Everyone is busy all the time

Here’s a couple of things I’ve learned about recently.

I’m working with a client who has a lot of contacts, written up on index cards and stored in shoeboxes. She runs a catering company, but judging by the amount of data entry I have in front of me, it looks like what she mainly does is talk to people, get their numbers, and follow up like crayzy. I’m fairly sure this lady got into the business she’s in because she loves cooking and feeding people. What a noble goal. Yet she spends way too much time trying to remember who she needs to call, follow up with, keep track of, etc. When I need to see her I get ten minutes sandwiched between a meeting with someone else and her son’s soccer practice.

This is where the power of computers comes in – as much as I would love to be working on robots or spaceship brains or whatever, this an area where I can do a lot of good. Get all the contact info for everyone my client has ever met, entered in a database, tagged, dated, organized so well that she never has to think about it again, and she can spend her time on her true calling, which is food. I do that, and maybe she’ll cook me dinner. (I’m hoping. I really don’t get decent food often enough. Wooo, mac n’ cheese.)

goodfood

Here’s another thing I’ve learned. Everyone is busy, all the time. Even me, and I don’t really even have a job.

So if you want someone’s attention, you have to bring something with you. My favorite author, James Altucher, recommends coming up with 10 ideas for the person you want to talk to. Send those in the email, and ask for coffee at the end of it. They’ll say yes more often. Or so he says. Ideas are hard to come up with!

Right now I’m trying to convince an MLA’s press secretary to have coffee with me. What have I got to offer? He’s pretty far ahead of me in both life and business. But if I can come up with some good ideas, perhaps he’ll make the time.

The converse of that is that since everyone is always busy, I can’t use it as an excuse. You make time for the things that are important – if you can’t make the time, you are sending a pretty clear message that the person in question is not important. So you’ve got to make some priorities and decide what, actually, should get your time.

For instance, I’ve been working on a sign for the bike shop I volunteer/work/hang out at for the past… like, 3 months. It’s taking rather too long. But I’m making it a priority right now. For the money? It’s not much. For the experience? Sign painting is not exactly my chosen industry. Then why? Cause I freaking love that bike shop, and all of the people who hang out there. Good enough reason.

 

2013-06-25 12.48.18

 

I’m enjoying this busyness right now. It’s a weird new thing for me. But I think at some point I’m going to start questioning, what’s it all about, really, when you get right down to it? And take a lesson from my friend Aran Dunkley. As far as I can tell he got tired of being a code monkey and ran away to Bolivia. Go Aran. Maybe I’ll join him one day.

Video games, let’s do this

I don’t really play video games. To me, solving hard problems with code is about as interesting as it gets – Call of Duty, by comparison, can’t hold my attention. But making video games? All that is is solving hard problems every day… right?

There’s about ten million teenage boys who are desperate to get into the industry ahead of me, so it’s a pretty long shot, but here are my video game ideas. If you want to hit me up and get rich together on one of em, you know where to find me.

1. Drawing is hard. How about Draw Something! with drag and drop elements?

2. Oregon Trail…. on the moon!

3. Pioneer colony… on the moon! Alternate between first person hydroponic gardening, air duct repairing, moon buggy drifting, whatever, and long term moon-civilizing strategy.

4. Grocery Rush – I used to play Pizza Rush back in grade 7. It wasn’t anything much – you just drove your little car around delivering pizzas. The graphics were basically MS Paint calibre. Whatever. It was better than math class. Grocery Rush is like that but you have to run around filling your grocery cart with nutritious, thrifty choices. OMG, so educational. Maybe add zombies for pizazz? Nah, screw that. It’s a good idea on its own.

5. Bike polo! It’s hockey on bikes! A game is fun not just for the abilities it gives to players, but also the constraints it places upon them. In bike polo, you can only move forward, you have a large turning radius, if you go too slow you’ll tip over, and there is a sharp trade-off between top speed and acceleration.

Madden Hockey is a thing, so it’ll be like that. If you want to level up, you can trade points for foot retention (ability to hop sideways, higher speed), fixie mode (ability to move backward, better low speed balance) or a lighter mallet (more accurate hitting).

Ideas are cheap, execution is expensive. I’ll be over here coding.

gamergirl

Rainy Tuesday

I spent an afternoon with a crazy lady who lived in a van. I think it was a Ford Windstar camper. She served me cubes of cheese and apples while I sat shivering and trying to calm down.

My jeans and jacket were both soaked from skidding across the pavement. Somehow I wasn’t bleeding, but I couldn’t move. So I sat in her van and ate bits of cheese while she fed her sister, who was afflicted with some sort of horrible disfiguring disease, and couldn’t speak or move.

