The TV Ate My Brain Again…

For a while back in late 2009 I was off TV, and I was actually being productive. But it is definitely an addiction for me, and I soon found myself in front of it for 4 or 5 hours a night again. Aargh! Even now, not even Rue Paul’s Dragrace can keep me away. I don’t know how my wife finds these programs, and I don’t know why I watch them. Mainly I just wait for King of the Hill to come on at 10pm. My top 5 favorites are all cartoons: Simpsons, Futurama, King of the Hill, Family Guy and Bugs Bunny. Hmmmm….does that say anything about me? I wonder what I could accomplish if I was spending even a quarter of my nightly TV watching doing something else. If anybody is reading this, let me know what suggestions you have for me to kick this habit and make better use of my time. Gotta go for now, my show is starting in a few minutes.

Fishing With The Tides

If your intention is to catch fish, there is no point in going fishing when the tide is wrong. I like to fish for saltwater, striped bass in Rhode Island. For the type of fishing that I do, the tide matters. You might not always catch a keeper when the tide is right, but going fishing against the tide will guarantee that you won’t. There are times in my own life when I have chosen to fish with the tide and when I have chosen to go against it.

The transitional stages of our lives are much like tides. I suspect that science and psychology have not yet identified all of the stages that exist in humanity, and that they probably fluctuate from person to person. However, some very common transitional stages are tidal. I read a news report based on a recent survey that concluded that older people are less unhappy than younger people because they have fewer outside stresses such as: money, children at home, and interpersonal work relationships. I believe older people are also more familiar with the tides, and may bring acceptance to events more frequently. Of course, this is my own general observation.

Whatever your intention is, the more you can align yourself with the tides, the easier it becomes to achieve the results you want. It is entirely possible to create a life for yourself in which you do what you want to do instead of what you have to do as long as you remember that doing what you want to do is not the same as Doing whatever you want.

The Sugar Shack-Part 5-It’s Getting Hot In Here!

The early days of summer (although technically it was still spring) allowed us many slow business days during the week. Even though we didn’t have many customers, there was a lot of work to do. Because of the deferred maintenance on the Shack, there were many opportunities for cleaning. As I mentioned earlier, I never would have guessed that the grill was actually silver underneath those layers of grime. Yet due to my mother’s persistence, I was able to get it clean. The fryer had several years’ worth of fried particles accumulated at its bottom, and I felt like quite the archaeologist while peeling back the layers of fried clams, clam cakes, French fries and onion rings from previous generations. Of course, nobody would have known those treasures were down there because the oil had not been changed in a long while. It has a viscosity similar to syrup, but believe me when I tell you, it was not so sweet.

Since we didn’t have many customers during the week, I spent my time cleaning, eating, going to the beach and smoking Muniemaker cigars. Often I would borrow one of the rental canoes and just paddle in and around the neat little coves of the salt pond while puffing on a cigar, I thought I was pretty cool. However, I do have advice for any of you that attempt this feat in the future. Beware of the fact that a lit cigar is very hot at the end and that paddling a canoe requires moving your arms back and forth across your body to achieve a straight line, forward motion. Many times, your arms will need to pass somewhere in the proximity of your face. If you have an 8 or 9 inch lit cigar protruding from your mouth as you do this, you WILL GET BURNED. Of course, you may say to yourself, “Well, I won’t do that again.” You may be right, but you also may be wrong, and you may BURN YOURSELF REPEATEDLY with the cigar. You may then say to yourself, “I will put the cigar down, and then I will paddle.” You may think this is a brilliant idea. However, canoes are naturally unstable, and there are not a lot of seats on them. If you put a lit cigar down next to you while attempting to paddle a canoe, YOU WILL BURN YOUR ASS REPEATEDLY.  So, that’s my little public safety tip to you. Later I will explain to you the dangers of looking for a gasoline leak on a motorboat at night while using a cigarette lighter to see what you are doing.

The weekends would provide excitement at the Shack as visitors would come to spend time at the beach and enjoy the weather. We got into a pretty good routine when it came to serving our customers. My cousin, AnneMarie would take the orders at the window, and write up the tickets for whatever needed to be grilled, fried, or nuked. She would be responsible for handing out the drinks, candy and ice cream novelties. My mother would handle the orders for meatball grinders (if you aren’t from RI, you may have to Google that word), and chowder from the Crockpot, as well as continually prepping the batter for clamcakes, and handling any other miscellaneous kitchen duties. The grill and the fryer were my domain. Or so I thought.

