Posts tagged work

Aug 21, 2009

Five years old

consumption creativity work life balance | comments

This blog turns five today. Over the past year the blog has been relatively quiet, though I’ve put in a lot of time on a specific series of posts. I’m a little disheartened to see that the most frequently visited blog posts for the past year were all written in 2008 or 2007.

It appears most traffic to this little blog is through Google searches about specific programming problems. Other topics I write on are just not compelling enough to be passed around like a virus. That’s OK.

Do not let what you consume define you.
Rather, let what you create speak to your worth.

For the past few weeks I’ve been in a creative funk. Whenever I actively try to avoid working too much, it leads to over consumption of media. Not inspiring media like great books, great movies, or great photographs. I get stuck churning on RSS feeds I tried to bury long ago and checking Twitter and email. I’ve even picked up an addictive Scrabble game on my iPhone to while away the hours.

When it comes down to it, my creative outlets are my code and this blog. My code has led to some pretty fun projects, and a pretty fulfilling career. This blog has resulted in some nice compliments and introspective writing is not a waste even if it is not shared. It’s not a shame to keep investing time in code and this blog.

I’m not a workaholic. I don’t fear I’ll overreact to this funk by working all hours of the day. An alternative is to recognize other creative opportunities. There’s a kick-ass little camera sitting on my desk. There are some amazing slide photos from the 50‘s sitting on this computer, waiting to be cleaned up and shared. There is a nice kitchen in my home, and I enjoy cooking.

Spending most of the day creating sounds very tiring on its surface. But I know staying up until midnight diddling on an iPhone is tiring. Perhaps hitting the bed weary from activity and falling asleep quickly will be less taxing than nights of deafening insomnia. It’s worth a try.

Jul 23, 2009

Security of dreams

career dreams work life | comments

Dreaming Girls Head
Photo by Elfleda

As a child I carried with me a host of dreams. My dreams ranged from the fantastical to the remotely possible. While I was quite pleased with my childhood, these dreams kept me at least intrigued that the future could somehow be even better. Early on I realized human teleportation was not something I would likely see. But perhaps with a successful career I could become rich enough to build the mazed tree house I seemed to see every time I closed my eyes.

These childhood dreams were never goals to be reached. Yet they did contribute to the hopefulness that makes me human. Everyone needs a measure of hope for the future in order to maintain sanity in the slightly-less-amazing present. It is a necessary aspect of being human to convince oneself that even though now is pretty good, or perhaps very bad, there is a point in the future where life will be better.

Dreams are an excellent container for hope. Even as an adult, one can maintain a set of theoretically possible, but rather unlikely dreams. For some, these dreams drive them to greater and greater success throughout their careers, whether or not they reach the ultimate goal of the vision. For the vast majority of us, these dreams are used to forgo ever starting down that road toward the infeasible goal. Our adult minds convince us that the ultimate dream is unattainable and keep us from ever analyzing whether the stops along the road are in themselves destinations that are preferable to our current location.

My eyes were opening a few years ago, as I realized not only was my list of attainable goals blank, but my cache of dreams sat empty. Shortly after this recognition, the “dream bag” was filled with multiplicities of Idea > ??? > Profit. I started talking to other colleagues and their store of career fantasies began growing. Soon these colleagues and I thought a lot about dreams while doing very little to make them a reality. We talked about the Idea and the Profit, but never did anything about the ???. We had a shared dream and we were stuck in it.

Our group eventually chose to release itself from the dream’s grip. The dream never left us, but our rational adult minds told us the dream was a delusion; we’d have to give up too much to make it even possible. The dream continued to provide hope, but created no positive change.

This path was not for me. Instead of using the extreme nature of a dream to dismiss the journey to the dream, I began investigating some of the stops along the road. I realized that these practical stopping points, and indeed the journey itself, was greatly preferable to the space I already occupied.

I still fantasize about a future with unbridled travel and labyrinths in the backyard woods. These dreams do not numb me to the wonderful futures I can conjure and achieve. Let dreams enhance your journey through life.

Jan 07, 2009

Hardware and software

office workarea workstation | comments

John Nunemaker at RailsTips recently asked the Tubes what hardware and software was being used to complete work. Here’s my rundown.


