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Monday, June 30, 2003
Write on... 
Today I sat down at the computer, looked at a blank template, and just cranked out a newsletter for web design, for the department at work. The hardest part was just getting it all to fit on the screen, since it was written in Lotus Notes, which isn't always so gracious in its formatting.

So far, in my life, I've been fortunate enough to stare into a blank page and see the possibilities; instead of being crippled by the fear of Writer's Block. I just start off with whatever sentence pops into my head and just keep going. That's why I love the computer, because you can just go back and change whatever garbage comes out.

In the past, I've talked about how life should be a challenge, not a struggle... because when it is a struggle, you're doing something that isn't "you."

Writing is me.
It's easy... and I love it...
...and so I write on...
That's really important, since tomorrow I'm scheduled to begin my new book, as I committed to myself a couple of months ago.

Talking to a friend tonight about starting tomorrow, I just "rambled" off how I wanted to start... then I had to sit in my car for ten minutes, scratching down on an envelope everything I had just said...

It is, after all, my opening paragraphs.


11:17 PM


Sunday, June 29, 2003
Aware For Art Thou? 
The bike path at Venice Beach is very much like Life... the less you're paying attention, the sooner you're going to get clobbered!

It's amazing how little people pay attention to their surrounding. They will stop and stand on the bike path, looking like a deer in the headlight as the sounds of "to your left!" intermix with bicycle gears grinding to a screeching halt. Then there are the children making that mad dash for the colored ball, or the rollerblader in the midst of realizing that gravity does work.

It's a dangerous sport... recreational biking. Shouldn't these people be in a mall somewhere?

................................

And while the topic of the day is awareness... earlier I went to one of those "Vacation Ownership" seminars... the "free" ones that show you how to get to travel to world for pennies on the dollar. It really sounded great...

But after doing the math, I became painfully aware that each "point" would end up costing $1 each. That means a wonderful night in San Francisco would "only" be $1,100 a night for a place that's $295 at most. Add to that the fact that there wouldn't be much points left over for anything else, and I grew very aware very fast.

I still got a free five night stay in Kauai, and a three night stay in Phoenix... which is good. I'm just not aware right now how much that free stuff is gonna cost me.


11:20 PM


Saturday, June 28, 2003
Same ole, different 'ole 
Did the same stuff I always do, only went to a different location to do it. Long Beach was relatively abandoned, considering the sun was shining and the temperature was coasting in the 80's. No matter to me... riding my bike along the marina, watching the sails dance against the blue skies, made the trip seem peaceful, even when the pace picked up, or a hill loomed ahead of me.

It's amazing how just doing something a little different can make everything seem so new again.

Makes you wonder where else we can take all our old stuff...


11:21 PM


Friday, June 27, 2003
High or Low Road... 
I've been purchasing quite a bit on eBay these last several days, and it's been amazing the difference each experience can be. Most have been simple, straight forward and relatively enjoyable. Some, on the other hand, have been much more stressful than necessary.

Today's event, for around $100, I had to call my bank to change my shipping address, because the seller doesn't have paypal and needed to call in to the bank; to verify I am who I am. The $200 seller didn't put me through this; the $500 seller was happy to send my stuff where I asked them.

You can blame the bank, the post office or the alignment of the planets, but it comes down to how you streamline your own life that affects the lives of other people. When you create a rough road, others have a bumpy ride... and that in turn makes it rougher on you.

Today's lesson comes down to taking the personal responsibility to remove the friction from your life. Blame no one; claim a better way.



10:56 PM


Thursday, June 26, 2003
Set... Go... early... 
Oopsy...

Ironically my article about jumping early, went out early. Now it was totally prepared, so it didn't counter my message; it's just I don't normally send it to my home page until the weekend. I updated all my pages early, and when I uploaded, the article just happened to go with it.

That just makes my weekend a little easier, because I'm now ahead of schedule.


11:21 PM


Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Lack of preparation on your part, means inspiration on mine... 
It wasn't a particularly long meeting, nor the worst I've ever been to. It certainly started off with the right intent; but it quickly started showing signs of being unprepared.

