Archive: October, 2018

Giving it all to social networks

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 30, 2018, 9:35 PM | comments: 1

In 2003, I started a site called The idea was that people would give me money, and I'd give them a place to put a blog and host photos, and even upload them from their crappy flip phones of the time. On the home page, there was an activity feed of the latest posts that you could click through to. It was focused on college kids, who seemed open to sharing this sort of thing, and if you could refer enough people to signup, it would be free for you. I made a couple hundred bucks a year for two or three years, and we had a nice little community.

About a year later, some little shit at Harvard came up with a similar idea, but gave it away, and that little shit now basically owns half the Internet and 2 billion users.

This is not about my inability to execute on that idea. I was almost eight years out of college, the Iraq war was happening, I had a job that I didn't like, and I guess even then I subconsciously knew my marriage wasn't going well. The problem with that whole idea was mostly that I wasn't in college at the right time, when the Internet could have made me a whole lot of beer money. (Side note: Last year I hired a guy who did make some solid money back in the day on the Internets during his college years, and I have crazy respect for that.) Also, people were starting to steal music, so those weren't good times to ask for money on the Internets.

What this is really about is the fact that we don't really own what we share on social media. Sure, Facebook will let you export the data, but the format of that package is generally not very useful, and there's no way to relate it back to other real life people. It's just a dump of photos and text. But realistically, what else can people do?

In the oughts, with a little bit of easy to learn technical expertise and a relatively little money, you could set this stuff up yourself. You could own your own domain name and all of the data of stuff you posted up there. Hopefully you knew how to back it all up and such, but it was doable. I definitely don't miss maintaining servers and such, but I literally had a T-1 connection to my house and a server under the desk for a few years (at horrendous cost). That's the reason I have almost two decades of really immature nonsense still living on my blog, and it demonstrates how far I've come (or regressed) since my 20's.

The real benefit of something like Facebook is reach relative to effort. I have a friend that largely retired his own blog to post stuff on Facebook. His domain name just redirects to Facebook, where he posts stuff publicly. I kind of hate that. I mean, it's cool in that we can share a place to converse, and there are notifications and stuff to facilitate conversations, but his own content isn't really his. As people seem to be less interested in the big social networks, they'll eventually move on. Then what?

Sometimes I think about revisiting the CampusFish model, only private. Facebook has a pretty creepy business model around advertising, and their trust is in the shitter with the Cambridge Analytics scandal and the countless foreign state trolls trying to manipulate people. They can't do that if the only purpose of the network is to share stuff privately with a specific group of people. Sure, you would still be using a social network for all the things, but at least you would be a customer of that network and not the product.

How many stamps did Angie use?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 30, 2018, 7:41 PM | comments: 0

Angie put 1 stamp on each of 7 envelopes. How many stamps did Angie use?

This is not a hard word problem. It's obviously 7 stamps... to most of us.

Simon knows it's 7 stamps, too. But imagine that the answer is so obvious that you're convinced it isn't right, that there's some kind of trick in play here. You're so convinced that you're going to get it wrong and that you're being tricked that you can't even move on. That's where Simon sometimes goes, and I remember having exactly these same conversations in my head. I mean, it's multiple choice, which in some ways makes it worse. Why would they give so many options for something so obvious?

The testing system mandated from on high to local school districts is so ridiculously broken. The teachers know it, probably anyone who engages with kids who have special needs knows it. The effort placed on successfully taking the tests should be a pretty good indication of how ridiculous it is. You could logically conclude that you are somewhat evaluating the child's ability to perform academic tasks, but it seems mostly like you're evaluating their ability to take a test.

I'm actually one who might want to argue that standardized tests are good. After all, the year I took the ACT (generally accepted as much as the SAT, especially in Ohio at the time), I scored in the top 2% of all kids nationwide, while getting a pretty mediocre GPA, even with weighted "honors class" grades. To me that says the way we evaluate kids academic development was broken then, and it's worse now. This is particularly true in the grade school years. We've seen Simon get ahead and behind in the same year on different skills. I've seen research suggest that kids don't really level out to more consistent standards until at least 10th grade.

I see how he gets stressed, and it stresses me out. I'm worried about him.

