John’s Recon

March 31, 2009

Seven Speeds Below Walking Speed

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 9:17 am

My new bike has 7 of the 21 speeds available below walking speed. On the very lowest setting, you can appear to be running in place … the expression “Getting Nowhere Fast” comes to mind. In fact, the only thing keeping you upright, since you are going so slow, is the angular momentum created by the pedals and you moving your legs like 90 revolutions per minute.

I have found that these 7 gears below 3.5 mph allow you to climb hills on the golf course with ease, but slowly. Of course, you can’t run away from an attendant “walking” over to hit you with a 5 iron.

In Allen, like Plano, there is an extensive set of greenbelt bike trails. So, I go to the Collin County web site and even to the City of Allen web site to try and get a map. All the major cities in Collin County deliver their PDF maps just fine but Allen’s link goes to their own servers that don’t work. I email the site contact and get a response from the assistant director of Parks and Recreations that says I am like the 50th person to tell them the PDF download doesn’t work and maybe they should get it fixed. He then routes me to another link where they have created their own map program. Unfortunately, even with 7 mbps, I can’t get the map to zoom one increment or scroll one increment in less than a minute. I need to see something about 10 scrolls to the right and about 4 zooms in, which I estimate would take more time than actually riding the trail.

After thanking him for the nice web site, I inform him that it may be a little hard to use practically. Besides telling him that the original PDF idea wasn’t bad (all the other cities were using it just fine), I also respond with some other helpful suggestions including looking into Google Map Overlays, one of the hottest things going in the consumer scene. I tell him I am sure that Google would be more than pleased if our city site was using their map of “green” places to go. He tells me they might look into this but there are security aspects to consider. What security aspect? I, an evil nogoodnik with gobs of spare time, break into their overlay and secretly show the route as one way one street over or route the bicycles over a bike bridge that doesn’t exist yet so that the bikes fall into the creek bed?

Anyway we conclude the only way to get a map is for me to make an appointment with him and come to his office to pick it up. Even though we have come such a long way, there are times when we get almost there (nice looking web site) and then fall flat on our face (can’t deliver a simple PDF).

Three days later, I move back to square one … I search on the web and find a blogger who had the same problem with the city but used the phone and had a nice person send it in the US mail … then as a public service for us, he scanned it in and put the PDF on his blog. Well, I have decided to do the same thing. So, here is the Allen, Tx, Bike Trail Map … all encompasing so zoom a lot … this is just in case Allen requires 500 people to complain before they can tell their IT to hit reset and fix the PDF download.

March 27, 2009

Love My New Bike

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 5:51 pm

Did some research and found that there is a new class of bike in town … the “Comfort” class sometimes confused with the “Hybrid” class. The Hybrid class is a cross between Mountain and Street and can be most anything. Sometimes it looks like the Comfort class. The Comfort class makes a concerted effort to make sure you ride upright for comfort … has bigger seats and higher rise handlebars. Their motto is “Feel like a kid again”. I’m sure us baby boomers had something to do with this. Of course, I have been trying to feel like a kid on a bike for years and have been trying to adjust my bikes to ride upright but have never succeeded due to a size factor … mine and the bike’s. When I was a kid, we all rode bikes that were big for us … our parents chose the 26″ tire and frame from the start and told us to “grow” into it … saves money by not buying the intermediate steps. So the seats were set low so that we could reach the bottom stroke of the pedal and the bars were automatically higher than the seat … upright position. Then our legs and torso grew and the seats were raised but the handlebars stayed about the same and we were hunched over … no problem that’s what the racers were doing anyway … lowers wind resistance.

What I didn’t know but learned by researching online catalogs this time was that a good bike frame comes in several sizes and the good stores might carry the complete size line of a particular bike.  It turns out that I am an XL (see here for yours) but you need to try them out since different styles will feel big or small. When you are sitting on a bike that is appropriate for you then you don’t need to jack up the seat and handlebars … like something from the circus … like all my grown-up bikes. All this time, I was adjusting to absurdity, a medium frame to get my power stroke. If you raise your body up 5 in from a full squat and compare it to raising your body 5 in from an almost standing position, you will notice that all your muscle power is at almost standing. So proper adjustment is having your leg only slightly bent when the pedal reaches the bottom … slightly bent because you don’t want your hips to rock from side to side during pedaling … like kids with bikes too big. A proper frame size for us tall guys and all this is compensated within the frame with only a little adjusting left. There is now a higher class of bike called the 700C … higher in the sense of classification tree of bikes … 12″, 16″, 20″, 24″, 26″, 700C … thus 26″ Comfort, 700C Comfort. The 700C is European and is 700 millimeters (27.5″) and tire size C which is almost as skinny as the racing tire. I suspect the current high popularity of the 700C in department stores is due to the fact it has a default bigger frame size and not because it delivers more “stability” at higher speeds … better fitting us bigger guys.

