Four Letter Nerd

Category - Lifestyle

Another New Year, Another New 4LN! Kind of…

sparkling trails of light drawing out the numbers 2017 in glowing light to welcome in the new year

Happy New Year! Yes, I know it’s February already, but honestly, I’ve been drinking since November so I’m lucky to even be wearing pants right now sitting up straight right now. Even though it’s closer to Valentine’s Day than New Years Day, I still wanted to take some time out and share with all you wonderful nerds what’s up with us here at 4LN. I did this little “State of 4LN Address” last year (“New Year, New 4LN“) and it’s just a way that I can keep those of you who might be interested up-to-date on where we are right now and what our foreseeable plans are.

Writing something about 4LN is complicated because we have two core readerships: People who know us in our personal lives and support us even if they aren’t invested in our content, and people who really don’t give a s–t who we are and only check out the site BECAUSE of the content. And we’re OK with that. We appreciate all of you equally and we’re grateful when even only a few of you read something we publish. Honestly, if you fall into the latter category, you could probably just stop reading here, or skip to the bottom. I 100% can’t blame you for not giving a s–t about who we are individually, and the rest of this could come across as self-indulgent to you. I only say that to try and give you a fair heads up on what you’re about to get into. The rest of you, the ones who do know us personally, you have to keep reading. It’s mandatory.

Our appreciation and gratitude in spite of only getting a handful of views on something is afforded to us because we make absolutely no money, no monetary gain whatsoever, off of this website. Since we really have nothing to lose, it’s a pleasure for us when any of you take the time to read a comic review or TV episode recap, or check out one of our unboxing videos. However… the fact that we do no profit from our posts means that 4LN cannot always be the top priority for us. It’s unfortunate, but hey, that’s life. We have jobs and families, and responsibilities that will always require more attention than this website, and as (mostly) responsible adults, we know that our everyday life commitments are more important than this. It’s the reason a review may go out a couple days later than planned, or a YouTube video might get published a week past the date we would’ve liked. Preserving our way of life, and taking care of our families comes first. Every time. We’ve never had any misconceptions that 4LN would be our ticket to “the Big Time,” whatever that means. Sure, we’ve had high hopes and dreams, but not once did we ever assume that this website would become the sole means of income for any of us, let alone ALL of us. We’re not THAT delusional. We’ve cultivated it as much as we can, when we can, and abandoned things that didn’t work or weren’t viable for us. We consider anything we at least tried a success because it means we weren’t cowards.

Another reason things can be “feast or famine” around here is because it’s very easy for us to get overwhelmed and burned out, which can lead to weeks where there’s only one or two articles posted, and then others where we have something every single day. Admittedly, lately, it’s been more famine than feast. It’s not something we lament though. It’s a side effect that comes from only having a few regular writers, and occasional guest contributors. Like with literally anything that you do, if you do it a lot, it can begin to feel unfulfilling and you need to step back, breathe, reevaluate, and then proceed accordingly. For all of us, at one time or another, focusing less on 4LN was the way to “proceed accordingly.” At first, when one of us would express these feelings, I think the rest of us saw it as mutiny, but once our time in the chair came, we better understood those feelings. It’s completely natural and we’re all accepting of that now. I say all this to provide an explanation, not an excuse. We’re not looking for pity. Honestly, we’re not even sorry. We’ve chosen to make 4LN fit into our lives, rather than forcing our lives to revolve around it and these are simply side effects.

So, what does all this mean for 4LN? Well, it means… it means that we’re done. We’re ending. The time has come for us to put this venture to rest. It’s definitely tough. I mean, how do I say goodbye to what we had? The good times that made us laugh outweigh the bad. I thought we’d get to see forever, but forever’s gone away. It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday…

Ha! JK! LOLZ! We’re not f–king going anywhere, BITCHES!

I’ve had people ask me about what happened to 4LN and why we aren’t doing as much. The honest answer is… we don’t take it as seriously now. Sure, we may never have expected that we’d ride this ship to “internet success and fortune” but we certainly attempted the “dress for the job you want” philosophy. We forced out content just because it was there to take up space and make us look busier. We’ve taken hard stances on things that, in hindsight, were trivial, and we’ve fought to the point of almost destroying friendships over things like… Batman (who isn’t a superhero, by the way). We just realized that none of this, no comic or movie or superhero, is worth being that rigid.

