No, I didn't write it. But surely all commuters who take mass transit have thought it on more than one occasion. :)
Friday, October 26, 2007
What's the biggest complaint about the heading off to work? It's time away from your family. You can't take them with you, but that doesn't mean you can't make them a part of your daily commute.
- Start the day earlier. Don't have any time to spend with them in the morning? Start earlier. I used to wake up at 7am and be flying out the door by 7:40, PopTart in hand for breakfast. Now my wife and I wake up at 5:45, the kids at about 6:30 or so, and we're all downstairs for breakfast together by 7:15. That gives me a good 25 minutes of family time before hitting the road.
- Make a ritual out of it. Get everybody involved. The kids will better accept Mom or Dad disappearing for the day if they get to "help". Where's Dad's briefcase, can somebody find it? What should Mom bring for her lunch? Ok, everybody line up at the door for goodbye kisses! In my house, when I grab my backpack it's time to go. The children all begin screaming "YOU DIDN'T KISS ME GOODBYE YET!" Each day I announce the order of the kisses based on some random variable, like "Today I shall kiss Brendan first because he has chocolate chip lips" or something equally silly. They then all shout "Bye!" as I head off to the garage shouting "Bye!" in return, until we can't hear each other any more.
This words both ways. When I come home from work, every day, my 3yr old says, "How was your day at work? What the man say?" This is from too many times telling her that I work for "The Man." I am only allowed to answer, "The Man said, 'Good job'" or she will tell me, "No Daddy, the man said good job."
- Leave a note. Once you're "gone off to work", the family's got this mental association of you being gone for the next 8 or 9 hours. How about slipping a little note onto the driver's seat of your spouse's car, or into your children's lunch? Just a little something to say "Thinking about you!" or "I miss you when I'm gone." (Works both ways - they can leave you a note on your driver's seat or lunch bag too!)
- Sending out an SMS. A little more technologically advanced than #3, but the same general principle. Take a second, break out the cell phone, and send your spouse a quick love note. Unlike the traditional paper note, you can think of this during the day and still send one. Or several. You can even have a conversation.
- Take a picture, it'll last longer. Again one more step up from the SMS, surely you'll see something cool on your way to work that the kids might get a kick out of. Better than an SMS for the young kids, because they can't read your message but they can see the picture of the duck you saw walking across the street. (Another good "both ways" one - why miss out on what the kids did all day? Home spouse takes a camera phone picture and sends to work spouse.)
- Bring your family to work day. Maybe they can come visit? Not only do they get to see where Mommy or Daddy works, they develop a better understanding of how far away it is and why it takes a long time to get home.
- Bring me something. How many stores will you pass between home and work? Do any of them offer products that you might not otherwise have access to? Even if it's something as simple a magazine or coloring book for the kids, or flowers, or renting an unexpected video, it's nice to walk in the door with a little surprise. Bottle of wine? Chocolate? There's got to be something.
- Bring dinner. Not the same as #7, where you're bringing home a little surprise. I mean call ahead and say, "Honey, don't cook. I'm bringing dinner home." Take a quick poll about where you should go, and what everybody wants. (Helps if your spouse agrees to place the order, and you just have to pick it up.)
- Call. Ask to speak to the kids. Cell phones and headsets mean you can stay in communication really as long as you want. Whether you're heading to work or home from work, call up the house and ask to speak to the kids. Ask them what's for dinner, or ask them to do you a favor. Something to make them feel part of the process.
- Honey, I'm home. Come home early, and unexpectedly. They'll love it. Naturally not all jobs allow such flexibility, but if you keep an eye out for the opportunities you might discover that it's not the end of the world if you sneak out half an hour early one day.
I can personally vouch for all of these. Good luck!
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Whether you're driving or walking (or, I suppose, riding the bike), you're probably taking the exact same route every day. Let me ask you, how well do you know your intersections? If you're approaching a traffic signal that's alreayd showing the Walk sign, do you know how much time you'll have to get across? Is this a good intersection to turn right on red, or are the people on the corner likely to step off and in front of you the second they get the chance?
