Monday, June 29, 2009

Efficiency, Effectiveness, and the Elements of Success

Big things are made up of little things.

You hear it all the time, and it is frequently true (though unfortunately, it's often used improperly by folks who don't really grasp the core of the statement).

Every successful effort, every successful activity, every successful project, is constructed from many other, smaller, successful elements.

These elements are nested, like Russian matryoshka dolls; one inside another, and inheriting properties, priorities, constraints, restrictions, and resources; from each of the elements above, and below it.

There is a hierarchy of missions, from great to small, and a hierarchy of elements within those missions; and it is absolutely necessary to understand this hierarchy, to be efficient, effective, and successful.

The hierarchy of missions, and the elements thereof, is can be described as the hierarchy of success.

This hierarchy is a simple way of describing that which is needed to succeed in any activity, and it consists of five elements.

The hierarchy of success is:
  1. Mission

  2. Goal

  3. Task

  4. Method

  5. Metrics
The order is critical. Mission is always at the top, metrics are always at the bottom, and you confuse the order of any of the elements at your peril.

Each of these elements applies to every individual piece, of every larger puzzle (or every smaller piece of the big picture).

So, for any fragmentary bit of something, there is a mission above it, and a mission below it (or a goal, or a task)... but they all feed up into the next effort above them, or push down below them; making up parts of the overarching effort, working together for success (at least, we hope).

Successful elements, aligned with the mission, achieving the goals, completing the tasks; make for successful efforts.

Of course, those are just words, not achievements. In order to turn words into successfully accomplished missions, there are also five overarching questions you must ask.

The five questions for success are:
  1. What is my mission, and how does that mission serve the larger mission(s) it is a part of?

  2. What are the goals I need to achieve to accomplish my mission, and what dependencies are there to achieving those goals?

  3. What are the tasks I need to complete to achieve my goals, and what dependencies are there to completing those tasks?

  4. What methods, tools, and resources will I use to complete my tasks, achieve my goals, and accomplish my mission; do I have them, and if not how do I get them?

  5. How are my methods helping to complete my tasks, achieve my goals, and accomplish both my immediate mission, and the higher level missions it supports. How are they not helping, or hindering those things. Are my methods the most efficient, and effective way to complete my tasks, achieve my goals and accomplish my mission. If not, why not, and what would be better.
You can see that each of these questions helps to define or refine an element of the hierarchy.

The problem arises when people confuse methods and tasks, with goals and missions; and especially when metrics have been put in place to measure efficiency at methods and tasks, instead of measuring effective progress towards goals and missions.

Perverse Incentives and Process Capture

One of the biggest problems I have within my organization... and in fact, in any large organization I've ever been in; is what I call "process capture".

As processes and methods are developed and mature, incentives are created to follow these processes. Metrics are developed to measure how efficiently one follows the process. Eventually this becomes a perverse incentive, wherein the process is confused with the goal.
  • It is critical that methods, not be confused with tasks
  • It is critical that tasks, not be confused with goals
  • It is critical that goals, not be confused with missions
Everyone intends to be successful. They intend to achieve their goals, and accomplish their mission... but seemingly few succeed, even when they have excellent methods, and all the tools and resources they need to do so.

The problem, is that everyone responds to their perceived incentives; which are frequently mis-perceived, or mis-defined.

Instead of an incentive to achieve a goal, an incentive is created to follow a process, or use a particular method. Metrics must then be created to support that incentive.

Because the incentive is for the process, and the metric is for the process, people follow their incentive. Because the incentive is designed to reward following the process, if the process doesn't achieve the goal perfectly, you stop making progress towards your goals; and you fail.

Then people sit around and wonder why they failed... after all they "followed the process perfectly, and we've got the reports to prove it".

They confused methods with goals, measured their success at using methods instead of their success at completing tasks and making progress towards goals and missions, and they created incentives to meet those improper metrics.

I've seen it in every organization, in every event... heck, in packing the car for a camping trip. You focus so hard on getting that first down, that you forget about making the touchdown.

It's hard enough when everyone has the same goals, missions, and incentives; but in complex efforts, and complex organizations, different people and groups have different missions, different, goals, and different incentives; and it is all to easy to lose sight of the mission of the organization, and how your mission fits into it.

Remember, people respond to their incentives; so to be successful, you must create incentives to achieve goals, and accomplish missions.

