Author: Al Quickel

Stay in Your Lane

I got a nice piece of advice from a guy on Saturday morning.

I was headed out my no-gi class. The weather was great, warm and clear, so of course I rolled out on the bike. I was riding along the road just as happy as can be, and a guy pulls up beside me at a stop light, rolls down his window and says:

You keep riding the white line and you’re gonna get killed.

Say what?!

Excuse me but, you stay in your lane, I’ll stay in mine. Do you ride? I’d guess not.

What is the purpose of stopping to tell someone you’ve never met how to do what they are doing? Is it out of legitimate concern for the safety of a stranger? is it because you think you know how to do what I’m doing better than I do? Are you afraid that I might weave back and forth between lanes like a crazy person, endangering myself, you, and other drivers? OK, this last one might be a legit based on some of the squids I sometimes see riding around.

Has anyone out there ever taken a course in how to ride, say from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation or a similar group? Where do they tell you to ride? Why do they tell you to ride there? This site gives a great short description on why you should, most of the time, “ride the white line.” In reality, that’s exactly where I should be if you believe the experts.

It’s not just the official experts. I’ve talked to bikers that have been riding longer than I’ve been alive. “Ride high in the lane” Ive been told.

I “Ride the white line” for the same reason that I always ride with my high-beam on, even at night, and part of the

This woman almost hit another car just to cut me off, then slowed way down. Too bad my camera was mounted on the right side of the helmet. I I'd had it on top or the left I could have posted her on a wall-o'-shame somewhere. I assume she was texting, but she could have been checking the weather or playing Flappy Bird for all I know.

This woman almost hit another car just to get in front of me, then slowed way down. Too bad my camera was mounted on the right side of the helmet when I passed her. If I’d had it on top or the left I could have posted her face on a wall-o’-shame somewhere. I assume she was texting, but she could have been checking the weather or playing Flappy Bird for all I know. I do know that she has a phone in her hand and she’s staring intently and tapping on the screen as I pass.

reason I put some “high-flow” (read: loud) exhaust on my ride. I used to think that people in cages were blind and deaf, but the reality is that so many folks are simply piloting 4000+ pound unstoppable objects and simply can’t be bothered to pay attention to what’s going on outside of the car. There’s so many text messages to answer…

I try not to ride like a maniac most of the time, but even on my best day, people are not looking or listening. Anything I can do to try to get your attention, I’ll do it. “Riding the white line” makes me MORE visible to other people, and therefore SLIGHTLY less likely to get killed (unless that is the intent). Of all the things that happen on the road, “Riding the white line” is much less likely to get me killed than, say, that woman texting in the lane next to me.

To come full circle on the subject of Stay in Your Lane and the dual meaning I place on that statement for this post. I do believe that if you don’t ride, you also don’t get the privilege of telling me how to ride. I also believe that if you literally stay in your lane and I stay in mine, let the rest of us know when you are going to make a change, there shouldn’t be an issue.

Pay attention, stay in your lane, be safe, and rock on.

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Giving up

SOLD

I used to be a homebrewer.

I finally gave up the ghost and sold my brewery on Saturday, ending a 13 or so year run of brewing.

It all started in college. I was hanging around the beer snob set and quickly became one of them. As I the years rolled on, a few of the guys I hung around were making beer. It became a group effort. Sunday afternoons watching football and drinking homebrew. A LOT of homebrew. It was amazing!

Then I moved.

At graduation, our small but tight group split up and went our separate ways. Those guys are the main reason I occasionally feel like going back to Facebook, but that’s another deal altogether. Short story is that I all of a sudden found myself without homemade beer. It was also harder to find good microbrews where I landed. I took the leap and bought a kit of equipment, everything I’d need except a big boil pot and a heat source.

As I bounced around for a few years trying to settle in, I brewed.  I brewed in apartments and small rental houses. I brewed in whatever kitchen I had.  If you’ve ever been in a brewery, large or small, you know that smell, the smell of sugar and grain boiling, mingled with the flowery aroma of hops.  I like that smell. Many people, my wife included, do not. The mess and burning sugar smell of a boil-over in a small kitchen isn’t very pleasant either. My wife was very patient.

