The Voices That Matter iPhone Developers conference I went to two weekends ago was awesome, I already wrote too much about a couple of sessions on the second day. But the other point that I really ended up getting out of it was a simple example thrown out by Aaron Hillegas during his keynote. His big pitch was that everyone should move past independence to interdependence. And really find ways to work together to make even better stuff. At the time it struck me as stuff I'd heard forever, but he suggested do code reviews with each other. And for some reason that simple example got me moving, I had already decided to work with Ryan Grier a friend, former co-worker and the only iPhone developer I know personally who has any apps in the store. I am going to integrating my latest app, TargetDate (coming soon to the App Store), with his MyCntdwn on the iPhone so we can share data. So when I was nearly done, I just bundled up my software source and sent it over to him to look at or tear apart or whatever.

He gave me some great feedback. And Just that little experience pushed me into going to the most recent, and really just their second, Ship It Society meeting down at Indy Hall in Philly. I definitely plan to continue going to them and to go to the Philly Cocoaheads meetings as well and try to do something I rarely do, annoy the crap out of everyone with tons of questions.

So, it seems like I actually do like people sometimes.

AuthorKevin McAllister

It's been two weeks since the last update.  I'm happy to report that the Rearden Steelers are 2 - 0 in that time bringing me to 7 - 0.  My wide receivers are carrying me having huge games, and typically I've been helped by my opponent not having a great week.  This past week my opponent The Washington Oppresors scored 97, but I went off with 114.  So it seems my team plays to the level of the competition. So a whirlwind tour of the rest of the league:

Culver City Conmen

Ran into the Buzzsaw of the Rearden Steelers in week 6 and despite the despair of having played me still managed to get 43 points out of Darren McFadden the next week and a win.

Sedalia Sea Monkeys

Diana has been on a tear! Two wins and I think most importantly defeated Paul's Geekpress Generals handily this past weekend.  I imagine that Chez Hsieh was a battleground and it's probably better for Paul that he lost.

GeekPress Generals

Paul has somehow coaxed Greg Jennings into consistent play two weeks in a row, however he managed that he deserves to have won the championship.  Also if I failed to mention it, he lost an epic matchup to Diana.

Dr. Ego Spengler

Mike's team won in week 6, but more importantly he lost in week 7.  Leaving literally nothing on the bench he was crushed by Amy's Gentlemen, who was so confident in her ability to win she taunted her opponent by starting Arian Foster while on a bye and still scored 109 points!

Portland Agents Of Fortune

2 weeks, 2 wins, good team management nothing left on the bench and big scores.  I'm hoping this trend doesn't continue.

KC Money Barons

Got the big first win of the season.  I think Corey has aspirations of going 7 - 6 the hard way.  Considering I'll probably lose my next 6 we can finish the season tied!

Washington Oppressors

Dwayne Bowe showed up!

Connecticut BNS Brawlers

Too many Cincinnati players to win, even if they keep scoring points.  Marvin Lewis has suffered from this problem for years.

Fairport Diehards

Ugh, 79 points left on the bench this week, and a ton last week.  Sometimes fantasy is just like that.

Philadelphia Freeloaders

The last two weeks they've let their opponents score too many points.  Work on it!

Virginia Gentlemen

Amy can't lose a game when she scores over 100 points.  Unfortunately when she scores under 100 she tends to lose by 6 points or less.

Next week

I promise to write stuff going forward on some schedule.  And I suspect it may be somewhat useless but I'll enjoy it, and that's what counts.

AuthorKevin McAllister

I spent the whole past weekend at the Voices That Matter Developers Conference which was hosted in Philly, right in that new glass and steel high rise that is connected to 30th street station. It was awesome.  I think the best part was a dream I've had for most of my life actually looks achievable to me instead of like the thing I'll always wish I'd be able to do.

When I was a youngster my father had a Radio Shack TRS-80 and a cassette drive and somehow had acquired some games on cassette, he may have purchased them or dubbed them from someone in a club, I really have no idea I think I was somewhere between 8 - 10 years old.  I played some of the "You are in a dark cave …." style games.  I tried my hand at writing some in Basic.  They were simplistic and pretty boring, even to me, after I got over the initial thrill of having created them.

Soon after I was given a C64 courtesy of my Uncle Jim.  And I had hundreds of video games on 5-1/4" floppy for it and it was then I started a seed that has been with me for all of my life.  I've always vaguely wanted to make games, but for some reason never took real steps to make any.

