review, book, productivity, career comments edit

One of the challenges of being a software developer is keeping current. Technology moves so quickly that it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed. At times like this you can definitely use some productivity tips. This is how I landed on this book. It has productivity tips alright, but it has so much more to offer.

Soft Skills by John Sonmez

The software developer’s life manual

The subtitle explains it clearly in a few words. The book is not only about productivity but it encompasses all aspects of life. From money management to fitness, from career tips to handling failures it indeed proves to be a life manual.

This is unique book in the sense that it has sections about fitness and spirit. To be honest when I first started reading the book I was planning to skip those sections. But then it hit me: Most of the challenges I have to face are not technical. Technical problems are easy to solve especially in the age of Google and StackOverflow and all sorts of online resources. The real challenge is keeping the motivation up, staying healthy and fit (standard beer & pizza based diet of a developer doesn’t cut it) to increase productivity and overall success, managing your money wisely (which unfortunately means I shouldn’t buy every gadget I see!)

Structure of the book

The book is 504 pages and divided into 7 main sections:

  1. Career
  2. Marketing yourself
  3. Learning
  4. Productivity
  5. Financial
  6. Fitness
  7. Spirit

In the first 2 sections, you can find many helpful tips & tricks regardless you are an employee, freelancer or an entrepreneur. Apparently John Sonmez went through all these stages in his career so he knows what he is talking about.

As I mentioned keeping current is key in our industry and Section 3 addresses this need very effectively.

Since there is so much to learn time management becomes an issue on its own and that’s when you need to improve your productivity. You might not like some of the advice he gives (like quitting watching TV!) but deep inside you’d know he is right.

Money management is especially crucial if you are trying to run your own business. I don’t think finance is any developer’s strongest suit so this section is something to read twice for people like me!

I recently lost a lot of weight and now feel much better about myself. And better yet I feel a lot more productive. Physical fitness is very important. Since our job doesn’t force us to be fit it’s very easy and tempting to let it go. But the consequences are dire! So incorporating a healthy diet and exercise is extremely important to be successful. This section comes with a lot of great advice and techniques to address this.

There’s no way you can achieve any significant level of success if you are not mentally prepared for it. Final section of the book covers mind and soul. From handling relationships to getting back on horse after a failure, it comes with a lot of useful advice and references to good resources.

These 7 sections are divided into 71 chapters in total and they are very easy to read. Since it takes minutes to read each chapter I never had to put it away in the middle of a chapter.

About the author

I like and respect the author, John Sonmez, as he is very prolific and successful. So from the first page I knew for sure the information in the book is not theoretical or made up in any way. Even Uncle Bob’s prologue is an evidence that this guy is methodical, persistent and follows the plan until he achieves success. This is exactly the kind of person you would like to get career advice from!

Conclusion

Generally I find such books fluffy and stating the obvious but not this one because I know I’ve been following the author’s work quite some time now. I know he is very candid and sincere and so I know every word in the book is written by a developer who already had similar challenges and tackled them. Overall, this is definitely a great book to read and keep around for future reference.

Resources

events comments edit

I love podcasts as they help me to learn and keep current with the news during idle times. My favourite network is TWiT. They provide all sorts of shows from general tech news to specialized shows like Windows Weekly which focuses on Microsoft world.

A few days ago I received an email from the Windows Apps London meetup group (which made me feel good about my decision for joining) telling me that Mary Jo Foley will be in town and there will be a Windows Weekly live show. Needless to say, I signed up instantly!

I’ve been watching this show for more than 3 years so I exactly knew what to expect. But it’s still very exciting to see Mary Jo in person and being a part of the show. That pixelated being in the back is me:

Me in Windows Weekly

I’ve always considered Mary Jo to be a very kind and polite person and I still maintain that position. Even stronger after seeing how she treats everyone. She was always cheerful, up-beat and friendly all along.

Windows Weekly in London with Mary Jo Foley 1

Windows Weekly in London with Mary Jo Foley 2

A few notes

  • I always download the on-demand version and never watch live. I learned that apparently Leo is always late to the shows! It started 15 minutes late but Mary Jo was not surprised one bit!
  • There were Surface Pro 3s all around. I have never seen so many of them in one place at the same time actually. As a proud owner myself I felt validated :-)

Resources

personal, atheism comments edit

This blog is meant to be about my adventures in the techland but every now and then I like to post irrelevant stuff. I think such “off-topic” posts should be expected from a personal blog. As long as they are not link-baits, meaning they deliver what they promise, it shouldn’t be any problem as anyone can simply choose to ignore them. So having said that in this post I want to organize my thoughts on atheism and my reasons for being an atheist.

Which god to follow?

