Yesterday was a very sad day for us.
Barnes, one of our four cats, had to be put to sleep after we took him to the pet hospital because he was having trouble breathing. A bit over a year ago, Barnes was diagnosed with Diabetes and he'd been getting regular insulin injections (2 per day) and vet visits. In fact, his most recent visit (3-4 weeks back) was very good. The doctor was happy with his progress and he generally seemed peppier. His blood test results were all very positive.
But yesterday when we noticed he seemed to be working harder to breathe, I knew something was very wrong.
He was placed into a 100% oxygen environment to make is breathing easier while they conducted some tests and gathered information. After some X-rays, we learned the extent of his troubles. He had an enlarged heart, fluid in his lungs, and cancer.
In a way, it's good we didn't see this coming.
His brother Noble seems to be taking it better than we are, and they'd been together their entire ~12 years. His newer brothers Timmy and Thunder will surely miss him as well.
His favorite activities in the world were eating chicken (and fish), exploring our catnip plants and toys, getting belly rubs, and napping on his favorite fuzzy blanket.
Barnes was the most loving and strong cat we'd ever known. He was probably hiding his illnesses for a long time, hoping for a few more belly rubs with us and visits with the catnip plants we grew.
We'll really, really miss him.
Here are a few of the pictures and videos we'll use to remember him...
Please remember to get your pets regular checkups with a good vet. They deserve it.
Our trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone is going very well. We've been pretty busy, so I haven't had a lot of time to write. But here's a picture of the sunset from tonight.
We're taking lots of pictures and video with the Flip and enjoying the scenery. Weather looks good for the next several days too.
Not a bad vacation at all. :-)
We'll be flying from San Jose to Twin Falls, Idaho today. Then tomorrow we'll fly from Twin Falls to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
For those pilots or aviation buffs out there, here is our list of waypoints for both days.
Day #1 RHV - LVK (Livermore) LVK - L53 (Lodi) L53 - PVF (Placerville) PVF - TVL (Lake Tahoe) TVL - MEV (Minden) MEV - CXP (Cason City) Rest/Fuel CXP - LOL (Derby) LOL - BAM (Battle Mountain) via V6 airway BAM - EKO (Elko) Rest / Fuel EKO - LWL (Wells) LWL - 06U (Jackpot) 06U - TWF (Twin Falls) Rest / Fuel / Spend Night Day #2 TWF - BYI (Burley) BYI - U01 (American Falls) U01 - U02 (Mc Carley) U02 - U56 (Rigby Jefferson) U56 - DIJ (Driggs Reed) DIJ - JAC (Jackson Hole)
Over the last year or so we've slowly been accumulating new kitchen toys and cookbooks. And we've been experimenting with new recipes during that time. See Jeremy's Crockpot or Slow Cooker Chili Recipe for an example.
But things seem to have been kicked into a higher gear recently. You see, we asked for (and received--thanks Mom and Dad) a KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Stand Mixer back during Giftmas. And my wonderful wife got me the KitchenAid KPRA Pasta Roller Attachment and the The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles to go along with the mixer.
My expectation was to mostly use the mixer for the occasional bread mix (which I haven't tried yet) or cookie dough (ditto). But Kathleen is a big pasta fan and the meals in the book sounded quite tasty.
So a few weeks ago I began to experiment with making my own pasta. Much to my surprise, it's a fairly easy and fun process. To make basic pasta, all you really need is some eggs and flour. In fact, 3 larger eggs and 2 cups of all purpose white flour is enough to get started.
The real trick, as it turns out, is getting the moisture level of the pasta right and working with the resulting dough. You want it to stick together just the right amount with the right texture. No too dry and not too wet or sticky. And you need to let it "rest" long enough that you can work with it.
Anyway, last night I made my third round of basic pasta and feel like I'm getting the hang of it. Combined with grilled chicken breasts, grilled asparagus, and a tasty olive oil and garlic sauce, it's just fantastic. Fresh pasta really tastes so much better than the dried pasta you buy at the store. It's hard to describe the difference. It's lighter, tastier, and less prone to sticking. You simply must try it.
