Friday, December 24, 2004

Also Energy Efficiency

Something I will also add to this blog is some thoughts on energy efficiency at home.

Triple fold Cellular blinds are great at keeping in the heat but I have found that you do need to open the blinds for an hour or so if the humidity id high or a layer of ice builds up on the inside of the window. This is not a big deal just make sure that the window is letting in some light which will warm the house as well.

This is a good thing since it shows that while it is cold on the window side the blind is keeping it out of your rooms.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

A New Direction

I have not really been doing much with this blog as I have been spending much of my time with my other blog

And this one has been suffering because it lacks focus. So I am going to focus this blog mostly on education. While the public school system is good at what it does, I don't think that it is the best thing for my children.

I want my children to know certain things:
Literacy: English, Mathematics, History, Art, Science.
Practical Knowledge: Cooking, Laundry, Car care, Home Maintenance, banking skills, First Aid skills.
Activities: Being part of a team, playing a sport, learning a musical instrument, public speaking, building something useful,
Qualities: Being charitable, respectful, gracious, self-assured, reflective, and proactive.

There are a thousand details to be worked out and refined but there are lots of helps out there that I will be looking at and reporting on here.

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Incredibles

We saw "The Incredibles" over the weekend with some friends for his birthday and it is a blast of a movie.
It really isn't aimed at out kids, it is a little intense for a preschooler, but we had a great time.

The premise is really rather cool: superheros have to go underground as they have been sued to keep them from helping people who don't want to be helped. They live ordinary lives with ordinary jobs, obviously that won't work in the long run but it is funny to watch them cope.

The best part about the movie is that the story and characters are really strong, they really speak to me and my friends. Watching how these characters cope with very difficult situations is very hard to watch sometimes as it is very serious and funny as things fall apart around them.

As the mom is trying to explain to her son that "everyone is special" which he takes to mean "that nobody is," she forgot to mention that it is in different ways that we are each special. I am sure that the kids weren't the smartest in school or the best at weightlifting or something like that. Being special in different ways is what makes us strong as long as we recognize that and find what we are special at. If we are not doing what we are best at we will be as unhappy as Joe is in his day job.

I don't know if this is something they have improved but I noticed is that they seemed to put a lot of work into the hair of each character. Even the wet hair looked like wet hair. Maybe I was just sensitive to it because my wife did her hair really well that night but we'll find out for sure in the DVD commentaries.

This is another movie that makes me want to get the DVD to hear the commentaries and explanations about what they did. I think the LOTR DVDs have spoiled me but I really like a good commentary to a DVD, to listen too during the movie. I turn closed captioning so I know what is going on.

Something that is never resolved is what happened to the supervillians while the superheros are in relocation?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!
Drive Safely.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Productivity and Interest

I read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and am now reading Punished by Rewards. And I have come across the most amazing things:

If people are In The Zone (flow) they can be 100 times more productive then someone who does not get into flow. All it really takes is for them not to be interrupted and distracted.
And from Punished by Rewards I learned that students can remember 30 times as much of the content of the lesson if they are interested in it then if they are not interested.

Experts say that children have short attention spans, generally that is true because most things are not very interesting, but knowing my own child and many others, I have seen amazing demonstrations of concentration and of memory. How many times have you been amazed by a teenaged girl who knows all the lyrics to all the Top 40 songs, or a teenaged boy who can disassemble a motorcycle and put it back together again in a week, or the 8 year old who can assemble a computer from parts. My own daughter who is 2 will spend lots of time and energy putting together a block tower that takes far longer then the 15 seconds of attention she is supposed to have.

It isn't that people have short attention spans but they are just trying to make the time go faster while something is going on that they don't find interesting. In the average business meeting there are a lot of people in there who aren't interested in what is going on, mainly because it has little to nothing to do with them. It is a tremendous waste of resources to have people stuck in a meeting when they could be doing something productive.

Haven't you ever gone in to work extra early or stayed really late, "so you could get some work done." We want to be productive, we even have a good idea of how to be productive, but standard work practices are such that we can't be productive. Having a signal to others that you are trying to get work done is important, so they understand that interruptions are bad for a time. One of those little "Will be back by" clock signs would be really good.

Monday, November 08, 2004


Something that is frustrating but really good are the questions that children ask. The frustrating part is how they get on a roll and don't stop if you are trying to do something. But you want to respect them as they are trying to learn. Many of their questions are hard because they are not going to stop with easy answers they just keep asking "Why?" until you tell them to stop, then it is a game to find out how far they can go.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Record Voter turnout

This is the way to scare a politician.

The turnout was phenomenal ... "the best we've ever seen here," said Jan Kuhnen, deputy director of elections in Larimer County.

With 155,045 active voters on the Larimer County rolls, 145,052 cast ballots, a 93.5 percent turnout.

93.5% that is amazing. Not at all like the usual 15-20%. No, sir.

These are the kinds of numbers that make politicians sit up an take notice of what is happening. Now if we can keep it up.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Day - Do it.

Today is election day and we have voted. One of the best parts of this is that all the political telephone calls, and advertising will stop. Then we will be able to get back to the important things like seeing who got fired on The Apprentice this week :)

I see voting as the best way to scare politicians. when the voter turnout was less then 20% they had a really good idea of who their constituency was because they could meet a large percentage of those people, and they were really very similar. Now with voter turnout expected to be near 60% they will realize that they have no idea why people are voting for them. Since the average politician is obsessed with getting reelected he is going to have to find out why so he'll be elected again next time his term is up. This is three times as many people as he is used to. It will be hard on him but I believe that most people in this country are living such that they desire good more then evil and that will affect our elected officials.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Taught Helplessness

I read a lot and sometimes things just fall together.

I have read Design of Everyday Things. He brought up a concept he called Taught Helplessness, basically if you fail at something, you think it is your fault, therefore you think you can't do it, and the worse you get at it. He has found it happens a lot with respect to Math education and Computers.

In An Underground History of American Schools, he has an example of a girl who is so completely helpless that she has learned how to get the teacher to practically do all the work for her.

In Punished by Rewards, he talks about how using rewards is just as powerful as using punishments in creating learned helplessness, which is in fact taught to the subject.

There is a hard question to ask here. What other ways are we being taught to be helpless that we aren't seeing? Life in America has changed in the last few decades. It used to be that the American Dream was to own your own business, and now it is just owning your own home, and it seems to be slipping to be just having a job.

It doesn't have to be this way. We can do and be better. All we have to do is do something!

Friday, October 29, 2004

Computers and Children

applematters and Mrs. du Toit
have a interesting take on children and computers. My daughter is the same age as his and while I let her play with the computer a little it is not a big deal. In 16 years when she graduates High School it won't have mattered much which platform she used as a toddler.

There are few programs around now that share anything but name with the programs available 16 years ago.
Sixteen years ago we had desktop computer in the low tens of MHz, harddrives were new and only in the 10s of MB. Now we have GHz laptop computers and GB harddrives that fit in our pockets and play music and PDAs with more power then the desktops of 16 years even imagined. A car now has 100 microprocessors in it, back then car were just beginning to be modeled on the computer and were completely mechanical.
In all likelihood there will be some kind of disruptive change that will completely change how we do things in the next 16 years. I have no idea was it could be but that isn't the problem.

The problem is to teach our children to think so they can handle the fast coming changes. They need to be able to have a chance to play with and explore these things without fear. True freedom comes from being able to make mistakes. The problem with school is that most students learn the lesson of "Don't make mistakes." This is the wrong lesson. The right lesson is "Recover from your mistakes quickly."

There is so much that is learnable, I keep being amazed at the things I never even knew that are out there. People made fun of the Administration when they talked about known-knowns, known-unknowns and unknown-unknowns, these people are the stupid ones. While I know a lot about computers, I know that I don't know how to make a fab for making them. While I know that econometics exists, I know nothing at all about ancient Mongolian philosophy or even if there was such a thing. To think you know everything is arrogant at best and abjectly stupid at worst.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A bunch of Mac stuff

Linux Insider has a pair of stories about the Mac being less expensive and faster then the equivalent PCs.

On the other hand I think the intuitive bottom line on the Macintosh versus PC productivity debate is actually pretty simple: I've never met a PC user whose focus on the job he or she was supposed to be doing wasn't significantly diluted by the need to accommodate the PC and its software, but I've never met a business Mac user who considered the machine anything other than a tool, like a telephone or typewriter, for getting the job done.

That really boils it done for me. With my Mac I stop thinking about the machine and I just get things done. The only time I end up thinking about the Mac itself is when I find that I have 12-15 applications open all at the same time because I haven't quit anything in the past week or so. And this is with a 4 year old 366MHz G3 iBook machine. With a PC I was always quitting programs since I wasn't sure if opening a new one would crash it. Or something that worked yesterday stopped working today for no reason and I would have to track it down if a reboot didn't fix it. I never really trusted a PC with my important stuff without a floppy or Zip disk to hold a backup.

Apple has also released a set of new iPods.
I have a 20GB 3G iPod mostly filled with audiobooks, backups and some inspirational and quiet background music.

