All posts by Holden

About Holden

Holden is a really groovy guy. By day a Management/IT Consultant, by night a wiper of his children's asses and regular in group fitness classes.

24 hours in the car with three women

This past week I went on a splendid vacation to south Florida. I don’t say that being sarcastic or facetious. It was a great trip and thanks to my job and all the frequent traveler points I get, I didn’t have to pay for the hotel or rental car to get there.

The weather was perfect, the beaches were pristine, my kids were for the most part very well behaved and my wife even looked damn fine in her bikini. But after 12 hours of driving each way and seven straight days with my wife and kids, I am exhausted. I want to run for the hills.

Family is a tough proposition for me. I struggle with all this dependence these three girls have on me. I struggle with having so little free time, so little time to think or just be quiet with myself.

My wife asked me recently when I’ll quit my current job, which requires I travel four days a week about three weeks of each month on average. She would like me to take a job that keeps me home. She asked me how I stood dealing with packing, getting on airplanes, endlessly switching projects and getting a completely new boss, set of teammates and place of work every four months or so.

I smiled at her and said I’d look into it but in my mind, how can I ever leave my job? It is my only refuge, my only source of sanity and peace. It is the cornerstone that keeps me intact, the pressure release valve that makes it possible to endure the stress of living with three females.

My job is my legitimate permission to run the hell away a few days and come back renewed.

Is this why history is littered with tales of men running off to war, sailing off into the sunset on long voyages or volunteering to partake in long exhibitions that take them far away for months or even years on end?

Perhaps I am not as much of a monster as I feel I am. Perhaps, I am just your run of the mill, red blooded, bearded and hairy chested man.

Perhaps it is now time to go crack open a cold beer, put on some headphones and block out the fuzz for a while.

-Holden

Legalized Marijuana will Sweep the Nation!

I predict that pot will be more or less legal most everywhere in the very near future. Why? Because cash is king.

In January, the state of Colorado collected $2 million in recreational pot taxes and $1.5 million in medical marijuana taxes. What state can resist that cold hard cash? It is just waiting to be taken.

Do any of us really believe that marihuana being illegal is stopping anyone from getting high? Hell, I’m a law abiding, tax paying, white collar schmuck and even I know two people I could personally call up and get a dime bag from if I really cared to.

I predict that eventually, even the most socially conservative of states will give way, even if it is a medical marijuana cop out where they’re pretending to be hard on drug use, but still want to collect at least a few dimes from all those dime bag transactions!

2014-03-18 11_35_19-Colorado collects $2M in recreational pot taxes - Yahoo News

Need convincing? Look no further than Lynchburg, TN, home of Jack Daniels!  Lynchburge is a dry city. You can’t buy Jack Daniels in the town it is made. But Jack Daniels still produces barrel after barrel of whiskey and you can buy bottles of Jack Daniels from their overpriced gift shop!

Why? Because cash is king! Jack Daniels produced millions in tax revenue every year. Who can resist all that green?

Weed will be legal soon enough, if for no other reason than collecting a few more tax dollars.
http://news.yahoo.com/colorado-collects-2m-recreational-pot-taxes-212356027–finance.html

-Holden

Maybe its time for Government to raise Min Wage

Over on one of my favorite blogs, journalist Phil Ebersole has wrote extensively about minimum wage.  Here’s a few recent thoughts on the subject.

My gut tells me government shouldn’t meddle in wage or price fixing. Let the market sort it out. I also feel like opening the door to such a debate would only serve to hurt smaller businesses or worse, open some sort of economic Pandora’s Box. But then I was reminded of past lessons from my grad student days.

When I was in business school, we were taught that it is the nature of a business and even more importantly, its duty to its stakeholders to maximize value.  What the value is, is determined in the corporate mission statement and by the stakeholders themselves.

In the case of most corps, value is profit and stakeholders are those who own the stock/equity of the company, or further those who work for and rely on the company one way or another

In business school, I was also taught that is was pretty much the government’s job to play referee. It isn’t the business’ job to play good guy or make the call as to what serves the public good , but to maximize value for its stakeholders.

If this is what they teach in mainstream, MBA classes and this appears to be the prevailing attitude of big business, I say maybe government does need to be more involved as much as I hate to say it.

The issue of Minimum Wage seems little different than EPA or Anti-trust regulations at this point. If there is no oversight, abuse happens. The power of the common man has been decentralized, party through a poorer/evolving economic environment but also through the ineffectiveness, corruption  and increasingly unpopularity of labor unions. The average laborer has very little power in most cases and no sort of unified voice.

Now find ourselves in a bit of a David vs Goliath situation. And just like in the Biblical story, the only way David will ever have a snowball’s chance in hell of beating Goliath is thanks to intervention from a higher power.

-Holden

Things Dying People say they Regret

The sure sign of a crap blog is one that is plagued with posts titles that have numbers in them. “10 things you can do today to jump-start your career!” – “25 fat melting foods” – “15 ways to tell is your spouse is cheating”.  BLAH BLAH BLAH!

Today I just so happened to come across a blog post of this type that provoked a bit of thought and maybe added a little value to my life. The post I’m referring to is: Here Are The Top 37 Things Dying People Say They Regret. Learn From It Before It’s Too Late.

I just turned 31, and as someone who is in the sweet spot between youth and middle age, being a good bit wiser than a 20 something but also wise enough to realize there is so much more I can learn from my elders. This makes for the optimal time to change where needed.

Here’s the items on this list that I’ve personally already recognized as possible regrets down the road and proactively taken actions to not regret them in time.

Not traveling in my youth. Atty and I were talking about this on our road trip a few weeks back. It is important to make traveling and exploring a priority when you’re young because as you grow older, responsibility only piles on and I think these experiences really enrich a young person and give them a nice foundation to build on as we age.

Staying in a bad relationship. I almost married my high school sweetheart once upon a time. Luckily she cheated on me with two of my best friends and foiled it all. Thank you so much for that Patricia. Seriously. Thank you.

Seeing your favorite musicians live. I’m proud to say I have seen nearly every band that I love in the flesh at least once. The only ones still on my bucket list to date are A Perfect Circle, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Rage Against the Machine.

Being afraid to do things. I have a strong “Fuck it, let’s have an adventure today” mentality. Sometimes to my detriment. Case in point, the time Atty and I crashed a black fraternity party on a riverboat, without tickets of course. We were the only white boys in the room.

Making physical fitness a priority. There is no joy in being overweight or out of shape. You don’t enjoy looking at yourself, you run out of breath easily, have less energy and as you age, life becomes exponentially more challenging and plagued with other health issues.

Letting yourself be defined by gender roles. Screw that! I’m doing some Pilates today after my spin class. See you there ladies!

Not quitting a terrible job. I quit my first job after college ever… after four years of torture and going nowhere. The next one was terrible too. I got myself fired from that one. Lesson learned. Quit wasting your time in shit work.

Spending your youth being self-absorbed. I used to have a big problem with craving attention. Now if I have an opinion to express, I try to do it here anonymously on a blog no one reads. The rest of the time, I try to realize NO ONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT WHAT I HAVE TO SAY!

Caring too much about other’s opinions. Easier said than done. Still working all the time to respectfully not give a damn.

Holding grudges. I used to have a few against people like my mother and father in law. Let it go. It’s a time, thought and energy waster, and as soon as you do let it go, you won whatever argument you were having anyway.

Missing the chance to talk to grandparents before you die. This should actually be, missing the chance to talk to my dad more before he dies. I’ve recently recognized this and need to take action.

Refusing to let friendships run their course. I used to try too hard to make false friendships last. Sometimes, once the thing we had in common goes away (be it a job, school, going to the same gym, etc) we have nothing left to say to each other anymore. Let it be. Don’t take it personal. Facebook friend them and call it a day.

Check out the post and reflect on it. I found it pretty entertaining and thought provoking.

