Tag Archives: work

Work-Life Dynamic

I was recently thinking about a job interview I had a bit ago and I was sort of regretting that I didn’t go off on this topic when offered the chance.  I had a different story handy that I used and while that seemed to work, I felt this one would have made a better impression.  I feel like I’ve talked about it before, but that might have been to other people over some related conversation.  But anyway…

Recently, there’s been a spike in discussions about work and labor, partially about wages and benefits, and some about having to work at all.  The idea of universal basic income, deca-millionaires and the inequality around all of that is a good discussion to have, but it doesn’t address business concerns at the moment.  And it doesn’t answer the question they are asking right now: why should I hire you?

I have a couple answers to that.  Before I start, let me say that I do software development for a living.  I have done it for over 30 years.  Saying that is both a pro and a con.  To my benefit, I’ve been through a lot and have a lot of experience.  To someone who doesn’t see it that way, I am writing 30-year old code, which is not what modern businesses want.  The answers have to emphasize the former and dispel the latter.

To begin, the way I see things, there are two types of people that are probably getting interviewed.  You have people who program and you have programmers.  No, I think I’m going to try and make this story industry-agnostic.  So, said another way, you have people who "do it" and you have people who "live it".  Doesn’t matter what field it is, are you getting someone who will do as they’re told and get the job done, or do you want someone who will take ownership of the task and make it their mission to get it done?  There’s actually no wrong answer there; there are places for both types, and as I am of the latter type, if that’s not what the company wants, it’s not going to go well for either of us.

The cliche phrase, "do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life" can be true only if your employer allows that to happen.  While people who "do it" will wait around for guidance or instructions to do things, those who "live it" will actively push to make the job interesting and rewarding, because the challenge comes with the lifestyle.  The "lifers" will be seeking out these challenges all the time, on and off the clock, because that’s part of living the profession.  The "doers" will switch off their business lives at the end of the day.  That’s not to say that the "lifers" are doing company work off the clock, they’re just building their skills in general and if they can apply it to their work, that’s just a benefit – for both employee and employer.

Again, it doesn’t matter what profession or "level" you are, this will benefit you.  If you are in housekeeping and you spend your time reading and learning about efficiency and new techniques for sanitation and you suggest those things to your employer, maybe you’ll get to do them, maybe you’ll do them anyway.  But you are showing initiative, and maybe that’s the key word in this entire story.

The word "initiative" triggers some memories I have of people’s rants that employers are demanding initiative or criticizing that someone lacks initiative, and the employee argues in return, "You’re not paying me for that.  You pay me for the training, and I’ll do it."  That is a valid viewpoint for someone who is a "doer".  It suggests that they are not in a field they enjoy.  I think that’s fine.  You can be competent without initiative.  You probably won’t go as far, nor will you be as happy, but that’s the trade-off for being able to have two lives.

For a "lifer", the new skill being learned isn’t as much about having a bigger toolbelt to move to a new job or to demand more pay, although those are certainly perks for doing it, it’s about controlling your environment.  You know, another cliche.  If you don’t like where you’re at, change it.  Of course, you also have to get used to a lot of rejection.  This isn’t your company and you don’t make all the decisions, but coming up with potential solutions for problems is a life skill that will never not pay dividends.  And if you’re in a company that has a supportive management, you’ll be noticed.  If you’re in a company that has a backstabbing management, you’re in a better position to go to a better place.

So in summary, those would be my two arguments: that I am a "lifer" in that I am constantly applying and honing the skills of my profession, and that I will constantly be advancing new ideas to the company for our mutual benefit.  I would hope that there are more like me out there, but I know that I have only ever worked with one other person that I know practices and learns outside of work.  That’s not a good ratio.

You Want The Truth? You Can’t Handle The Truth!

I’m in the final stages of giving a fuck about my job.  There’s a lot that can be said about how that came to be, but one thing I wanted to focus on, which is prescient to these modern times is the mindset and behavior of capitalists and the people beneath them.

Whenever people start discussing topics like this a lot of emotionally charged terms begin being used, like: elites, millionaires, billionaires and more misnomers like conservatives, fascists, and on and on.  I’m not interested in all that.  I’m just talking about one guy and how he behaves and whether that behavior is the better or worse choice to make for someone in his position.

So, then.  The owner of this company, he’s a boomer, he’s a multi-millionaire, he’s staunchly conservative, and – I feel independently – he’s a capitalist.  I use that last term very specifically, because it encompasses certain traits that transcend all the former categorizations.  Academically, a capitalist uses resources to make money for themselves.  In practice, those resources typically are other people’s labor, thus, a capitalist uses other people to make that money for themselves.  Now, where I am going in this post is wondering if it is proper to be honest about that fact.

The owner’s company, my workplace, has had an extended period of decline spanning probably over five years by now.  And going along with that, we’ve had layoffs.  After every round of layoffs, we have a big company meeting where we are told the company is healthy, has no debt (this point I actually admire), and is profitable.  In every single meeting, it is pointed out that the company is profitable.  Sometimes we have meetings for encouragement, to say how things are looking up and how more business is coming.  In those meeting as well, the company is still profitable.

Here’s the thing about being profitable.  The employees shouldn’t give a shit.  As long as the company is breaking even, the bills are being paid, payroll will be met and they will get paid.  That’s the end of their involvement.  That’s it.  Profit is exclusively for the owners.  Bragging about or even emphasizing being profitable to employees is telling them right to their faces that they are making money for you.

Before I really misrepresent the point I’m trying to make, I want to recognize that profits can be reinvested in the business.  That reinvestment can provide a buffer for salary raises to occur until revenue rises to match the new cost of salary.  However, reinvestment in the business increases owner equity, which again, benefits the owner, not the employees.

In the most recent meeting (which was an encouragement meeting as we have had an event that is causing customers to flee), it was said again.  And this time, I wish to quote because the delivery was what spurred this post. 

"It is a business’s purpose to grow and make a profit, for its employees… *pause for dramatic emphasis* and its owners."

I have to give credit to the man.  He is honest.  I actually believe he is deviously crooked, but he speaks with brutal honesty.  It’s a special gift some have where they can tell you the truth right to your face and unless you unpack the second meaning of it, it sounds perfectly reasonable.  So let no one forget why they are here.  They are to make money for this man and his family (who are all co-owners of the company).

To close, this does sound like I am spouting communist propaganda.  That is not the case.  I believe there is a better way which involves employee ownership of the company.  And while that is a better way, I have another story for another post about the company I was at prior to this one where the owner was more devious than this one and inadvertently told the employees his plan to fleece them on his way out – using that very method.

And I never examined the counterpoint to the argument, which is, should the owner just not have said anything about that, like probably 95% of business owners do?  Is it better to not tell the workers what they are working for?  Maybe in another post another time.

My Year In Review

This week is my annual review at my workplace.  I’m sure anyone that has an office job understands what an ordeal this is.  The post is already written in your head for those of you that have been through it.  So, what I’ll try to do is just give some insight as to our company’s brand of ineffectual review.

The process starts a few weeks out from your anniversary date.  This anniversary date is actually not your start date, because when you are hired contract-to-perm, the “contract” part of your time there is not as an employee.  Your actual start date is when you convert from contract to perm employee.  Yeah, I get it, I just think it’s kinda dumb.  If I really wanted to be bitter about it (which I guess I am internally, but you can’t blame fate), I could say that the difference between my first day of work and my first day of employment also means the difference between getting an annual holiday bonus based on my pre-raise salary or my post-raise salary.

Timing issues aside, what you get is a self evaluation document to fill out and return.  You need to return it something like a week before your review.  I always return it within a couple hours of getting it.  I never understand what the big deal is.

This eval form.  Because our department is considered administrative, the things we do can’t be evaluated, performance-wise, the same.  So we have a short list of statements and we have to choose how well we think we met the statement’s metric.  Is the scale 1-10?  No.  1-5 stars?  No.  It’s three options: Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, or Needs Improvement.  This is the second year we’ve had the 3-option scale and the second year that I have been unable to indicate where I feel I am good or bad.  Everything is “Meets Expectations”.  I don’t think I consistently exceed anything and likewise, I don’t think I suck all the time either (just lately).  But there’s no way for me to say I suck a little, but that’s ok, because I make up for it in other ways.