My choice … 26″ Comfort — Specialized Globe Carmel 1 in XL … bought at the Bike Mart in Richardson Tx, a very nice store with huge selections. Going down the tree … 26″ because 700C tires too skinny for me … Comfort because I want to appreciate scenery and stay on it awhile and not be only about exercise … Specialized is a reputable bike maker like Schwinn and not a classification … Globe is their very popular line of Performance Urban/Utility at an affordable price … Carmel is their comfort model that reminds me of a Harley since you sit more into the bike with your feet almost flat when you stop … 1 has all the features I need. They also have a 2 with seat post shock and internal gearing and 3 that is enhanced on everything and downright fancy.

One more thing I learned in my research. In France and most of Europe, a girl’s bike is called a business model or a step-thru model … men with business suits don’t want to swing their legs over the seat because it is undignified. Well if they bring their bikes over here for a visit they are going to get used to another classification here in Texas … sissy.

March 26, 2009

The Microsoft Hammer

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 10:57 am

The world around us is made up of design and user defaults or norms. They don’t start out this way but over a period of time they become defaults. Track ball operation, the shift pattern in a car, the number key layout on your phone and the thousands of others in our life that help us maintain continuity between systems or help us learn a new one. Every once in a while someone tries to improve the default with varying degrees of success. If it is a true improvement, then people will eventually accept the improvement, but if it is just the same then it is usually rejected. For instance, if all side mounted window switches for a new car now push down to roll the window up, the designers will meet with a lot of heat and people will vote with their feet.

Sometimes an earlier default/norm has been there so long that no one even knows all the things that went into it … when designers try to “improve” it then it becomes obvious that the default may have been highly optimized over time to include other parameters. For instance, if you went to improve the “curve” drawing on a curve traffic sign, you might forget to also pick up on the fact that the sign is in the shape of a diamond which is now recognized by everyone even when you can’t see the front of the sign.

The common hammer has a claw for pulling nails. Although I have seen attempts to improve the design it keeps coming back to the standard angle/curve of the claw, the fact that it has a claw, and that the claw is located at head versus handle. The only improvement I have seen in 40 years is to put a tiny “v” in the end of a claw arm to get at really tiny nails … basically a tiny claw itself.

So when Vista comes out, I cannot figure out for the life of me why the designers decided to change so many defaults after they had honed them in since Win 95. I can’t say they are real improvements but just different … forcing me to either change them to be more familiar or just relearn them for no apparent reason. New engineers will always change stuff because that is what they do … but that is why you have design reviews and senior engineers that tell you to change it back or you will make people mad.

The Vista file search is particularly exasperating. For instance the folder location column has been changed to be “folderName (path_to_the_folder_name)”. So if you sorted on this column you would get all exact named directories to sort together regardless of their path … but if you were doing a multiple disk multiple file search with wildcards so that you got back a lot of files, this column is almost worthless because it can’t help you organize in disk+directory+path fashion.  I’m sure they had some reason to change this but how could they ignore all the other important uses for this column. Another wild one is that they automatically resort the directory on the fly when you put new files in … so I am doomed to lose files I just downloaded into a big directory unless I make a note of their names … so I now have a notepad by the computer to write things down … no more elegant “the new files are always at the end of the directory until refresh” like in WinXP.

I believe had the file search designers tried working on a common hammer, they might not have understood what the claw is for and opted for a more symmetric aesthetic look … maybe something like below. My feeble drawing is poor but it never occurred to me that the back of the paper would shine through … I guess frugality doesn’t pay all that well … maybe a “Go Teal” instead of a “Go Green” philosophy might work better.
microsofthammer

March 20, 2009

Some People Count Sheep At Night, Others “Order” Them Around

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 1:49 pm

Some of us count sheep at night when we can’t sleep. But what do sheep hearders do when they can’t sleep? According to this humorous video, they put them in order and then order them around. I’ve decided that there is a lot of time for contemplation in a sheep hearder’s job … until the “shear” joy of wool cutting comes around. Samsung’s LED crowd got together with the hearders in Wales and made this Baaa d video.