-Holden

The Real Nelson Mandela

I really enjoy listening to Cornel West speak. While I don’t agree with all his politics, I do think he is brilliant, endlessly entertaining and has a fiery spirit that has unfortunately been all but stomped out and placated in most members of American society.

Cornel West did an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN recently, and as always did not fail to entertain or raise a few eye brows. West said that we were witnessing the “Santa Claus-ification” of Mendela’s legacy. He went on to proclaim that we had “turned the revolutionary into an old man -  a huggable old man with toys and a bag, smile on his face, no threat to anybody, domesticated, tame. And no longer really full of the fire.”

Cornel West is absolutely correct.

The mainstream news will rarely mention this, but up until a few years ago Nelson Mandela was on the United States Terrorist Watch List.  And historically, the US didn’t exactly look favorably on Mandela. In fact, during the 80’s, President Reagan placed Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) party on America’s official list of terrorist organizations. But we don’t seem to hear a lot about that now. Instead we hear about President Obama taking selfies with Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt during the memorial service or Senator Ted Cruz’s Facebook page blowing up because right wingers hate anything anti-‘merican.

I’m just a little bit disappointed of the media coverage of Mandela’s funeral, the shallow commentary on his life and that so many Americans are so short sighted and stuck in their lame duck train of thought.

A very brief look at Mandela’s early activism

Scanning Wikipedia, we see that Mandela was born into an African royal family and was able to go on to attend Fort Hare University then the University of Witwatersrand, where he studied law. After studying law, we became politically active, joining the ANC party. As a member of the ANC party, he served as a lawyer and was repeatedly arrested.

In the beginning, Mandela followed the rules. He played it strait, by the book. He took the path of non-violence, and it got him nowhere. After spending over 10 years fighting peacefully for change and seemingly getting nowhere but arrested over and over, he turned to more radical measures.

While in college and thereafter, Mandela became more and more influenced by communist and socialist thinking. He had many socialist and communist friends and became increasingly inspired by other revolutions and movements that had taken place like Castro’s 26th of July Movement in Cuba.

In 1961, Mandela founded a militant group (MK) and in association with the South African Communist Party, led a sabotage campaign against the apartheid government. This ultimately led to his imprisonment and a 27 year sentence in jail.

My Take on Nelson Mandela

Many Americans are quick to look at Mandela and label him negatively as a terrorist and communist. And why shouldn’t we, we are taught to think this way after all. Communism will destroy our entire way of life if we don’t stomp it out and terrorists are always lurking in the dark, looking for ways to kill us.

I see it much differently. Yes, Mandela was a socialist/communist and yes, Mandela did say that his armed forces (MK) would resort to guerilla warfare and terrorism if need be (at least according to Wikipedia which points to a citation to a book I don’t own), but understand that he lived in a world of complete injustice.

Consider what Mandela and his fellow man endured, a world where a foreign nation had swooped in and taken over, removing natives from their foreign lands, relocating them to slums. A world where it was illegal for blacks and whites to intermingle or be married, or where blacks were not allowed to run businesses or hold professional jobs. A world where busses and trains, hospitals and ambulances and virtually everything else was segregated.

Wait… this all sounds so eerily familiar to me…

In the United States, many of our great civil rights leaders took to peaceful protest to effect change, as did Gandhi during the Indian Independence Movement. But Mandela decided to take a more radical approach. Perhaps that is a sign of weakness, perhaps he might not be considered as noble for doing so, but regardless, I understand why he felt as he felt and why he did what he did.

Mandela was sick of injustice and he stood up against it, as did many of his fellow men. Perhaps if Mandela hadn’t been sent off to prison for 27 years, we’d have not ever even heard of his name today. Regardless, I understand why he did what he did and felt the way he felt. I would have felt the same.

Quick Final Thoughts

How can so many Americans have such negative things to say about Mandela when we have such a similar history or oppression in this country? Are we really that short sighted? Do we really not comprehend? Perhaps it is so. Perhaps most people are incapable of putting themselves in other’s shoes.