  • Fact: There are lots of religions all around the world (Check the resources section for the map and religious populations)
  • Fact: Almost all believers just follow their parents’ teachings and adopt their faith. That’s why generally countries follow the same religion as a mass.
  • Conclusion: Since religions reject the others’ deities they cannot be all correct. Therefore whether you follow the true faith is just pure luck! So say if Christianity is the correct one around 5 billion people in the world are headed in the wrong direction and gods seem to be fine with it!

Poor distribution mechanism

I have always had a problem with the way the religions were meant to spread (by religions I mean Christianity, Islam and Judaism). The method is God assigns one prophet to convert the entire planet. Mind you there was no Twitter to spread the word back then. No mass communication whatsoever. So every religion was bound to be local in the first place.

Millions ignored completely

What’s the fault of people who have never been sent a prophet? Aren’t we all equal in gods eyes? Seems like he doesn’t give a shit about some people at all. For example take ancient Inca or Aztec civilizations. These people lived and died without being sent a prophet. They practiced horrific human sacrifices to please their gods. I wonder how the god of Islam or Christianity could just allow such barbaric rituals and do nothing about them.

Age of the world: Thousands vs. billions

This alone should be proof enough but people just ignore what they don’t want to hear. Religions teach the earth is around 6000 years old but it’s been scientifically proven that the earth is 4.5 billions years old!

Need to explain the unexplained

We need to explain things. One way or another. If we don’t know the answer we make it up! Thousands of years ago people believed Thor was responsible for nature events such as thunder, lightning and storms. Today we clearly know better and can explain them scientifically without leaving a shred of doubt. So nobody today attributes such regular events to gods.

Today there are key questions still remain unanswered such as the origin of man and universe. There are some explanations but not quite solid so that’s where religions come out to play. Why do we need to attribute the creation of universe to a deity? It’s simply we don’t know the answer yet just like the old Norse failed to explain the creation of thunder. Centuries from now people will call today’s religions mythology just like we do to ancient Greek or Norse gods.

Free will

If we are all free to make our own decisions, then given there are billions of people, god cannot have a clue about what’s going to happen at any given time. And that defies being omnipotent. If god already knows everything that has ever happened and will ever happen then what’s the purpose of creating everything? It’s like writing a story then sitting down and reading it on your own.

Also I refuse to be treated like a lab rat. Created without consent and put to a ridiculous test where I’m threatened to burn in hell if I fail. I cannot understand anyone with some dignity can accept such a premise.

Why give Satan a chance?

The story is that Satan rebelled and God decided to give him a chance. I never understood why? Why not just smite him right there at that instant and keep everything in order? So if I don’t believe in god it’s believed that Satan succeeded but who’s fault is that? As I mentioned above god made a crappy job spreading his word. So he has no right to complain if someone doesn’t believe in him!

Conclusion

These are just some thoughts and questions that have always bugged me. I wanted to get it out of my system and write about them. They are in no particular order and other reasons can be added as well. Maybe in the future I can publish a sequel!

Resources

leisure, comedy, travel comments edit

Last year around this time I went to Ed Byrne’s show in Hammersmith as I reviewed here. The supporting act on that show was Ben Norris and recently I came across The Comedy Store and noticed he was taking the scene on Tuesday nights as part of The Cutting Edge show.

The Cutting Edge

I decided to pay a visit to see what’s it all about. The show is fun in general. The idea is 6 comedians take the stage. It involves some of their material but mostly it’s improvised. Every week the cast changes so it may be worth checking it out frequently.

I thought Ben Norris was a great comic but after seeing him twice in this club I think he’s not the right guy for improvisation. Still it’s a lot of fun and it’s definitely worth the money. They have several shows in the club so I just might be a regular!

leisure, travel comments edit

Last Saturday, I went to Palace of Westminster for the first time. I had been around it a lot of times while playing Ingress and chasing portals but never been inside it.

I bought an audio tour ticket here and it did not disappoint.

Palace of Westminster

The building looks glorious from the outside but from the inside it’s absolutely amazing. Definitely the most beautiful and impressive building I have ever seen in my life.

Resources

fitness, game comments edit

I’ve been playing this game for about 6 months. It’s an interesting game in a number of ways.

Ingress Basics

I discussed the basics of the game in my previous post. If you want to find out more about the rules and game play you can check out that post here. For me the definite guide for the game is a site called decodeingress.me. You can find the latest news and updates about the game. It is updated quite frequently so it pays off to keep an eye on the latest changes in the game. Anyway, what I want to log in this post is mainly my experiences.

What’s It All About?

