Why I Love Entrepreneurs….

When I retired and it became painfully obvious I was not going to make an income from writing, I did what most retired military officers do in the D.C. area and went to work for a company involved in Department of Defense contracting. Since we were in a position to where I just had to make a respectable salary rather than as much as I possibly could, I had the flexibility to go with a small, nimble company founded by an entrepreneur whom I grew to greatly admire. Actually, two of them since the company started with either five or seven individuals (I don’t recall the exact number). I’m sure the other founding members were also great, but I mostly dealt with the two. Anyway, even though I chose not to move up much in the company, I was fascinated with how things came about and listened carefully as they expanded literally to the point where they had to sell because they were, “too big to be small and too small to be big”. In essence, in the world of government contracting, there are a lot of “set-asides” for smaller companies. Once you reach a certain size though, you no longer qualify for those contracts and you are thrust into competition with the really big guys. The genuine ability to compete against them is extremely difficult and so the most practical option is hold tight until one or more of them take notice of you and make an offer to buy you out. There are all sorts of considerations, but it’s something that happens all the time.

Anyway, that was a very interesting lesson in the real world of business. Coming closer to home, we had lunch today at the Redlander Restaurant at Schnebly’s  (https://www.schneblywinery.com). They are a fantastic example of starting small with a niche market and expanding in a reasoned fashion. For those who may not be familiar with them they make wine from our local tropical/exotic fruits. They began with what was basically a modular building as their tasting and sales room. They grew to a beautifully landscaped property with a wonderful large room that added a restaurant. During the process they also branched out to brew beer on the property and opened “The Tap Room” which is quite large and serves 18 beers. They are an event place as well and are always coming up with new ideas. They are family run and it’s a pleasure to watch each new venture.

Trust Me, Little Gecko…

There are those things in ordinary life that can be viewed metaphorically. Geckos are of course commonplace here and they will inevitably show up in the house occasionally. In general, you can manage to scoot them back out the door. The other night, I noticed one that had emerged from under the sideboard in the kitchen. I tried to get him up on a folded piece of paper, but he was too quick and darted back under the furniture. I said at the time, “I wish you would let me rescue you.” Hubby said, “Don’t worry, he can probably get enough to eat,” or something to that effect. Okay, the next day, the gecko emerged again and my second attempt to corral him was no more effective as he disappeared quite quickly. Still not being able to speak gecko, I assured him I only had his best interest at heart. Day three, I came downstairs and he had moved from the kitchen into the front room where he was on a clear, although long path to the front door if only I could keep him moving forward. Rather than try the scooping up (which hadn’t worked), I got the broom hoping to gently “herd” him out. The first few “sweeps” were working and then it became obvious, he was weakening. By the time I did get him to the front door and what I perceived as safety, he was obviously not in good shape. He basically collapsed on the welcome mat outside and keeled over.

In all fairness to the gecko, his response to me was normal. I was a great big thing and he had every reason to believe I intended him harm. It was exactly the opposite, but there was no way to convey that. Was he already ill and therefore would have expired no matter what? I don’t know. Was my good intention completely misplaced? Had I left him alone, would he have survived in the house and eventually made his way outside? I don’t know. Should I continue with the metaphor and delve more deeply into it? No, but anyone else is welcome to do so.

By the way, if you’ve never had a chance to roam through my short story collection on the website, please do. “A Gecko in the Umbrella” is a fun one. http://charliehudson.net/stories/story200604.html

Following Up In All Fairness…..

I can see why everyone has been raving about “Hairspray” at the Seminole Theatre. The talent of the large cast was terrific. I’d had one of my terrible bouts of insomnia in the wee hours of Saturday and left last night at intermission, but there was no question as to the quality of he production. As it was the first go-round for the Seminole Players, it has certainly set a high bar for Community Theater.

Last night was a sell-out crowd as have been a couple of other performances. This was the first time there have been as many dates set and all were well-attended. I don’t know if they can capture the data, but I heard several people in the lobby mention it was their first time to be in the Seminole. I went into my pitch of course and one gentlemen gave me his card and asked me to email him with more information.

What If Works Theater and Film, one of the longstanding members of Homestead Center for the Arts, will be doing “Driving Miss Daisy” Oct 20th and 21st and although WIW is a separate entity from the Seminole, this play is also cast with community members. A nice trailer was recently posted to http://www.whatifworks.com

With this being the third season of programming, there is at least more data about what people are responding to and that is helpful. There have been surprises both ways with shows that didn’t resonate that were expected to and others that were very popular that hadn’t seemed as if they would draw much of an audience. There is no doubt as to the hard work that goes into the Seminole and I do hope this is the year it hits its stride so to speak.

 

 

Part of Why Newcomers Get Confused…..

