An ADHD parenting adventure

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 22, 2017, 5:25 PM | comments: 0

The first two, almost three years of parenting were exhausting. Kids can't do very many things on their own at that point, so you're always wiping butts, getting your kid in and out of bed, feeding them, etc. Simon had no real concept of schedule, so it seemed like I was always tired. But before you know it, you get back to some sense of normal, and all of the baby stuff that you labored over acquiring (strollers, high chairs, car seats, changing tables, etc.) become completely useless. Hopefully you bought most of that stuff second hand.

For us, at least, the exhaustion turned from physical to emotional. Simon was diagnosed with ASD, and almost three years after that, ADHD. The ASD diagnosis was something of a relief, because it perfectly explained some of the developmental challenges he was exhibiting (not to mention the style of play that involved lining cars up instead of driving them). It meant that all of the extra intervention and double pre-K effort was validated. While he certainly some personality quirks, not the least of which is an inability to understand sarcasm, I feel like he can generally cope with being "neurally atypical," as they say.

But midway during first grade, it was clear that he was starting to struggle in school, which at first seemed strange because he was obviously smart and understood everything put in front of him. That's when we got him in front of the right doctors and arrived at the ADHD diagnosis. This is a condition that has the perception of being overdiagnosed, but as it's often a comorbid condition with ASD, not easily ignored for us. Frankly, when he couldn't stay focused long enough to get dressed or complete a shower, it's not like we couldn't see examples in front of us where it was affecting his quality of life. I just hated the idea of medicating without therapy.

This is where it gets frustrating from a care standpoint. Diana is worthy of mother of the year because of her attention to detail and the level to which she wants to understand these conditions. But at the end of the day, doctors have to prescribe treatment. We started with one pediatric psychologist who frankly didn't seem to get particularly engaged beyond medication, and wasn't owning any therapy referral either. We switched doctors, and now we're getting somewhere, but it's frustrating. The medication he used last year wasn't working this year, so after switching, he seemed to get worse until we increased the dose. The difference is extraordinary in school, and we saw it last weekend when asked to observe him on it.

If that weren't frustrating enough, he also suffers from anxiety, to the point where the first therapist we talked to wouldn't work with him because it would be ineffective. So he's on a med for that as well. He's 7, and that's heartbreaking.

I've had countless instances where I've lost patience with Simon, mostly when he's not on the meds. He's defiant and quick to meltdown. It's a mess, and it leaves me a mess.

I do feel like we've turned a corner, but just in the last week or two. What's difficult is that when we don't medicate him, his ability to follow the most simple instructions decreases exponentially. This weekend has been a little rough at times because of that. Weekday evenings can get a little tough too as the meds subside, especially around homework, which can crank up his anxiety because in his mind there's no room for doing it wrong. Our wind down at bed time has been a lot nicer than it was lately. He's painfully self-aware of his behavior challenges, so he feels broken.

It's worth noting that this year alone, we've spent thousands in co-pays, deductible and medications on trying to help him. I bring that up because I don't see how any family making less than six figures together can afford to do it. I find that completely immoral. Kids don't get to choose their parents.

Don't be arrogant thinking you know better than your customers

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 19, 2017, 8:00 PM | comments: 0

Today was demo day at work, but not demo as in demolition, a favorite of HGTV fans. (Though most software developers have worked in code bases they'd like to demolish.) Our demo is for demonstration, where we show what we've been working on to our customers. This release, on the surface, seems less interesting because so much of it was improvement toward the general robustness and durability of the app, but we also dedicated a ton of time to shoring up and revising one of our core features. The reaction from our customers was one of excitement, and dare I say joy. I can say after a lot of years in the business of making software, you don't get a lot of chances to see people be excited about what you built. Demo day is the day that job satisfaction goes up, and on a regular, two-week cadence.

The key to our success so far is pretty obvious, in that we solve the problems of our customers, and we try to do it really well. They're quite literally embedded in our process as stakeholders. What we've found is that customers will look for, and often find, ways to achieve what they want in unexpected ways. We work to understand those problems, and that's where we apply our creativity. The cleverness comes when the problem has been refined and we can act on it with something awesome.

I think too many organizations start with an idea where they thought of a solution to a problem that's so awesome that customers don't even know that they need it yet. How many apps (and especially mobile apps) are introduced year after year that never become viable businesses? Anecdotally, I'd say that it's most of them. It's arrogant to believe you have the answer to a question that no one is asking. Yes, sometimes there are unicorns that appear, backed by exceptional genius. I might even agree that experimentation is good because it's what moves us forward, even at the expense of mostly-failure. However, if your core interests are solving real problems that improve the lives of people encountering those problems, building a sustainable business, making something enduring... trying to be a unicorn is not the goal.

For part of the time I was working in the world's largest software company, I worked in a group that was dreaming up a product that they were certain people wanted. There was a focus group, and the group interestingly came up with some ideas that were tangents to the things our group was pitching. Our leaders decided that we were mostly going to stick to what we were thinking about anyway. At one point, I was directed to take a sub-feature and flesh it out as a wholly defined thing, and then pitch it in a meeting that would easily cost $3,000 in salary and benefits. I objected to this direction, and ended up doing what made sense to me: Define the basics, list the assumptions, and come up with a game plan to validate the assumptions and further refine the feature.

Many of the people in that meeting were dissatisfied with this, and my boss later explained I was going about it wrong. As he put it, it was our job to dream up all of this awesome stuff and get it to market without any of that refinement and validation that I was after. It was that conversation that I knew I had to get out of that group, when he said, "That's how you develop software."

That group never shipped anything.

Frustrating and unfortunate as that situation was, it was a blueprint for what not to do, and I've kept it in mind for much of the last six years since that conversation. These days, I'm reminded every two weeks that the extraordinary satisfaction I get from our customers happens because we apply our "genius" in response to that constant refinement and understanding of the problems we need to solve. Our collaborative team comes up with some really great solutions, but we're not arrogant enough to believe we know completely what they are ahead of time.

Even professional social media never forgets

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 17, 2017, 9:03 PM | comments: 0

One of the complaints of social media is that it never lets you forget. What you commit to it has a way of staying around to serve as a reminder or to totally contradict what you have to say today (just ask the president). The weirdest social media of all though is LinkedIn. Everyone is there, but I no one uses it. The only people I ever hear from there are recruiters, usually pitching some totally irrelevant job.

And every once in awhile, you get some totally ridiculous network request from the distant past. The other day it was from the former owner of a company that I worked for just before I got married, just five months. It seemed like a good opportunity because it had a dev org that was in chaos. I remember telling them to let me run a new project my way, agile, and if it went south, they could fire me. I brought in a contractor that I worked with before and just nailed it, on time, on budget and what they actually wanted (not what they thought they wanted). When I got back from my honeymoon, I was ambushed with the news that they couldn't afford to pay me, because they failed to score a new client.