Through the course of about 13 years, homebrewing traveled the arc of mental bandwidth. Kind of like dating someone new…or like Facebook… it started out strong. I was fully committed. I brewed whenever budget would allow, producing 2 cases+ a month. I told myself it was cheaper than buying that much craft beer. If you get into advanced equipment, crazy ingredients, and the value of your time, it really isn’t financially lucrative. That didn’t matter. I bought more equipment. I brewed as often as I could. Then I eventually found a homebrew club.

I thought I brewed lot. Boy was I wrong. I was brewing 5 gallons every 3 weeks or so. I met guys that brewed 10+ gallons every week. They knew so much about beer. Some were actually in the commercial brewing industry. I learned volumes on yeast, hops, different grains, what this or that additive will do to your beer, the timing of hop additions for bitterness flavor and aromas, alcohol levels, cold versus warm fermentation, lagers ales, porters, stouts, IPAs, flavoring during fermentation, flavoring at packaging, beer styles of the world, the history of beer….so much. Probably my favorite part of brewing, aside from the drinking, was formulating recipes, taking into account all of the items I listed above, plus some chemistry and math that really appealed to me, considering I’m a nerd. I was fully engaged, so to speak. I even discussed opening a full-on commercial micro-brewery with a guy I worked with who also brewed. That plan didn’t come to fruition. I think I’m glad it didn’t now that I look back.

I am passionate about beer. At least I was. Passions sometimes wane. The down slope of the arc came a few years ago. I had a friend that I shared some homebrew with. He said he had been interested in brewing for a while and made the plunge, bought an equipment kit, and we started brewing together. We shared equipment, hung out, and made some great beer. He pushed me into making cider, something I’d wanted to do, but never did for reasons I don’t even know. A couple of years went by. We started alternating brewing sites. At some point I can’t even remember I stopped enjoying the process. It became something I did because I did it, not because I liked it anymore. Then, my friend moved. This was around Christmas a couple of years ago. My patient wife had given me a beer kit for Christmas that year. New Years day I brewed it by myself. That was the last time I rattled a kettle.

I wasn’t sure why I didn’t want the brew anymore. It could be that, with a wife and 3 kids, it’s hard to justify sitting around for 6 hours by myself watching sugar water boil. Or maybe the fact that I realized that I was drinking A LOT of beer, not just homebrew, and I wanted to cut back. Or possibly that it became, for whatever reason, just not fun anymore.

Whatever the reason may have been, I stopped. 13 years of accumulated equipment, cleaners, and even some small amounts of leftover ingredients (yuck) were left to gather dust. Every time I would go into my garage, I’d see it there. I kept thinking, “I need to brew again,” but it didn’t happen. I’ve made some changes to my lifestyle in that time too. If I started brewing again, in my mind I would have to revert back to the way I was before. Maybe not completely, but I’m not willing to risk losing the gains I’ve made to go back to something that I don’t completely enjoy any more.

Craigslist to the rescue

I bought some new exercise equipment. My son started lifting and we found a used bench and weights. After I brought it home, I discovered that a workbench, weight bench, motorcycle, hanging heavy bag and my wife’s SUV, along with lawn equipment and all the other sundry effects that can be found in a typical garage, don’t fit. My wife refused to give up the real estate that her car was taking up. Actually, she didn’t refuse, I was smart enough not to ask. The motorcycle…I think NOT. That baby is garage-kept. Something had to go.

There in the corner was…the brewery. My collection of equipment that had been, at one time, my favorite thing to do. My time was done. It had to go. I put it on Craigslist. It stayed there almost a week. Then I got a message from a couple of guys who were interested. They came out Saturday morning and picked it up. Two brothers who, as they talked the talk, were probably as advanced in brewing as I had ever been, and were looking for ways to beef up what they were already doing.