I mean I took some steps.  When I had the C64 I bought Gary Kitchen's GameMaker, and went through some of the tutorials but never really committed to figuring it out.  I didn't do much on that front for years, I was quite busy growing up, playing football, reading and really pursuing all sorts of other interests like earning some engineering degrees. But then after college at some point when a company I was working for wasn't very interesting I decided once again to "pursue" video game making as a hobby.  I bought a book on .NET game development—I wasn't going to fall into the trap of doing it in Linux my preferred environment at the time, I knew I couldn't make a living with that.  As I read a bunch of the book, I saw this huge expanse of uncharted territory opening up before me.  It looked hard.  I knew I had lots of other things that were important, and although I told myself this was important, I hadn't really decided that it was.  It was the sort of thing I could do later, like work out or learn to speak Spanish or learn how to play an instrument.  There was a vague floating abstraction in my mind of how it will be when I'm a "game programmer" sort of how people think about how it will be when they win the lottery.

I had that typical mindset of most people who fail at some goal or another.  I wanted buying the book or software to be the hard part.  I wanted the software or book to replace me as the driver on the way to my goal.

Now to cut myself a break, I was achieving other values the right way with me in the drivers seat, all this time.  But at some point I need to either let go of that floating ideal or decide what it really means, if I want it, and how and when I'll get there.

When I started developing for the iPhone I of course thought of games but didn't have any ideas, I looked at how to get that done a bit but I saw this huge undertaking ahead of me, most of it consisted of: understand OpenGL which although confident I could figure it out, was not motivating at all.  The cubes in all the examples don't inspire confidence, neither does the linear algebra that I've more or less forgotten at this point.  And even if I could figure out openGL, I had no idea on how to tie that knowledge into whatever else I didn't know about game programming.  It seemed like I stood on the edge of a vast unexplored wilderness and knowing that if I were committed I could plunge in and build a little industrial town along one of the rivers out there, but also looking at the fact that I given my current pursuits I could hope only to do maybe 8 hours a week on this dream and see that I'd never even have a vague idea what a game should look like (on the inside) for years.  So I plunged in on iPhone program with the idea for ReadingTree, which I never classified as a game, although I guess in some respects it is.  I knew what I wanted and I achieved it to some degree.  Which I thought was just awesome, and still do.  And I've been working on a few other apps in the mean time, having a great time.  But figuring that game programming was something I'd do later, I'd get rich with my other apps, and full time job and then have 5 unbroken years to learn how to do game programming and finally get down to it.

Well thanks primarily to Mike Daley and Rod Strougo my premise of requiring omniscience to become a game programmer has been shattered, as they have pulled aside the first layer of underbrush and shown me a general path toward the promised land of "Game Programming."  And in just a few hours this weekend I cultivated some idea of what game programming would actually be, and more importantly decided that I will be launching a game in the Apple app store for an iOS device near you.

During the first day I, somewhat reluctantly, purchased Mike Daley's book Learning iOS Game Programming.  I didn't want to have another game programming book sitting around collecting dust, but I planned on attending the game programming sessions so figured maybe this was the lottery ticket I'd been waiting for.

Then on the second day in the morning Rod Strougo of Prop Group, LLC gave a great talk on using cocos2d to create games.  He made it seem very achievable and tied the concepts in his talk to a simple example game which he dissected throughout and demonstrated the effects of simple changes.  I left convinced I could do the things he demonstrated and actually package a cocos2d game.

Finally the last session of the day was by Mike Daley, of the blog 71Squared, gave my favorite presentation of all time called Moving to 3D.  The idea was making an OpenGL ES 1.1 app on an iPhone from scratch, so he introduced quite a bit of basics.  He created an app (source available) which put you in the center of a 3D world where you were subject to bombardment by ships flying overhead, you could use the gyroscope in the iPhone 4 to move the phone and change where you were looking in the world.  And tap the screen to fire missiles at your attackers.  His talk was basically an introductory walk through the essentials of making that game, diving into the code, jumping back up into theory when necessary, but only covering the absolute essentials in a way that was accessible to someone who is mostly clueless when it comes to this stuff.

Things that made zero sense to me before were clear.  I obviously know very little more now about actually creating a game, but I had built a conceptual framework of what was essential to know and how to begin learning what I needed to move ahead.  I am now very excited to have purchased his book and was brainstorming game ideas with my wife over breakfast.

I am going to dive into getting my current app finished and into the store as quickly as possible so I can get started on my game.

