Monday, October 12, 2009

A Second Career


I haven’t ever really wanted to retire. As much as I like my hobbies, and I keep busy, I don’t have any great passion. When I reach the age, and have the ability to stop working, I’ve always wondered what I’d do.

My wife loves her horses. I’ve considered teaching, or even going to help a group like Habitat for Humanity, but nothing really inspired me.

Then a few weeks ago I was at the Elizabeth Food Bank and I felt a pull. I felt like this was something I could do, and more importantly, would want to do.

Sue, who runs the Food Bank, is almost 80 years old, but she goes to work most weeks ensuring that families in our community that are struggling can get food. Even on days where other people are in charge, she and her husband will often drop by and make sure things are running, drop off food, do something.

I’ve had the kids volunteering for scouts, but we’ve completed our requirements and still go. It’s a good feeling, and they like it. And so do I, as it’s inspiring.

Everyone has places they’ll support as a charity, or they should. However the food bank speaks to me, and I plan on getting down there once a month to help out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Community Down South

When I attended SQLSaturday #17 in Baton Rouge, I had no idea who I would see there. There was only one person I knew that was going to attend, so it was an all new experience for me. I've never been to the area, and knew I would meet a bunch of new people.

It's the deep south, a city tucked up above New Orleans, and I have to say it was beautiful. However as I met people, the leader of the group down there, Patrick LeBlanc, really stood out to me. I was surprised by his passion and by his dedication to pushing education out to others.

On Friday night, we had the speaker's event, where a number of volunteers and speakers attended, getting the chance to talk with each other, and share some experiences. As we talked about our jobs, things that made us laugh, things that frustrated us, I was kind of amazed to hear about how much Patrick does for the community down there.

He presents on a regular basis for the user group. Not too many people have volunteered, so he leads meetings, and often digs in to come up with something to present to others. He runs lunchtime Livemeeting events to help those learn that can't come to the in-person meetings. He even taught a course at a local college while working on his own advanced degree.

A lot of things to help others, at times getting frustrated, but never thinking of quitting all these volunteer efforts. He never even mentioned getting benefits back, not even an MVP award from Microsoft. Until someone else mentioned it, I wouldn't have even guessed Patrick knew about it.

Over the weekend, watching him work the event, getting things organized, taking up the slack where needed, even giving an extra presentation when someone cancelled, it really inspired me.

I was so inspired by Patrick's work with the community, and it motivated me to push forward and set up an event in Denver. I've been talking about it, trying to get someone else to run it, but I finally started to push a little after coming back from the event.

A good person, and someone making the world a better place. Patrick LeBlanc is one of those people giving me hope for the world.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Community Man

Recently I was in Richmond, VA for a user group meeting. I had a presentation scheduled for the SQL and .NET groups, who held a combined meeting because I was in town. Thanks to them for that, and I had a great time meeting people and I think they liked the presentation.

However, earlier in the day I had lunch with Andy Leonard. Andy has been a friend for a few years, mostly through our online communications (email, IM, and lately Twitter). You can follow him at @Andy_Leonard and he has a blog at VS Team Systems. He's one of my "go-to" SSIS guys for issues with that subsystem.

We had a long lunch, talking about various things, but one thing stood out to me. He loves the community.

Besides enjoying his work, besides caring for his family, Andy has a great time just helping the community. He's not looking for anything to come back to him, no payment, no great recognition, but he just enjoys helping people.

I know that Andy is awarded his MVP recognition in part because of this, but I get the feeling he'd be doing it even if he didn't get that.

With so many people seeming like they have an agenda, this was refreshing to me.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Different Thinker

My brother is an interesting cat. Spending time with him on vacation, quite a few talks just the two of us, remind me of how different he is from me. He sees the world differently, and he really wants to make it a better place.

As we talk, and he's just started his Physician's Assistant internship, I'm touched by how he laments the lack of time the hospital doctors spend with patients. He is working through the internal medicine group, and so often he spends more time (with the nurses) talking to patients and checking on them. He genuinely knows there are pressures, and the almighty dollar rules, but he's still looking to somehow find time to help people.

The passion comes through as he talks, and that's amazing. Especially as I don't think I have great passion, and it's something I'm not sure I ever will find. I appreciate his, however.

The other day he also wanted to meet at his office, and I think show off a little. I'm glad I agreed as it was impressive to me. It's nothing special, an old stone building built into a hillside in Ellicot City, but a nice reception room, 3 patient rooms, and lots of oriental and Asian or Middle Eastern decoration. He really embraces culture, and more natural, almost mystical healings. It was impressive to me just to see my brother's name on a sign and the door.

He spent a few minutes looking at my wrist, which I injured snowboarding in March. I'd mentioned it a month or so ago, and didn't say anything, but he asked if he could look at it here. He cares, and his desire to help shines through.

