Tuesday, April 22, 2003

I start a new job in two weeks. Last Friday, I told my team that I was leaving, and there was a stunned silence for a couple of minutes. While it made me sad, that also made me proud, because they didn't want me to leave. It seems better than variations on, "Well, duh! I mean, when was the last time you did anything other than surf the net, anyway?"

I also realized that this was the first time anyone had voluntarily left in a very long time. I think people had forgotten you were allowed to do that.

This got me thinking about the various reactions you could get from people when you announce that you're leaving a job:

The Boss:

Good: "This will be a great loss to the company. Is there anything I could do to convince you to stay?"
Bad: "All right! I met my quarterly goals 2 months early!"

Your peers:

Good: "I'm sorry for us, but glad for you. Good luck!"
Bad: "Can I have your chair?"

Your direct reports:

Good: "I don't know how anyone could be a better manager than you have been."
Bad: "Does this mean I don't have to pretend to like you anymore?"

Your wife:

Good: "I'm so proud of you!"
Bad: "What a coincidence! I'm leaving, too!"

Monday, April 14, 2003

Thought for the day:

"Revenge is not a rifle. It's a shotgun. You just want to get the person who hurt you, but you end up hurting everyone around them, sometimes for generations."

-- Pastor Steve Schell, Northwest Church, Federal Way, WA.

Sunday, April 13, 2003


What if you were given three "do-overs," chances to go back to any point in your life and start over again from there. What would yours be? Would you kiss the girl, take the risk, do the work? Every life has turning points, where a decision opens one door and closes another, where we look back and say, "If I had just...." Do you have doors that you wish you had opened, or ones you wish you had left closed? If you had three do-overs, would you have had the patience to save them, or would you have used all three of them trying to get that one girl into bed your junior year in high school?

What would your do-overs be? Tell me.

To be honest, I don't know what I would do over. I'm pretty happy with where I've ended up so far, the individual annoying details of any given day notwithstanding. I wonder if, were I to go back and do something over, I'd wish I had stayed with the original plan, after all.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Painfully funny link of the day:

Frank Lingua and Buzzwords

It's funny because I hear language like this every day. It's painful, well, because I hear language like this every day. Why do we feel compelled to constantly make up new ways to say the same thing, only less clearly? I suspect that it's because the concepts we deal with daily, especially in the high-tech world, are so abstract that we have to resort to metaphors to try to make ourselves understood. This process has gone completely out of control, however, to the point where I don't even understand what my coworkers are saying anymore, and it takes them forever to say whatever it is.

So, as part of my one-man effort to rescue professional communication, I hereby swear to cull the following phrases from my daily conversation:

  • "Hone in on...."

  • "Flush out the details." I will, however, be glad to flesh them out, since that sounds so much more positive.

  • "Get our arms around it," or, "Throw a rope around it." (I especially like the imagery of this one when used to describe either an executive decision-making process or a problem with a large server.)

  • "Make it transparent."

  • "Going forward...."

  • "Take it offline," unless, of course, I'm actually talking about taking something off of a network.

  • "Eating our own dog food."

Some things I can't bear to part with yet, but will promise to use sparingly:
  • "Herding cats." Too apt to my current role. Plus, not being a big cat fan, I kind of like the image of driving them across the range. And the branding.

  • "Proactive." I realize that this was made up because it sounded better opposite "reactive," but saying, "be active about it," just doesn't cut it. Maybe I'll try "plan ahead."

In general, I pledge to say what I mean, mean what I say, and be satisfied with using the old words in interesting ways rather than making up new ones. Maybe the refreshing change will get people's attention.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Living and working in Boston/Cambridge is kind of like being in college forever, except the money flows in the opposite direction. You still interact with all the same personality types:

  • The software engineer who's really a musician/author/stand-up comic, and is just hanging in with this programming thing until the other career takes off.

  • The guy who everyone assumes must be a genius, because why else would he show up to work dressed like Robin Hood/the Borg/Batman?

  • The brooding, perpetually upset libertarian/vegetarian/human secularist who will protest anything as long as the majority of America agrees with it, and who demands her/his right to free speech as long as it agrees with his/her views.

  • The throwback who still thinks the 60's and early 70's were the greatest time in history, mainly because back then he wasn't the only one still smoking pot.

You get to have all the same conversations, too, only now it's by email, generally in front of a large virtual audience of people who wish you would just shut up and go away:

  • Should [fill in the blank] be allowed in the workplace, even if it offends someone (as everything always does)?

  • Is it morally right to support a government that allows [fill in the blank]?

  • What's really in that burrito?

  • Who will be the first to go on a berserker killing spree first, the guy who never makes eye contact and only eats cold rice, or the one who keeps shouting at his chair? And when they snap, will they kill the guy who always sings along with Culture Club on his headphones first?

OK, maybe that last one is only at my office.

Things I have learned about myself in recent weeks:

  1. While I like the idea of starting to write again, I don't necessarily sit down to do it, especially if I get a new game to play.

  2. Icewind Dale, while lacking the depth of the Baldur's Gate series, can be just as addicting.

  3. Given the opportunity, I will go for a week or more at a time on fewer than six hours of sleep a night, to guarantee that I get some time to myself.

Trying this blogging thing again, and hoping that this time I keep it up...