And now a word from Manager-Tools.com: Read!

Think managing a chorus (or better yet leading a chorus) is entirely different from managing a business?  Well, maybe it is, but some of the principles are the same.  One of them is: Read!

Read Or Die

How can people complain to me they’re not getting ahead and then also tell me they’re not reading very much?

If you’re not reading regularly, significantly, virtually every day for at least an hour, your development is lagging. Professionals interested in their own self-development read voraciously.

Start or re-start now.

One of my best friends in my entire life is Michael Swenson. At our conferences, Michael often shares one of his favorite quotes: to know and not to do is not to know. It always reminds me of, the man who can read but doesn’t is no better off than the man who can’t.

I know – you’re too busy. But get this: in 2008, the President of the United States read 40 books. He’s busier than you are!

Business professionals have to keep up with more than television headlines. To say nothing of the fact that television is the arch-enemy of readers, anyway.

A refresher:

Daily newspaper: you’ve got to read a newspaper – or an online equivalent – every day. Your local (Major cities) paper is fine, in most cases. You’re lucky if you live in New York or London or Berlin or Hong Kong. If you can get WSJ or FT, that can MORE than suffice. We love the Journal, but we also crave more when we’re in Europe.

Business Press: You don’t necessarily need a supplement if you read the Journal or FT. But if you don’t get those, read Fortune. Don’t bother with Forbes or Business Week, for different reasons. I have started getting Bloomberg Markets, but doubt I can recommend it for wide appeal.

Professional Books: You need to always be reading at least one professional development book. It could be Drucker, it could be the latest fad, it could be a biography if you like. (For some reason, biographies just don’t teach … but if you learn that way, by all means do.) Here’s an idea: our book list.

Fiction: Has someone ever joked about some guy named Godot while you were waiting for someone, and you didn’t get it? Do you know who Sherman McCoy was? If you know who Gordon Gekko is/was, but not McCoy, you’re a step behind. And seriously, Harry Potter is literature, though he’s not as colorful as Travis McGee.

READ.

(Full newsletter here.)

Okay, so that’s more of a business perspective.  Here’s a musical perspective: Read The Harmonizer.  Read backissues as PDFs from eBiz.  Read barbershopHQ.com.  Read your chapter newsletter.  Read your district newsletter.  Read books about music, and maybe even (gasp) books about leadership and management.  I’m reading Maxwell’s Developing The Leader Within You.

[ Edit 11/23/10: Added direct link to full newsletter ]

Continue reading And now a word from Manager-Tools.com: Read!

Keeping track of it all

Sure, I write an article like “Full power on takeoff” and then go on vacation for a week.  🙂

Here are some tools I use to keep track of everything, both as Secretary and Wannabe President:
  • Remember The Milk, http://www.rememberthemilk.com.  Web-based todo lists.  Works on smartphones too.  Faster than many desktop apps.
  • Evernote, http://www.evernote.com.  Notes, web clipping, saving documents — there’s a very good chance that if you can store it on a computer, you can clip it to Evernote and take it with you wherever you go.  Windows, Mac, smartphone, web clients.  Windows client works acceptably on Linux under Wine.  (Evernote version 3.1, I think; haven’t tried 3.5 or 4.0.  Just discovered 4.0 for Windows today, in fact, and haven’t had a chance to put it onto my Linux box.)
  • Groupanizer.  The Society recommends it, too.  My chapter is just getting started with it, so I can’t cite too many specifics.
  • Google Mail, Google Calendar.  Get your mail and etc from anywhere.
All these tools have good documentation and active and helpful forums.

Full power on takeoff

I’ve been on the BoD for two years as Secretary, and for a year before that as the then-Secretary’s assistant. In all that time I focused on all the various jobs of a Chapter Secretary: renewals, shows, contests, minutes.  In a word, paperwork.  (Which is ironic, kind of, ’cause I’ve always sucked at paperwork.  My chapter hasn’t kicked me out yet, though.)

