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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Monthly Archives: July 2003
The article is interesting, but not particularly ground breaking.
The article is interesting, but not particularly ground breaking. There’s a huge literature on this, most of which hasn’t really been given much public attention. A good starting point is the book The Human Nature of Birds: A Scientific Discovery With Startling Implications. Hell, if you read Darwin, he had some of this figured out…
The avian brain is wired different than many animals. Everyone’s heard of Koko the gorilla and the language experiments done with gorillas and other great apes. Fascinating stuff.
But few people have her of Irene Pepperberg’s research with Alex the African Grey and other African Grey’s.
Alex has a vocabulary of over 200 words, and can consistently take words and build cognitive groupings out of them. Some of the stuff they’ve done with Alex is here.
Laurie and I have kept birds for what seems forever — about 20 years now, first with Morgan, and after she died, Tatiana, our current Umbrella Cockatoo.
First surprise is that birds (IMHO) have the same attitude as cats. Dogs see you as friends, cats see you as servants. Birds remind me a lot of cats.
Tatiana is an avian equivalent of a four year old. She’s old enough to know that certain actions will get her in trouble, and old enough to decide it’s worth it and do it anyway. This creates a problem, since she firmly believes she’s in charge, and she’s not afraid to let us know if we’ll allow it — and she knows she’s in charge of the cats, because they know it, too. So we have this frigging bird chasing cats — and laughing — because she knows she can get away with it (and we have a smart cat, too. Smart enough to know never to touch the bird when we’re around, and willing to wait for the time when we aren’t — the family is never together unsupervised. never)
Morgan, bless her soul, was an escape artist. we finally had to padlock her cage, because anything less than that, she could open. We caught her one day stuffing splinters up the keyhole of the padlock, becaue she’d figured out that when you put the key in there, it opened. We fully expected her to invent lockpicks at any time, but instead, she chose to disassemble her cage from the inside instead, and kept finding places where she could remove a piece or split a seam instead. She was a big believer in brute force.
Tatiana, on the other hand, is more of an engineer. I’ve caught her watching me do things — for instance, using a D ring to attach toys to her cage (a D ring looks like a link of chain, but one side is threaded so you can open it and then screw it shut again). Not suprisingly, I came home one day, and all of her toys were on the floor of the cage, and she had one of those D rings in one claw, and was very carefully screwing it open, and then closed, and watching what it did as she turned it.
We’re constantly reminded just how sharp she is. She remembers things. She can tell time. She understands the difference between weekend and weekday. She knows if I’m working from home, it’s not “her” time until after 4:30. And she knows when 4:30 is.
It’s never boring here. Just the way we like it, when we aren’t considering killing her.
here’s tonight’s fun and games. I’m home late from work. As I hit the driveway, the door pops open, and laurie yells “I need you in here now!”. That’s never a good sign. Laurie’s blouse is covered with blood spots.
Normally, that means a cracked blood feather, which is either simple to deal with, or potentially fatal — and Tatiana’s in another moult phase, so she’s primed. But tonight, it was a cracked toenail.
So suddenly, Laurie is sitting there with a bleeding bird, who’s alternately showing laurie the toe hey! lookie! and playing with it look! I can write my name on your shirt!. Laurie’s trying to get the clotting stuff out, but the damned bird is too busy enjoying herself to cooperate. All the while, we have two cats wanderin around the chaos going need help? what’s going on?.
So I grab the bird and start treating the wound, Laurie gets the cats into the back half of the house, and then I’m trying to get the vet’s number out of my cel phone so Laurie can call in that we’re coming, because I’m not sure I’m going to get it stopped. Tatiana, at this point, is standing on her cage, holding out her foot for me to work on.
Finally, I get enough goo and pressure on the crack that it slows, then stops. Tatiana just sits there patiently. I keep tossing clotting factor on it to make sure it really stops (I use styptic powder for toes; flour for blood feathers if at all possible, becaus styptic can be caustic and stings).
So we finally get it stopped, and there’s this clump of clotting factor on the toe. it obviously hurts. Tatiana decides she wants to play with it, of course. So we do five minutes of “no, don’t touch”. half a dozen times, and she tries to pretend she’s preening, to see if she can get to the toe that way (dad’s waiting, nope).
So we play about five minutes of “don’t touch that”, and then she looks at me, and stops trying.
