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There Are Only Two Types of People in the World

Good morning, Reno! It’s another gorgeous winter day, although the snow still hasn’t returned and it is wayyyy too warm for January. You can tell it’s political season, because oh my gosh, the TV, radio, and internet media yahoos don’t talk about ANYTHING ELSE. Ugh. Maximum frustration with little benefit to anyone… during the time of such polarization, it made me think of how divided a country (or globe) can be at any point in time. And without further ado, my explanation, albeit graphically, of how there are only types of people in the world…

Disclaimer: I am not the author of any of these images – I simply pieced them together.

 

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Dogs and Cats

 

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Men and Women

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The Cost of Faulty Information

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Good morning America! It’s Friday – who’s excited? I’ve had multiple cups of dark tea and the caffeine is flowing through my veins. Yummy! It’s been quite the week. Work has been busy, the political cacophony is gradually whittling my patience and faith in this country down, and it’s a balmy 48 in Reno. Sad :(

I hope you’ve had a good start to 2016. It should be a time of getting back into the swing of things, setting some Big Hairy Audacious Goals, dwelling on the successes and lessons learned from last year, and coming to the realization that the year is already 9.4% over. Oops.

The housing market in Reno continues to remain insane, I still have yet to bust out my snowboard, and my bike is neglected at best. Sigh. It’s hard being a 29 year old pulled in multiple directions, but it’s also great establishing new routines with my wife – 4.8 months and going strong! AWESOME.

I deal with information on a day-to-day basis. It’s essentially my life, and the core of both my work and personal routines. I track all of my workouts, and upload them to some web software that helps me slice, dice, and analyze to my heart’s content. At work I pour over business requirements, software specifications, reports, databases, and proof of concepts documents, all in the search of the “correct” information. As you all know, information is only as good as the quality and integrity of it. Granted, not all information will be 100% accurate, and it’s how you fill in the pieces that really matters.

I had a few brushes with faulty information this week that helped inspire this blog for me. Granted, I’ve been dealing with faulty information for years, so none of this is a surprise, but there are still some points to be gleaned.

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Source: Huffington Post

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens (No Spoilers Here!)

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Good morning my friends, the shoe has dropped and as you know, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is crushing it at the box office. How can they not when they are supported by a billion dollar marketing genius like Disney? Nearly 40 years after the release of the original, did J.J. Abrams awaken a sleeping tiger or nudge awake a napping mouse?

I don’t feel the need to reiterate how much I love Star Wars. I grew up watching it, I got to see it in movie theaters (in ’97 the Special Edition was released in January, February, and March, and most kids born after ’92 probably haven’t seen anything except the prequels in theaters), so I don’t feel the need to express how excited I was seeing the movie. I will do a detailed, spoiler-rich review posting soon, but today is just some overall thoughts – there are no spoilers here.

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First, major kudos to J.J. Abrams for even tackling another Star Wars sequel. Given how much hyper-criticality this thing is going to receive, I wouldn’t have touched it with a 30 foot pole! Super high level opinion: he made a fun movie, very true to the Star Wars vein and ideologies, that neither took risks nor did anything outlandishly uncouth. It was a predictable, enjoyable, safe ride that created more questions than it answered… worth seeing in theaters. Probably not worth watching 25+ times (like the originals).

Story – One major criticism for The Force Awakens – they did NOTHING new. The entire 2 hours and 16 minutes I was sitting there, I couldn’t help but think that I’ve been on this journey before. That isn’t always a bad thing when the same general themes appear (good vs. evil, finding oneself, family, etc.) but when even some of the details ring bells, we’ve got a problem. It was like they recycled so many elements of a previous, well-worn story. Disappointing to say the least. I was hoping they wouldn’t use Episodes IV, V, and VI as a crutch. My only hope is that the Force Awakens will be the last movie to really reach out to its roots in that way. It’s time to create some new material.

Villain – Our new villain, Kylo Ren, is completely and totally awesome. I think he is right up there with Darth Maul, plus he has a phenomenally wicked lightsaber! A lightsaber in the form of a large, skull-crushing claymore is intimidation enough… then add the Mask of Death and he looks like a Ringwraith Jedi to boot! One of my favorite moments from the movie comes when he effortlessly freezes a lightning fast, crackling blue laser in midair – that’s some serious force power! In my opinion, he’s far more menacing leaving his mask in place, but I’ll leave that for you to decide…

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New Heroes – Rey and Finn provide some sorely needed life to an aging cast of characters. They are fun and relate-able, and fit nicely into the Star Wars theme of things. I have about 17,000 questions involving their stories, but it will be interesting to see them each come into their own.

