Fast, Cheap, or Quality ... Pick Two!

"Quality means doing it right when no one is looking."
- Henry Ford
 "Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort."
- John Ruskin
I have spent the last couple of months utilizing one week’s worth of vacation and an abundant amount of my after work hours and weekend time building a deck at our house. For a number of reasons it has taken me a lot longer than I originally anticipated.   A.   LOT.   LONGER.

There is an old adage in the design and construction industry stating one can have a project done “Fast, Cheap, or Quality…. Pick Two!” Whether you are web designer, contractor, architectural designer, or a husband, in order to build something one really must know which two of these are the most important parameters. Or in other words, which one are you willing to give up?

Quality + Fast = Expensive
This option means the hired contractor will postpone everything, cancel all other appointments, work 24/7 to get the job done. Quality is still paramount and if something goes amiss then a professional fixes it and makes it right. However, the deadline is critical to this scenario, too, and it comes with a cost. The higher price trumps everything else. That is why it is expensive. In the case of our deck, this would have been a professional deck builder or contractor, not me. We could have paid for a contractor and a crew to build it in a week, easy. But labor is not cheap and the contractor mark up on materials isn’t either. Quality + Fast = Expensive

Quality + Cheap = Slow
This option assures quality is not compromised, either. And since quality is paramount one can’t just go cheap on materials. So, in order for it to be cheap one must have cheap labor or no pressing deadline! One works on it when there is spare time. Paying attention to details is important and that can’t be rushed. In the case of our deck, it is just me and my wife. We are free. My vacation time was paid for and I could give the deck project the attention it deserved for a week. But, I’m not a professional. I’m not practiced in the art of speed. I measure twice, sometimes thrice, cut once. Quality + Cheap = Slow

Fast + Cheap = Inferior
This option means one really doesn’t care about the quality. The priorities are to just get it done so that it doesn’t cost a lot of labor and time. Cutting corners is acceptable. Quality is not important. In the case of our deck, this was not an option. Not at my house! Fast + Cheap = Inferior

As of this post, the project is nearing a 90% completion. The deck boards are all in. We can walk on it. The railing and trellis parts have yet to be finished. Plus, we need to put the second coat of stain on it again. But, it feels almost complete. We should have most of the remaining 10% done in the next few weekends, depending on our schedules, of course. The only thing I’m in a hurry for is that sense of accomplishment. I’m not there yet.

A side note:  With all the hours working on the project, I spent some quality time within my own head. I came to the conclusion that there IS indeed a way one can get all three… Fast, Cheap, AND Quality! One needs to be Amish.

Amish Quality = Experienced craftsmen
Amish Cheap = Tons of free, quality labor
Amish Fast = They can build a barn in a weekend




Celebrating Another Year of Daddyism (or Its Father’s Day, Again)

“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” – Clarence Budington Kelland

As I tick off another notch in the annals of Father’s Days, I am confronted once again with the concept of Daddyism. One can start HERE, of course. But I must admit the center of the concept continually changes.

Daddyism resembles a long, dreamy road trip ripe with illogicalities and absurdity. For brief moments one has the audacity to presume the ride is a sporty convertible and a meandering open road; the wind in your hair, the sun on your face, perfect music, and the world in front of you. The next moment, a shriek from the back seat turns the driving to a clunky, beat up wagon, a steep downhill mountain pass where one questions the validity of the brakes.

In other words, no matter where one thinks you are on the Dad spectrum, “psyche!” That is Daddyism.

Daddyism feels a lot like being lost in L.A. without a GPS. Well, not really lost. You know you are in L.A. someplace. It doesn’t really look like what L.A. is supposed to look like. You see tons of sprawling strip malls and palm trees, but you don’t see anything you know to point you on the right track. Half the people speak some other language one can’t understand (including English) making asking for directions beyond taboo. Besides, you’re not really lost. You just can’t seem to locate that one familiar landmark.

No matter what the outward persona looks like, fathers are destined to navigate an unknown highway. We hopelessly search for something intended to stay hidden. Fatherhood is a place where drive, ambition, and a sense of purpose are routinely translated as narcissism and self-importance. In other words, sometimes the driver needs to take a back seat to reality. Daddyism !

