Vicious Cycles – A Stop Animation Film

My brother recently sent me this video and reminded me how much we thought it was funny as kids. Turns out that film got me interested (for a while) in stop animation. I created a couple hours of stop animation shorts with my friends and brother. Too bad I don’t have that footage any more.

Vicious Cycles was created in 1967 by Chuck Menville. Its production value is simple by today’s standard but it still is hilarious.

 

Stop being a butthole about what tech you hate

I’m attending an awesome conference this week and I’ve been seeing a trend that I want to address.

 

On more than one occasion I’ve noticed people bad-mouthing a particular technology they’ve deemed as being inferior. Specifically I’m addressing the number of speakers and panelists bad-mouthing WordPress. On more than one occasion WordPress has been called (and I’m paraphrasing) crap and useless.

 

As a full-time mobile developer I do not develop on the PHP side of WordPress. I barely know how to create a plugin even after working four years at Automattic. I personally do not have a drive to learn WP dev beyond what I need to accomplish my job. Just because I don’t use WP directly and only the APIs doesn’t mean I don’t have respect for it and the entire community of developers and volunteers behind it.

 

Marginalizing an entire development community, especially at a polyglot tech conference, is a shitty move. Given that I work for Automattic and WordPress pays the bills it really hurts hearing someone call what you’re working on useless and irrelevant. I guess 28% of the web on WordPress isn’t really great (/sarcasm).

 

The reality is you’re not perfect. Your code is crap, just like mine, and everything we did in the past is never as good as what we’re working on now. We live in an ecosystem of technologies – learn to love everything that is tech. You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the foundation of what’s considered legacy. Your perspective is ultimately skewed to what your personal experiences have been – understanding others have valid experiences as well makes our world more diverse and inclusive.

US Postal Service Scans & E-mails Your Incoming Mail Pieces

The United States Postal Service started a new service in April called “Informed Delivery” which promises to e-mail you images of the envelopes of today’s mail being delivered. You’ll know what important mail is waiting for you in your mailbox even if you’re not at home. You’ll also know if mail isn’t getting delivered to you properly and you can report it to the Post Office with a couple clicks.

InformedDelivery

I normally work at home. During the summer my husband and I also tend to work 2-3 days a week at our seasonal campground site a couple hours away. We put our mail on hold during those days to prevent a mailbox full of potential goodies to steal. Informed Delivery allows us to see the outside of any incoming mail, even during a mail hold. If something concerning comes in we may be able to respond by contacting the sender and finding out what’s in that envelope.

Our mail carrier is fantastic. She works five days a week and on the sixth day when someone fills in for her, our mail service is questionable. On more than one occasion our mail has been mis-delivered to a similarly numbered house a quarter mile away. The only times we had proof of this mis-delivery was when the item had a tracking number associated with it and we sort of knew the item was coming. I ended up friending the person at that address on Facebook so we could communicate when we received each other’s mail. With Informed Delivery I’ll know when I should be expecting a piece of mail and if it’s not in the mailbox, it could be in his.

Informed Delivery isn’t available in every area and I believe it’s considered a beta-testing program. See if it’s available in your area!

https://informeddelivery.usps.com

How Would You Define a True Leader?

Some words I use when I think of a true leader

I’ve been engaged with leadership coaches for several months as part of Automattic’s internal leadership training program. Having a coach has been mind-opening and an excellent option for leadership training in a completely remote work culture. One of the recent questions asked of me was in regards to what I felt a true leader is and what qualities they embody.

My Answer:

A true leader is someone that people look up to for direction, answers, and guidance when it comes to doing their jobs. They also know when to listen and ask for answers from the people they lead. Leaders are also visionaries in the sense they can find paths unfollowed to lead people to so they can exceed the potential they think they’re only capable of.

What’s your definition of a true leader?

Bells on Road Bikes

Plenty of Roadies out there (road bike enthusiasts) are anti a lot of things – bells, kickstands, racks, etc. When I bought a Crossrip 2 cyclocross bike from Trek I decided I’d accept no kickstand. It annoys the hell out of me and I’m looking for other options like a Click-Stand to prop the bike up when I’m parking it. The one safety item I really needed but hated the look of was a bell.

Why are bells important? On trails when you’re passing someone yelling “on your left!” mostly works. It doesn’t help when a runner has loud headphones on (something I think it incredibly unsafe) and you need to announce your passing. On my hybrid bike I had a mini Incredibell which worked well. On my Crossrip that sized bell just looked really weird. I found a bell that’s functionally awesome and visually hidden. Can you find it?

IMG_2654

Buy it here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0728LPBFB

Vacuum the Brain with Morning Pages

I’ve blogged a lot about my struggles with attention and focus over the years since I started working remote. I continue to find tools and adjust my behaviors tiny bits at a time to help align me with the world I work in. I’ve been doing mindful meditation daily, usually in the morning, to help calm the brain and prepare for the day.

Pencil and Paper

Just yesterday I was introduced to a fun practice called Morning Pages to help organize my thoughts in the morning to start the day. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, uses morning pages to spill out thoughts and ideas from her head onto three pages of paper. The daily practice involves stream-of-consciousness writing (or commonly called free writing) three full pages of handwritten text. Topic is unimportant – it’s whatever comes to mind. Julia says some of her students call it “mourning pages” as it usually turns into a bitch session.

