September Reading

This September was a lot of fiction and a bit of self-improvement/interesting f reading.

As always, jump to the bottoms for links to my other monthly reading posts.

Blink

By the well known Malcolm Gladwell, Blink is about our powers of rapid cognition, or how we make snap judgments.

This is my second read and it was just as interesting as the first read. Not a huge amount you can apply or practice in your day to day business, but certainly piques the interest to find ways to prove your thin slicing.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Yes I read all 13 of the books this month. They’re written for younger readers, so they were easy reads.

The first four feel pretty formulaic but the rest start to dig in to greater events and a longer story line.

Some people didn’t like the end, but I wasn’t one.

I won’t give it away except to say that Lemony gives away the ending in the intro of every book.

I hope to get to read all of them to my kids one day.

Without Remorse

I finished the month (well it was actually after midnight so it was October I guess) by reading one of the books I’ve read a few times.

Yup it’s predictable and during this read there seems to be a huge push to ‘honor’ and stuff (please don’t mistake me, I truly do value our troops and support them fully, just maybe not the decisions that sent them somewhere).

I still enjoyed it, but the long talks about how ‘elite’ troops feel as they pass other troops they don’t know wore on me a bit.

I’ll wait longer next time before I read about John Kelly (John Clark) and his escapades getting revenge for the killing of his girlfriend.

This is the worst thing that could happen

What’s the worst thing that could realistically happen if no more clients wanted to talk to you?

Note above I said realistically so we’re already throwing out all the invented scenarios around becoming destitute and living in a cardboard box for the rest of your life.

The worst thing that could happen if no more clients wanted to work with you is that you go get a job at a coffee shop, or maybe you’d go back to retail or construction.

Maybe you’d downsize in house and cut a car.

The worst thing that could happen is that I’d have to close up my freelance business and go work for an agency.

My family would still love me.

I’d still get to be a good dad.

My bills would still get paid.

Internal

So really the big thing that would be bad is something internal. If your business folded then you’d feel like you failed.

That’s a real feeling but it’s not really that bad. It feels bad because you poor so much of yourself in to your business. So much that it feels like your business and you are the same thing.

It’s not kids living on the sidewalk or in slavery.

It’s simply you being smart and when your business work doesn’t you to change course to provide for your family.

Bad things

You’re going to have weeks that are bad, I have them and any freelancer that says everything is great every day is lying to you.

When that happens, put it in perspective by truly addressing the worst case scenario.

You still have skills that are likely in demand, so go work for someone else.

Really, that’s not all that bad. So don’t let a bad day or two get you down. If days stretch in to weeks then go talk to someone and get some help.

While I don’t love the idea of working for an agency again, my primary goal is to provide for my family.

As long as I can do that, life is pretty awesome.

photo credit: nukamari cc

August Reading

It’s time for the recap of my reading in August. I’ve been really into fiction lately so there are 3 Omnibus books and only 2 business books (yeah that’s still like 10 books total in August).

If you want to see some of the other installments in my monthly reading scroll to the end of this post.

1. To Sell is Human

This is a great book by Daniel Pink all about ‘selling’. Sales is a business we’re all in and is really about moving people. You move your spouse or partner (or they move you) till you have a common view on a topic like spending.

You move your boss to devote resources to your project.

You move your employees to do quality work even when you aren’t watching them.

To Sell is Human goes deep (lots of scientific studies cited) on what the sales landscape looks like now. It offers lots of practical advice and I highly recommend reading it.

2. Wool Omnibus edition

Wool is about a near future where people live underground in ‘silos’. Every so often someone gets sent out to ‘clean’, which is a death sentence since the world above is dead.

The ‘clean’ part is when they literally clean the cameras showing the outside world and it’s devastation.

Overall Wool was a great read and the twists and turns are awesome as you start to piece the real ‘whole’ story together.

3. Shift Omnibus

Shift is the 2nd set of books following after Wool. It fills in WHY people are in the silos and introduces us to more of what looks like control mechanisms for the whole population.

I don’t want to give out spoilers, but lets just say that there is more control than you originally thought.

4. Dust

Dust finishes off the story with some green and blue. People get out of silos and some of the control mechanisms are dealt with. Again, trying to avoid spoilers.

