Dispatch from the Trenches #2

Since a worker is basically knackered and good for nothing but a quick dinner and a DVD box set after eight hours of work, she might as well go the extra mile and work into the night if it results in fewer commutes and a routine four-day weekend.
Billionaire Calls for Three-Day Workweek | New Escapologist

Having an extra day or two off would make a huge different to quality of life.

When I was in college, I never had class on Friday. For four years I didn’t have to be anywhere on Friday. This was my recoup day. I would sleep and work on projects. Saturday would be fun day where I’d goof off. Sunday was a work day.

I worked for the school’s newspaper which meant 12-16 hour days trying to wrangle the paper’s reporting staff into providing their stories so I could lay them out and get the paper to the printer so it could be returned and delivered on Monday.

The last company I worked for offered an “RDO” schedule. This stands for Regular Day Off. It was an optional schedule where I would work an extra hour everyday and in return I would get a day off every two weeks.

The day off was decided beforehand by the company to assure proper coverage for our customers. But it was an amazing perk. Having that day off during the week to schedule vehicle maintenance and health appointments was the best perk of working there.

Even if I used the day to see a movie and sleep in, I returned to work feeling more rested and less stressed.

People often compare Minecraft to LEGO; both support open-ended creation (once you’ve mastered the crafting table, you can build nearly anything) and, of course, they share an essential blockiness. But I think this comparison is misleading, because a LEGO set always includes instructions, and Minecraft comes with none.

Minecraft is a game about creation, yes. But it is just as much a game about secret knowledge.

The secret of Minecraft — The Message

As a kid, I was a Lego addict. I would build things for hours in my room. I have not dipped my toe into the world of Minecraft partly for fear of losing myself forever in a colorful world of blocks.

This was a really interesting read because Minecraft is all about secret knowledge. You’re presented with a world. You have to survive. No manual. No instructions. No help.

Even though Fog Creek, Trello, and Stack Exchange are now three separate companies, they are all running basically the same operating system, based on the original microprocessor architecture known as “making a company where the best developers want to work,” or, in simpler terms, treating people well.

This operating system applies both to the physical layer (beautiful daylit private offices, allowing remote work, catered lunches, height-adjustable desks and Aeron chairs, and top-tier coffee), the application layer (health insurance where everything is paid for, liberal vacations, family-friendly policies, reasonable work hours), the presentation layer (clean and pragmatic programming practices, pushing decisions down to the team, hiring smart people and letting them get things done, and a commitment to inclusion and professional development), and mostly, the human layer, where no matter what we do, it’s guided first and foremost by obsession over being fair, humane, kind, and treating each other like family.
Trello, Inc. – Joel on Software

This is the operating system I want. This is the life I want to have. I urge you to click-through and read that second paragraph on Joel’s site because it’s filled with links. I wish there was more talk about operating systems like the one Joel build and not ones impersonating National Parks.

He has the right idea. Treating people well is the currency of the 21st Century.

Ducks in a row


Since I’ve started eating better, the second phase to Operation Be Less Fat is exercise. All this week I have taken walks around the National Mall and Capitol Building. Working in DC does have its advantages for lunch-time strolls around the city. The constant influx of tourists makes for superb people-watching.

I’ve been taking pictures as I walked because it’s relaxing. It’s a Friday in the summer. Enjoy some ducks.



Remove Windows 8 Wireless Profiles an easier way

This morning a friend Tweeted in horror that managing wireless profiles in Windows 8 required using the Command Line. Windows had decided to hand on to a wireless network so she couldn’t connect to a new access point.

I was shocked this was the method prescribed by Microsoft so I had to look. And she is right.

Some tasks, such as deleting a profile, must be done at the command
prompt. To do these tasks, open Command Prompt, and then type the
appropriate command from the following table.

Manage wireless network profiles – Windows Help

At the command prompt you need to type netsh wlan delete profile name=”ProfileName”. This is how you can remove a wireless profile in Windows 8. There had to be a better way.

And there is.

Up to Windows 7, previously connected wireless networks were saved and
viewable via the Preferred Wireless Network List, but this feature seems
to have been removed in Windows 8. Microsoft probably  removed it as
they have added a supposedly smart feature, that handles wireless
profiles by how much you connect to it.
WiFi Profile Manager 8: View Preferred Wireless Network Profiles in Windows 8

Wifi Profile Manager 8 is a freeware application released Lee Whittington for The Windows Club.

Wifi Profile Manager 8

The author notes some people have had success with the application while others have not. But if the command line scares you or if you think it’s absurd to have to use it to do something that was very easy in Windows 7, try it out.

man eating donut

The Fresh 20

Inspired by Conor McClure’s post about the Whole 30, I am sharing what my wife and I are doing.

In an ongoing quest to eat like adults, we tried Blue Apron. The food was good and fresh. The meals were delicious and we’ve saved many of the recipes we prepared.

