Sunday, June 30, 2013

Week 13 (Final)

Sunday night - Yeah, busy weekend. Hot, hot weekend. In the end, 46 items completed today and 217 items completed total. This week's realization: It's not all about me. These may be things I think need to be done, but if Lori has other stuff she needs done, I can't look at them as interruptions from what I had planned. Or if I'm going to do stuff she's already done or stuff she's happy to do. So the next step is sharing my plans with Lori as I go. However, I will be starting next week at a disadvantage, I don't have time tonight to plan out the next week ahead of time. I'll work into it as the week goes on. That may be the beauty of this evolving thing, it may not be as important to do a lot of prep ahead of time. We shall see.

June Plug

I'm relieved that this month is over. It's been a busy month. Of course, in this case, it's nothing but an arbitrary demarcation because I don't see things slowing down. As always, I'm trying to adjust to rate-limit the chaos, but it's been hard this weekend and into the next two weeks. We're in a bit of a heat spell here. Other places have it hotter, but we don't live in those places and those places are overall better equipped to handle it - they have air conditioning. I am really grateful to have a car with really good air conditioning for the first time in years, but the house is probably best described as miserable. Normally, I'd be able to escape to the office, but next week there's 2 days of holiday and then I have a week of vacation after that. Oh, well, can't be helped. Somewhere in there I'll have to acclimate because otherwise I will do that thing where you die from lack of sleep.

But, still, yeah, it feels like a little bit of a relief to be past June. As soon as I admit that, I come back to the thoughts of the first paragraph but if I allow myself to entertain them, we could be here for a long time.


The Big Elements

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Worth Repeating: John McWhorter


Txtng is killing language. JK!!!: Does texting mean the death of good writing skills? John McWhorter posits that there’s much more to texting -- linguistically, culturally -- than it seems, and it’s all good news. More on

Why I'm Posting: Because it completely changes my opinion of texting. Will it cause me to start using TXTSPK? Not in a million years.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Email Five for Friday (A Work-Related Post)

Every Friday (normally), I'd send out this email to my colleagues who work in email marketing within our organization. I figured since I'm already reading the articles and curating the list, I might as well drop it onto my blog as well.  (Usually it's to the marketers, but turns out I also had a few today for developers, so here's two lists.)

For Marketers

Five Engagement Killers and How to Overcome Them

The New Email Rules for CMOs

The 5 Design Trends Behind 'The Best of the Email Swipe File'

Behavior Psychology and Marketing Conversions

Where Spam Traps Come From and How They Work

For Developers

Why I Blog

"So... why do you blog?"

It's a question I can't remember ever being asked, but it's one I ask myself. So here we are on post 2,961 and now I ask myself this? It is an interesting question. Many have tried and failed/bailed. Why would I post spend time, almost daily, to commit words to the ether where the average post will get about 20-30 the day it's posted and a trickle after that? (Except when I write about GroupOn, fixing my washing machine or Facebook's in-retrospect-quite-failed attempt to kill email.)

It's just one component of the social strategy that is the James Lamb brand. My personal brand. And the TV James subbrand, but that's waning. But, yeah, why bother?

I struggled with that on Sunday, with an idea for a blog I haven't written yet, one that part of me feels like needs to be told and one part of me says "this one's not for public consumption" (hint: it's about my attitude and it's a churchy topic) and so I haven't written it yet, but in trying to decide if I wanted to write it, I found myself asking "Why do I even blog in the first place?"

I think there are several reasons.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

I'm leaving you, @DirecTV

Dear DirecTV,

I was really excited to return to you after a long, long gap. Finally I once again lived in a place with the appropriate southern access and a cable system I'd had enough of.  A lot had changed since the last time. I still remember the boxes being delivered to my office and me running home on my lunch break to mount the dish on our apartment balcony and make the adjustments necessary to get a signal. Good times. The software was cludgy and slow and the DVR regularly ate The Amazing Race.

And then we moved to a house that couldn't see you and we went with Dish.  And then a new house and we didn't think any sort of southern access was possible and we went with Comcast.  But that got old and someone swore we really could get a southern view and that weather wasn't really the deterrent that it used to be.

And for awhile, things were good. But then, the emails. More and more emails, more and more irrelevant. (Oh, and for a time, impossible to read on an iPad or iPhone. Thanks for making me only complain three times over six months before you fixed it. You're welcome, by the way.)

But the more the email market matured, the more we looked at what's possible with data, the farther and farther away you seemed to get.  Take this email, for instance:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

@worldmarket Sweepstakes Misses the Mark (A Work-Related Post)

So Cost Plus World Market had a contest. One of the ways to get an extra entry was to send an email to a friend. So they asked something like "What's an ideal vacation for you?" Since I was curious to see what the email looked like, I sent a copy to myself.

The email I got seemed to be missing something.

You can see my answer to the question below, but what does it mean?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Print Sift

Some stuff I've read recently that I thought was interesting.