It's a different path than mine, and not even what I want, but it is admirable. And it's inspirational in many ways.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Saddened by the need for every day

I run every day. As of this writing, I've been running for 280 days continuously, at least a mile every day, running above 5mph. Having that level of commitment, that drive to tackle something every day, even those days when you don't feel up for it, has taught me something. It's made me realize that this is an obsession, but also that it remains on my mind all the time.

It's a part of my day, and I am ready to rearrange things in my life to accommodate it. It hasn't been a huge impact, but it's there, and it dictates some of what I will and won't do. And it takes priority at times.

Today I got my Monday newsletter from the Libertarian party. The theme of the note was that there is no campaign season, and that a politician needs to think about fundraising every day. They can't take a day off, and they gave an example of that. They called for donations, saying that they can't afford to not raise funds all the time.

I'm also on the Obama list, and I also got a call from the Dems that they needed money as well. I must have been dropped from McCain's list since I haven't seen a GOP mailing in some time.

It's sad to think that fund raising is such an important part of US politics. It's a good reason why we should perhaps have some basic requirements for office and then limit the funds that can be spent by candidates, along with ensuring that there is some level of equal media access. I have not idea how to do that, but I'd like to think there's way.

I have hope that there are people out there that really want to make the world better without needing to personally profit themselves.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Passive Influence

I study karate on a regular basis, and over the years I've practiced a number of different martial arts, most of them in fairly strict in the traditions and routines of student behavior. When I started this new school with me son, it was a lot less strict. That was OK with me, I'm older, and it was a new business with a fellow IT worker leaving his job to pursue his dream of a martial arts school.

Old habits die hard, and I was used to bowing before I moved, before/after kata, and at other times, without exception. Most people in the school only bowed when asked (begining or the end of class, when the teacher mentioned it at the start of kata, before partner drills, etc.) However I bowed every time before I moved to change position, line up, keeping with the routine that had been drilled into me at many places.

After about a year, most people were doing the same thing. Our teacher had noticed, and actually called it out one day. I hadn’t really noticed the others since it wasn't something I cared about. I study for myself, and I've tried to pass that belief on to my son. Our instructor did say that I set an example, and he appreciated that.

By living the way I thought was proper, I’d influenced people. I'm not sure what I take from that, but it did make me realize that our actions change change lives, even passively.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tweeting Before Coffee

It seems like this is shaping up to be a writing/thinking day. I woke up late, about 8, this morning, and with Kendall coming into our room and Tia already using her laptop in bed. I grabbed my laptop, checking on SQLServerCentral to make sure things were working.

While doing so, I checked Twirl to see what was happening in my Twitter-verse. I responded to a few tweets and then posted a "the best part of waking up is coffee in your cup. Need to go make some." Someone then responded with "not out of bed yet?"

A few people went back and forth, and it made me think that I was a  little more motivated for work than I realized.

I came downstairs and found this post on Blogging and intellectual craftsmanship, which seems to fit me. The inability to separate my personal life from my professional one has worked well for me. It's quoted in the post: “the most admirable thinkers within the scholarly community you have chosen to join [in this case sociology] do not split their work from their lives. They seem to take both too seriously to allow such dissociation, and they want to use each for the enrichment of the other”. I found the source essay here.

I thought that was very interesting, and it made me stop for a minute. In some ways I am a tiny bit of a sociologist. I read and comment on things, on events, and actions, talking often from the social and human side of things. It's editorializing, but I try to bring more to the link or event with my own thoughts and comments.

And I often draw on my own experiences in order to do so. The separation from my personal life to the professional is thin, sometimes non-existent.

As I finished his essay, thoughts of it still lingering as I moved on with me day, I read an essay that my Mom sent to me called Effort and Understanding: Having It Easy. I'm not sure if this is the original source as I just had the text in email, and it's been repeated a few times around the Internet, but it struck me as well.

I think luck plays a part in success, and it definitely appears that things are easy for some people. What surprised me is when people said that it seemed I had it easy. From my perspective, that’s far from the truth. I’ve worked hard, and I think I have been lucky to have things go my way, but it’s taken hard work.

We build our own world to a large extent. It might be that we have more ups or downs than others, but to a large extent I think it’s our efforts, our understanding of our capabilities, and our acceptance of our achievements that determines how successful we view ourselves.

And I think that our view of ourselves will shine through to others.

When we enjoy what we do, and work at it, to become good, it appears easy on the outside. We appear to be a craftsman that just goes about their daily work.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Inspired by this World

That's what this blog is, a place where I can post observations, thoughts, and inspirations from the world around me.

This is an amazing place, and I write often about it on my other blogs, but I wanted a place where I can post things that inspire me, that might not fit on another site.