Just another Sunday in October

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 28, 2018, 11:00 PM | comments: 0

The last weekend in October used to be a special time for me. I'll get back to that.

Today was the kind of awesome family day that we desperately needed. The daily challenges of life have made it hard for us to just live in the moment and enjoy each other's company lately, even for Simon. The forecast was for 73 degrees and sunny, bona fide jacket weather in Orlando, and we nailed down some last minute Fastpasses for Magic Kingdom. I haven't been there in four months, which feels weird, living 11,000 feet away from Cinderella Castle. They do a nice job dressing the place up for Halloween, and with only a few days left, we wanted to make sure we got to see it.

We ended up doing seven rides via Fastpass, plus a lap on the People Mover, with lunch and Dolewhip in there as well. We did all of that in under five hours. There was no drama or behavior issues. We even mixed it up and took the ferry back and forth to parking, because Simon wanted to see how the ramps at the docks worked. Back at home, we were still able to open up the house and enjoy the fresh air. (The solar produced 48 kWh of electricity with the AC off, which is an extraordinary net win... always thinking about energy.)

The cooler temperatures and a trip to our local theme park is the closest thing we get to closing weekend at Cedar Point, a tradition that I stuck to for a decade or so. Last year, I didn't make it up there at all, while this year I did at least get up there for media day. Starting I think in 1999, Stephanie and I would go up every closing weekend, and stay in the hotel or one of the cabins. I kept doing that through divorce and dating, sharing a room with various friends from Chicago and Nashville. The weather was unpredictable. Some years it would be rainy and cold, others sunny and warm. There was something to waking up to those train whistles and the sounds of roller coasters climbing the lifts on test runs in the morning.

I didn't do it in 2009, because we were packing for Seattle, and the year after we had just moved again, this time to Snoqualmie, so 2008 was the last year. We did stay an October weekend in 2012, a few weeks before close, so that was at least a similar experience. I don't get that nostalgic about many things, because frankly there haven't been many times in my life that were consistently awesome, but those closing weekends certainly were.

Now, the last Sunday in October is just another day. We don't have seasons here for theme parks. I'm sure Cedar Point as a location had something to do with my strong feelings for closing weekend, but mostly it was the people. Year after year, even in difficult times, I got to spend quality time with people from all over that I didn't get to see that often. Fortunately, a lot of those same people do make it down here to Orlando. Everyone comes here, eventually.

So to my friends closing the park today, I hope you had fun. It doesn't look like the weather was very good. We can go to our "home" park again tomorrow, if we want, but we made today feel like those great fall days at the point, even if our friends couldn't join us. We hope to see you soon.

More date nights

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 8:47 PM | comments: 0

Diana and I went out for dinner tonight. That doesn't sound miraculous, but we just haven't done it much. During the Broadway season, we have about one date night per month at a minimum, and we go all out and get the babysitter for six hours, but since the last season ended, we just don't go out much. This has been a difficult year for a million reasons, but our relationship hasn't been one of the problems. You think given that scenario, we would care for it more.

We have an incredibly low maintenance relationship, which is surprising because if I'm being self-aware, I know I can be a serious pain in the ass. But generally it's an easy going thing and we roll with any interpersonal challenges with relative ease. Any instances of annoyance toward each other is short-lived. Still, it doesn't mean that we shouldn't exercise a little more care for us. We love our dear child, but there are times when we just need to do couple stuff, since he came to us less than three years from our first date. We don't really remember a time together without Simon.

In fact, we didn't really do a lot of "adventure life" in our early adulthood, and there's some minor regrets around that. Diana definitely did more than I did, moving to New York to work in theater, but as much as that city lends itself to adventure, she spent most of her time working in dark theaters and not having adventures. I couldn't see outside of Ohio in my 20's, and I wasn't inclined to travel unless it involved an amusement park.

We're trying to make up for lost time, and to an extent we have done a little of that in the least painful ways possible, often with Simon. Taking an epic cruise to Alaska or the Virgin Islands is relatively low stress with a young child, but Europe seems a little out of reach still. Road trips aren't super fun with ASD in the back seat, but the beach is easy. And there's a shocking realization to consider: This summer, Simon will be half way between birth and high school graduation. That's nuts.

We only have so many keystrokes left, and you never know exactly how many. We need more date nights, and not just when we have tickets.

