Random Thoughts from June

Once I started keeping a paper day planner, I decided I should gothrough the notes I wrote in my day planner once and highlight anythinginteresting in my blog. I probably should have done this a couple ofweeks ago, but oh well.

Voxilla: Early in June, Iofficially "left" Voxilla. Interestingly enough, so did Carolyn Schuk.That being said, I still have a small ownership stake and have helpedout with little things here and there, though interestingly Marcelohasn't called me in several weeks. I haven't been watching the Voxilla Forums all that closely, but it looks like they are continuing to move forward. I've also tried to send business their way.

Match Game: While I wrote this down on 7 June, I recently had a recurring thought about it. I've been listening to The Daily Giz Wiz and because Dick DeBartolo and Leo Laporte seem to talk about Match Gamequite often (Dick was the head writer on Match Game), I am frequentlyreminded how cool it would be if this were to come back. This could bedone as a video podcast. It could even be done as an audio podcast andit would work. I wonder if such a thing happened if Dick would be kindenough to write the questions. (Of course there is the question ofgetting the rights to use the name and/or not upsetting the copyrightholders)

A Clean Desk, Fewer Computers: Something I'vebeen wanting for a while finally happened after I got my MacBook andgenerally cleaned my office. There's one corner of my office I haven'tcleaned yet, but the parts I inhabit frequently are fairly picked upand orderly. Also I've removed my Linux laptop from my desk and so I amdown to two computers: the MacBook and my work laptop.

Who Do I Serve?:My day job is backline technical support (i.e. the next step isdevelopment). In doing that job, I have to represent the customer'sinterests to my employer and my employer's interests to the customer. Ilike to think I am working for the customer, but really it's theemployer that pays my check. Sometimes those "interests" are inconflict, and it is not always easy to resolve those conflicts. I'llhave to elaborate more on this another time.

No Antihistamines:In June, I finally broke down and scheduled an appointment with anallergist. The actual appointment involved getting poked with a lot ofsticks covered in a lot of different substances. What am I allergic to?Most grasses and a few trees. Explains why Hawaii was a good place formy allergies. 🙂 Cat hair came up as an allergen for me, but I've hadcats my whole life and tolerate cats pretty well most of the time. I'mnow taking Allegra-D and Nasacort and all is well.

Ultrametabolism:This is a book I ended up purchasing electronically on amazon.com,though I realize I could have bought it in print. Remind me never tobuy DRMed stuff again. That being said, this book is full of reallyinteresting information about why most of us are not at a healthyweight and what we can do about it. What's interesting is that theauthor, Dr. Mark Hyman says he never tells his patients to lose weight.He just helps their bodies get back into balance and the weight comesoff on it's own. Interesting idea. I'm still trying to find my balance,and I am eating healthier if nothing else.

How Do I Make Money Writing About What I Love?:I'm still trying to figure out the answer to this question, but it's aquestion I wrote down. Sure, Google gives me a few bucks, but it'senough to pay for an extra toy here and there, not enough to live on.I've tried to add some different ad networks to the site to see if thathelps. What I'd really like is to make my full time living writingabout what I love. Kind of like the folks from Dooce.

Shared Experience:I had written this down thinking how television has the concept of a"shared experience." Originally, I thought the Internet might not havethat, but I am starting to think differently about that. While maybethere isn't a single place we all go to get our media online, what youdo have online is the ability to "share" instantly. For example, if Isee something really cool on the Internet, I can send it to my friendsand they'll read/listen/watch it when they have a chance. Instantgratification. On television, radio, or a movie? Well if you weren'tthere to see it, or didn't tape/TiVo it, too bad. What it will beinteresting to see is how people will "find" content on the Internet inthe future. For me, right now, it's subscribing to Digg's Videos section in my RSS reader along with the blogs I normally read. That's more than enough video to keep me busy right now.

Happy Birthday to Me?

Well it was my birthday today. Was it happy? It had it's moments. Butthis isn't quite the right time to be having a birthday this year. Mywife's grandmother past away a few days ago and there is a lot ofenergy and effort going into the funeral that is happening on Monday. I'll leave it at that for now until I can fully process my feelings.

