The head on the horse

A few months ago, I began a brief consulting assignment for a guy I found quite perplexing.  He is the sort of guy that thinks very highly of himself, yet also surrounds himself with consultants, many of which he strings along from one part of the organization to another as he himself moves around.  After one of our first meetings, I’d have said he had a big head, but I didn’t need to because he did so nicely by referring to himself as the “head on the horse.”

I’m not really sure how I kept a straight face (or maybe I didn’t and he just didn’t see my brow pinch in consternation), especially because he squeezed it into the conversation six times in an hour.  Imagine a few variations of this:

“I didn’t really want to take on this project, but the boss needed someone that could really get it done, and he knows I’m the head on the horse.  I’ll get things done, whether people like it or not.  I mean, this project really needs a head on a horse, and that’s me.”

“My professional life is really looking up,” I thought to myself at the end of that painful hour.  Then I began my work.

One of my tasks was to update a stakeholder “molecule diagram,” which had been drafted by another consultant that came before me but then left the company mysteriously.  A “molecule diagram” is sort of what you’d think it’d be, but applied in a way that is somehow both superfluous and just plain stupid.  In this case, company departments were named in circles randomly placed on a large page, connected with lines of varying length to a central circle that represented the project (the project that needed the head on the horse).  Then, individual stakeholders were shown in smaller circles that spider-ed out from the department circles.  I can only imagine if it were a model of a real thing, it’d be some kind of free-will-stealing, integrity-thieving, crazy-making substance we’d all best stay far away from.  Even as a poorly chosen representational thing, it had that effect on me.

One of these days, I will figure out what kind of work I can do that won’t leave me feeling like I’m pimping myself out so someone else can get rich selling the same ideas to the same client every few months.  In the meantime, I’m open to suggestions…

Follow the links

I know I just did a Follow the links post, and I’d normally give it some time before putting another out there, but in my effort to catch up, I’ve got more I need to share, so please – follow the links…

Congrats are in order for Tele of Hooked, and I want to spread the word about her success!  I’ve been very lucky to stumble across the writing of a few people that I’ve also been able to create a genuine connection with, even if it is just in blogland, and Tele is one of those people.  I’m so excited to see her piece on National Fisherman.  Check it out!

And, because I haven’t introduced anyone new in a while, and this piece is worth every second of your time, please read Valuing the impulsive word on bottledworder, a blog I recently started reading and suspect I will continue to follow closely.

Mary Jaksch, Chief Editor at Write to Done did a wonderful interview with Seth Godin, and he has some great things to say about writing, making art, and his new book, The Icarus Deception.  It’s a must read (more on this later).

And to close on a light note … like Stephanie at Listful Thinking, I too come from a family that has not yet evolved to incorporate the hug into social interactions.  If you are one of us and get tired of people looking at you funny, read this.  I promise you’ll feel much better.

Still brushing off the cobwebs

For the past number of months, I’ve been struggling with some personal challenges, and one of the most disagreeable side effects was that I couldn’t write.  I thought about it.  I meant to.  I wanted to.  I tried to.  I jotted down notes about things I should write about, but the writing never came.  It still feels a bit like slogging through mud, but I’m here and am hopeful that I’ve come back to a place where I can again make this part of my routine.  While I’m still brushing off the cobwebs, though, I came across a photo I took at work one day, of what can only be called a surreal, yet real, version of a child’s Matchbox car.  Don’t you wish you could see what’s behind the tinted windows?

AstroVan

Follow the links

I started this post four months ago, which makes it incredibly overdue, and if I thought I was slacking then, I’m not sure what to even call it at this point…

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I was pleasantly surprised (and very humbled) a couple of weeks months ago when Graham of Graham’s Crackers nominated me for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award (especially since my writing habits haven’t been all that inspiring of late – I’ve been slacking quite a bit in the past few months).  Nonetheless, his doing so happened to help inspire me to get back on the horse again.  Thanks, Graham!  I needed that.  As a recipient of the nomination, I will now nominate seven others, while also sharing seven random facts about myself.  I’m going to do this all at once by linking to others’ whose posts themselves illustrate the random facts I intend to share about myself.  I apologize in advance that this seems sort of circular.  It is.

1.  In Google reader, I have a handful of categories for the blogs I follow.  “Agents and Advice,” for those moments when I think maybe I’ll publish something someday (current unread count: 162).  Second is “Beginner Bloggers,” which might seem odd unless you’ve taken part in one of the “platform building campaigns” that Rachel of Rach Writes organizes a couple times a year.  When I started this blog I stumbled across her campaign and decided to join.  The blogs in this category represent what’s left of the other people in the Beginner Bloggers group I joined (current unread count: 3 – maybe that deserves its own posts one of these days).  Next is “Creativity,” which I think I meant as a shot in the arm for those times I seem to have no idea what to write about (which is really almost always, so it’s a good thing it’s simply a figurative shot in the arm).

The two last categories are “Humor” and “Writers”.  “Writers” is the category I use for almost every other blog I’ve come across that I wanted to stick with, unless the writing is always funny (or almost always, anyway), in which case, it goes in “Humor”.  2.  I have two blogs in Humor, the wuc and listful thinking (though I’m sure there are plenty of other funny writers out there).  Read on…

3.  Check out this post on listful thinking – it’s funny and an all too accurate commentary on our relationship with technology.

4.  Next, I may never have shared with the world how much I like pickles – or other pickled vegetables – but, it’s true.  I’m a pushover – especially for pickled brussels sprouts.  So, of course, I loved reading “In a pickle.”

5.  Charlie Hale’s post, Juvenile Delinquency, reminds me why I started doing genealogical research.

6.  Graham recently pointed out my fixation with writing about odd things, though he put it much more eloquently than that.  The Tall Person, of Bassa’s Blog, does brilliantly with pictures what I can only attempt to do with words.  Look at a few of his pictures, and you’ll see things that I doubt anyone could write about with any success.  Check out this one, and this one, and this one – and then keep going back for more.  On the other hand, if you were to take a picture of some of the things that I find perplexing or out of place, they probably wouldn’t seem very odd at all.

7.  I’m constantly amazed at John-Bryan Hopkins, the force behind Foodimentary.  Every day is National-some-kind-of-food day.  Every day.  He never misses a beat.  I grew up in the midwest and will always have a soft spot for these things – thing 1, thing 2, thing 3.  I am also particularly amused by the quotes by Yogi Berra and Dorothy Allison, on this page at Foodimentary.

Thank you to everyone I’ve linked to in this post – you all inspire me and I very much enjoy reading the thing you write about.

Catching up

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I thought I’d catch up with a completely random collection of thoughts…

First, some recent blog spam (typos intact):

Several months ago, I heard exeictd cawing and looked outside my window to see a semicircle of crows gathered around a crow that lay spread face down on the sidewalk with its wings extended. My first thought was that the crow had died and the others were mourning and upset. Then I noticed one crow run up to the prostrate crow, pull at its wings, peck energetically at its head, and then go back into the circle. This behaviour was repeated several times while the crow lying on the sidewalk seemed to be attempting to protect itself by endeavouring to lie more flat on the pavement. After ten minutes or so, the lying-down crow got up and flew away and the circle of crows dispersed without paying any more attention to the crow who seemed to have been under attack. There is a family of crows who live on my block and many other crows also gather daily. Over many years, I have never before seen this behaviour. I live in Vancouver BC.

I’m not quite sure what to think of this, but Graham, being a Canadian citizen, perhaps you can comment on the behavior of crows up in your neck of the woods…

Next, I’ve been to my local watering hole plenty of times, and often, I think I want to write about my adventures there, so I make a few notes on my phone.  I generally don’t use the notes on my phone, so at the moment, they are filled with obscure references that I will try to decipher, given I was under the influence when I wrote them.

I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned this before, but the ‘company’ that mans the karaoke booth is called ‘Kontrolled Kaos Karaoke.’