Feeling proud of achievements in a virtual world is a bit silly but I guess it goes for all sorts of games. Here’s a snapshot of the fields I created a while back:

Ingress Field

In theory the goal is to create and try to maintain those fields so that you capture “mind units”. The team who has more mind units wins (actually the game never ends so I guess there are no winners or losers. The worst case of scenario is your team falls behind). Once you start playing it’s all about levelling up but after a certain level you seek more. Here’s my view of pros and cons of the game:

Pros

  • Exercise: This is the main reason I started the game. It motivates you walk more. I stopped taking the bus from town centre and started walking home because there are some portals that need to be captured along the way!</li>
  • Get to know the city better: Before this game, I knew where my house was, where the nearest train station was and where the nearest Sainsbury’s store was. Now I know all the churches, parks and many other public buildings around my neighbourhood and around the city.
  • New friends: You can play the game alone with no problems and can have fun at first. But after a while it becomes a bit boring because you do the same activities repeatedly. By joining the local community you get to know the people playing around you.

Cons

  • Repetition: The portals have a mitigation cap meaning that you cannot keep enforcing the portals. So it can be taken down by a single player.After some time it becomes quite repetitive. You capture the portals and create fields. A few hours later someone blows them up and the next morning you have to do the same thing all over again. This might get the fun away especially If you are playing alone.
  • Can be time-consuming: Because of the above fact, portals require maintenance especially in crowded areas. If you become obsessed about keeping the portals yours you might end up spending a lot of time.

For me pros of the game far outweigh the cons. I can control the time I spend on the game and play with other people so it becomes a social event.

Some Tips

Just off the top of my head here are a few tips for beginners:

  • Deploy resonators as far as possible from the center so that they don’t all get hit hard at the same time.
  • When firing XM bursters, long press fire button and release it when XM is accumulated in the center. It allows you to get bonus firepower up to %20
  • Links make portals stronger so try to create as many links and fields you can.

Resources

review, gadget comments edit

It’s been 5 months since I’ve gone to a metal show. The last one was Bloodstock Festival and Lamb of God was headlining that. The playlist on this show had no surprises (Just the way we like it). O2 Academy Brixton twitter account kindly tweeted the playlist:

Lamb of God Playlist

“Open up the dance floor!”

Apparently this was a sold out show. It was quite crowded and people went nuts the second LoG hit the stage. Normally there is a small area for moshpit in front of the stage right behind the first 2-3 rows or people. But from where I stood it looked like the half of the floor was a giant moshpit area. Check this short clip to get a sense of the atmosphere (sound quality is awful so make sure you don’t start it at full volume).

Notes

  • Number of girls seemed to be a lot more than a usual metal concert. Number of girls in the moshpit was definitely a lot more than a usual metal concert!
  • Guitarist Mark Morton didn’t take the stage. At the beginning of the show Randy introduced Paul Waggoner as his temporary replacement and explained Mark’s absence as “He had to attend to a family business and family always comes first in this band”
  • Beer prices were ridiculous (or maybe I should say tragic): £4.75 for a Carlsberg. I only had two. The feeling of being ripped off ruins the fun of it but mainly the long queues in the front of the bars were a huge turn off.

Lamb of God Image 1

Lamb of God Image 2

Lamb of God Image 3

Lamb of God Image 4

Lamb of God Image 5

Lamb of God Image 6

productivity comments edit

I’ll keep rambling about my opinions, observations and experiences about productivity. Here goes:

01. Don’t try to cut back sleep to gain time

We all fee like we need more time to accomplish things but sleep is not the right item for savings. I tried it in the past. Tried to get away with sleeping 3-4 hours every night. At first it felt like the days were longer but towards the end of the week I was feeling so tired that I couldn’t perform well during the day. So I was up for more hours but my productivity had reduced significantly. I strongly suggest to have a good night’s sleep around 6 – 8 hours.

02. Two pomodoros of reading a day makes you (feel) smarter

In my last post I talked a bit about the Pomodoro technique. I love using it to divide small tasks into short work units. The idea of spending two pomodoros for reading is similar to saving money in a piggy bank. It’s easy to use 50 minutes a day for reading no matter how busy your day is. You wouldn’t notice and it wouldn’t become a huge burden once you make it a habit. But over time it would amount to a bunch finished books that would be gathering dust on your desk otherwise (or iPad or Kindle or phablet or.. anyway, you get the point)

03. Review your processes often

Setting goals for the day and week is a good practice but to make it work you have to review the outcomes periodically. In the excellent book called 30 days of Getting Results, J.D.Meier names is as “Friday Reflection”. Every week the status of the tasks that were targeted to be completed must be reviewed and more importantly the process must be updated the following week based on lessons learned from the previous week.

04. Keep learning

Everyday we are wasting a tremendous amount of time doing chores, commuting etc. At this day and age we have access to so many different means of accessing technology. We have small computers in our podcasts that are almost always connected to Internet. It’s a great chance we have to make use of the idle time by watching a PluralSight video for example. There are similar online courses of course but it just happens to be my favourite with apps for all mobile platforms. Another way it listening to a podcast. There are a lot of podcasts about technology and development. A few of my favourites are:

  • .NET Rocks
  • Run As Radio
  • Hanselminutes
  • Yet Another Podcast by Jesse Liberty

I’m planning to compile a list of my favourite shows so I hope this list will look more comprehensive.

