Archive for June, 2004

Housesitting over

Sunday, June 27th, 2004

We finally get to move back home today. Our three-week housesitting stint is up. Whew! It’s been exhausting. As nice as this house is, I miss home.

Out & About: Open Door seminar

Saturday, June 26th, 2004

Open Door seminar at Hobo Joe’s

“Home For The Holidays”

Thursday, June 24th, 2004

Movie watched last night: “Home For The Holidays.” Better than I expected. Not great, but funny. Weird ending, though.

Out & About: Writers’ Night hosted by Don Ellis

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2004

K&K at Don Ellis’ writers night. Saw Michael Peterson play.

Out & About: ASCAP Writers Series

Monday, June 21st, 2004

ASCAP Writers Series

Feet bigger!

Monday, June 14th, 2004

Forgot to mention that when I bought my new running shoes on Saturday (same model as I had before — Saucony Trigon, Responsive Cushioning), the running store guy moved me up a half-size. Which meant I had to buy men’s shoes. In size 10.5.

Quoth he: “it’s normal that your arches drop and your foot size increases from running.”

But, said I, my feel were already huge. Like, I could barely find women’s shoes in my size when they were an 11 kind of huge.

Of course, I wore them this morning on the elliptical machine and they feel like heaven. I can’t believe I’m admitting that.

Power out!

Sunday, June 13th, 2004

Wow. The power just went out several times. It’s a magnificent storm! :-)

Dramatic!

Sunday, June 13th, 2004

My life suddenly feels so dramatic! I must use scads of exclamation points!

Karsten and I are house- and dog-sitting for my boss’ boss in Belle Meade (non-Nashvillians: it’s where this town’s wealthy and entitled people live) while she and her two sons are in Italy for three weeks.

Yesterday, we went out to run errands and, on our return, were blocked from accessing the street leading into to the dead-end street where she lives by police cars and a huge tree that had fallen in the storm. Fairly dramatic, no?

Well, today we went out and were blocked from the same street by police cars saying that a telephone pole had caught fire on this street. Presumably it had been struck by lightning.

Danger is getting ever closer! Next I’ll probably stub my toe and round out the trio of hazards!

Premature book recommendation

Sunday, June 13th, 2004

I’m only finished with chapter one, but I could’ve recommended this book just for the introduction. “Why Didn’t I Think of That: Think the Unthinkable and Achieve Creative Greatness” by Charles W. McCoy Jr. is one of those books that, even if it doesn’t do what it claims to do — i.e., get you thinking more perceptively and clearly — it will still intrigue you with the anecdotes of good and bad thinking in action.

I’m especially engaged by this book because of the professional challenges I’ve faced over the past year and will continue to face. In designing software, one is always trying to find the new and better way of doing the same old thing. But here are some of the special challenges of the product I help design:

  • First and foremost, the biggest challenge is that we’re version 2. Period. Everyone already thinks they know this product, and they didn’t like the old version. We know the old version didn’t work, and we know why. But we have a lot of ground to cover to prove ourselves to our users.
  • It’s an intranet, so everyone in the company (i.e., nearly 200,000 people) could potentially need to use this product every work day.
  • No one particularly wants to use this product.
  • It’s an intranet, so everyone wants it to be able to do everything and contain everything so they only have one place to go to find anything.
  • No one trusts this product enough to believe it might do anything useful or contain what they’re looking for.
  • It’s an intranet, so everyone already “knows” what this product should do and how it should do it.
  • It’s an intranet, so no one wants to spend any time learning how to use it.

And that’s just the beginning, without detail. I’m sure most projects have their challenges, and I’ve been on and have even managed a few very challenging projects myself. But this one requires such — oh I don’t know — multi-dimensional? thinking that it’s almost like a completely new and interesting challenge nearly every week.

Here’s an example. I’m the designer of the search feature. And I’ve spent the past fifteen months analyzing — nay, poring over — results from prior usability studies, focus groups, surveys, and so on, and conducting my own to understand the business requirements, user requirements, and functional requirements for our company’s intranet’s search feature. And truly, let me just add that I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

But there’s a central dilemma that I’ve come up with, and it’s no easier to deal with now than it was a year ago when I discovered it. Ready?

Everyone asks for Google.

It’s true. They all say, over and over, that what they want is a search engine that looks and acts like Google.

Here’s what they mean:

Make it simple, and show me the best results first.

OK, that sounds easy enough, in theory. We have a great search engine tool on the backend, so we can deliver great search results. As for the search interface, perhaps that’s more of a challenge. Why? Because everyone also thinks they need every search feature under the sun! Show similar items, search within results, save search, and on and on. And I want to give them all of that and more. But how to organize it in such a way that it doesn’t intimidate the novice web users and doesn’t clutter the screen of the users with 800 x 600 resolution?

