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Sunday, December 28, 2008

My legs have asked for a rest

My legs have asked for a rest. First they begged (3 calf pulls surrounded by dead legged runs) and now they have insisted (groin pull, calf again). I finally hear the request even though it was less respectful than anticipated. The universe only cares when you are at the top of your game and the injury of one more over the hill, aging runner is of little consequence even to the runner himself.

I chatted with Mr. Saturday Morning, Ray just a few minutes ago. He lives down in SLO on the central coast. He is thinking about a comeback.

"Just to be in the top 5," he said. That would be enough. I thrived for years being in the top five. The group shifted over time but I stayed up there for ten years. Even at 50 I was still "up there" but it meant less by that time and I knew I had to let go. Letting go of racing is one thing. Letting go of running is another. I have been contemplating this serioulsy for quite some time. It wasn't that I was going to give up on running. I was going to take a vacation from it. But of course, in the end, I had to pushed out the door.

I am out of the running room. Out in the hallway. I hope that is enough for now.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Last run for quite a while.

I lied. I ran one more time and that was once too often. Today my legs gave out during a very easy 30 minute run. Within minutes(as if acting in concert with each other) my left calf and my right groin both pulled. My body was someplace else and it is taking the rest of me there, not where I might want to go.

The penny has dropped. It will be quite some time before I can even try running again. Walking is not an immediate alternative.

Rest and diet.

My old nemesis' from the 1960's.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Not Running (for a time)

Xmas day: Rain and wind outside. I am hunkered down for now. I haven't run since Saturday. On antibiotics just in case I have an infection of some sort. At this point resting is training as strange as that might seem.

It's not so much that I haven't run but more that I don't mind NOT running. My mind and body are elsewhere.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Touch of Something

I ran 50 minutes on Saturday but was constantly looking for a WC. Something is broken in the works. Probably a touch of the flu. I am not sure. Taking Sunday off. Will try to get into see the doctor on Monday. Maybe this is what is dragging me down.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ringing True

The Silicon Valley Warrior wasn't very warrioring this morning. I dragged myself out for 41 minutes in between showers. The weather was warmer (high 40's) but that seemed to make no difference whatsoever. I just punked out. Yeah, I felt better over time but never good enough to justify me being out there. I think my head and body just weren't in it and one tends to follow the other. I could just as well stayed inside, had another cup of coffee and taken my time getting ready to work. Of course when I looked out the window at lunch it wasn't raining but it was windy. I am sure the Baylands would have been fun.

Bottom Line: I am not over trained and I am getting enough sleep. Either I am bonking on too few carbs or I am simply not motivated anymore. The last ring truest.

I could go to the Danny model which is running 4-5 days a week and keep the miles low. Maybe one longer run a week. He runs 3-5 miles a workout. I am not an interval sort of guy but maybe some time trials 1-2 x a week..

But nothing "has" to be done. No single workout "has" to be run.

Oops, it's too cold outside. I think I'll skip the run. I wonder how bad that could be?

Or I could just give it all a rest.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Some Progress

Went out in the clear quiet freezer quality cold of the morning and ran an easy 40 minutes. My legs felt better. The nicks and bruises and sore spots were miraculously gone. What was left was a sludge feeling like gunked up oil. I moved slowly and pathetically but somehow got out to the college and back without incident.

At lunch the temps were in the low 50's and there was a nice breeze to cool things down further but I ran a warm up loop of 12 minutes and then set off to run a time trail on the dirt, gravel bayland trail that circles the park. The course is imperfect. yes, measured years back so I know where the quarter mile marks are but still rutted and with a few gentle but insistent rollers along the way.

Nothing exciting but progress.

1:40-3:20-4:50 for 1320.

13 minute easy warm down thrown in to drain off some of the lactic acid (lol). To think I once ran sub 6 pace for 20 miles 32 years ago.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It was enough and too much

8 x 100 seems so little but it pretty much beat up my legs. I walked around Sunday evening and most of Monday with sore spots on my right hamstring and right instep and plantar. I decided to take an extra day or two off. So no running on Tuesday. We'll see about Wednesday. The weather made it easier. Cold and wet weather coming down from Palinville (oops, I mean Alaska). I looked ahead. Intermittent rain and continued cold. I have the tights out. Time to protect my legs and just get through to the spring.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Another very cold morning. High 30's with a mild but steady wind blowing. I got out before 10 AM dressed to the "nines".

1. Wool cap
2 & 3 two sets of gloves
4 socks
5 briefs
6 tights
7-8 two tops (long sleeve over short)
9 shoes

So..hence nines as in 9 items.

I ran for 25 minutes keeping the pace slow
Then I hit the track for 8 x 100 (walking back for recovery). I didn't time the first 4 but caught the last 4 in an average of 18. Then 20 minutes back to the house.

It's a battle drawn up between my will power, my aging legs and the substantial lack of desire to run especially on cold days. Today will power won.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

60 minutes before the rain

Unashamedly I slept in to 7:30.

Why didn't my 6:30 AM alarm go off? Not sure. Maybe I forgot to set it.

I made breakfast though. Coffee and toast. Very ascetic.

I finally made it out onto the roads after 1 pm. Windy with rain coming in. I ran an easy 60 minutes scouting out the college track thinking to myself that this was time trial day. But it wasn't. Too windy so I bailed and kept up the slow tempo. It was just starting to come down as I hit one hour. Too late to get drenched.

I was home.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Frozen Sun

I ran twice again today. It was in the 30's when I trotted out this monrning from home. 48 minutes at a slow, easy pace.

I went out again for no good reason at lunch to burn off more calories. I ran two BIG loops which turned out to be 24 minutes. It was in the low 60's and frankly it was stark, raving perfect.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

2 x 40

Doubled today running 40 frozen minutes before work and another 40 minutes during lunch. All done at a very slow pace. It's the willingness to go slow that keeps me in the game.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Smita sighting?

I got early today and ran for 50 minutes. I kept it slow. The weather was cool and slightly overcast. I may have had a Smita sighting but did not follow up.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


I slept in until almost 8 AM. The day of the long knives exhausted me (I guess). I went out and had breakfast with the club and then ran in the early afternoon. Sunny with very little wind. Almost perfect.

18 minute easy warm up. Legs and that right calf felt good.

1 x 800 in 3:08 (97-91)

24 minute slow warm down.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Galloway Was Right

Galloway was right about older runners.

As you age you need less running days.

You need to take walking breaks in your daily running.

It helps to run slow. As slow as you can stand it and then some.

Gliders (or striders) are essential to keep up leg speed or turnover.

I watch my buddy Jake trying to run every day and how he bonks. His legs go dead on him. There is a day where all that stuff doesn't work. Jimbo can do it because he took much of his 50's off from running. He recovered. But for those of us who spent 40 years doing this, well the great days are over. We can stay in the game (maybe) but we need more rest and we need to put our ego's aside and just run slower. That is the price of continuing to run. Somewhere out there is an end day (the day where we stop running) so every day we can run is a gift.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

An Empty Desolate Place

I met Jake at Forbes at 8 AM. I wrapped my right foot across the instep and under the arch with coban tape. We ran the first up and back in 25:44. My calf held up. We went back a second time running 25:42. I had some faint echos of tightness but no pain. My legs seem OK. I was surprised at how fresh I felt given that I had woken early at around 5 AM, an empty desolate place on the clock. Coffee had warmed me up. Amber, the wonder dog had stirred on her pillow and had stared at me sleepily and then had fallen back off with a slight but persistent snoring.

I still seem to be a runner.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tight Calf

I ran twice yesterday in very different sort of conditions. The morning run was in a steady drizzle. I did an easy 38 minutes and noticed right off that my right calf was tight.

In the early afternoon I ran another 40 minutes. The calf seemed OK but I did have several incidents where it tightened up. Then after a few seconds it wouldn't bother me at all. Very strange. I guess that "burning" 7:06 slightly strained it.

So this is the calf that wasn't bother me. The good calf.

I massaged the heck out of yesterday whenever I got a chance. I wrapped my right instep and arch with coban tape. This often takes pressure off the calf.

My legs seem to be sending very clear messages to my brain.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

VERY Slow Running

I waited until mid day to go out and run. The temps were in the low 60's and there was little or no wind. Almost perfect conditions for a slow (very slow) 60 minute jog. I kept my HR down in the low 130's most of the way. The price of still running after 41 years is VERY slow running.

My 7:06 from yesterday shouldn't really be a surprise. I train at a 10 minute pace these days. When I ran at a 6:30 to 7 minute pace, I could run the mile in the 4:30's. So none of this should be a surprise.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

7:06 in a low key

This is the track, isn't it????

I finally got back to the track of a time trial. It's been about 17-18 months and in the interlude I lost my momentum. I had run a 6:18, 1600 meter and a 13:13, 3200 meter. I was on the verge of breaking the 13 minute barrier.

That was a year and half ago. 3 pulled calf muscles ago.

I knew that starting up again would not be pretty but like the proverbial journey it has to begin someplace.

