Thursday, March 31, 2011

Waiting for My Real Life to Begin

Started this like a week ago and never got it posted.

I think I've talked about this before - feeling like I'm in a rut, feeling like I'm waiting for something.  I'm not exactly complaining, it's a nice rut.  But it feels like it's a holding pattern.  I'm not just going through the motions, but I am certainly engaged in the exact same motions day after day.  I feel like there's a "someday," a future when -- not all, but enough -- changes.  But I don't know what, I don't know why, I don't know when, and I don't know how.

It's a very weird place to be in.  Because I'm not exactly unhappy with where I am.  And I'm not restless.  I'm not sitting here going "C'mon already."  I just feel like there's something more or something different.

How better than to look at my current day.  (Or skip past it as it's probably boring and more than you'd like to know.)


6:00 am - alarm goes off.  Option 1 - get up, do body test and do walk 30-40 minutes on Wii Fit while doing something on laptop (like Google Reader or this post which you'll see in a few days).  Check email.  Check stupid game on iPhone.. Option 2 - turn off the alarm, turn on the second alarm which goes off at 6:30 am.  Body test on Wii Fit.   In both cases, power down the laptop, go back upstairs and wake up Rachel.

6:40 am-7:10 am (approximately) - head upstairs and shower, squeegee the walls, gel in the hair, brush teeth, get dressed.

7:20-7:40 am (approximately) - get in car.  Snap the iPhone into holder, plug in, turn on music.  Drive the same way to work.  (Optional - stop at Fred Meyer for more oatmeal or Fred Meyer Fuel for gas for the car or Post Office to check post office box.)

7:50 am - arrive at work having driven essentially the same route as the day before the day before the day before.  Highlight - takes me through an area where they're reconstructing an overpass and I get to see all the construction workers.  Compelled to pray for their safety.  Park way away from building.  Long walk to building.

8 am - unload bag, snap in laptop.  Monday-Thursday - change from tennis shoes to dress shoes.  Take two mugs and two packets of oatmeal to coffee service and make oatmeal and coffee.  Return to desk.  Computer has booted up.  Sign in.  Click on the space shuttle icon that starts all of my programs, sweeps any clutter off the computer's desktop and makes a backup of a file I use daily.  Eat my oatmeal, drink my first cup of coffee.  Check out MSNBC and read through my email.

8:30 am - Monday, Thursday, Friday - devotions.  On M&F it will be 30 minutes at most.  On R it's a much bigger affair with a much larger team and also includes a business meeting.  Way too many people in a small area and it makes me anxious so I stand at the back so there's less people around me.  Lots of people checking their iPhones including the guy whose meeting it is.

9 am - "Office Hours" - like a college prof., I've blocked that time every day on my calendar (well, at 9:30 on Thursdays).   This is time each day when people can expect me to be at my desk so they can drop in and find me without needing to schedule a meeting with me.  I also try to get some email done during this time period.  If it's low priority, I'll write the email and then just save as draft.  If people call me, I'm most likely to let it go to voicemail and wait for the transcription of the call before emailing or calling them back.

Then, most days either have meetings or they have time I've booked with myself to work on specific projects.  At least half of that time I don't get to work on the projects and end up dragging the item to the next day on my calendar.  A big portion of my time is email.  Followed by handling new requests that come in.  Often they are fuzzy and incomplete and I spend a lot of time trying to hunt down missing requirements.  I say that if I can't fully understand the request and how to solve for it, I can't estimate how long it will take a developer or which developer to assign it to.

Noon - lunch.  If the weather's nice, I'll take a walk around the building. Working my way through a backlog of magazines.

Then, back at it.  If it's Thursday, I have 4 or 5 30 minute meetings with my staff.  This allows me to get up-to-30 minutes in with each member of my team every other week.  Sometimes, that may be the majority of the contact I get with them in any two-week period.  Especially the guys who work for me in Montana and Colorado.  In a few months, two of my team will give birth. I've asked for help from my boss on getting some temps or something but so far nothing.  I've also just asked for help in general but so far nothing.

If it's Friday, I have to look over all the requests that have come in that week and determine how many developer hours I'll have the following week.  If I have enough developer hours, it'll be a snap to assign all the work (the following week) but if I don't, there's a lengthy process to gather up all of the requests and distill them down so that I can take them to my boss and his peers and their boss on Monday so they can prioritize so I know which ones to assign and which ones to let slide to the following week.  I could mostly do this myself, but sometimes their choices surprise me, and it deflects any frustration over unassigned work off of me and onto them.

4-5 pm - another set of "Office Hours" - my calendar is again blocked to requests so that I can try to get some more email done, also so that people can find me.  I'm more likely to answer calls here, unless there's someone already standing at my desk.  I think that's so rude when you're talking to someone and their phone rings and they take that call.   I usually leave.   Or I'm less likely to even go to their desk in the future with questions, either Skyping or waiting for them to come to me.  And if I get a call, I make a big deal out of not taking the call and letting them know it's my attention they deserve and that the caller will email or Skype or leave a message if it's urgent.

5-5:30 - Going over my task list in Remember the Milk, doing some reading in Google Reader. A chance to decompress and transition from work to home. Long walk to the car. Listen to a Saddleback podcast while heading home.

6-7:30 - Family time. Dinner, playing with the children. Maybe some light chores like running some laundry.

7:30-8ish - Kids off to bed.

8-9ish - More chores... shaving, folding and putting away laundry, cleaning in the kitchen. Listening to music or watching some TED Talks.

9ish-11 - Watching TV with Lori and exercising (she on the exercise bike, me doing freestep on the Wii Fit) and playing on the computer.

11 - Getting ready for bed. Read.

Midnight - sleep.

Next verse, much like the first.

I do get to sleep in more on Saturday, but up at the same time on Sunday.

But, yeah, it feels a little repetitive.

I've been trying to figure out when it's going to change.  I have some ideas, but it's all a bunch of somedays... when the children are a little older and can feed themselves.... do more of getting themselves to bed...  when I've had time to clean the family room.. when I've had time to build my office underneath the deck... when I'm done exercising and magically stuck at my goal weight.. when I've gotten caught up on the TED Talks... when my Google Reader is empty... yeah... I can't figure out what changes, but I think at some point things change. I just can't figure it out.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Sea Salt Kettle Chips

I really wanted some thick tasty crunchy chips the other night.  Not sure why.  Well, I was at the grocery store, so perhaps it was just impulse.

I debated, the different brands all seemed expensive or the bags were small or both.  This bag (5oz) was on sale for a dollar off - $2.29 instead of $3.29.

I have to say... I was a little disappointed.   I've recently discovered Sea Salt and love it.  But I didn't taste very much salt.  I actually wet my fingers, flicked water onto the chips and then put some of my own salt on them.  These chips were not overly thick, but very very crunchy.

Each serving is 1 oz (28g), so 5 servings per bag, 150 calories per serving.

I am still keen to try other varieties, though not necessarily all of these.  They also have: Sweet Onion, Buffalo Bleu, Backyard Barbecue, Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper, Spicy Thai, Fully Loaded Backed Potato, Jalapeno, Sea Salt & Vinegar, Honey Dijon and Cheddar & Sour Cream.