March 19, 2009

Maiden Voyage (a son’s prospective)

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgprichard @ 7:04 pm

My father and I thought it would be interesting if we both recounted a failed sailing adventure and then compared our points of view.

I was basically born on a boat (not in any literal sense other than hyperbole, of which I am extremely fond). My parents kept me in or around water between zero and one. Their purpose: so they could strap me to the bow of a boat on my first birthday figuring that I had gained enough immunities to survive anything the lakes here could throw at me. This eventually grew into a healthy love for all water related activities. Suffice to say, I have have always felt safe in water, having never known anything else.

My family bought two small sailboats to replace the water-spray-burning-your-eyes-its-so-fast double hulled one that I had grown up on. Disappointed as I was, I was thrilled at the prospect of sailing around by myself. My Dad and I were ecstatic about getting them in the water.

It was a gray Texas day, with wind whipping the tops of the waves into white froth and the smell of sediment and dead fish in the air. My Dad and I bravely pushed the small craft into the water, huge grins upon our faces.  We made our first pass with no difficulty, waving to my mother and sister on the shore. Picking up some speed, my dad maneuvered into a 90 degree angle with the wind and brought us into a full “plane.” Zipping across the tops of waves, and thought the surface was choppy, it was going pretty smooth.

Now I have no recollection of how my father got out of the boat; I simply looked back and he was gone. All my excitement, from new boats to the possibility of sailing one by myself, went to sheer terror. ‘I have no idea how to control this thing,’ I thought as I looked for my dad in the water and found nothing. With the water rushing and waves shaking the boat I thought ‘well I’m not staying in here all alone.’ I figured swimming to shore was safer than staying in the boat so I leapt, and found myself safe, floating and right next to my father. Dad didn’t seem to realize that I was there, and was frantically swimming towards the boat, screaming, while clutching what appeared to be part of our rudder. ‘Here I am Dad” and the fear in his face sunk into relief.

The boat was around fifty feet away and drifting slowly, so we swam and climbed aboard (no easy task in life jackets and windbreakers) We proceeded to sail it back to shore, my sister and mom waiting with bemused looks on their faces. We took down the mast, and loaded it up on its trailer laughing as we recounted what had happened. In fact I believe we laughed most of the way home, because other that some lake water in our eyes and no towels to dry off with, nobody got hurt and we had a story to tell.

Maiden Voyage Similar to Titanic

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 9:07 am

Like the Titanic, we tested a brand new boat by throwing caution to the wind … literally. The Titanic’s skipper, feeling some sense of invincibility, ignored possible iceberg warnings and took a northern route at all possible speed. I took our brand new sailboat out feeling the same way. I told this story to my lunch companions the other day and later compared my recollections with my son’s and realized I have intermingled two different “new” sailboat stories a week apart. So to set the story straight, I am writing it down and my son is invited to give his accounting as well since he was an active participant in the first story.

My wife and I sailed our 16 foot Hobie Cat for several years in all types of weather on all types of lakes and gulf. As a team, we thought as one and our communication grew instinctive with almost no voice anymore. This allowed us to go out with “High Wind Warnings on Area Lakes” without a care … our preference since we get bored easily. When our son came along, we factored him in. Trained him to swim before one, wear his little life jacket with aplomb, and not be in the way when we skittered around the trampoline grabbing main sheets, jib sheets, and tiller with quick confidence as we “come about” at 30 mph. He would fall asleep, feeling safe as we skipped through the air from wave tip to wave tip. On these occasions his tiny fingers would relax their grip on the trampoline lacing and we would catch him as he started sliding when we “flew a hull”. To “fly a hull” is a catamaran term which this photo gallery communicates clearly.

After my daughter arrived, the logistics of two inexperienced passengers became too much. It was time to teach our children how to sail and on smaller sailboats. So we sold the Hobie and got two identical Zuma sailboats. The first one arrived a week ahead of the second. Here is the story of its maiden voyage.

The early spring weekend rolled around with wind warnings on Lake Lavon but the whitecap waves weren’t too high. The mistakes I made on this misadventure were numerous … the water was cold, the wind was high, the crew was inexperienced, and never ever ever take a sailboat you are unfamiliar with into a high wind situation. My sense of invincibility allowed me to ignore even the last … such a little tiny boat, been in ten times worse, boat close to the water, with only one sail … no problem.

My wife stays with daughter while my son and I do first honors. The Zuma pulled away from shore nicely as it jumped up onto its plane-ing hull. Out of the protected cove and into the main lake we went … crashing through the waves. Not bad. Not bad at all. Our first turn made me realize that my son, although well trained, was not my wife and the boat itself was very light and had little momentum to carry it through turns. Little things, but all was going well. Then as we went through a wave and me leaning out to counterbalance against the wind, the water caught me and dragged me instantly out of the boat. My immediate thought was to my son in the boat … it doing horrifying flailing gyrations without a skipper and giving him a lifetime fear of sailing. So, I hold onto the tiller (the lever arm that attaches to the rudder) in hopes of shouting instructions and maybe climbing back on board before anything big happens.

I was being drug along with a face full of water now realizing that I am not getting back in but I can’t shout with a face full of water. If the boat would capsize (flip over on its side) then everything would stop … both of us safe in the cold water but with nothing flailing around to hit you in the head. Then the tiller snapped under my drag weight and the boat was gone in a flash. I yelled for my son but I was too late. A few seconds later, “I’m right here Dad.” Miraculously, he is bobbing in the water next to me. The boat also only sailed 50 feet before it sailed into the wind and stopped with the sail “luffing” angrily. Hey! Everything works out alright except for this tiller in my hand. How we going to sail it back?

More importantly, can I get in the boat in a high wind with major wave action. The minute I start the boat tips and the sail catches and we start moving again. Very tricky for my son to counter weigh me to keep the boat flat while I climb in with the impediment of a bulky lifejacket. A lot of time and energy later and I’m in. First sailing lesson: you control the sail and tell me course corrections while I lean out of the stern looking backwards and use both hands to control the rudder. And so begins a non-eventful but drunk-looking zig-zag back to the protected cove … in a high wind with lots of waves.

The horrifying experience played out only in my mind … on the outside everyone is calm and hasn’t panicked. My wife doesn’t look concerned other that we have to buy a new tiller. Whew! Major disaster avoided. NOT! I do something similar next week when the other Zuma arrives.

March 17, 2009

Ready, Set, Learn

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 10:01 am

Attitudes seem to be an important part of the learning process. For example, my wife has been showing me how the washer and dryer operate for years and because of my “I only want the answer because I’m not doing it again” attitude, I can’t remember for the next time. Now, because I want to help out (with some of my extra free time), I have learned these devices. I got my daughter to teach me since I know she would teach me like a beginner and not like someone who has showed it to me before and is dumbfounded that an engineer can’t remember these simple operations. Simple nothing.

The dashboards on these newer washers and dryers look like a cockpit. They have so many “modifier” controls to the overall process … favorite, permanent press, wool washables, delicate, regular, heavy duty, timesaver, soak, softener rinse and then there is the mechanics of wash: temp with hot, warm, cold … spin and water level each with auto, high. med, lo. Whoa! Now if you have a teacher who is patient with you and listens to your concerns and example scenarios and possible problem sets and reassures you that the pertinent information you need to know is X, then you learn. Its easy. Of course, there are the other things like how to load and when is something that is clearly not white but tan or ecru but still qualified to go into a white load. Then there is the dryer and all its buttons AND rotary dial. But this dial you don’t pull out … I was just getting to know the old dryer whose rotary dial pulls out … and now this.

OK. I know that when we are born, women didn’t get an extra gene that knows these things just like we men don’t get one to operate the remote. Speaking of remotes, I got one of those incredibly expensive Logitech remotes that you just push one button after you program it on your computer. This way I didn’t have to patiently teach a “remote” school to those that didn’t really have the right attitude to learn … you know, the same attitude I had about washers. Unfortunately, when one of the signals is blocked for one of the devices turned on it is out of “Sync” and requires significant operator skills to bring it back in sync. I put up with this for a while. I do have a fair amount of equipment that has to come on to watch my HD TV.

