Moving About

This weekend had a little bit more physical activity than my baseline. Not only were the regular dog walks happening, we went skating yesterday. Next week we’ll be part of a skate party, so we were practicing up a little. I hadn’t been in a roller rink since I was 7 or 8. I tried to get out there on standard quad skates, and it was a bad scene. After one lap, I turned in those skates for some rollerblades which were much better. We skated for about an hour and a half and I only had one wipeout that was unassisted. The rest were caused by trying to not run over little kids. When it was done we were exhausted and I was a tad bruised.

Today I went swimming at the gym. I’ve built up to where I can do 21 laps without stopping. That’s 1050 yards ,which is approaching 2/3 of a mile. It takes me a really long time to do – close to 35 minutes – but I get it done. It’s amazing to me how quickly my performance deteriorates. I can do the 25 yards of one half of the lap in 27 strokes the first time. By the third lap it takes more like 34 and at the low point it was 45. My main goal is to increase my fitness and cardiovascular health so the quality of my swimming is not my primary concern. I try not to be ridiculous but as long as I’m moving, I’m happy with that.

White Smoke, It’s a New Pope

My buddy Andre and his wife Heidi are having a baby. Like, right now. Andre is doofus enough to be live blogging the labor. We saw them just before the 4th of July and Heidi was ready to be back down to a single person at that point. I’m delighted to welcome a new member into our Grand Strand Blogger group the hard way. Memphis will get an automatic bid, she’s a legacy.

Next stop, pictures! I can’t wait.

Striving for Fitness

I’ve been doing pretty well at going to the gym lately. My goal is six days a week and I don’t think I have hit that yet but I’ve done five multiple weeks. I do a three day rotation of lifting weights twice and then swimming on the third day, and ideally I do that twice through. This morning I swam 18 laps for 900 yards total, a little over half a mile! I don’t know what serious swimmers do but that seems like a lot to me. I had done the same total distance last time but I’m cutting down on breaks. I did this one in six groups of three laps, a break to catch my breath and measure my pulse and then back at it. Last time I did it in two laps at a time, so I cut my breaks by a third. I look forward to the day when I can swim as far as I’m going without breaks at all.

My swimming pace will not impress anyone. When the serious swimmer kids get in the pool, they usually go about twice my pace. I’m in it for the distance, to burn calories and lose weight and improve my fitness level. When I can swim over half a mile without gasping for air I’l be quite happy. For now, I’m happy with my progress.

Retiring Young

On the 37Signals blog, David Heinemeier Hansson posts about why he thinks the desire to retire young is misplaced. If that’s the case, then I have the same misplaced desire. When I was laid off from my job in 2001 I made a deal with myself that I would be retired no later than 20 years from that point, which would put me at age 53. (Admittedly, that’s not really retiring young. If I could feasibly retire at 45, I’d do it then.) My main reasoning is that when I get into my 50s, I don’t want to be in the position of having to find new jobs in a panic if I get laid off or decide I can’t bear the one I’m at. I’ve long thought and still think this is quite a sensible goal.

I run into reactions like DHH’s with people when I mention this desire. I think it comes from the over-interpretation of the word “retirement.” I’d like to be retired at age 50 or sooner but that doesn’t mean my desire is that all activity ceases. When my bills are paid regardless what I do, that frees me up to do things I want to do that may not be marketable enough to pay for themselves. This could include more podcasting, blogging, open source development or any number of things that seem fun but have to fight for resources with the rest of the activities of life. Regardless, suppose my idea of retirement is sitting on the couch watching QVC everyday. What’s it to you?

There is some sort of Puritan work ethic implicit in the retirement pushback. DHH has to stuff the strawman with statements like “work isn’t evil” and the like. There seems to be a romanticization of the act of spending your days doing things for some external organization that pays you. I like what I do, I like the job I have but I’d rather not be doing it 20 years from now. It has more to do with freedom and directing my own time, not that I think “work is evil.” I don’t think getting paid by someone else automatically makes your actions more morally correct than living off your savings. Simmer down, you retirement haters.