Digital wellness is the truth I don't want to know

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 22, 2018, 10:27 PM | comments: 0

Apple and Google have both introduced counting mechanisms into their phone operating systems, the idea being that you can check out how much time you've spent doing stuff. I assume that this sort of existed in Android, since you've been able to see what apps are sucking your battery or data usage. Now there's a user interface around it all, so you can let the phone give you the cold hard truth about what you're doing with it.

The numbers aren't great. I tend to spend on average about two hours per day looking at that damn thing, though I can reasonably assert that at least half of that is in the evenings when I'm hanging out, or winding down before bed. On weekdays, I get a staggering 150+ notifications, which I'm sure are mostly email and Slack (which I'm starting to realize is the new email, but maybe even less useful). I unlock the phone way less than I would expect, averaging around 30 times per day.

The actual time per app though is what really frightens me. How can I spend 20 minutes in a day looking at Instagram? (Answer: dr.woo and #bluehair.) I don't even follow that many people, and I don't post everyday. Facebook is another offender, but usually only on days when I'm out posting selfies with my family and we're doing stuff. I have notifications for all social media turned off because I don't need the distraction (Slack might be coming next). I don't play games very often, but when I do, they're just time wasters before bed or doing my business. Those often account for 15 minutes or more, but let's say those runs are relative to, er, runs? Gross.

To my credit, I have become better about not pulling out the damn thing every time I risk being bored for 30 seconds. Like if I'm in line to buy a burrito, I'd rather people watch, or when I'm really challenging myself, to other humans. About burritos. I'm very conscious about having it out around Simon when we're doing stuff, like a father-son theme park trip. It's starting to become less about being present, and more about the realization that nothing on the phone is really enriching my life. I don't get people who spend half their day arguing with people on the Twitter about how wrong they are.

Smart phones are definitely important tools to have, but they're also time sucks that prevent one from interacting with life as it happens around you. I see it with people at restaurants and at theme parks, and it makes me sad. I use mine to take photos a ton, and from there I get in, do what I intend, and get out. I hope others do the same.

The awesome season

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 21, 2018, 7:23 PM | comments: 0

As if by magic, today brought the perfect weather that makes up half the year in Orange County. Starting in late May, we start to sweat our balls off, typically through September. I don't think it's horrible, but the electric bills (even with solar) got to be a little extreme with all of that air conditioning. Even when it's 90+, I like being outside on the patio, at the theme parks or even doing a lap around Lake Eola downtown. But when it's not that hot, it's awesome.

Fall brings highs around 80, and for us at least, that's only 5 degrees higher than what we typically set the AC for. The high today was about 80, with a nice breeze all day, so we opened all of the windows and the three-section patio door to let the fresh air in. It has been glorious. I'm sure that this was the first day we generated more electricity than we used (45 kWh, if we're counting).

Last winter was pretty weird, because we had a weird cold snap in December and January, and we actually started using the heat. That's when I learned that we had a heat pump system, which is a little slower to heat because it efficiently sucks heat from the outside instead of using resistance coils, though we have those too. We seemed to not have the ideal temperature range for open windows very long, so hopefully we do this year. The forecast for the next 10 days sure looks great.

But the other thing that makes this the awesome season is Christmas. It's a glorious thing down here, and I'm already over not having snow. There's nothing more lovely than walking around the decorated downtown areas or the theme parks this time of year, and it lasts a full two months. Last year, Diana put up lights and trees in early November, and I loved it. It didn't feel too early. We only got to see the lighting at Cinderella Castle once last year, and I'm sad about the loss of the Osborne Family lights they used to have at Disney's Hollywood Studios. SeaWorld has a nice display as well.

Growing up in Ohio, fall meant jacket weather, and that was nice, but it wasn't indicative of impending gloom. Here, it means several months of jacket weather, no more daily afternoon thunderstorms and insane amounts of sun. I'll take it.

Adapting to office life

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 19, 2018, 7:02 PM | comments: 0

I worked remotely for about four straight years before taking a non-remote job this summer, which puts me at five years total of working remotely. As a percentage, that's about a fifth of my adult life, five of the last six years. I love it, and I generally think it's an extraordinary and efficient way to work. There are some pros and cons either way, and this is a brain dump of those thoughts.