Old Heroes – The old heroes make a return, though each in their own way. They have good dialog, grand entrances, although of our three heroes from yesteryear, I was most satisfied with Luke’s part in the film. That’s all I can say about that until you have the chance to see it. Our favorite walking carpet also makes a wonderful reappearance, and was my favorite of all the old school characters.

Droids – Our new droid companion, BB-8, absolutely steals the show! He’s fun, lovable, and an integral part of the humor in the movie. C3PO and R2-D2 also reprise their roles, but on the smaller side of things. They really nailed how BB-8 fits in and relates to characters, and it was so nice NOT seeing a CGI version rolling around.

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Pacing – I don’t know what is going on, but I feel like the entire movie was a race to the finish – a classic tale of hurry up and wait. I immensely enjoyed the timing of the first half – here’s the characters, here’s the action, and here’s what they’re trying to accomplish. The second half of the movie seems to have lost itself trying to do too much. Another of my favorite scenes was a thrilling escape from a hangar bay :D Classic Star Wars at its best.

Soundtrack – I didn’t really bond with the soundtrack like I have with the other movies, dare I say, even the prequels. I own all six soundtracks, but this is one that I just don’t need to pick up. There were no new sweeping themes or character mosaics that bring you deeper and closer into the story. Frankly, they regurgitated a lot of the old stuff, which is great, but I was hoping for something new to really suck me into the Star Wars universe.

Dogfights – The new X-Wings and Tie Fighters are badass! That said, the dogfights are very weak, especially compared to those in the original movies. The personal element is removed – you really have no understanding with nor do you care about the fate of the pilots – and the fights are mostly viewed from the ground. Seriously, there is nothing that compares to the goodness of the Return of the Jedi space battle…or the attack on the first Death Star for that matter. There were also no capital ship battles. I really wanted to see some cruiser-sized ships pummeling each other with turbo lasers and heavy cannons. Even just some Star Destroyer action, please!

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In summary, the new set of movies have potential. They’ve opened some interesting doors and leave a lot to the imagination, but I don’t feel that the movie took enough risks. Star Wars was Star Wars because no one was doing anything like it. This just felt like a slightly reskinned version of an old movie. They did a rock solid job with nostalgic throwbacks, keeping Star Wars themes and elements in line, and doing a nice tie-in to the old movies… but was it too much? I think so. My inner 10 year old is fulfilled. As for me, I’m a bit on the letdown side :(

The Force Awakens needs to carve out territory of its own, not necessarily send praises back to the glory days. It’s a chance to pump some vigor into a franchise that is so well known and so beloved that nearly everyone has an opinion. Just ask any kid on the street about Han Solo, BB-8, or Kylo Ren. I actually thought that the 2009 Star Trek reboot did a better job invigorating life back into its respective franchise than The Force Awakens did. The plus side is that we now have Star Wars movies being released annually until 2019, and a whole universe of options to explore. Which side will you choose?

Verdict: 7.8/10. Go see it in theaters and judge for yourself!

Forty Years Later: The Force Has Awoken!

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It’s so secret, but just in case there is some uncertainty – Star Wars is one of the greatest things ever made! I’ve written about it numerous times, so I won’t revisit those topics; however, I’m here today because, oh my gosh, the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens has just crushed movie theaters around the globe. Google anything remotely related to ticket sales and you’ll see The Force Awakens blasting like a runaway train through any and all movie records, even the ever-promising release of Jurassic World.

I am a Star Wars nut. I have posters, soundtracks, toys, video games, pillows, and even a tea steeper with a Tie Fighter on it. I wasn’t alive when the originals were released but I still remember the day when I was first introduced to Darth Vader… ah, what a glorious experience with my parents.

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Star Wars, as far as I can put a finger on it, truly has universal appeal. Rooted strongly in the struggles of World War 2, it pulls in all of the elements that we experience in life. Loyalty, family, pain, failure, suffering, victory, uncertainty, overcoming adversity, and companionship. There are few movies that capture this more vividly than the “classic” Star Wars movies… I won’t delve into the prequels at this time.

Last time I saw a Star Wars movie in theaters, I was 18 and it was three weeks before high school graduation. One of my closest friends and I went to the theater at midnight (quite a treat when you aren’t an adult yet) and had a good time. Revenge of the Sith was mediocre at best, with the highlight being an insanely long lightsaber battle. But that was a good experience… I was talking to the same friend and ten years later we are both LOSING OUR MINDS OVER THE NEW MOVIE BEING RELEASED!

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I avoided watching the trailers as long as possible, but after being exposed to one against my will in May, I have been obsessed. They have done incredible fan service throwing back to the nostalgia of the originals, while maintaining the cool factor of modern movies. I have never seen a marketing campaign like this for anything – ever. Car ads, Star Wars branded oranges, music videos, clothing, it is pure insanity. And I love it! I’m quite possibly more excited for the new Lego pieces than I am the actual movie!

I can only imagine how excited people are who saw the originals in ’77. That must be super cool. Truly, my inner 10 year old is losing his mind in my 29 year old self. Just seeing the pure, multi-generational excitement is enough to make me want to watch all of the movies this weekend! Believe the hype – or don’t – it’s such a cool time to be alive! I’m even getting my wife to tag along – our son is, of course, stoked out of his mind, so that in and of itself gives me the awesome energy to be even more excited. I suppose it helps that some of my best friends will be going too… and then we will watch it again, and again, and again until we can quote the whole bloody thing! Times are changing – but are they really?

A very happy Friday and have a wonderful, Force-filled weekend.

Forcing Excel to Open in New Window

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Happy Thursday,

Today is short and sweet. I have been losing my mind every time Excel opens a new document on top of the same Excel window that I was previously working in. This functionality is completely different from what Word does when opening a new document, and frankly, it has been crushing my blood pressure.

Here’s a quick fix so that opening Excel documents will now force them into a new window instead of opening on top of themselves…

Open Excel and click File > Options > Click on the ‘Advanced’ tab > Scroll down to General > Check the ‘Ignore other applications that use ‘Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE)‘ box. “ Voilà!

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Bonus tip: did you know that pressing F2 will allow you to quickly rename files from your Desktop, Windows Explorer or File Explorer? Try it out!

 

Look for a new Star Wars blog mañana!

Lessons Learned from a Grueling IRONMAN

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Greetings fellow citizens – it is Friday, Friday the 13th actually –a welcome relief from the week for sure.

It has been 3.5 months since IRONMAN Canada. One hundred-something days which has given me time to come to peace with the terms of what transpired… In a nutshell – I got smoked, pummeled, and eaten alive! It wasn’t a great race; really, I don’t know if it could be even considered a mediocre race. The best part was literally the first 56.9 minutes. I absolutely demolished my previous 2.4 mile swim record by almost 45 seconds. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the swimming world, that’s significant. And thus ended my good, PR setting day. It was all uphill from there… Wayyyyy up hill!

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Thoughtful things:

  • Plans are only as good as the trash can they end up in
  • Control the controllables – the uncontrollable will always go different than you expect
  • Quitting for the right reasons is OK – but only for the right reasons (read: medical)
  • You learn more from your failures more than from your successes
  • Porta-potties are your friend and your enemy… I got more than enough face time with several
  • At the end of the day, I had lost sight that finishing was actual my goal – the rest was just a nice to have

I was disappointed, slightly devastated, and swore to never ride my bike again, evidenced that it’s still in the freaking travel case and hasn’t been unpacked since. I settled into a diffident state of mind that made it incredibly difficult to do anything fun. That, and 2014 had left a quasi-permanent, repugnant taste in my mouth with the cancellation of IRONMAN Lake Tahoe. Obviously, the feelings (at the time) were legitimate but given enough recovery time, wouldn’t really hold water or describe how I truly felt about the sport. Everyone has bad days, and more often than not, our days may even just be OK, not stellar or wonderful. But in and of itself, that is what makes those phenomenal days spectacular – they’re a wonderful change of pace!

What is often forgotten is that when things don’t go according to our plan, it doesn’t mean that our experiences are a failure. My overarching goal for the year was to get married – SUCCESS! All of the rest will just have to fall where it may. In hindsight, my long day at Canada was more about the trip. Great time with friends and family, memories of gorgeous mountains peeking out of the sea, all-you-can-eat-buffets, and stormy skies that scream out the wondrous power and majesty of nature. Sure, that Sunday was miserable for myself and my loyal cheerleaders, who actually had a worse day than I did, but we all made it and have a shared experience to boot… that, and we got epic, mind-blowingly awesome cookie cake dessert! SO WELL EARNED!