The content didn't meet the objective set for the meeting; sidebars and distractions exploded everywhere; minds were changed more than a baby's diaper. Out of it, we got eight items that could've been sent in an email and an ending of "we'll get together next week" to actually do what this meeting was for.

I didn't let it bother me, in fact, it's inspired me to write my next article (Set... Go... what happens when you're not ready, due out this weekend, so stay tuned).

Preparation sure makes a difference. I guess I better go get ready...

... for bed anyway.


11:29 PM


Tuesday, June 24, 2003
When in points are out... 
I felt like Rip Van Winkle, trying to explain Linear editing to pimply faced sales people at Best Buy... then Circuit City... then Fry's Electronics...
"I need to control two VCRs... from machine to machine... linearrrr... not on a com-pu-ter..."
Blank stares.
"Um, I never heard of anything like that."
You know, it wasn't THAT long ago that you had to edit between a player and recorder machine... really, it wasn't...

I'd go non-linear, like these "cyber-dudes" understand, but I've got to edit three hours in only two days, and no terabyte RAID server standing by.

Thanks to eBay today I've tracked down the equipment I need... but I'm not so sure I'll have it in time to edit the tape. The race is on...

Hopefully I didn't oversleep.


9:49 PM


Monday, June 23, 2003
Tides Turn... 
A Pessimist curses the wind,
An Optimists hopes for sun,
A Realist adjusts the sails
On Thursday I got an "invite" for a meeting today. All it said was "meeting and discussion" and nothing else. That left me to ponder the reason all weekend, plus write my latest article.

By the time the meeting actually happened, I had run through every option and outcome I could think of. This was on my list... actually it was basically number one.

For the record, my boss is a really good guy. He's conscientious, and well-meaning; and genuinely cares... even if he's been very busy and stuck in meetings most days. He got right to the point, saying he's been aware of all the frustration and the eagerness... maybe he's been talking to people; who knows, maybe he reads this blog... but what matters is that he takes action.

In any case, I suspected that a reorg was being announced, but it was only close. Not yet, but in the works...

You see, Life should not be a struggle. Sure there are tough times in every life, but every day ought to be about expressing your full potential...

And he understands that.


What he said meant a lot,
"You shouldn't be begging for table scraps, you should be focusing on your deadlines."

It turns out that he's been working behind the scenes to help make that happen.

He's made a big difference in the department since he arrived last year. Today I believe he made a difference in me.


10:02 PM


Sunday, June 22, 2003
SPF-0 
Another cloudy day, and I rushed out into it without sunglasses or sunscreen. Because it was qoing to be like that the whole day, I didn't really think about it... until a quick burst of sunshine around lunchtime.

I guess I really DO need SPF-50.

....................................

There are some things in life that we can't change... we just have to compensate for. My fair quick-to-burn skin is just one of those "things" I've got to adjust for. That and being a carbaholic and a chocoholic.

Too bad chocolate wasn't a cure for sunburn...


11:33 PM


Saturday, June 21, 2003
Some some summertime? 
Hello? Um, doesn't summer start today? Did the weather hit the snooze button? I guess nature does whatever it feels like... because looking out my window, the skies are gray and the weather is chilly.

So the beach will have to wait another day, while I go off to do "other stuff."

Things to do, to pretend it's summer:


1:10 PM


Friday, June 20, 2003
if you can't tween 'em, tweak 'em... 
I realize that I'm not a programmer, especially during these last few days of Flash Actionscript class. Oh sure, I've been talking a good talk... variables, parameters and x/y blah-blah-blahs, but I'm really more of a "tweaker." I can look at a bunch of code, know what's going on and even correct mistakes here and there, but stick me in front of a blank screen, and I get writer's block. Visions of the latest stock quote, and ebay auctions dance in my head... "I'm s'posed t'code wha--?"

The instructor starts to write code and I'm all like "you need to add an 'underscore-x' plus a semi-colon... yadda yadda yadda."

I'm like Rainman...
"yeah, yeah, a semi-colon; before the bracket... semi-colon goes before the bracket..."