First, let's be real: Commuting sucks. Getting in your car and spending time driving to a place and back again is a serious quality-of-life issue. It's not easily solved by declaring that you'll live near where you work. Even if you do live close to where you work, the longest part of the drive is the part near where you live. The 12 minutes I cover 14 of my 24 miles are book ended by almost 10 minutes a piece of the last few miles to work or home. Every day I worry that I'm going to get into an auto accident, and I don't even live in a place where you have to contend with snow. I lose about six hours per week sitting in my car.

That said, the drive creates a certain separation between work and life that I didn't have before. When I'm working at home, I'm typically plugged in before 8, and it's easy enough to do just this one more thing before I end the day if I don't have to try and beat out the traffic. I found I was working an extraordinary number of 10-hour days, when Diana or Simon would come knocking on my door to see if I was done yet at 6. That's no good.

It's also nice to be among actual humans. I don't go out to lunch with people as often as I thought I would, mostly because I end up inserting lunch to whenever it's most convenient. I'll either bring something back to the office or just eat by myself. But I do end up among people and talking a lot. There are some other decidedly dotcom perks in my case, too, like the chef that makes breakfast Monday mornings and lunch on Wednesday, and the free massages every few weeks.

But when you have a truly remote culture, you don't lose the alleged "opportunity cost" around co-location. I developed rich friendships and deep understanding with the people I worked with remotely, in part because you always used video when you called, so non-verbals are still visible. People use Slack or Teams as a crutch, but anything not easily explained goes to a call with the right people quickly when you're doing remote right. In fact, I would argue that interruptions are minimized and communication is at its most efficient in the remote situation. It forces communication to be deliberate and focused.

I've said before that taking geography out of the equation leads to better hires, and I still believe that.

I'd like to work remotely more, because we're set up for it even if our culture isn't necessarily wired for it, but it would be hard in my position at the moment. One of the reasons we moved was so I could have more office space, and I miss spending time in there. One thing at a time though... building remote culture is not a priority at the moment. I did like the way we would do at least two half-days downtown at a previous job. That was an excellent way to get the band together without feeling all of the negatives around commuting were overwhelming.

My smart little boy is at risk

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 18, 2018, 6:38 PM | comments: 1

Third grade is a fairly awful time, we're learning, and it's especially difficult for Simon. This is the year that they start doing all of the ridiculous testing. To say that it's not good for a kid with ASD and ADHD is an understatement.

What I'm seeing right now, just from the homework angle, is that he's spent by the time he gets home. For basic math, he's not receptive to problem solving strategies, and outright memorization of facts is beyond him. But I've seen where he gets it, and I know that some of the time he gets it. Reading comprehension seems to be more of a bona fide problem, but again, it seems to depend on the circumstances. When it's morning on a weekend, doing the online lessons, he seems to get it, but forget it after school.

I'm often astounded at his ability to get how mechanical things work, and he can soak up and understand spacial relationships all day long. He can recite book passages when it's something he's interested in, and as I mentioned, math is no problem if he's in the right spot. My perception is that he's a brilliant kid when the learning method works for him. He also gets tutoring, which probably contributes to his exhaustion. His self-esteem is hurting a bit, because he thinks tutoring means he's stupid, and the homework situation aggravates this. But the testing could hold him back a year, which I think would screw him up long-term.

I give his teacher all the credit in the world, because I think she's generally trying very hard to reach him in his way, but I worry every day that "the system" is not built to measure him in the right way, even if it is intended to accommodate him the rest of the time. I don't know what I can do about that, and it stresses me out.

Basic civic engagement

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 17, 2018, 8:47 PM | comments: 1

While I'm generally frustrated with the lack of engagement among voters, and the fact that we don't send anywhere near our best people to Washington, I think I'm ten times as frustrated with people who can't commit to even the most basic civic engagement at the local level. I can see how you might feel that you don't have any influence at the national level (and you're wrong, and that's why we have asshats there), but the impact on your life at the local level is visible and quantifiable.

