Monday, January 2, 2012

Information Overload

As I face a major turning point in my life, I again look at the variety of subjects that I am in the pursuit of learning. Tomorrow is the start of the first job of my career in Information Technology at Architectural Testing.

I chose IT as a career because it is not only a personal interest, but also because of how much of the world relies on IT. As I study these many subjects on the side, knowledge of computers and software will aid me in both learning efficiency and practical application.

So, in order to organize the many facets of my life for the new year, I began to list the projects I'm currently working on. It is always dangerous for me to step into the subject of 'everything', because there is so much to do and so much that I could do, that it can quickly become overwhelming.

And that brings me to the topic of the post: dealing with information overload. What is information overload? It's basically self explanatory, but just in case, it's when there is so much information available to a person at one instant, that the person becomes completely overwhelmed and unable to function. If you've ever worked in fast food you might have experienced this. Airplane pilots must be aware of the possibility of information overload, as they are constantly bombarded by the intricacies of information available to them in the cockpit.

With an office like this one, and a whiteboard full with a list of projects, information overload becomes a real possibility. Not surprisingly, the subject does not get much attention, and few people consider it a very important subject. There is however some research done about it by many different fields of study.

The first thing to understand is that the only way you can have information overload is if you have decided to take in too many pieces of information at the same time. To make this a little clearer, imagine you are not an air traffic controller and you walk into a control room full of radars and radios. You won't experience information overload because nothing around you makes enough sense for you to begin processing all the pieces of data that are actually available.

If you were to become an air traffic controller and then walk into the same room, you could have information overload because you would have the ability to understand ALL the information that is available. It's only when you TRY to understand everything at the same time that it becomes overwhelming. In other words, it only happens when you let it happen. Air traffic controllers, much more than the average person, must understand how to handle many different pieces of information at the same time.

From a psychological standpoint, it is actually a form of anxiety. The solution is our approach and our attitude to the information we are given. This is something I was never very good at to be honest. It all comes down to being able to decipher what we actually need to know and what exactly to do with that information. By completing tasks, we eliminate one by one the information that we need to process and can then move on. When faced with many different pieces of information, break it down by priority and begin to eliminate as much as you can as quickly as you can.

On the other side of the coin, preventing information overload is just as important. By selecting smaller groups of information to start with, we can make it much easier to handle.

There really isn't as much on my plate this year as there have been other years. Between photography, web design, my studies, church, health, Moss Effects, the groups in Central PA that I'm involved in and Hot Air Balloons, I still should have plenty of free time. How? Let's say I take 4 pictures a week. 4 good pictures that is. It should take me 4 or 5 short photoshoots to get those 4 pictures. If a typical photoshoot takes between 15 and 30 minutes, it should only take an hour or two a week to get all 4 pictures, but the amount of learning and experience will be immense!

Applying this philosophy to every area outside of work has already proven to make so many more things possible that I had ever imagined. This year, my goals are all achievable, and as long as I stay focused, so are the goals I set on this blog a few years ago.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Quality of life is exponential, begin to pursue wisdom, and the rest will follow.

This year, instead of an elaborate new years resolution, I get the chance to move from one world to another. My last day at Sunoco is New Years Eve, and my first day at Architectural Testing is the 3rd of January. As one door closes, another opens and I begin to develop my self and my skills in a new direction.

This phrase dawned on me today as I began to ponder this massive change in my life. Whatever our goal, whatever our purpose and passion, that will be our end. If we simply try to be orderly, clean and stable, that will be our life. If we slack in any area, it will be exponentially detrimental to us because it will carry over into every other area of our lives.

If we simply pursue a clean, healthy and orderly lifestyle, every part of our lives will be touched by this pursuit.

Let that be your resolution for the year 2012 as it is mine.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What happened to the story of Christmas?

It's a typical setting on a cold December evening, as people gather around a small nativity to hear the Christmas story once more. Mary and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a town very foreign to them. They knock on the doors of every inn they can find, and there is no room anywhere to be found. Finally at the last inn they check, the innkeeper says in disgust, "well, I don't have any room, but if you want, you can stay in the stable."

It's a quaint story, full of sentimental value and focused on love and kindness, the birthday of the King.

But wait! Where did this all come from? Did it all really happen this way, or have we simply passed on a story from generation to generation? Well, some of this story is true, because it is based on something that really did happen. But it has been brutally twisted, leaving out some of the most important parts of the story. After some serious study, the following is what I believe to be the real story of Christmas:

Mary, an insignificant young lady, who cared about the things of God and was willing to do whatever He asked, was informed one day from an angel that she was going to have a child who was conceived of the Holy Ghost. The man that she was betrothed to, was informed in a dream from an angel that he was to marry her and that she would have a son whose name was to be Jesus, for He would save His people from their sins.