It's been a good class, really... even if I don't come out of it a better programmer, per se... I'll be able to tweak existing code far better than before.

That's the whole part of learning isn't it?

....................................................

Things we also learned in class:



9:43 PM


Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Lights, Camera, Actionscript... 
It's like I'm on vacation. Yesterday I was... and was surrounded by show biz types. Today, though technically back at work, I started the first of three days of training in Flash Actionscript.

It was so good to do something growth oriented for a change. Most of the training I've had lately has been mandatory and all about this application or that improved process. I haven't been able to do something for ME personally in quite a while.

If (Stuart=training) {
enjoy ( );
repeat ( );
End
}


11:01 PM


Tuesday, June 17, 2003
A little hopeful... 
I took the day off to spend time with Kathy, a friend of mine from back east who came into town with her voice student, "AJ". A.J. is one of the contestants on American Jrs.

While he was in rehearsal, I spent time with Kathy and A.J.'s family, who had never been out of Delaware, and really didn't have any good transportation around town. Playing tour guide, I took them to see the footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theater and the fancy home of Beverly Hills; "House shopping" as we called, since afterall, "A.J. is going to be a star one of these days."

In the evening, I was invited to a party in the hotel lobby to watch the show with all the kids from the show, and their families. What an experience that was! As they sat staring at themselves on the big screen for the first time, they sang along with the theme song, got up and danced, and applauded wildly at each other's performances. Even when some performances weren't as good as others, they still showed their support. How many lessons can we learn from that, eh?

I hadn't met A.J. at that point, but I noticed him across the room. I was once helping with the casting of a McDonald's commercial, when a young pre-"Party of Five" Scott Wolf came in. At that moment, I knew Scott had some star quality. The "It" factor, as they say in the biz. Now it's not because I know Kathy or spent time with A.J.'s family that prejudiced me towards him. Maybe it was the hair -- that looked like Justin, from the first American Idol -- or his boundless energy... but there was something there... and "It" factor.

His performance also stood out; and when it was done, Ryan Seacrest and the judges joked with him about already "working the ladies in the audience" ... at the age of 12!!

After the party, A.J. came up to Kathy's room to check email and (literally) bounce all over the place. I tried to think back to a time when I had that much endless energy, that much fire, passion and just pure fearlessness... did I ever? He shows it all in his eyes, and carries it out with his voice... and already he has the kind of sex appeal that can make a Tiger Beat teen swoon.

Be on the lookout for this kid. He's more than a little hopeful; he's got potential to be a big star.


11:30 PM


Monday, June 16, 2003
It's Ruff... 
Today's Haiku:
The meter runs out
The token returns home
Kick the dog again

I spoke too soon on Thursday when I said that my project would continue. This morning a one line email...
"Halt ALL development..."

It's all I needed to see... I knew the rest by heart. Not that I didn't expect it. My hope was hesitant at best, but I had at least planned to make more progress on it today.

I had even thought to send a note to my boss thanking him for the opportunity to finally finish this thing. Oh well, halt all thank you notes too, I suppose.

They say "whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." Of course, "they" seem to be armed and dangerous and aiming for the knees.

Today was a tough day, because the more I tried to find a way up from this knock down, the more I saw that there was nothing there to help me. Projects long gone, no budget for marketing, no major project in the wings. The spiral just seem to keep going downwards, the harder I swam up.

So this tired kicked dog says "it's ruff" out there... I'll sit up again tomorrow and beg, if I have to... but what I won't do is lie down and play dead.

.........................................

Maybe I'll buy this hat to wear to work, what do you think?


10:16 PM


Sunday, June 15, 2003
Naticus Nocturnicus 
Happy Father's Day!

That's what I told my mother, in our usual Sunday morning phone chats.

"Yaw Fawthah's asleep. He's gohwing to Ahtlaaaantic City t'marrow, so I dawn't wahnt t'wake him."

Dear ole Nat. I don't think he really retired... I think he got bitten by a vampire and can't spend his time out in sunlight.

5 pm (yes, PM) is often his usual waking time. His breakfast resembles something that looks an awful lot like my mom's dinner. He'll spend many hours in front of the TV, or reading a book of jokes, that he will tell the cashiers, waiters or old friend down the street.