I can't understand why this guy would think that I would want to have any contact with him. He followed one of the best weeks of my life (an expensive week) with nothing to show for great work. That was how he operated, as the company was like a revolving door of disposable workers. I'm not bitter or angry about something that happened eight years ago, but I certainly have no interest in reliving it either.

This got me to thinking about my overall work experience. As much as I'm proud to talk about my successful endeavors, man, I've seen a lot of train wrecks. I can't generalize about the size of companies that have been host to these messes. The only real difference between the big companies and small companies is that the big ones can afford to keep perpetuating the mess for a long time. I think if I were to really generalize about success versus failure, it would usually come down to self-awareness. Companies that are self-aware have a better shot at getting it right. They don't always, but it definitely makes a huge difference.

Thank you for the perspective, LinkedIn.

It's almost time to move again, and I don't hate houses anymore

posted by Jeff | Saturday, October 14, 2017, 11:21 AM | comments: 0

Thanks to Facebook's "never forget" feature ("On This Day"), it's that time of year again when it reminds me of one of my best moves, and one of my worst. The best was moving to Seattle, the worst was moving back to Cleveland. I'll probably never let myself live that stupid decision down. Fortunately, the corrective action of moving to Orange County 20 months later turned out to be a really good decision. Throw in the move while living on Seattle's east side, and from our rental to our house here Florida, and that makes for a total of five moves from late 2009 to early 2014.

Next month we move again, about a mile from where we are now. That's a three and a half year run this time, which for us is almost considered stable. This move is not really out of necessity as much as it is desire. When my BFF built a new house with lots of room, it got us to thinking about the way we were kind of squeezed, especially Diana with her long-arm quilting machine. After more than three straight years working remotely, I too felt like the walls were closing in a little. But in all honesty, we don't need a bigger place, we just want a bigger place.

My perceptions on real estate have evolved, too. Seattle skewed my perceptions about value, where everything costs more than $220 per square foot at least. When we looked at building here, we looked at a 5,000 square foot house as a joke, but at $500k fully optioned, the cost was that of a modest east side Seattle house at a third the size. We stuck with a more "reasonable" 2,700 square foot house, which is still probably bigger than one needs for three people. It certainly felt big when we moved in.

But now, our house is worth 15% more in three short years. That absurdly large house we looked at for giggles? It's worth $600k now. We haven't even closed on the new house, and the appraisal is already $10k over what we'll pay. So for all of my angst and drama around my previous house, right now at least, a house is remarkably like an investment. Sure, it's not as lucrative as a 401k, but you can't live in a 401k.

Hopefully this will be our last move for a while. We learned a lot about what's important to us when we built the current house, and while we're mostly looking for extra space, floor plan and functionality is what we're after. We're not getting more rooms in this house, just bigger, more functional rooms. And I'll admit, some things like the kitchen are more fancy. With all of the HGTV I watch, I'd like to have a little fancy.

My Florida health cycle

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 12, 2017, 10:48 PM | comments: 0

I'm not sure why I ended up getting my annual physical in the fall, but even as I've skipped years, it seems like that's the rhythm I end up in. That probably wouldn't matter anywhere else, except that in Florida, it marks the end of my lazy phase. Oh, and I'm not really active enough to begin with.

I've told the story before, but about 12 years ago, I weighed about 30 pounds more than I do now. While I should still lose more weight, I've focused less on that and more on how I feel. Moving to Florida, where I can be out and moving around all year, I learned that just staying in motion makes a huge difference in how I feel. I absolutely loathe exercise for the sake of exercise, so lots of walking and occasional tennis is about as well as it goes. If there was anything I hated about winter up north, it's that I would get to February and be tired all of the time, and even get winded going up stairs. I don't get like that anymore.

But I do slow down in the summer. When it's in the 90's every day and humid, it gets to be kind of a drag. You go out in the morning to walk and the humidity is 98% and the temperature is already near 80. It's kind of gross. Here, away from the coasts, the humidity is lower in the afternoon, but it's still really damn hot. If it weren't for the theme parks, I'm not sure I'd move around much, especially as a remote worker.

And that leads me to the doctor visits, where the timing finds me a few pounds higher than I would be in, say, April. Again this year my cholesterol is just a little over normal, as is my blood pressure. My triglycerides were totally high, probably because I had pancakes the night before, and the alcohol from the cruise was obviously not helpful.

The doctor visits are a good motivator to get off my ass. I probably need to take the weight a little more seriously with the slightly high blood pressure. It has been harder this year because I'm not going into an office, optional or not, twice a week the way I did at my previous job, which makes my activity level go even lower. I admittedly prioritize work over movement, too.

Yes, Windows Phone is still dead

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 11, 2017, 9:20 PM | comments: 0

Last weekend, there was some unceremonious news that Windows Phone was in fact dead. I guess it's weird that there really never was a formal announcement about this, but even among the faithful, myself included, we knew this two years ago.

I worked at Microsoft, in Redmond, when Windows Phone launched. At that time, I was on my second iPhone (the 3GS), and loved it dearly, but was excited about Windows Phone mostly because it was so stupid easy to develop for, while iPhone was not. Before the phones even shipped, I was able to whip up a quick and easy app to remind tired parents how long it was since you took care of your baby. (Seriously though... when your wife is passed out sleeping and you just got up, this kind of thing helps you figure out if the crying is because of hunger.) Eventually, the company gave all of us employees free phones, and AT&T did a BOGO which meant I got one for Diana as well for free. The Samsung Focus was kind of cheap feeling, but it was otherwise pretty solid.

A little less than two years later, I got the Lumia 920, which was pretty much the Windows Phone that all of the fans had. It had a pretty great camera (at the time), great battery life and the OS kept getting better. There were a lot of evolutionary changes that made the OS better than iOS, and definitely better than Android, which was a fragmented mess. There were unfortunately apps that were "missing" from the platform, which didn't matter a ton to me because as long as I could use Facebook and the web, I was good (this is mostly still true today).

Over the course of the next three years with that phone, we waited patiently for the next "flagship" hardware, and it finally came as the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, but just before that came something else that finally convinced me it might be time to jump ship.