The reason I added this item is using these learning mechanisms help you keep sharp and on track. Generally it’s not possible to really learn something by just listening to it but the idea here is to keep an eye of the latest to research about it.

05. Don’t multitask!

Trying to do multiple things at the same time creates an illusion of going fast and accomplishing a lot but I don’t believe that’s the case. Of course I’m not talking about doing something meaningful along with a chore. Like as in #4, it’s perfectly acceptable to watch a technical video on your way to work. The type of multitasking I’m against is doing it while coding for example. My idea is divide such tasks into pomodoros, focus on one thing at a time and nothing else. This would improve the quality of that unit of work dramatically and will eventually lead to accomplishing more.

Resources

fitness, game comments edit

Yet another horrible term coined by inaptly fusion of two words! I was going to call dibs on it but a quick Google search showed other people used it before. Someone even registered the .com domain for it! Anyway, obviously the term is an abomination of words “Ingress” and “Exercise”.

What is Ingress

Ingress Logo

Ingress is an augmented reality game developed by Google (Well, actually by a company called Niantic Labs that is owned by Google). To play the game you need to install the free app on an Android device. (I saw iOS support is coming in 2014 here)

For me the beauty of this game is having exercise without even noticing it. Even having a desire to do it. Last Sunday, for example, I walked around at least 30 minutes hacking a bunch of portals. To an outsider I might have looked like I was enjoying a nice walk in the park but actually I was trying to keep to world free from the unreliable Shapers! I didn’t even notice I walked for that long.

The story

An alien race called Shapers use Portals to teleport to earth. There are two teams: The Resistance and The Enlightened. The resistance are opposed to Shapers’ whereas Enlightened believe they should be embraced.

The goal

The ultimate goal is to control as many portals as you can. You can create links between the portals your team controls and the triangular area between the portals forming the link is called “control field” and any player located inside this area is considered to be under your team’s control. They are called “mind units”. That’s essentially how the current control rates on the intel page is calculated. (As a proud Resistance agent it just saddened me to see we are down to 43% of global control)

The gameplay

Portals can be found anywhere. They can be controlled by either of the teams or they can be unclaimed. To claim a portal at least one resonator must be placed. To capture a portal controlled by the opponent team their resonators must be destroyed by firing XMP. You progress to higher levels by collecting AP (Action Point). After you start hacking the portals you will notice some items in your inventory.

Basic strategy

Okay here’s a guide to the absolute beginner: Just walk or run around and hack every portal you see. Don’t attack powerful enemy portals, you will just end up using all your weapons and energy. If you find unclaimed portals (the gray ones) jump on them instantly. You will gain a lot of APs by deploying resonators and linking them to other portals. Before attacking enemy portals check out the deployment and mod status. Once you have enough weapons in your arsenal and move up a few levels try to find fairly weak portals and zap the resonators. You can earn some sweet APs by creating a control field and don’t let enemy portals surround you because links cannot intersect and if they have a link going through your portals you cannot establish a link between them. So in that sense best defense is offense. Just pick your fights carefully.

Glossary

  • Portal: Places where Shapers can teleport to earth. The main goal is finding and hacking them.

  • Hacking: You hack the portals to get Action Points and add items to your inventory. You can hack any portal but you only get AP by hacking other people’s portals. You get more items by hacking your own portals.

  • Resonator: Every portal has 8 resonators. The resonators deplete over time and eventually the portal becomes unclaimed unless they are recharged. This helps your team to keep control of the portal for a longer period of time.

  • Portal Key: When you hack a portal you might get portal key (there is 15% chance you will). They are very important because you need them to create links between portals.

  • Mod: There are various mod items that let you upgrade a portal. Every portal have 4 mod slots. The mods are portal shields (to defends portals against XMP attacks), force amplifier (increases force of the portal), link amplifier (increases the portal link range), multi-hack (increases the number of times a player can hack a portal), heat sink (decreases the duration between hacks) and turret (increases the portal attack rate).

  • XMP Burster: Weapons to fire XMP on enemy portals. You can destroy resonators, links and control fields with them

  • Power Cube: Used to store XM so you can recharge your XM reserves.

Conclusion

It’s an enjoyable game for me but I can see myself getting bored of it pretty soon. But I have a great motivation to keep playing. It makes exercise just go by. I cannot wait for spring when I can start using it while running which would allow me to hack so many more portals that I can by walking.

Resources

book review comments edit

SLAAAAYERRR!