I ran a very easy 25 minutes over to and around De Anza. Then I did a couple of striders.

My goal was to run somewhere in the range between 7 and 7:15. I ran the first two laps in 3:45 and then picked up the last 800 running 7:06.I ran another 13 minutes back home.

I am at least a minute away from where I need to be to have a chance at breaking 13 minutes.

Dimitri and I have decided to start doing our weekly trial runs in January.

I will do something like this.

Set date initial goal for 3200

1600 20 seconds faster than pace
2400 @date pace
3200 Date pace

Set new goal pace

Friday, November 28, 2008

Who Am I Trying To Convince

I was listening to myself this past week (or two). I have said a hundred times that I went back inside (work) to get benefits. I have said it so many times that it seems that I am trying to convince myself that that is the reason I went back in. Now I understand why Dena and Steve looked at me strangely and absently so many years ago. Work is so interwoven into my way of thinking that I can't shake it loose.

The past 3 months have shown what a slave I am to work even though I have played at not being a slave. I am my master's most favorite servant.

I am not against work. Don't read that into what I am writing here.

I am against being a slave to it.

Last night I listened to John talk about work even though he no longer works at all. But it's his son's work or my son's work. He drones on and one about it. John is a good guy. More than that he is generous and true if you are in a bind. But 40 years of over identifying with companies has done him in. I did this with running.

I was a runner. Got that? I WAS A RUNNER!

Now I am a jogger of the lowest ilk. I don't identify myself with being a runner anymore or at least not hardly.

I believe I have just replaced one master with another and forgot that the self mastery is the key.

Things I am going to stop doing

Telling folks I went back in for the benefits. It is partially true but it's not the whole story.

Telling people I don't really need to work.

The truth is work is random for me. I do it because I can and want to (at times). My best guess about my random self is that I will stop working when I decide that I no longer want to (or people stop calling me).

I don't need to be superior or needy about explaining this to anyone.

Yes, if I had 5 million in the bank I might not work. I am not sure. I don't know myself that well. I don't want to know myself that well.

I just want to stop boring myself and others.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Low Grade Tempo

Thanksgiving morning. The club 7.22 mile run. It was just tough for me to get the heck up and drive myself over there. I am so unused to doing this. I had not planned to do the actual run but had decided to go do a low grade tempo workout on the track that would, with my warm up and warm down, take about 60 minutes.

It worked to a "T". I ran for a very easy 15 minutes and then ran 6 x 800 keeping my HR in the 150-154 range during the 800 and jogging a very slow 200 meters in between. If I thought about the workout there is no question that the 800's felt like the first mile of a race used to. The 800-200 section took 34:15 which is woefully slow but it is what it is! Afterward, I ran another 11 minutes to hit 60 minutes. I was just finishing as the runners started to finish during the 7.22.

Things I am willing to do

Run every other day
Double now and then
Run tempo efforts
Time Trials
Run 60-70 minutes

Things I am not willing to do

Run every day
Run long
Run before 7 am in the morning
Raise my mileage

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Double Day (Not Abner)

I ran a double day. In the morning I did 30 minutes and STOP! Then at lunch I ran 35 minutes and STOP! I kept my HR in the 135-145 range. I am having to work a bit to keep my HR under 145 during the latter part of the run. This running slow to running fast is counter intuitive.

It was supposed to rain today but with the exception of gray threatening skies nothing really happened. The wind was minimal and the the weather was on the cool side. It was just about perfect conditions.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Recovery Day

I woke up around 6:45 AM with every intention of going for an early morning run but the coffee nailed me in place (on the comfy couch). I finally sauntered out the door with the ever faithful "America's Dog" Amber at around 9:30. I blew away the morning surfing the web, staying away from the TV set and the Niners-Dallas game. How right I was. After seizing a commanding 6-0 lead they got blown away 35-22. They scored zero in the second quarter while the Cowgirls put up 22 points. Game over.

I went out and finally ran an easy 35 minutes staying under 145 for most of the run. Now and then I saw the HRM hit 146 and I did the two step slow down until it dropped back down. My legs felt fine after running 65 minutes yesterday.

The weather was cool, crisp and sunny. Very little wind.

No complaints.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Math

I have been running under the assumption that my max heart rate was still in the 192-195 range but I am beginning to realize that it is probably much lower. The few times I have run an AT effort 170-172 feels exactly like 180-181 used to feel like. I find that trying to push my HR up to the high 170's and low 180'ds is a race-like effort.

Over the first 8 months of the year I missed 50% of the time because of three calf pulls.

I am aging. Wow, what a concept.

My max probably dropped due to de-conditioning, stress and aging. Eventually it catches up to you.

HR training, if done right, bring about a response. Over time you get quicker at specific heart rates. That's how it worked for me back when i first starting doing it in late 1990. My best guess is that my old AT heart rate is no longer valid. I haven't done anything approaching a max test in years but I can make a pretty fair educated guess. The new math says back it off. When my max was just over 200 I used 195 to be on the safe side and it worked. It took roughly 6 months of slow running and monthly AT test runs to see the benefits. So now maybe I am 190 (maybe) so using the new math I will back off my calculated max to 185 for the time being. We'll see if that brings about a training response.

New Math

Heart Rate Percentages
% of Max & Heart Rate

100% 185
95% 179
90% 172
85% 165
80% 158
75% 152
70% 145
65% 138
60% 131
55% 125
50% 118

I went out for an early afternoon run today. Sunny, cool, almost no wind. Perfect. I ran for 65 minutes at 130-135 HR.


Email thread from my Save Our Assets (SOA) Group.....

To me this is disappointing but then again this is a Black Swan event. Totally unexpected in its magnitude so trying to deconstruct this is almost impossible. It's a bit like Pearl Harbor. The USA knew the Japanese were going to do something just not Pearl Harbor.

It bothered me a great deal because as soon as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae happened I wanted to shift to all cash RIGHT THEN but got talked out of it by various people (to remain unnamed). So when he next shoe fell we got whacked to the tune of 100K or more. Then I did shift. I stopped listening and asking. I did what I originally wanted to do.
While I was asking my broker to move our money it dropped 15K in about 5 minutes!

So using the Pearl Harbor scenario I had to decide whether I was a battleship of a fast carrier. I had to adjust.

First I took and stayed in a full time contract job longer than I wanted to just to keep cash flow coming in. After that I went back to work for a former client of mine as an employee. It was in reality a contract job but I was willing to come in at salary much lower than my hourly billing rate to get benefits. They were up for it. It saved me money and more importantly gave me a decent medical plan to bridge the next 18 months until we are eligible for medicare. The plain fact was that between premiums and out of pocket costs, Sue and I were getting hosed to the tune of 30K a year. To pay for that I had to tie up about 600,000 dollars at 5% ROI just to pay for sub standard medical insurance.

After I leave this job I will have cut that in half. Right now my insurance costs are about 10% of what they were. That will change when I leave and go on Cobra. But 50% is mich better than before. Heck 15,000 big ones to spend on something else.

So I would implore all of you to use guerrilla tactics in this period. We did SOA for 15 years but we all got Pearl Harbored by a Black Swan event. We should all realize that the rules we knew have gone out of the window for a time.

I decided to go back to work for a time to cut my insurance costs.

I have adjusted to the fact that my nest egg is less that it was.

I will go to work in Orchard Supply Hardware if need be to keep cash flow. A good friend of mine who worked in Silicon Valley and thought he was retired is now working shifts at REI. he is keeping things together.

The truth is there are no rules except those we make ourselves.

I wouldn't be seeking the truth from others including me. September of 2008 was supposed to be the beginning of retirement for me. I thought when Alex graduated, got a job and paid for his own medical that I was home free. Well it didn't quite work out that way. I am 63 but in reality I am playing the game of a 53 year old with the exception that I still have some go to hell money in the bank.

It's strange but I found that once things began to happen I knew exactly what was going on. How? All those years hanging around you guys in SOA. This was the 1995 bust that Craig talked so much about. I didn't quite move as quickly as i wanted to but I still moved. In may not have always seemed to be on topic when we met and poured over statistics and numbers but I got the drift of how things worked. It rubbed off.

What surprised me at first was how other didn't see what was going on. I stopped listening to the experts after the first couple of weeks.

Gung Ho!


Dear all,

I agree with what you are all saying. It is just so difficult to see the money
disappearing day after day. All the professional people that I relied on for
information have been wrong. I just don't know what to believe anymore. I am
hearing the people I thought were way off the edge now saying that they have
been right. My confidence has been badly shaken. It is great hearing from all of


> When you run out of sellers we will find the bottom. I fear though that
short sellers are pushing it down lower than it what represents reality. Plus
now it’s cheaper for more people to play the short game.

> Tom

Thursday, November 20, 2008

4:33 AM

My friend sent me an email at 4:33 AM. I asked him what he was doing awake at that time of the morning.

Yeah couldn't sleep. Worried about the market and future.

I wrote back.

