March Vinyl Acquisitions

I actually made it a month without buying any records!  Of course, I was recovering from illness and working through the 2,000 records I bought in January, plus it was the shortest month of the year, and I had a couple business trips (photos from one coming soon!), but the fact remains I didn’t buy any vinyl in February.  I had worked down the January acquisitions to less than 100 records to process, which included clearing one of my two shelves of about 150 records that were “in queue” to be listened to as well.  So overall, a good month for working through my acquisitions, and I felt like I had reclaimed much of my available space in the man cave.

I made up for it in the last 8 days, buying about 825 records, of which about 75 are “junk”. Of the 750 I like, about 475 are mostly Motown and soul, and the other 275 are classic rock.  They’re currently sitting in 9 crates and boxes, so all of that available space I created in February is about gone.

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9 boxes of vinyl remaining after sorting out the “junk”…

The group of classic rock is fairly spectacular in my opinion.    It came after the Motown collection, and Mrs. Outspoken’s response after I received the call about the collection was “Really?   You have all these albums yet to clean and listen to, and you’re buying more?!?!”

Yep.  I gotta buy when the opportunity arises.  I went 7 weeks or so with nothing, so buying 2 collections in a little over a week might seem a little over the top, but both were great deals at under $1 per album.

So what makes the collection of rock so great?  How about 4 Zeppelin, 4 Pink Floyd, 4 David Bowie, 4 Allman Brothers, 3 Beatles, and 20 Bob Dylan for starters?    Other artists with multiple albums include Van Morrison, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Steeley Dan, Springsteen, Foreigner, Rush, Yes, Kansas, CCR, ELP, Grand Funk, Heart, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne, the Cars, and Aerosmith.  It’s basically a compendium of 70’s and 80’s radio rock music, including some of the softer folk-ish tunes, with none of the pop-disco stuff.

Then there’s some oddball stuff too – stuff I just don’t see. The Butterfield Blues Band, Steve Hackett, Kate Bush, Patti Smith,  Nektar, and some Christian praise stuff by 2nd Book of Acts and Phil Keaggy.  Honestly, I could probably enjoy listening to about 80% of this collection, and if it comprised my entire collection, it would represent probably 60% of what I’d want to have.  Basically, the guy who assembled this collection and I had similar tastes.  🙂

One of my favorite finds so far has been an album from The Monroes.  It’s an EP, only 5 songs, and it was their only album.  I really enjoy it.  Definitely and 80’s sound, but 80’s guitar, not the electronic stuff.

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It was missing a lot of Beatles (but hey, it has Abbey Road), Hendrix, and some of the psychedelic stuff I like, but overall, it’s a great collection in my opinion.   I’m sure I’ll find enough titles to cover my costs, but I think I’ll be keeping a much higher percentage of this collection than normal.

Both of these collections came through my previous contacts; the albums are finding me at times!  It’s also part of why i got the deal I did on them.  I’ve treated the sellers fairly, and they’re active collectors, so I was in a way helping each of them move a large quantity of records quickly.    I also agree to buy them all, and don’t get into cherry picking the collection  or nit-picking on the condition of certain albums.

The way you treat people is important in life and business.  Over the course of my career, I’ve always been focused on process improvement; how to find ways to do “it” better.  It hasn’t really mattered what “it” is, as the basic problem solving methodology of Lean works anywhere (at least I’ve yet to find an application where it doesn’t).  While some people call me an efficiency expert, I look at it more as improving the overall performance of the teams and systems of an organization.    We change the system to change the result, and coach the people through the systemic changes.  But it’s about more than results; for the changes to stick, it’s also about behaviors.

As we change the behaviors and systems to produce different results, we start changing beliefs within the organization.  What happens when the shared beliefs of an organization change?  One, we change the future of that organization.  Two, we have created a culture change.