I also found a great picture online of the  interior of the bar, and I’m sure when you see it, you’ll wish it was also your neighborhood bar.

A couple months ago, there seemed to be a Spanish theme. Axl Rose was greeting everyone in Spanish, which doesn’t fit at all, considering his classic rock and metal personality, and his Norwegian heritage.  Then, someone sang Heart of Glass, by Blondie.  You’d think there would be no connection, but to my surprise, while reading the lyrics on the many teleprompter screens in the bar, I noticed some more completely inexplicable Spanish in the song:

Once I had a love and it was divine
Soon found out I was losing my mind
It seemed like the real thing but I was so blind
Mucho mistrust, love’s gone behind

On another occasion, getting Chinese before we went people-watching at Mel-o-dee, a friend got this fortune in her fortune cookie:

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question

Anyone who might be able to shed some light on that one, please let me know.

Last weekend, a friend and I made two new friends at Mel-o-dee.  My friend recently moved to the area from our home state of Wisconsin, and was in desperate need of someone to cut his hair.  He wasn’t ready to pony up the average $75 a haircut, but luckily, we met a transsexual FTM barber with a handlebar moustache who was out partying with his mom and girlfriend and only charges $30.  My friend had an appointment within 15 minutes for the next day and loves the haircut.  Score.

The next friend we made is a Tibetan named Karma.  He taught me a Tibetan greeting that I can use with the man who walks incessantly around my block every day with his prayer beads.  I can’t pronounce it very well yet, but it means “Good luck, good health” and I expect my elderly Tibetan neighbor to be very surprised when I do something other than wave or give him an apple, which are the only ways I have been able to communicate with him thus far.

We spent a little time discussing Buddhism, and Karma shared a brilliant piece of advice with us, which I will close my long overdue post with….

When there is a disaster or something goes terribly wrong, before you panic, you should examine the situation.  Pause, and ask yourself if there is a solution.  If there is a solution, then there is nothing to worry about.  If there is not a solution, then there is nothing to worry about.

Easter Egg?

I get a monthly email from one of those employee discount services through a payroll provider, and this month’s email is titled:

November’s Giveaway: Lenovo IdeaPad Z580!

I’m a Lenovo fan.  I’ve owned more ThinkPads than any other kind of laptop, so I decided to read this month’s email.  I was both confused and amused to find this offer inside:

In case you skimmed over that little ad, please go back and read the second bullet.  Brilliant, right?  I had no idea an IdeaPad came with steaks!  I went to the website to check this out further and find out if it’s real, but I can’t find the specifics of the giveaway online.  I have decided it is actually a little Easter Egg put there by some prankster copywriter who thinks we all just delete these emails, anyway, and I only wish I knew who that was so I could send him or her a thank you for brightening my day.

It’s been nice interfacing with you

Last week, in my role as consultant extraordinaire (*sarcastic cough*), I was introduced to a man from another firm, who is working in a different capacity on the same “corporate initiative” I am assigned to.  It will be my role to interview, investigate, analyze and document the perceptions and desires of the stakeholders that will be impacted by the aforementioned initiative.  The purpose of my information gathering is to locate “levers and barriers,” to craft an appropriate messaging strategy, to evaluate the organization’s readiness for change, and generally advise the manager of the initiative, who refers to himself as the “head on the horse,” as to how he can best use the information I prepare to essentially cram some new software down the throats of the people that actually perform the organization’s work.

I am creating many “deliverables;” things like a stakeholder inventory, a perception map, a stakeholder management plan, a change management plan, and a communications management plan, among other things.

The other consultant is implementing the new software, and I met with him to discuss what kinds of reports might be available from the system which could eventually be used to illustrate to even higher levels of management in the organization how well “things” are going.  In closing, he handed me his business card, shook my hand, and told me he enjoyed interfacing with me.  I couldn’t tell if he realized with regret how ludicrous it was to say such a thing and kicked himself for falling prey to an extreme case of tech jargon disease, or if he is so far gone that it was a natural term for him to use.  I did manage to keep a straight face (I think.)