On review day, we all meet in the conference room and the weirdness starts.  I get a copy of the self evaluation I did, then I get a copy of an evaluation by my boss.  And while my boss and his boss silently watch me, I read the evaluation silently to myself.  It’s truly an awkward silence.

But what’s weird to me about it is that my boss consistently ranks me higher than I rank myself.  Maybe that’s supposed to be good.  I understand they want to find cases where someone thinks, “I am on fire” and their boss has a totally different perspective.  BTW, the only time you can self-evaluate yourself as “I am on fire” is when the statement is literal and not colloquial.

So because of the useless ranking/rating system, what ends up happening is everything useful goes in the comments section, which as any programmer will tell you, is absolutely useless for extracting any useful metrics.  I’ve mentioned before that I worked on a survey engine.  One of the interesting sections of the report was a keyword search in the survey’s comment fields.  One interesting application of this would be to see if the survey taker “spoke the lingo”.  Anyway, that’s a pointless (and self-promoting) comment because we don’t do anything like that.

My comments are a list of higher-profile projects that I worked on the last year followed by some pity statements about how I didn’t meet my own expectations and that I’ll do better next year.  I’m not sure if my boss’s review of me is based off what I said, which would make his part super-easy.  But generally, it says kind of the same thing I said, just from a managerial standpoint, as if he’s pleading with HR to justify me remaining hired and even deserving of a raise.

And as time goes on – this is year 7 – this entire process becomes more and more irrelevant.  We aren’t so huge of a company that any IT person is unknown to management.  We all have high-profile projects.  We all save the day at one point or another.  Everyone knows who we are.  I list my biggest projects for the year like I’m releasing a greatest hits album and people are like “Oh, I remember that one!  Sick beat!”  But the greatest hits releases are the moneymakers, because that’s all people care about – the hits.  They honestly don’t remember the ones that never charted.  And they probably don’t care, because that’s not where we are now.

So, because I really want to beat this topic to death so I never have to talk about it again, I will say that we tried something to catch the failed hits, so they wouldn’t be forgotten at review time.  Or at least, they wouldn’t be a time bomb building up so your review wasn’t a shit shower blasted from a fire hose.  We tried quarterly, informal reviews.

This process was walking into my boss’s office, him asking “You got anything?”, me saying, “Nope.” and that was it.  To be fair, I was a lot more engaged when these reviews started, but there was more to talk about then, too.  Our team is quite stable and we all work well together, so there’s no changes worth discussing, like how the new guy is working out or OMG, there’s a female working with us now.

So by the time I got to the point of saying “nope”, they had scrapped the whole idea and the truth came out that these reviews were only implemented because some managers refused to talk to their subordinates.  I assume that problem cleared itself out through attrition.

But anyway, this year, I have an ace up my sleeve.  I’m taking the entire department out to lunch for the holidays and it happens to be on my review day.  As long as there is no food poisoning, I can’t lose.

Dove’s Target Market

Today at work, someone randomly gifted our department with a bunch of bite-size Dove chocolates.  That’s cool enough, but the candies seem to have been specially made for our department.  Within each wrapper was an inspirational message, written just for us.

In the field of inspirational messages, there are some that are universally accepted as positive and constructive, and then there are some that are less so.  And these messages fall into the latter camp.  I began my discovery with what seemed like genuine concern for me.

“Accept a compliment”

Why, thank you, you fattening and diabetic mini-monster.  I assume you are complimenting me on my fine taste in chocolate (dark chocolate, for the intelligent and refined palate).  Encouraged, I opened the next one.

“Wing it”

Well, this is my second piece, so you could say, yeah, I am doing so.  In fact, I have one more from this handful to go.

“Don’t apologize”

Fuck no, I won’t.  I just ate three of you bastards and I’m going back for more.  At the candy bowl, a co-worker comes over and huddles next to me.  He’s either encouraging me or shaming me as I paw through the bowl looking for more dark chocolate pieces.  It doesn’t matter which it is right now.  I’m winging it and I won’t apologize for it.

I score four more pieces and scurry back to my desk.  My newly installed and operating white noise generator on my desk hides my hissing, “preciousssssss.”  I open the next piece, toss it into my maw, and absorb both calories and wisdom.

“Ignore the clock”

And so I do and begin live-blogging this feeding frenzy.  The next piece is unwrapped and maybe I’m starting to regret grabbing four more pieces.  But this is for the education!

“Take a run on the wild side”

As the dark chocolate melts in my mouth and slides heavily down my gullet, I wonder if these chocolates are prophetic.  Will the next one predict my death?  Will the next one be my death?  There are two more to go.  Ignoring the clock and running – or not – on the wild side, I open the second to the last piece.

“Take a run on the wild side”

Oh my god.  I hate running.  And I’m beginning to dislike Dove chocolate.  But, hey, I can use my newly-found wisdom to my advantage.  Let’s see, what I will do is open the last piece, consume the wisdom it proffers, then ignore the clock and not consume the actual chocolate.  Dove knows what they are doing, most assuredly.

“Improvise”

I just have.  That advice would have been better if given a little earlier.  But right now, the chocolate will remain open and exposed as I recover from my sugar high.  What a ride.

(Poop) Time And Tide Wait For No Man

Inspired by AK’s post, I thought it would be interesting to provide a perspective from the stall on the other side of the wall.  It’s not all fun and games in our world either.  While we may be outnumbered by the females, there’s enough of us to cause problems for each other.  The problems are exacerbated by the infrastructure at hand.

So here’s the general problem.  We have two stalls, one of which is the handicapped suite.  You can tell by the visible shoes/feet that the “lowrider” stall is occupied, but there is no way to know if the suite is in use unless you test the door.  This is because the door is always closed regardless of being latched or not.  Now I consider myself a courteous gentleman.  If I must test the door, I stand at a distance and lightly test the handle with a single finger.  Today, I had two goddamn hulks trying to rip the door off the hinges to get to me.  And I am considerate when I’m inside the suite, too.  I bob my leg to jingle my belt buckle.  Sometimes I clear my throat.  Surely hearing something from inside would indicate occupancy?  No!  Hulk shit now!  RATTLE RATTLE.

As is my nature, the problem-solver, I set my brain to work on how this can be remedied.  There is no existing way to indicate occupancy, but there is an existing way to indicate vacancy.  I employ this method religiously for everyone else’s benefit.  The other knuckledraggers here are slow to adopt it, because I think they don’t understand.

The method I employ is to slide the locking latch shut as I leave.  The closed latch is stopped by the door frame when the door is closed, leaving the door slightly propped open.  You can visually see that the door is open and the stall is available.  It’s easy and costs nothing.  All it requires is adoption.  And so I began planning a campaign to promote this concept to my less-considerate cohorts.  I would post some PSA-type flyers in the stall to remind others to prop the door when they leave.  I needed some clever ideas, clever slogans.  On my first brainstorming, I came up with the following:

image1 image2 image3 image6 image7 image

With such a marketing campaign, how could I fail?  Well, you only fail if you try.  I did not go through with the propping campaign.  Instead, I started thinking of even more clever ideas.

What if there was a plexiglass “flag” that you could slide onto the latch mechanism from inside?  The flag would extend outside the stall.  That would indicate occupancy, which is more valuable than indicating vacancy.  Because, despite the compelling arguments posted within the stall, you still have to kind of assume that someone may not comply and you have to test the door anyway.  And if that’s the case, then door propping is not 100% reliable and might as well not even be attempted.  (You have to love black and white viewpoints.)

Another early consideration I had was putting a spring lever inside the latch, which would hold the door slightly ajar when unlatched but wouldn’t interfere with closing and latching the door.  I even did the research into what type of metal would be needed and how to form it into a spring lever that wouldn’t simply wear out.  A torch was required to heat treat the metal, so I reluctantly back-burnered that idea. (ha!)

