Links: 2-3-2016

  • Fan-In | codahale.com
    So many good observations in here, one in particular that stood out is the fact that email gives you the ability to filter and pay attention to what you want to pay attention to while Twitter / Facebook / etc. give no such filtering ability and require you to consume every notification.
    (categories: culture attention life tech twitter )

  • The American Scholar: Solitude and Leadership – William Deresiewicz
    Amazing, quote: "Your own reality—for yourself, not for others.” Thinking for yourself means finding yourself, finding your own reality. Here’s the other problem with Facebook and Twitter and even The New York Times. When you expose yourself to those things, especially in the constant way that people do now—older people as well as younger people—you are continuously bombarding yourself with a stream of other people’s thoughts. You are marinating yourself in the conventional wisdom. In other peop…
    (categories: concentration focus attention thinking culture twitter facebook leadership )

Stuff I read: January 2016

Behind my goals of 3 books per month already… here’s what I read in January:

All books are on the reading page.

2015 Oregon & California Coast Camping Trip: Part II

Part 1 is here.

August 15th: Kind of last track of what we did on the 15th. Pretty sure (definitely was one of the days we were there) that we ended up throwing the kayak and SUP in from a beach near Morro Rock, which turned out to be incredible. We saw sand dollar beds, seals, otters, pelicans and jelly fish. It’s a great place to paddle if you have a boat / SUP.

August 16th: went back into San Luis Obispo to see a couple sites. Stopped at Mitchell Park, which was unremarkable. Walked into downtown, stopped at Phoenix Books, which I could have spent hours at but wasn’t fantastic for the rowdies in our crowd. Immediately after we hit Powell’s Sweet Shoppe because we apparently didn’t have enough wiggle energy, then got lunch, took pictures at Bubblegum Alley
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and picked up Mo’s Smokehouse BBQ to go for dinner.

August 17th: another relaxing day, didn’t do much. Did do lunch at
Taco Temple, which was epic. Highly recommended.

August 18th: back on the road. We picked up the trailer and followed my parents (who were going north before heading back to Mammoth) to Elephant Seal Vista Point
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which wasn’t spectacular but apparently was at the low point for the season. Still fun to get out and walk around on our way back up the coast. Our ultimate destination for the day was Sunset State Beach Campground, up near Monterey. We camped next to a father / son combo, both of who were shoeless but wearing socks (?) in the campground that was 100% dirt. We were 10 feet for the other campers, this was probably the second dirtiest / unappealing places we stayed on the trip, but was cheap relative to the hotels we would stayed at around Monterey.

August 19th: Epic day. We bought tickets for the Monterey Bay Aquarium online and skipped what little of line there was when it opened at 9 or 10am. Beck and I got a special behind the scenes tour of the facility, which was actually really cool and resulted in Beck deciding that he wanted to be a marine biologist. Karen and I different opinions of what should happen next, both of us wanting to something in the water: she wanted to go to Elkhorn Slough, which apparently is a great place to kayak and see wildlife. I really really wanted to drop the kayak and SUP into the actual bay and tool around in the ocean because it seemed daring and fun. I won but I’ll never live it down. We ended up putting in at San Carlos Beach, paddled out a couple hundred yards with Beck and Reed and Karen in the kayak and me and Kai on the SUP. We saw some kelp and another pair of mommy and baby otters and after about 10 minutes being around the kelp… BOOM, a shiny black dorsal fin popped out of the water. I’ll be honest: I had had my reservations on the way out about paddling with the Kai (only 5 at the time) on the SUP with me as the waves were pretty big but we were doing ok. Karen, with Beck and Reed, was decidedly less enthusiastic and at the sight of the fin, almost immediately turned around the kayak and said very seriously that she was headed back to the shore, thinking that it was an orca or something dangerous. I somehow convinced her to stick around (99% sure that it was just a dolphin) and we then proceeded to observe numerous humpback whales breaching, which was amazing. I vividly remember telling Kai (5) that he’d likely never be this close to a whale again. Pretty sure that Karen was ready to kill me after this, we headed back and took this picture:
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which is a combined “OMG, we’re alive!” and “OMG, we kayaked with whales!” view of the world.

Dinner at Pelican Pizza on the strip there by the aquarium and then sleep.

