Post-it Drawing #1

flamingo

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System and more pommodoro

I got some interesting feedback on professional time management this week.  The   suggestion was to ‘set appointments with yourself.’ I tried to integrate this suggestion with the pommodoro technique. It worked well except for a couple of appointments I couldn’t keep. However,  the reason I missed those appointment was that my previous engagements ran longer than expected (eg 6 hours on billable work when I scheduled only 2 hours).

Observation:  this scheduling routine may give insight into effective assistant management.  Fur example,  how to do 2 tasks in 25 min. One for me and one for assistant.

Observation 2: using the pommodoro with scheduling moved projects ahead that were important but not urgent.  This principle (if I recall correctly)  is espoused in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

The little seed – a silly children’s story

Once upon a time there was a little seed. He lived inside a great big orange orange. All of his brother and sister seeds lived inside the orange too.

The little seed’s brothers and sisters used to tease him. “One day we will get planted and grow up to be huge orange trees,” they said. “But not you little seed.  You’ll just get thrown in the trash and taken to the dump.”

The little seed ignored their teasing and instead focused on being himself.

One day a little girl decided to eat the orange where the little seed lived. She spat out the brother and sister seeds because they were too bitter.  But, the little seed was sweet because he stayed true to himself, so the little girl accidentally swallowed him.

The little girl didn’t know how to use the potty yet,  but (much to her parent’s dismay) she loved to poop outside in the garden.  The little seed traveled through her digestive system until one day she was pooping in the garden and the little seed came out at the top of a big,  streaming pile of poop!  There he stayed absorbing nutrients and water,  slowly growing into an orange tree.  The years went by and the little seed grew until he brought delicious joy to the little girl and her family.  Every summer they say outside together eating his oranges.

Getting back to normal

At some point last week my daily writing practice went off the rails. I suppose I could investigate the reasons why,  but the true reason is that doing it first thing every day isn’t truly part of my routine yet. It needs to become like brushing my teeth:  something that has to be done every day no matter what.

Book deal

I negotiated my first book deal last week.  It’s only going to be interesting to a very small group of people (if I’m lucky), but I should have a captive market,  so at least I’ll sell a few copies. The challenge now is to write 10 pages per day for the next 25 days.

Pommodore technique: variations and observations

I left my phone on my desk last night because I’m an absent-minded dumbass. This post, therefore, deviates slightly from the proposition stated on the introduction to this blog. I went old-school this morning and scrawled this post out on a yellow legal pad. Some argue that the medium used changes what’s written. I would agree. I searched for a link to that proposition, but couldn’t find it. If any readers have information of where I can find it, please comment. But I digress…

Last week, or 2 weeks ago, or whenever, I learned about the Pomodoro technique. The basic idea is that you work for 25 min, take a 5 min break, then take a longer (15-30 min) break after the 4th work session. I find that this technique works quite well for small administrative tasks that can be done in 25 minutes or less, but not so well when the tasks take longer. Because I have the good fortune of being able to bill in 6-minute increments, I often modify the length of my work session to 24 or 30 minutes. That modification seems to work well because I’m usually able to obtain a tangible result within that time.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that the way the 5 min breaks are used matters. Surfing the internet usually fucks things up because it leads to distraction and because I can’t usually find and finish an interesting article within 5 minutes. Some good activities for break time include:

  • urinating,
  • having a snack,
  • stretching,
  • meditating (probably, I haven’t actually tried it yet),
  • writing this blog, and
  • going for a short walk.

I think the common thread among these activities is that they are simple enough to be relaxing, but still require a singular focus. These characteristics make the break activity meaningful, but not so engaging that I have to pry myself away from it.

The next observation I had is that it takes ruthless discipline to make the Pomodoro technique work properly. If a 5-min break turns into a 10 min break, then a 10 min break will become a 15 min break. Multiply that sequence by 3 and that’s 45 minutes pissed away. This reality, in-turn, forces the Pomodoro user to plan his or her day carefully. If you have a meeting in 2 hours, then you can just barely squeeze in 4 sets (and probably use the last one to prepare for the meeting). Additionally, this forces estimation of how long a particular task on a particular project will take.

One last observation is that the Pomodoro technique gives insight into the methods being used to work towards a larger goal. If 25 minutes pass without tangible progress towards the desired outcome, then it’s probably time for a new approach.

