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Archive for February, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

29 February 2012 1 comment

Today is leap day! Leap days have been a staple of calendars for over 2000 years. Julius Caesar first introduced them in the Julian calendar. Leap days occur once every four years, except if a year is divisible by 100. However, if a year is divisible by 100 AND 400, then it IS a leap year. The years 1600, 2000 and 2400 are leap years, but 1900 and 2100 are not. Leap years are inserted into our Gregorian calendar because we have divided our calendar into 365 days. However, the year (one full rotation around the sun) is actually more like 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. So, once every 4 years, we add an extra day in February to make up the difference accumulated over the last four years.

What does any of this have to do with Repeating Excellence? There is something special about February 29. It is rare. Not as rare as unicorns, but rare nonetheless. At least more rare than other days of the year, say December 25, for example. If we only celebrated Christmas or New Years once every four years it would really be something special. Can you imagine the commercialism that would occur? We already see Christmas components materializing in stores early in November, or sooner. A leap day celebration would be hitting the markets a good 12 months in advance.

Assuming I live to be 80 years old, I’m only going to experience about 20 leap days. What else might I only experience 20 times in my lifetime? I might own 20 cars (I’m already at 12). Attend 20 ballets (up to about 10, so far; I’ll probably see far more than 20 in the next 40 years!). Hmmm….I’m having a difficult time coming up with things I might only do 20 times. There a few that will happen a lot less. Getting married, for instance. I only intend on doing that one time. I’m perfectly happy and content with my first wonderful wife. I’ve only purchased three homes in the last 40 years. I can’t see myself owning more than one or two in the next 40 years. Technically, banks have owned all of them. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll own one before D-day. I’m not going to have more than three children. I’ve only ever owned a handful of dogs and I doubt I’ll personally possess any more. (For the record, I have nothing against dogs.) It is obvious to me that if something only happens 20 times (or less) in a lifetime, it is special.

February 29 is one of those “specials”. So treat it like something special. Do something today that is far from ordinary, a long ways from extra-ordinary. Do something beyond your comfort zone. Make today, a rare day. Be the most productive you’ve been in 20 years; make amends with someone that has offended you; go skydiving (this author cannot be held liable for any injury or death); cook dinner for your spouse. I don’t know what your special is. Only you know that.

Whatever you do to make today extra extraordinary, be sure to post a comment and share it with us. Have a happy Leap Day!

Categories: General Tags: , ,

Waze – Part II

24 February 2012 2 comments
I was not overly impressed with my first experience with Waze. However, I’m trying to be open minded. After all, I was traveling through Eastern Idaho in the middle of the winter in a winter storm warning on some two-lane state highway. Given the conditions, I did not spend a lot of time staring at Padison. The one time I did check, Waze showed me in the middle of a huge grey field. It didn’t even know I was on a road.

I haven’t given up on Waze yet. I’ve heard so many good things (here, here, here) and a so-so review here.
I really like the large buttons. The icons are intuitive and I can quickly find what I’m looking for and then select without having to worry about hitting some tiny little button on the edge of the display. I’m not a big fan of social gimmicks (scoreboard, moods, etc), but overall You can login to the Waze dashboard and view your recent routes. Waze even lets you modify the map. For example, if Waze doesn’t recognize the path I drove as a valid road, you can add a road onto the map. It keeps an archive of  trips I’ve taken. I noticed that one entry in my archive showed me walking from the front door of my home to the street where my truck was parked.
I’d like to postpone writing too negative of a response. I only really tried to use it on one trip. I want to use it on my daily commute and errands for a while. I really like what I see in Waze. I’m anxious to drive around a bit and see more of what it can do.
Have you used Waze, or have you used any other navigation apps on your iPhone? I’d like to know about your experience.
Categories: General Tags: , , ,

Waze – Part I

22 February 2012 4 comments
Repeating excellence, for me, applies to every aspect of my life–not just work. I want to be excellent at everything I do: husband, father, project manager, etc. I am constantly on the look out for tools that will aid me in that quest. I may have stumbled across such a tool.
Today I am traveling “north” about 250 miles. There will be winter driving conditions such as blowing snow and ice. I have only been to my destination once that I can remember, and it was a very long time ago. The memory is very faint. Not happy with the map app that came bundled with Padison, I sought a higher form of navigation.
I used a MapQuest app on my former phone, an HTC Hero, Android. So, I downloaded MapQuest to my iPhone and fiddled with it a bit. I’m not overwhelmed by it. One of the reviewers actually recommended Waze. I perceive it as the marriage of MapQuest and Twitter with Wikipedia performing the ceremony.
Waze has all the traditional navigation features you’d expect. In addition, it takes passive data from other Waze users around you and updates traffic information and hazards. Users can post information about road conditions to a Twitter-like feed. Also, users can make corrections to maps such as add a road where there none is shown on the map or change the road type.
I’m anxious to give it a try on my trip today. Hopefully there are enough Waze users in Eastern Idaho to provide the live information I desire for a safe journey. Part II of this post will report my findings.  Until then, do you have any experience with Waze? Post it in a comment and let us know. See you on Friday.
Categories: General

…Become Each Day

17 February 2012 1 comment

Categories: General

16 February 2012 1 comment

BA Expat

Changing or improving your life doesn’t have to be a long, frustrating, drawn-out process. I’m always in search of the smallest changes that yield the biggest returns, and below is my collection of quick tips that can make your life easier, more fulfilling, or just less of a pain in the ass.

