What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

That is a question that sounds pretty fresh even though it has probably not been posed to me in over 25 years. If you had asked me that on the day I graduated high school I would have told you the same thing as when I graduated from college: I want to be a writer.For me college was just a buffer zone between high school and the real world which promptly swallowed me whole the minute I graduated from Duke with my Classical Studies degree. I sucked it up and did what I needed to. I did my time working as a sales person in Chicago and diligently pounded away at the great American novel in the evenings and weekends. I found new purpose after I got married and was putting my wife through law school. I figured if I could just make it until she graduated, I could finally sign off of this merry-go-round and get down to the business of being a writer while she made the money. I also figured I could put my novel and writing away until I had more time to work on it. I counted down to the day my wife graduated. There was nobody happier than me as we drove the Ryder van up I-94 from Chicago to St Paul, MN to begin her clerkship job there. I announced with glee to my boss that I was leaving. When he asked where I was going, I said St Paul. In retrospect, I think that what he meant was what was I planning to do next? “No idea,” would have been the answer.

I took a job at Bruegger’s bagels in St Paul for something to do and waited for the money to role in. It didn’t work that way, and getting paid minimum wage to be bossed about by a 17-year-old store manager was insulting. I cold make a lot more than that and get insulted just the same. I signed on to AT&T in Minneapolis and never looked back. That was 1994. By the end of 2010 I had been rewarded as the best, worked overseas, promoted, made the boss and then talked-about, abused and sent back to back of the line. Something had to be done.

So, I started writing. I wrote a screenplay that still needs revision. I also started looking for a way to start over. We moved to Atlanta in late 2011. I found another AT&T job that had more promise but initially did not have a very bright outlook. And, I kept writing. I volunteered to blog for AT&T and I started blogging for myself here on WordPress. I joined toastmasters and began writing engaging speeches. Last Friday as I drove home, I realized I was finally a writer. I didn’t go back to journalism school, I didn’t go back to square one. I also did not write the great American novel and rocket out of my current life. I just evolved in the direction I had always wanted to go. I think I am just at the beginning of my new career. Maybe I will look back and find another true tipping point in my metamorphosis. But it has been in the past week, that I have felt that I am truly now a writer and nothing else.

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Cyber Security: Lessons Learned from Pearl Harbor

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made a bold statement a few weeks back about our national security as it pertains to Cyber Attacks. He said many of our current cyber security policies are leaving us open to a disastrous cyber attack on par with the near total US fleet loss in World War II at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. As a refresher, much of the American naval fleet was destroyed on December 7, 1941 because so many ships were parked on Oahu in range of Japanese enemy bombers.
While telecom carriers like AT&T have been preparing their wide-reaching public networks to handle these onslaughts, some businesses have not adopted an adequate plan to defend themselves, and therefore put in jeopardy a piece of our national security. Here are three strategies every business should consider as part of their national duty to defend our shores and their assets.
1. Leverage the Cloud. If a war strategist looks back on Pearl Harbor, one way to prevent such a loss would be to not have all the ships in one place at the same time. The Cloud is a way to do just that. Cloud providers share resources across data centers and have back-up’s that are geographically dispersed. While this model can be replicated by some businesses with multiple data centers, the sophistication of security practices both on-site and over the network at Cloud Provider facilities id rarely be surpassed by private firms.
2. Look For Weaknesses in the Current Security Strategy. As the Cloud evolves, certain high-risk businesses that need to protect sensitive customer information prefer to keep their data closer to home. These businesses are forced to keep all their ships on Oahu. For them, managed security services from carriers are needed to make sure they are protected. Security audits and threat analysis services determines how sound the defenses in place are. But, when a cyber attack aimed at crashing a corporate network occurs (called a DDOS or distributed denial of service attack), no amount of on-site security can likely stop it. The aim of such an attack is to overwhelm the bandwidth and computing power of a publicly connected network at a customer location and bring it down. The best way to mitigate this is by using defenses available in the network to deny the data requests from attackers before they hit the end users Internet pipe and hardware. Sophisticated carrier services recognize such an attack and neutralize it. The aim of these attacks ranges from political protest to extortionist to terroristic in nature. Carrier solutions that stop these attacks before they start are analogous to a sophisticated “Star Wars” defense shield that shoots down the enemy before they are in range to do damage.
3. Private Cloud. With enemies hiding in the public Internet, new services are emerging to cloak mission-critical servers from their eyes and bad intentions. AT&T and IBM recently announced a collaborative Cloud/VPN Private Network service that secures sensitive data, by never making it visible to a public network. End points that are authorized to access the Cloud data do so from AT&T’s secure private VPN service. These private Cloud services are not visible to the public Internet. These networks stay off the radar for would-be enemies altogether.
I think Mr. Panetta’s analogy of a Cyber Pearl Harbor is a good one. By not listening to history and not positioning our resources safely and intelligently we run the risk of a similar result as that ‘day that will live in infamy.’
What other strategies can businesses employ to lower the risk of attack? How has the escalation of cyber attacks effected your business, your competitors, customers or suppliers?

Rock and Roll

Monday seems like the right day to bring this up. I haven’t been to a rock show in a long time, but I did go to one back in October with my friend here in Atlanta Ronnie Jakes. We went to see Dinosaur Jr. the seminal 90’s band and (now) aging rockers. They played a small venue at the Variety Playhouse in Little Five Point.

