Tap My Mind

A Blog by Scott Isaacs

Tag: Community (Page 1 of 8)

Evolving .NET

Jason Bock will be speaking at this week’s WI .NET Users Group meeting.  

Evolutionary programming and computation have been used in the past to produce amazing and unexpected designs, yet a lot people don’t know how powerful these concepts are. This session will describe these principles and show how you can use them as you develop .NET code by using LINQ expressions.

The meeting is on a special night this week: Thursday, August 11.  More info and registration is at the link above.

RTLB #5: Do Not Withhold Good to Spite Evil

This is the fifth in my “Rules to Live By” series.  Like every other professional, in every other field, over the years I’ve picked up a lot of things that make my life easier, or better, both professionally and personally.  Most of these things can be summarized in a sentence or two, and I’ve decided to call them “Rules to Live By”.  As much as any other reason, they are here to remind myself of things that I’ve decided to believe in, even if I don’t feel like it one day.

RTLB #5:

Do not withhold good to spite evil.

This is a tough one — for me at least. Have you ever had someone be rude to you? Or had a conversation with someone in a bad mood? Or found out that someone said something about you behind your back? Or conspired against you? No doubt you have had all of these things happen to you.

I don’t know about you but my instinct is to pop off and say something sarcastic in return or to be a smart aleck. Clearly this will rarely calm the situation.

I think everyone knows, though, deep down, that you should not return “evil” for “evil”. Sure, there are times that I must take a stand on something, and even be aggressive, but rarely should that be my instinct. This is a hard struggle for me personally, especially regarding people with whom I have a history. I struggle with it weekly, if not daily.

But I think I should be taking it even a step further.

Have you ever been just about to compliment someone when they said something rude? Have you ever started to slow down to let another driver merge only to have him cut you off and give you the finger? Have you ever approached an employee of a store and politely started with “Excuse me, ma’am” and received rude service in response? Did it make you want to give that compliment, be courteous to another driver or say “thank you” to the clerk? Probably not. But that is probably exactly what we should do in those situations.

It is one of my personal goals to make sure I do not withhold good to spite evil. It’s so easy to let one interaction change who I am. If I have made a commitment to myself to be a kind person — a commitment I feel everyone should make — what does it say about me that another person has enough control over me to cause me to fail at this? Am I not in control of my own actions?

No. I am in control of my own actions and that means that I am capable of giving good even if I have received only evil.

I’m working on this everyday and have found that the more I remember to be kind (which is different than acting kind, but that’s an entirely different conversation, but is possibly the single most important thing to note in everything I have said) the more I find myself wanting to be kind. To everybody. To family. To friends. To strangers. Even to the person who hurt me.

My challenge to you is the same as my personal challenge to myself. Give good in return for bad. Be kind first, and then act kindly. Remember that the person on the other side of the evil is a person and they may be struggling with the same thing, acting badly because they themselves have been offended.

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.

Twikini – Windows Mobile Twitter Client

Twikini - click for larger sizeI have an HTC Windows Mobile phone (touch screen + keyboard).  For the last several weeks, I’ve been using a trial version of Twikini to access my Twitter stream.

I really got to like it.  There are a few things I’d like improved.  For example, on refresh it seems to have to get the whole stream and reload it rather than just getting updates since the last request.  Also, it does a timeline refresh after I tweet instead of just adding mine to the list on the client side.  But aside from those couple of performance things, it’s pretty slick and simple.

I liked it enough to be really disappointed when it expired and I remembered it was a trial version of non-free software.  It’s cost is reasonable at about $5, but they also have an option where I can get a licensed copy of the program by blogging about it.

So that’s what I’m doing here.  I like it.  I recommend it.  If you have a Windows Mobile phone and use Twitter, you should give it a shot.

RTLB #4: Smart Is Sometimes Stored In Silos

This is the fourth in my “Rules to Live By” series.  Like every other professional, in every other field, over the years I’ve picked up a lot of things that make my life easier, or better, both professionally and personally.  Most of these things can be summarized in a sentence or two, and I’ve decided to call them “Rules to Live By”.  As much as any other reason, they are here to remind myself of things that I’ve decided to believe in, even if I don’t feel like it one day.

RTLB #4:

Smart is sometimes stored in silos.

I was sitting at the keyboard and realized that I wasn’t sure how to spell a certain word I wanted to use.  It’s a common enough word, and I’ve said it many times, but I don’t know that I’ve ever written it.  When I started to think about it, I thought of a number of other similar words – words I should know how to spell, but am not sure I can.

To be honest, it made me feel stupid.

I know I am not a stupid person.  I work in a technical field (writing software) and have a degree in Applied Mathematics.  I am a successful professional.  I run a small business outside of my day job.  I manage a large community organization.  None of these things makes me special, but they at least make me “not stupid”.

Photo credit: tinou baoThis led me to a series of obvious observations:

  1. I don’t know everything.
  2. I don’t know a little bit about everything.
  3. I don’t even know a little bit about many things (in the grand scheme of all things that are things and all knowledge that is to be known).
  4. I know a little about a few things.
  5. I know a lot about even fewer things.