I am not a socialist, communist or radical. But I have never had any reason to be. I have always been relatively happy, healthy and free or injustice and oppression. But if I were in a situation where I was forced into poverty or slavery, oppressed, beaten down, starved and broken, I too could see how I might cling to more radical ideologies. I too can see how I might be led to lash out violently. Is it not a man’s primal instinct to defend his own life after all?

Why is it that so many others appear incapable of considering this?

Check out this other interesting article about Nelson Mandela- Don’t Sanitize Nelson Mandela: He’s Honored Now, But Was Hated Then

-Holden

The New Silk Road- Chinese High Speed Rail to Europe!

Turn on the news and you’ll quickly notice that the same dozen or so stories tend to be circulated amongst the various major news outlets of America. You would assume that our freedom of speech and the proliferation of free data zipping round the world in mere seconds via the internet would result in the public being as educated as ever about… well, everything.  That doesn’t appear to be the case.

The reality is, the average person appears to be ‘not in the know’ more than ever, especially in terms of geo-politics. For example, ask the average American to point out Turkey on a map and you might find that only a little over half can identify it. That was the case with Iraq, when a National Geographic study performed a few years ago revealed that only 63% of participants could find the middle eastern country on a map, despite our long war with the embattled nation.

And speaking of Turkey… have you heard about their new $35 billion dollar joint project with China to build high speed rail across Asia and the Middle East? If you’re an American, probably not. Yet it probably means more to us than anyone.

China to Turkey Train

Look to Asia and you’ll notice that America has implanted itself everywhere in the region. We have a strong foothold in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, and earlier this year Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and President Obama even visited Myanmar (Burma). Surely they weren’t there to enjoy the Buddhist temples or applaud the regime for its long history of upholding human rights were they? I doubt it.

China, and Asia in general is the world’s factory. American politicians love to bemoan the fact that China owns tons of our national debt and people everywhere joke that retailers like Walmart stock their shelves to the brim with Chinese produced products, but the fact of the matter is, we rely on cheap products from China and Asia to allow us to afford our ridiculously luxurious lives at such a cheap price. Hence, the main reason we’ve injected our influence in Asia everywhere we can get a foothold.

But wait, there’s more! Once the line from China to Turkey is complete, the Chinese next plan to complete a line to Spain and another to England as well, with the project being valued at $80 billion total. This would give Europe fast access to the markets of Asia, and China a new place to dump their goods and services at their insanely cheap prices. Think of all that freight coming straight in on high speed rail.

What are the Implications for the United States?

I think what the railway means to the USA is, we get cut out of a lot more deals. We start losing footholds. Maybe it will be good for us in the long run, forcing us to be more competitive in new ways. Who knows, But in the short run, it might shake up markets at the least.

I believe the real implications actually lie a bit deeper below the surface. For example, as part of the new rail deal with China, Turkey is kicking off a slew of new public works projects, including construction of two new power plants. The loans and construction contracts to complete those projects will most definitely come from China.

This is where the real money is to be made and historically this has been our speciality- go into a country, promote economic development, extend loans and foreign aid to these developing nations under the guise of “Nation Building and Breeding American Style Capitalism and Democracy” then stipulate that the work be done by US firms, essentially feeding the cash pumped into the developing nation right back into our coffers.

Are China’s economic hit men suddenly getting a one up on ours? Are they perhaps, starting to beat us at our own game? Only time will tell.

Read the article here: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-277360-turkey-china-mull-35-bln-joint-high-speed-railway-project.html

-Holden

Thoughts on Promptness, Respect & Professionalism

This website isn’t really supposed to be about professionalism, work, career, etc. but today I’m going to write a bit about it anyhow. I encourage you to read on, because I promise you that you will learn a thing or two if you weren’t already aware of these very valuable facts of professional life.

I am a landlord, but I also rent the home I live in. I rent a home because I am still unable to sell my old house compliments of the housing crash in 2009 and the poor location of my house.  My new house is considerably larger, nicer and more expensive than the house I now rent out. You’d think with the nicer digs and higher price tag, you’d get better service. That hasn’t proven to be the case thus far.