Last year we decided that we were going to be more open with our content and post about things that fell outside of the “nerd” label. That will continue. I anticipate there may be more music articles, as well as more lifestyle themed pieces. We’re also hoping to continue developing our video projects. We had a blast filming at Warped Tour last year, and we always enjoy shooting unboxing videos, so make sure to follow our Youtube page for whatever may pop up there.

We will also keep our “Positivity clause” in effect indefinitely. That’s the one thing that makes all of this worth it. Our only goal at this point, is to write about what we love, what we care about, what we want YOU to love and care about. It’s why we started, and it’s the sentiment we’re back to now. We have no desire to waste your time with negative and disparaging clickbait. 4LN exists, inherently, not because we’re all narcissistic pieces of garbage who craved 15 minutes of mediocre, ill-begotten fame (not *all* of us), but because we genuinely want to talk about what we love. It used to be just comics, games, and other typical “nerd” stuff. But we’ve evolved (or maybe devolved, depending on who you ask) and we can either quit or adapt. We’ve chosen to adapt. So yes, there will still be weeks we don’t post much, and then there will be weeks that we post an article every day. 2 years ago when we’d post an article a day, most weeks 3 out of those 5 articles were, frankly, bulls–t (maybe “superfluous” is a more sophisticated word?), and we were all probably just as indifferent to them as you were. That won’t happen anymore.

To summarize: 4LN is exactly what we want it to be right now. Casual. We’ve always identified as casual nerds, we enjoy nerd culture but we aren’t defined by it. 4LN will go forward reflecting that ideology. We’ll write, and shoot videos, when it’s convenient, and when it’s something we’re passionate about. To that affect, 4LN articles will, admittedly, not always be classified as “nerd”, but we guarantee they’ll always be written by nerds.

With Gratitude,
Stephen Andrew

Cubicle Survival Guide: Work-at-Home Edition

telework_goals_1457037931286

With the rise of the interwebs, working from home – aka teleworking, aka pantsless-computing – is becoming an increasingly popular option for employers and employees alike.  Not only are employees generally happier because they don’t have to sit next to the microwave where Gary burns the popcorn EVERY DAMN TIME, but employees get to save on things like space and motivational posters:

I’ve been teleworking for about a year, and it’s fantastic. But, like most things in life, it has its ups and downs.  Productivity is important, and employment is even more important, so here are some tips and tricks to make your telework transition as smooth as possible.

First of all, you will need a work-space separate from the general living area.  Unless, of course, you live alone.  For me, I initially had to set up away from the everyday hubbub that comes with a two year old and a four year old waging war on one another and their toys.  Since I haven’t figured out how to make money off mediocrity yet, I had to set mine up in our bedroom where I could bar the door against the mini-horde of children plotting my doom.

6a00d8341c60bf53ef012876a8aa1e970c-500wi-1

A reenactment of my kids outside my door.

Now that your desk is set up in a low traffic area, it’s time to get down to business.  The first few days at home might take a little getting used to, but eventually the lack of annoying chatter from your coworkers coupled with the morale boost that comes with not sitting in traffic for hours will coalesce into a beautiful tapestry of productivity.

Unless, of course, you decide to just watch Netflix the whole time (and by “watch” I mean “endlessly browse the queue of Netflix”).  One of the biggest downfalls of working from home is easy access to all of your in-home entertainment options. If you want to have the TV on in the background, that’s fine.  Just don’t make it a show that your are intensely interested in, because then you will spend a majority of your time staring at the wrong screen, which can also lead to a stiff neck if your TV is not directly beside your computer screen.  Now, if I have something on TV, it’s usually something that I don’t hate, but I’m also not particularly invested in like ESPN, or whatever the History Channel is peddling as educational nowadays.  Mainly though, I just jam Spotify most of the time.

This next one might sound like antithesis to my first point, but I just consider it farther up the skill tree so it requires a higher level to unlock.  More recently I have discovered how great it is to be mobile around the house.  We are issued a laptop, dock, and two monitors, but lately I’ve been unplugging from the dock and working on the kitchen table, standing at the kitchen counter, sitting on a rocking chair on the porch, and propping my feet up on the couch while getting the job done.  This is kind of a gray area when talking about productivity.  I had to see if I could still maintain my normal production levels, while exploring new places to work around the house.  After a week or two it’s become my new normal, and I love it.