After 18 plus years it is foolish to claim all this stuff is easy. Family matters have only gotten complicated, busy, and increasingly emotive. The calm offerings of Dad are often just a delusion to the contrary. But, that is ok.

On the surface, I hope to be seen by my family and peers as a father with wisdom and understanding. Indeed, it has been a great ride so far. To my kids, I hope they see through the fool they think I am to one day be the wise dad, navigating the world with a enough skill that they no longer feel the need to “tell me the way it is.” To my wife, I hope she can hold back the laughter until we are far, far away from earshot. And to me and my Daddyism, I simply hope to maintain that inner GPS.


Human and Feline Condition

“To him, who still would gaze upon the glory of the summer sun, there comes, when that sun will from him part, a sullen hopelessness of heart.” - Edgar Allan Poe 

I used to read more. The other night I stood reviewing the shelves of our library consisting of classic Hawthorne, Longfellow, and Poe. They sat right next to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Philip Roth, and, my favorite, Jim Harrison. I sighed. I’d like to reread some of them as I’m sure my former self had no idea of the perspective I hold now. I’m sure they would read different for me today. Those authors were are all unique, yet all passionately articulate and poignantly eloquent on the varying degrees and perspectives of the human condition.
From this vantage point, today’s human condition and a broad view of modern life resembles much of what is disliked about the “happiest place on earth”. For a fairly steep price, one jumps on the “high school graduation – college – girlfriend/boyfriend – graduation – career – marriage – pets – parenthood – PTA meetings – 40 something – community volunteerism – career number two – kid graduations – aging parents – and stuff not yet conquered” ride where we blog, document, and record each meal, gathering, and event while screaming toward the ultimate exit, which sounds more and more like a long discussion about Sansabelt pants. Just a single day involves an alarm at dark thirty to work out, a glance through an online paper during a ten minute power breakfast, a flurry to make kid lunches, beat the rush to drop off said kids at school, careen into work, email, texts, errands or meetings at lunch, work, quick stop for some forgotten thing on the dash home, snail mail assessment, cooking, forced quality time at dinner with events of the day retold, clean-up, kid homework monitored, more email, media check, pet check, teeth brushed, goodnight kisses, alarms set, schedule for the next day reviewed, and … bed. And I’m sure I missed something. But, it is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride for reals.
A couple of months ago, our waiflike cat became ill. She couldn’t move. We watched her struggle. We nursed her as best we could. My wife fit vet schedules into an already stupid schedule of her own. It threw a wrench into a barely tuned machine. On top of it all, it was mentally and emotionally draining. The good news is the petite cat is doing better now, albeit a bit wobbly. She might always be that way. We shall see.
But this weekend something typical happened, though often overlooked. Maybe it was the first real observed moments to feel like Spring. Perhaps it was a break after all the laundry, house cleaning, vacuuming, and grocery shopping. It could have been the exhaustion after all the mowing, weeding, fertilizing, planting, and fixing irrigation lines. But, our frail, dainty cat ventured outside for the first time in a long time. And, we stopped.
We stopped. We sat down on the sidewalk in the sun. We listened to birds and distant barks. We compared cloud formations and jet streams. We talked. We laughed. And, our hearts filled with joy as our little, feline companion did a “stop, drop, and roll,” something physically not possible the last couple of months.
Our Lucky kitty was – and is – a simple reminder that despite our personal, puffed-up significance and all our interminable scurrying around in this crazy jaunt of life, one’s wild ride doesn’t always head in the direction we planned. There is often great loss and unavoidable sorrow—and that sometimes there is a rare delight in acknowledging we are, more often than not, helpless in the face of it all.
I needed a reminder. That is why I desire a good book.


Matter of Fact

“It takes two to speak the truth . . .
One to speak and another to hear.”
– Henry David Thoreau

“Everybody has the right to express what he thinks.
That, of course, lets the crackpot in.
But if you cannot tell a crackpot when you see one,
Then you ought to be taken in.”
– Harry S. Truman
It is critical to separate feelings from facts. Boring, I know, but it is necessary.

Something considered to be true is more often than not subjective, not objective. A truism in one world can be vastly different in another. In other words, truth has an element of perspective. People lose sight of this all too easily.

