What do you call a blog that’s updated once a year?

Answer…… AlexKassabov.com  

A few days ago I was talking blogging with a coworker and a friend.  We both lamented the difficulties of blogging, how hard it is to write good content, and how hard it is to make time to keep one’s blog regularly updated.  And we both have let our blogs to stagnate lately.  So then and there I vowed to resurrect my blog, to dust off my old friend, to start blogging again.  

A few days went by. Then a whole weekend.  And I still didn’t find time to write anything.

Then, on Monday night, I get a one-liner email from another friend.  

What do you call a blog that’s updated once a year?  Answer…… AlexKassabov.com

How’s that for a coincidence? if that’s not a sign to start writing again, I don’t know what is.

So, hello there, my old friend.  It’s time to blow the dust off, find the next empty page and… write something meaningful.

eBooks are our faceless friends

I love my Kindle. I’ve read probably a hundred books on it and will definitely read many hundreds more. I love everything about it: the convenience factor, the screen, the storage space, the form factor — everything.

I’ve read about a hundred books, but, if it wasn’t for Shelfari, I probably wouldn’t remember reading half of them. Not what the book is about, but the very fact that I’ve read this book. If I were browsing library shelves and happened to pick up some of the books I’ve read, I wouldn’t recognize them. Why is that?

The familiar and easily recognizable form factor of a Kindle makes the experience of reading one book virtually indistinguishable from reading any other. You may be reading a Lincoln biography, The Three Musketeers or the Holly Bible — nothing, absolutely nothing, changes. It’s the same black device with the same screen and the same black-on-white print. There are no pictures; the weight, the size, or the font of the book never changes. All those memory hooks that allow us to remember and distinguish things are missing. The books that you’re reading simply have no face. It’s like meeting a hundred faceless men at a cocktail party and having them tell you their name and their life story. You may remember the stories, but good luck telling which story belongs to who.

The same thing happens when I try to remember a specific paragraph or illustration from a book. The way memory, at least my memory, works, I remember that this specific paragraph was somewhere in the last third of the book, it was after this illustration but before that diagram, it was at the bottom of a page that had some other distinguishable sentences on it. I might have even highlighted it. In other words, finding something in a physical book is possible by just leafing through pages and setting off memory triggers. In an ebook all of that is missing: you can’t open a book in its last third and leaf through the pages to find something. You have to rely on the search feature, but you have to know what you’re searching for in the first place.

(Of course, there’s the highlight feature of a Kindle, but unless you make just a few highlights in a given book, finding a particular highlight is also not so straight forward.)

I find that using ebooks forces me to give up the natural way I remember things. It is forcing me to devise new ways, which don’t feel right and, frankly, don’t work for me. I’m yet to come up with a system for consuming all those highlights I made in all those Kindle books. I’ve tried importing my highlights and organizing them somehow in Evernote, but that, once again, forces me to have to remember what I’m looking for in the first place. I’m considering starting a good old notebook of handwritten notes. Seems like too much work though.

What do you do? Do you have a system for remembering or finding things in ebooks?

New year – new goals

And on the first day of the year, it’s Shelfari that sets my first goal of the year for me.

And in the mean time, WordPress reminds me that I’ve been away from my own blog too long.  Long enough to have forgotten how to use it.

So here’s to two immediate goals for this year: read more and blog again.

Happy New Year, everyone!!!

Hero next door (Chicago – Frankfurt flight diverted to Cleveland)

You might have caught the story about a Chicago – Frankfurt flight being diverted to Cleveland because of an unruly passenger.  A man was acting suspiciously prior to the take off and during the flight.  He ended up having to be restrained by a flight attendant and the passengers.  Well, imagine my surprise when I found out that the flight attendant in the story was my next door neighbor and my friend.

Saturday night, he, I and one other neighbor sat outside into the wee hours hearing him tell the story of what went down on that flight.  It was a pretty disconcerting story.  I can’t even begin to imagine what the passengers on that flight went through, the thoughts and feelings that went through their minds.

I obviously don’t know the reasons behind the unruly behavior of this young man, what made him act the way he did, what made him decide to get physical with a flight attendant.  There are plenty of rumors flying around the web.  I just know that I’m very impressed with the way my friend managed the situation. Proud to know him.


R.I.P., my dear 4Runner

I am saddened to say that my dear beloved 2000 Toyota 4Runner is no more.  After exactly 11 years and a few days of faithful service, I had to put it down, trade it in, get rid of it.  I’ve always said that I will drive it into the ground and I almost literally did.

I came home on Wednesday to find a trail of liquid leading down the street and into my driveway, culminating in a big puddle of pink, Pepto-Bismolish looking liquid under the truck.  The coolant reservoir was completely empty, the radiator was full and the transmission dip stick was covered in the same pink substance.  I had the truck towed to the local Toyota dealer and sat with my fingers crossed, praying for its safe return.  Alas, it was not to be.

Turns out that Toyota trucks equipped with a towing package have 2 radiators: one for the engine and one, at the bottom of the engine compartment, for the transmission.  Well, something or other rusted away down there.  The radiator leaked coolant into the transmission, mixing coolant and transmission fluids, creating the said pink substance and, eventually, spilling it all out onto my garage floor.

$3K in repairs for a new transmission, new radiator and everything else that’s involved in installing and connecting them was just too much to spend on an 11-year-old truck.  So I had little choice but to leave my baby in the dealer’s parking lot and apply the trade-in amount towards a new Toyota Highlander.

This 4Runner was the vehicle I’ve always wanted.  It was a truck I loved driving even after 11 years.  I bought it when I probably couldn’t truly afford it but never regretted it.  And after all these years I don’t even have a picture of it to remember it by.

Rest in peace, my baby.  You were a great truck and a friend.