You can keep showing up at the office until you get too old to make it in but that’s not the kind of choice I’m making for myself. I think it’s a perfectly fine choice and that I don’t owe anyone my time indefinitely nor any apology for my outlook. There are plenty of ways to approach a life and I’m going to do this one my way, thanks.

Return to the Gym

I’ve gotten sick of my own weight and generally poor level of fitness lately, so week before last we rejoined the gym. The local hospital has a gym on its premises and it is a pretty good one. It has all the equipment and weights you would expect plus a swimming pool. I’ve started on three day rotation of lifting weights and cardio that goes like this:

Day 1: Cardio warmup; lifting for chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps

Day 2: Cardio warmup; lifting for back and legs

Day 3: Serious cardio, mostly swimming

Today is about my second week in and for my swimming I did 13 laps or 650 yards total. I don’t know if that’s good bad or indifferent but it feels good to me. I haven’t noticed dramatic changes but I do feel better and more energetic overall. I’m starting to add more sets into the weight lifting now that I’m past the initial starting back soreness.

Truth be told, I missed the gym when I wasn’t going. While I’ve never been a super serious body builder, I like gyms and like being in them. I enjoy farting with the equipment and the free weights, I like the atmosphere and just generally enjoy my time when I am there. It feels good to be back. Now if I drop a few pounds (like, 70 would not be crazy) and get my fitness level back where it should be, all is well.

Coffee Break’s Over, Back On Your Head

After the worthwhile insanity of CREATE South and then the less fun insanity of the day job and home repair, there has not been much blogging here in almost a month. Add to that the server woes of recent days, and everything has been underproductive and overdramatic. If you can see this post, that means you’re now on the newer new host. More on that unpleasant topic later.

Blogging is like any form of discipline. When you do it regularly it seems unnatural not to do it and when you go too long without it, then it seems weird to return. I have a Google Reader queue full of stuff I have starred to return to later so I really need to get back and blog some of this crap. I hope to be crazy prolific in upcoming days. Keep me honest, y’all!

Ed Cone on Conway

After his trip to CREATE South, Ed Cone and his wife came back the very next weekend. What’s interesting about that post is the place they had lunch is in downtown Conway, walking distance from my house. This little joint is across the parking lot from the hardware store I shop, around the block is the restaurant at which we had our anniversary dinner and the theater we go to see the community plays. I really enjoy my little town and I get a kick out of seeing Ed enjoy it too.

When You Cut Houses, They Bleed Money

The house repairs continue. What started as a simple tile job escalated to a floor repair but it didn’t stop there. It kept going into a chimney, roof, soffit, wall and floor repair. I came home last night and saw where things were at. I never thought I’d be so happy to see rotten wood in my house. While some of it was bad, it wasn’t as much as we had feared. I think the worst is over and now we are back to putting this place back together. It’s a bad feeling when everything the workmen do requires more work from another workman, so I’m glad to see that chain come to an end.

Life Kicks My Butt, Wins

You might think that having CREATE South behind us means that things get calmer. “HA” is the response. Not only is this a very big week at my day job (which included having a server melt down right before we were going to upgrade it), but simultaneously we are getting our kitchen floor worked on. Every evening and several mornings, I’ve been sawing off the bottom portion of a pocket door and running a band saw over the edges of plywood to level it out. It’s been exhausting and yesterday was the biggest of the big days.

The guys came to install the tile, found that even with the cutting of the pocket door it wasn’t high enough so we had to come up with a workaround. Then, they found rotten wood under the washer which needed to be fixed before they can finish, so I had to work up a second set of repairs. It was a big day of arranging stuff I hate to arrange. Then, around 5 PM I went in to work for our big upgrade and ended up getting home around 4 AM. It was grueling and then today wasn’t much easier. Now it’s late Friday evening with me and the dog in an empty house with ourselves. I thought about doing a podcast tonight while there is free time but I just don’t feel like it. I’m too fried for that.

It’s been an awful week and now I’m just glad it is over.