And didn’t touch the toe for the next half hour. After that, it was clear it was going to stay stopped, and since it was past bedtime, we put her to bed.
Now you tell me, how many dogs would have figured it out without a victorian collar? Few. I’ll check it tomorrow to see if it needs to be seen by the vet — she probably ought to be looked at, since it’s been about two months since we stopped her hormone treatments (that’s another whole long story…).
But to me, here’s the real reason I feel she’s intelligent: when she’s really, really mad at me for some reason, she’ll do something to get herself in trouble, just because she knows that makes me crazy — and then take and put herself back in her cage and wait for me to catch up. The kid who did something to spite her parents, and the sent herself to her room.
That, folks, is what life with a cockatoo is like. Crows got nothing on my little white friend here (and that shouldn’t surprise you. In australia and the tropics, the cockatoo lives in the same ecological niche that the crow fills here in North America…)
If you haven’t yet read Clay Shirky’s A Group is its own Worst Enemy, please do so. It’s a wonderful examination of the social aspects (and technological underpinnings) of the online group.
It’s got some wonderful and very true concepts about the strengths and challenges of running groups. I found myself nodding in agreement with most of it, because he was describing atechnique Laurie and I had settled on to manage our lists (even if we didn’t consciously recognize it before now).
Since I’m trying to figure out what I want to do in the details of building the new Hockeyfanz, this has given me some things to think about, and generated some thoughts I thought I’d throw out there. This is the first (it may be the last, it depends on if I find anything else worth saying…), and it’s based on a discussion on a virtual community discussion on , a place I hang out when I’m not busy writing blog entries…
> Finally, there’s “a way to spare the group from scale.”
> I’m not sure what he means here…
There are two aspects to this. On a macro level, it’s simply the size of the group. Too large, and any attempt to hold a conversation becomes unwieldy, and the dynamics of the group will create their own frictions (something we have seen here at times…). Also, there’s going to be a given percentage of any population that won’t get along, and some small percentage that is simply a problem (aka, trolls). if four out of 100 simply can’t get along, and you have one troll per 100, that’s manageable. But scale taht to 1000, and now you have 40 people yelling at each other, and 10 trolls. Even though the PERCENTAGE is the same, the result isn’t. As groups get larger, the percentage of noise has to be reduced, because the group won’t survive it otherwise. Groups don’t scale to larger sizes well.
One a macro level, think of the cocktail party. You might have 50 people at the party, but they clump off into small groups and each hold separate discussions, but mix around. if you had all 50 trying to be in the same discussion, you again have chaos.
So what Shirky’s getting at is that no matter how big a group gets, the natural inclination is to split off in small groups for a more intimate discussion, and the software has to encourage and allow that. probably encourage it.
So think in terms of that cocktail party, and virtually build ways for people to find a quiet corner of the place to talk. If you analyize most discussions here on eMinds (and most likely all bboards), most discussions actually consist of a very small group of people talking, and the rest of the bboard politely watching from the sides so the conversation and pretend they aren’t listening in — but as you walk through the board, you see different clumps of people getting together in different areas (some people are in all of them, which is the main advantage of the virtual cocktail room over the real one. But everyone has a slightly different set of places where they hang out, and smallers sets of those where they chat)
The other aspect is creating ways to allow people t duck out of the way of the noise, meaning hide from the trolls, and get away from the personality conflicts and fights. In a cocktail party, when Jerry and Fred start rehashing that lost poodle (oh, again? can’t they let it drop? evidnetly not…) for the 30th time, everyone groans and shifts to a different part of the room. How do you do it online?
So (IMHO) the ultimate aspect of scale is creating a system that, no matter how large it gets and how many people are contributing to it, it still seems small and (not private, but) intimiate to encourage discussion.
the more people feel like they’re speaking to a large crowd (or will be yelled at by one), the more inhibited they’ll be, unless you’re someone with titanium skin or no self-awareness of others… so systems need to build in a sense of intimacy and smallness and hide the size…
The reality is, every time we post to a topic here, some X number of people are going to read it. The equivalent of three people talking, 30 listening — that’s not a cocktail party, that’s a conference panel, and makes most people uncomfortable. So systems have to help people stop thinking about the ‘audience’, without ever making them think it’s not there, because otherwise, things get said that are usually regretted…
I was considering talking about this anyway, but my programmer came into my office today worried he hadn’t been holding his weight (furthest from the truth, he’s actually kicked some serious butt for me), so I guess I better make sure there are no misconceptions here…
I’ve made a number of references to working long hours on the blog. That’s because I’ve been working a lot of hours, to the point I’ve put a lot of personal things on hold to keep things going at that place that I work…
But lest you think I’m chained to a desk and fed raw meet through the bars, here’s, well, the rest of the story.
