Saturday, December 31, 2011

Two-Thousand-Eleven

The End of the Experiment

A goal I purposefully didn't tell anyone about was that I would post every day in 2011. I mostly got that. I can say I had a post for every day, but sometimes they were scheduled ahead of time and sometimes they were posted a little bit late. But actually, I ended up with 380 posts for 2011, so I guess some days I did more than one. When I add in all the other blogs I posted to this year, it was actually over 900 posts.

That's... way too much. That's... a big waste of time. Next year, I will post less often. I also shut down three of those blogs... more about that in a few days as I start the new year unpacking my theme for 2012. So I have some posts scheduled to launch in the new year, so it's going to seem like I'm still posting daily, but once they all run their course, it will slow down.

I do appreciate all of my readers and I hope that you find things worth reading in my posts and it's not just out of a sense of duty. But, hopefully my slower schedule makes it less to slog through.

Let's Rewind...



January: Hyperbole
I always thought it interesting that you heard a politician so often say "The Great State of California" when I lived there. I decided it wasn't a fluke, that either currently, or at some point in the past, someone had told people to say that, as a subtle part of a marketing campaign. On the other hand, we've suffered through "The Other Washington" and "Washington. The State"... Read More...
Also in January:
Estée Lauder * Haiti * Voiding the Warranty on my Washing Machine * Some Failed Resolutions



February: And Then There Were Two
When I arrive home, I park in the garage, come into the house and then ascend the long stairway from the basement to the ground floor. Most days as I'm coming up the stairs, the door is thrown open and one or both children rush to greet me. It's a nice way to be greeted. A few weeks ago, I was immediately struck with the thought "There should be three." If you asked me at the time what our plans were, I would have told you "We're not sure." Read More...
Also in February:
Lazy * Vacation * Open Letter to Seattle Times * Courage to Face Your Fears * Sick * Some Book Reviews * My Inner Grump



March: Suggestion for Comcast
Walking to my car after work on Tuesday, the thought occurred to me... Comcast should offer text-messaging. I'm not sure why I thought that - I already have text messaging through AT&T and Google Voice, I'm not sure I *want* text messaging on my home phone. But this little piece of inspiration wouldn't be dismissed that easily. "Hear me out," it seemed to beg. Read More...
Also in March:
Waiting for My Real Life to Begin * I Will Not Go Quietly * Who I Am * The Tough Job of Acting * Email Purge * If I Ran Foursquare * Apple's DNA



April: Labels
I think it's finally dawning on me. Maybe I'm late to the party. Or I've been overly optimistic. Or maybe I still have every reason to be optimistic. Maybe this is just my very literal nature getting the best of me. But after talking to Lori Saturday night, it seems like I'm not arriving at a place she's been at for awhile now. When we took our little guy in to the doctor a few months ago, we finally got a referral to Birth-to-Three. Read More...
Also in April:
Our Own Peter Warski * What's Up * No Power of Hell * It's Friday (Friday) (Friday) * Going Nowhere Fast * Belief Systems * The Two Bills *



May: The Shoulders of Giants
Lori was reading last night to Rachel. She was reading from 1 Chronicles 28 and 29 - David wants to build a temple for the Lord but God says no, it won't be David that builds it, but instead his son Solomon. It was David's vision and he had a passion to do it. He was ready to get going. But God said no. Read More...
Also in May:
Happy Endings * Nowheresville * Lobster Theory * The Shoulders of Giants * Will I Ever Shut Up About my Vacation?



June: Mentorable Me
If you've read "Outliers," you know that there's a theory that do something for 10,000 hours and you have a good chance at getting good at it. Were that the case, I'm less than a year away from being an expert employee. However, it's not quite that simple. I think maybe 10,000 hours of playing a musical instrument or playing a sport may make you quite the expert, but it also assumes that you've got a good coach, you know the rules and they don't change. Now, that may have been good enough for Bill Gates to become a really proficient computer programmer. But I'm not sure it works out so well when it comes to management. Read More...
Also in June:
100 in 100 * Taco Bell Doesn't Want You to be Healthy * Why I Drive * More Love Letters to Starbucks



July: Legacy
The word legacy to me brings to mind the word family. Jim and Shirley Denison led a Homebuilders weekend back when we were at Lake focusing on the topic of legacy. Legacy remains after you're no longer around. Sure, that can exist in an office, staff remembering who you were after you left, but that's incredibly fleeting, subject to revision and often negative -- even if untrue, the last guy out the door often gets the blame for a lot of stuff because once you're an adult "not me" can't get the blame anymore. So family legacy, that's something that endures. Friends of ours are part of a multi-generational close-knit family. Each successive generation has had larger-than-average families and so it just builds exponentially. Read More...

Also in July:
Khan Academy * Slow Me Down * False Sense of Security * Off-Brand * #trust30 * Brain Rules * This is broken



August: Big Finish!
Remember that 100 miles in 100 days goal? If you follow my blog, you should - I made that goal on June 11 - 56 days ago. Somewhere along the way I realized that was too easy a goal and upped it to 1.5 miles a day, or finishing in 67 days. I was looking at the chart tonight before my run and realized that I had six miles to go. Read More...
Also in August:
Silent Running * Rediscovery * The Awesome Vacation Lori Planned! * I Would Run 500 Miles * I Love Seattle * No Plan B



September: Endless Mode
You know those games where you encounter wave upon wave of enemies that you must take care of? And they come at you faster and faster and more and more? Eventually either something has to give -- you detonate a super-bomb or you get overrun and "Game Over." Wow, it kinda felt like that this week. Except not with enemies. Read More...
Also in September:
For Tomorrow We Dine * I Would Fail Second Grade Math * Rain! * Suicide Warning Signs * Stupid FedEx is Stupid * Do Not Taunt Happy Mini Bar



October: What's It Going To Be?
Some interesting thoughts in my head recently. Studying earlier this week for small group, the reading asked "What is your idol?" That is, "What do you place above Jesus?" The book gave some examples and I thought "control" fit quite nicely. We had another assessment with our son for therapy and that always makes me think about how I'm probably undiagnosed ADHD and probably somewhere on the autism spectrum myself. Read More...
Also in October:
Occupational Hazard * Pushy Salespeople * For Sale: You * CDO and the Thermostat * Curb Appeal * How Not to Sell a Car



November: Sense of Belonging
I was driving through the neighborhood tonight on my way home from work. Now that the time has changed, the drive is in complete darkness. And in that part of the neighborhood, that means nearly complete darkness because that's the non-association side and there's no street lamps. I recalled someone once who was just agahst - "Why on earth would you want to be part of an association?" I thought of how the next street over, a less traveled street, how rundown the houses are. Some, I suspect, might just fall over soon. And no one cares. Their neighbors might, but who cares, really? Read More...
Also in November:
Meta * Reasons why Comcast is better than DirecTV * Wish List * The Problem with the Internet * The Problem with the Theater * Muppets!