I highly recommend that pasta book too. If you're getting serious about pasta and want a variety of recipes (both for the noodles and sauces), it's a wealth of good information.
Next we need to try some of the more interesting pasta recipes that use more exotic flours and spices added in.
Pictures of my first and second pasta making adventures are on Flickr in Making Pasta.
Have you made your own pasta? What's your experience been like?
Last weekend we flew up to Pine Mountain Lake and drove into Hetch Hetchy to hike to Wapama Falls. The weather was fantastic for mid-January: clear and in the high 50s to low 60s. After about 15 minutes on the trail, jackets and outer shirts came off, and we were down to jeans and t-shirts.
You can see the full set in the Flickr photo set titled January 2009 Flight to Pine Mountain.
I shot about 250 more with my Canon 300D and you can see a few here.
The full set is on Flickr in Wapama Falls Hike in Hetch Hetchy Valley.
There are still more pictures of the hike that she took with the SD800 IS to come as soon as I get them on-line... You can always watch my full photo stream is here.
I've been making variations on a crock pot chili recipe for the last few months and finally have a combination we really like.
1.5 - 2 pounds of ground beef
1 medium red onion
1/2 medium or large yellow onion
1/2 - 1 cup of frozen yellow sweet corn [see notes below]
1 green bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
1 14-16 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes [see notes below]
2 15-15 oz. cans of pinto beans [see notes below]
1 11.5 oz. can of V8 juice (hot if you can find it, regular otherwise)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cayenne pepper
Chop the red onion and add it with the ground beef. Brown over medium heat.
While the meat and onion are browning, add beans, V8, and spices to the crockpot. Chop green pepper, yellow onion, and jalapeno and add them as well.
Once the meat has browned and onions softened, add them to the crock pot as well.
Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally.
Serve with freshly made corn bread or fresh noodles. Optionally top with shredded cheddar cheese and onion. Enjoy with a nice cold beer, if that's your sort of thing. :-)
Safeway sells 15 oz. cans of Pinto Beans that are "Mexican Chili Pinto Beans." They work very well if you can find them.
Safeway also sells 14.5 oz. cans of Petite Diced Tomatoes with Garlic and Olive Oil. Also highly recommended. Some people use canned Stewed Tomatoes in their recipes but I find them to be too chunky. I like a nice uniformly thick chili.
Trader Joe's sells some truly excellent frozen Organic Super Sweet Cut Corn. Get it if you can. They also sell a good corn bred mix.
It's Friday and this is the Internet, so I present to you Cats Eating Chicken, or "My Dumb Cat Video" (embedded below too).
The background is that we had a bit of leftover grilled chicken the other night and decided to bust it up and feed it to the cats. Amusingly, they all got together to partake of the feast, but a couple of them got curious about the camera too.
Both Timmy (white and grey) and Thunder (mostly grey) give the camera a sniff or two. My boys (Barnes and Noble) remained single-mindedly devoted to devouring the meat.
Anyway, we found it rather amusing.
Have a good weekend...
A couple weekends ago we embarked on a seemingly simple painting project at home. We wanted finally paint over the wall that was torn up when I had plumbing problems a few years ago (see: The Leak, Day #2, The Leak, Day #3: Leak Found, Pictures, Showering with a 90 Foot Hose, and other Fun Tidbits, The Leak, Day #7: Still Showering with a Hose, etc.).
There were numerous cans of paint in the garage that the previous owners had left behind. And since the house had mostly white walls, it seemed like a pretty trivial task. We got out the paint, spread the plastic and sheets, stirred, poured, and started putting paint on the walls.
After a bit of painting it became apparent that were we not using the right color. Apparently there was more than one white used in the house. This wouldn't normally be a problem. But as part of the painting we decided to touch up a few other walls in other rooms of the house. It looked fine while the paint was wet. But as the paint dried, we realized that there were actually three or more different flavors of "white" in use around the house.
Realizing what pain in the ass this could turn into, we opted to chip a bit of paint off the affected walls, take them over to our neighborhood Orchard Supply Hardware, and get them to match the color.