About 18 months ago, I was on vacation up north (as usual). I’d been thinking things over for a while, and finally decided I was stagnating, and work just wasn’t all that interesting — I wasn’t challenged. So I wrote a note to my boss saying that I thought it was time to start thinking about transition issues, wrapping up what I was doing, transitioning the email stuff to other people, and looking for new opportunities for me. Now, the timeframe for this transition was a year or so, given what was scheduled, but I just felt I wasn’t growing or being challenged any more, and I was actually thinking maybe it was time to think about even leaving Apple, but my preference was always to find something new and interesting there, not leave. Given I’d been doing what I’m doing since 1996 or so, I don’t think I was being unreasonable…
So I actually did return from up north (sometimes it’s easier, sometimes it’s not…), and we started discussing the situation. Everyone was quite supportive and understanding, for what it’s worth.
Along the way, I wrote a proposal for a new internal system that involved some technologies I wanted to experiment with, and which I thought served some useful purpose. My thought at the time was that a reasonable compromise would be to continue working on my existing stuff, and use this as a possible transition to a new set of technologies, starting part time and growing it into a full-time gig if things worked the way I thought they would. It had some nice potential, a low cost of entry and an interesting ROI, and it’d solve (assuming it worked) a number of long-held requests inside the company. Not bad for a start… It was well-received, and we decided to go ahead with it.
Along the way, though, a funny thing happened. I’d been suggesting another project on and off for a while, something I thought was very interesting and technically challenging, and something that could both save Apple a chunk of money and improve the way Apple did some of their operations at the same time — lower cost, improved customer interaction, more power and flexibility, all in the same package. It’d floated about, but never really found traction or gotten much notice.
Well, for various reasons, the right place turned a corner and rear-ended the right time, and suddenly that first project got noticed, and started being looked at again. And then I’m being asked if it could be ready by This Day (TM), and what it’d take to get there.
So suddenly, I have my new project. I redo my project proposal, work out budget and staffing, estimate everything out, and it all gets approved. Basically, until that point, I’d worked almost exclusively on the “lone wolf” projects — I design, I build, I run. This new one’s big, it’s complex, it’s gotta be done by This Date, and there’s no way in hell I’m doing it alone….
So now I’m architecting a system and managing a team to build and operate it. Talk about wandering out from your comfort zone and stretching your wings. new challenges? technical growth? personal growth? I had it in spades. And in the midst of all of that, I made a simple, but huge, mistake.
That mistake was assuming how much of my time would be available to code — I made the assumption that I’d lose about half my time to managing things and maintaining other systems, and still be able to act as a half-time developer for the project.
Silly me. But I’ve got a strong stubborn streak (my bosses have a term they use with me at times, that of being in “violent agreement” again), and have always believed that whatever needed to be done, I’d find a way to do it.
So I had a problem. We made our first deliverable (barely). Getting there was fun. I think I wrote the “we aren’t gonna make it” memo three or four times. My boss talked me off the roof twice, HIS boss talked me off the roof once, and somehow, at something like 2AM on the morning of the day where the live/die decision would happen, it all fell together and started working, and the damn thing lived.
But the reality was, I wasn’t 50% coding,50% other, I was more like 90% other, 10% coding, and usually, I was the big red line noting the critical path on the schedule.
So I made a decision to try to find as much of that missing 50% coder as I could. I felt there was a significant committment from my company to this project, and there was a rather nasty budget impact to a bunch of people if it didn’t fly, so I felt there was no choice but to make it fly. It was my feeling, given the corporate financial situation at the time, that going for extra headcount wouldn’t work (and frankly, we didn’t have the time in the schedule to wait for the process to bring another body on and get them up to speed), and besides, did I mention that I’m a rather stubborn cuss who believes he can pull off pretty much any miracle?
(digression: in retrospect, I’d say that going back to for more resources would have killed the beast early on, when it was still unproven. But later on, once it was in operation and it was proving itself, I probably should have tried, and I probably would have gotten it — but by then, I felt the worst of the disaster was over, and for the most part, I think I was right. We still could have pulled in our schedules better than we did if I’d thought it out better. But I’m sometimes a bit stubborn, you know?)