Overall I absolutely would recommend reading the whole set of Wool books. I read them all in a week and it was totally a week well spent. I will read them again for sure.

5. See You at the Top

I wrote a longer review of See You at the Top so you can head over there for a more in-depth look at the book. Overall there is a bunch of great stuff to get out of the book, but you’re going to need to overlook many outdated thoughts about marriage and communism among other things.

You’re also going to need to skip past a few rants on both of the above topics.

Yes you can dishwash a keyboard, here’s how

Today we’re going to deviate a bit from the regular business topics and talk about cleaning your keyboard. All prompted by a single photo on Twitter.

That is a Kinesis Freestyle V1 keyboard (which I reviewed) in the top rack of my empty dishwasher.

Keyboards are filthy. We eat over them and use them when we’re sick and most people rarely wash them.

Not only that, a keyboard is how I make my money. Either I’m emailing clients or typing code and both take a keyboard to do. I have 2 keyboards the V1 pictured above and a Freestyle V2 which means that as one is drying I can use the other one to keep working in wrist comfort bliss.

Now about washing that keyboard, a few notes.

  • If it’s a wireless keyboard with batteries take them out
  • The dishwasher should be empty (no dirty dishes go in)
  • Put the keyboard on the top rack
  • Run it for a hot rinse only, the heat from drying can hurt it I hear so I’ve just never tried
  • After the rinse has run let it dry fully before use (hence 2 keyboards I can use one while the other sits for 3 months till I wash the in use one). Usually washing on Friday and letting a keyboard sit till Monday is enough time to dry it.
  • If you have an air compressor turn the PSI low (80psi I’ve used) and blow out some of the water to speed up the drying process

I to was nervous the first time so I tried it on a ‘dead’ keyboard. This keyboard came from my school and had a full can of pop spilled on it. When you pressed the backspace key you got an ‘e’.

I figured that the worst that would happen is that it wouldn’t work at all.

That keyboard is still in use at my friend’s house 6 years later with no issues.

I’ve also saved an Apple Wireless keyboard from a full cup of coffee on it.

I got lots of makeup off my Apple Wireless keyboard from the previous computer user at one job [1].

I have washed my Kinesis keyboard [2] and a few types of Microsoft ergonomic keyboards.

I’ve advised many people how to do this and no one has had a keyboard die so go ahead keep a clean keyboard by dishwashing it.


  1. Seriously this keyboard was absolutely disgusting. If it hadn’t come clean I would have required a new keyboard or not worked.  ↩
  2. The Freestyle Solo seems to take lots longer to dry. Like at least 2 weeks to be useable again. I already kept a spare keyboard in the box so now I just swap them depending on which one is being cleaned.  ↩

Round Tripping to BeachPress mostly via bike

For me, BeachPress started 2 days early with travel.

If you’re less interested in the cycling and travel portions and just want what I thought of BeachPress – read this post instead

After a standard Friday morning involving my Mastermind Group and some extra family hang out time I loaded up my bike with my bags and tossed my leg over my faithful steed for a ride into Vancouver.

See catching a 6:40am Amtrak from Chilliwack just seemed silly so I stayed with my amazing friend Brian and rolled 4km to the Amtrak station.

Unfortunately I still left things a bit late and thus had to fill out my declaration card for the US while rolling my bike through the line. The good thing is that I have a flat seat so writing on it was easy. The bad thing is that I was trying to write legibly while rolling a bike with 40 lbs of weight clipped to the sides.

We’ll come back to the Amtrak…

The Gear

Really, my prep for being my own transportation home from BeachPress started in January with a gear list prepared.

First up was a new crankset. My bike came with 54/39 cranks and a 11/26 cassette. I made due with both for a year then last year put on a 11/28 cassette to get some more spin out of my legs.

Even with the new 28 in the rear I needed a bit more spin to climb with the weight of panniers. Add to that my cranks were stripped (due to a bike shop I won’t go back to) and were still on square taper standard.

In March I upgraded to a 50/34 Tiagra crankset. I had been hoping for 105, but it wasn’t in stock and wasn’t going to be in stock any time soon and the next better parts were well outside my price range.

With ‘spin’ for the legs acquired it was time to move on to gear storage.

I left the racks and panniers till late in the game. These were purchased in early May but I didn’t put them on till a week before my expected travel. I got 300km of riding with panniers mounted before boarding the Amtrak.