#squadgoals

Now that we’ve looked at setup, sidebar entertainment, and level 2 skills, let’s finish by looking at some do’s and do nots for teleworking

• Do create a peaceful work environment. You’ll be spending a lot of time in this spot, so make sure you enjoy being there.

• Don’t make it so peaceful that you fall asleep.

• Do get up and move around from time to time. You’ll be walking even less now that you aren’t in the office. To avoid becoming one of the humans from WALL-E, try to get a moderate amount of movement in your day to day life.

My last point is probably the most important – don’t screw it up. Most telework contracts are conditional on you not being a terrible employee, so make sure your goals are met. If you manage that you can continue working in the nude like God intended.

 

4LN Comic Review – MARCH: Book One

March-Book-One-cover-300dpi-34f08

There aren’t a lot of comics that you *need* to read. There are a lot of comics that you *want* to read, and love to read, but most of those comics ultimately have no genuine impact on your life other than giving you something to talk about with your comic reading friends who (surprise, surprise) also already loved them. Most of the time you’ll forget those comics within days of having read them. Rarely does a comic, or graphic novel, come along that you *need*, I mean really, for the sake of your own social and cultural betterment, NEED to read. The ones you need to read are the ones that have a lasting impact beyond briefly being mentioned in those comic Facebook groups you’re in. MARCH is one of those “need” books. In fact, and this is quite a big claim, it might be the most “need” comic/graphic novel of all-time.

Image result for march book

The first entry in a trilogy of graphic novels, MARCH: Book One tells the life-story of Congressman John Lewis, with a focus on his childhood and his journey to becoming a leading fighter on the front lines of the civil rights movement. The story unfolds as Rep. Lewis is telling two kids from his district about how he got to where he is, and the setting is Jan. 20th, 2009, the day President Obama was inaugurated.

The opening of the book is a depiction of the Selma-to-Montgomery march, where Lewis walked side-by-side with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as about 600 other marchers, in a peaceful protest, but they were blocked by state troopers and consequently attacked and beaten. It’s important that the narrative begin here because this was an pinnacle moment in Rep. Lewis’ life, and in the civil rights movement overall. The incident in Selma was broadcast all over television and shed a national light on the type of inhumane cruelty the black community had been suffering.

Image result for march book

Rep. Lewis lead a fascinating life. MARCH shows us what he was like as a young man, in his own words, and how even as a young boy he had a deep, intuitive understanding of the how precious life is, and how mistreating it can’t be justified.

Also, as someone who resides in a suburb of Nashville, it was bittersweet for me to see how our city is so closely tied to the fight for civil rights. Much of this volume of the story focuses on the peaceful sit-ins that Lewis helped organize at diners right here in the Tennessee capitol. I honestly had no idea that ever happened just outside my own backyard, and I, admittedly, felt a little shame that it wasn’t taught to me when I was in school, and that I hadn’t taken the time on my own to learn about it.

Image result for march book

Luckily for us, we have movies like Selma and The Butler to help us understand what life was like for the people paving the way for civil rights, and what life was like during that era, but there’s only so much a 2 hour movie can show you, and then on top of that they’re being told by artists. MARCH is an opportunity for you to see and hear what was going on through the eyes and words of a man who was actually there, fighting at the forefront of the movement. Sometimes it’s hard to witness, to see what they were enduring, but it is a historical part of this great country of ours, and one we need to be reminded of.

Recently, the trilogy set of MARCH has begun to sell out, so tracking down a physical copy of that might be tough, but it looks you can get a copy of Book One, as well as Book Two & Book Three (the first comic to win a National Book Award), through Amazon, and I’m sure places like Barnes & Noble or Books-a-Million might have them as well. You can also check with your local comic shop to see if they have any in stock. If you can’t get a physical copy, all three are available in Amazon’s Kindle format, and through Comixology.

I want to strongly recommend that you get this and read it, and I even urge you to consider getting it for any kid in your life (son, daughter, niece, nephew, cousin, etc.) from middle-school-age on. I believe it could teach them a lot about a time period in the U.S. that they may struggle to comprehend otherwise.

In addition to the crucial historical information, Rep. Lewis’ life is immensely inspiring, from his wise maturity at a young age through his firm resolve to fight for desegregation. At 76 years old he continues to be a man of strong determination and action. His story will open your eyes and give you hope. Get a hold of MARCH, by any means necessary, and let it move you, but more than that… let it motivate you.