How’s all this tie into me buying arguably too much vinyl?  Honestly, I wasn’t sure at first.  But for one, I buy with no fear of spending too much, because I have a several year track record of all my hobbies actually producing money.  I have the tax returns to prove it.  🙂 Plus, I’m spending cash that has come from the hobbies.

Therefore, I believe, as does Mrs. Outspoken – even if not as completely as me – that I’m not being irresponsible or delaying our objectives, because in the end I actually contribute towards those shared  objectives from my hobbies.   And I believe I’ve done so buy dealing appropriately with others, and the evidence of that is the number of opportunities that tend to find me.

Second, since there was so much David Bowie in the one collection, would be this album:

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A line from the song Changes is perhaps the foundation of the best inspiration I can think to provide today:

“These children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware of what they’re going through.”

No matter what it is you’re trying to do or achieve, there are often people who will try to hold you back, make you feel like it’s too hard, not worth it, or even impossible.  Don’t listen to them.  Act responsibly and with intention, treat people with dignity and respect,  but be courageous at the same time.   You can’t do what everyone else thinks you should do and still achieve the greatness that is within you.

Great things aren’t done by being average.

 

 

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Respect for People

Temple of Saturn
Temple of Saturn

A colleague of mine was venting some frustrations last week.  Apparently she had spent 5 hours providing information and slides for a presentation to be used during what was expected to be a 3-hour meeting.  When she received the final deck of slides she discovered none of her information was included.  She almost quit on the spot, and at the minimum she was not productive the remainder of that day.

Here’s a talented young leader of a multi-national company that spent 20% of her week doing something that didn’t matter.  In fact, she said the meeting was mostly a waste of her time as well.  What could I say?  All I could do was to get her focused on the positives of the week, and to have her learn from that scenario as something to never do to her team.  I pointed out she can learn just as much from a bad boss as she can from a good one.

I speak with this colleague often – she’s in a tough situation.  Mary works for a boss that seems to have little respect for her employees.  Meetings called with little to no notice, 0r even being called into a meeting mid-way through the meeting only to be peppered by questions.  Again with no notice.  Most of the team has limited contact with their boss outside of meetings (in fact a few have only spoken with the direct manager twice in 6 months).  Ideas are challenged and criticized to the point that most of the team has stopped offering suggestions.  And worst of all, about 75% of the senior members of that team have left the company.

Mary seems to be in the middle of one of those scenarios where people don’t quit the company, they quit their boss.  It takes a lot of effort to build a good team.  But an unfortunate result of having a talented and motivated group is that when bad leadership is put in place the members of that team are very mobile.  They can leave relatively quickly, and most of them won’t suffer fools for long.  If you see an exodus from a team, look at the leadership first.

In his book “The Rise and Fall of Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp”, Brian Solis writes of the cultural undoing of Sony as the company switched leadership from  Akio Morita to Noboyuki Idei.  When I worked for Sony, I met both men personally.  And I can say that in the first year of Idei-san’s tenure as CEO the company changed dramatically.  A great organization was being dismantled, and I had a front-row seat for the beginning phases.

The company transitioned rapidly to a one that treated employees like family to one that treated them like resources.  Sony had never laid workers off until Idei took the reigns.  Regardless of what was written in corporate documents, respect for employees was no longer a key value.  I left the company within a year.

Five years later, I had the opportunity to tour my old factory.  It was depressing.  Out of 500 or so people in the building, I recognized only three.  It used to be a gleaming facility, now it looked like little more than a dusty warehouse with trash strewn everywhere.  Yet they were still producing product.  Instead of making $100 million in profit each year they were losing money.  It took seven years to build that team from nothing to greatness.  But it only took months to tear it down and leave it in ruins.

I’ll be surprised if Mary doesn’t leave her organization within three months.  In fact I’m doing what I can to help her find an exit plan.  People are an organization’s  most important asset.  Every day as a leader, you have the opportunity to show your respect – or lack thereof – for your team.  So ask yourself “How would I feel if someone did this to me?”  Don’t ask your team to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.

Have any of you ever felt disrespected by or worked for a bad manager?  How did you react?  What long-term impact did that “bad boss” have on you?

 

 

The Power of Feedback

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Photo Shoot in Chengdu, China

Feedback.  When it’s from a guitar, it can be really cool.  It can also be painful when the unplanned screech pierces the ears of everyone in the venue.  When it’s about something you did personally, it can also be nice to hear, or rather painful as well.

Last week, we did our first group critique of our photos in photography class.  It was fun, enlightening, and at times a little uncomfortable.  It was good to hear both the positive and negative.  It was weird to hear people describing things my photos made them feel – and how they raised as many questions for people as they did answers.   I struggled to fit my shots into what I perceived was the “framework” of the assignment; to follow the “rules”.  When I saw some of the other photos, I wondered if I misunderstood the assignment.

The instructor said “I just didn’t get what your collection of pictures was about.  It was like you were carefully crafting what you would let us see about you.”  It was weird, but in the end he advised me to shoot what I like, looked at my contact sheets and pointed out some suggestions of images that would be nice to see enlarged.  While I had mixed feelings, I will take the information constructively to improve my photography.  That’s the primary point of the class, after all.

I also recently read the feedback from my book on Amazon.  I published  Thank You Jesus  in September of last year and have donated all the proceeds to the church.  But there were two reviews that really stood out to me last night.  And while these are good, I had someone else tell me personally that they read my book often as a comfort and form of support.  They love everything but the title.  It should have been called something else.  I did’t learn what it should have been called, but it has me thinking none the less.  And for my next book, she made the editing team.  🙂

The first review that caught my attention was from someone I previously worked with, which talked about how years prior to the time frame of my book, I had been on the opposite side of the table:

Closing a factory is a profoundly impactful event for those employees who will lose their jobs. The true measure of a leader is how s/he handles a situation where others are losing their jobs while you remain secure in your position. Aaron forever embedded in me his true self and who he is, as a man and as a leader in how he handled himself during that plant closure. Aaron treated everyone impacted with the dignity and respect that everyone deserves. Years later, Aaron would find himself on the other side of this equation when his plant was sold and he did not have a position going forward. This book tells his story of how he got through that period. It is a heartfelt and touching reflection from a caring individual who treated individuals right and then had to journey a similar path.

That review brought back a lot of memories, some painful due to the loss of so many employees, and some pretty good because we managed to have some good times with a lot of the team even in the midst of a bad situation.  The other review was the most recent, and the first sentence is why I was even bothering to read the feedback:

Definitely a good read for the employment troubled times in which we live. The author is obviously mature and seasoned in his faith and uses that and other life experiences to work through his time of trial. It’s very refreshing to read about someone who actually put feet to their faith.

In the last few weeks, there’s been a handful of employees that have either left or that have been terminated at work.  Every time someone leaves it’s painful.  Occasionally they move on to bigger and better things.  They’re starting their own business, or they’re retiring, or they’re moving to a new country. Those are great things, and any pain I feel is selfish for my loss because I’m very happy for them.  But the vast majority of the time, I wonder if constructive feedback delivered in a positive manner from the right people would have kept that person on the team.    Just knowing they’re noticed helps in a large organization.

Too many people seem to wait for the “annual review” or to be asked their opinion to give feedback.  Constructive feedback in a timely manner can change the future for the recipient by working on areas of improvement now.   Giving an employee a negative annual review rarely turns them around.  It usually just has the effect of pushing them closer to the door.  Even worse is the great employee which you never even say “thank you” to who then leaves because he’s not appreciated.  These really hurt when they leave.  It a simple principle, but so powerful.

Do yourself and the organizations you are part of a favor this week: take time to give someone positive feedback.  And then take some time to provide some constructive feedback in a positive manner where it is needed.  At school, at work, in your church organization.  Even in your family.  We are a social animal.  Take time to connect on a personal level and let others know you notice their efforts.

Feel good – do something for a stranger…

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Walking on a beach at sunrise.  Waking without an alarm clock.  Ballroom dancing with my beautiful wife.  Finding an improvement at work that saves the company thousands or even millions of dollars.  Playing around with some new blues licks on guitar.  These are all things that make me feel good.  But the one thing that truly lifts my spirit and is completely guilt free is doing something good for someone I don’t know.

Last night, our band had the privilege to play for some homeless families through an organization called Family Promise.  Actually more like “houseless” because they’re just without a place to live for whatever reason, and most of these families will have housing within weeks or a few months.

After 90 minutes of praising God with these folks, inviting them to sing and play our instruments if they wanted, and playing a lot of our songs that are “too loud for church”, I think we all left in good spirits.  The families and the band laughing, having a good time, all of us pulled away from whatever our concerns in life were for at least a little while.  I still feel good this morning.

So go do something for a stranger.  Help them.  Make their day, and expect nothing in return.  You’ll probably find you help yourself even more every time you try it; I know I do.

 

 

Rome – July 2014: Captured on Ektar

 

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I landed in Rome on my most recent visit to Italy, so a Sunday afternoon photo walk seemed like a good way to fight off the fatigue of a 9-hour flight.  It was a busy Sunday afternoon, but mostly overcast.  The forecast had been for bright clear sun a week prior to departure, and changed to rain the day before I left.  For the trip, I used my pair of Maxxum 5’s – one loaded with color and the other with B&W.

I appreciate the history, but I often forget the names of places I’m seeing, and I enjoy the travel so much that I never think to write down the names of places – I really like being in the moment.  SO my apologies for not giving you wiki-pedia level information – or even a starting name to Google in many cases.

Over the course of the 11 days I was in Italy, I worked a lot, but I still managed to shoot 17 rolls of film.  Then I managed to erase 4 rolls at JFK security.   Out of this, I covered all the remaining film stocks I had except for Fuji Velvia and 400H, so I’m hopefully closing in on a handful I’ll want to shoot on a regular basis.

My initial thoughts on my first roll of Ektar – It’s a decent film, but for the price, I think it will be hard for me to keep some around.  These color shots of architecture on a mostly overcast day are good, but I shot another stock after this roll that captured the colors of Rome more accurately – at least to my eye.  And honestly, Fuji Superia gives me better saturation and contrast, so for “every day shooting” or times when I want some pop I’ll probably go that direction.

As far as Roma is concerned, well it was my first Italian city, and I hadn’t been there since January  2013.  In fact, this is my first trip ever to Italy in the summer. I was amazed by the amount of people compared to the other three seasons of the year!  I was also struck by the fact that many major tourist attractions are under renovation, including the Colosseum (technically the Flavium Ampitheater – the Colossus was a statue nearby) and Trevi Fountain.  So I tried to minimize the crowds in my shots – just a personal choice – except for when necessary or I thought the crowd told part of the story.

The people of Rome are friendly, I enjoy Rome and it’s classic history, and I’d say it’s in my top 3 places to visit in Italy so far.  For years I’ve felt the American society is repeating the fatal societal flaws of Ancient Rome.  They reached their peak, were the world superpower, and then got fat, dumb, and happy and eventually faded away. Maybe 2000 years from now some of the Great American cities will be tourist destinations to take pictures of the ruins too.  Don’t despair – one of my favorite buildings is the Palazzo Vittorio Emanuele, which was built in the late 19th Century.  Viva Roma!  Except when the play Napoli in Serie A.  🙂

 

What are you afraid of?

Japan Trip 092

 

I’ve heard it said that the Inuit Eskimo culture has anywhere from 20-100 different words for snow.  Well, apparently, that’s not entirely true – it’s more like three with a bunch of different descriptors.  Native Hawaiian language claims at least 100 words for rain.  From my 30 seconds of investigating for this blog post, they also seem a little repetitive and descriptive.  But in both cases, I think the languages focused on something central to their culture.