August 20th: Lots of driving, then the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, then a lot more driving, then finally arrived at Manzanita Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park, a really nice campground.

August 21st: There’s a fun ring road around Lassen where you can see all sorts of interesting geological features. We drove to the visitors center, stopped at some great bouldering boulders, hiked the loop to Bumpass Hell
Bumpass Hell
and back and then retired for the night.

August 22nd: back on the road, this time aiming for Crater Lake. On the way we stopped off at the Lava Bed National Monument, hiking up and down into a number of the caves (lots of fun for the boys) and then on the way out driving to Petroglyph Point, which was slightly underwhelming but still interesting to see. Many hours later we finally pulled into Crater Lake for our stay at Mazama Village Campground. Campfire and then a really great ranger program by a ranger named Chris
Talking with Ranger Chris after the presentation
whose parents had driven in to hear him give a talk. Boys had a great time.

August 23rd: we really wanted to do one of the boat tours around the lake but the only one that was available was the 8am(IIRC?) departure, which required us to be up relatively early since it was a 30 minute drive and a 30 minute hike down to the boats but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise since the lake was untouched and perfectly still at that time of the morning:
Boats on the lake at dawn
A smooth boat ride later, we hiked up to the top of Wizard Island, had some snacks
Hardy adventurers on top of Wizard Island
and then hiked back down and the boys decided it’d be great to jump in the freezing cold water
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and then have me pull them out, which was fun to watch. :)

We stopped for lunch at the lodge and then headed back to the campground for our last night in the trailer before heading back home.

August 24th: lots of driving… back home and then at 6:30pm, soccer practice had already started.

2015 Oregon & California Coast Camping Trip: Part I

Super late to write this up but better late than never. At Jive (where I worked for almost 10 years) they put a policy in place similar to Intel where if you’ve been around for 7 years, you’re given the opportunity to take an extended leave, which because they have an unlimited vacation policy, most people equated to about 2 months / 8 weeks of time off in one big block. I took advantage of that policy this past July and during my time off I decided that it’d be fun to do a long camping trip. We were kind of late to get planning (policy was relatively new) and figured then that most of places (Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, etc.) that are typical West Coast summer road trips would be completely booked and so instead opted to drive down the Oregon and California coastline, spend a couple days with my parents and brother and his family in Morro Bay and then proceed back up the middle of California & Oregon to visit Lassen and Crater Lake. Here’s how it all went down.

August 1st: I’ve got a 3 year old, a 5 year old and a 10 year old boy. I figure we could tent camp for the next 5-10 years or we could go slightly more glamorous and get a small trailer. I fell in love with the Cricket trailers for a variety of reasons (weight, size, the fact that the purpose isn’t to recreate your house which forces you outdoors more) and found a dealer in California that was significantly cheaper than the dealer here in Oregon. We arranged for the trailer to be delivered to Medford, got up at 4am and met the delivery truck at 9am five hours later at a Walmart in Medford.

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Took us an hour or so to get everything worked out, we got breakfast and then headed back up the same way we had just come but did a side trip to the Wildlife Safari outside of Eugene, which Karen had been angling to visit for years. We escaped without getting mauled by rhinos or lions or elephants and eventually made it home. Trying to back the trailer up the driveway into the side yard took me about 30 minutes and involved the neighbors. I eventually got better at this.

August 6th: One of the options on the trailer was a refrigerator that runs off of the battery. The trailer dealer didn’t have one in stock so I figured I’d order one online but then shipping it quickly cost almost as much as the refrigerator did so we did ground shipping, which meant that the refrigerator was going to arrive the same day we were supposed to leave. We waited… and waited.. and waited and then finally at about 1pm the refrigerator arrived and a couple hours later we finally rolled out of the driveway with bikes, kayak, trailer, small children and refrigerator. Things were looking good:
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We arrived at Humbug Mountain State Park pretty late in the evening, got camp set up and the small children in bed and then laid down on our picnic table and watched the stars. The campground was nice, better than the state campgrounds in California but didn’t offer much in the way of privacy (you’re pretty close to the people next to you) and the road noise (see below) wasn’t great.