AuthorKevin McAllister

When I was studying Karate my instructor said to punch someone in the solar plexus (which incidentally I've just learned is actually known as the celiac plexus) would test their will to fight. As a trained fighter you may be confronted by someone who has chosen to attack you due to many superficial factors, and a good solid shot to the solar plexus may help them see the full context of the situation and choose a different course before any irreversible physical damage takes place. I will now ramble a bit about the past year of my life, and will probably tie it all together at the end.

I recently went crazy, and then recovered. Not to belittle the other crazies out there because I wasn't too crazy but I was very stressed out and unhealthy both physically and mentally but able to function fully although not enjoyably due to working through real emotional pain. Which is to say I was in continual internal conflict due to bad premises. The conflict had been building since the end of last summer, and reached unbearable levels sometime in April. At which point, I'm proud to say, I not only took steps to recover but at some level I knew that my crazy was just a problem like any other that had to be understood and corrected.

For now I'll spare the details, although I have been itching to write a bit about them either publicly or privately just so I could have a more thorough reference manual to recovery if I ever make similar mistakes in the future and go crazy again. But it really came down to:

1. Trying to identify the emotional distress. 2. Trying to identify the thoughts leading to the emotional distress. 3. Reality checking those thoughts.

And really it was a set  of contradictions that caused my pain. I was giving myself orders that I knew to be impossible and holding myself accountable for not somehow doing it. Coming to face this and to deal with it has made me think long and hard about this line from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, "All the secret evil you dread to face within you and all the pain you have ever endured, came from your own attempt to evade the fact that A is A."

The good news was I found that I had let some errors creep in and corrected myself, and in many cases when I consciously corrected those errors I experienced immediate relief. And as I continued to be on the lookout for evidence supporting and integrating my new ideas I started to notice that things that bothered me before no longer did.

My primary mistakes had to do with personal expectations of what I should be doing and should be able to do. So I cut myself a break, and decided to conform my expectations to what is actually possible in reality.

The final step was fully committing myself to working on my physical health. I'm currently (since September 7) eating a Paleo diet as outlined in Robb Wolf's excellent book, The Paleo Solution, focusing on getting sleep and usually working out 2 - 3 days or so a week. And this is going very well. I feel good and have lost 17 pounds.

And just have to thank one person: really the best support I had through my crazy was from my wife Michelle.  She kept me sane while I was going crazy.  And has also been doing a great job cooking me good food even though I make everything harder because I think wheat is poison.

So what the hell does all that have to do with the initial paragraph and title? Well all of these changes and revelations happened while I was still busy living a life. This is the idea that is characterized well, albeit malevolently, by a character on The Wire, Lester Freamon, "A life, Jimmy, you know what that is? It's the shit that happens while you're waiting for moments that never come."  So fixing the subconscious is like changing the tires on a moving car, or performing brain surgery on yourself.  It's hard to know exactly when everything is working right again without drawing some lines and putting it to the test.

So ultimately over the past 3 - 5 weeks I've been confronted by some of the same stressors that in April I would have chosen to freak out or go binge on McDonald's and Cokes and cookies. Some of them were pretty significant stresses.

And looking at them now, the idea that I would freak out about them is laughable. It is as if Professor Lupin had shown me these things are simply Boggarts and I must simply properly perform the "Riddikulus" charm to defeat them.

Thinking to how I would have reacted before is almost like watching a TV show, it's hard to even understand what I thought the problem was.

Sure some are things I'll choose to do or fix, I'll just put them on my list to do or fix and decide when I want to do them. The other things you ask? What other things?

So I'm glad to say I've withstood the test to my resolve, and find it funny that I'd ever taken those other ideas seriously. To actually compare them to a punch to the solar plexus is actually wrong, a better comparison would be a wild haymaker thrown by a drunk that never had hope of hitting the mark. So to quote Atlas Shrugged again to close my post, "Of course I am all right, Professor. I had to be. A is A."

AuthorKevin McAllister
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A timely and per my wife's criticism a bit spiced up recap of the JGL action from week 5. Philadelphia Freeloaders (3-2) 86, Virginia Gentlemen (2-3) 85

In a matchup where Vince Young outscored Matt Schaub by 13 points and Mike Tolbert outscored Arian Foster by 5 points there is no other way for it to end except by being decided by 1 point.  The worst part for Amy, manager of the Gentlemen, is that if she had not started a Defense she would have won the match.  But I agree that the Rams looked to be a great start against the Lions.

