14.12.13

What's this all about then?

So, I've been thinking (nothing unusual there really).

Specifically, I've been trying to work out what I want to do with my writing.

I like writing things. But I struggle to work out how to organise my writing and how to present it. I'm interested in a lot of different stuff. Writing about all those different things in one place would, I think, be quite disconcerting to read. I can't really how a single blog would work if it tried to cover all the topics I am interested in and want to write about. I want to write about technology, productivity, running, fitness, project management, business, economics, politics, sport, my personal life, and probably quite a few things besides that.

So I'm going to go back to the idea that I'll write different blogs for different topics. And, the way I present the material will be very different on the different blogs. I think that there is a difference between personal journalling and "publishing" useful content.

Personal journalling is really a vanity exercise. Unless you happen to be a celebrity or unless your personal life somehow validates or increases the credibility of other things you do. That's not really the case for me.
I still would like to publish more useful content. I am very interested in personal productivity, running and software development project management.

By reading and thinking, I've come to realise that if I want to publish useful content, it's got to be more outward facing. It will be, ultimately, the type of content that works as "Top 5 tips for achieving blah" and so on. I've sort of fought against this in my head, but for no really good reason. I did think that there was some value for readers in seeing someone struggling with the daily grind of trying to put those "top 5 tips" into practice. I'm not so sure that there is. And, if there is, somewhere like this blog is a perfectly good spot for people to come and find that stuff.

So, here's the plan:

  • This blog will be my personal journal. It's the daily grind of me trying to get better at life. And all the things I think about along the way. I don't expect it to be terribly interesting for many (any) people. I'm still going to write it though. Because it's about teaching me to write. 
  • Ordinary Superhuman will become a blog that focuses on tips for achieving your goals in life. It will emphasise personal productivity and fitness. It will be a "10 reasons why ..." style blog.
  • PM Toolbox will be resurrected to focus on software development project management. It will also be a "10 reasons why ..." style blog.
  • If I ever find that I have too much time on my hands, then I may even get around to resurrecting Weasel Words as a blog chronicling the use and abuse of the English language. And, in particular, celebrating the use of spin and doublespeak in politics and business. But, history suggests that I won't have that much time on my hands.

A brief word about advertising & affiliate links

I will use Google AdSense and Affiliate Links for Amazon and maybe others on this site. I'm going to be writing events related to raising money for charity (see this post for more about what I'm doing in 2014). Much of what I do to raise money for charity can cost a lot of money. For example, the mandatory kit list for the Brecon Beacons Ultra will probably cost me over £250 to meet to an acceptable level. If you are able to support me by following Affiliate Links, it doesn't affect you, but it does help me go further to achieve charitable aims. 

14.11.13

You're much more excited about this than I am, aren't you?

"You're much more excited about this than I am, aren't you?"
"Mmmm ... well, yes, of course I am. This is exactly the sort of stuff I'd love to be doing professionally."

Sometimes it can be a bit uncomfortable to admit the truth to yourself. Or to your wife. But occasionally it's just so obvious that there's no avoiding it.
And so it was with helping H establish an internet presence for her new venture. H is starting a Music With Mummy franchise. Perhaps, at another point, I'll write something about why I genuinely think this is such a brilliant thing. Executive summary: local business working to do something genuinely helpful / valuable to the wider community. Roughly my high level view of why businesses should exist. I'll have to discuss the more nuanced aspects of contributing to society by improving the lives of employees another day. Anyway, back to the point ... This isn't a high tech business. It is something that will flourish on word-of-mouth between parents, friends and families of people that take part. But getting it off the ground takes a fairly serious investment of time and effort. Operationally there's finding venues, purchasing instruments and other equipment, planning sessions, practising delivery, and so on. From a more "commercial" perspective there's marketing, publicity and advertising to make people aware of the sessions.
Although I think that the value of entertaining children and allowing parents to socialise is most worthwhile, this is something that does need to generate more money than breaking even. It's H's actual business, replacing her previous nursing career. So it needs to get enough people attending to make a reasonable return. This means that we needed to think about how to market and advertise the classes.
H had recently been to a Music With Mummy group session where class leaders from all over the country met to discuss ideas, hints and tips. A Facebook Page was a very popular recommendation. So, we started there. It was a relatively simple exercise. We followed the guidance and then sent out a couple of posts and invites to friends. Within minutes the page had its first likes and H's post had received several responses.
It's all very exciting and really shows how effective the internet can be at helping to spread information. Over the next few days and weeks, H is going to be making and distributing various fliers and so we'll see how well our initial marketing goes.