Pretty sure that we saw Vulpecula and definitely saw a bunch of satellites. The campground there is nice but the common complaint (very true) is that the campground is right next to the highway. I figured that the highway ran North / South and that we by getting further inland that our site would be a decent distance away from the highway but it turns out that the highway turns inland to go around the mountain and so we were probably 100 yards away from 101, which meant that sleep was a little harder but camping… can’t expect perfection. This guy was pretty stoked by his bed though:
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August 7th: no one really sleeps in, we’re up early
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and proceed to get the dutch oven going to make blueberry cinnamon roll coffee cake and eggs. We took a walk along the beach:
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played in the sand and in the big grassy park and then later in the afternoon made our way down to Gold Beach where we hopped on a jet boat tour (Jerry’s Rogue Jets) for the afternoon. We saw a bunch of wildlife (bald eagles, deer, river otters and osprey), got to swim in the river and had a great lunch at the half way point. Fun trip and then back to the campground where everyone crashed after being in the sun all day long. We watched stars again.

August 8th: Up and at’em early again, the menu was supposed to include eggs and potatoes for breakfast but I think at this point we had already started to tire of making big breakfasts and meals and started to fall back to cereal and simpler items. First stop was the Prehistoric Gardens
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which was just 10 minutes or so south of Humbug Mountain. I had read about this place a couple times previously and it was alright for the little guys but definitely wouldn’t be somewhere that I’d visit twice. It’s no more than a 15 minute walk around the grounds, some pictures and then the gift shop. Love the idea, not a huge fan of the implementation but if you’re on vacation and already bleeding money, stop on by.

Back on the road, 30 minutes later the lunch grumbles started and we came across Myers Creek Beach, which had a couple of geocaches, lots of sand, some cool rocks and made for a great lunch / get your wiggles out stop:
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but then we had to buckle down for a couple hours. Next step was at the Trees Of Mystery, otherwise known as the giant statue of Paul Bunyan and his ox Babe. Great place to take pictures and walk around. We didn’t do the Trees Of Mystery tour (don’t remember what it cost but it didn’t seem worth it at the time) but the statue was great. They’ve got some guy hooked up with a microphone that can hear everything that little kids ask of Paul and he gives great answers.
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Our little dudes got a kick out of climbing on the statue, eating ice cream and running around but then quickly, we hit the road again. We stopped for groceries a couple hours later in Arcata at a great co-op (North Coast Co-op) and then finally a couple of hours later made it to our campground (Hidden Springs Campground in the Avenue of the Giants / Humboldt Redwoods) for the next 2 days. We got a great spot probably 20 yards away from anyone else in the campground and it was relatively empty, especially since it was the weekend. Pretty sure at this point that we had thrown out the complicated menu that we had planned on and were just winging it with fresh veggies, hummus and bread for dinner instead of making relatively complicated dutch oven dinners.

August 9th: Karen is up early (as is everyone else) and has to complete (I think) a 15 mile run as part of the marathon training she’s doing. I make breakfast and then take the boys to go find fun stuff to look at. We quickly hit the Drive Through Tree, which we couldn’t actually drive through with the kayak on top but it was a fun hour with some climbing and running around. I piled the dudes back in the car and we headed over to the visitor center to get a couple ideas of what to see. Karen was done with her run and needed a shower so we headed back and found a really great nature area around the ranger talk area with all kinds of giant logs and stumps that were great for climbing or pretending that you’re a king in a castle. We finally headed out and did a couple small hikes around the various sights, finding the albino trees and Giant Tree:

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August 10th: only so many trees you can look at when you have a 3 year old in tow. We decided to make our way up north to Eureka, which has a really cute little zoo. We did the zoo and then went into downtown and tried to find a place where we could throw in our kayak and SUP in the harbor. After a bit of hassling around with parking around Eureka Boardwalk, we got both the kayak and the SUP into the harbor and went for a short spin around the harbor. We saw a couple seals, paddled by some big boats, put our feet in the mud and then celebrated our first in the water encounter with ice cream at Living the Dream Ice Cream.

August 11th: lots of driving. We eventually made it down to Samuel P. Taylor State Park (our campground for a single night) with a stop off at Bear Valley Visitor Center (Point Reyes), where we got a little hike in, seeing how the Native Americans lived on the land hundreds of years ago. I have fond memories of Palace Market somewhere around Point Reyes where we stopped and got cheese and bread and fruit and other goodies for a super simple dinner at our campground. Everyone hit the hay early that night, not noticing the giant raccoons
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roaming around the campground that tried to break into our coolers, unsuccessfully.