Ran into a friend of mine. She has 2 kids (single mom) and "retired" about 10 years back with a nice nest egg. She made money buying and selling stocks and did quite well. This last period of time (September to present) has hit her hard. She told me that this was very different from the bust because the effect has been more far reaching. I asked her if she was contemplating going back to work. She has been thinking about it but still has enough money socked away for the next few years.

But it has been an adjustment.

I guess if we all pondered this too much the meta message might be that we're too tied to things and possessions and that when the market fails, we get sucked in big time. The very thing that gave us wealth now turns on us and bites us in the ass. Our ego's are built around having wealth and a certain lifestyle versus really being free to live life. I am glued to it as much as any one. I know years back I was not and when things like this happened I just went on with my cheap little lifestyle.

We all have to pay our way but when I think of Lawrence (of Arabia) I remember that he sought a simplified lifestyle to avoid entanglements. But the World War Two hadn't happened yet. Had he lived, Churchill would have drawn him back in. Position and responsibility means complexity and complexity means the need for "other" things. Things which we can lose at a drop of a hat. Inanimate things (not living things) that we come to care way too much about.

________________Running News___________________________

I ran two up and back's this morning with Jake over at Forbes Mill. We were pushing the second one when Jake took a header on our way back down and ripped up the heel of his hand. Instinctively I hit the timer button on my stop watch as he began to tip over. I froze the time at just over 14 minutes. I wasn't even aware that I had done that until I looked back down at the watch after I knew he was OK.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Never Got There

I ran 36 minutes this morning and another 38 at lunch. Great weather but I am really in the tank. I tried to run an AT effort for 3 miles and dropped at the end of a mile. My heart and my body are simply not in this. I wish I could just catch some of the magic from early and mid last 2007 when I ran a 13:13, 3200 meter time trial on my way down to the twelves again. I never got there.

I went back and looked at what I was doing 16-18 month ago.

Slow easy runs.

Sometimes I would do some 100's

I was NOT doing weekly hard up and backs at Forbes. I believe I have buried myself for a good long time. Age? Sure. But also heaping dirt on top of me by the shovel full.

How do I get back my mojo?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

70 minutes Of The Truth

Whenever I wear the HRM, I may not like how it forces me to slow down but one thing I know from past experience.

It is the truth.

For 70 minutes I ran the truth. 36 minutes in the morning and another 34 minutes in the afternoon. It was not a cool day. Not for mid November. In fact it was Indian summer with the afternoon temps in the high 70's.

If I want anything from my running outside of the plods and beat up legs I will have to go back to late 1990 when I made it the rule to wear the darn thing every day that I ran. I trained alone or with really, really slow runners because ti forced me all the way down to a 10 pace which seemed catastrophic back in those days. Of course back then I couldn't break 40 minutes for 10K and six months later I was running them in the 35's.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I could get going again but it would all be very different. Galloway would tell me to run 3 days a week, accept the slower times (like I have choice) and make recovery my prime directive.

Run one day of intervals with some gliders in there to get warmed up; run a fun day of 40-45 minutes and on the weekend rotate a longer run with either a race or tempo run.

On 3 other days I would do something else like walk. One day would be complete rest.

It would all be very little but I wonder what mileage does for me these days anyway. Probably little or nothing.

Mostly nothing.

Yes, nothing.

It would keep me in the running game but I would be a 7-9 or 6-10 team at best. That's what I am now so who's kidding who.

Old Horse

I met up with Jake at Forbes Mill this morning. We did a 25 minute warm up and then went and ran an up and back at effort. Jake caved pretty quickly and dropped. Not his day nor mine either. I hung in and ran 22:50 under control but not at my best. I really did not feel energetic. Certainly not as good as several weeks back.

Running is a chore these days. I have come to accept this fact. I no longer flow along with power. Instead I pull myself along like a rickety wagon attached to an old horse. I could stop running and not miss it much. There are many more of these types of days then "good" days. I am working full time and that itself is a chore so it is harder to balance work and other things effectively. I like my job. That is a bonus. I can still go in harms way but I am the Bonhomme Richard, not the Ranger.

Better to have an old ship than none at all?

First negative at work. My co-worker has told me over and over that she wants to learn from me so today I taught and she pushed back, hard. I figured out that she wants to learn but her way and that is fair enough. Still, an unpleasant experience. I will just back away slowly. She is bringing way too much of her home life into work and talking loudly on the phone. We're in cubes so I hear it all. She has three kids and spends a great deal of time parenting and bossing around her ex via the phone.

On the other hand she has good instincts about what makes sense for the business and what does not. She reads people well but is rough around the edges on how she delivers messages. She has drawn a very thick black and white line on issues and doesn't do well in the gray areas. I was trying (ineffectively) to show her how to navigate that grayness but she was having none of it. So I backed down and told her to do it her way.

I intend to keep a slight distance. When she needs strategic help she can come to me. I will be very specific in finding out what she wants before I share anything. No more teaching. That has to be out. There is a mine field around her. She is a very mixed bag. Honesty with a very sharp edge.

I guess I can't escape this. My version of Howard Roark and the idea of the Dean. With me it is the payroll manager at Guidewire, the high school girl that I coached several years back, my colleague at this job, the CEO at the start up and Andrew and PLM. I am not a good teacher. Better for me to set my own standard and let them follow if they are interested. The way I did it at Sun.

You would think I would learn.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wet Running Stuff

Ran today at lunch. I did 60 minutes keeping my HR in the 140 range. God, I am slow. I did big loops in Sunnyvale Baylands Park. Weather was cool and breezy and not too bad. After I dried off and changed I drove back to the office leaving my wet running stuff in the parking lot in a one of those plastic bags they give you at the supermarket. I wonder if it will still be there tomorrow?

Black Shorts
Grey Nike T
1 plastic bag

May be $50.00 worth of stuff brand new.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

55 minutes

I ran Saturday afternoon ahead of another mild rain storm. I did 55 minutes with some striders on the track.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Harms Way

I am now an employee. Never say never.

Medical benefits in place. A more than decent salary for my level. Good team around me. Work I actually enjoy doing. No expectation of long term employment. Like my days at Sun I will go in harms way but I will stay ensconced in a contractor's mindset. It can't be about me. Whatever needs doing I will do. I will help wherever and whenever it is needed. This will give me the freedom to go do other things that matter to the company.

I actually don't mind going to work at all. I look forward to it.

My friendship with an old colleague is over. A casualty of the last election. He is on the Republican right and I am a moderate liberal with a strong independent streak. We argued over politics. He took it personally. Can't say I blame him (if I were him). He decided that I had crossed some real or imagined line. I reached out to restore our friendship but he came back, as I sort of expected, with a list of demands. That is not friendship. Had I acquiesced, I would have been on the B list waiting to see if I was let back into Club 54.

Some things can't be negotiated.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Survival Strategies in the Work

Play a hi-lo game. Focus on "the work" versus pay, title and rates (if you are consulting). In my consulting world, I have been an interim VP, Director and recruiter. My strength is organizational change but I do other roles if they are interesting and challenging. This doesn't mean that I don't seek titles and compensation strategically but it is not linear. My career is portable and therefore defies being linear.

Have many different skills. Get deep in as many as you can. It helps that I can be an executive, a mid level manager or just a individual contributor. That I have skills in compensation, organizational assessment and change, recruiting, benefits or strategic planning. I can and have stepped in anywhere. When the job market tightens, I still often find work because I can and am willing to do so many things.

Don't get hung up on offices versus cubes or how important you are. It is more important that you are compelling and that you have people's trust than that you are seen as someone important based on rank and pay.

Don't get sucked into meetings as way of showing status. Meetings are usually just a place to fill time, show your plumage, be seen and wonder why it is running so long. They can be informational and should be used to share basics on what is going on.

It is better to deal with people one on one when trying to make something happen. A hundred one on one meetings are better than a dozen power meetings attended by many people.

Influence is better than power. It takes longer but is more lasting.

If done right influence is power.

Have one year's take home salary in the bank. This is over and above any other investments you might have. No new car, kitchen remodel or status symbol is worth NOT having this. It financially makes you free.

Defocusing on titles, pay, meetings and pay also make you free.

The more I defocus on this sort of stuff the more they come to me anyway.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Return to Sunnyvale Baylands

I am back in the thick of things. I am actually enjoying going into work and this after only two days. My job is mostly tactical but in a strategic way. I am not pinned down with multi offer letters, data input and the full service HR model that I could not overturn in my last gig. Of course there I was mostly alone and here I am surrounded by a decent HR team. I have a job to do but also I have room to roam. I am sort of a HR free safety. The chances are that I may not be here long. Maybe 6-9 months but I can do some good work while I am here and it bridges a period when many of my colleagues are out of work.

Big lesson: Don't be just one type of HR person. There are recruiters falling out of the sky these days. Just like 2001 and 2002. It was bloody back then and it looks like it will be bloody this time around too. We're headed into a downturn and to survive you either have to have multiple skills and throw away the ideas of rates, pay and titles or you have to have enough dough stashed away to just hunker down and wait until things come back.