So I did what I thought had to be done, crawled in a hole, pulled it in after me, and started hacking. The whole crew (four of us, plus my boss) dug in and fought the good fight. and it worked. We didn’t meet schedules as well as I wish I had, but we did okay. Not good enough, but okay.
So that’s why I’ve been working long hours. I made a proposal to Apple to build a Thing. they paid me to build it. There were groups within Apple that were depending on that thing, and I felt committed to not letting them down, to the best of my ability. so I did whatever I could to meet that committment. I also felt professionally I had a lot on the line; if it failed, I’d never be trusted again (and rightfully so), and that probably was ‘it’ for me at Apple. I decided that wasn’t an option. I didn’t feel like faceplanting with that many people watching.
And, you know what? (I say this around work, and people stare at me like I’m crazy) I haven’t had this much fun in years. I haven’t had this much personal and professional growth in a long time. I’ve had to grow myself technically to make this project fly, I’ve had to grow myself professionally, learning how to manage people, manage projects, coordinate the work of multiple people, deal with outside organizations that are now my clients — lots of things that have been on the “someday” list, and all showed up on the to do list along the way.
It’s been one hell of a hack. Sometimes stressful (well, no; usually stressful, but people tend to forget there’s good stress and bad stress, and it’s been mostly good stress), but always a challenge, and I love a good challenge.
Think of it if this way. You’ve been surfing for a while, you’re not a bad surfer. So you’re out on the board one day, grabbing 10′ waves, having a good time. And then you’re out there, and you see this wave coming — 15′, 20′, 25′. What do you do? Me — I start paddling. If you catch the wave and live, you really know you’ve done something. Now, it’s probably not the smartest to transition from 10′ waves right to 25 footers, but opportunity isn’t always going to cooperate. you can either paddle towards it or away from it, but it may not throw another chance like that at you.
Right around July 1, we checked in the last code that basically brought the key systems to the point where they needed to be. That’s been the transition the last week or so, as I realized it was time to dig myself back out of that hole, and get back to life. The system isn’t done — I could sketch out the next two years development if you asked nicely enough (and were internal to Apple) of stuff we need to (or should) do to this beast, but I don’t expect to ever have to submarine back down to make sure things happen. We’re actually in good shape on future deliverables right now (I always felt if we could Get Over The Hump that the stuff that Came Next would happen faster than expected; it was just getting there that went slower. So far, I seem to be right).
So I’ve spent a week recharging batteries and catching up on ~150 pieces of email, ~200 URLs in my “stuff to talk about” file (many of which I threw out as no longer relevant), and the yards no longer look like nobody lives here. Which has done wonders for my sense of frustration at seeing so much stuff in stasis… heck, I found the floor of the garage!
It was my feeling that an opportunity like this would only come once. I had to either grab it and hope it didn’t kill me, or let it pass and stay what I was, a pretty good email hack and special project gunslinger geek. Which isn’t a bad thing to be, but if you aren’t growing, you’re stagnating and dying, and I’m not interested in that. So I grabbed (and I’m still alive…). And I think I’ve done something pretty damn good, and pretty damn fun, even if I can’t talk about it here…
Sometimes, you just grab, hold on, and see what happens. Would I do it differently next time? Sure — I learned a lot, especially about my limitations and how to be realistic about them. Would I go back in time and do it again?
In a second. If you ever ready Tracy Kidder’s Soul of the New Machine, winning was something you did so they’d allow you to play the game again. Me, I’m looking for another quarter to stick in the machine…
That which does not kill us makes us stronger — Friedrich Nietzsche
Amen! — chuqui
damn you, Steve Jackson Games (oh, wait. too late…)
The Teddy Bears Summon Cthulhu!
“If you go out to the woods today
You won’t like what you will find
If you go out to the woods today
You’re certain to lose your mind
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain because
Today’s the day the teddy bears summon Cthulhu!
Ritual time for teddy bears!
The little teddy bears are waking the Elder Gods today!
Smell the incense in the air!
And see them dancing their eldritch ballet!
See the waving tentacles
While in their pentacles
They summon your worst nightmares!
