April 27, 2006

“Personal” of Personal Productivity…

Posted in GTD, Pipes, Work at 9:44 pm by a11en

Personal Productivity. Only two words here; however, the concepts and scope are quite large. At its simplest, are the two words in the phrase: Personal… and Productivity. 😉 (Sorry, I know we're not in elementary school here.) Let's simplify here for a moment… For me, often the most important issue, in terms of improvement begins with the "Personal." This is where growth and psychology meet the world of personal productivity.

As mentioned below in the blog, I've read a *bit* of M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled. While this is *not* a productivity book, it is a personal growth book. To me, becoming productive can only be successful when one follows general basic psychology and self-improvement practices. To highlight this for you, let's look at your New Year's Resolutions. How many of us have made resolutions, only to never keep them? This is a prime example of how successful self-motivated changes to your productivity will be- or not so much. 😉 Unfortunately, most of us are very unsuccessful.

Steve Pavlina's blog discussions on Self-Discipline merged with Peck for me in numerous ways. At the heart of these types of discussions is personal truthfulness, or accountability, and change in our own personal action based on these truths. This is critical to moving oneself forward. If we can't be truthful with ourselves about our ability to accomplish the tasks we set for ourselves, we will always find ourselves losing the personal productivity battle. I don't care how many productivity systems or packets or 3×5 cards you shove in your back-pocket… unless you are truthful and mindful of your actions in these areas, you're bound to have a rough time of things.

Recently, I've begun a small little list of the day's accomplishments. What I am trying to do is highlight what's been done on any particular day so that I can be honest with myself about what is not getting done, and if I'm falling short in my time spent on particular work. I don't know how successful this will be, but I feel that if I can shed some sort of light upon my work ethic, instead of fooling myself internally, I will be forced to be honest with myself about how I'm falling short and where I'm falling short. Then, when I can see the dirty grubby underneath of things, I'll be able to properly motivate myself into action. Truth will only help to motivate ourselves.

For me, this step is personal. Don't share it with the boss, or with anyone else… it may hurt your truthfulness level. Share it only with yourself. You are the one micro-managing yourself… no one else is. To be a proper self-manager, you must properly evaluate yourself and your abilities here. Once you highlight areas that are problems, then you can move forward with goals which are reasonably achievable, and then reward yourself when you accomplish them. [This reward step is very critical.] For some of us, the procrastinators, this may be as simple as the (10+2)*5 hack or the dash… essentially, you want to ultra-focus on one task on your to-do-list, for 10 or 20 minutes. No other distractions, no e-mails replied to, no phone-calls accepted. You're there to accomplish your task. [Set a timer.] Then, when you've worked 10/20 minutes, and the buzzer goes off, chill out… take 5 (or 2), and surf away to a cute website or run down the hall to grab a pop, or a bit of a nice pipe and tobacco.* The point is essentially to know you're going to get a break. It's not the 10 hours of work you know you need to get done this very second… it's the 10 or 20 minutes of starting the work with a predetermined break close at hand, that will help remove the scary frustration of how much you have to get done. So, when that timer hits, take a small break. [If you don't feel like breaking, that's ok… but be honest with yourself… if the task at hand is extremely frustrating, it might be better to take a break before you burn out… then you'll be able to keep going for longer periods of time…]

So, start with honesty. Be honest with yourself. Where are you in your work? How well are you doing at staying on task, and hashing out the plans you've set for yourself? "To Do" lists will only be lists until you actually use them! [To improve your success with ToDo's and day to day ability to accomplish your tasks, I highly recommend David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD).- more on this in future posts] A small aside: Stephen Covey's mission-statements are really an attempt for you to highlight where you want your life to be headed… and in a not so obvious way, to be honest with yourself about where you're headed. Reviewing your goals will help you to keep your mind on task, and help you to be honest about whether or not you're doing what you wish you were doing. – You do wish you were doing it, right? Then why hasn't it been crossed off your list recently?

