Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Why is the 2nd from the top button on dress shirts always an inch too low?

Can't we move those puppies up another half to full inch so that people don't have to see if I'm wearing an undershirt or not?

Post I never hit Publish on - November 2007 Real Estate

Housing prices down only 4.5%, but unsold backlog reaches 10 months

In earlier posts (Sunk-cost fallacy in real estate), we documented the reluctance of homeowners to sell at a loss. Now the Wall St Journal reports that housing prices have fallen only 4.5% from their March 2006 peak and, due to the reluctance of sellers to reduce price, there is a ten month backlog of unsold houses.Keeping your house on the market can cost as much as 1% of the house value each month. Their advice:Ask your real-estate agent how many properties are on the market in your town today and how many sold in each of the past six months, advises Chris Mayer, director of Columbia Business School's Milstein Center for Real Estate. "If there are 2,000 houses on the market and 200 houses sold last month, that means it's taking 10 months to sell a house," Prof. Mayer says. "That's pretty simple math, but nobody ever does it. If you price your house like everybody else, it might

take 10 months to sell it."

How to tell if your client is insane - last day with these nutsos!

Not going to say where I am working right now, but I'll be glad to be done with this client.

Let's create a checklist of bad client attributes and behaviors, and see how this one stacks up:
  1. Consistently contradicts their own requests
  2. Changes priorities
  3. Gives conflicting requests from multiple people
  4. Bonus: conflicting requests from the same person
  5. Treats the "help" as second-class citizen
  6. Has a mountain of rules and regulations
  7. Does not follow any of the rules or regulations
  8. Loves the "bring me a rock" exercise - this is where they ask you to produce some deliverable, with ill defined requirements. You produce it, they say bring them something similar, but different, and still can't define what they want. This repeats ad naseum
  9. They aren't worried about doing the right thing, only what their bosses and others (like the market) will think
  10. Meetings, lots of meetings. Meetings to discuss meetings.
  11. Bonus: Won't just have three people chat about something, has to call it a meeting. Double bonus if they insist in sending a meeting invitation
I think I hit #s: 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

So farewell client. I've learned, something, I guess. If anything, I learned:
  • You can only make an inrrational client a tiny bit more rational
  • You have to put in a lot more effort to frame decisions for them. I basically had to box them into a corner to do the right thing
  • Don't play the game, you won't win. Don't try and outfox them, don't do any "double secret probation" type stuff where you have non-disclosed meetings with stakeholders to try and get something done behind people's backs.
  • However, you can get things done despite others. Frame what you are doing in a way that they see it as benefiting them.
  • Make the process your friend, use it to shield you from tasks they ask you to do that will make you look bad, or could break a truly important rule (or heaven forbid, law)
  • Momentum is key - Once you get a little bit of progress, once you get them working slightly more rationally, you can build on it. To quote the insane Herm Edwards of the NFL "WE CAN BUILD ON THIS!" (shouted after a loss).

What's the right way to leave a job?

In the current state of the economy, people are more likely to leave their employer due to layoffs than because they found a better opportunity. But both situations present similar issues and actions though.

First, you have to realize you have two roles within every company: you are both an employee, and a worker. What's the difference? And employee entails all the overhead stuff, the paperwork, compliance issues, EEOC training, getting paid, 401(k), and if you live in a magical fantasy world you even have a pension. For this role there is either someone in HR who nags, I mean helps, you with this (it could also be your supervisor). The worker role is your real work, your day-to-day responsibilities of getting stuff done. You deal with your supervisor, co-workers, and maybe even people you manage.

Job number one when you leave a company is to take care of the all your HR stuff. Make sure you have the names and numbers for your benefits people. Know all your account numbers and log ins for your 401(k), know who you contact if you want to roll any of this over.

Make sure your papers and emails are in order. You are reasonably allowed copies of your work papers, but be cognizant of your Intellectual Property restrictions. Don't take anything that is proprietary. But you are allowed to have access to various HR records, and you should always have had a copy of your performance appraisals. These will be key later on, especially if you have to tweak your resume, remember any awards you won, etc. If you receive pay statements via email, forward those puppies on to your personal email. You may wish to create a totally new email address for this, but I created a specific label within Gmail for this.

Now as a worker, it's a totally different set of responsibilities. If you manage any people, they have to be your number one priority. You'll need to have a transition plan for migrating your duties to whomever is taking over. In an ideal world, you will know who this is, have a positive working relationship and do this personally. Often times, you will not know who is taking over and there will be no chance to even talk to them about the team.

