Monday, 28 August 2006

How do you truly know when email has become a problem without a good solution? Simple. Take a vacation. This is a clue...

And that's after working through a large chunk of it already - the most obvious and highest priority stuff, anyhow.

Yes, I've tried many of the various methodologies available out there, but ultimately it's all about reviewing each one and acting on each in same shape or form. Vacations do this to email. Darn those vacations. The difference this time around is I decided that instead of ruining the vacation mood, I'd work my way through the ocean a little at a time. Highest priority stuff came first. No point in ruining the positive effects of the vacation by losing sleep over email, eh?

Anyone have brilliant ideas for how to deal with the ocean of email that results from being gone for a couple weeks? Dealing with it day-to-day is easy. It's the been-gone-for-a-long-time problem that seems to be more vexing. Mark-as-read just has too many risks.

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Monday, 28 August 2006 20:56:40 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Sunday, 27 August 2006

There's been a recent uptick in Blackberry Blogging attention recently because Dave Winer has been talking to people about how he's blogging and reading news on his Blackberry 8700, which he apparently got a little while back. I got one of the first 8700s, have already worn out two of them (I am on 8700 number-three as of the other day - It turns out coffee is hard on electronics and the scroll wheel tends to wear loose), and I have been using various models of Blackberries since, well, since God made Blackberries, and I have been blogging with them since I can't remember when. Actually, looking back it looks like it was July of 2004 or so when I first tried it. So, what Dave is doing isn't really anything new, but he is bringing a lot of attention to it, which is cool. Certainly the direction of mobile computing is important, and how it fits into publishing and consuming critical content deserves attention.

It's funny, though. You'd think it was the new sliced bread or something. Heh.

And Kent Newsome has some good points in his thoughts on the matter:

"I think people are treating this Blackberry as a web surfing and blogging tool the way mountain climbers treat a mountain. They move right past the why and just start climbing. Because they can, because it's cool, or because they're bored. Or maybe so they can try to convince more people to use their mobile computing products…

"People will fall all over themselves trying to rationalize it away, but everyone who is actually trying to get content, as opposed to push content, knows that other than text based headlines and the occasional weather forecast, surfing the net on a Blackberry is sort of like running a race in wooden clogs. You can do it, but it's slow and painful."

I've been able to post with my Blackberry for a long time. I have also been able to read news via RSS with it for a long time. But even though it's right there 24x7 for me to use, I find that for the most part I don't. I suppose for the chronically addicted blogger or news reader, it would look like a "good" way to get a fix and feed the addiction. If your goal is to post something the second it happens, or to read whatever you're interested in as it is published, maybe this all makes some kind of sense. But for me, I just find that I can't be that connected all the time.

It will be interesting - as always - to watch.

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Monday, 28 August 2006 03:59:00 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 25 August 2006

I'm a professional geek, and manager of many like me (only they're a lot smarter and more talented than I). But I have not been a computer jock all my life. Before this particular career I was a cop (or "police officer" if I want to be politically correct in my terminology). Before that, I was a professional photographer - a job I had for around eight years. I went to college to study photojournalism, and did sports and news photography, was published way-back-when in magazines and newspapers all over the place, etc. etc. etc. I was pretty good at it. My employers liked all the awards I won for them. I didn't care so much about the awards. But I felt good when I made pictures that people liked and remembered. Even more so when they seemed to matter or make a difference.

But while photography was fulfilling, starving to death was not so appealing. Besides, I'd always wanted to be a cop, and so I went from being a figurative ambulance chaser (a news photog) to being something loosely akin to an ambulance driver (except that police cars are a lot faster and you get to chase people in them - ambulance rig drivers don't do that too much, and then there's the whole catching bad guys thing, and you actually get paid to do all that - crazy). It put a notable few more bucks a month in the bank and was a great job, but it was also a bucket of stress and (eventually) painful experiences (I did a lot of child abuse investigations, and in the end it was me or the job -- I chose me).

Then came computer work. Pays a lot better and without bullets flying at me or my car. Not such a bad deal.

But I miss the creativity and fun of photography probably even more than I miss catching bad guys. So, after spending some time breaking out the old camera and lenses and messing around with them on vacation a week or so ago, I have a renewed hankerin' for doing it some more. Not as a job - I have a good job and career. More like as a passion - something more than a hobby. Just to get back into it something like the way I used to be. Of course, in order to do it right I'll have to do some investing. There's a ton of mediocre cameras and lenses out there. I like my Nikon D70 for a basic digital SLR camera, but in my photo world there's a need for something more if it's really to be taken seriously. And I'm a very serious guy. Zoom lenses? Screw that noise.

I'm still a bit of a digital photography nay-sayer. If I was an old dude, I'd probably be going off on something like "Why, back in my day, we didn't have no fancy digital cameras... All we had was cellulose film. And there we were, a bunch of chemical-burned, dry-skinned film developers, cleaning skin flakes out of the darkroom. But we liked it that way!"

Or something like that.

Anyhow, it's all digital now. But I do miss the darkroom. I was good at that. Hmmm, might need to set one up despite the ease of the digital photography world. Not instead of digital, just in addition to. For nostalgic reasons, sure, but also because as good as digital photography has become, it's still not quite up to the quality and subtlety of using a good quality film.

So what's my point? Well, nothing really. Heh. Except that I think I may start looking for some good, quality used Nikon lenses and another digital body. Then make some more trips off to The Middle of Nowhere. Anyone have a good clean AF300 f/2.8 Nikkor you wanna sell? Heh.

Saturday, 26 August 2006 04:32:22 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Thursday, 24 August 2006

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is found in northeastern Minnesota, along the border with Canada. They call Minnesota the Land of 10,000 lakes, and the many lakes that make up the BWCA are just some of those thousands. It's a beautiful place, and as far as I am concerned everyone should go at some point in time in their lives. Just let me know when you're going and make sure you all schedule it on the same day. I'll plan my trip at another time, so I can enjoy the peace and quiet. Heh.

Actually, the number of people are parties that can enter the wilderness area on any given day and from any given entry point is pretty heavily limited. The regulations are intended to protect the area and make sure it's maintained as a relatively pristine wilderness area, which is a good idea. Some of the regs seem a bit extreme, but whatever. On the Canadian side of the lakes, it's a lot more expensive and even more restrictive in terms of the regs.

Anyhow, my good friend Cory and I spent a lot of time all week in canoes and fishing. I was feeling (and smelling) pretty strong by the second half of the week. A large part of the time it was just the two of us in the canoe, and other times we were in the boat along with Cory's dad. It just depended on the day and who was in camp at the time. One evening Cory, his sister and I went out for the evening after eagles in a canoe. We earned our eagle chaser badges that night.

Cory paddling on Disappointment Lake

Evening light on the water

I caught this northern pike on our first day out

Sunset from camp

Friday, 25 August 2006 04:53:32 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Tuesday, 22 August 2006

One of the highlights of our canoe trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota was a family of bald eagles that frequented the area around our camp for a couple of days. Being a former sports photographer (a long story for another time), I still have a couple lenses that I use on a D70 digital body, and I was glad I brought them with me on the trip.

I have always been quite impressed with an amazed by bald eagles. Getting a chance to be so close in the wild (they came as close as about 40 feet to where I stood) was a lot of fun. I wonder if you can get paid to watch and photograph eagles for a living. I bet some people do.

For the photo geeks, these images are with a Nikkor 180/f2.8 lens on the Nikon D70 body. These particular images are not public domain. Click each one to view a slightly larger size. A number of people are emailing asking for copies, which is fine, just let me know.

Wednesday, 23 August 2006 02:42:22 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Canoes in the sunlight from the campsite I'm starting this post while on an airplane, once again. I'll finish it after I get back to Oregon. Heading home - as they say - from a place I've never been before. The last week was spent with one of my best friends in the wilderness and experiencing several of the most important things life has to offer: Nature, friends, and some stark realities of life.

