Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Give a man a fish

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Chinese proverb

This is no longer true.  It's no longer this simple.  Modern society has erected many new barriers to entry.  Literally in fishing, there are now licenses, rules and regulations about how many fish and what types you can take, etc.  And there are very few public places left where you can fish.  And most of those have been over fished already.

It's a proverb, and it's not really talking about fishing, per se.  The proverb is intended to encourage those who have means to help those without means to learn a trade and become self sufficient.

If a man wants to be a barber, for instance, there are many barriers to entry that he has to overcome.  Many of those are legitimate, like health and safety training.  Some of those barriers may be less legitimate.  And our modern society is constantly increasing the barriers--adding new ones and raising the height of the existing ones.  That's all fine for those of us with means.  But it makes life increasingly difficult for a poor person.

We need to examine these barriers to entry.  The barriers that are pointless should be removed, for the sake of helping the poor gain access to the system.  The barriers that are legitimate should be streamlined and documented in a way that the poor can understand.  We need to look at the barriers from their perspective and make the system as accessible as possible for them.  And we need to insert help points into the system so that charitable people and organizations can provide tactical assistance that genuinely helps.

This problem will only get worse.  We need to get this mindset in place and process started before the bureaucracy gets too thick.

One of the big things that Hernando de Soto proved in Peru is that the official and unofficial barriers to entry were the big reason why the poor remained poor.  They were locked out of the formal economy.

We have to intentionally work to maintain the possibility of teaching a man to fish.  This is the foundation of Democracy 2.0.  This is my mission. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My contrarian opinion on global warming

Energy equals heat equals life.

Humans are heating up the planet.  We're alive and moving and generating heat.  We are also burning and heating things because movement requires energy, which is heat.  And a whole lot of our burning and heating has chemical side effects, most of which seem to cause additional heat.  So it is no stretch to say that we are heating the planet more than we need to.

So what?

Without understanding the context of our situation it is impossible to judge if this heat is a good or bad thing.  All of the global warming alarmists clearly assume that heating the planet is bad.  Maybe they know something I don't about the planet's prevailing temperature patterns, and so they can tell that this heating will somehow cross a tippping point of desctuction.  But I don't think so.  I think they are just blindly assuming that global warming is bad.  I'm not saying that because I think they are fools or evil, I just haven't been able to find them explain in context why this is such a big deal.

Global warming idea #1, blinking red lights

Here's a free one for the global warming crowd.  It's an idea that you can easily get the rest of us to support.

Convert all stoplights to blink red instead of staying solid red.  At a blinking red light you stop, look to see if anyone is coming, and if it is clear you can go on.  That would ease congestion, reduce the amount of time people sit idling, and burn less gas.  Less waiting.  Less CO2.  Less frustration.  Less foreign oil.

We would need to talk about it quite a bit and have a big change-over period, in order to maintain safety.

There would probably be some intersections where the lay of the land, presence of obstructions, and speed of the oncoming traffic would make it too dangerous to let people stop and go like this.  But that is probably a very low percentage of intersections.

Hurry up.  Go make that happen for me.  :-)

Monday, September 28, 2009

The job I am looking for

I worked through the free-writing exercises.  I ended up where I was afraid I would be.  In human terms, my dream job is entirely unattainable.  I have a plan B job outlined, where I think I could find some joy and some success.  But my heart will not be there.  Democracy 2.0 is all about Justice, Equality, and Peace.  That is where my heart is.

My dream job is:
* I get to work on Democracy 2.0-like projects, making tangible improvements to large groups of people's lives through policy, philosophy, and legal changes.
* I get to live my faith out loud, speaking boldly about God's vision of people helping people, non-violence, and forgiveness.  This includes proclamation to the Church, to get them involved, and apologetics to the unchurched, to earn trust and open doors.
* I get to work with a diverse group of Justice-loving people of various gifts.

