Friday, September 30, 2005

Masking Tape is not painters tape.

I learned the hard way that Masking tape and painters tape don't work the same. After removing the tape from the dining room we are having to go back over it again and fix all of the edges.

At least I know this now, before I paint the bathroom and Jonas' room.

Speed Reading

If anyone didn't know, I've been taking an online speed reading course. I was a little leary about it at first, because I didn't know how it could be any different than just reading a book about speed reading. I have read the Evelyn Wood book on speed reading and tried it's techniques. This online course definitely was better for me. I won't get into the details of the course too much. But basically it comes down to this. You can't say the words in your head when you are reading. Try saying no in your head while you are reading and keep reading. It's possible, and thus you realize that you can read without subvocalizing. After that, force yourself to read faster and increase your eyespan (the number of words you consciously see at once when looking at them). Tachioscopic (sp) training is used to help increase your eyespan.

In the 6 week class that I just took I improved my reading speed from 300 WPM to between 550 and 650 consistently. I even had one story that everything must have been perfect for or something that I read in 800 WPM (words per minute).

Never give up. Anyone can read faster, and still understand it. This is not skimming. It's not skipping words, it's just reading faster.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

To Do Lists

I wrote the other day about having gotten organized. I wanted to give a quick review of the tools that I used to do that.

First, a lot of the little notes that I had were listing birthday's. So I needed a calendar to put everything. I just needed to be reminded about them ahead of time. Thankfully my Yahoo email account has this functionality built right into it. I just took a little time to get each Birthday set up, but I also won't have to worry about it as long as I have Yahoo. I have had it now since 94 I think. That was the year I went off to college and was ecstatic to set up a free email account.

Second, I had a lot of items to do. I took all of my work To Do items and put them into the Google Sidebar. Then I took most of my home To Do items and put them in a blog so my fiance could see them and prioritize them. Call me crazy but I like having someone work with me to set priorities. I also had some lower priority things that I didn't need help with, so I put these into the Notes Section of Yahoo.

I like the Yahoo notes because I can create a Note type of TODO and add each task as a separate note. The first line of the note appears when I look at the list, and I can write additional information in the rest of the note. I wish the Google sidebar had the ability to attach notes to each task. I've used Outlook, Word and Excel in the past for TODO lists, but without having them up all the time in front of me, I can get sidetracked more easily. I like that the sidebar is up and constantly reminding me of what is next on my list. It helps to keep me from jumping from one topic to the next.

I wish that the Google TODO list would incorporate in to GMail and allow me to choose whether each task should be shared or not. Then I can have some tasks shared between multiple computers that I use and others that are PC specific. I could also view all my tasks from a random PC and see if there is anything that I need to think of when I'm out of town for a weekend.

I also like Wikis for their editability, but they aren't really much better than a blog when it comes to editing a small list like this. I think a Wiki works much better for collaborating on a project where there is a lot of documentation to do and it can all be done on the web. I think Wikipedia is a great resource and start a lot of my searches there now when looking for information that I would have pulled from an encyclopedia in the past. I'm so happy with Wikipedia that I won't be paying the monthly fee to get the Encyclopedia Britannica online.

Below I list Tada List and Bla Bla list, which are both some kind of To Do list applications. I haven't used either of them, but thought I would add them to just show that there are additional possibilities out there.

Tools to use for creating a To Do List
Some posts about making a better To Do list and how to get through it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Getting close to baby time?

For the past few days Erin has been nesting. She's up at all hours of the night folding clothes and doing whatever else. She is so worried about how much we have left that we want to do before the baby gets here. The due date is November 14, and I'm anxiously awaiting it.

There is a lot of things that we have left to do, but I don't think that they are impossible. The biggest one that could possibly wait until spring is painting the boys room.

Besides all of this nesting Erin has been having a lot of contractions. She was having them about every 4 minutes last night when we went for a walk. I really enjoyed the walk. It was a nice quiet peaceful walk. We haven't been out walking for too long. I really needed the exercise. It's beginning to look like I'm the one that's pregnant. I hope I'm able to get this weight taken off before long.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Mini generators.

Ok. I've been saying it for years to anyone who will listen to me, and now I'm going to post it for the same reason. I think the future belongs not to the huge generators, but to mini generators. The human body produces a lot of energy that just gets wasted. I'm not a scientist so I don't know anything about the difficulties of creating any of this, but here are some ideas that I have.