Once you know your intersections, it will make your commute just a little bit more relaxing (since you know to expect at each one, and you don't have to say "Come on, turn green!" to the light). But it'll also be more frustrating, because inevitably there'll be a certain red light that people have a tendency to run through, or a spot where it's No Turn on Red and you know that people do it. But you know what? There's not too much you can do about it, so don't let it bother you too much. Every morning as I'm walking through one of those intersections where at least one car always sneaks through the red I tell myself that I'm going to try and walk faster to see if I can cause him to slam on his brakes. Then I think, "Nah, I'd rather not die. I might have the right of way but I ain't stupid."
Monday, October 22, 2007
Look, I'm not going to sit here and tell you yet again that if you can't make it to the gym than at least you can try to walk to work, even if that means just walking across the parking lot and up the stairs. You should know that by now. Sure that's good for you, but it's not going to change your world. I walk two 25 minute trips each day back and forth and it's not like the pounds are dropping off :).
Instead I want to talk about all the other benefits that you might not have considered, or been beaten over the head with. In order to get a real benefit, you're going to need some actual walking time, not just the extra 3 minutes across the lot. (For the moment I'm going to assume I'm talking to folks who do actually have such time. In a future post I'll have to list up some ideas for squeezing some meaningful walking time into your commute.)
Anyway, on with the list!
1) Sunshine and fresh air. If there's two things the human body needs that you sure aren't getting inside an office, it's sunshine and fresh air. Take a minute. Breathe deep. Feel the sun on your face. Think of it as charging yourself up for the day ahead. Why do people want that window office? So they can gaze outside and wish they were there? Get out there before work and soak it up before you're stuck under the flourescents and air conditioning for the next 9 hours.
2) Get yourself together. Are you so pressed for time that you tell yourself you'll plan your day on the way in to work? How's that working out for you, sitting in traffic and having to keep one eye on the road? Or maybe you're sitting on a bench on the train juggling your laptop on one knee with your papers spread out all over.
Now imagine you've got a few minutes to walk. No traffic to worry about (as long as you don't get so zoned out you walk into a busy intersection, of course). No place to put the laptop and papers, so don't even bother. Instead, put your feet on autopilot and think about your day ahead. What are you going to do first? Do you have calls to make? How about a coffee, got time for a coffee? Maybe you can take a left around this building and swing by Starbucks on the way in. You've got that meeting with Gary, but is he even in yet? Why not call him on the cell on the way in and see if he's ready for a meeting first thing?
Get the idea? Walking minimizes almost all of the other distractions that come with driving and other forms of commuting. It's a chance to actually concentrate on what you want, without interruptions. Take advantage.
3) Change of scenery. If you've ever felt "in a rut", you're literally saying that you tread the same ground over and over again, doing the exact same thing. And, it goes without saying, you hate it. It's making you depressed.
Well, change it! Open your eyes. Look around you while you're walking. Up ahead, is that a guy walking across town and playing an electric guitar at the same time? That's different. Hey look, the kid who sells bottles of water on the corner isn't there today, I wonder what his story is. Trees are turning a nice shade of orange this time of year.
If that stuff sounds boring, well hey, tell me what you see on your own commute. It's not about whether it's interesting, it's about whether it's different. Maybe seeing an ambulance go rushing by, lights and sirens blazing, is what it takes to get your heart pumping. Or maybe somebody comes up next to you at the intersection with a friendly dog you'd like to pat. Everybody's got their own thing. You just need to spend a little time looking around and changing your attitude. Come in to work every single morning with a different story to tell.
4) Serenity. Something you'll never get while driving, and if you try it on the train you'll pretty much just fall asleep. When you're walking, it's just you and your thoughts. Breathe. Relax. Think about the things that are bothering you, and let them go. Enjoy the moment that you're in. Feel the sun. You're not rushing. You know where you going, and you know you'll get there.