Now, the obvious solution to this is to update the infrastructure.  It would be as simple as buying a latch that has an open/closed indicator on the outside.  You know, like on airplanes.  But even though we seem to get new toilet paper and paper towel dispensers on a bi-annual basis, we can’t upgrade the door latches.

Time will tell if any of these things actually happens.  Until then, I’ll be jingling in the suite.  Keep your ears open.

The CubeRoof

At work, some time ago, we had contractors doing a build-out of new offices right beside our cube farm.  This got me thinking, why can’t we all have offices?  Along with this consideration, I am always hearing from the vampires in my group about how horrible the lighting is.  Everyone wants the light to be cut to 50% or less.  I’m not in that group.  I like light.  I brainstormed a new product idea to help us all.

Why does a company build cubicles and not not all offices?  Some reasons could be:

  • Cheaper
  • Layout flexibility
  • Increased communication, for better or worse
  • Increased oversight

Why do employees want offices and dislike cubicles?

  • Increased privacy
  • More environmental control (light/temperature/décor)
  • Sense of ownership

So what’s the difference between a cube and an office?

  • Door
  • Walls to the ceiling
  • Windows or lack of windows
  • Basically, enclosure. 

So let’s completely forget about convincing management to let their subordinates shut themselves behind a door.  I walk a tight line between being controlling and liberal, and with the co-workers I have, allowing a closed door is simply an invitation to sleep all day.

So if we can’t have doors, we can create enclosure by raising the walls to the ceiling.  This, however, would create serious issues with lighting, temperature, and airflow.  So, my idea is to lower the ceiling to the cube: CubeRoof.

The biggest design point of CubeRoof would be the modular, minimal pieces involved in the system.  Taking cues from both IKEA and ClosetMaid, the CubeRoof system would be cheap and easy.

The first element of any roof is the truss.  The truss is comprised of three straight elements and three angles.  To simplify the system, there are a small number of extendable aluminum beams, similar to “cargo bars”, in varying maximum lengths.  This comprise the angles of the truss and the support beams between them.  Then, there are adjustable angle brackets that connect the beams.  The adjustability allows any peak or pitch of the roof.  The angle brackets have a lip for attachment to the top of the cubicle wall, and a post to accept another beam to connect trusses.

Finally, the roof material is simple nylon fabric sheets connected to the trusses and to each other with Velcro.  Having different lengths, widths, and colors provides for an endless combination of roof styles.  Light color fabrics for diffused light, dark colors for light blocking.  Inset screens for ventilation and panels for adjustable “skylights.”  Aftermarket and customizing possibilities could be large.

I would estimate one CubeRoof requiring three interconnected trusses, which would be eight straight bars, nine angle connectors, and two properly-sized roof panels.  Of course, I’m not going to build it.  That would be for someone much better than me, if you believe in the power of capitalism.

Inmates Running The Asylum

Ha, you think I’m talking about the current political environment.  Nope, I’m talking about my workplace.  I’ll be honest.  I’m a bit old-fashioned.  I’m in a different generation than most of my co-workers and some of the things that are important to them are absolutely ridiculous to me.  For example, the company dress code.

Years ago, one of my co-workers lamented to me about how he couldn’t wear “a hoodie and flip-flops” every day at work.  This is important to him.  The fact he has to wear business casual clothes (which does include jeans) is a problem.  And strangely, employers now have to cater to their employees despite an overwhelming labor force eager to take those positions.

Recently, my employer conducted an experiment.  You could wear anything you wanted to work as long as it wasn’t revealing or offensive.  Personally, I didn’t change a thing, but many others broke out sandals, flip-flops, shorts, tee shirts, hats, and more casual dresses and skirts.  The workplace went from business casual to resort casual, and in my opinion, became more slobby.

The experiment went for 2 weeks and when it was announced that it was going to end, “hoodie and flip-flops” wrote to the HR director asking why it was ending if there were no complaints about how people abided by the rules.  The answer was “we’ll see.”

On the first day after the experiment’s conclusion, “hoodie” came in and announced loudly, “Fuck this place!”  He didn’t get fired or even written up for that, but did get counseled on his behavior.  He had to write an apology letter to the HR director saying he wouldn’t do anything like that again.  His letter also mentioned it was the loss of the relaxed dress code that caused the outburst.  It was a great way to make the case for keeping it, for sure.

But here we are, a couple of weeks later and great news!  For a limited time, SlobFest has returned to our workplace!  For the rest of the summer (excluding days where clients will be visiting), dress down, be comfortable (since that’s so important to you), act like you’re on vacation.  But please, if there’s anything else we can do for you, don’t hesitate to just shout out, “fuck this place!” and we’ll see how we can accommodate you.

Me, I’m outta here.  Fuck this place.

You’re Being My Cat. Stop It.

Sometimes at work, you will have a co-worker who calls you over to look at something they are doing and then continues to work while you are there.  Then when you go to leave, they ask about something else so you stay.  I’m sure there’s a thousand different ways people describe this – hand-holding, babysitting, whatever.  But I know what it really is and I have a name for it.

Most people would probably agree that the root cause of this behavior is insecurity.  Maybe it starts when the person doesn’t know exactly what to do, so they call someone over to make sure they do it right.  Then they need that person to stay there because they are not sure of anything else from that point onward.

There are many times when I am walking through my house that my cat intercepts my path and guides me where she wants.  You do know this is what they are doing when they get all up in your legs, right?  They want you to go somewhere and they will herd you there.  This always happens when I get home from work because that’s canned food time.  It happens other times as well.  But here’s the point.  She always takes me to her food bowl.

Why?  So she can eat.  It’s something I call, “Watch me eat!”  That’s what she wants, for me to watch her eat.  I suppose because it makes her feel safe or maybe because she’s proud of her eating abilities, who knows?  And you know who else does this?  People.  They want you to watch them eat because they’re unsure of what they’re doing or maybe they’re proud of their eating abilities.

Next time your co-worker wants you to watch them eat, just do what I do with my cat.  Walk away.  She keeps on eating, and so will your co-worker.

Humility On Display

In the game Ultima IV, you play a character whose mission it is to become pure in virtue by only doing good things.  It’s a rather sharp contrast to modern games, right?  But anyway, knowing about these virtues makes for some positive change in your real life.

Some of these virtues are stronger in me than others.  Honesty, Humility, Sacrifice are some of the stronger ones.  In a real-life Ultima, I would probably end up being one of the wimpier character classes, like Shepherd.  But, good virtues are good to have.  I say this because I recently made a mistake.  A big, big mistake at work.

I do a lot of my work on intuition, doing what I think is best and usually that works out pretty well for me.  So when I was told to reactivate some application functionality that we had taken out previously, I immediately knew what needed done and where to go to make the change.  The problem was, I didn’t read the details.

My change had been in use for almost a month and when Accounting went to do their billing, everything was rejected.  And it was because of my change.  I didn’t notice the instruction to leave the records open after processing.  That was different than the way it used to be.  And because of that, the company had lost a month’s worth of billing.

It’s not often that a person can say that they cost their employer a million dollars in revenue, but at that moment, I was in that exclusive crowd.  When asked about the change, I owned up to the mistake and fixed it immediately.  And then I started thinking about what I did, which is never a good thing.

I did the math and calculated the damage.  What could I ever do to fix it?  I can’t take a pay cut to zero dollars and work the next 15 years for free.  Even if they fired me, that money can’t be recovered by my elimination.  And there wasn’t anything I could do about it, that corrective work is in a totally different department working on a whole other level.  All I could do was wait and see what would happen to me.

And as I thought about it that night, I wasn’t scared.  I knew I could get another job easily enough.  I was just sad.  I just cost the whole company a substantial amount of money.  Bonuses for everyone?  Forget it.  Pay raises?  Nope.  New equipment? Not this year.  They could fire me, but the impact of my mistake would hit everyone.  And for that I was sad.

