Archive for March, 2011

People are almost euphoric when they get a new job. It’s like that song from Wizard of Oz.

You’re out of the woods, You’re out of the dark, You’re out of the night.
Step into the sun, Step into the light.

But you aren’t really.

In every new job there are two things waiting for you.

Whatever is behind door number one and….

Whatever is behind door number two.

One is good and one is bad.

I have two good friends who changed jobs in the last year and both found good and bad waiting for them.

It’s like the old story about the guy who dies and go to heaven. People all have wings and are playing harps and singing. They seem happy. He meets St. Peter at the pearly gates. Peter tell the guy that he can make up his mind if he wants to go on in to heaven but he needs to visit the Devil in Hell first. The guy is confused but he goes down to hell as Peter instructed.

The devil meets him at the River Styx and guides him into Hell. The guy is surprised. Hell doesn’t look that bad. There are a bunch of folks sitting in a big pool of shit but they seem happy. They are sipping tea and chatting with each other. Outside the pool are people playing golf, drinking julep’s and beer and laughing. There are good-looking women all over the place. The guy thinks this ain’t half bad. A lot more fun than just sitting around playing harps.

After a day in Hell he goes back up to St. Peter and tells him he has chosen Hell. The next day he goes down to Hell and crosses the River Styx. He sees the pool of shit but everyone is turned upside down with their heads under the surface of the stinking mess. The girls, drinks, and golf have disappeared. There is the jolting sound of thunder and lightning. People are being whipped by mini-devils and all sorts of other mean looking creatures.

The guy turns to the devil. “What happened?” he asks. “Yesterday this all seemed so nice.”

“Yesterday,” the Devil answers, “I was recruiting.”




Read Full Post »

Back in 1993, I sat down with a group of four friends and we all put out a number that we felt we had to achieve in cash that would allow us to retire. At the time I had very little cash in the bank and was working a contract recruiting job at a Silicon valley Company. I had a big (for then) mortgage, two car payments and kid in private school.

I put out the figure of one million dollars. I was on the low-end of the group. The high-end was 5 million. My number was realistic though for several reasons.

1. I didn’t believe that I could earn an extra million dollars over the next ten years.

2. My wife and I stood to inherit real estate and cash worth at least another million. Maybe more. Not right then but sometime in the future. So one million could bridge us to the next million.

The others in the group thought I was wacko.

Strangely the thought of making a million began to galvanize me. By mid 1998 I was in a startup. In late 2000 it went IPO and some six months later I cashed in enough stock to make us a millionaire. My wife had inherited some money from an aunt and uncle and I had made some money on my previous company’s stock.

Whammo! I had over a million in the bank (or actually many banks)..

My kid was heading off to college, we had a much smaller mortgage and we owned both of our cars. But we had to pay for our pwn health insurance once I retired the first time in 2002.

I kept working part-time. That acted as a bridge as crept towards full retirement but the Pearl Harbor fiscal surprise attack  of 2008 sunk some our funds. I moved much of the rest to cash, rode out the worst of it, went back inside a company for the next 15 months as an employee and rode it out. My son graduated, my family was covered by medical insurance. The big Tsunami passed for the time being.

Then,  in March of  2010, I retired for the second time. It had taken just about 17 years to complete the job.

It was no longer a matter of how much cash we had in the bank. We had cash but it lurched up and down based on the financial climate of the market.

Instead it became a combination of income and expenses. For the first time our outgo and income matched pretty closely. Take away 25 to 30K annual college expenses and give me affordable health insurance and suddenly the ability to walk became elementary.

So, I got out.

I work but money is no longer a gating item. I now go pro bono and do exactly what the hell I want to do.

Could another Tsunami come in and wreck what we have squirreled away?

Absolutely. If the US Dollar become worthless, I and 300 million other folks are dead in the murky waters.  And I am not even counting all the millions who will go south in other parts of the world. Our economy is theirs now. Too late to go back. And I refuse to live in fear. I felt fear in the fall of 2008 but after several weeks I said ENOUGH! Do what you got to do and just get through it.