December: Controlling Serenity
After a few frustrating incidents recently, I was feeling pretty down and did some soul-searching. I realized that my frustration was the result of a feeling of being out-of-control. Now... not every case was something that I should have had control over. But there were also instances of places where I should have been in control and I wasn't. Either I was being neglectful or I was distracted. Read More...
Also in December:
Death and Control * Death 2 * Not of Macy's Quality * Ford Hates You * Christmas * Unroll.me



Wow... it's been quite the year. And the same themes keep popping up... family, work, church, Starbucks, control, diet/exercise, order, information, simplicity. One of these is my theme for 2012 and hopefully it will help me with my approach to all the others. And it might not be the one you think, but don't be disappointed.

Here's to 2012. Happy New Year!



Past Years:
2010 * 2009 * 2008 * 2007a, 2007b, 2007c * 2006 * 2005

Friday, December 30, 2011

Death 2

So the other part of my thoughts on death was the whole idea of "It's not about me."  This was something that I struggled with, if you follow me on Facebook (not the flippant personality on the right side of this blog, but the actual person me) - should I attend the memorial or not?

I didn't know the person very well, the first thing I remembered was an unintentional slight against my wife (that Lori had long forgotten about) and would I be attending for the wrong reasons?  In the end, I decided I must attend - I must be supportive of my friend.  He was my friend because I didn't unfriend him when he stopped being my co-worker.  So even if I only virtually saw him on Facebook or when I checked in at the Starbucks where he's the mayor, he was still a part of my life and I his.

But I had wrestled with it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Death and Control

I went to a memorial tonight.  It made me think about what I might like mine to be like, especially if it happened early in my life, like this woman who was my age and left behind a 3-year-old.

By all accounts, this woman was quite extraordinary.  I have no reason to doubt it, I didn't really know her.

However, if it were me, let's face it, I'm far from perfect.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

500 in 300: Boo

You do not get the chart.  The chart is depressing.  I did another 2.7 miles today, but it was the first in a long time, and it was raining and snowing and possibly sleeting.  I need the weather to get better.  It will.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

De-icing the Inbox (A Work-Related Email)

Every so often I get the opportunity to open the inbox wide and shine a flashlight back into the farthest corners. I would like to subscribe to zero-inbox but that's pretty much impossible.  It comes too quickly and soon I'm overwhelmed.  The closest I can get is triage - the simplest stuff gets handled first.  Urgent stuff as well, unless there's a tidal wave of responses, then I might sit on it for a little while to see what comes of it.  If I need to jump in, I will.  But if I can wait, I've found that some things resolve themselves without me (sometimes thanks to my crack team or my terrific colleagues and sometimes by the very people who started the crisis in the first place).  And sometimes, if I let people blow off steam, they forget about it.  If I jump back in to defend a position or in an attempt to extricate myself, that gives them a handhold and they clamp on and drag me down.  But if I ignore them, I can circle back later to find out if there's still an issue or if they're now cool.

But, some stuff just has a hard time rising to the surface.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Back to the Grind

Today the kids let us sleep in until about 9.  I heard both kids up and considering that Ben is in his crib until we get him out, I got ready quickly because I hate him being in his crib as a convenience to us.  While I was getting ready, I realized it felt like a pancake kind of day.  I quietly got the griddle out of our closet (we're still lacking for storage in the kitchen and pantry) and headed downstairs.  Rachel came down and helped me quickly unload the clean dishes and load the clean ones and then we got Ben out of bed.  Lori had woken up by then and helped get the kids going on food.  It was more of a lazy day.  Did some deep cleaning in the bedroom, did all the laundry, go some stuff from Christmas sorted and made sure I had a good list of all of the gifts I received so I can start thank you notes.  (Yes, I'm doing them this year, darn it.)  The kids were a little high strung, but I was able to get Rachel to get some chores done as well.  (We'd play a round of monopoly and then she'd go take care of something and then we'd play some more.  She's starting to understand it and it's totally giving her some great math practice.  I do have to say, however, the cards are difficult to read in this version.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Surprised by Joy

Surprised by Joy
Message #3 of "Surprised by Christmas"
Pastor Jeff MacLurg, Our Savior's Baptist Church; Federal Way, Wash.; www.oursaviorsbaptist.org
Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011 (My notes from the 10:45 am service, I pray they will be helpful to you. Would love your prayers for me, our church and our pastoral staff)

"All I want is to be happy in life." -- 'Jill'
"You will never find it," said Pastor Jeff, "until you accept the One who brings joy."

You don't get joy by searching for it, you receive it (it finds you) when God enters your life. It's that elusive.

Joyless at Christmas? The same shopping hassles, the same songs on the radio. If you go to church, you hear the same sermons about the same parts of the Bible. How can there be joy in the same old, same old?

--- The Joy in those of Christmas Past ---

1. Zechariah & Elizabeth (Luke 1)

This couple could have been bitter towards God at this point, never able to have children. But the passage says that they were still focusing on God.

They were GODLY before God. (God's opinion of them.)
They were GIVEN to God.
They were GRASPING for God.

>> They rejoiced when they saw what GOD had done.

Joy isn't about getting things (children, spouse) but about being in God's presence when (or if) you eventually receive those things. Joy is not in the receiving, but in seeing God working in your life.

2. Mary (Luke 1)
She was AVAILABLE, BIBLICAL and INSIGHTFUL.

>> She rejoiced over what GOD HAD DONE.

She saw God working in her life, she was shown that her life was part of something larger than her present situation and that brought her joy.

3. Shepherds (Luke 2)

>> They rejoiced in what GOD WAS DOING.

4. Magi (Matthew 2)

They weren't looking for joy or happiness - they were looking for a newborn king to worship and honor.

They rejoiced at seeing GOD'S HAND AT WORK.

They were overjoyed at the sight of the star. They knew this was a God-thing -- they knew they were experiencing God at work.

When you see branches move, even though you can't see it, this is evidence of the existence of wind. This star was evidence to them of God at work and they were overjoyed.

--- Joy in those of Christmas Present ---

So what do their experiences mean for us? Joy is something we all deeply long to experience joy and to experience joy deeply.

"All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves." - Blaise Pascal

Guy de Maupassant - author, very famous, very wealthy. Tried to kill himself at the age of 42. Before he went insane, he wrote something that became his epitaph - "I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing."

God has hard-wired us to want joy. But we confuse joy with pleasure. But all this "stuff" grows dull and lifeless - eventually you dread. In time, this will all fade and fail. All of these stories above were of people not chasing after happiness (or things) but of people who were seeking God and found joy.

God's joy: When you see God's HAND AT WORK IN YOUR LIFE.

This Christmas, GET INVOLVED IN PLACES AND THINGS WHERE YOU CAN SEE GOD'S HAND AT WORK.

Like what?
stretch - share Jesus
leave - go where you can help
serve - go serve people and let Jesus shine through you (and not just on Christmas day when everyone else is)
give - examples like our upcoming Caregiver Kit build
pray - get in touch with God. Pray for specific prayer requests of the people around you.
decide - commit to giving God control of your life in 2012 and work through you

Friday, December 23, 2011

Controlling Serenity

After a few frustrating incidents recently, I was feeling pretty down and did some soul-searching.