Fairport Diehards (3-2) 85, Sedalia Seamonkeys (2-3) 78

And Diana's Seamonkeys get exactly what they want out of Ray Rice, finally, but when your second leading scorer is your Kicker it's hard to finish with the W.  And running into an on-again Chris Johnson and hated (by me) Cowboy QB who was racking up points playing from behind meant that Tom Stone's Diehards took the win.  Both teams can look at the high bench production and play that age old Fantasy football game of second guessing yourself.

Connecticut BNS Brawlers (3-2) 77, GeekPress Generals (3-2) 58

The Brawlers victory gives me the opportunity to talk about my favorite subject and that is me winning fantasy football games.  Because his victory and mine came in lockstep due to the huge day by Malcom Floyd which necessitated a huge day by my QB.  Paul's Generals who have been solid all season, had the typical fantasy week where almost nothing goes right which was capped by Aaron Rodgers going down with a concussion at the end of the game.

Dr. Ego Spengler (4-1) 69, Washington Oppressors (1-4) 53

The good Dr. Spengler led by Mike King has been the most consistent JGLer over the past two years.  But this is ridiculous to get a victory where the top scorer is TE Marcedes Lewis with 17 is illegal, and I plan to use my commissioner powers to correct this miscarriage of Justice.  However I will insist that John Britely's Oppressors still retain their loss as well due to the fact that he snagged LeSean McCoy on waivers on Sunday morning when I am the one who's supposed to have the best player on my favorite team.  Unfortunately for the Oppressors in the best possible week to defeat the Ego got nothing from their team.

Portland Agents Of Fortune (2-3) 109, Culver City Conmen (2-3) 88

In true fantasy football fashion the Conmen have a solid week from many of their starters even with 4 players on BYE, but still manage to run into a team that had an even a better week.  As Brian Reich's Agents managed to put together huge numbers despite starting my least favorite Manning.  Yes I must admit Cooper is my favorite Manning.

Rearden Steelers (5-0) 99, KC Money Barons (0-5) 74

I am considering changing both of my daughters names to Philip Rivers as his consistency this season is the main reason I am 5 - 0, also a timely Falcons pickup before last weeks games helped me quite a bit here.  All I can say to Corey and his Money Barons is the winner of the league last year had a losing record, so anything can happen.  Also to illustrate this I'm 1 - 4 in the fantasy league my brother runs.

AuthorKevin McAllister
4 CommentsPost a comment

Now working to finally catch up on my fantasy recaps I got through weeks 3 and 4 and am making a personal vow to get week 5 in early this week. Week 3 recap

Virginia Gentlemen 116, Culver City Conmen 109

In week 3 the Conmen put up a solid 109 with good performances from most of their players. Only the Patriots D (1) and Matt Forte (3) underperforming. Unfortunately their opponent the Virginia Gentlemen had great performances particularly 31 from Adrian Peterson who ran all over the Lions. Here the Conmen were handed their first loss. This was the Gentlemen's first win.

Fairport Diehards 106, Connecticut BNS Brawlers 73

A huge game by Anquan Boldin, and great performances by Romo and Chris Johnson vaulted the Diehards to a win over the Brawlers despite their Cedric Benson's big week and Mike Wallace having a huge game down in Tampa. The Brawlers unfortunately left Peyton Hillis on the bench for his huge game not having to share any carries with Jerome Harrison and LeSean McCoy had his worst game of the season so far.

Sedalia Sea Monkeys 65, KC Money Barons 51

The Money Barons continue to have a hard time manufacturing points where Colston, Celek, DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith (Carolina) are all not producing consistent with where they needed to be drafted. Drew Brees is the only bright spot this week as the Barons fall to 0 - 3. The Sea Monkeys get a huge game from Dustin Keller and manage to scrape together enough points to top the Barons bringing them to 1- 2.

GeekPress Generals 114, Portland Agents Of Fortune 66

The Generals put up big performances from Collie, Mendenhall, Rogers and the Steelers Defense to post huge numbers in week 3, which was more than enough to top the Agents of Fortune who aside from Michael Vick and Steven Jackson couldn't get anyone else in double digits. The pair of Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitz who strike fear in the heart of fantasy opponents continue to frustrate.

Washington Oppressors 75, Philadelphia Freeloaders 59

The Oppressors had solid performances from Turner, Charles, Bowe and Cutler riding the Chiefs 3 - 0 record and overcoming a bad outing by their Bucs defense to their first win of the season. The Freeloaders who grabbed the Chiefs defense and were rewarded by a good game were hurt by their reliance on the Houston passing game and Schaub, Walter and Andre Johnson that didn't post big numbers this week.