Coworking Spaces - Why AT&T, Zappos and others are sharing office space with strangers -- not to save rent. (Fast Company)

Innovative Healthcare - As part of Fast Company's 50 Most Innovative Companies, these healthcare companies are worth a look. Consider:
Failure to follow prescribed care costs the nation $100 billion a year. Also, drug companies make more money when people keep their prescriptions up. Enough to where they'll donate medicine to people who can't afford it when people who can afford it stay current. Another $174 billion is lost to diabetes, but continuous glucose monitors are aiming to help cut that. (Fast Company)

Monday, June 24, 2013

@Groupon - a swing and a miss? (A Work-Related Post)

GroupOn aims for the stars with "The Deals We Want our Grandkids to Remember Us For"

If you look at their email, I don't think they were successful, wouldn't you agree?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Week 12 (Final)

Sunday evening - This is getting easier to manage, closer to effortless. The biggest obstacle remaining is the sheer volume of stuff that I feel ought to get done. So just trying to do more to space out stuff that I might have been doing too frequently, making sure to look ahead to the next week and trying to just manage my own expectations. I do need to fold in (and schedule a major project) but not sure if this will be the week with a picnic each of the two weekend days (thankfully not here).

Completed TodayCompleted This WeekRemaining (including Repeating)
40264none (remaining already postponed)

Walk / RunMilesJumping JacksPush-UpsSit-Ups

Lose-It BudgetFoodExerciseNetUnder (Day)Under (Week)
1,658lotsa littleummm...doubtfulI should be


I don't think I could ever bring myself to the point of having a uniform, though I have tried to simplify my wardrobe. I still own too many different articles of clothing, but I've been trying to pare back. Better to have a few nice things that complement than a whole bunch of stuff and not know what works and doesn't until/unless Lori stops me on the way out the door.

But I did hear of a related concept that I've found quite interesting: Everyday Carry. This tip is about identifying the stuff you carry every day. And then, of course, having a place for it so that it's always there so you always know where it is. My dad had this really cool box that, when you lifted the lid, a tray lifted up as well and it had compartments underneath. Kind of like a tool box or tackle box. I have a yellowing Gladware plastic storage container. Nothing's supposed to go in that box except the EDC.

Obviously, EDC is popular with Lifehacker and probably Unclutterer. So without further ado, here's mine:

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Worth Repeating: Nick Veasey


Exposing the Invisible: Nick Veasey shows outsized X-ray images that reveal the otherworldly inner workings of familiar objects -- from the geometry of a wildflower to the anatomy of a Boeing 747. Producing these photos is dangerous and painstaking, but the reward is a superpower: looking at what the human eye can't see. More at

Why I'm Posting: This is so cool. Takes a lot of work, but some pretty neat images.

Friday, June 21, 2013

120: Random Quote

starting from Standard rules: 120 seconds of writing, no editing, proofreading, thinking or correcting (except for typos).
"The key is to commit crimes so confusing that police feel too stupid to even write a crime report about them."
-- Randy K. Milholland
It was so brilliant. It just made such perfect sense. And the guy's name was Randy, just like his. In an instant, Randy fell in love with the idea of a confusing crime. Of course, Randy might have plenty of time to plan his crime because Randy wasn't a brilliant man. In retrospect, having six burritos before robbing this house was a really bad idea and now as he sat there, reading the homeowner's Reader's Digest, he just hoped he'd be able to escape the house before police arrived. But for now, he was going to be there awhile.


Ok, fine, not my best, but it's been too long since I did a 120.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Good Morning

I am a real introvert. Or you could say that I practice that "Don't speak until you're spoken to" policy really well.

But I try at being engaging, being outgoing. I know it's a requirement for any sort of success in the workplace. But I'm amazed at how often an attempt at a greeting isn't met well.

I speak mostly of "Good morning!" or "Happy Wednesday!"

Listen, it isn't a question. I don't need "Well, it is Wednesday."

It's really more likely:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Feed Sift

Five things I that have caught my attention recently and I wanted to share.


"You don't have to pander," Seth Godin writes in a rather long post about, well, why you shouldn't.  Seth's usually pretty good at articulating common sense in a way that's very sharable and then from time to time, he rises far beyond.  This is one of those gems.


"Success is not magic. It is hard work." Shaun Nestor puts together a great indepth piece. Even if you skim the headlines and think "Yeah, I sort of already kind of know this sort of." it's a good refresher about doing the work outlining some specific tactics.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


The other day Ben was repeatedly opening and then slamming his door and I called up "Hey, what's with the all the banging, Dr. Slammydoorskins?" or something like that.

Rachel said "Why is he a doctor?"

I said "I don't know. Would you rather he be a professor?"

And she said "I don't know. Why do they need to be professional?"

I took that to mean "Why not an athlete or creative title?" and that was interesting to think about... the creative and sports community has failed to create easy titles to describe themselves.

It's not like people introduce themselves as "Pianist Schroeder B. Schultz" or "Painter Irene Adler" or "Cinemer Cary Grant" or "Tenista John McEnroe" the way you would "Detective Jim Brass," "Dr. Perry Cox," "Mayor Bloomberg" or "President Ronald Reagan." It's always "So-and-so, sport player" or "Award-winning actor so-and-so."