It Comes in Pairs

While I'm not sure it means anything, a lot of important events in mylife seem to happen in pairs—usually within 24 hours of one another.My mother and her mother's birthday happened on the same day. Myfather's birthday and mine are also on the same day. My father-in-law'sbirthday is a day before my daughters. Within a day of each other, Ialso got mentioned on two differentSlashdot articles within a day of each other. I could go on with manyother examples like this. Needless to say, I tend to see a lot ofevents either related to me or people I care about paired up in my life.

Sowhen my wife told me her grandmother was on her deathbed and her deathwas imminent—note she her health had been deteriorating for the pastcouple of years now, so this wasn't any surprise—it occurred to me atsome point that her death was likely to happen either on ouranniversary or my birthday. I realize that's not a very nice thought,but given the frequency of "paired" events in my life, it seemedlikely. And it appears another pair is forming. As of a few hours ago,it's looking very likely that she will pass within the next 24 hours.

Mywife will likely be focusing her energy on her mom for the next severaldays—something I can completely understand under the circumstances. Myenergy will therefore be focused on our kids. I believe my sonunderstands death, but doesn't have much sense of tact yet, so I have afeeling we will be spending a bit of time explaining to my son how"that's not a very nice thing to say right now," among other things.

Family life will be different for the next few days for sure.

Bonus Games for Old Game Shows

The fine folks at FlashGames Squaredhave come with Flash recreations of several popular older game showsbonus round. As someone who digs old game shows—Game Show Networkmight be the only reason I would even consider getting anythingabove basic cable—I have to say these guys have done a good job. I'dlike to know is how someone managed to get a 1.8 second time onScrabble Sprint!

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Eating What You Want?

In a previous blog entry, I mentioned that I was changing my diet. One of my readers pointed me at an article on intuitive eating.While I haven't heard the concept referred to that way, I have seen thesame concept referred to in a couple of different books. And while, intheory, this is a fine concept, the fact of the matter is the vastmajority of us have "out-of-balance" bodies and/or are so out-of-touchwith our bodies that we don't know what it is our body needs.

Thebasic truth is that while the types of food generally available havechanged over the past several decades, the human biology hasn't changedall that much in the past several millenia. The vast majority of peopleeat stuff the human body was not originally designed to digest. Thingslike high frutcose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, refined sugar,refined grains, artificial sweetners and much more. Who knows what kindof signals that human-designed food will have on the body? It can't begood—at least it's not fo rme.

If you think back severalmillenia, what kinds of food were available? Stuff that grew on trees:fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds. Stuff that grew in the ground: veggies,grains. And the occasional "buffalo" or other large beast that washunted and killed. Oh yeah, and chicken embryos (i.e. eggs). This isthe kind of stuff our bodies were made to consume and digest. Peoplewho eat these foods are eating the way nature intended us to eat. I'dlike to find the tree that grows chocolate-covered twinkies. 🙂

Meanwhile,I am trying to eat food closer to that which is found in nature. Shortof the produce aisle, most grocery stores don't carry much in thisregard, which makes it more of a challenge. Every time I read a foodlabel, I am shocked at the kinds of supposedly healthy stuff that hashigh frutcose corn syrup on it. My local Fred Meyer,which isn't a place we normally buy groceries, actually has a half waydecent "Whole Health/Organics" section. It's about four aisles full ofhealty food, dietary supplements, and the like. It actually "smells"like a health food store. Anyone who has ever been to a proper healthfood store knows the smell I am talking about.

An eye-opening, quick-reading book on the subject of eating healthier is Dr. Mark Hyman's Ultrametabolism",which really gets into what makes human's tick in terms of food. Hebasically agrees with the concept of "eating what you want as much asyou want" so long as the food is real, whole food.


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Habit 7: Sharpening The Saw

The last of the 7 Habits involves the act of "sharpening the saw." Thisisn't the "last habit" as Stephen Covey has a whole book on what hecalls "The 8th Habit," but in the context of the original 7, this isthe last one.