The audiobooks fill in those not so productive times: like driving and yardwork.
I also keep a copy of my latest files on the iPod as a fast backup.
If I wanted too I could set the iPod up to be a bootable drive.

Sure, PC are cheap and common but too often I have felt that they just were not quite the right tool for the job. I would have to think about how to do the job instead of just doing that job.

Monday, October 25, 2004

On Goals

I have been encouraged to have goals most of my life and while having goals is good, they never taught me a good way to setup my goals so that I could actually accomplish them.

Goals are end-states. Places you want to be when you are done. They need to be something that has caused growth within you as you attained the goal.

Goals need to be written down if they are to be of any good. An unwritten goal is just a wish. A USA Today poll tracked people with New Year's Resolutions and it was found that those people who wrote them down where more then 10 times as likely to achieve them then if they did not write them down. Write them down in the present tense as if they had already happened and revisit them everyday.

Jim Collins, in Good to Great, talks about BHAGs or Big Hairy Audacious Goals. and he talks about good ones and bad ones.

Bad BHAGs, it turns out, are set with bravado; good BHAGs are set with understanding.

Bad goals can be very dangerous. For example, something I learned long ago was that some anorexics do set goals but there goal is to loss a certain amount of weight, like: "lose another 10 pounds." It didn't matter that they were 20 pounds under-weight. This is not a good goal because when you lose too much weight you become unhealthy. A better goal is "I am healthy, strong and flexible."

Now writing, "I am healthy, strong and lean," isn't good enough. you need to create a goal plan to define what those words mean. Clarity is the most important thing you can have with any goal. To increase your clarity you need to create a goal plan.
A goal plan is just an outline of objectives that need to be reached and measures that you will use to determine if you are getting closer or further from your goal. What you are trying to do with the plan is to create a system of feedback. By creating a plan it clarifies your thinking and your goal. You are creating a list of objectives that build on one another getting you closer to your goal. It also let's you see if there are skills or equipment you need to get at some point. It will also show you where things might need to be changed. If your goal plan requires, at some point, a major technological breakthrough, someone "discovering" you, or some other miracle occurring, then you need to revise your goal to something more realistic. An old military adage is that "The plan never survives first contact with the enemy." and that is true everywhere. As soon as you do something, everything changes. People react differently then you anticipated, you learn something new that you didn't know before, some new product reaches the market, your or someone else makes a mistake, or something happens that throws your goal plan for a loop. That is okay, be clear about your goal, but flexible about how you get to your goal. You need to revisit and rewrite you goals often, daily is best, weekly is good.

Feedback is very important, in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, there are two important factors in creating optimal experience: Immediate feedback and a sense of control. If you have immediate feedback you can tell if you are getting closer or further from you goal. You don't want to wait for the feedback to come days or weeks later that dissipates the power of the feedback. This depends on what is important to you so you have to put some thought into what motivates you that can give you feedback immediately or at least in a few minutes of the action you took. You aren't going to weight yourself right after some exercise it just wouldn't tell you anything, but an objective of "I weight 180 pounds." is just fine.

Objectives are milestones along the way you use to check if you are getting closer to your goal. They are objective measures you will use to check your progress. For example, if you are trying to lose weight and you weigh 220 pounds and you want to weight 180 pounds you will need to reach 210, 200 and 190 pounds along the way. To define strong objectively you can write "I bench-press 150 pounds" you can set up a series of measures from where you are now to that level. To define flexible objectively you can state "I can reach my toes and sit Indian-style."

To give yourself a sense of control you need to create a Next Action. In Getting Things Done by David Allen, a Next Action is the next physical action you need to take to get closer to completing a goal. This is something that goes on your To Do list that you can do. There are two kinds of Next Actions, things that take less then 15 minutes and those that take more then 15 minutes. David Allen uses a 2 minute rule to say if you should do it right away or not. I don't think it is such a good idea to do everything that way. You need to ask the question that Brian Tracy asks in Victory!, "What is the highest and best use of my time?" To achieve flow, it takes about 15 minutes of uninterrupted concentration, so you need to group similar tasks together. If you group your Next Actions together you might be able to get into flow, since you are doing similar things over and over again.

In Summary
Create a Goal that will take you to a place you want to get to.
Create a Plan to learn what it will take to achieve your goal.
Create Objectives that provide immediate feedback to tell you if you are getting closer to your goal.
Create a Next Action to meet objectives on the way to your goal.
Revisit and revise your goals everyday.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Planning for disaster

Fresh inc. has a good article on business disaster planning.

Marketing vs Engineering has a fun little article about how marketing and engineering are often at odds.

I have run across an attitude of "Don't let the engineers talk to the customers they always ruin the deal."
It comes about because engineers are problem-solvers and marketers are deal-makers. The problem is that they are not cross-trained, engineers don't get any marketing training in school and the marketers don't care about how the technology works.

There are plenty of stories out there where a engineer talks to a potential customer and when the problem comes up the engineer solves it in 5 seconds by recommending a mechanical product from another company that has nothing to do with his companies electronic products. Marketing forgets to tell engineering that just because you come up with a solution doesn't mean you blurt it out at the table. You just have to say, "We believe a solution is possible." and if you can get them the solution the next day you can charge them an arm and a leg for it.

And it is true that engineers tend to come down hard on people who ask us to break the laws of physics. Just remind the engineer that the customer is always right and that we can fix that little hitch in negotiations later.

Engineering and Marketing can be a very powerful combination, but they need to learn how to talk each others jargon and see the others sides' goals. Once that happens the engineers can explain in normal terms just how great the product is and marketing can turn that into an education campaign that rocks.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Sometimes they go too far

Don't Analyze This is one of those articles that drive me nuts, because it goes too far in dealing with something people don't do very well at all.

I have never been part of anything in engineering that has had too much practicing, usually there is no practicing at all, everything is real all of the time.
I have been part of a lot of projects where there was no practice at all, the prototype was the final product. That does not lead to very good products since we learn a lot trying to get everything together in the first place.
Look at the software industry, how often have we seen version 1.0 software that seems like it had never been tested, it usually comes together as something useful for version 3.
The only thing I can think of that practices a lot is the military and It doesn't look like they overdo it.

Make it real.

When you practice, replicate real-world circumstances as much as you can. Actors hold dress rehearsals in front of a live audience. You should too. You don't want to practice your big speech alone in your office. You want to give it in front of people to get used to the pressure of performing.

This I totally agree with. The military is doing this more and more with their training centers that recreate various types of towns.

As for not setting goals, I think that is stupid, if you don't set goals you won't get anywhere.
Setting goals that are not very well defined or not particularly hard are not good goals.

You need to set hard, pushing-the-envelope type goals, write them down in the present tense and what the next physical action is will make the biggest difference in the world.

I am going to write more about goals in a little bit.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Getting Organized

I have been reading Getting Things Done. It is a really good book on doing just that. The most valuable technique I have gotten from it is that if a task takes ~2 minutes you should just do it and get it out of the way. I don't agree that you should check you in-box 400 times a day, that is almost once a minute (480 minutes in 8 hours), I long ago changed to checking my email only 3-4 times a day rather then reacting every time an email comes in. Having recently read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience it takes longer then 2 minutes to get into the zone, about 15 minutes or so.

So it would be best to use the Getting Things Done technique a few times each day to deal with the small things and use the rest of the time to get into flow for the big things. Most engineers have gone into work early so we could get some things done before everyone else showed up and started distracting us. We were there looking for flow.

We were at the Cannery again yesterday. We canned pears halves and it was great to see the upgrades they had given the Cannery, they can handle 1,000,000 cans per year now. It was fun though tiring. It is interesting to see how the volunteers self-organize given only simple instructions and a clear goal. Some people have strong take-charge personalities and others and happy enough to just follow along. Doing little tasks are important but it is having a clarity of goal that lets you allocate the people into the areas they are needed. At first we had most people moving the pears from the crates to the washer, but then we ended up stopping the line often because we did not having enough splitting and coring the pears. but once everyone saw where the problems were each moved in to places where they thought they could help and things balanced out pretty well.

It definitely shows that people want to do a good job and have a good understanding of what they could be good at and will move to that position if they have a chance to move and try it.

I wonder that in the case of businesses that they don't allow enough internal mobility. And an attitude that will allow people to try on different roles to get things done within the company. Okay, most companies have very unclear goals and that holds them back, but with very clear goals internal mobility can be a good thing.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Lawyers and Business Advice has a great little article about keeping Legal advice and business advice separate.
I think that also goes for most other things as specialists are trained to think within their domain. You get good at your specialty and then you think you are good at other things too.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Life After Engineering School is an article I wish I had read years ago.

Setting priorities can be particularly difficult for young engineers. “Engineers are less equipped than the average professional to deal with their lives,” says Selinger. “When students finish engineering school, their lives have been so ordered with courses, they’ve been, in effect, buried alive in the boot camp of engineering school. They must be weaned from the days when professors set their priorities—to the real world, where they need to know how to sort their tasks.”

