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Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

I think my post over on my photography blog says it the best way I know how.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Save On Phones

I have been doing a lot of management with my family phone plan lately and just wanted to share some of the things I have learned to save some money on your bill. I also got some parts of this from a friend who had some shortcuts for these. If you have any other tips, please feel free to comment with your ideas. These are from my dealings with Verizon, but most should apply to other carriers as well.

  • Data. Corporate vs. Personal Data plans. Both offer unlimited data, but the personal one is about $15 per month cheaper. The corporate one is needed if you need to access corporate servers (i.e. Exchange for work email sync). Personal one works fine for things like Gmail and web browsing.
  • Data. If you choose to go with a lower level data plan (like pay-as-you-go), check online before the end of your billing cycle. If you are using enough, you can save by moving up a level before the end of the month to get the bulk discount. Drop back later if you no longer need as much data.
  • Text. If you have enough lines/minutes on your family plan, it may make sense to add the unlimited text. Call support (Dial *611 from your cell phone or (800) 922-0204) and ask for your options. They saved me $5 a month and that increased all 4 of our lines to unlimited texting.
  • Text. If you are not on an unlimited text plan, check online before the end of your billing cycle. If you are using enough, you can save by moving up a level before the end of the month to get the bulk discount. Drop back later if you no longer need to text as much. Not doing this one month cost me an extra $60. You can do that from your phone for free by using: #DATA + Send and you should get 3 text messages from Verizon (FREE)... with the data on mins, text, data, M2M and other stuff.
  • Voice Minutes. Check online throughout the month so you can catch overuse before it costs you too much, but for sure before the end of your billing cycle. If you are using too many minutes, you can save by moving up a level before the end of the month to get the bulk discount. Drop back later if you no longer need to talk as much. You can do that from your phone for free by using: #MIN + Send
  • Friends and Family plans. Some plans have this feature. You choose up to 5 (or 10 depending on the level you have) non-verizon phone numbers that you call frequently and calls to these numbers do not count against your plan minutes. Your home landline should probably be the first one you add.
  • Online. Login to the Verizon wireless website or whoever your cell phone carrier is. You can check all of your current usage and get a list of all calls/text/data used for past billing cycles. You can save this to a spreadsheet. Very handy if you lose or damage your phone and are trying to recreate your contact list (but of course you know that you really should back up your phone).
So there you have my tips for saving a few dollars on your cell phone. I hope they help you, and if so, please say thanks by leaving a comment here. You can also pass along a link to this posting on Twitter, FaceBook or any other social media site that you use.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Streaking

No, get your mind out of the gutter. Let me explain. About a month ago, I saw a message on Twitter that said "On 2nd day of my "'running streak'". I realized that since I had run the day before, I could match that streak. I had been struggling with running regularly and thought that I might give it a shot.

According to the United States Running Streak Association, Inc, a running streak is defined as running at least one continuous mile within each calendar day under one's own body power. It says nothing about pace, so I decided to give it a try.

Every runner worth their salt knows that recovery is important. Typically, recovery takes the form of days off from running which would not happen with running every day. Why would someone do this to themselves? Is it safe?

I learned during my triathlon training that recovery can also happen during cross-training (biking or swimming for example) or even on easy running days. During my ramp-up for my Ironman race last year, I went through some streaks where I had almost no time off. I had weeks of 5-6 runs per week and the shortest of those was usually 3-4 miles.

As I planned this, I decided a few things:

  1. Runs with walk breaks count as long as the total distance exceeds 1 mile. You can save your puritan "only running counts " comments for another post that is coming, the "Can you still call it running?"
  2. I would keep at least 4 runs a week as very easy. For me, that means between 11 and 12 mpm. When I run/walk with my youngest son, our avg is usually between 14 and 15 mpm.
  3. I would try to start stretching one run a week as my "long" run.
April 6th was the first day of my first running streak. Even with the onslaught of summer here in the desert, I managed 33 days as of this past Friday when I managed a 1.5 mile run in 103* F. The first mile was even a sub-10 which is pretty fast for me these days.

Saturday morning, I woke up and decided the streak was over. I was tired in a way I had not been for quite awhile and decided that 33 days was a good start for my first running streak. In review of my running, I realized that I ran almost as much during this running streak of just about a month as I had in the previous 3 months. I would call that a success and I plan to resume a running streak again after a few days of rest.

So the short version is that this running streak has reinvigorated my running in a way I had not experienced in over a year. So what tricks to you use to maintain your fitness motivation? Leave me a comment here or give me a shout over on Twitter.

The cost of debt

Any financial adviser will tell you that debt has costs. The cost of interest is the biggest and most obvious one.

Technical projects have debt as well. "Quick and Dirty gets it done", "Deadline Rules" and "We'll fix that in the next release" are but three of the refrains common to almost any technical project. At times, they have their place. It would be foolish to postpone a major "go-live" to change the structure of an index and the lost revenue could collapse the viability of the program.

However, too many times, "putting off til tomorrow", becomes "let the new guy/gal/team worry about it" because of staffing turnover or because the development team and the maintenance teams are in different departments. This maintenance is the technical equivalent of interest in the financial realm.

This blog post is a great read and should be mandatory for all IT managers involved in development or maintenance projects. Jeff explains why shortcuts today can cripple a business in the future. He is not so idealistic to expect that shortcuts will not be sometimes necessary to meet a business requirement, but suggests that some resources need to be budgeted to periodically fix these. I have personally butted heads with several managers over this very issue and have been frustrated in some jobs because there was no willingness to do ANY development that was not directly related to new features or bug fixes.

Consider a company in year 3 of a 7 year plan to move all of their applications off of a specific platform. What percentage of their applications had been moved? Should be close to 50% if it was evenly spread over 7 years right? Sadly, it was 0% and the only activity towards the goal was that most (but not all) of the new projects were being developed on the new platform.

The cost of their technical debt in this case became evident when they had a staff reduction to reduce costs. If the old (expensive) platform decommissioning had been on schedule, the net savings would have likely been more than the salary costs saved by staff reductions. Sadly, now with less people (and some very experienced key team members gone) this project has even less of a chance of success. It is a vicious cycle, like someone with too much debt who is no longer able to make even the interest payments on their debt who will have a large battle to get out of debt or face bankruptcy.

Don't let your company face technical bankruptcy!



Sunday, May 3, 2009

Happy Blogging B-Day to me!

One year ago today....

There is an older post, but that was just a pre-dated entry to record my Ironman Race Report.

In the past year, I have ranted, raved, shared and bragged about everything from running to technology to family and friends. I have not seen millions of hits, but have seen over 2000 visits with over 3000 page views. I had some technical issues getting the statistics working which means that there were many other visits in the 2 months before I got all the bugs worked out and tracking reliably in early July. This many visits produces some interesting statistics. Well, interesting to me anyway:

  • visits came from over 30 different countries
  • visits came from 50 different states in the US. (Iowa & North Dakota missing)
  • top 27 states have 10 or more visits
  • only 5 states had a single visit
I have been neglecting this blog a bit for several reasons. I will tell you what they are and let you decide if I need either a kick in the pants or a pat on the back.

One reason I started this blog was to document my journey from couch potato to Ironman. After a successful race at IMAZ last April, for many reasons, I backed off of my fitness activities. A part of that was due to the mental burnout from 3 years of almost non-stop training. I have recently been more successful in getting some regular training in (running anyway) so I may be spending a bit more time updating this blog.

Another reason for my sparcity here is that I have started a photography business that I have called Flowing Desert Photography. That has taken some of the time I would have spent training or updating this blog. Along with the business side of things, I have also been hard at work with a photo blog for the business. Some of my posting here was the beginnings of that so most photography stuff is now over there, so feel free to drop by over there as well.

Well, hope you have enjoyed reading my ramblings here this year and I hope you stick around for many more.

Friday, May 1, 2009

It's coming....

Can you guess what it is?



Did a little birdie tell you yet?

I'm not telling....

2 days to go....

Any guesses? If so, leave a comment or shout it out on Twitter...