Rearden Steelers 105, Dr. Ego Spengler 92

In a high scoring matchup the Steelers got good performances from Rivers, Maclin, Bradshaw and their newly added Cardinals D, to offset strong performances from Peyton, LT and DeSean Jackson. Luckily the Chiefs were able to hold Frank Gore down to 14 points and help the Steelers to their 3 - 0 record and hand Dr. Spengler his only loss.

Additionally the Steelers are 3 - 0 against doctors this season.

Week 4 The First week of byes, which leads to all sorts of scarcity and fun in trying to decide who to start or pickup.

GeekPress Generals (3 - 1) 87, Culver City Conmen (2 - 2) 79

In week 4 the Conmen had a solid performance from their Defense but put up goose-eggs from the Moss tandem at WR as Washington had success running on my Eagles and had no reason to even look at Santana and Randy was on the outs in New England. Two zeros in a line up when playing a consistently solid GeekPress Generals usual spells disaster and this week it made the Conmen fall to 2 and 2.

Philadelphia Freeloaders (2 - 2) 66, Fairport Diehards (2- 2) 57

Oddly the second game of the week where a team posted nil from the wide receivers, but in this case they managed to win as the Freeloaders got solid performances from Mike Tolbert, Matt Schaub and Zack Miller. And the Diehards were only able to get double-digit points from Flacco and Ryan Matthews as Denver was able to hold Chris Johnson to only 4 points

Virginia Gentlemen (2 - 2) 106, Connecticut BNS Brawlers (2 - 2) 74

And you can tell it's a bye week as yet another team manages to post a pair of zeroes, but even more impressively the Gentlemen still manage to put out 106 points as they are the top scorer this week. Helped by a combined 56 points from Antonio Gates and Arian Foster (who took 1 quarter off for missing a team meeting). The Brawlers who did have some solid performances from Carson Palmer and Peyton Hillis but also had the misfortune of running into the 2nd highest scoring team in the league.

Sedalia Sea Monkeys (2 - 2) 90, Washington Oppressors (1 - 3) 46

The Sea Monkeys continue to get good performances from Dustin Keller and finally their other players posted some solid numbers as well as they finally hit on a QB that was going to give solid numbers as Sanchez put up 14 and Reggie Wayne and Joseph Addai turned in good weeks. The Oppressors hurt by byes and missed updating their lineup and started the out Pierre Thomas and Shiancoe on a bye only managed 46 points and Jay Cutler was absolutely manhandled by the Giants posting a -3.

Dr. Ego Spengler (3 - 1) 76, KC Money Baroons (0 - 4) 70

Spengler riding a huge game by LT against the Bills was able to hang on for a 6 point victory over the Money Barons who were hurt by an oddly ineffective Drew Brees at home against the Panthers and Steve Smith who went out with an injury.

Rearden Steelers (4- 0) 92, Portland Agents Of Fortune (1 - 3) 63

MJD finally put up some big numbers to justify his pick at #3 overall, and got consistently good numbers from Philip Rivers and Roddy White putting together another solid game to go to 4 - 0. The Agents of Fortune got a huge game from Calvin Johnson but Vick going out with an injury held him to two points and Mike Sims-Walker continues to disappoint with a 0 point week.

AuthorKevin McAllister

Due to working past 2 AM two times in the past week, really throwing off my sleeping schedule not to mention the impact such things have on my family life my recreation time was severely impacted.  But I managed to stay focused and put out a recap before week 3 got underway (barely). Rearden Steelers 86 GeekPress Generals 84

In the closest game of the week the Steelers got strong performances from Philip Rivers and Roddy White for the second straight week and are concerned about MJD who managed only 2 points and 12 for the season.  The Generals got solid performances from most players although the Rodgers to Jennings combo has yet to really pay off.  This came down to the Sunday night matchup between New York and Indianapolis, where both Dallas Clark and Austin Collie scored TDs for the Generals but it wasn't enough to overcome Ahmad Bradshaw's points helped by a Brandon Jacobs benching for an awful run followed by a temper tantrum where his helmet ended up in the crowd.

Dr. Ego Spengler 90 Sedalia Sea Monkeys 64

While the Sea Monkeys got many solid performances, they had no outstanding performances and are having a real problem at Quarterback with Kolb injured and now benched in favor of Vick and Garrard having a very rough game at San Diego.  The good Doctor Spengler got huge games from from Gore, Manning and DeSean Jackson which offset some lesser performances by the rest of his squad putting him over the top.

