Sunday, December 20, 2015

Episode 12: A blocked escape

The continuing adventure of our wayward space hero!

We continued to make our way through the station utilizing the maintenance ductwork. It was grueling as we crawled through the three foot tall ducts and tubes. It also took quite a good deal of time.

After a few hours of not locating their two escaped prisoners, 'Landro's men began to grow bored and tired with the constant search. This only made out escape even more easy as we no longer feared his men around every corner. We were able to reach the lowest level of habitable space at the top of the spire roughly three hours after our escape.

When we made it to the spire we lept down the shaft and used our maglev boots and made our way down the dark tube to the bottom. At the bottom we again returned to the maintenance ducts. Slower but these were more secure than utilizing the central lift tube. We exited the tube and made our way down a dark corridor.

Everything seemed to be going our way. "Kyra, stay behind me." I turned the corner with my laserpistol at the ready. "Who knows what vile mysteries lie in these tunnels."

I spotted a data panel and stopped. "Kyra, keep an eye out," I handed her the pistol as I tapped on the panel. I bypassed the basic security protocol that protected the system from intruders. 'Landro and his men focused on invaders coming from the outside that they took little precautions against internal. Once inside I was able to pull up the main database and search for any data on the Kinsloab. Within minutes I turned away from the panel. "There, that should slow them."

"What did you do Dirk," Kyra inquired.

"I started a scan of their system, searching for the device. When it is complete in a few minutes it will systematically delete all files with a reference to the device. When they check the system they will discover that they have lost everything. They will have to begin again."

"That will probably set them back months if not years." A big smile appeared on her lovely face.

"I also planted an encrypted a virus in their system," I scanned the corridor ensuring it was still clear.

"We have exactly forty minutes to exit the station before their system goes haywire. Environmental, power, communications, they will lose everything."

"It will destroy the station?" Kyra looked surprised I could be so cruel.

"Once I hit this button," I pointed at the panel, "It will set in motion a series of events inside their system. If they are smart, and use precautions, they can save the station. This will slow them Kyra, not kill them."

And that is when everything went wrong.

A blast struck the panel, shattering it to pieces in a spray of hot sparks. I ducked and pulled Kyra with me across the corridor. We squeezed behind a support buttress that jutted from the wall.

"Not on my watch Derringer," came the flat emotionless voice of a certain Burlakian. "Surrender now and I will make your death less painful."

I said nothing. I scanned the corridor, the Burlakian had at least five guards with him. They completely blocked the passage, no way we could get through them. I turned to scan the other direction only to see the ends of four more laser rifles poking around the corner. We were trapped!
"Dirk!" Kyra yelled as another blast struck the corridor wall.

"Stay down," I shouted over the noise of the blasters. I looked across the corridor to the data panel. It was completely shattered and swung in a limp arc by two wires from the wall. The screen was black. I was so close to completely disrupting 'Landro's operation. I also had no idea how much they knew on the device. They could have the entire plans in the system.

"I think we are trapped! Oh Dirk," she clung close to me. "What are we going to do?"

I began a thorough examination of the corridor between the hail of blaster fire. Sparks and grey smoke filled the corridor. I doubted Niarobix and his men could even see where they were shooting.

A terrible smell wafted to my nostrils and I searched for the source. Through the smoke I spotted the source of the terrible aroma: the sewers.

A blaster shot had broken the hatch that covered the tube to the disposal system. I took back my pistol and took careful aim through the cloud of smoke and the din of blasters. With two shots I was able to clear the rest of the cover away, leaving an opening large enough for a person to squeeze through.

Kyra saw my plan. "You cannot be serious."

"It is this or torture under the palm of that giant Burlakian," I holstered the pistol and looked back at the opening. It was not large but if we could clear the blaster and smoke filled corridor we could make our escape. I grabbed her hand and gave it a kiss. "Come on Kyra, you want to live forever?"

With that I sprinted across the corridor and leapt headfirst through the opening.

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Bullet Journal - How I use mine

Using the Bullet Journal has changed my life and kept me on top of tasks that were at one time overwhelming.

I had been trying various digital apps on my phone in an attempt to get a grasp on everything. My occupation is critical to a military unit's ability to operate and be successful at its mission. Everything goes through my office that deals with budget, maintenance, procuring new equipment, repairing old equipment, fielding equipment, investigating the loss of equipment, etc etc. We oversee the handling of $47 million in equipment and an annual budget of around $2.5mil. There are four of us that know what we are doing and attempting handle this deluge of information and activity. Last year half of the team deployed and that left just two of us to handle everything. Needless to say, I found myself swimming in very deep water and struggling hourly to simply keep my head above the water line.

About nine months ago I discovered the Bullet Journal, or BuJo. If you know nothing about it, please go here first:

Beginning to use the BuJo.
I began using the Bullet Journal system and after struggling initially, I have now turned on about fifteen people in my unit and a few of the doctors I see onto the system. At first I attempted to use it exactly as the site explained. Then I made the mistake of wandering into the bottomless pit of Pinterest and fell in love with the millions of ideas of 'How to make it better!' and "See my sexy journal!" pictures that dominate the journaling pages.