  1. Windmills. We should be able to be have smaller backyard varieties of windmills. They don't have to generate tons of electricity, just some.

  2. Solar. Why isn't every roof made of solar panels. They all face up which happens to be the direction of the sun. Even if they aren't extremely efficient, that many of them would generate a lot of electricity. Is it too hard to wire them up? If they are made in mass quantities for roofing tiles, I would expect the price would drop making it more cost-effective to have.

  3. Rain. I've been thinking about rain for a long time. Rain falls and hits the roof, there should be some kind of pressure generated energy. Then it runs off the roof and down gutters, this should be able to power some kind of water wheel within the gutter or something like that.

  4. The human body in motion.

    • There should be an input device into a battery store or something in a house that every stationary bike should feed into. This will allow the exercise that we do to generate just a little of the electricity to help power our lives.

    • We walk around the house a lot. If we had the pressure sensitive generator for the roof we could put the same thing into our floors and every step by everyone in the house could help generate more electricity.

    • I don't know how, but I think that opening and closing doors should also have some potential. I don't know what kind of device would even be needed, maybe something in the hinge, but any moving item like that should be able to generate something.

I read recently about a micro device to recharge batteries based on the vibrations of a window. See it and some others in this Alternative energy methods

Dining room in progress. All the trim is still taped and I don't have my decorations hanging yet.

Dining room in progress. All the trim is still taped and I don't have my decorations hanging yet.

A long weekend painting

This weekend I had my first real painting initiation. I found out a few things. Don't paint with an old crusty roller, get a fresh one. Saturday night, I started painting with an old roller and it dripped and splattered all over the floor and the wall. It could be that I just had too much paint on the roller since it was my first time, but I think I'll blame it on the inanimate object.

I went out Saturday shopping to get the paint so I could start, and I forgot to buy new rollers, and after my old roller experience, I decided just to tape off everything for an easier job of just painting on Sunday. I looked high and low for my tape, and Erin finally found it 20 minutes later. Fate was just against me getting an early start on this room. I didn't get half way through taping it when I ran out. Of course, it was late enough that the stores were closed, so I decided a good night sleep would probably serve me better than a long drive to a town with a 24 hour store.

Sunday I spent most of my day painting. I stopped in the middle of the day to fold clothes and watch the Bears game. I was pretty impressed with their defense holding Cincinnati for so long. If the offense wouldn't have kept giving Cinci the ball in such good position we may have fared much better. I think we'll just chalk that up to rookie jitters. Kyle Orton is a hell of a quarterback, and I saw him throw great at Purdue, but I always hear how the game is faster in the pros, and he will just have to get used to it. I'm sticking to my preseason prediction of it being about half way through the year before we start to come together this year. Heck we have a rookie who's supposed to be running for us too. There was a rookie safety that was all over the field for the Bears yesterday too, I think it was Chris Harris. He was something special, he's got a big NFL future in front of him, if he can play like that.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Contagious Success

I finished reading the book Contagious Success written by Susan Lucia Annunzio the other day. I though this was a pretty good book as far as business books go. It has a philosophy of how to improve a company that I can agree with (some of which is mentioned on a previous post). What I like the most about this book is that it's not another parable. Don't get me wrong. I love reading everything that Ken Blanchard has written. His books are all easy to read, quick, and fun. But they are all parables and there are never any real world examples. With as much fun as it is to talk about moving cheese, it's hard to get the real hurt that can go along with a large change that can happen such as being forced to change positions or even careers.

Contagious Success on the other hand is an actual study. It was performed by the Richard Day Research group in Illinois. The findings basically state that employees need to be treated well. Companies need to do things that will keep their employees happy. More specifically the leaders of the high performing group needs to shield the group from the company to keep it high performing.

In my post Thoughts on how to improve a company I wrote their suggestions for overall company improvement.

The other very intersting thing that they point out is that when they did the study they only selected the people who met the basic category of being high performers. Then they analyzed whether or not they actually were high performers. They found that only 10% of the high performer group actually appeared as high performers. They list a lot of technical data to help support this finding, but the biggest part of it is that the high performing groups are actually generating new revenue streams for their company where as the other groups are just working. There's a huge difference here. I think that this study shows quite effectively that there are too many people who are just working and trying to make the old process more efficient rather than analyzing it to see if they can find an entirely new way to solve the same problem.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Removing the clutter

I find it amazing that I always have 15 pages of notes and lists of things for me to do. I have a blog with no purpose other than to be a list of things that I have to do, and I almost always have access to update it. Even if I don't I have access shortly after having written something down on a piece of paper, so it shouldn't be hard to do.

Lately I've been very negligent at organizing myself and have had lots of papers lying around. I decided today to go through and organize. I have already thrown away about 30 pages of paper that I was keeping for maybe one or two lines on them. I still have another 30 or more pages to go through. At the very least I'll feel a lot more organized at the end of the day. I wonder if that will help ease the feeling of being overwhelmed that I've had lately. Now I have a clear list of things I need to do and I can start attacking them one at a time.

I'll write more on here later about the ways that I organize.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Thoughts on how to improve a company.

These are really driven from the book I'm currently reading "Contagious Success" by Susan Lucia Annunzio. The book is awesome and I highly recommend it to anyone who has a mind to make things better wherever they are.

Thoughts on how to improve a company.
1. bring up the bottom.
2. move the middle
3. move the top.

All of these will be useful. The biggest benefit is to take the high performers and make them even higher performers.

Then you can split them into a SWAT unit that works with the best of the middle until they also become high performers.

This will provide more high performers within the company and increase the performance of the existing high performers.

What about brining up the bottom? This should be the last thing done. It would appear to be the first thing done, but if the initial investment is to bring up the bottom then those who are the highest performers will see that the spending is going to those who do the least and don't desreve it. They will then become disenfanchised, their performance will drop and they could leave. Keeping the high performers has got to be the number one priority. How hurt will the company be if the low performers become disenfranchised and leave? Now they cannot be excluded forever, but first the high performers must be happy. Content is not enough, they must be happy. There's nothing wrong with providing additional perks to high performers, beyond salary. Flex hours, work from home, etc. These things keep the high performers happy, and create a desire for the lower performers to increase their performance. After all they could potentially get these same benefits.

Saving the world one way at a time.

I sit and think often of how I could save the world. I think about those best case, if it were a perfect world situations. One of the ideas I've been thinking about a lot lately is working from home. Here is a quick thought analysis of what it would mean if companies actually allowed people to work from home.

How many gallons and miles could be saved by allowing people to work from home?
Software developers are geeks to start with and most likely already all have broadband internet connections. I personally drive 27 miles each way each day. My car gets a wonderful 30 MPG, so to keep the numbers simple I use 2 gallons of gas a day getting to and from work. Currently ($2.60) that's 5.20 a day. 52 weeks, 5 days a week that's 260 days a year. Which is also $1352 a year in gas to and from work as well as 520 gallons of gas and 14,040 miles on my car. With an oil change (25$) every 3,000 miles it's an additional 4 oil changes adding $120. Now the personal cost savings of working at home is $1472.

However, that's an individual. If my entire department (all that could do it) were allowed to work from home, then there are 30 less people in the building. Some of these live in town and some live further away. Most drive cars that aren't as efficient, so guessing that all 30 people would use about as much gas as me (on average) a year this would reduce the gas being consumed by 15,600 gallons a year. This doesn't look like much until you realize that this is what just one company could contribute with a change in attitude. What if all of the knowledge workers in Illinois were allowed to do this? How many are there? 100,000? I know many drive to Chicago and use more gas than I do. I would bet that on average they probably drive further than I do. So just guessing the same amount for all 100,000 people now saves 52,000,000 gallons in Illinois.

That's also 100,000 less cars driving all those miles to and from work. Less traffic congestion, less polution, less gas being used. If we could get companies to get into the mindframe of allowing the knowledge workers to work from home then we could drastically reduce emissions, cut the cost of gas and reduce traffic problems. Granted not every job can be done working from home, but there are many that can. Potentially there could be companies that don't have more than a very small office as their headquarters, because they would not need to house all of their employees in one building.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Getting married

We've set a date for our wedding. We are planning on getting married at the courthouse on May 12th. I don't know if they do marriages every day, or if we will have to change it to another day. I'll have to investigate and find the answers to those questions.

