Posted tagged ‘working’

Nothing To Do But Write

March 6, 2017

It’s 1:45 in the afternoon and here I sit, in the Dallas Fort Worth Airport, American Airlines Terminal B, to be specific.   Back in the days when I was a regular business traveler, I was a member of the Admirals Club, a private lounge for American Airlines travelers willing to pay a hefty fee … in dollars or miles.  The Club has comfortable seating, private working areas, and snacks … plus sandwiches and drinks for a price.  If I was stuck with a three hour layover … like I have today … it was better than sitting at the gate.   Quieter, for one, at least until business travelers starting bringing their kids along.  Today, I am sitting at a counter with USB ports in the Gate B5 waiting area.   I have no special attachment to gate B5 but there are no flight scheduled for the next several hours so it is relatively quiet.   For about ten minutes, the alarm on an employees-only door kept going off, a high pitched squeal that leaves my teeth vibrating.   Desperate for power for my laptop, I waited it out.  A speaker on the ceiling over my head is prattling on about the madhouse that has become our national government.  It is only slightly less annoying than the alarm.   Terminal B mostly serves American Airlines secondary routes … like those to Huntsville, where I’m headed, so in front of me passengers trickle by in ones and twos, hunting for their departure gates or talking quietly.  Even with occasional gate change announcements, it’s not a bad place to write, especially when there’s nothing else to do.  It’s not the Admirals Club, for sure, but it’s better than the madhouse in terminal A, where I arrived from Socal.


The Office

April 12, 2016

office tooFor the first 33 years of my career as an engineer, I worked for what I like to call Big Industry … large defense-based corporations like Raytheon, Honeywell and Hughes Aircraft.   That portion of my career took place before the term tele-commute was invented, mainly because the technology of the time did not support working at home.  Consequently, I traveled each morning to an office which provided the assets I needed to do my job … computers so large they filled a room, and secretaries and typing pools and art departments.  Sometimes during my early years, my office was a cubicle, most often shared with another junior engineer.   As the years went by and I was promoted, my offices became nicer, evolving to shared offices instead of cubicles to a private office … occasionally even an office with a window, although it usually overlooked a parking lot.   My furniture got newer and eventually was made of real wood, not slime-green metal.   By the nineties I was content in my private wood-furnitured office and I probably would have been content to continue that way until retirement.  Fate and Big Industry had other plans.   Hughes Aircraft was purchased by Raytheon and decided to close the California facility.   Ironically, the work I was involved in was transferred to Portsmouth, RI, where I began my career many year earlier.  I even knew many of the senior engineers there. (more…)


January 24, 2016

th(5)You might think that when a 71 year old blogger posts about Wrinkles he’s talking about those lines on his face.  You might think that.  You’d be wrong.  For one, I’ve been blessed with skin that doesn’t wrinkle (maybe I’m permanent press).  And, for two, I’m talking about wrinkles in the fabric of my life not my skin.  These days, everything that happens, be it good, bad or indifferent seems to come with a wrinkle, some little twist that makes it … well … more complicated.  Let me give you a few examples:

Monday Smiles – Airborne Edition

November 16, 2015

image I am flyng again.  At the moment, the interactive map on the video screen at my seat tells me I am over Juarez, New Mexico.  I am bound to the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, hoping to catch a tight connection to Huntville AL for a two day business meeting.   It looks like I land in one terminal and depart from another, so I may have some running through the airport to do.  Truth:  at my age, it will be fast walking, especially with my computer bag over my shoulder.   I’m on the aisle in the 13th row, not First Class but not the worst seat on the plane either.  Most of the passengers are reading or playing whatever on their assorted electronic devices, which is good … no loud talkers.   The only annoyance is the very large guy in front of me who keeps shifting  in his seat and pushing against the backrest so hard that he almost spills my Diet Coke.  Me?  I’m writing and listening to my jazz playlist in shuffle mode … Keiko Matsui Walls of Akendora, at the moment.   The Captain just said, We are beginning our descent into Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.  Please return to your seats and be sure your seatbelts are fastened, which means 40 more minutes in the air.   He says there are storms in the area so the descent could be bumpy.

I used to travel once or twice a month and I liked being in touch with my professional community.  I enjoyed working on teams addressing real technical problems and I enjoyed giving presentations on our work. image These days, the work is still interesting but I don’t need to be a shaker and a mover anymore.  It makes my bones rattle and my joints hurt.  But here I am at 34,000 feet, listening to the music I love, posting on my blog.  I’ll text Muri when I land and hook up with my colleagues for the flight to Huntsville.   We’ll finally get to see what our customer thinks of our work.  If I had my druthers, I would be at home.   As my wife Muri and I have grown older, we like to be in shouting distance of each other, not that we do much shouting.  We do occasionally text each other from or respective enclaves, hers the love seat in our bedroom and me in my recliner downstairs.  Yes, I’d rather be doing that.  But for a couple days I can pretend to move and shake like I used to.  I can even smile about it.  It is, after all, Monday.

