All dogs go to heaven but dogs who can write live forever

I was struggling with how to go with writing my own obituary. When the idea was thrown out, it was at first exciting. Then it felt kinda weird, like the urge to giggle in church. At one point, I was going to just reject the premise and write something hokey that avoided the whole exercise altogether. In the end, I decided that I would play this one straight.

….

You are not a Ninja or a Rockstar

I read an article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal today that says the hot new job title in technology is “Ninja.”

Really? Seriously? People like being called the “Ninja?”

Before that, we had “Rockstar” and “Guru” and … [insert other fantasy title here]. All mis-appropriated from a fantasy of a high-school nerd who wished he was a rockstar or ninja back in the day. Now that you are an adult with some power, money and skills you can be these things. But it still makes you look nerdy.

Ninjas are ninjas; rockstars are rockstars. You are just the guy with a really big brain who has skills and the ability to see patterns most of us envy. Is that not enough or is that just too much of the wrong thing? I suppose you reason that if being the really smart nerd in the room was every kid’s fantasy, then we’d all grow up wanting to be a big brainy nerd instead of a rockstar.

Be who you are and quit trying to live out a child’s fantasy in your adult life. Being a nerd back then may have been uncomfortable, but claiming to be a rockstar or ninja in an adult life makes you look ridiculous.

And it makes the rest of us uncomfortable because we’re not sure how grown up you really are.

As long as we are talking creative titles, I would be remiss if I didn’t throw out a few of my own: Lead Dog, Poop Maker, Bone Digger, Whiner, Barker, Butt Sniffer, Leg Humper. Thanks @1sassy_chick and @saintpetepaul for the contributions.

Steve Jobs is just making silver-painted Styrofoam police badges

The iPad has been out for a day now, so that should have been enough time for all the pundits and Apple-know-it-alls to gripe about what is missing from the iPad, what should have been done differently, etc, etc, etc. And they are all very wrong because Steve Jobs really doesn’t care what you think or want. I know that has also been said before but before you dismiss me as another me-too thinker, let me share a short story with you.

When I was a puppy, we used to play a lot of games like cops and robbers. My parents were good Catholics, so that meant there was a rather large litter of us, all pretty close in age. My dad didn’t make much money and my mom was a stay-at-home, always in the kitchen, don’t bother me kind of mom, so there wasn’t a lot of money for toys. We made a lot of necessary accessories like pistols and billy clubs out of tree branches and whatnots. (It was a long time ago; guns were ok toys back then, even pretend ones made out of twigs.)

When I was about nine or ten years old, we got a catalog in the mail that had a whole section of cop badges you could order. Suddenly, without question, our cops needed badges. I started making badges using the Styrofoam trays meat was packed in. Turns out, if you traced the outline of the badge from the catalog, cut it out and then traced the inside detail lightly with a dull pencil, it would make an embossed badge. Paint that with silver paint used for model cars, tape a safety pin on the back and you had yourself a slick looking police badge.

Then I got to thinking that if I thought this was a good idea, other people would to. I made a few more and sold them to other kids who played the cops in our games for I think $.25 or something like that. Nobody really needed the badges to play a cop in cops and robbers, but it sure made the game more fun. After a bit, nobody wanted to play a cop unless they had a badge.

But here’s the thing: I made the badges because I wanted to create a game where the police characters sported really cool badges. I didn’t much care if they had all the features that others wanted (like a multi-color seal or gold eagle and silver base) or even if they were necessary for the game. In my mind, a world that had cops without badges was just not going to be a world I wanted to be in, pretend cops or not. If other kids thought it was a cool idea and wanted to buy a badge, that was ok, but it wasn’t necessary for me to have a market for silver-painted styrofoam badges for me to make the badges.*

And that ultimately is how I think Steve Jobs sees his world. He created the Apple computer because he wanted a world where small, personal computer existed. He created the iPod because he wanted a small, portable music device that worked in a non-technical way. Same kind of thing for the iPhone and iPad. The fact that lots of other people want these kinds of things too is incidental.

