I’m embarking on a few week trip to Europe to attend the London Ajax Mobile Event, Nikolai and Vikki’s wedding in Amsterdam, deliver a couple of Dojo talks, and stay with friends between.

Here are some packing and travel tips that I’ve learned over the years:

  • Underpack, by starting to pack in advance. If you pack last minute, you’ll take way more than you need, and then be really uncomfortable on trains and other transit that’s not as super sized as it is in America.
  • Call your credit cards in advance. Let them know what countries you’ll be in, so you don’t get hassled with fraud alerts.
  • Don’t bring much cash, just use your ATM card as needed. Buying currency in advance just never seems worth the hassle to me.
  • Print postcard address labels in advance. And then actually send some postcards. No one gets fun mail any more, and having the addresses already printed out on labels improves the odds you’ll actually send them out.
  • On hot summer days, don’t pack anything that will melt while waiting outside. And pack any liquid tubes in separate plastic bags.
  • If you want to pack more stuff, consider vacuum-seal plastic bags for things like t-shirts. Just don’t go over your weight allowance for your luggage.
  • Use Seat Guru to decide where to sit, TripIt to store all your trip details, mobile boarding passes where allows, and FlyerTalk to get the scoop on your airline.
  • Fly business class. This point is simply here to mock Peter Higgins. Lounges and fast track lines are awesome. Long lines, not so much, but not the end of the world.
  • Have fun and stay happy, and you’ll get better service than if you’re a douche bag. Just talking to people, asking how they’re doing, where they’re going, etc., can lead to a much more enjoyable journey. After all, you’re not the only person to ever have a problem when traveling, or to have lost luggage, canceled flights, etc. Don’t be the obnoxious, loud-mouthed, stereotypical American traveler.
  • Get lost and then find your way back. It’s especially fun in Asia.
  • Do what the locals do, or what is invented somewhere. At restaurants, ask for recommendations, and try eating anything once (expect cats and dogs). For example, try something besides spaghetti and pizza in Italy.
  • Learn at least a few basic phrases in the local tongue. Hello, goodbye, please, toilet, thank you, you’re welcome, and taxi are all useful.

There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about the ideas in this post, just some recent thoughts reminding me of one of the lessons I learned earlier in life: consistent hard work in small steps is a way to accomplish seemingly impossible goals over time.

It’s one of the few universal lessons I learned from graduate school and from my hammer throw coach, and by far the most valuable. When you face an insurmountable problem, it is indeed insurmountable if you try to solve it all at once. The Getting Things Done movement provides some useful techniques for how to not get distracted and manage these steps, but it’s doing the steps themselves that matter.

For example, about 15 months ago, I was tired of my 10-year-long struggle to slim down after bulking up during my days of hammer throw. I decided that every single day, I would plan to workout, I would drink even more water, and I would eat in a slightly less conventional manner. Life would occasionally get in the way (as it always does), but rather than planning days off from working out, I would plan to always work out unless something major interfered, and even on those days, find a way to stay active, or even do very basic yoga movements and other stretches on long airplane flights. Basically anything to keep it going.

The result: 50+ pounds lost (~23kg for the rest of the world), 11 inches (28cm) off the waist, a body mass index roughly half what it was on February 1, 2010, and a closet of clothing that doesn’t fit.

This approach applies to almost everything you do in life, from learning to do yoga or meditating, to planning a large trip, or to business problems like solving a large technical challenge, revamping a service, planning a conference talk, etc. It’s the commitment of making a subtle change or putting in some amount of effort every day, and reducing the impossible into a set of very small doable steps that makes the biggest impact.

For more challenging problems, many people insist on solving the hardest problems first. In some cases this is true because if you have a truly unsolvable problem given your constraints, you’ll do a lot of busy work for naught. That said, few problems are truly unsolvable, and so if you mix easily solvable problems with your more difficult challenges, the positive momentum often helps you complete the difficult portions more easily due to your ongoing confidence and success.

For Facebook readers, this post was originally from http://dylanschiemann.com/2011/06/05/small-steps-create-big-changes/.

Bad Ass Squares 3 is Live

You may recall my post from a few months ago about taking part in the making of Bad Ass Squares 3. The movie is now live:

Random March Thoughts

Some quick random March updates and thoughts:

  • The knee is healing nicely… still a long way to go.
  • March in London is still cold, big surprise. I cannot wait to get back to the states at the end of the month, though I had some great visits with friends this month.
  • We had our 12th London Ajax event on March 8th. Check out video from Nikolai’s talk on EmbedJS.
  • Dojo 1.6 will be live soon is live, and EmbedJS and OpenCoweb recently joined the Dojo Foundation.
  • We saw the queen drive by today in London… she was wearing a crazy peach outfit.
  • SXSW looks insanely fun this year.