My knowledge is stored is silos.  (I know.  It’s a breakthrough, right?)

But remember from above, none of these things makes me special.  Hence:

  1. You don’t know everything.
  2. You don’t know a little bit about everything.
  3. You don’t even know a little bit about many things (in the grand scheme of all things that are things and all knowledge that is to be known).
  4. You know a little about a few things.
  5. You know a lot about even fewer things.
  6. My things may or may not be the same as your things.

Give special attention to #6 here.  Again, this isn’t rocket science, but it leads me to this three-part corollary:

  1. I know things you don’t know.
  2. You know things I don’t know.
  3. Neither of us is stupid because of this.

At various times in my past, I’ve mentally dismissed someone as stupid because of a gap between our silos of knowledge.  It’s not fair to either of us.  I may act differently, even offensively, toward them and I may never learn from them what knowledge they do have in their silo.  How might things be different if I shared what was in my silo?

This is obvious, I know.  It’s not some big secret that I’ve revealed.  It’s just something to think about that I wasn’t thinking about.

By the way, the word was “therapeutic” – that crazy “eu” combination is a killer for me.

June? Seriously? (And Tech-Ed)

June is just a week away.  That’s insane.  It’s cliché to say it, but time goes so fast.  My son is already four months old, and my daughter is getting hilariouser by the moment.  (I know some of you may not consider hilariouser a word, but as I mentioned before, I make up words and add them to my dictionary to get rid of the red squiggles.)

So anyway, I went to Tech-Ed a couple weeks ago and it was great.  I had a lot of fun, met a lot of people, caught up with a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a while, and actually learned a few things in the process.  Maybe someday I’ll put all my new-found knowledge to practical use and make something, ummm, practical.

I went with a co-worker, Brennan, and he got the chance to interview a few people.  He’s posted his videos here.

I also took my new video camera, but pretty much the only footage I got was of Jeffrey Palermo doing a head stand on the dance floor to “Whoomp There It Is”.  I will leave you with that:

PS – Notice that I’m recycling post titles?  It must be getting bad.

Jeffrey Palermo at UWM

On Friday, April 17, Jeffrey Palermo will be giving a full-day seminar on ASP.NET MVC at UWM in Milwaukee.  The event isn’t free, but is affordable at $125 – cheap for a day-long training session, especially from someone of Jeffrey’s caliber.

If you’re interested, you can find out more at Jeffrey’s blog.  I’m hoping to be able to go myself, but haven’t got that worked out yet.

P.S. This is not a WI .NET Users Group event, so I don’t have any more details than what you can find on Jeffrey’s blog.

Silverlight 2

Surely by now you’ve heard that Silverlight 2 is being released tomorrow (Tuesday, October 14).  Coincidentally, the WI .NET Users Group is having a Silverlight 2 presentation the same night.

There has been a lot of interest in this meeting and registration numbers are already very high.  If you are interested in coming, there is still room, but please sign up quickly so we can have an accurate headcount.

RTLB #3: Pain Is The Best Teacher

This is the third in my “Rules to Live By” series.  Like every other professional, in every other field, over the years I’ve picked up a lot of things that make my life easier, or better, both professionally and personally.  Most of these things can be summarized in a sentence or two, and I’ve decided to call them “Rules to Live By”.  As much as any other reason, they are here to remind myself of things that I’ve decided to believe in, even if I don’t feel like it one day.

RTLB #3:

Pain is the best teacher.

I really don’t think anything else needs to be said.  I won’t let that stop me, though.  🙂

If, hypothetically, I was a betting man, and if, hypothetically, I had a dollar to bet, I’d bet a dollar that when you read this rule, you thought of some experience in your life where you were hurt in some way, physically, emotionally, or otherwise.  If I had another dollar, I’d bet that, since that experience, you’ve done everything you can to avoid a repeat experience.

If, hypothetically, I owe you $2, let me know.

So, what’s my point? Pain is unavoidable. Unfortunately, learning from pain is avoidable. Just because pain is the best teacher does not mean that I am an observant student.

Let me explain by analogy. Sure, it’s easy for my two year old daughter to remember to keep her hand off of the stove if it’s burned her before (it hasn’t, by the way), but that probably hasn’t taught her to stay away from the hot water valve in the bath tub. Why not? It’s, of course, because she is too immature to see the correlation.

Ouch. Immature. See where I’m going here? If not, I owe you another dollar. Hypothetically.

Pain is the best teacher, but we can be too immature to learn everything from it that we should. Note that I am not talking about immature in the “adult acting like an irresponsible teenager” way here; that’s an entirely different issue. It’s more about inexperience and lack of wisdom to some degree.

Nobody wants to admit that they are immature, and many of us may not even realize that we are. But we are. All of us are immature; no one is 100% mature, just possibly less immature than others.