I can't even figure out a title for a position like this.  Maybe a researcher at a think-tank.  Maybe a policy researcher staffer on a political campaign (there are only a few that would allow me the religious freedom I crave.)  Hernando de Soto's Institute for Liberty and Democracy would be perfect, except for the religion issue.  I haven't been able to find anyone doing this in the name of God that I could join.  Does any church have a full-time staff position for Minister of Social Justice?  Would they hire someone who didn't finish his M. Div.?

James called this an "ambassador from the poor to the rich".  Yeah, it's something like that.

I just can't see any way to get there.  I can't get there.

God, to the best I can see this is where you are going and what you are doing.  Please let me join you there.  I believe this is what you made me to do.

Plan B: What I know how to do looks like this:
* I interview clients and prospects, research competitors and complementary products, and document the business and technical requirements for a product.
* I document (or work with a documentation team) to detail the business processes that interact with the product.
* I work with developers and testers to ensure that the delivered product meets the documented requirements.
* I communicate design decisions and status to amy and all stake holders--clients, board, salespeople, etc.

The title for a position like this would be Product Marketing Manager, or Product Manager.  Or it could be a Sales Engineer or Solution Designer in a company that sold highly customized solutions.

Published articles

I have written some articles that were published in several different web-zines.  This was part of a publicity push at Journyx.  If you Google "Randy Miller Journyx" you will find quite a few of them. They are mostly derivatives of three core articles I wrote. This set of three articles hosted at PM Forum covers the core points:

1. The Technical Support Project: How to Create a Winning Team, Part 1
2. The Technical Support Project: How to Create a Winning Team, Part 2
3. The Technical Support Project: How to Create a Winning Team, Part 3

The article series was carried by a large number of sites, often with different titles and some content changes.  PM Forum carried the three articles above. Here are a few of the other zines that carried the series:
* Tech News World
* PM World Today
* (registration required)
* The IT-Finance Connection
* Accounting 411
* Michigan Association of CPA's Business Edge
* E-Commerce Times
* CRM Buyer
* IT Business-Canada (interview based upon article set)
* Linux Insider
* Information
* Project Times (subscription required)
* Project Magazine
* Mac News World
* Business
* The Payroll Blog (from The PayPer Shop)

I also wrote the definitive 'Best Practices for Time Tracking' White Paper for Journyx. They seem to still be using it.


In my first year at Journyx I came up with an innovative new idea that we could use to drive traffic to our site, and perhaps monetize as a secondary business.  The powers that be at Journyx decided that it was worth trying, and eventually decided to patent it.  We never really used it, but they still could.

When we started the process of filing patent paperwork, we decided to go ahead and brainstorm up some more ideas.  Several people participated in many impromptu meetings.  Curt Finch, Bill Leake, John Maddalozzo, Chris Anderson, and myself.  We eventually came up with thirteen ideas that we thought were patent-able.  I was elected the point of contact for the patent attorneys.

I met with the patent attorneys and explained all thirteen ideas.  I drew up the diagrams they needed.  They went away and produced voluminous paperwork and diagrams.  I proofed their paperwork and corrected their diagrams.  Then they filed all of the paperwork.

Seven of those thirteen have now been granted.  I believe a few of the other six were rejected.  But I am not sure how many remain undecided.

(The US Patent Office's servers seem to be flaky.  Sometimes you will just get a 'Too Many Users' error message.)

My original idea, billboards hosted on our "clients" servers:
* 6,282,567 Application software add-on for enhanced internet based marketing
The idea was to monetize the 10-free installations of our software by having them host ads for us in lieu of paying for the software. (I made a custom tinyurl for this: )

The other 6 approved patents.  I participated to varying degrees in the idea formation of these:
* 6,747,679 Time keeping and expense tracking server that interfaces with a user based upon a user's atomic abilities
* 6,750,885 Time keeping and expense tracking server that interfaces with a user based upon a user's atomic abilities
* 6,751,650 Method and apparatus for monitoring contractor performance
* 6,753,884 Method and apparatus for wireless web time and expense entry via time keeping and expense tracking server access
* 6,944,652 Method and apparatus for providing frequent flyer miles and incentives for timely interaction with a time records system
* 7,069,498 Method and apparatus for a web based punch clock/time clock

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Second video test -- Young Spider-man

I have no idea why this video file is so big.  I did a little editing in Microsoft's Movie Maker software.  I think this just proves that I need some lessons, or something, before I make any more videos.  :-)

As promised, more of Lincoln climbing the walls.