And soon their Lord, Great Old One Cthulhu
Will rise up from the sea
Because they’re faithful little teddy bears
You could go out to the woods today
With the bears and their evil tome
It’s lovely out in the woods today
But safer to stay at home
Beneath the trees where nobody sees
They’ll chant and pray as long as they please
Today’s the day the teddy bears summon Cthulhu!”
Since we’ve decided who is going to paint the house (finally. yeah!), a few thoughts on how to hire a good contractor…
The key thing to remember, I think, is that any time you are hiring a contractor to do something, whether it’s paint your house or replace a toilet or whatever needs done, is to understand enough of what’s happening to know whether or not the contractor is doing a good job. In this situation, you are your own general contractor hiring a sub-contractor, so you need to understand what you’re hiring out.
Most good contractors will take the time to explain things you don’t understand; take advantage of that, but be aware that if you already know you won’t be accepting a given contractor’s bid, you’re wasting his time. That’s part of the reality of bidding a job and contractors factor that into their pricing, but it’s no excuse to abuse the relationship. you’re better off going back to the contractor you ARE hiring to ask questions you still have. of course, if you honestly aren’t sure who to hire, or whether the job is being bidded properly, you should keep asking questions until you do.
My first thought: “everyone” tells you to get three bids. Well, life’s not that simple. I have accepted the first bid. I’ve accepted the seventh bid. What’s important is that you keep talking to contractors until you find one you’re convinced will do the job properly for a price you feel is fair.
For instance, three weeks after we closed on the house, the furnace went kerplooey. We contacted a number of companies, and ended up working with one that could deal with the problem quickly at a good price. That led to further work — we’ve completely replaced the HVAC system, including reducting the house, and have done a couple of thousand in plumbing to the place since we’ve arrived. We don’t bid any of this out now, we call these folks; they aren’t the cheapest, but they’re wonderfully reliable, their work is first class, their systems are quality, and I can trust them. It makes no sense to go bidding for what we need these days.
Or when we re-roofed. One company has done seven or eight of the roofs on the block — the Eichler is a bit of a specialty, being a flat roof, and residential tar and gravel isn’t exactly common. But to get a sanity check on the price, we brought in a second company to bid; it was 40% higher, without the roof insulation we’d gotten added into the bid. No brainer, we went with the first company, and the R14 under the tar and gravel has made a huge difference to the livability of the house (and our energy bills… we had to spec up the air conditioner significantly when it was replaced because of the heat gain from the roof. Now, the airco is pretty bored, except on really hot days…0
And in one case — our first run at patio and hardscaping, we just gave up and put it off. That was during the high point of the dot com stuff, though, when every subcontractor was booked eight months in advance (or worthless), and people wouldn’t even come out to look at smaller jobs, and if they did, priced them high enough to make sure you wouldn’t accept their bids. ugh. These days, it’s a lot easier to find good subs…
So my point is — get as many bids as you need to get the right guy. To do that, you need to know enough about the job to know what a good one is, right? If you don’t, the sub ought to help you understand what needs to be done, but don’t completely trust them to tell you the entire truth. Try to find an uninvolved third party to help you understand what’s going on and/or evaluate bids with you.
So, here’s how I found our painting contractor. For the last year or so, I’ve been keeping an eye on paint jobs I’ve seen in the area. Residential, commercial, it didn’t matter, I just watched for jobs I liked, and tried to find out who did them. Some contractors put signs up, many have signage on their trucks or vans. it’s usually pretty easy. I tend to think contractors that use trucks with no signage at all are hiding something, because why not advertise (in many cases, they’re either unlicensed, or they’re small groups that are hired out by bigger companies as sub-sub-contractors. more on that later).
I also asked around to find out from folks I knew who were getting paint jobs who they used. In a few cases, I did it to make sure that company got thrown OFF my list (for instance, a house across the street was being repainted so it could be sold. the painters came in and prepped one day, did the main coat the next — and it rained a little that night. Next morning, they came in and did the trim. IMHO, that house needed at least 48 hours to dry before it should have been painted again — and the trim is already peeling, less than a year later. A company I definitely wouldn’t hire…). Also, I throw out companies who’s company vehicles are in bad shape. A contractor’s truck is going to be used (and used hard), and going to show wear, but a there’s a difference between a truck that shows use and one that (in the case of a painter) looks like it’s rented out weekends for paintball contests. A sloppy truck is, to me, sign of a sloppy work ethic, and that is a short walk from a sloppy job. If a sub doesn’t care about how their trucks look — what will my place look like?