I was hoping I wouldn't see another of these while I was still in the game but since I am still in the game I will have to play it through.


I ran twice today. 45 minutes from home in the early morning and another 45 minutes during lunch in and around the Sunnyvale Baylands. It was sunny and there was a slight but persistent breeze. The wind slowed me down coming back into the park but no real complaints. It was good just to be out there. There were even a few mildly familiar faces from almost 3 years ago.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Never Say Never

Once more into the breach. Never say never. I am about to become an employee again.

I am going back in to work for a former client starting tomorrow. This is by choice and like Lawrence I have specifically chosen a position of modest rank. It keeps me away from those extra things that a manager has to do. Hopefully I can do the job I am being hired for (and more) while having room to maneuver. 13 weeks ago I was going into a interim director of HR role that best resembled that of a clerk. Now I am going in as a recruiter but the job could resemble that of a director.

Election News!!!!!!!!!!

By the way, in case I didn't mention it, Obama won. It wasn't even close. It was over so fast that the major news networks declared the victory as soon as the West Coast voting booths closed.

Monday, November 03, 2008


I got out relatively early and did an easy 69 minutes wearing the HRM. I stayed in the low 140's most of the way and finished feeling good. It was overcast and cool. More rain coming in this afternoon.

When I go back to work, I will probably go back to doubling several days a week, running short in the morning and slightly longer at lunch. It rhythmic when it gets working right. I could not get into that place during my last assignment but if things go right, I should be able to stabilize things going forward. One never really knows how it will work out but I have been on this playing field before and was able to balance running and work. I expect that to be the case again.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Quarry

In The Fountainhead, Howard Roark, his career seemingly on the rocks, asks his friend Mike to help him get a job. He ends up working in a quarry for a time until a client calls him to come back and design and build a structure for him. Roark doesn't consider the quarry demeaning at all. He understands the meaning of the Quarry. It is honest work. He does not compromise his principles. He also knows in time he will again do what he loves which is to be an architect. Most people don't care to struggle with this. It is way too tough. It requires the very best in yourself.

This from a blog I stumbled on written by Pedro Timóteo in 2005.

« Saying No
People and their stated goals »
Hypocrisy, granite quarries and “the real world”
Pedro Timóteo
on October 17, 2005
in absolutes, choices, definitions, honesty, ideals and work
. Tags: absolutes, choices, definitions, honesty, ideals, work.

I’ve written here, in the past, about the general dishonesty and corruption at my workplace - and, unlike some, I don’t think I’m in an especially “bad” place. From experience, both mine (it’s my 7th job or so) and others’, this place isn’t really so bad, compared to other companies.

Yet, the level of hypocrisy I have to maintain… disgusts me.

And, no matter how much I try to avoid it, I always think of Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”’s Howard Roark, and how he ended up working in a granite quarry, because he refused to compromise on his principles.

Of course, Rand’s books are exaggerated - they’re books of extremes, of “black and white”, without shades of gray. I have responsibilities, I have a house to maintain, cats to feed, and debts to pay. I have dreams, which, while not directly related to material possessions, include some material possessions in them. So I can’t - right? - leave my job because of a “normal” level of hypocrisy, of intrigue, of “rewarding the bad workers and punishing the good”. Besides, most places are as bad as this one. And working on my own is still a bit far away.


I sometimes wonder if I’m not really sacrificing myself - what really matters, such as my integrity, my sense of honesty, and my self-respect, for something that, while important, isn’t that important.

Because I certainly don’t like myself as I say “good morning” to the department head, when I have absolutely no reason to respect him, know he’s incompetent and a liar, and wish him the worst morning in the world.

As for me: I don't architect buildings. I work with people. That seems to be my sweet spot so work for me is a way for me to get paid using my skills.

I never have small rules about finding jobs. I have BIG rules.

1. I never stop networking. As long as I think I have to work I stayed connected with people who both are employed or are looking for work. They all need my help and I need the connectivity. It is a daily and weekly process. No job is so important that it keeps me from this task.

2. I try to think out of the box. I feast off guys like you who have trouble doing at least 5 connections a day. Meaning I can and have done 10-15 a day if things are tough (like now). This means email, phone, breakfast, lunch, coffee or dinner.

3. I don't stop networking until I get job offers that interest me. And even when I am working I keep networking because I understand, after being laid off 4 times, that I will be out there again.

4. My career is not boxed. I will do higher level or lower level jobs if need be. No job is "the job". In consulting I have done 3-4 HR Exec jobs succeeded by recruiter gigs. It doesn't bother me at all. I found that thinking that I had to be a manager or director or VP cut my ability to maneuver. The best job I ever had "inside" was at Sun as a low level manager after having been an HR Director at my previous 3 jobs.

5. I have at least a years take home cash in the bank. That way no single job owns me. So if I have to cut my living style to get that freedom (cash) I will not hesitate to do so.

6. I will take an interim job outside my industry if need be to get along for a time. If I have to work at Costco to bring in extra cash I will do so. I did this more years back. After being a VP of Property Management, I was a waiter in restaurants and a shift manager at Stanford in the cafeteria. I also worked in the post office.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

First Rain

The first real rainstorm hit last night and continued into today. I waited until early afternoon to go running. I had almost decided to head over to De Anza and run that 8 pace workout I did last week in the heat but when I got over there I could see that a football game was on so I could easily see that the track would be closed. So I went to my favorite backup workout.

Run as slow as you can for an hour!

Actually it turned out to be 64 minutes. I made it without anything more than a drizzle most of the way. I was just coming back home when it really started to coem down so I ducked into the house and called it a day.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Change is Coming

Dave has gone over to the evil side. He has morphed from an objectivist to a dogmatist (is that a word???). He believes that the collectivist state is descending upon us and a Obama victory will turn the USA into a socialist paradise. I am more pragmatic. I look for personal independence and no matter which party controls the government, I have not felt constrained. The worst of it was when I was growing up and we still had a draft so that our government could feed American humanity into the shredder that was Vietnam. The USA has been controlled by various parties and political factions for well over 232 years. The Federalists, the Whigs, the Republicans and Democrats (and a few more). We have survived all of this as Rome survived its emperors, both good and bad.

No matter who triumphs next Tuesday, we'll survive. That being said, I have rarely seen a government that had less interest in the welfare of the American people as that which has inhabited the executive branch for the past 8 years. The price is being paid by a disrupted economy, rampant self interest (nothing new here) and overseas entanglements that have bogged down in never ending wars which we will surely lose by the simple act of attrition. The so called socialist state exists here already but the socialism or collective exists in an oligarchy that benefits the few rather than the good of the many.

What was it that Spock said? The good of the many outweighs the good of the one. He wasn't talking about socialism even though our friends on the far right, steeped in their dogma and religious righteousness, would have us believe so. They cast fear about in mannner similar to that of the Caesar's who cast coins and bread to the mob of Rome.

What will take place Tuesday will be a slaughter (or so I believe). The very conservative, religious Republican Party that came of age in the early 1990's under George Bush the first, will be thrown out. The voters will decide the future of the country for the next 2-4 years not some elite oligarchy that has served itself well with little concern for others.


I met Jake at Forbes Mill this morning. We ran the warm up in 25:40. My legs felt good but then I had had two full days off. Hank showed up for the hard loop. Jake was on his game today and led us up in under 11 minutes. Hank took off as soon as we made the turn. I pulled away too but I kept at tempo effort while Hank put the pedal to ther floor.

In the end we all broke 21. Jake ran 20:51, I ran 20:19 and Hank was well under 20 minutes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It is what it is.

66 minutes yesterday morning. My legs were still tired from the Thursday-Saturday combo. I dragged much of the run which tells me that I am not strong enough to do this sort of thing (yet..if ever).

I believe the HRM will be the rule. The slower the better like it or not with one AT run every week or so.

It is what it is.

No work yesterday. It was nice.

But I am going back in for some unspecified period of time. That should start next week. I will parcel my every other day runs out between the morning's and lunch. It worked in the past.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


My last day "in role" at my latest client was Friday. Now it is over. I am still helping them to find a Director of HR but that does not require me to be there. I can work from home and be as involved or non involved as I wish.

I realize that my fatal flaw in consulting is not contracting more effectively going before going into the job. My relief pitcher mentality is not fail safe. I don't mind coming in with the bases loaded and none out as much as I mind coming in and finding out that my infield is sitting in the dugout chewing sesame seeds while I am out on the mound.Or even worse there was never any intention of there being an infield at all. That is exactly what happened to me over the last 3 months.

As a colleague once said to me, "If you can be free why not be free right now."

So in retrospect, and without guilt, I should have walked out the day Donna left. I stayed and I paid a price for that over and above the price they paid me for my services. But it wasn't their fault. I was the one who didn't leave. The only thing we really control is our reaction to something. The event will happen anyway.