If a method doesn't achieve the goal, then you have to change the method. You can't simply measure how well you use your methods, you need to measure how efficiently and effectively you complete your tasks, and how your tasks help you make progress towards achieving your goals, and accomplishing your mission.

The solution here isn't to try to make perfect processes and methods, it's to create proper incentives. If you create incentives to achieve goals and missions rather than follow processes, people will develop processes that help them meet your goals, and succeed in your missions.

Metrics, Measurements, Analysis, Efficiency, and Effectiveness

Now, I've spoken a lot about metrics, but I haven't really defined what I mean by that.

First thing... when I say metrics, what I really mean is measurement and analysis. Metrics is just a shorthand used to say that... or at least it SHOULD be; but all too often, people and organizations implementing and using metrics don't really know or understand that.

When you are developing metrics, you need to account for both elements; and to do that you need to really understand the other four elements of success for any given effort. After all, you can't measure progress towards a goal you don't know or understand.

So, as I said, ask yourself the five questions. Once you've worked through all of those, you should have an understanding of what you need to measure.

Now, the tough part, analysis. When presented with data, what do you do with it.

Actually, analysis starts even before you have anything to measure, with the elements of the effort itself.

Start with your mission, and Analyze Down:
  • What goals are necessary to achieve to be successful in the mission?
  • What tasks are elements of each goal?
  • What methods are used to accomplish each task?
Then, start from the other side with your methods, and Analyze Up:
  • Do the methods accomplish the tasks
  • Do the tasks accomplish the goal
  • Do the goals accomplish the mission
Then you take each step (each method, each task, each goal), and you Analyze Sideways:
  • Is the step necessary
  • is it sufficient
  • is it efficient
  • is it effective
Then, when you being to work towards your goals, after every step, measure, and than re-analyze for all of the above. Iterate, revise, extend, improvise, adapt, and overcome.

Now those last two bits in the list; efficiency, and effectiveness... whooo that's the real issue.

Remember when I talked about process capture above? Well, the difference between efficient, and effective, is what process capture is all about.

Efficiency is not Effectiveness.

Though, to be fair, efficiency is PART of effectiveness; they are not equivalent. All too often, people design their metrics and incentives to reward efficiency, without really considering effectiveness, because they really don't understand the difference (or how to measure it), what it means, and why.

Efficiency, is a measure of how much work is accomplished, per unit of resources expended.

Efficiency IS important.

It is hard to be successful if you aren't efficient. It is hard to be effective if you aren't efficient.

Unfortunately...

It is impossible to be successful if you are not effective because:

Effectiveness is a measure of how much progress you make towards your goals, per unit of resources expended.

You can be the most efficient worker in the world. You can accomplish the most work, in the least amount of time, and with the least amount of effort, that anyone has ever seen. You could be an efficiency superman...

...Which won't help you if the work you are doing so efficiently is "walking south", and the goal is "Be 500 miles due north by next week".

Actually, what's worse is when your work IS making measurable progress towards the goal, but it's doing so in a much less effective way than you could or should be; which means you may be efficient at your method, but but both inefficient and ineffective at achieving your goals.

I say it's worse, because even with appropriate measurements, this can cause failure. Those measurements will show you making progress towards your goals, but they won't show how you are hindering your goals in other ways, or how much more effective you could be. The second component of a metric, the analysis, must be done; and that analysis includes both efficiency AND effectiveness.

Let's say that your goal is still "Be 500 miles north by next week", but instead of "walking south", you are very efficiently "walking northeast".

Yes, you will eventually achieve your goal of being 500 miles north, but it will take twice as long, expend twice as much effort, and you'll be 500 miles east of where you need to be.

That is the difference between efficiency, and effectiveness. That's what you need to measure, that's what you need to create incentives for, and that's what you need to work towards.

By all means, create incentives towards efficiency, but always make sure you have much greater incentives towards effectiveness.

Even deeper, make sure that you never create an incentive to sacrifice effectiveness at the expense of efficiency; but feel free to create incentives to sacrifice efficiency in a task or method in favor of effectiveness at achieving a goal, at any time.
  • Remember, mission, goal, task, method, metric; and always in that order.

  • Remember, do not confuse methods or tasks, with goals and missions.
  • Remember, metrics are comprised of both measurements, and analysis.
  • Remember, measure your progress, not your process.

  • Remember the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.

