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mmm…mmm…

14 Oct

Made some pasta last night. Turned out pretty damn good.

Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo
Serves 6
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 pint heavy cream
  2. 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  3. 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  4. 1/2 - 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  5. 1 teaspoon garlic powder, add in more to suit your taste if you prefer
  6. Salt and pepper, to taste
  7. 8 ounces fettuccine, cooked and drained
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan combine butter, heavy cream, and cream cheese.
  2. Simmer this until all is melted, and mixed well.
  3. Add the Parmesan cheese and garlic powder.
  4. Simmer this for 15 - 20 minutes over low heat.
  5. Toss pasta lightly with sauce, coating well. Leftovers freeze well.
Arnold Family Times http://blog.coreyarnold.com/
 
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Posted in Food

 

Christmas cards ordered

08 Dec
Stationery card
View the entire collection of cards.
 
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Posted in Family

 

A new beginning… for my inbox.

04 Jan

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So my inbox has always been a vast sea of emails. I get automated emails and am on several distribution lists that garner me quite a few emails per day. I usually do pretty well in being responsive and getting back to individuals, but my methods tend to break down when there is a lot of inquiries coming in.

I have in the past relied on the follow-up flag in outlook to note things I would like to read, respond to, or take action upon. This has resulted in currently 725 flagged items. I can tell you right now I’m not going to read, respond, or take action on 725 items that are currently sitting in my email. I doubt more than 10% of those are still relevant.

In comes the new year. Well, technically I started this process before Christmas when it was a little slower in the office. I have started using search folders, categories, quick steps, and some Applescripts on my mac to keep my inbox clean(er). When an item comes and I’m cleaning out my inbox I quickly decide what needs done with it.

  • This doesn’t need any action, isn’t likely to be needed for reference, but I don’t want to delete it
  • It needs a response, and the response is quick (less than ~2 minutes)
  • It needs a response from me and will take a while (more than ~2 minutes)
  • This is something interesting that I might need later
  • This is something I want to take the time to understand/read (and takes more than ~2 minutes)
  • I don’t need this and can delete it (OOO emails for example)

 
For each of these I have a  set of steps to follow. For each of them, aside from things I don’t need, the end result is it winds up in my @Archived email folder. If I don’t need something, I deleted it. That one is harder for me since I’m a bit of a packrat. I have files at home from my first Mac more than 15 years ago on Zip disks.

For items that are quick, I take care of them immediately. For those that are going to take a little longer, I categorize them as “follow up” and shuffle them off to the @Archived folder. I have a search folder to show me all the things marked “follow up” so I can later process them. This may sound like a simple replacement for the “follow up” flag, but there’s an important step I will talk about in a minute. Those items I deem are interesting and I might need later, but don’t need any action from me I categorize as “reference” and off to @Archived it goes. Again there is a search folder to pull those out separately.

What pulls this together a little bit is my use of GTD principles and a application on my Mac called Omnifocus. I have three personal appointments per week on my calendar and two of those are “Weekly Action Item Review” and “Weekly Emai

l Catch Up”. As I go through my week I periodically bring up Outlook on my Mac and any of those pesky “follow up” categorized items get the Applescript “[OF] SendOutlookToOmnifocus” which does a number of things. It marks the email as read, categorizes it as “sent to Omnifocus” removes the “follow up” category if it exists, moves it to @Archived, and opens up the quick add in Omnifocus with the subject as the title of the action and the body as the notes.

Each week during my weekly action item review, I go through my Omnifocus inbox and review each project to make sure the actions are up to date and correct. I shuffle things from the inbox to specific projects and add contexts where appropriate.

I almost forgot to talk about the quick steps in Outlook 2010 for Windows. These are little rules you can set up and apply to a specific message or group of selected messages. I have setup a quick step for each of my typical steps as outlined above and have it marking the items as read, categorizing it, and moving it to another folder as appropriate. I’ve setup hot keys so “CTRL-SHIFT-1″ for example just marks it as read and moves it to @Archived.

So how am I doing so far? I receive on average about 100 work emails a day and being the 4th day of the year, my inbox contains exactly 0 emails! My Followup search folder holds just 4 that I have yet to process into Omnifocus. I don’t know if I can keep it up, but I’m sure going to try. I’ve loved the lower stress that has come with adopting GTD principles and my diligent use of Omnifocus thus far.


 
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Posted in Work

 

Trying a couple things out

09 Sep

So every once in a while, we need to shake things up a bit with ourselves. I’m a fairly big creature of habit. Every morning when I brush my teeth the cover for my toothbrush goes on the left side of the counter, I grab the toothpaste out of my drawer, put on a dab and immediately place it back where it belongs. I like this kind of routine.