Google had just launched the Nexus 5X and 6P, made by LG and HTC, but stocked with "pure" Android, which is to say that it was the stock build with no carrier or hardware variations in the OS. They were also unlocked, ready for use on most any network. By this time, Xamarin, not yet acquired by Microsoft, was making real progress at making cross-platform development for Android and iOS awesome, which was also intriguing. The 5X was around $450 unlocked, and was getting rave reviews for its camera, the thing I cared most about. I figured I'd get that phone to play with, for development purposes, and then get the 950 later. I had the Nexus for probably 2 days before I realized I had no need for the Windows Phone. I bought a 5X for Diana as well, and we never looked back.

I despised Android to that point mostly from my experience messing with virtual instances of it on my computer, and from playing with various test phones while at SeaWorld Entertainment, as our mobile apps were coming along. They were all different and kind of clunky compared to iOS, and even further behind Windows Phone. Heck, they were behind what Google had released at any given time, because there were not strong incentives for carriers and manufacturers to update their own builds. But the latest, unmolested bits, the state of the art with solid (if plastic) hardware were not only compelling, but a slam dunk for me. And of course, by then the support for Amazon and Microsoft cloud resources were tip-top, so the Nexus 5X was doing everything I needed and wanted, and then some. I felt silly for holding on to Windows Phone for as long as I did.

As if Google hadn't already been applying their foo to the camera software in an excellent way, they released the Pixel about a year ago with a camera that many declared the best smart phone camera period. It was too expensive at $650 (perhaps to equate its value with the iPhone), but as the photo samples started to appear, especially in low light, I couldn't easily ignore it. Then a co-worker got one, and I was sold.

Microsoft made a ton of mistakes, but I don't think it was the software. I was routinely impressed with how well everything worked together, and the extraordinary customization possible with live tiles. The inter-app sharing that we now take for granted in Android and iOS was already a thing back in 2010 on Windows Phone. But everything beyond the software was less than ideal.

The initial hardware for the first phones was mostly mediocre compared to iPhone and even some of the Motorola phones at the time. Nokia started to make great phones though by late 2011, but carriers didn't know how or why to sell them. If that wasn't bad enough, Microsoft and Nokia made some stupid carrier-exclusive deals that made it worse. I really think that this was the window of opportunity, and they totally dropped the ball with poor marketing and poor sales efforts. If that weren't bad enough, the hardware went nowhere for three years after that before the 950 came out. Samsung was building great phones and people didn't care if it was a year out-of-date, while Apple sucked people into yearly incremental updates. A platform with dwindling developer support and no good hardware had no chance.

It sucks when great products don't take hold, but as a friend of mine pointed out regularly, it's hard to talk people into something when what they're using is meeting their needs. The universe probably didn't need a third platform.

I'm very happy about Google's direction with their platform on their own hardware. It's gonna be hard to resist Pixel 2.

POP Forums, it's not dead, I swear

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 8, 2017, 9:49 AM | comments: 0

I managed to make some commits to POP Forums yesterday. It has been more than two and a half years since I've made a release. As I've written before, the primary goal has been to just port the thing to ASP.NET Core, which is now on v2, but it has been slow going.

For the non-technically inclined, Microsoft decided a few years ago to make the .Net platform entirely open source (now called .Net Core), modernize it and let go of the legacy of various mistakes made over the last decade and a half. This has all been a good thing, but the transition has been painful due to constant fundamental change, poor documentation and "missing" stuff from the new framework. The web part of the framework, ASP.NET Core, also embraced a lot of client-side technology that was already a moving target, and continues to be. When I say "embraced," I mean it doesn't invent anything new of its own.

I started to work on it in September, 2015, more than two years ago, when the new framework was still in beta. That was my first challenge, because as a "do over" framework, nothing was set in stone. I started by converting a lot of the UI stuff to the newer bits, and finding open source replacements for sending email and resizing images, things "missing" from the Core. I also had to accommodate changes to SignalR, the sub-framework that enables the real-time updating of topics and lists of topics as they sit on the page. The problem there is that the development team didn't prioritize that work over general improvements, so even as ASP.NET Core is now at v2, it's still not at a release status. In the last month, SignalR at least went alpha, meaning they seem to have the general direction of it nailed down, and the team doing ImageSharp, to resize images, made a beta. That puts everything into a good enough place to consider a beta release, with some clean up and testing.

To be honest, the technical volatility isn't the whole problem. The primary reason for me having the app at all is to use it as the base for CoasterBuzz and PointBuzz. To that end, those sites are technically solid and silly fast even under load, and "old" ASP.NET isn't going away soon. If that weren't enough, I've been so plugged in at work the last few years that it's become harder to spend my free time doing, well, work. Throw in the quasi-struggle of parenthood, and I can't say I've been very motivated.

But now it feels like a corner has been turned with all of the peripheral stuff around Core coming of age. As I said more than a year ago, my intention with this version is just equivalence to the previous version, running on all of the new bits. Who knew that would have taken so long? To be fair to myself, I did achieve one of my goals in the last year, which was to make the app work across many nodes. It couldn't do that before because it relied so much on in-memory caching and in-process background tasks. Those problems are mostly solved now.

I'd like to spend more time with it, get a release out, and then start modernizing it. Professionally, most of my work in the last four years has been around big picture architecture and backend performance. In that time, frontend tech has changed dramatically, and I don't have much expertise with it. I'd like to to change that situation.

Cruise report: Disney Dream, Sept. 29-Oct. 2, 2017

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 5, 2017, 6:00 PM | comments: 0

There usually isn't a lot to talk about on these cruises, but this one was different. Our lucky 13th Disney cruise was the first one that did not include my dear child. It was just me and my darling wife. And it was awesome.

Well, mostly. It turns out that our first attempt at adulting the shit out of a cruise may have been a little overzealous the first day, so we didn't approach the second and third days with quite the same energy. Saturday morning was met with the realization that we're not 24. Fortunately, I was in my happy place, and a good nap helped a lot.

Friday involved some of the usual getting settled, but we got into pool gear via the spa locker rooms (pro tip!) and enjoyed one of the many beverages of the day in the Cove pool. That was the start of the new territory for us. We also nailed down a brunch reservation for Palo the next day, a free perk that goes to platinum Castaway Club members that we were unable to use the last two times. Once the evac drill was done and we were underway, we went up to deck 13 so I could get a selfie wearing my SpaceX Of Course I Still Love You shirt with the actual Of Course I Still Love You landing drone ship in the background. I'm a nerd like that.

Our dinner party included two other couples that were sans children. We don't always get seated with other families, but this is the first time that they were not socially inept, uppity or otherwise not interesting. One couple was from southern Ontario, the other from the Nashville area. They offered good conversation every night, and we periodically saw them around the ship.

