Thursday, December 9, 2010

Making progress one step at a time

The marathon training is coming along well. Had a slight flareup of what I thought was tendonitis, but it turns out to be just a strained muscle in my lower calf. Had it checked by my doctor today who concluded that it was in fact not tendonitis. He advised me to keep stretching, ice it down regularly and keep on running.

On Sunday I ran 11 miles, partly in the rain. Wind picked up on the way back and it was rather chilly. But overall it was a good day. By the end of December I hope to be up to 17-18 miles for my long runs.

Have shed about 6 or 7 pounds since I upped my running schedule. That's one of my goals for this effort and so far it's paying off. The old saying is true: burn up more than you take in and you will lose weight. The simplest diet regime in the world.

I'm tweeting about my training, and I think you can follow me on Twitter @leecallaway. Not sure exactly how that whole Twitter thing works -- I know how to post tweets but don't know how to recruit followers. When we work out with Team in Training, I am usually the last to finish any given lap or sequence of laps. Which means I am following all the other members of the team but none of them are following me on the track. Maybe there's a connection here -- if I could pass a few people, then I would have followers...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This is your brain on running

Running for me has always been as much about mental health as physical health. It clears my mind, calms me down (after the fact) and gives me a lot of time to put my brain in neutral without most of the interruptions of the day-to-day world – phone calls, e-mail, necessary errands, etc. More than once while running, an answer to a difficult problem has just popped into my head.

I don’t usually run with an iPod or portable radio like many people do. I prefer to run without a soundtrack. I run a lot on streets and roads without sidewalks, and I like to be able to hear the cars coming toward me, especially the ones coming up behind me.

For the most part, I generally prefer to run alone rather than with other people. I find that other people like to talk when they run. I’d rather save my breath for survival.

I clearly remember how I got started running. This was some years before running caught on and became a popular sport for the masses. A friend and neighbor, Royce Hough, said one day, “We ought to run.”

“What? Run where?” I asked in all innocence.

“I don’t know, maybe around the block for starters.” He had done some research and found out – duh – that running is good for your health.

That first attempt to run around the block didn’t go so well. Our block had a hill on two sides. I made it down the first side but not up side 3.

We stuck with it, though, and pretty soon we moved to a nearby park which had two softball fields adjacent to each other. Once around both of them was about a quarter mile, as I recall. My first running shoes were Marine combat boots. They were the only shoes I’d done much running in before.

After about a year I bought my first pair of Adidas. Big improvement. I felt like Fred Astaire. OK, I felt like Fred Astaire looked. There the resemblance ended.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gotta run now...

I should be old enough to know better, but it turns out I’m not.

I’ve signed up for the Los Angeles Marathon on March 20, 2011. I know, some people think it’s an insane thing to do at any age, let alone 74.

But when the little voice inside says do it, you gotta answer. And as Marilyn Monroe said (I got it from a reputable quotation site), “Ever notice that ‘what the hell’ is always the right decision?”

So I am going to blog about my training. In a very real way, I’m rebooting myself in the running game. I’ve run eight marathons in the past (completed seven – more about that later), but haven’t tried one in about nine years. I think I’ve still got the wherewithal – we’ll see as the training gets serious. I promise to report honestly!

Today (Nov. 14) went for my longest run in quite a while – 10 miles. Very slow, though, because of the excess weight I’m lugging around. Hopefully I’ll shed some of that during the training. The run felt great. A bit tired at the end but definitely not out of gas. Ran in Redwood Shores – saw a hummingbird, three egrets, a bunch of ducks, another bunch of Canada geese, and a great blue heron. At the end of the run I was running west and looking at a gorgeous sunset – in the Bay Area we don’t get that many with just the right amount and kind of clouds, but this afternoon was sensational.

I won’t be trying to add anything scientifically or athletically significant to the running literature. I’ll just be sharing my thoughts and feelings along the way. It might even be interesting, so please check back when you have time.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ability to reinvent yourself = the new job security

The following column on career reinvention is reprinted from Business Week, August 28, 2010.

Business Week Interview: Career Reinvention

In today's tumultuous workforce, flexible talents, skill sets and a willingness to change means job security. Best-selling author and Business Week columnist Marshall Goldsmith talks with The Reinvention Institute's Pamela Mitchell on how to effectively transform careers.

You say that in today's marketplace, the old concepts of career change don't work. Why is that?

Over the past several decades, the pace of business cycles has sped up considerably. Cradle-to-grave employment is a thing of the past.In this day and age, the ability to reinvent yourself—to recombine your skills, talents, and experience to move between job functions, departments, or industries—is the new form of job security. Within the space of a decade, what's been considered to be a good field for jobs can disappear. Take a look at the phenomenon of outsourcing, which has decimated U.S.-based opportunities for many industries, like software programming. Or consider the media field. With traditional revenue models struggling and new technologies competing for audience attention, newspapers are trying to find new niches to replace lost profits.

How do you cope with these factors? Career change has tended to focus on typical job transitions—strategies for climbing to the next level of seniority within your organization or moving to a similar position within the same industry. But what do you do when your company is reducing headcount and opportunities in your field are disappearing?

Great point. How is career reinvention different from career change? In this day and age, the ability to reinvent yourself—to recombine your skills, talents, and experience to move between job functions, departments, or industries—is the new form of job security. More than just repackaging your background, career reinvention involves changing your assumptions about how your career will evolve. It means being prepared to take advantage of new opportunities by developing your skill sets with a strategic eye toward emerging business models.

That sounds great for someone who is new to his career, but what about if you've been working for 10 or more years in the same field? Is still possible to reinvent your career when all your experience has been in the same industry?