As the summer wore on, we naturally got busier and busier. And as we reached the height of the tourism season, it would be very common for us to do about 40-50 lunch orders in about an hour. This peak time would be miserable as well as unbearable. But seriously, the Shack was not that big of a place in terms of square footage or cooking appliances, and there was a certain frenetic elegance to the dance we would do while fulfilling the orders as quickly as possible. As my cousin would post the tickets on the line, I would load the grill and drop the fry baskets continuously. The exhaust fan which had to be from the 1940’s, would drone deafeningly over the grill and drown out almost all other sound. My mother, who cannot hear out of her right ear, was a whirling dervish, pouring cups and bowls of chowder, making clamcake batter, getting more stock from the refrigerator, and all the while keeping an eye out for any scofflaws that tried to get past paying for parking if they weren’t going to buy something from the Shack.

During one particularly hectic day, as I was dumping onion rings and French fries into the fryer and then loading up the serving containers to get the orders out, my mother made note that I was perhaps not watching portion control as closely as she would like:

“Yaw givin’ away too many onion rings deyah. Weyah gonna go down the tubes!”

My reply, which I literally mumbled under my breath, with a huge exhaust fan running that did nothing to change the fact that it was hotter than hell, and with a stream of orders piling up on me, was (and please ask the children to leave the room for this next exchange),

“Man, fuck this shit.”

My mother, deaf in one ear, under the sounds of that obnoxiously loud fan, and in the midst of flipping some cheeseburgers onto buns, wheeled around, shook a greasy spatula with in my face and with a look that seemed to say, “I will hit you with this”, replied,


Well, she did have a point there. And I conceded. For the remainder of the day, and the season, I literally counted the number of onion rings that went into every order. 8. That’s how many, and I still remember.

Next -Part 6- Winding Down

Passion Doesn't Always Have To Be So Passionate

The word “passion” has many forms, and it is quite often used by self-help and personal development experts to describe that which you must find and follow to have true happiness in your life. Notice that I did not say “balance” in your life. Passion can definitely make you unbalanced, and it doesn’t have to manifest itself as fireworks and excitement at every moment. One of the earliest meanings of passion is ‘endure’. Endure can mean ‘harden’ or ‘firm’. How long do you suppose most humans can endure running at full speed? I have made the mistake of believing that passion is something that must be felt with intense urgency at all times. Fail. Passion without temperance equals burnout. If you want to endure, you must recognize the need for balance and do not allow the fire of passion to consume you whole. It won’t do your cause any good if you can’t see it through to completion.

What Happened to All of My Files?!

Quick! List the first fifteen business contacts you have stored on your computer. How about last quarter’s financial results? Or the proposal you are presenting this afternoon?  Stories about data security abound throughout the news media these days, and there is no doubt that the security of your business data is vital. Unfortunately, one aspect of data security that is often overlooked by most small business owners is disaster recovery. Disaster recovery planning can prepare your business to recover from a disastrous loss of data from your computer (e.g. –Your hard drive crashes and all of the information you saved on it is wiped out, or your computer catches a nasty virus, and is out of commission.)

Disaster recovery planning encompasses tactical functions, such as backup routines and redundancy, as well as potential hardware and software investments like USB drives, network-attached devices and commercially available backup software. There are several factors that will help you to determine the strategy that makes the most sense for your business and utilizes your resources most effectively, including:

  • The amount of information to be secured.
  • How long you can allow critical business systems be non-functional.
  • How often you make changes to critical data.
  • How much data you can afford to lose.

A comprehensive strategy and plan for disaster recovery should always include backups of data to be stored offline (not on the same computer or network on which the data resides) and off-site (in a location away from where the computers being protected are housed). The proliferation of USB mass storage devices has driven offsite, offline storage costs down dramatically, so that you can store the data of many computers onto a single device that can be put in your pocket. Oh, and that data can also be digitally encrypted on the device. This protects it from being accessed if you lose it.

Additionally, you can use automation provided in the commercially available backup software to implement your backup routine on a regular schedule very easily. Your backup routine may call for backing up all of your data once a week (Full), and then just the data that has been changed or added since then (Differential). The software can automate this for you as well.

