Digital Nomad.

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I have mentioned in the last few blog posts that Earl and I are in Pensacola Beach, Florida this week. I have been living the life of a “digital nomad”, something that I have always wanted to be able to do with my career. It’s not something that I can do all the time, but every once in a while it’s nice to be able to work with a change of scenery.

For those stumbling upon this entry via Google, a quick background of what I do for a living: I work for a large, national telecommunications company in the Engineering Development Services group as a Senior Software Engineer. I spend 90% of my day writing code. The company I work for allows many of us to work remotely. The gig pays well, has decent benefits and working remotely is ideal for me. I love it. When I interviewed with this company in 2010, I declared that I hoped it would be my last job interview. I still believe this to be the case.

I thought I’d share what I do as a digital nomad and how I assure that I will be able to remain productive and connected to work even though I could be working anywhere. Much of this is at my own expense, and quite frankly, it’s worth it.

1. When I was given a company smartphone (a Samsung Galaxy SIII), I made sure they included data sharing in the data plan. My smartphone is on AT&T. I rarely use my phone for anything because as an Apple guy, I can’t stand using whatever Samsung has done to SIII.

2. I make sure that I always have a minimum of two but preferably three ways to connect to the Internet at any given time. This involves any hotel or restaurant wi-fi connection, the aforementioned data plan on my company smartphone and my personal iPad on Verizon, which comes with data sharing as well. Public WiFi can be wonky quite often, but I’ve found my Verizon LTE on my iPad to be rock solid 90% of the time. Often if I don’t have Verizon coverage, I can fall back on the AT&T connection.

3. Though it’s a pain at airport security, I carry both my personal and work MacBooks and use each computer as appropriate. However, if my work MacBook should fail for any reason, I can still connect using my personal computer or my iPad and Remote Desktop to my standard issue PC in the cubicle back at home.

4. I have two Dropbox accounts, one for work and one for personal use. I store all of my code for work on Dropbox, so I can get to it anywhere. I also share my coding folder from my work Dropbox to my personal Dropbox, so I can also get to it there if I have to fall back to my personal MacBook. In an absolutely paranoid move, I also have an old Pentium 4 PC back home that I can get to via an SSH connection. I have this computer also syncing with Dropbox, so as a very last resort my files are always somewhere.

5. I use Google Voice for my work cell phone number and then forward calls to whatever device I am carrying. Calls are normally forwarded to my personal iPhone because of my dislike of the company Samsung. I normally make my work calls using my personal phone. I used to use Skype for everything, but lately Skype has been dropping landline calls like crazy so I’ve been sticking with cell service and I have no regrets with my decision. In my home office I have a VoIP line that I pay $9.95 a month for through a company called PhonePower. Their service has been outstanding.

6. I carry at least two pairs of headphones with me because others shouldn’t have to hear my calls. I hate Bluetooth fobs hanging in my ear, I do all my conference calls on standard issue Apple headphones that come with iPhones.

7. I tend to thrive in ambient noise environments, but if I find myself being distracted, I listen to instrumental music of varying variety when I write code. A favorite selection is “Music To Code By” by Carl Franklin. I also have a set playlist of a few songs that I listen to at the beginning of every workday, it’s my way of telling my brain, “OK, it’s time to work.” I used to have videos playing when I worked but I find them too distracting.

8. Luckily, the company I work for has company wide instant messaging through Microsoft Lync. I use this to stay connected with coworkers and the like but I’m not afraid to use the “busy” or “do not disturb” status. I make a point of blocking out an hour in the morning as “productivity time” and an hour for lunch each day on my calendar. The morning block allows me to plan my day and weed through email and the lunch block keeps me sane.

With a little forethought and planning, and the right job, becoming a Digital Nomad is a dream come true for me. I love what I do, I like who I work for and I like that I have flexibility to experience changes of scenery when my schedule allows for it. It helps keep life awesome.

Dinner Date.

Even though we’ve been in Pensacola Beach since Monday, the both of us having been working regular hours and Earl has been hobnobbing with coworkers after hours. Tonight was our first and only dinner date night in Pensacola Beach.

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We opted to eat at Hemingway’s, one of the many beach restaurants here in Pensacola Beach. It was a very good, but not awesome experience. I wrote a review on TripAdvisor. I will probably link to it when it becomes a public review.

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43.

Earl and I took the opportunity of visiting western Florida to add state number 43 out of 50 to our “visited states list” today. Our rule for counting a state is that we must drive in that state for longer than 30 minutes, so today after work we made the relatively short trip along US 98 from Pensacola, Florida to Mobile, Alabama.