Wishing you all a productive week's end!

[*- May I recommend Russ Oulette's Louisanna Red? Or, if you're an English/Balkan smoker, try some of Russ's Namasté, a bit like Dunhill EMP (Murray's version), but crossed with a wonderful balkan for some citrusy, light and sweet overtones. It truly is a fantastic all-day blend.]

April 19, 2006

Noodler’s Fox Red Ink…

Posted in FountainPens, Work at 6:46 pm by a11en

A quick update:

  1. The comments section should be working now… sorry to everyone who would have told me I was insane for thinking the way I did earlier… you should now be able to tell me that I am insane… right in my own blog. 😉
  2. It appears that Tardiff has released yet another couple colors of his Bullet Proof inks! [And the villagers rejoiced.] So, now I can grade in "Fox Red" and have it stay forever… 🙂 My grading will now be permanent on my student's work… Can't wait to try it out!
  3. Somehow for some crazy reasons… people are actually reading these posts. [Don't you guys have something better to do than read my insane ramblings? 😉 ] I welcome everyone who's found this little blog, and please don't hesitate to get in touch. Speaking of which, a friend from 43folders mentioned that it was painful to try and get in touch. So, now, in my little GTD inbox sits the item: "Figure out how to add e-mail address to blog without making myself a sitting duck for "member enlargement" e-mails…" Of course, I entered it in via the Quicksilver Inbox script. God, I love Quicksilver…
  4. I actually have to *walk* to the library, folks. Yes, it's insane, I know… but I can't find some very old journal articles, and so I will have to do something I haven't done in like 3 years.. [Except when I wanted to snag an old 1913 copy of My Lady Nicotine and A Window in Thrums, by J. M. Barrie from the Stacks- Oh, how I love the stacks…] But, I take with me high-technology… a portable Canon scanner and my well-loved HighRes 15" Powerbook [ppc]. No more crappy Xerox copies for me! 😉
  5. Blotters- I will soon know what they're good for, thanks to Pendemonium. The guys and gals at Pendemonium are always a joy to do business with. I love their Legal Lapis from Noodler's, and have purchased a few blotters and some stationary from them as well this go-around. [You don't want to know what happened to the last bottle of Legal Lapis- it's best not to ask… I still laugh a bit and shake my head…]

Ok, thanks again for the kind messages from those on 43folders. I've learned a ton from everyone there. I hope to write more important content for you guys soon. My best!

April 14, 2006

Speed of replies…

Posted in FountainPens, Pipes, Rants, Work at 5:31 pm by a11en

Have you noticed that our lives are now so sped up and connectivity is so great that most people require replies within a half-day if not faster? If they don’t receive one, they assume either (1) you’re dead or (2) you don’t care about them at all and are ignoring them. Thank God we don’t live in the fountain-pen and parchment days of old, eh? Hell, it took months to get replies back and forth across the ocean. Today, we can control a robot in Austrailia in less than 30 seconds. So, every communication becomes critical. “Why didn’t you write yesterday afternoon?” [Perhaps because I was fulfilling other duties which were required? Not everything needs to be about *you* (or *me* for that matter).]

Interestingly, we now no longer worry about proper grammar, handwriting, or appropriate discourse. We have lost the homage paid to the reader and the politeness which used to prevail in the handwritten note days. I’m the first to admit that I can type way way faster than I can write. As well, I am constantly bereated for my poor script. I hope to correct this in the coming years. We’ll see how that goes. 😉 But, today’s world thrives with notes back and forth over e-mail that can be lost in the blink of an eye, and trust placed in systems which constantly loose our data. [Just yesterday I had to explain to a prof. how a slew of grades inputted into the “fandangled” new online grade-book system got lost over the course of 24 hours. Thank God for backups kept by yourself in safe places, eh?] Now, I don’t want to go backwards, but perhaps a mixture of both would be appropriate? What would happen if a pinch went off in our towns? That’s one reason that the internet world has been the focus of so much attack in the recent past. Don’t kid yourself, if we don’t strengthen our networks and have backups, we’ll have trouble. Ham Radio operators (I am one) have been for years relaying messages back and forth for various reasons (contests, or communications from our troops home) by word of mouth across the country; as well many operate on emergency power for fun. We have a huge network of communication which can be tapped at any moment the alarm is called… all built on the backbone of amateur radio operators who do this just for fun. Many of them realize that they may easily become a critical path for communication in emergencies; in towns that are storm-ravaged, they often do.

So, my point? Life sometimes is slow. Things take time. Today’s world is hell-bent on making things faster. In many industries, time=money. But, often, in the pursuit of speed, we loose quality[2][3]. We no longer expend our time to write to our friends in our own hand (certainly not with a pen you had to fill with ink yourself), or communicate with them via old-world means (voice communications over land-line). I’ve found that in general, with each stage of disconnection in communication (Face to face, voice to voice, letter to letter, e-mail to e-mail), there is an increase in possible misunderstanding and frustration which can arise from the lack of inflection in the voice, or lack of pen-speed on the paper, etc. This is why emoticons are so prevalent in our online writing. It’s our only way of smiling these days.

As a pipe-smoker, I’m quite familiar with those who want it fast and now. They’re my cigarette smoking brothers and sisters. They need their fix, and their only interest is that. A pipe-smoker on the other hand may take up to 1 hour to finish a pipe (and sometimes longer). The selection of the tobacco (and drink/coffee/tea on the side) to suit your current taste, the selection of the pipe to suit the tobacco, the packing and lighting to ensure a good smoke through the bowl and finally the slow and relaxed deliberate enjoyment of the flavor of the fine tobacco during the enjoyment of a good book, or contemplation of those great men who have influenced your life. That is the way of the epicurean; not the fixated now-focused person. Those who doubt me, pick up a pipe (every-day last-forever pipes are generally in the $100 range… those who have money to blow, you can spend $3,000…), learn about the types and regions of tobacco manufacture and their extreme variation of flavor (cigar smokers, you are missing out here), and learn about the pursuit and art of pipe-smoking. [To my brothers and sisters who enjoy their tobacco in any form, I offer my hand in the fight against those who would remove our liberties for the pursuit of extreme protectionism built on the backs of pure fabrication.]

Things seem to take 5x as long for me, as for someone else. Whether it’s researching some minutea in my research work that I didn’t learn because I switched fields, or doing something abnormal with my data because it’s the more appropriate way to analyze it (2D -v- 3D fitting functions), I seem to take longer with everything. This generally comes back to bite me in the butt later on. Fun, eh? 🙂 Oh well. I fear this is my fate. Couple this with severe procrastination (ADD?) and you have a mix of problems. So, I’ll watch over my focus, try to speed myself up to cope with the interest in fast -v- good, and we’ll see if we can’t pump out some serious work this month. [Don’t let the above fool you, often my work is just good enough, and should be better. The horror is that it would take much longer!]

My thought to summarize- ask yourself if perhaps a written letter to a friend or loved-one may not be a nice thing to do for them in this day and age of easily deleted emoticon-laden e-mails. Oh, don’t worry it may take a bit of time. Hell, write it twice to make sure you know what you want to say. I guarantee you it will make a big impression. My Love just informed me that my little notes I sometimes slip into her lunch-bag often get left there on purpose for days and days because they make her smile. 🙂

Oh, and those who haven’t tried out a fountain-pen: please get one and create a bit of joy in your writing by hand again… you’ll thank me for it. [The frugal should look into the Lamy Safari and it’s siblings for an excellent bang-for-the-buck pen. Be sure you get the converter so you can fill it with your own ink. Of which I strongly suggest you try Noodler’s– Tardiff’s inks are pushing the envelope on fountain-pen ink in a world gone mad with the lack of touching the pen to the page… archival quality, pH neutral inks, hell, he even makes an invisible ink…] (BTW, isn’t paper a renewable resource? A few of my students kill me, because they attempt to write on a single side of a single sheet of paper… then they claim they’re doing it for the ecosystem. Well, my liberal use of red-ink is for the advancement of your internal ecosystem. 😉 )

