Veneer-ial News

I had a regular tooth cleaning on Monday. A couple of years ago, I broke off one of my teeth in the middle of the night. Not sure how I did it, but I ended up with a crown. About six months ago, the doc was probing around during a cleaning and found that a large gap had opened up between the crowned tooth and the gums. This is usually a sign of early gum disease. They made to applications of antibiotic in the last six months, and the checkup on Monday showed great progress. The gap had closed back down to a healthy level, and they gave me a rubber pick to help massage the gums and get them back to full health. During the same visit, he noticed that one of my other teeth needed some work. I had veneers placed on two of my teeth when I was younger because they were so much smaller than my other teeth. The dental assistant called them pygmy teeth. The tooth I broke off was one of the teeth that had a veneer, and now the other veneer was showing some decay. At the top of the tooth near the gumline, you could see a thin grey line. The dentist said this was normal wear, and that veneers usually last between 5 and 15 years, depending on care. I think I've had mine for at least 15 years.

So this morning, I went back to the dentist and he cut off the old veneer and applied a new, temporary one. In two weeks I will get a new permanent veneer. During the whole process, I did some research on veneers. Although the dentist didn't mention it, I had three options for cosmetic repair to the tooth. The option that I have is the veneer, which is a porcelain shell that is cemented around the existing tooth. My current veneer work is going to run $831, and the websites I read said that the cost can run from $500-$1300 depending on which tooth needs the veneer and where you live. Another option is bonding, which is very inexpensive, but only lasts up to five years, and is meant for minor filling in of chips. Finally, I could have had the tooth ground down and a true crown installed. That would cost about the same, and last just as long, but the procedure is a lot more painful as it requires a root canal. I'll stick with the veneer.

Flashback 1997 - Jumper

Flashback 1997 - Nero (the ULTIMATE dog)

Flashback 1997 - Mom

Flashback 1997 - Travis (the cheesehead years, evidently)

Flashback 1997 - Dad

Old Photos

With my 10 year class reunion coming up, I've been sort of awash with nostalgia. The last time we were up in Kokomo, I grabbed a bunch of my parents old home movies. It was hilarious to watch videos of the family at Christmas and Thanksgiving back in 1989. Everyone looked so different! Tonight, I was going through some old files and stuff that I had backed up, when I found the pictures from the website I had while I was at Purdue. I found this picture of Denise and I back at our old house. I have no idea how old this photo is, but it was a real throwback. It's been a really long time since I've seen or talked with Denise, and I feel pretty bad about that. We were best buddies all through high school, but life kind of got to us and we haven't kept in touch like we should.

I've found a bunch of other great pictures as well. As I get time, I'll post them here.

St. Louis

Last week I ws in St. Louis for the Gathering of the Games conference on Open Book Managment, The Great Game of Business, and Employee Stock Ownership Plans. We had a good time at the conference, and were very well taken care of. Some of the seminars provided some really useful and interesting information, while others were sort of duds. I won't bore you with all of the details of the trip, but we did get a chance to walk down to the Arch. Our hotel was right downtown, only a few blocks from the Arch. Thursday evening after the conference we walked over. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived they were sold out of tickets, but we did get to poke around for a bit.

Later that evening, we found an Irish bar to have dinner and relax. We figured it would be packed, seeing as how it was St. Patrick's Day and all. It was dead! There were people in the bar, but we expected a crowd. Maybe we were out too early (we were back at the hotel by 10pm), or maybe it just wasn't the most happenin' Irish pub in town. Either way, we played on the shuffleboard table, and got in a couple of games of pool. It was a fun trip, and a nice break from the usual work-week.