Sexual assault is never funny…

… except for the time it happened to me.

This story begins, as all great stories (and most sexual assault stories) must, when I was in college. One Halloween some friends and I went on a pub crawl. By the time we got to the last bar I was starting to get pretty tired, so I decided to sit down on one of the countertops.

This girl came up to me.  She was a little… a lot… it doesn’t matter what she looked like. I wasn’t in to her. “Why aren’t you dancing?” She asked.

“I don’t know” I shrugged. “Just tired.”

Without warning she grabbed my belt with both hands and, with the strength of an ox, yanked me off the table. She then dragged me to the center of the dance floor. She pressed her body against mine, and while still holding my belt coerced my hips into rhythmic elliptical motion in sync with hers. The song playing at the time was AC/DC’s ‘you shook me all night long.’

This dance continued with each step back that I took. She seemed to move closer with every step until finally letting go of my belt. My flight instincts immediately took me to one side trying to get away. I couldn’t move so I tried the other side and still couldn’t move. She had used her body to pin me against the counter that she had yanked me from earlier. There we stayed for the rest of the song.

When I told a friend about this incident months later, he taught me the magic words that I think will do more to combat sexual assault than any awareness campaign: I’m feeling sick. I need to sit down.

 

Memories of my maternal grandfather

Should probably start in reverse chronological order…

He was mentally alert right to the very end. I always thought that was a remarkable characteristic of his.  Even in his late 90’s he was sharp as a tack. When he passed this week his mind was still 100%, but his physical body could not sustain life.  As he lay in his hospital bed he politely asked his family to give him some time to sleep.

He fell down a few weeks ago and had to have surgery on his pelvis and femur.  He had a similar surgery about 5 years ago and fully recovered,  so we were not fully prepared for the significance of his more recent injury.

Within the past couple years I had a calendar reminder to call him every Friday at 4:30. We would usually about current events and the stock market,  as well as any upcoming get –  togethers. I always felt like I was mining his wisdom, and am grateful that he never gave up on trying to teach me important lessons related to money and fiance.

“A family is a partnership” he said to me once after I explained the difference between partnerships, LLCs, and corporations.  At the time, I was contemplating marriage and thought this was an apt summary.

We celebrated his 90th birthday in 2008. It was an incredible party and I was thrilled to be there.  My cousin spoke about some of the lessons my grandfather learned during the depression “no,  Grandpa, I won’t add water to the ketchup bottle to make it last longer.” My favorite story about Grandpa is the time he “ran” a 10k for charity. He showed up in typical old man gear: an old mesh cap, button-down t- shirt,  pants pulled up above his waist,  and Velcro sneakers. He walked at a leisurely pace, wandered off the course, and then linked back up with the course within about a mile from the finish line. A week later his name was published in the newspaper with the fastest time in the over-65 category.

It’s about here where my reverse chronological ordering gets screwed up because I realize I skipped a few things…

Grandpa tried to encourage me to invest in publicly traded companies since I was 12 (1994). He even gave me shares in one of his favorite companies. I thought it was a waste of time but Grandpa never gave up.  Finally,  in 2010 I told him that I never really appreciated how important it was to get paid dividends because it’s a way to get paid for doing nothing and they can even out losses. I couldn’t believe his reaction. “I never really understood tears of joy, but I’m so happy that you finally understand,” he said as years filled his eyes.

I think it was around that time that he had hip replacement surgery. I went to visit him a few times and these were really good (for both of us, I hope). I was going through a rough time and had a lot of pie-in-the-sky ideas. “I think I could make it if -”

He cut me off.  “You’re not making it.”

I needed that. It was a wake up call to start taking my life seriously and do things that have been proven to work. There’s a lot of talk about doing things unconventionally as a means of human progress.  What this philosophy ignores is that civilization has developed over thousands of years to the point that most things are already being done the best way possible. Whenever I tried to impress Grandpa with a new idea he would say “okay,  go do it then.” Usually I didn’t, and with good reason.

I didn’t make very good efforts to go and see him during college. We did work together on a few projects around his house. We helped put a roof on a few different houses, but I remember the day more for falling asleep during Les Miserables with my girlfriend at the time.  Her mom had got her the tickets for her birthday, but I was tired from working on the roof all day.

When my grandmother died about 15 years ago, Grandpa was sad, but never openly negative. He cared for her during her battle with cancer, and would always say “good bless you” at her bedside.