I went to great lengths to try and not bias the two people who took over for me. I was really handling two roles, and my boss wisely decided to split them apart and have two people take them on. I was upfront and always said, "Here is fact, here is my opinion". We called it a "Bus File", others call it a "Titanic file" or other permutations, but this was a document that summarized my roles and responsibilities, the basics of what I did, when certain deliverables were due, and gave some history on the most major pieces of work. I used this whenever I took a vacation of more than 3 days for whoever watched over my team as well.

Close out as many tasks as you can, be cognizant of whoever is taking over for you when new duties are assigned and try to push out the due dates so the new person can meet the deadlines. Make sure you let your replacement know what balls are still in the air.

And above all, never burn a bridge. You might want to take some cheap shots at people as you are leaving, really letting them know what you think of them. Don't. Just grin and bear it. However, one caveat is that you should be brutally honest should you have an exit interview. Mine was a joke, near useless. But I still was honest and told them what I liked about the company, why I was leaving, and what they should fix. The lady doing this pressed me on why I was leaving, which in part was salary. I wouldn't tell her the dollar amount I left for, but gave her a percentage range of increase and she laughed and told me I made the right decision.

I took a cue from my wife and handwrote thank you letters to people who really helped me out. I thanked those who gave me a chance to interview for promotions, especially one's I didn't get. The opportunities were great, and they didn't have to include me. I thanked all my supervisors for their wise council and mentorship. And I thanked one guy in particular for his frank and honest opinions on my work. He was a pain in the butt a lot of the time, a jerk to people who couldn't handle him well, but he was the most honest boss I've ever had. When I gave him work that didn't meet his expectations, he told me. But he also helped me fix it, which was key. I learned a lot from him.

The golden rule in this instance is twofold: treat people the way you'd like to be treated, and keep the future in mind.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Google's My Maps - Why not the Google Maps start page?

I have three maps set up in Google's My Maps. Why isn't this my default start page when I type in

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dear Bret Michaels, quit while you're ahead (or not horribly behind)

Seriously, quit:

Airbrushed, botox'd, makeup (not the kind you wore as a legit rocker).

VA Xmas Tree

At the National Christmas Tree in DC.

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Smithsonian Natural History

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Why no applications for company profiles in LinkedIn?

I have a Google Presentation app in my LinkedIn profile, but I can't install any apps to my company's profile?
Seems like someone hasn't connected the dots on this one.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008 ornament


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Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm sitting next to John Thompson at Costco

Yup, THE John Thompson from Georgetown. COOL!
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

How to piss off all your clients if you are in the finance related world

Push me, egg me on, call and email me constantly because YOU are focused on making YOUR numbers. So just keep doing it, keep making MY future, MY money about YOU.

The financial services people who remain calm, continue to provide a valued service, who don't push their clients, but instead wisely counsel them, they will find their customers to be more loyal and will recommend them to others.

The analogy is clear to being an employer: times are tough, so employers start treating their employees like crap. Cut all the perks programs, we have to save save save. Fire people, cut the bottom line as much as possible! After all, there is a short-term over supply of labor, you can afford to treat people poorly.

But what will your A+ performers do once the market adjusts? They'll leave you, because they already know you don't care about them.

But if you wisely counsel your employees on the market, in an open and honest way; if you help them to find jobs if you have to lay them off, but only after having helped try to transfer them to other offices that need staff, then they will remember you fondly (and maybe use your services at the new employer).

If you're providing a service, remember, it's never about YOU, it's about the CUSTOMER. You'll make your numbers when you treat me well.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gmail Updates its PDF Viewer?

It's new to me, and I like it. Much easier to scroll through multiple pages, zoom in and out, search, print, view multiple pages, and view in the older html only version.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Xmas tree

Here it is

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Jim's in Philly

Pics of our tasty cheese steaks from Jim's in Philly.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bill E Goat

Army/Navy 2008, Bill E Goat

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Army-Navy Parachute Teams (2)

Army-Navy Parachute Teams 2008

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Army-Navy Parachute Teams (1)

Army-Navy Parachute Teams 2008

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

How to install Google Friend Connect on Blogger

This is MUCH easier than you think.

If you get whitelisted (which means approved in human speak) to use Google Friend Connect, you can rush off to sign up and install it. However, you'll reach a cryptic step that says you have to upload two files to your server.

Uh-oh, you have no server, you are using Google's very own Blogger ( tool. Did they not think this through? Why ask someone you know ahead of time to install files on a server they know you don't have?