Put everything together. Feel the sun on your face, and enjoy it. Pay attention to your breathing. If there's anything bothering you about the day you're about to start, address it for a moment, and then let it go. Admire the trees. Smile at your fellow commuters. Realize that the time between home and work is not just wasted time, it's time that has as much value as you want to get out of it.
Before you know it you're at the office, refreshed and ready to start the day.
5) Accomplishment. What I mean by that is the mental boost you get from starting a physical activity and not stopping until it's done. When you drive to work, you're basically sitting around waiting for the cars in front of you to move. It's not like it takes any real "work" to let your foot off the brake and put it on the gas. It might cramp up your foot a bit, but chances are pretty unlikely you'll be saying "Aw, man, this is too much, I can't do it, I want to turn around and go home."
Walk. Commit yourself. Once you've started, you're not stopping until you get to the office. Doesn't matter if you're tired. If you're running late? Walk faster. Too cold? Too bad. Rain and snow I'll forgive, you don't want to look like a drowned rat when you come into work. This is not the treadmill where you turn on the tv and walk on a flat surface at an incline of your choosing for a duration of your choosing in a nice air conditioned gym. This is "I am committing myself to get from point A to point B regardless of what's in between and I'm not going to make any excuses about not doing it."
Who knows, maybe this one is just my personal thing. All I can tell you is that there are days when I want to say "Skip it, I'll take the subway." And every day that I don't, I'm happy that I didn't.
|So, there you go. Maybe it's too New Agey, maybe I'm nuts. I'm just a guy that chooses to walk 25 minutes across town each morning, and this has been a list of what I think I'm getting out of it. If it sounds good, give it a try. You might like it.|| |
Friday, October 19, 2007
Yesterday, on the way out of the office, I looked down at my ipod to see the dread message "Connect to Computer, Use ITunes to Restore." Written in half a dozen languages.
That's never good.
Worse, I have no time to properly resync it here, and I keep my ipod cable attached to my docking station. So I head back into the office and grab the cable, thinking I'll restore on the train.
What a boring walk across town that was. Silence! Blah. Hated it. Then I have to wait for my train, again in silence. How boring.
Train comes, I get a seat, and try a restore. Nothing works. It just keeps saying over and over, "Use ITunes to restore." iTunes recognizes it, attempts to restore it, I see the graphics suggesting that everything's being restored...and then it just starts over. ARRRRGH!
My one saving grace it that it's telling me "cannot contact update server" (I do not have wireless on the train), "Use existing version of firmware?" So I'm saying yes. Maybe, just maybe, when I get home and get connected the new version of the firmware will work for me.
So no ipod for me the entire ride home. At least I got to listen to the car radio, but man, with commercials and things I couldn't even tell you what I listened to.
My kids have a school event so I'm not home until late that evening. I go to plug in my ipod to the computer and now it's not even recognized. Really not cool. I'm already making plans to buy a new one, but I persist. I google for how to do the various reset functions, and try a few of them.
Suddenly I get a new screen! It's the default menu screen. This is a good thing. It's alive? iTunes is asking me to name my new ipod. I do, and then it begins syncing. Hurray! I'm back in business.
Interesting discovery - I have 1100 items on my ipod. I use up about 8gig.
This morning everything's working fine, and I'm a happy camper again!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
This system has been around for awhile, called "SmarTraveler", but I don't think I've ever used it. Seems like it's going more federally standardized, I guess many states have a 511 system.
I don't know about you all, but I don't have that many options in driving to work. I have to take the highway. It's not like I can say "Oh, traffic is bad today, I'll take something else." I can choose to alter the time I leave, absolutely. But if I'm gonna do that, then the traffic report on the regular TV news is fine for me. When am I supposed to call 511, exactly - when I"m *in* the traffic?