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The drive along the gulf coast via US 98 is delightful; we passed through several small towns before ending up in suburban Mobile. Traffic was light, everything was green and the drive was pleasant.

We decided we wanted to get back “home” to Pensacola Beach for dinner, so when we got to Interstate 10, we hopped on and headed east. As a road geek and almost civil engineer, I’m always eager to see how each state treats their interstate highways. Alabama does well with Interstate 10. It felt “comfortable” to me.

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We briefly toyed with the idea of adding Mississippi to the list as well, since it’s only 30 miles to the west of Mobile, but we decided to wait until we visit Memphis, Tenn. and then we’ll spend a good chunk of time in Mississippi and add it properly to the list.

Contentment.

There’s probably quite a few families in my immediate vicinity that are disappointed with the weather this afternoon.

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Though we are in a vacation destination this week, Earl and I are working regular hours today and tomorrow. Earl is here in Pensacola Beach, Florida for conference meetings for work and since I basically can work from anywhere, I spent most of the day working on my work MacBook Pro via VPN. I had a most productive day at work today; I find the change in scenery to be very inspiring. I wrote some good code today and knocked out a few projects that I have been trying to get done.

Mother Nature shared a couple of beautiful thunderstorms with us today. I was able to watch the wind completely change in direction in less than five minutes. As a private pilot, it was a good reminder as to why we don’t fly our airplanes in this type of weather. As a storm chaser, it was awesome. A close-by lightning strike wiped out the hotel Internet connectivity for a few moments. Luckily, I travel with backups (more about my traveling technology in an upcoming post.)

Earl is out to dinner with his colleagues this evening; I was planning on walking the Boardwalk on the Bay side of the island, but it’s currently raining a little too hard to derive any enjoyment from that activity. I don’t really mind the weather right now because I’m wicked relaxed and feeling quite content. 

And contentment is good.

Pensacola Beach, Florida.

I’m writing this blog entry while sitting on a deck overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Earl is in Pensacola Beach, Florida for a work conference for the week and I tagged along with him. This opportunity is another reason why I love my job; I am able to work as a “digital nomad” and basically do my job from anywhere. I write code, I talk on conference calls and I enjoy life from anywhere, all in one big swoop.

After getting settled into our room shortly before 4:00 Central and working a couple of hours this afternoon, I went for a walk along the beach and familiarized myself with the area I’ll be calling home for the next few days.

It was a very pleasant experience.

 

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Truth.

So I stumbled upon this article by a woman who touts herself as The Food Babe. An avid blogger and touter of all things holistic and natural, the Food Babe apparently tells the world what’s wrong with your food, air and such and strives to educate the world on ways to living a healthier life.

That’s all well and good, except this article tells me that she’s full of crap. Scouting around on the internet indicates that others share the same belief.

If you read the first article I linked to, you’ll see that “The Food Babe” offers tips for a better flight on your favorite airline. Now, even though I am a pilot I must admit that I have never flown an airliner. However, I do know several appropriately related pilots and in my many hours of instruction, as well as my many hours of flight training, there are some things that I’d like to point out showing why The Food Babe is nuts.

From the article:

When your body is in the air, at a seriously high altitude, your body under goes some serious pressure. Just think about it – Airplanes thrive in places we don’t. You are traveling in a pressurized cabin, and when your body is pressurized, it gets really compressed!

Um, not quite. While the pressure in the cabin of an airplane is probably not the same as what you’re used to back home, the purpose of pressurizing the cabin is to make your body as comfortable as it would be at around six or eight-thousand feet above sea level. Even though the airplane is cruising along anywhere as high as 41,000 feet or so, your body still thinks it’s at the aforementioned six or eight-thousand feet. You’re not being vacuumed sealed into the airplane. You’re not a sardine. Yes, it’s different, but you’re not being shrunk, sealed or squeezed any differently than if you were to go hiking in the Rockies. If you feel like a sardine it’s because of the size of your seat, not because you’re packed in for freshness.

The air you are breathing on an airplane is recycled from directly outside of your window. That means you are breathing everything that the airplanes gives off and is flying through. The air that is pumped in isn’t pure oxygen either, it’s mixed with nitrogen, sometimes almost at 50%. To pump a greater amount of oxygen in costs money in terms of fuel and the airlines know this! The nitrogen may affect the times and dosages of medications, make you feel bloated and cause your ankles and joints swell.