An interesting perspective

The Arch

St. Louis Crew

Book Review : 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

I recently finished John C. Maxwell's "21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership : Follow Them and People Will Follow You". This book was assigned reading for our Organizational Development class. The book is structured as 21 chapters, one for each law, and a concluding chapter, as well as opening remarks by John Maxwell and Zig Ziglar. The laws are:

  1. The Law of the Lid
    1. Leadership Ability determines a person's level of effectiveness.

  2. The Law of Influence

    1. The Management Myth

    2. The Entrepreneur Myth

    3. The Knowledge Myth

    4. The Pioneer Myth

    5. The Position Myth

  3. The Law of Process

    1. Phase 1 - I don't know what I don't know

    2. Phase 2 - I know what I don't know

    3. Phase 3 - I grow and know and it starts to show

    4. Phase 4 - I simply go because of what I know

  4. The Law of Navigation

    1. Set a goal

    2. Create a plan to reach the goal

  5. The Law of E.F. Hutton

    1. Real leaders are not always the named leaders

    2. What Defines a Real Leader?

      1. Character - Who they are

      2. Relationships - Who they know

      3. Knowledge - What they know

      4. Intuition - What they fell

      5. Experience - Where they have been

      6. Past Success - What they have done

      7. Ability - What they can do

  6. The Law of Solid Ground

    1. Build Trust

    2. Provide Support

  7. The Law of Respect

  8. The Law of Intuition

    1. Those who naturally see it

    2. Those who are nurtured to see it

    3. Those who will never see it

  9. The Law of Magnetism

    1. Leaders attract people like themselves

  10. The Law of Connection

    1. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care

  11. The Law of the Inner Circle

    1. Your success is only limited by your ability to surround yourself with good people

      1. Potential Value - Those who raise up themselves

      2. Positive Value - Those who raise morale in the organization

      3. Personal Value - Those who raise up the leader

      4. Production Value - Those who raise up others

      5. Proven Value - Those who raise up people, who raise up people

  12. The Law of Empowerment

    1. Only secure leaders give up power to others

  13. The Law of Reproduction

    1. It takes a leader to raise up a leader

  14. The Law of Buy-In

    1. Don't buy the leader or the message - Get a new leader

    2. Buy the message, but not the leader - Get a new leader

    3. Buy the leader, but not the message - Get a new message

    4. Buy the leader and the message - Get behind the leader

  15. The Law of Victory

    1. Leaders find a way for the team to win

  16. The Law of the Big Mo

    1. Momentum is a Leader's Best Friend

    2. You can't steer a ship that isn't moving

  17. The Law of Priorities

    1. What is Required

    2. What gives the greatest Return

    3. What gives the greatest Reward

  18. The Law of Sacrifice

    1. You've got to give up to go up

  19. The Law of Timing

    1. The wrong action at the wrong time leads to disaster

    2. The right action at the wrong time brings resistance

    3. The wrong action at the right time is a mistake

    4. The right action at the right time leads to success

  20. The Law of Explosive Growth

    1. To add growth, lead followers

    2. To multiply growth, lead leaders

  21. The Law of Legacy

    1. A leader's lasting value is measured by succession

The content of the book flushes out these laws with case studies from sports, business, and John Maxwell's life as a minister, businessman, leader, and speaker. What makes this book of note is that John Maxwell grew up in the Midwest, leading a church in Indiana for some time early in his career. As such, his background is similar to many of our own, and the perspective is one that is easy to empathize with. The book isn't breaking any new ground in leadership theory, but the lessons are tried and true. This is an easy book to read in a weekend, and while you probably won't come away with a new world perspective, it is nice to see the tenets of leadership framed up in stories that we can identifiy with. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in leadership. Because it is such a quick read, I would recommend that you simply check it out of the local library.


What is it with the French and taking weirdness to a whole new level.


I hate spiders. Anything with more than four legs is just creepy. Tonight, I had just finished up my homework, and I was going to put my books in my bag for the next day. I pick up my bag, and underneath is an enormous brown spider. It took everything I had not to throw my bag and scream like a little girl. I took a step back, grabbed the heaviest book I could find (no problem with all of my nerdy technical books around. I book on programming for Windows NT and Windows 95 should do quite nicely). I gave the book a little toss, and to my chagrin I see the abomination squirt out to the side, narrowly avoiding a textual death. Fortunately for me, he froze a couple inches from the book. I slowly lifted it again, and with much better aim this time succeeded in ceasing the little abomination's life. Score: Book 1 / Spider 0.

Do you get these spiders in your house? Someone once told me they were called wolf spiders, but I think it is just a common house spider. Either way, I'm going to kill them on sight. I've seen them range in size from half an inch across to fully almost two-inches. They are brown, and look hairy. They never seem to have a web, and they are frighteningly fast across the carpet when they get spooked. I see them down in the basement from time to time. I've found several dead already, which suits me just fine, but I'm kind of curious why they have chosen my house as their final resting place.

