The Calendar Conundrum

calendars

I’m a devoted Mac user, with interconnected (via Google Drive and Back to My Mac), backed up (via Time Capsule and via Arq backing up to Amazon Glacier), and secured (via multiple, redundant means) iMacs at home and on the farm.  These beautiful, powerful devices communicate and interact beautifully with my Macbook Air, iPad Air and iPhone.  It all works beautifully, and elegantly, except for one little problem.

I have a job.  Where I am forced to use a locked-down Windows computer.  A committed Apple-loving geek being forced to work on a walled-off Windows machine all day is a recipe for disconnected frustration.

lockeddownThere are shortcuts, hacks and workarounds for most of my workflow.  I use Google Drive, IFTTT and Hazel to move documents around, and to keep them in their desired locations.  After years of managing a single contacts list via Google Contacts, Google’s insistence on jamming my contacts into Google+ and Hangouts and my desire to have a small, manageable personal contacts list led me to separate work and personal contacts, with my work contacts located inside the Outlook prison on my work computer and my (very limited) list of personal contacts residing in iCloud, and my various Apple devices.  I used to think having two separate contacts lists would be burdensome, but the increasing integration between Apple contacts and various apps-and my desire to avoid inadvertently sending personal content to work contacts- made me a believer in separate contacts lists.  In other words, my inability to sync my Outlook contacts with my iCloud contacts (and thereby my various Apple devices) led me to embrace a better, separate solution.

As an aside, I think work contacts are going the way of newspapers and record labels.  I almost never resort to my work contacts list.  Rather I search my emails (instantly via X1) to find the email address or telephone number I need.  If that fails, I Google it.

I have always had separate work and personal email addresses and accounts, which has been and will always be preferable.  Again, my inability to access my Outlook email via iCloud or my Mac has never been a problem.  After all, both sets of email and both contacts lists are easily accessible via an iOS device, even if not be via a Mac.

Such is not the case for my calendar.  Unlike email and contacts, I very much desire a single, unified calendar.  Also unlike email and contacts, accessing multiple calendars via an iOS device alone is not a happy solution for me.  For years, I kept my calendar on Google, and pushed (not synced) my Outlook calendar entries (consisting mostly of accepted meeting invites) from Outlook to my Google calendar via the recently deprecated Google Calendar Sync.   Sadly, this no longer works and there is no acceptable substitute.

Which leaves me with the Hobson’s choice of having two separate calendars or having to manually enter every single Outlook calendar item in Cloud or the calendar application on my Apple device.  The latter is simply unworkable, given the large number of calendar entries I have.  The former is extremely unsatisfactory.  There is just no answer for a Mac-loving geek forced to work on a locked-down Windows computer.

Until I find a better solution, I am currently using a less than ideal workaround, via which I repurposed two of my old iPads as dedicated calendar devices, each hung on the wall in each of my offices, and each displaying my combined calendars, via Fantastical.  Because Fantastical can display multiple calendars, at least I have a unified calendar to look at, without having to pull out my iOS device each time.  This is horrible solution, but it’s the one I have.

I wish there was a better way to solve my calendar conundrum, but for the time being this is the best I have come up with.

What I really wish is that Macs had infiltrated corporate America long ago, so that I could use a Mac at work.  This is probably never going to happen- and will certainly not happen in my lifetime- so the best I can do is keep looking for some hacked up workaround that will allow me to live semi-efficiently within the frustrating digital walls I cannot climb.

I welcome any other ideas.

And the Astrodome and the First Tepee

The first pro football and pro baseball games I saw in person were in the Astrodome. It was truly a wonder to a country boy like me.  But like the rest of us that came to be in the 60’s, it’s old and decrepit.  People are still trying, against all odds, to save it.  I wish it could be saved, but at some point we have to accept that it’s not going to happen.  Hail Marys need someone to catch and run with the plan.  With every heaved idea that thuds to the ground, it seems less and less likely to happen, especially without the taxpayers footing the bill.  It’s a shame, but that’s life.  We get old, we fall apart, we go away, people might talk about us wistfully for a while, and that’s it.

NOBI18-140721

I wish a was a trapper
I would give thousand pelts
To sleep with Pocahontas
And find out how she felt
In the morning
On the fields of green
In the homeland
We’ve never seen.

Today’s Public Service Announcement: Wildlife Edition

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Here at Newsome.Org, we want to not only make your life richer in tech and music, we want to help you extend it.  So, we have the following suggestions.

One, don’t mess with anteaters.

Two, don’t try to cook a cobra.

Three, if you forget one and two, use a farm implement.

I Saw My Baby One Morning

elmorejames

I saw my baby one morning
And she was walking on down the street
I saw my baby one morning
Yeah, she was walking on down the street

Elmore JamesThe Sky is Crying

Stop Planning, Start Doing

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I used to be part of a group that met every few weeks to plan all the awesome things it was going to do.  There were action plans, charts, and PowerPoints.  There were discussions about global strategy, leveraging platforms, and other important sounding phrases.  It was mind-numbing.  Eventually, I realized that planning had become camouflage for the absence of doing.  Observers saw very serious people doing some very serious planning for some very serious objectives.  It looked very serious, for a while.