I realized that my frustration was the result of a feeling of being out-of-control.

Now... not every case was something that I should have had control over. But there were also instances of places where I should have been in control and I wasn't. Either I was being neglectful or I was distracted.

I don't want to portray myself as a control-freak, but at the same token, when you are feeling out-of-control, it's a feeling of hopelessness, a feeling that all is lost, a feeling of "why bother?"

Once I was able to diagnose my problem, I began to feel better. I could at least now name the issue and begin to work up a plan of attack. Fortunately, it aligns nicely with my theme for 2012. Maybe in some ways as I've begun to contemplate that theme it's forced me to confront that which has been causing so much discontent, anguish and palpable frustration in my life. That feeling of wanting to scream but realizing I really don't know how to scream, I wouldn't know where to do it and I'd have no idea to whom or what to direct those screams.

Fortunately, I don't have to now. Now that I know what's what, the cool and calm exterior I try to project can actually be matched with a cool and calm interior. It doesn't mean I've figured it all out or that I've fixed myself, but if knowing is half the battle, I'm 50% closer to a state of not being so messed up, and that's a good thing.

Now, I just need to figure out what I do control and reassert. And what I do not control... do I care? Do I need to find a way to acquire control? Do I need to eliminate it from my life? Do I need to eliminate something else of lesser value in order to leave room for ambiguity that comes from something being out of my control?

This will take time, but I've got that under control. The process, that is. I don't have time under control. (Though there are some time-management tasks I need to start re-practicing.)
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference. 
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Speechless

I was going to post last week's sermon from church today but instead, I'm going to post these links because I'm... yeah, I guess speechless is a good word.  I want to... I don't know.  I... Ok... here's the links.

MSNBC -- School accused of putting autistic student in bag

CHANGE -- Petition to End Abuse of Autistic Students in Mercer County, Kentucky

THAUTCAST -- Superintendent Responds To Petition for Autistic Boy Placed in Ball Bag

Also from a poster on MSNBC:

For those of you who may want to write to those involved:

Mercer County Schools
371 E. Lexington St.
Harrodsburg, KY 40330

Board Members

Ron Betsher
951 Bob-O-Link Dr., Harrodsburg 40330
(859) 612-9137

Pattie Burke
713 Greenwood Drive, Harrodsburg 40330
(859) 734-5132

Billy Montgomery
593 Ross Avenue, Harrodsburg 40330
(859) 366-4412

James Stinnett
645 Cummins Ferry Road, Salvisa 40372
(859) 684-4359

Larry Yeager
470 Tewmey Lane, Harrodsburg 40330
(859) 734-0671

This information was taken from the KY Department of Education website.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Unroll.me Beta - An Early Look (A Work-Related Post)

I recently read about Unroll.me on Lifehacker, a new website that promised to make decluttering one's mailbox brain-dead simple. At work, my team sends out all the emails for the organization. Because of how inexpensive email is (compared to direct mail, which they pay for out of their budget and email, which comes out of the organization's budget with no charge-back to them), and because of how many different ministry offerings we have, it can be a struggle sometimes to hold back the tide of emails that people want to send. But we remind them that they're not just competing with other departments for attention, but also Best Buy and Living Social and even your subscriber's mom and dad.

So when a new tool came out that promised to make unsubscribing as easy as clicking a checkbox, I had to show this to my co-workers.

Here's a video that explains more:



Unroll.me is currently in very early beta phase.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Circles in Gmail

Ok, this is cool.  I had read about this recently, but not actually looked at it myself.

If you are using Google+ and Gmail, you'll now see a new option on the left nav - "Circles" - that if you click it open you'll find all of your circles.

Click on a circle and it will filter your inbox just to show you emails from people in that circle.

This is slick - a whole new way to sift through your inbox.

This will be a big boon for companies you add to your circles in Gmail.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Sift 341-345

The Sift 341: Google
  • The next stage in our redesign
  • Google Interface Designs: Welcome to Dullsville
  • 10 New Google Analytics Features You Need to Start Using
  • A new frontier for Google Maps: mapping the indoors
  • Making ideas real with SketchUp
Read more...

The Sift 342: Infographics
  • Protecting Your Online Reputation: 4 Things You Need to Know
  • How Much Money Will Consumers Spend This Holiday Season?
  • One Minute in the YouVersion Community
  • Beyond the Great Firewall: How China Does Social Networking
  • Social Thievery: Will Your Tweets Get You Robbed?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas is Coming

A nice day - spent it with Rachel and Ben.  We had hoped to see Santa, but he was too busy.  But we did still spend a lot of time together.  And Rachel chose presents for Lori from her and Ben.

Also, Ben's best haircut ever.  By far.  The stylist was really happy, she kept saying "We're getting a real haircut this time."  And no blood was drawn and we didn't need to stop and bribe or hold him securely.  There was some fussing and hitting of me at the beginning but he calmed down quickly.  Even (prompted) said both "thank you" and "goodbye."

I also put up some more lights and fixed some in the front yard.  (A little more tomorrow?)

Watched "Miracle on 34th. Street" all the way through.

And ran the bread machine so put the smell of fresh bread in the house.  (We watch Christmas movies, we put up a tree and lights, we listen to Christmas music - we might as well put it to our olfactory sense as well.  Now to pump in a pine smell through the furnace or something.)


Friday, December 16, 2011

Pity Party (A Work-Related Post)

Q: What do you call a mandatory 3-hour meeting where you sit around doing nothing, eating food you brought from home while you wished you were somewhere else and work continues to pile up on your desk?

A. A work-related Christmas party.

So... I'm pretty sure I've attended my last Christmas party at work.  Yesterday we had our division's Christmas party and today we had our department's Christmas party.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Drawing from nature

I still can't understand why Ford had to draw so closely from nature.  For the most part, seeing a Mustang is exciting because from nearly every angle, this is a beautiful car and evokes the thought of a powerful majestic horse.  Well, almost always.  Take a look.

Happy Car

Happy Horse

Fast Car

Fast Horse

Stylish Car

Stylin' Horse

But then it's like Ford Motor Company is flipping you off because when you get passed by a Mustang, it's like looking at a 

Horse Butt

Dodge Charger doesn't have this problem.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Never

I could never imagine being so carefree as to pay $30 a year for a license plate that shows I can't spell and don't care.


I saw one today that was "CAD STS" - and it was on a Cadillac STS.  I guess they were worried that lettering affixed on their car by the manufacturer wasn't enough.  (I also saw "SCION XB" before, but at least it did help since you would be forgiven if you confused it with a box on wheel.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Sift 336-340

The Sift 336: Social Media
  • Why there are so many social media experts
  • Google Blog Manager Flies to Twitter
  • Ashton Kutcher Is Making a Big Twitter Mistake
  • 5 Reasons Google+ Could Win the Social Enterprise Battle
  • The expertise badges
Read more...

