So Much To Do, So Little Time

I have been remiss in my responsibilities to Drakyn for the past six weeks. I confess that I have barely set foot in the shop nor have I done any serious writing in that time.

I would feel guilty, but I do have an excuse.

It would seem that retirement from the IT industry is still down the road somewhere for me. I’m pleased to announce Razyr Networks. Drop by to see what the fuss is all about.

I do intend to keep Drakyn active, however the pace is going to slow down behind the scenes as the new company is keeping me quite busy. I hope that in the weeks ahead, the pace over at Razyr will slow down somewhat and I’ll strike a natural balance between there and here.

As they say, life is what happens while you are busy making plans.


Drakyn Upgrade – New Processes and Tools For Writing and Woodworking

Coyote Catapult Blueprint

Blueprint For Success

This year I set aside the month of April to upgrade and implement changes to my work environment, processes and tools – both as a writer and a woodworker. Metaphorically, it was a time to sharpen the saw. In reality, there were days when the entire upgrade process seemed like a gigantic make-work project. The apparent light at the end of the tunnel was both dim and distant.

Writing Upgrades

My first order of business in upgrading my writing environment was to reduce the clutter in my head and in both my virtual and physical work spaces. This meant taking another step closer to adopting a more formal approach to David Allen’s GTD system. I did a brain dump and wiped my work spaces clean by sorting everything into actionable items, items for research and reference and liberally tossing anything that I knew was best filed in a compost heap. It is amazing how your mind becomes receptive to creative instincts and influences when you dump the brain trash. When you take down the barriers which you subconsciously create to protect your sanity from task and information overload, creativity flourishes.

Next on my list for writing upgrades was the addition of a second Kinesis Advantage Keyboard to my office. This in turn prompted me to cast off my evil QWERTY habits and adopt the Colemak keyboard layout. “Upgrade April” seemed to be an appropriate time to disappear from the world while learning to type using the new system. I’m still fighting a bit of QWERTY muscle memory, but I do feel that the effort and minor setback was well worth the added comfort and probable speed increase. I will reserve a final decision on that for a few more weeks when my speed is back up over 90 wpm.

April also brought not one upgrade, but two Tinderbox upgrades from Eastgate. I have yet to check out the changes, but now that May is here and I’m back to writing, I look forward to seeing what improvements Mark Bernstein has brought to this truly innovative piece of software.

They say that a change is as good as a rest. Having made substantial changes to my work environment and essentially taking the entire month off from writing, I feel supercharged!

Workshop Upgrades

With the recent increase in activity in the Drakyn workshop I became concerned and more aware of the health and possible safety risks of sawdust in the shop. In the past six weeks I have learned far too much about respiratory illnesses, dust collection systems, air volumes, static pressure calculations, duct design, working with sheet metal and the correct application of band-aids.

Like any good renovation or upgrade, the task grew in complexity as it progressed. Originally I was simply going to swap out the shop vac and existing plastic ducting for a system with higher capacity.

Since the shop was out of production and all of the equipment moved away from the walls, I used the opportunity to upgrade the shop’s electrical service with new breakers, wiring and 20 amp outlets.

I wanted to add a downdraft table and a new saw to the mix, which meant drafting a new shop layout and work flow in SketchUp.

Once the new floor plan was finalized, the tools were moved and mock runs were done with stock to ensure that real world clearances matched the 3D model.

With tool locations confirmed, the new five inch metal ducting and blast gates for the dust collector were installed. (My self-administered first-aid skills improved significantly during this phase.)

The new saw was installed and the new downdraft table built.

The shop’s wood storage system was dismantled, restructured and moved.

Pegboards were moved, modified and reorganized.

Some tools were modified to upgrade collection ports to four inch flex tubing. In the case of some of the older equipment, dust collection housings were designed and built.

All components were tested, refinements made as required and retested.

Back to Work

The upgrade process was a huge undertaking but clearly a decided success and well worth all the effort, time and expense in both the office and the workshop. The atmosphere in the office is warm, uncluttered and conducive to concentration and writing. The shop area is uncluttered, clean, healthy and a true joy to work in.

The secret of any creative venture lies largely in one’s attitude or mind set. If you feel good about your work and your workplace, your mind can focus on creativity with enthusiastic energy.