GTD For Me: Still Broken

This weekend at the conference or the pre-dinner someone asked me how I was doing with GTD. The sad truth is, not at all. My original attempt atrophied and failed, my reboot atrophied and failed and now I am in a state without any functioning part of it. Had I been working on the conference with a functioning GTD implementation, life would have been much easier for me. As it was, I was in a constant state of almost screwing things up. Things got done but more things would have gotten done better with less effort if I could have been better organized.

Here’s where the truth starts to hurt. I’ve tried things a couple different ways and the one thing all the failed attempts have in common is me. It’s not that I’m not capable of it because obviously I am. I failed to fully commit or stay disciplined or something.

What I wonder now is that despite bouncing off of a couple of attempts, I still believe in GTD as a system and I believe that it would make my life better if I had it working. Why do I believe in GTD in a way I never believed in the XP programming methodology? I bounced off of attempts at both, but the latter I derided because whenever implementations failed the response was always “You weren’t doing it right.” I didn’t like that mindset of non-falsifiability. There appeared to be no way to fail at XP without the proponents pinning the blame on you. Surely it can’t be universally perfect for everyone in all situations so there has to be some way of determining it isn’t right for you.

Is it possible that GTD isn’t for some people, or that it isn’t for me? Is something in my makeup or my character (or lack thereof) that keeps me from succeeding at this? Do I say I want it and think I want it and then subconsciously sabotage myself when I try? I have lived my whole life as a disorganized and messy packrat and maybe deep down I don’t really want to change that.

I don’t know that I have it in my to try that reboot in the next week. I’m just too exhausted and beat down and will be that way for at least the next week as both work is hard and home repairs happen – all this in the aftermath of CREATE South and the deep down tired it left. A good tired, but a tired nonetheless. Maybe I need to read the book one more time to get refilled with the holy fire and try it again. I’m not defeated, but my faith on this topic is wavering. I need to get a win under my belt.

Bad Mood on a Beautiful Day

I’m at lunch down by the beach on an absolutely beautiful day, and yet I’m in a bad mood. I went to a Schlotzky’s despite my instincts because they are all supposed to have wifi and I wanted to get some work done outside of the office today. I came down here, stood in line forever and then when I fired up the laptop found that this Scholtzky’s does not in fact have wifi. I’m attached to some distant signal that comes and goes. I wanted to have time for a beach walk but that’s out now. In fact, I should be headed back to the office right now but I haven’t even gotten my food.

I try not to be a stressed out spazmo hardassed in this life, but if you stand in line at a fast food type place for ten or fifteen minutes, you should have your shit together and be ready to order when you hit the front of the line. Waiting until you are ordering to make decisions with your party of five is a pretty lousy use of time for all of us. You had fifteen minutes to do that!

I’m just in an increasingly foul mood now.

Inbox Nonzero

I spent the early part of this year in email inbox zero state. It was quite nice and helped alleviate some of that free-floating anxiety that GTD exists to quell. However, when I got sick in mid-February it ballooned and I’m back to being behind. I’m trying like a dog to get it back to zero before the end of the weekend. If you mailed me and never heard from me, I’m working on it. Sorry!

Overload

The day job has been highly busy and the rest of life more so lately. We took a few days and went to Raleigh and just hung out, ate at restaurants we don’t have here and shopped at stores we don’t have here. I walked out with a new black MacBook. I’ve upgraded the laptop that I bought in 2004, which is actually the shortest computer upgrade cycle I’ve ever had.

In the evenings and weekends I’m also working hard on the Create South conference. We have some sponsors but we can always use more. If you’d like to sponsor our conference let me know, I’ll send you a sponsor card and hook you up. We’ve got a keynote speaker, some presentations lined up and a hands-on workshop for getting people into podcasting. Now we’re looking at getting an internet connection at the Train Depot because if we don’t have it we can’t have this exceedingly cool presentation. I’ve got to make some calls to cell phone joints today to see if we can borrow some equipment for that day. That’s the good and bad thing about organizing something like this – we don’t actually know what we are doing in the larger sense, but we make it happen anyway. That’s an amazing feeling.

