Monthly Archives: May 2013

Free Audiobooks – LibriVox

LibriVox-poster-a2For those of you looking for audio books there is a free option that few people seem to be aware of – and by now you must all know how much I like free stuff!

LibriVox provides free audio-books from the public domain, and many of them are top quality recordings despite being read by volunteers.  

In fact…if you hunt around on the site you will find not just my dulcet tones on there but also those of my middle child.  In 2009 Gregory read a fantastic children’s book called My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett.

I may be just a little biased but hearing a children s book read by a 9-year-old really adds something IMHO.  I guess I am not alone because his recording has already been downloaded over 32,000 times!

Regardless of your audio book needs LibriVox has something for everyone and I would heartily recommend checking it out.  It could be just the thing to keep you sane on long drives down to the shore this summer.

 

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Filed under Children, Education, Free Software

Ask Me Anything (or how to steal the best ideas for making work better)

Letting people have a personal voice in decisions can be hugely powerful!

John Stepper

One of the best books I’ve read about being creative is “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon. It’s a short book, more graphic novel than academic text. And it begins with a basic truth about art that can apply to work:

“What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before…Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.”

Find good ideas, steal them, and build on them.

When it comes to making work more effective and fulfilling, that turns out to be excellent advice. And the place to steal things from, of course, is the Internet.

Here’s an example.

A typical collaboration problem

Almost anyone with a collaboration platform at work will talk about the importance of having senior people use it. Just their presence…

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Filed under Career, Uncategorized

The Tail of the Dragon

A few clear days gave an opportunity to ride the world-famous “Tail of the Dragon“, a road with 318 miles of curves in just 11 miles.  But did my first time on this road have to be in torrential rain with near zero visibility…?

I had just four days to get down to North Carolina, bang out some quality riding and be back by Friday evening for my son’s 13th birthday party.  Shortly after starting the 800 mile ride south I ran into rain.  Then came more rain, downpours, a deluge and then just a steady torrent which kept up until dark when I  decided that this wasn’t any fun and it was time to find a motel.

Here there be dragons...

Here there be dragons…

Finishing the ride on Wednesday morning I arrived at Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort by way of US 129 from Robbinsville wondering what all the fuss was about.  US 129 was a nice road but nothing like the challenging wild ride I had heard so much about.  I needn’t have worried – the really challenging part was yet to come.

A gaggle of T-Rexs

A gaggle of T-Rexs

Pulling into the parking lot my senses were assailed  a wild array of vehicles. Every kind of motorcycle was in evidence, plus cool sports cars and some very strange-looking machines called a T-Rex, which I originally took to be an Arial Atom.  Clearly this was a place for serious gear heads.

I checked into my room which could best be described as ‘clean but basic’ (almost barracks like in its layout) and then, hearing people talk about possible rain, I decided to waste no time hitting the Tail of the Dragon.

I’d seen video and pictures of the dragon before but they really can’t do it justice and it was immediately clear how this road obtained its name.  Not only did it contain a never-ending series of turns but the continually changing road camber really gave a feel of riding something that was undulating and alive.

This being my first run I was taking it easy and working on taking the correct line and watching my vanishing points.  Then, about 3 miles into the run out the heavens opened up with a downpour of biblical proportions.  With the curtain of rain and a rapidly fogging visor I didn’t need to worry about the vanishing point anymore…it was about 6 inches in front of my nose!  Seriously, the thought going through my head was “Here I am riding one of the most challenging roads in the world for the first time, in the pouring rain, and having to use The Force to figure out where the road goes.”  I pulled over to let a fast-moving Corvette pass (the only other vehicle on the road) and then stayed with him until near the end of the outbound run, where there was a large paved area for turning around.

Waiting for the rain to stop...

Waiting for the rain to stop…

On the reverse trip the rain was now complemented by rivers of water running across the road but the Corvette and I made it safely back and, despite the rain, I actually really enjoyed the ride and couldn’t wait to get back to it again.

I spent the time back at the resort talking to fellow gear-heads until the sun came out and the roads started to steam steadily.  Then it was back on the bike for two more runs including one that I extended around Chilhowee lake.  That last one unfortunately took longer than anticipated and I arrived back at the resort 15 minutes after the restaurant had closed.  Bummer!

There is no cell service in this area at all so any checking in with the family involved an 18 mile ride back to Robbinsville.  Fortunately even the ride to Robbinsville is on great motorcycle roads.  In fact all the roads around Deals Gap are top notch twisties and the only real problem is if you are in a hurry to get somewhere.

I spent the rest of the evening swapping jokes and moto related stories with my neighbors over a couple of beers.  Everyone had plenty of experience, interesting stories and were eager go show pictures of the other classic/fast vehicles they had at home.  I asked around and couldn’t find a single person that didn’t know how to drive a stick!

Finally it was time to hit the sack because Thursday was to be another big day taking in the roads of the area including parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway and  the Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum…

Stay tuned!

 

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Life - or something like it

“So she posted her solution online, and then…”

” Feeling like you’re fighting for your share of a finite pie will grossly inhibit your willingness to contribute and collaborate.”