  • Remember that people will follow their perceived incentives.

  • Remember that those incentives may be mis-designed, misapplied, or mis-perceived.

  • Remember that no matter what you do, or how, there will ALWAYS be consequences you didn't understand or anticipate
So, as in most things, success is simple in gross design, but simple doesn't mean easy. The devil, as they say, is in the details.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I have to give the man some credit

I happen to live in Arizonas 5th district; and am currently represented by Harry Mitchell.

Representative Harry Mitchell and I disagree about a lot of things. Abortion, social security and government health care, school choice and education policy, many economic issues, government intervention and regulations in general, and the overall wisdom of his party leadership and the DNC...

However, I have to give the man credit, he has generally been good on energy policy, and on guns since he came to congress (as a local politician his record on guns was mixed). He was also against the auto industry bailout, against TARP, and especially against the unconstitutional TARP bonus tax. He's even reasonable on national security issues, and veterans affairs.

I believe he has ably represented the interests of his district within the congress; and bucked the leadership when he thought it was best for the district (if perhaps not bucking them enough outside of issues of direct interest to the district).

Today, he voted against his leadership, choosing to vote for the greater good of Arizona, and of the nation, against the Waxman cap and trade bill.

Last week, and again this morning, I urged congressman Mitchell by telephone to both his offices, and by email to vote against the bill; as it was against the interest of both the district, and the nation. This evening, having found out how he voted, and reading his statement on the issue, I called to thank him.

We may disagree with our elected representatives, we may have voted for the other guy, we may think they are the wrong person to be in that chair; but once they are there, they are OUR representatives. The peoples representatives.

Letting them know how you feel about something, how important it is to you, what benefit or harm it will do you personally; it works. It may not seem so much of the time, but most congressmen really do care about what the people of their districts think; if for no other reason that it improves their chances for reelection.

So participate. Let them know. After all, it can't hurt; and it just might make a difference.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

With A Child's Heart

Michael Jackson passed on, just a few minutes ago; not quite 51 in chronological age, and never more than a child at heart.

It's funny, the first song I can consciously remember playing on the radio, was a Jackson 5 song "I want you back".

The very first piece of recorded music I ever owned, was Michael Jacksons best album (yes, I absolutely stand by this statement. No solo artist ever produced a better blending of R&B, soul, funk, and pure dance pop), "Off the Wall".

Then, I was in elementary school when Thriller took over the world. You cannot believe how pervasive Jackson was in pop culture at the time. Forget Britney, Jackson was on t-shirts, lunch boxes, leather jackets, studded gloves... Everyone had thriller (our house probably had three copies), everyone had Michael Jackson merchandise (I even had a "beat it" jacket for a few months 'til I outgrew it) and most importantly he was coming out of EVERY radio, 24x7.

When I was young, Michael Jackson WAS pop music.

Unfortunately he was also a deeply troubled, disturbed, abusive, and clearly mentally and physically ill man.

Sometimes, it is so clear that an abuser is a victim himself, that you can't help but feel sad... perhaps not for the abuser, but certainly for the tragedy of it all.

In my opinion, Jackson never intended to be an abuser of children. He never intended any real impropriety. He never thought he was abusing, or hurting anyone. If he had thought so, I am almost cretain he would have taken his own life long ago.

And yet, it seems clear that he had inappropriate sexual, or at the least intimate, contact with prepubescent and adolescent boys and girls.

In his own heart, in his mind, in his development; he never matured past early adolescence. He lived out that stage of awkward sexual development, live for the world to see, 20 to 30 years after it should have happened.

Yes, it was horribly wrong, but you can see the tragedy of it.

Michael Jackson never had a chance. With that family, with that upbringing, with that damaged sensitive, arrested adolescence...

It is a shame that all the great music he made, is overshadowed by the damage he suffered, and caused.

However, there is still a legacy of 20 years of great pop music, (and perhaps the best male non ballet dancing put to film since Fred Astaire) before the demons caught up with him... and the almost 25 years since... perhaps we can't forgive that, but we can at least understand it.

Rest in Peace, Michael Joseph Jackson

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Facebook ate my brain today

So a whole bunch of folks I went to high school with all decided to contact me via facebook today (this isn't the results of recent address book data mining; it's because someone is starting to plan our next reunion, next year).

This led to a bunch of chatting, and a bunch of searching through friends lists and more friend requests etc.. etc...


