On The Move

An unusually beautiful early morning in Cleveland on Thursday. Clouds were scattered against the blue sky and the skyscrapers. Felt good to be alive walking in, especially after the brisk early morning motorcycle ride.

Time passes. I try to write a few minutes each day. But often I fall short. So the days run together and turn into weeks and months. And we move through our lives. Work consumes a massive amount of energy and time. I am fortunate that I don’t hate my work. I am mostly good at it and that provides some validation that I have something to offer of value. It’s not the work exactly that is difficult–it’s more the constraints imposed by work. We would be better served to have a work schedule that was more like 3.5 days/week instead of 5. Or even 3 days. 40% – 50% of our time, but no more. But leverage has never been consistently on the side of rebel employees. No matter how good you are, the person paying the bills ultimately has more control.

I saw a homeless man this morning walking in from the parking lot where I leave the motorcycle while I am working. He was grimy and dirty. But he walked completely erect and in a really dignified manner. He stared straight ahead and had a slight smile and it struck me that he would have looked completely at ease in casual Ralph Lauren gear strolling along the streets of Monaco or Paris. It was an interesting and stark dichotomy. We’re told that many of the homeless suffer from some sort of mental illness. This guy looked sane as hell.

Every few years I get a good scare on a motorcycle. Last week it came. Some son-of-a-bitch pulled out in front of me. Hard. I hollered (couldn’t get to my horn fast enough). His intention was not clear–he appeared to be crossing the street but then suddenly, when he finally saw me, instead turned a hard left. I locked up the brakes and veered right. Thank god for German engineers and ABS. I had a short split-second to decide whether to lay down or ride it out and decided the latter. The dude made his left and I steered up on the sidewalk on the right side of the street. As he drove off, the guy made some sort of hand gesture. I don’t think it was the bird, I think it was a half-baked gesture of apology but he did not slow down.

I sat on the bike for a couple of minutes on the sidewalk and collected myself. Bit of a rush. Then I rode down the sidewalk to the next corner and back onto the street.

There are certain streets in Cleveland, and most cities actually, that a motorcycle just should not be on. There are certain areas of the city where the drivers are just so fucking bad that they cannot be trusted to make sensible choices. In this area of Euclid, everyone is texting or fucking with their phone while driving. Or maybe they are high or drunk or both. But some areas just seem to have different driving laws. I constantly see cars blow red lights. Or when they come to a stop sign, they just sort of slow down and deliberately ease on out into traffic with complete confidence the oncoming cars will slow down to let them in. Super aggressive driving. People driving 65 and 70 in 35 mph. Red lights and stop signs are treated as guidelines not laws. It’s nerve wracking in a car, but complete hell on a motorcycle.

And I know better, but I wanted a different route than my usual Lakeshore. Aside from the insane driving, I like to roll through these vibrant lesser neighborhoods where life is lived outdoors and completely transparently. 

Anyway. Life and perhaps death on a motorcycle. It was the beemer. Great fucking bike and very reactive. 

I should probably wear a helmet more often. I’m a good rider, but not perfect. I need to be 100% present on the bikes. No daydreaming or thinking about work or hiking the AT or sailing the med or visiting MYO. Full on attention to what everyone around me is doing. I saw this guy was full of shit and watched closely as he rolled through the stop sign, and while I thought he would see me and pull back, he did so only at the very last minute and after I hollered at him. I need to anticipate the worst in drivers, not the reasonable. 

Back in Columbus this weekend just past. Looking for a place to live. My search is complicated by my constant companion uncertainty. Uncertainty about what I want. Build my dream home in the country where I can have a few small goats and chickens? Small condo in the city where I can walk to good pubs and bookstores and coffeeshops? Little place in the near suburbs on a tree-lined street with good access to the highways? Who fucking knows. I know I don’t want to buy right now because of the uncertainty and because the market is crazy at the moment. I spent yesterday looking at some places to rent. Brittany was good enough to tag along.

We had a couple of nice relaxing evenings at Easton.

