A Twist Of Fate
August, 2011 Entries
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(08/29/11 - 4:55 PM)
The new lathe arrived and was put in place today without incident. Now, if only I had some more operators, and some other machines, I might stand a chance of getting caught up.

Also, I finished George R.R. Martin's fourth installment in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, "A Feast For Crows". And while the reviews do make a point about the story progressing slowly, I found it a fairly engaging read.

(08/28/11 - 9:15 AM)
The back is in full blow-out mode this morning. Yay! Thanks HUMANA, for knowing better than my Pain Specialist what was best for me. >SIGH<

(08/27/11 - 9:26 PM)
Spent the morning at work, and it was actually pleasant and relaxing. My Boss is once again returned after another hiatus, so we took a half-hour to get caught up. I actually look forward to talking with him, anymore, because I feel more and more like an equal as time goes on, and less and less like a screw-up kid. He's taught me pretty well.

Home for shower number two (it was humid and hot at the shop), and then off to lunch with my Brother, Sister-in-law, and Mom.

After lunch (horrible - by the way: It was Indian buffet, and I was HUNGRY, so I tried to change it up and it was still a no-go: everything was cold and or/gross. Which was disappointing, because I actually look forward to the buffet there) we went back to Mom's and - for the first time as a group - played "Apples To Apples" which we all made more hilarious by our outlandish commentary. But especially me, because I was the loudest. That has to count for something, right?

My Mom FINALLY decided to get on FaceBook™. Even >I< couldn't believe it. So, Wanda got her set up there.

Came home, and just unwound. I didn't have the energy to do what I should be doing. But tomorrow is another day.

(08/26/11 - 8:24 PM)
I finally read a useful book for the new business.

Specifically, I absorbed Shama Kabani's seminal work, "The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue". To say that this book is important is an understatement. It's a MUST READ if you're embarking on a journey of advertising and networking through Social Media outlets. I can't recommend it highly enough.

(08/25/11 - 9:13 PM)
Welcome to this installment of the Mr. Phillips Screwdriver Chronicles!

This week was another new high. Mr. Phillips Screwdriver called my Boss - on his cell phone, while ha was up north in Wisconsin working on his other business venture.

But it gets better. He called to tell him that he was displeased with his recent decisions, and to let him know that he MUST have a meeting about numerous things that he didn't like about others just as soon as he returned. He just had to. There were no two ways about it.

Way to take the initiative Mr. P.S.!

More interesting was the fact that, unbeknownst to my Boss, Mr. P.S. had also been giving me daily 'advice' in the same vein. Specifically, each day he came in, he stopped by my office to 'suggest' that I have a meeting with certain individuals privately, because they were so terrible about something or another, or with the company as a whole about grave injustices being wrought against him.

When the Boss and I finally put our stories together, it became clear that, with regard to running the company, we were idiots who had no clue. And if only - IF ONLY! - we had consulted Mr. P.S., then all would be right with the Corporation.

How had the both of us overlooked this phenomenal Management and Business asset for so, so long? What fools we were!

(08/24/11 - 8:26 PM)
I went to the bank that holds my mortages, as well as my savings account. I needed a withdrawl and a cashier's check. Now - to preface - due to cost constraints, they had closed the lobby of the branch I typically use this spring, so it's been drive-up only. Which is fine with me - I don't have to get my fat ass out of the car.

So, I drive up to make my transactions. I put the requisite identification in the tray, and tell the woman what I want:

"I need a cashier's check, made out to myself for $XXXX, and I also need to withdraw $XXXX from my savings."

"Okay," she says. "Did you want to pay for the cashier's check from your Savings as well?"

This is something that >I< seem to remember, but they always forget. If you have the check made out to yourself, there is no fee for doing so, so long as you don't do it more than twice in a 30-day period.

"No. Again, it will be made out to me, so there should be no fee, unless something has changed."

"Right. How did you want to pay for it?"

Uh, am I speaking Chinese? "No. Again, it will be made out to me, so there should be no fee, unless something has changed."

"Right. But - how did you want to pay for it?"

Now I'm losing my composure. I explain again.

"Right. But if you want a cashier's check for $XXXX, you have to pay me $XXXX first."

Welcome to planet stupid. Population: You.

I calmly (just barely) explain that I want it drawn from my Savings account - as I cleary stated in the beginning.

This seems to turn on a light bulb in the woman's brain (albeit a dim one). Now we're moving forward again. At least, I thought so, until...

"Well, maybe you'd rather come in for that."

WHAT? I just spent more than a minute going around and around with you... plus...

"The lobby is closed, I thought?"

"What? No! It's not closed!"

Now, bear in mind the, 'Jeez, are you retarded?' coming from the woman's statement at my statement, and you might understand my further annoyance.

I explain, "To my knowledge, it was closed in the spring, and never re-opened."

"Yeah, but that was just for a short while during budget cuts. It's open now."

Apparently, a short while is some four+ months. So I guess I'm stupid. Sure - whatever.

"Fine. But I'm good right here."

"Well, maybe you'd rather come in for that."

Now I'm getting ready to punch her through the protective glass. "NO. I'm fine right here, THANKS."

"Well, maybe you'd rather come in for that much. It's a lot of money."

Is this woman serious? "NO. I'm fine right here, THANKS."

"Well, maybe you'd rather come in for that much. It's a lot of money, and we're not supposed to pass more than $XXXX through the window."

I'm thinking: 'Then why in the holy >expletive< didn't you just >exlpetive< say that in the first place?'

"It would have been nice if you had said that in the first place."

So, I drive around, and come inside. Now, to further frame the picture, there are three employees and one customer both within and without - me.

I walk up to the nearest teller, and the woman from the drive through comes up front. I'm thinking good, she'll explain what's going on to the teller to save me time. Finally she's being helpful.

Nope! Instead, she goes over to the other teller, who looks like she just crawled out of the shower, and starts talking about something non-work related.

Now I'm just lit up, and want to get out. I explain to the new teller what I want.

"You know, there's a $2.50 fee for cachier's checks. How would you like to pay for that?"

Sweet Lord, take me now. "No," I reply, "There's not, if it's written to me, and I haven't had more than two in a month's time."

"Yes there... OH!" he says, "Yeah, you're right!"

So, he goes through the motions, gets me taken care of, and I think I'm out when he realizes that he's somehow forgotten how to count money, and keeps starting over. It probably doesn't help that he's jabbering mindlessly with me at the same time.

After three counts, I exit and thank the Heavens that I'm done. How is it that bank employees have so much responsibility, yet are paid so little and are chosen to aimlessly? I know some good ones personally - I do. And it's a shame that with their competence they aren't paid more. But to the others, I say, "WTH?"

(08/21/11 - 10:32 AM)
I'm punking out on you again. It's been a long week.

I've spent what feels like every waking moment working on the business when I'm not actually AT work. I had my 14-year review this week, and received a nice raise that I was quite pleased with.

We received our Corporate paperwork, stock certificates and EIN, so we're all official, for the most part, now.

I spent a ton of time registering our new phone number and information with about 16 different online free database entities, and that took the better part of an afternoon.

I've also been writing the final bits of text for the web site, as Wanda continues to pound out pages, and learn the new software.

We've also purchased a camera for the business, and it looks like it is going to be awesomesauce. Now I just have to wait for it to arrive.

Insurance is now also officially in the offing, after filling our copious amounts of paperwork and submitting to an hour-long interview to cover all the bases. Who knew insuring a business such as this could be so time consuming?

I've spent the other hours not working at my job or working on the business reading about marketing strategies, and I've learned a ton. It's interesting to discover how little you really know - humbling, but exciting.

My friend Jen is recovering nicely from what the doctors have now determined with certainty was a stroke. We wish her all the best and a speedy recovery.

Grandma continues to recover, though with less stellar results. Her grasp of words and concepts is askew, and it's sad to imagine trying to cope with that in your own mind. We wish her all the love we can muster, and look forward to having her back to her old, spirited, self again.

My back has begun to act up again. My insurance provider deemed my third and final round of epidurals unecessary, and has insisted that I wait 6-8 weeks to see the results of the first two. I have been told that this provider is the LAST major provider to allow only two of these procedures. All the others allow for three.

So, I hoped that it would be enough. My insurance guy, Tim Groeninger of Mass Financial (who you would be a moron not to use because he's just beyond awesome - seriously) went to bat for me, and spent a ton of his own time trying to convince the carrier that the specialist - and my back - both agreed that a third round was warranted. A valiant effort, but in the end it was still as no-go.

My hopes were pretty well dashed yesterday, as the pain returned in full bloom. This time in my left butt and front thigh region. Which is something of a change, as it predominantlly tends to remain on the right.

Oh, well. What's a few more weeks?

Our new logo is now complete, thanks to the genius of our Graphics guy, Jim - awesome job!

Digital Ninjas Media, Inc.

I went to the bank the other day, and the woman at the window seemed intent on making my life miserable. I had planned on posting the whole ordeal, but it's really just more irritation that isn't all that funny. Suffice it to say, she was not the pinnacle of customer service.

So, it's off I go to take a shower, and dive back into working on the web site. The fun is being sucked out of this.

(08/14/11 - 7:46 AM)
A TON of stuff has happened this week, and I've been too busy to keep up.

First of all, the bad news: Wanda's Grandmother had a stroke. It was a scary thing, but she made it through, and that's what counts. Her daughter is taking good care of her, and we've all rallied around to offer whatever help we may to assist her in getting her life back on track. We're just glad she's still here. Our prayers are going out for her, and hopefully she knows how loved she is.

On another sad note, my old and dear friend Jen has a wrist injury that's been plaguing her for some time. She went in for therapy, something went horribly wrong, she had a massive seizure, and hasn't regained consciousness. All from her WRIST. What in the hell happened?

Jen, we love you - you get better soon, and come back to us. We have no idea where you are, but we're here, and you should be too.

It's been a terrible week on those fronts, and I felt it only right to mention those first, as they're more important than the rest. Now, on to the good stuff (still thinking about you two above, though!)

Digital Ninjas Media, Inc. officially became an incorporated entity in the state of Illinois on Wednesday evening. This was my first incorporation, and it was an interesting process. It was something like $750.00, all told, which brings the total monies spent on this new endeavor to more than $5k. Hopefully, this is the brunt of it, because things keep popping up and we haven't even got a web site finished.

Speaking of web sites, Wanda has been working dilligently on web site layout with some new software, while I have been working on writing and coding the content (fun to write - boring to code). Jim, one of our other partners in this business, has been working on some AMAZING graphics for the site, the results of which we got our first taste of late last night.

We also found and chose an accountant for the business venture. While a bit unorthodox in his environment, he came highly recommended and seems to understand the needs of a small business such as ours. We look forward to working with him.

Wanda also had a meeting with a local, not-for-profit, entity that assists new business owners with starting a business. We didn't feel that we really needed it, but we're also humble enough to admit that we don't know everything. The result? They pretty much said we had no chance of success. Nice.

We probably should have mentioned the successes up to this point, to see if they factored that in. I mean - hey - I'm only running a 3-million dollar company from day to day. So what do I know?

I plan on making them recant.

The new hardware and equipment has been arriving at a brisk pace now, and we're excited and daunted at the same time to figure out all these things that up until this point in our lives were foreign to us. It's a HUGE learning curve, but it also offers us a chance to have experience that others only dream about. For me, it's worth the headache of learning.

We've also tentatively enlisted the services of a DJ, a wedding video guy, and an FX makeup artist. They'll all be featured as part of the team on the web, and function as independant contractors within the business. They bring more capital infusion (to themselves, and the company), as well as street cred, which we can never have enough of.

We also got our passport applications all buttoned up and submitted for February's cruise. While it had been the focal point of our near-term, it's now taken something of a back seat. Which is good, because pining for February this far into the year before is just... sad.

Work has been insane, and we've processed so much new work I'm not entirely sure the building will hold it all. Everyone is maxing capacity, but it just keeps coming. We're in the market for some new operators, and hopefully we'll find one in the near-term. Because even with another person, it still won't be enough to chase down every opportunity. They're that plentiful, at the moment.

The only thing I've managed to read this week is a book on commercials. And it wasn't that great.

I also spent a ton of time watching vintage and popular commercials on line, and didn't really learn a lot, other than I can't believe what passed for advertising back in the day. It's easy to pick out the underlying 'message' in each, but hard to comprehend their method of arriving there at times.

Maybe it's me who doesn't know what they're doing.

My Boss was also back this week, after a nearly 6-week hiatus in Alaska. He'll be gone for another month on Tuesday, but it was nice to have him back to work on the stuff that isn't my forte. It seems like he's got it pretty well in hand, so by the time he leaves it should all be a blank slate again.

I also spent a goodly part of this week learning lingo, taking in guerrilla marketing strategies, and reviewing equipment. All of which took a lot more time than you might imagine, and while yielding little, the little it did yield was priceless. I have so many things I want to try, now.

At any rate, I have a wildly busy day I should probably get after. Hope yours is good, prayers and hope that Jen and Grandma come back to us full-throttle, and that everyone plays nice with one another, whoever you are.

(08/07/11 - 6:46 AM)
Up too damn early this morning, but it seems that every waking hour is spent with my brain attacking various facets of this new business venture. I now find myself paying attention to commercials, and honing my skills by picking out businesses that I drive by, and wondering how I would write a commercial for them. It's probably a sickness, but I actually find myself enjoying it.

And apparently I'm not the only one, as Wanda sent me a 'fake-mercial' the other day that came to her. At least I'm not alone.

Today brings more grunt work, finishing the 'jump' page I'm wriiting with convenient links to everything one might conceivably require, without having to remember any of them. They're handy when they're done, but they're a pain in the hiney to write.

Oh - and also, boring.

(08/06/11 - 9:26 PM)
Spent the morning at work, and then a nap.

The afternoon was spent at wedding #3 of 6 this year, where two individuals whom I suggested some years back date one another made it all the way to the alter. I realize that all the stuff in between had precisely zero to do with me, but I like to pretend I'm at least a little responsible for planting the seed that grew this love.

I'm a sucker for schmaltz.

It was a nice ceremony, and it was fun hanging out with friends. The only major caveat of the evening came during the post-wedding, pre-dinner phase. A couple of friends who also attended, my wife, and myself all agreed to meet in the bar of the restaurant where dinner was being served for a drink before the formal occasion began. Wanda and I were the first to arrive, and we were confronted with a very empty bar, populated only by a family having dinner (really odd), and a dude practically making love to the wall-mounted, digital jukebox, as he danced around it.

We tried to ignore him, but he wasn't having it. A string of politely answered drunken questions later, the bartendress returned, and we placed our orders. But he still wanted to talk, so he told us his girlfriend had broken up with him, yadda yadda yadda, and he was buying. It took almost a minute to 'thanks, but no thanks' him, and get away. I realize he needed a shoulder to cry on, but that wasn't me. I also felt bad for the bartendress, as you could see in her eyes he'd been there a while, and wasn't planning on leaving just yet.

As our other friends arrived, they were confronted with the same scenario (I don't know how the guy could afford all of those drinks) - and some of them said, "What the hell", and let him buy.

Dinner was an astounding success of deliciousness, and the new bride and groom looked great.

Wanda and I ducked out early, as we are wont to do in our old age, and settled in for an evening of rest.

(08/05/11 - 8:23 PM)
After more than a month in Alaska, my Boss and his wiife finally returned home this afternoon. It was odd seeing him in the office, as for most of the year we've been predominantly without his presence.

During his trip, he had intended to visit a very old friend of his. He called him before they got on a cruise they were taking up there, and let him know that they would be coming to see him after it was completed five days hence.

When they got off the cruise, my Boss was stunned to learn that his friend had died just two days before the cruise had ended. All those years of excitement at seeing his old friend once more were washed away in an instant. Instead of a warm welcome, they were met with a funeral.

Seriously: How awful is that?

(08/04/11 - 7:22 PM)
This week, we'll be posting short bios of each of the four founders of our new business venture. In case you miss them, or in case you want a sneak-peek, here they are!:

"Heath D. Alberts is a graduate of Boylan High School, and a college dropout. He has been employed in a vast number of interesting positions, including Unix Mainframe SysOp, web site designer, Corporate Operations Manager, and cartoon character. He is the author of a novel, has experienced house flipping, and has been known to shoot bottle rockets out of his teeth. He is experienced with HTML, too many software packages and OS's to name, Marketing, a Wand Of Fire with a 2xD12 damage roll, and Business Management. And now he's taken on the mantle of, 'Guy who makes sure that your advertising dollar is so well spent that you just might plotz.'"

"Wanda K. Alberts is a graduate of Winnebago High School, and a certified paralegal. She has come from, "Thank you! Drive through!" to be a force for social change via her not-for-profit and community outreach project, 'Tailored To Hire'. She has been known to slip into Japanese or Spanish in casual conversation, and cannot make Rice Krispie Treats without coming away with battle scars. She is experienced with Web Design, Marketing, Business Management, and more software packages than a Nerf display. She currently divides her time between work and plotting to take over one of the lesser moons of Jupiter and... oh, we've said too much."

"Jim Gade holds an Associates of Science degree in Graphic Design, as well as a Bachelors Degree in Science for Multimedia from Westwood College. A Harlem Graduate, he also hints vaguely about his time at Wizard College, but only during re-runs of "Mork & Mindy". Currently, he serves as Video Services Manager for the Rockford Ice Hogs, has earned top-honors in art competitions, has work on public display, and has had photographic works published. When not working, Jim enjoys asking strangers for candy and painting impressionistic interpretations of what he calls 'giraffes snuggling'. You'll have to take his word on that because, to most outside observers, it just looks like six crazed ferrets fighting over what might conceivably be a banjo."

"Dave Block is a graduate of Guilford High School, and Owner-Extraordinare of independent film production company, 'Block Films'. His acting career began in 1987 when he was cast in 'Peter Pan' at Rock Valley College's Starlight Theater, and he continued to be cast in numerous other roles until he took some time off to get a real job. After a string of management positions, he returned to writing music, and movies, and is currently working on a book. He has also written, starred in, and directed the 'Insurance King' commercials, where he played the ever-so-popular "Insurance Geek" (fighting crime and high insurance rates!) and an entire stand-up routine on being the middle child, "Middle Child Syndrome". It is an epidemic that he feels more people need to acquaint themselves with - preferably by buying tickets to his show. His 3rd Feature film, "The Adventures Of Wyatt Trash: The Devil's Spittoon" is currently in the works. And if you call him David, you will be challenged to a marathon Connnect-Four session, or be faced with listening to a saxophone solo of Billy Joel's, "It's Still Rock And Roll To Me". So we really don't recommend that you do that."

(08/03/11 - 8:00 PM)
Today we made the big announcement official. Here it is!:

08/03/11 - 8:00 PM Central Time

From Heath D. Alberts:

So, first of all, let me say a HUGE thank you to those of you who participated in our little guerilla marketing thought experiment. I love you all - as family and friends - and your support has touched me on a very personal level. You guys all rock, and I'm totally hugging you right now in my mind. I couldn't ask for better friends or more wonderful family.

I would like to say a special thank you to my brother Nicholas Alberts, attorney extrordinaire, and to friends Johanne Tatman, Doug Skrinski, and Michelle Widell for their willingness to help us through the questions phase.

So, what in the heck are we up to? For any of you that know me, you know that for the past 15 years I have been an integral part of growing a business from a one man operation into a $3 million dollar juggernaut on the manufacturing scene known as Sugar River Machine, Inc. I have been intimately involved in the operations on both the front and back end, and I feel truly blessed to be a part of it. A big thanks to Dave Klingenmeyer, my mentor from way back who taught me everything I know about business. I can't thank him enough.

You may or may not also know that I have authored a novel, and Wanda and I have also flipped a house. I/We have done these things because we have a love of learning, and a love for wanting to retire early, and as our own employers.

For Wanda's part, she has spent years learning the tradecraft of law, to add to her already impressive experience as a bookkeeper and business manager. On top of this, she has spent undefinable hours helping those who cannot help themselves with her Tailored To Hire outreach program. This program provides resume help, mock interviews, job leads, work appropriate attire, and anything else that anyone needs to get a job when they otherwise might not be able to. And I am so extremely proud of her, because she gets nothing monetary in return.