So, the prognosis is in, and my left knee is in bad shape. I’m having surgery on my left knee, roughly the same surgery I had on the right knee in ‘99. This time is a bit different… it hurts a lot less, but is worse than before, and I won’t destroy my patella tendon to replace the ACL.

Recovery time is a week or two for walking, a few months for running, and a year or two before I’ll feel completely comfortable with sports like skiing. Ah yes, skiing, the wonderful sport where I finished ruining said knee.

So I’ll be going under the knife on Friday, February 4th in Arizona, and recovering thereafter. See you in March.

Multitasking and Football

My parents like to make fun of how I cannot live without my iPhone 4, to the point where they bet me last night that I couldn’t ignore it for an hour. They were wrong, I made it two hours!

That said, we’re all becoming much more used to doing many things at once, and this has definitely carried over from work to our real lives. We’re watching the Bears play American Football on my Dad’s birthday, being from Chicago it’s obviously a mandatory event.

That said, I looked up and realized that my Mom is also reading a book, I have my laptop open and my phone churning away with SMS, Facebook, and more, and my Dad is playing Klondike solitaire at the table while watching the Bears generally suck the first half away.

I mean, if we were at a party maybe it would be different, but it’s funny that the game isn’t compelling enough for any of us to just sit here and watch it. I’m not sure if this is normal or just genetics! Football does have far too many commercials and delays in action, but still, it’s definitely different than what I would have expected years ago for a playoff football game of my favorite team.

For anyone reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, this post is auto-imported from my blog at http://dylanschiemann.com/2011/01/23/multitasking/.

All or Nothing? Why?

Lately, I’ve noticed Facebook apps getting more and more aggressive with the information they’re requesting, without providing much information at all about what their doing with said information. So I’m rarely approving new apps as a consequence.

This weekend’s news that an option will now exist to allow apps to request access to your address and phone number is a bit troubling. As someone who had their house robbed in 2010 (with the criminals later caught due to sheer stupidity on their part, and my luck), the last thing I want to do is give out this information conveniently, just to have access to an app.

Part of the problem I have is the “Allow or Don’t Allow” being the only two options. I would prefer a system that allows me to install an app, but only allow one or some of the permissions being requested. I know, trust is difficult and Facebook has tried to simplify it, but by giving the option for increasingly invasive information, and apps asking for it, the answer is going to be no, regardless of how great your app may or may not be.

For anyone reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, this post is auto-imported from my blog at http://dylanschiemann.com/2011/01/16/all-or-nothing-why/.

Alex Payne has a new blog post on the problem with creating and/or using User Hostile Platforms, which argues against using platforms like Adobe AIR, other cross-platform widget toolkits, and non-native cross-platform mobile app platforms.

What’s interesting is that I completely agree with Alex’s introduction, as well as his concluding paragraph:

Doing things the right way is hard, which is why most businesses take the lazy path and settle for mediocrity. People respond to quality, though: they reward it, in no small part because quality such a rarity in today’s marketplace. Do right by your customers and they’ll do right by you.

That said, the main thing being blamed in his post for said mediocrity is the platform being used, when in reality, high quality apps in general are hard to create and require solid development teams with excellent focus on user experience. The problem in my opinion is that platforms like AIR and PhoneGap lower the barrier to entry for web developers in creating native desktop and mobile apps because they allow developers to leverage their existing web technology expertise, but they do not lower the overall barrier to entry for creating amazing user experiences. Instead they just have different issues to solve.

Most developers stop before they reach amazing or extraordinary, regardless of the path they went down to get there. And that’s where being lazy and/or settling for mediocrity is evident. We simple see more bad apps created with lower barrier platforms because more people can use those tools to achieve mediocrity.

The CES demonstration of iHealth is really impressive (great interview by @hermioneway and the presenter). It’s a great example of a nice user experience, and a simple health care measurement tool paired together through our new ecosystem of mobile devices. And at only $99 and for sale soon at the Apple store, I think this will do phenomenally well:

It reminds me of a finished version of Uxebu’s experiments with HumanAPI. Nikolai Onken gave a fun set of talks in 2010 while wearing a home-made heart rate monitor that would communicate with the iPhone over bluetooth. Their approach currently requires jailbreaking an iPhone (to get the iPhone to allow Bluetooth sensor data to be sent to the phone), and uses open web tech (HTML/CSS/JS/Dojo/PhoneGap).