But eventually we stopped making the food. While they ship everything you need (short of salt and pepper) in the box, there is a lot of chopping and slicing.

The meals were delicious but rarely had enough leftover for lunches the next day. This is the second part of the healthy eating struggle.

Because of this, paired with issues retrieving packages at the condo we rent, we gave up on them. This is not a failing of them. But a failing in ourselves.

We both work full-time. We’d rather collapse on the couch and not cook for hours in the kitchen. But we also don’t want to order pizza every night either.

Enter The Fresh 20

The Fresh 20 is built around a week of meals where you shop for 20 ingredients (which they say can take about 20 minutes). The meals are listed with easy-to-follow recipes. Each of the week’s meals has a list of ingredients with portions listed. Though the very best part is the shopping list they offer.

Last night, we went to the grocery store and found all 20 ingredients. And we don’t shop at a fancy grocery store. We often struggle to find certain common herbs. But we routinely find everything we need with little effort. These aren’t gourmet ingredients we’d have to shop around to find.

There is minimal prep work, usually chopping or marinating. This is all spelled out for the five meals on the sheet with the meals listed so there are no surprises.

We use the Classic menu and I’ve been very happy with the variety of meals each week. There are also gluten-free, vegetarian, dairy-free and kosher meal plans. They also have plans for lunch and single people.

We have been doing this for about three weeks and every meal has been great. Their recipes feed a family of four, which is perfect for the two of us. This gives us dinner and lunch the next day.

Three months of The Fresh 20 will only run you $18. The annual plan is $54. Once you sign up, you’ll not only have access to a new meal plan every week, you’ll also be able to see their entire archive of meal plans. We are eating a plan from early June this week.

To be clear, they do not send you any food. They make simple, easy to follow (and shop for) meal plans. While it’s not easier than ordering pizza, it’s cheaper and more satisfying. I highly recommend trying it out. You can sign up for a free meal plan on their website. And when you fall in love with it, I know you’ll sign up and eat like a healthier adult.

Dispatch from the Trenches #1

Count to ten when a plane goes down

This is an incredible story. It’s not long and I urge you to read it. A great story and even better reminder to stop. Stop and think before you react. Information is not immediate. When something happens, it takes time to find what exactly has happened and the first information is not necessarily the best or even true.

On this day, I highlighted her workstation and hit the F6 key to reset. But my screen went temporarily black and then seemed to be starting again. I realized that I had mistakenly hit F7 and reset all the workstations in the embassy. This realization didn’t bother me much, because no one except the Agriculture section secretary was usually on the computer system this early in the morning.

But then all hell broke lose.

A single keystroke can change the course of international events.

So today, in the face of a Malaysian Airline crash in the Ukraine—and with all the associated speculation of 24-hour news organizations and the Tweetosphere, my advice is to take a deep breath, count to ten, and know that there is a very good chance that truth in the matter will be forthcoming very soon. And let’s hope that there is no stupid 23-year-old with his finger on an important keyboard in this information chain.

Watch Dogs

Let’s Play – Watch Dogs

I enjoy watching guys play various games. I thoroughly enjoyed their video for Watch Dogs. When I learned they could stand on top of cars and not only drive them around, but jump them, was incredible.

This is something I’ve tried in various games through the years. And failed every time. I’ve tried in Halo, Saints Row, and Grand Theft Auto. None of it works. Each time the rider falls off, even when the passenger is in the bed of a truck or somewhere a person could be.

I’m happy to see this mechanic built into the game, or maybe it’s a lack of mechanic to throw people from the moving vehicle. Either way, it excited me. Is it worth buying the game for that alone? Certainly not. But it would be hours of laughs.

Deconstructing Twitter

Does Twitter confound you? David Pogue has written an excellent primer explaining the gibberish squeezed into 140 characters.

This single example contains four examples of Twitter conventions:

• @SFGate. The @ symbol indicates a Twitter member’s name. I’m @pogue, for example. This tweet also mentions Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors. His Twitter name is, of course, @elonmusk.

• RT @SFGate. RT stands for retweet. So Debbie here is repeating (that is, retweeting)somebody else’s tweet—in this case, she’s retweeting something @SFGate said. (SFGate is the online edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.)

People use RT as a courtesy; it’s giving credit to the original author.

• sfg.l/1t4EIEd. That’s a URL—a link to a Web page. URLs are super common in tweets, since one key use of Twitter is sharing things found on the Web. Here, if you clicked the link, you’d go to the SFGate article that’s being quoted here.

• #Tesla. The # is a hashtag. It’s a label for your tweet. Other people can search for these hashtags—or click them—to see more tweets on the same subject. If you click on #Tesla, you’ll see a whole list of tweets, all pertaining to the Tesla company and its cars. (You can also go to Twitter.com and type the hashtag into the Search box.)

This has been the first Dispatch from the Trenches. Part of what will (hopefully) be an ongoing series of things I find interesting enough to share and comment on.