Quote of the Day

… strategy must assume that contact and action are never absent.

Quote of the Day:

“Every policy document on cyberspace begins with the notion that it is interconnected — and yet we declare it a military domain, rather than a domain in which the military must operate simultaneously with allies, adversaries, the business sector, and individuals. Interconnectedness means that national security actors are in contact with other players and, unlike in strategic environments in which deterrence might succeed, it suggests that strategy must assume that contact and action are never absent.” — Richard Harknett, in a letter on the Fall 2017 issue of International Security

(Via Foreign Policy)

This well phrased quote not only speaks to bad strategy in spite of the obvious. It also speaks to the danger of institutional thinking, that hard to escape collective default mindset.

Legacy This!

I own a mid-2011 Mac Mini Server. Earlier this year I brought it back to Japan with me. Being relatively compact, it was easy to transport. But it was in rough shape: hard drives loudly hummed, the fan whistled, and the whole operation ran hot.

Over on Reddit I outlined my situation as basically Is upgrading my Mac Mini Disks Worth It? The answer was yes! I got a Dell 27″ IPS display, an AmazonBasics monitor mounting arm, and cleaned up my desk to celebrate. Note to self: I still need a good chair.

Then I tackled the big issue – work at home.

There is not much need for me to bring my company issued MacBook Air home with me most days. My current generation iPad with a Magic Keyboard handles 90% of what I need in the off hours. But what about what about the 10%, and when I work from home?

Using VMWare Fusion on my Mac Mini, I set up a virtual machine for work. It only took 4 tries to get it set up properly for work. The issues were with the setup mechanism with the corporate environment, but VMWare did me few favors – doesn’t support non-English keyboards in guests without editing the VMX file, no Unity for a macOS guests, no T.R.I.M. support, and others. Regardless, all of the apps I need for work are installed and working in the VM.

Next I need to address my backup plan for the Mini, get that chair I mentioned, and come up with an elegant way to disguise my desk when not needed. I’m thinking small curtains.

I might consider an incremental upgrade to a 2012 Server but not to the 2014 Mac Mini models due to their lack of user replaceable components. If Apple were to release a new Mac Mini in the 2011/2012 mold with updated everything I would jump on it.

As things are, even though my Mini is now end of support with Apple, it works well with upgrades. When the Mini dies, if Apple keeps on its current course, I’d get a topped out MacBook Pro 15 and just permanently dock it with a smart outlet to keep the battery in as good a shape as possible. I’d hope I’d never have to use it as an actual laptop but use Negative Visualization to prepare me for the experience.

It would be sad, though.

[Career] Turn over, Stoic Assessment & Career Maintenance

December brought change.

The VP for whom I worked in Japan moved to another role in the organization. Another VP in Japan upon whom I relied for expat info and insight into our corporate business environment is decamping for Europe in the new year. I hear tell of other possible shake-ups, but I rely on other people’s translations. I should do something about that. Anyway …

I’m inundated w/ queries on my status – what would it take for me to stay? Will I stay? Will the changes impact my staying? It’s all mostly moot as I re-enlisted in mid-November. Yet I can’t help but feel cheated that these significant changes happened so close to my contract date without notification. I thought I was connected in to be in the know. I clearly wasn’t.

My feeling is not rational. My employer & its agents are under no obligation (in the US, Canada, and other areas) to tell me about these things before I sign. In fact, it’s in their vested interest NOT to tell me. They want me to stay. Giving me the “heads up” before I “re-up” is bad business.

You better believe I will be far more critical on my next contract based on what happened in 2017. The problem is I have fewer people to ask for opinion and advice who have little or no vested interest in my action. That is something with which I will deal because I was prepared.

Stoicism has a concept of “negative visualization”, which is basically thinking about possible, probable, or guaranteed events that will happen in life about which we don’t want to think – events like a significant death in the family (parents, spouse, or children) or someone stealing all of your money or if your house burns down – with the idea of starting to deal with the emotions and contemplating what you would do about it. It’s a fantastic exercise, if a bit grim, in that you can think about it somewhat detached. You’re not dealing with the negative event in the heat of the moment with negative visualization. You can come up with a plan for when the bad things happen, especially if it’s inevitable. But how to deal with the emotions? Negative visualization in advance of the event is one way.