The air you are breathing on an airplane is the same exact air that you’re breathing on the ground, it’s just getting to you differently. The way The Food Babe words this paragraph, you’d think that there’s a huge net hanging off the back of each engine scooping up air and pumping it into the cabin, but that’s not quite how it works. For more information on how the environment is maintained on an airliner, take a look at this blog entry over at Ask The Pilot. And don’t worry, you’re not getting dosed with anything from the “chemtrails” (don’t even get me started on that).

Choose a seat as close to the front as possible. Pilots control the amount of airflow and it is is always better in their cabin.

I have no idea what this woman means by this. As a pilot that often flies a Piper Cherokee I can tell you that we have air vents around us just like you do in an automobile. I can also tell you that your standard run of the mill Boeing or Airbus airliner probably has the same thing. If you need air, use the twisty thing above your head and enjoy the breeze, it’s probably coming from the same place as the air vents in the cockpit. And if the pilot is sitting in the cabin, they’re not flying. Flight deck or cockpit, you choose.

One of the most disappointing things about the Internet is that it’s easy for anyone to write up they’re own version of the truth and sell it to the masses, which seem all too eager to lap it up and take it as the Gospel. Coupling this with the trend toward eschewing common sense and you end up with a whole bunch of malarky out there.

Take everything with a grain of salt.

Outside.

For the first time in 2015, I am able to sit on our front steps and write a blog entry without fear of frost bite, sleet, snow, hail or other weather calamity. It’s a good feeling.

With the weather being less than stellar over the past month or so, I’ve been walking every morning in an effort to get ready for cycling season. The snow banks are slowly receding and we see a little more of our lawn every day.

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They’re predicting that tonight’s low is going to be relatively sane for this time of the year (in the low 40s), so I’m determined to go on my first bike ride of the year tomorrow morning before work. My bike is in great shape, I’ll have my clothes readied before bed tonight so I will have very little in the way of excuses not to ride.

I’m looking forward to getting this spring thing in motion.

Pizza.

Crystal O’Connor, owner of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, was the first to step forward and announce that they’re not serving gays at their restaurant, but only if a gay couple wants them to provide catering for their wedding. It’s perfectly fine for a gay couple to come in and dine in their establishment.

Predictably, the Facebook page and Yelp profile of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana are both getting trashed, and not in a “I drank too many beers” kind of way. There’s also stories of the Memories Pizza website being hacked and reimagined with images of gay men in various states of undress accompanied by penis shaped pizzas, but it turns out that website address was registered today, so that doesn’t count.

I have just two comments: Ms. O’Connor doesn’t seem to be the brightest bulb in the chandelier as I don’t know how she thought this would bring any positive attention to her establishment but more importantly, what self-respecting couple, gay or straight, would ask a pizza joint to cater their wedding?

Escape.

I took Earl on his first ride in the Cherokee 180 yesterday. It was a beautiful day here in Central New York, the temperature was thinking about reaching 40ºF and there was lots of sunshine. The winds kept me on my toes during take-off and landing, but all in all we had a great flight together. We flew to Elmira-Corning Regional Airport and back; it’s a little over an hour’s flight in each direction. This made it qualify as a cross-country flight in my logbook. This is good, I need cross-country time for my Instrument rating, which I just started studying for. 

Flying with Earl is just like riding in the Jeep with him. We talk, we enjoy the scenery around us and most importantly, we enjoy the time we are spending together.

  

Flying is also an escape for me. As a pilot, my focus all comes to one place: flying the airplane safely. In my life it’s rare that I can focus on one thing. At work I am part of several disconnected software projects. I can be intently working on Project A when I’ll get hammered with instant messages on Projects B, C or D at any given moment. This pulls me away from my focus on Project A and my thoughts scatter. I used to think that I was a good multitasker. I’m not. I work best when I’m focused on a task and I allow myself to become completely engrossed in that task. I do my best work by focusing intently on what I’m trying to achieve. That’s why I twitch a bit when I get instant messages or text messages on my phone. They distract me and honestly, I’m easy to distract.

I continue to find the news outlets to be distracting. “Aviation experts” showing pictures of the airplane in the Germanwings crash. According to the photos I’ve seen, the airplane could have had one or two floors in the main cabin, two, three or four engines at any given moment and it was made by either Airbus, Boeing, Bombadier or some other company. These experts have no right to call themselves an expert. So much speculation and so many wild opinions. To me it’s sad to see the 24 hour news channels barely hide their delight that they have a tragedy to go on and on and on about. I feel sad for the families left behind after the crash of the Airbus. I feel even sadder that their images are being paraded around on the tube during their time of mourning.

So I turned the news off. 

I guess getting super focused on something affords me the escape I feel my brain needs. I need to better myself at removing distractions, and finding that happy place, even when I’m on the ground.