LEGOs, Buddhism, and Fatherhood

legomandala-5

A large part of my son Charlie’s LEGO collection is made up of my Millennium Falcon set I used to keep up on my shelf of collectibles. One day, one of our cats (Luke or Leia) somehow managed to get up there and knock it six feet down to its demise. Not wanting to put it back together that early in the morning, I boxed it up and stashed it in my closet where, after a couple months, the cats managed to knock it off my closet shelf, shattering it again. This time my kids found it and wanted to play with it so bad. At this point, I could either withhold a toy I kept stashed next to my neckties in the dark recesses of my closet from my two favorite people, or I could decide to not be Lord Business from the LEGO Movie and let them use their imagination to build whatever they want (as long as the color scheme is mostly gray).

Nearly 14,000 pieces suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced

Nearly 14,000 pieces cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

Fast forward a few weeks, my wife was talking to her dad about what to get Charlie for Christmas. She brought up how he’s recently become fascinated with LEGOs, particularly Star Wars LEGOs due to the incident described above, and how it’s really a present for both me and my son since I have to do the majority (all) of the labor. What she didn’t tell her dad was that Charlie’s favorite part of LEGO building was the post-build destruction. I mean, immediately after I finished building a Darth Vader LEGO set he looked at it, smiled, then unleashed the hounds of war. It makes sense, kids are inherently destructive, right? They aren’t malicious about it, but if you stack four boxes up and step back they are definitely going to pretend it’s a high rise and they are Godzilla.  Seriously, for my two year old’s birthday, we bought 20 moving boxes, painted them like bricks, and stacked them into a wall for all the kids to bust through like superheroes.  Those boxes stayed in our playroom for almost two whole months because it became the kids favorite thing to do.

This got me thinking about how I felt spending an hour and half on a LEGO build that was doomed from the start.

Was the time and effort worth it knowing that as soon as we finished, it would be set upon by a kid who LOVES the Hulk and wants to emulate his behavior?

It also brought a vague recollection of the Buddhist practice of creating sand paintings that I later learned are called mandalas (not the adult coloring books… not that there is anything wrong with that).

Sand mandalas are elaborate art pieces that are painstakingly created over several weeks by Buddhist monks. First they must lay out the geometric pattern for the mandala, and create the different color sands. Then the team of monks spend several weeks carefully creating each section of the mandala, and once completed they ceremoniously destroy it. The sand is swept up, some is given to the observers and the remainder is placed in a jar, wrapped in silk, then released in the nearest river. The point of this exercise is to show the temporary nature of life. It also encourages them to focus on the present moment instead of ruminating on the future.

shutterstock_2191834

Now, I know that putting little plastic blocks together with my son pales in comparison to the ritual creation and destruction of the Buddhist mandalas. There is, I think, a lesson to be learned here anyway.  All of the time I spend with Charlie at the kitchen table searching through an ever-shifting pile of LEGOs is time well spent, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the LEGO creation.  Or, you know, I could just be overthinking things like I normally do…

1Up Unboxing – June – Survival Theme

oF9G6ELm

Well, we’re launching this unboxing video a lot later than we wanted due to some unforeseen technical issues, but hey… better late than never! This was a particularly excellent 1Up box, with and exciting Survival theme, so check out our video below, and make sure to head over to 1UpBox.com to sign yourself up and get one of your own!

 

And also make sure to check out our first 1Up unboxing video and “Is It Worth It?” article here:

1Up Box: Is It Worth It? (+ Unboxing Video!)

1Up Box: Is It Worth It? (+ Unboxing Video!)

There are a lot of monthly subscription boxes out there full of great swag for geeks and gamers, but how many of them are actually worth the price? We recently received a 1Up Box and dug through it to find out if it’s worth the roughly $13 (plus $7 shipping & handling). This is their May box and the theme was RPG. Check out what all we got in the box below, with actual pictures that we took of the items (not stock photos), and our estimated value based on what we could find comparable to each item.

 

World of Warcraft, Sylvanas Pop Vinyl Figure – $11

WoW Pop

This is the only item in the box that isn’t an exclusive. This figure runs on Amazon for about $11.

 

1Up Buddies “Furry Assassins” T-Shirt – $15

Furry Assassins

This item is harder to determine an outside value than the POP figure is, because it’s something that’s 100% exclusive to 1Up. I found someone selling this shirt on Ebay for about $15, with free shipping, so that’s what we’re gonna go with.

