Giving Thanks

On this Thanksgiving Day of 2011, I am thankful for a couple of things.

New Family Members
My sister (Emily) and her husband (Sean) are having their first baby in April. On Tuesday, they found out it was a baby girl. I am incredibly happy for them and am (selfishly) looking forward to being an uncle. I’m also kind of excited to be around a little baby again. My babies are full-blown kids now and resemble nothing of their baby selves anymore. I do miss that. Not enough to have another child of my own, mind you. But, as the uncle, I can play that game of holding them, playing with them, and then giving them back to their parents for all of those non-pleasant baby things. Score!

My Dad
We came down to Columbus to spend Thanksgiving with Jayme’s parents. As I was escaping the loud kids and endless turkey sandwiches (not my favorite), I passed by the old Sheraton hotel (now a Doubletree something-or-other) by the now-defunct $1.50 Carmike Cinemas theater. Something struck me as I was looking at the place. I was taken back about 20 years, right there on the spot. Dad and I were walking into the hotel’s ballroom. We were there for a baseball card show. Remember how I said I was a collector? Yeah, I collected baseball cards. A lot of them. I never had any allowance money for very long because I would always spend it on baseball card packs at the Sing store or the occasional baseball card show.

Being a father now and really having to worry about money in all facets of life, I can appreciate the vast amounts of money “wasted” on baseball cards as I was growing up. I mean, let’s face it, Caroline’s obsession with American Girl stuff is no different. Every time she wants to spend her allowance money on overpriced pieces of “furniture” for these doll things, I cringe. I get it, though. I’m sure my dad thought the same thing as we walked through that ballroom and my eyes lit up when I saw some card that I really, really, really wanted. But, he kept taking me. Because it made me happy. And he kept giving me extra money (when he could) for extra card packs. Would some people consider that teaching me irresponsible habits? Maybe. But that made him my dad. And, I as I sit here now, I can only thank him for that.

Customer Service Win

Did you ever wonder how a free service/business hits a customer service home run? This is a GREAT start from Pinterest!

Pinterest: Thanks!

To be honest, Jayme uses this service a whole lot more than I do. But letters like this make me want to actually use the service more. That’s impressive.

Organizational Beauty

This morning, I was trying to catch up on my Instapaper queue backlog and came across (ironically) Marco’s post about the Mac Pro and Apple’s future plans for it. Not really an important article for most of you reading this, unless you happen to care specifically about the fate of the Mac Pro. What struck me was the picture at the top of the post.

Mac Pro

Apple's Mac Pro

The first Mac I ever used came about from a trial run at my former job. When asked if I wanted to “test use” a Mac, I said sure. The Power Mac G5 (the former name of the Mac Pro) was shipped a couple of weeks later. When it arrived at my office, the first thing I noticed was the stylish box it came in. Let’s remember, I was used to the Gateway and Dell boxes at the time and this was a complete departure from that. (Sadly, not much has changed in this realm since.)

We opened the box (my colleague and I, as I had never set up a Mac before), and removed the machine. First impression: gorgeous. It was solid aluminum, and looked like an industrial design marvel in its simplicity. Again, unlike desktops that I was used to from Dell and Gateway, no stickers adorned the surface. No latches for hidden doors on it. No ridiculous plastic covers that served only to differentiate the color pattern and/or make it look that much cheaper.

The real difference happened when Robert opened the inside of the machine. Again, I had never seen the inside of an Apple machine, much less the inside of this beast of a computer. In my mind, there would be wires everywhere (as this particular machine was fully loaded) and boards sticking out and fans scattered about, as something had to cool this massive system.

What I found, however, was what you see in the picture above. I don’t even believe any more commentary is needed. If you’ve ever seen the inside of a “normal” PC, you know. You can appreciate the pure beauty of how this machine is laid out and manufactured.

It’s beautiful. Geeky? Yes. But still just as beautiful.

Snappy

Let’s start with the facts:

Incident #1
On Friday, Mike and I were having one of our “normal” arguments. They usually come about while we’re discussing what business rule to implement or where an application design should go. That kind of thing. So, we’re arguing. And, not surprising to anyone who knows us, our voices gradually became louder and louder. (I secretly think people enjoy hearing us argue like that, but I don’t know that they’d ever say that.) Anyway, as we’re arguing, Mike said something snarky (as he tends to do) and I replied with “Ok, fuck you.” Now, both Mike and I knew instantly that it was not said with any cruelty or directed anger. It was snark refuted with snark. But, to the outside observer, this could have been perceived as an escalation to something…let’s go with…not good. So, Mike and I finished the argument minutes later and moved on to other things. Later that afternoon, though, we were talking to Mark (our direct boss) and he actually commented on this statement and was worried he’d have to intervene.

Mark, to his credit, lets us “work these things out” on our own and still did so here. But the fact that he commented on it made me wary. This bothered me the rest of the afternoon. It bothered me so much that I felt the need to write him an email that night expressing my apology. As I said in the email, it came down to a lack of professionalism. Which is embarrassing, to be honest. Even though I don’t achieve it all the time, I still strive for a modicum of professionalism. Argh.

Incident #2
On Tuesday, I got a phone call from Aaron (my indirect boss). Normal work talk, nothing extrordinary. Until he happened to mention that he had noticed I had become snappy lately. And that I had lost some of my patience. Now, I don’t mind that he said it. He should say it. In fact, I’m grateful that we have that kind of relationship (both personally and professionally) that he would mention that now and not wait for some kind of review thing or something and “dock” me for it. What unnerved me…what caught me off guard…was the fact that I didn’t recognize this fact beforehand. How did I miss this? Double Argh.


What kills me is that these two incidents happened within 3 work days of each other. So, not only am I a ranting, cursing lunatic, but I’m also impatient and snappy. I know that’s not what they were actually saying. In fact, I’m sure they did not mean those extremes at all. But in my mind, when I hear those two things in close proximity (as was the case here), I start to look back. I start to analyze the past couple of months and try to figure out situations that could have led to this perception. I also start to become hyper-self-aware. I start to revert to my previous inclinations. Not saying anything out of turn. Not asserting myself. Closing in to my own safe, little shell.

And you know what, I don’t want to do that anymore. I do have opinions and observations, and while some of them may be right and some may be wrong, they are mine nonetheless. And they have a right to be heard. (I’m saying this to myself mostly, by the way.) I also think there is a takeaway here. Get control of your temperament.

My temper has always been an issue. My grandfather had it. My dad has it. I have it. A very short temper. And when that temper is tested, I get irrational and out of control. Not one of my better traits. It’s also one of the few things Jayme and I argue about, specifically when it comes to the kids.

On the opposite end, my temperament has never been a problem with me. To the normal Joe, I am a mild-mannered, semi-quiet guy. That perception has helped me gain the reputation I now have. I think this is also why it was noteworthy to Mark and Aaron when I stray from that.

So, my goal: Get back to that temperament, yet still strive to assert myself more. I want to be heard. And I think I should. There should be no competition between these two things. I just have to work at both. And I will.

A Novelist for Time?

As I was listening to the Steve Jobs’ biography (you didn’t think I’d actually read it, did you?), I had to mentally pause all of a sudden when Isaacson was describing the author of the sneak peak article for Time Magazine about the original iPhone. He described Lev Grossman as being a novelist for Time. Isn’t Time a magazine? Did I miss something? Are novelists not self-employed? I’m actually not being coy or snarky (there’s a change), I’m actually curious. My assumption is that he writes novels, but uses writing for Time as a way to pay the bills between novels.

Am I right on that?