Friday, April 29, 2016

An interesting article about procrastination

I read an article in The Washington Post about what may cause us to procrastinate and what may help us get over it - or at least do it less. It's entitled "The real reasons you procrastinate - and how to stop". I hope you can get to that article. More and more newspapers are limiting how you can get to their articles and how many articles you can read a month. This seems kind of silly to me. There is advertising on those pages and if they keep you from seeing them, you are not seeing and, possibly, responding to the advertisement. Anyway, here's a brief synopsis of the article.

The article first goes into why we procrastinate. While some people say it is just laziness or weakness but this article sides with the studies that say procrastination is more a way of avoiding fear or dread. It has to do with the way we perceive time and how we see ourselves. And when we procrastinate, we react by feeling worse about ourselves which just makes the problem worse. We come to expect that we will put things off but we don't know how to deal with it. We feel anxious about the thing we want (or are supposed) to do so, instead, we do something fun (or at least, less threatening) to make us feel better. We figure we'll pass the problem off to our future self - who we don't have as much empathy with as we'd think. We know we are going to have to face the same problem in the future (with less time to do it) but we (the procrastinators) don't seem to care.

So, one of the strategies for reducing our tendency to put things off is to get a better understanding of our future selves and to start feeling more empathetic to our future selves. The other strategy is to break up the tasks we are anxious about into smaller and smaller sub-tasks. These sub-tasks should be small things we can can accomplish in a short time. By doing those things, we start on the bigger job and we start to feel better about ourselves. We replace the dread with a feeling of happiness that we've done something. The quote that ends the article is a good one to remember:

No one 'builds a house'. They lay one brick again and again
and the end result is a house. - Tim Urban at Wait But Why

One of the people referenced in the article is Tim Urban who co-write a blog called Wait But Why (at and you can read three articles about procrastination there:

Why Procrastinators Procrastinate

How to Beat Procrastination

The Procrastination Matrix

One of the things I find that keeps me from procrastinating is when I see that other people depend on me doing what I'm supposed to do. If I put this off, other people will be hurt.

What if we procrastinators just put off procrastinating until later?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Two notes about Windows 10

My post about upgrading my home computer to Windows 10 (not!) was getting too long so I moved two small tips about using Windows 10 to this post. If you're just starting with Windows 10 when coming from Windows 7, here are two small tips I hope will help you.

To log out, without turning off the power or restarting, click on the Start menu (now just a window graphic - see the image in the upper right of this post) and look at the top of the window it creates. You'll see your name at the top - I've placed a grey rectangle with to show you where). Click on it and you'll see a list of actions (shown on the left here). They made the big decision to change "Log out" to "Sign out". Select "Sign out" and your computer will go to the Log in screen. If you have multiple users on the computer, you can log in as someone else but if that's what you want to do, you can also select "Switch account" for this menu. But then I'm not sure if your original account keeps running. Sorry. I'm still learning about Windows 10.

Click to see larger
The other tip is how to get the old Control Panel listing. Windows 10 has an item named Settings which collects your Control Panel items in number of completely unintuitive groups which I am still trying to figure out. To get a list of all of your Control Panel items, right-click on the Start Menu and you will see the list I've put on the right. Click on the Control Panel item (circled in red) and you'll see a full list of them without the ridiculous grouping they want to put on top of these Control Panel items.

That's it. Not Earth shaking but hopefully useful. As I find more things I'll write them up in this blog.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Windows 10 upgrade - well, maybe not

Our company has decided to make a concerted effort to get all, or most, of our Windows computers upgraded to Windows 10. One big reason is that this is a free upgrade - but for a limited time. This is a first for Microsoft and you don't want to miss those opportunities. Apple has released free upgrades for the last three versions of OS X so it's nice to see Microsoft following their lead. That last sentence may be a mistake because if people from either camp read it, they will be mad at me. It's funny how true believers in anything can work themselves up into unnecessary agitation. If they disagree with you, you are a biased idiot who doesn't know anything and need to be punished. If they agree with you, you didn't go far enough and you need to be punished. But it's too late now. I've written it and the backspace key is on vacation.

So, my supervisor chose me out of our group to get the first of the upgrades and to see what problems the rest of the group might have to face. It went flawlessly! And I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked and how easy it was to get used to from my use of Windows 7. There were a few little problems like some of the programs I like to use a lot were hard to find. And when I found some of them, their saved configurations were incorrect. But on the whole, I was up and running about an hour after the upgrade finished (which took about an hour and half). The other great thing was that none of my existing programs needed to be upgraded to work on Windows 10. Whatever worked on Windows 7 also worked on Windows 10. Now, you may not find this because there are many programs that do need an upgrade for Windows 10 but none of my programs did. So, I thought, I should upgrade my home computer, too. Fortunately, I had finished another release of our software product and was not under a lot of pressure to work at home. Because...