Portland AgentsOfFortune 98 Virginia Gentlemen 92

In a close matchup this week the Gentlemen had good numbers across the board hurt by poor QB play from the veteran Favre who is finally showing his age against an underrated Miami Defense.  Unfortunately the Gentlemen this week's third highest scorer had the misfortune to face the AgentsOfFortune who were this weeks second highest scorer.  Helped by my favorite team, the Eagles, who are apparently unable to tackle anyone when Stewart Bradley is off the field which gave Jahvid Best a huge 40 point week. Also cashing in on that Eagles v. Lions game Calvin Johnson finally scored a TD that counted helping the Agents to a big win.

Philadelphia Freeloaders 106 KC Money Barons 42

The Freeloaders rode Houston's massive game against the Redskin's where Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson combined for 50 points.  Also worthy of note is the Freeloaders had Kevin Walter on the Bench who also had a giant game and those three players combined would have been enough to beat 4 other starting lineups this week.  The Money Barons had the game that nightmare game that every fantasy owner can count on, where nothing goes right.  Totaling only 42 points for the week and going into Monday night (with 2 players left) had only 18 points.  They did have a few solid performances and I expect they'll turn it around going forward.

Culver City Conmen 68 Fairport Diehards 54

The Conmen improved to 2 - 0 on the season despite the tough game their patriots had in New York.  Putting together a handful of good performances and Darren McFadden trying to answer critics with a big game was enough to top the Diehards who had a tough week with nobody in the starting lineup finding the end zone and Chris Johnson being held in check by the Pittsburgh defense.

Connecticut BNS Brawlers 83 Washington Oppressors 75

The Brawlers are another team that cashed in on the Eagles-Lions game where LeSean McCoy went off racking up 30 points and making up for a handful of low scoring Bengals in his lineup.  The Oppressors fall to 0 - 2 despite some good performances from Jay Cutler, Dez Bryant and seeing Shiancoe and Pierre Thomas be real workhorses for their teams.


The Steelers were frustrated by their 2 - 0 record on the waiver wire this week being unable to grab Tolbert or the Dolphins Defense due to the waiver priority enjoyed by other savvy owners who snagged these players.  A few teams worked the waiver wire to bolster their teams, I think the top one being Tolbert who looked solid in Ryan Matthew's absence and whoever owned Michael Turner last year will know the dreaded high-ankle sprain is not an exciting injury for a top RB on your team to have.

AuthorKevin McAllister

Tired of ending my workdays wondering what the hell I'd done why I couldn't even manage to get one of the three things on list for the day completed I decided to take action. Much of my career has been in tech startups, particularly companies providing various types of Internet services, so I've dealt with many customer complaints and done quite a bit of troubleshooting and repair.  So on any problem I would quickly push aside emotional evaluations or irrelevant details to get to and repair the root of the matter.  So when I finally recognized that some of my project completion issues were a problem like any other to be understood and solved by uncovering the relevant data.  I realized I just had to find a way to see exactly what I am doing, because I knew I was doing valuable work for my company, but just mostly not what I had intended at the outset of the day or week.

In my typical fashion I decided I would write a software tool that would be quick and easy to enter tasks, what job that task was related to and how long I'd spent on the task.  Then I realized I don't have time to do my job every day let alone write some other tool, and this seems like one of those tools that some smart web 2.0 style kids would have built ages ago.  So I Googled time tracking and came up with  It was everything I wanted, from very quick task entry, pie charts showing percentage of time on each project and for my purposes it was free, as I'm not trying to use it to bill clients.

I've been using it now consistently for 3 weeks.  I decided for "Project" I wouldn't try to track my time on projects in the GTD style, but rather against what David Allen calls your Area's of Responsibility, or in other words the big bullet points in your job description.  After 3 weeks I have 14 different "Projects" on the list and an able to see at a glance where I'm choosing to spend my time.  It has helped me emotionally in seeing that these things are necessary for accomplishing my job, and to be able to block out time for areas that need extra attention, and to know that means that other slices of the pie will suffer and I must account for that.  Also for giving me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day and a way to sum up what I've done.

Also it's a great tool for driving conversations with my employer.  "Hey, I'm the only person in the company working on X, that means if you want me to do more of it or move it faster you'll need to help me obtain resources or reset expectations for W, Y and Z."

As far as using it, I've not spent more than 15 minutes in a day on it.  I've tried before to track my tasks but have always failed.  Knowing that I went in determined to record only essentials but get a complete picture of the day.  So I don't record every mundane task but will record something as small as 10 minutes if it's on a job that I think will add up over time.  So I'll typically record somewhere between 5 and 20 tasks on it in a day and be able to then get the perspective I need on my work to make longer range plans and decisions.

