My Secret Advantage inTechnology

Before the Internet spoiled us all with the promise of limitless information available at our fingertips, I had a secret advantage over other techies that allowed me to exhibit expertise in a wide range of technical subjects…  I had a huge library of technical books… and I am a good reader.  So whenever I was presented with a  question about virtually anything, I could say “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you with the answer”.  And if I didn’t know the answer off-hand, I could look it up in one of the books in my library.  And if the answer wasn’t in any of the books in my library, I could zip down to the bookstore and find a book that had the answer.

The stroke has wiped out my technical library and I have become dependent on websites for learning about things I don’t know yet.   The problem is that websites generally focus on sharing what someone knows, rather than fully covering a topic.  As a result, the coverage of topics on websites is much more uneven and spotty than in books.

So how does someone create their own “secret advantage” ?  It’s very simple actually – just invest in a library of books that cover the subjects you’re interested in.  But the question is how to do it without breaking the bank.  In building my technical library, I became skilled at finding books that covered the areas of topics that I was interested in. I paid attention to which publishers published useful books and which publishers didn’t.  I learned how to identify how a book covers a topic – how much of the topic the book covers and how detailed.  Also how advanced (or not) the discussion was which usually identified how much understanding of the topic the reader was expected to already have under their belt.  While I am willing to invest in building a library, I don’t want to waste time and money (and space) on books that aren’t useful.

The idea is to find the best (most useful) book on a subject.  Beyond knowing publishers and writers, you have to sit down and read the book to see how well it covers the subject. Since it’s impractical to sit in a bookstore and read a whole book, I’ve developed a method of evaluating a book based on seeing how well it answers a question that I already have.  This is a good place to start because if a book answers one of my questions, it’s likely to also answer others.  I can also evaluate how accurate their answer is and how well they write.  Well, at least how well I understand what they write.

It would be really, really helpful if the on-line book retailers had a way to do this kind of evaluation over the net.

I need to explore the web for resources that would help me evaluate books.  The book sample features on amazon and barnesandnoble.com didn’t include enough of the books I looked at to answer my questions, which was disappointing.

If you know of an on-line resource that could help find and/or evaluate technical books, please share it with all of us in a comment to this article.

Until there is a way to find and evaluate technical books on-line, I’ll keep going to local bookstores where I can get books in my hands to evaluate how well they match my needs so that once again my technical library is a (not so) secret advantage for me.

TED (ted.com)

TED (ted.com) is utube for the public broadcasting set. It’s amazing the breadth and depth of the presentations available on ted.com.  Originally, you needed to attend a TED conference to listen to these incredible speakers, but now you can just point your browser at ted.com and search for a topic, a speaker or specific presentation on hundreds of topics.

I have never been disappointed in a presentation.  Some topics may not have kept my interest, but the speakers and presentations have always been worth watching.  Whether you’re just looking for a quick brain break, to learn more about a topic or just to be inspired, you can find it on TED.com.

ted.com has been around for quite a while and I’ve been a fan for a long time.  Since the stroke, I’ve visited ted.com many times when I felt down and needed inspiration.  My favorite speaker is Aimee Mullins, who, despite having no shins, became a collegiate caliber sprinter and competed at the paralympics against able-legged competitors.  Since then, she has worked as a model and inspirational speaker.

Aimee has two presentations on TED, the first focuses on her experiences running and the prosthetics that she uses.  The other presentation discusses how society treats people with disabilities and how that treatment can cause the disabled to essentially give up, accept society’s expectation and not even try to accomplish anything.

So whether you need inspiration, entertainment or education, you can find it on TED.

Tame Your Email Inbox

Configure your email client to automatically move messages that aren’t urgent such as sales receipts, automated action notices and discussion group messages to folders so they can be dealt with in the appropriate time-frame.

Tune your spam filters to make sure they are getting rid of as much spam as possible.

Each day, go through your inbox from top to bottom and for each message:

  1. If you can deal with the message in 3 minutes or less, open the message and deal with it.
  2. If it will take longer than 3 minutes to deal with the message, move it to a “pending” folder.
  3. If you need something or someone before you can completely deal with the message, move it to a “pending” folder.
  4. Once done with a message, delete or move it to an archive folder.