Ah, but they half did, yet did not tell you this clearly. The two files they asked you to upload, are actually uploaded for you as a Blogger member. So skip that that upload step, and move on.

The next step is to add a sidebar widget (click "Add") and then select the "HTML/Javascript" widget. Name it whatever you wish (maybe "Google Friend Connect"? maybe something more snappy and relevant to your site "Kelly's Cookers" or "Natmosphere" if you were to have a Washington Nationals blog, hint hint).

Make sure you check the width of the widget when you create the code within Google Friend Connect. I had to play with a number of widths to get it to fully fit.

Navigating Firefox Tabs tips

Three quick tips that I wanted to share.

First, my wife taught me that you can simply nit "ctrl - Tab" and you will move from left to right between tabs. Very nice.

My first tip to her was you hit "ctrl" and "pg up" or "pg dn" and will move left to right or right to left, respectively.

My second tip to her was use of "ctrl" and the numbers. "Ctrl - 1" takes you to the first tab, "Ctrl - 9" always takes you to the last tab, or the 9th if there is one. All other numbers will take you to the numbered tab you hit.

Boom, there you go, faster Firefox tab navigations.

Divorce Calculator - What is your risk?

According to this calculator, which I learned about here, the following is my divorce risk rate -

According to the data:

So I guess that would be considered "low" (which I'm sure my wife will be pleased to learn when she reads this post in a week or so).

So there it is, proof that I am as awesome and amazing as I thought. Double bonus points for empirical evidence I can now use to prove to my wife that I'm as great a husband as I say I am.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Does Remember the Milk actually help me get things done?

I'm not sure.

I want to believe, I do.

Here's how it helps:
  • I don't forget to do the things I capture (that which I don't capture, most likely doesn't get done)
  • It helps my "mental memory" stay clearer, allowing me to focus (ala Getting Things Done)
  • I feel more comfortable that I haven't forgotten something (like the milk I bought yesterday)
  • Daily print out of the day's and week's tasks
  • I can access it via my phone (see the iPhone layout to the left)
  • I can email it with tasks
  • It sends me a daily agenda (see the notifications set up below)
  • Integrates with Google Calendar to show my my daily tasks quickly
  • Integrates with Gmail, you can throw your tasks to the right side of the inbox screen, this is AWESOME
  • Double integration with Gmail, you can enable the "Star" feature in Gmail to auto create ToDos for you.

Here's how it doesn't:
  • Gut wrenching feeling when I have to postpone something
  • Overwhelmed feeling when I look at the list of things that I doubt I'll get to today

Notice anything about that "doesn't" list? Those are NOT valid reasons to quit using RTM, or some other system like it. They are escapism, they are avoidance. They have nothing to do with RTM and everything to do with wanting to be lazy, or to have a "break", or whatever.

Thanks to ahhyeah & Andréia for use of their Flickr images. Check out their other images!

Not being the boss - my biggest adjustment in my career change

The ironic part when leaving a rather large employer, to a very small one, has been the transition of having been a boss before and not one now.

How does that work?

At my last employer, I was on a project where I ultimately had day-to-day oversight of 20+ people and indirect oversight of 80+. However, I was a cog in the wheel of that company (the project and company really not no true linkage, crazy eh?).

I left the old company for great opportunities with my present employer, and I've gotten them for sure. I'm in on company strategy meetings, I am helping plot out our IT expenditures (we hight recommend Central Desktop as an online document repository and project management tool, its very flexible) and have worked on several business development projects (including a very large one we hope to finalize in the next 2-4 weeks).

But my day-to-day work is rather different. I went from having no say or buy-in with my employer to having a lot. But also went from lots of responsibility on a daily project basis, to none. On my current project I am now just a cog (which is where I started out on my last project).

And the #1 challenge when you have been a boss, and no longer are: not acting like you are still the boss. In a good way, it is humbling. You might have let your previous management roll get to your head. But now I'm basically the low man on the totem pole.

And you MUST avoid the urge to say "When I was in charge" or "When I was managing 25 people...". People in general hate it, it upstages your current boss, and it makes you look like a jerk.

Google's Blogger needs to create a "blog this" right-click extension

Right-click on that interesting image and boom, you get a new post with the image already included.

Highlight some text and it automatically quotes it for you, properly references the original material, and you get a post.

This should work much like the "Share with Comment" in Google Reader.

