Archive: April 29, 2007

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Installing Dimmers

Sunday,  04/29/07  01:09 PM

A long time ago I was working on something - well actually I was supposed to be working on something, I wasn't really - and by way of procrastination, I decided it must be the moment to replace some of the light switches in my house with dimmers.  I won't bore you with the details but you can imagine "merely" replacing light switches with dimmers was non-trivial.  { To give you a flavor for the yak shaving involved, I had to make made a circuit diagram of every switch and plug in my house. }  Many hours later I had a bunch of nice working dimmers and had made zero progress on the thing I was supposed to be doing.


In my team "installing dimmers" has become a neologism for doing something useful which is nevertheless procastination.  You can rationalize doing useful work pretty easily, compared to say watching the Lakers lose, but there is still the guilt; you know you are not doing the highest priority thing.  Still, an amazing amount of work can get done this way.  I've done incredible amounts of useful work by way of procastination from things I didn't want to do (or more to the point, didn't know how to do).


Here I am, it is Sunday afternoon, and I am [metaphorically] installing dimmers.  In fact I have a whole nest of dimmers I'm installing; there is the task-I-should-do, the task-I-did-instead, and the task-I-did-instead-of-the-task-I-did-instead-when-I-got-stuck.  And then there is the task-I-did-instead-of-all-of-them, blogging.  So here we are.

My last blog post was October 15, 2006 ("Ole Votes"), cleanly seven months ago.  That is my biggest gap ever, and followed closely my second biggest gap ever - five months - so it would be defensible to say I really haven't blogged in over a year.  Unbelievable.  I like blogging, well I liked blogging, anyway, but somewhere along the line it became a task to perform instead of a fun thing to do instead of tasks to perform, and so I stopped.  Whether I have started again remains to be seen.


Ole status

Sunday,  04/29/07  02:01 PM

So you meet someone you haven't seen in over a year, and you say "hey, how's it going", and they say "great, how's it going with you", and you say "great".  Right?  And if it is someone you are close to and/or you care about, you might exchange a few sentences about how things are really going.  About your family, about your work, about you personally.  It is tough to summarize a year in a few sentences.

My family are all doing great.  I don't blog much about my family, so if you don't know me outside of blogging, you probably don't know them.  I have a fantastic wife and four amazing daughters, and they are all well.  Growing up too fast (!) but well.  I also have two dogs and a cat (well two Shih-Tsus and a cat, I don't know if you consider Shih-Tsus to be actual dogs), and they, too, are all doing well.  A boring report, but there it is.

I am the CTO of Aperio, a company which makes systems for Digital Pathology, and at the highest level things are going great there, too.  We are growing and steadily gaining traction.  Other than growing pains and increasing competition, we don't have any real problems.  Of course at a level below the highest level, there are a million challenges and issues every day.  I should blog about more of them, maybe I will.

On a personal level, I have been cycling a lot, and have [finally] lost some weight.  Longtime readers may remember my New Year's Resolution; at the end of 2004 I vowed to weigh less than 200 lbs by January 1, 2005, and less than 190 by January 1, 2006.  It didn't happen.  I stayed rock steady at 205 all through 2005 and all through 2006.  On January 1, 2007, I weighed 205 lbs.  I could have loaned myself out as a calibration device, I was so consistent.  So this year I've changed two things, first, I have been exercising a lot more as a byproduct of cycling, and second, I have been staying up less late.  The combination has helped me lose about 15 lbs, I am now about 190, and confidently expect to hit 185 within a month or so.  At that point none of my clothes will fit anymore and I will be content :)  In all other ways little has changed for me.  I may dribble out more if I keep posting.  Stay tuned.


Sunday,  04/29/07  06:05 PM

Cool, I've already received some "welcome back" emails.  Thank you very much!  Basically I assumed nobody was still reading, I'd have to start over.  With RSS maybe that is no longer true?

So, what's happening? 

While I have fallen out of the habit of posting I have not stopped reading, in fact, I read more blogs and more blog posts than ever.  (Via RSS of course; if you are not reading blogs via RSS, please stop what you're doing, and immediately follow the directions in the RSS cookbook.  You will thank me.  Yes, you're welcome.)

Well first, Danilo Di Luca won Liège-Bastogne-Liège!  Congratulations, Danilo!  If you're not a fan of pro cycling this entry might be a mystery to you; so be it.  Trust me, winning this race is major accomplishment.  I will be blogging more and more about pro cycling, which means you will learn more or read less, depending :) 

Bill Burnham asks: Is it just me, or is GAAP completely broken?  It isn't just you, Bill. 