The thing I learned from this was once I had the number million in my head as a goal I went for it. Suddenly a great many job opportunities didn’t make sense.

My career path became The first star on my right and straight through to morning. Somewhere I knew there was a startup in my future. It just took me 5 and half years to find the right one and another three years to make some dough out of it.

I’ll never have 5 million. Nice to have but I am not holding out for it. It would have probably meant another several startups. I would never make that money just having a job-job even at the Vice president level. I had to remember my goal.

To not have to work at anything that I didn’t want to.

Life is short and is getting shorter all the time. Middle age had become old age. Maybe not really old yet, but old enough to get medicare and social security along and old enough to pull money out of my 401K’s without penalties.

If I ever wish anything, I wish I had understood this earlier. I reeled from job-job to job-job and put up with a lot of crap along the way. My father was trying to get me to understand this back in the 1970’s but I didn’t get it.

Well, I got it now.


Read Full Post »



I have a friend who has recently fallen in the habit of waiting for people to show up.

First he had an after work “let’s have a few beers” meeting with a former boss. Yeah, they had WiFi and he had a beer in hand so waiting wasn’t too bad.

So he sat there nursing his beer, surfing the internet for over 40 minutes. He was just about ready to get up and leave when his “let’s have a few” buddy walked in. No apology, no awareness that he was late. Now I know both guys and they are good guys. But good guys or not, with cell phone technology, you can at least let someone know if you are running late.

I would have left after 15 minutes unless of course someone had let me know they were running late. But blanco! No communication! I am gone.

The this same friend goes for a job interview and sits there in the lobby for over a half hour waiting for the interviewer to come out and collect him. Once again the gating issue is that no one lets him know that people are running late. So he sits there until finally a person he once worked with see him sitting there and offers to help out.


I would have calmly let anyone I could find know that I was leaving and that I would be glad to reschedule.

In 1986 I went on an interview for an HR job. It went well and my prospective boss asked me to meet with the head of engineering. I could tell when she called him on the phone that he was not really that up for it. Eddie really couldn’t see any reason to meet with some HR guy that he probably would never have to deal with. I got it right away and tried to let her off the hook but she kept insisting that I go over to his building and meet with him.

So I did.

I waited 30 minutes but he never came out to meet with me so I left. I called my boss-to-be and told her what happened. No recriminations. No complaints.  I just related that Eddie seemed to be tied up. I got a vague sense of free floating anxiety about the job from this experience. I couldn’t out my finger on it. I was offered the job anyway and decided to move forward.

Without going into, needless to say, this was one of the top three worst job experiences. Even as employee I never did meet Eddie because my boss handled all the power people in the company herself. The rest of us were drones.

I lasted 8 weeks and talked my boss into including me in a layoff. The company had begun to stumble after a successful IPO and several years of  profitability. Engineering, led by Eddie, was a major part of the problem.

Time for me is NOT money. Howver, it is still MY time. I’ll gladly chill and wait a reasonable period of time if someone lets me know what the heck is going on. If not, I am outa there. Interviewers and potential alpha mates appreciate stuff like that even though they both think the world revolves around their “I am so busy” schedule.


Read Full Post »

Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged has been made into a movie. Actually three movies. It has a rather limited release which tells me that it might go to cable early. The reviews are generally good. Not populated by known actors.

The Fountainhead was my favorite of her books. I labored through Atlas. It went on and on (forever) and I took forever to read it. But I got her point. The people of ability go on strike against the forces of socialism that have been gradually taking over the country (or the world). A single man says “I will stop the motor of the world.” Then he goes about doing it. One by one the creators. The men and women (mostly men) of ability disappear, leaving their companies and head off to only Galt knows where. When the world begins to fail, they come back and rebuild it. Okay, now you know the plot.

