Trouble In Paradise?

Whenever you’re trying to deliver a valuable system, you realize just how nice it is to have more margin. Civil Engineers design projects to account for the 100-year flood. But what happens when that 100-year flood occurs two years in a row? That’s when everyone becomes a civil engineer without the training! KenChristensen.com is hosted with a small start-up hosting company called Harvest Clouds. If you look at the website, you’ll see we need to work on our own website. While we designed our systems to withstand the information equivalent of the 100-year flood, we were hit by the perfect storm. One thing led to another, and our systems did not react gracefully, or as intended.

Always Learning Lessons

At the beginning of lawn mowing season, I was not looking forward to doing that job myself. Oh, I needed the exercise, and that part is good for me. What I wasn’t looking forward to was the time it would take coupled with what it would do with my allergies. I’ve been fine on the allergy front so far, and I’ve gotten to the point where I actually look forward to the hour that it takes me to mow our lawn. I’ve used it to listen to podcasts which I’ve recently discovered.

Yesterday while mowing the lawn, I listened to one of Michael Hyatt’s early podcasts. The gist of what he was talking about is a concept I was very much familiar with. That concept is under promise and over deliver. What jumped out at me as I was walking in monotonous rows back and forth in my yard was his take on letting people know about your goals. I immediately thought of telling all of you what my intentions were for May, and what I intended to do in June. He used Apple as an example. Sure there are leaks about upcoming products, but for the most part, you don’t find out what the product, or software is until they announce it to the public, and then it is usually available that day. Michael said that it is fine to share goals with key people to keep you accountable, but sharing the goal with the world can have two unwanted outcomes. The first being that you fall short of the goal, and the second is that you are not as driven to complete the goal, or it becomes too monumental.

Both of these outcomes are not desirable because the result is the same. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”, and if your heart is sick, you might say your heart isn’t in it.

That’s exactly what happened to me. In May, we had a major glitch in our server infrastructure that hosts this site. That wouldn’t be a distraction if we were not responsible for hosting the site, as well as the sites of several clients. Instead our focus shifted from creativity to problem solving. We don’t like to just fix a problem without making it less likely that the problem will reoccur, so that meant our focus was now on understanding the cause of the problem and eliminating that.

As if that wasn’t enough, the company where we host our server had infrastructure problems of their own in June. A major switch upgrade didn’t go as planned. So we continue to step up our efforts at finding a long term solution. We have that, and now we are working on a transition of our own.

However, in light of this post, we’re not going to get into more details until after this is all done. We’re going to take a page out of Apple’s book, and make the announcements once everything is in place.

Look for more information coming soon!

I Have a Dream

Watch this, then read my comments.

If you are like me, then that was a very worthwhile 20 minutes or so– and that’s not just because I’m an Apple fan.

It got me to thinking about my own personal “Why”, and my own personal dream.  In the days ahead, I intend to watch this video clip a few more times.

Did anyone else catch my other favorite company featured as a failure?  TiVo, is the standard I judge every DVR against, yet they were, and are not profitable.  I think I know why, but they never asked me!  Nor did they ask Simon Sinek.  It is really sad that such a great product hasn’t produced financial results for the company, when their product is every much as good as Apple products.  Apple’s stock trajectory was from about $20 at TiVo’s IPO to $349+ today.  TiVo’s trajectory was from just shy of (no doubt reverse split adjusted) $60 to less than $10 today.

As you can see, it is far more important that Why drives How then What.

Technology is Great… When it Works!

This is going to be short. You didn’t think it was possible for me, did you?

I spent the better part of the day trying to make life easier for my wife. Let me set the stage. She posts the same information to a blog, Facebook, our website, and Twitter. I am working with tools that make it possible to publish the blog, and have it update Facebook and Twitter. You would think that would be simple with Google’s Blogger, however it is not.

Now, I have my blog on a personally hosted WordPress site. I’m writing this post on my WordPress iPad app. And we will see if the posting to Facebook works.

If it does, it will be one victory for “open source” (WordPress), and one for “closed” (Apple’s iPad)

Anyone want to guess where Google and Facebook are on open or closed?

Stop Spending, Start Saving!

Unless you choose to put your head in the sand, it should be clear that we have created a problem of immense proportions.  Many of us, as individuals are in debt beyond what we can bear.  And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, we are in debt as a country beyond human comprehension.  Many, who see this problem compound it by trumpetting this debt as foreign debt.  While large chunks of it are, United States citizens either directly or through various mutual and other funds own a huge amount of that debt.  So I will acknowledge that is isn’t all foreign, or as big a problem with foreign influence as some will attempt to scare people with.

Let me be emphatically clear, however; that there are natural laws in place which no government on earth, powerful as it may be, can forever circumvent.

That natural law is that the borrower is servant to the lender.  Our Federal Government seems to forget that.  Oh, I know, we’ve eliminated slavery and forced labor here in the United States.  We’re the “land of the free, and home of the brave” after all.  Really?  No, not really!  Not until the United States owes less than it could pay off if it decided to do so, would it truly be free.  Until then, the United States is servant to its lenders.  And we, as citizens of this country, are not truly free either.  Our rugged individualism is eroding, and we are accepting dependence, if not outright reliance, on a growing, wasteful and inefficient government.