Starting a new habit can be a bit daunting for many people, me included. They say it takes 30 days to get a new habit to form. I’m a somewhat frequent reader of lifehacker and I like quite a few of the points in this article including 1, 5, 7, and 18 . So what are the new habits I’m working on? Well, one is a habit I’ve had off and on for quite a while, running. I was big at in in high school and college until I fractured a vertebrae in my back (T6). I ran a road race after that, but had to walk the second half (a first for me) because of the pain. Since then I’ve really laid off of it and only recently, perhaps the last two years or so, started back up. I haven’t really been consistent enough for my taste. I’ll run a few times a week for a week or two. Then nothing for a month or more. Starting now I’m going to see if I can make this sucker stick. I’m going to commit to myself of running 3 times a week for a total of 6 miles the first week, 8 miles the second, 10 miles the third and 12 miles the fourth. After that, I’ll reevaluate and reset my goals.

The second habit is one I’ve never really tried out, but I think will be interesting. I’ve downloaded a few apps recently to help me manage passwords and action items and one that popped up on a recent search for tips and tricks for the latter was an app for journaling. The app is called Day One and it caught my eye with it’s aesthetics and simplicity. The integration with a reminder system to catch me at desired intervals and have me jot some thoughts down was a nice touch. It was only a few bucks and I think keeping track of my thoughts in a digital manner will be interesting. I’m a big fan of my Moleskine’s and I use several at work every day to take notes and write down ideas for changes.

We shall see how this turns out, but I’m going to try and make these two stick. I’ve got 2.1 miles down today and 3 journal entries so that’s a start!

 
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Posted in Personal

 

New project

20 Aug

So I’m embarking on a new project that I’ve been tossing around with a friend for a while. He wants to learn more development and I want to play around with a few new technologies (AJAX, etc.) so here we go. I don’t know if we will build it as a plugin to a wider CMS or blog package like WordPress or Concrete, but we will make sure it can easily be plugged in to something like that in the future. We sat down and sketched out the next action items and some high level requirements so we are off and running or maybe it’s walking, but at least it’s momentum.

 
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Posted in Friends

 

Tis the Season

26 Nov

It’s time to get that annual Christmas card ready. If any of you are like us, we struggle with getting the picture more than anything. With Lilly being her usual precocious two year old self it can be difficult to get us all in one shot with print worthy smiles. This year we’re putting together a collage using Shutterfly’s service. We have used their service before for photo books and other cards. Now we just have to find the right photos, choose the right holiday or Christmas specific card and get them all addressed. No small feat while preparing for the new addition due in January. It does help that Shutterfly is offering 50 free cards to bloggers this season. Perhaps we will put together a calendar for the grandparents this year as well.

-Happy Holiday

 
 

Papa’s got a brand new TV

26 Oct

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Well, the Samsung 46 inch television we had went kaput a few months back (my coworkers don’t understand how I can go this long without one) and we finally decided to plop down some dough on a new one. I really hadn’t missed it that much working, taking care of our toddler, and going to school. Now that school is done, it would be nice to play a few video games and watch some movies on something bigger than the 15.5 inch laptop screen.

After much soul searching we opted for a little smaller set that would actually fit in the space available (mostly my wife’s requirement, that I couldn’t argue against) and I wanted one with a bit longer warranty as 1 year didn’t seem to cut it. Samsung was unwilling to do anything to cut the cost of the repair on our old set and I wasn’t willing to consider them for my next one due to the issues and lack of quality customer support.

Costco adds an extra year onto the factory warranty on their HDTVs and had a wide selection. We opted to go with the Vizio mostly due to price, as having spent more than double the cost of the new tv on the old tv, I was still a little gun shy. What tipped the scale was a $50 manufacturer warranty with brought the cost down to $529.99 and made it lower than Amazon and Wal-Mart.


 
 

Commitments, their interaction with Trust, and being Authentic

21 Oct

I recently finished up my MBA and as part of that I presented a topic at a leadership symposium. There were many great topics presented. I was amazed at the talent, variety, and passion that made itself evident on that Saturday morning. I figured that others who were not at the event might like to see what I presented as it is something I am passionate about. With that said, here is the guide I had with me at the podium.

Introduction:

Thank you all for coming today to hear what we, soon to be newly minted MBAs have to say. I personally wish to thank you all for committing to spending much of your Saturday with us as I am sure, if you are anything like the rest of us, there are many opportunities vying  for your precious little free time.

I wanted to talk a little about commitment, its interaction with trust, and about being authentic.

Trust:

Let’s start by talking about what trust is. I don’t want to get down the road in this conversation and have us all off on different paths just because we didn’t level set up front. What I’m talking about is that property of a relationship between individuals that provides safety, confidence, and surety. Trusting in someone provides some level of predictability based on past events. It is being able to be emotionally vulnerable around someone believing they won’t take advantage of it.