Steve Jobs is just making silver-painted Styrofoam police badges.

*The product line branched out to cop hats (made out of blue construction paper, kinda cool really) and belts before I grew up, discovered girls and that was that.

Round up all the web geeks and pelt them with pebbles

I just spent the last hour of my life fighting with some CSS that works perfectly in Safari and MESI 7.0, but not in MSIE 6.0 or the “standards compliant” Firefox whatever version it is now. Since I am working pre-coffee, pre-office hours from a laptop on my kitchen table, I don’t have the luxury of checking out the site on a MSIE 6.0 browser. All I have is a really badly worded description of the problem, sent in an email by a very late Boomer who is using a language all her own to describe the issue.

Let me start by explaining I am very, very good at CSS, HTML, PHP, Perl, MySQL, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and a whole host of stuff that has long been discontinued. I have been in the Internet and Web game since 1995 so I think it is fair to say I know what I am doing and have employed a pretty sizable library of fixes, kludges, hacks and plain ol’ cheats to make stuff work on a Web site. I can read, write and design. Don’t even start assuming I’m an idiot or unknowledgeable. You would be very, very wrong.

In some circles, I would be considered a geek. But in mine, I am a User Interface Designer. My job — some would say my obsession — is to make the interaction between the human and the machine seamless and intuitive. If training is needed, the system is too complicated. At least that is the ideal.

I have lost more time, brain cells and sleep to the hubris of geeks than any other tech-related issue. I am convinced the only reason that we have browser discrepancies with CSS, HTML, etc is because the geeks were in charge and they did not have the skills to play nice with each other or anybody else. They looked down at the user because they weren’t as smart, because they didn’t get it. And, they looked down at each other because each one was more right than his peer.

What if each company making street lights decided on a different order of the red-yellow-green? Of, decided that the colors were way too boring and decided purple-pink-magenta would be better. Or, what if they decided that light were just not good and they used coo-coo clock birdies instead? And imagine if a different signal was installed on each street corner. But, the wrinkle is that each user was able to choose which signal he/she liked best for that day, for that corner? What a mess!

So, now we have this mess of browser technologies that don’t play well with each other. For every hour I have to spend on the phone or email, explaining why MSIE 6.0 is a piece of crap, I would like to invoice Microsoft. And, in all fairness, Microsoft should take that invoice payment out of the paychecks of any geek who decided that their way was better. Let them live with the consequences of the mess their hubris created. Apple and Mozilla, you’re not off the hook either.

I expect the geeks to either ignore this post or defend their position. I really don’t give a crap which they do because today, I woke up as a fully frustrated user who doesn’t care to hear another excuse about why your way is better. I am no longer a developer; I will be a user first. If I have to fight with it, I ain’t gonna use your technology.

Standards are good. Community-agreed conventions keep use from wasting time. Pay attention to the user, geeks and peek out from your self-induced world every once in a while.

And quit going to geek conventions where everyone validates your opinion about the user. They’re wrong; we’re not stupid. We just have lives where technology is a tool, not an ends.

What would you do if you had $1 million dollars?

Dear President-elect Barack Obama;

I am a small business owner. I do quite well for myself as I am in a knowledge-based business servicing the youth sporting market and the retail services industries. I also dabble a bit in coffee and Web 2.0 consulting.

I was running some numbers this afternoon on the bail-out plans that have been proposed to date. As I look back on my college days some 20 plus years ago and my classes in English Literature — specifically with regard to American literature of the mid to late 1800s (Hawthorne, Dreiser, Meliville, etc) — I was struck with what is to me a strangely obvious fact. Modern capitalism has run its course and the current financial crisis is the front wave of a new economy.

At its basics, capitalism is providing money to build infrastructure for making goods and to a certain degree, providing services with the promise of a return on its sale or sale of the goods produced. Having been in a service industry all my life, I am not unaccustomed to “cramming” a product economic model (“making widgets”) into a service model. It really doesn’t work but we lied to ourselves just the same.