You could say they're not defined by a title, but on the other hand, it's harder to find something to hang the hat on.

(Ok, there seems to be a few like "Golfer" but then many say that's even barely a sport.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Delegation: A Recipe for Success (A Work- and Home-Related Post)

I had a lot of stuff to yesterday. Looking at everything, I realized that I couldn't do it all. I mean, that's the case every day, but I realized that if I delegated, I could become even more productive.

So I assigned the task to my daughter. We started with a clear understanding of success - in this case, banana bread. We both understood what it took to get there and I knew that I couldn't just send her on her merry way and think it would be done. But, by working together, I knew we could get there.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Week 11 (Sunday)

Sunday evening - as I continue to refine, I'm working towards making this blog posting obsolete - no longer needed to understand my week. I want to make sure I'm getting the right stuff done, but I also want to make the system simpler and simpler.  So I'll continue to try to figure out what I'm doing more frequently than necessary, what will get done (list or not) and how to make sure I'm getting the right big picture items done.

Friday evening - I haven't put forth a good effort this week. Not to say the system is failing, but that I failed the system. I do believe this is only temporary, that I'm still recovering from last weekend.

Thursday evening - today I tried to focus on the non-repeating items and get stuff off the list that woulnd't come back this week. And when all was said and done - 34 items completed. That will stop surprising me soon. That just seems to be about the amount I can handle in a day when there's nothing extraordinary.

Wednesday evening - poor sleep again last night so I slept in as long as possible this morning and did pretty much nothing before work. I still managed to check off a respectable 40 items today. I'm getting back on track. Feels good. Really really need a decent night's sleep.

Tuesday evening - another extra-ordinary day. I'll need to write about it shortly - two things - (1) my daughter's birthday and (2) I was a Watch DOGS (it's a bad acronym) at her school today and that was pretty rewarding. I thought that would mean I got done earlier and got some stuff done, but then when we got in the car to come home, it rained, so no going outside to mow lawns, instead playing card games inside with her, though in retrospect I wish I had been a little more focused on just her. I think two birthday parties this last weekend kind of made her birthday a little more anticlimactic than her mother and I would have liked in retrospect. So didn't do much today. No exercise and more bad-for-my-diet goodness. Tomorrow should be a more typical day, but until all the goodies are out of the house, I will remain - as always - in trouble.

Monday evening - Well, this week will entail some clean-up. I went off-script early Friday and didn't go anywhere near the cow all weekend. So back into Remember the Milk - looking at 196 more tasks this week and 36 completed today. That is right on trend. Almost uncanny.

Deleting the Cat

So ATAD (A Thing a Day) is all about removing clutter from one's life in the pursuit of simplification, right? One of today's things was removing Carol the cat from the Wii Fit Plus screen. It would remind me every so often that it has been a long time since she had done a weigh-in (to which I'd respond "that's because she's dead" to Lori's chagrin) and the Wii would also remind me on her birthday making me sad.

Review: The Passage (Update)

Update 07/16/2014 - sometime over the last year, I came to discover that The Passage is, in fact, part of a trilogy. When I originally read it in 2013, I thought looked and didn't find any mention of additional books, but the second was released in 2012 and the third scheduled for this year. I'm sure I looked. Either way, it was plausible based on the fact that it was 700+ pages long that this was an epic and that I didn't like the way it ended. But no, it was just the first hour of this three hour tour. Based on that, I plan to read book 2 and probably book 3. It also changes my opinion of the first book. If it's not the entire story, then it's a much more solid piece and it may invalidate my spoiler of a review below altogether.




Proceed at your own risk




Click here to proceed to the original review...

Review: The Passage (original)




I was so disappointed by The Passage by Justin Cronin that I'm going to massively spoil it here just to make sure there's no chance you'll think I missed something and decide you want to read it anyway. Don't do it. The Passage by Justin Cronin is a disappointment.

This must have been an Entertainment Weekly recommendation. I'm going to have to make better use of GoodReads and hope it doesn't fail me because Entertainment Weekly has just been mistake after mistake.

So I use our family's version of Netflix-for-books: I go on to the library's website and reserve them. When my wife goes to the library, she picks up all of the holds and any she doesn't recognize she assumes are mine and drops them on the bed.

So I knew I was in trouble when I got home and saw this 766 page behemoth making a big dent in the mattress. Especially when I opened it and realized it wasn't that long because it was large print or anything.  So I decided to give it 100 pages.  And at that point, I was invested. It didn't seem like a meanderer, and I felt invested, so I kept going.

But here's the deal... this book is long, this book is interesting any many points. The book is funny. The book is suspenseful. The book is well-detailed and the author has established a really compelling and plausible world. But the book could have stood to have an editor. Not a "comma here, mixed tense problem here" editor but a "cut this entire section" editor. Instead, I think the author wrote and wrote and wrote until one day he got bored. And then he was done writing.

Ok, here's your Cliff Notes for this book: It's about vampires. The characters go out of their way to call them smokes, dracs, virals. They make a point of not calling them vampires, even mentioning how some people wanted to but it was rare that they would.

