Virtual Workplace: Back in Ashland

Today the Electronic Nomad is working form a perch above the Ashland Meat Company @ Cross Brothers Grocery. I have a brilliant view of the tracks along Railroad Avenue. My eyes and ears enjoy the sounds of each passing Amtrak and CSX train, and my stomach growls as I think about the sandwiches they are fixing downstairs, and the Baltimore & Ohio Roast Chicken they’re cooking across the street at the Iron Horse Restaurant.

The next time you’re tooling down I-95 between DC and Richmond, get off at Exit 92, head west to Railroad Avenue, turn left and park. Have a meal. Spend a few hours here. Spend a day. I guarantee you will be glad you did.

The Cloud Warrior: Mobile Computing and its Discontents

The first-world problem of the year: I have been exasperated with my mobile computing experience for a long time. Whether I’m working from my client’s office, from the back of an Uber, in an airport, at a train station, in my camp chair, in the passenger seat while my wife drives, or on the upper deck of the Pacific Surfliner, it has become painfully clear that I cannot work on-the-go trusting in a kludged combination of my phone and my laptop

IOS on either the iPhone 8 Plus or my laptop-sized iPad pro simply does not have the juice for handling my Office 365-dominated workflow. Trying to deal with highly formatted Word documents on an IOS app gets awkward pretty quickly.

My laptops – both my MacBook Pro and my Microsoft Surface Pro 6 – are fantastic machines, but connecting to the internet on the go is dicey at best. I’ve either got to scramble to find a coffee shop with Wi-Fi, or I have to mess with my phone and hope tethering works. (And oh, by the way, my carrier charges more for the tethering capability.)

This all came to a head one Friday morning last spring. I had dropped my family at LAX for a trip to China and was just driving home when I got a call from a client. She needed revisions to a press release we had drafted the night before. I drove around looking for a Starbucks, finally gave up, and pulled to the side of the road to tether to my phone. By the time I had found a spot, stopped the car, set up the hot spot, got the hot spot connected with the computer, downloaded the document with her comments, made my revisions, uploaded the document and got her acknowledgment, it had taken 35 minutes. We went through this three more times. In short, a 75-minute trip wound up taking me 4 hours. I have been praying for a better way ever since.

Next: I Need a Mobile Computing Carbine

Today’s Virtual Workplace – Strasburg, PA

Virtually seated here in the tower above the main yard of the Strasburg Rail Road, the oldest continuously chartered railroad in America, if not the world.

How goodly are the days that even approach the delights of working to the sound of the pufferbellies as they meander to and fro across the farm fields of Lancaster County? Now and again, between trains, the sound of the breeze is punctuated by the clip-clop of a horse-drawn buggy as one of the local Amish families make a trip into town.

Today’s Virtual Perch: Ashland, Virginia

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Out my virtual window today as I work: the Amtrak station at Ashland, VA, perched alongside the twin-tracked east-coast mainline between Washington, D.C., and Richmond.

There is always a healthy blend of Amtrak long-distance and commuter trains, mixed with a regular cadence of CSX freight trains. The scene is peppered by a local cast of characters staying at the Henry Clay Inn behind the station, munching croissant sandwiches at Homemade by Suzanne, or grabbing caffeinated sustenance at Ashland Coffee and Tea.

There is a regular parade of students from Randolph-Macon College seeking study help from the Sugar Fix bakery or the more mature fare at the Iron Horse Grill and the Caboose Market & Cafe, and one very fit retired fellow who rides a girl’s bike up and down Railroad Avenue for hours on end.

All in all, a pleasant place to work virtually. I’m looking forward to a day when I can do so in person.

Administrative Note: Going Anti-Social

With due respect to my fellow tribesman and hapa-daddy Mark Zuckerberg, I have reached some conclusions about Facebook after nearly a decade of use.

  1. Facebook was once a magnificent means of staying in touch with friends
  2. It has, of late, become a tool of hucksters, social manipulators, propagandists, disinformation artists, and very, very angry people to a far greater degree than it remains a connective medium.
  3. It became for me, as a result, a giant black hole into which my time and attention was sucked, never to be seen again.
  4. What was worse, any content that I created was used by Facebook to make money.

As a result, I have downloaded my content, deleted my presence, and will have no more to do with the platform. I’m done, and this time for good.

This blog is now my feed. I would rather pay the nice folks at Automattic a modest fee every year to own my platform and hold it separate from the anger, noise, and manipulation of Facebook. Better to shout in the wilderness than whisper in a crowd.

The sole reason I post this is to provide you a heads-up that I will be gradually back-filling content from my Facebook feed into earlier sections of this blog, so if you see something anachronistic, it is just me saving the worthwhile tidbits from my years on Facebook.

NB: Twitter is on probation at the moment, as is WeChat.

Naturally, feel free to comment.