Who am I?

I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

Currently Consuming
  • The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    by Eric Ries
  • The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
    The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
    by Daniel Coyle
  • Alexander Hamilton
    Alexander Hamilton
    by Ron Chernow

Paul Tevis

Entries in things you can help me out with (12)


Static Friction And Me

It’s easier to keep going than it is to start moving.

There’s an analogy here from my day job that's relevant. In physics, friction is a force that opposes motion. Physicists like to ignore it, but as someone who deals with the mechanics of real, physical systems, I can't. When you design a motion control system, you have to provide a way to compensate for the loss of energy that comes from surfaces rubbing against each other. It turns out, though, that this force comes in several varieties, two of which I have to deal with: static friction and kinetic friction. Kinetic friction is what we're used to dealing with; it’s the thing that slows down our cars and keeps us from getting amazing gas mileage.1 Kinetic friction acts on bodies in motion. Static friction, on the other hand, is a force that has to be overcome in order to put something into motion. Curiously enough, these two forces work differently, and for most objects and surfaces, static friction is greater than dynamic friction. So in order to get started, you need to apply more force than you do once you've gotten going.2

One thing you've probably noticed about the last several months' worth of posts here is that they're almost exclusively about my thought process and how I deal with things. I haven’t made much of an attempt to generalize my experiences to other people. That's because talking about myself is my way of overcoming this blog's static friction. I want to blog more (as I've talked about), and I've found that focusing on the process of writing without worrying too much about what I'm writing is the key to getting up to speed. I've made time to write, I've figured out what I need to have with me to write when have that time, and I've developed the habit to a point where I can start to refine it.

"Write what you know" can be taken too far; the result is self-indulgent navel-gazing. On the other hand, Have Games, Will Travel taught me that trying to focus exclusively on the material and leaving myself out of the equation doesn't work either. What I need to do is write about my deeply subjective experiences in a way that makes them interesting and accessible to others. One reason I blog is to be part of a conversation, rather than to be a voice shouting down a well, and this is where you can help me.

I'm not posting every day, but I am working on posts almost every day, so I'm starting to emerge from the static friction portion of this project. Now I've got two questions. First, how can I frame the things that I talk about to make them more accessible and useful to you as a reader? I’ve experimented a bit with style and format, and I’m curious to know what works (for people who aren’t me). The other question is, now that I’m moving, which direction should I point? I'm obviously going to continue writing about things I'm doing, but I do enough stuff that I can't write about it all. What parts are you interested in reading about? Here are some topics (among others) I could be writing about:

  • Productivity and effectiveness
  • Scrum
  • Improv
  • The Origins Awards
  • Creativity and making things
  • Living in Santa Barbara
  • Career development
  • Communication
  • Working with teams
  • The minutiae of day-to-day life
  • Things I’ve read (regardless of topic)

So, what am I doing that’s working and what should I think about changing? I suppose that now that the car is rolling, it's time to start playing with the steering wheel.



1 That, and air resistance. But let’s be like physicists and ignore that.

2 And yes, I realize that from a physics perspective, there’s a difference between maintaining velocity and accelerating. Bear with me, so I don’t have to make this analogy too overwrought.


Looking For Podcasts

It's crowdsourcing time! (Or as jwz would say, "Dear lazyweb")

I'm looking for well-done, thought-provoking podcasts. You know, the kind that give you good ideas, that make you consider things you hadn't before? I'm not fussy about subject matter, so long as they are good.

The only rule: Each episode must be less than 20 minutes.


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