So now I'm totally freaked out, thinking every little brush against my leg is one of those eight-legged cretins scurrying past. I guess my only consolation is that they don't seem to spin webs or climb very well, so I don't have to worry about one of the big ones dropping in on me from the ceiling. I've had that happen with smaller spiders in the past while I'm playing a video game in the dark. I'm sure that Jenn is going to catch me on film sometime, flailing around like sissy, scared to death that I might have actually touched a spider.

Gathering of the Games

Today was the first day of the Gathering of the Games conference here in St. Louis. I've never been to St. Louis before, and I was surprised when I saw the arch from miles away. This first day has been pretty interesting. It took us about four hours to drive here, and then we headed to Friday's for lunch. We took a little break before our heading to the start of the speakers. Our first speaker was Scott Waddle, the commander of the US submarine that ran into a Japanese school ship. He was a very interesting speaker, and had a powerful message about doing the right thing, even when it means putting yourself into a bad light. I purchased a copy of his book and had it signed to Corbin. Next up I had a breakout session focused on Employee Stock Ownership. It was okay, but the conversation that it sparked with my co-workers later was awesome. We hit on a lot of topics that had been brewing in my mind for some time. It's always nice when you find out someone else has been thinking about the same things as you have. It was also fun to have a bunch of free drinks with my coworkers!

Tomorrow is more of the same, starting with a breakfast / networking session, followed by more keynote speakers and breakout sessions. Right now, I think this conference has been more valuable for the conversations that it sparked with my colleagues than for the content of the conference itself. Still, the ends justify the means. I'm looking forward to some of talks we have coming up to see if they spark any more interesting conversation.

Book Review - A Stake in the Outcome

It has been a while since my last book review. I just finished up "A Stake in the Outcome" by Jack Stack.


A Stake in the Outcome covers the topic of the effective use of company ownership by the employees as a method to promote optimization and innovation in the business. The foundation of the concept lies in the idea of getting employees to act and think like owners. By truly making employees owners, either through direct stock sale or ESOP programs, employees will be incited to learn the business game and begin making decisions that are healthy for the company. The book covers several stories relating how Jack Stack and his business, SRC, first got off the ground and through the lifetime of the business. Along the way, he discusses several of the benefits and potential pitfalls of employee ownership, and discusses the steps that SRC took to manage those issues.

My Thoughts

It took me a long time to read this book. The book is only 266 pages in length, and I started in January. I had several issues with this one though. I'll try to be fair.

Firstly, this book is built around the experiences of one man and one business: Jack Stack and SRC. Additional anecdotes are included, but by in large this is the story of how Jack Stack transformed a division of a larger corporation into a startup company, and built that startup into a conglomerate of related businesses. As such, the stories do not relate well to the environment at my work. At SRC, Jack Stack was surrounded by little motivated, little educated employees who were accustomed to a corporate method of doing business. Stack had a great deal of work ahead of him to get his people to stop focusing on doing the work in front of them, and start thinking about what is best for the company. My office, by contrast, is full of highly educated, highly motivated people who have not become dulled by the corporate experience. One of the most difficult tasks that Stack covers was his need to both motivate his people and educate them on how business works. Our staff have the education and reasoning power to appreciate basic business concepts. Our projects teams are small, and our relationships with our customers are intimate. Often times the salesperson, engineer, and customer service are all the same person. Our heirarchy is flat, and there are no divisions for political and beaurocratic in-fighting to take place in. Due to the disparity between the environments of my company and SRC, it is difficult to take Stack's stories and see how they apply to our business.

Secondly, I came to vehemently dislike Jack Stack as I read through this book. His attitude comes through loud and clear in both the way the book reads, and the attitude that he takes. In the very first chapter he makes clear that he puts no stock in formal education, and feels that the only true learning takes place through experience. He relates several stories about how SRC and his board coped with pitfalls of starting a business, and how some of the issues he would need to deal with as an owner seemed to hit him out of nowhere. As an MBA student, I feel compelled to defend my quest for this so-called "worthless" formal education. In several cases, problems he faced and took months to handle are discussed in a couple of chapters of the text books I've read for class. It would seem clear to me that if Stack had had the sense to at least investigate some type of formal education prior to setting out on this adventure, he would have benefitted greatly. I appreciate that experience is the greatest teacher of all, but Stack really put me off with this attitude that resonates throughout the book. It is part of the reason it took me so long to finish this one.