We all walk a fine line of acknowledging the truth in what we feel. Feelings are legitimate. It is your world. It is what you know. And your feelings matter. But, that isn’t always the “way things are” to others.

Not separating the facts out from feelings is a relationship buster. It propels misunderstandings, miscommunications, and mix-ups. Ask yourself, when one is sanctimonious, victimized, angry, or joyful, what has taken place? It is a reaction to a feeling and taking that feeling as a fact.

My feelings are my truth. Your feelings are your truth. But they aren’t the whole truth, just a personal partisan shade of it.

When we take what we feel to the point where we fault, accuse, deny, disparage, or judge, let’s start over by laying out the facts and separating them from our feelings. Therein lays the truth.


The Heart In Summer

The heart in summer feels passionately,
Breaking the ties between motivation and reason,
To enter a world of splendor and love.
Spirits and perceptions are dominant.

Yet, summertime often brings agony.
It is a time of rivalry and revolution.
The summer heart often finds oneself,
A stranger. The price of callousness.

Time shifts slowly with toil and sweat.
Youthful memories balance bliss and contentment.
Feel swimming and sailing. Music.
See, hear, touch the magnificence around.

The heart in summer knows well,
The river is deep and the passage broad.
Unlock the poetry and be. Laugh.
Summer is long and not to be forgotten.


Ordered My Jimmy Towel

Not only is this a great idea, but it is the brainstorm of a couple SLO Leadership Grads. Way to go guys.
Jimmy Towel


It's Friday (A work of fiction)

It’s Friday.
Mark likes wine. He sits on the shady corner of the patio talking to a minimal audience about his “script”. It is a piece “reflecting the interminable chasm of pandemonium in today’s digital world. Yet, it all makes complete sense, you know! There is order in the milieu. But that is also the peril!”.
Liz stares back at him, “It’s called The Matrix. Hello!” She adjusts her semi-transparent white blouse and looks around for another conversation to join but settles on the music, a specific Euro beat reflecting the walls of grey and green. She thinks Tom Waits’ music would be out of place here. M83 is a much better fit. Too bad, she laments.
And then there’s Sabrina, solitary at the central bar pretending to know her wine. Her intemperance, bright red lipstick, and haughty perfume hints of industry rookie and matches the green walls better than her charisma.
Leaning up against a post, palming a white wine glass to warm it a bit, Michael’s round specs reflect the light coming through the roll-up garage style doors. He’s wearing that black beret again making him look more clownish than Samuel L. Jackson, although his reference to Terret Noir catches a few nods from his group(ies). Michael is no clown with blending, or so it is told.
Being Friday, Kelly is in control of the bar and hooks me up with a perfect pour of Spanish rosé. She winks and lets the remnants of the bottle drip into my glass. I’m going to miss her if she ever ascends her way up the industry chain and lands in Napa or, more to her style, France. Besides her beauty, ambition is her best asset, as is the black tshirt/uniform.
Jake and Cynthia are rather loud assholes, being well read up on existential crap. They are appropriately absurd and talk in circles of intense nothingness. Though, it is amusing to note their cats are named Nietzsche and Sartre. They drink beer in a wine bar. Go figure.
Andrea is preposterously stunning, dressed as an affluent Santa Barbara woman just off a chic horse outing. She pulls her blonde hair off her shoulders and hugs Michael, hinting toward some deeper level as she inquires about a private dinner served family-style in a newly renovated barn.
Tai is an engineer and silently knows more about wine than most of the industry. He smiles naturally as he eavesdrops on the conversation next to him at the stainless steel bar.
Look at these people. Watch all these crazy, driven jesters with their aptitudes and criticisms and philosophies and inhibitions and crap. Who am I to judge or criticize? I’m not much different with these rosé glass goggles on, uploading balderdash into a smart phone like I’m important enough to be busy in an actual social setting. The reality is, as I shift on this bar stool all satisfied and happy and in my own state of veracity, I’m not any different. Maybe Jake and Cynthia are on to something. We’re just a group of troubled, disheartened, driven oenophiles finding ourselves in this wine bar for the same reason. It’s Friday.