   Speculation: It was likely that Mary's family and some of her friends thought she had committed fornication and was going to have a baby by someone other than Joseph. The only scripture to back up this speculation is that Joseph was minded to put her away privily. This indicates that at least Joseph was aware that she was with child, so it is also possible that no-one else knew this, or other circumstances corrected for this misunderstanding... however, this is not as likely.

A direct route from Nazareth to Bethlehem is roughly 90 miles. However, there was a problem with this route for the Israelites in the first century and a long time prior; this would have taken them directly through Samaria. Israelites hated Samaritans and so, would have traveled 120 miles and bypassed Samaria altogether. A caravan of this time period would have traveled about 20 miles a day, meaning Mary and Joseph would have been traveling for 6 days to make the trip.
There is no mention of a donkey in this story in scripture or any other historical documents. Caravans would have charged a fee to join them, and this could include the ability for Mary to ride in a cart. Otherwise, she would have walked.

Although Joseph was a carpenter by occupation, he was apparently not very wealthy. How do we know this? In Luke 2:24, Joseph and Mary offered the poor sacrifice, "And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." This references the law in Leviticus 12:5-8 regarding the sacrifice "when the days of her purifying are fulfilled". Verse 8 says, "And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons;"

The word "turtles" in the English JKV is really an abbreviated translation for "turtledoves". This is more evident in the Catalan Trinitarian Bible Society translation which uses the word "tórtores" in both Luke and Leviticus. The Strongs concordance confirms the meaning of this word, תּור tore
which is translated "turtledoves" in several other places in Leviticus.

This means Joseph likely would not have been able to afford a donkey or cart of his own.

Now we come to a very odd distortion in the story, the reason for the trip. This requires some background.

Caesar Augustus could possibly be considered the most successful ruler in all of history. His reign began at a time when the roman empire was in collapse. There had been civil wars, assassinations, and many other demoralizing events throughout the empire. He was able to start with the kingdom in that condition, and bring order and power out of it, establishing both a very solid economy and military. [1]

Caesar Augustus mandated two census', also referred to as worldwide taxes. Luke 2:1-5 explains that Joseph went to Bethlehem for a taxing which was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. Cyrenius was the governor of Syria during the first of the two census' by Caesar. [2] Joseph went to Bethlehem because he was of the house and lineage of David. It is possible then that Joseph had family in Bethlehem, because that was the point of the trip, to go to the town of his heritage.

Caesar was a good emporer who had helped the economy in many ways. This taxing was not overbearing, but rather was more of a census. This required people to go back to the home of their lineage. Rather than people hating this census, it is more likely that the general population was in favor of it. It is hard to say without further research into this time period and the history of Caesar's reign.

Mary and Joseph were both descendant from David. Matthew chapter 1 shows the lineage of Joseph, and Luke chapter 3 shows the lineage of Mary. We know Luke is speaking of Mary, because it says in verse 23, "And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli," As usual, the Catalan is much closer to the original text in this verse, saying "de Josep, d'Helí". The words the son are not in the text, but rather it simply says that Joseph was 'of Heli' which could mean he was the son in law of Heli. Because the Matthew account specifies that "Jacob begat Joseph" we know that Luke is showing the lineage to Mary.

Joseph was a descendant of Solomon, and Mary was a descendant of a different son of David, Nathan. There were 28 generations between David, and Mary and Joseph, so they were very very distant relatives.

After a 6 day journey, Mary and Joseph needed to find a place to stay. They would spend at least 2 years in Bethlehem before making another journey. Luke 2:6 "And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered." There is no reference that specifies how long they were there before those days were accomplished, but it does indicate that they had a few days to settle in before Mary had the baby.

Luke 2:7 "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." The inn, κατάλυμα

From καταλύω; properly a dissolution (breaking up of a journey), that is, (by implication) a lodging place: - guestchamber, inn. (Strongs Concordance)

A lodging place or guest chamber. The term in Luke 2:7 is singular; there was only one place that was considered. No more details are given, so this part of the story is left to speculation. We know that there wasn't such a thing as a hotel in those days, and Bethlehem was not a very large town. Did Joseph or Mary still have relatives living in Bethlehem? It is very possible, but 28 generations had obviously spread people abroad. This guest chamber could have been in the house of a relative, but again, this is only speculation.