The book has eleven parts and a post-script, each with a quote from Shakespeare or Katherine Anne Porter or Percy Bysshe Shelley - you know, it's all literarily superior and whatnot. I was so intent on the story that I usually breezed over them like commercials. (There was a period of time where I was devouring this book every free moment I could get, staying up late, carrying it around the house - I was quite hooked for a while.) Within the parts, chapters - 71 in all. Within the chapters, random breaks designated by the dots in a row you sometimes find in books.

The first section card includes "5-1 B.V." - later I figured out this must mean "years 5 through 1 - before virals" - though that's not maintained consistently (as a lot of the book takes time in realtime 100 years later) and never specifically explained it eventually becomes clear but it's one of those ones where it would have been nice to know sooner.

The story starts by introducing the character Amy to you on the day she was born. Her mother was a 19-year-old who made some bad choices and 15 pages later, Amy's 5, her mom's been a prostitute for a few years and the chapter ends as Amy is left at a convent because the mom's just killed someone. It's would probably win an award as a stand-alone short story. A nun from Sierra Leone with her one tortured backstory takes Amy under her wing.

The next chapter is a series of emails from a scientist on an expedition in Bolivia. It's a one-sided story, as if the emails were simply collected later. The scientist writes of the expedition deep into the wilds of Bolivia, a trip paid for by the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. He talks about the people on the trip, including soldiers who keep to themselves but don't see who they are, of the difficulties of getting a good satellite link-up to send emails and then challenge of the terrain itself. One email contains nothing, the next tells of an attack by swarms of bats. Some emails contain attachments - photos, but we don't get to see the photos, just the text. He describes statues and drawings of humanoid-like creatures with sharp teeth and long claws, muscular bodies. Maybe some of the photos contain shots of them. The bat attacks get worse to where nearly everyone is dead or very sick and injured and they call for an evacuation.

The next chapter is the story of a prison inmate. He has a very low IQ and life has dealt him some unfortunate blows. Ultimately (these bits and pieces are teased out) he is wrongly accused of murder and doesn't tell the truth - has trouble remembering the truth - and is on death row for it. One day while begging at the side of the road a distraught woman stops to give him some money and realizes she doesn't have any on her so she invites him into the car. She hires him to go gardening and lawn work and then arranges for all her rich, socialite friends to also employ him. She becomes his project. She is really nice to him but over time he sees her less and less. One day while out working, he finds a tiny little frog and calls over one of the children to show it to her but someone thinks he's up to no good (he's black, the family is white). Anyhow, the mom ends up coming out, her husband has left her, she jumps in the pool, he goes in after her, she hugs him but he can tell she's going to kill herself. He gets out of the pool and waits for the police and never gives up her secret that she killed herself.

Government agents come and ask him to be a part of a military project in exchange for his death sentence being commuted and he agrees.  Then the agents are told to go get the girl from the first story - she was dropped off on a Saturday at the convent, they have a window of time between then and Monday morning when CPS would pick her up that they can snatch her.

The agents snatch the girl while she's at the zoo with the nun and then a cross-country journey trying to bypass the DHS checkpoints all over the country (it is 2014 and... yeah... some things have changed). By now they're running from people looking for them for kidnapping the girl and from their employers because they're having second thoughts about what will happen to this child. They are arrested, saved by the book's only really flimsy character, a caricature of guns-blazing kill-everyone blow-up-cars-from-a-helicopter military guy - you know the types - the ones who seem able to do stuff like that but to read it, he comes across as flippant, paunchy, not likely to have done real military service himself - just some sadistic guy who likes killing people and who everyone else blindly follows without seemingly to care. Unrealistic.

Anyhow, they've been injecting these death row inmates with stuff extracted from the bats (and the people who got bit or scratched) on the expedition at this lab in the Colorado mountains. They had used homeless people before that but they all died. These death row inmates were healthier, so they didn't die, but they did still turn into those creatures who stayed in the shadows and ate rabbits by essentially shredding them and sucking up all the blood. They thought in this little six-year-old girl they had a new opportunity - they'd been refining the chemical mix and that she (and apparently all children)  have an organ in their body that ceases to function when they become adults. I can't find it in the book now but it's supposedly used in early development but becomes dormant by the time one becomes an adult. This is stated matter-of-factly, so I don't know if it's true outside the book or not, but it feels plausible. So yeah, she has the stuff in her body as well.

So all the people in the lab are plagued by nightmares and get poor sleep. Turns out these creatures are projecting the dreams onto the people. The nun who had taken Amy under her wing took off after Amy, being guided to Colorado and the lab. Is it God? Maybe. The book seems to walk along a tightrope smiling gleefully. So the nun shows up at the lab the same night the creatures - the virals - speak into their minds and tell them to open all the cages and free them.

The girl is saved but the virals kill most of the people in the complex, ripping them to shreds. The girl and one of the agents takes off and hides in the wilderness of Oregon. They learn of the fall of humanity in North America through a smaller and smaller and less frequently published USA Today when he travels down to a nearby town for supplies.

Next is a notice posted in the City of Philadelphia (2 A.V.) of a Notice of Evacuation for children between the ages of 4 and 13.