 This is one of the most common questions we get! Yes, it is possible; in fact, we have a number of clients who have made successful switches after long careers in a particular industry.

That said, it is crucial that people understand that career reinvention is not an easy process. I like to draw the analogy that switching between job functions or industries is similar to moving to a foreign country. To be successful in your new land you'd have to learn the local language and familiarize yourself with its customs and cultural expectations. The same is true when you want to move to new career territory. To bridge the divide between your old and new careers, you need to learn the language and customs of your new field…and decide what to bring along from your former job.

If someone with 10 or 20 years of experience is leaving a field, that's a huge loss of talent for their organization. How does the trend toward career reinvention affect companies?

Over the next 5 to 10 years, as boomers retire and the available pool of workers shrinks, companies will be forced to rethink their strategies for retaining talented workers. But this requires that they break out of the old mindset of slotting employees into function-based boxes. They need to ask themselves: Do our people feel they can transform themselves beyond their current role, or do they need to leave us to grow?

For corporations, reinvention is the road to retention. Leaders need to become the architects of employee reinvention within their companies. One of our recommendations is that companies develop their workforce by facilitating ways for their talent to move within the firm.

Along with reducing layoff costs, this strategy can minimize the expenses associated with pursuing new business opportunities. Some forward-thinking organizations are already creating these types of reinvention programs.

What are some of the stumbling blocks people face when they're trying to reinvent their careers?

People tend to fantasize about new careers and are often unprepared for the amount of work that's involved in actually making the switch. They also have a hard time shifting out of their old work identity, which means that they often try to pitch themselves in a new field using their old language. This results in a translation failure, where hiring managers don't understand how the candidate's background applies to the job they're seeking.

Identity can also be a big obstacle when people are trying to reinvent themselves within their firm. Because they've been defined by a particular job function, they cannot get a shot at a new role. A number of clients come to us after hitting this barrier.

What advice do you have for people looking to reinvent their career?

Understand that whether it's within your current firm or a totally new field, successfully reinventing yourself requires you to establish your legitimacy as a candidate. Hiring managers, both internal and external, have goals they need to meet. Your mission is to prove—in tangible ways—that you can be a valuable asset to them in reaching those objectives.

 Minimize translation failure by learning how to repackage your background so that it highlights those skills that will be directly useful in helping you succeed in your new role. Ask yourself: "How can I benefit from what I've done in the past?" Analyze your talents and identify the work successes that demonstrate them. Match those previous accomplishments to future career deliverables—this will help you see what achievements in your background are of value to hiring managers in your new field.

Source: Business Week, Marshall & Friends July 1, 2008

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Moving the attitude adjustment hour

There are many things in life we can’t control – the weather, the economy, traffic on the freeway, to name a few. But there is one thing we definitely can control – our attitude.

We wake up every morning and go out into the world with an attitude. We put on an attitude just as surely as we put on our clothes. Even if we don’t consciously adopt a certain attitude on purpose, that non-expression is itself an attitude that shows up to other people.

I thought about what makes up an attitude. What are the components? What are the ingredients?

Here’s what I came up with. I concluded that my attitude is made up of a combination of where I am on a number of scales:

· Self-respect vs. self-deprecation
· Humility vs. entitlement
· Positive vs. negative
· Easy sense of humor vs. scowl and frown
· Generosity vs. selfishness
· Forgiveness vs. anger
· Gratitude vs. thanklessness
· Optimism vs. pessimism

By just focusing on these scales – even briefly – I can figure out where I am on each one. Then I can adjust my positions to shape my attitude. It’s like the bathroom mirror I can adjust by rotating the edges. Turn it one way, normal reflection. Turn it the other way, magnified reflection.

I can look at myself in that mirror and adjust the image that I am projecting – my attitude.

Since my thoughts took this path, I find myself reminded of them every morning when I look in that mirror to shave. It’s a new enough experience that I’m pleasantly surprised every time. I’m hoping I can make this an everyday thing.

And what might an adjusted attitude do for you? Quite a few possible benefits:

· A healthier mental and physical wellbeing
· An opportunity to look at your life more positively
· Attracting people who are like you (you get back what you put out)
· Maybe a job
· And possibly the most important result from floating somewhere to the left of center (on the scales), you will find your creative juices flowing, "rebooting" yourself into a better and perhaps longer life.

It’s a new time of day for the attitude adjustment hour.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Behind the times

I had a George Bush moment the other day.

No, no, not that George Bush. The first one. George H.W. Bush.

Remember when he was baffled when he saw a barcode scanner at a grocery store checkout counter? He’d never seen one before. That moment became a symbol of his being behind the times and out of touch, and may have contributed to his defeat by Bill Clinton in 1992.

Well, so far my George H.W. Bush moment hasn’t cost me the presidency, but it was a big “aha” moment for me, anyway.

I was listening to the radio and an ad came on for a barbecue specialty chain that sells high end grills. “Father’s Day special,” the ad said. “We’ve knocked off $300 on our top grill.”


$300 off? Wow, what do those things cost? Are they giving them away for Father’s Day?

Well, next day I happened to be close to one of the stores in that particular chain, so I stopped in.

Whoa. And wow again.

The minute I walked in, I realized that I had completely missed out on the upscaling of backyard cooking. The first model I saw had a price tag of over $3,500. It was a beauty, all right. Shiny stainless steel and a huge lid that opened to reveal a cooking surface big enough for a side of beef. And a double decker grill.

I asked a salesman if this was his most expensive grill.

“Oh, no,” he said. “There’s our top of the line.”

He pointed to a monstrous SUV of a grill with about eight burner knobs, mounted on a faux stone pedestal. “That one goes for $7,350.”

I was relieved to see that, in addition to the super-high end models, they also had a lineup of three basic black Weber kettle grills – large, medium and small. The one I use at home is a small. I also have an even smaller Smoky Joe, which retails for around $35, I think. So they haven’t forgotten about the average guy.

When my Smoky Joe wears out, I can consider upgrading to the $7,350 model.

Or I can buy 210 new Smoky Joes.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What were they thinking?

A lot has been written about Chevrolet’s boneheaded attempt to kill the word Chevy, including a very good column today by Jon Carroll in the San Francisco Chronicle.

I didn’t think there was much more to say about the memo until tonight I heard a Chevrolet commercial on the radio. The last words were, “Go to”

Hmm, I thought, didn’t whoever wrote that memo even go to his own website?

When I got home I typed into the address bar and hit enter. The words immediately changed to and opened up the Chevrolet site.

In the top navigation bar there was a big link to “EXPERIENCE CHEVY.” So I tried it and found a sub-link, “History and Heritage.” On that page the company displays photos of significant models, innovation and milestones from 1911 to 2008. In 15 of the captions, the car (or the company) is described as a “Chevy.”

Then I went to the search bar – this is still on the Chevrolet site – and typed in “chevy.” Up came a page with RESULTS 1-10 OF ABOUT 13,900 FOR CHEVY.

All righty, then. Didn’t exactly think that one through, did they?

Well, as Jon points out, they’ve now backtracked and said they really like the word Chevy, after all.

But I’m filing that in my “What were they thinking?” file, along with subprime mortgages, credit default swaps, drilling for oil a mile under the Gulf of Mexico with no emergency shutoff plan, and telling your staff you’re going hiking on the Appalachian Trail when you’re really headed to Argentina to see your secret lover.

More Montgomery baseball

(Please see previous post dated June 11 for context)
We’re going back to Montgomery to visit family in July and we plan to go see the Montgomery baseball team play. Once known as the Rebels, they are now called the Biscuits, for reasons I hope to find out. And they play in a new park called Riverwalk Stadium. We’re really looking forward to the game.

But no hill, no train smoke, and a team called the Biscuits – will it really be Montgomery baseball? We’ll find out!

I have fond memories of the old Montgomery Rebels, and I can name almost the whole lineup from those teams of the 40s:
  • Pitchers: Stan Coulling, Marty Arrante, Chester “The Great” Covington, among others
  • Catcher: “Mop” Brown, who whistled three quick times every few minutes. I don’t remember Mop’s real first name, but it may have been Charles.
  • 1b: Al Brightman or Mac MacWhorter (Mac was a utility player who once played every position in the field in one game – one per inning – and was the winning pitcher!)
  • 2b: Roy Carlin
  • SS: Billy Spears
  • 3b: Ray Wilson (A hometown boy. Ray’s dad, who always sat behind the Montgomery dugout on the third base side, was his biggest fan and would cheer him on with a loud “GoRay, GoRay, GoRay” whenever he came to bat)
  • LF: Johnny Creel, who stuck his bubble gum on the button of his cap when he came to bat (there were no batting helmets in those days).
  • CF: Billy Martin, a speedster who was the stolen base leader (and center field mountain climber).
  • RF: Art Rebel, clearly the most appropriately named player on the team.
  • Manager: Frank Skaff, and later Charlie Metro

The radio broadcasts were done by an announcer named Dave Manners. Like all broadcasters back in the day, for out-of-town games he would sit in the station studio in Montgomery and re-create the action from ticker tape messages. The message that would actually come across was something like, “Spears grounds out to short.” Dave would describe a whole imaginary at bat, pitch by pitch, sometimes running the count to 3 and 2, and add made-up color as if he were at the game. When Dave would pause, you could hear the tickertape clattering away in the background.

They don’t make ‘em (up) like that anymore.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The sounds of silence

(With a bow to Simon and Garfunkel)

“You will hear some silence while you wait.”

That’s part of the conference call recorded message that plays when you dial in before the call has officially started. The whole phrase goes like this:

“The leader has not yet arrived. Please stand by. You will hear some silence while you wait.”

It always intrigues me. How do you “hear” silence?

Whoa. Pretty deep thought there. Maybe a philosophy class topic. One hand clapping, and all that.

In my brain it connected to another thought: On the radio, you never hear silence. “Dead air” is what the broadcasters call it. When dead air happens, it’s because somebody forgot to throw a switch or turn a knob or activate something. And for the radio people it’s a bad thing.

But moving on to the next thought, there is a time when you hear silence on the radio. On purpose. And nobody gets fired for it.

It’s in a broadcast of a baseball game. There are frequent lulls in the action on the field, so there are frequent pauses in the announcers’ talk. Those silences – when the announcers go quiet and all you hear is the faint murmuring of the crowd and the occasional shout of a vendor – are one of the endearing attributes of a baseball broadcast that makes it so pleasant, so accessible, so – well, listenable.

I grew up listening to broadcasts of baseball in Montgomery, Alabama. Our team’s name, of course, was the Rebels (Forget, hell) and they played in a ballpark named Cramton Bowl.

They don’t make parks like that anymore. It was used for both baseball and football, so it had a funny shape. There were grandstands behind the plate and along both baselines, but then on the first base/right field side there was a much larger extension of stands for football games. The right field line in baseball was also approximately one sideline of the football field.

When configured for baseball, there was this hill in center field. It was not a small rise, it was a serious hill. A center fielder in this park had to have mountain goat skills to catch long flies hit anywhere between left center and deep straightaway center.

And just beyond the left field fence, behind a big row of trees, there was a ravine with a railroad track running through it. In the days when there were still steam engines, a train would go by, chugging and puffing away, and if the wind was right, huge clouds of black coal smoke would roll up from the ravine and blow into the playing field. The left fielder would disappear in the smoke.

You had to be tough to be a Montgomery Rebel.

More in the next post.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stayin' alive

I got a letter – an “official e-mail,” no less – from a “Mr. Adams Williams,” who identified himself as “Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.”

Mr. Williams advised me that “one Mr. David Woodruff, who claim to be your business associate/partner here in Africa,” was further claiming that I was dead and that “all relevant documentation/Informations regarding your Payment/Transfer be changed to him as the beneficiary of the payment” of $1,850,000 which, Mr. Williams said, the government of Nigeria owed me.

“We need to confirm from you if it’s really true that you are dead as made mention by your associate. You should note that, if we do not hear from you, it automatically means that you are actually dead and the information passed to us by David Woodruff is correct.”

If I was not dead, the letter went on, I was to “respond to this e-mail immediately” with my name, address, and other identification information, plus a copy of either my driver’s license or my passport.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I have not had great success in responding to these “help me collect millions of dollars for you” e-mails. So I decided, with some reluctance, not to answer.

Several weeks later I got to thinking about it – “Mr. Adams Williams” didn’t hear from me, so to his mind I am “actually dead” and “David Woodruff” has probably collected all the money that was rightfully mine.

That Woodruff. He’s always doing something like this. And to think he used to be my “associate/partner” in Africa. Why I ever trusted that guy in the first place I’ll never know.

And what can you say about the government of Nigeria? They’ve owed me money for years and have stiffed me time and again.

But back to my being “actually dead.” I suppose I should let my insurance company know so the life policy will pay off. And probably Social Security, too, so they can forward my checks to my wife. I mean my surviving spouse.

But there’s a silver lining. Since I’m “actually dead,” I no longer have to floss. Better yet, I won’t have to go the DMV later this month and renew my driver’s license.

I’ll just join all those other bad drivers on the road who really need to get a life.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Don't be inactive!

You gotta hand it to those bankers.

When it comes to separating you from your money, they’re creative geniuses.

Most recent case in point: On my most recent statement for by business charge card, there was a $20 item. The description: “INACTIVE ACCOUNT FEE.”

Well, now! They want to charge me $20 for not using my charge card? Come on! I agree it’s legitimate for them to charge me interest when I charge something, because I am in effect borrowing money from the bank to pay for something. No problem there.

But a $20 clip for doing nothing?

I protested. The young banker where I do business professed to be surprised by the charge, and called someone somewhere out there in call center land to see about getting it removed. After surprisingly little persuasion on his part, the answer came back, OK. The charge was removed.

(I can envision what was going through the mind of the person on the other end of the call: “Darn, another one caught on. Oh well, there are millions more who will just pay it and not complain.”)

You have to look for life lessons wherever you can find them, and I found one here:

Don’t be inactive. Stay active.

I don’t mean to necessarily go out and charge something. I mean keep moving, stay actively engaged in life, don’t sit around and do nothing.

If you’re recently retired or fired or laid off, don’t sit there and bemoan your fate. Get off your chair and reinvent yourself. In fact, go to and look around. You’ll find all kind of resources there to help you.

Either that, or send me $20.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Nobody said it was going to be easy

I’m reprinting below a series of e-mails I got from a lady named Jane Waldmann, a Rebooter in spirit and actions. I’m sharing them, with her permission, because (1) I suspect there are a lot of people in similar circumstances and (2) Jane is continuing her efforts despite some setbacks. I admire her tenacity and determination, and I’m hoping her words will be an inspiration to you.

Subject: Reinventing Jane

I would loooooooooooooove to reinvent myself. I have teaching degrees in English and Art but only taught HS English for a few months, quit to have my first child. I then was a stay at home Mom for 12 years raising 3 children. When I went back to work I did it in the office arena. Not much fun there.

I looooooooooooooooove computers though, self taught everything I know on them, PC and Mac. Almost a geek!! But…

The problem is money. How does one reboot without money? All the computer degrees, certificates or courses cost a lot. My husband still works and although he barely makes enough to pay our bills, I do not qualify for any type of low-income training or scholarships.So here I sit watching my life go by very rapidly without finding out what could have been.

Jane Waldmann

I wrote Jane back with some words of encouragement. I noted that she seemed to be a good writer and she’s a self starter. She has replied twice. Here are her e-mails:

Reply No. 1:

Thank you (for writing) me regarding my email. You ... showed genuine concern and encouragement. I will explore the Reboot website more thoroughly.

One of my biggest obstacles is that I am floundering all over the place. I have an art degree and love crafts but find the money does not pay the bills at first anyway. Also I love the computer and thought about graphics courses. I am not sure which direction to go in but have been praying about it. I have no doubt that when I do figure out what I enjoy and want to excel at, I will have determination and race ahead.

You say writing but I have never really been a fan of writing a lot, although I do have a command of the English language. I still favor my artistic side. I have combined the two once, when I was a temp, producing a monthly newsletter for a property management company (but that only lasted 9 months).

So I will explore your site and the web and dabble in temping and real estate ( I have my license) until I can say, "That's it, that's what I want to do!!!!"

Thanks again,
Jane Waldmann

Reply No. 2

Here is an update: I got on unemployment. (Had an accounting asst. job and was fired for not being a "team player.")

And because of that our local county Workforce Alliance gave me funding for $4000 to take a CIW course (Certified Internet Webmaster).

I finished in Feb. and enjoyed it. However I discovered most of the jobs in this market require much more than just a certificate, namely college and lots of experience. I also discovered I do not enjoy designing websites.

I did however love the Photoshop classes which were included. I also found a website in which I can upload designs and they will print and sell the fabric.

I think I am heading in the right direction. My unemployment has run out, though, and I just hope I can figure out how to make some extra money without compromising my creativity by getting an office job. I really believe, and so does my hubby, that another office job would just about kill me!!

Thank you again for all your encouragement,

Friday, May 21, 2010

The homeland security threat level today: pink?

My wife and I recently took a short vacation to Cancun, Mexico. On our way home, we learned something new about how our borders are protected.

Before I get to this insight, I’m happy to say that Cancun is delightful. Clean and new – only about 40 years old. Admittedly, what we saw was not Cancun proper but “hotel row,” an island shaped like a 7, lined with both moderately priced and luxury hotels, malls and theme parks, and connected to the mainland by bridges at both ends.

And the beach is postcard beautiful – sparkling white sand and the Caribbean a brilliant turquoise in the shallows and a rich blue in the deeper water.

Our itinerary included overnight stays both ways in Los Angeles, there being no direct flights between San Francisco and Cancun. So we went through both outbound security and inbound customs at LAX upon our return.

The TSA people were especially alert as we left. At the security point, they pulled my wife’s luggage for detailed inspection. The offending substances: Nordstrom delicate fabric wash, a white powder in a small plastic container along with alleged facial creams, all in approved 3-ounce plastic containers. The fabric wash didn’t pass the X-ray test, so the inspector had to take it out for hands-on inspection.

No problem. We complimented them on their diligence. Hey, they were doing their job and we thought they were doing it quite well.

After a wonderful stay in Cancun, we came back to LAX. After the usual long wait to show our passports, we made our way to the exit where a customs agent was collecting the tourist card you must present to authorities when you return from Mexico.

My wife, dressed in comfortable travel clothes that included a pink tunic top and pink pashmina wrap, handed the document to the guard.

He gave it a quick glance, said, “OK,” and waved us through. The speed surprised us.

“Is that it?” my wife asked.

“That's it,” the guard smiled. “Terrorists don’t wear pink.”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Formation Flying

I was out running the other day and three ducks happened to fly over on a glide path down to a small man-made lake. They were in formation, one in the lead of a small “V” and the other two on either side.

Later that day I saw a flock of pigeons swirling and swooping over a three-story building on a main thoroughfare in a commercial district. They were not in what you would call a formation, but they were somehow staying roughly together.

If the ducks were a team, the pigeons were a mob. Or maybe a high-energy crowd, to put it more charitably.

It was the ducks, though, that kept my interest. I did a little research on duck and bird formation flying and found out that formation flying – especially in a V – is more efficient for all the birds except the one in the lead. And flocks of birds alternate the lead role on long migrations so as to evenly distribute the fatigue of covering long distances.

Seeing those ducks the other day – they were in and out of my line of vision in two or three seconds – brought to mind one thrilling formation sight I will never forget.

The Navy Blue Angels were performing at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California. A quick geography primer: Moffett is on the shore of the southernmost end of San Francisco Bay. Nearby are salt evaporation ponds separated by wide dikes or berms. There are trails on these berms that are open for hiking, running or biking. Some of them extend well out beyond the salt ponds into the bay itself.

I decided that the end of one of these berms jutting out into the bay would be a great place to watch the Blue Angels. And indeed it was. I was completely alone – not like the packed crowds at Moffett. Of course the Moffett runways were the center point of all the Blue Angels’ amazing aerobatics, but if you’ve ever seen them you know they cover a lot of real estate on their approaches and departures from the center point.

At one point late in the show the four who fly together formed up in a diamond formation and came soaring past me in a thunderous roar, banked for a right turn. They were going from my left to my right and passing directly in front of me. It was a spectacular sight.

What I hadn’t realized was that there were some ducks in the water right below where I was standing. Just at the moment when the Blue Angel formation was directly in front of me, the ducks must have been startled and burst up out of the water, wings beating furiously, water dripping from their feathers as they became airborne.

The ducks came up out of the water in formation! I really don’t think they planned it – but if they had they could not have executed it more perfectly. They flew up and to the right on a trajectory that perfectly mirrored the Blue Angels. So what I saw in one field of view was the Blue Angels in formation in the distance and the ducks in formation just a few yards away from me. It was a jaw-dropping, stunning, unbelievable sight.

I put these stock photos together just for the fun of it. Many is the time I have wished that I could have caught that scene for real with a camera, but it is just as well that I didn’t have one because I couldn’t have reacted fast enough. Anyway, I was so blown away I probably would have dropped my camera in the water.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Flipping and YouTubing

I figured it was time. High time, in fact.

Time to join the YouTube Generation.

If I’m going to promote rebooting and reinvention, I’d better do a little rebooting and reinventing myself. And a good place to start would be getting into the 21st century.

So the first thing I did was to buy a Flip video camera.

My reaction? Wow!

I was absolutely amazed at the capability of this stunning little device, completely impressed with its ease of use and blown away by how simple it is to take videos and then get them onto your computer.

I’d read a lot of praise for Flip, and now I understand why. It’s all true. Very small little box, not much inside except the Flip, a one-page quick start guide (that’s actually understandable), the warranty, a little carrying pouch and a wrist strap. It came with the battery half charged so all I had to do was take it out of the box and shoot a video, a 23-second epic of my wife sitting at our breakfast room table.

I slid the little button on the side down and out popped a USB arm. Slipped it into a USB port on the side of my laptop, and the Flip software automatically uploaded from the device to the computer. Downloaded my first video onto the computer.

In less time than it takes to write about it I was in the video business.

End of Part 1, now time to move on to Part 2: YouTube.

Figuring out how to upload a video to YouTube wasn’t as simple as learning to use the Flip, but after some trial and error, I figured it out. Now my first video (and a second test shot today) are uploaded to YouTube, along with – how many others? Several hundred billion or so?

Doesn’t matter, I did it.

Yes, I’m late to the party, but that doesn’t matter either. The important thing is that I have just opened a couple of doors to new worlds, and I feel great about it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Twinkle, twinkle, little star…

“Hi honey, Happy Anniversary. Here’s your present.”

“Ooh, wonderful, what is it? It feels like a picture frame.”

“Open it up! You’ll love it!”

(Sound of paper being ripped off a frame.)

“Oh. Wow, what is this? What does the writing say? I don’t have my glasses. ‘Inter…’”

“International Star Registry.”

“International Star Registry? What is that?”

“I named a star for you to show you how much I love you.”

“You did what?”

“Named a star for you. This is the document that identifies the star and certifies that it is named for you.”

“Wait. It identifies a star named for me?”

“Yep. Just for you.

“But… there are so many stars up there. How do I know which one is named for me?”

“Oh, honey, that’s no problem. Look what’s on the certificate: the telescopic coordinates of the star, an informative booklet with charts of the constellations plus a larger, more detailed chart with the star named for you circled in red. So we can find it any time we want to with a telescope.”

“We don’t have a telescope. You knew that, didn’t you?”

“Well, we’ll get one so we can look at your star.”

“So do I now own this star?”

“Well, no. The International Star Registry doesn’t own the star, so they can’t sell it to you. But the star is now associated with you. It is something you can point at to know that there is something special out there for you.”

“OK. So, if I don’t own it, will astronomers and scientists recognize it as ‘my’ star?”

“No. The International Star Registry is a private company that provides Gift Packages. Astronomers will not recognize your name because your name is published only in the International Star Registry Star catalog. They periodically print a book called 'Your Place in the Cosmos,' which lists the stars that they’ve named.”

“Well, dear, thank you for your thoughtful gift. I’m really touched to have a star named for me, that I need a telescope to see, that I don’t own but is ‘associated with me,’ that astronomers don’t recognize as mine, and that’s listed in a book which this outfit ‘periodically prints.’”

“Yes, honey, and because it’s you, I got you the Heirloom Ultimate version. Look! The certificate is beautifully matted in an architecturally inspired frame designed by Stanford White. The matte is a vintage eggplant color complimenting the colors in the certificate. And look what else: The personalized star chart is framed also in this package. The frame measures 24 1/2" X 20 1/2" and matches the frame in the deluxe package.”

“Who’s Stanford White?”

“I don’t know, I guess he’s a frame designer. Must be famous.”

“I guess I’m bowled over, even if it was free.”

“Uh, honey, it wasn’t free. You know they couldn’t do this and give it away.”

“You paid money for this?”

“Well, yes I did, but it’s our anniversary.

“How much?”

“Uh, well, it was only $489.00.”


“Uh, yeah, plus shipping and handling.”

“Well, honey, I have to say I never expected to have a star named for me. And for only, say $500, after shipping and handling. You really know how to make your wife happy.”

“Anything for you, dear.”

“I’m almost speechless. I can only say one thing. You shouldn’t have. Really.”

Friday, April 30, 2010

Expanding the scope

Since I started this blog, all my posts (with a few exceptions) have had something to do with rebooting or reinvention.

I've decided to expand my topic areas to include random subjects that I find interesting. So you will see more blogs that are not really "RebootYou"-oriented.

I'm doing this because of late I feel a renewed urge to write -- just to get things down on paper. Or on the screen. Have been a writer in one form or another most of my life, and I enjoy it. On rare occasions someone will say they enjoyed something I wrote. That makes me think I occasionally have something to say, so I am going to say it!

A couple of days ago I wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times, which they probably won't publish. The subject was Standard & Poor's downgrading of Greek debt, and the ensuing tailspin of markets around the world. My question: S&P is a bond rating agency. These agencies were major culprits in the financial meltdown because of the spurious AAA ratings they slapped on collateralized debt obligations made up of subprime mortgages. So why should we believe them now? Did they suddenly get religion, and we should go back to accepting their ratings without question?

One more thing I don't get about this mess.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The last word on Creamsicles

I have just finished a delicious raspberry Creamsicle.

First one I’ve had in too long to count. And it was just as good as I remembered. (Please see the preceding two blogs.)

Today I mentioned my “ice cream man” memories to a friend who told me that if I went to the grocery store and looked in the frozen foods section, I could find Creamsicles. “I know they are there,” he said. “My wife eats them all the time.”

That’s all I needed. Within 30 minutes I was in my neighborhood supermarket and sure enough, right in the ice cream freezer, there they were. I bought an 8-pack of orange and raspberry. As the Campbell’s soup ad used to say, “Mmmmm, good!”

The Creamsicle is a derivative of the 105-year-old Popsicle. In 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson of San Francisco left a mixture of powdered soda, water, and a stirring stick in a cup on his porch. It was a cold night, and Epperson awoke the next morning to find a frozen pop. He called it the "Epsicle."

It was a hit with his friends at school, and later with his own kids. They constantly called for "Pop's 'sicle." So in 1923, Epperson changed the name and applied for a patent. A couple of years later, Epperson sold the rights to the brand name Popsicle to the Joe Lowe Company in New York.

The Good Humor Company, a subsidiary of Unilever, bought the rights to all the “sicles” in 1989. Popsicle®, Creamsicle® and Fudgsicle® are all trademarks of Unilever.

I still need to figure out how my memory served up “Dreamsicle” instead of “Creamsicle.”

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Neuron asleep at the switch

Last night I had an exercise in remembering something from my childhood maybe 65 years ago. The overall experience I was remembering was the arrival of the “ice cream man” on our street. Specifically, I recalled (or thought I recalled) a specific product the ice cream man sold. It was a combination bar of frozen juice with ice cream inside. I remembered it as a “Dreamsicle.” I wrote about it in yesterday’s blog.

This morning, in the shower, I had a flash: It wasn’t a “Dreamsicle,” it was a “Creamsicle.” I had remembered the sound of the word but I pulled up an incorrect rhyming version of it from my memory. The minute I got out of the shower I rushed to the computer, pulled up the incorrect blog and corrected it.

This got me to wondering how memories are created, stored and recalled in the brain. I Googled “how memory works” and found Public Broadcasting’s Nova Science Now website. There I was able to view a video of neurosurgeon Itzhak Fried talking about how memories are stored and retrieved.

According to Fried, an experience (say, the arrival of the ice cream man and buying stuff from him) is captured by a single neuron, or a group of neurons firing together. When the call goes out to recall that memory, the same neuron or neuron group fires again.

So let’s say each neuron in the group of neurons that captured the original visit by the ice cream man remembered one part of the experience: one captured the look of the ice cream box, another the sound of the cow bell that signaled the ice cream man’s arrival, and several others the taste of various goodies in the box.

But on further reflection, there must have been one neuron for each quality of each particular product – in this case, the Creamsicle. One neuron got the flavor, one got the temperature, one the location of the ice cream inside the icy blanket around it, one the stick frozen into the Creamsicle to provide a handle and, finally, one got the name.

So let’s dig a little further. Maybe there were several neurons assigned to grab the name. One got that it ended in “… sicle.” Another got that the first syllable sounded like “…eem.” And the one in charge of getting the first letter probably got “C” at the time – but something happened to it along the way.

Now, 65 years later, along comes a memory call: Hey, remember that bar with frozen juice on the outside and ice cream on the inside? What was it? Every frozen-bar-with-ice-cream neuron hustles up to bring its part: Here’s “..sicle,” and here’s “…eem,” and… “Hey, where’s the neuron with the first letter?”

Well, it turns out that neuron was asleep at the switch, as it were. “Duh, I’ve forgotten. Maybe it was ‘D’ for ‘Dreamsicle,’ because they were pretty dreamy-good. So I’ll offer up ‘D.’”

For a few hours, the other neurons accepted the D. But this morning the faulty first-letter neuron snapped awake and said “Hey, wait a minute, it was C, not D. Creamsicle, not Dreamsicle.”

Why did it fail? It came close, but it failed. Has it been doing other things since the ice cream man came by? Remembering algebra, sunsets, the smell of apple pie in the oven, an acquaintance’s name, a dentist’s appointment? Has it been overworked?

Or has it been lying there in the cranial soup, with no responsibilities other than remembering “C?” Did it just go flabby? Use it or lose it, and I didn’t use it?

I’ll probably never know. But I have certainly profited by the experience. I’ve delved deeper into my brain than I thought I would. And I may know a little more about how this amazing organ works – maybe one neuron’s worth.

One thing is for sure. After all this, that dumb neuron better not come up with D again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rebooting memories of Creamsicles

I just read a story by writing instructor and coach Sharon Lippincott entitled “Too Old for Ice Cream,” and it took me back. (I "met" Sharon when she responded to one of my blogs,and I visited her blog at

Her story was about an encounter – or rather, a non-encounter – with a modern-day ice cream truck – a red van with a raised roof, a neighborhood-tempting sound system, numerous big decals and a cooler hung under the window on the passenger side. She was struck by the contrast with the “white, spotlessly clean” ice cream trucks of her youth.

The teenage driver passed her right by without stopping – twice – and Sharon wondered if he thought she looked too old to be buying ice cream. Upon reflection, she happily dismissed this notion, went to her freezer at home, pulled out a Klondike bar and thoroughly enjoyed it. Her pang of nostalgia, it turned out, was about ice cream trucks, not ice cream.

Even though the story was published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review almost three years ago, it was as fresh for me as a frosty Popsicle. It brought to mind the ice cream vendors when I was a little boy – before the days of ice cream trucks, when “the ice cream man” came by pushing a clunky white box mounted on two bike wheels or pedaling a bike-powered version of the same basic box.

They didn’t have amplified sound systems. They had cowbells hanging on their handlebars. Still, you could hear them half a block away.

The chocolate and vanilla delicacy known today as an Eskimo Pie today was a “Big Boy” to us. There were also Fudgsicles, which were all chocolate with no coating. But Popsicles were Popsicles then, just as they are today. And every now and then, if we were lucky, the ice cream man would have Creamsicles, which was a Popsicle on the outside and ice cream on the inside. Heaven on a stick!

The ice cream man – who more often than not was a teenager – also had something really special at the bottom of his box – dry ice. That’s how they kept the ice cream from melting. If you begged long enough, and the ice cream man was feeling generous, he would break off a tiny piece of dry ice and give it to you.

It was so cold you couldn’t hold it in your hand. You had to toss it back and forth or it would burn you. You would put a penny on the dry ice and it would sizzle – in addition to getting very cold. If you were really brave and cool (no pun intended), you’d put the dry ice in your mouth (making sure you had enough saliva to keep it swishing around) and “blow smoke” by breathing out with your mouth open.

