Archive: June, 2019

The hate energy

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 25, 2019, 10:30 PM | comments: 0

I've seen a lot of musicals in the last six months about not hating on people. Dear Evan Hanson was about kids who struggle to fit in. The Prom was about letting go of your dislike for that "LGBQ-teen" who wants to bring her girlfriend to the dance. Come From Away best shows the ability of humans to come together in extraordinary times of crisis. It takes place in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, on the week of 9/11, when 38 planes are diverted there with 7,000 people aboard from all over the world, stuck in a town that only had 9,000 to start with. Spoiler alert: They make it work.

We stayed for a talk-back after the show when it came to Orlando, and one of the leads, who plays a gay Californian and an Egyptian man in the show, told us the story about one of his best high school friends. The friend was an all-star athlete, adored by his classmates... until 9/11. As the child of Pakistani parents, he was immediately viewed as a pariah in his community, for no other reason than his religion and his parents origin. The actor believes that playing that role, of the Egyptian that some don't wish to understand, honors his high school friend.

As terrible as 9/11 was, for awhile at least, people seemed willing to take care of each other. President Bush at the time made an impassioned speech about the need to not cast Muslims as terrorists, because, "In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect." Heck, it was kind of like that after Irma a few years ago, around the neighborhood, even though it was mostly issues of debris, down trees and minor roof damage. People helped each other out when things were hard.

Now, there's so much energy put into hate and distrust. Politicians want you to hate brown people and rich people, depending on the side of the aisle they align with. Some crazy assholes are calling for gay people to be executed by the government, on behalf of their church, no less. Racism is persisting among young people, the ones I would expect least likely to engage in such behavior. Women are still trivialized in all kinds of professions as inferior. This is all going on in 2019.

I try not to be judgmental toward these people, but it's hard not to. I don't know where they find the energy for it. First of all, I can objectively observe that none of these groups of people pose any threat to me. (Dear white, straight, men: You've always had it better than everyone else, and you still do.) Given this condition of non-threat, I see even less reason to possibly spend any time using my valuable energy toward hating anyone, with the exception of willfully ignorant people, because that's a choice. I mean, imagine how freeing it would be if you could let go of the psychic cost of expressing hate. There are no useful outcomes for expressing hate. None.

Current vs. ideal state

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 20, 2019, 10:30 PM | comments: 0

Almost a year ago, I wrote that scaling is always the problem. I had recently started a job where I had to scale, along with the business, and the team and process that I had in my charge. That continues to be part of the challenge, but I've also come to realize that problem solving is better approached by figuring out the ideal state and working backward from there. Concentrating too much on current state makes it harder to even see the ideal state.

Let's say you have to build a wooden box. You have some of the wood to frame it, but not enough to cover the sides, and you have some screws and a screwdriver, but no drill. Looking at it from a current state point of view, you have a number of constraints that make it difficult for you to finish the box. That's demotivating, for sure, but it also makes it harder to see what the box could be. You aren't thinking about hinges for a lid, or a knob, or even paint. There are elements you don't have on hand, so the ideal is further away. But if you could step away, and think, "What do I really want a box to be?" it leads you somewhere better. In this case it probably leads you to go to the hardware store and get what you need.

I think I instinctively knew this, but don't always apply it where I should. When I knew I wanted to live in a better climate, and get to a certain place professionally, I looked at the ideal and figured out what the interim steps should be. The plan changes and bends as you discover new information, but forward momentum comes easy when you know what that ideal looks like. (For the record, the locale was easy, and the career goals have evolved, but I'm headed in the right direction.)

I've defined the ideal and worked backward from it on all kinds of important things. I did it in terms of my relationship goals, professional goals, financial goals, really all the big life things, and those are all works in progress. There are day to day things that it works for as well.

So yeah, don't let current state get in the way of where something could be.

World of cocktails and fruity beverages

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 18, 2019, 10:15 PM | comments: 0

I've always had a complicated relationship with alcohol, because there's a fair amount of addiction in my family. I vaguely remember my grandparents on my dad's side basically having a bar in the trunk of their car on some trip. In college I didn't want to be around it until later in my junior year. Once I was legal, I enjoyed weekend beers but didn't have a ton of money for it. I drank a lot at parties and holidays after that, but relatively infrequently in a weekday capacity. As I progressed into my 30's, my body became less tolerant of beer, but I liked wine with dinner. Cider, especially Strongbow, became a favorite until they made it too sweet. I liked fruity vacation drinks, but never really encountered them until, well, vacations.

