My Third Decade….Where Did it Go?

I can’t believe that the second decade of the 2000s is over. 2020 will also see the end of my third decade on this planet. A lot has happened over these past 10 years. Let’s see I have, in no particular order:

  • Bought a house
  • My child was diagnosed with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Celebrated a milestone wedding anniversary
  • Left a job I have had since college
  • I took a job working remotely and traveling to Austin Texas on a regular basis, where I learned so much about software engineering
  • I left that job worked for a great company where I did much of my professional growth and tried to institute change on a large scale
  • Took a new job, that I wasn’t looking for, but offered me interesting problems, great people, and the gift of time

I have made great friends. Some of whom have become family and others who have become trusted advisors.

My wife and I have overcome many challenges both individually and as a couple. Some of those have been health-related, others have been financial, and yet others have been about getting our child what he needed. But we tackled them together.

But I have also made mistakes. I have experienced failure. I am sure I have hurt those I care about. I have seen friends, colleagues, and family members die. Some of old-age, some of health issues, and some rather tragically.

This past decade has seen it’s fair share of both good and bad, but when I think back over the last 10 years, my mind tends to go to growth. This decade has seen both personal and professional growth for both my wife and I. I have tried written some technical talks. I tried my hand at management. I learned quite a bit about software development. I learned about raising a child with Autism.

I also let a chapter of my life close. I have been involved in EMS in some way, shape, or form since 1995. However, towards the end of this decade, I finally let my EMT expire. It wasn’t intentional, but none the less, I have let that chapter of my life go. But that has made time for other pursuits. But those skills don’t go away, and I found myself tapping into them towards the end of 2019 to take care of a friend, who found themselves injured and in need of assistance for most of the last three months of the year.

While this past decade has definitely had it’s ups and downs, I think on balance it was definitely a good decade. I am looking forward to what my fourth decade on this planet will present me. While I am hoping for a bit more stability, I am sure the universe will keep me on my toes!

I wish all of my friends and family an excellent decade ahead. I hope you all find growth, love, and happiness in this coming decade.

A Look Back at 2019

Well, here we are. We have watched the old year pass, and saw a new year ushered in. I won’t say that 2019 was a bad year. But it did offer me some tremendous challenges. I handled some of those challenges well. Others I failed miserably at.

2019 saw me end a failed attempt at a pivot to a management position. It saw me leave a job I loved with people loved and enjoyed working with. It saw me start a new job doing interesting work, solving interesting problems, being introduced to new, smart people. The job change also provided me with a precious commodity, time. As it turns out that time would come in handy.

2019 also saw the loss of a few more people, far too young. But it also found me forging and strengthening relationships with new friends and colleagues. The end of the year had me accessing and using skills I haven’t tapped since my EMS days.

I can’t say what the new year will bring. If I could I would be a very rich person. My goals for the new year including continuing my quest to be a bit healthier, getting back into my love of music, and taking more time to stop and “enjoy the view”.

When I think back to all of my professional accomplishments, personal successes, and failures this year, I am reminded of the chorus of a song called Orpheus. The lyrics are:

“Don’t stop trying to find me here amidst the chaos
Though I know it’s blinding there’s a way out
Say out loud, we will not give up on love now
No fear, don’t you turn like Orpheus, just stay here
Hold me in the dark and when the day appears
We’ll say we did not give up on love today”

When I think about whether 2019 was a success, I keeping coming back to this line from the second verse of the same song:

“But that’s enough, if the bottom drops out
I hope my love was someone else’s solid ground”

I think if my presence in someone else’s life provided them with the solid ground they needed to keep going, then I did my job this past year. History can decide how I score on that item, but I think overall I did a pretty good job.

Happy New Year to all my friends and family both far and near. I wish you joy, happiness, success, and love for 2020.

A Tablet Review

So I have been getting questions from friends, who are looking for tablet recommendations, on what to buy. So on Sunday, I am taking a friend to Best Buy to compare the following tablets:

  • Apple iPad
  • Amazon Kindle Fire
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Samsung Galaxy

The idea being what is best for him. My hope is to come up with a detailed review of the likes and dislikes about each device, but I still have some general advice.