John Stepper

If you watch TED talks, you’ll hear this phrase over and over and over again. People who are aspiring to make a difference will share their work online so others can use it and improve on it.

Yet it’s a phrase you might never hear at work.

Why not? And what can we do about it?

Eliciting contribution

What the people who deliver those TED talks know – and what any open source developer or student of the Internet knows – is that when you share your work online, you tend to identify relevant experts and elicit contribution.

This may seem obvious for famous examples like Wikipedia and Linux. But it’s true for an incredible range of things. Drones, genetics, gardening, production methods and materials, education. There’s even a blueprint for an entire civilization. Almost anything you can think of can benefit from the contribution of…

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An Open Letter To The Fathers Of Daughters Around The World

Great advice for all the Fathers out there…

Theycallmejane's Blog

father-daughter

An Open Letter To The Fathers of Daughters Around The World:

Starting at a young age, at a very young age, make father/daughter time a priority. Make it a such a regular, natural occurrence that by the time she is a teenager, she expects you to take her out for sushi or ice cream.

When she’s six, laugh at her knock-knock jokes, teach her to fish. Walk the dog with her and dance the Macarena. Listen to her giggle about her favorite television show. Sit in the front row at her school music assembly. Let her fix your hair with barrettes and bows. Tell her she’s beautiful, inside and out.

When she’s ten, indulge her passion for ice cream. Ask about her teachers at school. Know her best friend’s name. Ask about her friend’s friends. Tell her about your friends when you were a kid. Go to every gymnastics meet. Play catch with her…

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Filed under Life - or something like it, The Human Condition

An Unexpected Discovery!

Don’t you love it when a simple activity turns into an unexpected discovery?

Yesterday was such a beautiful day that I just had to take the bike out for a run and, with no particular destination, I just pointed the front wheel down the roads that looked fun.

Around noon I found myself near Greenwood Lake…and hungry.

A small triangular island with a café on it appeared and I decided to stop for a quick bite.

Little more than a kitchen with a couple of tables and a tiny parking area I wasn’t expecting much but the proprietor (Jason) was very friendly and the place clean.  I ordered bacon, egg and cheese on a roll and a coffee and was told the coffee comes with it.  Great!

While the sandwich was made I helped myself to a coffee from the nearby stand and was stunned to find that it was actually good coffee!  I didn’t see that coming.

I settled at the table and was presented with a sandwich nicely presented on a clean white china plate. No paper plates here.  I tucked in and…it was fantastic!  OK, I know we are not talking about high-end food here but it was tasty, perfectly cooked, not greasy.  Really…it was exactly what I was looking for.

I was enjoying a nice chat with my neighbor when Jason when brought over a little container of bar-b-q sauce and said to us “Try it…it has strawberries in it”.  It was delicious!  Tangy and sweet but not too much of either.  Apparently they have a smoker coming in soon and will be offering a variety of BBQ fare.  I’ll have to remember to stop in and try that once they are up and running.

My neighbor was raving about his potato salad and Jason asked if I wanted to try some of that too.  Another hit!  And it was fun to see someone so excited about the foods he was preparing.

Finally it was time to pay and the grande total for the unexpected culinary experience and friendly conversation – a whopping $4.27!  I was so impressed I even did a Facebook check-in there…which I never do.

I left with a smile on my face, refreshed and ready to hit the road again – not bad for under $5.

If you’re interested in trying them out you can find them at:

3 Corners Cafe
160 Windermere Ave
Greenwood Lake NY 10925
845-595-1664 
threecornerscafe@yahoo.com

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Life - or something like it, Travel

Permission to change your mind

routeIn the spring of 2011 I planned motorcycle ride from New Jersey to San Diego to visit some friends and see the country along the way. Unfortunately it had to be postponed due to a ridiculous work deadline – a decision I later came to regret.

Two years later the stars were finally in alignment and I had the green light to make the trip.

The day before everything was prepped, the bike was ready, bags packed and a comprehensive route planned   And then I woke with the realization that I just wasn’t into making the trip anymore!

There were logical explanations of course.  Being away now would mean missing my son’s 13th birthday, Mother’s day and possibly our wedding anniversary.  There’s also the expense, loss of earnings, risk etc.

None of those had anything to do with it.

Two years ago I couldn’t wait to get started.  I needed it. Work was incredibly stressful and I needed a break.  But after several weeks of working from home I find I’m the most relaxed I have been in years and the need to escape has evaporated.

I was moving forward with the trip because it was expected and I came to the conclusion that wasn’t a good enough reason to go.

The trip had stopped being an adventure and had become a chore, so I gave myself permission to change my mind.

It’s amazing how difficult it can be to give yourself permission to do that, even if every instinct tells you that you’re doing something for the wrong reason.  Instead we feel the need to keep going at all costs and pretend that everything is OK.

Why do we feel that way?  How often do people keep going in the wrong direction out of fear of criticism?  Whether in battle, politics, or relationships how often should something have been stopped that was not, and at what cost?

As for me when the decision was finally taken I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. More importantly I surprised that everyone involved not only accepted my decision but supported it.

Will I ever get around to making that trip?  Possibly.  But only if it starts to feel like an adventure again.

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Life - or something like it, The Human Condition, Travel