Just with these two items you’re already over in value compared to what you pay for the box with S&H included, and there’s still more…

 

Viking Pin – $5

– Viking Pin

This viking pin will remind you a little of the Dragonborn from Skyrim, and I wasn’t able to find any other pins that were similar to this, but I did find someone selling this pin on Ebay for $5.

 

Vault Bookmark – $2

Bookmark

You’ll recognize this as an homage to the Fallout game series. It’s stylized like the pause/save screen featuring the Vault Boy. This was another one that I could not find a similar item for, but I did find this Vault Boy bookmark on Etsy for close just under $2, so since this is an exclusive I’m gonna round the value up to $2 even.

 

Assassin’s Creed Emoji Stickers – $5

AC Stickers

These are great, right? They just crack me up. I found these on Ebay for $5 and that seems fair considering they’re also a 1Up exclusive item.

 

So there you have it folks. All added up, per our research, you get almost $40 worth of great stuff for only spending about $20, making it entirely worth the price. The 1Up Box theme for June is Survival so go to 1Upbox.com to get one sent right to your door, and check out our unboxing video below!

Local Spotlight: Third Coast Comedy Club

When most people think about Nashville, comedy is not likely to be high in the list of things they’d associate with the Tennessee capital. “Music City”, the official(?) moniker, brings to mind country music and Gibson guitars more than stand-up and improv comedy. Well, there are two guys who don’t think it has be that way and they’re doing something about it. Luke Watson and Scott Field are the founders of Third Coast Comedy. Together, they have almost 3 decades of experience in improv and sketch comedy and they’re using their knowledge and accumen to create a space, the Third Coast Comedy Club, where other creative comedic minds can hone their skills, and where if you just really love to watch sketch and improv comedy you can do that too! Check out my interview with them below!

4LN – How did you each initially get into comedy and improv?

Luke Watson: I think I’ve always been “into” comedy. Its always been my favorite genre of movie/tv shows and whenever someone asked me for a role-model it wasn’t uncommon for a comedian to be the first to come to mind. When it comes to improv, I was doing it with friends in college before I even knew it was a performance art form. I knew the show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” existed but I had no idea that there was an improv culture that existed and regularly performed at venues all across the country. When I moved back to Atlanta after college a friend of mine who was performing at Dad’s Garage Theater introduced me to an independent improv team and before I knew it I was on stage performing with them.

Scott Field: I credit my family of origin! I HAD to be lighthearted growing up in the dark, depressing alcoholic fueled Central Pennsylvania town that I did. I never did theater in high school or college. Instead, my first comedy troop was made up of all the guys on the cross country teams I ran with. In my mid 20s I took some classes at improv Boston, auditioned, and then performed with their main stage cast for several years.

 

4LN – What, or who, would you say were your biggest comedy influences growing up?

Luke: I’ve always been all across the board with my favorite comedians: Carol Burnett, Robin Williams, Zach Galifianakis, Ellen Degeneres, Demitri Martin, Jim Carrey. Then of course the SNL folks: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Chris Farley, Rachel Dratch, and Will Ferrell. Each of those people are on there for a different reason. Whether is was Jim Carrey’s lack of fear or judgement as he played a character at a 12 on a 10 scale, Ellen Degeneres’ and Zach Galifinakis’ ability to deliver a joke. Demitri Martin’s style. Robin Williams physicality and energy. Carol Burnett’s originality and eternal relevancy. Most of those comedians still make my current top 10 list.

Scott: The guys on the teams I was a part of, for sure. I love listening to Bill Cosby, Robin Williams, Steve Martin, watching Saturday night live, Monty Python, SCTV…

 

4LN – You both started out elsewhere and then came to Nashville later. Was there anything in particular that drew you here to further pursue your comedy careers?

Luke: I didn’t move here for the comedy–and didn’t move here for music, either. I moved her to be closer to my sister and brother. But then the improv ‘itch’ started and I couldn’t help but get back into it. I started with a local troupe and shortly thereafter decided to start LOL Nashville and focus on long-form improvisation (going back to my Atlanta days).

Scott: My career has been in teaching, not comedy. What drew me to Nashville was the lifestyle and affordability. The city has been very open too and it’s supportive of my own comedic interests.

 

4LN – What do you say to people who are unconvinced, or surprised, that Nashville has such a thriving and evolved comedy scene?

