There’s nothing like traveling with a bunch of skinny Asians to make one feel fat (take a look at this photo while singing, “One of These Things (Is Not Like the Others)”). Looking at our photos from China, I decided it’s time to do something about my expanding girth.

Diet Diary

I’m rather a picky eater, so the thought of changing my diet to lose weight does not appeal to me at all. In an ideal world, I would eat whatever I feel like and simply exercise enough to burn all the calories, but that’s not going to happen, either. I needed to figure out how many calories I actually use, then consume slightly less than that in order to lose this excess baggage.

Enter Diet Diary from Tell it your age, sex, height, weight and activity level, and it will tell you roughly how many calories you should consume to maintain your weight, or in my case, to lose one to two pounds a week. Then use its extensive foods database to record what you eat and track your progress.

I’ve been using the software since December 5 (nearly four weeks) and so far I’ve lost about 4½ pounds, so it seems to be working. Now I just need to exercise more than once a week, and my waist will be smaller than my chest in no time. Watch out, skinny Asians!

permalink 30 Dec 05 3:45 PM · Comments (1) · Tags: Personal, Software
Cool Utility

Scott Hanselman swears by MaxiVista (they even have his face on their home page!), a utility that allows you to use a networked PC (typically a laptop) as a second monitor. But what if you want to actually work on both PCs? I suppose you could Remote Desktop from your primary PC to the second, then use MaxiVista to drag the RD session over to the second PC’s monitor (think about that for a second!) Here’s a better solution...

By way of Ofer Achler, I have discovered Synergy, an open-source utility that lets you share your keyboard and mouse with a networked machine. Simply move your mouse pointer off the edge of one screen, and it instantly appears on the other; keyboard and mouse events are sent to that device. It even merges the clipboards of all connected PCs (or Macs; Synergy is cross-platform), so you may copy and paste among them.

Very cool free utility; highly recommended. Now, if they’d just put my face on their home page...

permalink 30 Dec 05 3:29 PM · Comments (1) · Tags: Software
Kathy Sierra Changed My Life

My new boss likes to remind me that I’m an experienced presenter, but I have a lot to learn about being a trainer.

After one such humbling conversation, I fired off an e-mail to Kathy Sierra asking if she offers or could recommend training for trainers. To my surprise and delight, she replied promptly with a number of helpful suggestions. A few days later, she fleshed out those suggestions and posted them as a blog entry.

The day that entry appeared, I was on the final day of my first C# class, which I had condensed from five days to four, thinking that much of the material would be familiar to the students. But they had surprised me with many questions and lots of discussion, about which I had mixed feelings: it was great that they were so engaged, but here it was noon on the last day and I still had four units of fairly deep material to cover: advanced scope, delegates and events, attributes, et al (we had been covering two or three units a day).

During the lunch break, I read Kathy’s post and was struck in particular by these points:

If you're short on time, always cut the lecture, not the exercises! (Unfortunately, this is the opposite of what most trainers do.)

It is almost always far more important that your learners nail fewer subjects than be “exposed” to a wider range of subjects...If your students leave feeling like they truly learned — like they seriously kick ass because they can actually do something useful and interesting — they'll forgive you (and usually thank you) for not “covering all the material.”

Don't let the class fizzle out at the end. Try to end on a high...Ask yourself, “what were my students feeling when they left?” Too often, the answer to that is, “overwhelmed, and stupid for not keeping up.” And usually, the fault is in a course that tried to do too much.

After lunch, I called an audible and announced, “There’s no way we can cover all of the remaining material this afternoon, so here’s what we’re not going to get to.” I spent about half an hour explaining the various terms and describing some practical applications. Then I said, “If you wish, you can read this material on your own and contact me if you have any questions. Now, let’s write an app...” I wrote a spec for a simple flashcard program on the whiteboard, and we spent the rest of the afternoon creating it.

The class definitely ended on a high. The students were thrilled that they had been able to create a working application, and the class evaluations were great: not one of them complained that we didn’t cover all the material.

So, thanks, Kathy. You changed my life!

permalink 28 Dec 05 11:57 PM · Comments (1) · Tags: Career, Training
Year in Review

Only seven posts this year, how sad is that? Here’s what I’ve been doing while I’ve been not blogging:

That’s my year in a nutshell (an appropriate container). How was yours?

permalink 28 Dec 05 1:26 AM · Comments (1) · Tags: Career, Personal

OK, let's try this again...

When I started this blog three years ago, I was working on my first significant ASP.NET project and I wanted a place to record and share all the new stuff I was learning. Since then, the whole world (including hundreds of Microsoft employees) has started .NET blogs, and I've changed jobs so that I no longer write code every day.

I considered shutting the place down, or simply letting it languish as Google-fodder. But three factors have inspired me to resume blogging:

  • According to FeedBurner, at least 150 people subscribe to this feed, so I guess I’m not just talking to myself;
  • The site is a great way to build and maintain my personal brand. I’m the #1 “Phil Weber” on the major search engines, and I’d like to stay that way; and,
  • I actually have some things to say!

So, today is the first day of the rest of my blog. The focus will change somewhat — I’m now a trainer, so I’ll write about the lessons I’m learning in that new role — but I still have several .NET articles bouncing around my head, so watch for them. To those of you who haven’t pruned me from your blogroll, thanks for your loyalty. Tell a friend!

permalink 25 Dec 05 5:26 PM · Comments (1) · Tags: Blogging