The wedding will not be anything. We are just going to the courthouse and signing the papers. Then on Saturday the 13th we'll have a reception so the family can all celebrate in the joyous occasion. There will definitely be more blogged on this topic.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Son for the weekend

I sympathize with anyone who's gone through a divorce and only gets to see their child once in a while. I was somewhat lucky. The divorce that I went through, wasn't very ugly itself. However, the end result is that I don't get to see my son nearly as much as I would like. Of course, no matter what, whichever of us actually had custody of him, the other wouldn't have seen him enough. There's no nice way to split a child when both parents actually love him and want him. That was our biggest problem. The only thing that held our marriage together is that neither of us wanted to be away from our son.

Now, I only have him every other weekend. We did work it out where I get him 5 weekends every 2 months, which amounts to an extra 4 weekends a year over the parents that only have a strictly every other weekend deal set up, but it's still not nearly enough. For 2 weeks I miss him very dearly, and then when I have him, the hardest thing for me not to do is to smother him. I really just want to spend every moment being with him and doing exactly what he wants. I can't because I have to be a good parent and teach responsibility and help him to grow. So it ends up that I get to have a small slice of actually being with him perfectly, the rest of the time I am trying to be a good dad and keep teaching him and being an example for him.

I took him back to his mom tonight. and I had a hard time with it, becausee I love him very much and want to be with him. I sometimes sit and think about all of the things that I miss by not being with him. But then I have to remind myself that having forced myself to be with him mom any longer would have only made it worse on him. He would have had both parents, but he would not have seen them love each other.

We had a great weekend. He wanted to watch football. It was practically the first thing he asked to do when I got him late Friday night. We did too. We watched Notre Dame lose on Saturday and the Bears win on Sunday. He had a blast watching football with dad.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bryan Leonard Heart Surgery

Bryan had heart surgery on Wednesday and they were able to see him pretty soon afterward. On Wednesday everything looked pretty good.

Yesterday there was an issue where his kidney's shut down. This wasn't passed on to me until just now.

Today, things are looking better for the little guy again.

Continue to keep him in your prayers.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bryan Leonard

Some of you may have heard the story already.
Bryan Leonard was born September 2 at 11:40 PM. He was 1 pound and 5 ounces. Yes, he is a premie. His mom, Jesse, had been in the hospital for 2 weeks and was doing a great job of keeping her spirits up, despite having to also keep her feet elevated above her head. She was having complications. After 2 weeks of being laid up in a hospital bed herself, unable to even use the bathroom, she gave birth to Bryan. Nobody was sure if he would make it more than a few hours. He's now 10 days old. Bryan still has a long way to go before he's ready to come home though. They won't let him leave the hospital until he weighs 5 pounds. He has a heart murmer and a valve in his heart that won't close. He did get one good feeding then it was decided that they need to fix the heart before he can continue eating. As of now we are waiting to find out when the heart surgery will be scheduled. It's hard to image when you see how small he is, that a doctor could be careful enough with his instruments to perform a surgery on his heart. I keep him in my praryers daily. The picture here has his eyes covered. They are open now (they were still fused shut at birth), but the light is too bright for his eyes, so he wears his little mask. He is also a tinge of yellow (it's jaundice that is not visible well in the picture), so he has the special light shining on him a lot to help reduce the risk for problems from it. This little guy is fighting and is amazing. I was able to see him in person for the first time on Sunday (9-12) and watch him breath and move around a little. He's very active for his size and does most of his breathing on his own. It is trully amazing the good spirits that Jesse and Brandon (the dad) have been able to keep during this time. Keep them in your prayers.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Why blog

Before I started this, I asked myself (for about 2 months) if I should even blog.

I am a nerd and thought I could easily blog about some fun nerd stuff, but I didn't want to be lost in all the static that already exists on the web. After all, I don't work for a company that's on the leading edge of anything. We don't use the newest tools or hardware (although we aren't stone age either). Our biggest asset at work is that we are able to get each individual project out quickly. And that's awesome, but it's not a project that's out to the masses. You can't buy the stuff that I write, it's all only good internally at my compnay. So that really ruled out blogging about fun programming. Besides, most of the information about my projects is considered a company secret that I wouldn't want to let out.

Then why blog? Initially it started with me wanting to have more of a presence on the web. Why? I don't know, it's just the nerd in me. I wanted to have a website, a blog and participate in a wiki. Well, 1 out of 3 isn't bad. I don't have a website, although I have free space from geocities, I've never taken the time to set up anything. And although I have used Wikipedia as a reference for things, I've never actually felt llike enough of an expert on anything that I looked at to alter it in the least.