Evening was about spending quality time in The District, the set of bars and clubs on deck 4 aft. None of them were very crowded. We started in 687 (named for the hull number of the ship) for 90's music trivia, which arrogant 90's DJ me thought we could win, but we missed two that I didn't recognize while getting the really hard ones. Our host, #TonyFromSpain, would be a fixture at many of the adult events throughout the cruise. The comfortable place we ended up was Skyline, the martini bar where one side has virtual windows to the skylines of NYC, Rio, Hong Kong, Paris and Chicago. There we met a nice military family that had the kids in the kids club. It was also the start of many great conversations with the bar staff there.

Saturday was slow to start, but what we missed is that the pilot designated by the port of Nassau backed the ship into a pier, causing a lot of presumably superficial (but expensive) damage. Typically the Dream pulls into the harbor, spins around, and backs in to the pier, but somehow, they managed to strike the pier. I remember thinking from our verandah that they started the turn really late, but I didn't know that happened until someone mentioned it at dinner. Not sure what the convention is, but having pilots steer the ship is custom for many harbors and inner waterways, and I've seen them board a few miles offshore on prior sailings. In Alaska, they apparently had one up and down the fjords.

Two programs that I've done a few times were the Making Of The Dream, more or less a slide show, and Art Of The Theme, a walking tour around various parts of the ship. These are adult-only programs, and we've not had a chance to do them together, so that was a lot of fun. I've done them on the Wonder as well.

At noon we had our Palo reservation. We opted to do brunch instead of a dinner, which would mean we'd not see our table mates or our dining team, and I like getting to know them. The menu is a little different, and they offer a buffet as your appetizer and dessert courses. Let me tell you, I've had variations on parmesan crusted chicken in many places, and it was never as awesome as this. The cheeses they use are imported from Italy in small batches, and I was particularly impressed how they're not greasy at all. I've never had anything fried that did not seem to be fried. I'm not a fancy eater, but this blew my mind. The service was also about as good as it gets, with the manager (an Italian fellow, naturally) and our server (from Croatia) taking good care of us. This is normally a $30 upcharge per person, but again, it's a perk for platinum members.

Our afternoon involved a nap, another pool visit and some true, not thinking about anything relaxation. After dinner, we continued our social trek, and landed in Skyline after a stop in Pink, the champaign bar. More good conversation with folks stopping in, and one bizarre conversation with a woman on her first Disney cruise who thought that Carnival was better, especially the food. Of course, instead of taking advantage of the superior service, she was waiting to unleash complaints at the end of the cruise. And to quote, "You don't put barbecue sauce on a plate next to prime rib and call it a day." What an idiot.

Sunday was our beach day at Castaway Cay. I think at one point we considered renting bikes, but thoughts about wet swimware and chafing kind of diverted us away from that. This was another first for us: going to the adult-only Serenity Bay at the north end of the island. Upon arriving, it was impossibly quiet and, uh, serene. No kids. That's some serious Disney magic. I had two minor quibbles, the first being that there aren't enough umbrellas compared to the main beach areas, and the water never goes more than waist deep. On the plus side, the sealife you can observe is staggering. That beautiful clear water is filled with all kinds of stuff swimming around.

My other minor complaint is that, while the adult food serving includes some adult-only items, they don't have the spicy chicken that the main locations have, which non-red-meat-eating me mostly sticks to. That was disappointing. So for me to get something I like, and for Diana to enter water deep enough to get wet in, we did head back to the main area for a little while. We only stayed out there until 2 or so, because again, we were up late the night before. That, and we're pretty sure the stuff they serve in Skyline (with glow cubes!) had at least three shots of alcohol in every drink.

We wrapped up that day after dinner with Believe in the main theater (the new cast is really good, the choreography tight, and an obviously solid group set to debut Beauty And The Beast next month), second dinner on deck 11, and eventually landed in Skyline again. This time, it was crazy crowded, so we ended up sitting not at the bar but in a corner talking to a family from the Carolinas (maybe?) that were our age, but recently became empty nesters. It was a pretty great end to a cruise where we met a ton of interesting people. We were social with adults. It was a good feeling. It was also a much needed break where we could be a couple with nothing to worry about but each other. I can't thank our friends Kara and Sean enough for watching Simon.

Love of country comes in many forms

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 28, 2017, 11:00 AM | comments: 0

In 1955, a black woman named Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white person. This simple, defiant act, violating an unjust law, spurred a year of protests that financially damaged a transit company and eventually led to the repeal of the very law she violated. Parks is one of the most powerful symbols of the civil rights movement in part because this one, seemingly inconsequential act contributed to meaningful change.

So patriotic and essential to American history was this act, that she was on the short list of people under consideration for being imprinted on to American currency. It's a well-deserved honor. Peaceful protest is the foundation of progress in our nation. It is fundamental to our heritage. Without it, we would still have slavery, women wouldn't vote, and Catholics would be persecuted for their beliefs. Civil dissent is rarely without cause or a simple symptom of disrespect.

The United States was founded on the principles of freedom and equality. The Declaration of Independence formally began the definition of what we were to be, and got to the point in the second paragraph when it indicated that "all men are created equally." While the intent of the founding fathers was sincere, this has been a work in progress that we have now pursued for more than 200 years. Rosa Parks wasn't the first or last to protest in the name of civil rights. In fact, referring to the "civil rights era" as if it ended feels incorrect.

Patriotism is often associated with serving in the military. This is without question a great reason to be patriotic, but it's only a fraction of what it means to serve this country. To be patriotic also means standing for this core belief in equality. In fact, serving this nation comes in countless forms, sometimes by being a teacher or nurse, a philanthropist or clergy, a parent or foster parent. Believe it or not, even serving in an elected office counts.

The "take a knee" controversy shouldn't be a controversy. Eric Reid shares his intent in his participation last year, while a white Vietnam veteran and Dallas sportscaster lays out the problem, and even Bob Costas gets to the core of what patriotism is. The protest is not against the military, and the military is not the sole source of American patriotism. The protest is making the statement that the America we live in and want to love is not treating a vital part of our population fairly, and change is overdue. Rosa Parks was every bit as much of a patriot.

American greatness is a strange thing. Our history is one of continuous social injustice, but despite this, we've built incredible wealth and the ability to make things. I've long felt that greatness in part comes from self-awareness and a willingness to act on that information. We've gotta start taking this self-awareness seriously. We've regressed the last few years, despite a few notable milestones in the right direction. Caring for each other and speaking up for each other is essential. Empathy is required.

House buying and selling is never fun

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 22, 2017, 11:16 PM | comments: 0

House buying and selling is such a crappy process. If someone can solve the mystery about how to make it better, that person will be rich. And mind you, my entire experience with buying is new construction, three times now. So it should be more fun.