“But, Scott,” you ask, “how do I become less immature?” Good question. The answer is simple: you need to become more wise. To paraphrase the best-selling book of all time, the first sign of wisdom is to seek wisdom. Wisdom is free for the asking.

With wisdom comes maturity, and with maturity comes the ability to learn even more and to gain even more wisdom. It’s a vicious cycle except that it’s not so vicious. Simply by seeking wisdom, you become more wise. As your wisdom increases, it becomes easier to see how “all of the pieces” fit together.

Suddenly, lessons taught by pain have so much more value than they did before. As my daughter grows, she will learn that the burns don’t come from the stove; the burns are caused by heat and the stove is just a thing that makes heat.

The best teacher is unavoidable. Let’s become more observant students.

I really don’t think anything else needs to be said — unless you have some comments.

RTLB #2: I’m No More Important Than You Are

This is the second in my “Rules to Live By” series.  Like every other professional, in every other field, over the years I’ve picked up a lot of things that make my life easier, or better, both professionally and personally.  Most of these things can be summarized in a sentence or two, and I’ve decided to call them “Rules to Live By”.  As much as any other reason, they are here to remind myself of things that I’ve decided to believe in, even if I don’t feel like it one day.

RTLB #2:

I’m no more important than you are.

Regardless of rank, position or title, my life is no more important than yours.  You are just as much a person as I am.  My concerns are no more important to me than your concerns are to you. 

Sometimes this is a really tough pill to swallow.  It’s easy to minimize someone else’s accomplishments, fears and struggles in comparison to my own, especially if those fears and struggles of yours are causing you to act in a way I don’t appreciate.  Recognizing that you might be facing issues of your own has really helped me remember that people aren’t intentionally mean-spirited.  I know that when I am stressed by something that it can cause me to act in a way I wouldn’t normally act, and other people are no different.

Let me take it a step further now.  My concerns should be no more important to me than your concerns are to me.  What does this mean?  Does it mean I need to solve your problems or be concerned with everything that concerns you?

The short answer: yes.

The slightly longer answer is, well, slightly longer.  Obviously no single human can take on the cares of the world, or even the cares of their small subset of the world.  But I need to be willing to do whatever I can do for each individual in my life.

I’ve gotten to the point where it is almost (almost) second nature for me to recognize that you are just as important as I am in the grand scope of the entire universe.  It’s gotten pretty easy for me to see how your concerns are as important to you as mine are to me, but I have to confess that I struggle every day to concern myself with your issues. 

How can I put that much energy into someone else?  Why should I bother?  Sure, I want to be a nice guy to my family (parents, sister, in-laws, etc.) and friends, but I have my own little family (wife and kids) to take care of, and more than my fair share of struggles.  Surely you don’t expect me to take on the cares of everyone I meet.  Why would I do that?

Call it a spiritual principle, karma, a law of the universe, or whatever you wish, but I’ve found that my life is better when I put this into practice.

When I hold the door for the man coming up behind me; when I stop what I’m doing to help a mother with her arms full of infant, toddler, shopping bags and whatever else mothers carry; when I help my 87-year-old grandfather up from his chair or down the steps; when I listen to some spill their guts on how someone else has hurt them; when I stop what I am doing to help a coworker through a difficult problem; or when I give a McDonald’s bag to the homeless guy on the corner of Market and 2nd Street there always seems to be a reward.  Maybe my problems get smaller, or some even go away altogether.  Maybe someone unexpectedly does something for me.  Or maybe I just feel like a made a little difference to someone for a while.

So, my own personal goal is to, whenever feasible, do what I can for other people.  I certainly don’t always want to, but I know I will later regret it if I don’t, because I am no more important than you are.

Finding Passion

Passion is elusive.  It’s sneaky and slippery.  It hides and taunts you.  For those lucky enough to have found it, you are truly fortunate.  For years now, I’ve been looking for something to be passionate about.  Something I could really devote myself to.  Something I would be willing to do even if I wasn’t being paid.

All this time, I’ve been looking in the wrong place.  I’ve been hunting passion at work; that’s not where it is.  I’ve tried devoting myself to the job, making sacrifices and working hard, but I always felt like something was missing.  It’s been such a struggle for me that I’ve seriously been thinking about finding a new career.  The problem is that I just don’t know what else to do.

As it turns out, the passion has been just off to the side, right in plain view, but not where I was looking.  I’ve always enjoyed working with the WI .NET Users Group and wished that I could do it for a living somehow.  Now while working on GiveCamp MKE, I think I’ve found the passion I’ve been looking for.  There’s something about organizing something with the sole purpose of benefiting someone else that satisfies me.

The really cool thing, though, is that once you find passion, you can take it with you where ever you go.  I can now feel passionate about work as well (working at a great company helps by the way).  Things are different all around once you’ve found passion.

If you are feeling unmotivated and complacent, keep looking.  Passion is there — just maybe not where you think it should be.  Maybe in a few months I’ll have to write about Maintaining Passion?  Let’s see how successful I can be at that.

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