Personal Update

I wanted to take some time to update everyone on what has been keeping me too busy to post as regularly as I (and I am sure you) would like.
I have been taking some action to try to keep people up to date with what is going on with me. One of these is a redesign of my profile page. It is now more of a status page. I became sort of fascinated with the idea of personal status pages after a post on 43 Folders regarding them. Basically the idea is to have a page that it very frequently updated with your status on a number of items. For instance, what is my level of business and what projects I am working on. I basically drew ideas from several examples of them that I found and incorporated it for my own use. I have been updating this page very frequently as it is easier than a full post such as this and conveys enough information to keep folks up to date. It also still does include a short “profile” which is done as a personal summation of my life in del.icio.us style tags.
Bethany and I just returned from a wonderful trip to New York City. I love NYC and being there for the first time with Bethany made me love it even more. Even though it was only two and a half usable days we, as you may imagine, managed to pack a lot in.
The first night we had some unbelievably good sushi at Bar Masa. We did not have much because, well, we are poor but what we had was great. We then kind of stumbled upon a free concert at the Samsung Experience featuring the work of a young award winning composer who was on hand to introduce the pieces. We did not stay for the whole thing as we were still pretty hungry but it was long enough to drink the free glass of white wine and get a sense of the work. We then headed down to Soho to a wine bar our friend Bruce recommended to us called Ino. It was well worth the trip. We ordered an excellent half bottle of Borello and had some bruchetta and an excellent chef’s selection platter of panini sandwiches. All for a very decent price. Then it was off to meet up with friends for drinks in the bar at the Marriott Marquis which overlooks the neon circus that is Times Square. Not a bad way to start off a trip.
The following day was spent mostly with Bethany at work (she was out there as part of her work for Nautilus Music Theater) after breakfast at Zabars. I did take some time out for a little bit to walk around and window shop. We had dinner that night at Tao, which was really hip and cool, and followed that up with a trip back down to Soho to see if Ino was crowded. It was, so we went to Cafe Henri which was a couple of doors down and had a beer and got some wedding planning discussion taken care of… Oh, I did not mention that we were trying to burn up some time as the lock on the door of the apartment we were staying in decided to break so we were locked out until Bruce, who’s apartment it was, got off work to help us figure out what to do. The solution was calling a locksmith to drill out the lock for a price we were not quite prepared to pay but what could we do?
Undaunted by this misfortune, we soldiered on Saturday morning with a trip back to Soho (we like it there) for brunch with friends at Kittichai. Beautiful restaurant and good food. After that, we made a mad dash to Lincoln Center in order to catch “The Light in the Piazza“. It was a brilliant show with the best lighting design I have ever seen and astonishingly good performances. The songs are still stuck in my head. We were going to take a carriage ride in Central Park following that but it was way too cold and windy. Therefore, considering the weather and being we had basically been voluntarily mugged by the locksmith the night before we decided a more comforting and inexpensive dinner option was best. This was well served by Homer’s Malt Shop. Bethany had the fried macaroni and cheese, I had a patty melt and we split a malt. Very yummy. We had every intention of going back to the apartment to warm up and then go out later but we were so exhausted by this point that we simply had a bottle wine and went to bed.
A special place is always made even more so by the people you share it with. It was so nice to spend time in one of my favorite places on earth having so many new experiences with the woman who I think is the coolest person on the planet.
In other news, wedding plans are moving along. More slowly than I think either of us would prefer but they are moving. A search for a place for both the ceremony and reception have proved tougher than I think either of us assumed it would be. We have two front runners for the reception in mind at least. We will be trying to get the paper for the invitations this upcoming weekend and I have a wedding web page in the works for this site that will try to keep everyone up to date on the goings on.
I should expand a little bit on the details on the wedding and reception itself. We are planning on having the wedding on the night of June 15th in a small, intimate, candlelit ceremony with our family. We want the wedding to be a celebration of the joining of not only Bethany and I but also of our families.
We want the reception, on June 17th, to not only be a celebration of us but a celebration of love itself. Love of each other, love of our families and love of our friends. We want as many of our loved ones as possible to be there and to help us throw the party that such a celebration deserves. It will have cool music, good munchies, dancing and drinks. It will be a celebration of the people we love and that love us. It will be casual, fun, exciting, open, accepting and warm – just like the love it is meant to honor. Therefore, don’t expect to come to your usual, boring, formal, chicken dance, mystery meat or funny fish plate type of reception that everyone and your cousin seems to always have. Expect to come to a really good party, hang out with us for a while, dance a little and have a good time.
Other up coming items include a guest spot on my friend Scottie’s Podcast. We will be discussing web based applications and the whole “Web 2.0” thing in general. Should be a lot of fun so stay tuned for that. Bethany is out of town this week so I am on my own and perhaps that may allow for more posting but I do have a lot still on my plate so don’t hold me to it.

