers will land them … but that is all part of the adventure. They are awesome boys and I am really enjoying this phase of their lives.

3. My Job/Career

I have said it before, but after getting laid off in late 2007, I was already interviewing for a job that I used as a ‘stop-over’ that allowed me to keep interviewing for one that met all of my needs. I was so lucky as the economy collapsed to end up with FOUR offers, in the Boston area, Charlotte NC, Seattle WA and Corning. Corning was the most stable company and seemed to offer the best long-term viability, but also is a one-company town – so if I wasn’t happy we’d be moving again!

Six years later, and two of the companies who gave me offers no longer exist, and the division I interviewed for in the other company was axed. Even Corning had a big layoff in 2009 in the recession, but I survived and now the company is stronger than ever.

I have been fortunate to work on a wide variety of projects in most of the divisions (I work in corporate engineering), had great technical challenged and made a real impact, and have made some great friends through the years. Corning really values its people, the focus on innovation and technology development, and as a result even after 6 years I am a relative ‘newbie’ as most people my age have been here 20+ years.

4. My Health

On the peoject that had me traveling to Kentucky regularly, I had one long shift of travel followed by immediately going into the plant to work without break for a long time. People were complaining and then someone mentioned how good I looked, and the project manager said ‘well, with how much he runs and how he eats, what do you expect?’

As someone who still looks at himself as a ‘reformed obese person’, this view of me as healthy always catches me off-guard.

I guess I assumed that since I did myself no favors during my first 23 years, that I would pay for it forever. But aside from some loose skin (TMI, sorry), I have no residual effects. My heart and lungs and joints and bones overall health remain excellent. If I can inspire in any way, THAT would be it – it is never too late to be in the best shape and health of your life.

5. 25 Years a Non-Injured Runner

I feel like I am tracking the injury status on a couple dozen blog-friends and real-life friends at any given time, either active or recovering. And I always sympathize, because I know that I never want to have something that takes my running away from me.

Last week Harold listed his injuries … and my jaw dropped. I don’t even know what I would do in that situation – because I have never had to deal with it.

My biggest thing? This past winter when someone edged me off the road and I ended up stepping into what looked like just a snowbank but was actually a culvert so my left shoe dropped down a couple of feet unexpectedly. I had already planned the next day as rest, but then took a second day off, and then got back to running.

For me, running is a pretty huge part of my life – and as a result I am very protective of my ability to go out every day. Running daily means more than speed or races or pretty much any sort of improvement. If I never BQ but am still running 5 miles a day 20 years from now I will be more than happy.

6. My Friends

I am really lucky to have a great set of friends from childhood, high school, college, my jobs in MA and NY, online writing sites and computer gaming forums, and now through blogging. I have met amazing people and I thoroughly enjoy hearing from them and communicating.

It is a great thing to get a message that says ‘though of you when I saw this’ … because I have always been a ‘thought is what counts’ person, so someone making a connection and passing it along really touches me.

Because we have teen boys and live in the ‘internet age’, having discussions about ‘online friends’ is only natural. It is something I have had since the late 80s, and something Lisa has really never had … so that makes for two very different perspectives. As adults we can still be misled, but we have a better context to frame these interactions, and hopefully we make good choices.

That is a long way of saying that I have been truly and immensely touched by the interactions I have had through blogging, even before I started my own blog last fall. You guys are just the best, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

My Running Summary

The weather was all over the place this past week – from cool to hot and windy and torrential rain (my clothes from Friday morning were still wet at mid-day on Saturday!). But I had a pretty solid week:

Sunday: Mother’s Day – no run, 3mi walk with Lisa
Monday: 9.5 miles
Tuesday: 8.25 miles, 2 mile walk with Lisa
Wednesday: 5.25 miles (at night)
Thursday: 9.25 miles, plus another 4mi walk with Lisa
Friday: 9.25 miles
Saturday 12.5 miles

Not a bad overall week – 53.75 miles! What I have started to notice is it is easier for me getting out the door, my pace is better, and I am pushing my home-time a bit later to squeeze in more miles.

So what ‘blessing’ do YOU treasure?

Award Post Part 2 – Even More Stuff (you didn’t care to know) About ME!