One reader sent me an email and asked why he is climbing the door frames like this, and whether or not this is really safe.  Lincoln did this all on his own, in order to turn on the lights.  We laughed about that.  He wasn't high up enough to hurt himself.

Some of our door knobs have privacy locks.  We keep the keys on top of the doors.  Georgia figured out that the keys were up there and asked Lincoln to climb up a little farther and get her a key--yes, the two year old figured this out and communicated it to the three year old, who agreed to help her.  We have now moved the keys and told Lincoln and Georgia that they are not up there any more.  We think that will be enough to get him to stop climbing all the way up, because a fall from that height might hurt him.

It might not stop him.  He doesn't seem to need much reason to climb and jump off of stuff.  We definitely have to keep our eyes on him.

Democracy 2.0

I've mentioned this a few times.  I need to define the term for you.

Athens established the first modern democracy about 500 years before Christ--yes, there is evidence of several democratic-like governments elsewhere and earlier, but Athens left us written records and clearly influenced ideas and ideals for generations to come.

There have been a large number of improvements to how democracy is done.  The US Constitution, for instance, introduced a large number of wonderful improvements to the operation of democracy--separation of powers, checks and balances, and regular elections, just to name a few.

But in the last few decades corruption appears to have become so ingrained in the way that democracy is done that democracy itself is becoming tarnished.  At the same time multi-national mega-corporations have appeared with their armies of lobbyists and buckets of cash.  More so than ever money equals power and power corrupts.  The great gap between the representatives and the people has fully insulated the representatives from the consequences of their corruption.

Democracy 2.0 is a fresh sheet of paper approach to designing a new form of democracy.  I want to get the outside money out of government--to break the link between money and power.  I want to make democracy responsible to the people again, in a way that is relevant to modern life.

Documenting all of the various forms and structures of democracy over the centuries would be a huge project.  In all reality what I am trying to design is probably something like the eighteenth to twentieth major revision of democratic process--with many minor variations in between.  Instead of working through all of that I am drawing a broad line through human history and declaring that everything that came before is 'version 1'.

Everyone I have ever spoken to about this says that it is impossible.  That doesn't bother me.  It just clearly illuminates the first hurdle that I must get over.  First I have to prove that it is possible.  Then I will prove that the benefits outweigh the costs, even the transition costs.

This is my life's work.

The Power of the Poor

Hernando de Soto is one of my heroes.  If you haven't read 'The Other Path' then you should stop now and go do that.  I'm still working on my decision of what I would like to do with my life, but working with his Institute for Liberty and Democracy is definitely near the top of the list. 'The Other Path' and 'The Mystery of Capitalism' were two of the formative books that began my work on Democracy 2.0.

De Soto has a new documentary called 'The Power of the Poor' that is going to air soon on PBS.  Here is the trailer:

De Soto's website says that the show is supposed to premiere on October 8 at 10 Eastern.   Here in Austin, our first viewing will be KLRU on October 20 at 10 PM.

De Soto's website has an essay contest going.  The question is:  “What institutions can enable the world’s poor to realize their power and achieve prosperity?” This is my answer (and entry in the essay contest):

“What institutions can enable the world’s poor to realize their power and achieve prosperity?”

There are thousands of poor communities throughout the world. Each has its own culture and causes for it's current situation. There is no one path that every poor community can follow to prosperity. The following guidelines must be custom fit to each situation.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Time for a break

I took a break before my first free-write exercise (now done.)

The 'get my next job' plan

Current status: 10/6/09 @ 11 pm -- I researched the 10 behavioral questions a little bit.  I figured out that I needed to pick either plan A or plan B before I could pick 10 questions to answer.  So that is on hold.  Instead of that I read '48 Days to the Work You Love' by Dan Miller.  Great book.  That is going to take a while to digest--not 48 days, but some time.  I'll blog the key points of the book for me, tomorrow.  I'm also still going to ask everyone to help me with the branding exercise, tomorrow.  Everything else is on hold while I digest that book, I think.