AuthorKevin McAllister

A tweet or facebook status update was too short and unformatted to capture this and I had to write it immediately. Michelle was singing to the girls after the most packed day at Disney. (started at Animal Kingdom around 9:30 and finally got back to the Pop Century resort at 10:50 after seeing Fantasmic).

Ashley stops Michelle singing saying, "Wait! You forgot to put Minnie in my song."

Michelle: "I put her in, I said Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Pluto"

Ashley: "Oh! I thought you meant Pluto the planet."

Allison: (immediately and with obvious exasperation) Ash, Pluto's not even a planet!"

AuthorKevin McAllister
Strap in

Quite a robust urinal apparatus. Seen at Stockton College at the
Gaelic Storm concert.

AuthorKevin McAllister

Listening to Leonard Peikoff's podcast #83 I really enjoyed the closing of his answer to someone who wrote to him, essentially, I agree with many of the principles of Objectivism but disagree with Ayn Rand on two ideas (I think it was architecture as art and something to do with her view on women), am I still an Objectivist? He said:

So I hope you don't think of: this and this and this is required for [Objectivism] … I wouldn't even think about what's required for Objectivism.

Just think about "what's true?" And then if Objectivists don't believe it, it's tough on them. You could say, Objectivism is good but it has this mistake.

You can't think, with the idea that the answers are in the back of the book given by Ayn Rand.

AuthorKevin McAllister

Catching up on some of my reading I came across an analysis of a Steve Jobs interview in Forbes. I agree with the analysis especially on Diana's last point. To succeed you hire the best, the most resourceful people you can find and give them goals to accomplish. You don't go hunting for those who you think will strictly obey your rules. To clarify, my point is not to discourage the use of checklists or standard ways of handling requests. Standard processes in handling repetitive tasks are very important not only when multiple members of a team are working together, but to avoid mistakes when doing infrequent or tedious work. It's the way the exceptions to this checklist are handled that separates the followers from achievers.

Working in small startups most of my career has made the difference between these two types of employees stark and easy to spot. One focuses on what they are supposed to do, the other wants to know what they are trying to accomplish.

If I understood the job well enough to write strict rules I'd just write software to do it, and not waste time recruiting or interviewing. This is the error the big service companies make when they put a 300 layer voice recognition system between you and their customer service reps.

AuthorKevin McAllister

I've been using MobileMe to keep some things, including calendar, in sync between my work's iMac, my macbook and my iPhone for over a year. Generally I've been pleased, but after upgrading my phone to 3.1 and my iMac to Snow Leopard I've encountered a very irritating problem where my "accounts" in the calendar on my phone had duplicated and seemed to spawn multiple constant synchronization threads, to the detriment of my using the phone or having the battery not drain. After screwing around with it today and finally getting some live chat help from the MobileMe support site I figured out how to clean it up and what is causing it. First the cause is the subscribed calendars I have on my desktop iCal. I have one calendar, but I subscribed to a handful of other calendars so I could quickly look at what a few other persons of interest were up to. I've had it this way a long time, but it was just during the last few days I noticed I could see the subscribed calendars on my iPhone. And then everything went wrong, and for every one subscribed calendar I had I ended up with a new calendar account.

Many accounts

The fix was found partially through reading this article the MobileMe support chat rep sent me, iPhone/iPod touch: Resolving duplicates and removing all contacts/calendars/bookmarks with MobileMe or Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, and having the problem resurface once I had "fixed" it once.

First turn off "Push" on my phone, then in iCal remove all subscribed calendars and sync it to MobileMe, this is only a minor annoyance for me as they are all google calendars and I can view them in that interface. And then on the phone toggle the calendar sync setting for the MobileMe account from on to off selecting to "delete" the calendar data from the phone each time, until finally left with a single account.

If I knew an easy way to report this bug to Apple I would, but I wasted enough time on it now and don't want to go hunting for a way to tell them.

AuthorKevin McAllister

I recently had a shock when my children's pediatrician announced she was closing her office. We love this doctor, she helped us through scary times and was always there with answers when we had medical questions or even seeking general advice about our children. She is closing her practice for financial reasons and those who know the philosophy I follow may assume I am going to blame the government or ObamaCare for this. Well I cannot, I don't have enough information to make that judgement in her circumstance. But I do have two points I'd like to make.