This country no longer makes things. We provide services; we assemble components. The old capitalist model where we invest in machinery, buildings, factories, etc for making goods is dead. It has been dying for a very long time. As such, funding the economy from the top down is not a viable option. There will be no trickle-down benefit as the economy will only swell and move if the bottom tiers start spending and buying goods and services. Yet, they can’t because they have no ready cash.

Capitalists talk in billions of dollars. Ordinary citizens talk about hundreds each week. Investment banks talk millions in transaction per day. Small business talks about hundred of thousands in revenue. When you pour $700 billion into Wall Street, it is like dumping a gallon of water into the Pacific Ocean. When you pour $1 million into a small business, it is like filling a bathtub with a fire hose.

Here is my proposal:
– Establish a fund of $400 Billion dollars.
– Give $1 Million dollar grants to 400,000 business that are ready, able and willing to provide services to a service-based economy.
– Each business can then afford to hire 6 people at a salary of $40,000. With health care, taxes, equipment, etc. that should equal about $60,000 investment for each employee.
– That leaves about $640,000 left for materials, computers, advertising, marketing, etc.
– Encourage a strong multi-generation team, such as Gen Y, Xers, Boomers and beyond. Working together, we make a difference we all want to experience.

That puts about 2.4 Million people to work, building knowledge centers for teachers, creating software to better manage health care systems, providing new event marketing systems for brands, creating better time balance management systems for new parents, perhaps even finding a cure for some diseases. The infrastructure of services you will jump-start will sustain itself well past the year the US Government will fund.

Your campaign proved the model. Small amounts of money spread across millions of people who are motivated to creating a better world than was left them works. We are ready, willing and able to make the change.

Lead us and help us say, “Yes, we can” one small voice at a time until it becomes a thunderous, mighty roar.

Warm regards,

G.

PS I look forward to seeing the new puppy Malia and Sasha pick out!

Thank you, Debbie

This was sent to me by a fan. She writes:

Sometimes my life needs a little perspective. I decided after waking up very frustrated this morning to take 5 minutes and watch this….I’m so glad I did. I am going to have a great day! I hope you do too!

I’m glad I watched this. I hope you do too.

They grow up so fast

Cameron Schaefer with BrazenCareerist writes a post about personal responsibility. You can read it here, but here is just a snippet.

This is what’s wrong with our society. We’ve become a people that hold everyone responsible, but ourselves.

Never before have I seen so much blame being placed on everyone but the person in the mirror. People waving angry fingers at big oil companies for high gas prices rather than blaming themselves for owning two S.U.V.’s and a boat. They completely ignore the law of supply and demand expecting that somehow prices will remain stagnant as consumption drastically increases.

This is like writing an angry letter to Hostess snack foods complaining about your recent weight gain while shoving 30 Twinkies in your gullet. Life’s about choices.

GenY is growing up and getting it. All it took was time. Thanks, Cameron.

Grow your own roots

Grow your own roots
Grow your own roots
I was walking along the back road at the MetroPark and noticed this row of posts that looked like telephone poles, cut off about five feet high. On top of many of them were these little trees that started to grow in the rotting out center of the posts.

These young trees that are growing rapidly and happily atop these poles had no idea that their lofty outlook and elevated position were the result of a seed landing somewhat serendipitously on top of a pole that someone else stuck laboriously into the ground. The small trees were completely oblivious to the fact that their progress — while grand and far above all their other peers who landed on the ground — would eventually be cut unceremoniously short when the caretaker snaps them off the top of the poles during regular maintenance.

Yet, the seedlings that got their start of the ground have developed roots and grown slowly will continue to thrive, some even growing to tall, sturdy trees, far surpassing the poles that once surrogated the brash, over-eager seedlings.

It occurs to me that this odd relationship among the poles, the seedlings atop them and the seedlings that grew from their own root structure is an odd metaphor for the generational clash we hear going on in the corners of the Internet. While there are some GenY who are developing their own roots, many are sitting atop tree stumps that are not their own. After a while, their lofty perch will be exposed for what it really is; a rotting tree stump center for which there is limited room for a root structure.