One day, we are watching TV in an important show when the TV starts changing channels. My wife says you are on the remote and I point to the remote on the table. Now the volume starts to go up. Those who know me know that I am into 5.1 Dolby and DTS sound, that I have 3 foot tall speaker cabinets, and that I even have a 15 inch Cerwin-Vega floor firing subwoofer that can blow a girl’s skirt over her head at 2 meters and routinely blows the grill loose . Now it is getting really loud and then I figure it has to be the remote. So I grab it and run into the other room so that we can regain control of our TV set … remember “Outer Limits”. Turns out it is the batteries going out and it is going through an Alzheimer’s episode. Even after I replace the batteries I have to go upstairs and give it a new brain like the Wizard of Oz. Six months later it does it again but the volume didn’t get window shattering since I promply smother it with a sofa pillow … I can learn this game. Now this $120 piece of equipment sits in a drawer, lobotomized with no batteries, while I consider its fate … running over it in the driveway so it can never do harm again. So much for making it simple by having something complicated.

So its back to a simple multi-function remote and you have to learn how to use it with each piece of equipment. Heck, the same gene that allows you to understand the nuances of the washer can help you with a remote … that is if you want to operate the equipment while I am away. Which brings me back around … you can learn anything with the right attitude. A few days ago, my 2.5 year old grandson, who has mastered a foreign language and is now evolving it to sound a lot like English, is explaining to us in the few words that I can understand, how to turn off each piece of equipment in turn by first pushing their representative button and then pushing the off button. Genious? Maybe. Desire to know? Absolutely!

March 16, 2009

Fired For 2 Days and 6 Hours

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 7:58 am

I was fired for 2 days and 6 hours once. For 15 years, I worked in our defense division. Every yearly review, I got a 9 or 10 out of 10. But it was clear that this division would be sold and I wanted to continue with the company I had returned to. So I changed careers at the pinnacle of my current one … I went from a senior systems engineer to a beginning IT guy. Since no one understood my skillsets (they were all in defense language), I only got one offer from the IT division … a desperate person looking to fill a tricky product role. I didn’t know that the requisition was open a year and no IT guys were bidding on it … I didn’t know a lot of things about IT … I didn’t know any politics in IT.

I went to work for a manager of what could be called an internal IT marketing department … just before the lock-down of our defense division (so that it could be sold). I was promptly assigned as a “product” manager into the group he told me about … we were a pool of loaned people who basically put a marketing face on the IT services our respective groups were offering. My boss felt like this job was way beneath my skillsets (he actually understood them) but that it would give me maximum exposure to what IT was, a way in, to the politics and where I would really like to work. So I was loaned to a guy who could best be described as an “empire” builder. He networked and wheel and dealed into every place he could think of.

I was a company man working for someone who didn’t appear to have the best interest of the Company’s people in mind … actually, that’s too harsh … he just refused to accept any perspective other than his own as to what was “best” for his end-users. I could see this because I was more experienced in requirements gathering and because I was being paid to listen to the opinions of his end-users. I also outranked him in salary and job grade but he didn’t know this since I sat in a multi-person cubicle … no offices were available so I purposely took a “low-rank” spot to see if I wouldn’t learn more in the grass roots.

I worked for him almost a year. It seemed like a constant battle of wits as I tried to put reason, frugalness, and win-win scenarios into his thought processes. Every week, I would meet with my real boss to express my frustration and he would tell me what an incredible job I was doing. It seemed like all my energy was spent each week in running interference and reconstructing ideas ill received. Then one morning when I had put together a masterful win-win situation with our “customers”, he got bright red in the face when I told him and he said, “You’re Fired!” … just like a young Donald Trump … it was 1997 and I’m sure Donald was saying that somewhere … just not on TV yet.

Now, I begin the first stage of the Kübler-Ross behavior cycle, shock and immobilization. I sit at my desk almost the entire day in disbelief … I was at the top of my game a year before … I was doing well according to my new boss … and now this. And then Denial … he can’t fire me … I don’t report to him. I go to see my real boss to tell him the absurdity of the situation. He tells me he was afraid this might happen … that he has been using me all along as a control mechanism on a rogue element in the organization … no I am not fired but he has no position to put me in. I’m angry but I can see his points. I can do and learn most anything, isn’t there anything available … not that he knows of … bargaining phase. I go home depressed.