It's amazing how much the structure of social networks is kinda like a casino. You know, where one room leads into another room with no clocks and no exits? It's almost as bad as TVTropes.org (thus far, the biggest time suck I have ever found on the internet).

It's all designed with addiction reward psychology, mixed with a healthy dose of voyeurism, and another healthy dose of nostalgia.

Anyway, I've got three big posts I'm working on, but between actual work I'm being paid for, setting up stuff for Crispin press, and my digression today, haven't managed to finish them.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

General, Marine, Aviator, Actor, Sideman, Announcer, Father

Ed McMahon was all of those things. He passed on early this morning, at age 86

Most folks think of him as the sweepstakes guy, or Carsons sidekick; and he was certainly one of entertainments great sidemen... but he was so much more than that.

A few years back, commenting on firearms myths, I wrote this about McMahon.
Ed McMahon is a Marine, but not a sniper. He was a fighter pilot in WW2 and Korea. McMahon in fact had a full military career before becoming famous, and he retired as a Brigadier General in the California Air National Guard; with over 25 years of service, including 6 years of active service in combat theaters, and 85 combat missions.

Thank you for your service, thank you for your talent, rest in peace.

If you ever hear yourself saying...

"That's so crazy it just might work"...

Stop. It won't. This isn't real genius. It's also not Buckaroo Banzai.

That is all.

It's called tailoring the narrative...

Click to embiggen this most cromulent comic

5 Years Ago Today

I left Vancouver and my abusive ex-husband for good with my 2 1/2 year and 8 month old daughters in tow.

I do not regret that decision for a moment.

Since then, I've gone from a desperate single mother living off of food stamps and Medicaid to a remarried stay-at-home with a full fridge and pantry and health insurance. I've gone from living with my parents to my own apartment to a condo shared with my husband to a house shared with my husband. I've gone from chronic pain due to endometriosis to a complete lack of pain. I've gone from a part-time job in a state park to a full time job to staying at home, taking a contract job, and starting my own business.

I've gone from lonely desperation to the kind of awesome marriage I'd never thought possible.

My kids have gone from being a toddler and baby with a disinterested-to-abusive father to being a 7 and almost 6 year old with a stepfather who treats them as if they were his own.

My life is completely opposite from the life I left and that's a very good thing.

Mel

Friday, June 19, 2009

If you dig late 80's indie...

Check out a Canadian band called "Metric".

I cant tell you exactly who they remind me of... there's some strong associations popping into my head as I listen to them, but I can't seem to focus in on exactly who it is...



Maybe if you crossed "The Cure", with Kim Deal... but that's not exactly it...

Anyway, I'm diggin it. Unfortunately, the singles released on youtube are way overproduced. I just saw them live on Ferguson, and they're MUCH better out of the studio.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

This is what REALLY happened

Frontline has done some stories lately on the financial industry, reaol estate, and our national debt issue, that I think deserve attention.

Two of the stories were directly about the financial crash. The first, "Meltdown", was in much greater depth, but was missing a lot of information, and also featured a moderately leftish stance (and basically focused the blame on Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke):



I still recommend that you watch it though, as it has a lot of solid background. Just ignore the fact that it completely absolves Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, or for that matter any democrat, of any wrongdoing etc...

Related to that, PBS (but not Frontline) released an even more left biased special report on the housing crash, and the failures of Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find it, however there is a section in the middle of "the meltdown" that addresses it somewhat:



Again, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank were presented as rescuers rather than the instigators of the problem. As it happens, WGBH is in Boston, Barney Frank is a Massachusetts congressman...

And another, almost entirely uncritical of Obama personally (presenting it as the natural consequence of Bushes actions. Also it's unrepentantly and aggressively Keynesian) but still critical of the coming crisis in debt:



Since "meltdown" came out though, a lot more information has been made public about what really happened between the government, and the major banks and brokerages.

This week, they released the second of their reports directly focusing on the financial sector crash; a new report called "breaking the bank", and as someone on the inside of the business, I can verify that this is pretty much how it happened:



It's still slightly slanted, but overall I think it's a pretty fair and balanced presentation. Watch, and you'll be amazed at the actions our government took under the color of authority... or maybe you won't.

It's time to impeach Obama



It's time to impeach Obama; indict him, and his entire administration, for fraud, coercion, extortion, influence peddling, and grand theft under the color of law, amongst hundreds of other charges.