I specifically look for small to medium, family or individual owned contractors who use their own crews. With big companies, you can get lost in the noise, and it’s hard to find someone who stands up and will be responsible. Many times, those big companies will hire out smaller companies to actually od the work — they’re effectively brokers, not contractors. This isn’t necessarily bad, since we did the front door that way through Home Depot and I thought the sub did a great job, but you lose some control, and you’re depending on the company hiring subs that will live to the company’s standards. the busier a company, the more likely that won’t happen. Basically, I want to know who the owner is, and how well he’ll back up the work. The closer you get to the owner of the firm, the better.
Remember that most contracting work is subjective (paint, which deals so much with color, is exceptionally so). A technically good job where the colors are off isn’t a success any more than perfect colors put on badly. So don’t minimize the need to be sympatico with your contractor on colors. A good contractor will help you get the colors you need, not necessarily the ones you want.
As I was watching paint jobs, one company kept showing up. I swear half of the jobs I saw that I really liked were done by this one firm. So they got called first. The owner came out two days later, surveyed the house, and wrote up the bid. We spent about 20 minutes discussing the prep work needed (easily 10, maybe 15 years since the last paint job, stucco with some settling cracks, a few other joys), and then another 20 minutes on paint colors, especially on the porch, we’re I’m rebuilding into a (hopeful) focal point.
He brought up certain aspects of the prep that would need special focus, and explained why he felt they ought to be done. he suggested upgrading to an Elastomer paint (basically, it covers and fills micro-cracks in stucco, and then stretches so they don’t come back), and went into some detail of what the house needed. His company is medium sized, about 50 people, but all work is done by employees, and supervised by foremen who are promoted up through the company. Those are very important guarantees to me that what the bidder says will be done, will be done. And then everything he suggested to me verbally was writen into the bid as documentation for the foreman.
The downside: he was about $700 more than I’d hoped, and about $1000 more than I wanted. Oh, and his trades vans are impeccably clean. You don’t have to wash them weekly, but it doesn’t hurt..
The second company was similar to the first — I’d seen a few jobs I liked, they advertised on the jobs. About a 70 person company. I got a full-time bid writer, not the owner. To be fair, I give all bidders the same job; even if something comes up with an earlier bid I want to adopt, I don’t add it to later bids. I want to see if other subs will come up with the same (or similar, or better) ideas. If not, you can always have them adjust the bid later — they won’t mind, and it’s fairest to all.
The second bidder had pretty much the same prep work specced out, which gives me confidence that this is what the house really needs. His bid differs slightly in a few ways, and in one major way. He doesn’t propose the elastomer paint; instead, he bids priming the entire house.
The third company I called out I called cold out of the yellow pages. I enjoy a bit of randomness, to make sure I’m not pre-judging myself into a corner. Small group, four employees, one crew. He was a no-show for his appointment (which happens); he called two days later, and it was a root canal that went bad, and he was in the emergency room. Like I say, stuff happens, so we rescheduled (but don’t expect me to call and ask why you didn’t show up.. but a contractor that calls, I’ll talk to).
We talked over the job, given the same premise as the first two.
Bid #1: 3,600
Bid #2: 4,900
Bid #3: 1,900
Same job: $3,000 difference. Makes you wonder, huh?
I really liked the third contractor — but I don’t believe he properly bid the amount of prep work this house needs, and I don’t think his crew is really up to doing it. So while he’s the low bid, I’ve eliminated him — but I’m recommending him to my neighbor, who wants her house painted, and which is in good shape bcause it’s been painted three times in the last five years (thanks to two sales…). She’s so tired of white on white, and that crew is perfect for her house. Just not mine.
The difference between bid 1 and bid 2? Once you sit down and break down the bids, bid #1 and bid #2 are exactly the same price — except bid #2 added a full prime coat to the house.
And both bid #1 and bid #2 have bid a job that’ll do what we need — get the exterior fixed up, and get a quality paint job on it.
But IMHO, I’m convinced #1 will do better prep, and is dealing with the house through prep and with a better paint, while #2 went with a lower quality paint and a more labor intensive solution. It’s not wrong, it’s a different philosophy. Either way, we’ll end up with a well-done house. But the 2nd bid is more profitable for his company than the first bid will be to his company.