Redundancy refers to the practice of keeping duplicates of existing computers with all applications and data (cloned images) that can be restored onto a computer, or simply another computer that is an exact copy of an existing computer that is introduced into the network when the existing computer fails. While redundancy may not always be required as part of a disaster recovery plan, a strategy for business continuity is a must.

Think about the daily operation of your business. Now think about what you absolutely must have available in order to keep those daily business processes running. This is the start of your business continuity plan. These types of plans are designed for the sole purpose of allowing your business to continue operating despite a system failure or loss of data. Some of the most basic business continuity solutions are Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) that provide battery backup in case of a power loss. These are designed to run your critical systems (phones, data network, computers) for a short period of time, as well as to prevent these systems from “glitching” during a short-term power loss or spike. If your business is located where long-term power losses are common, you may need a more potent solution. Generally, a formula can be used to calculate how much power you will need and for how long.

The investment in disaster recovery planning includes:

  • The time it takes to identify the data and systems that are most important for your business
  • The cost of the hardware and software associated with your strategic plan
  • The time to implement and test your plan.

Disaster recovery planning and implementation is an often overlooked component in small businesses, but it is definitely worth the effort. The potential cost of not creating and implementing a disaster recovery plan could be the loss of your business.

Here’s a link to a free trial download of the backup and recovery software I use personally:

Acronis True Image Home 2010 Trial Download

The Bizarre? No, the Bazaar.

One of the greatest aspects of my family is that no matter what has happened to us in our lives, we have been able to laugh.  This is a priceless gift  and I consider myself blessed to receive it.  We’ve never really been either rich or poor.  It has been (at least for as long as I can remember) a typical middle-class life, with its occasional ups and downs.  My brother and three sisters, however, have been around a lot longer than I have, so they are more likely to tell you the stories of hand-me-downs and sharing one bedroom.  For myself, I sometimes see my part in the family like a role in a television show.  We have quite a cast of characters, many of whom I will introduce to you as we move along, haphazardly, through the retelling of some of the more entertaining moments in our family history.

Growing up in Westchester County, New York in the ‘70’s and early ‘80’s was an experience that I didn’t really appreciate until I got a little older and was thrown into a whole new world called Tucson, Arizona.  We left New York in 1983, but the memories of the days growing up on the East Coast have not faded.

While we still lived in NY, my mom would take us us to a place called “The Bazaar Mall”  in Mount Kisco to window shop and get us out of the house for a few hours.  We would hardly ever buy anything while we were there as my mom would explain in her strong,  New York accent,

“Ooo, I nevah buy nuthin’ in them mall staws,  dey raise awll dere prices to covah deyah ovah-head.”

So, mostly we would browse.  Besides, if we needed to get clothes or anything like that, my mother knew of about a hundred different places where we could get what we needed for a lot less:

“Heeah, try this on.  For three dollahs ya can’t go wrong.”

So, we were in the Bazaar one chilly afternoon in late October because they had one of these miniature circus exhibits going on.  It was one of those deals where there were all these little figures carved out of wood to about the size of an average pinkie finger and some of them were rigged up to move around a little. There was a guy in the lion’s cage with a chair and bull-whip, and there were a couple of elephants that would rear up on their hind legs.  It was basically your typical circus scene, carved out of wood, and very small.

Anyway, we went and looked at this thing for awhile and then we did some window shopping and were on our way out of the mall when we passed by a TV and electronics store.  As we walked past the display window, one of the television sets caught my mother’s attention:

“Ooo, look! Deyah showin’ some kind of movie deyah.”, she said as she stopped in front of the store’s window. “Look, dohse people ah goin’ through a dawah way deyah. But I can’t see wheyah deyah goin’”, as she squinted at the screen. “What an odd movie dis is.  Oh, look deyah’s a man in deyah!”, and as she said this she pointed and waved at the screen, at which time the man on the television pointed and waved back to her. “Ooo, he waved at me, didyas see dat? Who is dat strange man?  He must want us to come in deyah and buy sometin’.”

By this point my sister Annie and I could not control our laughter anymore, and we  both exclaimed in unison,

“Mom, that’s you!”

My mother had been watching herself and the action around us on a TV that was hooked up to a video-camera pointed directly out of the window we were standing in front of.  That “strange man” she saw waving and pointing at us was her!  After a few more minutes of hysterics, my mother, true to form, replied,

“Ooo, it must be this jacket. It makes me look like a man.  I’m throwin’ it out as soon as we get home!”

And she did.