Moving to Florida enabled two behaviors: Frequent theme park visits and cruises. Both of these expose me to those fruity beverages on a regular basis. The thing is, other than the classic mai tai that I've made at parties for years, I've never really known anything about making drinks. Then we started doing mixology classes on those cruises.

Before that even, we did a cruise near the holidays where the drink of the day was the "Christmas cookie," and a few years before that cruise they posted the recipe online. It's a little work because of the ice cream, but it's fairly easy to get great results at home.

Another one came from a bartender that works the premium bars on the Disney Dream. It's pineapple juice, Midori and Malibu, with whip cream, shaken over ice and strained. It's so good. For a shot, we learned how to do a "mini-beer," which is 43 and a little heavy cream on top (tastes like ice cream). We learned how to do a really good margarita with George Clooney's former tequila, Casamigos, an orange liquor and a little lime juice (no "mix").

I revisited some college favorites, too. I mixed up the classic mudslide by using Bailey's, Kahlua and whip cream shaken. And since I had Bailey's, it was easy to get butterscotch schnapps for the buttery nipple shot.

Epcot had the easiest no-brainer, ultimate summer drink, I think at the Flower & Garden Festival. It's Bacardi Dragonberry rum with Welch's dragonfruit and mango juice. It's stupid easy to make.

Given my desire to share and make stuff for others, I decided to make the butler's pantry in the house super functional. I hated spending the money on it, but the options were to have that or an empty space, and it seemed kind of douchey. But now that I'm pouring for friends (and myself on weekends), I love it. I had to equip it correctly, so I bought all of the essentials, including Boston shakers, a strainer, a glass salter, a rubber mat, and I already had a little cutting board from last year's Food & Wine Festival. I also bought proper pour spouts for all of the bottles.

My pouring technique is really solid. I've had enough practice in the last year that I'm efficient and relatively precise. In fact, it was super validating on the last cruise when the bartender complimented me.

The down side of this little hobby is that it's expensive to have a lot of varieties of liquor on hand. The good stuff, like the Casamigos, is $40 a bottle. So we don't have a huge collection of things (although things like Malibu and Bacardi flavors are cheap for giant bottles), but we can make a solid variety of things for guests.

History and nonfiction narrative

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 17, 2019, 2:30 PM | comments: 0

I hated all of the literature classes I had to take in college. Well, I didn't have to, but the difference between minoring in journalism and being a double major (with radio/TV as the first) was three or four English classes. As much as I question the place and value of college, I'm glad that I sucked it up and got it done. But the literature, ugh, I found it boring. I wanted to be a writer, not a reader, and back then I didn't see the value in being critical of guys who had been dead for decades.

But there was one class that I absolutely adored at Ashland University, and that was Dan Lehman's class on nonfiction narrative. We were his guinea pigs on the subject, and it's one that he literally wrote the books on years later. It was of interest to journalists, because it isn't uncommon for people observing a story to be entangled in it. Certainly there are varying degrees to this, and the questions about how or if you bend the truth to facilitate story telling. Hunter S. Thompson was arguably the most notable of the people practicing "gonzo journalism," where the writer most certainly has an angle and isn't particularly concerned about objectivity. It's written from a first-person perspective, it has an opinion, and it's not apologetic about it. There are also questions about whether or not this is a particularly narcissistic endeavor, but you also can't ignore the fact that objectivity is difficult to achieve, and modern journalists, the few we have left, are frankly so preoccupied with objectivity that they forget truth is often more important.

I'm sitting on about 20 years worth of news soundbites, interviews and first-hand accounts of changes in the amusement industry. That's probably not that interesting to most people, but I sit in a unique position to piece together all of that information. To that end, I've been jotting some notes down, writing some fragments and piecing together some things. What's remarkable is that the research is all there in plain sight, in my email, in forums, in audio and video clips. I was able to piece together with great detail the start of my little hobby sites. Next I started compiling notes that tell a tale of two CEO's (you can guess which ones), and the richness and texture in the detail is surprising.

