For the month of October, I've been playing Healthmonth, a site set up to help you meet health goals in a game like way. I learned of Healthmonth from Matt Haughey's post about it. Matt's right, it's a good site.
I've really enjoyed playing Healthmonth, even though it adds a little stress to my life. Amazingly, I am quite motivated to meet my Healthmonth goals even though all failure means is losing virtual points. I've found myself out for a run or eating fruit at 9PM just to meet my Healthmonth goals.
You can view my profile here and see what I was trying to do. I learned that I needed to think out my month before setting goals. Initially I had put in riding my bike 80 miles a week. This means 3 good rides, at least, to meet this per week. In reality, rain, triathlon training, travel factored in and I could only meet this goal one week out of the month. For November, I'm going to make my goals a bit more flexible to match up with the fact that I'll be traveling and the holidays.
If you want to improve your health or even just do more blogging, you might consider playing Healthmonth. It might just be the small push you need to stick with it during the week and make the changes you want. You can make any kind of custom goal you want and the site will track it for you. Since I paid for a membership, I think I can sponsor people if they want to play.
The guy behind the site, Buster Benson is sharp and always improving the way things work in response to that players want. I'd love to see more interaction between players the idea of group & team challenges beyond personal goals. Imagine a team goal to run 200 miles as a group or have 30 vegan days per month. Accountability to a group is a strong motivator. So go sign up for Healthmonth now.
This is an update on what happened at the triathlon I mentioned in my last post.
I got up early Saturday morning to the sound of rain drops. Not really processing this, I got up, ate some oatmeal, got dressed in my laid out kit, grabbed my gear bag, and headed out the door. My bike was already in the car. The car was covered in dew and there was a light mist in the air, but I didn't think much of this.
As I got onto the freeway headed to Carson, I noticed more and more rain and by the time I got to Downtown, the wipers were needed to keep the windshield clear. Upon arrival in Carson, it was full on raining on me. Besides a few empty tents I cold see no organization and had no idea where the transition area was. Sitting in the car for a half hour, I wondered what was going to happened. More cars arrived and I wandered out to figure out the situation. It was light enough to see the transition area in a grassy area off the road.
Grabbing my bike and gear bag, I headed up to get ready. Stepping onto the grass in transition, I sank a good three inches into the mud due to rain. This was the point I said to myself, "What the fuck are you doing here?" The feeling passed and I racked my bike.
A few minutes later I heard a voice call out to me. I turned around and saw it was Michael Pajaro aka Mr. P aka NeopreneWedgie, my coworker who had just completed the Kona Ironman a few weeks ago. He was holding a sign for me and there to root me on. I was touched that he made it out into the rain to cheer me on in the tiny triathlon I was about to run.
We chatted a bit and then I laid out my gear on my towel. With nothing else to do, I walked around with Mike waiting for the start. He did his best to keep me positive and gave me good tips like wear as little as possible on the run, even though it's raining.
Soon enough the race began and I was running. The run was good. I met up with a woman from the company tri team and we ran together the last half or so. I felt good the whole way through.
Mr. P cheered me through transition and I was on the bike quickly. Everyone told me not to wear gloves ont eh bike, but to be honest, I wish I had put them in the bento box on my bike to put on once I was rolling. After thousands of miles wearing gloves, it felt weird to be bare handed.
Since the cycling part was the easiest for me, I didn't look much into the route. I knew we did a few laps to get to 12 miles and then into transition. I whipped around the course three times and heard the guy at the lap turn point say "3 this way, 4 this way" I said "I've done 3 laps." and he pointed me up the road, not toward another lap. I looked down at my bike computer and saw it was only at 9 miles. Soon I was almost at T2 and I said to the rade officials that I was only at 9 miles and they said I was supposed to do 4 laps. They told me to head in anyways. I wasn't going to knowingly bail on part of the triathlon, so I turned around and went out to do another lap. You can hit the player on my Garmin track and see the silliness.
After lap 4 I got to T2 and headed toward the swim. This is the hard part for me. I had only started swimming on October 1st, so that meant only 3 weeks of training. I walked into the pool area to a wall of sound with tons of people and the announcer on PA yelling "Six times across and you're done!" I rinsed out my goggles and slipped into the water and swam. It was not the most beautiful swim stroke nor the fastest, as many passed me, but I did not drown. I kept hearing Coach Steve's voice saying, "Head down, legs up, glide!" the whole time.
And it was over. I was now a triathlete. Greeting me at the finish was my Dad and Mr. P.
I am thankful to my wife Michele, who inspired me to start cycling and was nothing but positive about the tri, to Coach Steve Mackel who taught me the proper way to run and swim, and to Mike Pajaro, who answered all my tri questions at work, was there on race day, and took all these wonderful photos.
Of course I am keeping this in perspective. I did a sprint triathlon. Compared to the Ironman level completions (Mr. P's Kona medal shown for scale), it was a light workout. I plan to do more triathlons in the future. Hopefully they will go smoother in better weather.
This Saturday will mark the cumulation of a personal project I've been working on for a while. I'll be competing in a sprint triathlon, the Tri-Carson to be exact. It's not very long with a 5k run, 12 mile bike ride, and 200m swim.
Getting here has taken a while, going back to January 2009 when I went out on my first bike ride with Michele, launching my current cycling obsession. I was quite content to cycle until I went to Michele's first triathlon and participated with the Disney Tri Team on a relay team. After seeing others do this, I wanted to do it myself. I knew it would take some effort to be able to do it. I hadn't run seriously in decades and had never done lap swimming. Further in November 2009, they cut my left shoulder open to repair my rotator cuff (injured on a winery bike tour :p ).
I didn't get to running until July when I started to run on a regular basis. Even now, I've only run about 60 miles until today. Let me be clear, compared to cycling which I delight in doing, running is chore. It's hard on the knees, slow, and lacks the opportunity for excessive gadget geekery.
As far as swimming, I only started on the first of this month. Being taught to swim seriously as an adult is very different than pool/ocean safety swimming instruction you get as a kid. The science of swimming is much more advanced than I would have imagined. I have to say that swimming is much better than running. I'm most nervous about this part of the triathlon, but I'm ready for the short 200m swim
This morning, I did my last run/swim workout and am ready to rest for a day so gather energy for Saturday. I'm excited and nervous to see what happens, which doesn't happen often to guys like me in their 40s.
What's cool about this is that it's just for me. This isn't for anyone else. It's not for work, friends, or family that I wake up at 4:30 to eat oatmeal and prepare to workout. I wanted to do this for myself and I stuck with it through the training. Too often these days people measure their success by how other people respond to what they have done. "Did people retweet my tweet?" "How many hits did my post get?" "Did they buy my creation?"
In this personal project, the only person I am trying to make happy is myself. I think I need to do more things like this, rather than looking for validation from the outside. As the Dalai Lama says “Spend some time alone every day.” In today's hyper-connected world, being alone and focused on your personal growth is something you need to work hard to do.
Good luck in your own personal projects.
For years, I used a wallet made from baseball leather. I loved that wallet, but I was often accused of having a "Costanza wallet". As I tried to reduce the amount of crap I carry, I decided to try a new wallet.
I discussed the idea of a slim, minimal wallet. Many had suggestions. I was a bit hesitant to try the rubber band and/or binder clip method. My co-worker Jason swore by using the Slim Clip. The Slim Clip is advertised on TV a bit, so you may have seen it. The Slim Clip website is here, but I warn you they have an auto-play video that starts up as the page loads and is loud.
I've been using the Slim Clip for about 6 months now and here's my review.
The Slim Clip is stamped steel bent carefully into shape to hold bills on one side and cards on the other. The card holding works well. I haven't ever had cards slip out unexpectedly or trouble getting cards out, unless I shove too many in.
The cash clip works OK, but it took me some time to get used to putting the dollar bills back in securely. I like to carry cash, so having this work well is important to me. I found the clip will easily hold 20 bills. After that, it starts to get too snug. I found that if I try to push the limit, the metal actually bends and doesn't hold as tight. I've used needle nose pliers a few times to bend the clip back tighter.
The biggest challenge I ran into was simply choosing what to carry. In the past I used to keep pretty much everything that would fit. With the Slim Clip, I really had to reduce down. As you can see, it holds 6 cards, with just a little extra space. I carry a Starbucks Card (mainly to protect the other cards but also helpful with a Starbucks in our building), my Driver's License, two debit cards from our different banks (you do have two banks right, just in case of identity theft, right?), my company credit card, my health insurance card, and the member cards to the gym and pool center.
At first, I thought I would never be able to get by with just 6 cards, but I haven't had a problem. When on vacation or business trips, I replace the Starbucks card with the hotel card key.
Overall, I'm happy I made the switch to a small wallet. It's not the ultimate minimalist, but it's good for me. At under $10 for a Slim Clip, it's cheap as well.
What do you use?
A quick catch up on my travels and my hotel rooms.
And lastly, my brother emails me with his concerns over my web site design. Loyal Cruft Readers, you don't think my page design is dated, do you?
My day job involves managing a wide variety of technology for a large media company. People want to present their products and services to me all the time. Many times I get so frustrated at the presentation and presenter, that I ignore what they are saying and just want the whole thing over.