I’m glad that everything will be put to use. I actually did take care of my equipment, except for all those hydrometers that seemed to break at the worst time. The worst thing I could think of was trashing everything. These guys took everything. Even my collection of bottles. I thought I’d be sorry to see it all go. I really wasn’t.

It was done. The garage organized. Wife happy. I went on to head out of town that afternoon to watch a fighter friend of mine fight (and win) at the World Series of Fighting event in Tampa, and drive back home behind the wheel of the most expensive sports car I’ve ever had my butt cheeks in. In all, it was an incredibly satisfying day.

It doesn’t change the fact that I’m a quitter, but I’m OK with that. Sometimes you have to let go of one thing to make room for something better.

Rock on!

Time Management by Tomato

Maybe I’m a different breed
Maybe I’m not listening
So blame it on my A.D.D. baby
Awolnation – Sail

 

Like a fireman

Putting out fires all day.

Time. There’s never enough time, especially at work. You get bombarded with so many things that need to get done. How do you get to everything?

Seriously, how do you get to it. I didn’t intend to start out like an infomercial. As I’ve moved up the ladder at work, there is more and more I have to get to every day, and heaven help me if I let even the smallest task fall through the cracks. It wasn’t bad when I started working in an office. I asked my boss what to do, he told me and I did it. Repeat when that task was complete. Advancing and taking on more responsibility lead to more tasks, more projects, and more supervisors with demands.

To make things a little more complicated, I probably have adult A.D.D., though I’ve never been formally diagnosed. I show most of the signs.

I started researching time management (should that be quoted?) techniques years ago. My firm sent me to a seminar on time management. Schedule 45 minute hours to leave yourself 15 minutes per hour to take care of anything unexpected. What about when the entire day is one unexpected flare-up after another?

The common theme for many of the programs I’ve looked at is to keep a list of stuff to do. Some say a To-Do Today list, others a master list of EVERYTHING you have to get done. I borrowed an audio seminar from a friend. It had a few ideas in it, such as tracking what you do and categorizing in 15 minute blocks. Unfortunately there is no category on the time log for keeping the time log up to date. The same borrowed seminar discussed a way of categorizing tasks on urgency and importance. This actually worked for me because I can handle just about anything that is thrown my way, but when I have too many choices of what to do, I freeze trying to decide what to do next.

I tried Getting Things Done. This seems like it could be a great system, if you have the time to implement it properly. I didn’t. I managed to clear my desk once, and I tried to set up the multiple lists. I did NOT, as David Allen recommends, begin the process without interruptions. I am not to the level of management where I can ignore everything for a day or more (I’m not sure that level actually exists), and I didn’t have the commitment to go in to the office on the weekend. An 80 mile round trip 5 days a week is more than enough for me thank you very much. There were some tidbits that I took from that program, such as keeping an agenda for the next time you meet with someone informally, and how to effectively process the Inbox.

A few other random tips I’ve collected (and at least attempt to use) include:

  • Only answer voice mail/email at specific times, once or twice a day. This works to a point, but I’ve found that if I put off responding that one of several things happens next-
    • I get a call asking why I haven’t responded to an email or vice-versa in a time frame that the sender deems appropriate.
    • My supervisor gets a call or office visit from said sender asking why I haven’t responded.
    • I get accused of being unresponsive or ignoring said sender.
      • All of these can happen in an hour or two.
  • Use the delay send feature in Outlook (and possibly other mail software). This way you can respond to email immediately, but avoid being trapped in an infinite game of email ping-pong that some people like to play that usually ends after 8 hours with you thinking “Where did the day go and did I actually accomplish anything?” The answer is typically no.
    • Downsides to this are the same as the twice-a-day method.
  • Don’t answer your phone. Always let it go to voice mail.
    • This is a minefield if I’ve ever heard one. If you’re in business where you rely on someone else requiring your services in exchange for compensation, you should probably pick up the phone most of the time if you want to remain employed. I try to pick up with a few exceptions.
      • Someone’s in my office. Ever been talking to someone who always answers the phone and goes into an unrelated conversation while you’re sitting there looking around. I find that rude and annoying, and try never to do that. Going back to my self diagnosed A.D.D., all this does is cause to forget what I’m talking about in both conversations.
      • I’m in the middle of something that takes concentration. If I’m on a time crunch trying to finish something and I can’t afford the distraction, I’ll ignore the ring. Sometimes I turn the ringer to silent or set calls to go straight to voice mail, but I usually forget to reset to normal for a while. This applies for things that will take a half hour or so. Anything more in depth than that usually defaults to “answer mode”.