You can't be too busy "sawing" to sharpen yoursaw. Eventually, your saw will become dull and ineffective. The samething goes for us. We need to sharpen our saws to maintain oureffectiveness as people. What are our blades? There are four:

Physical:Taking case of yourself physically. This means making sure you areeating the right food, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, andthe like. This has historically been an area where I have not takengood care of—thus the reason I am overweight. I have committed myselfto maintaining the exercise program I have restarted and I am alsoworking on changing my diet—again—in a quest to gain and maintain ahealthy body.

Social/Emotional: Taking care of your connectionswith people. Part of that is "making connections" with people, which isone reason I participate in Kitsap Penninsula Linux Users Group as well as West Sound Tecnology Professionals Association—toget some face time with people. Maintaining connections is something Ineed to work on. I am really bad at calling my close friends or myrelatives on a regular basis.

Mental: Learning, reading,writing, and teaching. I spend a lot of time doing these things. Mostof the reading I do is online, and I use my blog as a method ofteaching, not to mention the "teaching" I do in my day job. This is ablade that is always getting sharpened.

Spiritual: Whatever youdo to get in touch with your "inner spirit," whatever that is for you.Examples include lusinging to music, medidating, praying, or serving.This is an area I have been neglecting. I have been trying to work onmeditation, but I usually do it at the wrong time of the day—sometimeafter the kids in bed, and meditating turns into a cat nap.

Speaking of cat naps, I think I am going to go take a slightly longer catnap—it's bedtime. 🙂

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Habit 6: Synergize

Okay, so this sounds like one of those nonsense business words youmight see in a Dilbert cartoon. However, the concept is important tobeing highly effective.

The idea behind synergy is to come upwith a "third alternative" or a "better way." This means workingtogether with others to find a better way to do something. It requireswin-win thinking, i.e. everyone participating needs to be thinkingwin-win. It requires everyone to seek first to understand. This way,everyone's viewpoint is heard. In the process of hearing these views,new ideas will emerge that everyone can get behind.

The biggestkey to synergy, however, is in valuing differences. Not justunderstanding everyone is different, becuase that's a given, but trulyvaluing them. When you seek first to understand, and do it well, youare showing the other person that they are valuable. You are seeing theworld from their point of view. That understanding often leads to newand different solutions.

When synergy happens, it's like 1 + 1equalling 3, 10, 100, or more. When synergy is reached, people have achange of heart, feel more energy and excitement, have a differentpoint of view, feel closer to each other, and, most importantly, have anew and improved idea. If you compromise 1 + 1 may equal 1 1/2 ifyou're lucky. If the process degrades to defensiveness or hostility, 1+ 1 starts equaling negative numbers.

Synergy is hard to do allthe time, though. It takes a lot of time and effort to come to Synergy,so it's not always practical. My wife and I have generally worked outwhat each other cares about and have pretty much agreed to let theperson who cares the most about a particular thing make the decision.Does each person always get their way? Not always, but it is ulimatelyfor the betterment of the relationship.

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It's Fathers Day, What To Do?

At least in the US, the third Sunday of each year is the day to honorand commemorate fathers. Other countries apparently celebrate this, atleast if you believe the Wikipedia article on Fathers Day. My wife asked me what I wanted to do on Fathers Day. Huh?

Mostweekends, I am taking my kids somewhere to entertain them for a fewhours while my wife does whatever needs doing. Since my wife stays athome and has them during the week while I work, and can't easily getcertain things done with kids, it's a fair trade. It's been especiallyhard the past few weeks since my son has been out of school and istrying to assert his independence in unpleasant ways. Fortunately hestarts Summer School on Monday. So when my wife basically offered me afree day to do what I wanted, I really had to think. What do I want todo?

I thought of two tasks, somewhat related, but perhapssomewhat selfish. What I'd like to do is go out and buy one of thoseMacBooks. (According to my wife, my son wanted to get me a computer forFathers Day. He knows me well.) It would be a bit of a trip to go tothe Apple Store as I'd have to drive an hour or more to either Bellevueor Southcenter. It'd also be more expensive since I couldn't takeadvantage of my employer's discount, but I'd get instant gratification.

Thesecond thing to do would be to essentially upgrade my son's computer,which would essentially involve giving him my old one, but I'd have totake it out of the rack-mount case I currently have it in. I might lethim help me assemble the thing, or at least do it in front of him so Ican explain the components. Call it a father-son bonding moment.