And then an except from a journal presented at "The Third Global Confernece on the North American Quarantine Period" at the University of New South Wales. The entry is undated, but the conference is held in 1003 A.V. The entry describes the young child's evacuation from Philadelphia by train to a walled compound in California near Palm Springs which remains well-lit at night by massive lights powered by the fields of turbines.

So by this point we're 250 pages in and we're up to about 92 A.V. and most of the rest of the book is in real-time from here.

We learn a lot about the inhabitants of this "colony" - another really well-defined world with its rules and way of life, little memory of a far more advanced world. Reading this and catching up on Revolution I've gotten a few things mixed the last few days trying to keep stuff straight. The compound includes a school building. All children live within the walls of the school until their 8th. birthday - their parents come to visit often, most at least nightly to tuck them in, but they live sheltered from the reality of the day-to-day existence in the colony. On their 8th. birthday they are taken out of the school to live with their parents and start training on whatever will be their job within the colony.  There's a fading belief that the Army will someday come back for them, but for now, they're self-sufficient.  But the batteries are starting to fail and people are starting to have the nightmares and the attacks by the virals seem to be becoming more coordinated and strategic.

The power station that's connected to the wind turbines is outside the wall of the compound and when the last maintenance group doesn't return, the main characters of the book are sent. They discover that the others had been lured out of the electrified fencing and one had been turned but the other hadn't. Before returning home they scout the nearby area for supplies, set fire to a nest of virals and flee through a shopping mall where one of the characters encounters a young girl who doesn't talk but leads him to safety. They return back to the compound and a few days later the young girl walks up to the gates and they let her in. Not before shooting her with a crossbow, thinking she was a viral. We learn this is Amy, having aged about 10 years in the past 100 years.

She miraculously heals and they discover that there's a tiny microchip implanted in her broadcasting a repeating radio signal that basically says that if she's found, she should be brought back to Colorado. And thus begins the expedition - to take her back to Colorado, to try to find help, to learn if the world has died or if there's some hope for them once the batteries fail. (And why the lights sometimes go out mysteriously at night allowing virals in - though we as readers know that people are sleep walking under the influence of the virals.)

So a long and dangerous journey, the first stop being a nearby military base which is buried underground and has solar power and water and MREs. Because it didn't have any people, the virals had no interest in it, so it's intact. The electrical engineer turns out to have a knack for something he's never encountered before - the modern combustion engine found in your military grade Humvee. He cobbles together a working one and they use it to advance further until they get to Las Vegas where they are separated and attacked and then rescued by a group of well-armed people who have a place called "Haven" located on the grounds of a nearby prison. Their fortifications are minimal, they have a number of working vehicles and they don't seem to get attacked. Oh, and there's few children, lots of pregnant women and you rarely see the people who live there. Soon enough our band of travelers discover that they are simply kept-people, this was the hometown of the most powerful of the original 12, the source of people's nightmares and he would return regularly to feast on cows and humans while people watched. In return for the food (very few humans and wild animals still remains, these creatures have been so efficient in wiping out everything) he protects the community.

One of their friends is offered up as a sacrifice and they go to save him and Amy goes face-to-face with the viral and tells him to leave them alone and he seems to back off - she's able to talk to them and they listen. (Turns out she's able to talk to the pre-viral human mind still trapped inside seeking its identity.)

They escape Haven and travel further towards Colorado in a train that the people of Haven had been working on for years and the electrical engineer fixed for them in a matter of hours.

They leave two people at a house because they're expecting a child and can't continue on. Some boring story about a dog. Some supernatural saves from the virals. Again... God? Not God? Ghost? Angel? Deus ex machina? Plot hole?

They come across a well stocked military outpost.  They separate, most staying with the military and the main guy and Amy heading to Colorado. The military stumbles upon a hidden mine shaft they'd been looking for, they kill a lot of virals and lose a lot of soldiers. They decide to go after the man and Amy to help them. They get to Colorado. The nun is living there in a small shack - the scientist had improved further on the strain that Amy had received - the nun couldn't talk to the other virals but she was now immortal. So now they are all smart about what happened originally from all the scientist's notes (he didn't make himself immortal) and they have a few injections they can use.

They have a plan to lure the big baddie to a bunker (NORAD?) and blow him up but then the nun tricks them and does it herself, dying in the process. Amy calls to all the virals he had turned and they come to her. She is able to speak to them telepathically and affirm each one's identity. Content in their identity, they lie down and are then vaporized by the sunlight.   A turning point, right? Now we know how to stop the virals - kill the head.  One down, 11 to go. Right?

The group again splits, one group heading with what's left of the military to a major base in Roswell, a city with over 30,000 human survivors. The smaller group goes back to the original colony (which is now empty).  Amy is seen embracing a viral and we learn that the agent who had first kidnapped her, then bonded with her and escaped with her and then cared for her - he hadn't died from radiation poisoning (from all the nuclear bombs dropped on major cities by the U.S. to try to kill off the virals) but had been turned himself. The viral is hugging her back and then is vaporized.

And then book ends.