The book is good. There are passages or sections that really were excellent and parts like Galt’s manifesto that were overly long.

The hero of Atlas Shrugged is John Galt even though we really don’t meet him until late in the book. Oh, he is in there in more than a few scenes but we have to gradually guess that it is Galt talking to Eddie Willers (for example) in the Taggart cafeteria.

The hero of The Fountainhead is Howard Roark. We know him from the first line of the book.

“Howard Roark laughed!”

He is the prime individualist. The self-sufficient creator, an architect, who has a defined vision of how building should be designed and built. He cares less about society except in how it allows him to pursue his vision. He is not in it to screw over others. Outside of a few friends (he has few friends) he really doesn’t care much about other people.

Galt is the same but where he sets out to right the wrongs of the world by initiating the strike of the creators, Roark, in my opinion, would never have done this. The highest level of frustration he shows is when he dynamited Cortland, something he designed but which was undermined by those who were threatened by what he represented.

And what was that thing?

The independent mind. The ability to think for one’s self without seeking the approval of others.

So in theory Roark would still have been alive when Galt began his strike.  The Fountainhead was published in  1943. Atlas Shrugged in 1957. Roark, who was born in 1900, would have been 57 years old and one of the most successful architects in America.

So one must ask, would Galt have come to see Roark? Rand never made that leap. She preferred to keep the characters in her book very separate. But we don’t have to.

Galt comes to see Roark at his offices in the Wynand Building in New York City. It is night. Most people have gone home but Roark is still working over some drawings of a new building his firm has been asked to design. he has called Dominique, his wife, and told her he is staying late. His hands pass over the drawing lying flat on his desk. He can see the building in his mind’s eye.

Then he is aware that someone is standing there in the shadows looking at him. He feels no malevolence in the presence of the stranger. He calmly looks up. His orange hair is streaked with threads of silver but otherwise he still looks very much the same as he has always looked. Lean, angular. The penetrating gray eyes.

The man comes forward a step, into the light. He is tall and slender.

“My name is John Galt,” he says almost whispering it. As if someone might be listening. As if no one outside of Roark  should hear the name and connect it with the man standing there.

Roark is not surprised.

“I have been expecting you,” he says.


To be continued…

Read Full Post »

I sent my right-wing friend an email request to stop sending me the thoughts of Rush (Limbaugh).

He said, “So you don’t care about reducing the deficit?”

Yes, I don’t and to show that I am really evil, I don’t care about world peace either.

The truth is that there is little or nothing I can do about world peace or the deficit. I can only control my own life and even that is something I am not that attached to because it means “outcomes” and let’s face it, you really can hardly control that either. But I can control my reaction to outcomes and I can spend as much of my life doing exactly as I please until I am no longer capable of that either!

There is a scene early in Gone With The Wind where the girls are taking a nappy poo and the camera focuses in on a sign, which reads.

“Do not squander time. That is the stuff life is made of.”


Of course that has different meanings to different people. To me, at this point in my life it means do what you want and don’t get roped into doing what you don’t want. To others that may mean

I AM SO BUSY! (and important)…

I had a girlfriend once, many, many years ago who I really liked but she had this thing about time. If you wanted to do something with her for two days but she had an offer to go do something with someone else for three days, well then you were second place. I really, really liked her but I kept my options opened and dated other girls. Then I had a LTR with one of the others and didn’t see “Time Girl” for a long while. When we finally ran into each other again, she looked at me like, “What happened?”

Time had happened.

Of course I was also a bit of a coward. While we were close, I never really let her know how much I liked her. Fear of rejection I guess or maybe the sense that she liked me very much but not quite as much as I liked her.

But, no regrets. I didn’t have them then and I don’t have them now.

No more time for regrets. I have the rest of my life to live.

Read Full Post »

You knew it had to happen.

