Monday, December 20, 2010

An official goodbye to November

I'd like to officially say goodbye to November.  I do realize this post is hitting my blog in late December, and your first instinct should rightfully be to question the timing of this post.  But I'll let it lie for what it is, an indication of just how busy and crazy things have been.

Now on to the official goodbye.  November, you were really damn hard.  I was trapped in a perfect storm.  Things at work were in sheer chaos with a number of my colleagues losing their jobs.  The home front was also in turmoil as my mother lost her home and moved in to my home (just think about having your mother around 24x7, need I further qualify the remark?).  Then in closing to top off the cake, and I certainly do not trivialize or underscore this in any way, my good friends lost their 13-year-old daughter the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  That was November, in a nutshell.  That was the November I'd so like to put far behind me.  That is the November that made my life a living hell.  And to it I say goodbye, possibly even good riddens.

With each successive blow, I found myself wondering how could things get worse.  Without fail November managed to deliver time and again.  I don't think I've ever been as stressed, saddened and mortified all in a single month.  The range of emotions ran the gamut, all on the negative side of the scale.

Goodbye November, may I not see you ever again in such form.

There is only one problem.  I can't help but look at the silver lining.

What silver lining?  Oh, I'll tell you...

Even with everything that took place and everything that tried to drag me down, I can't help but realize the benefit that arose from the horrible situations.  For you see in that month of 30 days I found myself questioning the security of my employment, the security of my financial position, the security of the sanctity of my family and even the security of my faith for the concept of tremendous loss and suffering my friends have gone through left me deeply shaken.  And even after all of that I realized that a Thanksgiving that should have been wrought with a pure lack of things to be thankful for, was in fact a thankful holiday.

I was thankful that I had my family, safe and sound.
Thankful for my faith.
Thankful for my health.
Thankful for my job.
Thankful for the love of a good woman.
Thankful for the love of three fantastic children.
Thankful that my mother could have a good home even with the loss of her own.
Thankful that my friends had a community respond to help them in such an outpouring of love, caring and support.
Thankful that despite as hard as things were, they could have been a lot harder and were not.
Thankful that I have a breath in my lungs, and shoes on my feet.

I was, and still am, thankful.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Into every life a little rain must fall...

Warning!  /rant=on

I've hit a rough spot recently, and I've really been struggling with keeping up with, well just about everything.  I've ranted before about not having enough time.  This seems to transcend that notion and take it to a whole new level.  I just feel like I'm constantly scrambling and never caught up.  So much so that I actually feel buried and too heavily fragmented to actually put real thought behind a single concept long enough to form coherent thought.

I'm sure we've all hit that point in life where things are so busy that we stop planning for a lack of available resource and just start to react.  The problem I have with that is that the reacting has become the norm and planning is out the window.  So much so that it has actually gone to shit.

I feel like I'm drowning in it...

So to complicate things, a few of the key pillars in my life that I take for granted as being somewhat safe and stalwart are now crumbling like bread that has sat out too long on the counter.  My family life, not my nuclear family at home but extensions thereof, is falling apart and I feel powerless to help it.  My mother has lost her home as so many other people have in this economy.  My work life is in such tumult that all I can really be thankful for is the fact that I actually have a job to go to every day.  Three months ago if you had asked me I'd have said that things at work are fine and dandy.  But not today.  Couple a standard 12+ hour work day with 3+ hours of commute time and what does that leave me?  A notion of work-life balance?  Forget it, that is just a falsehood of HR departments to make us feel good so we work harder.  I barely have time to gobble down a quick breakfast and dinner when I'm at home before my head wants to explode.

It feels like everything is spiraling out of control and quite frankly I don't know what to do, and I don't really have anyone to turn to.  There is no simple answer, there is no quick fix.  There is no silver bullet (don't read any more into that than necessary).

I think that if everything wasn't happening all at once it might be easier to tackle.  But the wave feels like it has built itself to such an insurmountable level that when it crashes look out.  Survivability is only possible if you aren't in its path.  I'm used to the changes in the tide, but even this storm seems to be too much.

In all honesty, all I want to do is just close the door and scream at the top of my lungs "fuck this" because I'm getting really tired of this shit.

I've neglected and withdrawn from most of my friends.  I've thrown my hobbies out the window.  Heck, look at the date of my last post.  As soon as I got back from my trip I've been stuck in this mud.  The only thing that gets my undivided attention these days outside of the office is my nuclear family at this point.

This isn't a cry for help.  This is just a cry.  I needed a proverbial shoulder and my normal outlets have proven insufficient.  I'm hoping this helps some.  Thank you for reading this far through my rant.

/rant=off

Friday, July 23, 2010

Enough time...

Spending a significant amount of time on vacation, as I have learned, has a serious drawback that does not appear in any brochure, nor do they advertise it in the "fly-away" type magazines on the airlines.  Since coming home, I seem to be behind on everything and cant seem to muster up the time to get things done.

I just don't understand it. I was keeping afloat just fine before I left.  I've "caught up" on my work and am current on everything that absolutely needs to get done.  I'm missing out on the things I want to do.  But I also can't shake this feeling of being behind.  It is as if the day has shrunk even though we are now in the height of summer and the amount of daylight is at its peak.  I get up, I go to work, I come home and before I know it, bedtime so I can get up in the morning and do it all over again.

For heavens sake I still haven't even gone through and edited 1/3 of the pictures I took on my vacation.  But at least I applied metadata ... but I digress.

I've always felt as though I have a shortage of time to do the things I want to do.  And this isn't an naive post of not knowing that you never have time for everything you want to do.  This is much more about the simpler things.

It is manifested in the finding 10 minutes to shine the work shoes on the weekend.

It is manifested in reading another 30-40 pages in any of the 4 books within which I am actively reading.

It is manifested in picking up the watch battery for my pedometer.

It is manifested in taking the 20 minutes to get caught up with this friend or that whom I have not seen in some time.

It is manifested in having a half hour to go explore some interesting detail or location with the camera.

It is manifested in having the time for a good workout.

It is manifested in every little thing.  And it is frustrating.

But there really isn't a silver bullet to this issue.  It is an age-old dilemma for most.  But I know, that from somewhere deep down, I just have to make the time and make these items a priority.  Eventually they will get done.  The frustration may never be shaken.  The feeling may never depart.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why Cloudtouched?

So how did I come up with the name of cloudtouched?  It stems from my career actually.  I'm in an IT management position with a fairly large company.  And I'm used to hearing a number of our senior-most leadership talk about the cloud as a platform for everything without having taken the time to describe or define how the cloud is to be leveraged or what are the boundaries of the cloud as they pertain to operations.  And as an IT professional, without requirements, I can't give you a solution.  :)

But when sitting down to come up with a name for this blog, I looked at my career and thought about how I always illustrated the internet, the meta, the cloud in any of my diagrams.  And for those of you who use Microsoft Visio for diagramming technical solutions I'm sure you've just connected A to B.  You always depict the internet as a cloud.

Elegant?  Deep?  Fulfilling?  No, not really.  But I found it appropriate given my experiences.  So I hope you enjoy it.  :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

How to share, instead of what

I've often found myself struggling with the what part of sharing when it comes to the meta.  Lets face it, acceptance is a very strange thing in this medium as it challenges our traditional perceptions of interaction and communications.  But I was recently cracking open a @ChrisBrogan book on Social Media (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7555218-social-media-101) and one of the early chapters challenged me on something I hadn't considered.

You see I always had the perception of a blogger as being an authoritative resource in whatever subject they might be sharing.  Perhaps this is naive, but regardless I took it somewhat for granted and applied that concept to myself.  I figured that if I am going to share something via a blog, I had better have the answers.  Why else would someone want to read what I am sharing if I just left things open-ended?

Well I have to admit, I find greater enjoyment in what I read when it challenges me to think about things.  The author doesn't have to know the answer.  And even if they do, are authors more effective when they allow the reader to draw their own conclusions?  Wasn't that what Alfred Hitchcock was more successful in terrifying you with, what you didn't see?  The imagination is powerful.  After all, the mentoring process is about dropping clues and allowing your staff to find their way.

If I am to be successful in this medium, I have to be willing to share those things that I don't know the answer to. And just maybe I need to leave my opinions with me.  Maybe I should wait until you engage me to supply them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The useful camera

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about something I had read a while back.  The concept of the ready or useful camera.  I have my DSLR, I have a P&S.  But both of those cameras require me to remember to bring them with.  They are a little bulky (or in the case of the DSLR very bulky) to simply carry on me.

However there is a camera that is by my side no matter where I go.  It is the 3 MP camera that is integrated into my smart phone.  I'm making myself a promise to use it more and more.  Seeing a great shot present itself is nothing if you don't have a useful or ready camera at your side.  And with my Blackberry, there is always one there waiting to be used.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A fun experience with my son

I thought I'd share a recent experience I enjoyed with my 7 year old son.  Both he and I have a number of common interests, but both of us have grown up with Lego in our lives.  These little blocks have been our building blocks to unlock our imaginations and creative desires on more than one occasion, and still to this day are a common interest that serves as an escape and a private place that both my son and I can enjoy together.

Recently my wife picked up the Lego book (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6621418), and my son and I sat down to flip through this and its companion book together.  As we leafed through, page by page, we'd stop and point at cool sets, constructions that neither of us had seen before, of at things that would be fun to try and build.  We'd flip through the Star Wars sets and my son would relate stories from the Clone Wars animated series on Cartoon Network.  We'd reach the old castle sets and I'd share with him how I built those as a kid and he'd ooh and ahh at the pieces with a huge grin on his face.  I was wearing the same grin.

So thank you Lego for this trip down nostalgia lane, for this common interest and passion I share with my son.

Thank you leg godt, we do indeed "play well".

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I want my MID

I just envision Dire Straights singing... "I want my meta ID..."  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAD6Obi7Cag

And yes, I'm listening to the track as I type this...

I want a universal meta ID.  Something that follows me across all social media platforms I chose to consume.  I shouldn't have to log into my blog, twitter, gmail, last.fm, facebook, digg.com, news sites, youtube or any other site with anything other than a single, universal meta ID.

OpenID, Disqus, would one of you get it together?  Tackle the world!  Make those monolithic beasts come to terms with the reality of single sign on?  I want my SSO!  Oova mova!

The notion of SSO is actually not that difficult, and I hope these large social players all embrace the concept.  Take a look at Disqus (http://disqus.com) as an example, your comments can be aggregated to a single repository with a common ID.  Oh and by the way, Disqus links to OpenID.

Hello?  Is there anyone out there?  Sorry, that is a Pink Floyd song.

Anyway, I just want something simple yet elegant.  And the technology is in place.  It just takes these large social platforms to realize that they don't have to be so proprietary.  Someone else has figured out the authentication thing, let them do that.  You just handle the linking.

Then we can all just get along.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Are you engaged?

Ok so maybe I have ranted on this before, but do you ever get the feeling that the art of conversation, and by association actual engagement with other people, lost?  I can't blame the entire notion on the Twitters and Facebooks of the world for facilitating such fragmented communications between people without taking a deeper, and possibly introspective look at the situation.

It seems to me the business normal of the past decade has been to continually do more with less as a result of the negatively trending economic outlook.  And when I look at the social and business interactions I have in the workplace I see the same trend of fragmented communications happening professionally as well as personally, and I do believe this concept was more prevalent earlier in the workplace.  The constructs of work-life balance get thrown out the window, and we kill off those social interactions as a result.

Does the do more with less notion breed this need for fragmentation?  What if we just took a few sparse moments to relate something meaningful about ourselves through what might be perceived as commonplace interactions?

I recently had my one-on-one meeting with a member of my staff and I forced myself to start the conversation off socially, rather than professionally to challenge this notion in a small experiment.  My colleague and I are both hobbyist photographers and we took a journey down that path that was fulfilling in more than one way.  For starters, I think it strengthened the relationship I have with this member of my staff.  The added benefit was that good feeling you get when you have a conversation of substance, it shifted my outlook for the day to the positive.  When you talk about things that inspire you, you cannot help but be inspired again.

The feeling hit when I shared a concept from a photographer that always gets me excited about photography as a medium within to tell a story.  The photographer in questions suggests that one should look at everyday objects which you perceive in your peripheral subconsciously in a different way.  We all go through life with our brain actively perceiving and processing millions of tidbits of information, but we rarely stop to comprehensively process it all.  This would be impossible to do.

Take your daily commute as an example.  You may pass by thousands of cars along your journey from home to place of business.  But what can you recall about them?  Your brain knew they were there, perceived them to be red sports cars, blue sedans, white SUV's, but did you connect with them in any way?  Did anything stand out?  Can you report specifics about any car you didn't follow directly behind?  How about that car you followed?  Probably not.  

The point of this exercise is to look at the stapler on the desk and to visualize and think of a chair, and to do this 10 times a day.  This forces our brain to actually take in what we are looking at and to think about it in a new way, and therefore perceive it in a new way.  The end goal is to correlate this to how you look at a scene and to actively perceive its elements rather than just raise the camera and click.  To think about what you are shooting, the angle, the composition, lighting etc before just snapping the shot.  Perceive through the lens, and within it, not just from behind it.

What struck me about this conversation is why do we not take this same approach more actively with all of the elements of our lives?  Come at them with a fresh perspective?  We all talk about the benefits of the "new eyes" approach and bringing someone in fresh.  At what point did we lose objectivity in subject matters we are supposed to be experts in?  We hide behind the notion of being too busy, which all of us are in some way or another.  But what I want to try to do is become more engaged with those things I take for granted, and that was the message I reminded myself of when relating the story above and through the exercise.  I guess we should stop and smell the roses from time to time, because they can lead us on adventures and give us the means to relate and share stories with other beings in a meaningful way.  In essence the main subject of my story became the lesson that ratified the point of this social exercise.

I have a simple snapshot of my daughter to thank for this conversation and reminder.  My pledge?  Try to start all meetings with something personal.  Just because it is business, doesn't mean the human aspect of social interaction needs to be lost, dismissed or forgotten.  We are after all still humans.  I've been doing this for years in the building of my relationships, but even I forget from time to time.  We are after all still human.  Bring this level of interaction to as many areas of your life as possible, and I'd hazard a guess that the quality of the connections you make increase 10 fold in short order.

We will probably always be challenged to do more with less.  Modern economics and the emerging market trends are telling us this plainly enough.  The notions of work-life balance may be nothing more than a ploy of HR.  I just hope that we can retain the human element amidst this change and not just treat everything like demographics.

And with that, I relinquish my soap box...  For now.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Going through the motions that lead to odd conclusions and real questions

Ever have one of those days where you are simply going through the motions of the daily grind but your head is just somewhere completely different?  That was certainly me today.  This was the direct result of a very long day the previous day which was capped off by a night of work that ran late into the evening and a dose of chatting it up with a friend until the wee hours.  So while I'd like to blame my work for the complete lack of sleep, I can't really do so in good conscience.

But my day was quite literally a case of trying to get through it all, and just go through the motions.  But I did notice a strange side-effect of sleep deprivation that I wasn't quite expecting.  Exceptionally brutal honesty and perhaps a bit too much transparency.  When you consider I work in a service delivery model and interact with customers, that can be a bad thing.

This concept did make me think though.  I've been reading a book by Vineet Nayar, he is a CEO of an Indian outsourced provider of IT services.  And one of the precepts of his book is that of maintaining transparency.  And I wonder how practical a practice that is within a very political environment such as the one in which I work.  The idea that transparency of thought and of open sharing as being something feared.  Are we covering something up?  Afraid of inadequacies?  Worried of being judged?

When it comes to my work, I am my own worst critic.  I strive for a higher level of delivery, and try to push myself when possible and constantly seek feedback on what I do deliver.  I want to be judged objectively.  So why should I worry about maintaining secrecy, transparency should be good enough.

I guess this goes back to my previous post regarding the facets of our lives.  But I wonder if those facets sometimes are forced to take on a different value system.  I'd never compromise my integrity or honor for most any reason but most of all not for personal benefit at work, which may be a naive concept in and of itself as I have aspirations that are not quite yet met professionally.  However I sometimes do feel that my moral compass can be challenged and at times given more latitude for the sake of judgement when dealing with the workplace.  What do you do when you are given something in confidence from a higher authority that you somehow feel compelled to share because maybe it is the right thing to do?

I try to rationalize this on a daily basis.  But at the end of the day, I know I can sleep well at night as I haven't done anything to compromise that compass to date.  To do so would be a crushing blow as all I have left to stand on and take home to the loved ones is my integrity.

So stay tuned for my next slightly fragmented post.  I need to maybe consider not authoring while on less than four hours of sleep in the future.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A sliver or a facet?

Oh how we fragment ourselves and our interactions with people across all mediums and social circles.  Do you ever wonder if it is the real you that you are portraying to those you interact with?  Can you truly show any one person every aspect of yourself and really get to know someone entirely?

I do not believe that you can.  I do not believe that it is possible to communicate everything that you are to any other soul on this planet.  Because the real you that you may be portraying at any given moment is most likely to be a piece of what you are.

I've heard people say that we only gives slivers of ourselves to people.  But I'm not sure I fully agree with the notion, I'd like to take it a step further.  I think that we are all multi-dimensional personalities, meaning that there are so many facets to us much like the many facets in a cut gem.  And which facet you are presently interacting with depends upon which world I might be swimming in at that given moment.

Take as an example the various faces we all wear.  I wear one face to the office, and I have another that I wear at home.  When I'm with my friends, that is another face.  When I am surfing the net, there are even a few more faces that might be worn.  The gamer, the photographer, the intellect, the blogger, the researcher, the explorer, the conversationalist, the politician, the citizen, the architect, the artist, the dreamer, the inspired.  The list can go on and on.

So while I do feel we have various facets, and sometimes those facets are made to be contained within a facade as we all have various defenses we must maintain in EVERY walk of life.  In the case of the internet, your identity is golden and must be protected.

I'm not suggesting that I am openly deceiving anyone in my life, regardless of the medium.  I'm suggesting that the portion of my life that whomever I am interacting with across the various mediums is observing and engaging with whatever facet is catching the light of said medium.  They are not necessarily separate and distinct sides of me, but rather various surfaces that make up my whole being.  I cannot separate them, for they are all equal parts that make up who I am.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Do we ever really go online anymore?

Just a quick thought for you this evening.  Ponder the question or rather the act of "going online".  Do we actually ever do that anymore?

The reality is, we have devices in our pockets or purses and connections to the home that keep us online perpetually.  The notion of opening a browser or application to "go online" is a bit of a misnomer.  We are more connected than at any other time in history, and we are always online.  It is not a state of mind or a physical act, it is just there.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Social interactions: fragments in time or real connections?

I find myself wondering if the true art of social interaction is dead. Is the the art, skill and often times poetry of a meaningful conversation on the social downturn? What ever happened to having an opinion, true emotion or a strong feeling about a topic? How do I take a contrary or even controversial point of view in 140 characters or less?

I say this as I browse through the Tweets or various Facebook status entries of friends, respected industry veterans and other socialites of various walks. And while from time to time I stumble upon (no not the website) an interesting notion or concept but more often than not it is meaningless gobbledygook. Some unintelligible or non-valuable concept or random thought that really has no bearing of resemblance to a connection between two people. And why is this such an acceptable idea? Why do we not care, and just continue to exacerbate the issue?

I wonder if my children will live in a society where everything is fragmented. I look at the concepts of the new normal that face the twenty first century and I wonder out loud at times if the hopes of meaningful discourse are gone. But I have hope, I try to engage them and to draw conversations and thoughts out of them. But is that enough? Am I waging an uphill battle?

So with these hypothetical questions dropped into the ether, or meta, however you choose to refer to that what is the "internet", I have hopes. I have hopes of enterprises and organizations embracing the concepts of Web 3.0, Web 3D, meta, cloud or whatever you would like to call it (these topics are best reserved for future blog posts as I have opinions in what they are and what they mean). Essentially, across all mediums and verticals, I have hopes that large organizations and small will seek to engage us or to deliver mediums within which we can engage each other and indeed find ways to truly connect to other individuals across the globe. I'm not speaking of notions of alternate realities, but of means by which we can embrace the new realities of our daily lives that go beyond the Facebooks, MySpaces, Foursquares and Twitters of the world that connect us on such a superficial level.

While this first blog post was intended to plant a short seed and to allow it to germinate, I leave you with this last notion before I call it a post and ship it off into the ether. Analyze your group of friends for a moment, both those that you call close and those that you call acquaintances. On what level are you indeed connected with them? Are the connections significant and deep? Do you have meaningful conversations with those friends or merely idle chit chat? Do they share enough of your ideals and interests? If you could expand your search criteria to a much larger pool, would your close friends still be close friends? What if you had a much larger sample size to include in your demographic of common interests? Despite the interpersonal and tactile needs of every individual and the associations of proximity, could you have deeper or more meaningful connections and conversations with someone you have never met in person because they live on the other side of the globe? Where your only level of interaction is through the various peer points (such as computers, smart phones, kiosks or other mediums) by which you access the internet? Can you really connect in an intuitive or thought provoking way?
I certainly think so. We'll explore this in more detail soon...