**Update** Between the time I wrote this review and the time I posted it, I went to a party where they served the Fully Loaded Baked Potato and that was pretty tasty.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Sift 86-90

The Sift 86: Art, Architecture and Design

  • Shenzen Interchange: New Landmark Tower Has Green Pockets Chiseled Right Into Its Sides
  • Making a waterfront park that fits Seattle's culture
  • Startup Lets You Rent Fine Art, Netflix-Style
  • Is a Cross-Platform, Cloud-Based Digital Comics Reader
  • Seattle Treehouse is a Wonderful Retreat for Kids and Adults Alike


The Sift 87: Cars

  • Sexy Agera R Koenigsegg Biofuel Car Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show
  • Saab Unveils Sexy PhoeniX AWD Hybrid at 2011 Geneva Auto Show
  • Bentley’s Biofuel-Powered Supercar Can Go Up to 200 MPH on Ice
  • Toyota Unveils Its Hybrid Yaris Subcompact at The Geneva Auto Show
  • Toyota Unveils Future Plan to Release 10 More Electric and Hybrid Vehicles by 2015


The Sift 88: Education, The Brian and Thought Leadership

  • How to Hack Your Brain
  • How to Beat a Bad Day Before It Starts
  • Learn From Past Mistakes by Looking at Last Year’s Calendar
  • Creative Constraint: Why Tighter Boundaries Propel Greater Results
  • The Best Way to Solve a Problem: Give Up


The Sift 89: Entertainment and Technology

  • Publisher starts annual e-book licensing for libraries, attempts blood extraction from stone - Boo, HarperCollins kinda sucks.
  • Netflix passes 20 million subscribers; focuses on ISP disputes, HBO, Facebook in Q4 results
  • What Do I Need to Consider Before Buying a Projector for My Home Theater?
  • How to Get More from Your Home Theater Without Paying a Dime
  • Is Netflix the Next HBO?


The Sift 90: Finances, Banking, Business and Acquisition

  • AT&T to Acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom
  • Clear Channel Radio Acquires Thumbplay’s Cloud-Based Music Business
  • Facebook Acquires Group Messaging Startup Beluga
  • BlackBerry Acquires Social Contact Manager Gist
  • Google Acquires BeatThatQuote for $61.5 Million


Monday, March 28, 2011

I Feel Bad for the @ComcastCares Social Media People

"Consumerist is about to name us the worst company ever. Again."

"Sigh. Why does this keep happening, Jenkins?"

"There's perception out th--"

"Yes, yes, I know all that. But why don't people just leave us alone? Why must they complain and make my life miserable. Why are they going to call us that this time?"

"It's their annual poll. We're up against Charter in the final round."

"What? It's a voting thing? Easy. We can stuff the ballot box. Send a memo. All of the staff must vote."

"Sir, are you sure that's wise?"

"Send out a memo. They should each spend an hour today at their desks voting."

"Actually, sir, they can only vote once per computer."

"Fine. Have them vote at work, at home and on their phones. Maybe they can all stop by a public library on their way home. Why can't we stuff the ballot box like they do on the American Idol show my daughter watches?"

"This could backfire."

"What could possibly go wrong?"

"It's an internal memo."

"Someone could share it. Or tweet it. Or post it to Facebook. Or send it to Consumerist."

"Nonsense. No one really uses that internet but rich kids with too much free time on their hands."

"We have a whole team dedicated to Social Media, sir."

"Social Media? Are you out of your mind, Jenkins? I'm telling you this is a fad. A whole team? What do they do? Play that Angry Birds game my wife likes so much all day long?"

"I don't think a memo is a good i--"

"It's an internal memo. It's for internal use. Just like all of our other memos. It won't get out."

Today, the @ComcastCares people must be hating life.

THE CONSUMERIST -- Here's Your Lineup For Worst Company In America 2011!

THE CONSUMERIST -- Comcast Begs Employees To Vote For Charter In Worst Company In America Poll

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I Will Not Go Quietly

Last night, I decided that I wanted to drink coffee and contemplate this morning, so I hurried through getting ready this morning. On the drive in, I was really wanting to hear "I Will Not Go Quietly" by Don Henley. I'm not ready to think about whether that means anything. It wasn't on the iPhone so I (shoot... I had an iPod with me that had it on it and I didn't even think of that until just now). Anyhow, I ended up listening to "I Want Everything" by Hope 7. It's a bit anthemic and I guess it had to do.

So I got to work early, got my oatmeal and coffee made and then sat at the table in my pod so that I could just sit. Except for a couple of time checks (before deciding to just set a timer) I didn't look at my iPhone. No computer, no iPad. Just me. Alone with my thoughts. Have to admit I wasn't sure I liked it. If I can, I'll do it again tomorrow, maybe it'll be a new thing. Maybe I'll grow tired of it. Not sure yet.

But it's hard to know... did my need (or plans) for solitude produce my need for the Henley song, or are they coming from that same area I don't want to confront? I am reading a book that's a bit challenging (no, not Moby Dick. That's a lot challenging in how much it's boring me.)... the first part of the book I really liked. But the second part is way out there. I may buy the book and only regularly re-read the first part while ignoring the last part.

I ended up listening to Airplanes by B.o.B. feat. Haley Williams...

Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now)

Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now)

I could use a dream or a genie or a wish
To go back to a place much simpler than this
Cause after all the partyin' and smashin' and crashin'
And all the glitz and the glam and the fashion
And all the pandemonium and all the madness
There comes a time where you fade to the blackness
And when you're staring at that phone in your lap
And you hoping but them people never call you back
But that's just how the story unfolds
You get another hand soon after you fold
And when your plans unravel
And they sayin' what would you wish for
If you had one chance
So airplane airplane sorry I'm late
I'm on my way so don't close that gate
If I don't make that then I'll switch my flight
And I'll be right back at it by the end of the night

Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now)

Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now)

Somebody take me back to the days
Before this was a job, before I got paid
Before it ever mattered what I had in my bank
Yeah back when I was tryin' to get into the subway
And back when I was rappin' for the hell of it
But now a days we rappin' to stay relevant
I'm guessin that if we can make some wishes outta airplanes
Then maybe yo maybe I'll go back to the days
Before the politics that we call the rap game
And back when ain't nobody listened to my mix tape
And back before I tried to cover up my slang
But this is for the Cada, what's up Bobby Ray
So can I get a wish to end the politics
And get back to the music that started this [...]
So here I stand and then again I say
I'm hopin' we can make some wishes outta airplanes

Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now)
Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now)


If I don't make that then I'll switch my flight
And I'll be right back at it by the end of the night

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Avoided Statuses

I recently took a week off from posting on Facebook.  My blog posts still showed up regularly, so it didn't look completely empty.  I'd also be surprised if anyone is regularly visiting my page to see what's new with me.  I suspect most of the people I know are as busy as me and just see what shows up on the feed when they happen to check.

Anyhow, when I'd be struck with a status I wanted to post, I jotted them down into Evernote instead. And without further ado...

I've self-diagnosed: ADD/ADHD and possibly compulsive. But not obsessive. Definitely not obsessive. Not at all.

The worst part about forgetting your phone is that you can't post a status update about it.

Cool. Dude singing said "Youngsters wouldn't know the song." I'm young again!

Limited my day to a solid 3 hours answering emails. Received 263, sent 70.

C - I find your lack of understanding... disturbing.

Lori's plan for DST - set the clocks ahead 10 minutes every day for 6 days. Much less disruptive than changing a full hour all at once.

Best hour I've spent in a long time - with Ben sleeping in my arms while I rocked in the rocking chair in the dark.