They did an excellent job. The touched up spots look fine. And the colored paint we got for the previously repaired wall looks great. (Oh, we decide to use a non-white color after we realized the "white" was all wrong.)
So you're probably wondering what this has to do with realtors.
Realtors know what it takes to sell a house. They know where they can cut corners and get away with it. After thinking about it a bit, I realized what the previous owners of our house must have done. I suspect that they hired some cheap painters and asked them to bring along any leftover white paint from previous jobs.
They did. And they used one white for one room, a slightly different white for the next, and so on--thereby using up the extra paint and not having to spend a whopping $12/gallon to repaint the house before selling it.
I can't think of any other reason why someone would paint different rooms using shades of white that are just different enough to be different. It just doesn't make sense.
But to make matters worse, they didn't bother to label the spare cans so we'd know which room the colors applied to. At least the spare paint can I put away after we were done have things like "living room" or "bedroom" written on them in black marker.
Damned cheap-ass realtors.
Anyone need three or four cans of partially used off-white paint?
In Amazing Powers of Concentration, Brad Feld says something that resonated with me.
I've never really understood the phrase "I'm thinking." It's too abstract for me. I like to think I think all the time. So "I'm thinking" doesn't feel like it applies to anything. For example, when "I'm running", it's pretty clear what I'm doing. "I'm thinking" - not so much so.
That's so true. Thinking is an ongoing and difficult to see activity.
In fact, I know of some people who are so busy thinking at times that they find it difficult to sleep at night. I used to have that problem a lot. However, it's rare these days. I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm just more fond of sleep than I used to be.
I suppose that if you're into meditation, there is a time during the day when you force yourself not to think. But that's pretty rare, I suspect.
Oh, I almost forgot about television...
About a week and a half ago, I noticed that Barnes (one of our two older cats) was thinner than he used to be--so much so that I felt his bones when I gave him the sort of back scratching that he loves so much.
Both he and his brother (Noble) are about 10 years old and have nearly always been on the heavy site. And, of course, don't get to a vet regularly because they utterly detest cat trips.
Last Thursday we realized that it wasn't getting any better and took him over to the vet (Kirkwood Animal Hospital and Dr. Ueno) to see what was going on. Some on-line reading led me to believe that it was likely a case of Hyperthyroidism, which I'd heard of and thought was somewhat common in aging cats.
However, the doctor called back on Friday morning to tell me that Barnes was diabetic. :-( Not only did that mean another trip to the vet and a 6-8 hour stay for glucose testing, it also likely meant insulin shots for the rest of his hopefully long life.
It wasn't long before I found the FelineDiabetes.com web site and began reading about what this was likely to mean: dietary changes, closer monitoring, daily shots, and so on.
To make a long story short, Barnes is doing better now. He and the other three cats are adjusting to eating a low-carb cat food (Purina DM). I have an appointment for his brother Noble to get checked out next week. If he's headed down the same path, a distinct possibility given the role that genetics can play, we'd like to catch it ASAP.
The food is more expensive and the insulin shots aren't nearly as bad as I expected. But I really wish this hadn't happened. Diabetes puts him at risk for other complications down the road--just like in humans.
If you're a cat owner, here are a few suggestions from our experience:
Oh, I just dug up some of the pictures I took of Barnes and Noble back in 1999 when I first adopted them. There were about 3-6 months old at the time.
Just to lighten things up a bit, if you haven't already seen it, check out An Engineer's Guide to Cats.
There's probably a lot more I could say about this but will save it for another time. I'm sure we have much to learn yet. Now I'm off to get an injection ready.
I wasn't really looking for a new job a few months ago when I received an email from Eric Scheide (see Team Bios), the CTO at craigslist. He mentioned that they were looking for someone with MySQL experience and asked if I knew anyone. This sort of thing happens all the time.
But this time it was different. Over the course of about three seconds, something clicked in my little brain and I realized that craigslist is a pretty unique combination of things: a small company with a solid financial base, a great service that I use myself, a focused groups of people who really care about doing things well, and an open-source friendly environment.
I replied that I might be interested myself and things kind of took on a life of their own from there. In the weeks that followed, I got the chance to meet much of the team (including CEO Jim Buckmaster and Craig himself). Each time I came away liking more and more about the team. I've also been impressed at how well the company takes care of its people and how thoughtful they are about making important decisions.