Things did NOT go smoothly at home. To be fair, the big problem was probably our poor Internet connection. No, our Internet connection is terrible. We still have DSL through Verizon over copper wires and barely get 1 MB connection speeds. And if it rains or the wind is blowing, you can count on the connection either disappearing or being so slow that it is practically unusable. So, since the download was going to take a long time, I started the upgrade process before I went to bed and assumed it would be ready when I got up in the morning. Who says old people aren't optimistic?

I thought I had hit all the Continue buttons before I went to bed but, again, because of the slow speed of our Internet connection, I found one or two more waiting for me when I got up the next morning. I hit them as they showed up and saw the satisfying Downloading graphic and could see disk activity. It was Saturday now so I went on with my other jobs for the day. I checked back periodically and say the slow progress (blame DSL again) and it finally finished downloading and started the actual upgrade. I knew that would take at least an hour so I went off and came back. When I did, I saw a Blue Screen of Death with a message about an IRQL_UNEXPECTED_VALUE error. Instead of saying what had gone wrong, it said I might want to look for that error on the Internet! Part of the error message was that it was going to gather information and then restart my computer. I waited another hour and there was no restart. Ctrl-Alt-Del had no effect so I had to hold the power button until the computer powered down and then I restarted it. It seemed to be booting into Windows 10 so I thought it might be a temporary problem and waited to see how it went.

Amazingly, it did start and showed my old Desktop picture with the Desktop icons in the right places. But as soon as I moved the mouse, I got the Blue Screen of Death again. Again it said it was gathering information and would restart my computer. Again it didn't restart my computer and I had to hold the power button until it powered down. I was completely stuck. I couldn't go forward and I couldn't go back. So, I decided to use my work computer (having to wait until Monday to get there) to create a DVD with the Windows 10 installer on it. I'd use that to repair the mess on my computer.

Monday came and I created the Windows 10 install DVD and brought it home that night. I set up my computer to boot from the DVD drive and the installer started. I got a few steps in and it detected that I'd already tried to install Windows 10. The only options were to do a clean install of Windows 10 (losing all of my saved files, pictures, passwords and applications) or quit. I quit! Now I was in a quandary. I didn't seem to have any options. I kept trying to restart the computer and it seemed to get further each time so I thought that maybe it would eventually set everything up after a few restarts so I could use it again. After 10 restarts, it didn't look good. The only good thing that happened was that if I went directly to the Shut Down button, I didn't have to use the power button to turn off the computer.

My computer sat useless for days as I used my work computer to search for help. Finally I found the answer. If you hold the Shift key down while you restart Windows 10, you will get a screen offering a few choices and among them is Troubleshoot (see the graphic here). Fortunately, after hours of restarts and waiting around, I was able to get to the Restart selection for Windows 10. After choosing Troubleshoot, the next screen appeared which has a number of options including Advanced Options. See that screen next on the left.

I saw a number of suggestions on various forums all over the Internet and some seemed authoritative and others seemed like they were written by idiots. That's the trouble with looking for information on the Internet - there is no shortage of advice but there is a great shortage of good advice. Some people advocated selecting Refresh your PC and others said to chose Reset your PC. But the people who seemed to know what they were talking about said to chose Advanced Options so I followed that advice.

Finally, from the next list of options I chose "Go back to the previous build". I wasn't sure but I hoped this meant "Give up on Windows 10 and go back to Windows 7". It did. But you know what? That option is only available for one month after you do the upgrade! So, if you get stuck like this, don't wait for more than a month or you won't be able to go back.

After another hour or so, I had my Windows 7 machine back. It's going to be a long time before I try to upgrade to Windows 10 - if I ever do.

I am going to make another post about two things that caused me problems when I upgraded to Windows 10 at work. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I guess I'm just invisible today

I've been riding my scooter in to work for about a month (with days off for rain) and it feels great. But one thing I notice, just as any bicyclist or motorcyclist will tell you, is that you have to act as if car and truck drivers don't see you. It's a good defensive plan but it's still frustrating when people really act like that. Today was one of those days.

There were the usual number of people on their cell phones that would probably not see you if you were driving a bus. But today, it was everyone. Mostly, it's people pulling out onto the road - right in front of you. But I saw them and since I was assuming they were going to pull out in front of me, I was prepared. But there is only so far this can go. You can't afford to be watching the other people all of the time. There are other things to look out for, too, and you can't slow down for every car and truck that looks like it might pull onto the road. So, you just do the best you can. A car or truck at an intersection will always draw my attention. But often, there are a few of them at different distances. Needing to stay on the alert all the time can be tiring but you have to remain vigilant. Getting too comfortable or letting your attention wander can be fatal.

That's why I'm pretty pleased with myself today. I got to work safely and so did the people who cut in front of me. I hope they continue to make their mistakes around people who are alert and ready to handle their poor driving. And I hope they didn't hear the things I yelled at them from inside my insulated helmet.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Another sign of getting old

Click on this picture to see it larger
My daughter bought me this mug (pictured on the right) a few years ago. It replaced another mug I lost or broke or something. I have a bad history with mugs. I've cracked them, I've dropped them and, while I don't have a blog post about it, I've lost a few.