Does any of that make for an interesting writing endeavor? I'm not sure, but I'm going to write a few chapters and see where it takes me. At the very least, it will make for some features to post online. At most, it could be a book a few dozen people would buy. I'm interested to see where it leads.

Early parenthood went by way too fast

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 13, 2019, 10:47 PM | comments: 0

The other night I was checking on Simon before I went to bed, and wondered why I still do it, or what I'm really checking for. I tend to cover him up if he's squirmed out of the covers, but for all I know that was intentional. I was kind of shocked at how enormous he looked. Then I saw an old video of him, when he was 2, dipping tiny pieces of non-choking hot dog in ketchup and saying, "Dip, dip." His baby laugh and "Simonese" were adorable.

We'll never experience that again, and this reality causes great sadness for me. I've generally taken entering my 40's in stride, and even feel that it has some advantages, but this thing about my kid growing up fast is hard. He's half way to high school graduation in terms of age, 9 down, 9 to go. We already got a late start, and additional children (likely by adoption) would push parenting into our 70's, which we don't want, but it's still sad.

If there's any particular thing that stands out about the early parenting, it's how no advice that anyone gives you is useful, and any preparation for it landed somewhere between pointless and useless. The day that little creature enters your life, you're pretty much on autopilot and you do whatever instinct suggests you need to do. Then as soon you figure something out, there's enough change in the next week that you have to figure it out all over again. This cycle repeats until at least 5 or 6, and soon the physically exhausting ass-wiping and barfing is replaced with the mentally exhausting thing about your little person having opinions and strong feelings.

Simon got sick tonight, pushing a fever of 100 degrees, with a cough that wouldn't quit. My often adversarial little boy just wanted me to help him feel better, and for now he needs someone who will rub his back and tell him that he's going to be OK. Those days are numbered, I know, and for me it causes a lot of anxiety about being a better dad while I still have time. There's just so little time.

Critical thinking and deep thought

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 11, 2019, 8:12 PM | comments: 0

One of the things that I've come to realize lately is that there are a lot of things that you need to just stop and think deeply about. For example, your kid may have a recurring behavioral pattern that you have to correct, and the resolution is deeper than, "Stop doing that!" Or at work, there's a problem that has to be solved, and the scope of it isn't just making a decision or delegating it.

The problem is, it's so hard to devote the time. There are never enough hours in the day, so you tend to fire away at the next thing and move on. You can get away with that in a lot of cases, because life tends to have a lot of small things that don't require a ton of attention. For the things that do require more of you, you just have to make the time. I'm not suggesting that you throw your hands up and cry that things are hard, I'm suggesting that you make time by prioritizing.

I get a lot of deep thinking done in the shower, and would get more of it done if I didn't run out of hot water. When I had a hot tub, I almost always saw the world with greater clarity when I got out. (Maybe being naked outside had something to do with it as well, I don't know.) Lately I find that a solid half-hour nap on the weekend helps. "Me time" mornings when I see a movie help. The key point though is that I need to make the time and be deliberate about it. It won't organically happen.

There's a bigger problem though, and it's cultural even. We don't engage in critical thinking as much as we should. Some people clearly don't at all. They absorb what they see, and in the age of algorithms, what they see is reinforced with what they want to see. It's cyclical validation of what you already believe to be real and true. There was an article in the New York Times last week about a guy who was mostly apolitical, and got sucked into the alt-right scene hard. When he finally broke out of the cycle of reinforcement, he started to swing hard left. His behavior was to simply be told what to think, and not think critically for himself.

When Bill Nye visited Orlando a year or two ago, he had a running joke about how "Critical Thinking" would be a great name for a rock band, but he was fundamentally frustrated with the lack of it in our society, especially when it comes to science. Flat earth people, anti-vaxers and climate change deniers don't think critically at all. It's one thing when willful ignorance just affects the ignorant, but often the consequences do affect others.

So take time to think. Think about the problems you need to solve. Think about bigger problems in a critical way so you can be a part of solutions.

