Monday, August 17, 2009

What's driving, priorities or life?

I'm not particularly old but I have lately been in a position where more and more people are asking my advice. At least, I have found this one piece of advice seems very relevant for my generation. That advice is very simple, let your priorities run your life and do not let life run your priorities. I won't make this a conversation about what are the appropriate life priorities but am willing to have that conversation with anyone who wants to know my opinion...but instead, I want to talk about keeping your priorities first and let them run your life.

How does that work? I think so much of my generation hasn't set priorities and often thinks this is something "old" people do. But flying by the seat of your pants leads to one thing, life dictating your priorities. Some examples I have seen are people claim they can't do what they want (pay off debt, go on vacation, stay at home with their child, work less hours, have family dinners, eat healthy, exercise, etc etc) because they don't have the time or money. More often than not though its a decision they make to not make the sacrifices necessary to do what they say they want to do. Yes, you may have to eat beans and rice for dinner more often to pay off debt for go on vacation. Yes, you may have to move to a smaller house than you'd like to stay at home with a child or have a less stressful job. Yes, you may have to sacrifice career advancement or even get a job that pays less to spend more time with your family. And yes, you might have to sacrifice watching TV (even DVRed TV) to get more exercise! :-)

From my limited life experience I have found that when I can follow this advice above (and I fail consistently and am far from perfect) my life goes particularly well. My children are happier, my wife is happier, my focus is better, and the results of my work are even better. When I don't follow it, there is more stress at home, more fights between my wife, less happy children, less fulfilling and rewarding times at work, and overall I fail at life.

So, how do you get started? Make a list of your priorities in life. Check them daily as to what you, in reality, made your priorities. Try your best to correct it in your current life without drastic changes. If you find something just isn't working like you can't work less for fear of getting fired and you need that drastic change...make a 2-5 year plan to change the course of your life. I am not suggesting you just quit and hope that everything will work out. But a multi year plan could include downsizing your house, paying off debt, and changing to a job that fits within your priorities. If its to get out of debt or you can't save for a vacation, check out Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University to learn how to get out of debt and live your life without debt.

And because everyone needs a plan mapped out.. :-)

Step 1: Set your priorities
e.g. God, Family, Friends, Health and Exercise, Work, Play

Step 2: Keep a log of where your time is spent and where your focus is during your "downtimes"
e.g. 60 hours of work, ate family with dinner 2 out of 7 times this week, spent 2 nights in a recreational sports league, watched 8 hours of TV

Step 3: Analyze how to reorganize your time and investments in order to meet your priorities.
e.g. 2 less nights in sports league would allow for 2 more nights at home.

Step 4: Look for hard to solve problems and decide how to approach them.
e.g. Does work each week have to be 60 hours? Can you spend less time away at work, work your email instead of watching TV, or do you need a new job?

Repeat :-)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On social media and personal websites

One of the interesting things I have noticed these days is a lot of software developers in my generation (early Gen Y, late Gen X) have their own websites and spend as much time publicly marketing themselves as the companies and products they work on. In these positions, these people often blur the lines of their professional and personal lives.

When I joined twitter, I debated heavily whether twitter would be personal or professional for me. I had been trying to take a hard(er) line on Facebook and LinkedIn, much like my colleague Billy Newport stated here, where Facebook is for friends and family and LinkedIn is for professional contacts. I got enough Facebook invites from colleagues eventually that I made the rule that I would accept those who I would seek out to have a beer with if in town. I thought that was a good qualification...but I realized that this line was getting hard to maintain. And that is about the time I was joining twitter.

Well, when I joined twitter I decided this would be my first experimentation at having one point of contact that was both personal and professional. So far, I have no idea how it is working. Most of the people that I regularly communicate with on twitter are those that I would also gladly be Facebook friends with and some of them I am Facebook friends with. If I had to declare what is happening one way or another I would declare that twitter is more personal and less professional for me because it is personal at all. I think once I let my personal life bleed into it, it was mostly personal. But, I still have regular professional postings and there is a chance that my microblogs on twitter have some professional followers.

I come back to the original reason I began this blog post. Do I need a website? In this new day and age, is it more important for me to market myself? Years ago it wasn't needed because of corporate loyalty. These days it seems more common and in my age group corporate loyalty is not the norm. I don't know if I have a public enough presence to switch companies in a heartbeat or to be recruited by the top software engineering firms on a regular basis...but I am also not sure that is what I want. For now, this is something I heavily debate and try to make a decision on.

And, since I blurred the lines with this post on my personal blog...I thought I would also show off the cool stuff I have been designing as part of my product. Here is a recent video (only 1 min long) I made to show off the user experience we created with the function I designed:

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Localvore challenge complete...

So, we finished the localvore challenge. We had tacos last night on our last localvore day and made some corn salsa with fresh off the ear corn. The ground beef was from Angus Acre as I had written before. Here is what we learned:

1) We don't know what is in season anymore. I am not sure if this is a generation Y thing or it spans generation X as well. But, growing up I remember my mother always knew what the seasons for various fruits and vegetables are. I have no idea but need to learn. I think this chart from the NC Dept of Agriculture will help. but I hope to raise children that are knowledgeable of their surrounding farming...which leads me to the second point.

2) Its obvious that my suburban life has positioned us too far away from those that have the very important job of growing our food so that we are out of touch. One thing I hope to do is visit more farms with the kids and one of the primary ones on the list is Homeland Creamery where we get our milk from. As milk is one of the words Madelyn knows and can say, I think that this is something she can more readily understand.

3) We need to continue to look for local replacements for things we missed this week. Whether it be yogurt (our favorite is made in CA), food bars, tortillas or bread, if a local replacement is available we should try to shift towards it. Likewise, we need to reconsider how often we eat bananas and apples which seem to all be from far away.

