Tales from the jar side: Vaccines, Renaming Managing Your Manager, and Super Bowl stuff

I still think How To Employee is a good name, but oh well

Welcome to Tales from the jar side, the Kousen IT newsletter, for the week of January 31 to February 7, 2021. This week I taught an NFJS Virtual Workshop called Beyond Managing Your Manager, and followed up with my O’Reilly Learning Platform version called simply Managing Your Manager.

Before I get into any details, let me make a global comment. I’ve noticed, both in myself and in others, a growing frustration with the constraints imposed by the pandemic. We all hit a wall roughly six months into it, but managed to push through. I think a lot of people are hitting another one.

Let me simply say this. I think we are much closer to being free of this than most people realize. Multiple vaccines have been developed, with a few approved and more on the way. Distribution has been awkward, unfair, and irregular, but the right people are finally in charge and everything is scaling up as rapidly as possible. While in the U.S. where I live there is a small, annoying group of people who will fight vaccinations for a variety of irrational reasons, I believe that everyone who wants to be protected will get the opportunity sooner rather than later.

In fact, I’m optimistic we’ll be back to something resembling normal by May, or at least June.

(As Doonesbury once said, Ask for May, Settle for June:

That was about a wedding, but you get the idea.)

I know that’s not what we’re hearing from the media, but just as the spread of the disease was faster than the media expected, the spread of vaccine availability is doing something similar.

For some details, see:

Here’s a chart from Google:

We’re getting there. The next couple of months are going to be very difficult, as the highly contagious variants spread and people violate sheltering-in-place recommendations. But even the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine, criticized for being “only” 66% effective, “demonstrated complete (!) protection against hospitalization and deaths.” I’d take that. Plus, a new Israeli drug cured 29 of 30 moderate to serious COVID-19 cases, which is also excellent news.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and unlike recent ones, it’s not an oncoming train. We just have to hang in there for a little longer, and life will get better.

In the meantime, I like this tweet from John Scalzi:

I’ll be home as well. Since we hit the end of the month, Google sent me my travel timeline:

Looks about right. Sigh.

One of the new places I visited was in regard to my eye issues I mentioned in my last newsletter. This week, my new glasses arrived. Pics or it didn’t happen, so:

I was going to say I’m not smiling much because my wife was in the room when the picture was taken, but I realized how that sounded, so never mind.

The Book Formerly Known as Managing Your Manager

A couple weeks ago I received an email from my editor at The Pragmatic Bookshelf, the company publishing my upcoming book based on my Managing Your Manager presentations. We just completed the so-called “publisher review,” and he informed me there was good news and bad news.

The good news is that the reviews were very positive. Here’s an excerpt from a sample:

“I found myself wanting to read more and more of this book based on the samples, so that’s definitely a good thing. For the subject matter, I thought it hit a nice balance of psychological/theoretical underpinning and actionable advice. I could relate to many of the examples with events from my own life, and I think that will help readers get the most out of the content.”

So we’re all good, right? Not exactly. The bad news was:

“Managing Your Manager is already taken by another book and far too many online resources. We’d be in a real fight on the SEO front.”

Say what you will about Amazon discoverability and search engine optimization, but The Powers That Be had spoken. We needed a new name.

I called a good friend (Hi Glenn!) and we brainstormed for a while. My favorite choice was How To Employee, but sadly that was deemed a bit too silly. We came up with a couple of decent possibilities, and after running them by my editor and the publisher, we eventually settled on:

Convert Conflict Into Opportunities

So that’s the new name. I’m still getting used to it. The book as been Managing Your Manager in my head for so long, it’s going to take a while to transition to the new title. But Help Your Boss Help You does communicate the underlying goal, and the subtitle is correct. I liked the tag line, “teach your boss how to manage professionals,” but that’s too wordy for a title. The subtitle I use in my presentations is “winning the game of business from the employee side,” but that requires a bit of explanation. I can do that in a talk but not in a title. I’ll no doubt find use for both in the marketing of the book.