So after taking a few weeks off for some planned travel and unplanned relaxation, I'll start assimilating myself into the craigslist engineering culture and lending a hand wherever I can. Yes, some of that will entail going back to my MySQL roots.
The site is growing like a weed (still!), the people are great, and the focus is on providing a great service that anyone can use. At the same time, there are a lot of technical challenges (they get a ton of page views) and great opportunities to grow the site and give back to both the open source community and all the communities around the world that craigslist serves--a list that's growing all the time.
Not that I really care much what other people think, but the reactions I've had so far when telling people have been universally positive. Very positive. That tells me I'm on the right track.
The only real downside is that crigslist is in San Francisco and I'm in San Jose. So if you have thoughts on getting to the vicinity of 9th and Judah using public transit, let me know. I won't be commuting up every day, but I suspect I'll be trying a few options before settling on what works best.
Here's my post-surgery x-ray for your viewing pleasure.
And another one.
I'm learning to type a bit more quickly, but it's still quite frustrating. So blogging will continue to be light. I'll keep my linkblog updated, though.
Things have been rather quiet here since I broke my finger on easter Sunday. Since then I helped host the Hadoop Summit, had surgery, got the claw, learned to shower one-handed, and hosted a going away lunch for my manager, Matt McAlister.
But what really sucks is that my typing speed is about 25% of what it used to be.
Ugh! You'd think that losing one hand would mean a 50% reduction, but it's far worse than that in practice. Correcting errors is quite slow.
But my FriendFeed does a good job of capturing all that. So watch that if you're in the mood to stalk me while my finger heals.
Oh, and I have Vicodin too.
Now here's the funny part. It's not fixed yet. The x-ray revealed an "interesting" break. That's not my description. The physician's assistant who read them actually said that a few times.
So I'm scheduled to see an orthopaedic specialist at 2:30pm on Monday to determine the best course of action. Meanwhile, it's taped to the medical equivalent of a stick and I'm at home with a loving wife and a small bottle of pills.
While there is much to write about our recent African Safari (we got back safely--thanks to everyone who asked!), one particular thing that really stands out is the African Beef we ate during our weeks in Kenya and Tanzania.
You see, nearly every place we stayed had a nice big buffet dinner (don't ask about the diet) that featured excellently prepared African Beef. In every case the beef was incredibly tender, lean, and very tasty. It was hands-down better than the vast majority of beef we've had in the United States.
After a few days of this, I got to thinking about why the beef was so good. Here's my thinking on it. The beef we had in Africa was often very fresh. They don't transport it in from nearly as far away as we often do in the United States. And the cows aren't fed the sort of unnatural diets that they are here too. Most of them are out grazing the countryside, eating whatever grass and other greens catch their eye. In other words, they're left in their natural environment rather than being cooped up in some industrialized beef manufacturing system.
The locals I talked with seemed to agree. The combination of locally raised cows eating what they're supposed to eat really makes from some excellent eating.
If you're planning to visit Kenya or Tanzania, plan to enjoy some amazing beef. It's a real treat. :-)
The end of our big Africa trip is nearly here. The travel through Kenya went well despite the reported violence, demonstrations, and so on. We've been in Zanzibar for the last several days for a little beach time and even a wedding. :-)
On January 8th, 2008 we were married on the beach during a breezy and sunny day. It was a great ceremony in an excellent location and I'll surely write a lot more about it (and the rest of the trip) later. But we need to start our day of travel back to the USA and the harsh reality of not living on a beach resort.
We'll be heading back via Nairobi, London, and finally San Francisco. In the meantime, here are a few more wedding pictures. We'll upload more in a few days--not to mention billions of safari pictures.
See you all in a few days, and thanks for all the good wishes!
We made it to Africa on Monday after hour half-day layover in chilly London but had a few mishaps along the way--namely delayed luggage (we finally have 2 of our 3 checked bags from SFO as of Friday), a cell phone that doesn't work internationally as it should have, and other stupid stuff.
The good news is that the trip has been otherwise fantastic so far. We have a great guide (just him and the two of us in a Land Cruiser) that's helped us to see *lots* of amazing animals and scenery. It's going to take a long time to go through the thousands of pictures we're taking and dozens of short video clips.
We have just another two days in Tanzania before we had back to Kenya for our Safari there. The lodges we've been staying at are better than either of us had expected. They have great food, amazing views, and very friendly people--not to mention gift shops where we've been able to buy a few of the essentials that were trapped in our checked bags.
We'll write more when we get a chance...
Things will be fairly quiet here for next couple of weeks. Not only are the end of year holidays a good time to unplug (a bit) and focus on other stuff, we're going to be traveling a bit and likely won't have much in the way of Internet access starting on Sunday the 23rd.
You may remember late July when I announced that I'm Engaged. Well, this trip will be a combination of Honeymoon and Wedding (in that order) for me and Kathleen. And I couldn't be happier about it. :-)
When we return in mid-January, I'll have a lot to write about and many, many pictures to share. In the meantime, put the mouse away for a bit and enjoy some time off with friends and family.
If we get a chance, I'll try to post a photo and a quick update from overseas, but I'm not expecting much of a chance to do that.
Enjoy the holidays!
Last weekend we had to chance to spend most of Saturday at Pine Mountain Lake, a private resort community in the foothills of the Western Sierra Nevada mountains (roughly 3,000 foot elevation). It's only a half our drive from the entrance to Yosemite National Park.
Pine Mountain has a about 3,000 homes in and around the lake area, several beaches, a golf course, campgrounds, an equestrian center & stables (horse rides), an airport (and aviation association), tennis courts, pool, and so on.
Many of the homes are vacation or second homes, weekend getaways, or rentals, though there is a sizable contingent of full-time residents as well (some retired, some airplane commuters). The most desirable properties seem to be on the lake, up high with views, or near the airport (with taxiway access!).
The lake has abundant activities for a relaxing weekend. One can swim, play volleyball, rent a kayak or sailboat, or take a ride on the water taxi. For $2/day (children are $1/day), you can ride the boat between the four stops around the lake, including the main Pine Mountain Lake Marina, Lake Lodge Dock, Fisherman's Cove, and Dunn Court Beach.
We took the 45 minute water taxi ride around the lake to get a good sense of what's where. It's worth noting that there's a 5mph speed limit on the lake most of the time, except during water ski hours.
There's food and drinks available within feet of the beach and lots of grass on which to put your towel, umbrella, chairs, tent, whatever. There are public use charcoal grills as well.
All in all, it's not a bad place to spend a day. Or weekend. Or a week. Or even more... :-)
Pictures: Pine Mountain Lake, August 2007 (on Flickr)
Though I changed my relationship status from "In a Relationship" to "Engaged" a few weeks ago in my Facebook profile, it's time that I just came out in a more public forum.
So here it is: I'm engaged to be married to a truly amazing woman later this year.
While we started dating late last year (mid-October to be exact), I've been pretty quiet about it online. That's partly because I didn't want to expose Kathleen to an audience of a few thousand people without knowing what might happen--she has little of an online footprint. And it's partly because it's my own damned business and private life, and sometimes there has to be a line between what's public and what's not. I'm sure you understand. :-) Oh, and I didn't want to jinx it!
But enough about my on-line life. What you're really wondering about is who she is (and what sort of mental disorder compels her to spend time with me!). I could tell you countless great things about her (many of which I tell her on a daily basis), but I'll be brief. Kathleen was born a mere 2 weeks before me, grew up in the state of New York, attended MIT undergrad, has a PhD from Stanford, and works as a research scientist in the Bay Area. She's also a glider pilot and working on her single engine rating. She's smart, beautiful, kind, caring, and fun to be around.
We have a lot in common aside from a love of flying. We have very similar goals for the future, religious views (or lack of them), geographic preferences, choice of pets, tastes in food, vacation ideas, hobbies we wish we had time for, thoughts on whether or not (and when) to have children one day, and more. I could go on.