Monday Smiles – 11/2/2015

November 2, 2015

A generalist is someone who learns less and less about more and more until he knows absolutely nothing about everything.  A specialist learns less and less about more and more until he knows absolutely everything about nothing – Unknown

ABFI like to think I walk the middle ground between knowing nothing about everything and everything about nothing but in my  vocation, I am definitely a specialist.  Starting out in what was already a specialized field, electrical engineering, almost 20 years of higher education has narrowed my field until it is likely that most people wouldn’t understand my resume.  Adaptive beamforming.  LMS noise cancellation.  Eigenvalue analysis. See?  But almost fifty years experience in those corners of the world make me valuable to others who use such things in their business.   Some years ago, when business with my company was slow, I registered with an expert placement company.  The company maintains a database of resumes across a wide range of fields on line.  Professionals needing the support of specialists they don’t need often enough to employ full time can find the professional support they need by searching the database using online tools.   The work is usually very interesting but it brings a degree of pressure with in that clients expect an expert to provide innovative solutions in a relatively short time.  I’ve supported attorneys in patent cases, evaluated products for potential buyers and applied some of the techniques I’ve learned in military systems to commercial products. (more…)

Monday Smiles – 6/15/2015

June 15, 2015

TECFOCUSAs 2014 was drawing to a close, the only job our company had was coming to an end.  It was awarded under the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovative Research program.  These contracts are reserved for small research companies, giving them an opportunity to compete for government contracts that address critical need of the various agencies.   The initial contracts are quite small, with only enough funding to show that a solution to a problem might work.   Based on the work done in this Phase 1, a few companies are awarded Phase 2, which brings enough funding for up to two years.   About one in ten companies go on to Phase 2, and sufficient time has passed that we had pretty much decided we weren’t one of them.  It was OK … my business partner (who is my age) had talked about fully retiring anyway. (more…)

Working in the Park

April 9, 2015

park workI was up to late last night, thinking about a solution to a scientific problem I’m working on, but with the help of a Costco brand OTC sleep-aid, I slept until 8:30.   I got up and and helped my wife, Muri, get the house ready for our housekeeper (a statement that puzzles me each time I say it) then headed over to the park.  The plan was to do a little writing then work on my laptop to see if my idea actually works.   Nothing makes me feel gratefully self-employed as much as working in the park.  My Inner Curmudgeon likes it there, too, but he requires that certain conditions be met or he does what curmudgeons do. (more…)

On a White Horse

March 12, 2015

white horse1During my big industry days, I unconsciously discovered something about my work style … I was very good at getting jobs done under pressure.  That made me popular with managers for saving projects in trouble and for writing proposals, which were always done under pressure.  It also allowed me to cruise even on jobs without time constraints, then make up for it at the end.  Gradually, that became my only work style … put it off then ride in On a While Horse and save the day.  In my forties and even my fifties, enduring the short term stress of the fast finish was worth the more leisurely approach the rest of the time.

Here it is, March, which always is a crazy month with taxes are coming up, both personal and for our company.  Our company also goes through a government inspection in March that requires a fair amount of preparation and is crucial to our business.   I am working two jobs that over the long haul average out to half time and so my natural inclination is to relax and let things go … The White Horse is waiting, right?  Except. I jump on its back and say, Hi-Ho Silvia, and she says, Really? then saunters off absentmindedly.  That’s when panic sets in.  I never used to panic but The White Horse used to gallop.  So, here I am, at my desk, working away, forcing myself to put in a half a day like I’m supposed to.  It’s not that the work isn’t interesting … it is.  But I’m seventy now and The White Horse is now an Old Gray Mare.  My Mom would have told you, She ain’t what she used to be, and neither am I.  I’m lucky to have work that I love, I know.  But it used to be more fun.  I’d rather blog.  Thanks for stopping by.

Monday Smiles – 2/23/2015

February 23, 2015

workingHere it is, almost 4:30 p.m. and I have not been out of the house, which means … since I mostly work at home … that I have not been out of the office.  The office, of course, at this stage of my life is wherever I am working.  After breakfast and spending some time catching up on the news on my tablet. I dragged my trusty laptop (still preferable to my tablet for real work) to the kitchen table and spent the morning reviewing material for a legal case on which I am employed as an expert.  It is the nature of that business that there are long breaks as attorneys negotiate or await the results of mediation, long breaks during which I forget some of the details of the case.  Now, mediation has failed and the case will go to trial, so I am rereading statements I wrote months ago to remind me of what I knew back then.  I spent the afternoon doing the same thing in my office.  There are thousands of pages of documents and even more information online to be considered.  I am missing a beautiful sunny Socal day.  This case has come back to life just as the largest job my partner and I have ever won is starting.  I am likely to be working more hours than I planned.   I never expected to be working this much as I navigate the second half of my seventieth year, and my age also means that I am required to withdraw money from my IRA this year.  I could get hammered on my taxes.

Shiny Objects

February 19, 2015

DUAL CACTUSThis morning, I was sitting in the bedroom of our Little House in the Desert talking to my wife, Muri, and mid-sentence, I noticed something over her shoulder through our bedroom window, which looks across the 15th fairway of the Golf Club at Johnson’s Ranch toward the San Tan Mountains.  On one of the smaller peaks that defines our community stood two nearly identical Saguaro cactus, so similar that I thought it might be an optical illusion caused by refraction in our double paned windows.  My train of thought left the station and I found myself leaning this way and that decide.  It was real.  When I pointed them out to Muri, she looked and nodded patiently.  She’s used to it.  Talking, walking, driving … whatever I’m doing, I tend to notice small details around me.  It’s more than noticing, I suppose … I find the small random coincidences around me fascinating.  I know it can be annoying to some when I comment on a butterfly that flutters past the window in the middle of a serious conversation. But my grandkids love it that I notice bunnies in the backyard as we’re playing The Memory Game on the living room floor and that I’m almost as excited as they are when they find the turquoise blue stone among the tan rocks that line the road on the way to our rec center. But last week someone in our Thursday Night Men’s Meeting used the phrase Distracted by Shiny Objects to describe his Attention Deficit Disorder. Looking on up ADD on WebMD,  I discovered that to some degree or other, I have a tendency to exhibit a number of the symptoms listed: