PROFESSIONALLY HOMELESS: Self-Employed Adventures at Home & Abroad

5 March 2010

Every Trip Is An Odyssey

Filed under: Consultant Psychology, Home — biraistiyorum @ 16:41

I always bring to read a copy of The Odyssey – a book that many of us were forced to read in school, but actually appreciate later in life – which those of you familiar with the story might recognize as totally inappropriate for someone like me who travels too much to strange lands. I almost always leave the book behind, and buy a new copy for the next trip.

It is in these times when I’ve spent too much time by myself with my own strange thoughts, that I sometimes wonder if I will turn into Odysseus. One spends a lot of time alone, eating alone, taking taxis alone, having meetings without a colleague, going to bed at night without having spoken a word in hours…I may have interesting, once-in-a-lifetime adventures on these trips, but it is not not NOT glamourous in the sense of being away from home and loved ones. It was no different on my trip to Interesting Andean Country, Pretend Balkan Country, or now with Ignored Southern African Country, though not in Beautiful Post-Communist Capital City when my beautiful Penelopiea was with me.

In the weird hours, I sometimes imagine that my son/daughter will be like Telemachos, setting off on a coming-of-age trip with Mentor (Athena) to learn about their father, arriving in sandy Pylos Mentor says: “…grant that Telemachos and I may have a safe return, when we have done that for which we came hither with our swift black ship!” The lines in the book that always make my throat catch and eyes mist over are when Nestor says, “…I say, if you are really his son – IF! you amaze me, young man: when I hear you speak, I might be hearing him, you could not imagine a young man could speak so like him!”

Don’t worry about me, I’m keeping a close watch for the Cyclops, and the Sirens and Lotus-Eaters have absolutely no effect on me.

11 January 2010

Ruminations on 4-D

Filed under: Consultant Psychology, Home, Professional Stuff — biraistiyorum @ 00:25

The fourth dimension is the passage of time, and is something I have been thinking about a lot lately.

Professionally, I am selling the use of my expertise for periods of time, and managing all of the (often conflicting) demands for my time can be quite difficult. The hardest part is when the demands are vague or flexible, such that they impinge on time I have set aside for my personal life, or raise fresh business scheduling conflicts that may be irresolvable. A slightly different aspect of professional time is the long periods of time that elapse between when major proposals are submitted and when a decision is made. I was a key expert on a proposal last February for some big big BIG business in Volatile South Asian Country– which we were rumored to have won, pending some diplomatic activities – , but we just found out this week that that particular part of the assistance portfolio had been cancelled completely. Greeeaaaat, I was a little concerned about political violence in the country, but it would have been three years of very interesting and lucrative work…projects come and go, though, and I have (and will have) enough work to keep busy. A more important aspect for independent consultants is the level of advance planning that must be done. This goes beyond the standard delays between work and payment, rather it is about guestimating when opportunities are going to pop up and how to position yourself to take full advantage of them.

Personally, I am beyond 40, so that’s not the joke here. I started up on Facebook last summer after much mental resistance, but I have been surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed it so far. My family moved from my hometown after I graduated from high school, and I never returned afterwards. My career changes and geographic wanderings really cut me off from any attempt to re-connect. Now, though, each week I find a new old friend, and our re-introduction conversations are couched in terms of decades: I haven’t seen him in 30 years, the rowing club I co-founded at Another Prairie University is now 25 years old, I’ve been married for 20 years, that sort of thing. People I didn’t like or didn’t like me 30 years ago, now I communicate with happily and enjoyably. Looking the other direction, some of my local friends have kids in college or heading off to college soon, and it isn’t that much longer until my own kids will be off, so I’m beginning to worry about paying for their educations.

This is an interesting point in my both my professional and personal lives, in that I’m trying to abstract away the passage of time as if it were a variable I can control, yet it is that exact passage that I cannot change and completely shapes my activities.

22 September 2009

Museum Day!

Filed under: Home — biraistiyorum @ 23:22

I encourage you all to take advantage of Museum Day on Saturday, 26 September, when museums all over the US have free admission.

20 August 2009

Let Me Look At My Calendar

Filed under: Consultant Psychology, Funny(?) Story, Home — biraistiyorum @ 23:42

The kids go back to school in a week and a half. I can hardly wait, the reduced productivity of the summertime has been problematic, and I will have my own office in time for next year. The situation this season has been completely untenable.

There is a downside, however: other time demands will increase, and there will inevitably be scheduling conflicts because I need to synchronize separate professional and personal schedules closely. I do not control scheduling in my personal life, I long ago handed over social scheduling responsibilities to my then-girlfriend, now-wife.

There was a little incident that resulted in this surrender of authority. While the facts of the incident are still in some dispute, the outcome is not. Here’s what happened — one Saturday afternoon, a buddy called and suggested we go to a Cubs game. What a fabulous idea, I thought, we’ll just walk to Wrigley Field, maybe have an adult beverage or two, enjoy some grilled brats at a nearby restaurant at some point, and just have wonderful time. That is exactly what we did, and I returned home at 8pm or so a little worse for wear…to find my incredibly angry girlfriend, who, by the way, was incredibly angry with me. In her version of the incident, we were supposed to have had a nice dinner in her apartment with a couple of her friends. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. It was at that point that I made the smartest move of our relationship: I abdicated social scheduling responsibilities to her for the rest of my life.