In short, we're very compatible. So much so that it's scary (in a good way) at times. I'd try to cite specific examples, but I'd honestly expect you not to believe me. Seriously. I can't count the number of times I've thought to myself "I can't possibly be this lucky..."
But I am.
We've had a few bumps in the road, of course. Some of them were the likely the result of the fact that I simply hadn't made dating a priority for a long time. You may recall Flying as Therapy and On Balance and Changing in recent months. There are deeper stories behind them, and I'm still in awe at the public and private responses that second one elicited. But each time we've come away stronger, knowing each other better, and even more confident about our future. It's all part of the journey.
I'm incredibly happy that we managed to find each other at times in our lives when we were both ready to find each other. But even more than that, I'm excited about the future we're going to have together.
After we've worked out more of the details, maybe I'll write a bit about our unconventional wedding plans. :-)
This is already longer than I thought it'd be, so I hereby return you to your regularly schedule geeky stuff, flying pictures, strange news, and occasional ranting--as soon as I come up with something.
First off, I'd like to apologize to those of you who read my site with any regularity. Whether or not you know it, the last few weeks have been "interesting" in my life. Things haven't been quite the same around here. As I wrote three weeks ago in Flying as Therapy:
The last few days have been interesting (in the Chinese proverb sort of way) and educational (in a "I learned something about myself the hard way" sort of way), so the 2.2 hour trip was a good way to get out today.
That turned out to be the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
If you're not interested in a bit of my personal life, please stop reading here. I know that a lot of you are here for tech stuff or flying pictures. This is neither of those.
I've tried really hard to keep my life compartmentalized to some degree. I rarely write here about really personal stuff. I also rarely discuss such things at work. But that doesn't always work so well.
For the last 7-8 years (probably longer), my life has primarily been about a very few things:
The flying was a recent addition that restarted about 4 years ago. But together those three things consumed most of my life: work time and "free" time included. This is, I fear, partly a result of who I am and partly a result of living in Silicon Valley. The culture here rewards intensity and focus, often to the exclusion of other important things.
Keen readers are looking at my list of three things and noticing that there's something very important missing. That's right. All of my non-work friends have been flying friends. There really were no other relationships. (That's not entirely true, but it's also not worth explaining right now what the non-local exceptions were/are.)
There was a real hole in my life until recently. And it wasn't until recently that I understood that.
Please excuse my need to keep things a bit vague (see "compartmentalization"), but in the last few months that's been changing. As a result, I've been struggling with what some call "life balance." Struggling more than I realized until very recently. It's harder than I thought to change my patterns of thinking and acting. Even harder at times to make my words and actions match up. Hard to make room, despite the absolute best of intentions and beliefs. Hard to let myself be drawn out.
I've been quite surprised at the difficultly involved so far and I know there's more to come (or at least there ought to be). I've repeatedly let myself be guided by the wrong instincts, old beliefs, or held back by a stupid fear.
And you know what? It just plain sucks. And I have nobody to blame but myself.
I think I've managed to practically blast an even larger hole in the place of the previous one. :-(
I'd also like to apologize to the coworkers that I haven't been able to give 100% to recently.
Hopefully I'll be back to my regular self (or an improved version of me) before too long. But these things can take time. Until then things may be quiet around here a bit longer.
Finally, unless something dramatic happens, I'll be gone all of next week.
It just occurred to me that if I look at the on-line services I used most, there's not really a clear winner when it comes to who gets the bulk of my online attention. Here's the current list along with the current owner of each (since 3 of the 4 were acquisitions):
Even more interesting is the fact that they're all basically separate brands from their parent companies. Sure, we all know that the "G" in Gmail is for "Google" but it's not called Google Mail, is it?
Of course, there are other on-line services that see little of my attention but provide value in other ways too:
And there are smaller or government owned sites I visit several times a day too:
And then there are those I've mostly stopped reading as they've decayed or gone mainstream and become mostly uninteresting:
I don't know if this is interesting to anyone else, but I was pretty happy about figuring this out a little while ago.
Does anyone seem to garner the majority of your on-line attention?
A new pattern has emerged for me recently: when being early doesn't help. Here are a few recent examples.