When my tenants have an issue, I perform all the maintenance and tend to their needs personally. I’ve worked hard to build rapport and trust with my tenants in hope that they’ll repay my superb service by keeping my house in great shape and paying me in a timely manner.

My new home is managed by a real estate company. I treat this house as if it were my own, but I also recognize that it isn’t my responsibility or even right to fix many things when problems arise. I or my wife call for service only to have maintenance men show up unannounced, late or not at all and even have phone calls not returned from time to time.

Today I blew up a little on the apartment manager after being disappointed in their level of service one time too many. I called her and made my case, pointing out that I had to fix the toilet myself, on my dime, that our attic ladder has been broken for a few weeks now (discovered when moving old boxes of Christmas ornaments to and from the attic) and now we had a dead florescent light fixture in our very dark laundry room.

My problem is not that issues arise, it is that when we request service and appointments are made, they aren’t honored often times. This leads me to one of the golden rules of business and the lesson I want to share.

Respect your customer’s time at all costs!

Of all the things in the world, time is the one thing we most definitely cannot get more of. Each of us get 24 short hours a day to fit all our affairs into. When you tell someone you are going to be somewhere at some time, BE THERE. Not being on time, not communicating effectively when you are unable to meet your commitments and not being respectful of your commitments is blatant disrespect of the person you’re dealing with in my view. This counts in both professional and casual circumstances.

Yes, we all trip up from time to time. Things happen, life gets in the way. But to be a habitual offender and not apologize each time you are unable to make a commitment or appointment is inexcusable to me.

If you personally have issues with being on time, compensate for it. Deal with it. Get a grip with it.  If you can, I promise you that you will gain more support from your peers, be viewed in a better light and go further both personally and professionally.

You will be seen as someone vastly more trustworthy and reliable.

-Holden

Thoughts on Humility and learning from others

A lot of people assume they know best about everything in their world. It comes natural to us. I definitely used to fall into this category in my life.

A few years ago I changed career paths into Information Technology Consulting and my world view changed abruptly. The cool thing about being an IT consultant is, there is always someone better, smarter, more experienced or more knowledgeable than you in any given area. Like life in general, there are simply too many subject areas to cover to be a master of all, if even a single matter.

I know a lot of people who haven’t been lucky enough to get ‘hit in the mouth’ with the realization of just how… how do I put it lightly…. Inexperienced they are. When I say ‘hit in the mouth’ in quotations like that, I refer to being enlightened somewhat shockingly or embarrassingly very suddenly.

Woodstock- the smartest little birdy in the room.

My five year old loves Charlie Brown. Maybe it’s the simple, comical tension between Charlie, Lucy and the other characters, the badass jazz soundtrack, or perhaps the fact that the story lines feel eerily comforting to her. Those are all the reasons I love Charlie Brown.

We were watching Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving special this past turkey day for about the 8th time when my father in law said to my daughter, “I think Woodstock might be the smartest of them all, sweetie”.

He has a point. Woodstock typically doesn’t have much to say. Just a scrappy little bird who can take a good joke, but isn’t afraid to stand up for himself if need be, content to flapping around, observing, and always being a part of the action but still remaining more on the outside looking in.

What if we were all a little more like Woodstock? What is we listened more than we spoke and observed more? How much could we grow as individuals?

Charlie Brown and his gang

Getting to the Point

To be frank, we should all realize we’re insufficient or inexperienced one way or the other. Just as soon as you start to think you know a little something about anything, it is probably time to wipe away part of the slate and re-evaluate.

One of my biggest challenges was learning to remove bias from my train of thought. My way is not always, and is almost never the best. So I’m always looking for someone else to show me a better way. When it starts getting harder and harder to find someone else to look up to or learn from, that is when you know you’re on to something.