Paul Graham lists the reasons Why not to start a startup.  "Because of Y Combinator's position at the very start of the venture funding process, we're probably the world's leading experts on the psychology of people who aren't sure if they want to start a company."  I love Paul and it is a great list, but it is incomplete; the #1 reason not to start a startup is, you're not an entrepreneur.  See, I am a small company guy - I've done five startups - but I am not a startup starter.  I am a startup fast follower.  I know this about myself, perhaps you know it about yourself, too.  It's okay :) 

This is already a bit dated but it was so great I had to link it: Apple iLaunch.  "The iLaunch is a product that will 'revolutionize the process of unveiling new products throughout the world.'"  [ via TechCrunch ]  This hits about ten nails on the head at once, awesome satire.  ("As his presentation wound down, Jobs said there was 'one more thing' he wanted to mention: The iLaunch automatically saves a significant, salient product feature for the end of a presentation, to surprise and delight audiences.") 

Of course you've already read about Gliese 581c, right?  This is the third rock from another sun, a red dwarf named Gliese which is about 20 light years away, and it is the most "earthlike" planet yet found.  "The new planet is about 50 percent bigger than Earth and about five times more massive... It is located about 15 times closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun; one year on the planet is equal to 13 Earth days."  Scientists have calculated that the planet is at the correct distance from its sun that water would be a liquid, which means the Search for Life Gets Serious.  I love it. 

Oh, and a little while back, Cassini Spacecraft Images Seas on Saturn's Moon Titan. [ via slashdot ]  "Instruments on NASA's Cassini spacecraft have found evidence for seas, likely filled with liquid methane or ethane, in the high northern latitudes of Saturn's moon Titan. One such feature is larger than any of the Great Lakes of North America and is about the same size as several seas on Earth."  I can't resist saying, huge liquid methane lakes are pretty cool.  Soon after Cassini returned some amazing high-altitude views of Saturn (click on thumbnail at right for larger pic).   Yes, I still want to visit Titan

You know I'm a gadget guy, right?  Well while I was out, one of the more important gadgets I acquired was an AppleTV.  So far it works flawlessly; I've watched a couple of movies (downloaded from iTunes) and used it as my stereo for a dinner party.  Shortly after its release ArsTechnica posted a definitive review.  ("Based on what we think the potential is for the Apple TV, combined with how we think most average people will use the device, we would have no problem giving it an 8 or higher. Based on the current feature set and how much we desire certain things (out of the box) that don't currently exist, though, we would score it much lower.")  For me a highly interested aspect is transcoding all the video I've acquired over the years into a compatible format.  Fortunately people have already figured out how to play DivX and Xvid on your AppleTV and how to upgrade the disk drive in your AppleTV.  The market finds a way. 

As time passes and if I keep blogging, I'll try to spool in some of the more interesting ideas which surfaced over the past year.  One of the ideas most worth preserving came from Dave Winer: preserving ideas.  "No one really likes to think about dying, but it comes for everyone, eventually, and if you're living a creative life, as so many of us are these days, maybe you'd like your creations to live at least a little bit longer than you do?"  He's exploring the idea of a commercial service which would keep your pages posted long after you are gone.  Very cool.  When I think of all the "gardening" required to keep this little site on the air, I have to admit when I'm gone, its gone. 

[Self-identified "longtime reader"] Bill asks: "I was intrigued by your statement about staying up less late.  How does that help you lose weight?"  Ah yes.  Well, for me, it means I have been going to bed instead of eating a box of wheat thins.  

The difficulty was that eating a box of wheat thins generally coincided with coding something useful, so I had to re-learn the knack of getting stuff done during the day.  Which meant re-leaning the knack of ignoring email, voicemail, etc. for significant periods of time.  And that turned out to mean enjoying life more, and getting frustrated less.  Win win!

A key to losing weight for me was having a metric.  And the metric turned out to be how fast I could do certain rides around my house!  Sure, I can get on a scale, and see "wow, I'm 205", but that didn't do it for me.  What did do it was knowing that I could do a certain 13.7 mile ride in 45 minutes.  And as I lost weight, I got faster!  At 200, I did it in 43 minutes.  At 195, I did it in 42 minutes.  Which made me ride harder, which made me lose more weight, so I went even faster...



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