I come in the next day depressed. I sit a whole day depressed. In the late afternoon, I call some of my friends at my old job to see how they are doing … OK … they could definitely use me … did they like their new company … it was OK but not near as nice as before. I don’t want to go back but I see no way forward. I come in the next day the same way, depressed … but a little less. About three hours in, I start thinking maybe not everyone knows this … maybe not everyone agrees with this … I wonder if my bosses’ boss knows about this humiliating thing that has happened to me … wouldn’t it be more humiliating yet if he agreed and said good riddance. Well, I bite my pride and ask for an audience and get it immediately … wasn’t expecting that. I begin to tell him about what has happened and when I say I’m fired he stops me in mid-sentence with anger in his eyes … he can’t do that … I will take care of it … I will see what I can do. I go to lunch with a little hope.

Two hours after lunch, I get a phone call to come meet with the “operations” side of the IT house … didn’t really know anything about this side. They offered me a wonderful job managing a department of 13 people that was struggling a little but they thought I could do well here. And so started my management phase (I was already a practiced leader). But it took almost a year to recover my full confidence (the guy who fired me had his org redistributed with some to me and he left the company) because this had hurt so bad … almost a year to recover from a 2-day traumatic event … nothing like loosing your job for real.

I’m telling this story for one reason … this story I consider a blemish on a perfect record … this story that is personally humiliating to me … to show I have some tiny ability to emphasize with the hundreds that have lost their jobs through no fault of their own … some friends to me … who were doing a good job that no longer exist. I really can’t imagine how bad this hurts because rather than go through this pain again, I chose a retirement package (I’m learning it might be a good choice for me) to avoid the destruction to my psyche … to keep my belief intact that the company can’t afford to lose me … to allow me to walk out in self-denial retaining my dignity.

To those that have lost your job, you have my heart-felt sorrow that it happened to you. I wish you a speedy recovery to your self-confidence. Get well soon.

March 13, 2009

Two-Thirds Life Crisis

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 10:11 am

You have heard of midlife crisis where men who have devoted themselves to their careers, now realize they forgot to smell a rose or two during this time. There typically isn’t too much change here … well except for a little rose like buying a muscle car from their youth, a motorcycle, or a two-seater silver roadster with a 5-speed manual and electric hard roof (oh yeah, I got that for my wife — see note below). But they don’t quit their jobs for the most part … they just re-assess what they are doing with a promise to themselves to smell a few more roses on occasion. Of course this is a man’s perspective … someone else has to brief me on what women do here.

Instead of midlife, I want to talk about 2/3 life crisis … another life transition point that is just starting to get some notice. Some call it retirement but that word comes with so much extra meaning so I am going to call it 2/3 life crisis which shouldn’t be a crisis at all if you look at it right. But you know me … first an analogy. If you ever watched the end of a Boston Marathon you see most come across the finish line and are completely wasted (not in the leisure sense either). They either collapse outright or stagger around until helped off by friends. Lets call this finish line the most recognized definition for retirement … the spot where your physical self is almost spent and some sedentary lifestyle feels appropriate … you know the spot where the runners lay on their backs in the grass and try to get their breath back. Now, what if you shortened the marathon from 26 miles to 17 miles which is 2/3 the distance.

Most of those runners will end that race with lots of energy left (not me mind you). Probably enough energy to go out with their friends and celebrate … enough to go out to dinner and a movie with their significant other. They don’t stop expending energy …  just redirected it to other things besides running along a set track and maybe using energy a little more conservatively. Also, for many, this marathon is a one time deal … been there, done that, got the tee shirt … but for the winner and near winners there is something else. Even if they want to stop running marathons now their friends and peers will see them as quitting when they almost had it … and the winner, well, there is always a better time to beat.  While these guys love to run. it is too bad that their friends will put pressure on them to never leave this thing that has come to define them … while us others can go on and play tennis and later on shuffle board before we sit on our front porches.

It used to be that you worked hard your whole life for a company with their promise to take care of you and yours with a pension. They controlled the date when they would pay you. Since the government had social security and when the payout should be, they were both synchronized to be around your 65th birthday and the government set the taxable event there as well. Of course, they have been fooling with the date to stretch the money so it really isn’t 65, but that is something else. At 65, when retirement was, many people were exhausted and ready to live a sedentary life. In fact, everyone who has been managing your money has been counting on you not living much past this anyway.