It is not simply the auto issue; but that is currently the most visible.

This is no hyperbole. I am not simply spouting off. I believe, and will from this point forward, work to see, Barack Obama impeached, charged, indicted, tried, and imprisoned, for the crimes he and his cronies have committed against this nation, and its people.

Also, let me make this clear: This is NOT about politics, or at least not about political ideology. I believe that everyone, left, right, libertarian, or indifferent to ideology, should see what Obama and his administration are doing, and understand the damage it is doing, and will do, to this country.

We cannot allow our nation to become a nation of men. We MUST remain a nation of laws.

At this point, Obama, and his administration, aren't even bothering to PRETEND to obey the law, or the constitution. They have embarked on a campaign of theft and fraud never seen before in the history of man kind; knowing that they had the full cover of the media protecting them, a friendly congress, and a co-operative judiciary.

They are in clear violation of the constitution, and hundreds if not thousands, of state and federal laws; blatantly and knowingly flouting them in fact, because, in Obamas words, "We won".

Well, I'm sorry sir, for now at least, we are still a nation of laws; and you must be brought to account.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Announcing Crispin Press

When we first decided to publish a cookbook, it was clear from the beginning that we were going to offer it in full color, with photographs. We didn't want to put out a product that didn't have color, and photographs, and that was that.

Unfortunately, the custom and small run printing and publishing business charges through the nose for color printing.

We initially contracted with a small run publisher, with a quote that we thought to be reasonable for the first print run (based on a minimum order of 500 copies). We based our initial figures on the quote and so priced the books at $25 a piece.

Unfortunately, between the launching of the cookbook and the actual printing, the quoted printing cost per book soared to $30; $5 higher than our announced cover price.

Obviously no profit would be had at such a price, as almost no one would pay $30 plus shipping and profit (nor would we ask anyone to). We'd also already announced a $25 cover price, and we weren't going to go back on that.

First, we looked at the option of going to a no-color book, with no photos. Chris reworked the layout, and re-wrote a bit to fill... but we just didn't like it.

So we priced around again, knowing that prices were high (the original printer was the lowest we found); and MY GOD I did not realize $30 a piece for a self-published cookbook was average to good, and for color was very good.

Printers and publishers who market themselves to NON-PROFITS selling cookbooks as FUNDRAISERS are charging $30 a piece for black and white. Don't even get me started on subsidy press/vanity press, and print-on-demand services and their idea of "reasonable".

Even the local printers seemed to want to bleed us dry, and I tried plenty of those. We could get a reasonable quote for black and white, small format, perfect bound only; anything else (and most especially the large format, full color, spiral bound book we wanted), the prices started out at "unreasonable", and topped out at "ridiculous".

So we looked at all of the various printers' quotes, looked at what WE thought to be reasonable, and asked the eternal question of capitalism: Can we do it better and cheaper?

As it happens, we discovered we could.

We ran the numbers for printing the books ourselves, taking into account real professional equipment, binding equipment, paper, ink and other consumables, packaging, shipping... everything we could think of (and Chris is remarkably good at deflating my ideas of how little something will cost. He has this knack for finding extra costs in every corner that we need to account for).

Turns out our cost per book is considerably less than quoted to us. Of course we knew that would be the case; printers and publishers have to make a profit after all. What we didn't understand, was that the difference between what we would have been charged, and what our costs would be to open our own publishing company, were in fact enough that we could cover the costs to do so within the first few hundred copies sold of a single cookbook.

So we thought about it for a few days, got some opinions concerning equipment and quotes from reputable vendors (thanks Bobby!), ran the numbers again and again; and kept coming back to the same point: We can do this ourselves.

I've done copy editing work. Chris was a professional magazine writer for a while, has done article editing (though not copy editing. He knows HOW to spell, it's just he's so dyslexic he reverses words around constantly), knows digital pre-press, and understands and knows people in the business.

We already have the scanning and imaging equipment, and the computer systems and software from Chris's business. We've got the time, and the space...

The numbers told us that the cash influx from the first couple hundred orders would be enough to cover good, professional, small run production color printing and binding equipment, and all of the consumables...

Not only can we do this ourselves, but once the first few hundred cookbooks are sold, we'd be left with all of this really good professional equipment (bought at wholesale prices, thanks again)...

