Thursday, September 21, 2006

Be More Likable

Five Tips to be more likable. These makes sense to me. I've been practicing some elements of this but need to do better. Daniel Goleman in Emotional Intelligence talks about "over learning" or "over practicing" techniques like these so they become second nature. You need these tools during crucial conversations (high stakes/high emotions) and they need to be at-the-ready. So I'm going to need to start practicing these intensely. Folks will probably think I'm nuts. Ah well.

1. Be positive.
2. Control your insecurities.
3. Provide value.
4. Eliminate all judgments.
5. Become a person of conviction.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Kids in a Garden

I had lots of helpers who decided to spontaneously tidy up our new garden. The neighbor kids came over to rake the fresh dirt. They even brought their own tools. When I commented on how great it was to have free labor, they demanded payment. One wanted "Five Dollars!". After negotiation I wound up paying them off in gumballs. I think it was a pretty fair deal.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday Roundup

A very good week at work. Started off getting some recognition passed to my boss from a customer this week and then had several very good interactions on other support cases that led to very positive kudos landing in my inbox. Not one, but two coworkers commented to me that I seem to be very customer-focused these days. One buddy told me I seemed happier and much more relaxed of late. I told him about the new Rob 2.0 project that I'm working on and he got a kick out of that. Why am I doing better? Some good coaching from my bosses, HR, and peers. Some studying I've been doing (reviewing Crucial Conversations and listening to a book on Emotional Intelligence). Mainly it's just a refocusing of attention on what comes out of my mouth and my internal attitude. I do find that I think "be happy", then happy comes out. I'm not good at explaining this. Other factors include a more stable homelife. With Evelyn staying at home now and the kids being well situated in school... it let's me focus on other things. I was in a near panic about financial concerns when we cut our income in half, but somehow we're doing just fine. We've made significant lifestyle changes, but I'm surprised at how little I miss all the "extras".

Another good thing I did was telework one day this week. Company won't come up with an "official" policy but the bosses have both said that we can work from home once in a while if we need (want?) to. And... so I did. And it was truly great. The day was actually quite busy. But I got all my daily tasks done and actually made headway on a migration project that has been languishing. Quite frankly, I felt I was more productive working away from the office than I ever am in the office. Admittedly, this was my hypothesis going in. So, did I work extra hard to ensure that I met my "quota" of work? Or was it simply that I was more productive because I had less distraction? I think a little of both. I set different parameters for my workday when I was at home. I answered every phone call for instance. I rarely answer the phone in the office unless I can see who it is calling and I know I'm waiting on info from them. Everyone else can go into the voicemail and get queued behind other workflow (GTD paradigm -- minimize distraction). Similarly with email, rather than doing my Email Dashes hourly (GTD / Inbox Zero) I pretty much kept one eye on email all day long. Yet, it was nice to have a break from the office banter. Make no mistake, I enjoy the banter, but do recognize that it reduces my productivity and I don't like that aspect of it. I'm going to try to continue doing telework one day every other week I think. I'm hopeful other team members follow me in. I think this ties in nicely with the GTD concept of going up to 50,000 feet once in a while to survey and also my team lead's idea about having a Deep Thoughts Friday once a month.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wired 14.08 Review

Interesting things in last month's Wired:

Tesla Motors, a Silicon Valley auto manufacturing startup, plans to develop an electric car utilizing laptop battery technology. Premise: Let computer manufacturers do the R&D of increasing battery performance. Using outsourcing that Detroit has already developed, they can design, build, and market a car with dotcom know-how at internet speed. Their first product, a sports car, does 0 to 60 in 3 seconds, has a range of 210 miles and costs about 2 cents per mile. Sadly, it's going to cost around 90K so I won't be getting one. Next up is a more affordable sedan. Article

The $100 Laptop could revolutonize global education. Article.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How dare you, Mr. President?

Keith Olbermann on MSNBC gave a most poignant summation of the inadequacy of President Bush's response to the 9/11 attack. I was actually quite stunned that a network allowed this to air. It was very refreshing to hear truth to power from the MSM.

This Hole in the Ground Video

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11 is "lying by implication."
The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."
Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space, and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.

I then sat through another Presidential speech. Bush still riding his one trick pony. We're safer now that we've caught Saddam. Oh, yes, I can feel the safety. It's not unlike the warm glow of the fireball that's going to form over a port city any day now if he doesn't do something to secure the damn shipping system.

He also laid into Disney for their "Path to 9/11" movie and made good use of an old Twilight Zone episode to help make his point. All in all, I wish more commentary on the news was of this sort (from either side of the political spectrum) than the usual screaming heads we get these days.
The network gave him over 9 minutes to lambaste Bush for failing to respond to 9/11 in a useful way. I can't get over that he got away with this. To be "fair and balanced" here's a commentary on the commentary from a right-wing blogger.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Year Round

Kids' school is going year round. This should be interesting.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A New Garden

I started a raised bed garden this weekend. I used planks of cedar nailed together and then staked at the corners. I turned just about an inch of topsoil (ha -- cement hard clay filled with rocks). The boards are 8" high and I'm going to fill this with good topsoil, manure and compost. I'm hoping you can grow vegetables in just 8" of soil. My long-range plan is to build another box like (10' x 5') next to it and then surround each with cedar mulch walkways. It should look something like this when I'm done. I like this site's block style of gardening. So, not having ever done this before I figured I've give this a try. Everything I read seems to indicate raised bed gardening is the way to go.

I need to bring in some more dirt. Luckily I have this nifty compost bin I built in the spring. It's filled up with grass clippings, leaves, way too many pine needles, and kitchen scraps. Even has some shredded office paper in there. Amazingly, it's pretty much turned to dirt. Well, dirt with a lot of pine needles in it. Apparently they're indestructible.

As Evelyn and I are putting this thing together it's raining pine needles down onto my pristine new dirt. I told her how my gardening mentor at work told me the one thing I want to be careful of is pine trees because they dump a lot of acidity into the garden. Oh, well. Don't see a way around this, I guess we'll be buying lots of lime.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Carbon Credits Come to California

Got this note in my email from Environmental Defense, a group to which I contribute. Praise be. Now if I could just figure out how to get my power company to embrace renewable energy. Why we're not throwing up solar plants across the countryside I do not know.

Yesterday's passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) in California is an incredible achievement and gives huge momentum to our efforts to pass a national global warming cap. The bill, co-authored by Environmental Defense,
sets a statewide cap on global warming pollution and creates incentives for businesses and entrepreneurs to invest in clean energy technological innovations.

The Washington Post pulls no punches.

With the Bush administration sitting on its hands, state governments are emerging as the principal actors in reducing U.S. dependence on the fossil fuels responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.

Seems ironic that Republican Arnold is the one that's going to lead us to environmental enlightenment. I guess out there even the GOPers aren't too evil.

NPR News

Bad, Sad News

I was planning on participating in tomorrow's search for my coworker along with hundreds of other volunteers. The search has been cancelled. We received an internal memo at 5pm today letting us know. I was involved over the initial weekend of this ordeal with helping in the investigation from an IT perspective. Scouring her computer for any clues about where she may be. Obviously, we found nothing useful since this was the epitome of senseless and random violence. I feel very caught up in this thing. There's a lot of anger and frustration about this in the office.

N&O News, WRAL News