As I get older I realize that I hate thrashing, jumping between multiple tasks.  Thrashing is not the same as multi-tasking.  I can still walk and chew gum; listen to a meeting, take notes and balance my chair on 2 legs at the same time.

Thrashing is working on a document, jumping into your email because you just remembered that you forgot to send that email, getting stuck in your email because you just got an email from a client asking for your help, remembering that there was something you needed to ask somebody and jumping to your IM client, returning to your email to check that person’s response, returning to your original document, remembering that you were supposed to check on the status of another task and so on and so forth.  By the end of the day, that original document is still not done.  Sounds familiar?

These days I’m working on 3 projects for 3 different clients.  I spend most of my time at one of these clients, where on my desk I have a client’s desktop PC and my laptop sits right next to it.  The temptation to thrash and the opportunity to thrash is plentiful.  But so are the tasks, the expectations and the deadlines.

Every now and then I’ll find myself working on something on the desktop, then suddenly turning to my laptop to check on something else because I just remembered it.  And then having to remind myself to stop, turn back to the desktop and focus on that first task.

The solution?

Write it down.

Something that Eric Mack had said during his presentation at Lotusphere, “the reason I can stand on this stage and focus on this presentation without thinking of all the other things I have to do is because I wrote them all down.”  (Not an exact quote, of course.)

In my younger days, I’d scoff at such statement — heck! I can remember it all.  And I can.  But because I do have to remember, those tasks are all twirling in my mind.  My undisciplined brain keeps pulling me towards them as they rotate on a carousel of distractions.  Maybe it’s just my ADD personality.

When you write all your tasks down in a list, you no longer have to constantly think about them.  Your brain takes them off the carousel, forgets them until it’s time to check the list.  When there’s no spinning carousel, you can focus on the task at hand and actually get it done much quicker.

Works for me.  Maybe it will work for you.

SafeCopy 10% off Discount Code

In February of this year, when Mozy announced its price increase, SafeCopy was running a 10% off promotion.  You just had to use the ‘switch’ discount code at checkout time.

The promotion was supposed to be over at the end of the February, but the discount code is still active.  I was able to use it this past weekend when signing up for SafeCopy.   So if you’re thinking of signing up with SafeCopy, use the ‘switch’ discount code.


Bye-bye Mozy, hello SafeCopy

Earlier this year Mozy announced a price increase effectively doubling my monthly subscription cost.  The new price was going to hit me on March 28th, so this was the weekend to stop procrastinating and select a different backup provider.

After some, not too terribly extensive, research I ended up going with SafeCopy.  While not unlimited, the price was right — 50 bucks a year for 200GB of data.  According to my Mozy statistics, I backup only about 60-some GB.  The decisive factor for me though was the ability to have multiple computers on the same account and to backup networked drives.  Most of my photos and music files are sitting on a networked Maxtor drive at home.  So, in addition to my primary laptop, I now have SafeCopy running on an old desktop tower at home, chugging through files on the networked Z drive.  I have no idea how long this initial backup will take again, several days, I’m sure.

One suggestion for SafeCopy: improve your Mac user interface.  Setting custom selection of folders to backup is a royal pain. Mozy has a great interface for selecting which files and programs to backup and which to skip.


What are you reading?

LinkedIn now has a “Reading List by Amazon” application.  If you add it to your profile, you can let people see what books you are reading, have read or are planning to read.

Look through the recent updates of your network or of the entire LinkedIn for that matter. Look through their reading lists.  People read nothing but business, management, technical, self-help and an occasional biography  books — in short, non-fiction”smart” books.  Nobody, almost not a single person, is willing to  admit to reading a crime thriller or the latest paperback smut novel.  We are supposed to be too important, too busy to have time to read fiction, which will not help us advance in our professional development.  Or, LinkedIn being a “professional” social network, nobody wants to show their personal side and admit to reading for fun.

Most likely, it’s a combination of both.  Some are proud to be too busy to read, they certainly don’t have time to read for fun.  And that’s fine.

But if you do read for fun, why not share it?  What are you afraid of?  People won’t think less of you.  It is OK to show a bit of your personality to the world.  It’s OK to be defined by something other than your resume.  People may appreciate knowing a different side of you, something more than a list of awesome jobs you had and schools you went to.  And it just might make YOU stand out just a bit from all the people with the same titles, jobs and certifications as you.

So go ahead, if you’re reading something fun, let others know.  And let me know.  I’m always looking for a good book to read next.

P.S., now if only LinkedIn were to figure out how to tie their application to my Amazon account and pull my books from there.


The Lazy Project Manager or Where Do I Fit In

I picked up this book by accident, looking through the top free Kindle books.  Of course, a project management book that has “lazy” in its title is bound to catch one’s attention.

If you’re looking for an advice on how to screw the pooch and be an effective project manager at the same time, this book is not going to teach you anything.  What it will teach you though is how to stop being one of those project managers who are always busy and yet accomplish little.  Instead, follow the 80-20 rule, focus your attention on what is really important and learn how to use resources available to you.

It is a hard lesson to learn.  If you’re used to being the doer, relying on yourself and delivering results, habit of doing the work yourself is a hard one to break.  To this day I have to remind myself to delegate.  Instead of piling yet another project on my plate (Oh, I can take a look at it tonight), let someone else take care of it.  It will get done and will free you up for other things.

The book is a quick and entertaining read.  Well worth its Kindle price of a whole big ZERO.

What caught my attention is this chart.

Now, I know that I am lazy.  And a few people have told me that they thought I was smart.  All of that makes me wonder.  If I believe the chart and if I believe those people are right, then…  I know how to be successful through efficient use of resources.  Just have to keep reminding myself that I’m lazy enough and I’m smart enough to be successful and to delegate.

And what about you?  Which quadrant do you fit in?