Naticus Nocturicus' diet consists of potato chips and "guest chocolates" except for the last piece, so as not to leave evidence of consumption. Most of these will be devoured after the female of the species has long since gone to bed. Since the invention of "500 channels" NN will stare at images of history and weather maps until just before dawn, when crumbs are swept away and bags safely returned to the bottom drawer; until such time when real guests arrive, their emptiness discovered, and the female furiously goes off to replenish the stock.

My father's day gift -- two books on WWII airplanes -- hadn't arrived yet, so I hope tomorrow night, when the history channel is showing the same ole program from two nights ago, he'll have something different to keep himself occupied.

Happy Father's Night, Dad!!


10:32 PM


Saturday, June 14, 2003
Uphill challenge... 
Thursday... (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough)

Friday... (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (atchoo)

Today... (atchoo) (atchoo) (atchoo) (atchoo) (atchoo) (atchoo) (atchoo) (atchoo) (atchoo) (atchoo) (atchoo) (atchoo) (atchoo) (cough) (atchoo)

I haven't been feeling sick at all these past several days, but maybe I am. Since childhood, it's usually taken temperatures of 104 before it would drag me down. Strong constitution... built like bull... stubborn as one, too...

(Actually I was born in the Year of the Ox, so maybe that explains it :-)

I have allergies too, and the sneezing significantly decreased when I got out of the house.. so really, I don't know what this thing is...

So I stubbornly worked through it, going to the gym and then off to the beach once again for bike riding.

Now add the hip pain and knee cracks, and you'd think I was falling apart. A lot of the people I know would be off to bed by now, but not me... actually working out helps to ease all that. I stretch and take it slow for much of the beginning, so it helps to get THROUGH the pain, instead of taking it lying down.

I'm planning another round of docs and chiro-crackers, in case there's something seriously wrong there, but in the meantime, it's (cough) (cough) (peddle) (cough) (peddle) (atchoo)



9:45 PM


Friday, June 13, 2003
Friday, the 13th came late... 
Today, according to the superstitious, is supposed to be an unlucky day. Well, it either missed its opportunity or is late. Today was actually a very good day... spent some good quality time with my team, had a good meeting with them, and made progress on my projects. Nothing out of the ordinary to report.

Two days ago should've been the 13th, when I heard a "thud" on the freeway as a truck passed, and figured a flying rock just damaged some paint... only to discover hours later that my tire was the victim.

What that tells me is that "bad" thing don't have to show up on schedule, or attributed to anything in particular. To me, bad luck on the 13th is like seeing dragons in the clouds... they're there if you believe them; but you're the one that created them.

People don't often realize just how powerful they really are... if they believe bad things will happen, they'll put themselves in harm's way (like driving on the wrong side of the road). And they also don't realize how powerful their imagination is... cause even if bad things don't happen, they "read into" their situations to make them worse (like hearing someone else at work is leaving, then think they're going to be fired tomorrow).

We created Friday the 13th when we created the calendar, then we made it superstitious, what we do with it now, is up to us.



10:04 PM


Thursday, June 12, 2003
Please deposit two tokens... 
Sometimes all you need is just a little token of encouragement to keep you going. Today I got two...

The first one happened at six in the morning. Seems overnight, someone in New York was reading my web site and decided to write something in my forum. Now it's always nice to have people I know check out my stuff, but when people I don't know are encouraged to write, then it just reminds me why I started the site in the first place. It started the day off really nice.

The second token came at the end of the day. I called into a manager meeting this afternoon, and at the beginning my manager said "We'll be talking about your project a little later on." Now I've been told "stop what you're doing" so many times in the last three years that I was like a kicked dog. During the meeting I worked feverishly, trying to finish up everything I could before I was told to stop. (Until they say it, I can still work on it, right?). Well....

The moment came. I braced for the end; my finger on the "close" button.

"Keep going..."

Huh??

"Don't worry about the back-end or anything like that, just keep going like you're going. It looks great."

Take two... Huh???