But then there's a postscript. A bit of journal from another character from their first night back in Roswell. She's there with the couple who had the small baby in the house and she herself is pregnant and is going to tell the father-to-be that evening. And then she says she hears gunfire and is going to go see what's up.

And then a footnote to the journal entry that reads
Recovered at Roswell Site ("Roswell Massacre")

Wait... what? So Amy releases the viral/former agent and he dies after we thought he was dead for 100 years, most of the people have died just to round-trip back to the colony, 11 of the 12 viral "queen bees" are still "alive" and the promise of sanctuary and of new life in a baby and a pregnancy - they all got killed? What an incredibly unsatisfying story.

Oh, and I'm not really sure what "the passage" was unless it was the fruitless round-trip echoed so many times in the "they always go home" theme. (which was violated in several ways by the ending.)

Boo, Justin Cronin, boo! Don't read The Passage, people.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Worth Repeating: Elon Musk


Elon Musk: The mind behind Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity ... Entrepreneur Elon Musk is a man with many plans. The founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX sits down with TED curator Chris Anderson to share details about his visionary projects, which include a mass-marketed electric car, a solar energy leasing company and a fully reusable rocket. More on

Why I'm Posting: Um, like, duh. It's Elon Musk, the guy that Tony Stark begs for an autograph. (Disclaimer: I own a whopping 10 shares of Tesla.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Nicely done, Change

I saw the post on my wife's Facebook feed, signed the petition and shared it to my Facebook feed. And someone read it and signed it themselves.  It was effortless and the tracking wasn't creepy. This is a great follow-up email I received a few hours later.  Nicely done,

By the way, you should sign the petition, too. Kraft sells this same product in other countries without these unnecessary dyes (because they're banned). You're getting charged extra for food coloring (that's not good for you) and for what?

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I discovered something about myself today. It's probably not really new but it came to me in a way I could understand today.

I get excited about potential, about what could be. And if you promise me that it will happen, it is as if it has already will in the future have happened. That is, your word to me is an ironclad guarantee of a future event.

So when it doesn't happen, it's really difficult to shake off, it's really disappointing. And yet there are some people who do this very regularly and I take them at their word every time. Oh, sure, they try to say "It might not happen" or "No guarantees" but I ignore that part.

And then when it doesn't happen (it never happens), I'm disappointed all over again. I try to say I won't fall for it, but I do. And when it happens at work, it's especially disappointing because my particular style (the "nerd" articles from a few days helped me to understand this) is one that thrives on new. So when there's a promise of new, I get excited, only to get let down. And I become a little more disappointed.

I think I still have a strong work ethic and I think that these won't cause me to work any less hard, but in time, it does star to wear on me.

The kicker? I'm probably better off if nothing is said until it's a sure thing (and machinations are already under way) and it's a nice surprise.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Priorities (A Work-Related Post)

“Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.”

This was making the rounds a few months ago and at first blush, I was liking this. But the more I thought about it, the more it just didn't make sense to me. If you control every aspect of your life, perfect. You're a single self-made freelancer with clients waiting in line for a bit of your time.

But try telling that to your spouse, your child or your boss.

Sorry, the tried and true "I don't have time..." is the only thing that works. But, that's bringing a problem. Now, bring the solution (or bring them into the solutioneering) "...and I could use your help prioritizing. Here's what I'd propose:"

But yeah, I'm not going to tell you the thing you need me to do is not a priority or else you're not going to come to me in the future to help you or or advise you, and I've lost influence and opportunity.

Monday, June 10, 2013

I'm... Listening (A Work-Related Post)

So, first... go check your business' "Contact Us" digital "Contact Us" mechanism - probably a form or an email address. I'll wait.

If you don't have a digital "Contact Us" mechanism, go ahead and stop reading now, this post isn't for you. You're welcome to come back when you've got one. (Or, as a shortcut, here's what yours should be.)

But first.... a story. We had a plumbing leak recently. We called American Home Shield. They assigned a local plumbing company who sent out a guy. Long story short, the leak was minor, diagnosed quickly, fixed quickly, the plumber they sent was a really nice guy. Sometimes you get people out on an American Home Shield call that are disgruntled that they're getting the AHS-negotiated rate and not their normal rate, or the assumption that you're stupid or something. But this guy was solid.

I went to the plumbing company's website, they had a form you could fill out. I complimented the plumber and said I'd keep that company in mind for future non-AHS plumbing and ac-work. Never. heard. back.

I also went to the American Home Shield website and used their Contact Us form to compliment the vendor and plumber. They had a sort of general thank you form message back to me in less than a day.


Not good enough.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Trains and Streams

Sundays are when I usually post reviews of books, but I'm still working on the latest, The Passage by Justin Cronin.  I was groanin' when Lori brought this home from the library, apparently another Entertainment Weekly recommendation, a nearly-800 page gorilla of a book.  But, I'm somewhere south or north of 500. Pages, that is. And it's still keeping my interest. It is an interesting book and I hope it turns out well. But I still don't know what "The Passage" is. So far, the weakest part seems to be the title.  Or a single flimsy character, now long dead. But I have one theory of what it could be and if there were the case, I'd be quite ticked off. But I don't think it can be that.