The last several weeks in situ, with two of us there, I could see how the job was doable even though all I became was a more superior clerk. Or if I stayed, the head of the req committe or as we used to call it back in Atari: The baloon troop because when it was someone's birthday, baloons somehow magically appeared in your office.

I am moving on. Dunkirk and the battle for France is over. Now for the Battle of Britain.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Memory Workout

Another late morning. Didn't make it to the club run but did arrive in time for breakfast. I had already decided to run later and try a different type of workout.
I went out just a hair past 1 pm and ran 22 minutes easy and then hit the De Anza track. I ran 6 x 800 at just under an 8 minute pace with about a 100 meter walk recovery. It was really more of a memory run because an 8 pace doesn't come easy anymore. So I broke it down into digestible segments just to get the feel.

The whole thing came off okay given that it was in the low 80's and probably hotter on the track. In fact it felt like someone had a giant hairdryer pointed right at me. Eventually these should me miles. We'll see how I well I recover.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I am really beginning to detach from my present client. All the HR clerical stuff has been transitioned and I am just focusing on filling the HR Director over this week and next. There will be a moment when I will have to let that go too. What I do know is that I won't come this way again. The lesson was brutal and I am still puzzled on why the hell I stayed in there for 12 weeks. Yeah, I know. Duty, honor and professionalism but the price was way too high. Even in the transitioning process, I found that my successor kept blowing off meetings with me to huddle with the payroll clerk. I did win over the CEO but even that will be transitory. Once I depart, the imprint I leave will be the same that a hand leaves when pulled out of bucket of water. On the other hand, that will be preferable.

In a sense, I was never really there anyway.


It was Thursday at Forbes Mill. Last week I really sucked the big one and could not run hard. This week with normal sleep, I slapped on the HRM and ran a 20:38 staying between at or below 85% of max most of the way with a spike up around 90% towards the very end. It's a long way from sun 20 but it is was it is as Jake says. Jake ran well just failing to break 21 minutes, his best run in a year or so. Anyway, for the moment we're both back.

We both agreed that we need to shift to 3 days of running a week. So now I will make that move and see what happens.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Whoa (not woe) to the aging slogger

In 1990 I struggled with the fact that my body no longer was responding to every day running. In late 1990 I shifted to every other day training and within six months my racing times came back down rather sharply.

I may be facing another of those shifts. I now run 4 days a week and I have really become a slogger which in my mind is one step below a jogger. It is age and time on legs. I get that. Adding in more running and more time on my legs won't work. I know that from experience.

I am thinking of going to a 3 day running week and maybe another day or two of walking. Of course I will have to slap the HRM back on and test myself to see if I improve. I will also shift my calculated max down to 190. It may be higher but my guess s that it is no longer 195. What I am trying to elicit is a training response.

So 190 will be my max.

176 will be 90%

148 will be 70%

The goal is to become a jogger again. Per chance an age group runner. The quintessential 8-8 or 9-7 team (in NFL terms). Right now 2008 has been a 4-12 year. Maybe even 3-13.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Walking towards the gun

I think we are now a democratic socialist country or at least that is where we are headed. A 770 billion dollar bailout of businesses had taken the bottom out of any belief I might have held that there is a free market economy in the USA. In a way it had to be done. There is an historic precedent for this especially in 1892 and again in 1907. The government didn't do this in 1929-1932 and for various reason we tumbled into a deep depression with close to 25% unemployment (at tops).

What we have is freedom to speak our minds whether we have agreement with each other or not.

But I do hear much talk of helping each other and the common good and the disparity of earnings between the rich and poor and the word "poor" is now being expanded to cover those who we would once have called members of the middle class.

That is what this election is all about. It is a national rejection of an idea of free markets and allowing big business to operate in this market place. But big business blew it too and many of the "players" did not operate responsibly. The bailout came to prop up those who failed to follow good business practices, those who were impacted but were getting sucked down into the vortex and to keep some semblance of what we had before.

But enough people are tired of a presidency that didn't seem to care about the common man. That acted irresponsibly in putting us into a pointless war. That put us into harms way so to speak. I am not saying that all this was true but it sometimes seems that way. We'll never really know because we weren't in those smoke filled rooms of power. Maybe history will tell us.

In any case the price we have to pay is a democratic liberal congress and a democratic liberal presidency. How long we will have to pay this price, I don't know. The electorate will decide this. I even wonder if Ayn Rand were still alive how she would react to all of this.

There is no simple answer because today we have a world economy and our failure effected much of that which exists outside of our own borders.

It certainly has changed my plans. We took heavy paper losses on our investments. I still have plenty of F**K U money but now I can't just walk away. I stayed in a contract I hated longer than I wanted (it is ending this week). I am probably going back to a former client for another contract job but I have negotiated going in as an employee so that I get medical benefits. The costs of paying my own (you should try it some time) was getting out of hand. 40K last year for our family. That includes premiums and out of pocket. This will reduce that cost sizeably. When the job ends I will have COBRA which will take me to medicare (hopefully it survives). It will save me having to earn 60-65K a year just to net enough to pay for insurance.

My wife asked why I was going back inside. She knows I revel in being a consultant.

Someone had to take a bullet, I answered. But it is not an act of sacrifice. I am OK taking this bullet. In fact I am walking towards the gun barrel to take this "shot" because the work is something I want to do.


I ran another easy 60 minutes this morning. I tried to run a faster 800 in the middle someplace but frankly I didn't have the will power to carry it through. Getting back to running at a quicker pace is way off in left field for now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Things I am learning from stock traders

I am reading about stock market traders. This is a world in which I have never spent an iota of time. But there are some lessons that carry over to any venture whether it be business or personal.

1. Patience. Classically market traders who fail (and even those who succeed) sell too quickly. On the other hand when things are going down, they often hang on too long.

2. Don't get attached to "things". Stock trading is both an art and a drug. It is an up and down game with big mood swings especially until you get the hang of it. Stock traders to show some of symbol of success buys fancy cars, homes and even airplanes. Things they lose when the market goes down and they get wiped out. You don't need a vacation home in Hawaii. That's what condo rentals and hotels are for. Stay lean.

3. Get out of the market now and then just to clear out the pipes. When you are in, you often can't see clearly. Get out when your gut tells you to. You can get back in later on.

4. Learn from others but go it alone. This is critical. No two people do it exactly the same. If you hook up with someone who is a success, listen and learn from them but don't worship at their alter. To be successful, you have to go it alone and trust your gut and feel.

5. The sound of panic and success in the market are often not what is really happening.

6. When things are going well, anyone can be successful. When things are going badly, the good ones either sell short or just get out. In any case stay lean and mean.

7. Never bet everything on one play.

8. Nothing goes up forever but sometimes the bottom can be very permanent.

9. Research and know your market.

10. You won't do well at something if you aren't passionate about it. The greatest traders were drawn into the game. They gave up education, safe careers and the opinion of others so that they could play in the market.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Very Strange Two Edged Sword

I was sitting in the CFO's office and he was talking about how the CEO was trying to meddle with Human Resources.

I am working all sorts of long hours, he said proudly. My wife had to go on her vacation alone because I couldn't get away from work.

Visiting family is not a vacation, I interjected. He pause slightly but didn;t really understand the irony of what I had just said.

Of course it was bulls**t. He works long hours because that is what he has surrounded the core of his life with. Hard work and long hours are his merit badges. His wife could be waiting home for him every evening (every day for that matter) and he would still be at work. He had retired but got bored sitting home on his duff waiting for things to happen. The death knell of the old. The only thing that is going to happen is death unless you have another purpose. It can be working on your tan. Let's not get moral about it. Just something you enjoy doing. Something that gives you happiness.

That can be a return to work if that is what is gets your rocks off.

But he has made it into a religion. A place of worship.

I work such long hours.

I do real work.

I work so hard.

No one appreciates me.

A modern Babbitt.

The unawareness of others is his hallmark but tempered by his general kindness and approachability. A very strange two-edged sword.


Afternoon running is becoming addictive. The cooler weather has made this a real bonanza. I jogged an easy 50 minutes around the neighborhood.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

F**K U Money

The 17th came and went and I am still there. On coming and going from jobs: I never keep my promises. I just deliver work. I am definitely in the final transitional phase though. It is beginning of the end not the end of the beginning. The CEO wants me to stay but I told him that I would remain under two very important conditions.

1. The job reported to him.

2. I could physically move HR away from finance.

Of course I knew he wasn't ready to do this. He knew it. I knew it. We were honest with each other.

I didn't even discuss how the position would need to a VP level with a decent amount of stock. I didn't even go there. I didn't discuss how I could make the whole thing happen so that the CFO wasn't pissed off and that everything stayed in place. This will simply be one of those opportunities where I didn't reach for the brass ring.

It's good to shrug your shoulders now and then and move on. Besides if I took this, I would have to wonder why I didn't become VP of HR at Silicon Image several years back.

I am sleeping again. Two nights in a row. I decided that for now I am turning my back on the investments. They are fairly safe and will bob up and down until things settle down and the panic and fury have ceased. I still have F**K U money. I can still leave or be fired and survive for a decade or longer. That was my goal anyway.