As I travel home to my house and my job, I recognize I am leaving something incredibly important behind. My life has was fundamentally changed in the last week. I can feel it in my bones. It's subtle, but it's there. And I am not just saying those words, I mean it.

Here and in the next few posts are images I shot while on vacation with my friend Cory in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northern Minnesota for seven days last week. It's one of the most amazing places I have been to. We went with Cory's dad, Andy, who has been a guide there for many, many years. It was the experience of a lifetime. We fished, we threw hatchets, we ate well, we jumped off big rocks into cold, deep water, and we talked about lots of things. We saw nature and wilderness in the Land of ten thousand lakes. I know this is supposed to be a technical weblog, but for a short time I plan to document some of the things I saw and experienced. Not everything will go here - some of it is better kept to myself, I think.

John Denver put it this way (and yes, I know I am showing my age here). For the first time I think maybe I really understand what he meant...

He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Comin' home to a place he'd never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door

I'm not 27 years old anymore, that's for sure, but the idea is still the same. Sometimes we see and experience things that so effectively disrupt our ritual lives and the ruts we fall into that the best word to describe the experience is epiphany. We realize suddenly that everything in our little worlds is not quite what we thought, and that it's time to do some serious searching of the soul. In a nutshell, that's what the week was like for me.

Wednesday, 23 August 2006 02:21:39 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Just downloaded Windows Live Writer, a blog publishing tool that was released in Beta by Microsoft while I was on vacation. Omar was using it (without being able to say exactly what he was using) and said to keep an eye out, someone was releasing a sweet blog authoring tool, and this is it. I am writing this post after a very fast and automagical installation of the Live Writer software.

Windows Live Writer Screenshot

Wow, that was cool, pasting that image in the window... Finally, a blog authoring package that lets me copy an image to the clipboard without saving it and then lets me CTRL-V to paste it into the editing window, without having to save the image on the clipboard as a file - and drop-shadows to boot!

And, if all works well, I will be able to post this to my dasBlog weblog without using FTP for the images, using the metaweblog API enhancements in dasBlog.

There's lots of great little features. Check it out and try it out.

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Wednesday, 23 August 2006 01:16:25 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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It's pretty much a classic Murphyism that returning home from a terrific vacation took me through five airports instead of two, and that it would result in arriving a day later than I was supposed to. But despite all that, the vacation I just completed was the best week I have had in a long time, and it taught me a lot about many things.

Several things to post about out of the week and a half in Minnesota, coming shortly. Pictures and thoughts, for the most part.

Suffice it to say, I found I wanted to stay there - And for a few moments, I seriously thought I would do just that. Let the soul searching commence. More soon.

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Tuesday, 22 August 2006 22:40:26 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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You know you're HR staff is top-notch when they solve personnel behavior problems in creative ways that actually have impact. For example, what if this email appeared in your inbox?

"If you enjoyed the pizza you forgot you didn't bring in that was in a box in the first floor refrigerator and you want to thank the co-worker who actually did buy it, please contact me for the person's name."

Nice. Of course the offender didn't reveal themselves, but I think this helped solve the real problem, and people definitely took notice.

What creative HRisms have you seen over the years?

(P.S. - Stealing is wrong. Please don't steal. It's bad.)

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Tuesday, 22 August 2006 22:31:38 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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 Friday, 11 August 2006

Fly in and out of enough airports and you'll end up dazed and confused. After flying something like a zillion miles so far this year and transiting who knows how many gates at how many airports, combined with the fact that Arizona has a history of operating on it's own unique clock like a separatist nation... Well anyhow I got to Phoenix (at least I know where I am) and realized I have no idea what time it it here. I am also too lazy to get up and find a clock (a device you'd think you'd find in abundance, but which is actually desperately missing from almost every airport).

So, Google to the rescue. Did you know Google will tell you what time it is anywhere you like? Just ask:

What time is it in Phoenix, AZ?


There ya go - It's not just about keyword search!

Friday, 11 August 2006 19:13:03 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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