This is the plan.  If you really want to understand the 'whys' behind the plan you will need to take Ken Kuznia's class 'Land the Job You Want'.

I've reordered the steps because his steps were in presentation order, not execution order.  I'm also omitting the critical 'shift your paradigm' step because I don't want to steal Ken's thunder, and because I've already done it.  When he said it I slapped my forehead and instantly saw that he was completely right.  My paradigm is thus now shifted, so I'm skipping that step in the plan below.  As I said, if you are interested then take the class.

One more note for the readers.  There is no step for 'finding out if the company is hiring'.  That is intentional.  I'm sure that I will send my resume to some companies that have publicized positions.  If you have a lead that fits my skills, please let me know and I will definitely check it out.  But my action plan is focused on finding opportunities that are not yet posted, and applying while I am the only person being considered.  (Take Ken's class for the explanation.)

1. Create an action plan (this blog post)
I'm planning in public.  That includes commitment dates and status updates (coming later).
This is now done (see below.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm still thinking about it

I got laid off.  You know that by now.  I have enough savings and whatnot that I can take a little time to catch my breath and approach my next job with more of a plan than I did any previous job.  I started at CompUSA because I was interested in computers and had no experience whatsoever.  I bailed and went to Journyx because I needed any job (CompUSA was clearly sinking) and they agreed to hire me.  Those two jobs lasted me over 15 years (yes, there was a brief stint at Computer Source, but that doesn't really count.)

Now I get to take a little time and decide what I want to do.  What type of work would I enjoy?  That is a very liberating and stress-relieving question.

I had decided to take some time and decide what I wanted to do before I jumped in to searching.  I started getting the preparations for the job search in place--this blog, my LinkedIn profile, business cards, etc.  But I'm waiting to shift into real 'search' mode until after I make that decision.

While I was going through these preparations I attended a meeting of the Austin Job Seekers Network at Hill Country Bible Church (highly recommended, by the way.)  They did an announcement for a job search process training class by Ken Kuznia, whom I had already heard about elsewhere.  I signed up, and then took that class earlier today.  The class is called 'Land the Job You Want'.  The plan outline in the next post is my personalization and interpretation of that class, mixed with a few other ideas that I had.

Update: Decision is made.

What he said....

I'm too young to have seen Paul Volker's time at the Fed.  I only know him as an advisor to Obama.  His recommendations are 180 degrees from everything else coming out of the Obama administration.

These are words that I would expect from a Democrat.  And he is right.  If you care to think or offer opinions about what should be done to keep this finance crisis from happening again then you have to read this:

hat tip: Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Don't take a shower!

You probably saw the articles all over the net the other day.  Some researchers found bacteria growing in shower heads.  Ick!

What was your first reaction to that?

My first reaction was to either build a better shower head or to create a shower head cleaning product.

Cleaning a fixed shower head would be tricky.  Cleaning a shower head on a flexible hose would be much easier.  All you really need is a bucket of bleach, and maybe a stool.  But you have to get the bleach to go in to the shower head, so just sticking it into the bucket probably wouldn't accomplish much. That seems like a mess waiting to happen. And whatever I figured out there would be easy for someone to imitate.

Much easier and profitable to build a new type of shower head that is designed to drain better and to be cleaned.  If you get it right you will sell a hundred or more to every hospital in the world, right off--millions of units.

I would start with a hand-held shower head.  I would add a spout to the end (tip, top, whatever you would call the part farthest away from the water source), so that when you disconnected the shower head and let it hang, the spout would be at the very bottom (where the red arrow is pointing):

This spout would also serve as an inlet where you could hold the shower head upright in your hand and pour in cleaner (probably not bleach, if you are holding it in your hand.)