In all that time I never gave serious thought to what it means to be a chapter leader.  Think about that.  What does it take to lead your chapter?  It takes dedication and devotion and hard work and sticktoitiveness.  I, well, didn’t, uh, have that.  I did the minutes when I felt like it and rarely spoke up and rarely volunteered for, you know, work.  I rationalized my shortcomings by observing that if anybody else thought they could do better they were welcome to it, and I always seemed to run unopposed.
You know what rationalizations are, right?  Rationalizations are rational sounding lies.

When the head of the selection committee asked me if I’d consider being President next year, my head spun.  For the next couple of hours, I thought about it.  I dare-say my singing was sub-par that night.  At the end of rehearsal he gave me a reprieve and said how about the year after next?
Since then I’ve thought, and I’ve written, and I’ve made notes, and I’ve really dived into my Board of Directors.  There’s nothing that says the President can be the only leader on the board, after all.  I had a long chat with my wonderfully supportive wife, who was fine with me being President, as long as I understood the time commitment involved, which, shall we say, historically I’ve had a problem with.
I think I understand.  It’s not a small commitment, either.  I’ve been reading The Harmonizer, and my District’s newsletter.  I’ve taken advantage of my employer’s manager training materials, started reading John Maxwell’s Developing The Leader Within You (via Kindle on the Mac/iPhone, woot!), and I’ve queued up several other Maxwell titles (all recommended by HR or a good friend who’s an excellent manager).
I realized some time last week I’d need to eat, drink, and sleep Barbershop, because the thought of leading my chorus was completely foreign to me.
Full throttle.  Full power.  Run.  Run.  Because when you’re starting from a standing start, you have to sprint just to get off the ground.

Six TODOs, lots of work, no TODOs checked off

Getting home tonight I had six things on my todo list that were Chorus-y.  I worked for maybe an hour, maybe two, and got a lot of stuff done, and none of them were any of the six things actually on my todo list.  But they were all Chorus-y and (hopefully) will all bear good fruit.  Without going into specifics, I caught up on my BoD email and created some tasks in Groupanizer for some BoD members.

Our BoD approved Groupanizer just last week, and I believe in it so much that I’ve donated 8 months of the first year’s subscription, and I wanted to get started with it as soon as I could.  🙂
After that, one of the things I did that was on my todo list was read Bill Biffle’s “Job One” paper on chapter development.  It’s a great read; if you need a good, proven program on how to build your chapter, go download it.

So you wanna be the President (of your Chapter)?

I’m in a men’s chorus, a chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society.  Went to my first rehearsal December 2006.  My life has never been the same.

Two weeks ago the head of the selection committee for the Board of Directors asked me if I’d consider being President in 2012.  He let me think about it til the end of rehearsal, my mind whirling the entire time, and at the end of the evening I said yes.
In the coming weeks and months I’d like to write about my thoughts, plans, and activities as (current) Chapter Secretary and (future) Chapter President.  If I do this right, they’ll all be filed under “So you wanna be the President?”, which should make them easy to find (or subscribe to, should the spirit move you :).
To start off, I sat down at my computer and typed a brief “oh my God” pseudo-journal entry.  I’m not a big diarist, but it seemed apropos to capture my thoughts at the time.
Later I thought about all the things I think a good, knowledgable, effective president ought to do and know, and wrote them all down.  It was a long list!  I may share that later.
One of the things I’ve already started is reading back issues of The Harmonizer.  To my shame, I’ve never really made a practice of that in the past.  (I’m more of an Analog guy. 🙂  There’s a lot of good information in there!  If you’re a Barbershopper, read it!  You can even download PDFs from eBiz!
In closing, if you’re a former, current, or future president of a chapter of the BHS or similar organization, please feel free to offer advice.  I’m all ears!