In security we have other phrases for this – Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning. The new term is “Resiliency”. Negative visualization isn’t a better name, but it does offer some separation. For example:

When I was laid off from my job in January 2013 I had many pieces in place to find my next position – an up-to-date resume, a strong personal network, a well negotiated severance package, tools, and support from family & friends. Never the less, I was an emotional wreck for days after it happened. I’m five years removed from the event and I still have unresolved issues.

Had I exercised negative visualization about losing my job in 2012 & earlier, Stoicism postulates that I would have handled the transition better and would have fewer or no residual issues now.

Getting laid off would still have been a kick to the gut. But maybe I wouldn’t have been a gibbering sobbing wreck to the degree I was.

Analytically, such changes at work should trigger revamps in all of us. Is my LinkedIn up-to-date? What about my CV? Have I connected lately with folks who I trust and value and (I hope) value and trust me? How’s my education? How’s my information management? If I’m cut off from my employer’s resources like printers and scanners and cell phones and laptops tomorrow, what is my plan? Am I paycheck-to-paycheck?

Don’t Neglect Tampons

I visited an AT&T emergency response validation testing session several years ago. After Hurricane Katrina they were able to start restoring service as soon as the area was considered safe enough for their people to enter.

What makes this possible for such teams? Training. Equipment. Food. Water. Most people will flag those.

What about toilet paper? And washing machines for what the teams wear under the protection gear? And sunscreen for when they finally get out from under the protective gear? And tampons? And several hundred other taken-for-granted details that become huge and potentially life threatening in their absence while standing in a toxic soup of stagnant storm water who-knows-what infused trying to restore basic communications for emergency responders.

When working on disaster recovery or an emergency response plan, don’t draft it in isolation. Benefit from other’s learning and iterations (lessons learned). It’s much better to prepare for something with a shopping list than a blank piece of paper. This is not an area where non disclosure is good for anyone.

This is true in the command center as well. How can efficient effective direction & information get communicated when key people don’t have access to their insulin or blood pressure medication? How do you manage your technical expert’s dairy problem while all the food you have access to is a vending machine full of chocolate bars?

Which assumes the machines will be full. What if it’s the day before restock? What if the restocking person broke up with their significant other or was high or was distracted? Are humans part of your calculation?

Granted, squirrelling away prescription medication isn’t easy (& maybe illegal where you are) but knowing the challenge exists before it’s a problem is the first step to solving it. Other things, like stockpiling daily-free & gluten-free food, tampons, tissues, toilet paper, and everything else identified from other’s work and your own tabletop exercises is relatively easy to manage.

And you? What are your thoughts?

The Big Rethink

I am recovering from a bout of illness. I will save you, Dear Reader, the gory details.

The event is causing me to re-evaluate my habits, workflows, automation, and outsourcing. My reluctance to call on my friends and co-workers or my building concierges for help caused me more suffering than I should have endured, would have triggered my recovery sooner, and lessened the impact on others – especially at work.

Part of my rethink is my recovery-mandated sobriety. Focus is always a challenge for me after a few beers. Gaining the increased focus, the additional time, and needing the distraction provided time for reflection.

I made notes, rambling fever dreams and otherwise. I also cranked through a bunch of Mac Power Users and similar podcasts. My plans percolate and bounces around my brain.

Look forward to possible new posts about what I am doing and why.

This is some unicode: & ’ “ ” 👺

[sourcecode language=”emacs-lisp” title=”” ]
(setq this-is-some-setting t)

Axle Wrapped: Performance Review & Stoicism

You may not know I am on a global work assignment in Japan from the United States. I get to have two management teams, one in each country, and two performance reviews! Ain’t I lucky?

My US manager sandbagged me with my review. I woke this morning to a meeting request for my review at 21:00 JST. There was no warning and no notice.

My history with these types of activities is complicated. I won’t go into detail now. Suffice to say I find little value in these lazy “one size fits all” retail approach to HR. A good leader does not require such a complicated artificial construct, nor do truly empowered and well lead employees.