I just stared at my screen... you mean I can actually get this thing done after three years?

Wow.

Maybe there's some time left on this meter afterall...



10:30 PM


Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Time Blurs 
Doing the same thing, again and again; day in, day out... you lose your hours to the day, and your days to the same thing.

Yesterday, like today, was dedicated to the same project; at the expense of all else.

Although I'm moving forward, it's hard to tell how far I've come since I've been going in circles for two days.

Variety is the spice of life, but I won't know that til I get off this spinning wheel...



10:20 PM


Monday, June 09, 2003
Back to the Feature... 
Not quite back to the life I've grown accustomed to. Although the guests are now gone and it's back to work, I'm not back as a manager; this time I'm back as a designer. The prototype I mentioned on Friday is due tomorrow. I could only get so far tonight, because it was like "add one feature, then lose another." Very difficult to get everything working together in harmony.

When that happens, you just gotta step away and focus on what you ultimately want.

The get back in there and give it your all...


9:10 PM


Sunday, June 08, 2003
Getting a Toon Up... 
Today was a relaxing day with Shrek on DVD in the morning and Finding Nemo in the evening.

The El Capitan theater is the place to see a show though. Instead of movie previews, they have a man playing an organ that comes up from the floor; followed by a live song and dance routine and then they often set up the building next store to be a museum for the movie's memorabilia. Disney knows how to put on a show.

After a week of running around, it was nice to take it easy for a change. It helped to get tuned up for another long week ahead.

On with the show...


10:31 PM


Saturday, June 07, 2003
Alternate endings... 
Today was the last day for the whole visiting gang to spend together before they head back to NY.

The positive ending was Universal Studios and laughs and good times through dinner.

The negative ending was when Judy called her friend to pick her up and he mistakenly thought that we going to just leave her in Hollywood because we didn't want to take her all the way back to Venice Beach. Even when she assured him that we would be going to drop her off at his place, he said in a huffy mood that he was already on his way and for her to stay where she was.

Needless to say when he showed up, it was an ugly sight. He ordered her into the car and started calling me and my friend, Scott a whole bunch of names not worth repeating. Although he hardly let me get a word in edgewise, the words that did come out of me were loud enough to shock my companions. They, and the passersby on the street were the only ones who seemed to hear me. Dr. Doofus was having no part of my end of the conversation.

Usually when I first get angry, I become very quiet; rarely do I get pushed beyond the silence... when I do though, watch out! Although only a few exchanges were on his lower level, I'm proud I said what I did. I told him that he was wrong and that his behavior wasn't acceptable, especially when he wasn't even willing to listen. And somewhere between his A's and F's, I finished off with "you don't deserve her." I blew her a kiss as they drove off.

Then went back to the coffee shop to blow off steam and steamed mocha. I wished her well, and hoped that this would finally cost him their "friendship."

Being an actor all those years certainly helped during the peak moments. I was able to just let loose, then just let go. In the end, it felt good to stand up for respect, even if I had to lose a little bit of dignity to do it.

And really, when all is said and done, I feel sorry for her friend... he's become a big shot doctor, with a fancy car and a beach house... and all it's cost him is his friendship and reputation. I only had to deal with him for under five minutes, he's stuck with himself a whole lifetime. When it's time to reap what he's now sowing, I wouldn't want to be him.

There's so much more to this story, but those are just details for others to sort out behind closed doors.

Two totally different rollercoaster rides today... one in an amusement park, the other in an unamusing parked car on Sunset Blvd.

Enough action for one day...

Cut!

..................................

Audio: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.


11:34 PM


Friday, June 06, 2003
And the meet goes on... 
For the last several months, I've hardly seen my boss. Mostly because he's been busy trying to straighten out the messy entanglement he found when he got here. Now that much of his plans are being put into place now, he's got some time. Today he must've had a lot of time, because he was in THREE of my meetings.

It was actually good for him to see me in action, because it's been kind of "out of sight, out of mind" for some time now... and that's been a bit damaging for the advancement of the team and good will between employees and management.

Two out of the three meetings have resulted in a lot more work landing directly in my shoulders, but I'm taking it as a challenge to not only prove myself and my team, but also to fix some of the entangled messes that I've had to live with for the last several years too.