If you think that we can continue on this course without consequence, then you have not considered reality.  Do you think it isn’t possible to have a revolution in this country?  That we are too civilized?  Do you really think that the United States can afford another foreign war?  Or, a war within?  Where does war fit into this equation, you may ask?  Well, if China is not paid on the debt they own, would you put it past them to attack us?  Their military strength is growing.  Their population alone dwarfs the United States, so they could afford stunning human casualties.  To those who say our Federal Government would never default on it’s debt, may I remind you that the Federal Government forced the debt holders of General Motors to accept pennies on the dollar for their loans.  Is it any wonder that people and investors are hesitant to loan money, when the government seems willing to step in and force immense losses?  What’s to prevent our government from saying $14 trillion dollars of debt is really only $14 million dollars of debt, causing everyone who holds the debt to lose money?  If you say that can’t happen, then you haven’t looked at quantitative easing.  That’s just a fancy way of saying “printing money”.  If you print enough money, you can make $14 trillion dollars the equivalent of $14 million dollars today.

It is in this context that I share this article from Newsmax.com:

Democrats Play Chicken as Boehner Digs in on Budget

Thursday, 31 Mar 2011 01:27 PM

By David A. Patten and Matthew Belvedere

Michele Bachmann, John Boehner, budget. . .“Between Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and Howard Dean, they let the cat out of the bag, and that’s that the Democrats’ political plan is to shut down government because they think they will benefit from doing that. Now we know that, if the government shuts down it’s not the tea party’s fault, it’s the Democrats’ fault, because they’ve made a decision they’re not interested in compromise. They just want to see the government shut down,” Backmann tells Newsmax. . . .

© Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Please click the link above and read the entire article.  Newsmax copyright policy limits a quote to 75 words or less, and we try to follow the rules around here.

One quote in particular caught my eye.

Boehner said he is glad that activists remain involved. But he cautioned that Republicans control just “one-half of one-third of the government here in Washington, we can’t impose our will on another body, we can’t impose our will on the Senate.” – Newsmax.com as above.

 

While this is true, “we the people” need to remind our elected officials that they derive their power from the consent of the governed, not from the position that they hold.

So, getting to the point of this post, let me address what it is that we need to do.  We need to stop spending at all levels.  We need to learn to make do with what we already have.  We need to learn to spend within our means, not outside of it just to keep up appearances.  Then, once all of that is under control, we need to start saving.  Now, if you’re like me, and I suspect you are, you are thinking that means more cuts in spending.  That’s right.  You have to cut spending even more to be able to afford to save.  Why go through this pain?  Why is it important to start saving, and not just be satisfied that debt is being paid down?  I’m glad you asked.  Saving not only forces you to spend less, it makes you wait for a major purchase.  It doesn’t mean you never make the purchase, it just means you have to wait.  Saving means that your entire outlook changes.  Instead of paying for things later, you pay for them before you buy them.

I’m going to interject a personal example here.  Almost 9 months ago now I purchased an iPad.  In the past, I would have gotten it right away if I wanted it.  I would have made all sorts of rationalizations about how I really needed it, when in reality, I just wanted the latest cool thing from Apple.  In this case, I waited for some time, partially because I really wanted to have an iPad with a camera.  However, there was another more important reason.  I actually assessed how I used my then current MacBook.   I realized that it spent most of its time tethered to an external monitor.  In other words it was essentially an iMac.  Upon further thinking, I realized that when I was using the MacBook as a laptop, I was primarily surfing the web, or checking e-mail.  Those are two things that the iPad is perfect for.  So, as a pragmatic step to get me to the point where I could replace my MacBook with an iMac, I went with an iPad.  Going this route put off a $2,000 purchase by at least a year, and only cost $800, a savings of $1,200.  Well, the reality is the savings is actually much higher.  I’ve shaved weight off of what I carry between home and the office each day.  Once we started thinking like this, we actually figured that we could rearrange  our existing iMac computers to put off a new purchase even longer.  That’s te good part about a Mac.  The only reason you feel the need for a new one, is if you make the mistake of using a new one and you see that faster is possible.  Otherwise, these things run circles around PCs.  My apologies to my friends who still think PCs are better, I know how hard it can be to admit there could be something better!

As you might be able to gather from my personal example, we didn’t stop spending altogether.  We simply didn’t go and get everything I wanted.  We figured out how to get more productivity out of what we already had, and how to extend the life of what we already had.  Some would even say if we wanted to save money, we should buy PCs instead.  At the risk of going down a rabbit trail, the cost savings on hardware is real.  However, after supporting Windows based PCs for over 20 years, and dealing with sudden an unexplained inability to find network printers, and other devices, sapping hours of productivity, it is refreshing to now deal with the occasional lost file.  Lost, not because it’s gone, but rather it was used on a different computer.  If it’s just a file, I can connect to every single Mac we own securely over our Virtual Private Network (VPN), and mount those hard drives on my own Mac, and search.  Or, if I don’t want to mount drives, I can log in to those Macs remotely and control the remote machine.  It works every time, unlike my Windows experience.  See, I told you it was a rabbit trail.