My first house went pretty smoothly, but as everyone knows, any idiot could get a loan in 2001. In fact, we bought that house starting with a second mortgage, a "purchase money" loan used to beat PMI by putting enough down with a second loan. Total shenanigans. I do recall some drama around the closing date, and we needed some warranty work at the time of the first big rain (a leak caused a ceiling to explode), but otherwise it wasn't awful.

Selling that house became the worst thing ever, and it was the source of all the stress and drama around our Seattle adventure and poor decision to return to Cleveland after two years of sitting on the market. Ugh, I still think of those 20 months as my biggest failure of judgment ever. But on the second try, at least it went in 48 hours, and we closed about six weeks later.

Building our current house was rough, because our construction manager was kind of a dipshit who didn't take responsibility for anything, and exercised almost no QA. If that weren't bad enough, securing the loan was a struggle right up until the last week, because in the eyes of the underwriters, I had no income since I worked on a 1099 contract basis. We were seriously this close to walking away and staying in our rental.

In our world headquarters sequel, the financing started out almost as bad because it wasn't clear that anyone would let us put less than 20% down. Mind you, that was never the long-term intent, but we weren't going to be homeless for months while they built the thing. That eventually got sorted out, and I could put 12% down and simply recast the loan at 20%+ down once our current house was sold and those proceeds were in our hands. Pressure is on now to make that happen. Otherwise, our biggest challenge has been a slipping construction schedule due to shortages in the trades and a hurricane.

My BFF just experienced the non-joy of getting her house sold, with poor communication issues with the title company and realtor. Her new construction didn't go smoothly either.

I imagine that none of this follows a happy path unless everyone involved is paying cash and the houses already exist. Although paying cash for a house in its entirety doesn't really make sense either with rates being so low. Your money will work way harder in the market and you'll still come out ahead. See, even that's not straight forward.

My kid wins the healthcare lottery, while most will lose

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 22, 2017, 10:30 AM | comments: 0

Simon has to switch up his ADHD meds, because what he was on isn't working. When I say it isn't working, I mean he's picking the skin off of the pads of his fingers until they're a bloody mess isn't working. It's upsetting, sad, frustrating and challenges you as a parent when he asks, "What's wrong with me?"

The new meds will cost $100 per month, and that's after insurance. Without, they would cost $250 per month. Because I have a good job in a sought after industry, this expense sucks, but we can manage it. My kid wins the healthcare lottery because he's my kid. The harsh reality is that other kids would not get this medication.

That's not OK.

Look, I get it, you may not like the ACA (even if you can't explain why beyond it being called "Obamacare"), and I've been critical of it since the start. But for better or worse, more people have access to care because of it, and I strongly believe that's the most moral outcome our society can have when so many of its members (children) have no control over their ability to have access. I don't have all of the answers for how we improve this, but I can say with certainty that simply repealing the law isn't an answer. The provision for covering pre-existing conditions in particular is key.

The rest of the western world has figured out how to make sure everyone has healthcare, with better outcomes and less cost. Our system sucks. We can do better. Drop the ideological bullshit and be part of the conversation that leads to a more moral and equitable healthcare system. If I can get behind that as a person who is reasonably well off, so can you.

The blessing and curse of the digital age

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 17, 2017, 8:59 PM | comments: 0

In the same day, I happened to encounter two things that got me thinking about "the digital age," in the broader sense. The first was an article in the New York Times about Amish adoption of technology. Then, as I was flying solo for the evening while Diana was working, I decided to watch Dave Grohl's Sound City documentary again. The former talks about the desire in the Amish culture to not allow the information age to short circuit their values, while the latter (in addition to some excellent music history) talks a bit about how the digital revolution was not great for the world of music. As someone who graduated from high school in 2001 and college in 2005, my coming of age story is very much coupled to this computerized revolution, and it's at the foundation of my professional success.

The Radio & Television department of Ashland University routinely held a PBS-style auction to raise money. The department had a few dozen students at any given time, but even with our lab fees, we certainly couldn't afford a ton of equipment without some extra help. The big ticket auction items ranged from big stuff like a Geo Metro car (selling for around $9k in 1992), to a computer around $1,500 (which my dad won, actually), to a ton of minor items donated. It was the last auction they ever did, sadly, but it pushed the department into the digital age in several important ways. We scored a digital "still store," a computer that served still images for use in broadcast. Prior to that, we showed still images on slides projected into a video camera. We also built a multi-track audio studio from that, 8 analog tracks on 1/2" tape, but a year later we adopted a digital audio system that stored audio on a hard drive. I think we stored our "A" and "B" rotation on that machine, in addition to a variety of stabs and ID's. It was a precursor to totally automated radio, which by the time I started working in Cleveland radio in 1995, was nearly a thing.

The Internet had been around for years by that point, but the commercialization of it was just starting to blossom. In 1994, a senior in college, I remember drinking a bottle of Zima with "" on the back of the label. After a lot of messing around on my advisor's computer to get the World Wide Web to work, I saw my first commercial Web site. I could not have dreamed at the time that this thing I was looking at would be where I would base my professional life.

In the years that followed, I would start to see the gradual transition of video to a digital medium. In the three years that I worked in government television, I started with analog S-VHS video tape, and by the time I left three years later, I was recording on digital tape and editing with a computer. A year or two after that, I was even able to do that in my home, which is not something I imagined while still in college.

In 1998, I started publishing content on the Internet, a hobby that continues to this day, and one that at times paid my mortgage during times of unemployment. A new opportunity that was unimaginable even a year or two earlier merged.

When I transitioned out of the broadcast world into the Internet world, I recall an encounter that seemed entirely inconsequential at the time. A guy I didn't work with directly had showed me something called iTunes on his Mac, and a device called an iPod in 2001. My vision of the usefulness of this arrangement was incredibly limited, in part because committing my collection of CD's to computers would have been cost prohibitive at the time. In fact, for the next six or seven years, even when I purchased music digitally, I would still burn it all to CD's.

Meanwhile, just as you didn't need a video editing suite with thousands of dollars of equipment to make video, you certainly didn't need much more than a home computer to record music. Indeed, the democratization of creation was occurring. No one would understand this more than me, when in 2005 I started recording a podcast that would eventually be listened to by thousands of people.

In 2007, the iPhone was introduced, and while smart phones were already a thing, it would lay the groundwork to transform our culture to make it more connected... and maybe too connected.

The Amish story in the NYT and the Sound City story have a common thread: A lack of constraint, enabled by technology, makes it easier to be less human. The Amish are able to maintain a level of interconnectedness in their community. Musicians in Sound City were forced to rely on creativity because tech couldn't help them "perfect" their recordings.