Now we come to the most important part of the story; the part that has been lost in time.

Luke 2:11-12 "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

Which manger? There were certainly many mangers throughout Bethlehem. How did the shepherds know where to go? There is no record of the angels telling them where this would be. This is where we have to look at the part of the story that is taken out; the record of the birth of Christ, by Micah.

Micah 4:8  "And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem."

What was Micah talking about here? In Micah 5:2, just a few verses later, "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."

Micah is explaining in detail where Christ was to be born. The tower of the flock, מגדּלה עדר   migdâl ‛êder. There is a real tower, standing today on the north side of Bethlehem, facing Jerusalem, known as Migdal Eder. This tower was the place where sheep who were about to lamb would be brought to give birth. These lambs were the lambs intended for sacrifice in Jerusalem. The perfect, unblemished lambs were wrapped in swaddling cloth to protect them from hurt, damage, blemish or injury.

Where else in the world would be a more perfect place for the perfect, sinless Lamb of God to be born? Wrapped in swaddling cloth, as a sign of the purpose of His coming, born in the same manger that many sacrificial lambs were birthed.

How could this vital part of the story be left out? Why has the story changed so much from what we are told in the scripture? The traditional story tells us of the birth of Christ, of the angels and the shepherds, and of the glory and praise that was given to the newborn King. What it doesn't tell, is why He came. By leaving the tower of the flock out of Christmas, the purpose for His coming can be forgotten. You see, we've taken the cross out of Christmas.

Jesus Christ was born to die. He came to give His life for our sins and free us from the bondage of sin - death and hell. In even more significance and quaint sentimental value than the story we were told, He came as a Lamb for sacrifice.

This Christmas, let us not forget the most important part of the story: why He came.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


     There is a concept that is foundational in the thinking of the greatest martial artists, spies, athletes, security professionals and criminals (as well as several other key occupations).  I'm not saying I would ever become a criminal, but I'm also not saying it would be a bad thing to understand their thinking.  If a person can think like a criminal, they can protect themselves and the organizations or people they work for.. not to mention their own families from becoming the victims of a criminal act.  But it might help to focus on the other occupations, just because.
      So what is this all empowering concept?  The title of this post? Ok yeah I could have been a little more creative, but there's more to it than just being aware.  Ignorance is not bliss, at least for any professional martial artist, and perhaps some insanely geekish black hats.  But what in the world do we need to be aware of?


      Make sense yet?  How about an example: a Russian spy working in the United States is walking home from his cover job on an average day.  He turns a corner and notices that a man in a black suite is carrying an M9 handgun in a shoulder holster.  If the spy was not able to differentiate between an M9 and a Beretta 92 (something I must admit I would have no clue how to do), there could be some severe consequences... the M9 is military issue and the Beretta 92 is not.  That piece of information could be key in identifying the man and remembering the face.
      That might be a very bad example, but it gives you an idea of how a spy could benefit from knowing a seemingly random bit of information.  Its not as random as it might seem, although there is a lot of information to sift through depending on your target field.  Everyone can benefit from becoming more aware.  Its simply a matter of choosing the right target area.
      If you want to learn something, it is best to familiarize yourself with the surrounding field before jumping knee deep in studying the wrong thing.  Programming is the best example of this.  If I want to learn to program, I must first choose a language that I plan to study.  Making this choice can be difficult when there are so many languages in use.  If I first find a decently comprehensive list of all the best programming languages, and then gain an understanding of the ways that each language is used, it will be a relatively easy choice.
      Another simple example: Information Technology professionals benefit from knowing hundreds or even thousands of acronyms for protocols and technologies. Why?  Not only will they be able to understand the day to day operations of their own job better, but put them on a brainstorming team for a new project, and they will blow the minds of their colleges because they know exactly what the best solutions might be, and they'll know why.
      For someone like me, who wants to delve as deep into as many subjects as I can, becoming aware of many things is important.  There are some exercises that I've developed to help me become more aware of everything around me.  When I'm riding in a car (or sometimes driving...) I will choose a particular part of a car, say the bumper, or the door handle, anything really.  Then I look at that part on every car that passes by.  This exercise helps me become more aware of every facet of the design of cars.  Sometimes now, all I need to see is one part of a car and I can tell you what make and model it is and approximate the year.  This usually comes naturally to mechanics or auto body specialists, but when you're not actively working in an industry, it's a little harder to keep up with it.