Earworm: “This Place Is A Prison” performed by The Postal Service from the album Give Up

Just found this post by Jason, a kind fellow who liked some of my insane ramblings… don’t lump him into guilt by association here, friends. He has an excellent post put up a few days ago entitled: “The Professionalism of Communication” which touches a bit on the subject matter above. Excellent thoughts, Jason!

Precise, or Accurate? – wording

Posted in Work at 6:56 am by a11en

Here’s a wikipedia post regarding the use of the word “Precise” and the word “Accurate” and the difference between the two. A number of my students seem to use them interchangeably. The difference can be very important…

All’s well, and it’s 2am… still grading. 😦 ugh.

April 13, 2006

Roomba update….

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:26 pm by a11en

Man am I loving my little Roomba. Of course I may have to call him "Marvin" from now on… we'll see. [I know I would be sad if all I did was clean up all day long.] Update: He keeps finding dust where I can't see it. I've had him running 3 days in a row now, and I still end up emptying his little bagless dustbin. Shocked. I'll keep going until most of it is picked up me thinks. Crazy, I know. But then, most would agree with you. 😉

Poor Marvin ended up down the steps again today. [This is now twice he's fallen.] This time I forgot to turn on the virtual wall. Woops. I kinda cracked up the first time, as I heard pound, pound, pound poundpoundpound… and then a sort of Bee bbooooop which kept repeating at a slow interval. Guess that's what happens when Marvin finds himself upside down at the bottom of the steps with the bagless bin shaken off him… I just righted him, pressed the button, and he's off again. 🙂 This thing is definitely well made. I was sure after a few times down the steps it'd never work again. Michele came over for the first time in a while yesterday, and she just laughed out loud. She asked: "Do you live here?" My reply: "Hunh?" She said: "I seriously don't think you live here. That thing is definitely helping you be cleaner." – Goal Accomplished, Friends! To top it off, I have more interest in doing things like actually washing the kitchen floor (now that I don't have to worry about it being swept up before hand).

I should have bought one of these a long time ago.

Earworm: "Not About Love" performed by Fiona Apple from the album Extraordinary Machine

Brainworm: How to accomplish 2 things at once… [Grading and Research]

April 10, 2006

Roomba = Awesome!

Posted in FountainPens, GTD, Lifehacks at 6:33 pm by a11en

So, here's the essence of my wacked weekend. I'm sitting on the phone, talking with my GF and then briefly my pal Steve… I'm getting ready to refill my Pelikan m100 fountain-pen (love the thing), and my elbow hits the opened ink-jar, and I'm freakin' toast. Yes, Blue-black ink everywhere. Everywhere. UGH! I'm shocked. So, instead of having a productive evening working half on work and half with my pal Steve and my GF, I'm stuck going between all three faucets in the apt. soaking up ink, and rinsing out old towels. That took some serious time. I'm still hurting from all the work. And it's *mostly* up. Thank goodness I told my apt. guys not to worry about replacing the carpet before I moved in! <whew>

So, in the midst of my pain, my GF finally understands just how much ink I'm talking about… and I tell her to go check out how much the Bissels cost at Khol's. She finds them for a good price, and we talk about it a bit- she goes ahead and buys the "Spot Bot". So, we spend another 4 hours cleaning the carpet with this thing (pretty much just a glorified Little Green Clean Machine). Fun. So, with most of it finally up, we start to use the Bot feature. Drop the thing centered on a spot, and the brushes and vacuum does the job for you. No bending over, no dorkin with the thing for hours on end, it just works. 🙂 I'm talking with my pal Steve in the other room (explaining why I couldn't come out) and cleaning the carpet at the same darned time. Amazed. I do it like 20 more times… fully realizing that my bending over and back-pain can be avoided. 🙂 <yeah!>