It isn't so much being weaned but not taught how to do these thing. In school we never had to practice any of this. Teachers and professors gave you something to do and you did it. School has never taught real-world skills and if the parents are too busy to teach them at home they never are taught.

Every engineer has to live through school and come out the other end, according to Selinger. “Engineers have very prized technical skills,” he notes. But the engineers who do well will know how to handle those soft skills like dealing with budgets, and interacting with lots of different kinds of people.

It reminds me of a great quote from "We Got Fired!":

"Lesson one: The person who knows "how" will always have a job.
Lesson Two: The person who knows "why" will always be the boss."

Engineering is a lot of fun, because solving problems is fun, but I realize that I have never been given all the information needed to actually solve the problem. Beyond known knowns of the technical side of the problem, there are the known unknowns is the budget side, the political side and the business side and probably a couple of unknown unknowns.
The trouble is the lack of information and context. Engineers like to design the best possible solution to the problem, but if we don't know about several large issues, given nothing more then a trade-show deadline that obfuscates the real issues, then we cannot bring our full creativity to bear on the problem. Essentially, we are working with several key assumptions that based on incorrect data.

I wonder if this might be why small startups do so much better then big companies because the goals and vital information are out in the open and everyone knows what they are. In large corporations "need to know" is popular but no one really knows what someone really needs to know to get the job done.

Review: We Got Fired! Harvey Mackay

Harvey has interviewed quite a few people who have become successful after being fired. There is life after being fired.
He doesn't say this outright, but after you have been fired you are going to mourn the loss of that job. That's okay, do it and accept it, then move on and do something.

He does give some really good pieces of advice.
Set goals.
Get a team of advisors and a mentor, even if it is virtual.
Work towards your dreams.
Keep a list of personal wins on your wall to build yourself up.
If you are in a position to fire someone how to do it better.

One piece of advice is contradictory. He says, near the beginning, that you should find out why you were fired, but almost every other story after that talks about how the reason they given that were fired had nothing to do with why they were fired. He even gives a statistic that 82% of companies do not do a sufficient job of sharing candid job performance review information with employees. As Jim Collins talked about in Good To Great you might have been in the wrong seat of the wrong bus. And while you may have been making great time you were going the wrong way. Get over it. You will never know the real reason you got fired but you do know some area of your life that you can improve and now is a good time to work on it, it may or may not be related to your firing but that doesn't matter you need to improve yourself in any case.

I have been reading a lot about how important integrity is to business. If integrity is at all important to you or your company firing someone is the one place where it will really count, because this is the hard place. If you cannot be up front and honest with people when you fire them then don't go into business. This is the about the hardest thing you will do and if you cannot imagine doing it right now then you won't be able to do it right later.
I am looking for the best books for people who want to start their own business. This is one of those books but not in the way you think. These are exceptional people here but you can help your people when, not if, when you will need to fire them. Take these lessons and start applying them right now, practice, visualize and role-play the firing, imagine the worst things that can happen, yes even the "going postal" scenario and work you way though them. You cannot plan for everything but planning is an essential step in being prepared.

"Honest input is something you absorb, not always something you dish out."
Integrity or honesty is the most important thing for a business, but tact is the most important thing for an employee.
"If you're in learning mode, always ask why, rather than be judgmental."
Again, this is about being tactful and communicative. Everyone builds their worldview on what they have experienced and they have experienced different things from you, so don't knock them you, didn't life their life.

Conclusion: This is good book to read if you are fired. It gives you some perspective on what has happened. You will mourn the loss of that job and you have to work through that.
2 biggest issues
It looks to me as though the biggest issue in all of these was the topic of communications. Doing it badly is so easy and sometimes you are looking at very different parts of the elephant and it is hard to overcome that, and of course there is the boss that isn't being honest that you can do nothing with so it is just something to get over and get on with your life.
The other issue is goals and goal setting. This is something you need for yourself, it will improve your life by a thousand percent. Only about 4% of people make and write down goals and of those, 80% get them accomplished in the most remarkable way.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Book Review: Flow The Psychology of Optimal Experince

I first came across flow on wikiwiki and I recognized it immediately. So getting the book was something I have wanted to do for a while.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a really interesting book. He seeks to define what it is that makes some experiences enjoyable. I think he hits the nail on the head with his descriptions.

Like reading a good book and you find yourself happy that you finished, unhappy that you are done and amazed that it is now 4 am.
It happens in sports all the time, but they call it being in the zone.

It only takes 5 things to setup the conditions for a flow experience:
1) A challenge activity that requires skill.
2) An environment that allows us to concentrate on the activity.
3) Clear goals for completing the task.
4) Immediate feedback.
5) Concentration of the task at hand.
Then you see these results while you are in flow:
6) A feeling of control in doing the task.
7) Losing self-consciousness.
8) A lose of time sense.

I have found flow while debugging electronics, programming a computer, playing Star Fleet Battles, a very complex game. I am pretty sure it also happened while studying math and science in school.

Most hobbies are designed to help you find enjoyment so flow is easy there, on the job is more difficult.

Any job can become a place to find flow, though some are more prone to it then others. Being able to create the goals internally for yourself will help those mind-numbing jobs but if the job is designed to be conducive to flow it makes it easier.
Too many jobs, even businesses, have no clear goal and don't provide a setting for concentration. I once had a job in a lab that was set to 63 degrees F and had an environmental chamber clanging on and off several times an hour. Concentrating there was almost impossible.

Flow, Feedback and Goals

A big thing here is setting clear goals for the activity and setting up a feedback system. This is a very hard thing to do well, at least for the first try. If you give yourself permission to fail and learn and try again you will do better. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a great book on creating good goals, but it isn't good enough by itself.

Flow has crystalized for me what is so wrong with New Year's Resolutions and goal setting in general: A lack of feedback. Setting a clear goal is one thing and that is difficult enough by itself, but the real thing you need for success is a feedback loop or a way to tell if you are succeeding or failing at any given time.

Deming said said that where performance is measured performance improves, Somewhere else I read something that expounded and expanded on that to include: if performance is reported back on the improvement accelerates.

I have studied feedback loops in electronic systems and key there is to take a little bit of the output and return it to the input to modify the input. Often you just want the output to be in a certain range and if it starts to move too high then you reduce the input or too low and increase the input.

In the public speaking realm if you are asked to speak often and are paid a lot each time that means you are doing well. If you are an entrepreneur measuring what your actual hourly rate every week tells you if you are doing well. If you are a businessman measuring your daily cash flow is a good measure of how well your company is doing. If you are a rock climber you are doing well if you are not falling.
Basically you need to answer the question: how do you measure 'doing well'? The more immediate the better.

It should also measure something useful, this is rather difficult, and don't be surprised if you select the wrong thing first. For example in programming it was fashionable at one point to measure the productivity of programmers by the number of lines of code they had written. This lead to a lot of very verbose and long-winded code that was rather difficult to understand and didn't necessarily work because working didn't count.

Flow, School and Education

"Socialization, or the transformation of a human organism into a person who functions successfully within a particular social system, cannot be avoided. The essence of socialization is to make people dependent on social controls, to have them respond predictably ti rewards and punishments. And the most effective form of socialization is achieved when people identify so thoroughly with the social order that they no longer can imagine themselves breaking any of its rules." -Flow. p17.

"During the first few years of life very child is a little "learning machine" trying out new movements, new words daily. The rapt concentration on the child's face as she learns each new skill is a good indication of what enjoyment is about. And each instance of enjoyable learning adds to the complexity of the child's developing skill.
Unfortunately, this natural connection between growth and enjoyment tends to disappear with time. Perhaps because "learning" becomes an external imposition when schooling starts, the excitement of mastering new skills gradually wears out." -Flow. p47.

2 things that make flow difficult to achieve
Anomie: lack for rules, condition where the norms of behavior had become muddled.
Alienation: it is a condition in which people are constrained by the social system to act in ways that go against their goals. -Flow. p86.

"... there are few things as entropic as unskilled work done under compulsion." -Flow. p143.

Learning something can be a wonderful experience. I love to learn new things and hate to be interrupted while doing it. Flow will make learning go faster and be more fun and deeper. School however does not provide the circumstances for flow at all.

I suggest reading
The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher


William Torrey Harris

A lot of people say, "You get out of school what you put into it." It is more true that you get out of your education what you put into it then it follows that going to a place that inhibits learning is not a smart thing to do.

Flow and Business
Something I have really gotten out of this is to business has to be structured a little differently to maximize flow, which will maximize productivity. After a quick, stand-up report-back meeting of "this is what I did yesterday and this is what I will do today(limit 4)" reporting and some motivation. then have at least a 2 hour block of flow time or whatever you want to call it. It is closed door time where everyone concentrates on getting into flow and getting-things-done.
Something that PeopleWare said is that in an office setting workers get interrupted about every 7 minutes, and since it takes about 15 minutes of uninterrupted time to get into flow they never get into flow and never get fully productive. Having a 2 hour block of closed-door time to yourself can make a 10 fold increase in productivity. That seems very worthwhile to me, how about you?

Flow is a very good talent to cultivate, it has some real benefits. Now to spend time on it more often.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Food is bad for you

It is weird how things happen sometimes. I heard on the radio yesterday do nutritionist saying that you can't eat enough fruits and vegetables to actually get all the vitamins and minerals that you really need, Well that sounded ludicrous so I switched him off. So today in one of my newsletters they have a short piece on the same things saying that fresh spinach had only 25% of some nutrients then it did 60 years ago.

Okay this needed a little investigation, twice in 24 hours is a little suspicious. Now I was curious, I know that several foods are picked green and shipped then treated to appear ripe, tomatoes are the most common in that regard. Google is great and while I didn't find the original study I did find this reference to it that tells me that it has problems. It was done by a news organization, they have a certain interest in bad news. So while it may be true in certain cases, I have my doubts about the objectivity of the group that commissioned the story.

Personally most of the "fresh" foods in the supermarket don't taste all that good. The local Farmer's Markets are really good in variety and we have our own garden for a few things. Though our tomatoes have been hit by the rot so that will take some dealing with. On the other hand our raspberry bush has produced several cups of berries, we even made raspberry-chocolate ice cream.

Raspberry Chocolate Ice Cream
Prep time overnight
2 cups Half and half
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar

1 cup raspberries
8 oz milk chocolate bar (we used Lindt extra creamy)

Heat half and half, cream and sugar in a heavy pot until it reaches 170°F.
Remove from heat and wash berries and add to cream, don't break up the berries the ice cream maker will do that.
Cool over night in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to combine.
Startup your ice cream maker and pour in the berries and cream.
Break the chocolate into small pieces and place into a microwave safe bowl. heat for 30 seconds, then stir to smooth out the pieces, if they don't completely melt microwave them for another 15 seconds. Once you have a smooth liquid Slowly pour into the ice cream maker, You will get some very nice flecks of chocolate with bits of raspberry throughout.

Makes about 6 cups of ice cream.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

More Energy Saving Ideas

Insulate Hot Water Pipes
Insulate your hot water pipes, particularly if they are copper pipes. Copper is an excellent conductor, it is used for cookware because of its conductive properties. Your local home improvement store should have pre-formed lengths for your sized pipes, they are already split so all you have to do is snap them around the pipe, some even have adhesive pre-applied so you just have to pull off the protective paper and squeeze then edges together. The insulation can cost as little a $1 a foot.
If you don't know the diameter of your pipes, just take a piece of string and wrap it around the pipe, then measure the string and divide by pi though 3 is good enough since you know it will be only one of three sizes: 1/2", 3/4" or 1".

If you are in the market for a new TV consider an LCD TV, it uses only about a tenth the energy of a CRT TV and about half compared to a Plasma TV.
LCD monitors for you computers have the same advantages.

Shade the South Side
Shading the south side of you house will reduce the heat from the Sun that heats up your house.
Trees are great as they loose their leaves in the fall and so you get some solar heat in the winter, but shade in the summer.
Trellises do well, if planted with a vine that looses leaves in the fall.
Awnings over the windows make a big impact since windows have little insulation value, Installed correctly they too will shade in the summer and allow sun in the winter, since the Earth is tilted on its axis the Sun changes its height in the sky and this works great.
A verandah or overhanging roof will act like an awning over the entire side of the house.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Redo the Office

It finally became too much, I had to redo the office because it had gotten too hard to get things done. Too much of the things I use often were just out of reach and now they are in reach. The real thing of it is that my needs have changed in the past few months and so this was necessary. I did get some good ideas from 43 Folders and I think they have made a real difference.

I did end up going to Home Depot a couple of times to get extra shelving and pegs that was a lot of work but worth it. I also got rid of a lot of junk, just a lot of old stuff that was cluttering up the place. I do have a small pile of handwritten notes I need to transcribe still but it is not too bad. I'll take it on in small batches.

I have noticed that the office evolves over time as my needs, interests and abilities change. I am constantly reading so having lot of shelf space is important but I usually only have a couple of books that I need handy at any given time, so having a space for the current books at the desk is all I really need that rest being across the room. Having a wood floor would make rolling a lot easier but this works better so I am a little more careful in what I do at any time. Also having a tickler file at the desk will work better too.

Applying Perato's Law also and getting rid of the 80% of stuff that isn't good is going to make a big difference but keeping it as a habit will be challenging

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Simple Home Energy Improvements

After paying the bills it is obvious that increasing your homes' energy efficiency will make a direct impact on your pocketbook every month.

There are some very simple and straightforward things you can do to improve the energy efficiency of your home.
1) Replace your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs which use only a quarter of the energy for the same amount of light.
2) Weatherstrip windows and doors, to reduce air leaks so your heated or cooled air doesn't just escape.
3) Insulate wall outlets and switches that on on outside walls since they usually have the least insulation behind them.
4) Put power bricks on power strips and turn them off when not in use. Those power bricks, or wall warts are always (24/7/365) drawing power the only way to stop that is to unplug them and a power strip does that just fine.
5) Turn down the hot water heater to 120. I haven't seen a difference with clothes washed one way or the other.
6) Install a setback thermostat and have it automatically turn down the heat when you are gone during the day and at night when you are asleep. We are home most of the day so we have it turn down the temperature at night when we are asleep and it helps. Now if they only had one that would automatically change between heating and cooling. Colorado has fun weather particularly in the Spring and Fall. It can be 90 during the day and 50 at night and that is a big swing and remembering to switch to heat at night is annoying particularly at 3am when you are shivering.
7) Extra attic insulation. 90% of heat is lost through the roof, remember heat rises.
8) Install cellular blinds. Cellular blinds are great they have air pockets that act as insulation. We have some on the bedroom windows and they make a several degree difference in the southern bedrooms by keeping the sun out and by keeping the heat in in the northern bedrooms.
9) Upgrade your appliances.
The furnace is usually the oldest appliance and if it is more then 10 years old is going to be far less efficient then a modern high-efficiency furnace. I would also recommend gas as that is very effective in converting the gas to heat.
The Air conditioner is much the same as the furnace.
The hot water heater if it is very warm or hot to the touch you want to at least give it a blanket or replace it. Remember to clean out the sludge and replace the anode, I once saw a heating element from a never maintained hot water heater that had 2 inches (4 cm) of minerals encrusted on it. The owner was complaining that he wasn't getting enough hot water to finish a shower any more. A lot of money was wasted because of that. I recommend gas for this appliance too.
The refrigerator: Modern refrigerators are better insulated and have better compressors then older models.
The freezer, many people have freezers, I am one of them and we keep a lot of food in ours, though many only have a pizza or two in it so it isn't worth running, see if you need it.
A front loading clothes washer uses only a third or less of the water an upright uses.
I also recommend a gas dryer, some people worry about them as they used to catch fire easily, but that was 50 years ago laws and design improvements have made it as safe as electric.
Replace your computers with laptops, because they are expected to run off of the battery it uses much less energy then a desktop, a desktop is usually 300W, laptops are near 30W.
Ceiling fans help move air around and even out the temperature layers in a room.

Hope these help.

Making things a little more useful

I was at Home Depot yesterday getting some more shelving, having so many books is such a chore:) and found a couple of fun little things.

The first s CableCuff a little plastic round thing that makes a great cable organizer, I had been having some difficulties with some cables behind my desk, I kept pulling on them with my feet and that was a small distraction I just didn't need anymore, it was only 89 cents so I thought "why not." It works great getting the cables organized.

The other was a small Compact Fluorescent (CF) bulb. I have been replacing or trying to replace my bulbs as they burn out with CF bulbs, They do cost a bit more but they will last long enough that I might not need to replace them and they use only a quarter of the energy to run compared to regular incandescent bulbs. The biggest problem has been that CF bulbs are rather large and don't fit in some of the fixtures we have. Now they have some that are the same size and even a little smaller then a standard light-bulb which will allow me to start changing a few more of these fixtures. These is a big step in making it easier for people to change to CF bulbs.

Futuristic Macs

I ran across a couple of very interesting pages today that I just have to comment on.

First, Dennis Sellers wants a Home Automation Server. That can do all these things:

• A centralized iTunes server
• A centralized DVR (digital video recorder)
• X10 controller
• Security camera controller
• Sensor monitor (camera motion sensors, temperature, humidity, RFID, etc., that aren’t necessarily computer related)
• Phone manager (voice mail, fax, call logs, etc.)
• Print and file server

That is a very ambitious list. Looking at how Apple is positioned as a Computer and Music company. I could see Apple doing something more limited that works with what they have already done.

An Airport iTunes Jukebox.

Airport basestations already can be print servers so that is taken care of.
AirTunes can send music over WiFi so that is taken care of.
To be a file and iTunes server it needs a hard drive
It also needs an Operating System, but a limited form of OSX Server could do that work, though a consumer interface would be needed.
Since this is not a portable music device how about putting it in with the home theater system so it is next to the amplifier and speakers.
And since it is in with the home theater system how about connecting up to the TV where we can setup playlists and even connect to the iTunes Store to download the latest pop song. If this is successful then they could add a DVR version later just like how the iPod has been expanding in capabilities.
I don't really want my printer next to my home theater but then that is what an AirPort Express is good for.
Oh and it will need a really good remote, not a problem for Apple, and include a Wireless Keyboard and Mouse.

This is something that leverages what Apple is already good at and know for: Computers and Music. The sensors and cameras and other stuff while score highly on the geek scale, just don't seem to matter to most people. I have heard far more people, including myself, talk about having those things but I know no one that has really taken that plunge. However, give the Jukebox a Firewire port or two and if it is important people can just pull in a box that handles the physical interface and the Jukebox can do the rest.


The other page is The Mac Night Owl who want half an iMac.
Personally, I love the idea of a pizza box iMac.
My question is what would happen to the eMac? It would likely have to be cannibalized as few people would buy it.

I wonder if the real reason that Apple doesn't sell headless consumer products is that the cheap monitors are really nasty to look at after not too long. And when you are on the computer what are you spending most of your time looking at: the monitor. If you can afford a PowerMac you will likely by able to afford and know enough to get a good monitor to go with it.
A Headless iMac would be bought with cost being the primary issue and they would buy a monitor the same way. I have not tested this but Aqua might not look too good on a cheap monitor. This would reflect badly on Apple, even though Apple would have no control over what monitor you would buy that way, it happens all the time.

Apple doesn't compete at the low-end. They are positioned as a premium product and they can't sell at the low-end if they want to keep up that image. Is that good or bad, I don't know yet, but it seems to work as Apple is profitable.

Futuristic Macs

I ran across a couple of very interesting pages today that I just have to comment on.

First, Dennis Sellers wants a Home Automation Server. That can do all these things:

• A centralized iTunes server
• A centralized DVR (digital video recorder)
• X10 controller
• Security camera controller
• Sensor monitor (camera motion sensors, temperature, humidity, RFID, etc., that aren’t necessarily computer related)
• Phone manager (voice mail, fax, call logs, etc.)
• Print and file server

That is a very ambitious list. Looking at how Apple is positioned as a Computer and Music company. I could see Apple doing something more limited that works with what they have already done.

An Airport iTunes Jukebox.

Airport basestations already can be print servers so that is taken care of.
AirTunes can send music over WiFi so that is taken care of.
To be a file and iTunes server it needs a hard drive
It also needs an Operating System, but a limited form of OSX Server could do that work, though a consumer interface would be needed.
Since this is not a portable music device how about putting it in with the home theater system so it is next to the amplifier and speakers.
And since it is in with the home theater system how about connecting up to the TV where we can setup playlists and even connect to the iTunes Store to download the latest pop song. If this is successful then they could add a DVR version later just like how the iPod has been expanding in capabilities.
I don't really want my printer next to my home theater but then that is what an AirPort Express is good for.
Oh and it will need a really good remote, not a problem for Apple, and include a Wireless Keyboard and Mouse.

This is something that leverages what Apple is already good at and know for: Computers and Music. The sensors and cameras and other stuff while score highly on the geek scale, just don't seem to matter to most people. I have heard far more people, including myself, talk about having those things but I know no one that has really taken that plunge. However, give the Jukebox a Firewire port or two and if it is important people can just pull in a box that handles the physical interface and the Jukebox can do the rest.


The other page is The Mac Night Owl who want half an iMac.
Personally, I love the idea of a pizza box iMac.
My question is what would happen to the eMac? It would likely have to be cannibalized as few people would buy it.

I wonder if the real reason that Apple doesn't sell headless consumer products is that the cheap monitors are really nasty to look at after not too long. And when you are on the computer what are you spending most of your time looking at: the monitor. If you can afford a PowerMac you will likely by able to afford and know enough to get a good monitor to go with it.
A Headless iMac would be bought with cost being the primary issue and they would buy a monitor the same way. I have not tested this but Aqua might not look too good on a cheap monitor. This would reflect badly on Apple, even though Apple would have no control over what monitor you would buy that way, it happens all the time.

Apple doesn't compete at the low-end. They are positioned as a premium product and they can't sell at the low-end if they want to keep up that image. Is that good or bad, I don't know yet, but it seems to work as Apple is profitable.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Spiritual Preparedness

Spiritual Preparedness is the most powerful kind since it frees you from many other cares. It centers your soul and that is very valuable. This is the shortest list and it is a simple list, but it is not always easy.
1) Prayer.
Spend time talking with God.
2) Scripture Study
Spend time learning what God has told us. He tends to
repeat himself because we don't listen very well. It has
been recommended that we read half an hour per day.
The church website now has the
scriptures as mp3s so you can listen to them anywhere.
3) Family Home Evening
Spend time teaching God's word to each other, and
with each other.
4) Temple Attendance
Go to where the Lord lives and spend time with Him and what He has to teach us.
"If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear." (D&C 38:30)

A common theme in the scriptures is that we should be generous and helpful to our neighbors. The parable of the Good Samaritan is the big one. A Year's Supply will feed 1 person for 365 days or 365 people for 1 day or 1095 people for one meal. How you react to a disaster may be as important as how prepared for it you are.

Helping out at the Cannery

Earlier this week I went to help out at the Cannery in Denver.
There were a lot of people there and we got a lot done. In about 2 hours we canned over 100 cases of salsa.
I was a little apprehensive about going since I have heard of lots of horror stories of only a few people showing up and it taking 5-6 hours to complete the assignment. This time we had lots of people, too many really as some people ended up waiting for something to do from time to time.
The Cannery guys did a great job getting us basically organized and they did a great job at the canning station, they had one person putting jars on the conveyor belt, another filling them from a hose, a person to top off under-filled jars, another to push the jars into two lines where the lidding group was, about 8 people putting lids on the jars as fast as possible, there were also a couple of people getting more lids and jars and one running the cookers. And one person putting date stamps on the labels for the jars and cases.

I found that the rest of the operation was less organized, by creating impromptu little systems things sped up immensely. Just remembering what Henry Ford did with a similar situation make a big difference. Opening the cans of tomato paste and diced tomatoes went a lot faster once we had one person pull the cans off the pallets to the canning station, another to open the cans, another to dump the cans in the pots and return the cans to the canning station upside down so the can opener could pop off the bottoms, so the cans could be crushed by the person who pulled the cans off the pallets and placed in the trash. Took three people and it went a lot faster then when one person was doing it all. For the boxes where the jars of salsa ended up we started with a bunch of people folding boxes and taping them and putting in the dividers by hand. I again found that be borrowing some of Henry Ford's wisdom worked great, four of us divided into box folder, taper, divider inserter and stacker got 100 boxes done in less then 10 minutes or about 10 times as many boxes as we had done before we got organized.

The Cannery is a noisy, messy job and I am proud of the people who are called to do it, My wife's parents are running one, too. It is challenging, you end up with a lot of people who have never done it before. And trying to get things happening with minimal downtime is hard.

It's funny, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a reputation for being organized. If this is organized, I pity the other guys who are disorganized, because at times this looked like the Keystone cops where more organized then we were.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Being Prepared

As an old Eagle Scout I do believe in being prepared. I have a lot of information on becoming prepared and I just posted several summaries. A lot of disaster big and small have happened in the last month so I put those all together to make some sense of them all.

When my Mother went into the hospital for the last time it was obvious she wasn't going to come out. So I created a simple Deathwatch bag. Just some snacks, books and toys for our daughter and ourselves for the trip all the way down there, and some extra gas cash. So when Mom died going down there was no big deal.

There have also been a lot of other things going on:
Hurricanes in Florida
Wildfires in the West our county had the first wildfire of the season, but we have been getting just enough rain to keep things quiet.
The Russian school terrorist hostage taking. I would not be surprised if they take a page our of Israel's history to deal with that problem.
We had snow in the Colorado High Country for Labor day, so we should get ready for blizzards.

It has been a very exciting year.

Financial Preparation

Financial Preparation is often lumped into financial education or ignored completely. But there are some things that aren't really talked about and I will try to bring them up here.

If the Husband is the primary breadwinner, the wife should have a life insurance policy on him that she pays through her own account so she unequivocally owns it and can get the money faster that way.

Each spouse should have a bank account with a 3 months supply of cash in case the other dies or is incapacitated so they have easy-to-get-to money, the legal system can end up tying up bank accounts for some time. This supply should be enough to cover your bills and other standard fixed expenses to keep and keep up your home, it doesn't have to be 3 months salary. Together this will be a half years' supply, the other half should be in some other hard asset form such as gold bullion coins, or junk silver coins. During World War II people often traded gold jewelry to farmers for food and other necessities.

First you have to know where you are. You need to create a few reports. Create an income statement by listing all your assets and sources of income:
Interest from any interest bearing accounts like savings accounts and money market accounts.
Income from other sources like hibbies, rental properties and the like.

Now list your liabilities or expenses:
First your fixed expenses: these are periodic and predicable.
Tithes and offerings
Mortgage or rent
These next items are often ones you can reduce by shopping around:
Insurance: Home/Renters, Health, Auto, Dental, Optical, etc.

Now your variable expenses: These are things you have control over. Try to reduce these as best you can.
Eating out

Now list your debts: all your credit cards from smallest to largest.

To pay off these debts, take the money saved from your variable expenses and any reductions from phone, internet cable/satellite and food and insurance bill adjustments and start paying off the smallest one. Once that is paid off, celebrate with a banana split or other small but nice thing. Save the big celebration for the last credit card. Then get to work on the mortgage.

Now that you have gotten rid of all you bad debt you can start doing some important things: Building a Year's Supply and Investing for you children's education fund, and your retirement fund.

There are really only five simple rules for handling money:
1. Spend less then you earn. Save ten percent of your income. In 10 years you'll have one years salary put away.
2. Invest that money wisely. Start by using some of it for educating yourself about investing and business.
3. Search for good financial advice and use it. Find people who do it and are successful at it, whatever "it" is. If you don't know what is going on, you are just gambling, not investing.
4. Invest only in businesses you know about. Don't forget to keep learning new things.
5. Don't be tempted by a deal that look too good to be true. Remember, your profit comes when you buy not when you sell.

As in everything there is good debt and bad debt. You don't want any bad debt, which is generally called consumer debt, things like credit card debt. Generally it doesn't do anything for you. Good debt is debt you take on to leverage (or multiply) your money to acquire an asset that will produce money for you. For example, using some of your home equity to buy a rental property that will generate a passive cash flow to you. Don't be like the guy who buys a rental that costs him $100 more a month then he gets in rent, hoping to make the money when he sells it to some greater fool.

Ideally you want a passive income, income that comes from sources that you don't have to constantly work on (like interest, rents or royalties), that covers your basic expenses (mortgage, utilities, food) so that your family is supported even if something bad happens to you.

A Year's Supply

A Year's Supply is one of the best ways to feel more secure, if you lose your job there would still be food in the house.

Suggested Amounts of Basic Foods for Home Storage*
(Per adult for one year. This list may vary according to location.),11666,2006-1-1116-1,00.html

Grains (wheat, rice, corn, rolled oats, spaghetti)
400 pounds (181 kg)
72 #10 cans (wheat)

Legumes (dry beans, peas, lentils)
60 pounds (27 kg)
12 #10 cans (beans)

Powdered Milk
16 pounds (7 kg)
4 #10 cans

Sugar or Honey
60 pounds (27 kg)
10 #10 cans

Cooking Oil
10 quarts (9 liters)
8 pounds (3.6 kg)
Water** (2 weeks)
14 gallons (53 liters)

*See also Essentials of Home Production and Storage, 1978

**It is impractical for most families to store a year's supply of water. Fourteen gallons per person is a suggested minimum reserve.


A major problem with such basic foods is flavor fatigue, people have died due to not wanting to eat any more, so adding some flavorings to your supply is important. Whole spices will last for years if stored in a cool, dry, dark place. You would also need to add a mortar and pestle and a grater to grind or grate them down to useful sizes.

12 oz (339g) Whole peppercorns
8 oz (226g) Cinnamon sticks or chunks
8 oz (226g) Whole nutmeg
8 oz (226g) Whole cloves
And a large jar of hot sauce.


Beyond Food Storage,11666,2004-1-1127-1,00.html

In addition to food and water, fuel and clothing are important to store.

By making reasonable preparations, individuals and families can minimize the difficulties that follow emergencies such as fires, floods, and earthquakes. To prepare, develop a plan of action for each type of emergency and store needed supplies. The following items could be helpful in an emergency:

• Matches, candles, lanterns, flashlights, and battery-operated lighting equipment
• A battery-operated radio, preferably a AM/FM/TV/Weather multiband radio
• Knives, a hatchet, a shovel, and other tools
• Medicine, blankets, spare eyeglasses and a first-aid kit
• Mess kits or paper cups, paper plates, and plastic utensils
• A manual can opener or Swiss Army Knife
• Wheat grinder, manual
• Plastic garbage bags and a plastic bucket
• Soap, tooth brushes, toothpaste, and supplies for dentures and contact lenses
• Toilet paper and sanitary items, Charmin says Americans use about 1 roll per person per week.
• Money
• Books or games for children

Shelter in Place Kit

The Shelter In Place Kit is primarily for ride-it-out disasters, such as blizzards and blackouts.

Since you will be riding it out in your home you have a relatively large amount of space to work store things. Mostly you have everything you need already but getting it all organized beforehand gives you greater peace of mind.

A two week supply of food and water plus other supplies for your entire family. Two weeks is a good length since many of the disasters I have been part of and researched is about how long it takes for things to return to normal. For example the Northeast Icestorm of 1999 shutdown several major cities in the Northeast and Canada for nearly two weeks before they could restore basic services.

Most people have about two weeks supply of food at home at any given time, though they are often missing a staple or two, so keeping a staples list handy and up-to-date is important. Plus a few things like powdered milk and extra frozen meat.
I would also suggest to lay in a three day supply of "sick" food, food that is good when you are sick, such as cans of chicken soup, Gatorade, crackers and Jello. There have been occasions where my family has been really sick, I get something at work and I pass it to my wife a couple of days later who passes it to our daughter and then it mutates and it circles around again the other way. This cycle can take weeks and no one has the energy or desire to make dinner or go even go shopping.

You need to store enough water for everyone the basic amount is 1 gallon per person per day or 14 gallons per person for a two week period or 56 gallons for a family or four for two weeks.
For storing water you already have a nearly perfect storage device right now. You hot water heater. This will give you 30, 40 or even 50 gallons of good drinking water. The only real issue is in the case that the drinking water supply is contaminated. Yes, you can purify most things or boil them out but having am offline backup clean supply is better.
We like to use 2 liter soda bottles, we don't drink that much soda, but when we do we try to get 2 liter bottles which we then clean with hot soapy water dry and then add water and put a couple under every sink for easy access and the rest wherever it will fit.

Most homes have a gas grill for summer-time outdoor cooking, keep an extra bottle of fuel for such occasions when you may have to use it to cook all your meals.

Communications options.

During a disaster local phone lines and cell sites are overloaded as everyone is trying to contact each other. One of the simplest and best ways to contact each other is to establish an out-of-state contact person that all of you can call to coordinate who is where. It might take a little longer but it is far more likely as long distance lines are generally okay during disasters. Make sure everyone has a calling card and the contact phone numbers with them at all times.

During the 9/11 attack the cell phone and telephone systems were overwhelmed, but the Instant Message services and paging services were fine. Another option that has worked well is Short Message Service two-way paging. It is not as popular as cell phones and the information sent is much smaller so it can get through a lot easier.
Another option but the most expensive is using the Internet. Setting up a free website at someplace like Blogger is easy and that way everyone can leave messages to each other there. There are PDAs and cell phones that can hook up to the internet that can do this pretty well. The Internet was originally designed to withstand nuclear war so while calling out of the local disaster zone may be difficult the Internet will be there to communicate with.
For short range communications (2 miles) you can use Family Radio Service (FRS) walkie-talkie radios. for a little longer range (5 miles) your can GSRM radios.

Gathering and Evacuating

There are a number of disasters where the local government will advice evacuation, you need to have a plan to deal with that possibility. Hurricanes and Wildfires often have large scale evacuations. Small scale evacuations often come from things like chemical spills from a truck crash, or a burning warehouse.

A typical family ends up quite widely separated during an average weekday, The parents at different workplaces and the children in one or more schools.

There are three places you generally would be when a disaster could happen, you need to keep a 72 hour kit in each place:

You need a plan to gather everyone together so you can provide and protect your family.

Where will your spouse and children be?
How will you be able to contact them?
How will they contact you?
How will you gather together?
Where will you meet?
Where will each of you go if your building is evacuated?
Try to think of the worst case scenario for something to happen in. If you can solve that one, even if imperfectly, all the rest will be easy.

Most times you will try to get together back home which is fine in most cases, just have an alternate ready as well in case the home has been destroyed, from say a tornado or is otherwise inaccessible, a bridge collapsed.

What your responses would be may be different depending on where you are, mainly because of what resources you might have available to you to deal with the disaster.

Having pre-planned evacuation routes in all major directions is the ideal. For example Florida has had evacuations several times in the past few years due to hurricanes. A common feature to any major evacuation is that the Interstate end up jammed. People without plans take the most convenient route, and since hardly anyone has a plan they all pick the same route. So the evacuation plan should not depend on the Interstate but on other highways and roads. Practice using them at least once a year.
Having a good atlas in the car also allows you to route around cities and other things. Sometimes the best thing to do may be to go the long way to get where you want to go as fewer people will take that route and so you can go faster. For example going from Denver to Kansas City might be most direct by taking I-70 however most people without plans would take the most direct route and jam the highway. A route that would do better is to go North to Cheyenne and take I-80 East instead.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

72 Hour Personal Evacuation Kit

Disasters like hurricanes, wildfires and chemical releases require you and your family to evacuate, You need to have a place to go to and a plan to get there. which I will discuss tomorrow, but here are some things you would need to get there.
In other cases a fast moving disaster like a tornado or earthquake will cut you off from the outside world for a short time. With most disasters there is a delay of about 3 days for most relief agencies to mobilize and get supplies to a disaster area. The food is not gourmet and most would recommend twice the water but this will get you by.
This kit has been broken down down into several sub kits to make it easier to understand what they are for. There are also basic and advanced sections so you can build up as you have the funds and experience. Basic should get you by, advanced will generally make it more comfortable. There are some duplications, that is intentional, some things you never have enough of.
You should try to put this into a backpack in case, your car is disabled and you must continue.

Food and Consumables Kit (per person)
These items need to be replaced every 6 months. At the same time check your spare tire for pressure, tires for wear and fluid levels.
Basic items (per person)
o 9 Energy bars (upgrade to MREs with heaters)
o 1 roll hard candies
o 3 1 liter bottles of seltzer water or club soda (has lower freezing point)
o First aid kit including prescriptions that the family needs.
o Batteries for flashlight, cellphone, weather radio, GPS, hearing aid, and other electronics
o Travel packs of baby wipes (clean hands)
Advanced items
o 3 more 1 liter bottles of seltzer water or club soda (has lower freezing point)

Clothes (per passenger)
Basic assumes you are dressed for the day, advanced assumes you had to jump out of bed. Put all of these in sealed plastic bags to keep them dry. Summer and winter make some changes.
Basic items
o 1 set socks and underwear. (cold wet feet are bad for warmth and morale)
o 1 wind breaker to keep the wind and rain off.
o 1 pair of work gloves
o 1 wool or fleece hat
o 1 emergency blanket
o 1 pair extra eyeglasses or contacts
Advanced items
o 1 long sleeved shirt
o 1 pair of pants
o 1 pair rain pants
o 1 pair mittens
o 1 sleeping bag

Tool Kit
o AM/FM/TV/Weather radio
o Flashlight
o Cellphone
o Swiss army knife or Multitool
o Candles and matches/lighters

Document Kit
List of important phone numbers, account numbers and ID numbers. If you home is destroyed, you can at least prove you owned it.
o Survival guide
o List of phone numbers and addresses and e-mails of important people in your life: parents, siblings, spouse, children, work, church, and anyone else important.
o Social security numbers
o Passports
o Birth certificates
o Mortgage, deeds and titles
o Drivers License
o Insurance Papers: Health, life, home, car, and etc.
o Family Genealogy
o Family Photos, labeled so you know who is who.
o House inventory video on DVD (insurance claim purposes)
o Backup CDs of the data on your computer.

Baby/Child (per Child)
This changes as children grow up, but for infants figure on 10 diapers and feedings per day. Even if you are breast feeding, put in the formula since you may have been seperated. Toddlers and older children would have water and canned baby food.
This should go into a shoulder bag if you have babies or small children. Older children can carry a small pack.
o 1 standard package of baby wipes
o 30 diapers, also very useful for controlling bleeding
o 30 sticks of formula for bottle feedings
o 2 bottles with nipples and rings
o 2 2l bottle of water to make formula and clean bottles
o 3 sets of clothes
o 1 Blankie
o 1 stuffed animal or other comfort toy

Toiletries (per person)
Things to keep you feeling clean, which is great for morale.
Basic items
o 1 mini Kleenex
o 1 travel toothbrush or toothbrush in zip lock bag
o 1 trial size toothpaste
o 1 trial size soap
o 1 disposable razor
o 1 metal camp cup (can boil water in)
o 1 travel pack baby wipes
o 1 trial size shampoo and conditioner
o 1 roll toilet paper
o 16 Overnight Feminine Hygiene Napkins
Advanced items
o 1 nail file (smooth nails, roughen wires for better connections)
o 1 pack breath mints (sugar based for the energy)
o 1 small comb
o 1 trail size antiperspirant
o 1 camp mirror (useful for signaling)
o 1 manual breast pump (if you get seperated from your baby)

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Disaster List

With all the things going on right now, Hurricanes Charlie, Frances, and Ivan, the terrorist takeover of a Russian school, wildfires and drought in the West, and an economy that doesn't seem to be doing much I put together a list of disasters that can occur.
This list is in approximate order of effect: personal, family, community, region, continent, global.

Cronic medical condition
Acute sickness
House fire
Appliance failure
Car failure
Car crash
Animal Attack
Burglary/Mugging/Home Invasion
Utility Failure
Birth of a baby
Layoff/Job Loss
School Shooting
Hostage Situation
Wind storm
Wild fire
Flood/Flash flood
Economic Downturn/Recession/Depression
Volcano / Supervolcano
Tsunami (Tidal Wave)/ Mega-tsunami
Asteriod Impact

What disasters are likely where you live?
Give it a rating of (very unlikely), (unlikely), (somewhat likely), (likely), (very likely).
Give it a likely time scale to happen: 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 years.
Give it a area of effect rating: family, neighborhood/business, city, state, nation, or planet.
These rating together will show you where you want to concentrate your resources at first.

Thinking about the effects of each kind of disaster will help you get ready for them. Thinking through what would happen and what you would need is a big step in getting ready.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Thankful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ

I am very thankful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since my mother died a few people have talked to me about how terrible it is to lose someone. And I have to explain that I haven't lost here. We are still a part of a family. We were sealed by the power of God to be an eternal family, that is what "sealing in heaven and on earth" is all about. It took a lot of work to be ready for that, and it still takes a lot of work to repent of my sins all the time. God established the family before the Fall of Adam, before mortality, so there must be some way for the family to continue into eternity. And it is through the sealing power that it is so.

After our daughter died in 2000 it was terrible. The grief literature that the hospital and insurance sent was just too depressing to read because no one had any hope of ever seeing their family again. It doesn't have to be this way, and it is terrible to see in peoples eyes the desire not to hope that it could be this way. That they could be disappointed if they allowed themselves that hope. I want them so desperately to believe and be happy and to know real joy.

I don't expect them believe me, I am no one and nothing, I don't want you to believe me. Ask the omnipotent, omniscient God, our all-loving Heavenly Father, what He thinks and He will answer your sincere, heartfelt prayers. He loves you unconditionally and wants you to be happy. Christ atoned for us to help us and He is there to help.

Prayer is powerful. Do it.

P.S. To learn more go here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Bad times

It has been a terrible couple of weeks. It started on the last week of July, I had to give a short what we learned from the scriptures this week lesson in sacrament meeting, then one of my harddrives in the tower died, it only took about 3 hours to recover from which was much less time then I thought it would take.
Then I had an apparent Gallbladder attack which put me in the ER for a few hours, and when we got home we learned that my Mother was also in the hospital because of a massive stroke, this one on the other side of her body from the one a few years back and so she appeared totally paralyzed. So I put together a little deathwatch bag to make traveling easier, since it was just across the state. Mom then died on the following Monday. So we went down to comfort Dad.
Then my sister and I had to put together the memorial service for Mom. I got a guest book, designed a program, and write a talk about Mom and how she influenced my life. All this during a tornado watch.
the day before the memorial one of my Home Teachees found out her unborn son had a tumor on a kidney and needed comforting and a blessing.
Another trip down to Dad's place for the memorial and the reception line and family time.
Yesterday, I finally got to planting the lilac we bought for the front garden, just before all this started happening, but that afternoon our little girl got into one of the heating vents and badly cut her foot, requiring a trip to the doctor for some stitches.
There is a reason for my feeling tired and stressed but I need to get back to doing things for my family, they are the only external thing you can take with you.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Quality and Value

There are too many definitions and not enough words sometimes.

Quality is a coin with two very different sides. On one side the manufactures looks at the things that go into a product, the materials, the workmanship, the design. And on the other are the customers and they are looking for the value they can get out of it.

Customers define quality as how they can do their jobs better, faster, cheaper, not how much the manufacture can build the product better, faster or cheaper.

I have seen a lot of navel-gazing companies that think just because they make it better from their point of view and then the new product tanks because it has nothing that the customer wants anymore.

Peter Drucker has a great little story of a pad lock manufacturer that is selling a cheap padlock that could be opened with a pin. They decided to improve it so it couldn't be opened with a pin, Well, sales plummeted and it turned out that the market really wanted a padlock that just held itself together and a simple trigger to open it was enough.

Find out what the customer really does with the product and give it to them.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Fun Weather Condition

I didn't have a camera handy so I don't have a picture of this really cool weather effect.
It is partly sunny today with a great chance for afternoon thundershowers around here somewhere, like just over there, but not here.
Well, there was a really large white cumulus cloud to the north of town and it was just in the right place for this effect with another in front of the sun itself.
As we were driving back from OfficeMax I noticed that the cars and truck around us have some very odd shadows, there were shadows on the south side of the cars. I took me a minute to realize what I was seeing. As a hobby I do a little photography and it was just like a subject lit with two light sources. It was the oddest thing and took me some time to figure out how the light was coming to pull off the effect.
That was just really cool.

Looking At Something Else

This HBS article has a very interesting quote:

Toyota is so confident that its system cannot be replicated that it has welcomed competitors into its factories. "Study us all you want," the company has said. Despite decades of trying, no rival has matched Toyota's system.

It tells me that what people study when they get the look is not what needs to be looked at. It isn't just the technology or just the people. It would be how they interact.
It is like Fourobous quotes, "Culture is more important then strategy." Both are needed or they wouldn't be nearly as effective.
It is similar to a good message presented badly, the message will still get through though not to as many people. A bad message presented well doesn't work very well either. A good message and a good presentation are far more powerful together then not.
It is almost like a street magician, one hand most fast to draw your eye as he slowly moves his other hand that has the quarter hidden in it.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Abject Failure

While perusing Jerry's Mail which links to this.

It is the same kind of logic as this.

This kind of stupidity makes me very angry.

The Company Hiring Paradox

I have been reading a number of business books lately. and it brought to the fore of my mind that there seems to be a paradox in the way companies hire.

There are two basic schools of thought when it comes to hiring: hire the best and hire the cheapest. Now there are good points for going with one or the other.

Hiring the Best
If you hire the best they will likely outperform the average by 10 or 100 times, they will also cost a similar amount. The best have a major advantage they do not need much in the way of management. They are able to do things very naturally that many people cannot do without a lot of training and work up. They do need support so that they can spend the vast majority of their time on high value activities, like designing or selling or doing brain surgery. So giving them assistants, interns, secretaries and office managers to do the lower-value things like go through the mail, run errands, put paper in the copier, fix the computer and take out the trash.

Hiring the Cheapest
If you are hiring the cheapest you have the advantage of low cost of labor. This can be a good thing, but a major disadvantage is that they will need lots of management and supervision. They will also be limited in the tasks that they will be able to do, if you have a set of straightforward tasks that is part of your business then they will be a great to have to do those things. This usually described as unskilled labor.

The Crazy Company
There are plenty of companies that want the best but only want to pay for the cheapest. They can get around this a little by finding someone who is ignorant of their potential. Lots of companies hire students straight out of college and high school if they show talent and enthusiasm, they often work cheap only because they don't yet know how much they are worth. They will jump ship once they put the pieces together and you haven't gotten them up to parity with their peers.

The other way is to get the best and then have them do essentially menial labor by doing a lot of simple tasks that anyone can do. That is such a waste of money. It would be like paying Julia Child to work the grill in McDonalds.

Try to match up the task to the type of person needed for it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Mac vs Windows

In the last week I have come across just a load of very interesting articles on computers and how they help and hurt us.

Daring Fireball has Broken Windows a telling statistic is that there are nearly 1000 new viruses introduced on Windows every month. That is too insane to believe. Before OS X the Mac had only about 300.

If you think I am exaggerating how about this article from Windows Network magazine. How much money did he flush down the toilet just trying to get his laptop working again. It would probably be cheaper to buy a second laptop that is only used when the first is taken out, while someone else deals with reinstalling Windows.

Funny Business has a terrible time with a PC sent out for repair.

Then there is this ZDnet Study about how often PCs are down. Since they are down 9 days a year that would mean a loss of $7,200/yr in productivity (engineer costing the company $100/hr)
And they say that a Mac costs too much!? That like 9 new eMacs EVERY year.

That is a lot of pain I am glad I don't deal with it much any more.

Got to MacvsPC for a lot for information.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Some Little Changes

I experimented today with the template so that I can add Links and a BlogRoll. There is probably a template that has this already but this is a good place to start.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Apple Needs Better Marketing

With all of the Apple commercials and print ads that I have seen I have only seen one that shows me what I can do with a Mac. The one showed a kid that made an alarm clock for an original iMac that played music and showed pictures and had a recording of his mother telling him to get up. That gives us a reason to buy a Mac.

How about a commercial like this.
An older couple pull an iMac out of the box, pull in power and telephone put an iSight on top and the next thing you see are the grandchildren waving "Hi, grandma and grandpa!" in the iChatAV window.

Show a young mother downloading pictures to iPhoto and creating a .Mac webpage.

Show an architect rendering a skyscraper.

Show an office worker building a report with Word and Excel.

Show a teenager with a video camera making a music video and burning it to DVD and showing it on a big screen TV to a bunch of others.

Show an executive giving a Keynote presentation.

Show the Mac doing stuff and people will pay attention.
The image ads are cute but a complete waste of money.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

All Evil Needs To Win is For Good People To Do Nothing

They Want Us To Destroy Ourselves
USS Clueless does a great job talking about Michael Moore and the Loony Left.

All Evil Needs To Win is For Good People To Do Nothing.
A lot of people are beginning to say that they are not going to vote at all because they don't like Bush but they don't like the Democratic ticket either. The problem is that the Loony Left WILL get out an vote. If you don't vote you are agreeing with whoever wins. They won't pay any attention to you if you don't vote at all, Politicians can only understand votes, Even if you vote for a third party then your vote counts and will be noticed.

To not vote is to say you don't care, and if you don't care why should they, they will talk to people who talk to them and if you aren't talking to them, who is?

Back of the Envelope Calculations
There are about 3000 counties in the US and with about 300,000,000 and about 12% of people voting you end up with a side needing only 122 votes to win a county, actually less since not everyone is eligible to vote. If we say half the people can vote (Average family size of 4) then it only takes 61 votes to win a county. If 40% always vote Republican and 40% always vote Democrat then that makes it only 12 people who have to swing the vote.

How hard would it be to get 12 people together to vote as a block in each county?

It might not really be this straightforward but it isn't all that hard.

Go out and vote the more people voting the harder it will be to get those people together.

The Mac isn't easy to talk about

I probably should give up on BusinessWeek, if Apple followed all the advice given it by them they would be long gone.

He flogs price on almost every point, 1) drop the price, 2) make it cheap and cool, 3) make it cheap by removing the monitor 4) make it cheap by offering a trade-in allowance, 5) Let the buyers try it before buying it. This one I actually think is a good idea. I have noticed that when people have 2-3 weeks to try a Mac they get over their Windows conditioning and start learning the Mac way and things start working better for them, though it is them changing and not the computer. and finally 6) Sell security, I am ambivalent about this one, because though OS X has not real viruses right now, to advertise that fact prominently would be seen as a challenge and so we might end up with a bunch of viruses, though it would take a very long time to catch up to Windows.

This advice is part of that inward gaze of cost control that companies take when they have no ability to innovate. Apple can innovate just fine, thank you very much, A mac costs about the same as any feature-comparable Windows box on the market usually less. Even if you take the lowest end computer out there by the time you add all the things you need to to make it feature comparable to the Mac you end up with a computer that costs even more then the Mac. I have long ago realized that you get what you pay for. The lowest cost stuff costs too much of my time to fiddle with to get working. I need stuff that works right away and always so I can be productive.

Strategy of Best
Apple makes some of the best quality computers around. They may not be the very first out with something but when they pick up a technology and run with it the entire industry tends to follow them. USB, Firewire, WiFi (Airport), and iTunes/iPod are all examples of that. Apple should not cheapen their position by going for commodity status.

The Headless iMac
I have seen the headless iMac talked about all over the Web and I am very doubtful that Apple would go there again. What do you mean again? Surely you remember the Cube debacle. I think Apple learned a lesson there. A cheap headless computer doesn't sell unless it is big-time expandable. Is that the right lesson? It is hard to tell without another test as everyone suggests with an enclosure with the guts of an iMac. I just don't see them doing it for a while yet, they can't afford the reputation damage a market failure that could be.

Try Before you Buy
I really like this idea. Changing computer platforms is a big risk for most people, getting their data across and installing the correct software is a very big deal. Microsoft has some intellectual lock-in going here. It is so hard just moving from Windows 9x to Windows XP that they think it must be even harder to switch to a completely different platform. Letting people bring in their PCs to Apple Stores and having everything migrated and some training time for free would be fantastic. If Apple takes all the risk of getting everything moved over and up & running, with 30 days to try it, it would allay most peoples fears. They could even do it on-site for a nominal fee.

Computer Risks
I just had a Thingish Thought after that last paragraph. There is some risk in changing computer platforms though not all that much, a few files here in there might not transfer perfectly.

However, there is a huge perceived risk in moving away from Windows for most people. Every Windows user has horror stories about when their computer died just when they needed it most. The perception is that Windows is popular because it is the best and therefore everything else is worse then Windows and since Windows is so bad that it is barely usable then anything else must not work at all and why would I waste my time.

The Mac isn't easy to talk about
The unofficial slogan for the Mac is "It just Works." I have seen it many times and there are lots of stories on the Web about someone being introduced to the Mac and doing something and going, "That's it? That was easy!"

The Mac is easy to show, if you have one there both of you can be in front of and do stuff to, preferably the new guy running the show and the Mac person just hinting at the way to go. People are amazed at just how easy it can be.

The real problem is that the Mac is not so easy to talk about. This is definitely a case of a picture is worth a thousand words. We need an easy way to talk about the Mac like Atkins is an easy way to talk about dieting. "It just works" is a great slogan but doesn't mean much to people who have not yet used a Mac.

It is a little better now, with iLifes' "It's Microsoft Office for the rest of your life." and Searchlights' "Like Google for your harddrive." but really doesn't do it justice. I need to think about this more.