Saturday, December 10, 2011


   As I mentioned last time, I'm now mainly chasing Ruby on Rails (RoR) work.

   (Don't worry, I'm not going to get too geeky on this blog.  If you want geekitude, though, see my coding blog, Attack of the Codosaurus, at  Here on Dare2XL, I'll throw out the names of some technologies, but won't expect you to know what they mean, other than what I'll explain.  Bear with me.)

   I've come to the decision that, while I'll do pretty much anything on a contract, I'll only actively hunt those in RoR, and a "permanent" position must be using RoR, or something equivalently modern, or have a very good reason to be using something older.

   "But Dave," many of you are wondering, "you've got decades of C experience, some C++, and so on, much more than you've got in Ruby at all, never mind Rails!  Why eliminate options like that?!"

   You say "eliminate options", I say "focus".  To-may-to, to-mah-to.  It may look counterproductive, and in the short term perhaps it is.  But it's absolutely vital long-term, and if you've been reading this blog long, you know I always try to think long-term.

   Sure I could chase C work, and probably land some.  But then my career would be right back at Square One, or maybe Two (C++).  Meanwhile, most of the industry (and its job market) is already at Square Three (Java/.NET) and moving onward.  I've at least got a toehold in Square Four (Ruby/Scala/etc.).  I am not giving that up without very good reason... such as maybe going to Square Five (mobile).  The time and energy I might spend on chasing C/C++ jobs, could be better spent on chasing RoR jobs, or at the very least leveling-up my RoR-fu.

   So now, dear readers, as usual, it's your turn.  How have you decided to eliminate options, focus, cut your losses, break the bonds that drag you down, whatever you want to call it, sacrificing short-term opportunities for long-term progress?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Making BIDs (Blessings in Disguise)

   As some of you already know, I am no longer with Rosetta Stone.  Long story short, I've been "let go".  Tragedy, you might think?  Comedy, in some ways, perhaps.  But I'm hoping to making it a turning point of my history.  How?  By making it a BID -- a Blessing In Disguise.

   Those of you who have seen my code blog,, know I like the Ruby programming language.  (I'll try not to make the rest of you get eye-glazed from geeky details.)  But I just spent the past almost-year working in ActionScript.  Getting let go, frees me up to pursue Ruby, before it starts requiring five years of prior experience like most Java jobs.  You could say I missed the Java boat, and don't want to miss, if you'll pardon the expression, the Ruby yacht.  :-)

   It's not just me, either.  When you were a child, your mama probably read you many stories in which events that looked bad, turned out to be good, and sometimes vice-versa.  But unlike in this book, or this blog post, sometimes it takes an active effort to make it so.  That's where the daring, subject of this blog, comes into it.

   How so, you may ask?  Well, I have a lot more experience in some other programming languages -- literally decades in C.  So, it would probably be a lot easier for me to find work there, right?  Yes, for now... but let's look a few years down the road.  Suppose Ruby takes off like Java took off (and I think it will).  Then I'd be locked out of another language, going obsoleter and obsoleter.  A little more daring now, by pushing harder to land Ruby work now than I did for landing Java work while Java was getting hot, rather than falling back on C, can set me up for a much better career later.

   As usual, it's now your turn!  What disasters have you turned into blessings?  What disasters do you think you could have turned into blessings, had you dared?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rev up your goal commitment with RPM

   This is a transcript of the speech I gave last night, winning second place in the Toastmasters International Speech Contest (for Area F3 in District 27):

   Each and every one of us, Mr. Contestmaster, fellow Toastmasters, honored guests, and yes even I myself, ought to be committed... to our goals.

   We've all heard time and time again, how important it is to have goals, write them down, make sure they're "SMART" goals, and track our progress.  BUT... raise your hand if you have had a goal where you Just Didn't Wanna do the work.  Yes, sometimes the work is tedious, and there’s something else you'd rather do.  So how *do* you light that "fire in your belly"?  Not the kind you get from too much corned beef and cabbage, but the kind that makes your heart *want* and your brain *remember* to make progress.  You can rrrrrev up your commitment, with RPM - not revolutions per minute, but three easy techniques we can all use.

   First, R stands for three things: Repetition, Repetition, and, can anyone guess, that’s right, Repetition!  This helps keep your goals in the front of your mind, so you don't miss an opportunity to make progress, or accidentally do something that hurts your goal.

   The easiest form is a simple reminder.  Just write your goal down, very briefly, such as Lose Ten Pounds.  Okay, maybe thirty.  Then put it somewhere you'll see it often.  For that one, maybe... the refrigerator door!

   To kick it up a notch, though, harness the power of positive thinking, with a daily affirmation.  The first step is to go to a mirror.  Generally I suggest you dress first, but for weight loss goals, maybe not!

   Look deeeep into your eyes, with a steely gaze, and affirm that you *will* accomplish your goal, such as... "I *WILL* win the state yodeling championship!"

   Next, for an extra punch, do this with me now.... *close* your eyes and *visualize* your moment of glory, up on the stage, as they hand you the coveted Golden Lederhosen!  And the crowd goes wild!  YAAAAH!