The title of this post is a reference to something I read that made me start thinking about this time and attention management struggle that I deal with every day. It’s called The Pomodoro Technique. It essentially has you work on something for set periods of time, taking short breaks at set intervals. I’m not sure this would work too well for me. It’s bad enough trying to get my concentration back after answering a phone call or checking on the email ding. Taking a scheduled stop seems like it would derail my day completely.

So, anyone out there have any tips on how to “manage” time, attention, focus, etc.?

Rock on!

Getting (and Staying) Technical

I just posted this to my other blog. I’ve added some additional asides and commentary here. I wanted to make a couple of personal points here that I don’t feel should be included in my work-related blog:

SPAR Point Group contributor Sam Billingsley posted an article on remaining technical at the executive level. While I’m not exactly at that 30,000 foot level of the corporate strata, I do have to deal with the struggle between being a “manager” and remaining technical.

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A couple of years ago, my firm decided to take the plunge and start offering Laser Scanning. I was (and remain) a Surveying and Mapping Project Manager. I’ve also always been a very hands-on technical guy. Essentially, if it involved a new piece of equipment or software, I could usually dig in and figure out how to not only use whatever it was, but be up and productive quickly. When the “We should REALLY be offering scanning services” decision was made, I was all over it.

I often put quotes around the various forms of manage (manage, manager, management, etc.) This is due to the fact that this word and its various forms get thrown around so much that they have lost all real meaning to me.

A few years ago, when I moved into more of a “management” role as opposed to a technical role, I was told that I would need to “manage” more and be less hands-on. I have no problem training someone to do what I do. This was the case with Laser Scanning. I was told within a couple of months after completing our first significant project that I needed to train someone on the process.

This distinction between being a “manager” and a “technician” has been presented to me several times. Usually this happens in that icon of the corporate world, The Annual Review. I’ve been told a number of times that I need to choose which direction I’m going to go. Why? This by the same folks who lament the rift between “office” and “field” staff.

Here’s the problem with that. We only have one model of scanner, we only use a couple of specific softwares to produce deliverables from point clouds, and I’ve been THE office guy for over a year now…

I’m STILL learning how to use this stuff!!!

I’m a Professional Surveyor and Mapper licensed in the State of Florida. Surveying is a professional field. With that out of the way, we are also a very technical field. Civil engineers that I work with sometimes say “Surveyors get all the cool toys.” Surveying is a profession, but there is a major technical element to this profession.

How can I, or any other young professional (yes, I still consider myself young) hope to “manage” a technical field without staying technical? If I hand over everything I’ve learned and then take a step back, how do I know what I’m talking about in a year or two? Do I have competent staff that I trust to dig in and learn what I know at least as well as I know it? Absolutely! But, how do I train more people, or offer troubleshooting help when someone is stuck, or figure out a tweak in the software that allows me to create a much more detailed ground surface model in less time than it took me two weeks ago (true story), if I “manage” from a safe distance?

…Technically speaking.

Rock on!

What can you do?

Got a commitment tomorrow you cant afford to miss? People counting on you to come through?

Get some sleep!!

sleep

Not much more to say on that subject.

Maybe have a drink, but not too many. More than 1 or 2 and sleep quality really suffers. If you want to be fully-functional for whatever you are doing tomorrow don’t try to sleep on a bender. It sucks to show up to a presentation that you’ve been preparing for for weeks with puffy bloodshot eyes. Not a good impression.

Watch a little TV to chill out. No news. That’ll stress you out more and ruin your sleep too.