Then it happened. My parents kept asking me what I needed for my upcoming baby, and I thought "I can put a list of things I have and need on the web" Woohoo!! I finally have a topic to blog about. Not an exciting topic, but it's a start. Then I started thinking about blogging and what is it's purpose in general. Here's my thoughts:

Blogging is a way to put information about who you are out into the world. A blog is only useful to those who read it and initially the only ones reading it will be those that know you. It is also however a method for someone who doesn't know you to find out something about you. That whole six degrees of separation thing. If you have some kind of an interesting life and blog about it, then someone you know will tell someone they know, who may pass it on to someone else they know with similar interests, and viola, you have a new potential pen pal. Someone who is also blogging that can leave you a comment. Then you can each read about each other's lives and discuss similarities. Blogging is a more random way of finding people than using a forum or newsgroup that is focused on a single topic. The benefit of blogging though is that you can also include the link to your blog in those forums and newsgroups that you participate in. Thus you can advertise yourself and additional information about yourself to those groups of people that you already have something in common with. Some people use blogs to share their favorite news stories or to talk about the one subject that they are really passionate about.

Well, after a lot of time thinking about blogs and what they are, I decided I was a jack of all trades (no pun intended dad). I didn't think I could focus on just one subject. So I decided to create a couple of different blogs. One, my first blog, a list of things. Just a stupid list. I use it to list what I need to do on my house, have done on my house and what I need or have for my upcoming baby. I'm planning on eventually showing some before and after shots of things I did to the house. I'm also trying to think of other list things that I could put out here, I have a list of wants for me already (kind of like a christmas list). Then I decided that I could track my exercise easier when I was away from home if I did it on a blog also. Not that I really wanted anyone to know how much (or little) exercise I'm doing and how much I weigh, but I find it easier for me to look at and see when I exercise and how well I'm doing. This is going well, but it's not an exciting blog either, not something anyone else would want to read.

Finally I have this blog. I started out as a journal and was going to be a quick recap of my days, but I found out real fast that most of my days are boring. What I do is far less interesting than what I think. After all who wants to read that I played 25 games of Penguin (a freecell type game), or that I sat and watched a baseball game. It's not the watching of a baseball game that's interesting, it's what I thought about the game, or my analysis of a specific incident in the game that I found fascinating. Those are the quirks that let's someone get to know me. Those are the things that when I blog are actually somewhat interesting. So I changed the title from journal to just my name. Ultimately, this blog is me, maybe only a part of me, because I don't have time to talk about all of the interesting thoughts and things that happen to me, but it's still me.

I hope you enjoy meeting and finding out about me, and maybe you'll start to blog about you. If you do, let me know. I'd love to find out who you are and what quirks that you find interesting enough to write about.

Annoying Game part 2

Well, my high score yesterday ended up being 490.

What a game. My heart was racing. I decided to find out actually how much, so I tracked it after each game. I was getting between 130 and 150 beats per minute after playing this little typing game. I wonder if that means that this game is good for cardiovascular exercise, or if that means that I put myself under too much stress to type.

I now know how that kid in Taiwan could die of a heart attack after playig video games nonstop for a week. A week of this and my heart would give out too.

If you read this and play the game, let me know your scores, I'm interested to hear.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Annoying game

Here's an annoyingly addicting game that gets under your skin if you are competitve like me.

My high so far is 417. I am getting more and more frustrated with it though, because the last 10 times I played my score was 337. C'mon already, I've got to get a different score at least once.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Gas Prices

Strange to post this less than a week after being happy I got gas for 2.49. I bought it for $3.19 this weekend and I felt pretty happy about it being that cheap.

Granted, the price of gas did prevent me from my holiday plans. I ended up driving a lot less than I had originally planned. Maybe having driven less will help ease the use of gas. I hope that others did the same. I also slowed my car a few miles an hour (to the speed limit now). The MPG didn't change much though. I got an additional 3 MPG, 31 instead of 28 this time. I guess withe the 10 gallans of gas it saved me one gallon. Let's see at 3$ a gallon and filling up 10 times a month, that may save me one fillup a month. Wow, not bad. 30$ a month savings. That's $360 a year, which is a whole car payment. Woohoo!!!