I agree with Sharon that you never get too old for ice cream. Sometimes, in the interest of health, the refreshment option is frozen yogurt. But for genuine goodness and perfect taste, nothing beats old fashioned ice cream.

Except, every now and then, a Creamsicle.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Smile, things may be looking up

There was encouraging news for rebooters in the Sunday (4/25/10) New York Times Business section.

The headline: “Rays of Hope For Job Hunters;” the subhead: “Postings are climbing, and baby boomers are retiring. Can a turnaround be near?”

The article, by Phyllis Korkki, reports on improving signs in the labor market. “Employers are beginning to hire again – or at least think about it,” Korkki reports. “There are now some very positive signs… The shift is most apparent in job postings, which have begun to surge.”

The article quoted Tamara Erickson, an author and work-force consultant, as pointing out an intensifying long-term trend: “a worker shortage caused by the continuing retirement of baby boomers.”

“Suddenly, she said, employers are starting to realize that they don’t have, or won’t have, people with the skills they need. Some are starting to worry, she said, while others ‘have no idea what’s going to hit them.’”

This trend means that people who want to keep working in their later years may have the option of deferring their retirement or staying employed by filling a familiar position on a consulting or part-time basis.

The article is side-by-side with a first-person article by Jeremy Jaech, a serial rebooter who has re-started his career twice after “retiring.” He was co-founder of the Aldus Corporation, which created PageMaker and made him rich enough at age 29 that he didn’t have to work.

After playing golf until it was no longer fun, he went back to work and founded the Visio Corporation, another successful venture that developed software to make flow charts, organization charts, office layouts and other diagrams on a desktop computer.

Again he “retired,” this time in his 40s, and became involved working on nonprofit organizations including the University of Washington in research.

Still, not enough, so back to work. This time he founded Verdiem, which provides software to reduce energy consumption of PC networks. His summation:

“Of course, the money has been great. But the actual pleasure of working, and the real reason I can’t stay retired, is the joy of collaborating with a bright team of people to move an idea forward and watch it grow.”

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Eating some of my own dog food

There is a phrase heard in businesses that build credibility with customers by using their own products: “Eating our own dog food.”

I haven’t been eating much of my own dog food lately. I’m asking people to join in a conversation about reinvention and rebooting on this blog and I’ve been missing in action.

OK, an honest confession is good for the soul. Consider this my confession. Today I’m back and I intend to be more diligent and regular about posting my thoughts. Maybe some of them will actually be interesting.

One of my original ideas in starting was that there was going to be a flood of Baby Boomers retiring and looking to reinvent themselves, and that my website was where they were going to come to find resources and tell their stories. (I also wanted to reach people of any age who needed or wanted to reboot – and still do – but for now let’s just talk about retirees.) seemed like a good idea, until the Great Recession came along and sent the unemployment rate above 10%. There was a flood of people, all right, but they were the young and middle aged folks who lost their jobs when the economy tanked. For a retiree seeking a paying job in perhaps another field, or thinking about becoming a consultant in her or his career field, there was suddenly a crowd of people also looking for that same job. They were younger, hungrier, perhaps more talented or more current on the latest technology, more desperate to find gainful employment to feed their families and pay their bills. In other words, tough competition.

At the same time, the number of jobs shrank. Companies going bankrupt or falling on hard times did what they always do – they cut staff, eliminated positions, retrenched.

So the picture changed. Fewer jobs available for the potential rebooter, more people vying for those jobs.

I’ve thought about the whole arena of retiree reinvention a lot in the last couple of years and asked myself, what can be done? Is there a course of action the average retiree can take if he or she wants to keep working after retirement?

The main thing I’ve come up with is going back to school. Twice in my lifetime I’ve rebooted by going back to school. It worked both times. So I am going to do some research to find out if there has been any discernible uptick in retirees going back to school to upgrade their knowledge and skills since the recession came down on us like the proverbial ton of bricks.

If you’ve done this, know of someone who has, or (I wish) had any information or statistics on the subject, please post a response. I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mr. Considerate

Today I came across a scene that stopped me in my tracks.

A motorcycle was parked on the sidewalk outside Whole Foods in Redwood City. It was unusual that it was on the sidewalk, but that was not the most unusual part.

Beside the motorcycle, partly under the engine, lay a small blue towel, folded neatly. On the towel was a small plastic bowl. In the bowl was a quantity of motor oil, which I assume had leaked out of the motorcycle engine.

This was amazing! The owner of this motorcycle was so considerate of his fellow citizens that he had placed a little container under his engine to catch the dripping oil and keep it off the sidewalk. And he had it on a towel as further insurance!

Think about that. Can you imagine a more civic-minded, caring act? Seriously!

You know this guy has to be the most polite, courteous and thoughtful person in town – maybe on the whole planet.

Upon reflection, I figured the motorcycle was probably owned by one of the employees in the store. There was quite a bit of oil in the container, and if the bike belonged to a shopper, it couldn’t have leaked that much oil in a short time.

But this possibility did not take away from the charity and thoughtfulness of the owner. Just completely cool.

It reminded me of what my wife and I saw on a visit to Japan. In Tokyo, a businessman walking down the street – suit, tie and briefcase – stopped to pick up a stray piece of paper on the sidewalk and deposit it in a nearby trash can.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a few more people like this in the world? OK, I know we’ll never convert everybody, maybe not even a lot of people. But how about just a few more thoughtful and considerate people to take the edge off the brutish rudeness that is so pervasive today?

Mr. Motorcycle Driver, I salute you. The world could sure use more people like you.