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OK, I am a total slacker … over the last month I have been nominated for SIX Liebster and other blog awards, and been meaning to do a post about it ever since the first one from Running Boston and Beyond. My initial problem was that I did one of these posts back in February, and felt like I was spent in terms of personal reveals … but now I am ready to give it a go – and these nominations each have plenty of interesting questions so you can learn even MORE stuff you didn’t care about!

Running Boston and Beyond

Let’s start with Kelli from Running Boston and Beyond (and yes, she did run Boston in 2014)! She is a 40-something wife and mom who loves running and her family and has a great blog – definitely check her out!

1.How did you choose your blog name?

I initially had a blog since ~2006 called ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ where I wrote about stuff I couldn’t post on any of the game review sites I wrote for … and had basically zero readers. So when I got serious about running went beyond what I could comfortably write about for Gear Diary, I needed a new outlet. I was getting older but not ‘over the hill’, and my new focus on ‘serious’ running was a different take on a familiar habit – so not really ‘turning the corner’ or ‘changing course’. So more “Running Around the Bend” … and I landed on WordPress rather than Blogger (where I also have an account) because that name was in use on Blogger.

2.What is your favorite thing to write about?

If you read my post ‘mostly the miles are boring’ you know that running isn’t my favorite topic; nor is cooking and eating – again, because I eat pretty much the same things for 12 or so meals every week (breakfasts and weekday lunches).

But if you read this blog even occasionally you know my favorite things in the world are my wife and kids … so writing about stuff we do together is my fave thing in the world.

3.Why did you start blogging?

I started doing ‘game reviews’ back on USENET in the 80s before the web, then started writing for early websites – again gaming opinions. Then as time went on I started writing editorials and other opinion-based stuff – and from there I found the limits and needed to express myself more. Like I said, at first I was basically writing for myself, and left it behind for a few years.

But last year, after ‘becoming a runner’, and having gone through a long running streak, and done it all mostly posting to Facebook with some stuff written for ‘official posts’, I again found the limits (or rather, they were pointed out to me). So I kicked back into my blog, started using that in my comments … and just over 7 months later here we are!

4.What kind of workout makes you feel the best after it is all over?

Running … is there another kind?

5.What is your favorite post workout recovery food?

Smoothies! Seriously – in the cold weather I like water and later some coffee, in the warmth it is water and then something cold like a smoothie. Or homemade peanut butter ‘fudge’ (melt a bit of butter, stir in peanut butter, add some confectionary sugar and chocolate syrup and stick it in the freezer!)

6.What motivates you?

Love.

Sounds odd, but love for my wife, for my kids, for my friends, and for myself is what motivates me.

7.What is your “A” race or biggest fitness goal for 2014?

I still want to run an Ultra … but aside from that just PR everything I do (no biggie, right?). But really – if I am still running 5+ miles 5+ days a week by the end of the year I will be incredibly happy.

8.What is your favorite motivational song?

Maybe it is because I saw it in theaters in 1976 when I was 10 … but Bill Conti’s ‘Rocky’ theme still gives me chills. I don’t use music for workouts, though.

9.What is your favorite “fun” thing to do besides run/train/work out?

Aside from stuff with my family (already mentioned), I would say music. I am still finishing setting up my old studio again and re-adapting my song files to the new configuration (which is simultaneously fun and annoying) … but eventually I will share stuff here.

10.If you could give your 16-year old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Focus more on being happy, and stop caring what other people (including your family) thinks.

11.Are you going to pass on the torch and nominate 11 fellow bloggers?

Can I ignore this one? Seriously I am not going to for one main reason – I already skipped out on it last time because everyone else had already been nominated. Still true.

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The Gluten Free Treadmill

Next we move on to Laura from The Gluten Free Treadmill. Now I am going to embarass Laura by saying that she is absolutely one of the most wonderful people I’ve met since blogging and a truly treasured ‘internet friend’. She writes about powerful and important stuff and we share loads of common thoughts on things. I have loved seeing her site continue to gain traction and followers – well deserved!

1) What is your spirit animal and why?

I have always been the ‘bear’. Solid, strong, even-tempered and ready. I had a teddy bear from when I was in the hospital at 4, and later on Lisa gave me one for when I was traveling. Even though my size is no longer ‘bear-like’, I will always be the bear.

2) What is your happy place?

On the couch with Lisa, drinking coffee or wine. My ‘personal’ place would be out on a run.

3) What is your favorite ethnic cuisine?

Chinese food of all types, from junk at the mall food court to gourmet stuff in a big city to more exotic stuff to things we make at home. Love the flavor profiles and ingredients and pretty much everything about it.

4) What was your favorite food as a kid?

Steak, from an early age.

5) What is your favorite food today?

Hmmm … would have to choose between sweet potato and … yeah, steak.

6) What are you typically doing on a Wednesday at 11:30 AM?

Something related to work … specific to most of the last two months or so on my new project, either at my desk or in our development clean room … likely thinking about lunch!

7) Why do you blog?

Because I have felt the need to express myself in the digital world ever since that was a possibility. I have always found writing a cathartic outlet, yet never had an interest in pursuing it professionally (to the chagrin of my AP English teacher in high school) … so for me blogging was a natural. And more recently I have found less of a desire to do reviews and more desire to ‘do my own thing’.

8) What do you do when not blogging?

Well, my job at Corning keeps me busy about 50 hours per week, and I have a very busy life with Lisa and the boys and the dogs and the cats. Music, video games, house-related stuff and so on take up the rest.

9) What’s the biggest life lesson you’ve learned to date about nutrition/food/health?

Food is fuel. Get rid of the good / bad labels, the ‘meat is murder’ mentality, and just figure out what best fuels the life you want to lead … and stop judging yourself and others.

10) What is the biggest life lesson you’ve learned to date about something other than nutrition/food/health?

Honest, open communications is the key to everything – it is more important than talent, intelligence, or looks.

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Life Between the Miles

Then I was nominated by one of my more recent blog discoveries, Sara from Life Between the Miles. She is from Massachusetts, recently ran the Boston marathon, is married with a cute little boy, and writes a fun and honest blog I look forward to reading all the time.

1. If you could spend the day with one famous person, who would it be and why?

On the one hand, I would love to get the chance to talk to a whole variety of historical leaders, freedom pioneers, artists and musicians and ground-breaking scientists … but on the other hand I can never choose just one because what I would ultimately want is to understand the person behind the story. I place very little value on ‘fame’ or ‘wealth’ and even less on pure ‘celebrity’, so spending time with a person because they are ‘famous’ has no draw for me.

2. What is an attribute you admire in others?

Honesty. In crowded engineering fields, saying ‘I don’t know’ can be seen as weakness, so people will sometimes pretend to know things they don’t. In my personal life I’ve had many people say things for no reason that are clearly not true (why?). Yeah, for me it all starts with honesty.

3. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would be the 3 things you would take with you?

OK, I am assuming Lisa, Danny and Chris is cheating?

4. If money was no object, what would you choose as your career?

I would still be working, but would push the measurement science side harder. When I was younger I thought music store or studio, or book store, or teacher or something … but none of those really appeal to me enough to mitigate the downsides.

5. What is YOUR greatest achievement?

While professionally my direct contributions to the first 1GHz microprocessor technology, or significant work in the development of the technique of Scatterometry for sub-100nm semiconductor measurements are probably my ‘biggies’ … for me it is marrying Lisa, as even having our boys stems from that.

6. Why did you decide to start blogging? *answered in the first group*

7. What is your biggest pet peeve?

People who have no regard for others.

8.What is your favorite pizza toppings?

When I was young I used to get onion, pepper, hamburg and linguica … now I would say just cheese.

9. What is the theme song of your life?

Miles Davis Bitches’ Brew – within that 27 minutes there is everything I love about music; elements of classical, rock, funk, soul, free jazz, fusion and so on.

10. If you had $1,000 that you could spend on anything, what would you spend it on?

Funny thing that as such a techie I am also not very materialistic … so I don’t immediately think about some new gadget. Instead I think about paying off things like the one car payment or working down the mortgage so she the kids are done with college we will be more free to choose our path forward.

But since I should really choose stuff … I would get Lisa some Hoka One Ones to support her ankle and redo her Pandora bracelet so it fit better … and myself some running gear, and the rest for some clothes and shoes for the boys.

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She’s Going the Distance

Next the hilarious and sarcastic dude Cori from She’s Going the Distance (yes, like that Cake song). Both she and her fiance Cameron have great blogs I enjoy, and I look forward to reading about their wedding later this year (yes, I am a total sappy romantic type):

1. Do you have a night before or race day ritual that you HAVE to do?

Nothing on the creepy superstitious level, just make sure my crap is ready and try to get some sleep.