The Year of The Web App

I am officially making a not-too-risky prediction. This will be the year of the web application. The “new bubble” will not be driven by portal sites and online dating. It will be driven by applications designed to make computing anywhere one step closer to reality.
As many know, I am a huge fan of web applications and use several to get things done. Here are just some of the ones I am excited about that are coming to a browser near you very soon:
30 Boxes – An online calendar application that some are saying “will be to calendars what GMail was to Email”
Campfire – Online chat and collaboration from the good folks at 37 Signals so you know it is done right.
Sunrise – “CRMish” application for small business also from 37 Signals.
Should shape up to be an exciting year.

Geek Gather and Blog

I get together on a regular basis with a group of other geeks, tech nerds and h@x0rs for something we call “Geek Gather and Munch”. Basically, it is a chance to hang out and talk tech and just, well, geek out. It is a whole lot of fun and we have pretty much had a gathering each month for almost a year now.
This past Gather, we decided to start to make things a little more formal and fun by getting a domain name and throwing together a blog where we can further dive into the depths of pure nerdom in front of a live and appreciative public audience.
It is still a very early work in process. Check it out here:

Geek Gather

The cool part is that, because it is in process and a lot of the discussion and decisions are being made in posts and comments so you get to see it being built right in front of you.

Moleskine Planners for 2007

The folks at Moleskine proprietors and aficionados Ninth Wave Designs have been kind enough to share a sneak peek at the new Moleskine Planners for 2007. They are introducing a whole bunch of new styles and options including a lovely new soft cover 18 month weekly in the half agenda half note page layout I have been waiting for. Modo & Modo (The makers of Moleskine) rolled this style out in limited edition before for the Italian book seller Feltrinelli for the 2006 models but alas they were not made available here.
The best part is, the 18 month version actually starts in late June 2006 so they will be available for purchase soon and I do not have to wait a whole year before using one. To say I am excited is an understatement!

Macworld 2006

Well, here I am back from Macworld and I have to say this was one of the most fun shows I have been to in a long time. Not just because of the products, the Apple ones will be reviewed below, but also because of the people. My good friend Scottie was there for his first time and I kind of took him under my more experienced wings which led to me seeing the show once again from a newcomers perspective. He spent a good deal of his time chronicling every moment with pictures and very well produced videos and just being excited to be there. Also, as Bethany pointed out to me, people just seemed very upbeat in general. Upbeat about the state of Apple, the Mac, the iPod and the seemingly never-ending event show floor filled with anything and everything one would ever need to match (and beat) their PC counterparts. Not to mention every conceivable way to encase and/or accessorize one’s iPod.
With that said, here are my observations on the Apple announcements:
MacBook Pro – While the name will take some getting used to, the speed, power and features will easily alleviate any twisted tongue. This thing is just plain fast. Looks wise, it is not that much different than the current 15 inch Powerbook. It is a little bit thinner, a little bit lighter, a little bit more curvy on the edges – just enough to make it a little more lust-worthy. The built in iSight, Mag-lock power adapter (I can’t tell you how many times it would have saved my poor mangled power port), amazingly fast speed on universal binary applications, all add up to one very compelling package.

New iMac
– Not much new here except the processor and the speed. Makes one wonder why they even bothered with an update a couple of months ago when the could have saved the design change and slight speed bump announcements to go along with this one.
iLife ’06 – All of the improvements to this venerable digital media suite will force me to pony up yet another $79.00 of yearly Apple tax. The new features in iPhoto alone, the full screen editing, more photo printing options, photo streaming (which you know will be the next big thing because Steve says it will), a painfully needed speed increase – heck those are worth the price alone! iWeb, the new addition to the suite, will certainly cause me to get the most out of my .Mac account once again. Thus adding value to the other yearly Apple tax I pay. It will also help millions who have thus far been too afraid of learning code publish to the web. My only question is why iWeb is a part of iLife and not iWork? It seems better suited to that package. Speaking of iWork…
iWork ’06 – Yawn… New Keynote themes and stuff… Zzzzzz… Hork, snort… zzzzzzz…
Huh? Oh, sorry, dozed off for a bit…
Apple’s Record Sales – Simply amazing. What more can be said? I mean, 14 million iPods in a quarter? Who could ever predict those numbers numbers? Wish I had bought stock back when it was $15 dollars or so a share.
Oh well, there it is for what it is worth. I will follow a little later with some of the other third party stuff that caught my eye including a killer upcoming new Project management tool and a great little camera case for little cameras.