As the years have gone on, I have toyed with finding a way to take our skills, and make them somehow marketable to the world at large in a way that could potentially insure that early retirement that I've been going on about.

A few months back, I took stock of the specific skills a couple of my old and dear friends had, and a thought began to form. But I put it aside, and let it smoulder.

Then, the final straw came: I found a program on IFC that just began airing where two guys in Los Angeles are doing exactly what >I< wanted to do. And as I watched this, I kept saying to myself, "We can do this. Why aren't >WE< doing this?"

So, one day I got up the nerve to jokingly throw it out there, and see if anyone bit. And when everyone did, I knew I was on to something.

So what's the point of all of this? Well, it's this: Myself, and my amazing wife Wanda, along with a pair of my oldest and dearest friends, Dave Block and Jim Gade, have elected to begin the process of incorporating a new business. We're starting from the ground up, and we're hoping that you'll like our page (more on that below) so that you can watch first-hand as a new company is born.

Dave Block is the founder of Block Films, an independent filmmaker with several comedy gems under his belt in the Wyatt Trash series. Dave has done not only movie production, editing, and sound, but has also spent a good deal of his life as an actor. I still remember him at something like eight years old in "Christmas With The Conroys", if that tells you anything about how long I've known him. He's one of those amazing human beings who seems able to do it all, while still having an astounding sense of what is funny and what feels right about situational settings.

Jim Gade is an old friend whom I look forward to re-connecting with more in the near-term. If any of you have ever been to a Rockford Ice Hogs game, you've seen Jim's work (we'll have a whole working archive of all of our works once the page for the company begins to form up and go live - especially his, because the breadth of it is so amazing). He handles all of the media production for them - digital and otherwise - and is some kind of alien/wizard hybrid when it comes to digital graphic design. The stuff he discards blows me away - the good stuff might actually kill lesser men, it's so damn good.

Our intent is to have a formal business roll out ready to go live on October 1st of this year. Before this time, we will incorporate, design a logo and web site, set up social media sites, and do everything one needs to do to start a business. And we'd like to invite you all to ride along with us.

Why bother? Well, I know that with this group of four, our biggest weaknesses are the other's strengths. We all have something fascinating to offer, that has taken years of work and struggle to perfect. And when taken as individuals, it makes this endeavor impossible. But, as a collective whole, magic happens. The strength of the other three is that we can make up for the weakness of the one. This forms a symbiotic circle and, with this in mind, it looks like we'll be the pinnacle provider of services in the area in our chosen field.

Have I dragged this out long enough? Alright - to the meat of it, then:

I would like to formally announce the formation of Digital Ninjas Media, LLC as of today. It is now a matter of public record. We will be supplying the area with turn-key media production: Television commercials, radio spots, web page design, media space design, viral marketing strategy, and anything else we feel that we can assist our potential clients with.

Our tentative mission statement:

"To take your competition and annihilate them from the face of the planet through the power of visual advertising (read: non-invasive brainwashing), while making you and/or your business look like a super hero* saving a baby from the jaws of a hungry shark with rabies in a tank of lead-infused water on the top of a teetering, burning skyscraper." *(Spandex Optional)

And so that's it. That's the big announcement. We hope that you will choose to like our FaceBook page below, and keep in tune with it as new facets of the business come to fruition: I personally promise that it won't be boring.

Thank you again - one and all - for your kindness. We would never be where we are today without great friends like you.

And thank you most of all to Wanda, Dave and Jim: Here's to hoping we make all of our dreams come true with this one. I know we've got it in us - now we just need to prove it to the world.

Now for one final favor (friends - always asking for stuff, right?) I need YOU to like the page below to follow along with our adventure:

Digital Ninjas Media

"Without Chaos, There Can Be No Order. And One's Destiny Is A Joining Of The Two." - FATE

(08/02/11 - 9:29 AM)
This week's purchases include:

  • A Green Screen Rig
  • A Professional Slate
  • A Reflector Disc
  • Black #10 Envelopes

I just can't wait to play with all these new toys. And there's so many other things I want to get, just to try them out. This could be my new crack: Books, beware!

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