Getting things Organized

It feels strange to realize it’s been a month since I started the sabbatical, especially since in some ways I feel like I haven’t actually accomplished much, but in reality, that month includes:

  • A week in LA working on estate things
  • A week in Yosemite at the Cocoaconf conference
  • The better part of a week with the yards full of contractors as I had some major renovation work done
  • When I talk about major renovation work, I’m not kidding. Here is my back yard before:


And here is my back yard now.


Having lived in this place for over 20 years, while I enjoy yardwork, with the knees and the photography and work schedules things have slowly gotten into the “this will take more work than I’m really able/willing to do on my own”. And to be honest, it looks even worse because knowing I was going to hand it over to the pros, I didn’t even try to keep the weeds under control, and with the rains we (finally) had, they had an enthusiastic winter. But bring in the pros we did, and I brought in Applewood Landscaping to revamp both front and back yards. That involved tearing out a massive amount of crap, basically taking both yards down to the dirt, and having new raised veggie beds built, replacing a failing fence along one side of the property, new plantings, one new tree (a chinese pistache, which is a great fall berry tree that attracts birds), a new path out to the beds, and we had them install sprinkler systems for all of the new greenery. It’s hard to see the planting because it’s all new and small, but in a year things will look rather nice — and it’s all bird friendly (flowering, fruiting, berry-ing, etc) and low-water-need, drought-tolerant planting. All of the sprinkler work is low-flow emitter based — and no grass. And the dormant, ancient hot tub is gone, to be replaced with a seating area soon.

Still lots to be done, since we don’t have any of the containers put back in place, and I expect to add more containers to handle the annual flowers and planting, but the house finally looks lived in and cared for again after years of increasingly looking ragged. And we did this designed to stay looking nice with low maintenance, so I don’t have to argue with myself whether I should spend the weekend birding or weeding.

It is phase one. In the plans is to find a good general contractor and put the house through a refurbishment as well. Much of the house only needs some touch up but we want to do some work on the kitchen and one bathroom, re-arrange a few deck chairs, that sort of thing. It’s that sort of thing that my 30 year old me says “hey, I can manage these projects” and my current me looks at the new front and back yards, smiles wanly and goes “yeah, we’ll get a general contractor”. I do have a couple of names to talk to about the project, but if you know of a good GC here in the core silicon valley area, please pass along a referral!

Of course, the original plan for this I made last summer was when we thought we’d have the estate finished up by October (November at the latest!) and I’d be starting the remodel about now, and here it is April, and still grinding away. but we’ll get there…

The Office


Before I can bring in a GC, I have some de-clutter to do. Having lived in the house for a couple of decades, we’ve collected stuff… And had a tendency to stick stuff in boxes and stick boxes here and there until we have time to deal with them, and I need to get that organized and stored or donated or thrown out before I start serious remodel work, because they’ll clear up spare for us to move “us” around inside the house to make it easier on the GC to actually work on the house. Last week was spring break and Laurie took a break from school (and me) and headed up to Cannon Beach for a few days of R&R, and I used the bachelor time to get a start on the organizing — and now have a couple of boxes ready for the garage, a couple more for the donation trailer, and at least a dent into the stuff that needs to be dented around here. And — not inconsequentially — I’ve rearranged and re-organized my office for the post-Cisco era where I don’t have a second work network, a second set of work computers and terminals, and generally clear out the accumulated crap here in my home office.

The desk (a sit/stand by Geekdesk which I love, solid as a rock) got moved so it now faces the patio window; in the morning the light streams into my face so I close off the blinds, but after about 11AM I can open them up again if I want so I have a nice view outside and of the yard and the bird feeders — or leave them closed if I want to focus or process photos (where I want the light better controlled). A nice thing about tearing everything apart and redoing it is I was able to move all the computer gear onto another surface, so I finally have something I’ve wanted for a while —  a real work surface. I can shove the monitor out of the way and move the keyboard and have an open desk, space that I’ve struggled to have for a while. Or shove the monitor back and have a partial surface in front of it. I get good natural light during the day, I’ve got decent task lighting at night, and everything is easily accessible. I may finally have come up with an office configuration I won’t want to re-arrange after a month when the problem spots start nagging at me again (yes, I’m that person).


It still feels weird not constantly be sitting in conference calls with the team — and I miss them, because I worked with a great bunch at Cisco. And it also still feels a bit weird because there’s been so much going on with the travel and some of these “bootstrap” projects that I actually don’t feel like I’ve put much focus into why I went on sabbatical in the first place, but in reality what I’ve been doing is getting a lot of the backlog of “stuff I don’t have time for right now” out of the way and doing the prep work needed to be set up to actually work on things. Being a month in and finally feeling like “I’m ready to dig in” is amusing, when I stop and realize at one point I thought maybe all I needed was to take a month off to get caught up on some stuff (that was plan A in the path leading towards this sabbatical)

But I’ve actually made good progress in the “Learn Swift” part of things, to the point where I really need to start writing code on my own project rather than doing tutorials. Swift I find I really like; Cocoa I still find rather intimidating, but the way to push past that is to dig in and work at it. I’ve gotten far enough along in the design plan for Dungeon Delve that I can start working on pieces and build the App design in parallel with the code, and really, I prefer a prototype and iterate development model anyway.

Right now I’m trying to make sure I put energy into four main projects at least one day each week:

  • The “Learn Swift” track leading to writing Dungeon Delve
  • Trying to get through the house de-clutter/organization (next up: clearing out and getting into storage the bookshelves in what will be my new home office eventually, which will be the center of the de-clutter project as I clear out the room that has become the extended storage closet). One thing I need to decide at some point is whether I’ll keep everything in the garage or push it off into a storage locker through the remodel; I’m leaning towards the latter, but it’ll all live here at the house once that project’s done — I refuse to own so much stuff I need to rent it its own apartment…
  • My writing here, where I’m trying to make sure I get something written a couple of times a week. Sometimes that ends up meaning I write a bunch of stuff and queue it up to go out during the week; monday mornings seems to be turning into blogging day, but we’ll see how that plays out.
  • And…. the inevitable web site re-do. Not sure when that’ll be done but it’s making progress. It’s mostly about merging the two sites together and cleaning up some rough edges, but these things inevitably mutate along the way…

occams fireaxe logoAnd of course the sekrit projek… Of which we can’t talk much yet. actually, one of two sekrit projeks. Of which I’ll only say there’s a visible hint to this in the photo of the home office…

I’m also keeping up office hours, which gets me out of the house at least once a week, but I’m trying to make sure I get out for extended birding/walks a couple of times a week now that the weather is improving and spring migration is on. All that’s showing me is how badly out of shape I’m in, but that’s why I’m on sabbatical, right? Not fun having it proved to me that this was a good idea, but that’s why I own ice bags.

I think things are going well so far; it’s a good day when I look up and ask myself “how did it get to be 3PM already?”and as I get into the rhythm of this new work setup I’m having more and more of those. Mornings seem to be the best time for me to dig in and focus, afternoons feel better for poking and grinding through smaller stuff, and I’m trying to make sure I take evenings off and not turn this into an endless grind or deathmarch.

And now, I think off to go geek some CSS…