I was on retreat a few weeks back. As part of the retreat, I had to set some lifetime goals, also known as a bucket list. The best way to keep me honest and to the list is too publish them. Sorry for those marked confidential – need to keep some mystery.
UPDATED : August 27, 2019.
UPDATED : January 29, 2014.
UPDATED : December 18, 2012.
After humping it for quite a few years with family and Contegix, it is now time to get back to blogging. It has been too long. I already have a few posts in draft format that will be ready to go over the next few days and weeks.
There will be a few changes. First, the blog at porterhome.com will be mostly focused on the personal side of the topics – family, tech, Contegix, and entrepreneurship. These will be more related to me and my personal experiences. Contegix Thoughts From Insider The Ether Blog will contain Contegix business, our infrastructure, etc. Keep checking it out!
For entrepreneurship, I will be launching STLEntrepreneur.com in the near future. Keep watching there!
And keep following my tweets…
Tonight, my iPhone encountered a stronger opponent – the kitchen floor. While bringing in the milk from Oberweis, I dropped my iphone on the floor. The floor won.
Last year, I was invited to become a member of Entrepreneus’ Organization (EO), a global community of business owners. While the key focus of EO is the monthly forum, one of the programs I became involved with there was Accelerator. This program is designed for entrepreneurs who have a business that does not yet qualify for EO membership. Most of these businesses would be classified as first stage ventures that have already demonstrated success, in terms of revenue and growth. More importantly, these are businesses that are being built for growth.
Over the past year, I have grown truly passionate about this program. It provides quarterly full-day learning events that are networking and solicitation free. The participants get access to high quality material and business presentations on how to grow their businesses. All of this is done at a very reasonable cost to the participants thanks to the partnership with Mercedes-Benz Financial. More importantly, it occurs in a confidential environment. The single goal of Accelerator is empowering entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills to help grow their businesses in a smart manner. Period.
Yesterday was one of the quarterly days. The topic of discussion was strategy. A core component of that is defining corporate values.
Somewhere along the lines, I have become one of the people who believe corporate values are more than just statements on a cubicle wall. I went from the person who mocked them as jibberish corporate bullshit to wanting to have a company with values and identity that people believed in and stood behind. For us, one of our core values is the realization that all of these switches, servers, firewalls, cables, etc. are not just equipment. They are the tangible representation of people’s livelihoods. Our engineers call this the “mortgage talk” since I give an example that this cabinet is so-and-so being able to make his mortgage payment every month. It is his livelihood.
During yesterday’s session, Paul Scheiter from Hedgehog Leatherworks discussed his corporate values. His conviction to these values has led him to post them to his website. One of which is the value “No Dry Humping!”. The meaning behind the value is that his company will never hard sell a customer. They will not overload the customer with sales calls, brochures, emails, etc. You become a customer because you love the product and want to be a customer. He treats customers they way he wants to be treated.
While this has to be the funniest value I have ever heard, it also reflects his passion and commitment to the customer and perfectly reflects his target audience – outdoor survivalists. I can not imagine a survivalist who would take offense to the message. Instead, the value speaks from the heart, entices a chuckle, and contains a story about a dog and the dog’s natural reaction. What survivalist does not love dogs?
Paul might be marketing genius for his target audience or, at least, his company’s values.
Ah, travel. It’s one of those ideas that seems really sexy when you are younger. See new places, meet new people, all without hassles thanks to the modern day conveniences. In a past life, I even took advantage of those fringe benefits such as frequent flyer miles. This allowed me to earn premium status on American Airlines at one time and pay $25.00 to take my family to Florida last summer. Never once had those horrible trips described in magazines and folklore… until recently.
I needed to head to Portland, Oregon for business. My goal was to leave Saint Louis on Wednesday, February 6, 2008 and return the next day. I had arranged for 2 meetings in the late afternoon before heading to dinner with another customer. Patrick Lightbody and I had plans for breakfast the next morning just to catch up. Plus, I still needed to deliver off his wedding gift. Then, I would take leisurely metro ride to the airport before heading back to Saint Louis.