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My greatest lesson learned from that day is to persevere. Not everything will be easy, go as planned, or even be enjoyable, but keeping those close that are dear to you is worth far more than success at some race, your career, or other hobbies . If people matter enough, they will lift you up during the downers, and help you to soar even higher during the ups. The good news is that 2016 awaits as a clean and empty canvas, waiting to be painted and filled in with new hopes and dreams, and the cost of that artistic fulfillment is minimal. Make the plans and follow through, but also let things just take their course… wherever that may lead. I learned my lesson in trying to control what I could not, and life is too short to waste on such a pursuit. Here’s to a fresh 365 days as well as the end of 2015. A new IRONMAN awaits and so do 12 months packed with adventures, fun photographs, and memories to be cherished for a lifetime. That, and I have to continue to work at having a successful marriage ;-)

My goal is to unpack my wheels before Thanksgiving and get a few rides in. It’s a happy, healthy relationship that I miss and that I’m ready to reinvest in. So I’m going to make that happen… I still have many adjustments to work on – shockingly, both triathlon and marriage require 100% dedication and commitment to continue forward on a healthy path :-) Sure, I have new responsibilities that absorb my time, but I’ve also got my favorite person on the planet cheering me on. That is hard to compete with!

Happy Friday AND HOORAY FOR THE WEEKEND!

Do You Really Understand?

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A very happy Wednesday to you all. Don’t forget that it is Veterans Day.

I woke up in Reno and it was 25 degrees outside… warm to say the least. We’ve had two snowfalls so far but I’m hoping it continues to pick up. We need it more than ever! One of the amazing and hilarious things about being a dog owner is the interactions that you get to enjoy. Lucy makes the most hilarious face when I ask her if she understands. She perks up her ears and does “the head tilt.” She doesn’t truly understand, just like I don’t understand why she has so much fun in the snow, but she provides a wonderful and charming illusion that she gets me.

I recently sat through a second week of Green Belt training in the Lean/Six Sigma realm, an exhausting and rigorous course that gives you tools and techniques for eliminating waste and variation (Lean and Six Sigma respectively), something that everyone should be educated in. Waste is useless, unproductive, and obviously a poor use of everyone’s time. Variation is straying from the established process or plan, for example, creating blue fire hydrants that aren’t specced out correctly, in addition to being the incorrect color.

All throughout my career, I’ve heard emphasis placed on “the process.” Understand the process. Do the process. Improve the process. Rework the process. What’s crazy to me is that I am only just now grasping the criticality of processes. Processes aren’t some stuffy pieces of paper jammed into a binder to gather dust; they’re the proverbial bread and butter of getting things done.  Small tangent: a personal pet peeve of mine is the ambiguity surrounding and encompassing the terms “getting things done” and “work.”

According to the dictionary, work is defined as “exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil” –or– “productive or operative activity.” Basically, it means putting forth time, effort, creativity, thought, and understanding. It drives me up a wall when someone says well, that will take a lot of work. Uh, hello, that is our job! Our single purpose is to focus on and drive work – being productive, etc. – There’s nothing wrong with providing a Level of Effort or taking a step back to think about what is involved, but if our primary task as employees is to work, and we are all at work working, then it’s expected that our tasks will take work. Ding, ding ding! Everyone is busy and yet the primary expectations placed on us are to work and to get things done. Period.

Now back to my main train of thought…

A process, good or bad, results in outcomes that are equally just as bad or sometimes exponentially better. If you have a widget creation process that results in 10% of the widgets being defective, then you may have a problem. Not only are you destroying the profitability of your business but the process is probably sloppy. There may be a rhyme and reason for the defects in the products, but it is something that needs to be studied if not resolved even. If 10/100 planes crashed every single time one went up in the air, there probably wouldn’t be very many passengers…

The fascinating part of a process is that 1) few people truly understand why they do the process and 2) if they do understand their own process, they rarely understand where their inputs come from and how their outputs are used. Often, they may not even understand the bigger process picture. If you were to find out that your work processes were the most critical piece in life-saving medical technology, how would you work differently? What if you knew slacking off in your process and producing work with only 2% (a seemingly low defect rate) defects cost someone down the line an extra 50% of their time in labor, and that a majority of their duties were cleaning up your mess? Would you change something? I hope so… start asking why is that happening in the first place!

True understanding is not an easy concept. It’s easy to say sure, I get it, I understand, but do you really? My job is to be a professional understander and problem solver, and it is hard! The same business term can mean 13 different things to 13 different people, there may not be a baseline for common goals, processes, or “how we do things,” and worse yet, there may not even be communication between the critical parties needed to come up with those agreed upon business artifacts. “The product isn’t correct” doesn’t really provide me with a lot of information… is it the wrong color? Build? Size? Material? Bad packaging? Does it function incorrectly? What did you really want when you said it should be indestructible?

In conclusion, understanding is not something done simply, easily, or quickly. There is no magic formula. It is the involved process of inquiring, cultivating, iterating, and questioning information. Building a hypothesis, testing, retesting, reevaluating, and baselining. And then we do it again and again and again…

Happy Wednesday and think about your processes and question what you think you understand… you may surprise yourself!

Picture credit.

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