It's not retirement but then I never planned on really retiring. At least not now. I won't be that old man on the beach laying in the shade of the cliffs with all the free time in the world. It all ended up differently than I originally figured it would but different ain't that bad.


I ran 60 minutes this afternoon. I threw in four 20 second striders towards the end. It has occurred to me that it is about 3 months since I last injured my calf.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sleepless in The Valley (again)

Ocean of Paperwork

Another crummy night's sleep. Things are seeping through the cracks in my brain. The cortisol is giving out.

I drove over to Forbes to run with Jake, did two loops and a bit extra but there was no gas in the tank so I kept it easy. Had a nice breakfast with Jake and Wally afterward.

The good thing is that I almost finished with my present client. Tomorrow is really my last day even though I believe that things will roll into next week but more in a transitional sense. There is an insanity there I cannot fix. The root cause if the leadership of F&A and until that changes nothing will really change.

The CFO is a nice guy. I like him.

Say it one more time and then don't say it again, but man does he have a warped leadership model. I am certainly going to miss the ocean of paperwork.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bad Night at Black Rock

Bad night's sleep. Got the heebie-jeebies about our investment portfolio. I was so nervous that I went out on a run anyway. 62 minutes for 6 miles. I just took it as slow as I could. I almost fell asleep on the run.

Fighting off desire to stay at client. Things are better but the job still doesn't report to the CEO. It's still a finance job and that is clearly out of bounds for me.

Need to work on being calm. Yeah Xanax works but I need something else. Yoga. Meditation. The running helps big time as slow as it is. Give me a big crisis and I am fine but give me the day to day seige stuff and it wears me down.

Don't think that the real David Crockett just doesn't want to drop over that wall and take my chances out there. But this Davy Crockett just can't.

Surely thought by Davy Crockett while at the Alamo.

Late in the day I talked to Priscilla. Looks like I will be going back into SIMG as a recruiter. Normally it would be a contract job but I wanted it this time just because it wasn't. I get to work with really good HR people and I get medical benefits. I know the organization as well as anyone. The job is low enough in the hierarchy so that I can do some good without being distracted by rank and the innumerable meetings and garbage that go along with it. I can focus on what I do well.

Mostly it is the last stand of the Silicon Valley Warrior. The Thermopylae of my career.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I have had a number of consulting assignments over the past. I guess I have been moderately successful. If I look at the jobs Where I went inside I would rate them this way using the same grading system we used when I was in school.

By the way, my rating is based on a combination of things but primarily include my general enjoyment of the assignment and my perceived effectiveness.

Sonic Wall: C+

Larscom: B+

Sun: B+


Schoonerinfotech: -D

Guidewire: D

If I look at the last year and a half, I would have to say there has been a marked deterioration of my effectiveness and enjoyment. I have been fooled twice. Both Schooner and Guidewire played to my weaknesses rather than my strengths. In both cases I was talked into coming in when my gut told me otherwise.

The lack of the use of the word "no" on my part comes to mind.


I ran another 65 minutes Sunday afternoon. Great conditions excluding some wind gusts that knocked me to a standstill. Generally the wind was mild. No complaints. I am just not fast anymore. A 9 minute pace feels like a 7 minute mile used to feel with one exception. I don't seem to be able to drop the hammer and pick up the pace. It's like I have two speeds. Slow and slower.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


It has been quiet at work. Busy but quiet. My desk is starting to fill up again. The CFO and I are working well together and my HR Specialist and I are actually teaming. If this was what the job really was I would have planned to have stayed beyond next Friday. But Jabba the Hut (N) is still there lurking but keeping out of my way for now. The job is crazy but I have now identified her as the definitive linchpin or the crux of the problem.

She goes AWOL from good behavior when the stress get turned up and her favorite target is me. But for now she has been warned off good and straight. She knows I will fight back and the CFO has told her that any more tirades will put her harms way.

So the non-zen lesson is if a bully starts to push you around P-U-S-H back. Unfortunately I seem to have to learn this one over and over again. That big target on my back. I know it is there.

In any case, I can almost trick myself into staying for another two week. One can become used to ones prison.

On the running front: Once again it's Saturday and I did not go over to the club workout. I woke up slowly, drank a mug of coffee and then went over to meet the guys for breakfast. In the early afternoon, I ran a slow and easy 65 minutes through the neighborhood.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Thermopylae and Peace

I brought my badge and key into work today expecting to leave it but instead was convinced to sat until the 17th. I am working on some projects and helping the new HR Specialist out (we finally talked today). She is working 11 hour days.

"Yes, I know. I was in your job," I reminded her. I looked at her desk. It's a mass of paper just like my desk was last week. She is trapped the same way I was. "Let me help," I offered.

Mike asked me how N could get under my skin. "You are an exec level person. She is a payroll clerk."

I told him that I am a consultant and that in my rule book consultants don't fight back unless that is their job. He asked me how I would handle it. I told him that she would be on a PIP and on her way out if she continued to target people in the way she had targeted Donna and myself.

"But that isn't what you want me to do, is it?" I asked rhetorically. What amazes me is that they tolerate that sort of behavior at all. How can she ever learn it's not alright to act that way? She won't here. At least not now.

I guess if I was a Spartan then I would be dead on my shield or laid out by the sandy shores of the Aegean at Thermopylae. It was very peaceful there the day after the Spartans fell to the last man.

It was peaceful today. The most peaceful day of work I have had in 10 weeks.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Pork Chop Hill

There are these "endless tapes" running in my head about this job. It is like Borland. It is easy to reshuffle things and think that I could have done it better but the plain fact is that I played it the best I could given the circumstances and lost out. As a friend said jokingly, "So you really didn't make a difference". We both laughed but I agreed. It was a bit like Pork Chop Hill where a USA army unit takes this hill in Korea in 1953 but has to give it back up after the peace is signed. The hill became part of the DMZ.

I am still there up on the hill for now but am getting ready to go back down. I seemed to be cut off. I send emails to the HR person, payroll and the CFO but they don't respond. My best guess is that I am being frozen out (see last post). My plan right now is to get out suddenly and rather quickly. At this point I will win no points by staying plus right now I am undergoing subtle humiliation (I am very hard to humiliate but I do have the air of the walking dead about me). This has to be the toughest part of a bad contract. Leaving. There is no good way out except to be cut the cord. If I stay I will be humiliated. If I go some people will be disappointed but the having to take crap end right away.

So my plan is simply to leave my key and badge in my office and send an email afterward saying I have left the building. Pretty cheap behavior but since the CFO refuses to stop the whippings, I really have no choice. It all falls in line with guerrilla fighting. Hit, run, attack, withdraw. Don't be a target.


Guerrillas must plan carefully for withdrawal once an operation has been completed, or if it is going badly. The withdrawal phase is sometimes regarded as the most important part of a planned action, and to get entangled in a lengthy struggle with superior forces is usually fatal to insurgent, terrorist or revolutionary operatives. Withdrawal is usually accomplished using a variety of different routes and methods and may include quickly scouring the area for loose weapons, evidence cleanup, and disguise as peaceful civilians.


Ran with Jake this morning @ Forbes. He wanted to try and break 21 minutes on our second up and back. I let him lead and he got us "up" in 11:20 but then he decided to take a short break and I glided back down the hill in 9:26 running 20:46.

Frankly, I was tired so I was glad to run off pace going up. I knew it meant that I would not break last week's time but that is OK. I don't need to set a PR every week. That leads nowhere good.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Subtle But Sudden Change

I ran an hour this morning. Finally got back to the college track and hooked up with Nadia. It's been months. We ran some laps together and caught up. The run was good. My legs felt rested.

Work was a mixed bag. There has been subtle but sudden shift away from me. The HR Specialist has chosen to ally herself with the former HR Manager and the payroll person. This means that she doesn't come to me for advice at all. I am supposed to leave on the 17th but this latest development tells me to get out earlier. I have quickly become irrelevant. My emails have gone way down and the whole transitional part of my job has become unimportant.

My plan is that if this continues into Thursday and Friday (and I have no reason to believe it will be otherwise) I will simply leave and let them know by email.

After ten weeks in this hole I am no longer courting anyone's favor. Either the organziation that put me in in the first place, nor the CFO's. The HR Specialist has voted to not use me and she may have been the last reason I was hanging in there. I get why she has allied herself the way she did because ultimately she has to survive and I am yesterday's history.

Very against type for me but this is the game I am playing. I may not have controlled how I played it, but I can control how I walk off the field.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Creeping Back In

When you occupy a job where there is already a strong culture, you can expect that upon leaving, no matter how hard you tried to bring about a change, the the old culture will creep back in.

That is what will happen when I leave my present client. I can see it already.

The I can do it coach, heroic culture is seeping into the ground I cleared for my successor.

The CFO will step back in and become the supposed leader of HR. He has not made move to bring in another consultant to take my place.

The HR Specialist will not really have day to day help (because in reality do we really need two people when we can work one to death) and she will gradually assume the same role that my predecessor had. In fact the predecessor is coming back to show her how to do stuff. I told the specialist not to let her pull her back to the old model but I can already see it happening.

The old alliance between payroll and HR are being repaired. I ripped it asunder because it fed on itself but not "asunder" enough for it not to begin to come together again in the sea of paper strategy that burned out the last HR person.

It is a bit like abandoning the city to the jungle. Come back in a decade or so and you'll find the vines and crawlers have covered over much of the stone, reclaiming the buildings for the jungle. In time you'll never know that the city was actually there.

My presence will be like a hand in a pail of water. It will leave little of no imprint. It also gives me permission to leave early. The 17th is a handy date but if things go south as I believe they will, then I will ride out of Dodge one morning when least expected.

They will hate that but at the same time they will be relieved.

Note to myself: This is the first place I have worked as a consultant where it seems to be a crime to take lunch.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Zoo Animals: How to Get Out Of Dodge

Bad jobs can slowly kill your spirit. They can destroy your enjoyment of life.

Don't stay any longer then it takes to find a new job and if you can't wait that long, quit and spend the time you used to toil at work looking for that next thing.

No, you are no weaker in your job search if you are out of work. It is all in your head or in your wallet.

My first recommendation to a worker is to put 6 months salary in the bank. This is separate from anything else you save. This is critical. It is your emergency account. Not for that new car or HDTV but in case you are fired or choose to leave your job voluntarily.

Oh, I can't do that?


You have to do that and in fact a year in the bank is even better.

You own the job or the job owns you.

Tahiti people say you eat life or life eat you. I think that was the Marlon Brando version of "Mutiny on the Bounty".

I have left jobs for every reason under the sun but I have also hung in there (by my neck) because I was handcuffed to work by the need for money. The worst was my last full time regular employee job. I had a great deal of stock vesting but worked for a real bastard of a boss. But I stayed in there, took daily flak (and it was daily) and eventually cashed in after the company went IPO. The verbal beatings were those of a vicious bully who terrorized half the company into silence. After cashing in, I stayed on just to help get rid of him instead of getting out of Dodge. He was eventually fired but the price of staying was high. It took me months to recover. For 9 months I just lazed and relaxed. Then I went back to work as a consultant.

We are trained to stay and suffer. How silly. I still have to relearn that lesson. Money doesn't free you up if your mind is that of a zoo animal. The bird who lived in a cage so long that even when they took the top off, the bird never tried to fly away even though there was nothing restraining it from taking wing.

Zoo animals.


On Monday I am going to begin the strategic physical withdrawal from my present client's territory. In a way it is like pulling troops out of an occupied country. You have to do it in stages. At first it appears as if you might not actually be moving out but within a few days it becomes obvious as the time factor kicks in. The plain fact is that in 14 days my presence will NOT be there anymore. So a quick transition, a promise of availability by phone and email and puff.


Saturday, October 04, 2008

Urban Legend

I joined the running club for breakfast this morning and couldn't help noticing that a new woman had joined us. Her name was was Irina and it didn't take me long to figure out that she was Russian. She had already been warned about me. I guess there is an urban legend about how I chased off one gal by asking her if she was going to pick up her bosses laundry. She was an executive administrative assistant.

"You son of a bitch," she said as she walked out on the arm of her boyfriend, James Dean. No, not that James Dean. I haven't seen her or Dean since.

Can't people take a joke?

That gal was sort of plump and I think she really didn't like running that much anyway.

Irina wasn't phased at all by my reputation. She is looking for a job and I gave her my card. Russian girls are tough.

I asked her send me her resume. Seems that she is 34 and going through a divorce. Dimitri was at the breakfast table too but made it plain to all of us that the club was sacred and a relationship with a member would make is awkward. Sounds like me when I was much younger and single and avoided asking out Marilyn, a very cute little blond, for much the same unenlightened reason. But that was back 30 years ago.

Besides if Dimitri wants to get married he can always join one of those Russian Bride sites. Their seems to be an infinite supply of Russian women who want to marry older American men so they can immigrate to the USA, then drop the guy, go clubbing and marry a much younger man.

All Russian women these days seem to be blond even if they are not.


I ran an easy 62 minutes this afternoon shortly after a series of rain clouds swept through the Bay Area wetting down the streets. The air felt clean and fresh.

First rain!

Career versus Job

I was watching comedian Chris Rock do a bit on a job versus a career. It was pretty funny but had some core truths.

A job is 9-5. You get in, you get out. You clock watch. You get breaks and short lunches.

In a career you don't clock watch. You want to be wherever it is that you practice your craft.

In a job the boss the man (as in working for the man).

In a career, you are the man (or the woman).

In a job you get pay raises and performance reviews.

In a career you get paid and sometimes you don't but you don't really care about reviews. They can't stop you from doing what you do. They may not pay you but that is not the key element.

In a job, your skills are not visibly portable. You focus on the place you work and allow yourself to get fenced in.

In a career your skills are portable. You can take them with you. No job is the job. No company is the company.

In a job you never do 24-7.

In a career you are always 24-7 but people around you aren't that aware of it.

Career is a state of mind. You can have a job but treat it as a career, You can have a career and treat it as a job.

I hate jobs (or gigs as I call them).

I realize that whenever I accept a consulting assignment that looks, tastes and feels like a job, I usually end up unhappy.

Words to watch for: "We do real work here."

Real work means a job not a career work.

Say yes to career and no to jobs.

My soon to be last assignment is a job. Surrounded by job folks. That is the reason I have hated it as much as I can hate anything. Not the people but rather the framework. The CFO's mantra is that he values real work.

I never wanted to come in on the weekend and catch up. I tried several times but couldn't make myself get in the car and go. I never wanted to stay late. I tried that too. It's not that I believe coming in on the weekend or staying late is necessary. It's that when I am doing career work, I never thought about it. I would just go do it.
At this place I thought about it all the time.

Friday, October 03, 2008


I have shortened my @work hours.

@work is the same as "at Work". I am beginning the long slow glide out of this place. The 17th will be my last day. I am exhausted and there is a constant tightness across my chest when I am there. I am tired of living on Xanax and cliff bars. Today was sane because my specialist is kicking in and doing good work. I worked 4 hours and then got out as quickly as I could which turned out to be early afternoon.

Get out

Get out

Get out

Two weeks to go. A job that was but never should have been. I had better be smarter next time around.

Yesterday afternoon I ran 35 minutes with Shel over at Stanford. We tried to go to the The Dutch Goose after for dinner but there was a McCain-Palin event going on there. The Republicans had taken over the place. Long lines to order food and not enough people behind the counter or on the grill. We ended up not staying. I drove home and made myself a salami and cheese sandwich on wheat with a coca-cola chaser. I watched the debate.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Departure & Blowup

From the Black Swan by Taleb

I gave my client notice today. My outside departure date is October 17th.

To leave this place
To which I should never have come
A cloud of paper
A morass of process
I put it all down
And leave it to them
Those who stay to be buried under the weight of it
I was never any good at it anyway
It will be a relief for them and me
But mostly for me.

On another topic: This whole fiscal disaster is a black swan event.

Nobody really predicted it. Not the way it came down. It was considered highly improbable and even though a few seers foresaw a possible fall from grace, the reality is that had we seen it coming we would all have moved to safer ground. Especially those deeply invested in the market. Now it has come but not gone. Panic has set in. The herd is running towards the cliff. Any one of us could stand our ground and face this off but once allow ourselves to get caught in the flow, we're dead men. Hurtling out into space, our final moment of cognizance focused on the long fall to earth.

The fault is that our lives are based on money and the greed for things and more things rather than life itself. It controls us rather than we controlling it. So we are open to attack. We are exposed horribly. Panic is insatiable. It creeps up your spine to your throat and chokes you.

We are all Chicken Little and the big blue sky is falling (even if it is not).

I called my broker the other evening just to wish him well after what I knew had been another tough day. He was wound so tight I wasn't really sure he was human anymore.

I can't talk now.



I can't hear you!

I can't talk now.

Maybe I got the wrong number. It must have been another person's broker.

It made me laugh. I have been there. I know what it is like. How silly we sound. We shriek rather than talk. We devolve backward to apes again. Sitting in the trees overlooking the great rift valley, 3 million years ago, shrieking when a beast of prey comes close.


I ran a 29 minute warm up with Jake this morning and then ran a loop in 20:39. Jake didn't try to stay up. He of the back to back to back hard days. I ran 7 minutes slow afterward to get rid of the effort.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Political Idiot-Savant

A good kingdom for Her Majesty, Palin

Gov. Sarah Palin cites vigilance against Russian warplanes coming into U.S. airspace over Alaska as one of her foreign policy credentials. But the U.S. military command in charge says that hasn't happened in her 21 months in office.

"When you consider even national security issues with Russia, as (Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where — where do they go? It's Alaska," the Republican vice presidential nominee said in an interview last week with CBS News' Katie Couric.

Another friendship officially ending today.