As it happens, we know SO many people who need this kind of service, and I'm still really pissed about the fleecing of the non-profits...

Well, it would be silly not to at least try it. After all, we've already pre-sold all those books, and we're going to need to print and bind them anyway, and this is the only way we aren't going to LOSE money on that...

We decided we were going to do it.

So, it pleases us very much to announce the creation of Crispin Press


Crispin Press is being founded as a short run publisher and printer; offering low volume, color and black and white, specialty, custom, and personal, printing and publishing services; as well as digital pre-press, and editing services.

We will provide limited distribution and fulfillment services, print on demand, and may provide print on demand fulfillment services (if we think the book is worthwhile).

We have already established a distribution contract, and will be able to offer a zero inventory publishing and distribution service through Ingram (the number one book distributor in the country), and Amazon.com; at least for black and white (we can't do enough color volume to get distribution, at the price we'd need to sell it at).

We're in the midst of setting up Crispin Press as an Arizona LLC separate from Chris's business (we already have a company for Chris's contracting business); and for now are doing business under Chris's company, operating as Crispin Press.

Ok... so why did we decide to actually start up a publishing company? Isn't that a long way from just printing a few hundred books to raise money?

When we were researching the market, and trying to decide whether we should try and found our own publishing company, or just print our book and be done with it; we looked around at what was out there for small run publishers, and we just didn't like what we saw.

In particular we saw that certain specialty markets we were interested in were underserved, or poorly served by current providers.

These markets include:
  • Fundraisers and non-profits
  • Small-audience non academic, and non-religious publications (the academic and religious presses do a good job)
  • Home schooling textbooks, workbooks, and other instructional and training materials
  • Gaming materials and manuals
  • Hobby materials and manuals
  • Firearms manuals, training materials, and books
  • Shooting manuals, training materials, and books
  • Hunting manuals, training materials, and books
  • Manuals and training materials for specialty markets
  • Political and philosophical materials on the libertarian and conservative side
  • Family History Books
  • Printed and bound family albums
Basically, any book that would have an audience of more than 10 and less than 10,000 is in limbo. You can go to a subsidy/vanity press, but they're so expensive, there's no way you'll ever make a dime selling your book (which is why it's called a vanity press).

Sure there are other small run publishers out there, like iUniverse for example; but as I said, they charge through the nose for color, or for anything other than perfect bound (let's not even get into what they charge for hardcovers in color).

We really think this is viable; because the fixed costs are pretty low (modern digital pre-press, and short run color printing technologies have made that possible), and because it's my labor, and the labor of my family and underemployed friends on a temporary basis.

Basically, we don't have a shop, we don't have a warehouse, we don't have a payroll, and other than the direct printing and binding equipment (which is expensive, but reasonably priced for the work it can do) we have the gear already; so we can really afford to do this cheaper than anyone else, in the small quantities we're looking at doing.

Besides which, if this doesn't work, we're not really out anything, because we needed to do everything but the business paperwork to get the cookbook done anyway.

I don't think we could have dreamed up a better prospect for a home-based, part-time, flexible, extra-income business. One that can be run from my iPhone, no less.

I want to personally and individually thank you for your pre-orders of the cookbook. It was that strong interest in helping us out, and in buying our book, that made all this possible.

Thanks to all of you who have pre-ordered cookbooks and/or given us free publicity, we've made our minimum number plus a few (around 210 at the moment). That will allow us to cover our costs on the equipment, and on printing and shipping the first print run of the cookbook.

Anything we sell over and above that, we're actually making a profit, and paying down our legal bills.

Our first product (the cookbook) will be shipping as soon as we're done re-writing, reformatting, and redoing the layout.

Our initial design and layout were predicated on the services of our first publisher. Now that we are publishing ourselves, we need to reformat, and do some re-writing to fit the new press and binding system. Chris is working on that now, and it should be ready to start printing in a week or two.

Our website will be going online shortly as well. We've got the domains and hosting up and running, but we're still working on the design and coding.

When the site is live, we will publish our toll free number, contact, and sales info. We will publish a standard price schedule for services at that time. In the mean time, email me for more information.

Hopefully we can turn Crispin Press into a long-term solution to our legal debt problem, that will allow me to work at home, and help other people with services they need as well.

Thanks to all of you who made this possible!

Mel

WATCH THIS SPACE!