This book had been on my queue for quite a long time. Luckily Slayer never gets old so this book is still relevant! It’s been 30 years since they released their debut album (Show No Mercy). I’ve listened to all of their albums countless times yet whenever I need something fast and heavy the name Slayer comes to mind first. Now that Jeff Hanneman is dead and Dave Lombardo has left the band (yet again), they are close to the end of their careers at least in terms of releasing new material. So I’m glad I got to finish the book before they disbanded!

The Book

The Bloody Reign of Slayer

This book was written in 2008 and it covers all but the last album (World Painted Blood). Honestly I finished the book just because it is about one of my favourite bands, not because it was a page-turner. In the beginning, the sections about the early years of the band are rather interesting but later on it doesn’t offer much.

It’s like a collection of album reviews. I liked the album review parts, analyzing all songs helps understand them better. But I think there is just too much boring stuff. The stuff that might make sense if you read it in an article about a recent article. But pointless and irrelevant after the album is released 15 years ago.

It was also a bit disappointment to see how boring the lives of the band members are! They are just 4 regular guys that come together to make the records and then live their separate lives. Of course, as the author mentions, this is not an official book endorsed by the band. So maybe it’s coming across boring because of the lack of information released by the members.

Anyway, I’d not recommend this book unless you are a diehard Slayer fan.  Even in that case I’d recommend to buy it just because it would look cool on your bookshelf. It’s a nice-looking hardcover book but the contents are just too mundane. There are not much interesting notes I remember from the book but here’s some trivia that I found enjoyable:

  • Tom Araya’s birthday is on June 6 (Sixth day of the sixth month!)
  • In the early years they stole lights from nearby houses to use them in their shows
  • The producers of the debut album are Brian SLAgel and Bill MetoYER (get it?)
  • Lombardo recorded Show No Mercy without cymbals because of the studio’s inadequacy. Later he overdubbed the cymbals.
  • Slayer name was owned by a San Antonio-based band. They even supported LA Slayer one night.
  • Kerry King played for Dave Mustaine’s Megadeth in some shows. Mustaine tried to convince him to join his band permanently (but failed in the end obviously)
  • Dave Lombardo keft the band in 1986 because he wasn’t allowed to bring his wife on tour. A few months later he joined back only to quit again in 1992.
  • They toured with Megadeth, Anthrax, Suicial Tendencies in Tge Big Four of Thrash and had personal issues with Dave Mustaine. Turns out Mustaine had issues with everybody else too in the industry!
  • The idea of Wall of Blood (Sprinkler for fake blood at the beginning of Raining Blood) came up to Hanneman while watching the movie Blade

Resources

show review comments edit

Ed Byrne is one of my favourite comedians. I like his jokes and his especially his style. He doesn’t offend people with his jokes. Being offensive is not necessarily a bad comedy in my opinion. I do like Jim Jefferies, for example, and he is offensive as it gets. But most of them don’t have his ability to present their jokes in a funny and not-so-annoying way. Anyway, back to Ed Byrne..

Row X!

Unfortunately, my seat was way back in the stalls so I can’t say I clearly saw the stage. That was a bummer but maybe it’s not as important in comedy shows as it’s more about listening. There is not much action on the stage anyway.

Ed Byrne Ticket

The Show

The show had a very interesting setup. First, Ed Byrne came to stage at 20:10 to warm up the crowd for his support act! The Ben Norris came and warmed us up for another 20 minutes. Then there was an intermission followed by a 5 minute set by Ben Norris. Finally, the one-hour long main attraction started. I liked Ben Norris and will try to keep an eye on his tours. Especially his jokes about the Post Office were killer, probably because we could relate to them! There is not much to say about Ed Byrne. I saw his DVDs before and this show was very much like them in general. About half of the show was about marriage jokes which were quite funny even though I didn’t relate.

The Venue

It’s right across the Hammersmith tube station so it’s hard to miss. It’s generally a nice place but he seat was not too comfortable. As the seat being an important factor I’m afraid I’ll have to lower its grade in my eyes.

Resources

game, minecraft comments edit

I recently decided to give Minecraft a shot as there are a few people playing it already (and by a few I mean 12,995,53 as of now, according to its official site). The problem is I’m a casual gamer and I don’t want to spend too much time on it. Anyway, we’ll see what I can do with the amount of time I can spare.

Enter Minecraft

As it is a game encouraging creativity (well, I hope it does at least) when you first start it looks like just a blank slate. There is just some wood and grass around you. The problem is I didn’t have any goals! After spending a few minutes wandering around pointlessly I closed it and forgot about it some time. Until tonight!

Youtube to the rescue

Sometimes I forget that little thing called the Internet. I found a great tutorial in Youtube called “How to survive your first night in Minecraft”. First I thought it was referring to the actual night you are playing the game. And I thought by surviving it meant getting the hang of it and keep playing instead of being overwhelmed by it and leaving it for good as I was almost doing. But turns out there are days and nights in the game! And at night time some creatures emerge and they attack and kill you if you are not prepared for it. The tutorial I watched was only 15 minute long but it gave great insight about the game. As you can see it even gathered a lot of resources and built some tools using them already.