It really starts with knowing what you're a part of. You probably live in a municipality or an unincorporated area in a county, and so you have elected leaders and issues maintaining your roads and providing your police and fire. They have budgets and zoning and taxes, and you should understand what those are. I happen to live in an unincorporated area, so we're in a county jurisdiction, and I'm shocked at how few people understand that the city in their address is little more than the zip code. Heck, we're eight miles from the city that shares our zip code. I don't think knowing who you elect and who you pay your taxes to is a particularly high bar to expect.

There are other taxing districts that you live in, chief among them a school district. Do you know where their revenue comes from? Do you know how they decide to build schools and fund them? In a lot of ways, these issues may affect your property value even more than municipal concerns, because crappy schools lead to crappy property values.

Right now I'm thinking largely about our HOA, which is like a mini-government that has jurisdiction over your neighborhood. Some people don't like HOA's, but I do because they hold your neighbors accountable to certain standards, and in our case, it cuts your grass so you never have that one lot on the street that looks abandoned. It means you can share a pool and other common areas. You should care about those things.

I don't think basic civic engagement is a high bar to hit as a member of a community. Know where you live, who's in charge, what's going on.

Dear young people, please vote

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 14, 2018, 1:30 PM | comments: 0

In politics, we've seen a new level of acceptance for coded racism, reversals on civil rights and outright rejection of observable facts. It's not like the "good old days," where we endured constant spin instead of lies that would suit a particular narrative. On the surface, given the small margins between these sides, those that embrace this deep level of bullshit, and those who do not, it appears as if the nation is solidly spit right down the middle.

The reality is not this at all. The reality is that extraordinary numbers of people simply choose not to get involved. They're so disenchanted by the bullshit that they simply don't vote. If some people don't vote, and the some people will believe the most ridiculous non-facts to suit their beliefs, it's not hard to understand how we got here.

The thing is, it wouldn't be hard to bring some sanity to this if young people voted. Compared to other demographics, people in their 20's are least likely to vote. They're leaving their future and governing of their country to people who will mostly be dead soon. I'm not sure why they don't understand that. Y'all have to vote. We need you, and you need to if you want to have any say in your future.

The impact spectrum

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 11, 2018, 10:37 PM | comments: 0

I can't find the post that I wrote at some point in the last decade, but I know I've written about the range of impact that you can have at your job and on the world in general. For example, one might aspire to establishing new industries, like commercial space flight, but can you really say that this is more impactful than educating children? It depends entirely on your frame of reference and the circumstances. If you're the teacher that influenced the industry creator, and improved the lives of hundreds of children, then I think you can argue that the teacher had the greatest impact.

Work is like that, too. Back in Microsoft's old days (OK, it was only a few years ago), the company was obsessed with promotion to the point that it penalized "stagnant" individual contributors and anyone not ascending to leadership positions. That obviously created a lot of toxic situations between people, since it was a disincentive to help out your teammates, but it also implied that banging out quality code for 40 hours per week also was less impactful in the long run. You don't have to work in the business to understand why that's silly.

In talking with a co-worker this week, I also realized that the wide spectrum of impact, and the desire to have it, has a compatibility matrix with company size, role and context. It seems like there are infinite combinations of circumstances that define impact scope. Going back to Microsoft, you could be the guy that wrote the algorithm to SUM a series of cells, and at this point, millions of people have used that functionality billions of times. But most people working on Excel will do mundane things that are totally necessary, and likely completely unrecognized by end users. I never worked on anything that big, but it's kind of cool to see the reputation system on MSDN has gone largely unchanged since my team of 3-ish developers built it and watched it process 100 million transactions per month in the first year.

Working in a growing company, I see that there is definitely a transition that people make in terms of impact breadth and depth. In a small shop, everyone takes out the trash, I like to say. That means you're forced into a situation where breadth puts you on many different problems at once, and the best you can do is find adequate solutions and move on. In a bigger shop, the problems become more complex, and typically many people have to engage with depth in more specific things. Managers actually get into the reverse situation, where as a company grows, they have to avoid depth and do their best to solve one problem at a time and quickly move on to the next. All of these situations lead to people being impactful, but the shape of that impact varies a ton.

Why does this matter? I think it's because teams have to understand how the breadth or depth of impact translates to being effective. If you're working in the world's largest software company, you can't be concerned with taking out the trash. At a small startup, you can't not have that concern. Effective people have a clear understanding of where they necessarily have to be on the impact spectrum.