Ihad also thought about doing a Frys shopping trip, but I can't think ofanything I really want bad enough to drive an hour plus to Rentonexcept maybe a MacBook. Or some new components to build Jaden a new anddifferent computer.

Eh. I don't know. I'll sleep on it. Maybe I will be inspired in the morning.

Allergies without Antihistamines

Earlier this week, I finally decided that it was time to call anallergist to find out what I'm allergic to. I was told that until myappointment a week from Monday, I wasn't allowed to have anyantihistamines. Considering that I am regularly having fits ofsneezing—mostly in the evening hours—not having antihistamines isjust a wee bit uncomfortable. Apparently they interfere with allergy testing as the linked article explains.

Myallergies are odd. When I lived in California, my allergies mostlyaffected me in the winter. Here in Washington state, my allergiesaffect me in the Spring—a more common time. When I lived in Hawaii, myallergies didn't affect me at all! (There's a solution—move toHawaii!) There are many days where they can be controlled withover-the-counter medications. However, I will have the occasional daywhere nothing I take will have any impact and I spend the day sneezingand blowing my nose.

My whole life, I've never really beenable to pinpoint what triggers my allergies. It's always been a mysteryto me. The timing for my allergies has always been odd. In fact, when Iwas in Florida a few years back, I had by far the worst allergies I canremember since the 5th grade. And they kicked in as we were driving infrom Atlanta. Just shortly after crossing the state line, the sneezingbegan. Things were bad enough that my wife got me to go to a localdoctor to see if I could get some serious drugs for them. He perscribedsomething I had never herad of before: steroids. He gave me a steriodshot, and let me tell you it was by far the best treatment I've everhad for my allergies. Once those bad-boys kicked in, my allergies wentaway. I had two weeks worth of orally-taken steriods perscribed to meto keep me allergy-free until well after I got back home. It sure madethe rest of my vacation much more pleasant.

It will be nice tofind out once and for all what causes my allergies to flare up and getthe appropriate treatment. Hopefully that's what will come out ofvisiting the allergist. Meanwhile, a little bit of suffering.Hopefully, it will be worth it in the end.

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Habit 5: Seek First To Understand

I should have done this last week, but I chose to do other things last week. 🙂

Theidea behind this habit is that all too often we listen to people withthe intent to reply, not to truly understand the other person. In ourquest to be understood—something most everyone desires—it is possibleto ignore the other person completely, hear only part of what they aresaying, or filter what they are saying through our own experiences.Based on that "experience," we think we understand the other person andare quick to offer advice, but it may not even be asked for or relevant.

Shouldyou not provide advice when someone talks to you? If they ask for it orif there is a high level of trust in the relationship, sure. But don'tbe quick to offer it unless they specifically ask.

Trulylistening to someone is hard work. By truly listening, you "get insidetheir mind." You listen not only with your ears, but your eyes and yourheart. You listen to the words, you look for non-verbal cues, andlisten with your heart to find the meaning and feeling that comesthrough in the other person's voice.

Listening itself seemsfairly straightforward. What isn't so straightforward is the mindsetthat goes along with listening. Listening with the intent ofunderstanding requires you to put your agenda and your ego aside. Don'ttry and take over the conversation, ask questions of the person to helpdraw out their thoughts and feelings or to clarify something you'remissing. Really try and see the world as the other person sees it. Echothat understanding to the other person so they can confirm yourunderstanding.

This ability to understand things from theother person's view is one of the things that makes me an effectivetechnical support person. However, I need to work on this with otherpeople—particularly my son. I had an incident with my son recentlywhere my wife was not particularly happy with how I was handling thesituation, so she took over. Later, I had a conversation with her aboutthe situation. Instead of trying to say why I was right and she waswrong, I took the time to seek understanding. I told her up-front thatmy goal was to understand what the issue was and that I primarilywanted to listen. Well I got an earful.

I am not going torehash the entire conversation, but the big thing that fell out of itwas that my wife really felt I wasn't seeking understanding with myson—someone who desperately needs it. The particular situation with myson would have been much better had I seeked understanding instead ofdoing what I did. That hurt, but my wife was right.

Doing the work to seek understanding up front is much easier than it is to go back and correct misunderstandings later on.

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