Remainders, Resolutions and the Rest

One of the things I sometimes like to do when I do not have the time for a long and topic specific post is to do a few short blurbs on some things that have been capturing my attention lately. This is one of those times…

  • One |of my new year resolutions is to try to dress better. I have actually made this a resolution in years past but have not been very good with the followthrough. I love nice clothes and love to wear them but more often than not simply find it easier to throw on jeans and a t-shirt. This goal has been helped by the discovery of the clothier Kuhlman. They have very fine, Italian tailored clothing for reasonable prices. I have bought three of their french cuffed shirts in the past week. Beautiful fabric at prices that were hard to believe. Paired with dress slacks or even chinos and one is sure to walk just a little taller.
  • Speaking of resolutions, I recently had an epiphany. Following the GTD principle of vertical mapping, the need to have yearly resolutions is taken care of by 30,000 ft. goals. These are the goals that are supposed to be 12 to 18 months in focus anyway and if your daily actions and projects are in alignment with this, as I have discussed here before, than your resolutions will naturally flow through and be part of a regular review process. Therefore, stop making resolutions and start getting things done.
  • Merlin Mann at my personal fave 43folders has been running an excellent “resolutions” based series of posts called “Fresh Starts and Modest Changes” that have cover many interesting topics including:

    Modest Change: Learn the qualified “yes”

    Modest Change: Cancel something
    Fresh Start: The Email DMZ
    All well worth the read as always.
  • I have recently been playing around with an mindmapping and brainstorming application called Pyramid by MindCad. It is a simple and straight forward mind mapping application with a good tutorial and solid feel. I am hoping to see more applications of this sort when I am out at Macworld next week but so far have like what I have seen with this one.
  • My fave webapp company 37 signals has been teasing us once again with the promise of two more great applications:
    Sunrise: A web based “CRM-ish” tool to help small businesses manage their contacts and customer relationships.
    Campfire: A web based communication and collaboration tool.
    I can hardly wait for Sunrise as I think it will be just the kind of thing I need to help me with Machine Methods. Not sure how much I may use Campfire but I have been surprised at how much I have used Writeboard even if just for personal use.

That is all for now. I will try to do some posting from Macworld next week. Considering that Bethany will not be out until Wednesday I should have few distractions and lots of late and lonely nights for writing.

Backpack and The New Org-fu

As promised, here is an update to how I am using Backpack these days for my GTD implementation (That I often refer to as my Org-fu). As I mentioned previously, the newly added feature of having multiple to-do lists on a page really helped me a great deal. It was the one feature that I wished it had from the start. Now that it does, it has really increased my productivity and allows me to do daily and weekly reviews much more efficiently.
Before, I had all of my context lists on separate pages. While this was OK for single action items within the context at hand, it was terrible for multistep items (i.e. projects) and for reviewing. Because I had things spread out over many different pages, it was very difficult to get that “big picture view” that the weekly review process is kind of supposed to be about. Furthermore, there are many projects I have that are outside of a context that need to be somewhere, for these I had a separate project page but, because of the inability to have multiple lists on a page, It was very formatting intensive to keep organized.
Now, with the new multiple to-do list feature in place, here is my current page structure:

  • Today (Home) – This remains the same as before. Basically, the things I want to accomplish today.
  • @Action – All of the single action items go here and are divided into multiple to-do lists according to context.
  • @Errands – Why is this separate and not under “Action”? Because these can only be done in one “context” while out and about. Also, this is one list for now, undivided since several things could be handled in multiple places (i.e. “Buy Milk” could happen at the grocery store or at Target).
  • @Project – Here they all are, each project gets it’s own to-do list. Since I am reviewing this several times a day, as well as tracking next actions in my Pocket Moleskine, there is no need to duplicate these on the “Action” list.
  • @Someday – My someday/maybe items. Things I may want to do someday but are not top of mind right now. A single list for now.

Note that I use the @ sign simply to sort these pages above the others on in the list of pages on the sidebar. I have other pages for other non-Org-fu items. I have a page for gift ideas, one for planning my trip to Macworld, a personal wish list and our wedding registry that I make publicly available. Backpack is very useful like that.
There you have it. Down from 11 pages to just four. Less is more sometimes.
In addition, another new feature that has been added to Backpack is integration with Writeboard. Writeboard is another product by 37 Signals that allows one to write and share text and compare multiple versions of the document to see what has changed. While it is great for collaboration on a document I have been using it as a basic online text editor. It is great for doing things like the basic text of journal postings like this one.
More in keeping with the subject at hand, I have been using it for the vertical mapping I have been working on recently. During the review process it is nice to have these 20,000 ft. and higher maps in the same place as my projects (10,000 ft.) and Next Actions (Runway). This keeps me focused on always having things properly aligned.
If you have not checked out Backpack yet I strongly urge you to do so. It is a really great tool for personal organization. Many of the posts I have made about it are linked in this one so check them out as well for more info.

Personal Update

I know the postings have been somewhat irregular (and perhaps I am understating that a bit). Things have been really busy in my life. Some might argue that it borders on overwhelming. Here are but a few of the goings on in my life. This will also serve as an update to those I have not had the time to e-mail.
I am in the middle of a major project at work. You see, working in IT at a college means that while students and faculty are away on break, we have the opportunity to do major projects. I just happen to be leading one of those projects which involves me and a team of students performing minor upgrades to nearly 700 plus academic machines in about a month. As you can imagine, there is no time for anything else at work. Even catching up on work related e-mail or trying to find the time to fill out insurance renewal forms is something that must be done after hours. Therefore, this piled on top of my already quite full off-work times is taking it’s toll. Even now, I can only find the time late in the night (or was that early in the morning as it is well after midnight) to write this post. I am so burnt out. If it were not for the fact that I get the whole week after Christmas off, I don’t know what I would do.
This of course means that I have not had the time I need for much of anything else. I have not even really begun Christmas shopping. I have a few ideas of what I am going to get for Bethany, Maxim and Miles. Bethany is nice enough to provide a wish list. I will get some ideas from there but what about Maxim and Miles. I have no idea what I am going to get for them. I know it seems that this is something a parent should know but what does one buy teenagers these days? All of the things they want cost a fortune not to mention have poor capitalization (XBox, iPod nano… Who spells these things?). I absolutely need to find a few hours this weekend to just wander around a mall and try to find something they wont forget about moments after they open it and be ruined for life with the memory of the Christmas that their Dad just didn’t “get it”.
Also, my Powerbook decided to commit suicide and jump off of a two foot high table while turned on, thus rendering it’s hard drive kaput (that is the technical term – I looked it up). Even though I have been too busy to backup, I did learn my lesson from the last time around and am in a much better position to recover. All of my e-mail is IMAP now so it is not lost. Music that I have purchased was on the iPod. Furthermore, many of my key documents I had on my iDisk safely tucked away. I probably did loose some stuff of course, some recent photos and some recent documents (one of which took days to create) but all in all it is not as bad as the last time I lost a drive. Being without it is very hard though so I hope to get it back from the fine folks at The Foundation soon.
Better news is that Bethany and I may have finally settled on a date for the wedding. Actually, this makes the third time we have settled on one. The first time. The date we were looking at originally (Sept. 9th) was taken by our friend who introduced us. He got engaged two weeks after we did. We do take some of the blame because, even though we had picked that date we just did not have the time to officially announce it so it was fair game. Therefore, we chose another date – June 24th. After we set the date AND informed several key people (including the one I am about to mention), Bethany’s Father remembered that June 24th is the date of his 50th high school reunion. Since he is on the planning comittee and it has been in the works for several months now, he feels obligated to go and has asked if we could chose another date. Therefore, we have now chosen… Drumroll… June 17th. We will actually be getting married on the night of the 15th in a small, private, candlelit ceremony. June 17th will be the reception for about 300 of our closest friends.
The third floor at the St. Paul house is coming along very well. It is going to be a really great space and will work well for a temporary bedroom for Bethany and I. The sheet rock and taping is all done and hopefully it will be ready for us to paint the week after Christmas I have off (no rest for the weary). We will also try to get some of the work done on Maxim’s future bedroom during that time. All told, we are making great strides in reaching the point when we can all finally move over there.
I am also gearing up for my yearly trip to my Mecca – Macworld San Francisco. This is looking like it is gearing up to be one of the better ones. Rumors of Intel based Macs are flying faster than toasters and if that holds true it will certainly be the talk of the show. I can almost hear the collective bantering now of every Mac user in the exhibit hall badgering the software vendors about when their product will be ready to run on Intel. I suspect that none will get a satisfactory answer beyond “Soon”. I used to work the show floor for a software vendor, I know of what I speak. I am exited to see all of my friends out there. The Now Software folks, The ACN crew and even my friend Scottie will be out there for his first time. Of course, Bethany will be flying out as well on Wednesday night and we will spend the weekend with Val and do some wine tasting in Napa.
So, there is the personal stuff and why the posting has slowed to a crawl. I will try to post more soon. I do have several items on deck that I would like to post including:
• A followup on my return to Firefox.
• An update as to how I am using Backpack for Getting Things Done now that I can have multiple lists on a page. This also includes using Writeboard for some of the roughing out of my vertical mapping.
Of course, this will be better facilitated once I get my Powerbook back. Not saying it wont happen with out it. Just saying it will make it more likely.