Saturday, March 31, 2007

Five Things That Should be Taught in School

For the longest time I have advocated that there are skills and knowledge that our kids just do not get -- in school or at home. Brian Kim mentions five in his Top 5 Things That Should Be Taught In Every School. It is very interesting reading -- and the comments from others are just as enlightening. One area that Brian does not mention and that I have always suggested is goal setting.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tracey's Update: March 29, 2007

It is hard to believe that more than a month has gone by since my last update on Tracey. Where does time go?

There have been many developments since the last update. Tracey's brain surgery had better-than-expected results as the tumors are now smaller than the doctors had anticipated. However, Tracey has grown weaker, and her breathing has deteriorated substantially. On March 19 she fell in the bathroom because her legs were not strong enough to hold her. We went to the Oncologist that day and they ordered an Echocardiogram and CT Scan; both tests were done urgently on March 20. Tracey was admitted to the hospital that afternoon with a blood clot in her left lung. She had substantial amounts of fluid around her heart and in her lungs.

During the last few days hospital staff started her on blood thinners to try to dissolve the clot in her lung and to prevent others from forming. She was released to come home yesterday. Oxygen equipment and tanks were delivered at the house. Tracey spent the night downstairs but found herself uncomfortable, especially since it is extremely difficult for us to help her get up off the couch. So this morning we helped her up the stairs and she is resting in bed. Her breathing is very labored. She is unable to take more than a few steps without running the risk of falling.

Mentally she is showing some signs of deterioration, especially with short term memory.

"Now I am a man" - Noah

This morning I saw that Noah was struggling to put away a dollar bill that the tooth fairy had left for him when he lost a tooth last week. Remembering the tri-fold wallet I had found on the ground many months ago, I offered it to him so that he could keep his money. His eyes widened and his face lit up. "Really?", he asked.

As I handed him the wallet, he looked up at me and said, "Now I am a man!"

I could not be more proud of all our kids. I can only imagine what they must be going through as they deal with our family situation.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Self-Improvement Resources

I am passionate about self-improvement and about helping others. Those two forces drive much of what I do every day. Today, I would like to introduce you to two great resources that may help you or someone you know. The first is a website called 43Folders and, more specifically, to its page on "Getting Things Done". The methodology of "Getting Things Done" (GTD) is great: easy to use, inexpensive, and absolutely effective in getting organized for productivity.

The second resource I will share with you today supports the GTD concept and is called ThinkingRock. This site offers a free, cross-platform program that can be extremely useful in getting oneself organized for productivity.

There are many consequences of today's fast-paced life. For me, staying organized and productive has become a significant challenge. Staying focused to be productive is a huge undertaking in my daily life. The GTD method and the ThinkingRock program are helping me improve in these two areas -- I hope they will help you too.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Defining Our Mission in Life

There are a couple of thoughts that have been coming to mind recently. The first one is that "Those that stand for nothing will fall for anything;" the second, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there." To me, what this comes down to is having a life mission. So many of us spend our lives going through daily motions and routines, finally realizing many years later that we are unfulfilled and unhappy. In almost every case, the reason comes down to not having a mission in life, of not knowing what we stand for and where we are going. Developing a mission statement is easy, but it does take some time and commitment. There are many free resources to help anyone to develop a mission statement. My two favorite websites are Ethical Will and FranklinCovey. The Ethical Will website offers many ideas on how to write this powerful life statement, and even allows you to download their software for free. The FranklinCovey website has an interactive process that allows you to build a mission statement online (no other software required). You can find many others on the Internet. It is important to remember that: 1) you will need to invest time into this process; 2) you will revise the statement from time to time, so don't try to make it perfect the first time; 3) it is better to focus on what you want to be rather than on what you want to have. A mission statement and/or an ethical will should give you a clear picture of who you are, who you will be, and how you will be remembered by future generations.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Security in Cyberland

Security continues to be the foremost subject in this week's news. Major companies from Cisco to Microsoft are patching their products for known security problems. Email clients continue to be under attack as a major effort is underway to exploit system weaknesses. With the increased popularity of computers and the Internet, our focus has shifted from enjoyment to management and damage control. Unfortunately, there are too many Internet and computer users that have neither the time nor desire to learn the intricacies of securing their computers against all the bad things that threaten them. Sadly, their inability or unwillingness to keep up with these issues make the rest of us more susceptible to attacks. The Internet worked best when all computers connected to it were essentially at the same level of protection. Problems became more substantial once the level of user experienced dropped below a certain point. This was compounded by the fact that inexperienced users far outnumbered experienced "geeks" that served as an "on-the-job training" force. Worse yet, programming languages became so easy to use that many took to coding as a hobby previously tackled by only the geekiest of geeks. And the new programs, whether virus, spyware, or otherwise, are even more readily available for others to use by simply tapping onto the Internet. What an irony -- the Internet is used to attack the Internet! It is up to experienced users and those willing to learn and to spread the word, to do our part to protect this valuable resource. The way I see it, it comes down to this: we need to care for others and share our knowledge and experience. The time for being isolated cyber-islands has long passed. Unless we band together to protect ourselves, as a community, we will continue to be at the mercy of those that have joined to destroy one of the best things to happen in the last few centuries.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Shutdown Day

Is it really possible? Can we live without touching a PC for just one day? I think it is not only possible, but a highly commendable goal. And that is why I joined the "Shutdown Day" effort. I work with computers every day for a living -- I have a computer-related side business -- I volunteer with computer-related boards -- do you see a pattern? On March 24, I will not be in front of a computer. Mine will be turned off at home the whole day. I will encourage everyone I know to do so too. One day of computer freedom! Imagine, also, the amount of energy we will save by turning off all that hardware! I will choose to spend time with my family that day, maybe do something physical like a long walk. I hope you will join in and be PC-free for one day!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Technology and Our Legal System

There are technological issues that our legal system has been unable to cope with. One of them is malware, as shown by the outrageous case of Julie Amero, a substitute teacher that was convicted of various crimes because of malware in the school equipment she was using. The facts, from my viewpoint, are very clear and she is not guilty. If anyone should be convicted and sentenced it maybe the school computer network administrators for not protecting the school equipment properly. Or perhaps they should convict everyone at Microsoft for not building enough protection into Windows. They should definitely convict every malware writer that has used weaknesses in Windows and Internet Explorer to hurt everyone's computer experience. But Julie Amero should have never endured the unfair punishment she has already made to suffer -- and the prospect of her spending 40 years in jail for something she did not do makes me sick to my stomach. There is a blog that has contact information of those involved in the case. The transcripts are also available online. I think it is only fair that we all voice our outrage at this travesty of justice! Please support Ms. Amero in anyway you can.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Arrange your mind: a valuable life story

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with his hair fashionably coifed, and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready. As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window.

"I love it," he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

"Mr. Jones, you haven't seen the room; just wait."

"That doesn't have anything to do with it," he replied.

"Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged … it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away. Just for this time in my life. Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you've put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories! Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing."

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.

A sense of gratitude

Tracey has been telling us about her renewed discovery of a sense of gratitude. For example, the day she left the hospital she turned to the nurse and said: "I have never been so grateful for the breeze on my face." Facing your own mortality certainly can highlight how precious life is and forces you not to waste any of it.

I have listened to Tracey and have been looking at things with an increased sense of gratitude. The other morning I was very lucky to glance up and see a sky full of stars. And this morning, after last nights severe weather, the moon was up, clear and bright … I am grateful for having a chance to see all these wonderful things!