As part of the peer mentoring course I went to, one of the techniques we learned was to tell folks the best (and worst) ways to communicate with us so that when people have questions they know how to ask them in order to best get a valuable response in a timely fashion. As an exercise, here are my interaction preferences:

  • Email
    • If I am on the “To:” line, I will respond.
    • If I am on the “CC:” line, I will consider it an “FYI” and will not respond.
    • Put a real subject in the subject line. Do not put the whole message in the subject.
    • If you need a response or if I have to do something, put “ACTION REQUIRED:” at the front of the subject.
    • Do not use the “follow up” flag.
    • If it isn’t high priority, do not use the “high priority” indicator. Do not abuse that.
    • Make the first sentence a statement of the problem and the second sentence a statement of what you want. If you can’t do both of those in a sentence, I can’t help you. Provide requsite context after that.
  • Don’t call me. Tech questions generally can’t be solved over the phone.
  • Don’t leave me voice mail. I don’t get to it.
  • Instant Messenger is good, but pay attention to the status. If I’m busy or in a meeting, don’t IM me.
  • If my door is closed and/or my headphones are on, I’m in the middle of something. Don’t interrupt.
  • The best times to catch me are before 10:00a and between 4:30p and 5:00p - first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Other times are not so great.

I think I’ll also do another of these exercises - “how to ask me a good question” - so folks know how best to ask things to get the answers they need.

Does this seem like a lot of process around something? Maybe, but you have to figure: the person asking the question (the apprentice) is only half of the equation; the other have is the person answering (the mentor). Every time the apprentice asks something, it may be valuable, but a mentor can’t teach if they don’t want to, and part of being a good apprentice/question-asker is to go ask a question the right way so the mentor doesn’t get burned out on answering and not want to answer anymore. I think that’s been part of my problem in the past - I’m so burned out with the interruptions that I just don’t want to answer anymore.

Something I forgot to mention about my trip: While I was in the bathroom at the hotel yesterday morning getting ready, I pulled the cap off my deodorant and the entire deodorant stick, including the little turny-thing that pushes the stick out of the plastic case, flew out of the case and onto the bathroom floor.

That rocked. It took me a minute to decide whether I should go without or pick it up and attempt to use it.

I ended up using it.

But I sent Jenn an SMS message to pick me up some more deodorant at the store so I wouldn’t be screwed today.

She went to the store and they didn’t have my kind (again) so she picked up this Speed Stick Gel that she liked the smell of. I discovered a while ago that I am allergic to Speed Stick Gel, but this was a different scent, so I gave it a shot.

My armpits are on fucking fire.

I’m going to have to go wash them out and pick something new up at the store tonight. Burning armpits is funny, but it kind of sucks, too.

Yesterday was the worst. I had planned on getting a whole bunch of stuff done, but what ended up happening was me waking up with this stomach bug. I never get sick, like, ever, and this was horrible. Sweats, aches… gastrointestinal issues… It sucked. A lot.

Jenn had this same thing on Tuesday and I underestimated how crappy it makes you feel because, well, like I said - I don’t really get sick. Holy cow, was I wrong. I think I took well over the recommended daily maximum of darn close to every drug in the house. Slept most of the day. My parents came over for a little bit, but that’s the most that really happened.

Thankfully, it seems like it may have run its course. I’m still kind of achey and tired and I didn’t get much sleep last night… decided to just get up at 4:00a today because sleep wasn’t happening… but I’m not having all of the issues I was having yesterday. That’s not to say I’m going to be running around and such, but hopefully it won’t chew into work tomorrow.

Follow up from Friday - I ended up getting Ticket to Ride Europe at the game store, and it’s pretty fun. Jenn and I played a couple of rounds Friday and had a good time with it. I think my biggest problem right now with board games is that the premises are kind of lame. I mean, building a train route across the country just doesn’t sound like fun when you read it on the back of the box, regardless of whether the play is actually good. I don’t regret picking the game up, and I may well get me a copy of Puerto Rico now that I know the premise isn’t everything… but I’d be stoked to see more fun games that sound cool, too.

I’ve been up since like 4:00a because I had another stupid headache - this time sinus related - and I took some Excedrin Migraine (probably the only pain reliever that works, though I should look into Excedrin Tension Headache) and it has enough caffeine in it to wake me up. Gets rid of the headache, though - that and some Allegra.

Jenn and I like playing games, and I noticed that we have far too many of the same kind of game. I think we have, seriously, like five different versions of Trivial Pursuit, none of which I’m remotely good at, and we have a bunch of other stuff we thought would be cool, bought, and had it turn out to be kind of lame. So I’m taking a page from my friend (and indirect boss) Chris and I’m going to go more, well, avant garde with my gaming. I took a look at his collection, compared that with some of the ratings I see on BoardGameGeek, and I’m going to make a trip to Rainy Day Games this weekend to pick something good up. Not sure precisely what yet, but I’m leaning toward Puerto Rico or Ticket to Ride Europe.

We’re going to get Comcast phone on April 8, too. My parents have it, as does Stu, and everyone seems to dig it. They’ll put in some needed cable outlets while they’re there so we’ll finally have TV in all the rooms in the house. Looking forward to that.

No plans really for the weekend. Hopefully nothing that costs money (other than the trip to the game store) will come up. I ended up buying a new printer - HP DeskJet 5940 - this week (time for an upgrade) and I think that was my mad money for the time being. (Got it for a steal, though - $60, marked down from $90. Can’t beat that! Stu took advantage of that, too.)

powershell comments edit

I haven’t had a lot of time to look into some of the latest MS tech what with the project I’ve been mired in for a while, and yesterday Hanselman turned me on to Monad, the new Microsoft command shell. (Yeah, I’m a little late for this boat, but it’s still in beta, so I’m not that late.) He was showing me some of the ways he’s thinking about automating tasks around work and I gotta say… even the simplest demo is awesome and makes you think in a different way entirely about the usefulness of the command line. Everything is an object? No more parsing text output? It doesn’t get much better than that.

I decided to try it out this morning when I was talking to Stu and he wanted to figure out the most recently modified file in a directory tree. Monad to the rescue, right? One command line:

get-childitem -Recurse -Exclude CVS | sort-object -Property LastWriteTime -Descending | select-object -First 5 | get-property -Property LastWriteTime,FullName | format-table -Property LastWriteTime,FullName -Autosize

That will:

  • Recurse through the filesystem from the current location down
  • Sort all the files found by last write time
  • Get the first five in that list (the most recent five modified files)
  • Get the last write time and full name properties, and
  • Format the property list into a nice table

It ends up looking like this (click to enlarge):

[Monad in action - sorting most recent modified files (click to

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s hot. One line, loads of functionality. I mean, who needs batch scripting now? I can’t wait to get some time to really delve into this thing.