Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In Search of Consistency

2 x 52 = 104
...after today!
  This will be my last blog of 2011. I’ve written 2 posts a week every week this year except on Okoboji weekend in April when I wrote my Sunday post on Friday in order to be able to enjoy a great weekend directing the Okoboji Open and hanging out with my friends Jodene Kruse, John Flores, Sam Smith, Riaz Khan, and the rest of the crowd. Just like holding a youth tournament every month in Des Moines is something I am proud of, having kept to a blogging schedule of two posts a week for an entire year is also something I’m looking back on with pride since consistency is a virtue I prize very highly. If you click the little ‘next blog’ button on top of this page a dozen times, you will probably see 8 blogs without a post this month and 4 or those without a post in the last 6 months. If you’ve given your best effort and decided the results aren’t worth the work I see nothing wrong with walking away, but shouldn’t these people at least write a good bye post?

  One of my rewards for regularly writing my blog for an entire year is being able to go back and read an entire years’ worth of writing in a couple of hours like I did this past weekend. I think I got better at writing as the year progressed, but I'm not a good judge. I got a lot of blogging material from my monthly Des Moines family chess tournaments, but my visits to Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventures and my quest to win an award from the Chess Journalists of America also provided many blogging miles. I found time to write a little about sports and politics, but Daisy, Baxter, and Cheetos dominated my non-chess postings.

  Another reward a long running blog provides is to use the Google Analytics tool to see which of my 103 posts this year have proven the most popular. Even though my blog is primarily about chess, the most looked at posts this year were my March review of the Joe Namath biography, the January posting about Daisy and Baxter titled ‘Beagle Puppy Update’, my first visit to Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure titled ‘Coffeehouse Chess’, and my May story about my in-laws dentures (‘A Tooth for A Tooth’). These rankings are skewed towards older posts since they have been available for ‘googling’ for many months, but it is undeniable that Joe Namath is still a football rock star and Beagles are one of the most popular pets in the world. I’m not surprised that my Cheetos posts aren’t looked at more, after all why would anyone read about Cheetos when they could be eating them instead!?!

  On the inconsistent side, for the third straight year I’m ending the year at a different job than I started the year in. I think I’ve finally found a place to settle in for a long stretch, but I thought the same about the last 3 jobs. After having my job sold out from under me 5 years ago, I’m happy to have gotten my skills upgraded to the point that I don’t get calls from recruiters looking for fossils to work on legacy systems. Now I get calls from recruiters that are looking for people with modern skills. Taking a new job was a huge gamble on my being able to hold my own in a super-fast paced environment and so far it’s paid off. The job market looks good for programmers in the coming year, but all it takes is one clown crossing out names with a red pen and no job is safe so I'm still looking to keep my skills as current as I can.

  My new skills have come in handy in developing my chess website Because I have a better understanding how to build these things from the ground up, I was able to put it together in around a week and now I’ve started to add the types of features that dovetail with my series of blitz and family tournaments. Players in my Thursday Night Blitz and Youth Chess tournaments can see seasonal and all-time won-loss records and view their playing history. The USCF website does the same thing (only better), but my site also shows statistics for unrated and parents tournaments. I have a good amount of work remaining for a first class web site, but since I’m committed for the long haul I can afford to be patient and let the content build up as I continue writing about my chess tournaments. In a year or two my reward will be a website that is a central part of my work and chess resume and a selling point for independent website development.

  When the year started, we had just gotten Daisy and Baxter, and seeing them grow up has been a year-long treat. I took a few pictures and posted them on Facebook when they were little pups, but then when I missed a week, Kathy’s family wanted to see more pictures of Daisy and Baxter, so each week I assemble our pictures and post them on Facebook. It takes about 20 minutes a week (not counting the time spent taking the pictures) but to look at an entire year of pictures on Facebook makes it seem like time well spent indeed (Here is a bonus link to the Christmas album). I can look at the cover picture on all the beagle albums on one screen and it’s almost like watching them grow up in the blink of an eye. I’m very jealous of young parents who can take pictures of their children every day, post them on Facebook or some other social media site, and then be able to look back in a year or 2 and watch the growth of their kids. Matt graduated from high school and Ben went through confirmation this year, but we just have a few pictures a year of them. I don’t know if I’ll still be taking pictures of the beagles as they start to turn gray and age and decline, but I tend to think I will. I still look at pictures of Queenie and Tuffy. Kathy and others will look at the pictures and say how old they look, but I never see them as old, I just see all the enjoyment I got out of my friendship with them.

  I don't take myself too seriously, but I take being consistent very seriously. I’ll leave the why to psychologists. I’ve always tried to be consistent and always valued consistency in others. I enjoy working with honest people and people who I can depend on to work hard and do the right thing, but that isn’t always an option. And when that option isn’t available and I can’t go it alone, I’ll take the people who are always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone else and the people who you can tell are lying because their lips are moving every time over the people who make you guess whether they’re telling the truth or if today will bring a pat on the back or a kick in the rear. At least with the former I always know what to expect and will never be disappointed.