Surviving the Minecraft - Inventory view

Didn’t make it through the night :-(

Well, apparently pausing the game doesn’t stop time. When I was watching the tutorial in paused state the night fell and I was surrounded with all sorts of creatures like skeletons and zombies. Out in the open, without any tools I didn’t stand a chance!

Conclusion

Even though I couldn’t survive the night a learned a lot about the game. It looks like a lot of fun. So maybe I should invest some time on it during the weekends. I know if I play at all nights I will be addicted very quickly. So I guess if I just limit it to weekends from the get-go I can stay loyal to my not spending too much time on games rule. Also I know there is an interest in Raspberry Pi community about running Minecraft servers on RPis. It sounds like it would be a nice use case for my idle Pi.

Resources

Productivity comments edit

I’ve been trying to improve my time management techniques perpetually. This post is a small compilation of notes, tips and tools I came up with. This is an on-going process and I will keep updating these. I strongly recommend reading Getting Results the Agile Way and visiting the sites in the resources section. I learned most of the stuff below from that book. And there is plenty of more good advice in there. So here is my list:

01. Be realistic!

I think this is the most important thing I have learned so far. Yes, we all want to do more tasks and write more code, develop the killer apps we were thinking of but the reality is we have a limited time we can spare. This is not about aiming low but just don’t start everything at the same time because you are too excited about them at the time. It’s very likely that you will end up with a bunch of unfinished projects. Over time they will keep haunting you. First you will never feel the sense of accomplishment even though you spent a ton of time and effort. Also they will remain somewhere in your to-do list only making everything worse.

02. Rule of 3 rocks!

I think if there is one thing to take away from the book Getting Results the Agile Way, it is the Rule of 3. It is a very simple and effective idea. Don’t put too many things on your plate. Every month pick 3 major tasks to accomplish. Then divide them into smaller weekly tasks and even smaller daily tasks. If you only aim to complete 3 tasks every day you can steadily move toward accomplishing the greater goals at the end of the month. For me, it’s not always to plan things so clearly. Generally monthly and weekly tasks are left unfulfilled. But it is easy and very achievable to plan the next day every night and pick only 3 things. At least that one works pretty well.

03. Determine your categories (hot spots)

I have to admit I tweaked rule of 3 a little bit! I wanted to have a more balanced plan so I determined main categories in my life like health, work, career, chores etc. I’m picking 1 task per category each day. This way I believe I can make progress in every aspect of life.

04. Keep it simple

Simplify your process as much as possible. When I first started keeping lists of outcomes I created templates so detailed that it took half an hour to fill out completely. Instead of overly complicating things and spending too much time on managing just try to get rid of as much as possible. In the end the ultimate goal is to use time for things that matter. Even a blank note with 3 items written on it can be a very good way to plan the day. Just do the 3 things on the list, don’t think about anything else.

05. Keep your backlog clean and short

Learn how to let things go. This is another crucial thing. Let’s be honest we will never be realistic and we will put a ton of items to our to-do list turning it into a bottomless pit. There were times I found items in my list that didn’t even mean anything anymore. Or so outdated that it had no value anymore. The result is you keep those in your list all that time, they keep taking your time to manage also they weigh on your shoulders as they pile up. And you end up not doing them anyway. Essentially you stall and stall then delete them once they make no sense anymore. The golden rule to keep in mind is that if it’s important it will surface again! So don’t worry about forgetting a very important task. You will be reminded it in one way or another.

06. Pen & paper with colour coding helps

Keeping notes on Evernote is great but sometimes the ease of use makes it also easier to neglect or forget tasks. After all they become invisible once you minimize the window. I recently started using coloured post-its.They are coded in their order of importance. So for example I cannot do green tasks before the purple ones are completed. Also it is annoying to have a bunch of notes sticking around so trying to get rid of them is an extra motivation!

07. Use Pomodoro on small tasks

I love this technique since the day I heard about it. It’s quite simple: Just divide tasks small unbreakable units of time. The default is 25 minute work and 5 minute rest. I use Focus Booster on my desktop computer

Focus Booster

On iPad I use an app which doesn’t have a specific name and I cannot find it in the app store anymore. It looks like this:

iPad Pomodoro App

It works fine and looks stylish so I’m not planning to find another one. There are a ton of similar apps in the app store though.

I cannot use this method for large tasks. Also I cannot work non-stop with 25-5 periods. I get distracted by something else eventually. So I just use this for short 2-4 pomodoro-long tasks. For example spending 2 pomodoros a day for reading is a great way to spare time to read.