But all this is changing … pensions are out and 401K is in, giving you more control … social security is almost at an end thanks to us living longer and will no longer be a factor … Rule of 55 allows you to withdraw penalty-free from a 401K and its 59.5 for an IRA. So now, especially for the following generations, the new age is 55 or 59.5 to consider a change in lifestyle. This is ten years younger and we then live ten years longer.  Thus the marathon essentially ends at 2/3 lifetime and you still have energy to burn.

Now we have a 2/3 life crisis … what to do with the next 20 years … a whole other career. You can ignore it since your friends consider it too early for you to quit especially if you are good at your job. You can go part time or full time short engagements and have some fun with the rest. You can do something completely different and use work for pocket change. You can do anything you want but 20 years is a whole career and you have to plan it just like you were doing before (hopefully) … this is your John/Bill/Sally-directed career … or <insert company here>-directed career. And most importantly you can take your time planning it … or better yet for those generations to come, start planning it before you get to your 2/3 life crisis.

Note Below: I bought the roadster for my wife knowing I would ride around on weekends and maybe get to drive it too. This lasted about a year. Then I paid the dogs to knock her down the stairs and break her tailbone. This way she had to trade cars with me since the sportster is hard on a tailbone when you can’t radically alter you driving position with manual transmission. This lasted about a year. Then I looked at her with sad puppy eyes and preyed on her generosity to not swap back since she had noticed how much fun I was having with it. This is how I was able to accomplish my midlife crisis acquisition.

March 12, 2009

Are You an Innie or an Outie

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 5:08 pm

As humans we tend to classify things to the extreme. For instance, you are human, then race, then gender, then tall/short fat/thin blonde/brunette/redhead dark/fair, all the way down to whether your belly button is an Innie or an Outie. However, this doesn’t say who you are and whether you are likable or not. In fact, nothing physical really defines you … can sum you up.

What I hadn’t thought about is that neither does your job title or many times even your job. Your deeds can define you but what you do for a living doesn’t. You can be an engineer, computer scientist, financial planner or real estate agent. But are they going to put that on your tombstone … Here lies Joe Blow, He was such a good real estate agent, that he sold himself this very plot. In fact, I bet if you walk through any graveyard you won’t find computer scientist on anyone’s tombstone … not even Bill Gates, a famous one … Oh yeah, he ain’t dead yet.

What I learned this week in a wonderful series of classes on making a success of retirement (taught by DBM), is that you will have separation aniexty the stronger you identify yourself with your job and title. But if you think about WHO you are versus what you do and start to gravitate toward how you want to be known and remembered, you will start to make the transition away from being only known for your job. Many do this already with their Church, Families and friends. To those people they are known as a caring person, a loving father, etc. and barely known for their job … but at work they are known only for the job and not the other. It is you who has to decide what is important to you and how you want to be known and even how you want to be categorized since people are going to do that anyway. If you tie your self-respect to your job you will be screwed if you lose it or leave it or get a less-status one.

The classes were about the steps you need to consider and plan, as you change yourself and your mental and outward images. The first thing that changes is your concept of Retirement … it can’t be all leisure … it can’t be only laying in your hammock in the front yard drinking margaritas and watching the world go by. You would get bored with this … I’m thinking that I would have to go to the restroom before I got bored … but you get the picture … no not that picture … the concept. The new concepts about retirement are that you do work … and play … at things you choose to do that make you fulfilled, give you a sense of accomplishment, and further your well-being. The work and/or play you choose might not get you paid or paid a lot or have influence over a lot of people but it should be getting you satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment so that you don’t give a flip what the neighbors say. Besides if you are doing what you love then you will be smiling and your friends, neighbors, and countrymen will be compelled to smile along with you.

I have been flying along for a long time at 30,000 ft on a course dictated by a corporation and now I’m going to change direction. I am making a slow bank to the left with a gradual loss of speed and lower altitude but it doesn’t mean I am going to land. I am just going to fly closer to and by better scenery not dictated by a corporation … yes, I have to consult my wife on navigation … yes, I may need to detour to get more fuel in this economy but if I can control the detour I may still see scenery I like to see. Well my metaphor is failing me … I might have to work for money but that won’t be who I am.  So I’m working on finding what I love to do (which are so many things) and maybe a piece of that will be for money but most of it will be the legacy I will want to leave behind.

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