Friday, November 24, 2017

Today's DIY Art Project - Light-Up 2D Christmas Tree

Here's a project I created last year for our new house, a flat Christmas tree to hang on the wall.  Here's the supplies and tools I used:


  • Three-foot long pieces of doweling (x3)
  • Small bolts (x5)
  • Wingnuts (x5)
  • Small piece of chain
  • Small cuphooks (many)
  • Christmas lights (not pictured above)
  • Kitkat
Chain is usually sold in 1' sections.  Get the size you need and when you get to the front and they try to hassle you, just tell them what the price was for the full 1' section.  

  • Drill, drillbit
  • Saw
  • Vice or clamp
  • Eye protection

Here's what was left over when all was said and done - one bolt and wingnut, a bunch of cuphooks and a small section of doweling.  If I were doing this project this year, I'd go to Lowes instead as me and this company have had a falling out over the political comments of their CEO.  I sold my stock and stopped shopping there.

Basically, lay out the tree shape.  Add about eight inches to the base.  Cut off the excess.  Then cut the piece in half.

Drill holes into all of the pieces at the ends.  For the bottom pieces, overlap by 3-4 inches and drill a second set of holes.  You're going to overlap the bottom piece of the frame for two reasons: you can remove one bolt and fold up the tree if you want, plus you need to make up for the thickness of the doweling as I'll explain in the next step.

Begin fitting together.  The left pole goes on top of the right pole and bottom pole.  The chain goes between the two poles at the top.  Insert the bolt and secure with a wingnut.  Because your bottom pole is in two pieces stacked together, it goes above the right pole on the right side.

The basic tree.

Hanging on the house.

Finally, add lights.


Ok, time for some free-form thought, just because I wish I was writing more. Yesterday, Lori put up the tree, and put lights on the tree. We watched Elf and part of Arthur Christmas yesterday and listened to a lot of Christmas music.  Today it's been less Christmasy, though we have the tree, the lights and Lori's put up some other decorations already. 

The day started way too early today, the cat waking us up several times, and Ben waking us up, too.  He was just ready to start the day far earlier than we were.  In the past, I might have seen the extra time as a chance to get some more stuff done, but today, it was difficult to drag myself out of bed.  And then I had to make coffee twice because I didn't get the pot pushed in all the way the first time and it overflowed and got all over and filled everything with coffee grounds.  Yuck. 

Things improved after that.  I've been slowly nursing my first and now second cup, I got some good cleaning done on the back patio that I've wanted to do for a long time and it hasn't been as hot today as they said it would be. 

I'm typing this in a very cool website called - as you type it counts words, characters, sentences, paragraphs and pages.  It also shows you the  "keyword density" - the words you've used the most.  And it's all updating in realtime as you type.  I think I will use this from now on when I want to write a certain number of words.  When you first start, it also counts down how many characters you have left for Twitter and Facebook posts.  Really smart tool.  There's also a little graph, it looks like it wants me to get to 2,500 characters.  Not sure why.

I'm at 4,500 steps and I need to get to 10,000.  That'll be difficult as Ellie's going to have friends over so we'll have access to less of the house, including the living room where I usually make up the steps by jogging in place.  I'll have to see if I can do that in the bedroom, I guess.

31 days to Christmas.  I have some, but not all of my Christmas shopping done which is sad because I have two people to shop for - my wife and my one direct report at work.  It's sad because my wife is shopping for everyone else and I'm sure she's much further along in her shopping.  How else can I make today more Christmasy?  There's the tree frame I made, I can hang that up.  I also still need to do a blog post about it because it was a fun DIY project. 

So far today we haven't listened to any Christmas music because it's all been about listening to whatever Ben wanted to watch.  Which is ironic because he's the one who got us up earlier.  He should be listening to what we want to listen to or watching what we want to watch.  But I guess it doesn't work that way.

I reached 2,500 characters.  Nothing fancy happened.  But feels like I've written enough for now.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Low Salt Soups

My health coach wants me to cut back on sodium.  I'm seeing weight loss results, so I'm trying to do what she asks.  Because I take the train in to the office, I'm limited to items I can order on Amazon and that can persist without refrigeration.  Of course, salt is what allows lots of things to remain shelf stable, so my choices are slightly limited.  Here's what I've tried so far.

  1. Healthy Valley Organic No Salt Added Chicken Rice Soup - pretty decent.  Would eat again.
  2. Healthy Valley Organic No Salt Added Chicken Noodle Soup - it's ok. But the Chicken Rice is better.
  3. some soup I haven't tried yet, I'm sure
  4. ditto
  5. ditto
  6. ditto
  7. ditto
  8. ditto
  9. ditto
  10. Campbell's Low Sodium Cream of Mushroom - avoid. And I have 11 cans left.  Ugh.  Horrible stuff.  If I find a soup worse than this, I will be surprised and supremely disappointed with the human race. Choke it down with soda. (Of course, she wants me to eliminate soda.  We compromised on a partial can with my soup.)
Recently I thought I had found a winner, it was made by Healthy Valley Organic and it tasted it really good.  And then I realized that it was not low sodium.  Amazon had delivered a different soup than I ordered and I wasn't paying attention and had eaten most of them before I went back and looked at my orders.  I eventually gave the remaining cans away to coworkers who aren't watching their salt.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


I've been thinking about people who have to go somewhere to find out who they are.  To me, that kind of suggests they've been neglecting themselves.  We can get busy, but why are we letting ourselves get lost?  But I guess it's probably quite easy to do.  Sometimes we're just trying to survive, the flow of life pushing us along until one day a rare moment of margin, buffer, pause... and we take stock and realize we don't like what we see.  And so then we run away to try to figure out a better picture for ourselves.

I don't want that to happen to me.  I have to admit I'm not always being true to who I am, but I think I know who I am.  I wrote it down at some point in the front of my current EDC notebook and occasionally I look at it, but I don't spend any time really thinking about it.  I'd like to think about it more in the future.

Here's what I wrote down.


email and social marketer
resident of burbank, los angeles, california

And before you say... wait... you're not (pick one)... maybe I'm not.  Maybe they're aspirational.  Maybe they're reminders of where I want to be going, where I want to aim.  If I'm not, it is at least my ideal self.  

Or maybe you're saying... don't you want to be something else?  Political? Verbose? Thoughtful? Generous? Thrifty? Brave? Joyful? Patient? Kind? To be sure, there are plenty of other things I could aspire to, but for the moment, I'm pretty happy with this list.  Now the key is to keep these fresh in my mind to help me course-correct.

And what does "simplify" mean?  That one's not new, that word has resonated with me for years.  I just haven't always applied it.  But I need to get back to it.  It's the elimination of stuff, whether it's literal stuff or mental clutter or wasted pursuits that are neither productive or enjoyable or necessary.

This post is tagged so you can read some of my other thoughts on the subject if you're curious to see what I said last time I posted on the topic.

Wow... two posts in one day.  

Bring It On

It's been on my mind that I need to write more, so this my attempt to do just that.

36 days until Christmas. That's crazy.  It's way too close already. In past years, I have lamented "missing Christmas" - while I can't figure out where the month has gone, that stops now.

I'm listening to what's been declared by many as one of the greatest Christmas songs and I'm going to make sure I have Christmas in my day from now on through Christmas.

So, bring on the merry, bring on the lights, bring on the snow (or at least some great renditions of "Let it Snow")...

Bring on the baby Jesus, bring on the holiday decorations in the stores, bring on the "Merry Christmas", bring on the "Happy Holidays"  Bring on Miracle on 34th Street, bring on Elf, bring on Family Man.  Bring on careful dieting, bring on eating stuff you shouldn't and feeling good when you don't eat stuff you really want to.  Bring on carols, bring on music, bring on the annual debate with yourself about whether it's ok to listen to "Baby It's Cold Outside."  Bring on Holiday Inn, bring on It's a Wonderful Life.

I didn't feel good earlier.  I didn't finish my yogurt and then during church I had to get up and get some fresh air.  But I didn't have a really good reason for it.  But now it's gone and I'm happy and sad and excited for Christmas.  Lori's got the wreaths up in the house, we had a Thanksgiving lunch at Lori's mom's church (and I did not have any gravy, pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving cake or cheesy scalloped potatoes, I did really well if I may say so myself).  And I'm ready.  Bring on Christmas.

And one more before we go...

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Counterpoint: Why you can't dismiss @Glassdoor

Context: A few years ago I was working for a company.  The work was challenging, but I believed we were doing good in the world.  And then one day, it ended. They were an at-will employer and they had eliminated my department. After eight years, it was "thanks, good luck."  I was thrown for a bit of a loop.  I hadn't kept up-to-date with what was going on out beyond the doors of my organization and I had allowed my resume to drift as I moved around within the organization tackling interesting challenges.

Fast-forward to now. I landed on my feet in a far better position than I could have even dreamed. I'm working with the smartest people I've ever worked with and there's always really interesting challenges and opportunities for growth. But one thing remains the same - the employer is an at-will employer.  I could be gone tomorrow.  I hope not.  But at the end of the day, the business has to answer to its shareholders. If it decides my role is not aligned with its goal of increased profits, I could go. It's nothing personal.

