Maximizing my “Motivated Productive Time” in the day

The busier my life gets (church, kids, budgeting, work, etc.), the less likely I am to set aside time for me to learn more about technology.  I have noticed this trend, and that after work, I am still happy to read technology/programming articles and blogs, but it is very unlikely that I will dig deep into a new programming language (e.g. Ruby on Rails), IT tool (e.g. AppDynamics), or this blog (which no one reads).

For a long time, I have known that I am most productive in the time before lunch.  As the afternoon drags on, I am still able to focus and get things done, but it requires more motivation than the morning.  In order to maximize the amount of time that I dedicate to the new things I want to learn, I know that I will have to make more time in the a.m.

I have found that the easiest way for me to have a smooth morning is to get everything ready in the evening that I will need in the morning.  My work clothes are pressed and hung in my closet.  My breakfast/lunch/snacks are made or at least ready to be made.  I have my kids get their school clothes out.  If I plan for a morning workout, the clothes are organized in the order that I put them on.

The goal is to make getting ready in the morning as easy as possible; waiting for 7:00 a.m. to find that I have no clean work socks is not conducive to a productive morning.

I recently came across Steve Pavlina’s blog posts on How to become an Early Riser p1, p2, and How to get up Right Away  When your Alarm goes off.  These articles have some good suggestions on how to become more of a morning person.  I consider myself to be more of a morning person than not, so I was able to gain some pointers on how to make my mornings more productive.

The piece of advice that I have immediately implemented is to not hit snooze on the alarm clock.  I have always given myself at least one hit of the snooze button, but no more.  I will be snooze free.

It is quite easy for an additional 10 minutes to become an additional 30 minutes, which means I have lost 3.5 hours worth of Motivated Productive Time during the week.  If I snooze for 30 minutes throughout the year, that is 182.5 hours that I am missing out on in a given year.  That is a lot of lost knowledge (and potentially cash) to miss out on.


Slow response times due to SSL Cert Revocation check

I recently ran into an issue where connections to a test website were taking an incredibly long time to connect, but would eventually display the page.  It was odd that it would wait close to 3 minutes, but not timeout.

After looking through all of the systems within our realm for a smoking gun, we had to draw up some diagrams as to what happens to the request from the point that the request leaves the user’s browsers, until the response is returned.

The requests goes from browser… F5… Firewall… wait, what?  Firewall?!?  Oh Eff!  We don’t have a firewall for this exercise!  At this point it became obvious that it had to do with something between the SSL Certs and the Firewall.

We got one of the Windows server guys on the horn, and he was able to pretty quickly narrow it down to being a SSL check of the Revocation Tables (RT) that is performed via the Firewall in order to see if an SSL Cert has been revoked.  The oddest part about this was that since the Firewall was not found, the default behavior was to let the request through.  I’m not on the SSL up-and-up, so maybe there is a good reason for this logic, but on the surface, it seems very suspect.


Our Windows guy was able to provide us with an IE browser setting that prevented the Revocation Table check from occurring, and once set, everyone had good response times from the site.

The way to disable RT checks in IE: Tools > Internet Options > Advanced > Security section > uncheck “Check for Publisher’s cert revocation” & “Check for server cert revocation”

Workouts from November to March

I’ve done a pretty good job of tracking all of my workouts on a simple piece of poster board in my bathroom, near the the scale. Some weeks were better than others, but overall, out of 140 days (i.e. squares), I missed 62 days, which means I worked out on about 65% of the days from November 9th to March 28th.

I’ve tried to track my workouts in apps, but they are too complicated. It’s not that I do not understand how to use them, it’s that they want to do too much. I just want a simple thumbs-up/thumbs-down of did I workout or not? I will typically add a few lines of meta-data on what I did that day, and possibly my weight, but those are not that important. I just want to know if I did or did not that day.

We bought a camper

kids_with_camper_first_picsWe recently bought a 2006 22′ Pioneer Raptor camper.  We had been saving for a while, and motivating our kids to help save money.  Their primary responsibility being to ensure that all lights are turned out “so we can buy a camper”.  The kids were so invested that one of our friends came out of the bathroom and forgot to turn out the light, so my 4 year-old son said “Katy, turn out the light so we can buy a camper”.

While this was a pretty big purchase, it is in camp-ready shape, and we hope it will help us save money on vacations over the next few years, as well as motivate us to get out of the house on a regular basis, especially lazy weekends.  There will be scheduling conflicts (tball, softball, etc.) on weekends that might make trips more difficult, but we still hope to take it out on a regular basis, even if it’s just for one night at a park close to home.

A couple of years ago we had a 1994 24′ Mallard bumper pull camper, which was a piece of junk that required a great deal of TLC before it was camp ready.  Most of that TLC was done by Mrs. Octo, and she spent an exorbitant amount of time cleaning, painting, and preparing that camper for its maiden voyage.  At the time, we did not realize that this camper’s primary deficiency would be so annoying: it did not have a bed.  It had a dinette bed, couch bed, and a bunk and a half: the previous owner cut one bunk in half for some reason, which worked out for us because we put up a baby gate and turned it into a crib.  After a few months, we decided to sell this one and buy another one with a bed, but after selling it, we decided to hold off on buying another one.

Growing up, Mrs. Octo’s family had a Class-C motor home (one with the bed above the cab), so convincing her to get one was not difficult.  The difficult part was trying to decide which kind: Class-C motor home vs. 5th wheel vs. bumper pull.

A Class-C motor home is awesome for lots of activities: going to weekend baseball tournaments, tailgating, etc.  You can take it out and as long as you have enough gas in the generator, everything is good to go in a parking lot or a camp site.  The downside is that it requires insurance, and it’s another vehicle to maintain, which could become expensive, especially given our desire to retire early.  So we had to pass on the Class-C.

A 5th wheel is what we want, but we are not in a position to have one just yet.  The truck I drive could probably handle a small 5th wheel, but it would be pushing the GVWR of the vehicle.  So unfortunately, we had to pass on a 5th wheel for now, but it’ll be the one we save for in the future (along with an appropriate truck).

That brought us to the bumper-pull that we have now.  It was a little cheaper than the others, and will fit our young family just fine.  However, if we continue to be a camping family, we will grow out of it in the next 5 years, if not sooner.

We hope that the camper will be a better ROI for taking the kids on more frequent adventures instead of only one or two big vacations a year.  After our initial investment plus a few things to get the camper ready, our adventures should incur relatively minimal costs: gas, food, site fees, etc.