Time will tell... overtime on Monday will tell even more.

................................................

Trivia:

Did William Shakespeare write "Oh what a tangled web we weave"?
Yes | No


11:06 PM


Thursday, June 05, 2003
A bad r*p... 
Well, "E" did it again... only in a shorter period of time. This time the 4 pm conversation set the plans for just after 7 pm. By 8, I made the usual call with instructions; and now, nearing midnight, there's still no word.

I'm not sure which is worse, the fact that 9 out of 10 times she never follows through... or the fact that we already prewarned the other dinner guests that 9 out of 10 times she never follows through.

It just goes to show you how important your reputation is.

A reputation is something you must pay for, but you can never buy.


11:51 PM


Wednesday, June 04, 2003
A magical place to be... 
Wednesday is the best day to go to Disneyland, for sure. Hardly any crowds, except for tourists and those of us that were playing hooky. It was a good thing that the crowd was light, as we were running late and only had seven hours to run around and see everything.

It also gave time for the weather to clear. All morning was cloudy and cold, and I had to assure my Disneymates that the sun would come out by 12:42, with it getting hot at 3:14 and then cold again by 7:16...

Sure enough, as soon as we walked in through the gates, the skies magically turned blue. It got warm around quarter after three and pretty cool shortly after 7... amazing how that happens, isn't it?

When you're Goofy, there really is no place like Disneyland.



11:03 PM


Tuesday, June 03, 2003
JAT Training 
It's normally called 'JIT" or "Just in Time" Training. The idea behind it is to teach someone something just BEFORE then need it. That way, the ideas are fresh, and the lesson sticks because it applies to what you're doing. Today was about the new procedures for developing projects, and about some of the software we're going to use to get there. The reason I call today's entry "JAT" is because this training is really coming AFTER we need it (and actually our clients needed it way more than we did).

In between the morning and afternoon classes, it was like sinking into the muck of the old way. the only thing the clients had prepared was the deadline... this Friday. Just just wanted to be impressive, flashy, and show the screens that aren't completed, because they're still not sure what they want to do with them either.

This just underlines how important it is to 1) Know what you want, 2) have an idea how to get there, 3) organize it so others get it too. If I ever needed an example of what not to do... this was it.

So even if their project end up late and disorganized, at least their "shining" example of why we need this training came just in time.

Maybe these guys can help with our next training sessions.



11:47 PM


Monday, June 02, 2003
Will work for tix... 
At the semi-annual All Hands meeting at work they had two contests... a Tarzan Yell and a Best Jungle Outfit... with tickets to Disneyland and the LA Zoo as the Grand Prizes. Having Tony and Judy in town was my incentive to "work it." I really could use the free entertainment, so I had to put on a show.

OK, so I'm a goofball, wrapped in a ham, stuffed in a nerd... it ain't easy being me... it's taken me years to perfect that act.

My first Tarzan yell was suggested by my teammate, Ricky (used with permission...) "Hey Jane, bring me a beer!!" It went over well, but wouldn't have been an award winner... so I gave it all I got. I didn't know I was such a windbag... no everyone else knows too.

My fashion show was completely silly... runway, sucked in cheeks... complete attitude. After all, what did I have to lose, right?

I won both grand prizes, by the way... so I get to see Mickey... even if I had to act Goofy to get there.


11:48 PM


Sunday, June 01, 2003
The Road Back... 
For me, it was another weekend afternoon on the bike. For Tony, it was so much more. It was riding a bike after a long time away; it was a different lifestyle. It was a challenge; not because of the hill at the end, but because of the new life at the beginning. It was painfully normal in many ways; almost too much of a good thing. We took it slow.

To him it was more than a vacation, it was a trip back to himself... back to the Tony he was when we first met 18 years ago... back to the Tony he was becoming; before he became distracted. In a way, it was his road home.

For me, it was more like a satisfying meal. Each moment seemed to simmer a little longer. I savored each curve more today than I have in a long time... all the while baking for four hours until I was done.


11:18 PM


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