Poetry and Justice

A wonderful thing happened to me today. Well actually, it was not exactly that so much as a bad thing happening to a douchebag and thus providing me with delightful schadenfreude. We were driving to the dog park on the old Air Force base, over by the beach. To get there, you drive around a mile and a half of four lane road with a median down the center. Shortly after I got on the parkway, there was some beater car driving by some young guy with his young girlfriend in the passenger seat. This guy was swerving around like a madman. I was getting close to passing him when he swung so far into my lane that his right tires were no longer even on the white line. At this point, I honked at him and when he finally got in his own lane I went past.

Now here’s where it gets good. There was a minor road rage vibe, with the dude looking over at me and giving me the skunk eye. After I was by him, he swerved over in my lane again but this time one foot behind my bumper. I couldn’t tell if he was doing that because he was an incompetent driver or because he was trying to menace me. Either way, it pissed me off. Around here is where on a warmer day I might already have deployed the middle finger. Right around this point, which is maybe one minute after the original honking, I heard a loud bang behind me. I looked in the mirror and I could see this kid skidding down the curb, his left tires smoking as they scraped along the cement. When the initial surprise wore off, I started laughing. When I noticed him pulling off the side of the road because his left front tire was flat, I laughed my ass off and kept doing it pretty much the rest of the way to the dog park.

The great thing about this story is that the justice was so poetic and the karma so instant that it was just beautiful. This guy was pissed off at me for having the nerve to honk at him when he swerved crazily in front of me, he got stroppy and almost immediately flattened his own tire by swerving crazily. I suppose a stronger, better, kinder person than me might have even stopped and helped him or at least been a little sympathetic. I think this jackass got exactly what he deserved and right while I was watching. You got to love it when it plays out that way.

Return to Human

For the first time in several weeks, I feel human again. That’s not to say I feel great, but I feel acceptable and like it is not unreasonable to be walking around. Since I first fell ill in a hotel room, I’ve been listless the whole time and at points sneezing and/or coughing constantly. Even though I’m still coughing now and then, for the first time since the onset I would say that I feel well. Sleeping an extra 5 or 6 hours each weekend day probably had a lot to do with that. The only good part of being sick was that I got to spend a lot of extra time under a blanket with a dog cuddled up on my feet and legs.

While I was ill I inadvertently stopped drinking coffee. At first, my stomach was too unsettled to drink it but after a week or so I found that I just wasn’t jonesing for it. Since that had happened more or less on its own, I decided to deliberately stop drinking soft drinks as well. For about a week now the only beverage I’ve had is water. At work, at home, in restaurants I’m only having water. One of the things this does is drop the fairly high load of artificial sweeteners I consumed to almost nothing. At my high point, I was consuming 6-8 cans of Diet Coke every day. It was my default beverage whenever I felt thirsty. I had already dropped that to a more reasonable 1-2 cans a day and now I’m all the way down to zero. I’m curious to see if this has any affect on my overall health picture in the long term.

For right now, I’m happy to just not feel miserable. Everything I touch is somewhat neglected. It’s time to get cranking on the things that have been backing up while I was under the weather. I’m behind in pretty much everything. I celebrate my return to the normal world.

Dark Week

I didn’t intend to go dark for a week on the blog and almost that long on Twitter. Over the weekend we were traveling and out of the blue Sunday I was laid low with an illness that I’m still recuperating from. I’ve only worked half a day this week so far and have been in really rough shape. Monday and Tuesday I showed that I was serious about being ill by only touching my laptop for just long enough to email in sick to work, at which point I put it away and slept and sweated the rest of the days away.

Sorry to have worried anyone. It came up really suddenly and was unexpectedly virulent. My inbox zero was shot to hell when I popped it open today to hundreds of unread messages. I’m only just now piecing things back together. It might take a few days.

Looks Like a Dingo

Here Comes Koga
Dingo in the Wild

One of the things we hear all the time about our dog Koga is that he “looks like a dingo.” We hear this in our neighborhood when we walk, when we go to the dog park, everywhere. Imagine my surprise when I was reading my feeds yesterday and I saw an actual photo of an actual dingo at Gordon Smith’s excellent photo blog Look and See. Gordon was kind enough to let me repost his photo to flickr for ease of blogging. I present as comparison our dog at the top and the unnamed real dingo in the outback below. You decide for yourself.