To be fair, there is some very good knowledge in this book that is applicable at work. Once I was able to put aside my dislike of the author and parse through the stories, there are some nuggets of experience that we can do well to take note of. Of those, I believe that Diversification is the most immediately applicable, and Succession Planning is something you can never plan too early for. Stack goes into great detail about how his business was overly reliant on a single customer, and when the customer pulled the plug it sent SRC into a tail-spin. We've been in that unfortunate position as well, with major customers providing a large percentage of our work, and then taking that work away.

The more I read of the book, the more I began to respect Jack Stack as a CEO. He has a great attitude and personality for the position. He is bull-headed, he loves change, and he is constantly challenging himself extend into new areas and improve the business. Add to this his phenomenal commitment to his people, and you have a great recipe for a corporate visionary. Unfortunately, these qualities do not lend themselves to being a good teacher. There are several cases in the book in which Stack makes a statement to the effect of "I've given you this incredible opportunity, why can't you see it for what it is?". The greatest teachers are able to get their students to discover new things on their own, and guide the process of learning. Stack, on the other hand, rams it down his students throats. It makes it very difficult to read the book and come away with an "aha, now I understand" feeling.


Although Stack is clearly an incredible corporate leader, it is difficult to gain an appreciation of the benefits to be gained through an employee ownership program by reading this book. The scenario at SRC is so different from the one at my work that it is difficult to empathize and learn from the stories. Our staff are highly educated, and able to quickly grasp business concepts. I feel that there are better texts available on this subject that would be more effective.

Of course, this is just one opinion. I would appreciate any feedback from other folks that have read this one.

Trash Troubles

This past week has turned into a wrestling match with the trash company. Every once in a while, our home owners' association distributes a pamphlet with updates on the community. In the latest one, there was a blurb that mentioned if you were using Republic Waste Services and were paying over $34.50 each quarter, to give them a call and ask for the HOA rate. Our rate had risen from a nice $32.50 at the beginning of 2004, to the latest bill which rang in at over $40. So I gave them a call. It turns out, our HOA never negotiated a rate with Republic. The operator on the phone said that several people had called, and they were going to meet on it later in the week to decide what to do. In the meantime, I had a talk with my buddy Anthony, who also used Republic's service. I was paying a rate equivalent to $13.00 per month, plus fuel surchages. Anthony was paying $17.00 per month! He was getting the same service, and lived only a couple houses down the street, yet his bill was over $10 higher than ours.

Today, I got a call back from Stacey at Republic. She let said that they had decided to offer me a rate of $12.00 / month plus a $0.46 fuel surchage per month if I would sign a 3-year contract. I asked about the terms of the contract, and they would only guarantee my rate for the first year. That sounded awful risky to me, especially with the history of Republic raising their rates over the last year. I also discovered that Republic was doing the commercial trash pick-up for office, and had jerked us around quite a bit with missed pick-ups and overcharges. All of these added up and prompted me to start calling around to see what else I could get.

I found four service providers that performed residential trash pick-up service in my area, with a Friday pick-up day (required by the HOA). Here is the breakdown of rates:

CompanyNormal RateFuel SurchargeTote RentalNotes
Best Way$13.25N/aN/a2 totes included in normal price.
Republic$12.00$0.46N/a3-year contract required
Republic$17.00$0.46N/aRate without Contract
Waste Managment$16.40$0.30-$1.00$2.00Fuel surcharge based on average cost of diesel
All rates are monthly

As you can see, there were quite a few options out there. Rays had the best offer, although we would need to either rent a tote, buy one, or go without. Best Way was offering something slightly better than what my current arrangement is with Republic. Republic's contractual offer really spooks me, and I don't trust them, so we'll likely make the switch to someone else. How Waste Management came to their pricing confuses me, as it isn't really competitive with the other folks (unless you consider the "standard" rate from Republic at $17.00). Why do all utility services have to turn into a haggling hassle like this?