I used to post sermon notes from church on Sundays, but two things happened. First, we learned that Ben wasn't able to attend two nursery services, he didn't have the strength/stamina and was getting mean, so no more attending both services. I felt like the sermons were so rich that it needed two hearings to capture everything. Also, they changed the sermon notes so there were fewer blanks to fill in and less space overall to fill with notes. Three things - because they also changed the order of the service itself. Now, instead of doing most of the singing before the sermon, it's after.  I really don't like it. First, that's less that Ben can experience before I take him to the nursery - he loves the loud music and just closes his eyes and rocks like crazy. Second, we enter the sermon lower than if we'd done a lot of singing - it was like the singing got us really amped up before the sermon but now we're not on that high - and so when the sermon is over you expect it to be done but instead there's all these songs.  And for me that's just extremely intellectually frustrating because I want to talk about what I just heard, not sing some tangentially relevant songs. They might be supremely relevant, but I attach a lot of personal meta-data to songs. I hear a song and I flash back to the point in my life when I heard it a lot or what I was thinking the last time I heard it. And if that wasn't church, that kind of rips me right out of the church service. Worse yet, I sit there thinking about how I want to talk to Lori about what I just heard and what it means and did I hear it correctly and what does she think but instead I'm forced to sit or stand there in my own little bubble singing, trying to worship God while feeling frustrated as I try to hold on to the thoughts slowly seeping away. I guess when the sermon was at the end, noisy children in the car could also disrupt an shared intellectual dive into what we'd just learned, but those were temporary interruptions and we often used to go out to eat afterwards and could talk further with each other or with the larger group.

Week 10 (Sunday)

Week of June 3-9

Sunday - two days of birthday parties and a day home from work totally wreaked havoc on well-laid plans.  Throw in a really good book and all hope is lost.  I kid, of course, well-laid plans would have factored in for those as best as one could.  I don't count it all as loss, I learned some good stuff in my efforts to simplify this process.  I want to be able to plan my week, but I want to have a reasonable understanding of what success will look like.  Prior to this week, if I did something twice in a day, I would count it twice.  Run two loads through the washing machine, to items done.  No matter that it would have appeared only once on my list to start with.  This week, no such thing.  Do "25 jj/10 pu/10 su" twice, that's still only checked off the list once.

So, lesson #1 - I can reasonably expect to get 35 items done per day.  If I have 30 daily items, though, that means very little forward progress.  Need to see if I can reduce the frequency of some items I think I need to do daily.

Lesson #2 - It truly is important to consult an up-to-date calendar.  I didn't and figured I was fine. When I did later look at the calendar, the parties weren't on there.

Lesson #3 - consistency is key. When consistency isn't available, plan for the minimum and be pleasantly surprised when anything gets done.

Lesson #4 - don't abandon the to-do list altogether. By Saturday I wasn't consulting it anymore and didn't cross off much.

Lesson #5 - downtime is important. I'm into a book 500 of 760 pages. It seems slightly meandering but it's still reading really well. Moderation is probably necessary.

Lesson #6 - my diet has ZERO CHANCE of success being around family members who eat bulk foods and need help being fed and aren't on a diet.

Thursday night - end of my work week. I didn't plan for a weekend of parties, but then I also didn't plan for not being at work on Friday or Lori having her own list of stuff for me to do tomorrow. There's a part of me that's tempted to put it all in Remember the Milk, but I think laziness will win out. Postponing some car cleaning, shaving and reading. Got a lot done today, though. One thing was doing stuff before work that didn't repeat - like vacuuming the living room.

Monday: 54 completed
Tuesday: 38 completed
Wednesday: 35 completed
Thursday: 32 completed (14 postponed)
Friday: 50 
Saturday: 35
Sunday: 86 (Week: 171; Completed: 158)

Wednesday night - better night sleep, but haven't fully recovered. Despite all that, did not get a lot done off my list. Not really sure why.  What wasn't done were cleaning tasks, reading tasks, routine tasks.

Tuesday night - crummy sleep again last night. I told people at work if it's bad again tonight that I'm calling in sick tomorrow. I slept in as late as possible and also had a really long day at work and didn't get out on time. I left a lot of things undone on my list. The financial ones I'm postponing to Saturday which is the next time I'm working on budgeting. Way under my calories today. Yay. 70 emails (yikes) and 141 feedly and 1 TED Talks.

Monday: 54 completed
Tuesday: 38 completed (15 postponed)
Wednesday: 50 items
Thursday: 22
Friday: 5
Saturday: 29
Sunday: 82 (Week: 91 complete and 188 remaining)

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Worth Repeating: Beau Lotto


Optical Illusions Show How We See - Beau Lotto's color games puzzle your vision, but they also spotlight what you can't normally see: how your brain works. This fun, first-hand look at your own versatile sense of sight reveals how evolution tints your perception of what's really out there. (More on

Why I Posted - This is just fun and clever.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Call Me a Nerd

I was quite flattered when +Amy Carrigan (look, my first Google+ tag in a blog post. ooh. yawn) posted an article called "Managing Nerds" on Facebook and then tagged me suggesting

"I think you know most of this, but might be an interesting read anyway."