On Monday afternoon I received a phone call letting me know that my new glasses were ready to be picked up. I was surprised, because we'd ordered them just a few days before (after my eye checkup) and it usually takes 7-10 days.
So I stopped at the eye doctor's office on the way to work Tuesday morning. I tried the glasses on and they didn't feel quite right. The prescription was excellent (having clear vision is a wonderful thing) but something was off. When I tried to attach the clip-on sunglasses, they were too small.
The technician looked at things more closely and discovered that they'd used a frame size that was slightly too large. So they're being sent back to be re-done. The end result is that it'll probably be 7-10 days, just like I originally expected.
Today I headed over to the dentist (Spring is when a lot of my annual health stuff happens, I guess) for a cleaning. Upon arriving there, I found that I didn't have an appointment today. It was, in fact, tomorrow at 11am instead.
Since I was in the neighborhood, I decided that I should use the time to get a haircut. Normally I get a haircut about a month after I'm completely convinced I really do need one. But this is the first time I've gone for an opportunistic haircut.
I'm half expecting to wake up tomorrow morning and find that my hair fell out while I slept. That would seem to fit the pattern. Sort of.
Over the weekend the phone rang. I don’t get many calls, so I was wondering who might be calling. Imagine the annoyance of being greeted by someone I don't know representing some charity I've never heard of who is asking for money to resolve some crisis I don't know anything about.
Roughly 45 seconds into the exchange (and by "exchange" I mean "monologue" since the other person hadn't yet shut up since I said "hello"), I rudely interrupted her script by saying "excuse me!" more and more loudly until she stopped.
Then, not sure what to do, this emerged:
Me: I'm sorry, but I don't take calls from people I don't know.
Her: ... slience ...
Me: ... silence ...
Her: Oh. Okay. Sorry.
I don't know how that line popped into my mind, but I think I'm going to use it from now on. I wish there weren't so many lame exceptions to the do not call registry.
You may remember back at the end of 2006 when I wrote about some of my goals for 2007. In 2007: Reduce, Focus, and Filtering My Inputs, I said:
My goal is to spend more time on quality stuff: getting deeper into stuff that I already do and want to do more of, building more stuff (more on that later), and spending less time on trivia, and generally trying to have a clearer head and less of a sense of urgency.
So far I've managed to do a decent job. I'm spending less time on trivia and more on stuff that matters. But I can do more. It's not just a matter of reducing inputs. As Anne Zelenka wrote in Ten Things I Hate About You, Web 2.0:
The productivity virus so many of us have been infected with in 2006 and 2007. Let’s move on. Getting lots of stuff done is not the way to achieve something important. You could be so busy planning next actions that you miss out on what your real contribution should be.
I've been trying to let more stuff fall off my TODO list and onto the floor where it can be swept away by the passage of time. It's a little surprising how many things come up and seem important but are easily forgotten a few weeks later, done or undone.
The irony here is that I spent several hours sorting paperwork and paying bills. I try to do that once a month if possible. I guess that makes up for all the flying I did yesterday.
In the tradition of The Hardest Thing I Have To Do Every Day, I present another micro-quote:
The hardest thing I have to do some days is to keep my mouth shut (or refrain from typing into the "comments" box on a variety of web sites and/or clicking "submit").
Coming soon: A post on "knowing when to ditch the database" and a related one on "how I attack scaling problems on high-growth web sites."
When I wrote the other day about The Hardest Thing I Have To Do Every Day, I was in the midst of a mad email purge and filing campaign. This is yet another attempt to change my ways.
The end result is quite pleasing.
But it'll take a serious adjustment of habits to keep things that neat and tidy.
So please don't send me any more email.
An simple thought popped into my head yesterday as I was attempting to make some serious headway into my inbox of more than 250 unread items. For reasons I don't particularly understand, it actually came to me in the form of a quote that could easily be a soundbite:
The hardest thing I have to do every day is to decide what to ignore.