First if the government makes further incursions into healthcare as is proposed under ObamaCare which is currently embodied in the so called Baucus plan physicians will quit or close their practices, they've said so (I'll provide a link later).

Second, on a recent trip to get our daughters a flu vaccine, our pediatrician — upon first facing my wife since making her announcement to close her practice — asked her, "please don't yell at me." My wife was shocked, we were of course both saddened to hear she was closing but we would never berate her for it. I was appalled to learn that other parents thought they were right to yell and insult her for a decision that she made which was obviously painful for her. I think the idea that makes people think they were right to yell at this woman is very closely related to the idea that makes them think they are right to force the doctors, insurance companies and ultimately their neighbors to provide healthcare under government coercion. The idea is that the sick are entitled to some sort of medical treatment above all other considerations including who has to go broke or more importantly who has to be forced under threat of violence to provide it.

This all came to mind when I read Dr. Paul Hsieh's most recent, and quite excellent, op-ed published at Pajamas Media, titled Is Your Doctor getting ready to Quit? I recommend everybody read this as the proposed legislation will impact them.

If you are genuinely interested in the morality and practicality of so called Universal Healthcare — and not just partisan bickering or blatant lies — The Objective Standard has made several of Dr. Hsieh's other articles on the subject available to read online for free:

AuthorKevin McAllister
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I like to think about things. I can spend hours trying to find the right way to solve any problem from serious to silly. This is one of the reasons I'll let myself get caught up in an email black hole. As I was this morning. Responding to or dealing with the tasks inside each email like it's the only thing in the world to work on is extremely silly as it takes the email and any embedded tasks completely out of context. So I am writing this to remind myself, that email isn't my job, it's a tool that is crucial in the small part of my job that has to do with communicating with others. And to turn Strict Filtering back on in front of the tasks I choose to work on. Also the strict separation between doing the tasks embedded in my inbox and the task that is processing my inbox.

It really shouldn’t take me more than 15 minutes to empty the email inbox. I should rifle through each message spending about 30 seconds to read, decide if it's actionable, what I'm going to do about it and file the action reminder appropriately. If it's an email that is longer than 30 seconds to ready, I can decide if I am ever going to read it and file the reminder to read it somewhere.

AuthorKevin McAllister

I'm in four fantasy football leagues this year. One is the real deal, the league I've been in with my wife for what seems like 3 or so years every year, but undoubtedly it's been at least 7 years, the TMCFL run by my brother, on a site that is getting increasingly crappy since being acquired by an NBC Sports affiliate.

The other is the John Galt League, where I am the acting commisioner, brought together by the common fact that we all are fans of Diana Hsieh's blog NoodleFood.

I also have played in Ryan Grier's league for the past few years where I tend to be terrible.

And finally as always I picked up a Yahoo public league in order to practice drafting before the TMCFL, although given the awesomeness of the ESPN mock drafts I may stop that after this year.

I am currently fantasizing the fame, fortune and prestige of winning both the JGL and the TMCFL as I watched my Eagles whup an overmatched Panthers and noticed my top pick in both of those leagues, Adrian Peterson, racking up the points. I am now convinced that he will score at least 3 touchdowns every week and I will dominate all of the competition.

Stay tuned for too frequent updates of my fantasy prowess or complete silence if my team collapses into disarray.

AuthorKevin McAllister

If somehow you missed it, a few weeks ago the Whitehouse thought it would be a good idea to encourage citizens to report on other citizens that were spreading "fishy" information about healthcare. I promptly reported myself and asked to be added to the list of political enemies because Healthcare is a legitimate need of man, but to declare it as a right is to destroy all rights, see Ayn Rand's essay Man's Rights for a detailed explanation. That email address for reporting citizens has since been discontinued. While in the circles I travel I didn't hear anyone excuse this action by the Whitehouse, I have a fear that the majority of American citizens find nothing wrong with it or see it as something worthy of a passing chuckle at those who were outraged by this action. I have nothing to say to the ones who would react in a laughing manner, meaning those that don't take ideas seriously, for the same reason I wouldn't try to teach a pig to sing. For those that honestly wonder why such a thing is worth getting worked up about, I'd encourage you to think about The Nature of Government, why it exists, and what effect such an entity would ultimately have on the spread of ideas while openly collecting a list of dissenters.

Governments are properly formed to secure rights, not to provide goods & services, spread ideas or prevent the spread of ideas. To see the dead-end on that road you need the ability to think in principles and only a passing familiarity with history.

AuthorKevin McAllister