I told my wife my cell phone was seeming to not be working right. She asked if I dropped it. I asked "Why, will that fix it?"

If there's a platter of brownies, the crumbs have no calories because someone's already counted the calories when they ate a full-size brownie.

Seriously, what is Melville on about? They require kids to read this? No wonder they're all graduating unable to read - this saps any desire.

Woo hoo. Five years back in Seattle today.

You know what really really sucks? Having a black and white job in a gray world.

Yeah, I've just been severely demotivated at work.

I don't care what people say... picking out all my clothes for the entire week was awesome. One less thing to have to think about. Huge time-saver.

Ok, yeah, why do people hold this up as a great book and force kids to read it? And where's the stupid whale already?

My wife is smart. She set the clocks ahead at 2 pm instead of 2 am. So we lost the hour in the afternoon instead of while we were sleeping.

Rachel just wasted an entire box of Cheerios looking for a toy. Hid the box and bag up on her top bunk hoping we couldn't find it. The attempts at deception are growing. (We can't find the toy and she swears she didn't find it either.)

Eight solid hours of instrumental music (movie scores, classical, random B-52 and Corrs tracks, etc.) is a pretty awesome and mellow complement to a lazy rainy Saturday.

Every successful bite of BBQ ribs is one bite closer to note walking around for the rest of the day at work with BBQ sauce on your clothes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Who I Am

I'm reading this fascinating book right now called "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield. It's really challenging me. Mostly in terms of how I spend my time. I probably have about five-to-six hours a day that's "free" - before work, lunch, after work, after kids are in bed. I hadn't thought about that until just now, but that's a lot time. Some of that time, I'm watching TV while we exercise, maybe an hour of it is doing choreso and household tasks, and some of that is my lunch break. But the book has really challenged me to think about how I'm using that time. Or what I aspire to be doing. And I can answer that pretty easily - I'd like to be reading or watching TED talks. I have a backlog of books and nearly 300 talks waiting in iTunes. Now, not all of them are ones I will eventually watch, but until recently, they've just been growing. Only recently (thank you iOS 4.3 and Home Sharing) have I started to watch them more regularly.

But is there demands on my time that are fruitless pursuits? Very much so. A lot of Facebook. Mostly the stupid game CityVille. I realize it serves no purpose to keep playing. There is no profit, I will never have bragging rights as the supreme dictator over all of Cityvilleland (heck, with the new upgrades I have to watch criminals just wander around because all my cops are asleep because they're out of doughnuts - yes, it is that stupid). So, I'm quitting CityVille.

I had another thought recently - what if I were moving to an assisted living facility? What if my life had to be reduced to that which could fit in a single room, largely taken up by a bed? Well, for one, I'd need a huge flatscreen TV. But besides that, I'd need to throw away a lot of stuff. Since I'm not doing that, there's lots of things I need to keep like tools and a lawn mower, but somewhere along the way, I got out of the "simplify" kick. And it's time to get back to it.

I'm feeling good. I'm going to get back on track with filling my brain with useful and interesting stuff and working to simplify my life.

I've been also giving a lot of thought lately into how I might go about building a office/reading room under the deck. Like for real, with a roof and a floor and walls. Well, walls of windows. I think it would be cool, I just need to go to that reclaimed historical architectural place in Tacoma to find some windows I can install at an angle so that the rain would hit them. Of course, that costs money I don't have. Maybe I'd better focus on the design for now.

But not tonight, I can probably fit a little time in on another book I'm reading: Moby Dick. I'm only reading it because so many people have read it and I know it's a "classic" - but man is it slow.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Invisible Car

What do you mean you can't find the car?  It's right in front of you!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Come and See - An Invitation to Seekers

Jump over to YouVersion to read with the Bible verses.

Come and See - An Invitation to Seekers (John 1:35-51)
Message #2 of John: A Story to Believe
(Pastor Jeff MacLurg; Our Savior's Baptist Church, Federal Way, Wash.; Sunday, March 13, 2011. These are my sermon notes from attending the morning services, I pray that they will be accurate and you find them helpful.)

--- Jesus and Seekers ---

1. He arranges for "COINCIDENTAL" MEETINGS with God. (My observation: Pray for these - they are exciting!)

2. He REACHES OUT to you when you REACH OUT. (He'll meet you more than half way.)

3. He invites you to CHECK HIM OUT. (Take a "test drive.")

4. He gives you the TIME to respond to him. (He patient, but there will come a time when you'll be called to decide for yourself. Don't wait too long.)

5. He starts WHERE YOU ARE and moves you to WHERE HE WANTS YOU TO BE.

6. He fulfills MORE THAN YOU EVER EXPECTED TO FIND to find. (They were hoping for political salvation and they got so much more. It may not be fireworks or immediate changes to the situation you find yourself in, but it means that God is with you everywhere you are, every second of the day.)

--- How To Seek ---

1. Start WHERE YOU ARE and follow where the TRUTH LEADS YOU. (Where are you staying? This word for staying is used by John 40 times. This is referring their desire to understand where Jesus stands.)

2. Expect to be PRESSED TO EXPLORE your core issues. (what are you really searching for? Seeking?)

3. Take the time to HONESTLY CHECK OUT JESUS. (Discover what God is doing in your life.)

4. You will eventually discover that JESUS HAS been looking for you. (It's no coincidence you're reading this. If you think you're hearing God, don't be surprised, He's been calling out to you. Your friends aren't surprised either, they've been praying for you.)

--- About Seekers ---

1. Every seeker BEGINS SOMEWHERE.

2. Some respond SLOWLY; others ACCEPT CHRIST QUICKLY.

3. Not all WILL RESPOND to Jesus. (Even Jesus did not "win over" 100% of the people he spoke with.)

4. Genuine SEEKERS become EXCITED SHARERS. (Why people who accept Christ as adults are so much more willing to share? They've seen the resolution to their seeking, especially if they were seeking in the midst of a crisis. Is that what stops some people? The fear of what might be asked of you? If you catch a big fish, do you not get a photo taken? If you shoot a hole in one (not while skipping church) do you not tell everyone about it? How about a good sale? If a tsunami is approaching your town, do you run and tell everyone? God's offering you the longest life insurance policy, the only only cure to the WORLD'S worst danger: sin. Wouldn't you want to make sure everyone knows? Someone at work likes to quote what he attributes to atheist Penn Gillette - that a Christian who doesn't evangelize loudly and constantly is like someone who sees someone standing in front of a truck and doesn't warn him to get out of the way. See "ATHEISM: Penn Jillette urges evangelism")

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Sift 81-85

The Sift 81: More Brain Tricks

  • Be More Successful by Planning for Frequent Failure
  • The Noise
  • Why Letting Yourself Make Mistakes Means Making Fewer of Them
  • Balance Your Mind, Not Your Work
  • How It Works: Clinton’s “Reality Distortion Field” Charisma


The Sift 82: Travel, Transit and Traffic

  • Japan to Build World’s Fastest Train: A 310MPH Maglev Monster
  • China to Fund Trans-Continental Railway That Will Rival Panama Canal
  • In Defense of High Speed Rail
  • UK High-Speed Rail Plans Raise Noise Pollution Concerns
  • iPad gets approval from FAA to replace paper flight charts and maps


The Sift 83: Odds and Ends

  • Abandoned Remains of the Russian Space Shuttle Project Buran
  • A website devoted to the public stairs on Queen Anne Hill and the people who enjoy them
  • Random Startup Generator (you'll get something different each time you click)
  • Intel Thunderbolt: a closer look
  • High life: Fox cub evicted from top of skyscraper


The Sift 84: Energy, Environment and Science

  • Flea powder may be saving lives in Japan
  • Is anything nuclear ever really super safe small and simple?
  • What Seattle needs to learn from Japan's quake
  • California Passes New Law on How to Get 33% of Its Power from Clean Energy Sources
  • YellowPages Finally Launches Phone Book Opt-Out Website


The Sift 85: Apple

  • Is Apple’s Design Guru Quitting?
  • Is Apple Prepping for a “Places” Product?
  • Editorial: It's Apple's 'post-PC' world -- we're all just living in it
  • Apple Trying To Negotiate Unlimited iTunes Music Downloads [REPORT]
  • Launch Webapps from Mobile Safari Instead of Your Homescreen for Better Performance


Monday, March 21, 2011

John: Man's Man God's Man

Click through to YouVersion to read with Bible verses.

