Pan-fried Trout Fillets with Leftovers

Since I took my mid-career retirement last year, I’ve been working on the habit of cooking dinner every day I have off. This gives Caro a break and encourages me to try new recipes and practice my cooking in general.

Last night I was planning on trying Pork Hamonado:
http://panlasangpinoy.com/2016/01/25/simple-pork-hamonado/

…which looks like a variation of one of my favorites Filipino dishes growing up. We ended up changing plans after assessing the leftover situation. We had a few servings of chili leftover from the day before and there were also a couple filets of fresh trout that hadn’t been cooked yet. (Caro made a trip to Fisherman’s Dock in Mandarin a couple of days ago but she only cooked one of the filets that evening since we also had oven-baked buffalo chicken wings for dinner before the Super Bowl.)

It made more sense to work with what we had instead of making a trip to Publix for some pork shoulder and pineapple chunks (needed for the Pork Hamonado).

IMAG1270-COLLAGE
Pan-fried trout with salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried parsley flakes

To keep things simple, rather than looking up a new recipe for the trout like I normally would, I just pan fried the trout with salt, pepper, garlic powder and some dried parsley flakes.

I liked how they turned out but Caro thought they were too salty for her taste. I’ll need to find somewhere in the middle next time. I guess I could just add more seasoning to my personal serving once at the table.

We served the trout with brown rice, baby peas and a simple salad of romaine hearts no dressing. The chili was reheated and we finished that off as well. Hodgepodge combination I know. When you’re hungry, though, it doesn’t really matter.

I’ll try the Pork Hamonado recipe on my next day off.

Creating YouTube Versions of My DJ Mixes

DJ ReCreator I m Beautiful Mix YouTube
YouTube version of “DJ ReCreator: I’m Beautiful Mix”

During my mid-career retirement in 2015, I had a chance to revisit and spend time on hobbies such as DJing. I dug up old recordings from CD burns, MiniDiscs and even cassettes 🙂 I also added a few newer mixes using mp3s, time-coded vinyl and Traktor software. Everything was converted to mp3. After finding a site to upload my mixes, I compiled a collection of my recordings and made them available on MixCrate.com.

http://www.mixcrate.com/djrecreator/dj_mixes

The whole process was fun. I got some initial engagement in terms of likes and downloads then things tapered. Interesting how fleeting things are these days with all the “noise” and options out there for our on-demand generation. Anyway, I got pulled into starting my next career chapter and stopped spending as much time on the DJ stuff.

Recently, I had the idea of expanding my reach by using YouTube…but how? I’ve seen many YouTube ‘videos’ that were primarily music with a static image as the video. I didn’t want to go that route. So I thought about ways I could add motion to my mixes so they could be uploaded as videos. The challenge was to do it without making it such a big production. iTunes has the Visualizer built into the player and I enjoy watching the hypnotic movements as the tracks play. Doing a little research and testing, I tested a few screen recorders and then made YouTube videos using screen recordings of iTunes Visualizer while my mixes played. The first batch of videos is now uploaded to my YouTube channel. They’re not getting much attention. Maybe they never will. It doesn’t bother me too much because I enjoyed the process of testing an idea and figuring out out to pull it off.

 

View The Resulting Videos:

How I did it…

  1. Downloaded Bandicam Screen Recorder as a trial to test. It worked better than the other free software I tested and it had good reviews. A few trial runs is all I needed. I went ahead and purchased the registered version of the software for $39 because I didn’t want the large www.bandicam.com watermark to be included with the video output.
  2. Loaded my mixes into iTunes as single song playlists so that I could record the visualizations without having to worry about captures bleeding into the next track in queue.
  3. Read Google’s recommendations for optimizing video uploads: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/1722171?hl=en
  4. Aligned the iTunes window and Bandicam’s screen capture frame so it was a 16:9 aspect ratio (1280×720 recommended). I didn’t want the screen recorder to capture my mouse movements so I chose not to do full screen.
  5. I read an article on cool tricks for controlling the visualizer display in real time: http://www.instructables.com/id/Cool-Itunes-trick-VISUALIZER/
  6. As cool as visualizer can be, all the videos looked too similar so I began manually changing the visualizer theme in sync with the music as it recorded.
  7. I uploaded each video via the interface in my YouTube account. While each video uploaded and processed, I added descriptions with track names and a link to the corresponding mix available on MixCrate.

If the opportunity presents itself, I may actually take the time to produce videos for my DJ mixes and not just screen recordings. Baby steps.