I don't think generational stereotypes are that useful

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 9, 2018, 10:39 PM | comments: 0

I'm a member of Generation X. You know, the slacker generation. I remember the fairly widespread dismissal of my people when I was in college, and in the years after that. It was all the stuff about us being generally disenchanted and never going to amount to anything. At the time it seemed we were supposed to be limited to the "kids" that were in high school and college in the 90's, but the wider definition suggests that we can be a little older than that, and as much as a decade younger.

It turns out that my generation has a mixed record on moving the world forward, but we are largely responsible for the Internet economy, a significant push in entrepreneurial business and we elected the first African-American president. We had great music. We did OK overall. But let's not forget how we used to be, allegedly.

First, let's talk about Millennials. The stereotypes suggest that they're entitled, narcissistic, lazy and naive. Is there truth to that? I suppose it's true for some of them, but I'd hesitate to paint any group with that broad of a brush. I coached them (volleyball) when they were in high school, and they've grown up to be extraordinary people. The thing is, those of us in GenX weren't all that different. I mean, is it really hard to think about how we were just a decade-ish ago? I know that when I was in my late 20's, I was pretty sure that I knew everything, everyone older than me was dumb, I was important, I had better ideas and how dare you tell me that I just need to gain a little experience before I can reach my goals!

What about all of the studies that insist that Millennials adhere to the stereotypes? Is it not obvious about why they're pointless? They aren't old enough yet to make generalizations about how they roll! As they all enter that late 20's, early 30's range, they don't have the life experience and aren't at the same place in terms of career and personal lives that the previous generation is. But they aren't fundamentally all that different than we were at the same age. The biggest difference is that they're more public about how "older people" are full of shit. Because of Twitter and whatever. We didn't have social media at that age, but it doesn't mean we weren't doing the same thing.

Look, telling the younger generation "get off my lawn" is a time honored American tradition. It's perfectly normal to sigh at the way younger people (or older people) behave. But it's also important to be self-aware about it, at least, when we're older. You don't know what you don't know, but I don't think you know that until you know it, you know? I remember being in the height of the dotcom boom, in 2000, surrounded by Boomers at a corporate off-site meeting, horrified about how these "old dudes" just didn't get it. You could never convince me that I was wrong about that, but I certainly was. (That might be a bad example... there were "old dudes" who "get it," but most went to work elsewhere soon after that meeting.) If you think Millennials are not like looking back in time at ourselves, you don't have a very good memory.

Are there real cultural differences between the generations? Of course there is. I think there's some truth to the idea that participation trophies, helicopter parenting and this "safe space" nonsense where people don't want to be exposed to any ideas that upset them put Millennials at a disadvantage initially. However, I don't think that it takes a decade of life experience to overcome that. Like I said, everyone has idealistic and naive expectations in their 20's, but most adjust because they have to. GenX believed college degrees were a shortcut to success and a corner office too. Sound familiar? How's that working out as we approach midlife?

I'm a little disappointed that GenX hasn't really tackled the big problems, but I think there's still time. We're not that old yet. I'm actually really impressed with what we've done, and how far we've come. Millennials will follow in our footsteps and they'll stereotype the "Z's" or whatever they end up calling them with all of the same attributes we gave them. They're not special, and neither are we.

I actually miss old school Republicans

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 7, 2018, 7:19 PM | comments: 0

I'm apparently the opposite of "typical" (as if I need more reminders of that), because as I get older, I get less set in my ways and more convinced that ideological absolutes and extremes are the totally wrong way to go about life. Such is the case with current politics. I'm continually disappointed by the left/liberal/Democrat side that doesn't have the balls or moral leadership to actually get anything done, win elections or otherwise motivate constituents. On the other side, I'm completely fed up with the right/"conservative"/Republican schmucks who have been completely hijacked by extremists that appeal mostly to a vocal minority and have no sense of decorum or morality.