My rear rack is nothing special (hence no link) it was just a $30 rack that was in stock at my local bike shop.

When looking at panniers I had a few things to balance. I wanted to carry around 50L max. I wanted them to be waterproof. I needed to find ones that didn’t create heal clearance issues.

See, I’m on a Trek 1.5 and it’s not really a ‘touring’ bike. It’s meant for racing and happens to have mounts for a rack. The chainstays aren’t particularly long.

I ended up with the Giant Waterproof pannier which are waterproof (of course given the name) and have a really easy way to release the clips. I’m not a touring genius, so I just made my best guess at what looked solid, given my previous experience buying loads of outdoor gear.

The Legs

Now just because you have that ‘fancy’ gear doesn’t mean you can actually accomplish the ride or you can do it with any speed. I ride a bike that I bought for $600 used, on which I regularly drop others on bikes that were $15k new.

The speed is in the engine not in the ride.

So my goal for riding back was around 180km a day for 4 days. Day 2 is actually closer to 190km and day four is about 140km but you get the idea.

Way back in January I started training for this. Lots of long rides (in the pouring rain). Getting closer to BeachPress that meant lots of 6 hour rides.

Like I said above, I didn’t actually have racks till just before the planned trip, so in May I loaded up and rode to Vancouver.

Then home

In theory I was going to ride in/home again but a weekend of kids and rain (while my awesome wife ran a 1/2 marathon and killed it) meant some sickness for me and missing the final 2 rides in/home from Vancouver.

So I was probably a little under trained for the big ride home.

Back to Amtrak

Like I said I was ‘just on time’ for my train which meant I was rushed and meant that when I was given a seat in coach I didn’t realize that I was in coach and not business class (which I had paid for) and sat in coach till Seattle.

Seattle is where I was greeted by a cranky older couple that informed me I was sitting in their seat for which they produced a ticket, which had the same seat number as my ticket.

Ejected from my seat I found someone in an Amtrak uniform and found out that:

  • A I wasn’t sitting in Business class before (which I had wondered about)
  • B They’d have to get someone else to help me find a seat since they just watched the door and didn’t work on the train

Eventually I got a seat, then was asked to move to another seat in Tacoma. Then again in Olympia I was offered a seat by myself at the end of another car.

The takeaway is business class seats are nice and that the business class car creaks around most turns in a way that sounds like a fart and makes even adults laugh.

Oh, and the Amtrak staff were very nice and I got a bunch of free meal vouchers for the day because I was willing to work with them and got seated improperly at the beginning.

Oh, and I’d pay for business class again and make sure I got it from the beginning.

Amtrak WIFI

A short aside here for those technical people that figure they can work on the train. You can, but the WIFI is slow and you’ll hit spots that just don’t have coverage.

If you have a big download or upload do it before you get on the train. Leaving it till you’re on the train will mean it takes for ever and it will stop a few times as you drop connection.

Portland to my Hotel

After getting off the train I had to load up the bike again and ride 37km to my hotel for the evening.

Portland is a great city and I met and talked to no less than 5 cyclists. All of them asked about my load and my planned trip.

One set even offered to lead me along some better side roads for cycling to get me to my main highway of travel for the day.

They were very nice.

The ride was uneventful otherwise. Just a nice ride along a sort of busy road.

Newberg to BeachPress (Lincoln Beach Oregon)

Finishing my trip to BeachPress was the first real test of my fitness and gear. 117km of riding with 633 meters of climbing.

The day started cloudy (which I’d find out later is common for the area) and cool so I geared up with a wind vest and full arm/leg warmers. Since we couldn’t check in till 5pm at the house I was in no rush to get going and stayed in bed till 8am.

Any parent of little kids will think of that statement as something to be totally envied. I loved it.

Finally getting started at 10am I rolled down the road and quickly got in to the mountains. Now, I live in BC and have mountains so I’m used to them, but each mountain range is just a bit different and a different type of beautiful.

On top of new beautiful mountains I found a bunch of awesome airplanes on the side of the road.

The most interesting part is that one sat on top of a building and had a waterslide on top of it. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to take myself to the water park and ride the slide out of a plane.