   Speaking of crowds, P stands for Publicity.  Enlist the help of your friends, relatives, and colleagues, by simply telling them what you're going to do.  You can even enlist total strangers, by tweeting or blogging about it, or putting an update on Facebook or LinkedIn.  They don't need to do anything more.  Better yet, *you* don't need to do anything more -- just remember that you told them, and your own ego will apply the pressure.  After all, you don't want to let down your adoring fans, do you?

   Raise your hand if you’ve ever told someone about a goal.  Now *leave* it up if you felt more committed to it afterward.  Those of you who didn’t raise your hands, maybe it’s time to start telling people your goals.  I’ll give you an example.  Hi Joe, how ya doin’?  Whatcha been up to?  Hey, that sounds like fun!  Oh, me?  I’ve been preparing to win the Area Speech Contest!

   But that doesn’t mean I have a goal of speaking for The M Word, which is Money, as in, put it where your mouth is.  Raise your hand if you really like to spend money.  Your *own* money!  Go ahead and do it.  Buy the equipment, rent the space, and take the training classes.  Then you won't want that money to go to waste!

 "Validating sunk costs", as economists call it, can be a very powerful force.  Just be careful, because sometimes it can be a fallacy, a logical error, tricking you into sticking with something that is *no longer* worth doing.  In the worst case, you have to recognize that, and cut your losses: sell the chainsaws and chisels, sublet the two-story walk-in freezer, and maybe you can train other people to carve prize-winning giant ice sculptures.  Who knows, you might even find you like teaching better than sculpting!  You may be out a little money in the end, but just chalk it up to a lesson learned.

   So, what lesson have you learned here today?  When you Just Don’t Wanna do the work, to make progress on your goals, you can rrrrev up your commitment, with R-P-M: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition, Publicity, and Money!

   Mr. Contestmaster....

   Final notes:

  • The "corned beef and cabbage" reference was because the contest happened to be on St. Patrick's Day.
  • The "Your *own* money!" bit was a total ad-lib, because I saw some people's hands were up.  Tip: if you're ever tempted to ad-lib, make SURE it's something you can say VERY quickly, and not branch off on time-consuming tangents!
  • This was the first time I tried estimating the word count to fit in the time allowed.  (That's five to seven minutes.  I aimed for six, and ended while the five-minute green light had been on for what felt like almost a minute.  The six-minute yellow light had not yet come on.)  It turns out that my rough guesstimate of two words per second is just about spot-on, after including the pauses for laughs, pauses for effect, pauses for people to put their hands up, and the eternal-seeming pause while I tried to remember the fourth paragraph!
  • But at least when I got back to my seat and checked over my script, it turned out I hadn't forgotten anything.  :-)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Find Lost Time

   As some of you may know, I live in Fairfax, and recently switched jobs from Reston to Rosslyn.  My former commute of half an hour by car, is now about an hour by CUE bus and Metro train, each way.  This means an extra hour out of my life each weekday.  Why, that's just got to mean a lot of lost time, doesn't it?

   Well, yes it does -- but not as much as you might think.

   For several years now, I've already been doing (and recommending) what Zig Ziglar calls "attending Automobile University".  When he first coined the phrase, it meant listening to educational tapes while driving -- later also CDs, MP3s, and nowadays podcasts.

   This can recoup some otherwise lost time... but you can't do anything (well, much anyway) with your hands or eyes while driving.  Now that I'm taking public transit, I have a bit more freedom in that regard.

   I recently bought a netbook.  (Digression: it's a used ASUS Eee PC 1005HA that a friend gave me a good deal on.  Sorry, my Mac/Linux-fan friends; it's running Windows, and I don't intend to change that -- but I may use it to replace my vintage Windows desktop box.  Now back to the main story....)

   On the bus, and on the train if I can manage to get a seat, and sometimes even while waiting, I can do pretty much anything that you can do on a computer, at least without an Internet connection.  (Yes, even goofing off.  Rather than reading all my web comics at home, or at the office, I load them up at home, and read them on the bus.)  Not all the stuff I need to do for work, but still, enough to make decent use of the time.

   But what if I can't get a seat on the train?  Or I'm waiting in the rain at the unsheltered bus stop?  Or it's just inconvenient to use a computer on the train platform?

   Then it's back to Automobile University.  I still have my iPod with me.  Or I could go old-school and read a book, something I used to have very little time for.  That could be enjoyable leisure reading... or to help me excel (remember what blog this is!), it could be something work-related. Another lo-tek solution, if you need to write something, is good old pencil and paper, like the Hipster PDA.  I've gotten into the habit of carrying a small pen, and a spiral-bound notebook about the size of index cards.

   Most of these techniques could also be applied to other situations where you're waiting or otherwise trapped.  Granted, a netbook or a book might be a bit bulky... but the latest iPod Nano is about the size of a book of matches!

   Now it's your turn!  What ways have you found, to recoup time that would otherwise be wasted?  What limitations do they have?  What equipment do they require?