August 12th: Karen did another long run, this one multiple laps around the campground. The boys played with some other small friends that were camping next to us and after a shower for Karen, we packed up and headed south again, passing over the Golden Gate Bridge (and hoping that we might be able to stop, park and walk on it but that proved impossible with a trailer) and then eventually making it to our campground for the night (Henry Cowell State Park Campground). This campground looked relatively nice on the web but turned out to be one of the dirtiest and worst kept up places that we stayed. Most of the national parks were really nice, this particular state park seemed like it’s funding had been cut in half. Dusty, dirty and tired, we headed into Santa Cruz, visited a bookstore (for Beck, he was out of books), had dinner at Pono Hawaiian Grill (really good) and then walked the boardwalk
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before heading back to our campsite for the night.

August 13th: breakfast, got packed up and headed out to New Brighton State Beach, where we got to throw in the kayak and the SUP again. We paddled out for a couple hundred yards and came upon a kelp bed that turned out to be home to a mommy otter and her baby. We paddled around the otters for awhile, talking with some other folks that were out in boats that day and then headed back to shore, where Reed and Kai played in the sand for 45 minutes while we packed up the kayak and SUP on to the car. After grabbing lunch somewhere, we drove the rest of the way to Morro Bay (our destination for the next 5 days) and finally arrived later in the afternoon, meeting up with my parents and my brother (much later that day) to stay at the Morro Bay Beach Bungalows, which were available on VRBO and for the 3 families turned out to be a really great place to stay. I dropped off the trailer at Morro Dunes RV Park & Campground (who were kind enough to store the trailer for 5 days and even accepted the trailer after they were officially closed for the day, thank you!) and the headed out to San Luis Obispo to catch the Farmer’s Market, which was one of Karen’s favorite things to do in college (her brother went to Cal Poly SLO). I have fond memories of a street performer who was playing the banjo and was requesting songs. I had the boys ask him to play “This Land Is Your Land”, which attracted a bit of a crowd, probably because I had 2 small boys dancing in circles while he was playing.

August 14th: everyone up early, Boppa got coffee for the girls across the street and we had to run the dogs so we headed over to Tidelands Park
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Part II coming soon.

Links: 1-15-2016

Stuff I read: December 2015

As usual, a little bit late typing everything up but here’s what I read in December. All books are on the reading page.