The English language has a lot of words for fear.  A quick glance at Wikipedia  shows well over 100 words for fear.  What would people think of our culture?  But the list shares something in common with the Eskimo language – virtually all the words have the same root – phobia – with different descriptors.  Some are probably familiar to most people, like Claustrophobia (fear of small spaces), Triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13),  and even Arachnaphobia (fear of John Goodman movies).

I was surprised to find some of the things that have named fears:

  • Barophobia – fear of gravity
  • Chromophobia – fear of bright colors
  • Hylophobia – fear of trees, forests, or wood
  • Papaphobia – fear of the Pope
  • Turophobia – fear of cheese

So what got me started on this?  What am I afraid of, you ask?  Well, I’m somewhat afraid of needles (Aichmophobia), but it’s really more of a dislike.  I’m a little afraid of heights (Acrophobia), but it’s not the height that scares me as much as the possibility of falling, which apparently is normal in most mammals so there’s not a named fear for it.  But what got me thinking of fear is when I came across Anatidaephobia.   I immediately recognized it, but I couldn’t remember what it was.

That’s what got me started – I thought that at one time I knew what this word meant, what fear it was describing, and now I  couldn’t place it.  I couldn’t pull the significance from my brain.  It was to the point that I even asked myself in Italian “Che cosa significa?”  I had to find out – I had to know the answer or it would derail my morning.

Well, it is “the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.”  What?  Why in the world would I think I knew that?!  I must be losing it.  Is this real?  Am I in a dream right now?  This can’t be real.  But wait – anatra is Italian for duck.  Oh – I’m dreaming in a  foreign language again!  Then I find the wiki page – it’s not there!  I find some of the fears I listed above, I keep scrolling, scrolling, man there’s a lot of fear in the world, scrolling, then in the last section, there it is!  Anatidaephobia!

It’s under “Jocular and fictional phobias.”  Then the explanation becomes clear.  It’s my old friend Gary Larson.  No, not the Biology professor from Bethany College, the comic strip artist of The Far Side.  We were so enthralled with The Far Side that in the late 80’s we even had a spoof on it called “The Ed Side Gallery” or something like that in our Physics class.   So here’s a few of the other phobias from pop culture (straight from Wikipedia):

  • Luposlipaphobia –fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly waxed floor, also from Gary Larson‘s The Far Side
  • Arachibutyrophobia – fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. The word is used by Charles M. Schulz in a 1982 installment of his Peanuts comic strip
  • Aibohphobia – a joke term for the fear of palindromes, which is a palindrome itself.
  •  Keanuphobia – fear of Keanu Reeves, portrayed in the Dean Koontz book, False Memory (A.H. – I thought this would have been called velociphobia….)

Ironically, in church the day before this diversion into fear occurred, part of what Jim Agnew shared with us was that we have no reason the fear – God provided his Son to take all our sins, and fears, away.   Just as FDR and later the musical geniuses of Living Colour reminded us in The Cult of Personality: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Hmm.  Looking back, perhaps it wasn’t so inappropriate to have that song played at our wedding reception then.

So this morning, I raise my cup to you: “Here’s hoping you don’t let fear stand in the way of living your life today.”

The Internet Time Machine

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Last week I became aware of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. It’s billed as a web archive and is further proof that things on the internet rarely go away.  When I found it, I decided to do a test.  About a decade ago, I did some writing for an online and print magazine called Beer Advocate.  Like many online communities, it changed rapidly from it’s early beginnings and grew into something that didn’t hold my interest, but they’ve done well and I’m happy for the Alstom Brothers that founded it.  Using the Wayback Machine, I was able to find my original article in about 3 minutes.

Here’s the link: Almost Heaven?

The case of Kelt beer above is from about the same time period – that beer is long gone, the empty bottles and case were sold not too long ago, but the article lives on.  Really make you wonder how the college kids graduating today will feel about the content they’re generating today when they look back at it in the year 2025.