John: Man's Man God's Man
Message #1 of John: A Story to Believe - Pastor Jeff MacLurg, Our Savior's Baptist Church, Federal Way, Wash., 03/06/11 (My notes, thoughts and observations from attending the 9 and 10:45 services, I pray they will be useful and accurate)

In a San Diego courtroom, an eyewitness was being questioned by the prosecutor. "Were you present when the bank was robbed?"
"How did the bank robbers leave the area?"
"In a red car."
"How many were there?"
"Two men."
In a booming voice, the prosecutor thundered "And are those two men in the courtroom right now?"
Without thinking, the two defendants meekly rose their hands.

When multiple eyewitnesses recount the same story, it's a pretty good chance they are telling the truth. Now... If the person or thing being witnessed to is also available to support the testimony, it's a good chance it's true.

John's book is written as the simplest of Greek. But it's been described as so shallow a child could wade in and yet so deep an elephant could dive into it.

Discarded Series Titles:
- John: The Simplest and Deepest Gospel
- John: The Deep End of the Gospel
- John: The Tell-All Gospel
- John: The Jesus-through-the-eyes-of-his-best-friend Gospel

John, the Writing

1:1-18 - Prologue Concerning Christ (previously covered last fall)
1:19-12:50 - Public Proclamation by Christ
13-17 - Private Instruction by Christ
18-21 - Public Proof ofChrist

John's Reason for Writing: John 20:30-31
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John's key words:
* SIGNS - miracle done by Jesus - signposts that point to Jesus as the Messiah - that he is who he claimed to be - a spotlight
* BELIEVE - virtually the same as "faith" in Greek - occurrence of those words: Matthew 20, Mark 21, Luke 22, John 82 times (Romans 51 times) - proof of why you can believe who Jesus is

At the time of his writing, they were under Roman rule. There had been plenty of false prophets who claimed they were from God and they weren't always immediately exposed, but they would incite rebellion. Religious leaders were exposed as hypocrites, scandalous. King Herod was oppressive and hated.


The Character of John the Baptizer (1:6-8, 15, 19-28)

1. He was a Man's man with a DISTURBING DEMEANOR. (A trouble-maker from day 1. You couldn't ignore him. Not just his attire, but also how he interacted with people. Not much of a diplomat. You always knew where he stood.)

2. He was a man of FORTHRIGHT TESTIMONY. (He said what they needed to hear when they needed to hear it, without pulling the punches. He said to the people coming to be baptized: "You brood of vipers..." imagine if Pastor Jeff said that when we came in on a Sunday morning. Or the fact that John told Herod right to his face that he was in the wrong marrying his brother's wife while his brother was still alive.)
witness = maturion (Greek) = martyr
(cp. Luke 3:7, 19-20)
Practical: There is no such spiritual gift as irritation, but there is the gift of discernment. Some people are just not diplomatic - listen anyway, maybe there's some truth in their words.)

3. He was God's man with GODLY AMBITION. ("Among men born of a woman, there is no equal." - Jesus (of John). He had the simple goal that the entire world would know because of his testimony.) (1:7).

4. He was not a man easily INTIMIDATED BY THE PRESSURES OF THIS WORLD. (John knew who he wasn't and who he was. The religious leaders came to ask him if he was the prophet (the messiah) because people were following him in good numbers and this could upset the status quo if they stopped following the religious leaders or led an uprising against Rome. They couldn't squeeze him into their mold, they wanted to make sure he wasn't starting another cult.) (1:19-23)

5. He was a man matched BY GOD FOR HIS DAY. (In his day, only Gentiles were baptized. But John was baptizing Jews to signal their intent to get right with God, to come into alignment with God. His baptisms were not to save but to prepare people for the coming of God in Christ.) (1:24-26).

6. He was a man of true HUMILITY BEFORE JESUS. (untying sandals and washing feet - even though John was a celebrity at this point, he said he was unfit to even do that lowest of the low tasks. Utterly humbled. No "Jesus is my bud." songs in those days.) (1:27).

Francis Chan realized one night "If Jesus also had a church in Simi Valley, mine would be bigger. People would leave Jesus' church to come to mine. Mine would make fewer demands on people. Mine would cater to people's desires." it was after this revelation that he stepped down from the church he was leading because he realized he was taking more of the attention, spotlight that truly should have been God's. (First service: Why am I tearing up right now? This is cool but have I missed something? Did I just hear something without hearing it? Second service: no such reaction. Bummer. If you read this, would you please pray I haven't missed something here?)


The Testimony of John the Baptizer (1:29-34)

1. Jesus is the true LAMB OF GOD. (1:29).

2. Jesus is the ETERNAL GOD OF THE AGES. (John was born first but John is saying that Jesus is greater than him because he existed before John.) (1:30-31).

3. Jesus gives the HOLY SPIRIT. (Baptism with water - outward statement; baptism with the Holy Spirit - internal empowerment to live for Jesus. God living inside you.)

4. Jesus Christ is the SON OF GOD. (Jesus' day - 'son of man' was more common phrase than 'human') (1:34).


To Take Away Today

1. Your GREATNESS is measured by your ability to PUT THE SPOTLIGHT ON JESUS. When you believe in Jesus, he begins to transform your life. When he begins that in you, you become great in his kingdom. It's not adding Christianity to your life, it's putting Jesus at the center.

In verse 30, John mentions in passing that he did interact with God in some kind of big experience. But he never makes a big deal of the experience or uses it to increase his own following, he only mentions it to explain why he was saying what he was saying. A church is never about the pastor, it is about Jesus. If a church becomes all about the pastor then the church is really sick. if this new building we're in glorifies the pastor/leadership on whose watch it got done, then we need to get some bulldozers.


Be wise, Jesus says, but stand for who you stand for.


You are here right here right now for God's purpose. No accidental births. And 99% of you know exactly what that is, but you're scared and are asking God if he's got a Plan B. (I actually bought a song last week called "No Plan B" on iTunes just because of the title. I was thinking about not having a "Plan B" - just putting everything in one plan - following God. But I've also heard it said that we are plan A for the world's salvation and that God doesn't have a plan b.)

Luke 7:28 - Jesus wants you to be great.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Here's a Tip: Do a Good Job

As a kid, I imagined someday starting a restaurant inside a plane. People had turned rail cars into a restaurant, I wanted to go big. But the catch was, above every table there was a little display. So if you were happy about your service, you reached up and pressed one button and the number went up. If you were unhappy, you pressed another and the number went down. And then the third button, of course, called your server. Now, I'm not sure if that idea would ever fly, but I always thought it was cool.