Video: Nikolai Onken on the future of the mobile web, today.

Slides from SWDC 2010:

I would love to see a set of APIs for mobile web app developers to create applications that can sync with other types of sensors and monitoring devices. I’m sure people are working on ways to sync nanobot readings to your iPhone or iPad now!

For anyone reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, this post is auto-imported from http://dylanschiemann.com/2011/01/08/mobile-technology-and-improving-healthcare/.

Avoding #lessambitiousfilms

I spent a lot more time reading than writing this week, because there were so many great things to read, while trying to avoid the #lessambitiousfilms meme.

Well, I didn’t completely resist with the Animatrix. I was thinking Godfather Part 3 might be another ironic version of the meme (where the name of the movie itself is a less-ambitious version of another movie).

Anyway, about that reading… Aim for a lifestyle, not a jackpot. Of course, my definition of lifestyle is working more on the things I love, but I digress.

Could connect be Microsoft’s iPod. It’s really strange to think of Microsoft as the underdog, hoping to get a halo effect from tech unrelated to Windows or Office.

Plex App, a better media center for Mac OS X and iOS than iTunes? More immediately interesting to me than the Mac App Store.

Quora got a lot of buzz. The reasons given really aren’t about why Quora is a great service, but about trends indicating it might be gaining popularity. I see it as being like WikiPedia, but without the formality and limitations on what’s worthy, while still being somewhat restrictive in preventing spam. That said, it’s not that interesting, because the site doesn’t support private sharing of answers, or limiting answers to friends. That said, I do think the site has arrived, given the awesome Cwora.com spoof.

Paul Buchelt talks about his first 3 years of angel investing, including strategy to: 1) Assume you’ll lose your money, 2) Plan on investing in a large number of companies, and 3) attend YC demo day (he’s now officially involved with YCombinator.

How to make ajax apps crawlable is a nice explanation of why you’re seeing so many URLs on Facebook and Twitter with #! in them.

Dave McClure’s top 10 tech investing trends for 2011: Disagree with #1 (group deals, still lots of opportunities like Kupoz), agree with #2 (location services), agree with #3 (crowdsourcing, which I think is actually how #1 succeeds with sales), disagree with #4 (URLs for in real life, I think this trend is further away), disagree with #5 (don’t see the investment opportunity here yet, though I somewhat see the need), agree with #6 (video, mobile devices and video recording are making it easy than ever), agree with #7 (apps, no kidding, though I think native web apps will make a strong come back on mobile devices), agree with #8 (though I think this was true the past five years as well), agree with #9 (though I see tremendous competition here), and disagree with #10 (Facebook, I think the major growth opportunities have passed until they make the platform truly great for app developers; instead, the best opportunity today is Facebook integration on other apps.) On the last point, I’m curious to see if the premise of Facebook hype will fade is valid. Basically the premise is that the jumping the shark moment is when the founders start to sell off their stake in a major way. I hadn’t really thought of this point before, and need to think a bit to see whether I buy this premise or not.

Monopoly as an interview question. It replaces a previous question I enjoyed of how to build a map directions system.

Google will become an AI company. Will it rename itself SkyNet? Seriously though, I think they’ll need acquisitions to make that happen, and really they need to start with a major overhaul or fix to their search algorithms as they are flooded with content spammers. Duck Duck Go might be interesting, though their value proposition is not following your every move, so I think they believe Google already is an AI company.

Without the Stress. I wish this site was around when applying for a UK visa. It looks to be super handy for getting a passport quickly as well. The founders are fun as well.

URL design, explaining how to properly design URLs on a level I haven’t seen previously.

American Civil War turns 150. Interesting discourse on whether the civil war was about slavery or succession from the union, and its impact on us today.

How to be liked instantly gives away my secrets. Seriously though, interesting article.

Mozilla rejects native client. I disagree with the author’s point, and agree with Mozilla, as Native Client breaks the open web and disincentives the world to make browsers faster.

Open Cola teaches you how to create your own cola drink. It’s fun to see open source permeating non-software industries.

Minimalism is not an intellectual strategy raises some awesome points, basically that clutter and inspiration lead to great ideas, and all true innovation and inspiration were the result of this, and not an empty desk with just a few devices on your desk.

Cambride University refuses to censor a thesis discussing flaws in chip and pin. Good to see a university defend a student’s thesis that mentions flawed security.

For anyone reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, this post is auto-imported from http://dylanschiemann.com/2011/01/07/avoding-lessambitiousfilms/.

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