But at that very moment this metaphor was at its clearest, I felt the urge to lift my leg and pee on something. I chose the closest pole.

The kids are alright!

I was walking along on Friday and I hear these voices from around the corner. “Mow that lawn straight!” “Don’t talk to me, keep working,” “Turn that mower around,” “Watch the edge,” “Mow AROUND the bush, not in it.” etc…

As I turned the corner, we saw two kids, 12-13 years old. One was mowing his lawn and the other was walking next to him, shouting these orders. The kid mowing was clearly competent, but the one walking next to him was still telling him what to do at every step.

It looked like the one kid mowing lived there and his “boss” had come over to visit. Maybe they thought this was a funny way to pass the time and have a little fun with a menial task that had to get done before they ran off and did what they really wanted to do on a Friday afternoon.

But, in play, they were learning some valuable life skills and lessons. Your boss will almost never think you are capable of doing a job without him/her telling you what to do at each turn and everyone has a boss, even in play.

So, GenY… this is your legacy. The NextGen is learning that work is not showing up when you want, mowing the way you want to or never having a boss. The NextGen is learning that work is work and you need to get that done so you can play. And while you are working, you will endure horrible indignities and you will learn how to deal with them with grace.

The kids are alright.

Seeing change…

Dead worms in a gutter

We found a different path today and as I was sniffing around on the ground, I came upon this whole line of dead worms in the gutter along the blacktop. Apparently, at some point, there was a lot of water in the gutter and life was good. But, then the heat of the day came along and dried up the water. The worms died because they could not see change around them and did not move quickly enough to get back underground where it was moist.

Eat dessert first

Wall Street Journal 2008-07-14 Michael WitteI read the Wall Street Journal. I have since I was a young puppy when I got my first job at Dog Pound, Inc. While my peers always flipped to the Money sections, checked the stock quotes, etc., the first section I read was MarketPlace. This is where all the “life” bits happened which drove the other parts of the paper, like stock prices, financial markets, etc. Its a bit of wisdom that most dogs get later in life when they figured out that “managing stocks and portfolios” is really wagging the dog.

Anyway, almost the entire WSJ today was gloom and doom about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the collapse of Steve & Barry’s, the feds seizing IndyMac, how to sell your home in a down market, consumer confidence at an all-time low. But, on the very last page, I ran into an article by George Anders titled “Buy Now, Don’t Regret it Later.” What a remarkable bit of wisdom!

It is a few hundred words and worth the time to read, but it all boils down to “take time out to pee on that bush, linger over the smelly thing, say hi to the neighbor dog…” Pay attention to the non-money things in your life as that is what will make it richer. Read the opinions, essays and Marketplace FIRST.. then, when you have time, read the gloom and doom on the financial pages.

The photo was shamelessly lifted from wsj.com and is credited to Michael Witte. If he complains about it being here, we’ll take it off…. but, I hope he doesn’t

Can you own a dog?

I grew up in the great state of Minnesota. All of my views of the world, especially the ones about gender relationships, power balance, worth, etc. were shaped by my litter and the other dogs around me. For those of you not quite up on your Minnesota demographics and political history, the state was settled mostly by Scandinavians and Germans. Anyone knowing anything about these two cultures know that they have figured out the balance of power between the sexes a very long time ago. Bottom line; different parts, but equal in intelligence, decision-making ability and neither is subservient to the other. For that alone, Minnesota may be known as the most liberal state in the Union (next to California, of course, but they are all nuts!)

My litter consisted of me, my older sister, two younger sisters and a brother. My mom was in charge of us kids and she was always carrying around this big wooden spoon. When she got mad, she would start spewing out this string of French curses and her dentures starting flapping out of her mouth. If you weren’t already running, you were a dead dog. (She was French and took that quite seriously.. in fact, I think the only reason the French did not do so well during WWII was because they wouldn’t let their women fight. To date, the only thing that is scary to me than a French women with a wooden spoon is the thought of a French woman with a gun. But, I digress.)