As I've mentioned before, we adopted our daughter from China. So, it seemed logical that when she wanted to buy me a mug as a present, she bought one with my Chinese Zodiac Animal on it. Since I was born in 1951, she bought the Rabbit mug and I've used it just about every day since then.

I noticed the other day, though, that my birth year is the oldest one on the mug. Yet another sign of my being an old guy. I know they could only put so many years on the mug but why stop with 1951? There should be a lot of people who were born in 1939 around and I'm sure there are even some people born in 1927 around (my mother was born in 1925 and she is still going!). As you can see in the lower left of the mug, the design was copyrighted in 2006 so why show the future years of 2011 and 2023? Obviously, they didn't want to have to redesign the mug every 12 years and figured these would stay nice until at least 2023 so people could buy them for the babies born that year and in 2011. I hope you 5-year-olds are taking good care of yours.

So, I'll stop feeling sorry for myself and just continue to enjoy this gift. I'm always more careful with something that I have been given as a gift. I always feel that if I'm careless, I could make the gift-giver sad that I didn't think enough of their gift to take better care of it.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Our trip to the quilt convention

Click to enlarge to read the sub-title

I'm post dating this blog entry because this happened back on April 9 but I'm just entering it on April 19.

The Original Sewing and Quilt Expo. This is one of the things my wife looks forward to every year. And since she has taught our daughter to sew, our daughter looks forward to it also. My son - not so much. So he stayed home while I drove the girls to Worcester, MA (about a 2-hour trip from our home on Cape Cod) and planned to spend the day reading. That's just fine with me!

The happy sewers
As you can see in the sub-title of the sign in the picture at the start of this post, "What will you create today?" it's not just about learning something new but about actually doing it. That's the best way to learn, I think. You can sit in a classroom and think you understand what is going on. You can know the words the instructor is using and understand the drawings they make. But until you actually do it yourself and use the knowledge, you haven't really learned anything. That's the reason for labs in science and technology courses and the reason for homework in any school. Putting the pieces together to use what you've learned is the final, essential step.
Shopping for just the right "thing"

We had wonderful weather and not much traffic so we got there in plenty of time to register and find the rooms. Then I went out to have breakfast and start reading. It was wonderful. If I'd been home, there would have been chores to do or things to fix or, I hate to admit it, TV to watch. But here, I had the freedom and the time to read.

As you can see in the bottom picture on the right, there is also a large exposition area with fabric and patterns and tools and books for sale. My wife says it has gotten a lot smaller over the years. It still looked impressive to me, though. Maybe as people have stopped making their own clothes and sewing has fallen into decline, it does make sense that this show would be smaller. But I'm glad that things like this still exist and that they are close enough for us to get to.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Some things don't change

In my previous post, I mentioned that it snowed here earlier this week. So, while I usually walk at lunch time, I didn't want to go out that day because it was slippery (or as those who grew up near Pittsburgh would say, it was slippy) and it was cold. But it did give me the opportunity to do something I had been meaning to do for a long time. So I went out for a short time.

I remember in my days in the Boy Scouts, one of the tings we did was measure the length of our stride. That is, we measured the length of our step. That way, if you were given directions, say, to walk a certain direction for 100 feet and then turn right, you could do that by simply counting your steps (after you figured out how many of your steps it took to make up 100 feet). So, we all took turns taking 10 steps in soft ground. We then measured the length (from heel to heel) of the 10 steps and divided by 10. This gave us a good average because each step wouldn't be exactly the same. Some people suggest taking 20 steps and I suppose that gives you a better number. But for our purposes, 10 steps was enough. I remember that my stride length was 2.5 feet. I often used that number as I'd go for hikes or need to measure things outside when I didn't have a long tape measure.

But it's been almost 50 years since that measurement was made and I've been wondering for years if it has changed. So, the snow outside gave me the chance to measure my stride again. I took the 10 steps and measured the total and divided by 10. From the title of this post, I suppose you can guess the answer - 2.5 feet! It's amazing to me that it hasn't change. I certainly walk differently than I did back then. I tend to slouch now and I don't walk as fast. I thought maybe I am a bit taller now than I was when I was 15 or 16, too. And I'm certainly heavier. I weighed about 140 - 150 pounds back then and I weight 220 pounds now. So, with all those changes, you'd think my step length would have changed. But it didn't. It's nice to know that all those directions I've followed since then and all those things I measured with my stride since then were correct.

Monday, April 04, 2016

It's Spring?

Here it is, the fourth day of April and it's snowing again. This is the view out the window at work into our parking lot. It's not a bad storm and it's kind of pretty but - come on! It's time for the flowers to bloom and the birds to sing.

At least it's not a bad as the storm we had here on April first back in 1997 when we got about a foot of snow (if I remember correctly). I still remember talking with customers on the phone when I was one of the few people to get to work that day. They wondered why they were talking with an engineer instead of the technical support group or the shipping group. People in other parts of the country didn't realize how unexpected and large the snowstorm had been.

So, it could have been that bad so I should stop complaining, be glad it's warm inside and get back to work.