A year in with Model 3, closing in on five years of EV life

posted by Jeff | Saturday, June 8, 2019, 11:27 AM | comments: 0

In August, 2014, we replaced Diana's Hyundai with a Nissan Leaf. A year later, we replaced our Prius V with a Tesla Model S. We're closing in on 4 years gasoline-free. A year ago today, we replaced the Model S with a Model 3 (last fall we turned in the Leaf for a newer one).

We put 12,503 miles on the Model 3, and it's certainly the best car that I've ever had. That probably doesn't mean a lot coming from me, because I'm not much of a car guy, and have driven Corollas and Prii my entire life. But despite my aversion to expensive cars, it felt important to get to an all-electric world. The convenience of it alone has been extraordinary. I didn't quite realize just how annoying stopping at gas stations was. Driving this powerful thing with instant torque also makes it seem like burning dead dinosaurs and generating pollution to get around is a barbaric, low-tech process that we should have abandoned a long time ago. Even an expensive, hand-built gasoline car, with thousands of parts, seems like an inelegant solution for transportation. That may sound uppity, but that isn't the intention. Objectively, an electric motor is a relatively simple device with few moving parts.

Think about where we've come in a short period of time. Five years ago, a viable, long-range EV cost almost $100k. Now you can get one for $35k. Heck, the leaf starts at $30k, and if we're being honest, 150 miles of range is enough for 98% of what most of us need in any given day. (Seriously, I've driven one day this year over 100 miles.) When you realize that you leave each day with a "full tank," and therefore don't need to charge anywhere but home, you realize that your car is more like a cell phone in the way you use it. We've only used a supercharger once this year (round-trip weekend from Orlando to Sarasota), using about $2.30 of power. Our cost per mile is about 3 cents on average.

As for the improvements of the Model 3 this year, they've been interesting for sure. Real world track measurements put the car at 0-60 in about 4.9 seconds, and a recent update tweaked up the power by 5%, so it's possible it may have gained another tenth of a second. They've added the "dog mode" to run AC when you leave a dog in the car, with the temperature displayed on the screen so no one freaks out. They turned on sentry mode, which starts recording on three of the cameras when someone or something approaches the car. They also have dash cam operation enabled now. Unfortunately they still need to make it so you can clear the USB stick of video files without plugging it into your computer, because right now the recording functions just stop working when it's filled. They've made improvements to summon, which I don't use. Navigate on autopilot is pretty amazing, because it can actually do a freeway interchange by itself. It's a pretty crazy world where a year passes and your car does more than when you bought it.

While Tesla wasn't impressive in the buying experience, and our one service experience was mediocre (had to have the windshield replaced), Tesla isn't as crappy a company on the auto side as it is in the energy business. It looks like demand is still strong this quarter, and I look forward to seeing the Model Y in a few years.

EV life is just normal for us, and it's better in every way compared to gas cars. We'll never go back.

The politics at the ends

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 5, 2019, 8:14 PM | comments: 0

We're quite a ways off from the next presidential election, and already I'm disappointed with everything about it. On the GOP side, there's the total unwillingness to admit that they have a fundamentally terrible person in office who lies, contradicts himself and has no decorum fit for the office, let alone respect for the Constitution, relative to any president in my lifetime from either party. (There is also the cognitive dissonance of his supporters over those same things that would easily disqualify any of us from any job ever, but I'll never solve that mystery.) On the Democratic side, there's a growing movement to swing the pendulum in the other extreme direction, which also sucks. Mind you, if it comes down to suffering through free college or dealing with policy that instills hate against women and every kind of minority, it's not a hard choice. There is no moral equivalence, but it's still a crappy choice to make.

The post I wrote three years ago describing my ideal candidate is unchanged. I'm not really into labels, but being socially liberal and fiscally conservative is a thing. They are not incompatible ideas, because when combined they usually result in common sense positions that tend to fall somewhere in the middle. You're at your most flexible when you stop trying to fit everything into an ideological box. My experience has been that, with age, this is a natural destination, but it seems like most people are hell bent on joining a tribe and not deviating from it as life goes on. I didn't really know anything in my 20's... why would I think like I'm still that age with everything I've seen since?

We have to do better than this.

The moving into a dorm dream

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 3, 2019, 10:52 PM | comments: 0

I can't tell you the last time that I had the dead air radio dream, where I'm on the air and I can't get the next song cued up in time because I can't find the next CD, resulting in dead air. I put that one to bed I think after I went back to my college station in 2009 and did a few shifts. Also, CD's in radio aren't really a thing anymore. Heck, live on the air is barely a thing anymore. But I do have a recurring theme for another series of dreams: The moving into a dorm dream.

These come in a number of different flavors, but generally speaking I'm a resident assistant, and there are a bunch of people moving in. There's often a sub-theme about worrying about my stuff getting stolen, probably because a dude pillaged our room my freshman year and took a bunch of cash while we were in the shower (never left it open after that). The bigger theme though is about anxiety revolving around my leadership and authority in the situation. For the two years I was actually an RA, the truth is that I wasn't very good at it. I didn't have many shits to give about the general well-being of my fellow undergrads, and really I just wanted room and board paid for. It didn't help that I wasn't a very happy person those years, for a lot of reasons that were mostly immature. The weird irony is that I had a reputation for being a hard ass about quiet hours and busting people for alcohol. The reality is that it didn't happen very often, but I probably didn't handle it in a very good way.

In the many years since college, this dream started to happen when I started gaining more responsibilities in my jobs. You don't have to be a shrink to get this, certainly. Anxiety manifests itself in obvious ways. In earlier years, like a decade ago, the dreams were always in chaotic environments, with loud people, discoveries of destroyed furniture, my computer stolen, people being angry at me for whatever reason. I didn't wake up with good feelings.

This year, the dreams changed. I recall having one a couple of months ago, and the people and environment were generally stable. The anxiety shifted to things I had to do, like making staff meetings and missing late night rounds. Then last night, I had arguably the best version of this dream ever. In the dream, I remember checking a calendar on my phone (which had a monochrome screen, like an old school Palm Pilot), and it had all of the round schedules. I also met a resident moving in, who was actually a woman in her 20's, professional, not unlike some of the people I work with, and I was giving her advice about how best to arrange bunks in her room before her roommates arrived. In other words, I was confident in my organization and ability to lead. That's uncharted territory for me, and it's especially weird for a dream to result in something not borne of anxiety. I think the dream reflects a me that is more confident.

I'm fascinated by dreams. A lot of people, and even the metaphor "in your dreams," seem to imply that this brain function serves you with things you can't have in real life. That's never been the case for me. Dreams have almost always been the manifestation of my fears and anxiety. Somewhere in my mid-30's, sometimes dreams would be positive, and these days they're mostly, but not always positive, regardless of the subject. The completely bizarre combination of contexts from different people, places and times is hard to explain, but they're mostly positive dreams.

Writing what you know vs. writing complete fiction

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 3, 2019, 10:23 PM | comments: 0

I've had some conversation lately about writing with other authors, as well as some good reads of interviews for all kinds of writers (including screenwriters), and I'm surprised at how much I read about the perceived legitimacy about writing from experience and writing totally made up stuff.

I will freely admit that when I've sat down and written scenes, I draw very heavily from real-life. The reason that I have so many fragments is that I struggle to write the things that tie them together. I have some solid outlines and story arcs, but it's hard for me to make up something completely original that never happened. It's downright discouraging to think in that context, that all I could potentially do is write about anecdotes from my own life. If that's all I've got, I'll run out of good stories pretty quickly.

My more rational self of course understands that this is nonsense. Historians can be great writers, and "all" they do is compile facts into an understandable and cohesive narrative. Journalists write about facts in short, easily understood narratives.

A really big component of those conversations and interviews though come down to a more fundamental question: How much of what we do in any creative or artistic endeavor is derivative? We value originality, but unless you live your entire life in a closed off box, it's impossible not to be influenced. In music we've had a remix and sample subculture for decades and we seem to be OK with it. Hollywood and Broadway keep recycling stories.

Still, I get it, this idea that you can be a force of sheer creation to make something that did not exist before and people haven't seen it. Experience does make us who we are though, and I do suspect it can enrich the things we create.