How To Become a Better Writer (by Michael Hyatt)

I just read 7 “Tricks” to Improve Your Writing Overnight, which also has 5 “bonus” tricks. To these 12 things, I can say YES and AMEN!

They might seem simple. Maybe too simple. But I’ve been writing professionally since 2006 and I absolutely agree with every single one of these. The one that jumps out the most right now is the Stephen King technique (bonus #2).

Go here. Read it. Get better at writing!

Let This Day Be Recorded In History

Well, yesterday. Something epic happened yesterday.

When we moved to our house a couple of years ago, we kept the 4 wheeler with a snow plow attachment because the driveway is just to big to want to do with a shovel.

The 4 wheeler is a lot of fun. I hadn’t been on one since I was about 14 (and that wasn’t a good experience). In the last couple of years we’ve gotten some great use out of it.

However…. a couple of weeks ago, when we had a massive storm, the cable from the winch broke. No cable = no plow. Not good for the supposedly 8 inches from that storm.

I thought I fixed it a couple of nights ago (new snow storm)… but putting little bracket thingies on a wire cable is a lot harder than it looks. I think I didn’t have the right tools, and I know I didn’t have the right strength… and so once again, the plow was unusable.

The right answer, instead of trying to use the old cable, was to get a new one. The old cable was frayed, and the end didn’t have an appropriate loop to failsafely secure the hook (that hooks on the plow, or anything else).

Fortunately, I found ONE replacement cable in the entire area. This was a rope (designed for ATV winches) instead of a metal cable… and then I spent about six hours replacing the cable.

Job 1 was to take the old winch out. Online there are plenty of videos showing how to replace the cable without removing the winch, but I didn’t know what model winch I had, and there are enough nuances that I felt I needed to see the whole thing. Turns out, there was no way I could have fit my hands where the winch was to remove the old cable even if I wanted to… it’s pretty tight in there.  This took… too long. But I got it out.

Job 2 was to remove the old cable, which is like a metal rope with slivers all over the place. Good thing I shot my arm with a nail gun a couple of years ago while building my chicken coop… which means I am up to date on my tetanus shots!  Then, I put the new rope on… not once, but three times! Once while the winch was out (shouldn’t have done that), then a second time after I put the winch back. But, I forgot to put one key fixture on, and had to take the cable out, put the key fixture on, then put it back on (for a third time). Now I know that I can replace the rope the next time without taking the whole thing apart.

Job 3 was to put everything back together and clean up the mess. This is the most harrowing of the three jobs. Back when I was a kid I took apart a watch and wasn’t able to put it back together. This scarred me and has made “putting it back together” a seemingly impossible task. But, amazingly, I was able to put it all together without having any left over hardware. This truly was epic.

Also to be noted was that I had and could find all of the tools I needed for this entire job. I did not take one single trip to Home Depot.

So yesterday, February 6th, 2019, man card was punched. And today my body is sore :p

How To Grow Your Startup (or any business) #marketing

This is one of the best marketing articles I’ve read in a long time. Very specific and actionable suggestions from LeadsBridge:

How We Bootstrapped Our Startup to 1M$ in 12 Months (And You Can Too).

leadsbridge_startup_marketing

Pluralsight Is Changing Education, And The World

I just spent time at the first ever Pluralsight Live conference… it was AMAZING.

I knew it was going to be amazing, but every year I go to a Pluralsight conference I’m more amazed.  How they’ll top this is a question I’ve asked every time.

This year they opened it up to customers, so it was not just “authors” (or, content producers).  It was so cool to hear from customer who use Pluralsight to keep their teams up to speed on technology.  That was the old value proposition of Pluralsight. Some new announcements showed that the new value proposition includes that but really builds on it.

Iris, or Pluralsight IQ, will help managers and executives really understand what talent and skills they have in their company. This sounds kind of simple, but think about it: how many times would a business strategist say “we want to build XYZ, but we probably don’t have the talent to do it… so let’s go hire it.”  All the while, not knowing that they indeed have the exact talent needed to build XYZ… they have just never recognized that talent.