Resources

Book Review, Review comments edit

I’m not an early Twitter adopter but I love using it since day one. It is an fast and easy way to skim through the news of the day, get a few random tips and be notified by new articles or blog posts. I still use RSS feeds as they are not ephemeral like Twitter feed therefore more reliable to get the latest news but Twitter is a great companion to that source now.

Hatching Twitter

I heard about this book in a podcast a few days ago and Twitter being my favourite “social network” I immediately dug in. One funny thing is it makes you think about how fast things go in the Internet age. The book reads like a history of a company which, in earth years, was founded 7 years ago. Obviously we know the plot and ending of the book so there is nothing exciting about it maybe. But the storytelling is very good and riveting. My intention was to spare 2 pomodoros a day but most days I found myself extending it to 3 or 4. Long story short, it’s a very well written book about one of most fascinating tech companies of the day.

Resources

Book Review, Review comments edit

The Power of Habit

I titled this post a book review but in reality I only read the 1/3 of the book! Because it was the part pertinent to my needs. Part 1 is about the habits of individuals, part 2 is about the habits of organizations and part 3 about the habits of societies. The reason I started reading this book was acquiring a few tips and tricks on managing habits and it was very helpful to analyse the nature of habits and altering them if needed. The book covers thoroughly the nature of habits. Basically it’s formulated as cue – routine and reward. So I realized if I want to develop a new habit I have to stick to this pattern. Like to have exercise daily the best approach is to do it always at the same time if possible. Right after waking up for example. And after it I have to reward myself. A little snack maybe. Small enough, of course, not to nullify all that exercise. Anyway, the book has lots of examples of success stories and scientific studies and I think it’s quite helpful to help ourselves automate mundane but necessary stuff and getting rid of some unwanted habits. I have no interest in habits of organizations or societies but judging by the first part I’m sure it must be attractive to some. Even just for Part 1 I’d recommend this book.

Resources

Heavy Metal comments edit

After attending to both festivals this year I decided to make a list of what I liked and disliked about both of them.

Bloodstock

Bloodstock Logo

Pros

  • More friendly: Bloodstock being a small festival I find it cosier and people seem to be more friendly.
  • Cheaper: The tickets are almost 2/3 the price. Also the beer in the arena is cheaper. And best of all you have the chance to buy crates of beer inside the festival area (24 for £40 and 12 for £20).
  • Closer to London: Considering the time spent on the road is just wasted it is good that it takes less.

Cons

  • Coach on Thursday: Not a flaw of the festival but since that’s my means on transportation, I have to chalk it up on festivals cons.

Download

Download Logo

Pros

  • More bands: There are more top level bands. Of course the downside of it is that you have to choose because of the time conflicts.
  • Internet connection: A huge plus. Not very fast but still good enough to read Tweets and some newspapers

Cons

  • Too big to walk around: It took me 30 minutes to walk from the camping site to the arena. Although it’s a good exercise, I hated walking all day long on my vacation!
  • Too crowded: Even in the afternoon, there were thousand and thousands of people in front of the main stages. I watched most shows from the giant screen.
  • Logistics: There are so many people that there were queues everywhere. Want to buy a beer? Wait in line. Wanna go to toilet? Wait in line. Wanna buy food? Wait in line! If there is one thing that I hate more than walking all day on my vacation is that waiting in lines all day on my vacation.

Verdict

To me Bloodstock is definitely the better choice and if I’m around this time next year I’ll most certainly be attending to it. I’m glad I had the chance to see Download but probably that was my first and last time.

Heavy Metal comments edit

2nd Bloodstock in a row is over. I liked the line-up mostly because it had 2 big metal names: Lamb of God and Slayer. I missed some of the bands I wanted to see but overall it was great to attend this year too.