I'm not looking to leave my current employer (hi, boss!) but to make sure I stay in the know, I respond to recruiters who reach out to me. I have a unique skillset that a lot of companies are seeking and I work for a company known for its top-notch people.

So a recruiter recently reached out to me and I looked at the role and the company they were recruiting on behalf of. When I don't know much about the company in question, I'll look at their website and check out Glassdoor.  In this particular case, the company had a 2.1 on Glassdoor.

I asked them about it. Their response was that you shouldn't rely on Glassdoor and sent me a link to this article: 10 Reasons You Shouldn't Trust Glassdoor Reviews.  I thought there was some validity to the author's arguments, but I think there's more to be considered.  So I don't intend to pick apart the original post, but offer my counterpoint:

You can't dismiss Glassdoor. Here's why:

1. We're using it.

Whether you like it or not, we're using Glassdoor to learn more about companies.  Just like a restaurant can't stick its head in the sand and ignore Yelp!, companies cannot afford to plug their ears and go "lalalalalala" whenever Glassdoor is mentioned. Someone who's researching the company on Glassdoor is also showing initiative and discernment. You want to pass the Glassdoor test. You want potential candidates to poke and prod and then respond, satisfied that a relationship with the company you're recruiting for is a relationship they want to participate in.  Onboarding a new employee isn't cheap.  Onboarding a new employee only to have them discover it was a mistake is a big waste of money.  You want informed, inquisitive, proactive candidates.

2. We know how to spot B.S.

Again, Yelp.  Or Amazon.  Any of us worth our salt can smell bad reviews a mile away (and you don't want people who can't tell the difference).  And we're familiar with the idea that bad experiences are more likely to make it into a review than that of someone who's happily plugging away, content in their job.  It takes some work to create multiple reviews, so someone has to really hate you to go to the trouble. Also, the researcher is going to have a positive bias and seek confirmation for what they want the outcome to be. A job seeker wants the company they're thinking about joining to be good, so they will give more weight to positive reviews and less to negative reviews.

3. Where there's smoke... 

The Trending graph is an amazing part of Glassdoor.  It's harder to "game" by people submitting fake reviews and it says a lot.  Got a low score that's getting better over time?  That's a great sign.  Have a high number that was higher a few months ago?  That might give some pause.  (Yelp, please bring this back!)

4. Glassdoor is motivated to make it right

This is a no-brainer. Glassdoor is a for-profit company.  They live and die by their reputation as a legitimate source for on-the-ground insight for how companies are doing. They're going to be fighting bogus reviews and they've made tools for all of us to flag potentially bogus reviews for them to assess as well.  It's not going to be this pristine source of 100% truthiness in all cases, but I think they've established well that they're reliable and that being reliable is important to them.

5. It's a great way to show if you're invested

A brand no longer has 100% control over its own image and reputation.  But, a proactive company will cultivate the image it wants to portray in the areas where its customers are.  So much like investing in a social media strategy, a smart company also invests in a recruiting strategy that includes participation on Glassdoor.  For some companies, that means a generic reply to every review (I almost called this "We know how to spot B.S., part 2") but for other companies, it's a real engagement - responses where necessary, visible attempts to learn and grow from the negative responses, knowing that an engaged and interested potential future employee is going to pick up on this.

So... what if you're recruiting for a company with a low score?

Own it. Be prepared for the question. Know you will lose some who will see the the rating and not respond.  (You may even need to make additional promises, like an increased salary or certain guarantees to protect the candidate from existing unfixed issues.)

Make sure the company is aware of its rating and working to correct it.  Be ready to talk about how.

Watch that trend. Make sure it's on the upswing.  Ask employees -- especially the high-performers -- to post honest reviews.  Don't coerce, don't promise or reward participation.  Be completely above board.

But whatever you do, do not dismiss the candidate or make the candidate feel bad in any way for bringing it up.  That's just bad business.

(Cross-posted on LinkedIn.)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Outlook 2016 Mac - Gmail Calendar Notification Keeps Coming Back

Outlook recently added support for Gmail in its Mac desktop client.  I added it and was immediately hit with a calendar notification that would not leave me alone.  I would dismiss it and it would come back 5 seconds later.  I would snooze it and it would come back 5 seconds later.  It was really frustrating.  All of the information online that I could find dealt with resetting profiles, repairing calendars, clearing caches.  None of this worked.

Since the item was on my calendar and I owned the item (a yearly reminder that Sept. 19 is "Talk Like a Pirate Day"), I simply deleted the entry from the calendar (inside Outlook) and the reminder immediately vanished.

Hopefully this helps because you've tried everything else or the other options seem way too drastic (yeah, I'm not telling my IT department that I nuked my Exchange profile) and you were tearing your hair out trying to find a solve.