I can see at least one good use for it, though. You're trying to get someplace and suddenly you're stuck in unexpected (i.e. not rush hour) traffic. You don't know if it's a 5minute slowdown, or a 3 hour medical alert helicopter situation. That'd be a good time to call and see what's up.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I don't have to take the subway much, but when I do it is usually crowded enough that I'd better make friends with the person who has my elbow in her face. So never in a million years would I see something like this:
My question is, do you find this sort of thing entertaing? Or just annoying? If you can't see the video, it's two guys doing a sort of street performance act thing in the space of a moving subway train. Although it doesn't show the end, I would expect that they passed the hat when they were done.
Friday, October 12, 2007
I used to be the guy that dragged myself to work every day, sometimes even on weekends, because I was convinced that the project would fail without me. I'd work myself into the ground until people made me go home. (Once upon a time I worked until I threw up in the bathroom down the hall. That wasn't pleasant, but a coworker of mine got so sick that he ended up in a hotel between work and home because he couldn't even made it all the way back to his house before getting violently ill).
That was years ago. I don't know if it's being married with kids now, or just one too many examples of people telling me that I'm the *hole who gets everybody else sick by coming in when I shouldn't, but now I'm much more honest with myself about when to even bother.
The annoying thing about my business (software development), though, is that it's so very hard to distinguish between "I am truly sick and will not be getting out of bed", "I am sick but will try to check email", "I am working from home to avoid getting others sick..." and so on. At my old job you could tell how sick certain people were by how often they checked their email. Going a day without checking meant you were pretty darned sick.
(The side effect of coming in while sick, by the way, is that somewhere along the line you've probably become useless anyway. After the throwing up incident, I came back like 2 days later and my work was all frozen in place. Rather than try to untangle what I'd done, my team had left it alone. When I looked at it with fresh eyes I couldn't imagine what I'd possibly meant to accomplish.)
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Next time you race to get in front of that guy who cut you off, just so you can slam on your breaks and try to make him rear-end you so it'll be his fault, remember the above story. Two morons did exactly that, and when one of them swerved into a parked car he damn near killed a mother and her two children who got crushed in the middle.
I live by my podcasts. From NPR to The Onion, Podiobooks to the Wall Street Journal, I have a never ending stream of content served steadily to my ipod, all for free and through no more effort than clicking a "Subscribe" button.
How about you? What's your position on podcasts? I'll happily do much more on podcasting here on the blog (reviews and such things), but I'd like to figure out whether people are listening to them or not.
New poll up in the left nav.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
TreeHugger's got a discussion going about whether making the world a better place is as easier as moving closer to work. Less commute, less fuel emissions, and so on and so forth. Naturally this is not an option for everybody. And besides, the more influx of population you get into your cities, the more variables change. What might be affordable now, precisely because nobody is taking advantage of it, will cost double once everybody tries to buy it.
This isn't really a good poll question, as there are too many potential answers. If you're listening to an MP3 (or other "digital audio") player during your commute, what kind is it?
I've got a now "classic" 60gig video ipod (black). I've never filled it more than 10 gig of the way, and that's counting a couple of movies. The good thing about podcasting is that you can periodically just go in and delete all the stuff you've already listened to, and not take up the hard drive space on your PC. I use a Belkin FM transmitter, and I do not charge it in the car - I charge it at work. I have no special skin or protector on it, though I should get one. I have some Sennheiser noise blocking earbuds that I'm happy enough with.
My wife, though not a podcaster, has a 2gig Sansa e130 player. It would make a horrible podcast player, as there is no meaningful playlist management. You can only manage by album, artist, genre...standard ID3 tags. For FM transmitter she uses some little device that I picked up over on Woot.com for like ten bucks. Gets the job done.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
An intriguing idea - using infrafred cameras to scan the occupants of cars, looking for the signature that represents human skin. Perfect for checking for people cheating in the carpool lane with dummies and other non-human occupants in that passenger seat.
Naturally there are already complaints about the footage from the cameras used for ways it was not intended, like divorce proceedings.