The short order of that story was if you, as a male member of the litter had any thoughts whatsoever of being “better than” the females you were surrounded by, you were put in your place faster than a prison yard bitch. But, in a kind, non violent — though estrogen-charged — way.

I am amazed to this day with women who allow themselves to be “owned” by men, but am more in awe of the men who appear to like owning women. I’m not quite sure why a man would want to dominate and suppress one of the most creative, intelligent, strong-willed, resilient and beautiful beings God has created. I am not sure why men would rather not let them unfurl and touch those around them, making the world a better place one day at a time.

Can you own a dog? Probably, but why would you want to? And what do you do with it when the life has been crushed from its soul.

Appeasing the under-educated white guy


Since Hillary’s win in North Carolina last Tuesday, the “news cycle” has been all about how Barack Obama is going to get the “under-educated, white man” vote. After watching news story after news story on this, a very large question suddenly dawned on me:

When did this country get to the point where the under-educated, white working class decides who gets to be the president of The United States of America in an information-based world-market economy, where the competitive advantage is determined by who has the smartest and most clever on board?

Wow! But the REAL question us dogs are barking about is:

How did we get to the point where the richest country in the world — with the greatest opportunity for individual achievement — produce such a large majority of under-educated people?

Could it be that the public education system is failing us? Could it be the we have become so arrogant and confident in our “place” in the world that we simply quit trying to become better? Could it be that our parents, in their quest to “give us a better life than they had” simply handed us what we needed for two generations instead of making us work for it? Could it be that we value economic contribution more than we value human contribution like art, creativity, knowledge, wisdom, music, love, etc as an end rather than a means? Could be a lot of things. Could be a lot of a lot of things.

I watched an episode of 30 Days by Morgan Spurlock last night where he and his wife tried to live on minimum wage for 30 days. In the richest country in the world, what did them in was a “medical emergency” that cost them $1,200.00 and change. They worked hard, they saved.. but they worked minimum wage jobs. Only their time and labor was valued; their health was something that they could have, if they could afford it. In the richest country in the world. That should anger people everywhere, educated or not. But, it doesn’t seem to. We’re all just living each day, hoping to not get sick or injured.

I suspect that for a lot of under-educated folk in this country, that is their fate. While there are probably many reasons that “white guys in North Carolina” may be under-educated, the argument I’ve been getting around the block is that there is nothing wrong with not having a college degree. There is nothing wrong with wanting to work a blue-collar job.

Except there is EVERYTHING wrong with having a MAJORITY of a population NOT being educated in the richest country in the world, in the middle of a world economy that is fueled by a knowledge workforce. If you want to become a plumber, that is fine, but don’t do it without an education. And don’t allow the media to define “under-educated” as “stupid and provincial”, but that is a whole other argument. Please forgive me if I don’t address that; I can only sniff one topic at a time. I’m a dog.

So, I think we are witnessing the first step in the decline of a great nation, whether we want to or not. There is still time to reverse this trend and make education a top priority; not just for those who can afford it, but by anyone who wants it. Because, if we don’t do that soon, we will soon have a majority of under-educated citizens falling prey to short-term solutions that eventually resolve nothing except our own demise.

We must resolve to become competitive and invest in our human infrastructure. Education for those who want it, regardless of the ability to pay and health care just because we are human beings. That is not socialism as uber-conservatives would like you to believe; that is just plain ol’ common-sense capitalism. Invest in what will make you more. And smart people are now the new machinery and factories.

Hillary is going nowhere

As I was lifting my leg to relieve myself on the newspaper this evening, I noticed an article in the Wall Street Journal that said ‘Democrats look to life after Clinton.’ Well, that is an odd thing to say. Life after Clinton? Really?

Hillary Clinton may never become president, but she will become even more powerful than a mere president. She will become a power center where every Democrat that wants to sit on an influential committee or even run for president in the future will need to come and pay her homage and get her blessing. She will, ironically, become Ted Kennedy’s successor.

With Bill right behind her.

Just watch and see.