The What, Why and How of This Blog

What

The intent is to focus on topics I already write about in my personal journal. Of course, there are details I will exclude for obvious reasons, but many of the topics cover passions and interests that I’m sure many people share. This is my way of sharing and contributing to those communities.

Why

  • To benefit others with similar interests, challenges or experiences by sharing insights and lessons learned. Or simply to entertain with personal stories.
  • I have the ambition to author and self-publish a book someday. It is my hope that this blog will exercise my writing and help me determine what topics would be worthy of a book.

How

  1. Generated ideas for content, context, structure and execution plan. This project started with one of my recent journal entries. (I keep a personal journal using Journey by Journal. This is one of my favorite apps and I’ll likely dedicate a post to it later). I jotted down several ideas a few days ago as part of a daily practice (see author James Altucher) and this was one of them. I must have been inspired that morning because the ideas kept flowing, came together and I got excited to start right away.
  2. I registered two domain names, donndurante.com and prodabbler.com, using my existing account with MyDomain.com. They each cost about $9/year and it was quick and easy because I’ve registered many domain names in the past. I’ve always been tempted to register my name as a dot com but never really had a good idea about what content it would house. Now I do. ProDabbler.com made sense to me since the overarching theme for this blog is my experience dabbling in several areas throughout my life. ProfessionalDabbler.com was already taken but I like that prodabbler is shorter and still easy to market if I ever decided to promote the blog. I’m actually surprised that prodabbler wasn’t already registered. There are enough self-proclaimed “professional dabblers” online, I’m curious why nobody thought about claiming the domain. Anyway, I’m glad it was available. For now, I’ve just set it up to redirect to donndurante.com
  3. Setting up server space was the next step. I already have an account with 1and1 which hosts several sites I still keep up and running. (Those sites have been on autopilot for many years but something tells me I shouldn’t give up on them just yet.) It was relatively quick and painless to configure the new domains registered with some dedicated space under my 1&1 Unlimited Contract. That package has plenty of available server space and allows me to run several domains under one account. 1&1 also has great features including an AppCenter that made setting up a hosted WordPress site very straightforward. Linking MyDomain registrations with 1&1 hosting can take up to 24 hours or so to propagate but in actuality, it only took a couple of hours.
  4. WordPress was the obvious platform choice for me. Not only is it well established and feature rich, it is already integrated with my hosting service and responsive to mobile devices. With earlier sites, I experimented with using CSS to manually create my own sites using responsive design…I found it took too much effort for something that is already included with WordPress themes and templates. Using the 1&1 utility wizard, it only took a few minutes to install WordPress and have it ready on the server space assigned to it.
  5. This step is where the creativity kicked in. After updating some of the general settings, I started customizing the site:
    • I searched for a theme that caught my eye. I wanted something simple yet stylish. Filtering the search results by newest first, I found a theme called “Curiosity Lite”. It had a layout that I thought would fit the concept I had in mind.
    • Once installed and activated, I began organizing the blog by adding pages, categories and placeholder content. I uploaded some media and played around with placement. My initial ideas for images and a logo didn’t display well with the theme so I undid them. I may come back to it later, but for now I’d like to keep it clean. Adding media just to have it feels forced and doesn’t seem to add value.
    • I wrote a short post titled “And so I begin” to replace the “Hello World” post that comes with the template.
    • I walked away from writing more even though I was tempted to keep pushing forward and adding as much starting content as time allowed. Like any other activity, it’s important to pause and reflect. I noticed I was getting tired and the writing wasn’t flowing as well. I had other things to attend to anyway so I decided to give it a rest and recharge.
    • I came back and restructured some of the categories by lumping some topics as sub-categories under more general parent categories (e.g. music and books were grouped under a new category I’m calling “media”). It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference when there isn’t much content, but as the substance of the site grows over time, content structure that is intuitive and well organized makes navigation and search friendlier in the long run. I also went back and started adding relevant tags to posts.
  6. I realized that the hosted version of WordPress doesn’t have built-in analytics. Coming from a digital marketing background, I feel blind when I can’t see the metrics of site activity. There won’t be much to look at until I actually have visitors and site engagement, but it’s one of those things that is good to have in place from the beginning. I search available plugins for “analytics” and chose Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress based on its rating and the total number of downloads. Simple to install and configure since I already have a Google Analytics account.
  7. Knowing that the site will change as it matures, I took a screenshot to capture how it looks today. I wonder how it will look 10 years from now.
  8. From this point, it will be about adding content on a regular basis. Some days I plan to just go back in time and fill in the backstory. Other days will have current experiences that tie into the theme of pro dabbler.

The Annual Performance Review

Today I had my APR. Over the years, I’ve had my share of performance reviews, sometimes called performance appraisals. Some companies never had them. At one employer they were conducted but irregular. Many were very subjective and unstructured. Those didn’t provide much value. In my more recent workplaces, I’ve been fortunate to have had very formal reviews that were well documented and based on performance to measurable metrics. While you may hear arguments against the value of performance appraisals in general, I’ve received valuable feedback when they have been done properly and I’ve used those open conversations to better understand where and how I could improve. Take today for example.

In Review

What I liked about today’s review:

  • Conducted within the scheduled time-frame for annual reviews. My manager didn’t drag things out or leave me waiting in anticipation.
  • I had an opportunity to read my written appraisal prior to meeting with my manager.
  • During the meeting, she gave me her undivided attention even though she had plenty of reasons to be distracted or pulled away.
  • Her assessment was fair. While my overall rating was above average, it wasn’t exaggerated. I know I have plenty of room for improvement in my current role and the rating reflected that while still being encouraging. It acknowledged where I’ve done well and I feel that my efforts have been recognized.
  • At the end, she left time for two-way dialogue and gave me plenty of time to voice any feedback I might have. She asked good follow-up questions and we came up with a good game plan on how to tackle some of the current challenges I have. I felt very comfortable to open up and speak freely.
  • It was meaningful. We weren’t just going through the motions for the sake of having an APR

What could have been better:

  • Although the outline and process were very structured, metrics were not covered in detail. Most of the discussion focused on subjective behaviors. The one metric that was covered was my weak area, so that part felt a bit skewed.

The whole thing lasted about an hour and we ended on a positive note. I left feeling motivated to work harder and focus more on the right things.

The Other Side of the Table

Throughout my career, I’ve also had my time sitting on the other side of the table. I know firsthand what it takes to prepare properly for annual reviews and the impact it could have for those on the receiving end. Exercising emotional intelligence is crucial. Treating reviews as “one size fits all” is a common mistake.

Lessons Learned

An important lesson I’ve learned over the years is that reviews are less stressful on both sides when expectations are clear from the start, and feedback is provided on a regular basis whether through regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings, or via regular reporting of metrics…actual performance compared to plan/target. If this is done, very little if anything that comes up during a proper review should be a surprise to either side. It becomes just a formal appraisal that is documented and provides a basis for potential merit increases and/or promotions. If a review is more negative than positive and an overall poor rating is inarguable then that simply prompts a decision whether to take more drastic measures or, if possible, to find a better ‘seat on the bus.’

The Right Bus

Finding the right seat on the bus is important, but you have to be on the right busin the first place. Is it going where you want to go? Will you enjoy the ride along the way. Does it make frequent enough stops in case you feel like getting off? As far as employers go, when choosing an organization to work for, I’ve also learned that corporate culture, values and leadership mean much more than the size of the paycheck, the free lunches, or the ping pong table in the game room (though such things are definitely nice to have). Good companies inherently follow best practices for creating a culture that fosters professional growth as well as the bottom line. A healthy environment and playing the right role (given your skills and experience) optimize your chances for success. When the time comes that things no longer align, then it’s a tell-tale sign to get off the bus and move on.

[Original entry written on February 9, 2016]

Questions:

  1. From your experience, what are the primary components of a meaningful and effective performance appraisal?
  2. What’s the most significant outcome you’ve experienced from either giving or receiving a performance review?
  3. For anyone new to the process, what would be your best piece of advice?

Credit for Featured Image: prime-decision.com/behavioural-insight-posts/behavioural-insights-for-hr/

 

And so I begin

I’ve been thinking about doing this for years but always had some reason for not getting to it. Around 5am yesterday morning, I was jotting down a bullet list of miscellaneous ideas and projects in my personal journal. This was one of them. As I was writing down the general idea of a blog, the details suddenly started to flow out…structure, themes, content sources as well as the technical such as domain names, registrar, hosting, blogging application, etc.  This got me excited to take next steps right away so I planned to get started after getting back from work. I spent the afternoon getting things set up with domain name registration, server space for hosting, and installation of the blogging application. I stopped for dinner with the family and to watch the big game between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. By the time the game was over, I was ready for bed.

This morning, I configured my initial settings, structure and content. (You’re reading the first post.) I have work in a few hours, so I’ll stop here for now and continue with details about why and how I set this whole thing up.