The past couple of weeks I’ve been tackling a variety of projects around the house – from installing new faucets on the sinks in the master bathroom to doing minor plumbing work on my pond to get the waterfall working again. As I’ve been doing these projects I’ve been taking the time to clean things up a bit – cleaning out the clutter under my bathroom sink (and on the bathroom counter), weeding around the pond and cleaning up the yard (still a work in progress), etc.
Through these efforts I’ve begun to notice a greater appreciation of clean and minimalist ideals. Put simply, I like it when things are clean and not cluttered. This goes for not just my bathroom sink and landscaping – but for everything. I get frustrated at the cluttered, slow, clunky and sometimes confusing interfaces on most TV / Cable providers. I get annoyed when I see marketing materials that try to cram in every buzzword possible instead of being clean, clear and concise. I abhor applications that eschew clean and easy interfaces for the sake of cramming in unnecessary (and ultimately unused) features and options.
A couple of weeks ago I ran across a proposal for a remake of Adium, the popular IM client for Mac. Titled “Adium Reborn“, I instantly fell in love with the clean and minimal interface. There would be nothing to get in the way of using the app – exactly as it should be.
The more I think about and consider this line of thinking, the more I realize that when I go through periods where finding motivation is difficult, I allow clutter to pile up around me. The clutter makes it ever more difficult to be motivated and to find inspiration. It frustrates me. I avoid it like the plague, and in doing so allow it to get worse – perpetuating the cycle until something gives and I can’t take it anymore.
The solution for me – inasmuch as there is one – is to recognize this cycle and identify it when it’s happening. I need to deal with the clutter early and with a vengeance to short circuit the cycle and – with any luck – find further motivation and inspiration to do more.
Professionally, as a product manager, I should strive to push the teams I work with to produce products that are clean, simple and effective. The product should never get in the way of doing the work.
If it does, we’ve failed.
On February 25th, 2013 I took the first steps towards achieving something great. For a little over 2 miles I huffed and puffed and thought I was going to die. I ran some and walked a lot. I questioned whether I really wanted to do this. I did not have fun. I had no idea what lay ahead.
Shortly thereafter, Ann convinced me to give it another shot and go for a run with her. This time I had someone helping me to keep a reasonable pace, and for the first time in my life I ran a mile without stopping. Then I ran two, and a third. I remember the feeling of elation at having done something so basic as running a mile without stopping. I wasn’t running particularly fast… but I was running, and not walking.
I never particularly cared about dieting, my weight, or my health in general as I grew up. I had some foggy concept that I wasn’t really in shape, but not that I was particularly unhealthy. “I feel fine!” I would tell myself. “I look great!” I would lie to myself. I didn’t consider myself fat. My self image was quite different from reality. Carefully crafted, it insulated me from my reality, and blinded me from seeing what years of neglect was doing to me. This made it very difficult to see that I needed to change.
But change was needed. I was overweight, horribly out of shape, and had terrible eating habits. I was fast on my way to heart disease and diabetes – all from not taking care of myself. It turns out I didn’t particularly feel good, either; I simply didn’t know what “good” felt like. I was blind to all of this because I didn’t want to believe that I was that bad. I made excuses, ignored facts, and told myself I was fine. I convinced myself I was healthy and that I didn’t need to change.
Then the illusion crumbled. Continue reading
The other day a terrible thing happened to me. With a sputter and puff of foamy frothy liquid, followed by the raspy hiss of it’s last breath… my keg ran dry. While part of me always recognized this to be inevitable, I’d be lying if I claimed I’d not tricked myself into believing the beer flowing forth from my tap to be unlimited in supply.
Thankfully – not all was lost. I had another brew in the fermenter practically begging to be bottled or kegged. The prep work complete – the kegging will happen this evening and by the end of the week I’ll have the beer flowing once again.
This did, however, lead to a train of thought that (I hope) will ultimately lead to a display on the front of my keggerator and will tell me how much beer is left in my keg. The plan – as it stands today – is for the display to tell me this both in pints remaining, but also with a bar gauge that will be fully shaded when the keg is full, and will gradually empty as the beer is consumed. Since I have two kegs I will either need to build two of these, or build one that can toggle between the different kegs. I also want to add a thermometer to it if possible, so I can tell the temperature of my kegs.
The plan as it stands today is to take a scale and modify it so that it sends it’s output to an Arduino, and have the Arduino output to a 2-line LCD display that will be mounted to the front of the keggerator. The Arduino will be programmed to interpret the output of the scale to determine volume of beer based on weight.
There are several tricks to getting this to work.
- First – the scale must have a tare function to zero out an empty keg before I fill it. This will allow me to determine the weight of the beer itself.
- Second – the scale must be very sensitive, allowing it to accurately detect changes when a single pint is removed from the keg.
- Third – the scale must be low profile. There’s not a lot of clearance left between the tops of the kegs and the ceiling of the refrigerator, so I don’t have much space to work with.
I know very little about electronics, Arduino, or how to actually make ANY of this work – but I do have some friends who a.) like beer and b.) have the requisite skills and knowledge to help make this dream a reality. It just so happens that their help will benefit them in “free” beer.
I will update as the project moves forward and we build a proof of concept. I’m excited to see where this goes and to learn more about both electronics and the fun things you can do with Arduino. Once complete, I shall never again be left blinking in surprise wondering why my glass is full of foam, not beer.
A few days ago I wrote about my schedule for the upcoming cycling season and how I’m tackling three major events (100 or more miles) mixed in with several smaller events. This is an ambitious schedule as a 100 mile century ride is roughly equivalent to running a marathon – and I’ll be doing two of those plus a 160 mile ride. I’m equal parts nervous and excited – and look forward to achieving my goals and conquering these challenges.
The first of the century rides I’ll be tackling is the Tour de Cure, which is a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. This is the first major ride I will be participating in with Team Nebo Ridge, and I couldn’t be more excited for it. Not only do I get to ride with some great people – I get to do it on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where I’ve spent countless hours photographing race cars (Indycar and Nascar). For a change I’ll be one of the guys out on the track – which is insanely exciting.
Each of the Team Nebo Ridge riders has a goal of raising $200 for the American Diabetes Association, and I would like to ask for your help in reaching that goal. I have an online donation page on the Tour de Cure website HERE to make it easy. Any amount helps, and supports me as a rider as well as all of the individuals who live with Diabetes.
I will continue to post updates on my progress this season as I tackle the challenges ahead and tackle goals I previously wouldn’t have considered possible.