I needed to get up the nerve to drive my motorcycle home. Going around Cattle Point, my wheels lost traction and started to slide. I should have been driving more slowly. I think I was going 70 when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to make the corner. So I hit the brakes, but I was already leaned over, and the ground was slippery after a bit of light spring rain.

I landed on my knees, and slid kneeling about 20 feet while I watched the motorcycle spin away from me. It seemed about to come to a rest against a concrete divider, but it must have been travelling quite fast. It smashed into the divider, bounced, spun around, and crunched against the fairing.

By the time it stopped moving I was sitting on the ground near the centre line, staring at it. An F-150 had stopped about 5 feet behind me.

“Are you alright?” asked the driver. I don’t know if he said anything else. He must have helped me pick up the bike and move it out of traffic. I don’t know.

At the time, I didn’t have a bed, just a mattress on the floor. For a few days I couldn’t stand up in the morning, so I would crawl on three limbs across my room and haul myself up on the dresser. No other damage.

I did a quick loop around the Cattle Point parking lot to check if the bike was still functional. I guess it was. I didn’t know anything about bikes back then. The forks were probably bent.

The crazy lady was waiting for me at the edge of the road. I stopped to tell her I was ok, but my hands were shaking a lot. So she led me into the trailer and 4 or 5 hours passed. She invited me to go to her church and play drums the next week. Eventually I drove home. Sold the wreck for $900 a few days later.

I guess if you’re going to crash a motorcycle, this is the best way to do it.

Some more silly ideas

Your brain is a muscle, like any other, and coming up with ideas is a skill that improves with practice, like opening beer bottles with a lighter or truing wheels. I’m working the crud out of my brain now – flexing that muscle, because it’s bored with TV, bored with school work, bored with minimum wage part time jobs with flexible hours, and needs something to chew on. Eventually I’ll come up with something that’ll inspire me to throw a couple weeks of my summer at it – meantime, here’s a fresh batch of stinkers.

1. Website called “how to avoid ever using the command line”. Dot com. The entire content is an <h1> that says “Just use the command line and stop being a baby.” Post ads.

2. Website called CureMyTinnitus.com. Bonus – I already own the domain, for some reason! Embed an mp3 player to play the soothing sounds of the african rain forest. Include affiliate links to firearms and pills on Amazon, in case the user wants to commit suicide.

3. Webcam for government employees. Someone once pointed out to me the exact location of the BC premier’s office in the Birdcages. High powered video camera feed all day. Drawbacks – this would be probably the most boring webcam ever.

4. Trading cards for local cafes. Every entrepreneur I know, including myself, has a default hipster cafe that they take clients to for coffee dates. How about trading cards so we could share our favourite spots? They could have, like, attributes such as “award winning barista” or “separate, quiet lounge” or “above average Wi-Fi”, and then you could battle them the way you do with Pokemon cards. Especially fun when someone invites you to a cafe that isn’t your default, and you want them to come to yours instead. Fight it out!

brontosaurustree

5. PuppyBirthdays.com. Post when your dog or cat gets knocked up, when the expected date of delivery is, and when the litter will be available for cuddle parties. Get rid of the spares, perform a valuable public service for people who just need cuddles. This doesn’t need to be a website, really – a Facebook page would probably do the job ok. No money involved, just happiness.

puppyyawn

6. Flash detector spider – this isn’t a product, just something useful that a coder ought to make for themselves. Crawl the web looking for restaurant websites that have flash intros. Every one of them is a website due for reno, and a potential client.

7. Proximity beeper for laptop chargers. Am I the only one who CONSTANTLY forgets my charger in random places? Probably, but still, this is something I need. There’s already an alert on my phone to remind me to grab my charger at 3pm, but what if I don’t leave at 3pm? And what if I leave it at home? My battery is only good for about 5 hours these days.

So this thing causes both the laptop and the charger to bleat pitiably at you if they get more than 50 feet apart, unless you specifically press the “shut up” button. Maybe make your phone go off as well.

8. Convince 5 other people to buy pedal straps at wholesale price from Ynot Cycle, so I can get the set I need for ultra cheap.

pedal-strap-red
I’ve got a pair on my polo bike, and they’re awesome. Need some for my commuter as well.

9. I tried to come up with 10, but my brain hurts. If you get rich off any of these ideas, I don’t want a commission (or blame, if you’re silly enough to try any of them 🙂 Maybe get me a beer though? That’d be terrif.