We're rewatching The Newsroom (I'm sure I'll write about it again), where Jeff Daniels' character Will McAvoy is an outspoken cable news anchor who also happens to be openly Republican. He's also a former prosecutor and exceptionally scholarly about American history and politics. Set during the 2010 to 2012 time frame, he declares war on the Tea Party and calls them the "American Taliban." During the newscast portrayed at the conclusion of the 2012 election night coverage, a guest analyst asks him how he can call himself a Republican while nightly attacking the GOP. He says:

No, I call myself a Republican 'cause I am one. I believe in market solutions, and I believe in common sense realities and the necessity to defend ourselves against a dangerous world and that's about it. Problem is now I have to be homophobic. I have to count the number of times people go to church. I have to deny facts and think scientific research is a long con. I have to think poor people are getting a sweet ride. And I have to have such a stunning inferiority complex that I fear education and intellect in the 21st century. But most of all, the biggest new requirement, really the only requirement, is that I have to hate Democrats. And I have to hate Chris Christie for not spitting on the President when he got off Air Force One.

Now, take what he said and pile even more on: You also have to believe that immigrants are a scourge on the nation and the source of increasing crime, even though crime is not increasing and immigrants, legal or illegal are less likely to commit crimes than natives. You have to believe liberals all want your guns, when they just want them better regulated. You have to believe that victims of sexual assault are just making it up for political reasons. You have to believe that the press is the enemy, despite being so core to our democracy that it's protected by the Constitution. You have to think that tax cuts for corporations will trickle down to middle class workers (they don't), and that tax cuts are totally worth it no matter how much worse they make the deficit. But worst of all, you have to excuse the behavior of a president that, if it were any of us in any job, would get us fired without question. That's what it's come to.

Look, I find many of the Republican ideals completely absurd, but the core, old school beliefs around small government, fiscal responsibility and a market driven economy aren't all bad. The president and those currently in Congress don't subscribe to these values at all. They're Republicans in name, and that's about it. Where have the reasonable, old school Republicans gone?

Where did the anxiety come from?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 2, 2018, 11:06 PM | comments: 0

When I hear music from late 2013, I associate it with extraordinary energy, hope and a sense of calm that I haven't had for very long periods in my life. In fact, I would say that started to fade a bit after two years, and now I find myself anxious much of the time. It's really obvious to me now, as this week I'm enjoying a "staycation" for a week, after going at it for 14 weeks straight in the new gig.

Naturally, I first make assumptions that it's related to work, but I don't think that's it. Sure, the scope of my responsibilities in this job are a new high for me, but I was feeling this anxiety at my last gig too, and the scope of that job was arguably much smaller than the job before, and definitely smaller than what I had in my contract gig in 2013. In fact, you would think that the 2013 gig would have caused more anxiety, since I didn't know what I would be doing after six (then 12) months. I had no idea what I'd be doing, and had a house I had to buy. So I don't think that the anxiety is rooted in work. The one caveat here is that I thought my last gig would last for years, and the idea that one person other than myself ultimately had control of that situation is troubling. I'm not sure how I get over that.

It could be financial, I suppose. The four month delay on selling the house when the first buyer fell through, along with two months and change of involuntary non-work, was definitely not a comfortable situation, and having to replace both cars and being under contract to install solar really stretched everything way too thin. I won't be fully recovered from that until the end of the year, when I can finally recast the loan on the house, almost a year after I had intended to. I don't know how I went a decade and a half of my college/adult life living with debt, because now even the prospect of doing so makes me queasy.

Parenting definitely causes anxiety. It's hard to imagine, but getting Simon in the right place academically and socially, given the challenges around ASD and ADHD, really have their best shot in the next four years. That's a lot of pressure, and I feel like I might be making him miserable when I just want him to be prepared for the difficult teenage years. I want him to feel understood, and socially capable.

It could also be age. We're headed for mid-life, and that comes with some realizations. We know people who get cancer and have heart attacks now. It's scary. It's weird to even talk about it out loud. We have suboptimal lipid panels come back and need biopsies and get weird things on our skin. That all is even more weird in part because we have a young child, where our peers would have one quite literally graduating from high school now. I don't fear death in the sense that I accept and understand it as the ultimate outcome of my life, but I sure as hell don't want it to affect my child in his youth or my wife in our prime (or vice versa).

Maybe the bigger stressor is that I find myself not capable of living in the moment. I feel like I'm always looking forward to something, usually that next travel opportunity. That's no good, because I don't want to miss what's happening right in front of me.

This too shall pass, I'm sure, but for now, I don't have answers yet.