My wife and I are usually pretty good tippers, probably her even moreso than I. We've worked crummy jobs for low pay, we know how it goes. We've even seen what good service can do. (How many besides me have ever been tipped for working at the cash register before? I know! Yeah, yeah, flip side is that I, as a high schooler, have made other high schoolers quit in tears by suggesting that they shouldn't be there if they didn't care about the job. I've always cared about my job, whatever job it was.)

So tipping, despite it all, has always been a sore spot with me because I really want to be cheap. But I still feel obligated. Do a good job, get a big tip. Do a lousy job, get a poor tip. Do a horrendous job, get a tiny, tiny tip and a note about why.

And usually, for me, you have but one job. Keep my drink full. It's not a difficult job. I think the worst was a restaurant called Cheeseburger in Paradise in Hawaii. Refills were not free. I was well, well aware of that. But the food was good, plentiful, salty and it was a hot day. I don't want to tell you how much I spent on soft drinks that day, but I could have easily spent much, much more if they had just bothered to keep them coming. It was our honeymoon, so we had a bigger budget for stuff like that. But, still.

I don't know why, but it often feels like lately that great service is hard to come by. Now, in L.A., service could be inconsistently good or bad, but usually it was by restaurant. There were those that hired actors who wanted be acting instead of waiting, and then those that hired better actors who acted like they wanted to be waiters. (I say this because I have not heard of a lot of people who wanted to wait tables long-term. There are some that have made a career out of it, but for many, it's a stepping stones, a means to an end, a way to get the bills paid. Even so, you still have the choice whether to bring your A-game or phone it in.)

Maybe it's not as important up here. Down there, you never know who is somebody. Maybe your next break is the irritating guy on his cell phone who asks for egg white shallots off-menu. Or the woman eating alone reading a book may be someone who pre-screens screenplays for so-and-so. So maybe here in Washington it's obvious you are not a somebody and so there's no reason for pretenses. But it's felt lately like we've been pre-judged. We're out on a date without the children and you seat us on the enclosed patio with all the families with children. Take forever to bring us our food. Or our check. Or our credit card back.

But if you decide ahead of time that we're not going to be big tippers, we can tell. And then when you give us poor service and we give you a small tip, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. And that's just sad.

But, act like you want to be there, act like you're having fun, and we'll believe it. Keep my drinks filled and we'll reward you for it.

(That's not my receipt up there, just one I found on Google Images.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Great Customer Service: The Great Indoors

So there's a really cool store in Southern California called "The Great Indoors" which is part of the Sears family  I emailed them asking them if they had any plans to open a store in Seattle.

We had not actually purchased anything yet, but if we had stayed in California, it was only a matter of time.  The stuff wasn't inexpensive, but it was awesome, and even though we hadn't yet purchased, it was an inspiring store to visit.  They had some awesome displays set-up, especially for kitchens and bathrooms.  And a water-tight chamber inside which a bunch showerheads were actually hooked to plumbing so you could see how they operated.

Sadly, they do not have any plans to come to Seattle.  But I got a nice email back from their customer support -- and a day later, a phone call from the manager of the Burbank branch we used to visit.  He wanted to thank me for my kind words and to invite me to ask for him so he could say "hi" next time we came in.  (Perhaps he didn't get the part where we didn't live in L.A. anymore, but still...)

That that was pretty awesome.  If you live near one, you ought to check out The Great Indoors.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Postal Brilliance

I meant to mention this a few months ago but I thought the photos were poor so I don't think I posted it.  If I did and this is a repeat, my apologies.

Anyhow, these showed up a few months ago at our post office.  Brilliant.  I pick up the mail in our post office box once a week and there's always a bunch of garbage.  I used to take it all home so I could pull off my name and address and drop in our burn bin.  But now, I don't even need to take it out of the post office.  It's great, a locked recycling bin.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Sift 76-80

The Sift 76: Google

  • Google and the Value of Social Networking (Part 3)
  • Introducing the Google Translate app for iPhone
  • Google Rolls Out New Search Tool for Recipes
  • Google Goes to War on Content Farms
  • Gmail accidentally resetting accounts, years of correspondence vanish into the cloud? Update: Fixed - how it happened.


The Sift 77: Social Good & Charity

  • SwipeGood Donates Your Loose Change to Charity
  • Why Charities Should Die - she doesn't mean all charities
  • Thrive, the Beloved Country - fighting to prevent brain drain in Africa
  • An Amazing Word of Mouth Campaign for Goodwill
  • Out of the Rubble, Into the Lab


The Sift 78: Social Media

  • How to Get People to Become a Fan of Your Business
  • News Corp. set to unload Myspace?
  • The Social(ist) Networks - social networking in China
  • Why not call it a Facebook revolution?
  • Facebook’s Growing Role in Social Journalism


The Sift 79: Energy

  • 19-Year-Old makes Homemade Solar Death Ray
  • Wikileaks Reveal that Saudi Arabia is Overstating Their Oil Reserves
  • Portugese Scientists Create Water-Powered Paper Battery
  • SolarWindow with Clear Spray-On Film Could Generate 300% More Energy Than Solar Panels
  • Harvard Study Reveals Coal Energy To Be One of the Most Expensive Forms of Power


The Sift 80: Toys and Games

  • Activision kills Guitar Hero division to the consternation of fake musicians everywhere
  • Top 10 Gaming Hacks and DIY Projects
  • PlayStation Move headed to PCs under official 'Move Server' project
  • PS3 'jailbreak code' retweeted by Sony's Kevin Butler, no punchline needed
  • Greener Lighting Policies Kill the Incandescent Easy Bake Oven


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Suggestion for @ComcastCares

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. And the more I thought about it, the more I could see where it could be quite handy, quite cool, quite useful, and possibly save me or others some money.

Comcast would be onto something pretty big if it offered text messaging free as part of its triple-play offering. It would be throwing down the gauntlet and declaring that "Text messaging is no longer just for cell phones."

Comcast already has the infrastructure to offer it for free.

First, it's got the backbone. There may be interconnectivity charges, but it's already paying those to be part of the voice and internet networks.

Second, it's got ways to get the texts to you and allow you to create texts. They could build it into the DVRs and cable boxes, they could build it into their website, they could build it into the app you can download that gives you caller ID information on your computer, and they could build it into their Xfinity iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch apps. You could get texts anywhere you had a WiFi signal.

(Heck, they might even experiment with voice recognition and transcription and then those turtles with their lowly rotary phone could even use it.)

It would be cheap, easy, and worth some pretty compelling media buzz.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Tough Job of Acting

A few years ago, I sat on a staircase for an afternoon. The staircase seemed like it was at a tropical retreat. If you went up the stairs, I think there was some rooms up there, but not sure. The hallway was long, the floor tiled, but at each end of the hallway, nothing, just open. Outside the windows, palm trees. And a craft services table. I was on the Sony lot and they were filming one of those horror-lite movies that there was a slew of in the early 2000's. I think it was one of the "I Know What You Did" movies. I never actually saw the movie.

But I sat there for an entire afternoon and in front of me, over and over and over again, one of the characters interacted with the bellhop who lifted suitcases from the floor, placed them on the luggage cart. And then they'd yell cut, the luggage would move back to the floor and they'd do it again.