Before this becomes so long it takes two sittings to read, let me tie all of this together.  I started by talking about our personal, and then national debt problem.  We need to take responsibility for our own debt first, and then tackle the debt on a national basis.  That would be ideal.  However, we do not have that luxury.  We need to tackle both simultaneously.  If, our Federal government drops the ball and doesn’t reign in spending, then it will become even more important that we address our own debt issues.  Just as the Federal government wants to kick the can to the next generation and the next, we too want to put off paying for things today.  Part of us hopes we can pay off our debt with inflated dollars.  The only problem is that in so many other places our inflated dollars are buying less and less.  This is why we must demand the painful fiscal medicine, even though it will not taste good, feel good, or be enjoyable.  We must demand it or we will die a slow and painful death from 14 trillion microscopic paper cuts.

At Long Last!

It is about time I posted to my blog. There are a number of things that have happened between the last post and this one.

  1. Our store has been open for over a year now! Cafe Crop, for those who are interested.
  2. My workload has grown to say the least.
    1. I am in charge of operations for Cafe Crop, which means I have to make sure everything is working up to Tina’s expectations. For those of you who know Tina, she’s a remarkable worker. She even works hard playing… so is it really hard to imagine how much my workload has increased?
    2. I am working on the next steps of our strategy for growth in areas outside of scrapbooking.
    3. I am working with a team of guys on a new venture currently seeking significant investment in order to pursue the creative vision of the company founder.
  3. In order to maintain some balance in our lives, I stepped out of serving as the Bethel Choir Sound Engineer, and my rotation on the Bethel Sound Team.  This was a tough decision, because I really enjoy using the gifts God has given me to serve the church.  However, I became convinced that God also created the seasons of our lives for a reason, and I needed a season away.
  4. Finally, as is evidenced by my lack of posting, I need to also become more organized and efficient with my use of time, so that I can document my life.  Why is that important you ask?  Well, all too often, we get going too fast, and we get ahead of God when we do.  Part of posting to my blog is an opportunity to step back and see how God is continuing to work in my life.  By not posting, I could be sending the erroneous message that God is doing nothing.
  5. As if having one blog to keep up with wasn’t enough, I am about to embark on another one.  Coming in March, 2011, will be a blog chronicling my investment outlook and current strategy and results.  This blog will consist of two parts.  A free part, and a more in-depth paid access part.  Why would you want to pay for more in-depth access to my thoughts on investing, and what I’m currently doing?  Well, this will be an honest assessment of what worked, and what did not.  It is my hope that you can learn from my efforts, not repeat the same mistakes, and be able to act quickly on what is working.

Thank you for following my blog.  I look forward to getting back in the saddle of writing in my blog.  One last technical thing.  We’ve switched to a new server, and that process took much more time than it should have.  I discovered that domain guard sends the required e-mail into virtual purgatory, and as a result the process took months instead of days!

My next post will be on a favorite topic of mine.

Lessons Learned, and Applied!

In order for this to make any sense at all, I need to explain a few things relating to technology.  Sprint has a device called a MiFi that creates a personal wireless hotspot for laptop computers.  It bridges the gap between the cellular network, and computers and allows you to check e-mail and surf the web from anywhere you can get a cell signal.  Sprint’s new 4G phone, the HTC EVO does the same thing, on top of being a phone.  This 4G phone is about as popular in the Sprint world as the iPhone 4 is for AT&T.  When I went to get one to replace something that wasn’t working, I was 14th on a waiting list for the device.

Now I need to warn you, technology is about to turn into theology.  Yes, surprise surprise theology has something to say through technology if you’re looking for the application, and don’t dismiss life’s events as pure coincidence.

While it seems like just yesterday, it was probably more like several months ago now, Pastor Steve DeWitt spoke about hanging on to our possessions with a loose grip.  I remember thinking that this was one area of my life where I did a fairly decent job.  After all, what do I have that isn’t ultimately from God?  And, I won’t be able to take any of it with me when I die.

Time passed.  Then, Thursday I had the opportunity to give up “my” Sprint MiFi so the Coldstream team could take it with them.  Granted it wasn’t a very big sacrifice, because WiFi is in so many places.  But as is often the case, my thoughts turned to “what if we need it in the next couple of weeks?”  I chose the loose grip, but honestly it really wasn’t as easy as it should have been.  I resigned to trust God… novel thought, eh?

Then, Friday, I got a call from Sprint that the EVO phones had come in, and they had gotten to my name on the list.  How fortuitous was that?  If I was the only one involved, fortuitous indeed.  But I wasn’t.  God had a hand in it, and I got to have a front row seat for the show, namely, that he will provide in his way in his time.  Now, all I need to remember is to apply the “loose grip” to everything!  It really boils down to “who do you trust?”

How hard is it for you to hold on to the things God has given you with a loose grip?