The next day I went in to my boss’s office and I asked what was going to happen.  He looked puzzled and then remembered our discussion where he explained that I missed a detail in my task.  “Oh, that’s taken care of.”  The honesty I gave him for my mistake, he gave the same honesty to the client that was rejecting the billing of all of our “closed” records and they agreed to work with us to reopen them and bill them properly.

So I was never really in any serious trouble.  The fear was just something I invented in my head.  But that mental invention, taking ownership of and feeling the impact of your actions on others, is a reminder of one of the principles of Reiki: I will do my work with honesty.

And, like many of my other instances of fortune, I am grateful for what I have been afforded in life.  Never forget to be grateful.

Mai Ties

This is a post about my tie collection.  Yeah, another post about collections.  No one cares – always remember that when talking about your collections.  However, you shouldn’t mistake curiosity for caring.  I can imagine that some people would be curious to see someone’s collection of something, even if they don’t share the same enthusiasm.

Anyway, ties to me were always an afterthought.  I went to a Catholic high school (which was more like a country club with as little learning that happened there), and we were expected to dress up with button-down shirts and ties.  Being teenagers, only about 2% took the dress code seriously.  I was part of the population that didn’t really understand the significance of dressing properly, so I just went through the motions.

Back in those days, ultra-skinny leather ties were in fashion, but they didn’t get worn often because of the dreaded “tie-torqueing” personal attack.  When yanked by an attacker, the leather ties would knot up so tight, they sometimes had to be cut off.  My dad had taught me the full Windsor knot, which proved to be untorqueable, but came with the disadvantage that it was a massive knot.  Once I learned the Four-in-Hand knot, I never looked back.

Knit ties were also in fashion then, and recently I have seen a small resurgence of them, but knit ties really aren’t making a permanent comeback.  They are more like a novelty tie, which is fine with me.  I only have a couple in my collection.

I’ve recently been attracted to ties in non-traditional fabrics, i.e. not silk.  Linen, cotton, polyester, and even velvet have made it into my collection.  I also like non-traditional shapes, like squared-off ends and I have one that I call a “razor” that has a single-angle end.  That one gets compliments when I wear it.  A couple of my ties are event-specific, like a red/white/blue/stars tie for July 4th or maybe Memorial Day.  The velvet tie just screams Christmas time.  My collection is evenly weighted between wide- and narrow-width ties, but most all of my recent purchases have been slim ties.

For me, the why of collecting ties is primarily the recognition.  I always used to have four ties, give or take, that were used only for job interviews and funerals.  But when some people at my workplace suggested “Tie Tuesday” to balance out the everyday casual attire, I joined in.  And that’s when my tie collection started blooming.  I’ve mentioned it before.  People notice when you are dressed above the norm.  But you can’t do it every day, because that then becomes your norm.

As far as cost goes, ties can be a really cheap accessory that adds a lot of style value.  I don’t ever pay more than $15 for a tie, and the ones that are usually $30+ at stores are not even the fashion I like.  They are more business-suit, power-executive ties.  Likewise with tie clips and tacks – you don’t have to spend more than $20 for one.  Of course, once you start getting serious, you will need a tie rack.  I started with a combo tie/belt rack that had maybe eight posts to hang ties.  I’ve since upgraded to a 24-post tie rack for less than $10.  In the same way I limit the clothes I own to the number of hangers I have, I will limit myself to the number of ties my rack will hold.  It won’t be long before I have to start recycling.

So, without further adieu, here are the ties:

dsc_0682_cr-medium “The Razor”
Kenneth Cole

This one gets a lot of attention.  I found it at a discount store and have never seen one like it since.

dsc_0683_cr-medium “Color Flash”
Little Black Tie

This was a nice gift from the GF.  It works well with my black or my aqua shirt.  The tie is black, but the end piece is a contrasting color that “flashes” when you move.

dsc_0684_cr-medium “The 80’s”
Sero

This one is heavy 80’s with a really big, loose stitch.  I think the low clearance price is the only reason I got it.

dsc_0685_cr-medium “Red Velvet”
Original Penguin

This is red velvet.  It’s a bit thick and has limited potential, but it will rock when the holidays come around.

dsc_0686_cr-medium “They Said I Had To Wear a Tie”
Dan Smith

This one is a polyester print.  The pattern is cool and could probably be used at a youngster party.  Definitely “phoning it in” as far as style goes.  I use this a lot to practice knots because it’s thin and slick.

dsc_0687_cr-medium “Dark Marble”
Unknown Brand

This 80’s tie has a nice, tight knit and the red and blue color variations in it match up well with rich, dark shirts.

dsc_0688_cr-medium “The Southwestern”
BDG. (maybe?)