    Know of any good ways to become aware of specific things?  What things are you more aware of than the average person might be?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Progressive Organization

     Well right now, this office is an absolute mess; and for a lot of people looking to start getting a little more organized, there is a TON of clutter getting in the way of what's most important to them.  For me, having a place where I can be creative, find answers at my fingertips, and do extensive brainstorming  is something that would be invaluable. My office is where I can do all that.  The problem is, there are so many papers and CDs and ancient electronics scattered everywhere, that I've become somewhat hindered from being able to do all that, as freely as I would like.
     Recently, I discovered a very inspiring instructor from the University of New South Wales through youtube.  His entire lecture series on first year programming is available there on youtube.  His name is Richard Buckland if you care to know.  Anyway, in following a few of his lectures I came across lecture# 24: eXtreme Programming.

     What is eXtreme Programming?  Simply put, it's a methodology for the organization and implementation of programming projects.  It sets in motion a more powerful way to take control of complex and rapidly changing environments.

     This evening, instead of tackling the 15 some odd things on my to do list, I decided to figure out if there might be a way to use some of the theories I learned from eXtreme Programming to develop a methodology for organizing the crazy variety of topics and office related files in my room.

     So here it is: something I'm calling Progressive Organization. Please keep in mind, this is only a theory and I am just now starting to test it. (There may be other things labeled progressive organization, or it may already have books written about it' I'm really not sure.. so don't consider me the authority here, but I didn't reference any material to come up with this.  This just came off the top of my head.)

     There are 5 basic steps in this theory:

          •  Clean - Clear away the clutter
          •  Design - Define the functions of each area
          •  Target an area - Focus your efforts
          •  Develop a plan - Make a single area work well with all it's functions
          •  Carry out the plan - Don't just sit there! Get to work!

     Ok so now that I've completely bored the average person out of their mind with the basic gobbledygook, what does it all mean?

     Get rid of EVERYTHING that does not have a specific purpose.  This part I know works very well because I've used it before.  Find a place to temporarily drop things, a place somewhere that things won't be in the way.  Then begin moving everything you aren't using, or aren't planning on using out of the area or room that you are organizing.  Put stacks of papers in boxes to go through them later, pick up everything that you don't have a place for and move it to the temporary storage place.

     Now you should have a pretty clean environment to work with, but you may not have long to get things working depending on where your temporary storage is, so you might have to get to work with the next few stages.  The design stage is where you will break down the functions of each and every part of the room.  This can be done in your head, or written down if you prefer.  The idea is to know exactly how the room will function.  Think of everything that comes in and everything that goes out.  Have places for everything you can imagine you would need a place for.

Target an area
     Pick one function and develop it.  Say for instance your mail:  mail comes in, typically a small stack at a time, gets opened, and some gets stored and the rest discarded.  This is one function.  There are many functions in an office, and every room of a house usually has multiple functions when you think about it.  A kitchen has a cereal function: buy cereal, store cereal, eat cereal, discard cereal, and at some point in time, you write down the particular cereal that you need to buy because you're getting low... and the cycle starts over.  At this step (Target an area), you must choose a particular function, and begin to make it work.  Which brings me to the next step.

Develop a plan
     So you picked the filing system.  Good choice☺  That's what I started with too.  So now it's time to make it work.  But there's so much to it!  How can I organize so many different papers into files and folders and categories???  This is why development is it's own step.  Some functions only need a little thought and you'll have it working and get very excited about implementing it.  Other functions you might dread even after you've figured out how to make it work.  In the case of my filing system, this stage is much like designing a database... very tedious and annoying.  I grouped my system into four categories because that's what made sense for the kinds of papers I will be filing.  Business, Records, School, and Study.  Business will be anything to do with web designs or projects or even this blog.  Records will be any records, receipts, finances, school stuff etc.  School is self explanatory and study is any experiments, research, thoughts and ideas that might pertain to something I'm learning.  The file system will get broken down further in the next step.

Carry out the plan
     See, I already procrastiNATEd... the file system should have been broken down in the development stage... but here I am standing in front of my filing cabinets thinking of how exciting the next episode of Burn Notice will be, and how much more fun it would be to watch it on Hulu than it would be to actually figure this out.  This stage is by far the most difficult for me because I'm easily distracted.  This stage is all about follow through.  What good is a fully developed plan without ever putting it in action?  Ok so you have a great idea and it can be used for theory to help someone else do something better.  But who will consider your ideas if you never succeed?  In order for anything to work, there has to be work and effort behind it.  A great mechanic once told me, WAKE UP! This is reality! Get to work and quit wining.  Life isn't a free ride, you have to push to get things done. (not in so many words), but that helped me to see that priorities and dedication are key to succeeding at anything, even if all you want to do is support and raise a family in a decent neighborhood.