Amazingly, several major real estate companies were not working on Saturday. It just sure seems like this is the day that most people are able to devote time to things like looking for a home. One lady at a rental office was fucking rude as hell and made it seem like we were out of line for knocking on their locked rental office door, even though the sign said they were open on Saturdays. She did come unlock the door and inform us that viewings were by appointment only. That information was not posted on their door or on their website. She of course claimed COVID as the culprit even though nearly every other business is finding ways to move on. I have noticed lots of businesses seem to be using COVID now as an excuse to provide a sub-par customer experience. Maybe it’s just easier than applying a little creativity to finding a safe way to transact business.

Anyway, I do not yet have a place. But will keep searching. I am definitely going to rent until I get a more clear view of what I really want to do. I am actually hopeful that I can find a few wooded acres somewhere to build a small place one day. But that feels like a few years out.

And I am also not sure what work looks like in the near future. I had good conversations with several companies last week. We are still in talks. Doing the dance. Discussing my joining them either as an FTE or 1099. We’ve discussed both and I am sort of okay with either option. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. But things will work out. It’s always a bit complicated getting through this phase. Different companies with different cultures and different projects. My nature is to take on complicated things that force me to learn new things. This was my first real estate gig and so that network is alive now and two of the organizations I’m talking to are real-estate focused. But the other is my old friend in health care industry. First project might be in southern California, which is cool because I have not been there much lately and it is nice. But a long fucking flight every week. Other jobs in New York with another company. They are of course talking to other people just as I am doing. So we dance a few dances with one another before deciding who to go home with. Go too early and who knows what is left on the table. What fun is being missed. Wait too long and some dance partners may leave the party and we all know what happens when you are one of the last few there.

Testing is in full swing at work. The usual issues, drama, chaos, last minute emergencies and general anxiety with witnessing how the systems will hang together and how quickly we can fix defects and thinking about day 1 and the risk of turning off a fully functioning system that is running a multi-billion dollar company and firing up a new suite of applications that now must take the load going forward. Our baby either walks or she stumbles, or even worse, falls flat on her face. She’s either pretty or she’s ugly.

But after one week, so far things are not bad. Not great, but pretty damn good given our timeline and quality of some of our partners.

I was trying to get back to working out and eating more responsibly, but it is crazy hard to maintain discipline during testing. We have breakfast and lunch every day, bowls of candy and chocolate in every room and happy hours and dinners most nights. So today I was going to skip food until evening meal–my normal 24 hour fast that I often do during steady state. But at 9 my boss brought me a toasted everything bagel with cream cheese. WTF? When your boss brings you a toasted bagel, you eat it dummy. So that’s that.

We did a preliminary budget review last week. We are tracking to within 5% of approved budget. For a project this big and this complex, that is a big win. We still have a few levers to pull to get within budget, but even at 5% over it is a solid project. 75% of projects this size go more than 20% over budget and do not hold their timeline. We are within striking distance of both. But the executives do not have the insight or experience the few of us who do this for a living have, and their pressure to stay under the approved budget is significant. From their perspective, it is not an unreasonable sentiment. But with history as a guide and just understanding how many moving parts there are in a program of this size, I feel great about our current spend and projection to finish.

The idea that 15 months ago we could have anticipated every cost and nuance of plugging in 4 new applications with 4 different vendors and over 100 people working on the program is a stretch. If we made a single big mistake, it was not asking for a contingency. But we embarked on this at the beginning of COVID and everyone was scared to death about what was happening with the economy and we got relentless pushback for every cost. But it is the way these things go and we will adapt. As the contractor, it will be my job to take more of the hits than the others. They are permanent employees and need to protect their jobs and their relationships. 

Either way, barring some major technological glitch or some other unforeseen circumstance, we seem to be headed for a good delivery of a complicated program. I am a part of a very good team. So I will accept my share of the credit and my share of the responsibility for the cost over-run, but a big part of our success is the talent and commitment of the internal teams here. For the most part, truly good professionals and great people. 

We had dinner with the CFO and COO last night along with the executives of our lead implementation partner. We sort of socialized the idea that we may come in a little high on costs due to multiple change orders and no one seemed too bothered. I did however call one of our partners’ employees a dick at the dinner table, as we were talking through some of the more difficult elements of the project. He wasn’t there, he is meant to fly in this week, but he is a dick and is causing us grief so I needed to convey to them that his uncooperative nature is not appreciated. I think the message was heard.

No other news of note.

Humbly submitted.

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