I had the airplane (with a stop through Seattle) and hotel booked. Everything was prepared and ready. I am an old pro at this having racked up over 300k frequent flyer miles. Hell, last summer, my wife and I took our 3 children all under the age of 3 to Florida. Yet, that’s when American Airlines and Marriott decided to tag team me into trip hell submission.
First, my flight departed from the gate as scheduled. This departure consisted of backing off from the gate by about 15 feet and, then, rolling back to the terminal. The pilot stated that a problem was found in the center fuel tank pump. It was failing to start and maintain consistent pressure. He hoped it was just a sensor reading. Since the all fuel tanks are needed to complete the trek to Seattle, this needed to be corrected.
After waiting 45 minutes, concern hit about whether I would make my connecting flight to Portland. I was advised by the flight attendants to depart the plane and talk with the gate agent which I promptly did. The gate agent assured me hat we should be taking off shortly and there would be plenty of other flights should I miss my original connection. While chatting with the agent, the pilot stepped off the plane. I am not an expert in the workings of an airline by any stretch of the imagination; however, I am pretty damn sure this is never a good sign.
Over three hours later, we finally depart Saint Louis. Curious what happened with the fuel pump? Well, that problem could not be corrected according to the pilot who was always polite, professional, and kept the passengers informed. The center tank was drained of the fuel. Therefore, we would be making a stop in Denver, Colorado for more fuel in the working tanks. This means that we needed to alter the flight path which would result in a longer flight.
At this point, we are late taking off, need to make a stop half-way, and my original connecting flight will be gone. American decided that these inconveniences were not yet enough. The flight was stocked with a complete lack of snacks for every passenger. By the time I was offered something, my choices was a candy bar or to suck down more recycled, pressurized air. At what point when we sat at the terminal for 3+ hours did American decide that people want to site on one of their fucking spacious airplanes for 9 hours without a drop of food with real substance? Maybe this is part of their grand plan to fatten the passengers so that we can buy two seats and have the extendo-belt.
I finally arrive in Seattle after 3:00 pm local time, but American is far from done kicking me. The gate agent informs me that he has little information on my connecting flight other than which concourse. I phone the AA reservations desk where I discover that I have been booked on a United Express “puddle jumper” flight from Seattle to Portland. If everything goes right, I should arrive in Portland around 6:00 pm local time. I may have missed my 2 meetings but will be able to have dinner with the customer.
Unfortunately, American Airlines has locked my electronic ticket. It takes the United Express gate agent five phone calls over 30 minutes to find someone at American to pick up the phone. The AA supervisor contacted then has no clue how to unlock it. Another 10 minutes go by. Finally, someone at American corrects the problem. I now have a plane ticket and head to grab a quick snack.
Thanks to delays imposed by Seattle Airport, the flight is restricted from departing for approximately 1 hour. It is just after 7:00 pm local time when I arrive in Portland. Thanks to American, my bag containing my phone charger and Patrick’s gift are lost. The United lost luggage agent informs me that there exists a possibility my bag was sent to New York by American. Once again, let me reiterate – I am not an expert in airline logistics; however, I do not believe the direct route from Seattle, WA to Portland, OR is through the east coast.
After an enjoyable dinner (thanks Eric, Michael, and Justin from fmyi.com!), I head to the Marriott with visions of my bag awaiting me. This dream even seems a reality when I check in at the front desk. The desk clerk informs me that I was already checked in which is probably because my bag arrived and was delivered to my room. Instead, American Airlines tagged the Marriott to continue the match in a move that would make The Road Warriors proud.
When I open the door to the hotel room, it is obvious that the room is not empty. How do I know? The naked male who attempted to engage me in a vulgar conversation on why I entered his room provided me a hint.
In all fairness to the Marriott, I was placed in another room and given a complimentary breakfast. Someone checked in under my reservation for the pre-paid room. Since I worked at the Saint Louis Airport Marriott in college, I can understand how this mistakenly happens on rare occasions. Sincere kudos to the staff working that night with their apologies and attempts to make it better.
I finally got my bag the next morning right before heading to the airport. This was after a good nights sleep and an enjoyable breakfast with Patrick at a local pancake place (beautiful blue corn pancakes!).