Never the less, I’m shackled with this time consuming obligation. I need to take time and reflect on good old fashioned stoicism to get my head right. It would be great unwrapping myself from around my HR axle as well.

First, it’s important to remember at the moment my career path, goals, and objectives align with my employer. The alignment is temporary.

Second, my employer’s goals and objectives reflect what is right for the company. There is nothing requiring me to like or even agree with the goals and objectives. Gainful employment encourages my active engagement toward them, yet my gainful employment is not the object of my life.

Third, the common theory of “you will get out of the process what you put in” is false. It is not true in physics, engineering, romance, cooking, finance, politics, small appliance repair, Pokemon Go, or much of anything in life.

Fourth, these retail HR systems are more and more geared toward meaningless concepts and platitudes which fail to bolster any concept of anti-fragility or resilience. Anecdotally friends and peers shared ratios of three or more positive comments to every negative comment in reviews. Others shared “the bell curve” – in any team the manager plots the best and worst performers on a chart and scores everyone else somewhere in between because “you can’t have a team of all above average or below average” members. Arbitrary artificial constructs like these try to pave over the world’s variables (I’ve seen plenty of teams with no above average performers, typically in non-critical roles) plus fail to offer employees any tangible constructive feedback (i.e., “You were rated a 2 out of 5 because there are too many 3s and 4s on the team already.“)

Fifth, companies want some degree of fragility in their employees. They cannot rely on loyalty any more, especially in the US and other countries with at-will employment. Employee retention is usually a balancing act between enough training, team building, and encouragement to make employees feel empowered & add value while subtly keeping them just fragile enough to fear change.

Stoicism and Us | New Republic talks about these concepts in other contexts, such as the cancer diagnosis in the opening paragraph.

What matters, in good times or bad, is not whether you have a job, an income, a family, or a home, but whether you have the inner strength to realize how little such things matter.

This quote, Dear Friends, helps me unwrap my mental axle.

Stoicism is having a moment in the robot revolution | The Financial Times talks about a new book by Svend Brinkmann, Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze – Kindle edition by Svend Br…. Full disclosure: I have not read the book yet. This article however talks about a few of the concerns I laid out above in the context of the current stoicism fad in Silicon Valley. This neo-stoicism smacks of exuberant exceptionalism without embracing the negative things in life. The side bar about this in relation to Ryan Holiday’s writings (which I enjoy) intrigues me.

This idea of embracing the negative leapt to my attention today when I read Feeling bad about feeling bad can make you feel worse | Berkeley News. This study (full disclosure: I have not read it yet) seems to reinforce the concept of the negative things in our lives can make us better at living our lives.

This long, rambling screed flowed fairly quickly. I feel better about my impending US performance review (and the soon-to-follow Japan review). I remain bearish toward the whole process, but at least I can get on with my day. And I hope to learn something more about dealing with things like this in the future.

What do you think? Am I off-base? Do you agree? Have I missed the boat entirely? Add your tempered, well reasoned thoughts in the comments or on the social media.

Date: 2017-08-15 Tue 11:54

Author: Paul Jorgensen

Created: 2017-08-15 Tue 13:55


The Japan Migration Continues

I got my Japan laptop this week. I did little with it until yesterday with work and home stuff demanding my attention.

I got email and instant messaging and a whack of other apps going. I also converted my US work phone to get my Japan emails and such. Switching the iPhone was not intuitive or brief.

Today I finally made some time to start customizing my laptop.

I don’t think I properly conveyed to management here how important having proper Japan focused tools are to me and my doing well. Lesson learned.

Fun fact: the Japanese keyboard layout is different from the US layout in significant ways. The cool bits are that the changes, for the most part, don’t interfere with US typing habits and when they do – they make sense!

When typing emails, how great would it be if the @ is an unshifted key? SPOILER ALERT – pretty awesome.

How about taking a page from the old Blackberry, where the $ is an unshifted key? Boom! The ¥ key is direct type – no shift required.
and ^ are first key unshifted, too.

Yes. My typing is a bit impaired right now, mostly with the @ and ‘ for contractions (now shift-7).