I was blown away by what I read. As not only a manager of nerds, but also a nerd myself, I found myself learning stuff about myself and things that I need by those managing me as well as stuff that could help me as an employee, husband and manager. A quote came to mind and I went to Google to verify the exact wording and was most pleased to find the exact quote on YouTube. Isn't the internet awesome?

So I read the article, jumped to another, and another, and another. Fas-cin-a-ting. So now, subscribed to the blog and if I have time, will have to do some more reading in the backlog. These are fascinating reads.
  1. The Nerd Handbook
  2. The Cave
  3. Managing Nerds
  4. Bored People Quit
  5. My Name is James and I Have NADD (Nerd Attention Deficit Disorder)

Wednesday, June 05, 2013


Our family has gotten poor sleep for so many nights now I've lost track.  It used to be that I could get by with 5.  Now, I need at least six.  Having gotten less than six for so many days now, I struggled yesterday and said if it wasn't any better that night (last night) then I'd be calling in sick today.  In the end, sleep was good last night and I went to work. Between the heat, a 2.8 mile run in the middle of the day and the previous bad sleep, I was dragging a bit by the end of the day and had to apologize for blinking my way through some 1:1's. I wasn't cranky and didn't feel argumentative, but I was still quite tired. Am quite tired.

Rachel's always had trouble with sleep - often preferring to stay up if she woke up, even if it was 11 or 12 at night. At first, she'd wake us and we'd have fights about her going back to bed. Eventually I'd just turn her light out and go back to bed and she'd turn it back on and play or read. Then she finally realized that if she didn't wake us, she could avoid all of that and by the time she was found out, it would typically be time to get up anyhow. Her trip to the ER was after a night of staying up playing instead of sleeping, though she blames the school's blind corner on the playground and not a increased reaction time due to sleepiness as the reason she collided with the other boy, breaking his tooth and getting a forehead full of stiches.

Ben's been seeming to have much trouble with sleep lately. He had been doing pretty well, to the point that we had transitioned him to his bed. Until that night in November when he stayed up all night playing and then collapsed the next day from sheer exhaustion, causing four seizures, a visit to two ERs, an ambulance ride and a new diagnosis. Thankfully we've been seizure-free since, but any time he's awake in the middle of the night, I forget all about the medication and simply am just stressed out to no end, deathly afraid it's going to cause another seizure.

So when the children can't sleep, I can't sleep. Sometimes I go downstairs and sleep on the couch, but often it takes me awhile to fall back asleep, needing to turn on music but it doesn't always drown out his shrieks of joy (I don't know what lying in a crib in near darkness can be found to be funny.)

So Ben was asleep by about 7:30, but less than 90 minutes later, he's awake again. I'm concerned we're in for a rough night.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Perk Me (A Work-Related Post)

Are you taking care of your employees? A paycheck is nice, but could you be doing more?

We hear stories of free food, ultimate frisbee pitches, Segways, foos ball tables and dog walkers, private shuttles, loaner bicycles, etc., etc., etc. - but it's true... we can't all be Google.  We're not rolling in the green, our shareholders might not like it, or we're not in it for the money and our donors or benefactors might not like to see us feeding everyone lunch every day.

But if you think about it, we ask people to work every day during the prime hours. Sure, the kids are in school, but these are the same hours as the banks, doctors, dentists, car repair, etc.

So often when life crops up, we see our staff distracted, or even missing work to take care of things.  That's not good for them and not good for us.  Even if they make up the time or they're hourly and they go off the clock, it means that they're not available for meetings or phone calls, you might wait longer to hear back from them and don't even get me started about switching costs.

But if you demand the prime waking hours of your staff, isn't it possible that you can help make their lives a little easier?  Here are some examples (some I've seen, some I'm just making up on the spot with no idea as to their overall feasibility).  If you're a small shop, you might co-op with other small businesses for effectiveness.

Monday, June 03, 2013


It seems like China could deal a blow to America and consumerism by simply creating a law banning Chinese companies from producing products that feature American themes.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Week 9 (Final)

Week of May 27-June 2

Exercise: Jumping Jacks: 500 [goal: 500] // Push-ups: 180 [goal: 200] // Situps: 180 [goal:200]

Saturday, June 2 - Last night I had other plans and didn't get online. The week is done. I had to postpone a lot of stuff. I actually need to plan for less on weekends, not more. I got 8 of the 9 items I wanted to get done completed. Also didn't get all the jumping jacks and pushups and situps. 

RTM - Completed Today: 58 // Completed This Week: 343

Email: 39 (Inbox: 20; Later: 19) // Feedly - 3 // TED Talks - zero

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Worth Repeating: John Wooden


The Difference Between Winning and Succeeding - With profound simplicity, Coach John Wooden redefines success and urges us all to pursue the best in ourselves. In this inspiring talk he shares the advice he gave his players at UCLA, quotes poetry and remembers his father's wisdom. (More on

Why I'm Posting - I've heard of John Wooden, but I hadn't actually heard him speak before I saw this talk. What, what a phenomenal human being.