Let's be honest, this does sound a little "get off my lawn"-ish, or crusty curmudgeon. Nothing is more annoying than a "back in my day" story. I think life has benefitted greatly from the advancement of technology, but novelty can certainly influence how we look at its use. For example, we know that furniture made by machines is efficient and makes it less expensive. However, we appreciate and understand the value of something made by hand, to the extent that we'll pay more for it in terms of money or our own time.

The thing that I've learned is that there is a certain advantage to knowing something before and after a particular technological advancement. For example, I learned to edit video on tape, before it was possible (or economical, at least) to do it with a computer. The constraint of having to think more deeply about how you were going to cut a show, to plan it out, made for better results. I was able to take those skills to the computerized world, but the tools still enabled a new creativity by allowing for more experimentation.

Ultimately, I think our ability to treat technology as a tool is the thing that separates the blessings from curses. There's nothing wrong with using these networked supercomputers in our pockets if it means we're learning, improving our lives and the lives of others, enjoying the benefits of automation and connectivity. When we use the same tool to isolate ourselves from the world in front of us, that's not good. It's OK to embrace technology provided you don't lose context.

What I learned about hurricane forecasting from Irma

posted by Jeff | Saturday, September 16, 2017, 1:34 PM | comments: 0

Irma was our second hurricane since moving to Florida, though we ended up not being home last year for Matthew, as we traveled to North Carolina for a wedding. That storm brought my first lesson about hurricane forecasting, that you really can't be sure what to expect until the last few days. A track just 30 miles more west would have resulted in much stronger winds for us.

That uncertainty was still a thing with Irma, but only in the sense that we didn't know for sure how bad it would be. We'd get a fairly close hit regardless, and the scary variables applied more to the coasts. Being inland, we could have the reasonable expectation that winds at worst would be 80 to 90 mph, but because of the uncertainty, they could be low as 40. Power outages and water loss were probable, though against the odds, our power outage was brief and after the storm. People in neighboring areas still don't have power, almost a week later.

It was Friday night that I heard from a friend, who had a relative in one of the NOAA recon planes, that indicated the northern turn would come later than expected, pushing the storm up the gulf coast instead of the Atlantic. Sure enough, the revised track that night put Tampa at risk. That was a significant change only 48 hours out from the worst of it.

One thing that was clear: The National Hurricane Center forecasts every six hours were the critical source of truth. The text of their forecasts were pretty straight forward and offered explanations around why the storm was strengthening or weakening, and importantly, the bearing and speed of the storm. It was free of the nonsense that the local TV stations engaged in. As the storm was tracking NNW by Lakeland, one of the locals (I'm looking at you, WESH) was instilling fear by insisting that "the eye wall is headed right for Orlando!" The NHC was pretty clear about this: The storm center had been moving at about 330 degrees with every hourly update, not directly north, and "eye wall" was a bit of an exaggeration for a storm that had been dragging across land for hours. The Weather Channel was almost as bad, with about 5% information and 95% nonsense like having those assholes standing out in the wind.

Once the first bands started crossing through, there was some risk for tornados, and that's where a good radar app helped. The National Weather Service issues warnings for entire counties, which doesn't make a lot of sense for the giant counties in Florida. While the text of the warnings describes the locations of the action, the app shows the bounding boxes and tracking cones for individual cells. That helped us see that a tornado warning applied to the northeast part of the county, and we could see an extreme wind warning to the south issued in the neighboring county (which fortunately lapsed without a replacement near us).

Precipitation radar isn't the whole story though, and that's another way that TV and the feds differed. Heavy rain is less concerning when you're not in a flood prone area, but wind is important. Having a radar app that does wind as well is helpful.

We ended up topping out with sustained winds in the mid-50's, gusts up to the 70's. Some folks lost some shingles, but trees took the worst of the damage in the neighborhood. Our location is just about as ideal as you could have while still in Florida.

Review: CDX Blocks Cyclone ("the Lego roller coaster")

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 14, 2017, 11:38 PM | comments: 0

Disclaimer: Many years ago, I had a relationship with CoasterDynamix, as I built their first web site back in 2004. That said, other than a long-time friendship with one of the principals in that business, I bought these kits myself through their Kickstarter campaign, and I have no financial interest in this review. I want to make that clear in the interest of keeping it real.

A very cool package was delivered today, as the CDX Blocks Cyclone came today! Actually, three of them came today, because that's what I backed when the project was just a cool idea on Kickstarter. CoasterDynamix has sold a lot of really cool roller coaster model products over the years, but this is probably the coolest of them all because it's Lego-compatible.

You probably know that Lego's patent for their block system expired quite a few years ago, so really anyone can make bricks that are compatible. Most of these "compatible" products absolutely suck. The plastic just isn't the right consistency, they don't snap very well or they squeak. Actual Lego might be expensive, but the bricks are without question of an incredible and uniform quality. They've been making them for decades and they all still work together. It's with that knowledge that some healthy skepticism is warranted when considering anything made by anyone not Lego.

Having gotten to know the CoasterDynamix guys over the years, I know they get off-shore manufacturing, and the risks associated with it. What they've delivered, a little later than initially expected (sounds like getting through customs is hard for inanimate objects and not just foreign folks), is remarkably good quality plastic "Lego" parts. It's not perfect, but it's so close to actual Lego that I suspect most people won't know the difference.

There were two trains in the box, which surprised me, but I vaguely recall that being a bonus if they reached a certain funding goal on Kickstarter. If you're the kind of person that likes to sort all of your pieces before you start (I don't, as I like the numbered bags), you might just love that almost every category of brick comes in its own bag. The instructions are not long, and they're easy to follow. You essentially build the structure in three sections, then join them together and add the track. The only thing that wasn't clear is that there are two angled wedge sizes to bank the track, and it wasn't obvious until near the end when the same step used both sizes. The smaller ones are used in the transition to a turn, while the bigger ones are used through the body of the turn.

The only thing difficult about the build is snapping on the rails, because they're really rigid. Given my occupation, I don't work a lot with my hands, so they're not very durable, and the pressing started to hurt a bit toward the end. But if you've played with any kind of roller coaster model at all, you know that rigidity is what makes these things work. A squishy track or support system bleeds energy and it risks not completing the circuit.

The trains show what CoasterDynamix has always done well, in that the wheels are metal and low friction. There is some room there to stick some mini-figs in the seats, if you desire, and nothing would be better than putting a Storm Trooper, a fireman and ninja together.

Total build time was about three hours, and the most tedious part of that is assembling the 194 chain links. It's visually very satisfying, and would look great along side the Lego carousel or ferris wheel. My 7-year-old son has already decided that we need to build a station. I'm really happy with the end product!

