Archive for February, 2007

February 26, 2007

So Does The Right Tool

Last time I wrote, I was thinking about how practice matters – that’s been true for me with music and running and almost anything else I’ve learned to do in a decent fashion. Along the way, though, I’ve also learned that using the right tools matters, too.

At work, I’m in the midst of incorporating an Outlook plugin that helps manage day to day tasks – it’s called Getting Things Done – and it is already helping. For instance – it helps me keep track of the stuff of the stuff for which I’m waiting – you know – I ask someone for an estimate and think that my request will get an answer. (My team is great – usually – it does!) On rare occasion though – I forget that I’m waiting until I’ve missed a deadline – and the tool helps.

At home – I’m using a Kitchen Aid. Don’t laugh – it’s like the Henry Ford Model A – it drives, it cuts wood, and it grinds your coffee. (The Model A, not the Kitchen Aid). Our Kitchen Aid mixes (dough for bread and pizza and pasta included) grinds meat, rolls pasta and juices limes for cocktails. It doesn’t hurt that it looks good, too.

So – here’s the take-away – find the tools you need and you’ll enjoy the wrap-around – knowing you have a good tool, and knowing that it adds value!

February 21, 2007

Practice Matters

I’ve been rock climbing a bit more lately – and I’ve also just taken on some additional responsibility at work – and I’ve noticed a couple of things that make a difference:

  • Practice DOES count. So does repetition – assuming I’m not making huge mistakes – frequency can be your friend. At the climbing gym, I noticed that my forearms don’t tire so easily – and that’s because I’m balancing better, using my feet better (just a little) and because I’ve learned how to rest when I’m climbing. At work – just following the two minute rule makes a difference.
  • Trying counts, too. At work – being forthcoming with my customers and being up front about what I know almost always turns out right. At the gym – asking for help and tips, and trying new things when the old ones don’t work – well – that counts, too.

So – maybe I need a little more time at the climbing gym and a little more time with my new work!

February 17, 2007

One week in . . .

I started new work at NPower Seattle last week – or – maybe I should say – similar work with more responsibility. I like it – and I like it even more this week!

I remember when I first started – I sort of felt like an idiot – I didn’t understand a lot of the terminology or the technology, although I understood a lot. And I didn’t know a lot of our nonprofit customers, despite my lifelong engagement in the nonprofit sector. But after a week or two – I felt like I had a better handle on what was going on – and then – WHAM! I hit one of those days when I realized I had just learned all of the easy things – and that there was a LOT more to learn.

I bet that will happen with my new work, too – that I’ll get a week or two or three in – and will have the urge to say to myself "shaw – you’ve got this dialed in" when in fact – I’ll just have a BIT of it dialed in!

In any case – it was a good week – I was able to meet with all of my team members, we made good progress on all of our projects – and I didn’t work a gazillion hours, either. And now it is a three day weekend – so – the world is my oyster!

February 11, 2007

They Keep On Asking

I received a note from Seattle University today, asking if I’d give them some cash. It’s funny – I’ve been chatting up by family and a few other people about this lately: I spent the last 20 years or so as perhaps the most committed Catholic I know. Not that I was a party line kind of guy – but I was at church every Sunday (sometimes two or three times on a weekend) with my guitar, I was up on the current theology and politics and so on.

And yet – in the past 18 months – my sense of integrity started to twitch. It was a combination of stupid rules (you gots to kneel, brother or stand – but only when we tell you!) and a sense of un-just behavior that tipped me over the edge. The current pope hasn’t helped – he’s probably a nice guy – but his idea of moving the church forward is more about moving the church back. Until I can stand up at church, with my guitar, and feel like my friends who are gay, divorced, former clergy, or women are receiving great treatment – I don’t really want to go back.

But I don’t want to go somewhere else, either – so – you can see the gap. It’s a bit like your first language – everyone has one. In the religious world – the catholic tradition is my first language, and I like most of it a lot. Lutheran tradition is great. So is the Jewish tradition, and a bit of the Baptist. And the Methodist. I bet there is a lot to like about a lot of the others, Christian or not.

But I don’t want any of those, I want the catholic tradition -but a better one. The one that I mostly experienced growing up, and in high school and at University, and at most of the churches where I have played. I want the emphasis to be on creating a community that is large, not small. Where the emphasis is on people, and not rules. Where justice matters more than doctrine. Where inequality is challenged, top to bottom. Where new is welcome and old is celebrated. Inclusion, not exclusion. Lately, my metric for the catholic church goes like this: If they are working to exclude rather than include (for any reason, almost) I don’t want a part of it.