The things you write during morning pages help clear out the brain for you to start the day. You’re not writing for anyone except yourself and even then the pages aren’t written to be read. Imagine the stuck ideas flowing out of your head onto the paper and then throwing the paper out at the end. The things that end up written may or may not be really true thoughts and feelings – they’re just what’s occupying the recesses of your mind. Don’t judge yourself during the process – just do it.

I’ve modified the technique slightly to fit into my daily habit. I’m starting this week with five minutes of morning pages and then my normal 5-10 minute mindful meditation. This all happens before I start work but after I get the dogs fed & insulin injected for the old guy, and the coffee put on. As of right now I’m physically writing the morning pages but I could see moving to an iPad. I do enjoy the physical sensation of writing with a pencil, however.

Learn more about Julia’s techniques at http://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/

Keyboard Wrist Rests are a Lie

Since December I’ve been working with a physical therapist to help with some shoulder and neck pain that keeps recurring. After many hours of therapy including dry needling we’ve determined there’s nothing wrong with my back or neck and it must be posture-related. I’ve been constantly tweaking my standing desk setup to make sure I’m maintaining decent posture.

Floating Wrists

Part of the research took me into proper keyboard setup. I have a keyboard riser to put it at the proper height when standing at my desk. I discovered that the wrist rest is a complete lie and I was using the keyboard improperly. Resting your wrists while typing can compress the nerves in the wrist leading to carpal tunnel syndrome. Some experts say you can rest your palms instead to keep the angle of your wrists more neutral. I’ve found an even better approach – let your hands float over the keys & rest your hands when you’re not typing.

I place my keyboard at the edge of the riser so that there is no space available to rest my hands. When using the treadmill under the desk I found I was putting way too much weight on the rest to maintain balance. By forcing my hands to float above the keyboard I reduced the fatigue greatly and it made me more mindful of my overall posture.

The Wirecutter had a great article in March about ergonomic keyboards and typing ergonomics. While they don’t specifically mention the hand floating technique there are a lot of great tips on keyboards.

Being Mindful for 122 Days

It’s been nearly four years since I started the journey of understanding how my attention & focus work. Along the way I’ve learned several things that have been key factors in developing tools to modify my behaviors to perform better.

Most importantly any tools/habits you use or create are ephemeral. The tool may or may not work for you. Maybe the tool works for you for a couple months but then it becomes a hinderance. Possibly even the tool feels like it has always worked but something lets you understand it never really did help. The key thing to realize is your toolbox will and should continually change with you over time. No matter what people say you’re a continually changing person – even old dogs learn new tricks. It’s okay to throw things out and to try new things.

Don’t try to change too much too quickly. This is probably just as important as the first key but it’s not very obvious until you start trying new things. If you try to change too many things or switch a habit drastically it’s much easier to abandon when you don’t feel immediate successes. Instead try to incrementally change towards something longer term.

I’ve always wanted to have a meditation practice and make it part of my daily regimen. I felt it was the one missing piece to my daily routine with exercise that could help curb some of the ADHD symptoms. The problem was I didn’t know where to get started and was really afraid of being a failure. I’ve always had a very open heart and mind when it comes to spirituality – if I couldn’t “get” meditation then that would make me question a lot of things. I realized that my biggest fear was based upon my perception of how meditation can work and look.

Mindfulness meditation is one of the many ways you can practice meditation. Specifically it focuses your mind on being present in the moment – to be aware of what you’re doing but not getting overwhelmed or misdirected by emotions, memories, and other inputs. My husband started meditating with the Calm iOS app to help with his challenges with anxiety. I learned that meditation doesn’t require hours of effort every day and having an app on my phone made the barrier to entry super low. It also helped that he broke the ice by starting the practice and the two of us support each other with motivation to try to get a session in every day.

Today marks the 122nd day that I’ve done a mindfulness meditation – either with the Calm app or on my own. I usually find streak analysis to be demotivating when life gets in the way and you miss a single day. I found after about 30 days of use of the app I started incorporating small moments of mindfulness meditation when I felt my attention slip. On the few days where I forgot to do a formal session with the app I logged a few minutes of time where I knew I was being mindful.

Mindfulness will slip into parts of your day where you don’t expect it. When giving one-on-one reviews with my team I frequently find myself popping into a moment of reflection before the video chat starts. Being mindful upfront brings the memories and feelings of that specific teammate into focus so our conversations are relevant and scoped to the purpose of a one-on-one. In the past those calls frequently were disconnected from the past because I got caught up in the actions of the operational nature of the call rather than the true nature of what they should accomplish.

It only takes a couple of minutes out of your day. Pick a time that is quiet and consistent throughout the week including the weekends. For me lately that’s been in the morning after the dogs get fed and before I have a cup of coffee. On average I’ll do a 10-minute session but try starting with a shorter amount. Calm uses a subscription model but they do offer a seven day cycle for free as well as several other options. There are plenty of other apps out there as well but I would suggest to start with one that provided some guidance narration.

Being mindful isn’t just about listening to yourself. Developing a mindfulness practice will help you realize when your own emotions and memories are preventing you from seeing things external. Think of it like wearing a pair of sunglasses that have been cloudy from smeared sunscreen for years. Laziness stopped you from cleaning the lenses and over time you stopped even noticing the reduced clarity. Mindfulness lets you recognize the cloudiness, without judgement, and lets you understand what you’re seeing differently because of the smudges. You can then choose to clean the lenses and see how the world looks with more clarity.