In honor of old friends

tuawtalking

First you freak the fuck out and then you realize it’s OK.

Then you freak out.

You’re sitting at your desk with your ergonomic keyboard and your Futurama action figures and that green tea you paid too much for because it had Japanese characters on the package and that means it’s VALID green tea, and then the bottom drops out. It’s like when you’re at dinner with your parents, your spouse and your kids, and your more-than-middle-aged dad announces, in between bites of Chicken Kiev, that the hemorrhoid cream he bought is JUST NOT WORKING.

In my case, “hemorrhoid cream” is my job and “JUST NOT WORKING” is I don’t have it anymore.

Remember when I stopped writing for 52T so I could concentrate on TUAW? LOL!

After a decade with TUAW, the fun has come to an end. Our parent company is shuttering the site as part of an internal reorganization. I’ll miss lots of things about my job — like it being a job that provides a paycheck — including the people.

My team at TUAW, present and past, consisted of true pros. I’m talking about people who are crazy smart, dedicated and fun. I’ll miss the frenzy of covering live Apple press events (we were a freaking MACHINE on those days), big events like Macworld Expo, riding the “the 1337 cab” around San Francisco (Doc, Brett and Kelly G. will remember that one), as well as the day-to-day posting, editing and shooting the shit in IRC. OLD SCHOOL BABY. A huge thank-you to all of you.

Thanks especially to Steve Sande (even though he never let me wear the Indiana Jones hat), Mike Rose (who put up with my horrific grammar and spelling for YEARS, and taught me how to write) and Vic Agreda, who made me a full-time employee. I’ve been with you three the longest. You poor bastards. Thanks to C.K. Sample III who hired me in the first place, and Scott McNulty whose editorial red pen has made me a better writer. Never start sentence with “so”!

This is the second time in six years that I’ve lost a job due to the decision of a parent company. That’s like winning the lottery in hell. The FREAKING OUT will continue, mostly because my bank refuses to accept tears and/or groveling as payment on my mortgage. But I’ll figure it out.

Oh, and I’ll be writing here again. Only now I drink the cheap-ass tea.

Listen all y’all it’s a sabotage

sabotage

I don’t know what’s up with this but I have a tendency to sabotage myself. Not in the little things, either. I’ll let stuff go that I know will cause huge problems. I wonder if other people do this or if it means I have a serious psychological problem. Maybe it’s why so many of my projects fail?

Study Hall

studyhall

Could you describe the ruckus, sir?

Yes, I know they’re in detention above, not study hall, but stay with me.

I’m working on a few projects outside of my job. I’ve got Home Work, Board Games Weekly and ideas for other stuff that’s still in the spitball stage. I’ve got goals and hurdles for each, some bigger than others. The cool part of creating side projects is that you’ve got full control over the thing. The trouble is that there’s no one to bounce ideas off of when you get stuck. So, let’s to go Study Hall.

My idea for Study Hall is a way to gather people with outstanding projects that need a little attention. A real-time sounding board comprised of like-minded self-starters who want to discuss their project(s) out loud. If you’re not “stuck” but want to join a conversation with people who are, you’d be welcome to do so.

Interested? Then let’s do it. Leave a comment on this post and I’ll schedule a Google Hangout. Bring your ideas and your experience. Or I’ll tape all your buns together.

Get your work down to cranking widgets

This week on Unclutterer, I describe how to get almost any job down to the simplicity of cranking widgets, and share a few mobile apps to help along the way:

“Today, I write and edit articles. I produce one podcast and participate in another. I’m working on a book. I’ve also got the responsibilities of a husband, father, brother, and son. In comparison, my job requires more attention than driving a van around town while listening to music and drinking a soda.

A good number of jobs can be overwhelming. The good news is that any job can be a widget-cranking job. The trick is identifying the widgets and getting them in front of yourself in a timely manner and on a friendly, non-intimidating list.”

I’ve also listed five simple t0-do management apps for iPhone and Android.

Storing URLs for later

URLs

I need a new way to store URLs, because this sucks.

