Chicago gets Federal money for new transit initiatives

Via City Room at the NYT news that Chicago is gaining some of what New York City lost when it shelved it’s plans for traffic congestion pricing. Chicago gets $153 million in order to finance both variable rate parking meters for downtown and new dedicated bus lanes with buses that have technology that keeps lights green longer to allow them to get through intersections faster.

Sounds fantastic. I’d love to know how they’re going to fit dedicated bus lanes in an already crowded downtown.

More at the Chicago Tribune.

Happy Earth Day everyone

Exhausted. Between work and getting over being sick I’m just plain tired. Too exhausted to write much but wanted to mark Earth Day with at least a shout out. I hope everyone had some time to reflect a bit on where we stand on this 2008 edition of Earth Day. I know I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my place on the planet (saying this while looking at the veggies growing in my basement) and hoping I can do a lot more to live a lot more sustainably. We’re getting there even if not as fast as I’d like ;)

The lettuce is growing like mad!

Just a quick garden journal update. The romaine and butterhead mixes from Cooks Garden that I planted are growing like nuts. I’m going to have to do some culling over the weekend but every damn last one of the sprouts looks great! It’s going to be a tough one.

Everything else continues to grow nicely as well but the smell of the lettuce blends is already driving me nuts and its a long way off ;) We’ve had so much rain it has been impossible to get outside and do anything with the garden. Too muddy so far. Keeping my fingers crossed for a stretch of warm, dry weather.

On making smart choices with your money

Tom Philpott wrote both this week and last about Michael Pollan and Alice Waters and their commentary in a New York Times story about rising food prices. I commented in the first posting and argued that both the article, and Philpott, were radically oversimplifying the message that Pollan and Waters have been getting out for years.

One of those basic messages is (and Bill McKibben had said as much as well) that people spend far less on food today than in the past and that the reality is that better food that costs more really isn’t out of reach of most people if they make smart choices about what else they are spending their money on. Here is a perfect example…

For several years I had some neighbors where the family was two parents, three kids, and a grandmother living in the house. These were not rich people but both parents were working. They ended up losing the house because the parents though it more important to buy their high school daughter a car, pay for her cell phone, pay for all sorts of expensive baby clothes for their grandchild, etc. than to pay their mortgage. Needless to say these people weren’t eating very good food either. Obviously their priorities were very misplaced. Had they been a bit wiser on where their money should be going they would probably still be in that house (and it was not a large house). The same thing applies to food spending.

People need to get over the fact that they don’t need the newest shiny techno-bauble, etc. Might they want it? Sure but what the hell ever happened to saving for something? I’m not innocent as I dug myself into a large hole with credit card debt but I’m working my way out of that. I know how hard it can be sometimes but I’m a hell of a lot smarter about how I spend my money these days.

We can’t afford to keep going on this way. The planet can’t take it and neither can we as a society.

Ouch…boy do my hands hurt

I have to say that no manual labor for several months over the winter really cost me. This past weekend we had two very nice days and I’ve been itching to get outside so I did a lot of yard clean-up and at the last minute yesterday decided to aerate our lawn. Not only was I aching from head to toe last night (and this morning for that matter) but my hands were rubbed raw in several places even though I was wearing gloves.

It felt good to get outside but jeez. I’m really paying for it now ;)

Dashing to beat procrastination – trying out (10+2)*5

Yeah…(10+2)*5. I0 minutes of work, 2 minutes of break repeated for 5 cycles.  This is Merlin Mann’s system to beat procrastination which he first wrote about back in 2005.  I had read about this ages ago on 43 Folders (the article is pretty old already) but never tried it.  Today I started.

I’ve had feats of concentration so heroic there should be epic stories (you know…like the Odyssey) written about them.  Those are few and far between though ;) Normally I have a real problem getting things going.  I can procrastinate with the best of them and I’ve been that way my whole life.  I’m not sure what it is but it seems that I have two problems: being able to break tasks down into manageable pieces and, these days,  being too attracted to the many distractions that is the internet.  Overall it hasn’t hurt my effectiveness because I get things done on time.  I just don’t like how I get there so it was time to give anything a shot that might help.  That is where (10+2)*5 comes in.

I was reading the other day about an application for Windows called Instant Boss that was designed specifically to time the dashes.  It actually isn’t limited to (10+2)*5, you can set the values to whatever you want.  The default is (10+2)*5 and that’s what I’ve started with.  So far it is working great.

One of the things all of these dashes seem to do (at least according to the authors) is get you to the point of working to where you start to skip the breaks.  This was true for me even on this first day of trying it.  The 10 minutes go by, you get the signal from the application to take a break, but you are in the middle of something and don’t want to stop so you hit the “skip break” button and go on for another 10 minutes.   This whole thing is fantastic because I’m moving towards a goal, sometimes in 10 minute chunks, sometimes longer, with what seems like little effort.   I suppose the knowledge that after 10 minutes you are free to let your mind wander for a bit is the key.

There is also another dash from Jeff Covey called The Progressive Dash which also sounds fascinating but again leads to the same thing as the other dashes:

By the end of that time, I wish I could continue and get more done. Pretty soon, I’m wanting to get back to it and finish it instead of procrastinating about it.

Exactly how the (10+2)*5 thing worked for me.  Amazing in it’s simplicity.  Limitless in its power for Good.  ;)

If you’re going to set up a wiki (or anything like it) take the time to do it right

Had a conversation with a coworker the other day about the sorry state of our “intranet” at work. Drupal was set up prior to my having started there and to date nothing has been done to make it worth using. I mentioned that we should just get Confluence in and try it out. I’ve had lots of experience with it at my past employer and it’s fantastic software. The out-of-the-box functionality is great. Also, given that the plug-in architecture makes it very easy to add plug-ins, expanding the capabilities is very easy. Oh, and it isn’t expensive. Not free, but not expensive.

The response I received was basically that well, we had installed Drupal but we haven’t really done much with it. Ummm…yeah. That is exactly my point and why I mentioned Confluence. We don’t have the time to be dinking around with Drupal and, given that we also use JIRA it might be a good idea to give Confluence a look. Yet we keep adding documents and attachments to Drupal with no real guidelines and it’s already a mess.

I’m all for a content repository but if you’re not going to give it some love then it really isn’t any better than a shared network drive. Out of the box Confluence will index Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, etc. so searching for stuff is really easy. Drupal? Nope. Charting of data (which we do all the time via Excel files either emailed or attached to a Drupal page)? Confluence: you bet. With a plug-in it will even chart Excel and CSV data (or SQL queries for that matter). Drupal? Nope. JasperReports (which we are starting to use for a product)? Confluence: yep. Drupal? Nope.

I guess I just don’t get it. In *my* opinion the answer is staring us in the face and its about $2,200 with source code ;)

Things are growing!

Wow. Already have lots of lettuce starting to pop up in the containers. Cucumbers too. I didn’t think I’d be seeing stuff come up so quickly ;) Its exciting to see stuff coming up!

Gotta get my butt outside soon to get the garden in shape.