Now the news media is reporting stories about the potential radiation that could drift across the Pacific and put the health of people in the USA in danger. Forget Canada and Mexico. JUST THE USA. Even though it is highly unlikely it is a good time for the media to get our blood pressure pounding with fear, uncertainty and doubt or as it is often called, FUD.

If any of us can remember back that far, this was the same fear mongering that went on during the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. News folks started to talk about what would happen when the oil slick rounded the southern tip of Florida and moved up the East Coast. It never happened but it was  a great way to create further tension (like we didn’t have enough). of course Rush Limbaugh helped every one feel more at ease by telling us that the Ocean would repair itself.  It’s always good to have experts pontificating about that which they know little or nothing about.

Anyway, with all that radiating going on in Japan I think we should spend more time worry about the return of Godzilla and Mothra. Now they are real threats. They devastated Tokyo and the surrounding area back in the 1950’s and 60’s. Here’s a picture of Godzilla. I won’t show Mothra. Way too upsetting.


Godzilla destroying much of Tokyo in 1954

I am really surprised with all of this big nuclear-radiation danger that this hasn’t show up on CNN or Fox.

Come on Megan! Hey, I bet if she got hold of the story it might come out like something like this.


Today Tokyo was attacked by the prehistoric creature Godzilla. It is believe by sources in Japan that the monster was awaken by the recent Tsunami and was irradiated by the meltdown of the nuclear plants in the northern part of the country. While the US has constantly offered help, Japanese officials said that the have things under control. “Except for the presence of a 267 foot Monster devastating Tokyo, things are under control,’ said the Prime Minister.

Godzilla refused to comment.


Okay, for those of you who can handle it, here is Mothra. Scary, huh? Why it looks just like a giant moth!



Just for comparison, here is a regular moth (below). You of course can immediately tell how much more lethal Mothra is.

Western bean cutworm moth

By the way, didn’t a whole lot of people die in the Tsunami?

Yeah, we’ll get back to them after this Godzilla and Mothra thing is taken care of.

Read Full Post »

I realize that I was somewhat a thrill seeker when I was young. That didn’t show up in my work. It showed up in my mountain climbing, skiing and running (when few people actually ran).

But I was also shy with women, not that they knew it. It took me a long time to get going in the “dating” scene. Really it didn’t begin until after college. But I overcame my lack of confidence once I was willing to overcome my fear of failure and rejection.  The idea that I could actually stick a part of my body inside a part of a girl’s body was way too fascinating and I felt I was cheating myself by letting fear dictate my future. Of course later on being with girls came to mean much more than that but it was a good starting point.

It was the same way with jobs. I never felt that married to a job or a company and so if I got bored or harassed, I moved on. NO FEAR. Well, mostly no fear.

I could control sports. No one was there to stop me. It was just a matter of getting better at them so when I found myself hanging on the side of an 800 foot cliff, I knew I had arrived. I was an okay skier but a better climber. I never liked crowds or ski lodges that much. With climbing, I took chances and could have easily become a statistic (SPLAT). But I survived.

Running was the same. I was conservative when things really got down to it but I purposely hooked up with other runners who would help me push my limits (read that as deal with pain).

Marriage, mortgages and kids corrals you quite a bit. Not anyone’s fault. Having kids is an adventure in itself. A good one by the way. My wife never interfered with my running. She understood it was integral to my happiness. But keeping a job and putting up with layoffs, bad bosses and acquisitions eventually inserted some level of fear back into my life. I tried to hang in there but wasn’t very good  at it. Ultimately it was easier and more exciting to change jobs when things went bad. I was happier when I could do that.

Sun Microsystems was the only place where my bosses (5 of them…all good) pushed me to be myself. But in the end I left there too to go to a start-up and roll the dice on making a million dollars (or two). It worked out by the skin of our teeth.

John Paul Jones once said that he would have nothing to do with ships that sailed slow for he intended to go in harm’s way. I was no J.P. Jones but I hated fear dictating my life course to me. I still do. I still look for ships that sail fast.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »