Remembering the Orchid Grower

imageBefore I started this blog and before my daughter started The Sound of Swarming, we managed and wrote a lot of material for a blog that focused on lifelong learning. I’ve been trolling through those posts and pulling out some that can be edited for this site. Last night, I stumbled on the post below. I am repeating it here because Carl recently passed away and I miss him. I’ve edited the original post, in order to remove it from the context of the previous blog series and I added a bit of the personal side of Carl that I knew.

I spent four days in early December 2009 attending AIIM’s Electronic Records Management (ERM) Master certificate training. Having already completed the ECM Master course, I knew the class would be great and I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait to talk about it. As it turns out, this class was also a perfect example of the use of transitions, which was a presentation technique that I was trying to master at the time.

Teaching a four day technical class takes a special kind of instructor under the best of circumstances. In my opinion, the best of circumstances would be a class on judging beach volleyball, or bacon recipes; did I mention that this was a class on Records Management? Our instructor, Carl Weise, pulled it off with ease.

Like any good instructor, Carl began with great material; since it was prepared by AIIM, I wasn’t expecting anything less. Still, 32 hours of even great material can be painful if the students aren’t engaged, and keeping those students involved and motivated to participate falls to the instructor. Carl started off like several other great instructors that I know by taking a few minutes to learn a little bit about his students and why we came to the course. Then he began to adapt.

From that point forward, he tailored his examples to our backgrounds, our industries and our needs. He encouraged discussions, and if they didn’t occur spontaneously, he started them. These transitions kept us awake, kept us participating and gave us the chance to share our experiences and learn from each other. I’m not sure if he was testing our understanding, but he was certainly gathering information. I lost track of the number of times Carl wove our discussions into his examples in a later topic. The class, which could have been a dry presentation of several hundred slides, became a dynamic exchange that seemed like it had been written specifically for the students in the room. The quote below is from the original blog in 2009.

I am writing this blog post before leaving for the last day of this course and I can honestly say I am eager to get to class – remember, this is Electronic Records Management”

Whenever I am in a class like this, I take several sets of notes. One set is the stuff I need to remember for the exam and the case study required to get the ERM Master certificate. The second set is the things I want to remember to apply back at the office and the third is a list of things that I can do to improve as a presenter. One of the things I noticed about Carl is that although he adapted his presentation, he remained Carl. This was something that I really couldn’t jot down in my notes, but I had the privilege of talking about that with Carl over dinner. I told him that I admired his ability to drift in and out of conversations and, without any overt efforts on his part, to always remain in charge of the class. Carl was gracious, suggesting that we (students) were responsible for participating and that he had had some classes where the students “just sat there like bumps on a log.”

We also discovered a common interest in woodworking. Carl’s father was a cabinet maker who had left Germany for Toronto. Carl explained that his father made furniture as gifts for family members and as those people passed on, Carl was collecting some of his father’s work. He shared several sets of photos with me that showed the handiwork of a skilled craftsman.

Carl might not have been a woodworker like his father, but he was a skilled craftsman. His expertise was Records Management and his craft was teaching. He knew how to read the grain, make connections, assemble and properly finish the product that was represented by the students in the room. Sorry for stretching the woodworking metaphor a bit there, but when I saw Carl at the AIIM Conference each year, he would always ask me about my latest woodworking projects. The two pictures below are from the group that Carl sent me in 2009. Both pieces were made by his father. The coffee table on the left includes some hand carved elements that are amazing to me. The plant stand on the right is a simpler piece, but I like it because, in all the photos Carl sent me, that’s the only one where he included a caption.

I’m the orchid grower!

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R.I.P. Carl. You helped many people to be better at their craft. I am proud to be one of them.

Posted in Absent Friends, Learning, Woodworking | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

I Am NOT Short

Dan Antion:

As I mentioned when I wrote about my 360 review, I am not exactly skilled in the art of “avoiding saying things that won’t help.” I couldn’t give this example because I knew that my daughter was working on a blog post of her own to tell that story. She tells it better than I would. I hope you enjoy her post as much as I do,

Originally posted on Sound of Swarming:

Mount Baker

Not Short on Mount Baker, Washington, 1998

In 1998, I traveled with my father to the beautiful state of Washington. We rented a car and put about 1,600 miles on it, visiting Seattle, Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, Mount Baker National Forest, Whidbey Island, Grand Coulee Dam and a quirky little Western town called Winthrop, which had good candy and ice cream and VHS rentals of great classic movies like “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” But I digress.

Amid these majestic settings, my Dad imparted to me many an important life lesson and one very hilariously unsuccessful compliment, the story of which he has finally authorized me to share. Allow me to introduce our characters:

DAD
A former resident of Seattle, motivated to show his 14-year-old daughter the natural wonders of his former home. He presents as highly obsessively organized and armed with 25lbs of maps, itineraries and emergency supplies as this was his first…

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Influence Redux

imageI started this blog three years ago this month with a post on influence that was inspired by some questionable “analysis” of my Klout score. That post attracted one lonely ‘Like’ (Thanks Marc) and the entire month of July 2011 saw just over 100 people visit this blog. That stood as a high-water mark for months and 2011 ended with very few followers. It’s a good thing I wasn’t trying to influence the masses. During the three years and 148 posts that followed, I’ve revisited the topic of influence and I dropped out of Klout. As I look back on the arc of this blog, and social media’s continuing fascination with the topic of ‘influence’ I feel compelled to revisit the subject for my 150th post.

Earlier this week LinkedIn invited me to subscribe to some top influencers. I ignored the offer, just as I do their repeated offers for me to ‘Go Pro’. I don’t need to know any more about the world that is cataloged by LinkedIn, so the basic free membership will suffice. As for those top Influencers; well, influencers come and influencers go. I am the only one who can identify the top influencers in my life. I already follow (on Twitter) some of the people that LinkedIn wants me to get closer to. I’ll spare them the mention of their names in what might seem like a negative context, but truth be told, they don’t always have a message for me.

That’s the problem with influence; it’s not a predictable or measureable quality. It’s not a tool that you can wield with precision. Influence is a byproduct of speech or prose or poetry or art or natural beauty, so it follows that influence is in the eye of the influenced.

Most days it isn’t the well-known, well-branded blogger of stature that has an impact on me. Instead, it’s a random blogger that just happens to share a story from their experience that influences me in a way nobody else can. I follow a lot of bloggers. I enjoy the way they write, the stories that they tell, the information that they share and occasionally, their message resonates with me.

I follow people who write about the technology that I use. I imagefollow people who write about the technology I may end up using in the future. The information in those posts ranges from spot-on, to interesting to whatever. Still, following these people helps me to do my job better today and prepares me to do it well in the future.

I follow people who write about pain and struggle. I follow people who point to God as the way to deal with pain and struggle. I follow people who write about trains, TV shows, wars and recipes. I follow poets, photographers, philosophers, historians, writers and people who chronicle their lives for the world in the hope that their story will inform or entertain. I follow people who bounce from topics at random as often as I do. Many of these people are reading this post, so I’m going to sneak in a “thank you!”

I don’t just read a bunch of bloggers. Some days it’s the news that influences me. The influence can be direct, in that I am moved to support an issue highlighted by a reporter in a well-researched exposé. Other times, the influence is indirect or reactive. Reports of unfairness and unkindness might cause me to try to be more fair and kind. Speakers, I won’t dignify them by calling them reporters, like the talking heads and blowhards who dominate talk-radio and the highly-suspect news shows, cause me to research what must be the other side of the story that they are spinning at an acute angle. I don’t actually listen to those people but friends will sometimes share their vitriolic messages with me. When the message being delivered drifts from information to a clear attempt to foster hate and resentment, my antennae go up and I start searching for the truth.

Life events have and have had a profound influence on me. Seeing discrimination in process, seeing people in poverty, meeting people who suffer(ed) racism, discrimination and the after effects of poor decisions made by others have molded my position over time. In these situations, I have been moved toward sympathy for the victims and indignation for the culprits. I have also become frustrated. That we still struggle with issues like these in this country should stand as a major disappointment for my generation.

This is why I think it’s dangerous to follow an exclusive and narrow list of would-be and wanna-be influencers. The people who influence us should include those who wake us up to new ideas. Influence isn’t the lines on the highway. Influence shouldn’t be a mechanism to maintain the status quo or that which makes us feel even better about the flawed choices we have made. Influence should be the means by which we change our perspective, broaden our view, reconsider our position or expand our understanding of our long-held beliefs. Influence should not simply make us more sure of our position. We should seek out sources of influence that make us better.

Posted in Advice, Opinion, Perspective | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Two by Two

imageI love most “there are two types of people” jokes. You can search the web for list after list of these. I would give you some links but joke lists have a tendency to go south. They either add annoying ads or they collect a bunch of raunchy or otherwise offensive jokes. So I’d rather not be associated with any of them forever. My favorite two-types-of-people joke is:

There are 10 types of people;
those who understand the binary system and those who don’t.

I was led to this topic by an observation during my daily commute. I leave my house at 6:00 am. It’s a 20 minute drive, and I have to be at work by 7:30. I know; the math doesn’t work. The primary reason I leave so early is to avoid sitting in traffic. If I tried to arrive at 7:30, I’d have to leave at 6:50 and drive in heavy traffic. My daily ride tells me that:image

There are two types of people on the road at 6:00 am;
those who want to be early and those who are already late.

I don’t like being late…for anything.

That’s a hereditary thing. My father was never late for anything. Ever. I worked a few summers at the same Post Office that he worked in. I usually worked some weird split-shift scenario and he worked 6:30 am – 3:30 pm. Once in a while, I would be scheduled to carry the route for a regular mailman who was going to be on vacation and I’d get that 6:30-3:30 shift. So, I could ride with my dad. The first time this happened, he woke me up at 5:30 complaining that “we have to leave soon!” He started work at 6:30, but he arrived at the Post Office at 6:00. He considered himself late at 6:01.

Being early for work isn’t bad. Like my dad, I enjoy starting the day in a leisurely fashion and I can get a lot of things done before most of my coworkers arrive. Being early for things today is easier than it was 40 years ago. If you’re early, you can catch up on email, read the news, read a blog post or two, or Dilbert, or whatever. That leads me to another observation:

There are two kinds of smart phone users; image
those who use smart phones and those who really use them.

I know lot of people with smart phone, primarily iPhones, who use it as a phone, texting and email platform with a camera. I want to ask “have you heard about these things called apps?” but I figure if it works for them, who am I to be concerned? I, on the other hand, love my apps. If have tons of apps, some of which I don’t use very often, but some I use every day. Since Top-10 lists are all the rage, here are my Top-10 iPhone apps:

  • Evernote – Taking and organizing notes just can get any easier. I have hundreds of ideas for this blog in Evernote (sorry if that depresses you). If I see something interesting, I can quickly pull up the note and add to it. When I get enough stuff to scribble 800-1,000 words, we’re off to press.
  • WordPress – If you have a blog on WP, and a smart phone, get this app.
  • Jot – Without this app, you would never see the classy little illustrations that often accompany this blog. I also use it for work, drawing flowcharts, screen designs and such.
  • ESPN Sportscenter / MLB At Bat – The best thing about these apps is that the let me be an engaged fan of Pittsburgh sports teams while living in New England.
  • Travel apps (Marriott, Delta, Southwest & AMTRAK) – These are all good, but I do think Marriott’s are the best. On my last trip, I forgot to ask for an extra blanket before leaving for a long day of meetings. I opened the app – went to ‘Linens’ – Clicked to add one blanket and I returned to a room with the bed made up with an extra blanket.
  • Google Maps – I have a Garmin GPS in my car that I love, but I really like Google Maps when I am walking.
  • Vine – It’s amazing how much information you can convey in a 6-second video.
  • Pool – Oh my goodness, this free simple little pool game, is, Ah-dictive. Seriously, get this game. This just in – they just added a 9-Ball version. Free never felt so good.
  • 1Password – The best part of this app is that I also have a version on my laptop, my iPad and my MacBook (yes, I am a geek) so I’m never without my passwords.
  • (Our) 411 – I’m including this app on the list because I wrote it. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to buy a copy, in fact, it’s an ‘enterprise app’ so you can’t have a copy unless you and I work together. I like this app because it holds all that stuff I never remember like the code to the file room and my boss’s cell phone number.

I’ll leave you with a slight variation on a two-types-of-people joke:

Women have two types of clothing;
clean and dirty.

Men have three types;
clean, dirty and the things you have to smell before wearing.

I put that in last because I think my editor just threw up.

Posted in Humor, Perspective, Technology, Work Habits | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

Resawn Tote

imageBack in May I wrote about purchasing a new band saw for my shop. The primary reason for selecting this particular saw was its resaw capacity. Resawing, in case you don’t want to revisit that post, is the process of slicing a board into two or more thinner boards. Resawing lets you make your own thin boards. It lets you make multiple thin boards out of one thick board and, if the one board is interesting, it lets you make panels that mirror each other.

I couldn’t wait to use this saw. I couldn’t wait for the project to come along that would force me to use this saw. I had to create a project simply to play with learn how to use this new toy tool. The project was easy to pick, I would build a box.

I have almost always built a box to test a new tool, a new jig or a new technique. Boxes are the perfect choice because: 1) they don’t require a lot of thought. 2) They can be made in any size or shape and 3) my wife and daughter love boxes! I learned this the hard way.

When I bought my first dovetail jig, I made a box. I mean, that is what you do with dovetails; you use them to join together the sides of boxes. I pulled a few pieces of plywood out of the scrap bin and I made a box. The wood was the same species, but the sides weren’t the same width. I didn’t care, it was a test, an exercise and an example…until it became a gift. I brought it home to show my wife and she put stuff in it.

Ever since that day, I build my test boxes with care. When I built a jig to help me cut box joints in the Green and Green style, my daughter scooped it up before my wife had a chance. I felt like I should make another one. The day I bought a much better imagedovetail jig, I made a box in the shape of a bed. I thought our cats might like it. One did, for a while but he stopped using it. We still have the box. My wife uses it to hold all the cat toys. If you build a box around here, count on it being here forever.

This time, the box needed to feature boards that were resawn. I decided to build a tote. I picked a tote because it would let me use imagethree boards cut from the same board, two for the sides and one for a divider / handle. I selected a piece of Ambrosia Maple because it’s highly figured and I happened to have a fairly thick piece lying around. I cut a nicely figured portion out of the board and I used the new saw to slice that into three pieces.

These thin boards looked good but that they presented a few challenges. The first challenge came when I assembled the basic box. I decided to use box joints because the wood was too thin to machine any other joints into. Box joints, like mitered corners need clamp pressure in both directions. I normally use a band clamp for these types of joints, but I couldn’t do that for two reasons. First, a lot of glue squeezes out of a box joint, and the band would smush that around. Second, since the sides and the ends of my box weren’t the same thickness, the pins were long. I wanted to wait and sand them flush after assembly. Then, I discovered a third problem – the wood was so thin that the clamps bent the sides in. I had to clamp some support brackets on the inside to keep the box square against the pressure. If you ever need a gift idea for a woodworker, buy him or her clamps. You can never have too many clamps.

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The next thin-board challenge came as I started fashioning the center divider for the tote. The idea was to leave that board a little taller than the sides and cut a hole in to serve as a handle. That would have looked nice, but it would have been way too fragile. It had to be reinforced. Also, the connection of that divider to the ends of the box had to be reinforced. I resawed a couple of thin slices of mahogany to augment the handle hole and to make reinforcing posts for all 8 corners. After that, I turned my attention to the bottom; once again, I was set back by the whole thin board thing. Fortunately, I had enough mahogany to slice up some support cleats.

Once I had a support system for the bottom, it was time to resaw a few more boards. I took a second scrap of Ambrosia Maple and sliced off a series of strips that I could make into shiplap flooring. The complete tote is made from two maple boards and one mahogany board. The long sides display the effect of matching up the grain nicely.

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This project was fun. I learned a lot about the operation of my new saw and I was able to build an interesting wooden tote. My wife is planning to use it for all her dog grooming tools and accessories so it should have a long and useful life.

Note: You can click on any photo to see it in full resolution. You can also click here to see the full set on Flickr.

Posted in DIY, Family, Tools, Woodworking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Introducing the Windsor Locks Canal

imageAs I mentioned Tuesday, this post is a little bit of an exercise for me. I don’t normally work with a lot of photos in one post, and I don’t think I’ve ever tried to describe a “destination” before. I’m not sure that The Windsor Locks Canal is much of a destination; I mean I wouldn’t travel to Connecticut just to see it. But, it is one of my favorite places.

The official website says that construction started oimagen the canal in 1827. It also says that “Charles Dickens was a notable visitor who passed through the canal on February 7, 1842.” It’s probably good that Mr. Dickens rode through after the canal was operational as opposed to as it was being built, as I’m not sure he would have appreciated to conditions under which men labored. But this isn’t a post about labor. It also isn’t a post about futility, which could also be used to characterize the Windsor Locks and other canals built in that era, since the railroads made them obsolete by the late 1840’s But the Windsor Locks Canal survived. Its longevity is the result of a good design which incorporated stone into the design of the locks and as lining of the canal walls.

I am very glad they built this to last.

For as long as I’ve lived in Windsor Locks, the path that the mules once used to pull boats along the 4 ½ mile canal has been “paved” for walkers and cyclists. I put paved in quotes because, back in the early days you had to look pretty hard to find more than a few feet of contiguous pavement. At some point in the 90’s, the State of CT started talking about making the area around the canal into a State Park. They passed some legislation and put up a few signs, but the bulk of the plans were tabled due to our perennial budget crisis. It’s OK; they had enough money to repave the path. That was welcome relief to our family.

Shortly after our daughter started riding a two-wheeler, we started riding the canal path. Most people begin their ride imagefrom the north end, in Suffield, CT. There’s a large parking lot there, a porta-potty and one of the best views of and from the canal are at the north locks. We usually begin our ride from the south end, near the abandoned and half-burnt Montgomery manufacturing building.

Starting from the lower end, the path and the sights ease you into the imagecanal experience since there is so much land on the eastern side of the path, that you can’t see the river. This land is home to waterfowl and many small animals. We have stopped to watch as a mother duck nudges her ducklings into the water and we have been made to stop by a mother goose. Geese, in case you aren’t aware, can, be, mean. I guess any mother can be mean if she thinks her children are threatened, but no other animal has ever pecked at my chain as I was riding past. These days, I simply wait at a good distance.

The Connecticut River and the canal get close enough to see together as you approach the railroad bridge that crosses both waterways. We always stop at this bridge. We always take pictures and for the longest time, we paid fun homage to Jenn and Ken who professed their love for each other in a bit of harmless vandalism. Unfortunately, the paint outlasted the love affair and now we have a good laugh as we drive over the updated message. I should mention that the water is usually not as high as it is in the center photo below, but it was the first time my wife rode with me. It was pretty scary and she wasn’t happy.

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The canal was built to help barge traffic navigate around the Enfield Rapids. A dam at the north end fed water into the upper locks and provided the necessary depth for further travel upstream. Since the arrival of the railroad, the dam has been allowed to gradually fail. It’s hard to say if the canal will retain a source of water if the dam fails completely but it’s a slow process so I think we have a few bike rides left.

The canal elevation rises only about 15’ along the 4 ½ mile journey so the ride is easy. It’s also an easy walk, so you have to be prepared to deal with walkers, joggers as well as opposing traffic. You also have to watch for photographers as the canal is a rich source of natural beauty.

My favorite spot on the canal is where it crosses Stony imageBrook. The brook is about to enter the CT River, but it cuts through about 25’ below the level of the canal and its towpath. In what must have been amazing engineering feat in the day, the builders of the canal constructed a viaduct to carry the canal over the stream. I am still impressed with this crossing, even though the original 2-lane wooden viaduct has been replaced by a single-lane concrete version.

My favorite day on the canal was one very hot and imagestill morning. The surface of the canal was as smooth as glass and the rising sun was at the perfect angle to create some amazing reflections. You can see the entire set of these photos on my Flickr site, but this is one of my favorites. In case you haven’t guessed, the masthead photo for this blog is also from the canal. It was taken on that same still day.

I would leave you with an invitation to walk the canal if you are ever in north-central Connecticut, but there’s a catch. The canal path is closed to human traffic from November 1st to April 1st since the area around the canal is a Bald Eagle nesting area. For the past three years the ban has been extended on the lower end of the path until the eaglets have left the nest. It’s disappointing to have to turn around, but it’s for a good cause.

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Posted in History, New England Life, Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Must Visit Top 5 Waterfalls Near Mumbai

Dan Antion:

Waterfalls and Canals – Pt-1

One of the best things that has happened this year in terms of blogging was having been invited to join a small group of people to share ideas, encouragement and advice. I think that I am truly the lucky member of this bunch because I think I am the only one who isn’t working as a writer. I am in some impressive company and I will be sharing some of their work during the remainder of the summer as a way of mixing it up a bit.

Back in May, I had an idea for two or more of us to try to write complimentary posts. I decided that I was going to start by attempting to write a travel post like one written by Sharukh Bamboat titled “Must Visit Top 5 Waterfalls Near Mumbai.” Sharukh has several other travel posts, but I am particularly fond of waterfalls. I will be following this in a day or two with a post about a local Connecticut water attraction. I hope you enjoy Sharrukh’s post.

Originally posted on India Destinations:

Waterfalls Near Mumbai

Waterfalls Near Mumbai

Tired after a long week of hectic work and stress? Well, monsoons have finally touched Mumbai and this time the clouds have been more merciful than before raining more than what we normally expect. While rains lead to flood and traffic jam problems during the weekdays it also offers a better way to relax and get back into action on weekends. Many Mumbaikars feel the need to just take a break from their hectic schedule and drive away not too far from the city into a place that can offer them lush greenery and icy cool waterfall where they can enjoy and have some great time with their family and friends. Here we take a look at the top 5 waterfalls near Mumbai that offer the best way to enjoy our weekend.

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