There are a bajillion ideas on how to journal. Ignore them.

Let me repeat that. Ignore them.

Start with the basic BuJo system explained on the site and go from there. Try it for a week, just like Ryder Carroll explains. At the end of the week sit down with your journal and consider what worked for you and what did not. THEN try tweaking it.

I found much of the 'set up' was a waste of time for me. I rarely used some of it. So I cut it out. Keeping these things in was a time killer for me. Time is something I have little of.

The first thing to go was the Index.

Bye bye Index.
The index, I just do not use it. Most of my tasks are of the "OMG This MUST be done NOW!" sort and I rarely have to return to them. If I do, they are often recent tasks that reoccur within in a week or month. The index is over kill for me and the time wasted I could better spend elsewhere. In your own life you could very well have a reason to revisit tasks.

Sticking to the BuJo system...or not.
The next thing I learned was use the symbols that make sense to you, are not complicated/detailed, and are easy to draw. At the time I started I did not have a squared journal - that is the official term for Moleskine journals with grid paper. I had a lined journal and drawing perfect little squares or circles the same size was a challenge. I'm somewhat of a perfectionist and I found myself agonizing over how crappy my journal looked compared to those on Pinterest (see the section above where I said ignore them, I was not joking). Later I realized that I needed the squared journal and I went and got one. I already have two more waiting for when they are called to the front line for action.

I played around and realized the symbols that I could easily draw - a square, dot, and a triangle. A child could draw them. Simple, quick, effective. You would not believe how many weeks it took me to arrive here. I use just three.

Armed with just these three Task Identifiers (as I call them), my BuJo really began to work. Over the months since I have tweaked my symbols here and there but I always come back to the core three above, always finding that old saying really does work KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid.

I added new signifiers (those things to the left of the task squares), these I discovered often added a layer of complexity that was pointless, so I dropped most of them. If you check Pinterest (I know you did, it is ok) you will see tons of neat, cool looking signifiers people have come up with. Many take too long to draw, are too complex to be reproduced easily and quickly, and end up cluttering the page.

That said I have narrowed my useful signifiers to just three: Important or Hot! items, thing I need to look into or research at a later time, and school related tasks. I find the look up items tend to be cool things people point out on Google+ that I want to remember to look into later, usually at home after the work day is over. Below are my signifiers. YMMV

A typical day starts.
Today A typical day for me starts like this.

You will notice I have added a small tracker at the top. I am under orders from the doctor to no longer run so I walk, each block stands for 5,000 steps, my goal is at least 10k a day, but I would like to build up to 15k. I am attempting to watch my weight and part of that is drinking more water, filling that tummy with zero calorie water so I do not fill it with a Snickers bar or M&Ms. I picked up a 32oz Nalgene bottle that I refill, each full bottle drank is a square. I aim for three of those a day.

Next are the tasks I start the day with. Some of these have important sub-tasks I need to remember to complete BEFORE the main task can be accomplished, so I have added sub-tasks indented below the main task as in the "LR Brief @COC" seen above.

Sometimes I want to note how a task was done, as in the "Workout" task at the top of the list. Did I walk or do circuit training (the CT)? This is not really important but I like to recall at the end of the week how often I did each as I (hopefully) start to get in better shape after breaking my foot twice this year.

Planning and closure.
I tend to do my planning and closure at the same time. Before I head home at the end of the day I review my task list. Anything that I did not complete is migrated to the next day. I review the tasks I have completed and make note of any new task that resulted because of these tasks.

I spend about five minutes, really, that is it, using this process. During this time I close out tasks that I forgot to mark complete during the day, migrate ones that did not, basically build tomorrow and end up with something that looks like that above for tomorrow(see the typical day above).

Future Logging.
Alastair Johnston came up with a great system to quickly note events or tasks that will happen some time in the future. You can see the details here on his page: This is something I am just beginning to experiment with. I think it will be useful as I have found other systems too heavy handed and a time sink to use on a regular basis.

(Hopefully not) Final thoughts.
One major side effect of this process is that I am retaining details and tasks so much better. I suffer some memory loss from my time in the Army and the stress of my job only makes this memory issue worse. Studies have shown that writing with a pen, you know the old fashioned way, registers the information much better in our brains than those fancy digital tools people these days are fond of utilizing.

I can verify this 100%. Since starting the my BuJo I have been able to recall information much easier, longer, and I seem to be able to intelligently think on that information. Somehow it seems to have kickstarted my brain a little.

Another major side effect is stress reduction. This could be based on a multitude of factors but I like to think the structure of the BuJo and task organization in general have given me some clarity of thought, an expectation of what is to come or expected of me in the coming day, and some closure at the end of the day. Seeing a full page of tasks that I have completed (yeah, a full page does happen), gives you some sense of satisfaction, that you are getting somewhere, moving forward, etc.

I am quite proud of my BuJo and I DO take some time here and there and embellish it with some designs here and there but I do not go overboard. This is a thing of work and purpose for me. I like it neat and organized. I do not want it to be too distracting, flashy, or busy.

Have you started your own BuJo? How has it been working for you?