I don’t know how many of you all have read Steven Covey’s book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” but there is one part in there that really resonates with this subject. He kind of slips it in there. It’s not even one of the habits. Right in between habit 3 (Put First Things First) and habit 4 (Think Win-Win) is where he talks about the emotional bank account.

An emotional bank account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship. It’s the feeling of safeness you have with another human being. How much can you screw up and still be in good standing with an individual largely depends on the balance in this emotional bank account at the time. With each interaction with an individual you are making a deposit or withdrawal. The major factor is the size of that deposit or withdrawal.

Expound here…

Tim has brought up several times in the last seven weeks the idea that the golden rule just isn’t good enough. Doing unto other as we would have them do unto us? Seems a little self centered believing that everyone must want the same things we do. Tim brought up the platinum rule. One of the four I’s of transformational leadership, Individual Consideration. The idea that you should get to know the individual and what matters to THEM and do that for each individual you interact with. And this rule seems far more suited to my topic of the day than the golden rule. How better to build trust with others than to understand what is important to them?

Commitments:

So now that we’ve talked a little about trust, what it is, how it is built up or torn down let us proceed to talking about commitments. What I’m talking about here are those agreements or pledges to do something. It is as simple as that. No complicated formula for figuring out if something is or is not a commitment. Was there an agreement or not? I made several commitments over the last day.

  • Last night I said to my wife “I’ll do the dishes” and she said “ok”. Commitment.
  • My boss asked if I would check on a client issue each week for the rest of the year due to a tenuous relationship with the customer and I agreed. Commitment.
  • My two year old daughter asked me to read her one of her new books about deer and I said I would. Commitment.

Now each of these seems to be of varying importance, but the importance is not from my perspective, but from the perspective of my wife, my boss, and my daughter. The one that would cause me the most damage in terms of depleting emotional bank account reserves is reading that book about the deer that lives in the forest and eats grass and leaves. Now, I’ve kept two of those commitments and I’ll know at the end of the year if I keep all three, but understanding what each means to the individual is so important.  For instance I know that if I had another important issue come up at work, my boss would be fine with me delegating the task to an employee or working together to find a coworker to take over. The important point, and I really cannot stress this enough, is trusting enough in yourself to weigh new commitments against existing ones to determine the impact this new “thing” will have. Will you need to break any existing commitments? Will that cause irreparable harm or more damage than the new commitment will gain? Thinking back a few classes, one could say it is akin to running the numbers against several projects. What is the NPV of each? Factoring in the IRRs and hurdle rates, etc. which would be better?

Relative to the platinum rule we spoke about a few moments ago, what kinds of commitments do they value above others? Which do they hold sacred? Understanding that, to me, seems essential before entering into agreements which might seem trivial but to my wife, boss, daughter, or best friend may be emotional bank busters if broken.

I would be negligent to talk about commitments without also bringing in a short mention of commitment. I have talked mainly about individual commitments but it’s also important to talk about the trait of commitment which is best described as “persistence with a purpose.” This is how we can take on really important stuff that would otherwise decimate our other commitments.

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” Peter F. Drucker

Being Authentic:

So this brings us to the topic of being authentic. In its simplest form, being authentic is saying what you mean and meaning what you say and believing in both. It means having your actions and words being in alignment with your values. How this ties into commitments and trust is that so often we are put in the position of being asked to agree to something, something small, something relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and we know that there is far too great a probability that the commitment will be broken. “Can you be home by 6 o-clock?” Committing to doing something without the likelihood of being able to meet that new commitment as well as keep prior commitments, is not being honest to yourself or those you are making agreements with. It can go a long way to identify upfront that you cannot reasonably take on another agreement. You may not be making large deposits in those emotional bank accounts, but you won’t be making large withdrawals either.

Closing:

Now am I recommending that you only make a commitment if you are 100% sure, signed in blood, in triplicate, willing to bet the farm (if you’re fortunate enough to have a farm)? Of course not. That would not be realistic. At the same time you also cannot break commitments, no matter how insignificant, left and right whenever “something better” comes along.

 
 

Hey you. Yeah you!

21 Oct
IMG_1286.JPG

Love this early picture of Lilly!

Let’s see how this goes. I’m hoping to start keeping friends and family up to date in some meaningful way.

 

7 days and counting

09 Sep

Tonya is starting to get uncomfortable in her pregnancy. We’re one week from the due date and our next Dr’s appointment is tomorrow so we’ll see what Dr Suzuki has to say. We’re not looking forward to having to be induced, but if there turns out to be a good reason, then that’s how our delivery will go. We’ll make it ours.

I’m still planning on taking 3 weeks off of work, so that will be a good time for us to bond with Lilly as a family, and I could really use a “vacation” away from work.

 
 
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