Which is why you need to know what kind of job you’re having done, and how it ought to be done. There’s not a thing wrong with that second bid, except that it’s slanted more to the contractor’s benefit than mine. If you don’t know any better, it can cost you a couple of thousand dollars and you’ll be happy with the results…
Of course, before I fully commit to bid #1, I’m going to ask him his opinion of the full prime, and see what he says. I think I know what the answer will be…
No, actually, it’s July. But Laurie and I are planning on a Christmas trip this year. Normally, we head to LA for family-time, but after years of negotiation (at one point, Henry Kissinger stepped in to help choose the shape of the table, and which napkins to use), we’ve been given approval to head off on our own.
It’ll come as no suprise to anyone who knows us that means Victoria for christmas. The hotel we use up there has a nice Christmas package that we plan on taking advantage of to spend a few days up there, but we’re trying to figure out what to do with the rest of the holiday. After talking to our concierge in Victoria, we probably won’t spend New Years up there; it’s more of a christmas/shopping location, and for New Years, things are pretty shut down.
So we’re looking at Vancouver. Since neither Laurie nor I are a “ballroom with 2,000 of your closest friends” type, we’re trying to look at what might be fun. We’re hoping the Canucks have a New Year’s Eve game — failing that, there are three or four other teams we might visit instead if they’re playing.
If hockey doesn’t work out, we’re thinking we might head to one of the coasts for some Storm Watching. If we get lucky, it’ll be a cold, rainy night with a nice dinner somewhere and a couple of bottles of wine watching the weather blow in. At worst, it’ll just a pleasant afternoon on a cool beach and a nice quiet night together. Where we might do this is still under discussion, but there are a number of places up the Oregon and Washington coast we might consider. I wouldn’t do Tofino that time of year, but if you don’t mind that kind of drive, it’d be awesome, if you knew the weather was coming. We’re also thinking of maybe finding a place out on one of the islands or up the Sunshine coast, and getting away from it all…
Of course, we could just do the boring thing — stay in vancouver, dinner at Lumiere, and some nice Okanagan wine in the hotel room… but we better make those dinner reservations now… Or maybe the Red Star Roast House in Portland…
Clay Shirky’s new piece, A Group is its own World Enemy is a wonderful look at on-line interactions. he’s right on. Going back to the days of the Backbone Cabal, I’ve seen (and re-lived) the same kind of issues he’s talking about.
(and, in some great virtual co-dependency, like Skinner’s pigeon, once the wounds scar over, I always wander back into the fray, thinking next time, we’ll find the secret that’ll make it work, this time for real (nothing up my sleeve!). Or maybe it’s Maslow’s monkey — it sure feels that way some days…)
A few random thoughts that his piece brought up, for no particular reason other than I thought they synced up with his piece rather well.
Groups are normally created by a small set of people with very similar ideals and goals — after all, they’re a group. but a successful group is going to attract new members, and over time, you’ll start bringing in members that aren’t fully in sync with the full set of goals for the group, and that’s where conflict starts.
So for a group to be successful, you need to design in UP FRONT one of three things:
1) you design the group to be of fixed membership, so that it never grows and doesn’t have to change. then hope members don’t die, get bored, burn out or have fights with each other.
2) you design the group for change, and hope to god the old pharts are willing to accept it when it comes.
3) you try to put in a framework that inhibits change, and hope to god that the fight that happens when the new pharts and the old pharts collide doesn’t kill it (and if it doesn’t, it makes us stronger. in theory). Then be ready for the fight and try to moderate it as quickly as possible…
When it comes to mailing lists, I’ve always had a hands-on approach. This pisses off people who don’t want someone to tell them what to do, but I generally find those folks are the folks who most generally need to be told to quit being annoying. As they say, if you’re not the lead dog, the view doesn’t change, and my corrolary is that if you are the lead dog, you don’t like being told to get out of the way and let someone else have their turn. But in my experience, mailing lists with “absentee landlord” admins come in two forms: small cohesive groups that have expelled troublemakers already, and dead groups that are badgered by one or two dominant trolls. I generally don’t stay on lists where there’s not SOME hand on the rudder, so to speak, because generally, those lists are quite not-fun to be on, and have a bad signal/noise ratio.
Which doesn’t mean to say my hands-on approach was always good, either. I went through a list-nazi phase I wish I could take back and bury. But it immediately followed the “we’re all mature adults here, so I really shouldn’t need to make up rules and tell you what to do, because you all know what’s right”. yeah, right. 99% of them do. it’s that other 1%….