Another Game Down

I finally beat Neverwinter Nights! I've had this game for well over a year, and I finally finished it up. It's a fun game, and I can see how it is really appealing to Role Playing Game (RPG) fans. You can customize the character you play in just about any way you can imagine. In fact, there are so many possibilities that it is almost a drawback to the game. There were so many options and choices at every turn of the game that I always felt like I might not be making the best choice. Towards the end I decided to forget about playing for the perfect character and just try to hack and slash through the rest of the game. This turned out to be a pretty good strategy, as I probably would have wasted a bunch of time worrying about increasing my saving throws when all I really needed was a tank as a NPC henchmen to soak up all the damage while I mopped up the stragglers. Yes, I realize I'm just talking jibberish now. In any case, once I adopted the hack and slash strategy, the last chapter of the game went by pretty quickly. I doubt I'll get any of the expansion packs for the game, but I definitely got a lot of play value out of this game. I'm sure I put more than a reasonable number of hours into completing this game. Now its on to the next one! Hmm... should it be Zelda 2: A Link to the Past, Myst [I, II, or III], Fire Emblem, or Final Fantasy Tactics? How can I go wrong? :-P

Free Lunch Friday

Today has bee THE day for free treats at work. My financial advisor, Jeff Hodges of American Express Financial Advisors, dropped into the office to deliver a free lunch buffet from TGI Friday's. He had sesame chicken, beef and chicken fajitas, caesar salad, subs, and cheesecake. It was great!

Another Class?!?!?

Usually, Wednesday nights are a night that Jenn and I get to cuddle on the couch and read books together. It's not terribly exciting, but I really look forward to it each week. It is a quiet, comfortable time when we get to be together. So what did I do this Wednesday? I was in class! Again!!! Only this time, it was work related.

I'm currently working on a project to evaluate a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) for introduction at one of our customers. I'm developing a list of requirements that their labs have for features the LIMS must provide. I really don't have an extensive background in LIMS, but it is similar enough to Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), which I am familiar with, that I am able to get the concepts and develop the list of requirements. We found out about a class at the IUPUI school fo Informatics that was focused on LIMS, and LabView (a major LIMS vendor) had sent one of their folks to speak at the class. We got permission from the professor, and I proctored that class for the evening. It ran from 5:45-8:45, and hour shorter than my Monday night class, but it still made for a long day. It was worth the trip though, as the speaker gave me his slides and also a copy of a sample requirements list that he had put together for when he went on sales calls.

I was really sad that I didn't get to spend the evening with Jenn like I had hoped, but I tried to make up for it by coming home early before the class to spend some time with her and Corbin. We got a chance to play and have some dinner before I had to leave. Still, Jenn was pretty burned out on Thursday, so it was a good thing that I didn't have another class scheduled that night.

New Class, New Instructor

This week is the start of my new course for my MBA program: Organizational Development. Economics is over, and I'm pretty certain that I got my A. I'll only know for sure when the grade card arrives, but based on all of my scores, I was pretty securely in the A range. The instructor for Org Dev is certainly unique character. He has a level of enthusiasm for teaching that I haven't seen before. It's borderline between being overly enthusiastic and highly entertaining. At some point during our first night of class he laughed, cried, shouted, whispered, glared, and smiled. He was all over the emotional map. He definitely keeps my attention throughout class. He claims that he will be a tough grader, which I have had yet to see consistently throughout this program. We'll see how this guy follows through on his promise.

Free Massage Day

Woohoo, free massage! Chiro-Spa of Fishers sent a masseuse to give free, 10 minute massages in our office. It was a nice break in the middle of the morning. The masseuse said she couldn't find any stress points, so I guess that means I'm pretty relaxed. This is the first time I've had a "professional" massage (Jenn gives me great massages from time to time, though), and it was pretty nice. I really expected the masseuse to go digging into my back muscles, but it was a lot more gentle than that. Each year I get Jenn a spa treatment at The Escape Day Spa for her birthday or Christmas. Maybe next time I get her one, I'll have to treat myself as well ;-)

Jade Mason