Sunday, January 29, 2006

Take the "Red Pill" and discover how deep the rabbit-hole is!

Last weekend we had some friends over, and as usual, after some time the group polarized and the women gathered around in the kitchen/breakfast area, and the men congregated in the family room.

Soon, the topic turned, among the men, philosophical and we started talking about life, its purpose, and all that deep stuff. I have gone through these sessions with countless number of friends at countless times, but this time I thought of really making a difference. So, here I am jotting down some of the notes/lessons that were gleamed out of the last session.

As the topic suggests, we should have the courage to take the Red Pill (Neo from Matrix), and be aware of the truth in our lives.

I also recalled one of my favorite taglines (it is from an Ad, for something I don't seem to remember. That shows how [in]effective the Ad was): "If your life was a book, would YOU read it?" Wow. What a way to put things in the right perspective.

Set your priorities right and live a meaningful, exciting, interesting and purposeful life.

Take a holistic approach to life. Look at the big picture, and not just tomorrow.

We also discussed the analogy of how a project manager, assigned newly to an ongoing project, would interrogate the team to get the pulse of the project. What is the SOP? Where is the SOW? Where is the project plan? Where are we, and where are we supposed to be? Are there any issues? What are the risks? How are we mitigating them? What action items are open? Etc. Why don't we turn it around and question ourselves in the different "projects" of our life? Spiritually? Health-wise? Socially? Financially? In relationships? In our career? We have to ask ourselves these tough questions in order to get a grip on our lives.

Come up with different categories that matter most in your life. They could be broad and at a 50,000 Ft level, like "Career", "Social", etc. Be the CEO of your own life and treat it like a public company. Generate quarterly reports in each of these areas. I had heard about the 'Boiling a frog' analogy, but had never understood the meaning of it until my friend explained it to me. If you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will immediately leap out to escape the danger. But, if you put the frog in a pot of cool water, and then gradually heat the water to its boiling point, the frog does not become aware of the threat until it is too late. This is a great analogy which illustrates that if we are not careful, and take the temperature of the waters around (and within) us, we will not become aware of the changing environment as well as threats around us. So, this activity of generating quarterly reports is a great way of taking the temperature. We need to know before the fecal matter hits the air circulating device. The report should not only show the current status, but also have a timebound plan on getting it back on track (assuming we are of in at least one area).

We discussed tools that we can use to keep us on our tracks, and to visualize our progress in different areas, about which I shall write later. Use technology to the fullest extent to make sure that our minds stay focused on the important things in life.

Effective people know how to identify and execute the 20% things that bring the 80% rewards. Understanding and setting the right priorities goes a long way in becoming more effective in all areas of our life.

I conclude this entry with the poem:
"The Dash?" by Linda Ellis (copyright Linda Ellis)

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the the end.
He noted that first came her date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth...
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own;
The cars...The house...The cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard...
Are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what's true and real,
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we've never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile...
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy's being read
With your life's actions to rehash...
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

Take a moment and decide how you want to live your dash.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Boat building saga begins

OK, I give up. It has been raining everyday for the past almost 4 weeks, and Seattle is living up to its fame. I was waiting for dry conditions to start building the boat, but the weather gods are not accommodating. I am itching to start the boat, and I finally decide to heat the garage and start on the boat.

I have been reading a lot about boat design, oar positioning, different kinds of sails, rigging, helms, etc. I can't wait to rig this boat up and start sailing. I finally started on the boat, and what used to be a heap of plywood now resembles a boat! I don't have professional tools, so I have to improvise and make do with whatever I find in the garage. I did buy a neat circular saw with a laser sight. The laser is cool. It draws a line in bright red light showing me where I am going to cut. Since I don't have clamps, I had to improvise and use bungee cords and rope to hold the seats together while the glue dried.

The first thing I had to do was, create long strips of plywood. Since HomeDepot does not sell plywood that is longer than 6 ft, I had to scarph (or is it scarf?) two pieces together. This seemed challenging to an inexperienced hand, but once I started, it is pretty straight forward. I used a belt sander to create the scarph and glued the pieces together. Since it is still winter, the glue took 2 days, instead of the usual 12 hrs, to dry. The joints look good. I will be applying fiberglass on top of them. So, there is no compromise on strength of the joint.

Oops, I forgot to introduce the boat. It is a 12 ft long flat bottomed sailboat built of fiberglass laid over a thin plywood hull. Initially, I will set it up for rowing. Once I find its sweet spots and characteristics, I will design the sails and rig it for sailing. It has a carrying capacity of about about 550 lbs, which will be reduced to around 500 lbs once I rig it for sailing.

Now that the boat is taking shape, it looks bigger than I had imagined. Now, I am having second thoughts on cartopping it. Cartopping will work when it is a rowboat, but once it is rigged up for sailing, I will have to get a trailer. I was getting ready to hunt for a roof top bike rack for my car, and now am thinking of hunting for a trailer instead. I was telling my wife that we should make sure that it is a breeze to get the boat from our garage to the nearest lake. Otherwise, we will not use the boat as often. Imagine, if it takes half a day to get the boat to a lake, you won't have any energy left to row/sail it in the lake. So, I am leaning towards a trailer now. We still have a couple of months to go. So, we have time to think about it.

Gotta go. Time to attach gunwales on the boat.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Zen and the art of boat building

After moving to the Puget sound area, I discovered two things. One, this place has lots of water (I mean, water bodies, apart from all the rain we get), and two, there aren't many marinas which rent boats. I love boating, be it rowing, sailing, canoeing or power boating, and consequently missed having easy access to a water craft. To make matters worse, we built a house that is three houses from a small lake (But, don't ask me why it takes 3 miles to get to the same lake. I hate the planners of this city). So, I was left with two choices: drive to far off lakes to rent boats (not many choices here, either), or buy my own boat. The first choice was not very practical because most marinas didn't have rental sailboats, which I prefer. So, I was left with the latter choice.

I looked around for inexpensive small sailboats, and most were way over my budget. Then, I stumbled on websites as well as magazines that focused on boat building. Yes, boat building is a complex task, if you are building complex boats. Since I wanted to start off with a small boat, it seemed easy enough for me. Given my wood working background (a bird house as a kid, speaker stands, bookcase for a friend, a deck behind our previous house), I felt confident that I could build a decent boat. So, off I went on to become a wooden boat builder.

After extensive research, I settled on a plywood boat covered with fiberglass. Initially, I will build it and launch it as a row boat. Once I understand its characteristics, I will rig it up for sailing. I bought the boat plans from a couple of places (check this page for links on boat building), and my supplies from all over the country (fiberglass from San Diego, epoxy from Miami, wood from local lumber yards and tools from garage sales). After acquiring all the material I discovered that the epoxy I had, even though a fast curing one, was most effective if used at temp over 60F. With temperatures in the 40s during the day, my plans of building the boat this winter are sinking fast. I guess I will have to wait for Spring before I can do anything significant on this project.

I have already built this boat several times, in my mind. I have made notes on some bothersome areas that need attention. I have already decided on a color scheme for the boat! Hey, this is planning or what? I wish I did this kind of thinking and planning in all other areas of my life too.

I will post updates as I build the boat.