Eventually, I split.  I hate planning.  I especially hate meetings where people who seem to specialize in planning want me to listen to them plan, when I could be out there doing.  Or sleeping.  Or anything else.

overplanning

Stop planning.  Start doing.

One of the favorite tools of planners is networking.  Which is usually just a fancy word for trying to convince prospects that they are semi-friends so they will, at least in theory, be more likely to buy whatever you’re selling.  The problem is that it rarely works like that.  If you want to sell your house, are you going to hire a broker just because he likes the same music you do?  Of course not.  You’re going to look around and see who’s kicking butt in the house selling department and hire her.  I realized long ago that no one is going to hire me just because I share their love of fishing, or because I agree that Rectify is a great show.  They’d rather go fishing with their kids and watch TV with their spouse.  When they hire me, it will be because they looked around and figured out I’m really good at what I do.  And maybe a little because they like me, probably because I’m not always trying to sell them something.  People buy brands.  People don’t buy your product just because you stuff a business card into their overflowing pocket and bullshit with them for five minutes about how bad or good the local sports team is doing.  When you are at a so-called networking event, everyone is selling.  No one is buying.  PandoDaily puts it in harsher tones:

Contrary to popular advice, networking is for losers. Why? Because the kind of people you want to meet aren’t out at networking events, handing out business cards. Think about it. Have you ever seen Marc Andreessen at a Tweet-up or a monthly chamber of commerce mixer? Of course not. He doesn’t have time to hang out with smankers and people trying to sell him things. Going to an open networking event is like going to a dating party for really unattractive people. There might be an occasional diamond in the rough, but usually it’s just rough.

I wouldn’t put it in quite those words, but I reach the same conclusion.  As does Jeff Archibald in a post at Lifehacker:

How many of you approach a networking event (man, I hate that term) with that sort of mindset? “I’m going to meet people who I might be able to get some business from”, or “There will be a lot of potential business opportunities at this event,” etc? That mindset is wrong. It’s inherently selfish. That’s why your networking attempts are failing and fruitless.

stopnetworking

You don’t want to plan, and you certainly don’t want to network.  Rather, just start doing it, and by letting others see you actually doing something they find useful, you can build your personal brand, let them figure out why they want to hire you without making them suffer through a poorly disguised sales pitch, forego the nonsense and get down to business.  Which is, you know, the point.

Let’s be clear, however, that a decision not to over-plan and to avoid traditional networking does not mean you just fly by the seat of your pants in a chaotic flight to who knows where.

So, yes, I plan.  A little.  Really, I think about what I need to do, until what I need to do becomes clear to me and then I do it.  Everyone is different, but for me this process usually happens when I’m working out.  Not because I’m some fitness buff, but because when I’m working out I’m so eager to be done (the best part of the day is when you step off that treadmill) that my mind does amazing tricks to pass the time.  A year or so ago, I had a major network (the computer kind) failure at home.  As a part of the fix, I wanted to greatly simplify my network setup.  While suffering through a 90 minute treadmill session, I had three successive revelations, the last of which resulted in a completely different network setup using some of the devices I already had, while dispensing with a bunch of other hardware I didn’t need.  There was a lot more to it than that, but you get the idea.  Most of my planning, from work to home, from farm to family, gets done that way.  No meetings, no mind map, no PowerPoint.

And being a geek, I use technology.  To help me.  Not as another chore where I become bound to log every decision and note every step.

The key is to use technology to help keep you organized, without letting the process of being organized take on an inefficient and burdensome life of its own.  That’s where many tech-savvy folks get turned around.  Sometimes the best mouse trap is the simple one you’ve had for years.  Everyone needs to create a system that works for them.  I use a semi-connected combination of Evernote, Reminders on my iPhone, Fantastical (my favorite calendar app) and Dictate+Connect, a handy dictation app I learned about via David Sparks, to do this.  Simply stated, I put things to do on my calendar, the status of those projects that need to be tracked (and most don’t) in Evernote, and I delegate both word processing and tasks via the dictation app.

But here’s the thing.  90% of the tasks you need to do can be simply done or delegated in the time it would take you to set up some sort of task management process for them.  Don’t over-plan.  Don’t over-organize.  Just start doing.

Trust me, it works.

Look How My Face Smiles and Shines

mountmoriah

All you ask for is family.
I’ve had your fists, your love, your suffering.
All these years of coming clean,
but never heard or seen.

Mount Moriah

And She Don’t Always Say What She Really Means

lightfoot

Damn, I love Reddit.

Gordon Lightfoot, in an IAmA, today.

Well, I had this girlfriend one time, and I was at home working, at my desk, working at my songwriting which I had been doing all week since I was on a roll, and my girlfriend was somewhere drinking, drinking somewhere.  So I was hoping that no one else would get their hands on her, because she was pretty good lookin’!  And that’s how I wrote the song “Sundown,” and as a matter of fact, it was written just around Sundown, just as the sun was setting, behind the farm I had rented to use as a place to write the album.