50 days ago
(I know, it’s been years since I posted here. I’m going to pretend like that doesn’t matter. You should too. Thanks!)
Benjamin initially resisted the removal of his training wheels. When he was finally willing to try it (at the end of last summer), I told him he couldn’t have them back on – he just had to learn to ride. He eventually started to learn to ride without them, but then winter hit.
This summer (as a 6-year-old), he figured it out, and he started to enjoy riding… but then he plateaued and wasn’t really all that interested in getting better. (He still wasn’t good enough to really love it.)
So I devised a riding test, and told him that once he passed it, he’d be allowed to go around the block on his own. It turns out that was a great idea, for a bunch of reasons – so I’m sharing the test here. Maybe it will be useful to you.
Reasons why it was a great idea:
- He was motivated to work on it, because of the goal
- He was motivated to work on it, because it was a discrete list and he could measure his own progress
- He was motivated to work on it, because he got 1-on-1 attention from me
- He got better at riding, because of it
- He learned that even the things that seemed hard/scary could be learned/overcome with practice and determination
- He came out of it loving to ride his bicycle
- He came out of it more proud of the work he had done, than of the new privileges he earned
(Note that it took about 6 weeks, start to finish.)
So here’s the test. I don’t remember the order in which he did the individual parts, but it certainly wasn’t in the order presented here. (It was certainly important that some were easy.) The order here is the order I thought of them :) I’ve added comments where particular tests were notable for some reason.
For each item on the list, he had to do it twice, back-to-back, without putting a foot down (or without falling, if the test involved stopping). If he did it once and then failed the next time, he had to start over and do it twice more. (To prove mastery, not just luck.) If the test involved e.g. a turn, then the first time he had to turn one way, and the second time he had to turn the other way.
- Start from standing without falling over
- Ride the length of the driveway (about 50’)
- Ride and stop with the front wheel on a line (within about a foot of it)
- Ride and stop without putting a foot down until all the way stopped
- Ride down the sidewalk and turn around in a neighbors (wide) driveway, without putting a foot down
- This one he avoided until near the very end. The driveway was slightly inclined, and the turn radius was fairly small, so it was tricky. (Remember that he had to do it both ways, too.) He was scared of it – but once he had developed the skills from the rest of the test, and once he got up the courage to try it, he passed it quite easily.
- Pedal while standing up
- Slalom of 5 cones, 4-5’ apart
- Avoid a surprise obstacle
- His brother ended up providing the surprise obstacle, twice! (Not in a row, but I counted it anyway).
- Ride down the driveway (a mild hill) and turn onto the sidewalk without using brakes or riding over the grass
- He surprised me by doing this one fairly early.
- Ride down the sidewalk and turn up the driveway and make it up the hill without stopping
- Start and stop while riding on grass
- Start from a standing stop on an upward-facing hill (the driveway)
- Use his kickstand (which was very stiff)
- Cross the street (on his bicycle) between two driveways, safely
- Cross the street (on his bicycle) at a corner (4-way stop)
- This one provided a great example of why you have to pay close attention to traffic in all four directions!
- Ride at a walking pace for 50’
- Go all the way around the block (i.e. not crossing the street) with someone following him (on a bicycle)
- This one and the next were off-limits until the rest were completed.
- Go all the way around the block by himself
- This one he did once without a problem, but then got scared of falling or hurting himself with nobody around. After a week or so he got up the courage to do it (and was fine) – and passed his test!
One final note – we ended up including “crossing the street unsupervised” as a new privilege. (Both privileges require getting permission to go, first.)
filed under: benjamin, effectiveness, geek, kristina, lent, liam, life, netbsd, perl, pictures, pkgsrc, programming, rainskit.com, religion, reviews, tagging, tru_tags, vegetarian
1216 days ago
Of course, that means that the affected people aren’t going to hear that they’re affected. Sorry about that! (I’ll tell personally the few I know.)
In fact, I’m likely to switch to ikiwiki …eventually. Textpattern seems to have lost its mojo, and there have been some long-standing issues with it (like no native tagging support!) that seem unlikely to ever get fixed. And I’m hip to the cool technologies now, so a more infrastructure-like framework (i.e. ikiwiki, with git) for my blog feels like a better answer. And schmonz volunteered to do most of the work :)
That also means I’ll probably abandon tru_tags …more than I already have. There hasn’t been anything to do with it in a long while, at least not that I felt was worthwhile to be done. Most of the features that remain to be implemented require a major refactoring of the core Textpattern code, and that just seems very unlikely to happen (by me or anybody else) any time soon. So hopefully it will remain useful to the people who still use it.
This year’s Lent
I have utterly failed at this year’s Lent give-up. I have been better at going to bed at a reasonable hour, sometimes for days at a time. But I simply can’t do everything I need/want to do in my life with the few hours that leaves me between work, kids, and chores. So sleep will continue to lose to projects – although less-so than it used to. There are some nice perks to getting more sleep – I’m much more on-the-ball and willing to take on mental tasks that otherwise seem hard. But that extra value doesn’t offset the lost value from just not being able to do all the things I need to do.
Speaking of Lent, I also broke a 5-year streak of vegetarianism a week or so ago. Benjamin, Liam, and I had some extremely delicious tilapia, also breaking both boys’ life-long vegetarian streaks. Kristina chose not to participate.
We had a bunch of reasons for deciding to do it. And a bunch of reasons to not do it (i.e. to stay vegetarian). I may blog about all the tradeoffs some day soon, but for now, suffice it to say that it was a very close decision, and I’m not sure what’s next.
I made a web app!
If you recall, I started using SmugMug for my online gallery a few years ago. But when I made the switch, I left behind an old gallery site (on Menalto Gallery 1) that I’ve been meaning to clean up for a long time. It broke a while ago, motivating me to finally migrate off that old software – to ZenPhoto, which had been my long-standing plan. It took a few days getting ZenPhoto to work (when it should have been easy!), but I got it there, and I shut off the old site.
I also started this exchange with the ZenPhoto dev in which I start by being too grumpy and then he finished by insisting that his software simply must be unsupportable for him to support it. Net effect: I had to get off ZenPhoto.
But I had no alternate destination for self-hosting my images. My long-term goal is to migrate the images to SmugMug, but I want to filter them down from “every picture I took during that time period” to “just the best ones, tagged and rated” (like all the other pictures I post to SmugMug). And it will take Nathan-weeks of work to get that done, so it keeps getting put off. So in the short term I just needed a new self-hosting product, and there just aren’t any good alternatives. They’re all either old or ugly or badly designed or some combination of those three.
So I made one myself. I’ve never made a web app from scratch before, but I am quite comfortable in perl, had used Catalyst from a prior job, and I’d heard then that Mojolicious is better. So I tried it.
And wow, was it easy. Probably 8 hours total from “install mojolicious” to “the gallery is up and running on the new software”. That’s only just a little more than I spent trying to get ZenPhoto to work. Many kudos to Mojolicious, perl, and pkgsrc.
Now… ZenPhoto does way more stuff. (TONS more… too much, actually.) And this new software isn’t really ready for someone else to use it. And it has no tests. And it only does one extremely simple thing (i.e. serve nested directories of images, in name-sorted order, with no metadata).
But the code is small, easy to read, and easy to modify. (Roughly 300 lines of code, 115 lines of CSS, and 80 lines of HTML template.) The site looks really good (in my opinion). And it doesn’t require a database – just a directory full of images. And with some app-level caching and the help of Mojolicious’s preforking web server and great documentation for setting it up under apache mod_proxy, it’s about as fast is it could possibly be on my old host and slow network connection.
So ZenPhoto is out and my home-grown software is in. Here’s hoping it doesn’t need maintenance!
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1369 days ago
The article poses 10 questions. Theoretically the article is complaining about how the media doesn’t ever ask pro-choice candidates about those questions, but other than the paragraph at the top mentioning that complaint, the rest is just the list of 10 questions. I don’t much care whether the media asks those questions (see: some future blog post), so I’m not going to worry about addressing that issue. Instead, I’ll just reply with my own opinions about the 10 questions.
You’ll need to have read my previous post giving an overview of my opinions if you want to understand my answers. I’m not going to restate those opinions here.
1. You say you support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices in regards to abortion and contraception. Are there any restrictions you would approve of?
filed under: effectiveness, geek
1452 days ago
It turns out that other people don’t use email the same way I do. And it turns out that some people think my email use patterns might have some useful ideas. It also happens to be the case that I’m well-known for being good at keeping track of things, and my inbox is basically the way I do that, so maybe explaining my inbox will help people get better at keeping track of things. So here it is :)
First rule: the only things in the inbox are things that are still underway, in real life. Once something is done, the email gets deleted, archived, or filed in a folder.
Second rule: only have a single inbox that receives messages that might result in a to-do for you. Mail rules that filter email lists and such into folders is fine – as long as that email list is passive-only. (And in the rare case where something from the list generates a to-do, move that email to the inbox.)
Third rule: the inbox has three statuses:
- New / unread – the things that you haven’t seen yet, or that you need to deal with in the short term (today or tomorrow, ideally). Example: an email from your mother with a question about her TV.
- Flagged / starred – the things that you need to deal with in the longer term (3 days – a few weeks). Example: an email reminding you to blog about your inbox usage rules.
- Read / not-flagged – things where someone else is responsible for taking the next step, but which you want to keep tracking. Example: a shipping notice from Amazon.com, for an item that hasn’t arrived yet.
Fourth rule: everything that I have to keep track of (i.e. my to-do list) goes into my inbox. I am constantly sending myself little one-line emails, because that’s how I manage my to-do list.
Some secondary rules:
- If something sits in the “flagged / starred” category long enough, give up and archive/delete/file it.
- Periodically review the entire inbox, cleaning out things that aren’t going to get done, and following up on things that have stalled.
- The entire inbox (all three categories) should always be relatively short. I can gauge how overworked I am by whether my inbox has 5 things in it (ideal!) or 50 (WAY too many). I typically run at about 20. Looking at my (personal) inbox now, I have 6 unread, 8 starred, and 4 read.
Some notes about how this works in Outlook / corporate email:
- I use flags for the long-term to-do items, and unread for the “new” status. I’ve tried setting flag reminder dates, or using different-color flags, and neither adds much value (for me) compared to the time spent managing them.
- I delete most email once it’s handled, but I don’t have Outlook remove things from the Deleted folder until it’s a month old.
- I keep all my sent mail. (Have it be locally archived if your company restricts mailbox size on the server.)
- I keep a few key folders for explicitly filing things – but not many. It’s easier to search than it is to manually file and then try to guess where I filed something. It’s also very freeing to just accept that deleting email is OK.
- I usually have a few project-specific folders under my Inbox, where I stash things I might need to reference later for a specific project. Once the project is done, I delete the folder.
- I also keep a single “Save” folder that catches most things I think I might want to get back to someday, and then usually I have a few sub-folders for specific topics (like “sales” or “people”) – but I keep it to just a few folders.
Some notes about how this works in Gmail:
- I use Gmail’s priority inbox because it is designed for me. It effectively (automatically) splits the “new” category into “email I need to see soon” and “everything else”, and then gives me a split view of my three categories, so the most urgent stuff is at the top, and the least urgent at the bottom. It’s perfect.
- I archive every email, no matter how unimportant, once I’m done with it. No sorting or (manual) tagging – search is the answer here. And by archiving everything, I don’t have to pause and make a decision about whether to archive or delete. Sometimes I’ll forward an email to myself just to add keywords to it, so I can find it more easily later, but that’s it.
- I do make use of Gmail’s automatic filters, to automatically tag emails. Most of that’s for shopping stuff (like Amazon) so I can spot it easily and mark it read (until the item arrives, when I archive it). Sometimes I’ll make a manual tag for temporary topic management (like “holiday planning”), but that’s rare.
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1460 days ago
I have a MacBook Air that I used as my work (consulting) computer for 18 months or so. Then my new job gave me a Dell laptop that feels seriously inferior, but as with all things Windows/Dell, it is sufficient.
So yesterday I did something I’ve done hundreds of times before with my Air, but never before with my Dell: I closed the lid at the end of the day without shutting things down first, stuffed it in my bag, and went home. (I was in a hurry.)
On the Air, that reliably sleeps the laptop, and I can always trust that everything will be exactly as I left it when I reopen the lid, and the battery won’t have drained at all.
I knew not to trust the same thing on Windows, but I was in a hurry so I decided to risk it, and maybe if it turned out well I’d adjust my opinion about Windows.
So what did I see when I opened it this morning? A boot-time message telling me that the laptop had shut itself down because it was overheating, which usually happens because it is in a tightly enclosed space with the fan vents blocked. Like, say, a laptop bag. And by “shut itself down” they mean “hard power off, no saving your work”. And they mean that they waited until the battery was half drained to do that.
Now, I checked and I do have the laptop set to sleep when I close the lid. So it should have just slept, and it shouldn’t have been generating heat (although I’m not certain if the Windows sleep really does go that far), so it shouldn’t have had this problem. But it did. I’m guessing the culprit is Outlook, which often prevents rebooting because of third-party integrations that aren’t very well-done, so maybe it also prevented sleeping.
But then of course, the culprit is Windows for actually listening to Outlook and not putting the laptop to sleep.
And then Dell is really the savior here; faced with Windows not sleeping when it was supposed to, Dell’s choice was either to let the laptop overheat (and break permanently), or build a feature to shut it off when it begins to. So, thanks, Dell!