The second interesting thing was stopping at a random gas station and encountering US ‘hick’ accents thick enough that I had to ask twice what they were saying.

During discussions at BeachPress all my US friends said that ‘hick’ is an accent on it’s own and it’s the same accent in any part of the country. It’s got to be a wonder of science how that works.

Ultimately I turned a corner and saw the beach and pulled over to just drink in the site.

First view of the Oregon Coast
First view of the Oregon Coast

After 10 minutes looking at the beach, I found a coffee shop to sit at and wait 2 hours till the house opened.

It was a glorious 2 hours sitting and relaxing, with the wind to keep me company and my own thoughts.

Heading Home

After a week hanging with awesome people at a beach house I had to get going on my 700km trip back to Canada and my family.

Day 1 – All day headwind

My first day was the most ambitious elevation wise and I found out, had the most headwind.

As you can see I went directly up the coast on day one and the coast has a North -> South headwind all day. So, not only was I carrying around 40lbs, I was riding up hill.

I was also riding uphill with 40lbs in to a headwind.

Despite the headwind, the scenery was beautiful all day. Lots of awesome coast to see and the wind took the edge off the heat of the day.

Day 2 – Not quite all day headwind but it was long

My second day was the ambitious one distance wise.

I still had a decent chunk of the day heading up the coast, but it wasn’t all day so I didn’t spend all day in the headwind. In fact, I got the last 50km in a tailwind.

This chunk held lots of other touring cyclists. The biggest group I passed was in the beginning of the day with a group of 8 people riding fully loaded up.

Today my legs started to tire and they just got tired all day. I find it funny that despite starting tired, my average speed was about the same as day one by the time I finished.

More beautiful coastline
More beautiful coastline

Looking at my heart rate I really wasn’t able to push hard at all. Each day my heart rate was lower overall, with little change in average speed.

The second day brought the first real problem around the 170km mark. Some pretty intense heel pain. I had no idea at the time, but I had strained my Achilles tendon and it needed a rest.

It got a rest, just not for another almost 400km.

Day 3 – Route finding

This was the day I was most nervous about. See the Garmin Edge 500 has some ‘navigation’ features in that it puts a black line on the screen (sometimes) and a triangle that represents you.

It will tell you if you’re off course (though sometimes it says your off course and there has been no road to turn on for hours in the mountains) but with no street names and the line disappearing you have no idea which of the 3 roads you just passed was the correct one.

This is where I kept pulling out my iPhone and was glad I paid for US data.

I created my routes in Strava, which let me pull out my phone open the Strava app and then see where I was on the route.

The downside to Strava routes is that the ‘route rider’ that is your pace bunny, is obviously a pro rider that feels no pain and that ‘pro’ was in theory finishing 2 or 3 hours before me.

So shortly after lunch each day I’d be starting out and cruising well, only to have my Edge 500 tell me that the other rider was already finished and drinking cool beverages.

Day 4 – Home is so far

Motivation was the hard part on day 4. Getting out of bed was hard.

Getting going on the bike was hard.

Having a sore ass didn’t help things, but I wasn’t lagging because of a sore butt.

I was lagging because my body was just complaining at me for continuing the punishment.

Seriously, I’ve ridden the section from Arlington to home before and it’s a fast, fun, beautiful section.

But on this day it was just miles that had to be ridden so I could say I did the whole thing under my own power.

It wasn’t that fun.

Sure I still got a great picture and I love my bike, but rest was needed.

Mountain valley in Sumas
Mountain valley in Sumas

In the future I’d probably plan 2 long days, then a short day (like 160km max) then a day off to enjoy sleeping in and coffee shops. Then keep going for another few days.

That sounds like a pace that would work.

I even stopped 3 times for a good 20 minute sit on the side of the road after I crossed the US/Canadian border. That’s only 40km from my house, but I just couldn’t keep going.

Again?

So would I do it again? Yeah I would.

I’d plan to enjoy the coast more (since the real beauty in this was on the coast) and then fast track it through the city to home.

I’m already thinking of a better paced, longer tour for next summer.

Any suggestions?

What about good WordPress podcasts

A while ago I wrote about the podcasts I think you must listen to. Out of that came a question:

What about WordPress podcasts?

Yes, I do listen to WordPress podcasts, just not very many of them. I actually subscribe to every consistent one out there. They simply are rarely worth the time spent listening.