I don’t mean articles to read. Instapaper and Pocket handle that task fine. The links depicted above represent videos to watch, products to consider buying and research. Dragging them into the OS X Dock is easy, and it keeps them in front of me, reminding me that they need attention. However, the identical, spring-loaded icons give no indication of where they’re pointing.

I need quick way to store URLs that require follow-up that isn’t too disruptive and won’t disappear from my consciousness minutes after I save them. Evernote clip? Pinboard? Safari Reading List (I use Chrome). If you’ve run into this, let me know.

Meditate with distractions

First I’m going to get all hocus-pocus on you, then I’ll get practical. Just hang in there for the first few paragraphs.

I recently attended a talk about meditation. Specifically, meditating amid distractions. Don’t wig because I said meditation. Keep reading.

When I started to meditate in earnest, I’d become annoyed with the many distractions that were all around me. The barking dog outside, the noisy rain storm, my noisy kids, thoughts of Zooey Deschanel. If only those things would go away, I’d be able to do this! How can I clear my mind when that dog won’t shut up, or the wind keeps whipping tree branches against my window? This experience is ruined.

During the talk, the speaker said to think of a mountain and a cloud (Here comes the hocus-pocus-y part. Just hold on, there’s a payoff). Does the mountain attend to the cloud as it passes by? No, not at all. It’s just dirt and trees and stuff. Likewise, does the cloud notice the mountain? Of course not, it’s just water vapor. Each goes about its business, regardless of the other’s presence. Let’s take it further and ask, does the mountain care if it’s teeming rain or oppressively hot? No. It just goes on being a mountain. The rain is neither good or bad, it just is. The heat, the cloud, all of it is neither good or bad. They’re just ingredients in the soup we call “now.”

When I’m meditating, the barking dog isn’t a problem. Neither is the loud rainstorm, my noisy kids or Zooey Deschanel. They don’t hinder my work, they don’t enhance my work. They just are.

I mention work because that’s were we get to apply this stuff. In fact, that’s the whole reason to meditate (for me, at least): to extend those moments of focus to real life. When you’re at your desk and emails come pouring in or the phone rings off the hook 1, remember the mountain. “Oh, there’s the phone. Oh, there’s email.” In and of themselves, they’re not bad. Or good. They’re just a phone and email.

The other point is that it’s easy and dangerous to become dependent on a distraction-free work environment. Someday a construction crew will set up shop below your window and you’ll be screwed, as your “tune it out” muscles have atrophied. Mediate with distraction, work with distraction, live with distraction.

Then it’s not distraction. It’s just now.

*Yes, you ought to be in the woods, at the edge of a pond and braless while Zenning. #GreenTea

  1. My geriatric readers remember phones with hooks.

Five lessons learned from self-publishing

Writer Eric Smith has published a list of lessons he learned while self-publishing his book, Textual Healing. It’s an honest look at the process from someone who recently went through it, soup to nuts. In short, Smith says it’s a labor-intensive process that may or may not be worth it, depending on your expectations:

“Yes, there are lots of awesome success stories when it comes to self publishing, but those are rare considering the sheer number of books that get churned out from these publishers. Don’t count on your book getting a ton of press, popping up in bookstores across the country or making you a ton of money. Press won’t want it, your self publishing company can’t get it in bookstores and even if your book does sell a thousand copies, you’ll probably just barely recoup your expenses.

If you are doing this for the money, you’re already #doingitwrong.

If you go in with low expectations, everything great that happens, whether it is a press hit or a kind review on Amazon, will only feel 100% more fantastic. There is nothing wrong with daydreaming, but stay realistic.”

It’s a great article that you should read if you’re considering publishing a book yourself.

[Via Scott McNulty]

Sitting and standing while working

According to Cornell University’s ergonomics experts, standing all day isn’t better than sitting all day. Instead, we should do both:

“Sit to do computer work. Sit using a height-adjustable, downward titling keyboard tray for the best work posture, then every 20 minutes stand for 2 minutes AND MOVE. The absolute time isn’t critical but about every 20-30 minutes take a posture break and move for a couple of minutes. Simply standing is insufficient.”

That’s exactly what I do, and I use Break Time to prompt me. Now I can stop feeling guilty for not having a standing desk.

[Via Daring Fireball and Dan Moren]