2. Do you love your job?

Yes I do … like the line in Real Genius ‘I love solving problems’. Today I helped a young engineer figure out a critical experimenal problem on her project, taught her some statistics and more details about some software. She was super happy and grateful … which makes it all worthwhile!

3. Why did you start blogging? *answered in the first group*

4. What is your favorite running shoe brand?

Right now I am loving Saucony – I’m on Virratas now, but I just saw Amazon clearanced the Kinvara 4s as they prep for the 5! Might have to grab a pair cheap!

5. Ice cream, popsicles or milkshakes?

#alltheicecream

6. Where’s the last place you traveled?

Glorious Troy, NY! The trip to RPI and my fraternity was worth enduring Troy, as I wrote about the other day!

7. Power song to run or train to?

Music for running?

8. Beach or Mountains?

Beach! We watched one of those ‘house hunter’ shows the other night just because it was all beach houses!

9. Are you afraid of heights?

Not at all – I seek out heights and rollar coasters.

10. Favorite show on tv currently?

I tend to ‘lose track’ of shows fairly easily, so for me it has to be something we all can enjoy. Right now we’re doing Grimm, Castle, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Sherlock and Hannibal. The BBC shows are less frequent, and the others we watch on Hulu more often than not due to schedules.

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Run Salt Sun
Next came Lauren from Run Salt Sun … or just #mamaSalt, who has gained quite a bit of success both as a speedy runner and a ‘mommy blogger’ – though she is not typical of that breed (thankfully). She has an adorable little girl, and a husband who loves her in spite of her running ‘problem’ 🙂

1) Who is your favorite Sesame Street character?

The Count! I was just 3 when Sesame Street launched on PBS (when there were all of a half dozen stations between UHF/VHF), so I mostly know Big Bird, Kermit, etc. But the Count was always a fave.

2) How do you feel about treadmills?

Aren’t those the things they make lab rats run on for experiments?

3) Are you good at math?

My job is as a statistician and metrology (measurement) engineer. Does that answer the question? Ask my family … I torment them with math,

4) What is your favorite brand of running shoe?
5) Coolest celebrity you’ve met?

For me the coolest thing was riding the elevator with jazz guitar legend John Scofield in the late 80s – I was going to see him play that night, so it was cool to chat in the elevator and he was awesome.

Also, at a wedding of one of Lisa’s friends we got to see Chet & Nat – two Boston news icons.

6) What is your dream job?

You know … I really have no idea. I am pretty happy where I am, no desire to move, and get to spend enough time with my family. Seeing so many people try small businesses has shown me that is NOT what I want … and really most of my hobbies I am happy with as hobbies.

7) What is your favorite kind of pie?

Lisa makes a killer apple pie (yes, despite being allergic) with a sugar cookie top-crust. Yeah, probably that.
8) How many brothers and sisters do you have?

I have one of each and I am the middle child (explains a lot, really). Both of my siblings are divorced at this point (within the last few years), and each has had significant heart issues. My brother lives in NJ and my sister in MA.

9) Why did you start blogging? *answered in the first group*

10) Do you take selfies at races?

Sometimes afterwards, but generally I have some part of my crew so they take pictures of me.

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thesecretlifecoachofdc

And finally Abby from thesecretlifecoachofdc, who is a fun and energetic young blogger with a great philosophy that “all aspects of a healthy lifestyle (fitness, nutrition, social, mental, sleep, etc) are intertwined”. All about balance!

My Questions for My Nominees

1. What are your three favorite things to do in your down time?

– Spend time with my wife and boys.
– Go for a run.
– Make music

2. What is your life motto?

I had one ‘find excess within moderation’ that I liked a lot when I was younger … and while I haven’t ever really been a ‘live by a motto’ person, I still like it.

3. What is your dream job? *answered in the previous group*

4. If you described yourself as a color, what color would you be and why?

A bright vibrant blue … because it is my favorite color, shows energy with a certain coolness, and has higher photon energy than all of those ‘warmer’ colors!

5. If someone wrote a book about your life up until now, what would the title be?

“Why the heck are you contemplating buying this boring story about a happily married, well employed middle-aged family man with no addictions or tragic flaws?”