It’s odd – because my sense of wonder at the world and my place in it hasn’t changed any – it’s just the public expression of that which has changed. I still believe in the goodness of the world, and the goodness of humans (despite how I feel when I commute in a car). And I believe that it is bigger than me – that it is more important than me – so – something or someone, somewhere, got it started. Jesus, God, Buddha, Mohammed – take your pick. The particular doesn’t concern me so much – just like kneeling or standing doesn’t. It’s an interesting place, and a little uncomfortable, too.

I wonder what will happen next.

February 11, 2007

Wow! That Was a Gig!

My buddy Joe and I finally had a chance to play a little music together lately – what a treat. Joe and I have been friends and musical partners for a long time, off and on. Everything from church music to screaming rock and roll, and all stops in between. Right now, Joe has a current gig at a restaurant in Kirkland, WA  – playing at a piano bar. You know – a big glass top over the piano so you can belly up to it and have dinner and a drink and be right up close to the piano player.

Joe and I started at 8:30, to a modest sized  crew. It was Cheers-ish – everyone did seem to know each other. We played a set of music – most of which both of us knew, but some of which I had to figure out as we went, with Joe calling chord changes when needed – very fun. We took a break – and the crowd took a turn!

It started with the biker that was a little chapped that I’d "touched his leather". He was huge – and I couldn’t really tell if he was goofing or not. Plus, he was sitting next to my girl (before I "moved his leather") and I wasn’t going to let him get away with that. I did fear a bit for my good looks – but then Joe called us back to the piano – and the biker guy realized that I was part of the talent, and relaxed – or I realized he was just busting my chops.

And then the other fun started – some twenty-somethings with spending money to burn and some great stories between them, a guy having a bunch of drinks and waiting for his daughter to get off work to drive him home, some hotties that might have had a few "hot" parts that weren’t there when they first hit puberty, some making up of some music as we went along – it was a blast. And crazy. And fun – so – I hope that we get to do it again!

February 11, 2007

Getting Things Done

I’ve picked up some additional responsibility at work – and decided that I should devote a little extra time to making sure I was using my time effectively – and I remembered that my friend Steve Andersen had been hot on a book and method of task management called "getting things done". I sent him a quick note to find out if he was still using the tool – and he is – so I bought the book online.

Turns out that the basic premise is pretty easy – your brain, although terrific – won’t be restful or creative unless you have a great system for keeping track of what you need or want to do next. I get it – I’ll think of a tune I want to learn on my guitar while I’m driving my car – or will think of a project or task at work when I’m out for a run – both moments when I can’t do anything about those items. The author of the book, David Allen, calls those "open loops" and thinks that until you write those down somewhere in a foolproof system – your brain will keep pestering you to get them done.

I haven’t implemented his tools yet, but am going to. I’m still debating exactly how, though. I do a pretty good job of writing things down and keeping them all in one spot – and I’ll have access to both my smart phone and a laptop (and, with a remote desktop connection – to my computer at home, too) – so I’m giving strong consideration to going completely digital.

We’ll see how it goes. I’ll need to find a day to top off my task list, think of the appropriate categories and so on – but I’m excited. Even implementing a few of his suggestions (the two minute rule – which goes like this: if you can do it in two minutes – do it NOW  – don’t defer) have helped. More when I get organized!

February 6, 2007

Whistler Part Two

Day two was pretty good – it snowed a little bit overnight – but it also warmed up – when we hit the slopes it was a little foggy and a little wet. As a new snowboarder – both of those things degraded my tiny skill set – so I did a lot more falling today – it was fun!

I’m on the lookout for a great teacher to give me a few lessons, too – I can turn well one way, but not the other – so  – I need to figure that out. A few years ago when I wanted to qualify for the Boston marathon – I found a running coach to help – and it was money well spent. I need to do the same thing with snowboarding!

As we got ready to head home – a kind man let us know that Hwy. 99 was closed – whew! he saved us hours of waiting in the car! We did what any prudent person in Whistler does – went into town for a beer, and when the road opened – we made it home in just over 4 hours!

February 3, 2007

Whistler Part One

I lived in the northwest for years before ever going to Whistler / Blackcomb – and in teh last 3 years – I’ve been here 3 or four times a year! Summertime means running, mountain and road biking, and winters means snow-boarding. And both include walking around the village, lots of good friends and catching up on sleep and good books.
So – this is my first trip in 2007 – and the snow isn’t great – which means when you’re a novice rider like me – a fall on the ice means  very sore butt! It also means that I’ve had to practice a bit more than last time I came up – and that’s a good thing – I’m close to being able to turn without making each turn a complete right angle! We spent 4 hours or so on the slopes on Friday, and are heading back out again today!