Try one or two of these and tell me how great they worked.

Sleeping at the desk

Zack’s Not-So-Secret List of Simple Ways to Increase Happiness, Productivity, or General Awesomeness

View original post 1,529 more words

Categories: General

Finnish Crepes

15 February 2012 2 comments

I don’t profess to be a food connoisseurr by any stretch of the imagination. I have, however, spent the last 20 years perfecting a crepe recipe. I can’t even begin to imagine how many crepes I’ve made over the years. Oh wait, yes I can. Let’s assume I make crepes about 30 times a year. That’s a conservative number…a little less then once a week. I make about 10-12 crepes at a sitting, we’ll say 10 for simplicity sake. 30 times 10 times 20 equals about 6000 crepes. WOW! I’m sure there are some restaurateurs out there that have cooked 100 times that number, but for a little home town boy cooking for his family, that’s a lot of crepes.

I grew up eating crepes. My maternal grandmother was from Sweden. My mom would fix them for us; we called them Swedish pancakes. After I got married, I started making them for my family and added a spice I was introduced to while serving a LDS mission in Finland, cardamom. We used to call them Finnish pancakes, but then I discovered a true Finnish pancake recipe and so now we call them by their true name, crepes.

In my home we traditionally fix crepes for breakfast, sometimes for dinner, and every now and then for dessert. For breakfast and dinner we’ll roll them up with powdered sugar and vanilla syrup, sometimes a splash of raspberry jam or even fresh fruit and whipping cream. For dessert, we’ll put in some ice cream and fruit. We frequently used pineapple on my mission. On holidays, I get really crazy. Last year on St. Patrick’s day, I added green food coloring. I’ll put red and green sprinkles on them at Christmas. Sometimes I’ve use food coloring to make two different colors of batter and make designs (faces, Christmas trees, initials, etc.) on the crepes. We have a lot of fun with them.

So, I wanted to share my “perfected” recipe with you. It is at least one thing in my life I consider excellent. It is definitely something that has been repeated (as we just discovered together) thousands of times. Enjoy.

 

Ingredients:

3 cups flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 TBSP cardamom

2 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 TBSP vanilla

about 3 cups of milk

 

Add all the ingredients, except the milk, to a 4 quart bowl. In a spirit of full disclosure, I don’t measure the milk. Pour in about two cups of the milk and then beat with an electric beater. You want the batter to be just a little bit thicker than paint. It will be thinner than traditional pancake batter, but not watery. If the batter is too thick, add a little more milk until you get the right consistency.

I heat a 12 inch frying pan on the stove with the burner set to almost full high. My dial ranges from 1 to 10 and I set it on 9. Spray the pan with a light coating of Pam (even if your frying pan is Teflon coated) and put in 3/4 cups of batter. Spread it around evenly by tilting the frying pan in a circular motion until the batter covers the bottom of the pan. (I can see where a video might be handy.) If the pan is sufficiently hot, the bottom of the crepe should cook in about 60-90 seconds. It should be golden brown on the bottom. Flip the crepe over. You can use a spatula; my mom always used a butter knife with this cute little wrist twisting motion. I just toss them up in the air and catch them on the reverse side in the pan. The other side needs about 30 seconds to brown. Serve them while their hot, from the pan directly to the breakfast plate. Makes about 10-12 crepes.

 

 

The Checklist Manifesto

13 February 2012 1 comment

I just finished reading the second book of 12 non fiction books I intend to read this year. To be honest I haven’t finished the first one yet. This one was recommended by a friend. Intrigued by the premise, I opted to put the first aside for a time.

 

The book? The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande. Gawande is a surgeon who “discovered” that following a simple checklist in the operating room dramatically reduced infection, mistakes, and deaths. He took his revolutionary idea around the world. Many hospitals were reluctant to adopt the checklist idea. Most people felt like it was too childish, that they were too intelligent to need a checklist to improve their outcomes.

 

Gawande says that our universe is so vast and complex that there is much of our universe that we don’t yet understand. However, there are substantial realms in which control is within our grasp. But even with what we do understand, there are two reasons we still fail. Ignorance and ineptitude. We err because we just don’t know or we err because we know, but fail to apply the knowledge correctly.

 

Atul identifies three primary kinds of problems in the world: simple, complicated and complex. Simple problems are like baking a cake. There is a recipe to follow and, with a few basic techniques, one needs only follow the recipe to produce a high likelihood of success. Complicated problems are more like sending a rocket to the moon. The task is huge, but can be broken into a series of simpler problems. There is no straight forward recipe. Success requires multiple people or teams and specialization. Once you learn how to send a rocket into space you can replicate the process and perfect it. Complex problems are like raising a child. Every child is unique. No one recipe will raise every child. Expertise is valuable, but it is not sufficient and does not guarantee success. In addition, the outcomes remain highly uncertain.

 

He explains how checklists can help manage these problems and improve the likelihood of success. Surgeons use them, pilots use them, investors use them. Checklists must be concise and clear. Our human nature does not like checklists. They are painstaking. It somehow feels beneath us to use them, almost embarrassing. yet Atul Gawande has proven that they reduce mistakes and save lives.

 

When we look closely, we recognize the same balls being dropped over and over, even by those of great ability and determination. We know the patterns. We see the costs. it’s time to try something else. Try a checklist.

 

I am a believer. A checklist can help us to be more consistent in repeating excellence. Join me as I help Atul Gawande spread the word about the value of checklists.