People forget this and his name is never mentioned in the history, but Gordon was one of the very early podcasters. In something like August or September 2004 he was doing a daily several minute audio show to accompany these photos, akin to a commentary track. He’d describe the background of the place of the thing he shot, a little about how he took it, etc. I recall at one point he did 60 daily shows in a row, setting the iron man record for the medium at that point. He no longer does the audio component (to my knowledge) but I’ve been following his photos ever since. If his name is dropped from the history of podcasting, it isn’t because I forgot him. Long may he wave.

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Again with the GTD

I’ve made several runs at implementing the GTD process in my life. It has to this point never rooted into my life to the point where it is indispensable and intrinsic to my days. Interestingly to me, despite my failed attempts I haven’t decided that the system either doesn’t work or isn’t for me. I still feel that the fundamentals of GTD are sound and that I have failed to commit fully and implement completely.

I know that my weak point is the reviews. I have never done them consistently, not daily and not weekly. My inbox becomes something much worse, a big messy pile of things I have procrastinated on. I am making another run at this and am tweaking my tools and procedures some. Reverend Dan sent me a link to TiddlyWiki, which has a GTD specific offshoot. The beauty of this is that I can write the page with all the ease of a wiki but easily also print out 3X5 cards for putting in the Hipster PDA. My goal is to use the Hipster primarily, and then at periodic online points reconcile it with my personal wiki. As part of my review, I’ll print out cards when the changes are sufficient enough to warrant it. I didn’t want to have a fully online toolset, but I think the hybrid model might work well for me.

The other gap this wiki should help with is my inbox. I kept pages in the back of the Hipster for my mobile inbox to capture bits of information, many of which were timestamps in podcasts I wanted to quote in my show later on. Over time, the mix of ephemeral information and things I wanted to keep longer became a problem. I didn’t have a good transfer system to match the useful lifetime of the information. I think the freeform nature of the wiki will help with that. As part of my interim daily sync ups, I’ll capture those notes in the wiki and scratch them off the inbox cards.

Of course, I’m not thinking any of this is a panacea. I know the weak point has never been index cards or web pages or anything else but me and my own discipline. I need to to better, I want to be more organized and a productivity machine. I’m undefeated and ready to go again. Let’s get it on!

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Vacation Time

I had a fine xmas and I hope that everyone else had a fine holiday of whatever they celebrate. We haven’t actually done our holiday travel yet, that happens later. By having such low stress over the actual days themselves, it gave the whole thing a completely tranquil air that I just loved. Like I always say, reducing my stress at the holidays is the nicest present anyone could give me.

I’m right in the middle of my eleven days off. I had dreams of productivity during this time. Thus far, it hasn’t kicked in. I have the list of things I want to happen over the break which are getting crossed off veeeerrrrrry slowwwwwwly. I have two days of family time and three days of my time left. I hope to get nutty on productivity at some point but the longer I go without it the less like it seems to be. If I make it out of this vacation with items on my list, I think I’ll be OK with that.

Vacation Time

I’m on vacation now until the 2nd of January. I’ve been thinking back and I’m pretty sure eleven days off is the longest stretch I’ve ever had out of work when I wasn’t actually unemployed. I’m in day two of it now and the enormity of having NINE! MORE! DAYS! off is beginning to sink in. One of the downsides of being involved in new media is that one can have a full-time day job and yet feel like a lazy failure for failing to publish lots of media in the little time one has free. I’d like to record some shows and edit some video in this vacation stretch but I’m not freaking out about it.

Even though I’ve been shooting video pretty regularly with my CVS camcorder, I haven’t published a vlog in about 18 months. This calendar year has seen by far the smallest number of episodes of my podcast published. I haven’t looked at stats, but I’d guess that the last three months of this year is my least prolific quarter of blogging since I began in 2002. This could be troublesome but I’m pretty sanguine about it. I might use some of my vacation time as production time, but I might not. I aim to watch movies, read books and comic books and catch up on a lot of the things I enjoy but don’t seem to do that much lately. We’ll see how this goes.