Here’s a quick, top 10 list of things I once thought I was pretty damn smart about, that I was proven to actually know shit about:

  1. Parenting
  2. Relationships and Marriage
  3. Information Technology
  4. Professional and Interpersonal Behavior
  5. Economics, Investing and Business
  6. Politics
  7. Human Nature and Morality
  8. God and Religion
  9. Personal Finance and Saving for Retirement
  10. Friendship

What does your list look like?

-Holden

A Tree full of Sentiment

Composing the Christmas tree is a special ritual to my wife. To her, our Christmas tree is a patchwork of memories and sentiments, a mash up of emotions, experiences and feelings.

Every year my wife unpacks our Christmas ornaments and goes through the same dilemma of deciding which ornaments will make the cut to be displayed that holiday season. We have two large Rubbermaid storage containers full of ornaments, very many of them representing a memory… the birth of one of our daughters, a lost grandparent or death in the family, mine and her first Christmas together, or even the occasional ornament from a past relationship or friendship, all of them representing former days both happy and sad.

All filled with ornaments....
All filled with ornaments….

To my wife, these ornaments serve as an archive of her life, a personal museum or perhaps even a time machine of sorts, not dissimilar to a prized volume of family photos. I’m not a very sentimental guy, but I appreciate that she is. I have very little saved from my past to share with others. She makes me question if I should change that.

With two little girls romping around the house, she’s forced to leave most of her prized ornaments hidden away in the safety of bubble wrap and styrofoam for now, except for a few moments each year when she goes through and looks over each one of the relics of her past and recites the story behind most of them.

I think her ritual is rather neat, perhaps a bit whimsical, but always entertaining and a sign that the holiday season is definitely upon us.

Happy Holidays.

-Holden

The Anti-Technology Dad

I work in Information Technology consulting for a living and part of my job is to know tech, even tech I don’t necessarily use on the job. In fact, my company takes this so seriously, they actually give us all a $2000 a year “gadget” fund to spend on electronics if we choose to do so.

I think their intent is to encourage us all to be passionate technologists, in hopes that this will assist us with building rapport and a strong reputations with our clients, who tend to love asking  us what we think about the newest smartphones, tablets and latest versions of Windows/iOs/Android version XYZ.

Despite being engulfed in tech for a living, in my home I try very hard to limit my children’s exposure to technology. My four year old can fire up the Roku box and navigate to her favorite TV shows on Amazon Prime or Netflix with ease, and my two year old can even play simple games on a tablet PC, but I don’t allow them a TV or video games in their room, video game time is limited to how long I feel like sitting next to them and playing with them and TV time is pretty limited as well.

Further, as my children get older I’ve pretty much decided they aren’t getting their own smartphones and computers and only a cell phone once they are old enough to be out and about on their own. I’ve also decided TVs and computers will always be prohibited in the bedrooms unless I find they just have a knack for some sort of coding, development or design where having a computer would actually help them rather than serve as a distraction.

And social media…. Forget about it! I know that will be pretty much impossible to avoid at some point, but I will try to avoid letting my girls use services like Facebook and Twitter as long as possible.

It isn’t that I’m prudish or over protective, or even that I have some sort of belief that TV, video games and internet surfing will rot your brain, lead to obesity, ADHD or some other ailment or deficiency. It is more so that I feel the amount of value all this great technology adds to our lives is very limited and at a certain point, it quickly begins subtracting value!

I have come to this realization from becoming a techno-glutton myself. For a while, my wife and I had a TV in our room, another in the living room, internet TV devices hooked to each, half a dozen different video game systems, tablet PCs and smartphones. Then I realized one day that all we did was sit around looking at screens all day, and worse, my job requires I look at a screen all day as well.

Since then, we are yet to get rid of any of these screens, but I have taken the TVs out of all bedrooms, got rid of a few online services and made it more inconvenient to use all these devices. Lo and behold, we now all get more sleep and have fewer arguments with the kids about going to bed, and my wife and I get a lot more done around the house. We also talk a lot more than we were before.

The next step is to do the same with my downtime at work. Ditch social media and chatting and instead, work on actually learning something with my extra cycles. Then pass on these new, positive habits to my girls.

-Holden