Fire on the hill!

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003
Early this morning, Wendy came into our bedroom to tell us that a house across the valley was on fire. Sure enough it was and we could see the flames high above the tree tops from our bedroom.  Due to the heroic efforts of our local fire department and with backup support from other units, the fire was quickly extinguished before the flames could spread to adjacent homes or forest.  Fortunately no one was hurt, however, one home was destroyed.
Even though the fire was a mile away, when you live in the dry Southern California mountains, surrounded by Pinion Pines (think rockets), in a Cedar home (think firewood), coated in Penofin (think diesel oil), you take any threat of fire very seriously.
We had been remiss in practicing for a fire drill, but we did have an evacuation checklist, which we began to work through.
Image:Fire on the hill!
The fire appears to be out now, but my webcam is still picking up the smoke.
Let me encourage you, wherever you live, to have and test your evacuation plan -- especially if you have children or people who need special assistance in your home.

Productive in Ojai

Monday, July 28th, 2003
I always look forward to this time of year, and I am not disappointed.  Twice a year, I travel to Ojai to work with the David Allen Company team at their semi-annual staff meeting.  It's a good time of hard work, learning, and fellowship.  This year, Kathy and the girls were able to join me for part of the week. During the day, they used the hotel as base camp for their homeschool field trips to tour various California missions.  
Image:Productive in Ojai
Amy, Daddy, David Allen, Julie (standing) and Wendy

Each night of the staff meeting, we are treated to a delightful dinner (more like a banquet, really) by David and his lovely wife, Kathryn.  Friday night was a real treat, as David invited Amy & Wendy to be his guests.  We went to the Ranch House, one of the Ojai Valley's finest restaurants.  In all, it was a great week, with plenty of beautiful [hot] weather, fine dining, and good company.  Did I mention that the meals were outstanding?

Oh, I almost forgot. This week, we celebrated the 1st anniversary of my 39'th birthday.

Walking through the Bible

Sunday, July 27th, 2003
This weekend, our family enjoyed a special treat: we were able to participate in the popular "Walk through the Old Testament" seminar, hosted by our church.

Image:Walking through the Bible

Over the course of an afternoon, we were taken on an unforgettable adventure back to the beginning of time. We learned to memorize stories (complete with hand motions) of prominent characters and events and places from the Bible.

It was an enjoyable afternoon. There were at least 300-400 adults in the conference center and another 200-300 children in the youth building memorizing the words and motions that tell the stories.  No note taking needed. Then, at the conclusion, we all came together in the conference center to challenge each other (adults vs children) to repeat from memory all of the events and people we had learned about.

We are looking forward to next year, when our church will host a "Walk through the New Testament" Seminar.

If you want to learn about the people, places, and events of the Bible, this is a wonderful seminar and a terrific motivator to help you along the way.

Here horsey ...

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2003
Image:Here horsey ...Image:Here horsey ...
Elisabeth Vernand, one of the wonderful people I work with at The David Allen Company, invited our family over to see her miniature pony farm, Ojai Painted Minis.
The girls thought it was fun to play with full grown ponies that were shorter than they were.  Kelly especially liked being bigger than something for a change. We had a lot of fun and it took the rest of the day to explain to the girls all of the reasons why we were not going to bring some home and let them live in our house.  I did not have an answer to their question "But why do you let Lassie live in the house?"  Thanks, Liz.

The Impact of Spam

Thursday, July 17th, 2003
The impact of Spam on personal productivity

Last July 15th, I began a test, which was to last one year.   Instead of deleting my junk email, I added a Spam button that moved the Spam into a separate database, where I could track what I received  and what the impact on my productivity might be.

In just one year, I received over 53,000 unsolicited commercial email (a.k.a. Spam) totalling over 400 megabytes of data -- in just one of my email accounts!
Image:The Impact of Spam
If I consider the amount time spent downloading, identifying, deleting, and replicating the junk email that I received for just one year in just one email account, the numbers are staggering.

In the past, I had avoided purchasing SPAM elimination tools because I perceived the cost of the software and the time for me to configure it to be too high.  I thought that I was quite efficient at selecting a range of documents and pressing the DEL button -- multiple times a day to clear my mailbox.

Now, I see that I was wrong. Big time.

Let is consider a scenario in which each message received consumes 2 seconds of my time to download, identify, delete, and replicate.  (This is a very low number when you consider download and replication times)

53,000 junk email  x 2 seconds each = 106,000 seconds = 1767 minutes = 29.45 hours = 3 3/4 work days.  
(Based on an 8 hour work period)  

That's almost 4 work days lost annually, if we use the very conservative number of just 2 seconds total time lost per message!
   And, its is getting worse by the day!

In actuality, I think the average is probably closer to double that.  And again, that does not include the lost productivity due to interruptions or distractions, nor does it include the slowdown on your computer, your server, and your backups.  This weekend I was at a hotel and it took 20+ minutes to download the SPAM before I could get to my important email.  How do I begin to put a price on the cost of the disruption?  And what about all of the viruses that I received this year from people I did not know or want to hear from?  I do not even want to think about it.

There used to be a day when the "New Mail" indicator actually meant that a message from a someone you wanted to hear from had been received.  Now, most of us turn this feature off so that we can get some work done.

My next big project, will be to research how to configure the built-in SPAM reduction capabilities of Domino R6 as well as a few third party products that offer whitelist and blacklist capabilities.  

Personally, I will probably end up using an approved whitelist solution as I believe that it will be the most effective.  

Either way, I do not plan to give up another 4+ days to junk email in the coming year.  

I intend to solve this problem for myself, my staff, and for those clients who want to gain back their time and their productivity.


Fallacy Detectives

Thursday, July 17th, 2003
Kathy and I have just returned from our annual trip to a home educator's conference.

We left renewed in our commitment to home educate our children and wondering how we are going to work in the new subjects that we desire to add to an already busy curriculum.  This year, what really has my interest, is the classical form of education and logic.  

On the classical side, the presentations on the Trivium, were quite compelling.  Kathy and I were as interested for the benefit of our children as we were for ourselves.

On the Logic side, I attended a session by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn on how to recognize bad reasoning.  Their book, "The Fallacy Detective" is designed to help families study logic together.

It was truly inspiring to spend the weekend at a conference with over 5000 parents, all of whom had only one focus -- improving their child's (and their own) education.

I walked away with a lifetime of recommended reading lists.

Music & Speech

Sunday, July 13th, 2003
Today, Kathy and I are in Ontario, California, participating in a Home Education Conference.  (CHEA)  We attended fascinating presentation, entitled, "The Profound Effects of Music on Life," by Andrew Pudewa.  In his presentation, Pudewa describes in detail, the beneficial as well as potentially detrimental effects which various types of music have on living things, namely children.  I bought the tape series.  I'll try to find a link to the program. His current web site, does not yet have it listed.

A sign from God

Thursday, July 3rd, 2003
I am on my way up North to visit some family today. While driving on Interstate 99 North of Bakersfield, California, I was contemplating some business decisions and thinking to myself, "God, just give me a sign."

As I rounded the corner...

Click to see the sign...