6. Who would you choose to play you in a movie?

Another weird one – and again no clue. Many people I might have chosen ages ago I feel have aged poorly (James Spader), or are too good looking (George Clooney) and would seem arrogant. I dunno – who would YOU think?

7. If you could be a professional athlete, what sport would you choose to be a pro at?

Running for sure – it used to be basketball but that has lost its allure to me, whereas I would be fine being a pro runner, traveling around meeting other runners, and getting to enjoy all of the incredible races.

8. Who do you look up to the most in life right now?

My wife – she has had to go through many things in her life, yet she approaches every day with bright eyes and an open and loving heart.

9. What is your favorite thing about blogging?

The people – definitely the people. Sure I like writing and reading stories and perspectives and all that – but ultimately it is the people BEHIND the blogs that I find intriguing.

10. What stores do you frequent the most (online or in-person)?

Online I am very much an Amazon person for … well, everything. In the real world I would love to say it was someplace more glamorous or gourmet … but it is Walmart. Because it is close, convenient, and cheap.

11. Favorite book right now?

Fave is always tough … but I am re-reading the Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko. They are translated from Russian and a decent fantasy series. I started re-reading it because the English translation of the latest book is coming out later this year.

Though if I had to choose a singular favorite it would be ‘Cat’s Cradle’ by Kurt Vonnegut. It is a book that I read and re-read, and it always either shows me something different or strikes me differently.

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My Final Thoughts

As I finish this I realize how much more useless crap I could talk about – so I started a ‘random facts’ post that I will do some time in the future.

I mentioned that I wasn’t going to nominate anyone – since this cycle started a few months ago I have been reading about all of these different cool things about bloggers. Pretty much everyone has had at least one Liebster post, so I couldn’t find anyone to nominate!

But – if you are reading this and have not done a Liebster post, or you want to do another one … consider THIS your invitation. Here are the rules:
– Pick 10 questions from the ones above.
– Answer them.
– Link back to this post so I can see you’re post.
– Nominate someone if you want.

And that is it! Happy Thursday everyone … we’re getting close to the weekend!

The Small Surprises That Can Make Your Day

Surprise Candy

Yesterday afternoon I had a colleague stop by my desk and it made my day.

OK, I know, having someone stop by isn’t a big deal … but I hadn’t seen this person in well over a year (since August 2012) – because she had gone home to China and was working on a totally different project!

Back in early spring 2011 two colleagues from Corning in China came to work with us for an extended period, and quickly became valued friends and part of the team. There was a man and woman, one focused on equipment and the other on measurements. They were young and enthusiastic, and fun but not really accustomed to how projects were structured in the US so there was a significant learning curve – and also dealing with all of the casual phrases and colloquialisms proved a challenge!

They headed back in August 2012 as noted, after which contact was by email as I provided performance review feedback for the young woman. A bunch of us were connected on Facebook, but access from China was very expensive so once they headed home that contact stopped.

Since then I moved on to another project (and now yet another) and I know that the man stayed partially assigned to the project while the woman went to another project.

Back in December I was surprised walking down the hallway when I saw the man – he was working here for a couple of weeks before some activity took place in Asia (you understand I can’t actually be specific about anything). It was great catching up – he’d had a baby just before he left and it was great to hear and see how quickly the little one had grown (I am a total sucker for babies!). He mentioned that the woman was doing well but didn’t tell me she was coming back to the original project!

Fast forward to yesterday – a young woman (sorry, anyone in the ‘2x’ age bracket gets ‘young man’ or ‘young woman’) I had trained last year stopped by my desk with a ‘hey Mike’ … and there was the young woman from China! It was funny – last she knew I was on a different project so she mentioned in passing that it was too bad she couldn’t say ‘hi’ while she was here.

Today she stopped by with her traditional gift of Chinese candy – much less sweet than what we are used to having, but interesting stuff to try!

I will get to chat once or twice more before she heads out, and who knows if we will ever talk again … but in the busy fast-paced project world of modern tech companies people tend to come in and out of your life so quickly it isn’t often you make a lot of friends … so when you do (and I made more on that project than the rest of my time at Corning combined!), it is great to revisit them when you can!

Have you ever had a surprise visit like this? Meet up with old friends or colleagues, even just for a few minutes?