A Twist Of Fate
November, 2011 Entries
"Fiction writing is great, you can make up almost anything." - Anonymous

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(11/30/11 - 9:32 PM)
Can't seem to shake this nuisance cold, or this funk I've been in. Of late, I've had this niggling, constant, feeling of dread. And, specifically, for no good reason whatsoever. And if you've never experienced this, it gets pretty annoying, along with weighing heavily on one's mind. I don't know what's causing it, but it's been months and months since I've felt like this. I just hope it breaks soon, because the stress is becoming a constant burden than I am no longer willing to bear.

Here's to hoping.

(11/27/11 - 10:14 AM)
Woke up at a normal hour to the sounds of Wanda making pancakes. Unfortunately, I wasn't hungry in the least, so I didn't get to eat any. And they're amazing, so it's a shame.

Wrote the final entries for the FaceBook pages this morning, followed by blogging (i.e. - this here thingee that I'm typing now). Today, I once more foray into the world of learning new software. Over the past week I've purchased some six or seven new packages of specialty animation and graphic software from Amazon's Black Friday lightning deal offerings, so I need to get up to speed on what I have before the new stuff starts arriving - because I know I want to play with it. Especially the Claymation Studio software. Yeah - I'm a dork. But you're totally wishing you could play with it too, aren't ya?

This week I've scored so many good deals for the business. The only problem is that I also have to pay for them out of pocket, because the business can't support the capital outlays... yet. Picked up an amazing tripod, a white balance card, a case, camera strap, some hard shell cases, a 4-track digital audio recorder (a different one than the amazing one we have now) and some other odds and ends that the price was just too good to pass on.

I also passed on some stuff I nearly jumped on - after reading the abysmal reviews. One thing did stick out at me though: there is software and hardware available for converting VHS to DVD on a PC now, and there's interactive negative scanners for digitizing old photographs. I think we might have a couple of new business offerings in the works.

So, I've learned a lot, eaten a lot, and shopped a lot this week. It's been a whirlwind interspersed with sleep but it has me riding high as I become more and more in tune with our new business. And THAT'S exciting.

I also got a drop-by visit from a pair of old, dear friends of mine. We sat and talked for a half hour and it was really a nice break in the morning. It's been too long, Brad & Jen - it was nice to see you.

(11/26/11 - 4:10 PM)
Woke up too early this morning, so I got some marketing entries prepared for next week's group offerings on FaceBook. I then went to work on a computer for a friend of my Father and, what I figured would take an hour ended up taking four. It was sort of a mess, and missing a lot of things and functionality. In the end, I left before all the Windows updates were in and installed. But I figured they could complete those. I hope.

About to crash and take a nap again. Wanda and I were playing Nintendo, and both falling asleep. So we figured there's no use fighting it.

Until tomorrow!

(11/25/11 - 2:12 PM)
I'm about ready to crash and take a nap. Woke up at 1:45 this morning to head in to my Black Friday book signing event. By 3:00 the place was well populated, until I realized that a goodly portion of the folks there were the comedians who were also on the bill for the morning. They all took their turn, doing their set, and - on the whole - weren't all that funny.

Then, everyone seemed to disappear. It was sporadic after that, and more folks seemed interested in trying to have me help them publish their book (not that I didn't understand the sentiment) than talk about or purchase mine. I also got some folks who just wanted to tell me how awesome they were, followed by leaving. Those were... odd.

I did get to see a few old, old friends whom I hadn't seen in decades, which made the endeavor much more worthwhile. My sister-in-law Sarah stopped in, which was so kind that I don't even have the words.

The coffee there was amazing, and after two large cups each, Wanda and I were jacked up for the rest of the morning. Wanda insisted on being with me for the entire 9-hour stint. Talk about dedication and support - this woman continues to amaze me. I'm totally mental for her, every day.

The proprietress and her family (who also work there) were extremely kind and accomodating. And it was nice to at least get the opportunity to connect with them.

On the whole, the experience was a fairly big let-down. It was long, wearisome, and disappointing. BUT - those moments of support from my friends, family, and the staff made me glad that I came. You guys made me feel so special that it made it all worth it. And I won't forget it.

(11/24/11 - 7:47 PM)
Thanksgiving this year was a nice excuse to see my family. But - for some reason - it just felt like all of our hearts weren't in it. Which is sort of unusual for us. Perhaps it was my constant consideration of the time, as I knew I couldn't stay too late due to having to get up tomorrow at 1:45 in the morning.

I didn't really talk to anyone, and it seemed like the family was a series of islands in an archipeligo, rather than the usual continent.

Maybe Christmas will be better.

(11/23/11 - 6:08 PM)
It's a two-fer week in Mr. Phillips Screwdriver land! You lucky, lucky folks.

For the past week, several operators have come to me inquiring where the 45° fixturing blocks had gone. For those of you that just went, "The what now?" allow me to clarify:

I run a machine shop. Each machine in the milling department has a vise. The vise is a workholding device you've probably all seen versions of before. These, however, are extremely strong and precise. Occasionally, when holding a component to work on it, the operator needs to set the component at a perfect 45° angle. This is sometimes achieved by placing one of the aforementioned blocks in the throat of the vise, below the component, and then seating the component on it. Voila - 45° bliss.

For some reason, on the first occasion, the blocks had disappeared. The senior operator who came to me to inquire as to their whereabouts did so because he had asked everyone in the shop where they were, and no one was using them. We both suspected what had happened, but he was kind enough to be polite about the whole thing and ask me politely if I could inquire with second shift as to whether they had seen them.

I said that I would, and we left it at that.

Then, I did something I almost never do: I forgot all about it. And I feel REALLY awful when I do that, because my employees deserve better.

So, a day or two later I was informed they had been found - behind Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's personal tools. I apologized for having forgotten about it, and meant to speak to Mr. P.S., but never got around to it that evening.

Apparently, I should have, because the next day they were - once more - not where they ought to be. Only, this time, we couldn't find them. Afternoon - and Mr. Phillips Screwdriver - came along, and he returned them from hiding.

Things went well for the next two days, until they disappeared a third time. At this point, several employees were pretty vocal about their frustrations - and rightly so. So, when he came in for his shift that afternoon, I politely confronted him about the whole affair.

"Did you move the 45° blocks again?"


Oh, dear: Combative. I tried to tread lightly with my next statement, "Where did you put them?"

He walked me to a bin of 'odd angle' blocks. These are non-standards, and as such are kept separate from the standards. I explained this to him, "We don't keep them here, because it takes longer to locate them, as these are non-standard. Can you please leave them where they belong?"

"Well, they've always been in this bin for as long as I've been here!"

"No," I respond, "See that square where no dust is, on top of that little cabinet? That's where they've been."

"Well, I can't reach them there, so I put them down here where they belong!"

If you think you read that wrong - you didn't. And if you don't get what's insane about that statement, re-read the previous three paragraphs... got it now?


"Look," I said, "I know the guys have asked you not to put these in here. How about we compromise? Can we put them, say, there >point to more accessable, open area< so that everyone can find them easily, and you can reach them?"


"Why not?"

"They belong in the bin with the rest of them."

"I don't want them there. I want them kept separate. I don't think that this is a big deal."

"Well, I don't think I want to do that. They belong in here. Why should I do that?"

I pulled a card I pull maybe once every few years. One I save for special occasions, "Because I said so. That's all you need to know. I'm not asking you - I'm telling you - that is where I want them."

"Oh, well that's fine. Why don't we just put them there, then?"

He has now turned my demand into his suggestion. Honest to goodness, I didn't think it could be done - but he's just done it with a straight face.

Oh, to be me.

(11/21/11 - 5:26 PM)
Laaaaadies and Gents! I am proud to present to you, "Mr. Phillips Screwdriver, and the case of the droopy light!"

It was mid-afternoon, and I found myself traversing the shop from end to end. My office is in the far, Northwest corner of the building, and the guy I needed to see about something is at the far East side. I make this trip a couple of times a day, depending on what I'm up to.

As I'm walking by Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's machine, I see it devoid of employee, and still cleaned up from the prior operator. I know that Mr. Phillips Screwdriver is here, because I saw him come in. A half second later I spy him, monkeying around behind another operator's machine. The operator has gone home for the day, and all I can see is the top of Mr. P.S.'s head. I figure there's a problem with an air line or some such thing, forcing him to trace the problem back to its source. In fairness, Mr. P.S. does - on occasion - find most of our air line deficencies and allow us to rectify them. So, I figure I'll just look the other way, and let him fix whatever he's fixing.

Ten minutes later, I'm headed that way again, and - again - I see the bald pate bobbing around behind the other operator's machine. Now I'm starting to wonder if leaving him to his own devices the first time around was such a hot idea, so I grit my teeth, and make my way over to him.

"What are you fixing, there?" I ask in a polite tone, giving him the benefit of the doubt.

"Well >Hem< this is all droopy!"

Since nothing more accompanied that explaination I once again began the dance that is teasing the conversational issues out of him. A dance I've done all too often before. "What's all droopy?"

"This! It's all droopy, and won't stay up!"

See? We're getting somewhere, but I still have no idea what he's telling me. He's still building the conversational equivalent of a Dagwood Special sandwich, one annoying layer at a time.

"Actually, I don't see. What - specifically - is droopy?"

"This light! It's all droopy and it won't stay up!"

So now I get it: He saw that the other operator's work light was not up to HIS rigid (sure - pun intended - what the hell) specifications, so he took it upon himself to 'fix' a problem that the day operator seemed perfectly fine with - and perfectly capable of manipulating to a successful end, were he not.

"Well," I said, trying not to laugh, "It seems to be fine for >Day Operator<, so let's just leave that up to him, and focus on your own work."

I'm actually surprised this is going as well as it is. Christmas came early, I think, as he says, "Well - all right."

As I begin mentally singing, "We are the Champions" he drops the conversational bomb. I celebrated too soon:

"You see," he begins, gathering steam, "These lights operate on joints that..."

I won't bother you with the rest of the several minute, unstoppable, dialogue but - suffice it to say - it was long, and all stuff I already knew.

In the end, it took me another two minutes of assuring him that I understood the construction and operation of the luminescent device enough for him to decide that maybe it was now time to do some work.

I love my job.

(11/20/11 - 11:55 AM)
Ugh - what a morning! I woke up a squidge before six, and spent nearly two hours writing the Digital Ninjas: Guerrilla Marketing entries for the week.

Then, some Yelp! work for a client, followed by some other odds and ends. Shower, store, coffee, and caffeinated soda (I was out - but I'm all better now.)

On this afternoon's agenda: Learning mobile web site conversion.

Then, this evening, hopefully some wine and television - possibly the new Harry Potter movie that I might have grabbed at the store. A lot of people were doing stuff.

I have to say this: I have learned a TON of stuff since this business began. And I look forward to learning more. And more and more.

(11/19/11 - 7:35 PM)
What a day! Work this morning, blogging, and then a second client meeting with a (now) full-fledged client. We're really excited about this account, and we hope it leads to many more.

Then lunch at Chipotle, and home to work on more miscellaneous stuff in QuickBooks, some research, and some digital work.

And now, I plan on letting my brain stop and watching mindless television from the DVR for a couple hours.

(11/18/11 - 5:52 PM)
Finally, this week (for all intents and purposes, anyway) is done and over. It's been extra-annoying for a lot of reasons. Employee troubles, inordinate stress levels, and a stomach that doesn't seem to want to cooperate with anything I feed it. Coupled with my lack of sleep, it's been cranky-town in my head all week. Worse still, I try to get a 10-20 minute nap in after work, but lately someone (or many someones, or the same someones over and over and over) keep calling me and waking me up just periodically enough so that I don't actually get any sleep.

Sleep is over-rated. I'll catch up, somehow, over the holiday weekend. But not on Friday - that's my book signing that is in south Rockford and STARTS at 3:00 AM. Ugh.

(11/13/11 - 8:32 AM)
It's been another stellar week. We've made great inroads with the business, and things are blossoming splendidly. We've received some decent work from a repeat customer that Wanda and I have been assisting for years, and also had the opportunity to get to know a very interesting salon owner in Rockford whom we hope to be assisting with her growing needs very soon.

It also turns out that there are rankings for colorists in the U.S., and she's in the top 5 - #1, in Illinois, in fact. She also does work for the CMA's and America's Next Top Model. How cool is that?

Today, I spend the day blogging, prepping next week's Marketing strategies, and then working on some client web site renovation.

I'm actually looking forward to all of it.

Here goes!

(11/12/11 - 8:46 PM)
Spent the morning at work, then off to a client meeting, followed by lunch with Wanda at Chipotle (we've missed you, awesome burritos!)

Worked on a proposal after our client meeting (more on that tomorrow), and then some more work on the business. Now, we're crashing after a long day.

Until tomorrow!

(11/11/11 - 8:22 PM)
Well, the world didn't end... yet. I find it interesting that everyone is so fascinated with the date today. Specifically because the calendar system is arbitrary, and has even made drastic changes over the years. So we've DECIDED to call this day by this 'name' (i.e. - 11/11/11). Who cares? Does the Universe subscribe to a newsletter that we put out that I am unaware of? Probably not, no. So it also stands to reason that it doesn't care what we insignificant folks on a floating hunk of rock in a solar system it has probably long forgotten are up to today - or any other day. Right?

If I were to say anything, I would say that The Palindrome Society should be the only ones excited - and even then, only slightly.

(11/10/11 - 8:06 PM)
Received a friend request on FaceBook this week from a Congressman, of all things. Apparently, Wanda sent him something about my book signing (being politically connected, as she is) and he found it interesting enough to friend me. And, apparently, he's also slated to drop by the signing. And while I should be perturbed that it's more than likely a campaign vehicle, I find that meeting the Congressman on my turf is sort of a neat thought.

(11/09/11 - 5:32 PM)
I have been networking this week - quite successfully, in fact - but I find that it does take a lot out of me trying to find new and unique ways to get noticed without being a nuisance.

Also, my original iPod G6 has now gone to a better place. To be fair, it still WORKS... it just won't sync (and believe me, no matter what you're about to recommend, I've tried it already.) What it will do is play, with 1-minute lags in between songs at random. So, I took it to work, and swapped it out for my newer, G7, that I had left there for months for an employee to borrow after having purchased my laptop and not needing two anymore (one was for video.)

I still think he's getting a good deal: 22k songs and an iPod to use for free. So I don't feel too bad about foisting it on him. And I'm SUPER glad to have one that works well, again.

(11/08/11 - 6:23 PM)
I've been watching the new NOVA series, "The Fabric Of The Cosmos" and I find that I cannot recommend it highly enough. It puts REALLY difficult physics theories and constructs into clear perspective. Well, ALMOST. I have to say that my curiosity on the subject over the past couple of decades has put me in a unique position to comprehend just about everything that's being said. Without that grounding, it may be more difficult for someone to grasp.

Be that is it may, it is still the BEST explaination of a nearly impossible topic that I have yet encountered. This is something that I think EVERY student in America should watch. It's just that well done. Way to go, PBS! >High Five<

(11/07/11 - 6:08 PM)
Warning: These will get stuck in your head. You have been warned.

(11/06/11 - 9:47 PM)
Man, it's been an insane week! So, first and foremost, this:

Terminal Beginning Book Signing Promo Poster

Yep - it's finally happening. I'll be doing my first book signing and meet and greet on Black Friday. I specifically asked for that day, figuring it would either be a whopping success, or a resounding failure. I'm hoping for the former for numerous reasons. We shall see.

Also, as an aside, I used a piece of software I've never used before to make the poster and, while nothing too special, I was pretty satisfied with the outcome, all things considered.

Digital Ninjas Media also billed out another project this week, which was quite exciting. And, yesterday, we got a solid lead on some more work. So here's to hoping that that works out.

For today, I need to continue to craft entries for my Guerrilla Marketing FaceBook forum. Which, in turn, I intend to publish in book form in the first quarter of next year. The tough part will be setting an order for the things, and then fleshing them out to be even more readable than they are now. I feel good about the challenge, though, so that's a start.

(11/05/11 - 9:37 PM)
Apparently, I am the only Heath Alberts on the planet. Which is great when you're Googling yourself. I've gone from an interspersion on the first three pages, to owning the first seven and a half all by my lonesome. Which pretty much was the goal all along. Still having trouble getting past the stagnant, old, Digital Ninjas stuff in the ratings, but we're making small gains as the weeks go by. Still, I want those coveted top spots that are currently held by a weird video, and a press release from the UK.

(11/04/11 - 7:22 PM)
Went to the grocery store for the first time in I don't know how long, today. Man, I forgot how heavy groceries can be.

I also developed a specialized group for marketing on FaceBook for all our clients, and potential clients. Apparently, you can build what are known as 'Secret' groups for specifically this purpose. Neat!

Continuing to try and nurture relationships with strangers on FaceBook, in an effort to become 'that marketing guy' that everyone knows about, but no one has yet met. On the whole, I think I'm finally starting to make some good progress, but it's a TON of work.

My goal is to be a known figure in local life. Not famous, just someone who at least one person in a crowd has heard of. We shall see.

(11/02/11 - 5:06 PM)
I don't know how much of this story has already been relayed, and I'm too lazy to look. So here, in its entirety, is the tale of Mr. Phillips Screwdriver and the Great Wall:

With all of the new equipment we've been shoe-horning into the already space-constrained shop of late, things have become beyond tight for most of our employees.

One pair, in particular, are Mr. Phillips Screwdriver and a second operator. To paint the picture: Mr. Phillips Screwdriver is relegated to a spacious enough, but awkwardly shaped, area. The other operator, because of how his machine is placed, is relegated to a twenty-four inch wide by six foot long strip of real estate that I wouldn't wish on anyone. Especially when you consider all the hot metal chips and coolant flying around. Amazingly, he's been a sport about it.

To make up for this egregious space constraint, the Owner built him a customized, mobile workbench that is quite tall and long - to give him plenty of room to put things and make up vertically for the lost space horizontally.

Sounds fair, right? Here's the problem: remember that one word? MOBILE. Uh oh...

It was not in place more than a few hours before Mr. Phillips Screwdriver came to work, and then to visit me, bemoaning his ability to do his job - at all - because it just took up too much of his space. In an effort to be open-minded, I decided to hear him out. And, so, we went out to the work floor together.

He showed me what he meant, and I tried not to laugh. Essentially, his arguement was that IF he had to run a super-long part, and IF he needed to move his machine's table all the way to the left at its furthest extremity, then he would be impaired from doing so.

"That's fine", I said. "But you may recall that you, and I, and our Expediter (who decides what work goes on what machine) all had a conversation specifically discussing the fact that you would no longer be asked to run the extra-long parts due specifically to this fact."

After a heavy round of repetition on his part, showing that he hadn't listened to a word that I'd said, I walked away, frustrated. It was like we had never spoken at length about it, and I was now speaking Mandarin.

As the days went on, it became obvious that Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was hell-bent on making his point, even though it had been nullified from the start. So every day when he came in, he moved the bench right into the other operator's already constrained space, in an effort to be prepared for that long part that just might come along. Bear in mind that their shifts overlap - so the other operator was still in that small space.

The other operator put up with this for a few days, but finally had had enough, and began to push back. This elicited an interesting response. Each day, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver would now come to me and explain that he'd, 'Never done anything to the guy', so he couldn't 'understand why the guy was being such a jerk!'

I mentioned that what HE himself was doing was unecessary, and was the catalyst of the issue. His coming in each day, and moving the bench without cause, was a massive - and unecessary - irritation. His response? Why, to monologue about how he could not run long parts for five minutes, of course!

This went on for a couple of weeks and, seeing that Mr. Phillips Screwdriver was in his own town, population of 1, the Owner and I knew a new solution was in order. His idea? Create brackets that would capture the wheels of the workbench that permanently mounted in the concrete floor. They could be 'opened' to move the bench, if that ever became necessary but would otherwise remain closed and locked during the times it did not.

I explained the solution to both parties equally, not wanting more strife, and both agreed that it was a fine solution.

So, over a weekend, I had them made and installed. And I figured that a sane person would believe that the problem was solved. I knew better. And I was right, because...

The bitching continued. His first day back, he came to me and said, "Did you do that!?"

"Did I do what?"

"Put those brackets in the floor like that?"

Now, imagine my surprise when I considered that I had CLEARLY OUTLINED for him my intentions before the work began. More than once, in fact. And he had AGREED to it.

And now? His only response was - you guessed it - that he could not run long parts.

"Well," he says, shaking his head, "It isn't going to work like that. You'd better think of something else, because that isn't going to work."


"Well," he responded, stone-cold serious, "Because with it like that, I can't run long parts."

For those of you saying to yourselves about now, "Oh Heath - come on - you're embellishing! He couldn't possibly have said the same thing that many times!" I say NOPE - It's ALL TRUE. Every day he would begin anew, with him coming into my office and reminding me that he could no longer run long parts because of our folly.

Then, today, the inevitable happened. I knew it was coming and, to be honest, I was surprised that it took this long. I got a call from our Expediter on the radio that there was a problem in Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's area, and would I please come to the floor immediately?

I went out, and found Mr. P.S. tirading at my poor Expediter, who we have explicitly expressed to everyone over and over again - privately, and in numerous company meetings - was NOT to be bothered with matters such as the one he was being bothered with now. This was MY part of the show. I can't imagine how that message never got through.

So take into consideration that I'm really, REALLY, busy with real stuff right about now, and I have negative time for crap like this to spare. I cut to the chase as he continues to speak directly to our Expediter, even though I'm now there, and ask the thousand dollar question:

"What's the issue?"

I have to ask twice more before I get a reply. Or, at least, what Mr. P.S. feels is a reply. Specifically, he takes a 20" piece of aluminum that's been in his hand the whole time, and pokes part of the wall, grunts, shakes his head, and then looks at me. That's it. That's his response. Honest to God, I can't make this stuff up: Scout's honor.

I ask twice more, and twice more he grunts and pokes, saying nothing.

Now I hear over the radio that a customer is on the line for me, and I see another coming into the shop who needs to speak with me about a project we're doing for him. Couple this with the stuff I was already pulled away from and my wits were pretty much at an end. To be honest, I lost my temper internally, and my first reaction was to go all Lou Pinella on the situation.

Instead, as calmly as I could, I said, "Don't poke, tell me what the problem is!"

"LOOK!" he hollers in my face, poking the wall once again. "I told you this would happen! I told you I couldn't run long parts! Now how in the hell am I supposed to run this? I knew this would happen!"

Here's what I see: He has successfully rammed his $950.00 Servo unit that moves his worktable on the X-Axis into one of the 2" x 4"s supporting the wall, bending it's heat sync vanes over on top of themselves.

I try to speak, but he goes first anyway: "I can't run this shit over here! This is stupid! I told you this would happen!"

A second call on the radio puts me over the edge, "Fine. Pull the job, and move on. Are we done here?"

He decides that we're not, and tries again. Finally I get louder than him, and tell him once more that I have real issues to deal with and just walk away. Something I never do, but I was going to kill someone otherwise and he was awfully close at hand.

When all of my business and phone calls are completed, my Expediter comes to me to review what had happened. He's concerned that he made a bad decision in allowing the job to be there, on that machine. I explain that the day operator was doing just fine with it. I also explain that >I< could have run that part on that machine just fine. And I am not a machinist. It was entirely do-able. Instead, Mr. P.S. had decided that he MUST be made to be shown to be right, and had elected to crash his machine on purpose. It was really as simple as that.

We were both just dumbfounded for the briefest of moments, but knowing what we know about him we both, on some levels, knew it was coming.

In the end, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver had shown us how foolish we were. Yep - he sure did! Even though he had to act like a deaf three-year-old to do it, and "accidentially" damage something in the effort. Way to go, Buddy! Way to go.

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