Pluralsight IQ will solve that problem. We heard from at least CxOs of two companies, one with 250,000 people and one with 100,000 people, and it was clear that this new feature will change how they get stuff done.

When I was in school, learning programming, we learned on VB 3. I think, at the time, companies where programming in VB 5 or 6. Why was our curriculum so outdated?

At Pluralsight, sometimes courses roll out the day a new technology is released. The course wasn’t thrown together… it’s a result of the relationships Pluralsight and the authors have… they get special access early, and can time their training release to the product release. You would be hard pressed to find that kind of current up-to-date training in a university setting.

The way we learn is changing.  Pluralsight is pioneering and creating the education of the future. Want in on it?  Get a trial here.

 

EXCELLENT Article for Entrepreneurs/Founders

This is a super article by Noah Jessop titled 21 Things I Wish Someone Told Me as a Young Founder

I haven’t gotten funding, for better or worse… so some of this stuff didn’t apply to my company, but this post is full of wisdom and been-there-done-that experience.

This should be printed out and highlighted… and regularly revisited and worked on.  Great stuff.

 

UX and UI Fundamentals from Ben Jarris

This is an excellent article that anyone involved in software should understand: What non-technical entrepreneurs need to know about UX and UI

As you know, I’ve been on a journey to understand UX (which wasn’t even a thing, afaik, back when JibberJobber started).  My earliest designers were much more consumed with how corners curved and what colors were where (which is UI) than with how to get more signups, users, and upgrades (which is more UX).

When I hired Udi, who is now full-time with another company in San Fransisco, he said the mockups he would send me would be in black and white (and gray)… that his focus wasn’t on colors, rather on prompting the user to do the next thing.  And more importantly, get them to do the next right thing.

After years of working with “designers” who only knew UI, it was refreshing and awesome to work with someone who was interested in my business goals.

Check out Ben’s great article here.

 

Understanding the Various Levels of Product Managers

This is a SUPER article that talks about the skills and roles of product managers at various levels:

Product Manager Skills By Seniority Level — A Deep Breakdown

Fixing and Winterizing The Bees

Eric (my cousin) came over and looked at my beehive about three weeks ago. The goal was to clean it out and fix the mess the bees made (they put honeycomb in the empty slots… which shouldn’t have been empty). Turns out, it was impossible, so his advice (which became Plan B) was to:

  1. Put another deep box on top of the bottom deep box, and under the super (the bees need two deep boxes to survive the winter)
  2. Transfer all the frames that had a bunch of honey to the new box, and put new, clean frames in the bottom box (close to the honeycomb)

Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to it because of the gajillion other things I had going on… so I emailed him a couple of days ago asking him if it was too late. “Call me,” was his reply.  That’s about as good as a girl in Jr. High saying “We need to talk.”  Now we are on to Plan C. The problem is that the bees might not have enough time to do what they need to do to get ready for winter… I wasted three weeks of their prep time.  So, we are going dramatic :( (read, we get no honey, it will be for them this winter).  Plan C is everything in Plan B, plus:

  1. Take out the queen excluder (which is basically a filter you put between the brood box (or, the bottom deep box) and the super (where you get the honey… this allows all but the queen to get in there, so the bees fill the comb with honey, but the queen doesn’t lay eggs there).
  2. Add the feeder to the second (middle) deep box, so they have plenty of stuff to make comb out of.

I don’t know how we’ll get the non-framed comb out next spring, but we are leaving it for now.  Of course, if they all die, or leave, it will be easy :/  With that background, here’s my bee project for this morning… total time in hive was about 20 minutes, prep time was another 20 , and wasted time (I didn’t get everything I needed to the hive on the first go), about 5 minutes.  I really hope this works and I have a healthy, active hive in the spring.

