All posts by Peter Mangiafico

Why I like to fly planes

Flying is expensive, flying is noisy, and it can be dangerous if you aren’t careful.  Flying small planes often isn’t terribly practical either (most times, you’ll fly for cheaper paying an airline to do it for you).  But the best reason to fly can be summed up in a few photos, scenes you’ll never otherwise see from the ground or from the cramped window of a jetliner cruising at 500 MPH at 36,000 feet.  It’s also one of the few places where you are in complete control and any other distraction is minor in comparison with what you are doing at that moment.  In a world of multi-tasking, emails, cell phones, and an infinite number of distractions, having an activity which focuses all of your energy in an environment in which you are in complete control, and with superb scenery all around, is wonderful.  And despite the roaring of the engine, it’s actually quite peaceful.  That’s why I fly.

All of the photos below were taken on Cape Cod.
Tidal flats in Barnstable Harbor, Cape Cod, MA
Tidal Flats in Barnstable Harbor

Race Point Lighthouse, Provincetown, MA
Race Point Lighthouse off of Provincetown (the very tip of the Cape!)

Woods Hole, MA
Woods Hole

Flying over the islands off the coast of Woods Hole, MA
Naushon Islands (off of Woods Hole)

Final approach to Runway 24 at Hyannis, MA
Final approach, fasten your seat belts!

Time to try a new task management application

About a year ago I started using an iPhone 3G and had to find replacement applications for a Sony Clie NX-70 Palm based device I had been using for 5 years (yes, it was and still is really that good).  The Datebk5 app I had been using was pretty nice and the iPhone was missing a heap of capabilities in comparison, most noticeably in task management.  So after learning about the Getting Things Done (GTD) system from David Allen’s book a year earlier, I bought OmniFocus for the Mac and then the iPhone.  In a nutshell, GTD advocates you list “projects” you are working on (e.g. “submit ACME proposal”, “clean garage”), “contexts” in which you can do things (e.g. “on the phone”, “email”, “writing”, “running errands”), tag all your tasks with these two attributes and place them in an order in which they need to be done (e.g. “write proposal” followed by “buy envelopes” followed by “mail proposal”).  This allows you to focus only on the next action required instead of on the inifite amount of items most of us have in front of us at any given time.  By staying focused and making small progress daily and not becoming overwhelmed by the big picture, you have a greater chance of “getting things done”.  The idea of “contexts” is that you when you decide it time to make phone calls, you look at your “on the phone” context list, and start doing things on it, regardless of project.  Its a relatively simple system, but I’m not sure it works for everyone.  I tend to not really think in contexts, and thus task management systems based around GTD (like OmniFocus) start to get in your way.

So after using OmniFocus for a year and generally not really enjoying the experience, I’ve recently starting using the web-based ToodleDo app, along with its corresponding iPhone app.    ToodleDo lets you use many of the methods of the GTD system (it has contexts, and folders, and status, etc.) but is flexible enough that you can only use what you want.  I have to say, I’m enjoying it much more (and its much less expensive too, as in free for the web app and only $4 for the iPhone app, compared with nearly $100 for both OmniFocus products if you get them at full price).  I think the feature of ToodleDo I like the best is the “hotlist”, which is a compilation of items you have deemed important via priorities, due-dates, flags, and so on.  It cuts across projects and contexts and is just a nice list.  For those of us that don’t think in pure “project” or “context” terms like GTD advocates, this simple feature alone is really useful.   And the bonus is, all your tasks are on the web, so you can find them from any computer.  Hooray for competition.

What’s the deal with Twitter and Facebook and …?

How many times have you heard that question?  These days it seems that Twitter and Facebook are everywhere: they appear on the cover of national magazines, get press coverage on the national news, and seem to be mentioned by anyone who wants to appear like they are up on new trends.

So what’s it all about?  Are these websites going to destroy the news business?  If you don’t use them, will you become totally irrelevant.  It’s a complicated issue, but of course the answers are no and no.  What tends to get people in trouble is extreme positions one way or another.

On one side you have the “believers” who speak to the strengths of a new technology and proclaim it will change everything and all who do not follow will slowly (or quickly) fall behind.  These are the folks who find the new tool an indispensable part of their day and don’t understand why other’s “don’t get it”.

On the other side, you have those who claim that these new technologies are a waste of time, an invasion of privacy, and don’t provide any new useful information.  These are the “non-understanders” — the folks who equate their lack of understanding of a technology with its lack of utility (the same crowd that tends to criticize events or programs they also never watch or attend).

Somewhere in the middle lies the best path – an appreciation for what the technology brings to the table and how it fits in with other technologies.  For example, Facebook provides a nice mechanism to stay in touch and share photos and stories with your friends (most of those relationships exist outside the Internet too!).  Twitter provides a nice mechanism to follow lots of information at once, from many sources, including people you don’t know but have interesting things to say.  Is someone annoying you with constant updates of their sleep and dietary habits — just unfollow them…its one click away.  But maybe someone is providing insight into a topic you are interested in — follow them.

So don’t blindly follow the herd when it comes to technology proclamations.  Examine each technology for what it can bring to your life.  If it doesn’t bring utility, don’t use it, but don’t condemn it.  And if it brings utility, then use it, and point its uses out to your friends.