The Sift 337: Entertainment, Technology, Fun and Games
  • Netflix CEO Reed Hastings Reflects on What Went Wrong
  • Will 3D Televisions Actually Hurt the TV Business?
  • How to Load Up Your Ereader with Ebooks For Free
  • Warner Bros. Withholds New Release DVDs From Blockbuster
  • Barnes & Noble pulls DC Comics from shelves over Kindle kerfuffle

Monday, December 12, 2011

Surprised Seekers

(Cross-posted on YouVersion)

Surprised Seekers
Message #2 of "Surprised by Christmas"
Pastor Jeff MacLurg, Our Savior's Baptist Church; Federal Way, Wash.; www.oursaviorsbaptist.org
Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011 (My notes from the 10:45 am service, I pray they will be helpful to you. Would love your prayers for me, our church and our pastoral staff)

"I finally found what I've been looking for."

What are you looking for? Peace? Happiness? Something different? Or perhaps truth?

--- Sincere Seekers ---

Matthew 2:1-12 - the magi - number unknown. Probably from Babylon (modern day Iraq), probably 600-800 miles from Jerusalem based on the route. These people studied the sky and God used a method designed for this group of people. God will provide directions to anyone who is honestly looking for Him. God doesn't believe in coincidence, He believes in appointments.

1. ...are guided by GOD TO GOD. (in a way that reaches out to them). Has there been a star shining in your life and you've been trying to close your eyes to it?
(Jeremiah 29:13)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

This week...

Well, this week should be fun. Hmmm... Wonder if "fun" is the right word. I resisted checking my work email all week. I have the gist of a few things based on calendar invites, emails my coworkers sent to my home email address and because previews appeared on the screen each time I turned on my iPad, but for the most part, I'm going into the week blind. Oh, and with 37 hours and 15 minutes of the week already busy on my calendar.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Boys Will Be Boys

Boys will be boys - if you let them.


I don't think it's sexist to question an elementary school encouraging children to wear pink.  I suspect that a lot of boys will not participate and those that do will be teased mercilessly.  Why did anyone think this is a great idea? 

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Sift 331-335

The Sift 331: Space
  • NASA to Send a Car-Sized Rover to Mars Nov. 25
  • J-2X rocket passes second test, proves NASA can still have a blast
  • NASA developing tractor beams, no plans for Death Star... yet
  • China launches unmanned, auto-docking spacecraft
  • NASA's Mars rover Curiosity gains DAN apparatus, new lust for water
Read more...

The Sift 332: Apple
  • Review: iTunes Match Has Us on Cloud Nine
  • Auto-suggestion keyboard found hiding inside iOS 5
  • Icon Project Creates Quick iOS Home Screen Shortcuts to Contacts, Settings, and More
  • Apple to Build Solar Farm to Power North Carolina Data Center
  • Siri Gives Apple a Two-Year Advantage Over Google, Says VC

Thursday, December 08, 2011

While You're Up There...

A clever bit of impulse purchase suggestion going on here from The Home Depot.  Nestled amongst all the Christmas lights is an entire row of Moss-B-Ware.  I have to admit to having purchased that in the past even though I it wasn't on my list.  Must be some good mark-up on that stuff.


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Not of Macy's Quality

I'll always have a special place in my heart for Macy's.  They did, afterall, employ Santa Claus.  The other day in my walk through Tukwila, I noticed this:

Right there on Southcenter Pkwy., surrounded by retail, is Macy's Logistics and Operations Center.  You can see it here on this map:


View Larger Map

It's such a disconnect from what you think of when you think of Macy's.  At the very least, you think a pretty decent retailer.  But then what's this?  For reasons that boggle my mind (I'm weird like that), they think this is good enough.  A bunch of busted-up old trailer trucks left out to rot, backed up against Southcenter Parkway and a completely strip of dirt and weeds and mangled trees devoid of any sort of effort whatsoever to make it look nice.

Now... Tukwila doesn't win awards for urban planning or visual appeal, but why on earth would Macy's want to proudly advertise that this mess right in the heart of retail is theirs?

If they aren't interested in cleaning it up and no one from the city is asking them to, you'd think someone would realize maybe they ought to remove the sign and operate anonymously.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Vacation Day

I take the first week in December off from work for vacation each year.  It's just something I do.  It's served a few purposes over the years... a bit of a breather before our big Christmas play at church, a chance to start (or nearly finish) my Christmas shopping, time to get stuff done around the house, either generally or in anticipation of Christmas.  One of the components has become an annual trip to the mall, which I did yesterday.  I wasn't feeling it and was tempted to go to the light rail station and catch a train into the city instead.  I didn't, but I will need to do that again soon.  Another thing I didn't do today was go to Starbucks.  I knew I'd be eating unhealthy as it was, so I had coffee it home before I went.  But I took dropped the children off at their schools, came home, traded cars and off I went.  The mall was surprisingly quiet.  Many of the stores weren't open and everything seemed subdued.  I got some candy and walked around for awhile. Then I made an appointment to have someone at the Apple store look at my iPhone.  The rocker switch that turns off the ringer doesn't work.  I'm torn about whether or not I should report it as broken at work, since everything else works fine.  Maybe I'll just live with it and maybe it'll last me until the iPhone 5 comes out.  So then I walked around a bunch more eating candy and looking at stuff.  I really missed having a Starbucks in my hand, but I didn't die.  After they looked at my phone and confirmed it's not something that can be repaired, I walked to some other stores.  While not a long walk, I've never walked in Tukwilla before.  It's such a car-centric place.  It's been said that almost no one lives there, everyone just goes there to work or shop and I'd believe it.   I walked some large blocks trying to burn off some of the candy, picked up a few things and then dropped them back at my car.  By  then it was time for a late lunch.  For the second year in a row, I went with Sushi Itto Go.  I had that last weekend as well.  I think it's now finally time to try the other Japanese place or the Caribbean place next time I eat at the mall.  And then after lunch, I did another thing I had wanted to try to do this week - I got in a nice run.  The nice thing about Tukwilla is that it has long car-centric blocks and it's flat and it does have decent sidewalks.  I was able to do almost 4 miles.  I would have done more except that I ended up at a non-working crosswalk.  It was lit, but pressing the button did nothing.  At that point, I had been stopped to long to really want to start again.  That left me with a really long walk, but that's fine.  While it was freezing today, it wasn't raining this year as it has in some year's past.  On the way back home I swung by Home Depot and got some Christmas lights and paint.  Later this week I'll be painting a bathroom a color called Dashing Boulder or something.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Sift 326-330

The Sift 326: Security, Safety, Privacy and Crime
  • How to Protect Yourself from Fraud and Identity Theft Offline
  • Easy and Cheap Ways to Increase Your Home’s Security Based on Burglars’ Habits
  • What to Do if Your Ereader Is Lost or Stolen
  • Cordon multi-target photo-radar system leaves no car untagged (video)
  • Disable AutoRun to Stop 50% of Windows Malware Threats
Read more...