Here’s how I start… getting all the places a bee could crawl up (like pant legs) secured. Goofy? Yes. Peace of mind? Definitely.

bee_socks

I’m still figuring out where to store my stuff… for now it’s all in a beekeeper spot on a workbench… notice the suit still has the price tag on it. That’s either to impress the bees, or because I might just change my mind and take it back (that won’t happen :p):

bee_suit

When you are in the bee suit it’s surreal… you are looking out of a screen, with a really big hat, hoping you didn’t miss a zipper. And wondering why the bee doesn’t just sting through it. Catching your shadow every once in a while reminds you of how goofy you look. But hey, peace of mind!

bee_shadow

I moved a workbench next to the beehive, since I was going to have to swap and move and stuff… here are some tools I use. The brush is very soft, and you can use it to brush bees away from danger (like, when you move the boxes) or from your clothes, the crowbar thing is to loosen the box and frames because the bees put wax on everything and it’s hard to pull off with your bare hands, and the other thing is a neat tool to help you lift the frames out of the box (it’s very useful, allowing you to use only one hand to get a frame out):

bee_table_setup

This should be the whole setup… right? Am I missing anything? (Yes, I was missing a smoker or squirt bottle with sugar water).  You can see I had good intentions with the match, and a gallon of fat/sugar so they can make new comb… the frames in that box are new, and right after this picture I removed them and put them on the ground. They would end up in the bottom box, once I took the full frames from that one and put them in the box on the table.

bee_setup

I just finished moving the frames from the bottom box to what will become the middle box, on the table:

bee_move_from_bottom

The queen excluder is just laying on the side… the bees should make quick work of this over the next day or two.

bee_extractor

And here’s the whole reason we are doing this… the honeycomb on the bottom box should not be there, but I didn’t put frames in that spot, and bees are industrious!! I’m leaving this comb in over the winter. To the right are the new frames that hopefully they’ll build out and the queen will lay eggs.

bee_bottom_box

Once I got the middle deep box full of the frames (that used to be in the bottom box, so they were full, and HEAVY), I moved it to it’s spot… these are the bees that stayed behind. Notice the bottom-middle… there’s a big drop of honey that a few bees are working on.

bee_after_moving_box

Almost done… the new box is on, the feeder is full (I did this before I opened the hive), and the frames that were on the bottom are now in the middle. And, the extractor is on the side (so the queen can go to any box she wants).

bee_second_on

This was my view while I was working… notice the arrow pointing to the extractor. I’m going to leave that there so the bees can clean it up (they take the wax and the honey back to the hive… amazing, isn’t it?):

bee_backshot_done

Here’s a rare shot from the front… I didn’t have the smoker or sugar water I should have to calm the bees, so I didn’t go here to work… just for this shot :)

bee_front_shot_done

So that’s it… a relatively quick job. Each time I open the hive (I think this is my third time) I get more confident. It’s not as freaky having the bees swarm around me anymore… well, not totally freaky :)  One of these days I need to weedwack around the hive, but I’m not going to agitate them anymore today. I’m also leaving the workbench out there because there’s honeycomb about the size of a small fist that they were working on… I’ll let them clean that and then I’ll put the table away.

#Europe2017 Day 32: Going Home!!

Well, it’s been over a week since I’ve been home, but I’m reminded that I need to finish this blogging series/project and write this final post.

We planned to meet in the lobby at about 10 am… the receptionist said, the night before, that we would have a taxi arrive just ten minutes after we called… that left us plenty of time to be at the airport for a 1:something flight from Barcelona to Amsterdam, and then about an hour and a half layover before a ten hour flight to SLC.

I had emailed all my wife and Ellie’s parents that we should arrive in SLC at 5:05 pm.