And what to do when it gets out of control…

Once again, your focus is to re-establish control over the size of your inbox so you can manage it going forward:

  1. Move all the messages from your inbox to a new folder.  I usually name it something like “reset” followed by the date so I instantly know when my inbox was cleared.
  2. Send an email to all of the senders of emails still in your inbox, if you can actually figure out who they are, to warn them that your inbox has overflowed and if they haven’t gotten a response by now, it’s not likely they will get one.
  3. Resume your daily regimen of going through your inbox from top to bottom and leaving it clean.
  4. If/when you have time, work on your “reset” folder like you do your inbox.  If a message still has value, move it to the “pending” folder or an archive folder. Otherwise, delete it.

We Need A Liberty Party!

So, how do we do it?  Certainly not by dreaming about what if we had a utopia, where the system always worked and we didn’t have to worry  about terrorists and natural disasters and Americans trying to cheat the system for their own gain without caring how they could wreck the system for everyone.  I would start by building an organization that promoted libertarian principles and educating the public on what they mean to us.  That would give libertarians something that they could identify with without being embarrassed.

Step-by-Step  How To Form a Liberty Party

If you’ve gotten this far, I figure that you’re interested enough to consider what it would take to create a libertarian party that libertarians could be proud of.  For the moment, let’s assume that there’s enough interest to support a real libertarian political party…

  • First, we need to decide on a platform and the strategy that a core of party founders will use to get the party up and running.
  • Publicize the party platform and educate the public on what libertarian principles mean to them.  Give libertarians a group they would be proud to identify with.
  • Lobby for libertarian issues and support candidates with libertarian positions.
  • Build a grass-roots organization that can get Liberty Party candidates elected to local offices to build their resumes to qualify for higher offices. Build partnerships with other political organizations and lobbying groups to promote libertarian issues.
  • When we have a presidential candidate that could win enough votes to be a credible alternative to the Democratic and Republican candidates, nominate a Liberty Party candidate for US President.

At that point we should have a viable Liberty Party that can influence debate on national issues and candidates for elective office at all levels.

 

How I’m Going To Grow My Blog To 1,000 Visitors Per Week (Part 1)

This is the first of several articles describing how I intend to grow my blog to one thousand visitors per week.  Today, I’m focusing on preparations that I need to do before jumping in and doing stuff to grow the blog.

What’s clear to me from the visible disruptions that I’ve had already with the blog is that I need to get my own act together.  Whether it’s publishing a blog or any other on-going activity, if I don’t have things together, I will have difficulty giving the time and attention to it necessary for success.

So, the first thing I have to do is get my act together, at least enough to be productive most days and not have many melt-downs that just overwhelm me to the extent that I lose a whole day or more.

Next, I have to adjust my writing process (and my expectations) to fit my posting schedule.  Part of that is finally treating the blog as a business and not a hobby.  I need to focus on writing better and writing faster and focusing on the writing enough to get it done in a timely manner so that it doesn’t overflow and disrupt the rest of my life.

Before jumping in and working on growing the blog, I need to come up with a plan of what, how and when I’m going to do what and how I’m going to  evaluate the results.

The first part of my plan is to get my personal act together, get my article writing nailed and outline the rest of the general plan.  The next part of this series will discuss the general plan and the specifics of getting my personal act together and the writing process nailed.

A Positive Attitude is a Healthy Attitude

At my annual checkup this week, my eye doctor was very impressed with my continued recovery from the stroke.  These kinds of appointments are fun for me because I exceed their expectations and they see more apparent progress than I do because they only see it a few times a year where I see it every day.

I respect Dr Smith a lot – she is very observant and pays attention to everything that can affect my health.  While I may not adopt all of her suggestions, I do appreciate her pointing them out and I seriously consider how to incorporate them into my life.

Dr Smith observed my positive attitude at my checkup (which wasn’t surprising given the praise I was receiving) and pointed out how important a positive attitude was to recovering from any serious trauma in life.  I was surprised that Dr Smith considered my stroke recovery an uncommon success story.  I don’t think that I’ve done anything unusual or heroic.  I’ve just remained determined to regain as much of my self-sufficiency as possible.  My expectation is that I will eventually be a contributing member of society again, just like everyone else.

November Fitness Update

This is just a quick update on where I am at with my fitness program.  I don’t feel like I am fully underway with it.  There are signs that I need to more seriously pursue a fitness program and a few that I’m starting to make progress.