The Sift 327: Google Music
  • Google Music Store
  • Google Music is open for business
  • Google Music available on T-Mobile devices, track purchases can be direct billed
  • Google Music Artist Hub helps musicians promote, sell music
  • Google partners with Universal, EMI, Sony Music, 23 independent labels on Google Music, scores exclusive content

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Surprised Expectations

(Cross-posted to YouVersion)

Surprised Expectations
Message #1 of "Surprised by Christmas"
Pastor Jeff MacLurg, Our Savior's Baptist Church; Federal Way, Wash.; www.oursaviorsbaptist.org
Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011 (My notes from the 10:45 am service, I pray they will be helpful to you. Would love your prayers for me, our church and our pastoral staff)

"They Didn't Get It"

For over 100 years, ulcers were thought to be caused by stress, spicy food or alcohol. In 1982, scientists who claimed it was an infection were laughed at.  A new truth is sometimes hard to accept when you've lived so long with what, until then, was to believed to be the truth.

--- A People in Trouble (Isaiah 9:6-17) ---

700 years before Jesus' birth. The king of Asyria was bent on destroying every inhabitant of Jerusalem. They asked for a sign that God had not abandoned them.

Isaiah's Sermon High Points - this is what they were supposed to get
* A Child would be born
* A Son
* His Name - he would be called by some amazing names
* His Greatness
* On David's Throne
* King of an unending Kingdom

God's message: God is sending you a KING! (All he wants is to rule over your life.)

Judea heard: God is sending us a RESCUER. (Then we can get on with life as we please.)
Thier complication: SPIRITUALLY INDEPENDENT - Access to God when they wanted. "God is here for me, but I don't have to be there for God." "I'll look into this God thing later near the end of my life." "I can do things on my own."

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Open Letter to Pacific Lutheran University: Disband The Mast

Dear PLU Alumni Department,

As a former Mooring Mast staff member (and just about every other student media and the school's first webmaster), I would respectfully like to make a request that the Mooring Mast be disbanded for the rest of the year and the faculty adviser be replaced.  I don't know a lot about this recent incident where their website was temporarily pulled -- except based on their own coverage on Facebook and their inexplicably obtuse apology*, but it's that very apology that seems to suggest that maybe a bigger lesson need be handed down by the University.

I know such actions (were they even to be considered) wouldn't be considered lightly and no actions would be taken on the basis of a single former alumni, but this is really embarrassing and a slap in the face to legacy and history of this publication and all the students and advisers over the years who have participated in it.

James Lamb '96

Friday, December 02, 2011

Happy Arbor Day to You, Too, @Spotify

Hmmm... got an interesting email from Spotify yesterday... about some holiday in 24 days.  Some merry holiday.  Seems to involve jingly stuff, snowflakes, packages, ornaments, a red and green theme.  Some kind of seasonal holiday of some sort.  A festive holiday, even.  Sometimes people are so afraid of offending that they go to great lengths to all but say it.  To the point that it borders on offensive to us who do celebrate it.

Merry Christmas, Spotify.  Was that so difficult?  Even if you don't want to acknowledge Lord baby Jesus, lyin' there in his ghost manger, just lookin' at his Baby Einstein developmental videos, learnin' 'bout shapes and colors, this still is a real holiday lots of people celebrate.

spotihumbug.jpg
P.S. Spotify - it's not November.  Did you forget to change that on your template?  Oops.
P.P.S. If you don't already get the ghost manger reference, it's probably not one you'll ever get.  Don't worry about it.  Hilarious movie but not for everyone.


Thursday, December 01, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Interesting Bible Stuff

I'm listening to the Saddleback Drive Time Devotions via the iTunes podcast during my drive home each night and it's been a study of Exodus, a chapter a day.  It was interesting that they pointed out that when they're talking about the Sabbath Regulations and Building the Tabernacle in Exodus 35, that it's all with people who were willing.  It wasn't everyone, they weren't commanded.

And then today there was a guest speaker in Chapel at work and he was talking about the the sermon on the mount and one of the things he pointed out was in Matthew 7 where Jesus says "...anyone who hears these words and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man..." that the chastisement is for people who have heard those words.  But those who haven't had them are exempted -- he said if you looked carefully in the Bible, Jesus reserves his criticisms of people who claim to be pursing God and yet fall short.

And then a third thing, he talked about Philippians - how we all know it's a letter to the church in Philippi (but also to us), written by Paul from jail and it's four chapters long.  So what do we do?  Read a chapter and then close our Bibles for the day.  We'll get the next chapter tomorrow.  Really?  He asked "If you were to get a four page handwritten letter in the mail from a loved one currently incarcerated, would you read the first page and then save the next page for another day?"  He suggested that the way we read the Bible that we're just reading the words, but he challenged us to savor them - to pick an area and then live there for awhile, allowing yourself to become immersed in it.  He suggested reading that large chunk daily.  He did that and ended up memorizing a large section of the Bible and has since gone on to memorize other parts.  He didn't like that term, though, he thought of it more as "internalizing," savoring, feeling the Bible come alive.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

500 in 300: Rundown

This isn't looking good.  I have continued to struggle to find time to run.  These days, when I leave for work at 8 am, it's barely light out.  When I leave work at 5 pm, it's pitch black.  I've run in the dark before, but it's a little more difficult now, because it's either raining, windy, below 40 degrees, the ground is wet, or some combination.   I could run at lunch, but then it's gotta be a short run in order to have time to eat.  What's worked best for me is to work through lunch and then run at 4 pm.  But even though I've blocked the 4-5pm hour on my schedule, it's become necessary lately to have some meetings at 4.

So, I've stalled long enough.  Time for the chart, but warning, it's not pretty.


Yep, I am officially behind schedule.  The good news is that I'm only 111 days in (36%) but have only completed 34% of the running.  I should be at 185 miles but I've completed 172.55.  I think it will continue to look bad until the weather turns, but I'm going to try to get out there more at the end of my workday.  That's worked well and is worth 2-3/4 miles each time I make that loop and it takes me less than half an hour.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Stretch Toward People

(Cross-posted on YouVersion)


Stretch Toward People
Message #5 of "s t r e t c h"
Pastor Jeff MacLurg, Our Savior's Baptist Church; Federal Way, Wash.; www.oursaviorsbaptist.org
Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011 (My notes from the 9 and 10:45 am services, I pray it will be helpful to you. I would appreciate prayers for me, our church and our pastor.)

--- The 'Stretch to Win' Mindset (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) ---

This is who I am: a winner of people to Christ
This is what I do: win people to Christ
Really? Uh, no.
Why not?
Fear - fear of looking dumb, of not having the answer to a tough question, the fear of conversation itself.

40% of teenagers consider themselves as shy. The number who self-identify as shy goes up as you survey older and older groups of people.

But it's actually just a lack of practice.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Sift 321-325

The Sift 321: Cars
  • Honda's Small Sports EV concept proves electric can be svelte, comes to Tokyo Motor Show next month
  • GM demos accident avoidance system with brains and long range
  • Mercedes F125, the Fuel-Cell Hybrid From the Year 2025
  • The True Cost of Commuting
  • GM's got a brand new electric motor and it'll give you the key
Read more...