The first question I ask, is if you already have a computer and/or smart phone. Based on what you already own here is what I recommend:

  • If you have a iPhone and PC or Mac, then the answer is pretty easy go iPad. Why? You can already use the apps you have purchased for your phone. So you don’t have to re-buy everything.
  • If you have an Android Phone and Mac or PC, then you have quite a few choices. I would recommend going Android tablet. There you have quite a few options, the best known being the Kindle Fire and the Samsung Galaxy Tablet.
  • If you have a Windows Phone, I would recommend a Windows Tablet.

Hopefully after Sunday, I will be able to provide a bit more insight after I have had a chance to review a couple of different types of Android tablets and I can make an specific Android tablet recommendation.

Wish me luck!

Textbook Acknowledgments…

So my name found it’s way into a textbook acknowledgments sections. A colleague of mine at CCAC Professor Eileen Wrigley and her daughter Dr. Tebring Daly wrote a textbook under a National Science Foundation Grant. Dr. Daly and Professor Wrigley teach most of their classes online. I was one of a few people to adapt the book’s material for use in a face-to-face class setting, and to provide some feedback on how it worked and what changes needed made. It has now been published and will be available for purchase in time for the Fall 2013 Semester to start. I was kind of proud to be mentioned, especially since I don’t think I contributed that much.

I was able to get an early look at the PDF version of the book and I managed to grab a pic of the acknowledgements section:

Textbook Acknowledgement Image

If you are in the market for a good Java Programming Textbook then I highly recommend this book. It is called Learning Java Through Alice by Eileen Wrigley and Dr. Tebring Daly. I will post links for purchasing the book as soon as they are available.

Keeping Things On Task

This evening, as I was getting ready to go to bed, an interesting item popped up in my Facebook feed. It was for David Seah’s US Compact Academic Calendar. This caught my attentions because I am about to start planning for my upcoming semester. As you may know I teach two classes at CCAC South Campus, and the Fall Semester will soon be upon us, and I will be updating my course outlines and assignments soon. But that isn’t the reason I am writing this post.

I have recently begun using some of David Seah’s productivity tools. This tools have really helped me keep things together. Here is my issue, I have ADHD, and I take medication for it. But if I don’t have something physical in front of me, it gets easy to forget what I need to do. I started a few months ago with David’s Task Project Tracker. This handy-dandy little worksheet allows me to document all of my major tasks (and even sub tasks) for a project and fill in the dots as you work towards completion. As I have been asked to track my hours for a few projects, I started coupling this with his Task Order Up slips. These slips have you write a deliverable or major task on the top and give you a place to list all of the sub tasks or steps and lets you log your total time for the slip and your time for each individual item. You can add project codes and mark if the items is overhead or billable. I use these slips for my day-to-day task management and reminders (and of course billing and time tracking), then I use the Task Project Tracker when I go to meetings to report on progress. These two items have really helped me keep my eye on what needs done.

Finally, at work, we are using a system to help document our time working creating new stuff (for research and development tax credits) vs. support and bug fixes. So while the task order up slips help me keep track of my coding time. I also do support and help customers with technical implementations (I help the customers IT staff install and configure some of our software), which means I don’t get set my schedule. I can’t count on having a block of time to do my work uninterrupted. That is where the Emergent Task Planner comes in. It allows me to list my goals for the day. Gives me a break down of the day’s schedule and helps me of how I spent my time during the day. This is really important when I am constantly being interrupted by computer problems, server problems, customers in need of assistance, and of course pre-scheduled meetings. So I list three or four things I have to accomplish in the day, then I start. I keep track of time spend on email, support, customer calls, and tasks. I loved this thing so much I order two tablets from Amazon.

Look, for all of my love of technology, electronic task management solutions just don’t work for me. I have to see it and touch it and have it in my face all the time so I don’t forget it. These are probably the best paper solutions I have come a crossed in my 10 years of working in software development. They may not be for everybody. But, they work for me. Check them out, they may work for you.

Note: I wasn’t paid to write this. I just love these tools. And I like to share what I love, in the hopes that it may help someone else.