The real concern is the spout mechanism.  It would have to be water tight when closed, so you could actually shower and not spray the wall.  But once opened it should fully drain the shower head and hose.  So a spring-loaded thumb-switch of some sort.  It would probably need some sort of catch inside the shower head that would stop you from opening the spout while there is water pressure coming into the shower head.

But that's just what I think of when I hear stuff like that.  "This is broken."  So, let's fix it.  And let's make a little money off of it.

Anybody know anyone at any of the fixture manufacturers?

I fixed the microwave

I was laid off on Friday. While I was heating my lunch on Saturday the microwave stopped working. I was not a happy camper.

Of course it's a mounted-over-the-range model, so it's at least $160 to replace.

I decided that I had nothing to lose by ripping it apart and looking for the problem. I googled the model number and found the parts replacement diagrams at a part distributor's website. I found that there is an in-line fuse deep inside, so I had a little hope of finding a fixable problem.

So then I began ripping it apart. This is what I found:

I was very afraid that a burn-out of this scale was a bad omen of other damage. But I decided that it was worth trying to replace. I could have just re-wired without a fuse, but my fears of a kitchen fire got the better of me and I made a trip to Radio Shack.

$6 for a fuse holder and 20amp ceramic fuse. I cut the old one out. I wired the new one in. I put it all together and plugged it back in.

It worked like a champ.

My old blog

I had started a blog years ago. Then I got busy. Computers crashed. Email accounts changed. Passwords lost. Now I can't back in to manage or update it. (sigh)

I did that blog anonymously because I didn't want to get questioned about it at work. I was really worried about having personal-life distractions there. Obviously I underestimated the positive value of the connectivity of the internet.

There are a few articles on that blog that I think deserve attention here.

* My September 18, 2001 presidential address. This is the one-draft speech I wrote on the morning of September 18, 2001, as I debated what I wanted to hear from GWB in his first address after the attacks. I was not surprised by what he said that night, but I was disappointed. It's still rough--no editing whatsoever. But this is the clearest window into my soul you will ever find.

Several other posts are worth reading, but I'll let you go dig if you are interested.

I really like this quote. I forgot I had written it until I just re-read that blog. Under the heading of 'Forgiveness':
"I choose to no longer be bound by the mistakes of your past."

Diet advice

Lots of people around me are dieting. I did it and succeeded. What I did might not work for anyone else. But I wanted to get this down and give my friends the option of trying to replicate what I did.

My story

I peaked at 215. I was at 209 when I really started the diet outlined below. In just over 3 months I bottomed out at 163. As of this writing I am at 175, and I have been below 180 for two years. But those numbers aren't how I was really measuring myself. My goal was a 32 inch waist. I started the diet at about 37 inches. I reached that goal at about 168 pounds, and I just lost 5 more pounds while I tried to figure out how to eat again. As of this writing, at 175, my waist is still 32 inches--I've been working out some, so I'm not carrying those additional pounds around my waist. This advice comes directly from my experience in that diet.

I had a liver problem that forced me to get my weight down. I started my diet in something of a panic, desperate to make a drastic change in the way that I managed my weight. I started out in an extreme fashion. I think that the extreme start was critical to fixing my mindset for long-term success, thus I recommend this same extreme start. But I implore you to talk to your doctor first, especially if you are on any medications.

I don't drink alcohol, smoke, or take any recreational pharmaceuticals. I also don't drink coffee or sodas with caffeine--I quit those many years ago, and I sleep much better and wake up much more rested now. If you do any of those things then you will need to adjust these plans somewhat to deal with that. I can't really help you with that, except to say that all of that stuff is bad for you and you ought to stop.

The diet

Set goals
* Don't just define yourself in terms of weight. Think about your measurements as well. My personal goal was to get in to my old skinny 32' pants again. Weight is easiest to measure, but think about what you really want and set a goal that works for you.

Video post test #1

This is a video of Lincoln. I think I have the video format set with too high of a resolution. This is the native output of my video camera.

Is the video too big/slow?

This was a few months ago. He can get to the top of the door post now, and turn the lights on or off with his foot.

Monday, September 21, 2009

First Post

More coming soon.

This is just a stub, because I wanted to get my business cards printed.