I thought about it for a few minutes and realized how true it was. My email inbox is the obvious example. Every time I look, I'm faced with a bunch of crap to filter through. Hundreds of split-second decisions (trash, file, respond, defer, etc) need to be made. My RSS aggregator is the same way. It reminds me of how many things I've yet to deal with. There's reddit and random links sent from friends via IM and email. Flickr. YouTube. Blog comments. Presentations and classes at work. Podcasts. The stack of unread books in my computer room. The list goes on and on.
In our culture of abundance, they're nearly infinite in number.
I need to invert my thinking. I should be starting most days with a strong idea in mind of what I want to spent the majority of the day focusing on. If there's time left, I'll tend to the other distractions.
But some habits are just hard to break.
The frustrating thing about all this is that as our electronic tools evolve to more efficiently find information, I'm a bit more aware every day of how much stuff I am ignoring. Life was easier when I was ignorant of how much interesting stuff the world had to offer.
Earlier this week, an odd thing happened. The main lock on my sliding patio door stopped latching. It was probably the result of the house settling or maybe the wood shifting around now that we're finally getting some seasonal rain. Either way, it was rather annoying and had been bothering me all week.
This afternoon I got out the tools and decided to fix it. I needed to move the metal receiver that the latch grabs onto so that it'd actually latch again. While I thought that would entail drilling into the metal frame, it turned out that I was able to reuse a previous set of holes (apparently this has happened before) and get by with a little bit of Dremel work.
No problem, right?
Everything was fine until about an hour ago. I had cleaned out my closet and was taking bags of clothes into the garage so that I might drop them off at Goodwill this week. On may way out the door, I gave it a bit of a push and it slid as usual before stopping in the closed position.
You can see where this is going, right?
Well, the funny thing is that just as the door was closing, I thought to myself "that'd be funny if the door locked behind me... you know, because I fixed the lock soooo well..."
Sure enough, when I came back to the door and gave it a tug it wouldn't move. At all. And, of course, it was raining outside. So there I was, locked out of my own house. It was at that moment I decided that I really ought to keep a spare key hidden in the garage.
Anyway, I wandered back into the garage, grabbed a few tools and began to take the lock apart from the outside. Much to my surprise, it was relatively easy to take apart and I was back inside in no more than three minutes.
Happy with my quick recovery, I stored a spare key in the garage, put the lock back together, and began to ponder getting better locks. If I can get in without trying very hard, there's not much to stop a determined person. (Not that I wasn't determined, but you know what I mean.)
Thinking back a bit, I realized that this hadn't happened since about 1998 when I lived in my little house in Ohio. I guess every 8-9 years isn't so bad.
Anyone know a good lock specialist? ;-)
This is the first in a short series of things I'll likely write about the coming year (2007). The end of the year is often a good time to look back and think about what has happened and why, not to mention how they compared to my expectations and goals (assuming I had any).
In the last couple of years, my self-improvement efforts have centered around physical health. I've lost a bunch of weight and kept it off (see: Diet Tips or How To Lose Weight with a Spreadsheet and a Web Site, The Diet Plan and The Three Habits, The Diet Spreadsheet, Diet Tips: How To Eat Less), improved my eating habits, and am beginning to exercise more.
But my mental health has been slowly going down the crapper. While I've made half-hearted efforts to reduce the non-essential demands on my limited brain time and power (see: The Hopeless Email Battle, Shooting E-Mail Like Bullets, E-Mail Stress Disorder or Burnout?, E-Mail Tension Syndrome, E-Mail Newsletters and RSS, My 30 Day GMail and Yahoo! Mail Challenge), there's a lot more I can do.
I need to put the same amount of effort, time, and dedication into drastically reducing the "inputs" in my life, most of which are computer assisted and amplified. I need to reduce, focus, and filter my inputs.
In thinking about it, I've come to realize that there are surprisingly few underlying reasons for my mental distraction. Here they are:
With all that in mind, I'm setting a few goals. Well, there're more like rules, but if I can stick with 'em, who really cares?
There aren't many and they sound simple, but they represent pretty important changes to my daily workflow.
My goal is to spend more time on quality stuff: getting deeper into stuff that I already do and want to do more of, building more stuff (more on that later), and spending less time on trivia, and generally trying to have a clearer head and less of a sense of urgency.
Do you have any distraction reduction plans in the works too?