4) We enjoyed the beef, thought the chicken was not so great, were indifferent on the eggs (farmers free range vs our normal Egglands best free range.), and always like fresh seafood. The vegatables were all great and Heather is sick of cantaloupe :-) In the end, we may keep trying to eggs and expect we will try to get the large quantities of beef like 15 or 30 lbs batches.

It was a fun experiment in which I learned a lot. If we do it next year, it may be a challenge for dinners only as it seems more reasonable and maybe would encourage more participation.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Pure localvore failure

I told Heather that we couldn't be strict localvores anymore after seeing this tweet of hers:

Over halfway through the challenge and I don't think I have ever craved food so much in my non-pregnant life

The point wasn't for us to be hungry or go hungry. The point was to try to eat local. I am sure that I will be able to analyze this further in the upcoming days and weeks but here is our problem:

1) Heather and I got into a pattern of not eating as many carbs and having healthy mid-morning/mid-day snacks. We lost this when we went local. The "snacks" ended up things like toast or bagels with butter and jam or a hard boiled egg.
2) We bought lots of food for great dinners (over a week's worth in fact) but utterly failed at breakfast and lunch. Breakfast we had bagels, toast, eggs, and homemade waffles. With the time constraints we are on in a normal week, that often doesn't work. Not only that but for lunch we had tomatoes (which we ran out of), cheese (which we ran out of) and PB&J + leftovers. Some days we didn't have leftovers so what do you do?

So, as of yesterday we started straying a bit from the localvore menu and ate healthy snacks when hungry. For dinner we had a completely localvore meal though - chicken in Bone Suckin Sauce, butter beans, and mashed irish potatoes from the farmer's market...with Lumpy's ice cream for dessert.

We are going to try to close out our week with as much local food as possible but I don't think we are going to continue unhealthy eating or being hungry for the sake of eating local.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Localvore update

Today as I was eating breakfast I found something unique - for the first time in my life I could name where all the food and drink I was consuming came from. What a difference. Last night we had swordfish from Southport Seafood Company. This company actually brings their seafood to the North Raleigh Farmer's Market which is less than a mile from our house. We also had green beans from a vendor at the farmer's market in Raleigh which came from Wilson NC. For dessert, we had some delicious chocolate cherry Lumpy's Ice Cream. This morning I had 2 eggs from Acre Farms in Plymouth, NC and whole wheat toast made at Great Harvest off Six Forks Road with butter and a glass of milk from Homeland Creamery.

For the past probably 6 months we have been getting our milk at Fresh Market from a local creamery called Homeland Creamery. This week we also got a huge tub of butter. This Creamery is out in Julian southwest of Burlington but before Greensboro...about 75 miles from our house. Heather and I were considering a trip out to the creamery to take a tour. We figure that since we so often are drinking milk (and now eating their butter) it might be valuable for the kids to see where their milk comes from. Thoughts?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Localvore challenge

As Heather talked about here, this week we are undergoing a challenge to buy all local grown or produced products for our meals. So, I thought I would start chattering about what we bought and what we ate.

Friday at the Raleigh Farmer's market we got Cantaloupes (3 for $5), green peppers ($.50 each), irish red skin potatoes ($.99/lb), red peppers ($1 each), german johnson tomatoes ($2/lb), butter beans (2 pints for $7), green beans ($2/lb), corn ($.50/ear), zucchini and squash.

We also picked up stuff in the indoor side. First we got a block of sharp cheddar cheese, peanut butter, and strawberry jam from the berry patch market. Later I realized once we got home that it being from Colfax, NC is outside the 150 mile radius. :-/ This was at the Berry Patch. We also got ground beef ($5/lb), london broil ($8/lb), and free range eggs ($3/dozen) from Acre Angus Beef at the indoor side. They are from Plymouth NC. The actual meat is packed in labels from Riverside Meats in Trenton NC. Both of these make it within the 150 mile radius.

On Saturday, we started at the North Raleigh Farmers Market (open 8am until noon) and got a whole chicken (3.7 lbs at $4/lb), chocolate cherry ice cream ($4/pint) from Lumpy's, a loaf of whole wheat bread ($4.25) from Great Harvest, and about 2 lbs of fresh swordfish ($16.50). There was also some cheese there for the first time. There are 3 places that sell fresh eggs from $4-5/lb. The guy who sells fresh lamb at bratwurst for the first time and there are vendors like Cane Creek Farms who was featured recently in the N&O.

Then, later Saturday morning we went to Fresh Market to get milk and butter from Homeland Creamery in Julian, NC. We also got locally produced bagels.

So, what did we eat for meals? Saturday morning I made homemade waffles. For lunch we ate cheese and tomato (german johnson) sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, cantaloupe, and some purple hull (pink eyed) peas. For dinner we ate at Heather's dad's house so we didn't have a local only meal necessarily but I believe most of it was.

This morning (Sunday) we had bagels, hard boiled eggs, and cantaloupe. For lunch I made some homemade flour tortillas and ate london broil on it. Made a quesadilla for the girls who also had peanut butter. Heather had some tomatoes.

The tough things so far is the lack of snack foods and fruit for the girls. As a regular part of my diet I had been eating fruits like apples and bananas, food bars from Odwalla and Kashi, and almonds. None of these things are available locally so I am forced to learn of new snacks. I also don't want to eat unhealthy just for the sake of trying to eat local. As for fruit, watermelon, honeydew, sprite melons, peaches, blueberries, and cantaloupe were the only real fruit options this week. That is a lot of options but when bananas, grapes, apples, and pears are part of the regular staples in the household, its tough to switch.