I’ve mentioned this briefly before, but when people first move here, driving around can be confusing. Everyone assumes with GPS tech, you just pop an address in and be all set. In some cases, that is correct. The first thing though is there are two sets of street designations; one is the county and the other is the municipal. Since we are south of the main part of the County, their numbering is quite different. For example, NE 8th Street is the local designation and SW 312th is the county. That also happens to be Campbell Drive, so when you get an address from someone, it will depend on which numbering system they are accustomed to using. Now, let’s say you are given the county number which is what most of the GPS systems are programmed with. You are going along and suddenly the street deadends into a field. This is because we still have a lot of agricultural lands and the street may very well pick up again on the other side of the large multi-acre field. The GPS system doesn’t realize that more-or-less straight line doesn’t actually exist as a road.

The other problem is you may have a  19th Ave, 19th Drive, 19th Place, 19th Street,19th Terrace and 19th Road. This is why when someone gives you an address, you have to be certain of the full address. If you are casually told, “Oh, we’re on 19th”, you’re likely to be in the wrong place. As you can imagine, delivery people can become quite frustrated.

Trying to manage all this in the dark is especially challenging and there are stories to be told by even people who have lived here for a while. In the agricultural community, streetlights tends to be limited and you often cannot read a street sign without literally getting out of the vehicle and using a flashlight. These are all things you get used to, but it does take time.

Musicals, Not So Much…..

Our wonderful Seminole Theatre began the first of several performances of “Hairspray”, last night. The final performance will be Sat, Aug 12th.  They do not usually have more than about two showings of any performance. (http://seminoletheatre.org)  This is also the first time a production has been done with Community Theater. I have been told the local talent assembled is terrific and the initial reviews were very positive. It so happens that I am not big on musicals and yes, I have been to see such shows as “Phantom of the Opera”. Enjoying the soundtrack of a musical is different and I think that’s probably the deal with me. I’m happy to listen to the music and who isn’t moved by a song like, “The Impossible Dream” or chuckle at “Get Me To The Church On Time”? For me, I suppose it’s as much if I want to hear a concert, I go to a concert or a musical revue for that matter. If I want a play, I watch a play. Having someone burst into song in the midst of a scene doesn’t do a lot for me. In fact, of all the performing arts, opera is the single one I have never warmed to. It could be the same issue of not wanting music in place of dialogue. That could of course be related to me being a writer rather than a musician.

I will be going to Hairspray next week in the mode of supporting the Seminole and I imagine I’ll be fine with it. I vaguely recall having seen the movie, but that was quite some time ago.

Files Frustration…..

I realize I am not the only one who lets papers get stacked up over the years. I periodically go into a files clean-up mode although not nearly as often as I should. There is an absolute level of risk if you try to do too much at one time because it tends to start to blur together or you think, “I’ll never need that again”, and yet if you toss it, sure as the world something will come up that requires it. As has been discussed in other blogs, when you have to clean out another individual’s files, it gets really tricky. With digitization ability, there are some things I can do, but then you have these legal sheet size papers that can’t be scanned by a normal scanner. (Well, maybe they can be and I don’t know how to do it.)

As you might can guess, I’m having to seek out some old files which I did find. They were of course in the box that was one of the most difficult to get to. In the process, I naturally found all these others as I think, “I need to reorganize and get caught up with stuff I’ve never filed.” The reality is because I work on so many different projects, I have far more files than I’d like and physical space does become an issue. Plus, two filing cabinets that I like from an aesthetic point of view aren’t as functional as they could be. This was a situation where I allowed the decorator part of me to outweigh the practical side. That really is something I can resolve, but it isn’t high on my priority list. The simple fact is this, like so many  things, is a matter of priority. The mental energy required to properly work the files can be put to better use most days and therefore I choose to do other tasks. In all fairness, deadline-driven tasks do have to be completed first. I suppose I could set aside a little time over the next couple of weeks and see how much I get accomplished. I’ll give it some thought at least.

Sometimes It Isn’t Silly…….

I make no secret of my dislike of bureaucracy and have written previous posts about it. It doesn’t matter what period of time you look at, while the term “bureaucracy” is relatively modern, the fact of it dates back thousands of years. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if in caveman drawings, there wasn’t some sort of rule laid down as to whom could draw on which rock. Anyway, I agree with needing structure and processes for many things. The overriding issues when dealing with bureaucrats tends to fall into two categories. The first is confusing processes that normal people can’t understand. This comes about for a number of reasons and range from annoying to downright out-dated. The second, more insidious aspect is power, be it petty or masking potential corruption. Let us not deal with the potential corruption part. Sadly, there are plenty of people in the world who desire power in any form they can get it. Therefore, if an individual needs a service and the bureaucrat in question can deny that for whatever reason, the bureaucrat may choose to do so “just because they can”. On the other hand, there are situations that seem absurd and fall into the category of something that was once valid, but no longer is. The example here is when someone is required to fill a form out using “Black pen only”. Why should that matter? Back when copiers were not as sophisticated as today, ink colors other than black would not show up well in copies. In many cases, this is no longer important, but no one has taken the time to go change the rules.