Eat something.There’s no point in sleeping hungry. On the flip-side, take it easy on the late-night beans and boiled cabbage if you’re running an early morning 5K, just to be safe.

Ultimately, if you have a routine, assuming it involves a decent amount of sleep (unlike mine), keep with it. Screwing with your routine tonight will add stress to tomorrow.

I have to get up early (for me) tomorrow. Green tea and a little UFC tonight to relax. May sound like an odd combination, but it works for me. In a few minutes I’ll attempt to follow my own advice.

Nostalgia

Image credit-http://mediacontender.com

I was leaving the gym this morning. I was messing with the radio trying to find something that wasn’t too “meh” when I noticed the face said DISC. Curiosity made me check what was in there. It was Metallica …and Justice for All. It’s kind of funny, but that was the first CD I ever bought when I was a kid. (you always remember your first, right?) What can I say. I was a metalhead dirtbag when I was a kid, I’m a biker now. Some might say that’s a natural progression. Don’t judge yo.



Back to the story, several years ago, my oldest got into my CDs and started listening to what was there. He, for some reason, became a fan of 80’s/90’s rock, especially Metallica. I’m not sure if he “corrupted” his younger brother, or if #2 son was just emulating big brother, but he became hooked too, and even more so. They both now have hard drives and ipods full of the music I listened to when I was their age. Did you know there is a Metallica edition of Guitar Hero? If you like any band, have someone play hours of their songs on Guitar Hero. It works kind of like Clockwork Orange.

I’m not one to dwell on the past, and there are precious few things from high school that I would ever reminisce on voluntarily. Sitting in that parking lot 2000 miles from where I grew up I realized that even after college several, moves and jobs, a family and more years than I want to share, some things go full circle. I still own a 12 year old Dodge (again, don’t judge yo), though the other one was a heap when I bought it, and this one still runs like a beast.

So as I’m blasting down the highway with the windows down and Metallica blaring from the speakers, I remembered a small sliver of my former life that made me smile a little. I even took the long way home.

Rock on.

An open letter to…

To whatever cold, flu, sinusitis, pharyngitis, or other-itus that is trying to dig it’s claws in the back of my throat,

I regret to inform you that I am very busy this week and could not possibly make time for your shenanigans. I appreciate your giving me several days of apparent warning that you are coming, but I can’t possibly take time away from work this week or this weekend to entertain you. I can pencil you in for next Monday afternoon, but I make no promises. Otherwise I’ll continue with triple my normal dose of vitamin C in hopes that you will move on and find someone who had more time to deal with you.

Thank you for understanding. Nothing personal.

NomaderWhat

Wish You Were Here

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We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year… – Pink Floyd

I just spent a few days diving in Key Largo. I was a late addition to the group. When I was asked if I would possibly want to go…ABSOLUTELY! It took about 10 minutes after I came home to realize I didn’t miss listening to the boys play Guitar Hero. I woke up this morning and I DID miss the Keys. There’s something about waking up able to walk 100 feet and fall in the ocean. It’s a kind of withdrawal I go through.

Why do I volunteer to chaperone long field trips, sometimes for kids that I know, but aren’t mine? Why did a motorcycle ride from Orlando to Seattle and back sound like a good idea? Why spend 2 weeks wandering around Central America for no better reason than “Why not?” What’s the alternative? Stay home. Go to work. Grow old with no stories to tell. A wise man told me on one of my excursions…

You can sit around and let your arteries harden, or you can go DO something.

…Like swim with sharks.

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So go do something, if for no better reason than you’ll have better stories to tell your grand-kids.

Rock on.

Pardon the Introduction

What am I doing here?

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I realized that I haven’t done an intro post for this blog. I have an about page, but not the official “First post” that I’ve been told every blog should have. So…Hi!

Everyone eventually has to think about why we’re here. No, not Why We’re Here, but why we’re blogging. My journey started a few months ago. I was prompted to start a blog on a new service line at work. You can check that one out here. I also started a personal blog at the same time (that would be this one) essentially to practice. I’ve found that I gravitate to this one more often than my more technical one. Not sure if that is good or not. (more…)