So, that gets me thinking. If I enjoy pressing a button and cleaning my spots of my carpet so darned much, why the heck don't I check out other automated things. [In the back of my mind always loving those darned vacuum-robots I remember from a long time ago.] It hits me- no more freakin' vacuuming. [Which I'm only sporadically good at doing anyway.] On top of it, if it actually saves me time and keeps my apt. cleaner, my GF is all the more happy. <And the villagers rejoiced.>

Granted, that this might be the silliest use of my money (when I could be buying say a Dunhill Bruyere that has georgeous grain for the same price – yes grain, I know, it's not supposed to have good grain)… but, well, I took the plunge. Picked up the Roomba Discovery and headed to leave. Ontop of this, we get to the checkout and bammo- 20% off with a little scratch card at Kohl's. Too bad we didn't get the 30% off, but that 20% pretty much cinched the deal for me, with the thing already being like 30% off.

We tried the thing out at Chel's- worked like a charm (and she's a clean freak). The cats were a bit weirded out by it, but really didn't mind much… it moves slowly, and is low to the ground. I think they realized it wasn't doing anything sneaky but bumping into walls and furniture, and that seemed to help them chill a bit. Then, this morning, I dragged it over to my place (it's real home), and just got done cleaning up my apartment while I was finishing up various bathroom duties. Lordy does this thing save me time and effort! My floor looks excellent. I plan on using it for a few days straight here, as my apartment could really really use it.

Just between you and me, I tended to not care too much about cleaning etc. I mean, hell, I'm mostly just at home to sleep anyway. To top it off I have 2x the normal load of work, and I'm so behind I'm fearing for my degree. Very scary. So, when something like the Roomba comes along and helps me to save time and clean up for me, hell, it's amazing!!

Three Cheers for the Roomba!!

To me, this post is a bit Lifehacky and GTD… I all of a sudden have more time, 'cause the darned robot is doing the work for me! Woo hoo!! 🙂

April 3, 2006

OpenDX comes through…

Posted in Work at 6:25 pm by a11en

Well, finally. I finally get DXHDF5 working with my version of OpenDX. Turns out if I just tell DXHD5 to shut up about not having the same libraries as my version of HDF5, it still does a fine and dandy job of working. 🙂 Yipee. So, now I'm getting some interesting images finally. Now, I just need to figure out how to add a color legend, and I'll finally have some kick-butt data visualized! Yipee. 🙂 Then I have to figure out how to use the DXfont tools… grr…

A productive evening. Too bad that grading is going no where. 😦 Perhaps I'll set this data down for a while, and pick up my damned red-pen finally. GRRr… I wish I could just quit it. Oh well.

For those of you looking for ZenAlarm application, I'm sorry, work has swamped me completely. I'll do my best at getting that done soon. My apologies!

Smash Go my wafers!!

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:25 pm by a11en

So, I’m getting into the office today, trying to do things quickly. I have like an hour and a half here, tops… and the worst of the worst things happen… my sample box slides off the edge of my desk and hits the floor… SMASH… all my semiconductor samples go to pieces… I have a very few bicrystals left – actually.. none are left unscathed… so, I must now regrow some. And use the pieces as best as possible. This will set me back a month in my growth. Horrors of horrors. If this is the omen for the week, this is not going to be fun…

A very sad day…

Oh, did I mention about a full box of AFM tips also got smashed up? That’s like 15 each, times 10. That’s like $150 down the toiilet. Not to mention each semiconductor wafer is like $70/3… so that’s at least another $140 worth of just substrates smashed… not to mention my damned films.

Fun fun fun. Well, hopefully we have finalized the NSF fund, and can start purchasing replacements. 😦 Sad sad day. 😦

Oh, and why the hell isn’t the NCSA ftp server up and running? grrr!