When we got to the lobby of our hotel the receptionist said that the taxis were running really late, and there was already a group waiting at the lobby for a good thirty minutes. Uh-oh. Plan A wasn’t working out too well :/ I gifted the receptionist, Marc, our beach umbrella that we got a couple days earlier (this is a MUST BUY, by the way). It was only ten euros but he was very, very appreciative. He was a neat guy that we got to know while staying in Barcelona, and said when we come back he’d go hang out at the beach with us :)

Fortunately, we weren’t waiting for thirty minutes… our taxi came relatively quickly, and we were ON OUR WAY HOME! Our taxi driver was really, really cool. He was a single dad who worked about twelve hours a day and took a big international trip about once a quarter. He had been to some of the places we have been to (including the Dominican Republic and Kenya) and was headed to some of the places that we wanted to go to. We had a great chat to the airport and I tipped him my last ten euros, which I had no more use for.

We got to the Barcelona airport and then was introduced to what someone might have thought was a great checkin system, but in my opinion, was an airport nightmare. Normally, at an airport, you simply check in at your airline’s desk two or three hours before the flight, then go through the gate. Barcelona’s system works well for anyone who has a math degree… it’s over-complicated and created a lot of questions. In a nutshell, you look at the monitors to find your flight (they only list flights in the next two hours, and we were just a little earlier than that), and then see what checkin desk you are assigned to. Cool idea, but not cool to go through. First of all, some of the monitors were out, so you couldn’t tell what desk to checkin to, second, … well, that’s boring technical stuff. To say the least, there were multiple points of frustration from the point we walked in the doors until we got to the right gate. But who cares, we are on our way home!

The flight to Amsterdam was delayed about 20 minutes, which in airport talk means 40 minutes. This was no big deal, except it mean we had a very short layover in Amsterdam. But I prefer that to sitting at an airport for a long time.

On this flight the delay had grown a bit more and other passengers were asking the flight attendants about missing connections. “No connections would be missed,” they promised. Indeed, we had enough time to make it from our gate to the next gate, right?

What we didn’t count on was that the walk from our gate to the next gate was a solid 20 minutes of swift walking. We also didn’t count on having to go through passport control, which was a ridiculously long and very slow line. But our flight was coming up so soon they fast-tracked us and put us in the short line. Short doesn’t mean fast, but it was better than the long molasses lines.

Finally, we all get through that line and then rush to our gate. People were already lined up, which means we made it just in time.

William made some comical teenage annoying noise, and I made some reference to how it sounded like Napoleon Dynamite… the lady behind us said “Oh good! I was wondering if I was in line for my flight to Salt Lake City, but now that you referenced Napoleon Dynamite I know I’m in the right line!”

We got on our flight and did the standard seat shuffle (which means that I trade my seat with someone in the Trio so they sat by one another), and I sat by a lady and her father who had been in Europe (from SLC) for a massive family reunion. This lady was really cool… she was a professional dancer for over a decade, and just really nice. Her TV system didn’t work for a good hour or two and she was super patient and kind about it, where I’ve seen other people kind of throw a fit and feel entitled do some compensation from the crew.

Ten hours… I started to do the math and look at the numbers of when we would arrive and things weren’t adding up. Apparently I thought we’d land at 5:05 but in reality we were going to land at 7:05! I told my wife to be there two hours early! Ugh! I hated thinking that they would be there and wait for a couple of hours :(

I have to give props to KLM, the airline we flew… this was one of the best airlines I’ve been on. This was a newer plane and had a great TV/movie system (which I am sure helps keep passengers calm), and the very cool window tinter that tints the windows instead of closing the shade… this provides shade but still keeps the space feeling open.

On this flight I spent about an hour in the back chatting with a guy who was with his daughter in Europe for her retirement…. it was fun to get to know him and listen to his stories.

A highlight of the flight was flying over Iceland… we flew over a month earlier but it was totally dark and I didn’t see a thing. But this time it was in daylight and it was REALLY COOL! I’m not sure, and I can’t easily find the info online, but it looked like they have these really big mountains, and the snow was up to almost the very tops of the mountains! I imagined several thousand feet of snow… maybe I am totally wrong but that’s what it looked like from the sky. It was beautiful.

So, we get to SLC, two hours later than I thought, hoping that my wife would have figured out my mistake and not have been there for two hours waiting. Then, we get off and go through passport control and customs. We were asked FOUR times, at different points, if we brought food home. This process was just as slow as anywhere else on our trip, but this time we know that just on the other side of the wall was our family!

After what seemed like a long hour we finally got through and, after winding around a few corners, saw our family holding welcome home signs! It was a sweet reunion, and I was reminded more than once, by more than one person, that this trip was too long :)

On the way home I got a summary of things that were waiting for me to fix… a towel hook fell off the wall in a bathroom, the van A/C just went out that day, etc. etc. Welcome home!

Kaisie had a great taco bar ready for us when we got home, which was super. We got acclimated, and then settled in for a few days (or weeks?) of jet lag and “normal life.”

And that’s it… I hope to blog about a few things I’ve learned, and miscellaneous things about the trip, but I I obviously needed a break from daily blogging… thanks for reading!

#Europe2017: Day 31 La Sagrada Familia!

Today went to the amazing, beautiful, full-of-symbolism Sagrada Familia. We walked .8 miles to the train (we dearly miss the flexibility of the rental car!) and got on the train to go about five stops east. Wondering what this looks like? You are in luck… I have two pictures. The first is the Trio waiting for the train:

barc_sagra_train_waiting

The second is of the stops we were at… we found it’s a good idea to grab pictures of the stops so we know how to get back home :p Notice the “sortida” signs… that means exit in Catalan. We’ve noticed that in Europe they are REALLY BIG on making it clear where the exits are. barc_sagra_train_signs

Here’s the stairs we go down after the .8 mile walk. The escalator is just for decoration… I’m not sure if it has worked all year :pbarc_sagra_train_station

The train is so slow compared to the metro, but it’s really nice to have. We switched from the train to the metro, went three stops down, and then got off. This was MUCH nicer than the first day doing this, to the Barceloneta beach, which seemed to take forever and included two metro switches and a lot of walking through the metro maze!

We get out of the metro, go up the stairs, and I say “Um, now were do we go? I didn’t write this part down!” William and Sam both looked around for two seconds and started to laugh, but Ellie was on her phone pulling up Google Maps… that is, until they both pointed to the HUGE cathedral right in front of us, across the street. This is a landmark that you can’t miss :)
barc_sagra_facade

We had about an hour or so before we had to be at the gate with our tickets… which were for a certain time. So we looked for food and found a restaurant that served different kinds of paella, including chicken-only (no seafood) and vegetarian. We chose this place and had our best paella experience. It was really quite good.

After we finished we headed over to the line… there were not any long lines, which was surprising. People said that if we didn’t get tickets online we would have to wait for hours. Not today, apparently. We go through security and I get our four audio guides (which are little recorders that you use to say “I’m at #1, tell me about this place.” We’ve learned that the audio guides are usually worth the few extra bucks to learn more about the place you are visiting.

Here was a cool bonus… right outside of the line area was a stage set up for festivities. When we got there, there were four young (10ish?) girls dancing some Spanish dance… and by the time we got through the line there were some six or seven older guitar players and about ten adults dancing Spanish folk dances…. very cool!barc_sagra_dancing

We were supposed to get there by 2pm and then go to “the tower” at 2:15, to go up an elevator about 60 meters. So we walked in I started to look for instructions on where the tower was… but the trio immediately got caught up in the beauty of this building. We immediately got separated as they all took pictures of the amazing architecture.
barc_sagra_ribs

Notice anything interesting about this architecture? They mentioned something about ribs, and muscles… when you are inside it’s like being in a living organism. It’s really cool.

barc_sagra_internalj

There was a lot of symbolism and on-purpose design. For example, the stained glass… on one end it was blue, where the sun rose, and the other side was red/orange, where the sun set. barc_sagra_glassbarc_sagra_glass_two

It was nice to be in this beautiful building with not too many people, and no one in a hurry. It was very peaceful and calm.barc_sagra_people

No problem… within a few minutes we all found one another, I found out where we were headed, and we went to get in line to go up.