     Once you've gone through one itteration of this process, you begin again.  For long term projects, you start at the beginning.  For short term projects, you start at step 2 or 3.  The process continues until you have a very well working system.  Then you can continue refining your functions to infinity, which may help at first, but it could hurt your system in the long run if you delve too deep into every specific movement of a particular room or process. (I hope that made sense...)

     Progressive Organization is intended to flow and be flexible enough to deal with complex organizational issues. So what are your thoughts on this idea?  Is it close to anything you've read before?  Do you have better ideas?  Please share them in the comments.

     After a little of the first step... here's a pic of my office.  Keep in mind that in order for everything here to work well, there is more than just looks to consider.  Organization and implementation are key to making my world tick.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Learning beyond

I have turned a page in my life.  I've made the decision to focus on studying even more than ever.  This means less time for friends, family, recreation and hobbies.  The reason for this is the sheer scale of information that I want to learn.  The motive is a passion for the subjects that I'm studying.
   I've broken my study into four groups.  Stewardship, Guruship, Study A and Study B.

Stewardship - From a Biblical basis, the concept of a steward of the Lord.
  Studies include
       • Memorizing Bible verses
       • Studying concepts in the Bible
       • Preparing Bible stories and lessons

Guruship - A combination of a guru in a technical sense, and a guru from ancient martial practices.  One who holds knowledge, a student on his way to mastering a concept studies under a guru.  Guruship carries the concept of a journey or a path to becoming a guru.
  Studies include
        • Logic
        • Mind Control (may change to psychology at some point)
        • Writing skills (music, lyrics, poetry, speech)

Study A - Foundational study.  Subjects that are considered essential in certain fields.
  Current study includes
        • Computer Hardware Fundamentals for CompTIA  A+ certification
        • Website design fundamentals currently focused on Javascript

Study B - Extracurricular achievement.  Subjects that will help build a solid future.
   Current study includes
        • CISCO
        • Design (currently focused on AutoCAD)

    One thing I have learned about studying in the past few months is the need to be focused on a single subject at a time.  So, to reach a goal as diverse as mine requires some out of the box thinking.  By breaking the subjects into categories, it is easier to focus on one category at a time.  One day I might focus on study A, and even though there are two separate subjects in study A, they work together very well and it is easy to jump from one to the other.  If I was to study CISCO and computer hardware in the same day, (unfortunately this is the schedule at school) I would be focusing on two different subjects with similar content at the same time. This has proven very challenging.
    The same would go with studying Web and Design.  Web incorporates design, so the ideas would overlap and become confusing.  Fortunately, it is easy to study both stewardship and guruship along with one of the study categories.  These are dissimilar concepts and work well together.

    How do you study?  What ideas have you come across or developed for making studying easier?  Please share in the comments!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Å └ ╦ Ç σ d ë §

The title of this post was written on an English keyboard with an English keyboard input and with no html configuration.  How?  Using alt codes.  There are 253 different characters available.  They are all listed at

You're probably all familiar with them... but what can you do with them?  What's the point?
Obviously I wouldn't be writing an entire post for alt codes if I didn't feel there was something special about them.  Honestly, I think they are often overlooked as a useful tool.

Some benefits of using alt codes:
  •you can use alt 7 to create unordered lists like this one.
  •numbers 179 through 223 can make drawing.
  •special characters like the sun ☼ or smiley faces ☺☻ are easily accessible.
        ○ numbers 3 - 6 are ♥ ♦ ♣ ♠.
        ○ mathematical symbols are available √ ≈.

In the good old days of DOS, programmers would use these characters to make the interfaces for their programs.

  ║                        HELLO WORLD                          ║
  ║                                                                        ║
  ║                                    ║                                       ║
                              │                                         │

Obviously this is not as dynamic as it could be (only part of the 'window' above lines up if you're lucky),  but for it being text only you can really do some incredible things.  That's why I've determined myself to memorize all 253 of them.  At the time of writing this I'm up to 63, and I've already found use for them!
  Ok so maybe memorizing 253 characters and the numbers associated with them is a little over the edge for most of my readers, but I encourage you to at least learn the ones you think you will use, like 7 •  9 ○  26 → and 27←.
  What other types of keyboard shortcuts do you use on a regular basis?  Please share in the comments!