The problem with WordPress podcasts is that they just aren’t that useful. They end up with the hosts reminiscing about escapades at a previous WordCamp or talking about drinking. Then they recap the news (which I’ve already read about via WP Tavern or Post Status or WP Mail). Then they talk about the planned drinking and escapades at the next WordCamp.

They remind me of a high school day where we talked about the party last weekend. Gossiped about the week, then planned the party next weekend.

I left high school a long time ago and have no desire to converse at that level again. Massaging my beard sounds like a more productive thing to do.

Now there are at least 2 exceptions that I do listen to, because they are great and 1 promising new show.

Matt Report

I didn’t include the Matt Report in my initial list because I don’t listen to every episode. If I had to guess I’d say I listen to about 70% of them. Some of the guests just don’t resonate with me so I skip them.

Overall Matt has a great show and he is a good interviewer. He asks great questions about the business that the guest is running and how they got there.

I’d say put this in your list and skip the ones that just don’t hit the mark for you.

Apply Filters

I skipped Apply Filters last time, because it’s a developer show and the context of the original question was ‘business’ podcasts, not developer shows.

This covers some WordPress news as well, but it’s all code focused. Pippin and Brad are awesome developers and I love to hear about the new stuff they find interesting, since I also find it interesting and may not have heard about it.

Made with WP

This is a brand new one for me and it shows promise. It missed the first list because I hadn’t heard about it yet.

So far I’m through the first 4 episodes and it’s been decent. It follows a familiar format of news, favorite stuff in the week and a guest. The reason I like this, so far, more than other WordPress shows is that they don’t spend 15 minutes talking about drinking and the future of drinking.

There is some good discussion about the guests and how they came in to WordPress and what they see as the future of WordPress.

At this point I’d say try it out and see if it fits with your listening preferences. So far it does with mine.

photo credit: Mechanekton via photopin cc

What on Earth is BeachPress good for?

I’m sitting here, on the third morning of BeachPress, with someone making breakfast for the group. Not much talking is going on as some code, some read, and some just drink enough coffee so they can feel sane.

Looking at the group right now, one may wonder what the value of BeachPress is? I mean many of the attendees are actually working during the day, so rooms are quiet and faces are pointed at laptops.

I could look at my laptop in mostly silence at home.

Learning Stories

Let me introduce you to Matthew Eppelsheimer. Matthew runs an agency in Portland called Rocket Lift. I’ve seen his Twitter avatar around, but last night I actually got to sit down and talk with him about life and clients and such.

Now I know Matthew. He shared his company plans and some struggles (we all have struggles) and I learned about his story.

He’s no longer an avatar or someone I ‘know’ online. I really got to sit with him and get to know him.

Shared Experience

Yesterday, the meatasauras attendees got served an excellent BBQ dinner via Ryan Duff and I learned a few things.

  1. Brisket is good
  2. Evidently what I called BBQ is really grilling
  3. Ryan loves BBQ enough that he got up at 4am (crazy) to get things going

Then we formed some groups and enjoyed eating, talking and telling stories.

Two nights ago, we unwrapped around 30 Nerf dart guns and ran around shooting each other. You know, like you’d imagine children doing.

I’m sure later we’ll tell stories about it to each other that sound something like ‘Remember BeachPress when we had the dart guns…’ and we’ll laugh and feel like tighter friends because of it.

Getting Advice

I could pretend I’m introducing you to Chris Lema, but really most people know who he is in the WordPress space now so…Chris Lema is here.

You know who else is here:

And a whole lot of other awesome people I’ve wanted to sit and talk with for a long time.

By coming to BeachPress I got to sit across the table or on the deck with all the people above, and talk business or code or life.

I got free advice from them which is going to let me run my business better.

It’s going to let me write better code.

I’ve got to learn a lot.

So BeachPress

Events like BeachPress are way more than spending the week at a house on the beach. Yeah, I know we don’t really need more than that, I mean a house on a beach, right!

BeachPress allows you to sit and talk and truly become friends with people in the WordPress community.

Now when we tweet or see each other in IRC it’s not just a familiar avatar, it’s a friend I’m talking to.

If you’re just starting out, then getting to make friends with community leaders like we have here at BeachPress is going to jump-start your career.