The Sift 322: Energy, Environment and Science
  • New Bee Species Discovered Brooklyn, NY
  • The Air Force will give you $150,000 to blast its weeds with a laser
  • When Should You Not Use a Energy-Saving CFL Bulb?
  • GE's new factory will push out one solar panel every ten seconds
  • Empty Storefront in London Turned into World’s First Farm in a Shop!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Muppets Movie


Saw it tonight.  Hooray.  Thanks, Disney, thanks, Henson.  (No thanks, Oz. You missed out.)

The movie left me with two questions: "Why did you leave?" and "Does this mean the TV show will come back?"

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Problem with the Theater

Watching a movie at home

  • Find movie
  • Select TV with the correct (Blu-Ray/DVD or DVD-only)
  • Turn on TV and DVD or Blu-Ray player
  • Insert disc
  • Skip some previews
  • Watch movie
Watching a movie at the theater

  • Check showtimes
  • Coordinate babysitter for Ben (or decide who gets to go and who stays home)
  • Get in car
  • Stop at grovery store for candy
  • Drive to theater
  • Look for parking
  • Get in line to buy tickets
  • Get in line to get into theater
  • Get in line to buy popcorn
  • Get in line to get to area where theaters are
  • Find seats
  • Watch pre-show commercial for Chevy
  • Watch computer animation for theater from the 80's
  • Uncomfortably long message about turning off phone
  • Watch trailer for Japanese-style remake of The Borrowers
  • Watch trailer for Alvin & the Chipmunks Chipwrecked (ok, so I don't think anyone can make "Bad Romance" sound bad)
  • Watch trailer for Brave (yay, Pixar)
  • Watch trailer for Smurfs
  • Watch trailer for Journey 2
  • Watch trailer for several other movies.  
  • Try to remember what movie you even came to see.  Realize you've already finished your soda, candy and popcorn.
  • Watch movie.  Listen to kids crying and people talking.  And walking in and out of the row.  And your feet stick to the floor.

The Problem with the Internet

So last night, the internet once again captivated me in the strange way it does.  It's such a good example of how dangerous it can be to someone like me, inately curious, especially when the one thing I wish I had more of was time.  The internet can so quickly rob me of that.

So last night I started on the homepage of MSNBC.  And then Arab League threatens sanctions against Syria. So then I had to look up Syria on Google Maps.And then I wandered around the Middle East until I ended up in Tarsus in Turkey.  And then I was puzzled by street names ending with the abbreviation "Cd" and "Sk" 

So, off to Wikipedia and then it was all rabbit trails from there:


And then just like that, more than 30 minutes was gone.  Reminds me of this NSFW xkcd.

Never did figure out what CD or SK meant.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

iOops

How has no one caught this?


How does one take their cutes?  Especially from the electric side of blues?

Do better, iTunes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stretch Your Neighborhood

(Cross-posted on YouVersion)


Stretch Your Neighborhood
Message #4 of "s t r e t c h"
Pastor Jeff MacLurg, Our Savior's Baptist Church; Federal Way, Wash.; www.oursaviorsbaptist.org
Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011 (My notes from the 10:45 am service, I pray it will be helpful to you. I would appreciate any prayers for me, our church and our pastor.)

--- Wontchu Be My Neighbor? ---

Performance art. Mr. Rogers on screen and Pastor Jeff on the platform changing into cardigan and sneakers. (no sneakers for Pastor Jeff. ha)

--- Learning from "The Neighborhood Chapter" --- (Luke 10)

The 72

1. Where you are, see yourself as APPOINTED BY JESUS TO BE there. (v1)

You're not there by accident. God put you there.

2. PRAY about your neighborhood. (v2)

Pray that they would be blessed, but not so blessed,they think they did it themselves. Pray about your place and impact on that neighborhood. When to speak, and when to just be a light in how you live.

3. Don't present yourself as SELF-SUFFICIENT. (v3-7)

Jesus didn't send them out so everything they needed. They needed the people around them. Those they were ministering to where also supporting them.

4. Respond to their PHYSICAL needs. (v8-9)

It may open up the chance for a conversation.

5. Respond according to people's RESPONSES. (v10-12)

Jesus didn't tell them to pester people. You will never harass someone to God.

Fish where the fish are biting.
Don't drown any planted seeds.

6. Experience JOY in fruitful faithfulness. (v17-21)

The disciples returned changed people themselves. This wasn't just about telling others about Jesus, this wasn't just about conversion, but about their own growth, strengthening their own relationship with Christ, having a relationship worth sharing.

--- The Good Neighbor --- (Luke 10:25-37)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Really, Evernote?

I must get this error far more frequently than the good people of Evernote, Inc.  Because I must see this several times a month and it always makes me cringe.  And it's not new -- it's persisted through several versions now.

If I were working at Evernote, I'd be making someone work on Saturday for a few months over this one.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Mail Drop (A Work-Related Post)

Full disclosure, more for the 3-letter agencies that might be looking into me:  I wasn't thinking too clearly when I did my first search on Google Images and the types of images made me realize that this was not quite what I had in mind.  I don't plan on writing manifestos in a cabin in the woods while wearing a hoodie.  And I certainly don't want to be parodied by Will Ferrell.


So I've talked from time-to-time about how my job involves a lot of email.  Not only do I have a team that sends out marketing/fundraising email, but it's also the primary communication method for both of my roles.  So I get a lot.  An average day is probably 150-200.  That's a slight reduction from the past, but it's still quite a bit.

I've talked before about my methods of organization, but I'm not sure if I've mentioned this technique before or not.  Most, but not all of my work is accomplished when I have an empty inbox.  However, I rarely have an empty inbox.  Usually that only lasts for a few minutes, right before I go on vacation.

But at certain times of the year, when it's slow, I can get it down to a very small number.  Usually what remains is those "unknowns" - please check out this website, please review this powerpoint, here's an attachment for a strategy document - all the low-priority stuff that I'm not sure how much time or brain-power I'll need to invest before I can delete.  Sometimes this stuff can hang out for 6+ months before I get to it.  (I can tell it's not important because no subsequent conversation ever comes up with the same subject line, there's no call to action in the email, things like that.  Plenty of clues.)

The worst part, though, is that really productive day of email slamming results in people responding.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wish List

So I've been feeling the guilt of stuff lately.  Or the crush of stuff.  And at the same time, people say "I looked at your Wish List and I'm getting you a Tesla or a DMC.  And I'm certainly not buying you Australia."  (But I've always wanted the keys to a shiny new Australia.)

So they mentioned today at church that on January 28 they've invited 4 other churches to join us and we're building Caregiver Kits.  So there are parts of Africa where medical supplies and medical facilities just don't exist.  At the same time, there are all kinds of people suffering.  So there are people who travel, typically by bicycle, to care for them.  In many cases, they are dying of HIV/AIDS, these caregivers are simply making their final weeks and months more comfortable.  So these kits - they provide medical supplies to the caregivers.