Luke: I’d say they’re not getting out of the house enough. The fact is, its getting to the point where its hard to not notice it. There is literally some form of comedy performed on any given night of any given month in this city–often times several opportunities on the same night. Live comedy has taken a presence in every corner of this city from bars and music venues, to coffee houses and restaurants. Once the Third Coast Comedy Club launches it will be hard to find someone who is unconvinced that the comedy scene here is thriving.

Scott: I would say that I am not surprised. Unless you know someone directing or doing shows, or really look for a comedy, it is in fact hard-to-find. Overtime that has been less and less the case. With our venue, it will be impossible NOT to find comedy with a local flavor in the local cast.

 

4LN – You’ve launched a Kickstater project to help get your comedy club off the ground, but it really is so much more than just a typical comedy club. Can you tell us about Third Coast Comedy Club and your vision for it?

Luke: Our vision in one word can be summed up with: community. Whether it be the sense of community involved in the conception, production, and casting of shows to the stage design and bar atmosphere, this club will be the place that local comics will not only want to produce their shows or grab some stage time, it will also be a place where they’ll go to grab a drink with other comedians or go to write the last pages of the script for a sketch their working on. What makes me so excited about the club is the vision for the shows. Third Coast Comedy will be different than many other comedy clubs in that it won’t be dedicated to just one form of comedy. We will regularly have sketch, improv, stand-up, comedic plays, variety shows, experimental shows, etc. It will be nice for someone to have what may seem like a crazy concept and have a chance to try it out in an actual theater.

Scott: This will be, simply put, a venue designed for improv and sketch comedy produced by people who live in Nashville. We want audiences to be able to easily find us, enjoy their time at the club, and return again and again because of the positive vibe, comfortable, welcoming feel, and funny shows. It has to be a fun place to be for people buying tickets and for people performing. We really want to encourage people to take nutty ideas and bring them out into the world. We are going to be the birthing center for local comedy, and that means there’ll be a placenta, but we’re comedy doctors, so we’ll clean that up. Natural comedy birth, so no epidurals. Sorry.

4LN – These next questions are for our “lightning round.” Just answer with the first thing that comes to mind. All-time favorite comedy album…

Luke: That’s very tough. But I’m gonna have to go with Zach Galifianakis, Live At The Purple Onion, even though to my knowledge its only on DVD and was never made into a CD album.

Scott: Paul F. Tomkins Freak Wharf

 

4LN – Where’s the best place to eat in Nashville, and what’s the best thing to get there?

Luke: Hattie B’s. Great hot chicken–just be careful. They’re not messing around with their hot sauces. Seriously. I won’t even go beyond the Hot. Honestly, I normally get the medium. OH! And don’t forget to save room for their Banana Pudding is ah-mazing.

Scott: I love Batter’d N Fried. A lot. I’m a veggie, so I get the veggie sushi and beer. I also consume Boston Red Sox games as the place is modeled on a Boston pub.

 

4LN – What was the last concert you went to?

Luke: When I go out to listen to music its typically to hear a local band play. I think my last concert was almost a year ago (can’t believe its been that long!) at Bonnaroo (which by the way, Mumford and Sons killed it).

Scott: Neil Young a few weeks ago at Ascend. First time there. Awesome!

 

4LN – This will be tough, because there a lot of them, but name for me one other local comedian that you think everyone should know about…

Luke: Well, you’ve done it again…making me narrow a lot of great options into one answer. And you’re right, there’s a lot of them. But I’d say Dusty Slay. He’s got an original brand and his material is solid and polished. Check out his “Makin’ That Fudge” album. You know its good when you’re still laughing when listening the third time around.

Scott: I like Brad Pendergast (Brad Edwards). He’s so impatient and miffed and dirty. It’s a nice combination. Plus, he tries to spill hot coffee on me sometimes which is so funny.

 

4LN – Finally, since we are a “nerd” blog, what comic book character, or characters, do you think would be great at improv? (Personally, I feel like Deadpool and Plastic Man could nail it.)

Luke: When it comes to humor, Deadpool would be a great option. But I think Iron Man would be a great improviser, as well. His ability to make something from very little and without any preparation. Also, I love his sarcasm.

Scott: Groot, from Guardians of the Galaxy.

 

I want to send a huge THANK YOU to Luke and Scott for chatting with me! Make sure that you check out their Kickstarter campaign and please seriously consider contributing, especially if you live in or around Nashville. If you’re interested in supporting Third Coast and you also happen to be looking for something to do this weekend, check out this awesome fundraiser show at 12th & Porter on Sunday night!