In fact, maybe this should be something for Google Reader. Why not make it easier for me to blog about what I'm reading within GReader? It's like "Share with Comment" on steroids, it'd blog it and share it.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Shower handle issue

In my previous post about replacing our guest bathroom (GBA) hardware I mentioned an issue I was having with the old shower handles. I mentioned the real issue was in the back, where the distance piping was screwed (I hope) into the wall. Well here is as good of a shot as my blackberry will provide:

Note the oldness and the amount of grout, which I thought was the issue. Seems to be that the spacing pipe is on there waaaaaay to strongly. Some attempts at twisting it off has only left the front part a bit bent.

Any ideas? I'm hoping "Dave" can come over, and that his blowtorch will loosen things up a bit (and not burn down the house; nor result in a major piece of plumbing).

Question of the month: Can this plumbing job be finished before the in-laws officially come to town?????

Guest Bathroom Shower Hardware Replacement

After having successfully replaced the hardware in our master bathroom (with the gracious help of my father-in-law), we have decided to tackle the guest bathroom (GBA). We should have done it in the other order...

The master bathroom was past of an addition to the house about 20 years ago. So things are at least newer than in the original part of the house. Problem number one in the GBA was the normally simple task of removing the tub faucet. It would not budge, and after my expert guidance in the MBA told me it can take some torque, I did. I torque so much, and the old original copper piping was so "rusted", I torqued the spout piping about 2 inches from the elbow in the back. Thank GOODNESS our GBA has an access panel to the shower plumbing. Otherwise, there'd be a big ol' hole there (and a giant wet spot in the kitchen ceiling).

Upon learning what all my brawn had accomplished, I jerry-rigged a solution that kept any drips funneling into the tub (worked good enough for my Dad's visit I might add).

What is any home repair job without a pile of indistinguishable parts? These come, without instructions, from whatever plumbing parts wholesaler my wife used. Great price, just what we wanted. But be careful if you've never done this before. A great idea is to go to the library ahead of time and get a plumbing book. I've found all the Home Depot series books to be great.

Here are the original handle spots (original copper finish handles removed). See all that grout around the tubing? I thought that was the source of my next issue.

But it wasn't. The real culprit is what is in the back of the grout, which after removed made life no more simple. The tubing you see is steadfastly attached in the back (see future post/pic).

I was though, able to remove and install the shower head. Notice how I had to remove the original plumber's taping, which was too far up towards the wall.

If you have any previous experience in this work, please look for my next post which has another picture of my issue, I need any bright ideas.

As to fixing problem number 1 - we are in great hope that our amazing neighbor "Dave" will be able to come to the rescue. Yes, he can sweat pipes.

Add a "blog this" feature to Google Analytics

Ever looked at the "Benchmarking" page in Google Analytics? Or been looking at your latest reports on the number of page views and thought "Wow, it's up 23%, that's great, I'd like to tell my readers about it" and then realized how much of a pain it is to copy/paste the graphics into an image to blog about? Or not been able to get the flash charts on your site?

Well Google, since Google Analytics is so tightly coupled with Blogger, why not just ad a nifty little button that lets us readily blog about our own stats?

It creates more content (ad revenue), it promotes Google Analytics (increasing adoption), and allows people to use your products in conjuntion.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Weekly stats, who is right? Lijit v Google Analytics

From my weekly breakdown from Lijit (11/23/08 - 11/30/08)

Page Views per Day
 Direct page views  Page views with Re-Search

Google Analytics says:

Site Usage

So is it 101 with Google Analytics or 536 from Lijit (108 + 72 + 57 + 76 + 63 + 54 + 50 + 56)?

Re: Foxit Reader's Nefarious Install

Even worse than expected:

Despite saying "NO!" to the install, it still did.

Thank you Firefox for making the uninstall so easy!

Foxit Reader, you're on my list!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Typealyzer of ckstevenson

Typealyzer will give you a Myers-Briggs assessment of "you" via your blog. I am (evidently):

ISTP - The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Foxit Reader's Nefarious Install

Making my default search?

Making Foxit Reader my default homepage?

WTF are these doing as part of the install? Mal-intentions at  best...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Airlie Xmas 2


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Airlie Xmas 1

Walking garden/tour of the Airlie Garden Christmas light show.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

She likes to travel

AB along for the drive to Wilmington, NC to see my Dad for Turkey Day.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Robot dog says

No touch blankie...

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Giant's "Check It"

Here are two shots of Giant's "Check It" scanner.

First is the fun to hold and use device (if you've registered for wedding gifts you may have done something similar before).

The second is the semi helpful, semi annoying chirped coupon that comes up. I believe these merely to be what is on special already, not new/special coupons for using the device.

Checking out was easy, only make sure to not put your stuff in the bagging area or it isn't happy.

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