Before that my memory gets a little hazy. I can recall going to a hockey tryout and he started chatting with one of the other players. In my mind I was like ‘ what are you doing?  This guy is my competition. But that’s who my grandfather was: friendly and talkative.

He grew up on a dairy farm during the depression. As an adult he became a salesman. I think those instincts stayed with him his whole life. I started writing this just to get a record, but now I remember a thought that I had before he passed: I’m worried about losing his wisdom. If this piece makes anything clear, it’s that my worry was well founded.

Contents and conclusion

Now that I have given my initial impression on Obama’s law review article and decided how to read it, here are my takes on the first and last pages. Spoiler alert:  I’m underwhelmed.

Contents

The first section is “the urgent need for reform.” Urgent relative to what? The last 8 years? The last 16 years? 20?

The second section is “reforming the federal criminal justice system.” Here’s my idea:  publish regulations regarding charging and sentencing recommendation policies so that defendants can sue under the administrative procedures act when prosecutors go overboard. This is 100% within the authority of the executive branch. Prosecutors, not judges and legislators, are the ones responsible for deciding who goes to jail and for how long.

At subsection II.D, he suggests “re-invigorating clemency.” This is baloney. He will surely cite his unprecedented use of clemency, but being the best player on the single A team still doesn’t make you good. Obama’s use of clemency should be measured against the number of eligible people people who are still in prison rather than the number of people pardoned by other presidents. His shortcoming on this measure flies in the face of any authority he may have to speak on the president’s role in advancing criminal justice reform.

Section III is “tools and actions to drive state and local reforms.” The subsections are basically a bunch of talking points: advancing policing reform, eliminating the criminalization of poverty, etc. I’ll give the editorial staff credit for consistent parallelism, but essentially there are only 2 “tools and actions” that anyone can ever use to “drive reform”:

1. Win the PR battle
2. Win the legal battle

The president already has #2 in the bag because he controls the Department of Justice. Even a challengeable policy decision would take at least one term to resolve in court (see eg. DACA). At the start of his first term he also had #1 more or less locked up. So, the only action left to take is to get off his ass and draft a policy.

Section IV is “Work Unfinished.” I would have gone with “Unfinished Work” but I’m not a Harvard Law Review editor. This section had 7 subsections:

A. Pass sentencing reform legislation. This is Congress’s role, not the President’s. His job is to propose and sign the legislation.

B. Take commonsense steps to reduce gun violence. I’m always suspicious of common sense, especially when spelled as a single word and used to discuss actions that implicate constitutional rights.

C. Address opioid misuse and addiction as a public health issue. Ok,  fine I agree. But again, people have been agreeing this for decades.  Why couldn’t the president give orders addressing this issue within the past 8 years?

D. Strengthen forensic science and identify wrongful convictions. The first step towards strengthening forensic science is recognizing that most of it is a scam.  Obama’s DOJ could have done this and stopped using junk science in the court, but it didn’t.

E. Improve criminal justice data collection.  This is probably a euphemism for “keep track of the number of people shot by the police,” which you would think would be one of the easiest things in the world to do and something that the first black President would have accomplished on day 1 rather than adding it to a list of unfinished business for a fucking Harvard law review article.

D. Restore the right to vote of those who have paid their debt to society. Uh, yeah. No shit. That would be part of the oath that the President takes to uphold the constitution.

E. Make better use of technology to promote trust in law enforcement. Or, to put it more succinctly, make the police wear body cameras. Here’s the problem with that idea.

Conclusion

The first sentence might work in a speech, but it reads like “OMG! There’s, like, so much work to do!” The second sentence tells us that the President is “hopeful.” Hope was a campaign slogan, but not his thesis here. The third sentence mentions that crime is at its lowest rate in years… so maybe we don’t really need reform?  Maybe we’re already doing it right. The 4th sentence had no subject. And if the article is about the President’s role,  then the word “we” makes no sense.  Similarly,  the 5th and 6th sentences say nothing about the a presidents role in anything.

In summary, I’m glad I came up with a strategy for reading this thing because it’s informing my decision as to whether I should keep reading at all. Usually it takes a good 20 pages before realizing it’s a waste of time to keep reading. I’m only two pages in, and have a pretty good idea it will be a waste. Not giving up just yet, but definitely not inspired to keep going.