He got way too wound up about Palin. I think she is way over her head politically and he didn't feel that way at all. Kept wanting proof. Well Dave, just watch her on TV. Out of her own mouth.

Anyway, we had what I considered to be a spirited political debate some time back. I stood my ground. He didn't like it (strangely since he exhibits over slobbery, solicitous behavior to his girlfriend) and after trading many emails (Yes, an email war) I finally let him take the last point and will now depart.

I just didn't take it all that personally but he did. Way too seriously.

Of course losing a friend is a unfortunate but he crossed MY line. Not THE line. Just mine. To me a friendship lost because of a political debate is not a friendship at all. I think it will be a relief to both of us.

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The captains and the kings depart:

I am not a seer but I believe that Palin and the economy will pull McCain and Palin (a pale shadow of a Vice Presidential candidate and not the first of that ilk) down to defeat in November. She will go back to Alaska and the obscurity of being governor, a member of the christian right and a housewife.

There were better women for McCain to chose amongst and yet he picked an political idiot. So what does that say of him? This from a man who doubts Obama so don't pin me as a Democrat.

In any case, I would banish her to those rocky, storm swept islands of the Bering straight and let her keep a long and silent watch on her Russian enemies.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Quietly I ran 60 minutes this morning. It's been months coming back to that level.


I was sluggish and drained but not because of running.

Congress voted down the 770 million dollar bailout. Maybe it is for the best. We have moved most of our money to "high ground" and I believe it to be safe but one never knows. Not really. I am glad we made the move weeks ago. I could feel that another shoe was going to drop.

Today it did.


Another act in the Black Swan event that is engulfing our economy.

Now we'll have to gut our way out of things. There will be more down days followed by a recovery. What we have to do (my wife and I) is figure out how to take advantage of the market. There have to be some good buys out there.

But none of this was the reason I was tired. I am tired about being tired about work. Enough said. Maybe Peter Pan had it right.

"So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land!"

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I have been trying to pinpoint my client's leadership type. Stanley Bing's book, Crazy Bosses has a chapter on paranoids that seems to mostly fit the bill. M is paranoid and a bit delusional. He has told me on numerous (uncountable) occasions that he know how to best manage his department and that he does not appreciate others interfering. And he does believe that others are interfering. In the meantime he starves his headcount especially in areas he does not highly value. The M type of worker does not really question his approach but just does what he call real work.

Real work is simply working yourself into the ground trying to stay up with the constant sheaves of paperwork and demands that flood the system hourly, daily and weekly. It is almost impossible to ever catch up and have time to think about anything approaching a more efficient way of doing things. Success, if it can be called that, is measured on how much paper one has moved rather than in doing things more efficiently.

M always defaults to his real work premise if you talk to him about a more systemic way of getting something done.

In short, he has made himself an unenlightened ruler of a petty kingdom that he rules with an iron fist. He is friendly enough and accepts challenges but his strategy, ultimately is to fall back on his real work model that means more time spent at work doing more mind numbing paperwork and useless projects. In the end you get worn down and become a sort of drone. You get too tired to argue. It is easier to listen to his stream of consciousness tirade about how he it the only one who really knows how to do it right and then get out of his office and go back to your desk.

On two consecutive weekends I have thought about going in to work to get caught up but the thought of that office makes me queasy so I stay at home, don't get caught up (you never really get caught up anyway) and I just figure I will face the mess on Monday. This is not a happy place. The team is close but they cling to each other. It is the closeness of a prison camp rather than the happiness of a village. There is no art here unless it is the art of laying bricks. The rule is that of the guild not the rule of creativity and potential. The place is locked down in time and does not move forward.

This is it anyway. Either the CEO moves HR or I give notice but I to my promise am true. I will wait through Tuesday. Personally I think it will be very tough for the CEO to stand up to M. I have told him this. If it were in my hands I would have no problem telling him that HR is moving (both organizationally and physically). But I am not the CEO. So he has the terrible task of telling M that this move is immediate. He can't ask.

He has to tell.

My direction?

I will fly up to the big clock tower and then aim for the second star to the right and straight on 'till morning.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Solitary 58 minutes

I was really lazy today. Frankly it felt good. I slept in until 7:30 AM, sipped coffee, walked Amber and went to breakfast with the club. I finally got out in the early afternoon and ran 58 slow minutes in the heat (80's). Most runners had disappeared with the cool morning giving way to soccer players and their parents and a few solitary runners including me.

At breakfast Jake told me that he is back to running every day hard but keeping the miles low. It will all end up the same place. Dead legs.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Smart Working

I took some time for myself and ran 45 minutes this morning. I just didn't want to rush or push so I did not walk Amber.

Work was the usual. I walked into to find that more stuff had dropped through the cracks but I ducked a meeting and made up ground. Had a conversation with the CFO about on-line tools that would link HR and payroll and do away with the double and triple entry that we are all going through. He is open to it to a level (that level being his lack of vision) and even though the annual costs are minimal he pushed back showing that he is so tight his wallet squeaks. He would prefer to work people into the ground while telling me that he does not appreciate others telling him how to run finance.

Using the military vernacular, he is a decent brigade commander but not a corp commander and it shows. He works hard but is rigid. In the best of worlds he would be retired but the board and the CEO need to deliver that message. I am at risk anyway. I am closer to the team now. Things are reversing themselves. I am finding that more of the staff is just putting in hard time and evaluating leaving someplace down the line.

All totally unnecessary. A lesson to you managers out there: Work smart not hard.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Great Game

Strange day.

I talked to the CEO of my client for 90 minutes this morning via cell phone at his request. On my strong recommendation, HR may end up reporting to him. This would be a shock to the CFO. He will have to know that I was behind it so I may actually be ejected without quitting. I promised the CFO that I would hold off saying anything about leaving until he has a talk with the CFO. I had planned to leave so I have nothing to lose. If the CEO blinks it is over for both me and HR.

This is sort of exciting. It is the very right thing for both the client and HR and I gain little from it because I am not the future VP of HR for the company. What I get is the satisfaction of trying to make the right thing happen. HR exists in such a limited scope it literally does not exists except as a clerical entity. But the potential is there but not if it stay reporting to finance. Little more than a side show of a side show.

But I am betraying the CFO, who brought me in. But then it is the CFO who in turn is betraying the company because of his limited understanding of HR.

This is the great game. I am truly on the razor's edge of corporate politics and way out of bounds for a consultant.

Born to be surrounded.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

51 things you wish you could say at work

1. I can see your point, but I still think you're full of sh*t.

2. I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce.

3. How about never? Is never good for you?

4. I see you've set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public.

5. I'm really easy to get along with once you people learn to see it my way.

6 . I'm out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message.

7 . I don't work here. I'm a consultant.

8 . It sounds like English, but I can't understand a word you're saying.

9 . Ahhhh. I see the f ***-up fairy has visited us again.

10 . I like you. You remind me of myself when I was young and stupid.

11 . You are validating my inherent mistrust of strangers.

12 . I have plenty of talent and vision; I just don't give a sh*t.

13. I'm already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.

14 . I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.

15 . Thank you. We're all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.

16. The fact that no one understands you doesn't mean you're an artist.

17 . Any resemblance between your reality and mine are purely coincidental.

18 . What am I? Flypaper for freaks?!

19 . I'm not being rude. You're just insignificant.

20. It's a thankless job, but I've got a lot of Karma to burn off.

21 . Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.

22 . And your cry-baby whiny-arsed opinion would be?

23 . Do I look like a f****** people person to you?

24 . This isn't an office. It's Hell with fluorescent lighting.

25 . I started out with nothing and I still have most of it left.

26 . Sarcasm is just one more service we offer.

27. If I throw a stick, will you leave?

28 . Errors have been made. Others will be blamed.

29 . Whatever kind of look you were aiming for, you missed.

30 . Oh I get it. Like humour, but different.........

31 . An office is just a mental institute without the padded walls.

32 . Can I swap this job for what's behind door .........1?

33 . Too many freaks, not enough circuses.

34. Nice perfume (or aftershave). Must you marinate in it?

35 . Chaos, panic, and disorder. My work here is done.

36 . How do I set a laser printer to stun?

37 . I thought I wanted a career; it turns out I just needed the money.

38. I'll try being nicer if you'll try being more intelligent.

39 . Wait a minute - I'm trying to imagine you with a personality.

40 . Aren't you a black hole of need.

41 . I'd like to help you out, which way did you come in?

42 . Did you eat an extra bowl of stupid this morning?

43. Why don't you slip into something more comfortable? Like a coma.

44. If you have something to say raise your hand.........then place it over your mouth.

45 . I'm too busy, can I ignore you some other time?

46 . Don't let your mind wander, its too small to be let out on its own.

47 . Have a nice day, somewhere else.

48 . You're not yourself today, I noticed the improvement straight away.

49 . You are as pretty as a picture, I'd really like to hang you.

50 . Don't believe everything you think.

51 . Do you hear that? That's the sound of no-one caring.