The cover design is going on now, and I expect an actual web page where you can order the book in beta form to be available sometime in mid-March. No doubt I’ll say something about that in the relevant edition of this newsletter.

Android Jetpack

Speaking of the Prags (as the publishing company is commonly known), there’s a new beta book from them called Kotlin and Android Development featuring Jetpack. Frequent readers of this newsletter know that I’ve been struggling with teaching Android lately. First came the adoption of Kotlin as the main programming language. Then came the switch to an architecture entirely based on their defined components, defined under the Jetpack heading. This book promises to use both to develop state-of-the-art Android applications, and I’m nothing if not state-of-the-art.

Okay, I’m not, but my teaching is. I always want my courses to be as up to date as possible. I spent a few days this week digging into that book, and what happened is what always happens with Android — the apps got complicated. As I’ve said, it’s no longer simple to do simple things in Android, but this book does a decent job of trying. I’ll probably recommend it in my class this week.

Super Bowl LV

The Super Bowl has been such a big part of my life for so long, I feel I have to say something about it here.

Of course, all the media wants to talk about is Tom Brady’s age. Try this tweet, for example:

(R.I.P. Cloris Leachman last month. She was so good, and her Frau Blücher in Young Frankenstein is immortal. The Mary Tyler Moore Show ran from 1970 - 1977, so I watched it as a kid. Incidentally, the only two people in that picture still with us are Ed Asner, age 91, and Gavin McLeod, age 89.)

Another age comment was in the New York Times today:

The subtitle means Tom is one year younger than Patrick Mahomes’s mother, but I had to parse it a couple times to get it.

As a long-time Patriots fan, my relationship with Tom this year is “it’s complicated.” Last week in the NFC Championship game, when he threw that beautiful long TD pass at the end of the first half, I rooted for him like before. Then, in the second half, when he threw three interceptions in seven pass attempts, I was glad he’s not my QB any more so I don’t have to watch him age.

Here’s the full highlight reel, which shows the TD pass but none of the interceptions:

Will he win today? There are two Super Bowls that stand out when I think about that. The first was when everyone — EVERYONE — was sure the Patriots were going to crush the NY Giants in SB XLII to preserve their perfect season. I’ll never get over that one. Grr. On the other hand, the Patriots were down 28 - 3 against Atlanta in SB LI and somehow came back to win in overtime. So there’s that, too.

Here’s the thing. Mahomes is incredible, but his offensive line is a mess and Tampa Bay has a great pass rush. That should matter. Tom is also old*, and if there’s a pass rush in his face, he’s never been good. That too should matter.

*I thought I saw a prop bet about how many times the announcers would mention Tom Brady’s age, but now I can’t find it. Just as well. Whatever the number is, take the over.

Which one will matter most? I have no idea. I’ve been wrong on Super Bowls so many times I’ve lost count, which is yet another reason I never bet on football. If I have to pick, I’d say Kansas City is going to win by a lot. But if Tom somehow wins, I’m okay with that. Heck, I’m good either way, even though we’re not having our annual Super Bowl party this year thanks to COVID. I’m going to just hope for a good game and enjoy it.

One item of trivia, which you can use with your friends:

How many NFL teams are not named after a city?

The answer is six, which might surprise you. Five are reasonably easy: New England, Minnesota, Carolina, Arizona, and Tennessee, all of which are states. The surprising one is Tampa Bay, which is a body of water. The city is just Tampa, or Tompa as they’ll no doubt call it if Tom wins yet again.

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As a reminder, you can see all my upcoming training courses on the O’Reilly Learning Platform here and all the upcoming NFJS Virtual Workshops here.

Last week:

  • Beyond Managing Your Manager, an NFJS Virtual Workshop

  • Managing Your Manager, on the O’Reilly Learning Platform

This week: