Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Work Break

Ketchum with some ideas for a different sort of work break
Somehow it is Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and I missed a week of journaling.  You can imagine that it was a dry spell creatively but rich socially.  It started with that most American of holidays.  The holiday reminds me of the simplicity of childhood, the anticipation of a run-up to the end-of-year festivities, and the feel-good story of pilgrims, indians, turkey, corn, and passing that first winter together.  Giving thanks with a simple story that was likely nowhere close to the kid's book version of American history spooned out in my youth, but that is beside the point.  The food coma lasted for days, thanks to my wife's wonderful cooking.  On the other side, I was quickly over my head in work documents and website building.  This backlog will last through the holidays, a different sort of anticipation than my childhood afforded.

No matter - this is a short respite before I jump back in.  We all need a work break at some point.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Late in the Day

Late in the day on a typical evening in Lahaina, Maui
Somehow the day got away from me.  Never mind the work travel and the meetings and the document production for other projects, I let the better part of the day inhibit me from jotting a few journal notes.   This is certainly less than the creative time needed to keep formulating the ideas rattling in my brain, of which one I hope to extract for a long form piece next year.  If I was honest with myself, I would admit that more time is required to soak in these thoughts than I have provided thus far, time which is slow coming and needs focus and solitude.  Alas, the work of a writer is often left for those moments that linger late in the day, when reflections peek out enough to capture and dissolve like a sunset.  I will keep trying.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

50 entries


I just crossed the threshold of 50 entries for 2012 - I'm halfway to my goal for this year.

Let's see if I can continue the same proliferation from the last couple of weeks to reach this goal by end of year.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Couch surfing (good day to be a Bruin)

Bruins Nation gives the beautiful details - photo by Harry How
It was a great afternoon.  Back to back, Penn State and UCLA had great victories in college football, and my schedule was clear and free to watch and savor every moment of their games.  The day was particularly sweet as a Bruin, as today was the rivalry game with cross-town foe USC, one of the biggest games of the season.  It had been 5 long years since UCLA's last victory over USC, and the 38-28 win was sweeter for the Pac-12 South championship that came with it and a chance to qualify for the Rose Bowl this year.

A day of couch surfing worth commemorating.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Effortless

Anyone can blog and be effortless in doing so, according to insurancemarketinghq.com

It takes a lot of work to appear effortless.  In a sudden burst of energy, I have this image of what a story idea might look like completely fleshed out, characters living and breathing, plot lines taut and tension-filled, and the emergence of a piece of writing that communicates something important.

Unfortunately, it is just an image, a mirage really, for covering up the countless hours and head-banging attempts to do the actual work to flesh out a story idea.  This is the reason why good ideas take a long time to realize and seem to go "quiet" for such a long time.  Going "quiet" means that something is happening.

In that context, I am learning to appreciate that effortless is actually the state we reach when hard work starts to "pay off" and acceleration occurs from the point of idea to achieving noticeable results.  My goal is to reach that state with my current writing pursuits in the new year - I'll keep trying!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Productivity

Press the productivity button from Talent Alley
My wife teases me that I spend so much time figuring out how to be more productive.  Reading about time management and getting things done and systems thinking and other personal productivity techniques.  It turns out that the effort has less to do with finishing a task list than feeling better about the amount of stuff one is able to accomplish.

It also turns out that time is finite.  That also applies to things getting done.  If the day has only so many hours available, it begs to reason that only so many documents or writings or meetings or phone calls can be accomplished.  Managing time might mean no more than better quantifying the amount available - not that magic happens and more comes out of the effort.  And if one believes that more hours can be squeezed out - less sleep, more energy, what have you - the net result is strangely the same.

Except if one decides that whatever can be accomplished with whatever time is available is good enough.  Even better if it is considered great and worthy of  the time.  Which begs the question - is productivity nothing more than perspective and focus to maximize the time and energy available? 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Focus

Focus pattern from rondexter.com
A quick entry to keep the momentum.  I've been researching how to create better Word documents, which will come in handy at the office.  My schedule is full of meetings, but I'm trying to draft an elaborate document by the beginning of next week.  And wouldn't you know it, Thanksgiving is also next week, and there is preparation required for that - shopping and cooking and all - since my wife's parents are coming over to celebrate.

I will keep it brief, focus is the word today.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Motivation

Image from brilliant-essay.com

Writing is difficult on some days.  This is one of them.  At least, the day has started in a slump, and perhaps it will improve.  Stumbling blocks often revolve around lack of (sometimes cloudy) thoughts or lack of motivation.  This morning it is more of the former, which I am trying to combat with the latter.  Since I have decided to reach my goal of 100 entries this year without cheating - and I still have a good bit to draft through December - I have tried to jumpstart this blog as a space to reintroduce the discipline.  The trouble is finding a voice that delves into areas worth writing about.  Strangely enough, it is my day job at this point that allows me to publish work, albeit product requirements for a mobile app and system, but it is something.  And that's a start.

This all builds into something, which I am trying to corral in the new year.  Stay tuned as I sort it out - motivation might get me there.

Monday, November 12, 2012

60 Second entry

Courtesy of user Samnavy at miaturbo.net

What could you get done in a 60-second entry?  I tried it and put a timer on the desk.  Organizing thoughts can take up to 15 seconds, as the timer gets going.  Stucturing an idea can take another 10 seconds.  Good thing that I can type faster, although errors creep in in such a short amount of time.  Ultimately, I spent 60 seconds thinking about this post, which is the idea.  If only I could come up with something better - and time is up!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Skyfall - one of the Best Bond films?

James Bond in Skyfall - official movie site here
It's amazing to think that James Bond is 50 years old.  Oct 5, 1962, to be exact, was when Dr. No debuted in the UK with Sean Connery as the first Bond.  Bond returns in his 23rd film, Skyfall, with Daniel Craig as the sixth and current Bond.  It's a must-see.

I'll avoid the spoilers but echo a similar sentiment that many critics have shared - this is a modern Bond that pays proper homage to his legacy.  The film is also a joy to watch.  The opening action scene is arguably the best action scenes of any Bond film I've ever seen.  The Bond song, "Skyfall" by Adele,  is reminiscent of the classic Bond songs (I was thinking Goldfinger), and it plays over an opening credit sequence that feels connected to the golden age of  Bond opening credit sequences (from Thunderball to The Spy Who Loved Me).  The Bond action is, well, Bond action, but the film is also character-driven like the earlier films like From Russia with Love or On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  And the Bond villain carries all the psychological misgivings and creepiness of some of the great Bond villains, played perfectly by Javier Bardem as a character who would also be at home in some of the latest Marvel and Batman movies.

When it was over, I was also relieved to see that familiar message in the end credits - "James Bond will Return".  No movie title followed - and hard to guess what it would be since we are out of Ian Fleming book titles at this point - but it's coming.  We should be very happy about that because if upcoming Bond films are anything like Skyfall, we should expect the Bond legacy to thrive with many more worthwhile films to come.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Flapjacks!


Saturday brunch begs for pancakes.  We were invited to a friend's house for such a morning feast and get-together, where the guests volunteered to bring a specialty to share.  When it comes to breakfast food, my most accomplished specialty is pancakes, so it was out with the griddle this morning.

I learned this skill from my father, who liked to fill Saturday mornings with batter and flapjacks.  He also referred to his western Pennsylvania roots and brought in regional flavors, such as buckwheat pancakes.  Since those days, I have carried forward the pancake skills, which my wife appreciates.  And for a Saturday brunch, it was the perfect dish.  So if you are enthusiastic for flapjacks, let me know, and we'll cook 'em up next time we are together!


Dogged Pursuit


I love my wife's touch.  So does Ruby, our little Pomeranian.  When we all convene in the home office, Ruby vies for attention, lodging herself between the two of us.  Ruby knows how to position for maximum benefit, and she is always well-placed to capture massage time from my wife.  So, it was no surprise that Ruby found the small of my wife's back while chilling out on the floor of the home office yesterday; Ruby's clever maneuver made my wife feel special  enough to break her concentration and reward Ruby with a special doggie rubdown.  

Naturally, I was jealous (stupid Ruby!), but sometimes one needs to recognize the efforts and payoff of a dogged pursuit.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Sushi Coma

Nothing like a few rolls at Yuraku
Sushi is always a good call, never better than when finishing off a long week at work.  This time, my wife and I introduced my sister to one of our favorite local sushi joints since she made a surprise visit in advance of her upcoming move to the DC area.

Carrots, celery & dip, edamame, miso soup, fish cheek, egg custard - we were loaded up on the free throw-ins before the rolls arrived.

Somehow, we worked through several of our favorite sushi creations before throwing in the towel.  And since it was a long week at work, we had hardly the energy to turn back for home and have a chat with the parents.  I suppose there is so much more that could await us on a Friday evening, but a sushi coma makes the bed too inviting.  

Gone til Movember (feel free to support)

I've decided to grow a moustache.  It's for a good cause - promoting men's health and supporting a dear friend who is battling cancer.  It's part of a movement called Movember, which has been around the last decade and raised over $125 million USD in 2011 for promoting awareness for men's health issues and funding research initiatives around prostrate and testicular cancer.

No obligation, but you can support this great cause at my mospace here.

Here's mine after a week - stay tuned as my mo sprouts this month:



For the love of espresso

My wife calls herself the marketer's best friend, and sometimes she is right.  Case in point, this weekend we were out doing holiday shopping.  I know, it's early, but the crowds and lines are much shorter for the early bird shoppers.  In the midst of our browsing, we came across a Nespresso sales rep who extolled the virtues of its high-end coffee machines with nineteen bars of pressure that churn out cup after cup of espresso with a full head of crema.

It only took one sample for my wife to call me over for a surprise that was brewing in her own mind - a Nespresso machine as my early holiday present.  Secretly, I was very happy because I am big fan of Nespresso, from all the days that I spent in European office buildings where these machines are often a fixture.  But I'm also skeptical of event marketers who make clever claims to twist arms for making purchases.

Long story short, there is now a Latissima+ machine installed in our kitchen that, indeed, churns out cup after cup of espresso with a full head of crema.  And I'm in heaven.


So much so that my wife now monitors my intake to make sure that I am not popping back espressos like any number of Italian businessmen who constantly line the counters at the cafes in Milan and Rome.  For the love of espresso, I am curbing my appetite so that the Nespresso pods don't run out too quickly!
  
  

Thursday, November 08, 2012

What thoughts might come

Jean and Charlotte Potter, posted on Flickr courtesy of
the Bain News Service and the Library of Congress 
I follow the Library of Congress photostream on Flickr, who has undertaken the enormous and likely unending task of digitizing its massive catalog of photos from the 19th and 20th centuries.  I find the collection fascinating from the perspective that the depictions can be just as real and lively as a modern-day image.  But the greatest difference today is the lack of context and metadata that surrounds the image, relative to the thoughts and comments left by people like you and me.

Take Jean and Charlotte Potter.  These women (likely sisters?) are depicted in repose at the beach.  Charlotte (I think is on the right?) is cradling a dog; she shares the same outfit with her sister, from hat to checkered blazer to white trousers.

What alludes me is their story.  I can only imagine the precociousness of the dog and its cradling owner, but I  am only speculating from the thin smile she holds that pauses the camera lens.  Perhaps her sister is bashful, lowering her head, but she might also have been shamed or outwitted by her younger sister, causing a momentary downward glance.  There are only archival tags associated with this image - no comments from the subjects themselves of their family and friends - although it's possible that Jean and/or Charlotte are still alive to provide comment (although this photograph dates over 100 years ago).  These are all interpretations and reflections that remain mysterious to the moment at hand, captured so long ago.

The mystery can be enchanting and enthralling.  And some day, the mountain of photos that I have taken might be interpreted in a similar way by someone just as removed as I am from this photo.  Perhaps the record of these words will live on only to the point where the server that Google runs decides to quit or corrupt the data, at which point these words vanish, too.  What thoughts might come from the wisps of this notion, that stirs the soul to leave more permanent relics (and perhaps back up this precious data!).

Writer's craft

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been trying to resuscitate my writing activities.  This can be challenging, as it requires "head space" in order to make sense of words and work out ideas that sing on paper.  I suppose it depends on what one tries to accomplish with words in terms of how much "head space" is required, but in my case, pursuing something more creative requires more space.

I am reminded of the books packed away in a box somewhere on the lower level of my house that describe the writer's craft.  These books are assembled in some haphazard collection over several years when aspiring writers pursue a quest of enlightenment, similar to finding the fountain of youth.  Some recipe or some insight must lurk in the words cast off by famous writers who have somehow discovered their voice and created methods to produce word count, plot lines, and finished works.

The interesting conclusion that I have reached is that the writer's craft is ultimately a personal affair.  Certainly, we often fit into archetypes regarding how our brains work and how we make sense of ideas and how we structure our thinking; if one can find another writer or thinker that shares the same working process to achieve results, then all the better.  But that pile of books and other tools are much more of an enterprise to take away time and money from putting pen to paper (or computer screen, in my case). 

Practice and words are what matters.  Like forming a habit.  I am trying to reform the habit now.  The writer's craft starts here and follows whatever path the mind takes to lead it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Waiting for Mama


Working at home affords a good bit of time with Ruby, our little Pomeranian.  She likes to hang out in her bed while I work in the home office, and then we share work breaks going downstairs at lunchtime or out the house on a walk around the neighborhood in the afternoon.  Our favorite time, though, is that variable time around dusk when the phone rings; my wife calls from to update what roads she will take home to overcome Beltway traffic.

Tonight was like any other night, when Ruby heard my wife's voice on the speakerphone and started to anticipate her return.  It was enough to cause Ruby to lose interest in her bone and perk up for the door, awaiting the excited sounds from downstairs. Ruby and I both take the same stance, waiting for mama.

Start


Today is a new day.  I'm waking up from a jilted slumber made short by a strange fascination with political results.  I voted yesterday, and President Obama was re-elected.  By the time his soaring rhetoric lit up his base of volunteers and supporters in Chicago, it was 1:30am local time and well past my bedtime.  Still, I sat on the couch and tried to motivate myself to bed.  I could not.

Somehow, the year has passed like a blur, and now it is November.  I had a goal to write 100 blog posts in 2012, and with a little cheating of automated internet services posting a whole batch of Flickr photo albums from my recent Hawaii trip, I am currently at 35.  I figured it was worth a shot to try again for the 100-post goal by Dec 31; after all, 55 days stand between me and that achievement.  A post a day for a month and then a few more for good measure - I have done it before, and I suppose a jump-start on my writing could get me there.

Nothing left to do but grab another espresso and start.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Road to Hana



http://www.flickr.com/photos/toddity/sets/72157631909494975

Parasailing off Lahaina



http://www.flickr.com/photos/toddity/sets/72157631910066404

Maui Waterfalls



http://www.flickr.com/photos/toddity/sets/72157631910064252

Maui Sunsets



http://www.flickr.com/photos/toddity/sets/72157631910057156

Maui Driving



http://www.flickr.com/photos/toddity/sets/72157631909441487

Maui Dining



http://www.flickr.com/photos/toddity/sets/72157631909427545

Maui Beaches



http://www.flickr.com/photos/toddity/sets/72157631910034780

Marriott Wailea



http://www.flickr.com/photos/toddity/sets/72157631910027006

Kahekili Highway



http://www.flickr.com/photos/toddity/sets/72157631910023730

JM's Wedding



http://www.flickr.com/photos/toddity/sets/72157631910019742

Hanging at Wailea Beach



http://www.flickr.com/photos/toddity/sets/72157631910016440

Best of 2012 Hawaii



http://www.flickr.com/photos/toddity/sets/72157631910007402

2012 Hawaii



http://www.flickr.com/photos/toddity/sets/72157631908393285