It's amazing when you are able to spot errors in movies, since they do things so many times trying to get it just right. And at the same time, it's not at all surprising, because if you've done it that many times and a mistake gets in, you're probably just hoping no one will notice it and call it good.

And at the same time, there's lots of down-time. Waiting for setups, not being needed in a scene, etc. And then when you're done, you're done. I can see why actors like movies.

But television... if you're an actor, you're probably a really creative person. And then you do television where you're asked to become this character and hold it for as long as possible. Even your haircuts have to be approved. That's gotta really be difficult. Which makes it all the more understandable when someone leaves a show despite having it made, making sometimes more than a million dollars for a single episode (obscene!). As an audience, we want it to go on forever, the shows become a part of our life, something that's the same and predictable even as the rest of life has its ups and downs. So when shows go on for a long time, I think we underappreciate the sacrifices the actors make.

Now... doing the exact same show every night on Broadway.. that's just someone who has a need to torture themselves.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Email Purge

The Agony of Email

One of the teams I manage at work sends emails. That's all they do. They're to people who've requested email from us or people who have conducted a financial transaction with us and provided their email address as a required part of the transaction. So I go to conferences and I talk to a lot of people. We talk about the need for email to be engaging, ongoing. That people are starting to treat brands like they do people - liking them on Facebook, following them, participating in their lives, criticizing bad haircuts (well, bad logo changes, that is). It is all rather interesting, especially as we decry that email isn't dead. Social media hasn't killed email and that it's a viable channel for commerce and fundraising. It must be. But for me personally, I'm burned out on personal email.

At work, I get several hundred emails a day. I can spend three solid hours doing email and actually lose ground. Fortunately, this isn't consistently, but many days it is. And at my level of middle-management, I'm not at the point where I can let emails sit unanswered for weeks and months. Well, some I can, like stuff I've been forwarded as recommended reading or something. But most emails do need me to respond rather quickly. Occasionally, I can read an email and know that if I wait, someone on one of my teams will respond on my behalf, which is nice. But a lot of times, it's my input or decision that's required.

There is a culture at work that email is at the speed of light. You can respond to email and then get a respose to that response within minutes. But maybe that's too quick. I've recently taken the tactic of a forced delay when responding. I'll sit down and plan to spend a solid hour replying to email. It will be a combination of email that's already in my inbox as well as anything new as soon as it arrives. However, I don't send my responses. Instead, I save all my responses as drafts. When I'm done and ready to step away from the computer for a meeting, then I'll send them all. It's still a decently rapid respond, but it's not instantanous and I'm not sure it needs to be because that can be vicious. And it's not like there's a real problem when I do step away for a meeting and someone emails me. So there can't really be a reasonable expectation of instantanous response.

Plus, on top of email, there's Skype and text messaging which could be considered more instantaneous. (Though if someone Skypes me with something that really ought to be an email, then I take it and put it into an email and email it to me and them.)

So today I sat down and plowed through my home email. I used the iPad (because it has the best interface for reading email) and the laptop (because the mail interface and the iOS experience has a lot of gaps - doesn't allow for filing; no way to reporting spam; harder to attach an email to a Remember the Milk task; some websites make it difficult or impossible to unsubscribe from a mobile device). As I went, I documented each one (just for me, I doubt anyone would read what's below).

I also employed my 6-year-old as my assistant. She performed the task of deleting each email. She enjoyed the swiping motion on the iPad for deleting.

So yeah, I've come to the conclusion that having immediate access to my email has actually made it less valuable. Now (if I have the sound/buzzer turned on), I'm alerted to every email. This is too immediate. If I only looked at my home email every 1-2 days, that would probably be sufficient. And that I'd be more likely to act on the emails I received because it would be an intentional act of checking email, not just a quick look because it was there. That if anyone needed me more urgently, they should use text messaging or IM. So to that end, I'm removing my personal email account from my iPhone. I can get the Gmail app or use the web interface.

So here's what I deleted today. This is more for me for future reference, I doubt anyone will care about the rest of this.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Sift 71-75

The Sift 71: Energy, Environment & Science

  • YellowPages Finally Launches Phone Book Opt-Out Website
  • India to Install Solar-Powered Cell Phone Towers this Year
  • Wikileaks Reveal that Saudi Arabia is Overstating Their Oil Reserves
  • 19-Year-Old makes Homemade Solar Death Ray
  • Portugese Scientists Create Water-Powered Paper Battery


The Sift 72: Architecture and Development

  • Then and Now: The Stunning Speed of Urban Development - plus cool additional links
  • Japan to Help India Build 24 Green Cities
  • BIG Unveils Eye-Popping West 57 Residential Tower Pyramid in NYC Today - more like eye-gouging
  • Weave Housing: Futuristic Prefabricated Apartment Concept For Denver, CO
  • How a 'Sputnik moment' built modern Seattle


The Sift 73: Cars

  • Fisker Karma Electric Car to Enter Production on March 21st
  • Nissan unveils sexy ESFLOW concept EV sports car
  • BMW Officially Announces "i" Brand For Electric Cars and Plug-Ins
  • Good, Better, Best: 3 Free iPhone Apps for Finding Cheap Gas
  • Rolls-Royce Unveils 102 EX Phantom Electric Vehicle at Geneva Auto Show


The Sift 74: Facebook

  • Facebook To Launch Third-Party Commenting Platform
  • What Marketers Need to Know About Facebook’s Switch to iFrames
  • How Facebook Supported the Egyptian Revolution
  • Facebook Like Button Takes Over Share Button Functionality
  • Facebook Will Continue To Share User Addresses & Numbers


The Sift 75: Food, Health and Medicine

  • 10 Foods You Can Allegedly Make in a Coffee Maker
  • DontEat.At Warns You of Places Not To Eat In NYC
  • Eat Healthy and Cheaply with Smaller, More Frequent Meals
  • Harvard grads turn gym business model on its head; fitness plan members pay more if they don’t work out
  • 3D-Printed Skin Could Revolutionize Treatment for Burn Victims


Friday, March 11, 2011

Beware Friends Bearing (Wish List) Gifts

So for my birthday last month, two family members visited my Amazon Wish List and purchased the same book on the same day. And guess what... Amazon didn't warn either of them.

So Lori went to Amazon to ask for permission to return and they started to say no since it was past the return window, but then did send her return label afterall.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


So at the start of the year, I made a series of resolutions.

  • I Will Dress for Success - I said I would dress professionally, no matter how my co-workers have. This is easy and yes I have. I counted up recently and I think I have 18 ties now, some I haven't even worn yet. I'm still introducing some new clothes I got for my birthday. Some great compliments on a very vibrant purple shirt and tie I wore today.
  • I Will Take More Photos - yeah, so far failing on that one.
  • I'm Going to Be in Better Shape - I'm at my maintenance weight of 150 (down from 190 back in August) but I need to be doing more to actually now improve my shape. More pushups, situps, strength training and yoga, I guess. My face is starting to get more angular which is cool, and oddly enough, I seem to be establishing a 4-o'clock shadow. (I'm blond so I can get away with shaving three times a week, but it seems like even as soon as I've finished shaving there's a barely perceptible shadow.) When the weather improves I'll start walking again.
  • I Will Learn to Tie a Tie - YES! Thank you, YouTube and MyNiceTie. I watched that video a few times and now I can do a basic knot no problem.
  • I Will Learn How to Put Chains on my Car - no. At least not yet. Ironically, it's been cold (and I've had a cold) so I've had no interest in being outside any more than absolutely necessary.
  • I Will Learn the Books of the Bible - wow, doing poorly on this. My six-year-old has been helping me, though. I need to get more serious about this.
  • I Will Read and Learn More - Eh. It's been slow going. I've had several books (I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Aetheist, Moby Dick, Poke the Box) in progress for too long. Mostly the City book I just finished - it took awhile to get through. I've probably been able to read for an hour a night 3-5 nights a week. It's been slow going. I also still have a big backlog of magazines.
  • I Will Write More Consistenty - I have fallen down on this. Argh.