Hurricane Irma and the neighborhood of McMansions

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 11, 2017, 8:27 PM | comments: 0

If there's any takeaway from HGTV, it's that a lot of people really hate big new construction neighborhoods and production builders, because of something about cookie cutters or something. Me, I'm not really that picky, because my house doesn't need to be a snowflake, I just really want to like the floorplan. My neighborhood is a Starwood development, and last count I think there were a total of eight builders, plus a series of customs on the lake, so there is actually a fair amount of variety. Actually, KB Home allowed way too many of the one model with the same front elevation, but it's not intolerable.

There is a win in all of this new construction though, in that it all had to be built to more stringent building codes that came after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the triple storms of 2004. As we're now getting closer to the completion of our second Florida house, I'm totally amazed at the way these things are built. And now that I've experienced a storm transitioning from Category 2 to 1 with its center about 50 miles away, inside of one of these houses, I don't think the building code is overkill.

To start, the first floor is made of concrete block. Rebar buried in the concrete slab is tied up through the block to the wood structure above, whether that's the roof or the second floor. Bundles of 2x4's around the perimeter and even in the middle of the house are strapped down to the foundation and metal straps secure the roof. In the new house, this was particularly impressive in the two-story living room, because you could see how one of the main roof trusses were tied down all the way to the floor. There are also some things about physics and negative pressure that apparently also contribute to keeping a roof on. And stucco is a kind of cement, so it's super durable on the outside.

Being this far inland from both coasts has its advantages too, in that a storm has to be dragged across land to get to us, and that limits the destructive potential to a degree, especially without storm surge. I know the talking heads on the TV (I have a lot of thoughts about that, for another post) would have you believe that all of Florida was going to sink into the ocean, but the science is such that odds are pretty low to have a storm of such consequence that modern houses would suffer massive destruction. Older homes, or those not retrofitted with more current code standards, would be vulnerable. But you know, these so-called cookie cutters can take a beating. We got to see it with sustained winds over 50 mph and gusts in the 70 to 80 range. It was fucking terrifying, but the extent of our damage is some water seepage along the floor on the southern side, where the utilities come in.

This unusual storm had a lot of energy after passing by without the moisture. I didn't really sleep much, and when I tried at 8 a.m., I couldn't. So I went for a walk, perhaps unwisely as it was still blowing at a solid 30 mph. The retention ponds were very high, and the adjacent lake was at least 3 feet higher than normal, but together there was no imminent threat of flooding. Lots of trees were down, but not broken, a phenomenon we used to see almost every thunderstorm the first year we were here. (The soil of the mature tree root balls doesn't match the sandy stuff they're put into, so they tend to rotate almost like they're in a socket joint.) Some of the houses on the hill lost some shingles, though there's some speculation about whether that's due to the builder or the location. Lots of fence damage, too. Most annoyingly, the cheap boxes where the cable company stashes their house connections were all over the neighborhood. Mine only migrated as far as our bushes. Our neighborhood has been an oasis of sorts, because we did not lose power.

Despite what seems like an arbitrary curfew lasting until 6 p.m., the people in our neighborhood were out everywhere, helping each other clean up, sharing stories and in some cases beverages. Kids were out playing after being holed up for 36 hours. I've never seen this many people out and roaming about. It was nice to see people engaging like that as a community.

Now that the worst has passed, it's sad that there are places in the Caribbean that are uninhabitable and running out of food. And the coastal impact in Florida wasn't anything like we expected, where Tampa ended up relatively unscathed, but Jacksonville got nailed. The size and scope of this storm broke all of the rules. At the end of the day, all we really lost was a night of sleep. We've got friends coming over to at least get showers and phones charged, as they're still powerless and might be for a few days. It's important to keep perspective, for sure. I'm thankful our unoriginal home kept us safe.

Our Hurricane Irma prep in Orlando has been thankfully uninteresting

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 10, 2017, 9:16 AM | comments: 0

At about noon today, we'll start to get tropical storm force winds in Orange County, which is fortunately not full on hurricane force (74 mph and up). That's not actually uncharted territory for us, because we were in Ft. Myers for Fay in 2008, shopping for wedding venues the week before. That landed with winds in the 60's, which is what our forecast here calls for. The potential for tornados on the front end is frankly more worrisome than the sustained winds.

We knew a week ago that Irma would have some impact on us, it was just a question of what that would look like. Extended periods without power and water are really the biggest issues we deal with in Central Florida, particularly if you live in newer construction. A direct hit of a storm this big from the south would result in 80+ mph wind. A direct hit from the east or west, coming straight in, could get us over 100, but this too is really unlikely, though certainly possible. As it turns out, the direct south hit almost came with this storm. The important thing to understand is that hurricanes this far inland are not the same experience as they are on the coast. They can still be dangerous, sure, but without the ocean component and storm surge, it's a different kind of dangerous. I'm not aware of this area ever having to evacuate.

And that's the crazy thing about hurricanes, but especially this one. You know a week out that something will happen, so you have to prepare for it regardless. Last year, we ended up being in North Carolina during Matthew, but had the storm moved even 30 miles west up the Atlantic coast, Orlando would have seen some serious shit. With Irma, even three days out we were expecting an Atlantic track, then the day before last, a direct hit up the middle. In the end, it was pushed up the gulf coast.

We have a bunch of ice made and can probably preserve food for a day and a half if we lose power. Plenty of bottled water in case we lose that, with a bathtub full in case we need it to flush toilets. (The water quality here kind of sucks to begin with, so we don't drink it without filtering.) We have plenty of battery packs to charge phones for at least five days. We can be plunged into the dark ages for a few days without too much discomfort.

If anything good could come out of this, we went to Epcot Friday night for a few hours, where in a shut down for light rain, Simon got the VIP treatment from the Test Track crew and got to walk the empty queue. Then for Saturday, we went to Magic Kingdom, where it wasn't busy, and he got to ride his favorite three roller coasters with his new buddy. When that was done, we went back to Epcot, and got to ride the three big rides: Test Track, Frozen and Soarin', in the span of three hours. It was one of the best Disney days ever.

This afternoon gets noisy, but at least I know what to expect. Probably won't sleep much.

The good old days of radio scanning

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 5, 2017, 10:44 PM | comments: 0

radio scannerWay back in my college days, I bought a radio scanner from Radio Shack. We had one in the newsroom of our college TV station, and it was kind of cool to hear when there were fire dispatches or big police actions. As it turns out, there were other interesting things to listen to as well, not the least of which was campus security and the cordless phones that you weren't supposed to have in the dorms because of the obvious bandwidth constraints at the time (cordless phones used only 10 channels at the time). I'm not sure why people thought that was a secure way to use a telephone. You could also listen to air traffic, and my favorite thing, the Skywarn nets, where people drove around reporting storm damage via amateur radio that could largely be seen on radar.