Caregiver Kit Builds are events at churches, corporations and organizations where people come together to pack the supplies into the kits and then write a note.  Many people also pray for the kits.  It's pretty cool.  Medical supply companies make the contents of the kits available at near cost, sometimes for free.  It's good publicity for them and when they provide it at less than cost, they get the write-off.   So when a group decides they want to do the kits, they coordinate through World Vision who coordinates with the suppliers who deliver the materials to the build site and then coordinates to ship the kits once built.  (The plastic cases go on to additional lives once the supplies are exhausted - mostly in about a month's time.)

I've participated in kit builds before because I work for World Vision.  But I hadn't participated at one with a church before, so it's kind of exciting that we're doing it this year.  Each year we do what we call "Advent Conspiracy" where we pick a project and then collect money during the Christmas season, challenging people to buy fewer presents and donate money instead.  And so this case the AC benefactor is the caregivers.  I do not know if I'll get to build kits or not -- Lori also wants to do it, so it may be that I hang out with Ben while she and Rachel (and maybe Lori's mom) make the kits.

But, here's where the Wish List comes in.  If you were thinking of buying me something this year, maybe instead you'll donate money towards the cost of supplies.  If you'd like to do so, mail a check for $28 to Our Savior's Baptist Church, 701 South 320th Street  Federal Way, WA 98003 and note that it's for Caregiver Kits.  And if you're in town, please consider coming by - these build events are described as "exciting" and "rewarding" and "fun."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Abbreviated Weekend

Tomorrow I'm running sound for the church services and then we have practice for the Christmas play in the afternoon.  That means today was pretty much it.

And it was a good it.  I had a few hours to myself as everyone slept in, I spent time getting Rachel to do stuff to help the family and to be creative (we started yet another blog).  I also finally hung Lori's Christmas present from last year.  And I hung up the icicle lights over the garage.  They aren't plugged in yet, but the moment I see another house in the neighborhood with lights on, I'm plugging them in.

I think things slow down again next Saturday.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sense of Belonging

I was driving through the neighborhood tonight on my way home from work.  Now that the time has changed, the drive is in complete darkness.  And in that part of the neighborhood, that means nearly complete darkness because that's the non-association side and there's no street lamps.  I recalled someone once who was just agahst - "Why on earth would you want to be part of an association?"

I thought of how the next street over, a less traveled street, how rundown the houses are.  Some, I suspect, might just fall over soon.

And no one cares.  Their neighbors might, but who cares, really?  If things get bad enough, you can call the City's code-compliance officers on them, but that's pretty fascist.  Which is ironically, my friend's argument against HOAs was that it felt fascist to them.

But I thought about my past living experiences.  There was with my family, then in a college dorm, then an apartment complex, and then a non-association neighborhood in a pocket of county surrounded by cities, and then an association neighborhood with nearby non-association homes.

So in every case but the non-association, there was something there: community.  We're all in this together.

Even if that means I have to get approval in advance on any color I want to repaint my house.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Comcast vs DirecTV

So we recently switched from Comcast to DirecTV.  And I have to say, it's not been all aces.

Without further ado, here's my list of reasons why Comcast is better than DirecTV.

1. The DirecTV DVR does not have a clock on the front.

This concludes my list of reasons why Comcast is better than DirecTV.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

500 in 300: Run Away, Run Away


Wow... now how's that for ugly?   Today marks 1/3 of the way through the challenge and I'm at 1/3 of my goal.  All of my hard work is gone.  I've been sick, I've been busy, it gets really dark lately and the weather hasn't cooperated.  Tonight would have actually been a good night to run.  It's rainy, but at least it's in the 50s instead of the 30s.   Unfortunately, I was engaged and unable to run.  We're looking at a lot more rain in the near future, we'll see if that causes the temperatures to warm up.  I've been healthy for a few days, but my children have been sick for nearly a week, so I don't want to do anything to lower my own immunity lest I catch something from them, or worse yet, catch something myself and bring it home.

I have no doubt that I'll get this done, though - there will be a lot of beautiful weather between now and June 4. Just not sure how many of them will be in the next few months.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Sift 316-320

The Sift 316: Social Media
  • Twitter Has 100 Million Monthly Active Users; 50% Log In Every Day
  • No, Facebook Is Not Ruining Your Grades
  • Hack a Label Printer into a Twitter Hashtag Ticker
  • Facebook Friend Count Linked to Brain Density
  • Adam Ostrow: After your final status update
Read more...

The Sift 317: Space
  • NASA Details the Next 25 Years of Space Exploration
  • NASA Launches Solar-Powered Twin GRAIL Spacecrafts
  • NASA Unveils Plans for the World’s Largest Rocket
  • NASA Turns its Space Missions into a Kid-Friendly Video Game
  • Virgin Galactic to Charter Suborbital Flights to Space With NASA

Monday, November 14, 2011

120: Night

Interesting how the night could be so dark, so black, so oppressive.  Because, actually, it was not as dark.  If there had been no clouds, it would be darker.  If there were no clouds, you'd be able to look up, see the stars, feel the breeze.

But the cloud cover was extensive.  As far as the eye could see.  It was a dark, dark gray.  The clouds felt so close, like he could reach up and touch them.  There was no breeze, stiffing even.  The cold pressed in, you could feel it, like a physical force pressing in on your skin.

Each breath in was like drinking, the air had a weight to it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stretch for Life

(Cross-posted on YouVersion)

Stretch for Life
Message #3 of "s t r e t c h"
Pastor Jeff MacLurg, Our Savior's Baptist Church, Federal Way, Wash.; www.oursaviorsbaptist.org
Sunday, Oct. 23. (My notes from the 10:45 service. I pray they will be useful to you. Please consider prayin for me, the church and our pastor.)

--- Christ's Purposes ---

OSBC's Tenets:
Worship, Growth, Fellowship, Service, Outreach

They are not WHAT WE DO, but WHO WE ARE.
Not another task, another activity on our to-do list, but overflow of what's inside us. Far Side cartoon - a disaster waiting to happen. We think of outreach as something we have to get the courage up to go and do. But we should be thinking of it as what Christ has created to be. God gave us a message to share (people can get right with God).

--- Who We Are (2 Corinthians 5:19-6:1) ---

* Christ's ambassadors
* God's partners/co-workers - working alongside what God is doing in the world

--- "stretchbent" people ---

What is "stretchbent"?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It's Not That Simple (A Work and Life-Related Post)

A few thoughts have recently stuck with me in a big way.  The first is something Lindsey Talerico picked up at ideation, the weird notion that we've turned poverty into an industry - does my salary depend on someone else's poverty?  The second is just my own desire to simplify, to be more focused, to have less distractions, less clutter in my life.