I like how Erin from Unclutterer is trying small monthly resolutions. I like it because there's a shorter time-frame, fewer things to think of at once, and I'm guessing in some cases, she's turning them into habits she can carry on even as she moves on to new challenges.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Review -- City: Rediscovering the Center

City: Rediscovering the Center by William H. Whyte is a rather lengthy book written in 1988 that examines different elements of the city, from access to sunlight to what makes a successful sidewalk or public space. At the end, it careens into a quick look at what may prove why a city is unsustainable -- the cost (and execution) of housing and office space, as well as a look into companies that flee the city for the suburbs.

I cannot think of any of my friends, save Brett, who would be the target audience of this book. FederalWayan might find it interesting and I would definitely recommend it to the city planners and leaders of Federal Way, but it's not my usual fiction or business-related non-fiction. I'm not sure how I first came to put this book on my list of books to read, may have been from hugeasscity (I used to read their RSS feed, was a great site) or maybe it got cross-posted from Publicola (I don't follow) to Crosscut or Seattle Transit Blog or something.

Anyhow, the book seeks to figure out what makes a city work, borrowing from the author's life's work researching and studying the city. Interestingly (or maybe not so) is that most of the book spends its time outside, examining public spaces, parks created by developers as part of a new building, sunlight, sidewalks. Near the end, it briefly examines companies which have moved to the suburbs (almost always to location close to the CEO but a long commute for the average worker), the problems with towers (families don't want to live in them, small companies -- the kind that has the biggest growth -- can't afford them). In the end, one can't help wonder if the city (mostly New York City in this book) is a sustainable, ideal environment by the end. And maybe it isn't, the author closing to briefly extoll the virtues of the town, a smaller scale entity with a strict grid whose growth is carefully controlled by extending the grid in all directions, a few blocks at a time as needed.

Unfortunately, this, too, might not be possible as developers often get their own way since they're the ones willing to spend money. And developers, who are gone by the time the project is done, want large scale grid-destroying closed environments with large amounts of parking and big blank walls to keep everyone else out. It is these very things, the author suggests, that robs the city of its "center," a smaller human-scale pedestrian-friendly environment where casual, random interactions between strangers and friends make the world a slightly friendlier place.

That said, our city could take some lessons as it struggles with what to make of the large plot of land it finds itself holding on to now that the overly large towers won't be built. (P.S. Bellevue is held up twice as an example of things done right, at least as of the printing in the late 80's.)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Sift 66-70

The Sift 66: Employment and Work

  • Create Compelling Presentations with the Three Q Method
  • Increase Your Chances of Getting a Raise by Asking at the Right Time
  • 10 Easy Ways to Show Your Employees You Love Them
  • Five Traits Low-Stress, Happy Work Cultures Have In Common
  • Don’t Assume Your Job Interviewer Is Prepared


The Sift 67: Decluttering

  • Use a Landing Strip to Keep Clutter from Invading Your Home
  • 10 DIY Space-Saving Household Projects
  • How Much Money is Your Clutter Costing You?
  • Five Steps to Reclaiming Your Living Room
  • The Geek’s Guide to Rebooting Your Kitchen


The Sift 68: Apple

  • iPad 2 vs. Original iPad: What's Changed?
  • Apple Releases iTunes 10.2
  • What's New in iOS 4.3?
  • Antennagate 2: Verizon iPhone 4 Drops Calls With “Death Grip”
  • Mac OS X Lion Hands-On Preview


The Sift 69: Transit, Traffic and Travel

  • Timelapse: Alaskan Way Viaduct offramp reduced to rubble
  • DARPA to Start Work on 100-Year Starship Study That Could Give Way to a Greener Life
  • Piezoelectric Energy-Generating Roads Proposed for California
  • Ego: Explore the Ocean in a Personal Electric Submarine!
  • Washington State Route 110


The Sift 70: Advertising and Media

  • New York Times Profits Tumbles 26% Amidst Declining Print Revenues
  • Facebook Ads Perform Half as Well as Regular Banner Ads
  • New York Times Quietly Rolls Out Recommendations Service
  • Arianna Huffington, queen of all media
  • Blown Away: YouTube


Monday, March 07, 2011

What Is This?

The other morning there was some mysterious orange packets left in the coffee service bin. I was really curious and wanted to see if technology could help us figure out what it was. Sure, I am friends with some of the Korean speaking people on the second floor (forgive me - this writing is Korean, right? That was our collective best guess.) but I wanted to see if I could solve it all on my own.

So I tried all kinds of programs on the iPhone - image recognition, shopping programs, scanning programs, but nothing could identify it. So then we tried with Sam's Android, but in the end, still no luck. We theorized that it was a tea-like product, Amy suggested maybe peanut-based.

Looking at the photo, it looked like a mug-full. By this point, I was really really curious and figured there was a really good chance no one was pranking us or trying to kill us so I went and poured it into the mug I had used for oatmeal. It was powdery, with little bits of stuff in it. I added water until it had a mud-like consistency. Then I added some more water (since there was a lot in the picture) and then it just seemed really diluted. So I added a second packet. It had a good smell (a bit peanut-y) and a nice taste. Smooth, pleasant. Almost like honey nut cheerios ground to an absolutely fine powder. So yeah, drank it down, survived, still have no idea what it is.  (Kinda wondered if it was like a creamer for coffee, except that the packet was rather large, and those weird crunchy bits.)

Sunday, March 06, 2011

If I Ran Foursquare

As a Foursquare user, I'm often struck by about how much coolness is left at the door. Or maybe it's already happening and I'm just not aware that it's happening. It feels to me, at the places I visit, that they still don't have much of a clue (if any) about Foursquare. And they certainly don't see it as a way to increase regular, repeat visitors. Which is the lifeblood of any successful business, especially restaurants.

But, if I were running Foursquare, I would encourage businesses to put a logo on their door asking people to check-in and suggest they put it on their menus or menuboards as well.

I would also offer a service where each time the mayor changed, they received a fax with the name of the major and the mayor's photo. This could be posted on the wall, or pinned up by the timeclock in the back for all of the employees to see, to keep an eye out for. Imagine walking into a restaurant and hearing "Norm!" (if your name was Norm) because you were the mayor. That would certainly keep you coming back regularly and encourage the other patrons in the restaurant to perk up and check-in.

And I would add "regulars" as a small group of people who aren't quite the mayor, but through some combination of frequency and recency, stood out as people who visited regularly. Maybe they would appear as a small strip of 5-10 profile photos below the mayor on the fax.

And if they don't have it yet, I'd provide badges business owners could put on their website that would show the mayor and the regulars.

And most important of all, I would offer a service that by fax or text message, informed a location when its mayor checked in. (A nice lower-tech options for restaurants that aren't online or don't regularly use the internet.)