Ask (Google) and ye shall receive

I’ve (re)discovered AutoHotKey and used it to solve a tremendously annoying Windows “feature” — you can’t move maximized windows.  I downloaded Easy Window Dragging — KDE Style and hacked it to un-maximize a window before it moves it.

I also thought, Hey, you could implement a virtual window manager in AutoHotKey with not too much difficulty.  Some Googling leads me to an actual virtual window manager (VirtuaWin) and it’s free and so far (all of 10 minutes in) I’m quite happy with it.  I wish I’d found it four years ago.

It’s all way better than the LiteStep configuration I wasted, oh, two days on.  *shudder*  Suffice to say, run away.

I hate it when … invalid models

I hate it when my internal model of a program doesn’t quite match its actual behavior.

So I’m tailing a file: “tail -f file”.  Tail recognizes when a file’s been truncated and starts rereading it.  BUT, even if you say “-n +0” it still starts rereading from the new end, not from the beginning.  So if you have

# Terminal 1
date > file
tail -f -n +0 file

# Terminal 2
date > file
date > file
date > file

You’ll never see anything new from tail, because the length of the file never actually changes.

More subtly, say you have

# Terminal 1
date > file
date >> file
tail -f -n +0 file

# Terminal 2
date > file

Here the tail will see that you truncated the file, but it won’t show you the new line, because the file length changed from 58 to 29, not from 58 to 0 to 29.

All that’s fine and maybe even “obvious” when laid out like that.  But you can get the same behavior like this:

# Program 1, pseudo-Perl
open LOGFILE, “>file”;
while (my $request = get_request()) {
    print LOGFILE “the requestn”;
    process( $request );
}

# Terminal 1
tail -f -n +0 file

When you restart Program 1, you won’t see the first request in the log file, because just as above, the file length went from (say) 100 to 50, not 100 to 0 to 50.

But if you cat the file, there it is.

Anyway, I hate it when that happens.

(The answer, by the way, is to unlink the file before you start writing to it again, and tell tail “–follow=name”.)

An interesting practical tutorial on states of alertness.

If you should find yourself faced with a life-threatening attack by a criminal, as a typical normal person, you will be faced by three enormous difficulties. They are:

1. Recognizing the presence of the predator in time;

2. Realizing, internalizing, and accepting that THAT MAN, RIGHT THERE, is about to kill you for reasons you do not understand; if you don’t stop him; and

3. Overcoming your reluctance to do lethal violence against a fellow human being.

Read the rest here.

Continue reading An interesting practical tutorial on states of alertness.

A few things I’ve learned about time synchronization in VirtualBox

These comments may be specific to running a Debian Linux guest on a Mac OS X host.
  • Time synchronization is briefly documented in the manual in chapter 9, Advanced Topics.
  • Time synchronization is performed by an in-guest daemon called VBoxService
  • You can tune VBoxService (on the guest) by running VBoxManage on the host.  As near as I can tell, you must restart VBoxService for any changes to take effect.  (In Debian, /etc/init.d/vboxadd-service restart.  To kill it, replace “restart” with “stop”.  To start it after you’ve killed it, replace “restart” with “start”.)
  • You can watch what VBoxService does by killing the daemon (see above) and running it from the command line in verbose mode, in the foreground (as root), “VBoxService -v -f“.
  • By default, VBoxService wakes up every 10 seconds and adjusts the time.  If the time is off by less than 20 minutes, it adjusts the time by (very roughly) 0.005 seconds.  (Put another way, if your clock is slow by a whole second, it may take half an hour to catch up.)  If the time is off by more than 20 minutes, VBoxService just sets the time.
  • If you want VBoxService to just set the time when it’s off by more than 1 second (1000 ms), instead of adjusting it gradually every 10 seconds, you can say
    • VBoxManage guestproperty set <vm-name> "/VirtualBox/GuestAdd/VBoxService/--timesync-set-threshold" 1000
  • The “--” in the documentation and in the command above is not a typo.
  • Remember to restart VBoxService for your changes to take effect.