The first is an interesting bit - in Matthew (26:11) were hear Jesus quoted with the familiar phrase "The poor you will always have with you but you will not always have me."  So, organizations like mine that try to make the world a better place for children will probably always have a reason to exist, I know many of us who work there desire to put ourselves out of a job. But at the same time, I travel each day to an office building, take the stairs to the third floor, go to my desk, drop my laptop in the dock, press power, grab my coffee cup and stroll to the coffee maker.  I'm really far removed from the "real work" - the boots on the ground, those who are working *with* people in communities where there is great need, to help them plan for self-sustainable futures where some of the current problems - water, food security, education, health are enjoyed by the inhabitants when we leave.  The model is a little bit complicated because it's not a hand-out.  We're not in the business of socialism or Robin Hoodism.  We don't ask donors in the United States to give because they're rich so we can skim some off the top before handing money over to poor people somewhere "out there."  We don't build wells and roads and then say "Good luck with that."  We go into a community and ask if we can help.  If the community is willing, we produce a plan together that allows us to leave after a certain period of time and the community is better off and stays better off.   We bring expertise from having done this process many times in the past several decades, but it's not us alone going in and telling people who to do, it's us going in, partnering with people and helping them to improve the quality of their own lives.  Which means programs specific to that community, to address the issues they face.  In simplest terms, we don't drill for water and build a pump.  We help them buy a pump, we make sure they're trained on how to maintain the pump and have a plan to continue to maintain the pump and afford replacement parts after we leave.  *Then* we drill for water.  So, yeah, it is complicated.  

So we look at programs that simply focus on a single aspect, like water, and yearn for the simplicity of their value proposition. 

And then we go "but our process, our methodology is different, more involved, more complicated."

And then we tell our constituents that it's more difficult.  And then we turn around and do complicated stuff in the office.  You might say complexity is the norm.  We say "trust us, we know what we're doing" but then we say "but it's really complicated."   Sometimes we then try to explain the entire process, sometimes we talk about pieces of it.  And it takes a long time before you feel like you have a good understanding of how your piece of the puzzle fits into the grander picture.

I read an article recently about the advice Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook had received from Steve Jobs: "That's focused on building as high quality and good things as you are. How to keep an organization focused, right, when I think the tendency for larger companies is to try to fray and go into all these different areas."

I certainly know in my work and home life that I could stand to be a little more focused.  I'm working on it.  I'm thinking that it might be my "theme" for next year.  I'll certainly work at simplifying before then, but I'm toying around with the idea of how to make that into a mission for my life for next year.

I think if I could have lunch with the boss, I'd suggest we need that approach for work as well - that we all need to look at what we're doing and wonder if we'd made it overly complex.  If we slowed down and really looked carefully at everything we were doing, could we reach the same ends more efficiently?  Is there any areas where we've lost focus?  What if, from the top, we heard the message "Make things simpler."?  

I know this isn't specific to our workplace, I've heard it from others who have come from other places and I've experienced it myself in my past jobs as well.  It often feels like it's the problem that's causing so many problems in government these days as well.  

I recently read a quote -- I'm getting it wrong now (because I'm looking on Google to attribute it and coming up empty) but it was something like "All great civilizations operate on the edge of chaos."  That feels like it sums things up for me in my personal life as well.  At the same time, I'm looking at my daughter and the Amazon wish list she's building, people are starting to ask me for gift ideas for me and I'm looking at all the stuff I'm having trouble maintaining as it is.  

I recently took stock of all the things I was trying to juggle and created a "meta" list to keep track of how on top of them I was.  It's harder than I thought.   So now I'm toying with the idea of creating a theme or mission for myself next year of "Simplicity" and then looking at all the ways that I might make that happen.  

How about you?  How's your focus?  

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Sift 311-315

The Sift 311: Finances and Banking
  • Negotiate Before Signing a Credit Card Agreement to Get Valuable Concessions
  • Square ditches $1,000 per week limits, has 800,000 merchants processing $2 billion per year
  • Why Banks Don't Lend All Your Money
  • Bloomberg TV Begins Live Streaming to the iPad
  • Yasheng Huang: Does democracy stifle economic growth?
Read more...

The Sift 312: Food and Health
  • How much of something can I eat for 100 calories?
  • MobiUS smartphone ultrasound hits the market two years too late for relevancy
  • Monkeys control virtual arm with their brains, may herald breakthrough for paraplegics
  • Help from Yelp: Harvard study shows online reviews boost Seattle restaurants
  • Josette Sheeran: Ending hunger now

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Meta

I had to start a list to keep track of all the things I'm trying to keep track of.  It turns out that it's harder to stay on top of everything than I thought.  

Reading: when did I last pick up the magazine I'm currently reading?  I have a massive stack of unread magazines.  I'm going let many of the subscriptions lapse.  Once I'm caught up (ha) I'll think about resubscribing.

Reading: when did I last pick up the book I'm currently reading?  I have a massive list of books I want to read, so if I want to learn and grow, I need to regularly be making progress.

Email: when did I last get my personal email up-to-date?  It gets out of hand quickly.

Quicken: when did I last reconcile spending and check for new bills to pay?

Run: when did I last run?  Now, I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 220 miles left to run.  I'm ahead of schedule, but barely.  And it's been difficult to fit it in lately.

Calendar: when did I actually look at the calendar to make sure I'm keeping up on all of the larger things, like preparing for events and holidays and stuff?

Laundry: laundry is one of the things I do to help around the house.  If I don't keep up with it, it piles up quickly.

Cat: I feel guilty about how little time we spent with our pets in the past few years, especially now that most of the cats have passed away (or in the case of the dog, placed in a new home).  It became habit to keep the pets all confined to the downstairs so that the upstairs stayed cat-hair- and cat-mess-free.  But then if we were only downstairs to watch TV while we exercised, the pets got very little attention.  So this is to remind me to make sure that the cat gets some attention, whether it's spending time sitting on the couch while watching TV, or letting him up (since he's not messy) from time-to-time to be around us.

Prayer: when I hear of prayer requests, I place them on my prayer list.  There was a while there where I neglected it, only to revisit and find prayers requests for babies-on-the-way only to realize those were now babies who were here.  So this reminds me to regularly pray for a few requests and then move them to the bottom.

Bible Study: it's at our house, but then I kept not doing the reading and being disrupted by children during the video.  So this is supposed to help me to do more study during the week and watch the video ahead of time.

Google Reader: keeping up with all the stuff that I find interesting and want to keep current on.

Remember the Milk: this is what makes it meta.  When I use RTM, it keeps me current on all the stuff I need to do.  When things get busy, I ignore it for a day or two.  I found that if I can get it updated the night before, I'm much more likely to use it the next day to get the important stuff done.

So now as long as I look at this meta-list frequently, I can easily see the area most in need of attention.  We'll see how useful this is in the long-run.  (Though the really long-run actually needs to consider simplification.)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

500 in 300 - Running Around the Clock

It's continued to be a struggle to fit running into my day.  Last week was busy and I was a little bit sick.  I thought I'd get a long run in on Sunday but I started out too late and got so cold.  Eventually had to stop, buy an extra-hot Starbucks and then walk the rest of the way.  I usually try to get in some personal time at work before heading home, a little bit of time to wind-down.  The last two days I had been unable to really have lunch so I ended work a few minutes early and got in a quick 2 mile run.  It's felt good.


We're 30.33% in and I've completed 33.40% so far.  We're on day 91 and I should have completed 151.67 so far and I've completed 167, so I'm ahead by 15.33 so far.