December 2015

  • Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time NOTES: The title scared me a little bit, I thought I’d be reading yet another business book with a bunch of shallow cliches but this book has a bunch of really great viewpoints and thinking. For right or wrong, I started using some of the ideas almost immediately, both at home and at work. Quotes:
    • To start, listen to yourself, quote: “Being to hear yourself avoiding the topic, changing the subject, holding back, telling little lies (and big ones), being imprecise in your language, being uninteresting even to yourself. And at least once today, when something inside of you says, ‘This is an opportunity to be fierce,’ stop for a moment, take a deep breath, then come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real. Say something that is true for you… example: ‘What I just said isn’t quite right. Let me see if I can get closer to what I really want to say.’
    • Great chapter on “interrogating reality”. Questions that you can ask to make sure that reality is continually being analyzed: “What are my goals when I convene with people? What kinds of things do I usually discuss? Are there other topics that would be more interesting? How often do I find myself – just to be polite, saying things I don’t mean? How many meetings have I sat in where I knew the real issues were not being discussed? What about the conversations in my marriage? What issues are we avoiding? If I were guaranteed honest response to any three questions, whom would I question and what would I ask? What has been the economical, emotional and intellectual cost to the company of not identifying and tackling the real issues? What has been the cost to my marriage?” Lots more on page 20. Great list.
    • Quote: “… when someone takes you up on your invitation to challenge your strongly held opinion, resist the temptation to defend your idea immediately…. Instead of trying to strengthen your own case, inquire into someone’s position. ‘Tell us more, help us understand your thinking.’” I think I’ve read / seen this idea somewhere else recently, ie: before immediately defending your turf (or someone else defending their turf, take a bit of time to listen to the other side before replying.
    • Another great concept / phrase to remember, “Mineral Rights”. Quotes: “If you’re drilling for water, it’s better to drill one hundred foot well than one hundred one foot wells.” Similar concept but different angle, the US military slang uses “ground truth” to describe the reality of a tactical situation – as opposed to intelligence reports and mission plans. The appendix has some steps you can go through when thinking about / talking about mineral rights: 1) Identify the most pressing issue. 2) Clarify the issue. 3) Determine the current impact. 4) Determine the future implications. 5) Examine your personal contribution to the issue. 6) Describe the ideal outcome. 7) Commit to action. Other quotes:
      • Regularly interrogate reality in your workplace and personal life. What has changed? Does the plan still make sense? If not, what is required of you? of others?
      • Since everyone owns a piece of truth about reality, consider whose realities should be explored before important decisions are made?
      • Avoid blame by modifying your language. Replace the word “but” with “and”.
      • Ensure that your personal and corporate immune systems are healthy by conducting an integrity scan and correcting any outages.
    • On being you, have a personal stump speech that answers the following questions: Where am I going? Why am I going there? Who is going with me? How will I get there?
    • On being engaged / mentally invested in a question / conversation, quote: “Think for a moment about the kind of attention you bring to your conversations. While someone is talking, where are your thoughts? When you are face to face, do you look at the individual in front of you or do your eyes roam the room in some sort of perpetual surveilliance? While you’re talking with someone on the telephone, do you scan your email? And can you tell when someone else is scanning his?
    • On 1:1′s and having your direct report set the agenda by asking them to bring up the most important thing that needs to be talked about. Quote: “When we meet tomorrow, I want to explore with you whatever you feel most deserves our attention, so I will begin our conversation by asking, ‘What is the most important thing you and I should be talking about?‘ I will rely on you to tell me. If the thought of bringing up an issue makes you anxious, that’s a signal you need to bring it up. I am not going to preempt your agenda with my own. If I need to talk with you about something else, I’ll tag it on to the end or plan another conversation with you.”
    • How to have a mineral rights conversation: What is the most important thing we should be talking about? Describe the issue, what’s going on relative to …? How is this currently impacting you? Who or what else is being impacted? If nothing changes, what are the implications? How have you helped create this issue or situation? What is the ideal outcome? When this is resolved, what difference will that make? What’s the most potent step you can take to resolve this issue? What exactly are you committed to do and when? As part of this conversation, questions only. No leading questions, no declarative statements. Get all of the information out.
    • Decision Tree for helping direct reports figure out how to work on something: Leaf Decisions: Make the decision. Act on it. Do not report the action you took.
      Branch Decisions: Make the decisions. Act on it. Report the action you took daily, weekly or monthly. Trunk Decisions: Make the decision. Report your decisions before you take action.
      Root Decisions: Make the decision jointly, with input from other people. These are the decisions that, if poorly made and implemented, could cause major harm to the project or company.
    • On tackling the toughest challenges: Ongoing problems in an organization often stem from root issues. Moles are a nuisance and they proliferate because they eat the grubs in the ground. Go for the root cause. “Make it your job as a leader to give up mole whacking and take up grub hunting.”
    • On talking about / presenting bigger issues to a group, an outline: 1) The issue is… 2) It is significant because… 3) My ideal outcome in … 4) Relevant background information includes… 5) What I have done up to this point 6) The help I want from the group is.. (page 129-130 and page 133 has some good facilitator guidelines)
    • Principle 6 / page 187: An emotional wake is what you remember after I’m gone. What you feel. The aftermath, aftertaste, or afterglow.
    • Principle / chapter 7: be more comfortable with silence, it’s ok to pause and let people reflect or even just to be quiet.
    • Last, in the Appendix and already used this week, the Confrontation Model, which givees you tools for confronting tough issues with courage, compassion and skill. Page 254.
  • Sidetracked: Volume 5: NOTES: Like Bike Magazine except for all outdoors, picked up a subscription on a whim a couple weeks ago, lots of amazing photography and outdoor inspiration.
  • Homage to Catalonia NOTES: Had a work trip to Barcelona to visit with the New Relic team there. Bought a couple books about Spain and Barcelona, this was highly recommended on an ask.metafilter.com thread. Can’t say that I felt a learned a ton about either through the book but apparently it’s supposed to be one of George Orwell’s best books, 3 stars out of 5 from me.

Links: 1-4-2016

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