Notes from the festival

  • For the first time in a festival I met with my neighbours! Both next door tents had two friendly guys. Even though, while leaving we just ignored each other (as you might expect) it was nice.
  • I loved my tent. It takes seconds to setup. The only issue was it had black ropes which made it hard for people to see and people kept tripping to them causing me lose 4-5 metal pins.
  • There were some issues with the sound on Friday which caused some explosion-like sounds during the shows.
  • The layout of arena and festival area was the same as last year, including the foot stands which made it easy to find what I was looking for.
  • There was a tent from Wacken Foundation! I don’t know what they are doing but they had a stationary bike for people to ride. Some charity work I guess but I couldn’t find it in myself to go and ask!
  • Best food of the festival: Delikate! Next year I’m planning to eat only from them no matter how long the queue they have
  • Best new bands (for me ) of the festival: Ex-Deo and Hell. Especially Hell put up an excellent show. Hope I can make it to their show in London this November
  • Worst band: Voivod! Extremely boring and completely meaningless
  • Band with worst frontman: Amorphis. The last scrap of my love against Amorphis was destroyed after this show.
  • It felt like the number of Galaxy S phones surpassed iPhones
  • Avantasia’s female vocals looked familiar. Then I realized I saw her in Epica DVD long time ago. She is still pretty!
  • Beholder singer announced next year’s headliner (Emperor)  and he also appeared in the after party with the 4 DJs of the apocalypse.
  • To me the only conflicts were Wolfsbane vs. Anthrax and Accept vs. Scar Symmetry
  • The barrier broke during Lamb of God set. One funny remark from the show was Randy saying he calls himself Roger Brilliant in England.
  • Cursing is still not allowed on the set
  • Everybody who saw Evil Scarecrow said they were great. I wish I didn’t miss that one.
  • During Exodus show the singer started a Wall of Death and how he did it was interesting. He looks at one side and said I want this side to kill that side and looks at the other side and says the same thing to them. Sounded more violent than we generally hear on the shows.
  • Scar Symmetry guitarists looked like twins but apparently they are not related.
  • Looks like my new favourite band Ex-deo’s vocals and Kataklysm vocals are the same guy. The guy knows how to make good music.
  • The vamp girls from the after aprty and Fozzy looked like the same but couldn’t verify it yet! (Check out the videos below to compare them yourself)
  • I wonder who the old presenter who was preaching for worshipping Satan was!

Anthrax Beholder Amorphis Avantasia Accept Dark Funeral Kataklysm Fozzy Gama Bomb Hell Ex Deo King Diamond Lamb of God Ex Deo White Chapel Sabaton Scar Symmetry Municipal Waste




Heavy Metal comments edit

Wow, it’s been a year already? It’s time for another Bloodstock mayhem! This year it’s even stronger and faster: Lamb of God and Slayer are two of the headliners. ‘Nuff said!

Bloodstock 2013

I checked my notes from last year while preparing for the next one. I wrote to buy the same tent but I think I have now a better solution:

Tent

which can be bought from here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00BW3XB0K

The best thing about it is it can be setup in seconds. Just open the zipper and it pops up instantly and you’re done. I had a good deal and got it for £20. At the time of this writing it is £35 on Amazon so I guess I was just lucky to seal the deal back then.

Apart from that, I’ll stick to the plan. I’m packing both suntan cream and poncho as this British weather is completely unpredictable.

Hope everything goes well and I can have a good time at BOA 2013 just like I did last year. I’ll post my reviews after the festival.

Game comments edit

I’ve been playing this game for months now and I believe it’s time to move on. I think it is safe to say that I finished the game already. I bought all the buildings that don’t require donuts. I haven’t spent one penny playing this game so this is as far as a freeloader like me can get! No, just kidding. The prices they set are preposterous and I would never spend that much money on some imaginary donuts. Actually Leo Laporte said in one of his shows that he spend over $300 for this game! That’s how much you can spend if you want to buy all premium items.

TSTO

I’m happy with the Springfield I built. As you can see in the images below, I unlocked all the lands, bought all the buildings money can buy including the million dollar buildings. The problem with the game is there is no challenge. You just tap on buildings when they have signs on top of them and tap on characters when there is a exclamation mark on top. If this wasn’t about Simpsons I wouldn’t be playing it at all

TSTO

The beginning of the end: Krustyland!

The worst part is they started to repeat themselves. After the last update they introduced a new place called Krustyland. It is exactly like the first level of the game. A blank field and you clean up the place and build some buildings. Only this time you earn Krustyland tickets instead of money. It’s like the mini version of the same game inside it.

TSTO

So.. I’m calling it off. I don’t mind wasting a little time on games to blow off steam but not with this one anymore. Maybe I can move on to something more challenging like MindCraft.

Fitness, Gadget comments edit

Although that’s a great song from Iron Maiden, the topic of this post is different. The topic is my new running gadget Garmin ForeRunner 10:

Garmin Forerunner

It is a simple and basic device but has all the functionality I need: Measure distance and time. In addition to that it comes with a software that allows you to upload your run info to Garmin Connect and you can keep track of your progress.

Once you install the software all you need to do is connect the device to your computer with the provided USB adapter and click Upload on the UI. It scans the device and uploads the new activities.

Garmin

Then you can go to Analyze –> Activities where you can analyze individual runs or you can go to your Dashboard to view your current status like your records etc.

Garmin

I’m definitely delighted with this gadget. It currently costs £84 on Amazon. Not the cheapest gadget and also there are free alternatives like RunKeeper app but it is still well worth the money. The only problem was it cannot determine the position very easily. I had a warm up walk for about 5 minutes and during this time it couldn’t pinpoint my location. Before I could start running I had to stand still for about a minute but once it finds it I didn’t have any problems during my run. Granted that I used it only one time as it came yesterday but my initial impression is that it is a great tool and very motivating for running. So highly recommended.