We took an elevator ride to the top of the tower, and then the guy said “walk down.” Ah… this is why they say you have to have a good heart, no asthma, no claustraphobia, etc. But before we walked down we got to enjoy the view from the top:
barc_sagra_tower

We walked down some eighty or so flights of stairs in a spiral staircase that didn’t have a rail on the inside (the inside is where, if you fall, you’ll fall dozens of stories to a splatty, noisy death!). Did I mention I have fear of heights issues? I dub this picture The Spiral Fall of Sudden Death:barc_sagra_spiral_tower

That’s okay. I can do hard things. I had a good enough grip on my left side, made sure to not fall toward the right, and went down one step at a time. It was cool at the top, where you could see the view of the city, but after a while you were just in a very small tower going down and down and down and down. But hey, we were THERE!

(Spoiler: I did not fall down the Spiral Fall of Sudden Death)

Here’s a shot from somewhere in the tower, looking out. It was cool to have a white-ish facade with various sections that were splattered with bright colors (grapes… know the symbolism?):

barc_sagra_tower_color

After the tower we walked around and finished listening to the seven audio guide stations and learned about this fascinating building. It’s not complete yet… the guy who came up with it (Gaudi) died in 1926 and left instructions to his apprentices and other architects. They plan is to finish it on his 100 year deathiversary (2026), and it will be even more amazing than it is now.

I think getting this far, and then finishing it, will be one of the most amazing architectural feats (this coming from the guy who built a chicken shed before this epic trip, and I have a new appreciation for architecture :p).

We finished our audio tour, saw all we could, and then decided to walk around the town. We looked for more Gaudi things, but Google Maps led us astray and we finally just decided to walk around the neighborhood, do a little shopping, and then head back home to pack.

TOMORROW, WE GO HOME!! WOW!

We went to three grocery stores in search of ziplock bags for our packing… these stores are very, very small, and only the third had ziplock bags.

As we were walking to the metro I asked William to grab these shots… this is something we’ve seen a lot here, and in Italy. These are pig legs that have been cured, hanging for sale.
barc_sagra_ham

Remember my melon and ham lunch yesterday? What they do is take a leg and then shave off a bacon-looking piece and serve that to you. It’s thin and room temperature. Here are a couple of legs that they have in this special holder. You can see they’ve been cutting strips off of them. barc_sagra_ham_cut

Finally, we were back on the metro, then to the train, walking .8 miles home, and ready to call it a day! I got to talk to my family at home for, I think, an hour and half. It was nice to catch up with them when it wasn’t after midnight for me, and we all had time to talk. Everyone is excited for the homecoming tomorrow. Daniel (8) gave me a tour of the house, at my request, because I told him I forgot what our house looked like :p

Then, it was time… no more procrastinating… It was time to pack!

barc_sagra_packing

What do you pack to? This youtube video, of course! Ten points if you know what it is:barc_sagra_music

We were all packed, showered, and generally got ready to leave by about 10am. That doesn’t seem early, right? Well, it is for us. I’m in that weird place of “I’m used to this time zone” and “I want to get ready for my home time zone,” and I just wake up when I wake up. We’ll be fine tomorrow, though, because we’ll all be super excited for our travel day and what (and who) waits for us on the other side of the plane!

It’s now 12:04 am here, and it’s time for bed. Thanks for following our crazy, epic journey. We’re already starting to figure out where the next epic thirty day “holiday” will be… if I had to choose right now it would be Costa Rica (or the Virgin Islands), and Australia would be an easy third. But for now, it’s time to get some sleep and then get home to see the family. My wife already said there’s a list of honey-dos for when I get home :)

Y con eso, buenas noches, por la ultima vez, desde Espana!!