And I would think about buying Yelp or starting a competitor. Not quite sure on this last one. Some places still haven't figured out how to use Yelp to their advantage (and there is some concern that Yelp may be trying to strong-arm companies) but you'd think a place as good as this one could flood Yelp with great reviews (we have nearly all positive remarks from our multiple visits) but instead, this is kind of embarrassing.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

ECHO Echo echo

My friend Leticia should sign in to her Facebook account one of these years.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Apple's DNA (or why they seem to just get it)

This is worth repeating. It's in Apple's DNA that technology is not enough. It's tech married with the liberal arts and the humanities. Nowhere is that more true than in the post-PC products. Our competitors are looking at this like it's the next PC market. That is not the right approach to this. These are post-PC devices that need to be easier to use than a PC, more intuitive. 
-- Steve Jobs, March 2, 2011 (at the end of the iPad 2 unveiling.)
Sure, these post-PC devices need to be easier to use than a PC.  But, why can't a PC be easier to use than a PC?  Reader, think about what you do today and who your audience is.  Are you doing the same thing you've always done?  Or are you actively working to make things easier, more pleasant, more enjoyable for your audience?

I did not realize I had an opinion on this.  You probably don't.

I was recently involved at work on a discussion about user experience.  The speaker wanted to talk about technical constraints inherent in the system -- Javascript won't let you do this, AJAX causes this type of interaction, etc.  I looked around the room.  It was just me and my technical peers.  No marketers, no design people.

To me, this seemed extremely backwards.  I tried to suggest that design had to be at the front of any new user experience work.  That we needed to build a framework.  That if all we did was give developers and vendors and the QA team a checklist.  Also, gives them some flexibility to read between the lines, to capture an essence or ethos, to figure out what to do when the rules aren't specifically stated out.
 If an asynchronous element on a page takes longer than 1.3 seconds to load, a spinny thing must appear on the screen to indicate that it's still loading.  (Not a progress bar.)  That spinny thing must be on a white background and be colored #002200 (may be displayed as Pantone 433C in a printout) and it must have 36 radial arms each 10 pixels tall and 4 pixels in thickness with tapered ends and be offset by 5 pixels from the midpoint.  Each arm must fade out at 20% per the appearance of each new arm. A full rotation of the spinny thing must occur every .75 seconds in a clockwise direction.
I can teach my daughter to memorize 6+7 and 9+4 or I can teach her Doubles-Plus and Bridge-to-Ten so she can immediately feel confident that she can take on 7+8 and 9+8 even if she's never seen them before.

Doesn't mean we eliminate the rules, but if we don't first talk about the heart and soul (or the why) then it's not something they live and breathe.

It's why Apple is as successful as it is. They know the experience starts with the visual design. Whether it's their emails, their website or their actual products. They look good, they feel good. They have a certain commonality to them that says "Play with me."

Dell's taken its own approach with the darker colors, brushed metal and angular lines that suggest power, seriousness, business.  Microsoft is just starting to realize it... for the first time in a long time, people are actually positively commenting on design choices and user experience found in Windows 7, Windows 7 Mobile and even Zune.

We don't need to copy Apple or Dell, but we ought to be able to (and I'm genericizing for this blog post) "Help us (do what we do). Be confident that we do what we say we do and we do it with integrity because we're called to serve by Jesus Christ.  Our website makes that clear to our audience by presenting an experience that's (a), (b) and (c)." or whatever it is we ought to be able to say.  (Yes, ours is a Christian non-profit.)

Then out of that we can draw specific philosophies like...

Authenticity: "We'll make it easy for the site visitor by always doing these functions the same way."
(Translated: We will hunt down and quash inconsistencies.  We will adopt consistent proven standards used by other web developers/websites.  We will establish a design language to spec out consistency where needed.  It will be clear enough that where it's not spelled out, the designer is able to understand what should be done and arrive at the right decision on their own.)

Confidence: "We won't waste donor's time with unnecessary hoops, and in the process, they will attribute 'effortless' and 'joy' with giving [via our website]."  (Translated: We will work hard to map out the paths our audience can take.  We will make the desired (happy) path clear, we will work even harder to eliminate undesired (sad) paths that could serve to confuse, frustrate or present our audience with a dead end.)

Transparency: "We will anticipate bottlenecks and work to resolve them or make them more bearable with the following tactics like a progress bar or a spinny thing" (with specific specs and descriptions of when to use).  (Translated: When we can't fix it, or fix it right away, we will anticipate the frustration, anticipate the confusion and do everything in our power to mitigate or minimize it.)

My boss likes to say "If you don't know where you're going, you'll always get there quickly." and "If you don't know what you're aiming at, you'll hit the target every time."  It's so true.  It's almost like we need a vision statement or guiding principle that helps us inform into a design language.  (Sorry, couldn't fit paradigm and synergy into that sentence.)  

Not some 400 page document that specifies every little detail but doesn't ask developers and designers to actually think, innovate, or even - heck - be creative.


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Fizzy Pop

If you're impressed by Mentos and Diet Coke, it's probably because you've never shoved an Airborne into a Cherry Coke Zero can.

There might just be a reason the Airborne doesn't fit without first being broken into pieces - because it's not something you want to do.

By the time I was able to get to the can to start slurping off the foam, half the can had oozed out onto the table. A sad, sad night.

On the other hand - a Berry Airborne adds a nice taste to a Cherry Coke Zero.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Sift 61-65

The Sift 61: Apple (2 of 2)

  • 10 Intriguing Apple Patents to Get Excited About
  • 10 Fan-Made Apple Product Concepts We Wish Were Real
  • Apple patent application points to denser batteries, improved charging technique
  • Apple TV Gaming Hinted Strongly in iOS 4.3 Beta Code
  • iTunes Privacy Hole Lets Anyone with Your Email Address Spy on Your iTunes Library


The Sift 62: Driving

  • Washington State Looking to Impose $100 Yearly Tax on EV Owners to Help with Lost Gas Revenue
  • Proposed Bill To Give Electric Vehicle Buyers $7,500 Credit Right When They Buy - since Washington State doesn't have an income tax, you could just pre-pay your first 7-1/2 years.
  • Euromasters electric classic Porsches let you be a rebel without a gas tank
  • EPA's letter grade automobile stickers could bring QR codes to car windows in 2013
  • AT&T to get future BMWs online, marque in danger of becoming Ultimate Downloading Machine


The Sift 63: Infographics

  • How We Use Social Media During Emergencies
  • Fastener Type Chart - fantastic chart of bolts, nuts, screws and other fasteners
  • 10 Years of Wikipedia
  • How Videos Go Viral - interesting, but not great
  • Engineer's Guide to Drinks - mixology as blueprints. fun.


The Sift 64: Consumers and Shopping

  • How retailers can compete with online sellers: In-person customer service
  • eBay Dials M for Makeover
  • Use This Template to Write Concise, Effective Complaints When Companies Piss You Off
  • Don't Distract Your Buyers
  • How Consumers Are Using Smartphones in Stores


The Sift 65: Art and Design

  • Motoi Yamamoto’s Mind-Bogglingly Intricate Mazes Drawn with Salt
  • Learn the Basics of Design this Weekend
  • Learn the Basics of Photoshop in Under 25 Minutes
  • Basics of Photoshop: Color Correction, Touch Ups, and Enhancements
  • Ideas + Square = Origami. Robert Lang on how origami is helping in the space and medical professions. (Video)