Under the heading of “Signs that I Need to Get Serious About Fitness”, Joe and others have observed that I’ve gained weight.  Kathy is not overly concerned – I think that she shares my memory of losing all that weight in the hospital.  Dr Smith, my eye doctor, at my annual checkup was worried about my blood pressure and suggested that it would be good to lose some weight.  I was going to replace my snacking on m&m’s with chex mix and pringles but she suggested that I cut down on salt.  🙁

More importantly, my experience at the reunion and haircut last Saturday demonstrate that I need to improve my walking endurance.  I was so wiped out at the end of the reunion that I almost stumbled down the stairs leaving and was still tired the next day.  Tiring out returning from Domenico’s indicates that walking to and from the bus stop might still be beyond me and I need to train more before attempting to use the regular bus.  On the positive side, I had a good session walking intervals around the court Tuesday.  If I can do 3 sessions of intervals each week, I should be ready to try the regular bus for my next haircut.

On a less important note:  I need to get a picture showing my November fitness.  I wanted to take it today but I was distracted and also forgot that Julia was at her cousin’s house until bed-time.  Hopefully Thursday…

5 Signs You Are Going to the Reunion for the Wrong Reason

  • You print new business cards just for the reunion so that other attendees will notice that you have a fancy job title.
  • You spent your rent money to buy a smoking hot dress to attract the attention of your old boyfriend, crush – or the whole football team.
  • You spent your mortgage payment on a new watch or other bling to demonstrate how much “disposable” income you have to throw away on trinkets.
  • You didn’t invite your spouse along because you didn’t want anyone to get the idea that you weren’t available.

It’s normal to want to make a good impression but when that desire becomes so important that you lose your perspective and damage your finances or your family, you need to get a grip and return to reality.

Reunions are tinderboxes for your emotions – It’s where a bunch of people who you shared aa significant experience with are gathered together all in one place.  So you have strong ties to these people.  They also represent “where” you came from so that also evokes strong feelings.  On top of that, time has softened your memories so they appear much better than the people you’re faced with today.

I went to my recent reunion to show people that I wasn’t dead.  I had a stroke 3 years ago and if I didn’t show up at the reunion, the rumor mill would’ve leaped to the conclusion that  I was dead or dying.  I get enough pity because of the stroke, I don’t need people consoling my family after my supposed tragic end.

I don’t know if going to a reunion to show you’re not dead is a good reason or bad.  But it did get my butt in gear and got me to the reunion.  And once there, I had a good time, heard some interesting personal stories, saw some people who face much more difficult physical challenges than what I have to put up, honored some worthy teachers, reconnected with old friends and proved to myself that I can handle these sorts of social events (barely.)

Independent Rehab

Sooner or later, you will be “discharged” from your formal outpatient rehab, either because your insurance has run out or your therapists’ interest has.  At that point, you have to decide what you’re going to do:  live with your deficits as they are or find a way to get more rehab.

Once you’ve been discharged from outpatient rehab, you’ll need to go back through the justification process with your doctors and insurance.  Although I have a fairly generous insurance plan, I have still found that it works better if you present a specific deficit that you want to improve and a plan that needs only 3-6 therapist sessions to develop the rehab plan, check on progress mid-way and evaluate the results.

With most of the work being done by you on your own, you need to be prepared to arrange any equipment or materials necessary and disciplined to carry out the exercises on the schedule you devised with your therapist.

When I created rehab programs that included activities that were part of my regular life, or directly enabled stuff that I wanted to be doing, those efforts were more successful.  For example, when I was working on being able to walk more than just from one end of the house to the other, I used my wife’s trips to the library as exercises where I focused on extending my stamina to go further.   To help get back to driving, I will be riding a tandem bike with a friend.  This will increase my stamina so that I’ll be more alert when driving and give me practice with the kinds of thinking that driving requires.

I have had good luck with this approach in a couple of different areas.  If you create your own independent rehab program, please let me know how it works for you.

Self-Reliance Versus Accepting Help

Ever since I was eight, I was self-reliant.  My mother was a single mother and an alcoholic, which pretty much ensured that was how I would turn out… I realized recently that one of the reasons that I have trouble asking for and accepting help is that I learned at an early age that the only person that I could rely on was myself.  And ever since then, I was always there when I needed me.

One of the lessons from the stroke was that I needed to learn how to ask for help, and how to accept it when offered.  I’m not sure that I’ve fully learned that lesson yet but at my reunion tonight, I let Flora help me fill my dinner plate at the buffet and didn’t object when Tom helped get my coat off and get me arranged in my chair at the table.

It doesn’t sound like much but it seemed much more natural tonight than before.  Maybe I am learning my lesson.  🙂