This is one of my favorite ties and another gift from the GF.  It’s linen, with a nice pattern and shape.  It comes undone easier than most ties.  Works good with Oxford shirts.

dsc_0689_cr-medium “The Suit”
Calvin Klein

This blue tie is made of suit jacket material and is part of CK’s Steel series.  It’s like wearing a suit jacket when you’re not wearing a jacket.

dsc_0690_cr-medium “The Distinctive”
Original Penguin

This tie is a mix of polyester, silk, and cotton.  The fabric has a unique look and feel that catches your attention.  The color scheme works with a lot of shirts.

dsc_0691_cr-medium “Understated”
Buffalo

This 100% cotton tie is probably going to be 100% rumpled.  But I think that’s its charm.  It’s not pompous or power-tie feeling and the neutral color could go with lots of shirts.

dsc_0692_cr-medium “My Eyes!”
T. Edwards

This is an old-school tie for me, back when the purpose of wearing a tie was to be obnoxious.  It comes out when it needs to.

dsc_0693_cr-medium “New Start”
Jerry Garcia

This was the first tie I bought when I became re-interested in wearing ties. It started a J. Garcia brand mini-obsession.

dsc_0694_cr-medium “From the Past”
Arrow

Some of the ties from my youth I have no idea where they came from or how I acquired them.  I keep this around because the color and pattern works with so many shirts.

dsc_0695_cr-medium “Jolly Roger”
Merona

I found this one at Target on clearance and since I’m into computers and you know, pirates and all…  It’s a moderate conversation starter.

dsc_0696_cr-medium “On Black”
Jerry Garcia

I wanted this tie to wear with a black shirt for the massive contrast.  It did not disappoint.  It also got a direct compliment, so, success!

dsc_0697_cr-medium “The Parent’s Tie”
KETCH

This is another silk tie from my long past.  Probably a more traditional (meaning, old person) pattern.

dsc_0698_cr-medium “Ocean”
Jerry Garcia

Blue is my first choice in colors, so this tie really called to me.  I don’t wear it often enough.  This is when I stopped buying J. Garcia ties because it was getting too predictable.  I needed more variety.

dsc_0699_cr-medium “Just Silver”
Nicole Miller

I was really attracted to the shine and smoothness of this tie, but I think I’ve only worn it once.  It’s too thick.

dsc_0700_cr-medium “Old Balls”
Ottimo Uomo

Who knows how I got this tie.  It’s old-school silk and has a design I like a lot: abstract modern.  It’s really old, though.

dsc_0701_cr-medium “God Bless Murca”
Jerry Garcia

Even though I’d stopped buying J. Garcia ties, this one was cheap on clearance and it would be good for American holidays.  I have yet to remember to wear it.

dsc_7123_cr-medium “Oxford”
Van Heusen Studio

This tie is a super-thin, light cotton tie.  Like the Suit Jacket tie, this one is like wearing an Oxford shirt when you are not.  It adds a casual feel to a dress shirt, similar to “Understated”.

dsc_7124_cr-medium “Vibrant”
Van Heusen Studio

Another super-thin tie, this one in silk.  It has a bold, deep blue color and modern pattern + accents.  Worn against a white shirt, it demands attention.  Against a dark shirt, the pattern becomes the focus.

dsc_7125_cr-medium “The Suit II”
Calvin Kline

This tie is similar to “The Suit”, although it is not in CK’s Steel series.  It’s a silk blend tie with blue/grey/black colors.  It has a semi-iridescent sheen to it which makes it “pop”. Bought on clearance with an included tie clip, for less than the cost of a tie clip.