The Johnny Yen interviews, unplugged

I am honored to answer 5 questions from the esteemed Mr. Yen. I responded directly to him before I realized I am supposed to post these, I really am such a dork!

But, that gave me an opportunity to save you from a rambling Navy answer, it has been edited for brevity so good for you...

1. One of the things you and I share is being the parents of intelligent and spirited children. Do you have a particular story about your son that you’d like to share?

I saved this question for last, because I wanted to put a lot of thought into it. There are a couple of stories that come to mind, that tell a lot about who Skyler is.

First of all, everyone needs to know a little more about Skyler. The reason he has Cerebral Palsy is that he was born 3 months premature, and only weighed 1 pound 15 ounces. Sometime either in utero or during birth, he had a brain hemorrhage that affected his motor control area of his brain. He thinks a bit different than the rest of us, but is pretty much a typical kid. But he can't control any of his muscles the right way. He has limited use of his left arm, but that is about it. So, he is in a chair, and talks through a speech communications device called a Dynavox.

When he was in grade school, there was a speech therapist that was working with him that he didn't get along with. They just butted heads all the time. She had him on a page on his Dynavox of things around the house. She would right a sentence on the white board, leaving out a word that she wanted him to say. She wrote "I sit in a _____". expecting Skyler to hit the button that would say chair. Skyler got off of that page of his Dynavox and was looking for another page. She got mad at him for going off and being distracted. Eventually, after they argued with each other, he found the button that said "wheelchair". He was just trying to tell her what he really sat in, and she kept directing him back to his page of household items. He is stubborn enough that when he knows he is right, he isn't going to just go along with what you are thinking. We are happy he has a strong will, but it can be tough when he has his mind set on something!

A second story about Skyler is that now he is an adolescent, people tend to forget that inside that body that doesn't work is a sixteen year old male, with the same thoughts and drives as any other kid! We have a friend that is 2 years older than Skyler that is really nice to him, and has been coming over to sit with him on occasion while we go to a movie or something. She has long, pretty hair and one of Skylers little quirks has been that when he likes someone, he tries to reach over and touch their hair. It is a sign of affection for him. A awhile back she came over and was sitting next to Skyler and he was reaching over to touch her, but was touching her hair on her chest. She just said he really likes to touch my hair, it is so sweet, and I was thinking he is so not touching your hair - he is coping a feel!

I didn't know whether to be mad or proud!

2. You’ve mentioned in passing being in the military when you were younger. My friends who were or are in the military have stories of higher-ups that could have been re-written as a Dilbert or an episode of The Office. Do you have any examples of this?

More than I can even put into words! In the Navy, there seems to be a distrust between the officers and the enlisted types (like myself). They are quite certain that if we are not kept busy with assorted jobs, that we will all sneak off to get high, and then blow up the ship. The Chief of our division had us do 2 things constantly; paint things that didn't need painting, and clean the head (the bathroom). Most everybody seemed to just go along with it, but I was the one always questioning things. As I mentioned in one of my blog entries, when sent out to re-paint a bridge wing that was painted recently, I kept asking if we had received a batch of defective paint, and who should we contact to notify of the problem. The chief just said his same old "shut the fuck up, you got a bad attitude". But, now I have a skill that I use in real life, I am a master toilet cleaner...

There was one junior officer who got it though, and I have to tell you a story about him. He was 23 years old, just a hair older than most of the guys in the division. He came in and introduced himself to us, and immediately asked all the E-5 and above people to leave for a few minutes. This effectively separated the division into 2 groups, the career people and the rest of us. Then he said, OK, here is the deal. You guys are the ones who are going to make me or break me. If you work hard for me, play the game and make me look good, I will get you the max amount of liberty (time off the ship) that I can. Do we have a deal? Then he said don't ever mention this to anyone, and let the rest of the division back in.

We worked our butt off for that guy, because he "got it".

3. I gather from your blog that you’ve worked in the tech industry for a while. I worked in it briefly, at the height of the tech boom (1998). I felt like I was living in a Dilbert cartoon. Do you think that the tech industry somehow brings on especially silly organizational behavior?

I think all large corporations seem to have their share of Dilbert-like behavior, but high tech lends itself to it the most. Scott Adams, who writes Dilbert got his start by drawing cartoons while he was an ISDN programmer at Pac-Bell in southern Cal. All of his co-workers really liked it, and had his drawings on their cube walls. His manager at the time recognized the morale aspect of it and let it go. Then, Scott got a new manager, who told everybody to take down the cartoons. Thus was born the pointy-haired manager of Dilbert fame. He left his job shortly after and turned to writing Dilbert full-time and the rest is history.

In high-tech, managers seem to think that they are invaluable to the function of the group, when everyone just wants them to get the hell out of the way so they can produce good work.

4. I loved your post about Apollo 8—being space geeks is another thing we share. Hypothetical: You’ve been appointed to head NASA. What do you do in your first two days?

Immediately start trying to get back to the moon! I believe it is in our blood to be explorers, and to try and see what is beyond our own world. The problem with NASA is that it has become too many bureaucrats, and not enough engineers. The people who used to run things day to day were not managers by trade, but some of the brightest engineers who rose to the top.

Did you know there were a lot of the early astronauts who even volunteered for a one-way mission just to get there?

5. You win the lottery today. What are your plans?

When I was working in jobs I really didn't enjoy, it was a fantasy of mine to win the lottery, but still keep coming to work. I would sit in my cube, not doing a lick of work, and see just how long it would take them to fire me. Can you imagine how much fun that would be?

Take "The Office" for example...

boss: Uh yeah, I'm going to need those TPS reports now.
Me: You bet, coming right up. (close down surfing for video clips and start putting my coat on to leave)
boss: We're going to need those now, before you leave.
Me: Oh sorry about that, doesn't fit into my schedule. I have to run down to the auto dealer and pick up a new Porsche, my other new one got dirty. But see you tomorrow!

Thanks for the interview Johnny, it was fun! I am happy to honor any interview requests that come my way to keep this going.

Skylers Dad


  1. All guys are hardwired the exact same way it seems.

  2. I enjoyed every word of this, but I really like your Skyler stories, they are the best!

  3. Grant: That is years of evolution my friend!

    GKL: Thanks Kristi, I appreciate it.

  4. Anonymous7:25 PM

    you know, Solenbum's autism affects him in the way that his skin is super-sensitive. Like lots of Auties he runs around starkers quite a bit (but he also comes by it honestly, WE run 'round starkers rather a lot ourselves).

    Every now and then he'll come over and give us a hug (sometimes more of a death grip or a throttle around the neck) and we encourage this as a lot of Auties don't like to be touched at all. HOWEVER, on occasion with that much skin contact Mr. Happy rises to the occasion and we have to call it off.

    "coppin' a feel"!! Hee!! I don't know how I'd feel in your shooz but part of my mind says, "way to go, son!!"

  5. BO: Interesting, Skyler is really sensitive to noise. He can hear lights buzz before the bulb is about to burn out!


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