I make fun of those guys, because technologically, amateur radio isn't particularly interesting or even necessary these days. But prior to the late 90's, they definitely delivered a great public service that probably saved lives when there was particularly severe weather, especially with tornados. With the Internet and fairly robust cellular service, to say nothing of advances in radar and measurement devices everywhere, they're a little obsolete. Until, of course, some massive disaster or nuclear war knocks us back into the stone age... then the radio guys will be survivors.

These days, my scanner is hopelessly obsolete, but even the newer models are of limited use because law enforcement in particular tends to encrypt their radio traffic. I think it's outright illegal to decrypt it if there was some technological way to do so. So yeah, you could receive the signal, but you wouldn't be able to listen to it. I had been entertaining the thought of upgrading for a year, but once I finally looked up the data, I decided it wouldn't be that worth it if I couldn't listen to police traffic. Although, I suppose I could listen to Disney, but that would probably get boring quickly.

The old scanner still has one genuine use: Weather radio. NOAA will probably keep operating that service until the end of time, which is a good idea because it's inexpensive low technology that just works. Battery operated weather radios are cheap. So if we get knocked back to the dark ages after Irma, I'll at least have a weather radio.

A million dollar house

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 3, 2017, 11:20 PM | comments: 2

One of the nutty things about HGTV is that they tend to shoot their various renovation and house hunter shows all over the world. To that end, I'm always amazed at what constitutes a million dollar house in some areas. The least surprising are those near New York City or Boston, but then you have places like Vancouver, BC that are insane. This shouldn't be entirely surprising, given Seattle's housing market.

On the other hand, when they do shows in Central Florida, from Tampa on the gulf coast, across to Brevard County on the Atlantic, it's definitely a different scene. The cost per square foot is often close to $100, easily a fifth the cost of places on Long Island, for example. So if you're the type of person that would brag about having a million dollar house (which would be kind of douchey), I suppose that's only a big deal relative to where you are.

I think Seattle definitely messed with our sense of housing costs. Coming from the Cleveland area, where during the recession you couldn't really sell without taking a bath, while seeing rising costs and an uptick in construction where we were (Snoqualmie, WA), our ideas about home ownership were all over the place. Had I been able to sell my Cleveland house, and if we stayed in Seattle, it would probably have taken two more years of saving and not spending bonuses to buy a house, and it definitely would have been a more conservative place under 2k square feet. Now, in suburban Orlando with a hot market, we can buy twice the house at less than the same cost, or the same house for less than half the cost.

This line of thinking may have lured me into a sense that a house can be something of an investment, which my previous experience completely invalidates, but this time around we're expecting it to be a 14-year commitment unless something really compelling moves us again. Our current house has appreciated about 5% a year, which is hardly a recent 401k return, but it's not a negative number. At the end of the day, it's still a lifestyle choice.

Housing, to me, is one of the most interesting factors in socioeconomic opportunity, because it varies so wildly by location. Of all of the cost of living variables, it seems the most erratic. It's also not linear in terms of income requirements. I mean, housing may cost twice as much in Seattle, but I wouldn't have to make twice as much to live there. (About eight grand a year would cover the difference for equivalent property, interestingly enough, if you don't consider the amount you need to put 20% down on a house.) The bigger variable is where the jobs are, which should matter less and less for white collar jobs, but traditional blue collar and service work varies a ton.

Also, the views are better in Seattle.

It's not a party without you

posted by Jeff | Monday, August 28, 2017, 9:56 PM | comments: 0

We had a party last weekend to celebrate the end of summer, which it won't really feel like until late October, because Florida, but still. It's been at least a year since we've had a broad group of friends, coworkers and such over. We've acquired a surprisingly large group of friends and neighbors since moving here, and I feel like it's important to maintain that, and mix them up from time to time in the same spot.

I've been having parties for a long time, for as long as I've had a place to live bigger than 500 square feet. I think at first, my motivation was just that I didn't think I should wait for other people to decide, "Let's get together!" That may seem obvious, but as socially inept as I was in high school and college, it was a discovery for me. But as time went on, I found that people moved, changes jobs or simply fell off the radar (which was easier prior to social media). My motivation changed and it became more about appreciating time spent with your friends while you could. Since those earlier days, I've done a lot of moving myself, and some friends are no longer with us. Midlife seems to make celebrating the people in your life even more important.

You never know who is going to come to a party, but we had more than 40 this time, and most were here at the same time, which was a little challenging. We decided to get catered food from Tijuana Flats this time, which was great for ease of execution, but I probably should have looked at the cost before committing. Fortunately, the meat was gone before the last guest left, and we were mostly left with a metric ton of chips and salsa, cheese and some of the toppings.

Funny how small worlds happen. One of my current coworkers knew a former coworker, and his wife's father conducts the Candlelight Processional at Epcot, where one of Diana's friends works and sings in the show. One of our neighbors works at Universal, and she's occasionally in meetings with one of my roller coaster nerd friends. My direct neighbor is a teacher, and Simon's first grade teacher were here, and another current coworker's wife was a teacher before they moved here recently. And then she also had a conversation with another neighbor who previously worked for Disney and shared information about some of the education programs. It's also interesting that the coaster circle includes a bunch of us that all came from Ohio/Michigan area, and now we all live here.

The world is as big or small as you want to make it. I'm grateful to know so many excellent people from so many places. I almost had high school and college people represent, but both couldn't make it. That would have been wild. Still, happy to be here, and I feel fortunate to have the friendships that I do. Never take that for granted.

The desire to nerd harder

posted by Jeff | Friday, August 25, 2017, 9:44 PM | comments: 0

Earlier this week I finished up a story (that's a unit of work in agile software development) that I didn't finish the previous sprint (the unit of time between our releases). It was a performance refactoring thing that ended up taking longer than expected, and while not terribly difficult, it was pretty satisfying to get it done and see the results. Today I got pulled in a lot of directions, but later in the afternoon I started down a road looking at new things, and kind of forgot it was Friday night and I should, you know, spend time with my family.

I love my job, because it appeals to what I think are my strengths, and I've been fortunate enough to be in this sort of career appropriate mode now for about four years. Guiding a team, processes and filling in the blanks is a good fit, but while I enjoy the administrative duties, I like to get my hands dirty, too. Not only can I still do that, but I have to because we're not big enough for me not to.

So it's fun to nerd a little harder. I need some of that. In my spare time, which feels scarce at times, I'm trying to spend time with a new technology or framework I haven't messed with before. Orchestrating the success of others is satisfying, but making stuff yourself is too, in a different way. I need to remind myself to do that more.