7 August 2009

Plan 9 from Outer Space

Filed under: Consultant Economics, Home, Parameters, Professional Stuff — biraistiyorum @ 16:45

My recent office space exploration highlighted to me the great extent to which technology has changed my work. I don’t say this as a forty-something-year-old trying to come to grips with newfangled mobile devices, but rather as someone who has been an early/active user of technology, so the change has been so incremental that I never really recognized the full scope of it.

I first learned computer programming about 30 years ago: FORTRAN on punch (aka Hollerith) cards via mainframes, then BASIC on audio cassettes via TRS-80 computers, then BASIC on 8″ floppies via TRS-80 III computers (official motto: “Now with 64k RAM!”). I wrote my own stock market game in BASIC, as well as a program to schedule altar boys for Sunday services at my church.

In college, I was one of a handful of advanced students in a finance/investments course who learned how to analyze and plot data using Lotus 1-2-3, and then for two summers I worked nightshift (6pm-2am) computer operations mostly making backups of an IBM System/34 mainframe with magazines holding ten 8″ floppies (and teaching myself the fundamentals of RPG-II and COBOL).

In my career at a Chicago bank, I helped design and debug PC-based software in the pre-Windows era for electronic money movement of all kinds, using a desktop Compaq Portable II (26lbs, 10MB harddrive) in the office or a Toshiba T5100 laptop (15lbs, no battery) for the road; for demonstrations on marketing/sales calls, we used ‘the coffin,’ as we called the huge/heavy projecter that was then state-of-the-art. I also had one management position in the very early 1990s that involved beta-testing document scanning/storage as well as telephony that would call up the customer’s record on the screen of the service agent receiving the call. In one way or another, most of my professional career was built around different ways to electronically exchange information and value, eliminating the need for paper documents and manual processing.

After moving away from developing business applications using computer technology, I did maintain a bit of my geekiness — I prefer PCs because I can play around with the hardward/software guts of them, I use keyboard combinations in programs instead of the mouse, and I’ve been a big fan of freeware like Eudora, Opera, Firefox, Thunderbird, etc…for example, I had a Windows 98 machine at home when I bought my first iPod, which forced me to install USB ports and then when iTunes wouldn’t work to find/download a freeware driver patch that would let me use the iPod via the PC. I have always been careful and frugal about my technology purchases, and have had one PC or another at home for about 20 years now. My first cell phone was one of those ‘bag phones,’ which we bought one summer because my wife was driving four hours to visit me on the weekends while I did language study at another university. My current phone is pretty old technology, but it’s prepaid and costs me very little every month. I have set up and maintained my own websites for over ten years now, not to mention this blog and other social networking applications. My current laptop is 2GB dual core, weighs 5.5lbs including the battery, and has been tweaked every which way possible.

So, it’s not like this stuff just showed up on my doorstep like a package from the Unabomber.

Thinking now of my present office and out-of-office needs, it is amazing what we can do now. Between my current laptop, thumbdrives, scanning, and electronic documents, I don’t need to maintain a giant library of books or file cabinets of documents. Heck, for that matter, with mobile devices like the Palm Pre (which lets me manipulate documents/spreadsheets), ebook devices like Kindle (which can display PDFs), and client conference rooms with built-in projectors, I could practically leave the laptop at home and not miss a beat — I could keep my phone in my pocket and carry around a folder holding my Kindle and a thumbdrive, in the US or even internationally.

How’s THAT for change over the last 30 years?!

28 June 2009

OMG

Filed under: Home — biraistiyorum @ 21:26

The first half of last week found me backpacking the Ridge Trail at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, possibly the most difficult physical activity I’ve ever done. The first day we had to get up to the ridge from the foot of the mountain, a 2-mile hike up 2200 feet in elevation. It was pretty tough going to begin with, but then the heavens opened up on us for a couple hours, leaving us completely soaked and slogging through mud bogs that used to be trails. We still managed to finish the 8 miles to our first campsite, and we came across enough streams for filtering water that we staved off dehydration. The second day was about 10 miles, we had more rain in the morning, and my leg muscles were cramping a bit by the afternoon. Due to a severe water shortage — hey, there isn’t a lot of running water at the top of mountains! — we cut our third/last day to only 7 miles.

I’ve done plenty of incredibly strenuous physical activity: 10k runs in summer heat, a number of ‘century’ bike rides, and a 4-mile rowing ‘head’ race that I ended with a bout of puking. The cumulative effort on this backpacking trip beats them all.

13 June 2009

Flag This One For Tomorrow

Filed under: Home, Language Fun — biraistiyorum @ 13:41

I’m vex(illology)ed — Maryland or U.S.? I have both, so maybe Maryland today and U.S. tomorrow.

7 May 2009

That Is WAY Too Much Pressure, Man!

Filed under: Home — biraistiyorum @ 22:43

My wife and I have nicknamed our son ‘Tweek,’ after the South Park character of that name who’s jittery and stressed out all the time. My son is still awake at 1030pm, he is not afraid of the dark or anything like that, he just doesn’t like being the last one awake in the house (possible genetic contribution from my sister, thanks a lot!).

The nickname came about recently not because my son is over-caffeinated or ADD like Tweek, but because when this issue first came up a few weeks ago, he said, “I can’t be the last one awake, that’s too much pressure to go to sleep!” It was all we could do to keep from bursting out laughing.

It’s usually not an issue, as I am often up late working, but I have to get up early tomorrow and really really want to go to sleep.

4 May 2009

Shelob

Filed under: Home — biraistiyorum @ 23:43

Damn, I killed the biggest spider this morning…for those of you not at home during the day, you’d be very surprised at what comes out to roam around when it’s quiet.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.