I’m stoked.

Of Renaissance Men and Women: A Personal Challenge

Drakyn represents a personal renaissance of antiquity, art and literature.  “This is my Renaissance.  You will have to create your own.”,  he said with a twinkle in his eye.

I believe it is apt that I make my first post to the new blog and web site under the category of “Random Thoughts”.  Having worked in the IT industry for decades, I know that any good system begins with a healthy source of entropy.   There, I’ve done it.   This will be my one and only reference to information technology.  It’s out of the way and will be soon buried under a pile of new postings.

"Vitruvian Man" - Leonardo DaVinci

In today’s so-called modern age we seem to share this common consensus that we need “experts” to solve what is wrong in the world.  This is certainly convenient in that it largely excuses us as individuals from responsibility for the world around us.  When taken to extremes, we use this same logic to dissociate ourselves from even our own healthcare. Are we slaves to technology and to the experts?

Along with this expert syndrome is the assumption that we are all very one dimensional, especially in our vocation.  Jill is an excellent physician in a large hospital, therefore she must not be knowledgeable about running a small business.  Jack is a general contractor who builds homes, therefore Jack is not likely a good cook.  Kim is a work-at-home Mom, therefore Kim probably can’t fix the starter on her van.

Ah, the good old days of the Renaissance…

These stereotypes. together with our propensity to try to simplify the world around us by putting everything in clearly labelled buckets, give us a very narrow and inaccurate view of the world around us.  Given that we do need deep experts in every field of endeavour, is it reasonable to presume that modern men and women can’t have extensive cross-over skills and significant skills in more than one field?

Alice through the looking glass

Through the looking glass

Whatever happened to the Renaissance man or polymath as they are perhaps more correctly referred to?   We can certainly identify these individuals from history.  Leonardo Da Vinci was the archetypical example as artist, woodworker, sculptor, architect and inventor.    Louis Carroll was an artist, photographer, mathematician, clergyman, inventor and author. Polymaths seemed to be accepted in bygone eras, but what if Carroll or his early publishers had dismissed  “The Jaberwocky” based on the success of his mathematical works?  Did writing “A Syllabus of Plane Algebraic Geometry” preclude “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland” or vice versa?

We can trace polymaths back to the Song Dynasty, but are there any modern examples?  Has life become too complex for another Renaissance?  Let me attempt to resolve that question with a brief list:   Stephen Hawking(mathematician, physicist, author, educator), Roger Penrose (mathematician, philospher, physicist, author), Nathan Myhrvold (computer scientist, photographer, chef, physicist, entrepreneur former Microsoft CTO), Roberta Bondar (astronaut, neurologist, educator, photographer, author), Doug Hofstadter (Musician, computer programmer, mathematician,chemist, biologist,physicist, author), Brian May (astrophysicist, university chancellor and lead guitarist for Queen).

I am certainly not going to compare myself to this list of distinguished modern Renaissance men and women.   However, if you recognize the extreme breadth of their expertise, perhaps you can begin to tear down some stereotypes that are preventing you from growing in new directions.  My personal Renaissance modestly consists of expanding my knowledge and skills as a woodworker, artist and writer.   Whether your aspirations are to become a guitar playing neuroscientist like Buckaroo Bonzai or perhaps you believe that we’ve already seen The Last Days of the Polymath, it is difficult to argue that as individuals we have all reached our maximum potential.  You have no doubt heard it said that we utilize less than 10% of our brain capacity throughout our lifetime.

The Renaissance Challenge

I put to you a personal challenge this day.  Make a dent in that other 90% of your noggin’.   If you are a microbiologist, learn how to sew your own clothes.   If you are a plumber, grab your partner and learn ballroom dancing.  If you are a farmer, learn how to build a web site to sell chicken eggs to local markets.   If you are a tweeting/txting teenager, learn to write grammatically correct sentences in your native language.  No matter who you are, or what label you seem to wear, prove to yourself and the rest of the world, that we all have the potential to become Renaissance men and women.  Expand your knowledge.  Expand your skills. Step out of your comfort zone and the deep trench of daily routine.  Doing so will serve to enrich your life and the lives of those around you.