But more than that, thanks to Apple for making devices where I just don’t have to worry about crap like this!
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1517 days ago
(See my previous post for context.)
What? Seriously? Tumi T-Tech Presidio Filbert T-Pass Organizer Laptop Briefcase? Let’s break that name down:
- Tumi: The company who makes the bag. Well known for making quality, well-designed bags.
- T-Tech: The “collection” (i.e. all the bags in the T-Tech line share key features and styling).
- Presidio: Uh… an even more narrowly-defined “collection”.
- Filbert: The model name of the bag. (Really, Filbert? Someone thought that was a good name? As my wife says, this bag is royalty!)
- T-Pass: The brand name they use for their “checkpoint friendly” feature.
- Organizer: It has dividers for paper.
- Laptop: It is designed to hold a laptop.
- Briefcase: It is carried by handles and/or a shoulder strap, and doesn’t have a flap over the top (in which case it would be called “Messenger”).
So yeah, their marketing department needs to be sacked. What I bought was the Tumi Filbert Laptop Bag. But apparently that wasn’t confusing enough.
On the other hand, their product design department seems quite healthy – this is a great bag. Let’s review the criteria:
filed under: agile, business, effectiveness, flying, geek, product management, reviews, travel, usability
1525 days ago
Somewhere out there is a laptop bag just waiting for me to find it. But first, I have to spec it out.
Then I got serious about it.
I haven’t yet found the bag, but in the meantime, I’ve written this blog post, because it provided the excuse I needed to really
go batshit insane do a thorough job of my analysis. Not only does this post include a detailed list of requirements for my perfect laptop bag, but it also includes a glance into what I do in my life as a Product Manager. Hopefully one or the other of those is interesting enough to keep your attention :)
1612 days ago
…I’ll be giving up girl scout cookies – for the entire year. (This is no small thing! I ordered 13 boxes, last year!)
Why this choice? Because I don’t have time for anything else, and this one still requires self-discipline.
Confused about why I’m posting this? See here.
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1633 days ago
Per my previous post, our new baby has arrived. His name is Liam Eldon Arthur, and he was born 7lbs 14oz and 21” long. He’s perfect :)
It took me a little longer than last time to get a post up; you can take that as a sign of how much busier we are with a 2-year-old in the house with the newborn. But we’re much calmer about this one, I think probably because we know we can make it through this period. Our exhaustion level is about the same, though; see: 2-year-old.
The delivery was much easier this time, and Liam is totally healthy and has been fantastic since day one – eating well, sleeping well, and not fussing except when something is wrong. (Many parents report a very different experience; I suggest swaddling as the likely remedy, or having our genes as the second. Either way, we are very lucky.)
I didn’t announce this one as publicly as last time; I’m still stubbornly shunning Facebook in favor of Google+, even though it seems likely that Google+ will fail, and it just didn’t seem necessary to go out of my way to post it to Twitter. It was nice this time to be able to limit the scope of the Google+ post, so it isn’t actually public. On the other hand, pictures are here :)
On the name: this one, like the last one, came after the delivery. Neither “Liam” nor “Eldon” was on our list before the delivery, although Liam was on the original list for Benjamin. We ended up abandoning the idea of having a hungarian middle name because we couldn’t find one that we liked and that was spellable and that was pronounceable. So Liam was the name that best seemed to fit the new baby, and Eldon came from a good friend of Kristina’s who told us about it as an oft-used name in her family, derived from her grandfather, who was a very special person. We liked the name, and the source, and it went really well with Liam and Arthur, so that was that.
My feelings are very similar to last time: the delivery was intense, and the after-effects (pretty much all positive!) have been strong, and I feel really good about my life right now. The feelings have been much less momentarily-intense… I think just because I’m a lot less scared (of the unknowns) this time around. But they are no less deep – I totally understand now how parents can say that they don’t love any of their children more than any others. It’s also nice to know that Heinlein was right:
The more you love, the more you can love — and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just. — Robert A. Heinlein, in Time Enough for Love
Also, as hard as this time is, I’m really enjoying having the quiet time at home with my wife and two boys. (I love that I have two boys… I didn’t expect that.) We have no distractions, no competing priorities, no work – just a simple life, focused on each other. I’ll be sorry to see it go (when I go back to work) in a few days.
As with last time, we owe huge thanks to all the people who have helped us, especially the huge investments of time and/or resources from grandparents on both sides – THANK YOU! I can’t imagine doing this without all that help.
Welcome to the world, little Liam. We love you already, more than you’ll even be able to understand… until you have children of your own.
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