So, if faced with a situation where a bureaucratic response seems wrong, the first step is find what the actual processes and requirements are. There is also the possibility the bureaucrat is simply interpreting something incorrectly. In either case, if the processes and rules are written in difficult to understand language or in a lengthy document, it often discourages an individual from pursuing the point. I’m not going to say that’s deliberate, but it is effective. Anyone who takes on such a task needs to be prepared to persevere. Changes can be made and battles can be won, but it will rarely be easy.

 

About Game of Thrones….

In general, I don’t watch graphically violent shows, but there are exceptions. Although I don’t do vampires or zombies, “Game of Thrones” is one of my exceptions.  A neighbor actually read all the books and was very excited when HBO created the series. He’s the one who urged us to watch it and the show is well-crafted. Unless you’ve seen it from early on though or have someone who can explain the concept, it’s quite confusing. There are Seven Kingdoms, all with houses and allies, and pretty much constant warring since Season Two as to who will be the ultimate ruler. Alliances shift back and forth and betrayals are commonplace. In addition to the human mayhem, there is the fantasy element of creatures determined to wipe out humans (or maybe just kill a lot of them) that has become a growing threat. Oh, and there are dragons. The dragons don’t always behave so when you see them you’re never quite sure of what they’ll be up to.

The biggest caution, aside from trying to keep the characters straight, is to resist becoming attached to any particular character because the odds are he or she will end up being killed. In fact, not long after we started watching, our neighbor brought us Fire and Ice which is the first book in the 7 (or maybe 8) volume series. I thought the show was bloody and was stunned to discover the book was worse. There were also even more characters and it didn’t take long for us to determine it was more complicated than we wanted to bother with. I guess the things for true fans though is the author, George R.R. Martin, has not finished the final book and they aren’t sure of what he intends as an end resolution. He is, however, part of the HBO team and one would think he isn’t straying too far from what he plans in the final book. Or maybe he is so readers will really be surprised.

Anyway, the new season started last week and we’ll see who makes to the end this time.

 

A Character Morphing…..

There are times in writing when the term “characters take on a life of their own” is used. That can be interpreted in various ways and I’ve mentioned before how I too sometimes significantly alter a character for different reasons. In this case, I had a character who was quite minor, but as I got deeper into the plot, I realized the minor character could be given a larger role in order to have a better flow for an event I needed. I didn’t care too much about him initially – think of it as an actor with a walk-on part in TV or film who is suddenly given lines instead. So, my minor character who really had only a name and profession and a slight relationship to a victim suddenly had to have more depth. In fleshing him out with a place of origin and why he relocated to the Florida Keys, I decided a little twist would be in order, too. It was fun and at least this time, I didn’t have to kill him off to make the story work. I left him alive and well and while he probably won’t make an appearance in another book, he might come in handy for the future. I’ll explain more later.

Well, There Was That One Time……

If you’ve been on my website, you may have looked at the speaker’s section. I have several topics I regularly present and can tailor a few more. Yesterday, I did a pretty short-notice presentation to the Rotary Club, but since it was about my military time and then into my writing, it was one I can do with about an hour’s warning. The title of, “An Inadvertent Pioneer” is something I’ve mentioned before. After I gave my talk and went into  questions, one gentleman asked me to give an example of an “obstacle” I encountered because I was female. Not wanting to get into anything too gritty (didn’t have many of those anyway), I went for something that was ultimately amusing. For those who know this, bear with me as I explain for those who don’t. In the Army, as in some of the other services, there are officers, enlisted, and warrant officers. Warrant officers  are highly skilled technicians in their chosen field. Senior warrant officers are as grizzled, opinionated, often prickly, and outspoken as one can ask for. So, here I was, a very junior second lieutenant, the first female officer ever assigned to the 19th Maintenance Battalion in Giessen, Germany.

That was also in the day when we had Officer’s Clubs and we younger folks hung together at one end of the bar and the senior warrant officers tended to be at the other end. It didn’t usually take long for this one guy, “Mr. J” I’ll call him to begin to make loud comments about how the Army was changing, especially the idea that women could be more than nurses and clerks. It wasn’t as if anyone could miss what he was saying, but it also wasn’t worth a public challenge and I simply blew it off for what it was. This went on for the entire two years I was assigned to the unit. Then in my last few days before being reassigned back to the States, I was at the Club one evening and Mr J wandered over. He gruffly said something along the lines of, “Lieutenant, you know I don’t much like the way the Army is changing.” “Yes, Mr. J, I know.” “And I don’t know why they think women should be anything other than nurses and admin (administrative), but you’re okay in my book.” I wasn’t the only one who was astonished to hear him say this in public and we parted if not as friends, then at least with having an understanding.