Very big news tomorrow. We were planning on announcing today, but we didn't quite manage to finish everything we need to do before the announcement, so tomorrow it is.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I hope I kick this much ass

When I'm 62:



Yes, seriously, Sammy Hagar is 62. He's been rocking it professionally for 40 years.

I just snagged the Chickenfoot album, after listening to three of the cuts. Stupid name, but I'll listen to Satch play scales, and Sammy never met a crowd he couldn't rock, so what the hell.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures: DFMAS for Sale

Yes, it's come to this.

We're offering up our Dianne Feinstein Memorial Assault Shotgun (DFMAS).



The DFMAS is a Mossberg 500a special purpose with Knoxx sidewinder conversion kit, Knoxx spec-ops stock with cheekpiece, weaver rail adapter with reflex sight.

Included with the piece, are two 10 round drum magazines (if you can find them they run from $350 to $400 or more), and one 5 round stick magazine (if you can find them they run $80 to $100).

Total value on current Gunbroker auctions is about $1700.

The DFMAS is an awesome home defense shotgun and general scare-the-daylights-out-of-the-goblin (or liberal) firearm.

We're offering it for $1000. Obviously local buyers would be preferred but we're willing to ship to your FFL of choice.

If you're interesting in buying, please drop me a line at melody.byrne AT gmail.com.

Mel

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition

'Cuz Og is BACK baby!

Anyone know of a Skype ATA...

That doesn't require a USB connection to a PC?

It seems I can EITHER get a normal SIP ata that can run independently of a PC but not support skype (I have two already, I don't ne3ed another one), OR I can get one that requires a USB connection to a PC.

Oh, or I can get a "SkypePhone" that connects via wi-fi, ethernet, or USB; but I'm specifically looking to connect my internal phone system to skype.

Actiontek, linksys, d-link, zoom, and several others all make Skype ATAs, but as near as I can tell, they all require a USB connection to a running computer.

I'd rather avoid that. If I have to have a running computer, I might as well just set up asterisk on one of my spare linux boxes.

Just a Normal Bad Day

Nothing earth shattering yesterday, just a bad day in general.

May No Soldier Go Unloved

Pvt. Murphy got a package today:


If you don't know soldiers angels, you should. Please take a look at them. For the last three years, they've received all my charitable giving that doesn't go directly to my parish or my kids school.

Bad Day

Bad day. Talk tomorrow.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Long damn day, and a few reviews and notes

Got plenty of stuff to write, too tired to write it.

A few quick notes:
  1. New Anita Blake book = not bad. Only three sex scenes the entire book, and there was actual character and plot development. Plus, Edward and Olaf. I won't say that "Anita is Back", but I am strongly encouraged.

  2. Yay, Burn Notice is back, and I like the new direction hinted at. Should be fun. Also, I saw Anwar on Ferguson last night, and yeah, she is as crazy as I thought she was.

  3. Also, yay, In Plain Sight is back (for a few weeks now), and is still good; though it's starting a bit slow.

  4. New show Mental... shows some promise, but so far the execution is iffy. Obviously made on a low budget with limited sets.

  5. New show Royal Pains premierd tonight, and again, shows promise; and this time the execution is definitely NOT flawed... and neither is the budget. Seriously, if they don't screw this one up. they've got a potential major hit on their hands....

    I actually almost wish it was HBO or Showtime doing it, so they could REALLY go somewhere with it. We could've been looking at the next "Dexter" there, instead on USA, at best it will be the next say, Northern Exposure ('cept crazy rich people instead of crazy Alaskans) meets any show set in Miami (lots of bikini babes in the hamptons in summer yaknow).

    Oh and one of the reasons I'm thinking this one has the goods, is they paid attention to the little details. In scene after scene, there is stuff that if you noticed it, was meaningful later; but if you missed it, didn't ruin it for you either (just one hint: If you watch the pilot again, look at the kids shirt a couple times while the doc is talking to the kid, his girlfriend etc...)


  6. I've got a couple more posts about management and leadership brewing. Not sure when they'll be fully baked and ready to come out.

  7. Mels best friend took the kids to se "Up", and they all loved it.

  8. Damn... David Eddings died. The man wrote 20 or so of my favorite books. At one point I had signed hardcovers of all his books; and I still have a paper copy of most of them; and electronic copies of every one of the Belgariad, Mallorean, Elenium, and Tamuli.