I was afraid I was I going to feel sad in my fluorescent ear-plugs seeing how one of my favorite bands had devolved over the years. There was some of that, but I also got back in touch with why I enjoy live rock shows at all.

The band rolled onto the stage late and disheveled. I watched the performers and tried to get into their heads. Where did they get that tee-shirt? What were they doing before the show? How much money do they really make doing this? What do they do with any down-time in all these cities they tour? I also notice their craft. I am in toastmasters these days and speaking in front of a room of 15 people effectively is not easy. These guys are playing and singing in front of a raucous house of 100’s.

But then the music fills my ears. The reckless abandon of loud power cords, too much bass and nervous looks to the sound team to turn up or down some level. The sound issues happen inevitably and is one of my favorite parts of the show. The show takes on its own life, the performers are just a part of it. The audience is another and the music and overall sound make up the other two legs of the chair. I retreat into my own head. The sound surrounds my thoughts. This is exactly the way it was back in college at these shows. Between the noise, I can still think about my worries, which have evolved from ‘how am I going to pass this class?’ to ‘How do I get out of this dead-end job?’ But, the music answers my all fears. It tells me to not worry. It moves me to ponder why I care about those things anyway? I meld into the music, lyrics, other audience members and band members. This is the swell of humanity. We are here for such a short time. I am beckoned to live life and feel alive in this place. The whole world in one room.

These days I don’t see a lot of shows, but I do find myself on weekends sitting on the patio in a plastic chair I salvaged from a neighbors who had it out as junk. I put my feet up on the drink table I salvaged from another house last Spring. I watch the private jets on approach for a landing in Peachtree Airport and wonder what would happen if I didn’t go to work on Monday. Would my life actually improve? Would I finally be living the rock ‘n roll life that I have dreamed about since college?

The Annual Visit

Once a year my parents swing through town on their yearly trek south to enjoy a couple of months in Florida away from the foreboding Adirondack winters. They always come right after the holidays and it is a chance to have one more family bash before we take down the holiday lights and put away the rest of our decorations.

It always gets me thinking when they visit about the circular path of things. I remember growing up in Pennsylvania my mother’s parents would come through town in the Fall and Spring on their way down to Florida from their summer home in the Adirondacks. ‘How quaint’, you must be thinking, but it is not the fact that both sets of grandparents live a fairly privileged retirement in one of the richest countries in the world. It is the way that experiencing things generationally makes you really think about the meaning of all the things we do on this planet.

As I mentioned, I remember being all jazzed up about my grandparents visiting. I vaguely remember my parents cleaning the house and planning meals and potential fun things to do together when they were in town. Now, I watch my kids get excited for the visit but spend most of the days preceding the visit getting things in order.

I suppose I may one day be retired like my parents are and grandparents were. Maybe I will find myself coming through town and visiting my grandchildren. That will be the third phase of three in the cycle. What might I think then? How will I see my life differently?

Meaning seems to come and go with the situations we find ourselves in. Isn’t it strange that meaning is just an emotional box to put our rational thoughts into. We spend so much of our time struggling for meaning and meaning even directs where we pursue or rational time and energies.

The visit with my parents went well and I have had a chance to rest up for the past few days. I was so tired earlier this week that I could not even blog. I know, gasp! The Humanity!

Long live the 2013 road trip! Talk to you next week.

2013 and all that jazz

I spent the days following Christmas in Orlando with my family. We stayed at the Best Western and visited Universal Studios. Everyone in my family was excited to see Harry Potter World. I did not share all their enthusiasm. The lines promised to be enormous and therefore so did the crowds. On the up-side, they do sell beer. By far we spent more time in lines than anything else at the park. I enjoyed looking at the plants growing in the tropical climate and studying my fellow-man in line with me. I thought a lot about time and how we spend each day. I watched the sun arch and fall and could almost feel the earth move beneath my feet as we inched along in line. I thought about line-theory and dreamt of ways technology could solve lines. The solutions seemed silly to me, though. What else would I have done with all those hours if I was not in line? On the few less popular rides we did go on early in the morning I almost felt cheated of spending my time when we walked right to the front of the line. The last day we went to the Disney Blizzard Beach. It was pouring down rain as we approached the entrance. My aunt and cousin who work for Disney gave us the passes, so I figured why not give it a go. We ran through the park enjoying all the slides. It was us and British tourists who were used to beach holidays in the cold and rain. The day warmed up and we exited just as the crowds were arriving. I felt great as we were leaving. I did not regret my time in line or any other inconvenience including the insane amount of money I had just spent. My cousin told me the first night we got to Orlando that we did not need to pay the Florida Turnpike tolls because there was a 3 toll per year grace for all vehicles. I was heading toward the fast pass and then my wife asked me to ‘just pay the dang thing’ so I veered over to the tollbooth. I lowered the window and handed the woman my money. The window would not go back up. It was stuck down. We like to listen to music or books on tape in the car, but for the next 450 miles we just listened to the wind and in the end tried to stay warm as we approached Atlanta after nightfall. The man at the car repair place just whacked the window motor with his fist and it went back up. I felt a bit foolish about that, but not about any of the rest of it…the time in line, the rainy water park or the 7 hours in virtual silence with the wind blasting into the car. The sun was warm at first. The slow arch of the winter sun that I observed for 3 days in a row. Happy New Year.