Back to the book. What McCoy does well is break down several types of critical thinking into further categories: asking the right questions, focusing on the pertinent facts, etc, etc. And he presents them in such a way as to build on each one with another.

Anyone could benefit from lessons like these. I’m certainly gaining some useful tools for analyzing my work challenges.

New shoes!

Friday, June 11th, 2004

I just went and bought new running shoes from Team Nashville, which is a local store that specializes in running gear. (The owners are both marathoners many times over.) Same basic shoe I had before, but a half-size larger — more mileage means bigger feet.

The owner that was helping me was also advising me to stay the hell off my knee until it’s really, truly healed. He said to do aqua-running five days a week and one day of aqua-interval-training. Interval training? In the water? Yep. He says it’s the only way to not lose my mileage and speed while I’m healing.

So I guess I’ll be joining up at Centennial Sportsplex for a month or two so I can get access to a pool. They have one-month and three-month memberships in addition to their normal annual rate. The Team Nashville guy said to expect it to take 2-3 months before my knee is really healed. And I think he’s being quite conservative, but maybe a one-month membership would do the trick.

Out & About: Dani Carroll @ Bluebird

Friday, June 11th, 2004

K&K out to see Dani Carroll at the Bluebird Cafe with Reese Wilson and friends. Fantastic show!

Sick and wanting to run

Tuesday, June 8th, 2004

Think I’m a little sick. I have a wheezy cough, some head congestion, and major fatigue.

Maybe this business with my knee has just worn me the hell out.

Speaking of which, I did get on the elliptical machine this morning, and even at a low incline and low resistance, my knee hurt. So I got off and did some stretches and got back on. It was a little better, so I managed 20 minutes. Barely a respectable cardiovascular workout, but dammit, I did it.

Do you know about the history of the marathon? According to legend, the marathon commemorates the run by Pheidippides in 490 B.C. announcing the news of Greek victory over the Persians. He covered the roughly 26-mile distance between Marathon and Athens, announced the news (”Niki!” or “Victory!”) … then collapsed and died of exhaustion.

And I’m complaining about a little knee pain?

Self-diagnosis: iliotibial band syndrome

Monday, June 7th, 2004

Well, doggone. Looks like I have myself a case of iliotibial band syndrome.

Last Monday, I did an 8-mile training run and had some knee stiffness and general soreness, but nothing remarkable. I iced, rested, took Ibuprofen, and felt better in two days, but stayed on the treadmill on Wednesday to soften the impact of my 2.5 mile recovery run. By Thursday, I did my usual 6-mile run in the park with Karsten, and on Friday, we ran another 6 miles along Belle Meade Boulevard. Then on Saturday morning, I did a 10-mile training run in the park, and have been experiencing pretty heavy knee pain ever since.

The symptoms are classic ITBS: lateral knee pain, some hip soreness, difficulty walking up and down hills and stairs but no difficulty walking on flat surfaces. I’ve been icing, resting, and taking Ibuprofen, and I’m feeling ready to get on an elliptical machine tomorrow morning, but I’ve also been doing my homework. I have some stretches I have to start doing religiously — at just about every possible opportunity. I found a seemingly reliable article on the web that recommends a strengthening exercise which I just tried and can feel that it should work over time. And I need to buy new shoes.

Oh, and I can’t run on Belle Meade Boulevard anymore. That same article makes a point about sloping roads — I noticed on Friday morning how uncomfortable my legs felt because of the slope toward the edge of the road, and I now suspect that that run had more to do with my current knee pain than my longer but flatter run on Saturday morning.

I’ve also made up my mind about the Chicago marathon: not this year. I’ve decided that I’ll run in the Park Forest Scenic 10, which is a 10 mile and 5K race in my hometown on Labor Day weekend. And then I’d like to run the half-marathon portion of the Country Music Marathon next April, and then by next October, I’ll be ready for Chicago. Hopefully, I’ll have also figured out some tricks to make my knees cooperate with the kind of mileage I’m trying to run.

We’ll see how the rest of this week goes: I’d been planning on running the Music Row 5K this Saturday, but even though it’s short, it’s a very hilly run and that could do me in. I’ve got my fingers crossed. I hear JoDee Messina is supposed to be running in it, and I thought it would be fun to chance seeing her there. But not at the risk of another several days of aching knees.

Out & About: With songwriters from Chicago

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2004

K&K have lunch with Bob Osgood and Sam Cornett, two songwriters visiting from Chicago.

We met them at a meeting of the Chicago chapter of NSAI before we moved to Nashville. These guys are the greatest. We have every confidence that they have big things in store for them.

Out & About: Writers’ Night hosted by Don Ellis

Tuesday, June 1st, 2004

K&K out at Don Ellis’ writers night at Cocktails Bar & Grill.