If you’ve been at this a long time (like myself) but don’t get out much (like myself) then getting face time with people you only know online will truly turn people into friends.

So get out to WordCamps, which happen regularly, and make new friends in the halls.

Next time an event like BeachPress comes up, don’t just think of it as an expense. Think of it as an investment in your business.

Because it is.

photo credit: leg0fenris via photopin cc

The Podcasts I Think You MUST Listen To

For a while now, I’ve been finding that the highest value content I consume most weeks is from podcasts or whichever book I’m currently reading. After mentioning that a few times in Hipchat and on Twitter my friend Jared asked me what my favorite podcasts were.

Sure, blogs can be great (heck I write one) but so many feel like they just barely introduce the issue and then they wrap it up.

Today I’ll present you with the best podcasts I listen to weekly. I listen to more than I list, so this isn’t an exhaustive list. It is just a list of the ones that I think are going to deliver you real value each week.

The Dave Ramsey Show

This is a 40 minute excerpt from Dave’s daily radio show. Listen to this and you’re going to get some killer budgeting advice, great business advice and lots of insight in how to deal with all the curve-balls life can throw at you.

EntreLeadership Podcast

Another great show from Dave’s team which is focused each week on how to run your business and team well. Lots of interviews with leading professionals in management and leadership.

Now you may not have a team now, but if you want to have one someday it’s way better to start thinking and learning about how to manage one now.

Many of the lessons learned can easily be applied to your family and your client interactions.

The Ihnatko Almanac

Not business focused in any way, and just a bit nerdy. Andy is so eloquent my wife is even happy to listen to him expound on comics or cameras. Andy always brings interesting discussions about topics to the mic.

One of my favourites was his discussion on accepting the religious beliefs of others. Week reasoned and complete.

I think that truly smart people are always looking to learn more about random topics and there is always good thoughts to be had here.

48 Days

Want to talk about how to get a job and how to think about sales or business, Dan Miller has you covered. Dan is continually helpful and generous and insightful with his commentary on the real problems that people are having with finding clients and work.

He regularly challenges me to think just a bit different about my client interactions.

Slate’s Mom and Dad are fighting

I’m a parent and I want to be a good one. This podcast continues to impress me with the topics it covers. Do kids at private schools really do better than those in public school?

Do single children really have more issues than those with siblings?

That’s all been covered in recent episodes.

This Is Your Life

Update: October 10, 2014 – there was a format change around episode 100 and the new format didn’t really jive with me so it’s off my list. I have no doubt the content is still decent, but the format wasn’t for me.

Michael Hyatt is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson (major publisher) and talks about productivity along with how to run a team and how to build a business. Lots of great insight to be had.

Honorable Mentions

Here are some that have consistently good content, but don’t weekly really make me stop and think. They’re interesting, but I don’t mind skipping them if podcasts pile up.

Smart Passive Income

A few months ago SPI may have been ranked a bit higher. There is good information here, but it’s focused at those looking to run affiliate marketing and product businesses. I think that Pat has good things to say but some of the guests feel a bit greasy. Not all and not terrible but if it’s a busy week I’ll mark this one as listened to without much thought.

Get Up and Code

This gets a lower ranking mainly because I’ve only recently started to listen to it. It’s been great so far, but I don’t have months if experience with the content to really say if it’s always high quality content that makes me yearn for more.

If you’re a knowledge worker that wants to hear more about how to be healthy this is the show for you.

The Business of Freelancing

I love Brennan Dunn’s stuff. Heck I’m even in the 2nd version of Double Your Freelancing Rate.

The problem is that he’s just not consistent with the podcast. Sometimes there are months off. I love it when he puts them out I just wish he’d put them out more.

That’s it for my main podcast list. Sure, I’ve got some tech shows in there about Apple and stuff, but the real content that I want each week is from the shows above.

photo credit: icedsoul photography .:teymur madjderey via photopin cc

Launching SFNdesign’s Agency Site

My business has always been called SFNdesign I’ve just operated and ‘pushed’ my own name. Later this year I’ll have to incorporate and really I want to move the business to something bigger.

You know, a few employees and some larger projects.

So I’ve finally finished off SFNdesign.ca. If you’re looking to hire me for WordPress and WooCommerce development head over there and check out what I do.