Productivity 101: The Pomodoro Technique

If you are anything like me, sometimes it can be hard to stay focused at work.  If you work on a computer all day long like I do,  it can be mentally exhausting to do the same thing day in and day out.  Over the last few months I have been fortunate enough to be able to leave my beige-walled cubicle and start working from home at my real job, which has been fantastic.  For the most part I’ve been able to stay around the same level production-wise, but I was expecting to be able to get more done now that I am away from my colleagues that like to stop by and talk, or the over-the-cubicle-wall talk about the Jackson 5 or listening to older ladies discuss Miley Cyrus (both of which happened occasionally).

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the distractions found at home are way better than those found in the nondescript cubicle farm where I still go one day a week.  I had to set up my desk in the bedroom because the only extra room in the house was between the living room and play room, and I didn’t feel like getting pummeled by our three year old who thinks he’s both a Ninja Turtle and a Power Ranger every five minutes.  You know what else is in the bedroom? A bed, a TV, whatever books I am currently reading, and a window to the world outside (mostly a view of my shed, but what can you do).  That is four things I never had to worry about at work.  The only TV we have at the office is in the basement and plays the Andy Griffith Show and the Price is Right on and endless loop and at an unbelievable volume.  Seriously, the show choices and the insane volume is like being at my Granpa’s house when I was a kid.  My production at work hadn’t dropped per se, but it wasn’t where I wanted it to be.  I needed something that could get focused on my work, while also staving off the constant cycle of burnout.

Enter the Pomodoro technique!

The interestingly named Pomodoro technique is a productivity system that promises to help you eliminate distractions, avoid burnout (burnout is a major drag), and create a better work/life balance.  The user sets a timer – Francesco Cirillo, the founder of the technique, used a Pomodoro timer (a kitchen timer that looks like a Pomodoro tomato) hence the name – to alternate between periods of intense focus on work and complete separation of all things work related.  Generally, before setting your timer and starting your first Pomodoro, you set up a “To-Do” list of things to accomplish, and work them in order of priority.  Once one item is completed, it is checked off the list and the next item becomes your priority.

pomodoro_image

Now let’s get into the system itself.

Each Pomodoro takes 30 minutes total – 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of play.  After all, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” (is that reference still relevant? I assume people still read and/or watch The Shining).  Once you complete your 25 minutes of focused work, a check mark is made on a notepad, and you are now free to do something completely separate from your work, whether it be a walk, stretching, straightening up the house, or, I don’t know, finally thinking of that witty comeback you wish you would’ve said to Gary last night… but seriously, spend 3-5 minutes completely disengaged from your work.  After the break you reset the timer and get back to work.  After four Pomodoro’s you then give yourself a 15-30 minute break.

“That’s a lot of breaks!?” the middle-manager in you might say.

Here’s the thing, since your 25 minutes are meant to be hyper-focused on work, you are actually likely to get more done than you would were you just to do your normal routine of interspersing work with browsing the internet, going to get coffee, or catching up with the few colleagues that you actually enjoy being around until you get your fifteen minute break.  I have only been using this technique for a week or two, but I can go back and look at my production levels and there is a significant difference between by pre-Pomodoro work style.  I was honestly surprised by the amount of improvement between my already decent numbers and my productivity using this system.  Please note: I am not trying to Billy Mays you into trying this technique.  I am legitimately interested in what works, and, as of now, this technique is on fleek (I have no idea if I used that right… I am dreadfully boring).

It also appears that the technique delivers on its promise to manage burnout and eliminate distractions, as far as I am concerned.  Knowing your next break is always less than 25 minutes away makes it easier to keep your mind on the task at hand.  It also helped me eliminate my random Facebook/Google News browsing, because it’s easier to convince yourself to block out those distractions knowing you will get your chance when you are in your 5 minute work hiatus.  Throughout my Pomodoro trial run, I’ve noticed a significant increase in my focus and production, while experiencing a marked decrease in pretty much all of the common distractions found in both cubicle land and at the work-at-home office.

If you are interested in working smarter and increasing your output, while still getting time to mentally reboot and feel refreshed, the Pomodoro technique is definitely for you.  If you decide to give it a go you can get more details at their official website here!  Let us know in the comments how this technique works for you if you decide to try it out!