    My best friend Jim IS Kalten. I mean the resemblance is uncanny. Actually the very first fantasy book he ever read was "the Diamond Throne" (I gave it to him), and a couple days later he said "he wrote ME in there huh?".

    Kheldar >everyone else, but Belgarath>Kalten>Kurik>Barak for my top five. I HATE Polgara passionately.

  9. More 12 hour days. I don't intend for them to be, it just sort of happens that way.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Hmm.. my new favorite cocktail

Tonight, we decided to make an English night of it.. sort of... An English Colonial night that is.

Mel tried her hand at a lamb roganjosh, and I was planning on mixing up some gin and tonics; with my favorite gin, Hendricks (Actually, the only gin I really LIKE, vs tolerate).

One of our guests however decided they wanted a martini instead; and I decided to offer up something a little different.

I'm not a big straight martini fan, as it is corrently served. I prefer an original martini, or perfect martini; featuring a small amount of triple sec or orange bitters, along with both sweet and dry vermouth.

But I had this lovely lime juice, just sitting there...

Ok, what the hell, let's try an experiment.

I hadn't heard of it before I mixed one, but apparently this is called "the journalist martini", or just "the journalist"; or at least it is with slightly different proportions:
2 jiggers Hendricks gin
1/4 jigger sweet vermouth
1/4 jigger dry vermouth
1/2 jigger triple sec (I prefer cointreau)
1/2 lime juice (fresh, or clarified)
2 dashes bitters (I prefer peychauds, but angostura is fine)

Mix for two, over a full shaker of ice; stirred for 30 seconds, and poured straight into a martini glass.

By god that's a good drink. Seriously. Slightly bitter, slightly sweet, slightly sour, and totally refreshing.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It Just Ain't Natural

Two days into the kids' summer vacation and summer is already kicking my ass.

Normally two bright, energetic children would be turned out into the backyard, the neighborhood, the back 40, or whatever play space is available outside to spend the summer playing and exploring. This would keep them active, engaged, and out from under their mother's feet.

Not in this god-forsaken desert. No, it's 100 degrees outside. Even the most dedicated outdoorsy child wilts in this heat.

So where do kids in Phoenix spend all summer? Inside. Be it the library, the movie theatre, the mall, or home all kids spend all summer inside.

It just ain't natural.

So I'm trying to keep them engaged on something not too destructive while I'm engaged in cleaning while Chris is engaged in working two rooms over. Oh, and he needs quiet because he spends all day on the phone.

I could do what other mothers here do and sign up the kids for every activity possible, but we just can't afford that. Plus I'd be away from the stuff I need to get done.

Sigh. There's really no winning solution here.

Fortunately for me (though not for her) my best friend since high school is out of work at the moment and she's willing to be a part time nanny so I can get some stuff done. The kids adore her and (of course) they behave much better for her. Plus the rate she's charging is dirt cheap and when I begin work at the end of the month I'll need her help anyway. Plus she's one of the few people I can trust to leave alone in the house, as she knows how to use firearms and while she's not a gun nut she has no problem with the concept of self-defense. Her daddy taught her well.

Oh, and did I mention that I'm spending a good chunk of this week finding Chris's mom a hospice, being my father's grief counselor (the 1 year anniversary of Mom's death is this week), selling the rest of my guns, AND juggling legal issues?

Yeah, I need help.

Right now though, I'm just feeling like a failure for not being able to juggle "it all". I know it's bull, but still there's a little bit of guilt there.

I hate summer.

Mel

Monday, June 01, 2009

Sadly, this is not a joke

Dilbert.com


I've got a guy in this situation right now.

Of course, he's working ANYWAY, but still...

And that's a LIGHT week




46 meetings scheduled this week, and that's after canceling and rejecting 12 this morning. By tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday will look like Monday and Tuesday.

Amazingly enough though, this is a light week. So far, I don't have anything scheduled between 4 and 6 pm on any day. I usually have meetings 'til six. The ones two, or god help me three entries wide in a single column are where I'm double or triple booked.

Of course, as time goes on, people will fill in those holes, and I'll have emergency drop ins added to this as well. Again, this is after canceling and rejecting every meeting I can.

By the by, my hours are supposed to be 8 to 5 with a one hour lunch break; and we have an absolute zero overtime policy.

Can somebody tell me when I'm supposed to get some actual work done?