25.9.13

Woman Buys Old Nintendo Game For $7.99. Turns Out It's Worth $15,000.

I was sorting through a pile of old web clips in my Evernote inbox and found this story from Kotaku. There's something great about the collectibility of  retro games.

29.4.13

Making a difference

I occasionally listen to a podcast series called Life Habits. Recently I listened to an episode called Making a Difference. The podcast talked about the common theme of people stating that they are motivated by the idea of making a difference. I have been musing about whether this is actually correct.

The first thing that occurs to me is that I suspect people really don't actually want to "just" make a difference. I think that, more precisely, they want to make a positive difference. I also think that the thought experiment to prove this is fairly simple. Imagine killing someone. I hope that most people's first reaction is that this isn't the kind of difference they mean. But it is a way to make a very noticeable difference. This little experiment leads me to introduce a more subjective concept of making a positive difference. If the person that you killed was truly evil, then killing them could possibly be viewed as positive. That's a philosophical debate for another day though. They key point is that it's not just about making a difference. It has to include a more subjective assessment of the merits of that difference.

I don't think that introducing the apparently obvious idea that people want to make a positive impact is just about pedantry.
Is it enough to know inside of yourself that you did something? Probably in many cases it is. However, I think that the inclusion of this more subjective assessment increases the likelihood that what is really desired is to be seen to make a difference. The reason I think this is because it provides an external validation of whether your difference was positive.

Why does any of this matter. Because in my professional life I am responsible for managing people. Understanding motivation is important if I am to fulfil my obligations to help my team be effective and to achieve their potential as individuals. I am sure that the stated desire to make a difference is far from the complete story and that a more subtle understanding is required to really appreciate what is being said.

26.2.13

Achilles Tendon - One Year On

Just over a year ago I ruptured the Achilles Tendon in my right foot. If you don't know already, this is a proper injury.

My treatment approach was non-surgical and very conservative. I had 10 weeks in a cast and a further 4 weeks in a orthotic boot to limit range of motion. That's around 3 months of not being able to put any weight on my right foot. Once I was out of the boot, I was able to start putting very small amounts of weight on my foot and slowly begin some form of rehabilitation.

It was around about 4 months before I was allowed to drive again. And I was walking without crutches. Even though I had quite a serious limp.

After about 6 months I was allowed to ride a bike. I managed to do this to and from work a bit to get a bit of exercise.

I was signed-off from the Physio and allowed to start running again in November. This was around 9 months after the injury.

I remember lots of different things about the stages of rehabilitation.
In the early days, easily the hardest thing to cope with was not being able to shower properly. Even after I discovered the LimbO (if you ever have an injury like this, I can't recommend them highly enough), it was awkward. Fortunately, our shower cubicle is big enough to house a plastic patio chair.

Once I was out of my boot, I remember the shock of seeing how much muscle had wasted away on my right calf. It felt like my leg was about half the size. Oh, yes, and there is the slightly grim sight of dried, wasted, flaky skin when you first remove the cast. That goes after a week or two though, so isn't too bad.

After about three months on crutches, I started to develop something a bit like trigger finger. I would wake up in the mornings and find that my fingers would "pop" out of the curled up position. This was probably a result of charging around on my crutches rather than just sitting down.

Considering that I didn't do any "normal" exercise during the main phase of my injury I only gained about 5 kilos in weight. I think that's quite a result.

Where am I now? Essentially I'm back to full health. I can walk comfortably. There is no pain at all. I can run and cycle. I'm running for 40 minutes plus with no problems or pain.

I am not quite back to full "fitness". I'm probably about 30 seconds a mile away from my previous best running pace. My right calf still doesn't have quite the same strength as my left. I can't quite stand fully on tip-toes on my right leg. But, I am running a consistent mileage every week without problems and I currently weigh around 71 kilos. This is the lightest I've been for nearly 4 years.

My right Achilles Tendon is still about twice the size of the left one and there is a bit of a lump at the back of my ankle. It doesn't cause any problem and I'm sure that over time this will reduce.

I was pretty good with my rehabilitation exercises, although I'm sure I could have tried to fit more regular calf  raises in once I'd been signed off from the physio. If you ever get injured like this and you are a keen sportsman, my main advice would be to be patient and also be as disciplined as possible about rehabilitation exercises. They make all the difference to your recovery time. Doing 10 calf raises doesn't feel like much. But doing it three times a day (assuming that's what you are assigned) will be huge. I only ever managed twice a day 4 or 5 times a week. That's probably why my strength isn't quite fully back yet.