I mentioned this at a recent conference to another attendee after we watched one person after another read their slides word for word. As a result I wrote up these helpful guidelines for those that present to people like me that buy things.
Things not to do in a presentation with me
1) Don't read the slides - I can read and have skimmed your slide before you are into your second sentence. You should be explaining why you are showing me this information, not going over the information.
2) Don't tell me stats on your company - I don't care about your stock price, when you were founded, how much business your did, or who you clients are, or what deals you have on the table.
3) Don't tell me my business - I know my business. You will get something wrong or explain something that doesn't apply to me if you try to explain it. That just makes you look like you don't know what you are talking about.
4) Don't use my company's logo in your presentation. It makes me want to call our attorneys.
5) Don't run down your competition - Most likely I've bought from your competition in the past. Saying that they are terrible is basically telling me that I'm stupid for choosing them.
6) Don't tell me my challenges - You have no idea what my real challenges are. Anything you bring up is what you read on the internet.
7) Don't make me use your stupid remote desktop sharing/collaboration software that requires me to download a bunch of crap. If you can't be in the room, just send the PowerPoint, Keynote, or PDF document.
8) Don't mention Magic Quadrants/Analysts - I don't care what a bunch of overpriced analysts decided about your company while they chatted over beer at the airport. Last time I checked, research companies are filled with people booted out of operational & executive roles into the land of consultancy.
9) Don't Google me and then try to pretend like you didn't Google me. It's fine to Google me and talk about what you found, but don't lie about it.
Things to do in a presentation
1) Be clear about your goal - If you want a sale, more introductions, a demo opportunity, then say so clearly. Beating around the bush gets you nowhere.
2) Ask me what my issues are and what problems I'm trying to solve - It's astounding how few people actually take the time to ask what I'm looking for to help.
3) Explain what differentiates you from your competitors - Telling me how you have a way to help me that others don't is a positive way to eliminate your competition.
4) Use a whiteboard to draw complex ideas and hand the pen to others in a collaborative discussion.
5) If you mention that you work with one of my customers or competitors, be sure you do. We'll likely be calling them to compare notes.
6) Follow up with an email containing whatever you presented in the room and anything I asked for specifically. That does not mean attach 3 more case studies and copies of your last magazine ad.
7) Swag is great, but bring enough for my staff. As an exec, I get plenty of benefits, your tchotchkes don't mean a lot to me, but they mean much more to my team. Bringing 12 small items for my team is much better than one of two nice things for me.
8) Be honest. Don't make things up or shade the truth about features of your product or service. In the end, I will find out. Promising vaporware is a good way to never make the sale.
I've been reading a bit. Here are three recent books I've read. Two history books and a sci-fi novel. I'm such a geek.
I had read A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bryson previously and loved it. I saw this book on sale at the store and decided to give it a read. The tells the history of the English language from it's origins to today. After a bit of reading, I was wondering why the book referred to so many events in the 80s. I checked the copyright and saw that the book was released in 1990. So I was reading a 20 year old book. In the lifespan of the English language, it's really not so long. I found it mostly interesting with occasional dry stretches that only a true linguist could love. Pointing out methods of speech that are basically gone with only a handful of examples remaining was fascinating. Also the book points out the influence of other languages into English and where we have multiple words for the same thing exposing the adoption of terms into English.
I liked the book, but only speed reader with a penchant for history will be able to get through it.
I had read several of Stross's science fiction novels and even his alt-history Merchant series, but had somehow missed The Laundry series. Jennifer Morgue is the first book in the series. The book mixes the Lovecraftian Cthulu mythos with the 007 world of spies and tradecraft. That's all you really need to know, you shoudl be running to buy a copy with just that description.
The novel was good with the requisite amount of withholding of information that is obvious to the protagonist but unknown to the reader to keep pulling forward. Personally, I'd like a little more information on the world we're dealing with, but the novel works regardless. I'm Stross is setting up for future novels where he can explore tings he only hints at in the first book. No reason to box himself in to early. I'm going to pick up the next novel once I clear my nightstand of the stack that remains awaiting my attention.
This book is described as a history of the periodic table, but it's more a history of the discovery of elements. The two are tied together, but the writer assumes the reader already has a great familiarity with the periodic table already. The book would have done well to get about a third of the way through and then stop to more clearly explain how the periodic table works and why it's so useful.
I like history books, and this one is no different. The stories behind the elements are fascinating and I breezed through the book. I think the book could have used a bunch more illustrations and photographs to go along to help keep the visual images going. Anyone that enjoyed science, physics and chemistry in school will enjoy this book. But remember, it's written for a mass audience and much of the deeper science is left out.