Dan Bouwers

 

Yes, that mustache really happened.
Yes, that mustache really happened.

Dan Bouwers: a school teacher and photographer, and an old friend from summers spent at Roberts Lake, north of Campbell River. I have a deep affection for teachers and photographers, and Dan is good at both. Passionate people are awesome to have in your life – so many of us are content to sleepwalk through life, doing whatever job is easy to get and nothing in particular on the weekends. But Dan has never settled for anything other than exactly what he wants to do.

I love it when my friends are doing well in life. His wife Jordan is an old friend from high school, and it’s good to see them happy and successful. I avoid going up island, so I hope to lure them to Victoria someday and start hanging out in their kitchen. Meanwhile they are in Black Creek, and Dan’s going to be photographing an event on Fathers’ Day – Walk A Mile For Orphans, sponsored by a mutual friend of ours.

Since I won’t be making it, I hope someone else will go out there and make some noise for an orphanage in Uganda. And make sure to get in front of DJB’s lens,  because he makes people look good.

Dan

Dan’s wife Jordan in the background, and a couple of tree planting hippies

His website

Ideas, mostly bad.

1. Sunglasses subscription service. $10 for a new pair every week til you find the pair you like, then you just keep them.

You can't buy cool, but you can buy sunglasses.
You can’t buy cool, but you can buy sunglasses.

2. Urban camo – tents and sleeping bags, cheap, lightweight, intended to blend in with urban scenery, good for street people and backpackers on the cheap.

3. Two speed derailleur – one gear ring for polo/tricks/hills, one for commuting. You have to switch by hand, but it’s super solid and never needs cable adjusting. Use a BMX drive train with tiny rings for best results. 9x28t and 16x28t.

4. Heat seeking electrocuting mouse murder bot. I don’t think this really needs any explanation.

5. A better alarm clock – it gives you a nice kiss on the cheek, instead of making a lot of noise.

6. A tree mount for vices. No table ever seems to be strong enough.

7. Public nap rooms. $5 for an hour on a flat, padded surface, with friendly attendants to watch your stuff and wake you up on time, maybe with a warm cookie or tea.

8. A classifieds web site for remote areas, with a delivery service. No one ever uses Craigslist in Campbell River because the market isn’t big enough to bother. But how about CR + Powell River + Chemainus + Parksville + all those little towns that I can never remember the name of? And a dedicated truck driver in a very small, fuel efficient Honda Acty to run between them?

9. Lobby the government to change tariff/import/tax rules for only, specifically, the port of Sidney, to make it super cheap to import stuff through there. Become merchant overlord of the Saanich Peninsula.

10. Ok, these ideas are starting to get silly. Back to work.

llamaPS. Still looking for a job. $20/h, C, Python or Java programming, or help desk. Hit me up. <3

Weekly Report #4

News. I live in a vermin-infested hole so I’m moving at the end of the month. I am not going to Australia, as I previously planned. Victoria is full of beautiful people and I want to meet all of them, go to their houses, eat their food, make friends with their children and borrow their tools, and I’m making excellent progress in this department.

This summer will be a fun one. I’m about to graduate with a diploma in Computer Systems Technology from Camosun, and make some serious decisions about whether to go to UVic and pursue software engineering.

I do want to get my degree in engineering. But I am sick of being broke for so very, very long and I don’t actually believe my parents when they claim that they’re going to pay my way through. So it’s time, again, to get a J-O-B, and I’m trying to figure out what I should do.

FInal project demos on the 19th!
FInal project demos on the 19th!

Most of my experience so far is in help desk support. I do enjoy that and certainly wouldn’t mind doing it for a few more years, but I don’t want to spend my life on it.

It also seems like it would be easy to get a job in web design. That, although fun, doesn’t seem like a career with staying power, since so many web designers have been trying so hard for so many years to put themselves out of business by making the tools user friendly and available to laymen. Again, I’d love to do it for a few years, but not for the rest of my life.

What I really want to do is program tiny robots, microcontrollers, and obscure operating systems for highly specific industrial tools. C, Java, Lisp, Haskell, Python, I’m into it. Sadly, the companies who do this sort of thing aren’t nearly as good at marketing as the web-design wallahs, so I don’t really know who they are. Commencing now, the search for a company that wants to hire me to build tiny robots. Away!

Goals for the next few months:

  • Job that doesn’t come with a uniform.
  • House that doesn’t come with small mammals.
  • Play lots and lots of polo.
  • Sell my motorbike.
  • Buy a faster motorbike.
  • Build something wicked cool.
I need that Duc.
I need that Duc.