A number of people have asked about whether we found Ike and how the family is coping with the loss.
I am sad to report that we never found Ike. We contacted every organization and traveled to numerous shelters. There was never any sign of him. Some of our posters are still up along Caulks Hill road. Although, they are fading as time progresses – as are the children’s memories of Ike.
Since Ike’s microchip has never been scanned, we hope that someone found Ike and fell in love with him. As a memory, we keep a picture on the refrigerator of Ike.
Monday night, I attended the RMS talk presented as part of the Spender & Spencer series at University of Missouri – Saint Louis. As expected, the talk was about the freedom of software and how proprietary software is “evil”.
It has been awhile since I have heard RMS speak. Maybe my memory is failing, but I don’t recall the numerous mentions of proprietary software being linked to terrorism. The core was by the mere statement that since proprietary software is not free as in freedom, it is terrorism. The second was a linking about how Microsoft Windows’ history with back doors. One back door exists as requested by NSA. Another backdoor never made it to Windows. This backdoor was supposedly being added unbeknownst to Microsoft by members of al-Queda. *
Let’s skip over the outrageous claim where proprietary software vendors threaten to rape people who use free software in countries like Argentina. * Yes, that “rape” not a metaphoric term for selling software at an outrageous price or requiring professional services to make that expensive software actually work.
What is interesting about RMS and the proclaim for freedom is the angle of where freedom requirement ends. For example, the FSF has a website, and I have no doubt that it is running on free, open source software. Yet, are the upstream routers, switches, and the remainder of the infrastructure running free open source? I would be willing to bet that are not. The proclamation that we should all use free software contradicts this. In reality, every user has limits on where free software can be required.
There was no mention of why the developers should not have their freedom to control their creations. On that topic, Stallman repeated his known opinion on how we are all force fed Linus Torvalds’s freedom by his stances on the GPL and lack of reference to GNU/Linux vs. Linux.
One point of fun was how RMS slammed UMSL at the midpoint of the talk. In front of the Chancellor, he stated that the university had banned free software, such as GNU/Linux (full titled just for RMS… this one time only).* No real elaboration on this, but it may honestly explain the overwhelming difficulty Contegix has faced in our goal to hire Linux talent.
My curiosity was peaked with the mention of how most Linux distributions are not composed solely of free software. RMS stated this phenomenon began in the mid-1990s. This was done to feed the needs of the consumer when a free alternative was not available. RMS argues that this impacted the free software movement as the inclusion became viral. Even when the non-free software was replaced with a free alternative, there was yet another unmet need and, thus, more proprietary software included. This begs a thesis study on whether Linux and thus GNU would have advanced as far as it has today if these needs were not met by the inclusion of the proprietary code.
Even when preaching to the choir, not everyone is a believer. It’s a shame that speech contains radicalness and a touch of bitterness about the GNU/Linux debate. Frankly, this turns people off and taints the message for many. A few people walked out at some point. Regardless of whether this was due to the radicalism, the true message is often lost.
Was it a good talk? Absolutely. Will I see Stallman again? Absolutely. Should people see Stallman talk? Absolutely! Do radical ideas from both sides of a debate help balance the world? Possibly. Will we be able to determine if/when Alzheimer’s hits Stallman and he starts speaking crazy? Hell, no.
* [References? Nah, those are for wusses and evil proprietary software vendors when they sell you their evilware. BTW, since Contegix uses RHEL and SLES, we are evil too!]
SNL did a skit about Maraka and her pet “Mittens”. As a parent who is forced to watch Dora repeatedly and wants that damn fox to steal Dora’s map, this made me laugh until I cried:
It’s a relatively sad day for the Porter family. We have been searching for Ike since January 7th but are losing hope. It started when I let him out early that morning. Since then, Saint Louis has been plagued with exceptionally cold weather. Almost every night, Avery expresses her concerns and tells us how much she misses and loves Ike. It absolutely breaks our hearts.
Personally, I am beginning to believe someone has him and is keeping him. Our flyers and posters are “mysteriously” disappearing around the neighborhood.