My workspace

(annotated version)

My deck is a MacBook 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo with 4GB RAM. I’ve been using an Apple Wireless keyboard for a while. I loved typing on my Microsoft Ergo 4000 board, but it’s so damn wide. My shoulder thanks me for the Wireless even while my wrists are slapping me.

I also have an auxiliary computer, a Mac Mini. It serves a slave purpose most of they day, playing music from iTunes and providing API docs on the second monitor. It has saved my bacon as an emergency work machine in the past. Behind the BenQ 24“ monitor sits a 250GB Western Digital Passport drive for backup. More about that later.

Shure E2c headphones provide complete aural privacy when needed. However I have grown tired of these as in-ear headphones bother me rather quickly. Even though the Shures provide about 9 different pieces of in-ear hardware, none of them quite work for me. I’ll probably move on to an over-ear solution soon.


Let me get the basics out of the way. TextMate, iTerm, Safari for speed, FireFox for developing, Skitch, CocoaMySQL (which has apparently disappeared), and Quicksilver.

Time tracking is Harvest country. Actually, I interact with my time almost exclusively through Co-op‘s integration with Harvest. I do visit Harvest for reporting and such.

For email, I pretty much use Gmail with Mailplane exclusively.

I don’t have a lot of calendaring needs, so I mostly use Google Calendar (watch out, still in beta). At some point I set up an unholy sync to iCal so I get PING reminders every so often. But honestly, I don’t trust the sync at all. If I ever have greater need for strict calendaring I’ll get it all figured out. (My personal email is also sort of on Gmail, though I don’t have Apps for [My] Domain set up or anything. Just an auto-forward.)

I work on a completely distributed team, yet I hardly never use the phone, audio chat, or video chat. On occasion I’ll use Google Chat to have a quick conversation with my team. For the most part, Co-op and email keep us connected. Oh, and we’re using an internal app to deal with our tickets and plans. Not sure if I’d call it a project management app, though. Project management is a bit too highfalutin for us. :)

I’m pretty sure Things is my thing for personal task management. Will have to decide within a few days.

Big point. Get a backup system. A bootable backup is preferred if you depend on working hours to make money (i.e. you’re not salaried). I have partitioned my Western Digital 250GB Passport such that it can hold to entire bootable mirrors of my MacBook. I then use SuperDuper! on a schedule to create a mirror on alternating partitions each day (except Sunday). In the end, this gives me two days worth of bootable partitions at any one time. I have used this to work for a week on my Mac Mini (booted from the Western Digital drive as if my MacBook) while my MacBook was in the shop. Saved my bacon, I say!

Wait, now that isn’t so much a backup system as a recovery system. I also send all of my important files, as well as every family photo, nightly to Amazon S3 via Jungle Disk. I can’t recommend it enough.

Some other apps I find myself using throughout the day: RapidoWrite, Twitter, Twitterific on the iPhone, Google Reader (for personal feeds), Fluid (for app instances of Twitter, Google Reader and Co-op), NetNewsWire (for work feeds), growl, jing (for quick videos to share with the team), Flickr (for quick photo shares), SmugMug (to share photos with my family), Don’t Break the Chain (to keep me exercising, reading, writing, and sleeping), VueScan, PDFMergeX (for reassembling scanned documents), FuzzyClock (who needs to know the exact time?), SpiritedAway (auto-hide unused apps), iPhoney, NeoOffice, Pixelmator, Fusion, github, and gitx. When I need to take a note, I do it in text files which I can search with Spotlight. To ease the sorting pain, I use some Automator scripts.

Hopefully this quick rundown has given you some ideas for things you can improve in your work environment. Keep in mind, home office workers, watch out for bling creep. If you have an idea where I can improve, please do share!

Oct 03, 2008

Announcing Harvest Co-op

distributed teams harvest teamwork time tracking | comments

We at Harvest are proud to announce Harvest Co-op:

No, no, no. Not that kind of Co-op.

Our Co-op helps your team get down to business. Our Co-op helps team members understand what their colleagues are working on without needing to interrupt them. Our Co-op will also help your team have fun and pass around interesting notes and links without forcing distraction.

Please do sign up for our launch mailing list.