Friday, February 28, 2014

Feed Sift (02/28)

Five things I saw recently and wanted to share.


Dilbert - he needs to be careful, he's starting to sound Like A Boss.


Nix Tape: 10 Closed & Abandoned Blockbuster Stores - a beautiful article with glorious photos. (No love lost for my former employer and this outdated technology.)


Say it loud and say it first - Southwest, Delta and United Airlines in for a win. (Yes, I did say United.) Remember, first-mover advantage still works when it comes to marketing and PR.


T-Mobile's 'Mobile Money' blends prepaid Visa cards and no-fee checking features - fascinating... a bank for the bank-less.


Including Teens with Special Needs – The Challenge - I like the thought behind this.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Ladder Fallacy (A Work-Related Post)

We have been taught to climb the ladder from a very early age. The last two churches we attended even called the seasonal Sunday School class changes "Promotion Sunday."

In school, we go from grade to grade. The ascent is slightly predictable... each year a new grade. Rare is the child who takes longer or who climbs quicker, both are outliers, if not outcasts. When you get to college, you have a little more control, but more-or-less, 2 or 4 years and it's on to the next thing.

It was the thing to do, right? Or at least I thought so.

Of course, that was before I entered the workforce professionally. At my first company, I was hire #1, there from the beginning, we met in my apartment before we had office space. Next, a little more corporate, a little more established. I was hired in as part of a team and it wasn't long before I was responsible for the team. I didn't exactly know what I was doing and my boss wasn't too thrilled I was having team meetings without her.

After that, a volunteer gig turned into a contracting gig turned into a nearly-full-time job turned into a full-time-job. I didn't have staff, but there were a few volunteers, one of them really dedicated, working for me. After that, my current job. For awhile there, it seemed like I was getting called into a conference pretty regularly and given more authority and a better title and more money.

And then it stopped.

Attempts to take matters into my own hands and make big plays for what I thought was the next thing failed miserably. I got moved around, helped in a number of areas, righted some ships, navigated some different leadership opportunities, but it was all on paper, no title change, no change in pay beyond the yearly increases (when we had them) and occasionally a summer bonus (though there's been a draught there, too, lately).

If you've been with me, you know April last year was extremely hard on me. I was marginalized, passed over for a position I was sure was mine and my boss' boss who had often previously sought my opinion on things was now rarely coming to me with questions. And when he did, it was more of a punch in the gut. "Hey, James - I need your opinion on something," he said one day, "where should your new boss sit?" I didn't know if I was going to still be working there, but I looked at my options and felt the struggle within the known was more appealing than the complete unknown (and undoubtedly longer commute).

Fortunately, that proved to be the right move. Things improved, my new boss was infinitely more qualified than I was for the role and he inherited all kinds of really complex headaches. Now, to be sure, I have my share of headaches, but I'm grateful they're nothing like his. (Plus, he has me on his team and I'm a pretty good guy to have around.)

And then I read Guy Kawasaki's Enchanted (my review) and Cal Newport's So Good They Can't Ignore You (my review) and I started to realize trying to climb the ladder was only making me unhappy. Why not, I thought, just be happy where I am?

Why not, indeed?

Suddenly, everything changed. Or possibly changed back. While I was getting regularly called into conference rooms, I wasn't being ambitious, I was just working hard. When I stopped getting called into conference rooms and started trying to make my own ladders, that's when I started to get discouraged.

Depending on how you look at the stats, 1/3 to 1/2 of my life is in my rearview mirror. I've probably got about 20-25 more years of punching a time clock ahead of me. We can't all be CEO. And if we're all gunning for the CEO's job, there's going to be lots and lots of disappointed people. Besides, if the headaches my boss has are any indication, they only get worse the higher you get.

So, not that I don't want a promotion, not that I won't be ready at some point to take on the types of headaches my boss deals with, but I'm better served to, as they say, "bloom where I'm planted." Get really good at what I do - get really smart about the technology, get a lot of practice managing, take a serious look at the areas I could improve, work to improve them, and most of all, make sure that when I leave work each day that I'm satisfied - that I did a good job, that my team is moving in the right direction and that the absolutely most important things in life are actually still ahead of me at home: my family.

And you know what? People can see the difference, they've said so. And I changes the way I manage and lead my team and I'm pretty sure I'm seeing a difference there already as well.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

False Advertising @TysonFoods

You'd think there would be a disclaimer.

100% is a pretty specific claim. And from my own research, it's invalid. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Fighting the Gray Cube Walls (A Work-Related Post)

One of my co-workers went on vacation right after Christmas so her decorations stayed up a little longer than most. Another co-worker looked at the wrapping paper, observed that it would be good for Valentine's Day and that she had an idea, could she use the space?

So she made a sign

A little envelope, a pen and some cut-out hearts and we're off...

And what do we think love is?

Our office is full of gray walls. And when something does go up on the wall, it had some meaning to someone at the time it was added, but sadly, stuff will stay there two or three years and never be updated.

This was timely, fun and I'm sure it'll be gone before too long. There wasn't as many as I would have expected, but serious kudos to my co-workers for making something fun and challenging us to be creative.

What kinds of ways could you liven up your office?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Week 46 & 47 (Final)

Sunday evening (final) - So if I want to complete 200 a week, then completing 316 in two weeks isn't really all that great. Ah, well, such is life. I ended the week well and prepared for the next.

Saturday evening - I got a lot done. An interesting day - started with making everyone pancakes, heavy snow (that didn't stick), coffee that mostly didn't get consumed (the stupid filter tipped over and there was grounds in it and it was weak and bitter), a movie that was too loud for me and then a rush at the end of the day when we realized that there was some stuff we needed to do before tomorrow that we didn't have on our radar. All in all, a really nice day at home. A huge number of items checked off, but quite a few still undone. That's what happens when you keep pushing it forward like a bulldozer. With a few things scheduled for tomorrow, it should be a light end to the week and a light start to the new week.

Friday evening - I actually don't think I'm getting back on track. Maybe tomorrow I'll knock it out of the park. Or maybe life's changed. But I've got this giant to do list each day and except keeping the cats fed, I'm really not getting a lot done. That said, I've actually been getting home from work earlier and spending more time with my family and I've been rocking it at work (if I do say so myself) so maybe the to do list isn't as important yet. Or maybe it is and I'll get back to it.

Tuesday evening - getting back on track. Trying to recover my to do list and get stuff done. Got out of the office earlier tonight (but not as early as I thought I was going to). Also got to bed earlier last night, got up earlier this morning and got some walking in before work. Spent some time tonight trying to figure out why Lori's laptop is having issues.

Monday evening (a week later) - So... it's been a week and then some. There's been a power outage, many sleepless nights (one of them at a hospital), missed work, and more. So, trying to get back on track.

Monday evening - So very, very tired. Bad night of poor sleep again. Over the years I've amassed single shares of crummy stocks as companies spun apart. Sold a bunch of those today. Some for a gain, some for a loss, but all in the name of simplifying. Yay, simplifying.

This week:
  • Goal: 200 items
  • Sunday: 30 completed, 6 items postponed
  • Monday: 30 completed, 8 items postponed
Sunday evening - they never plowed our street. We could see a plowed street from our house, but the steep incline of our driveway plus the steep incline of our street... we stayed home this morning. But, they streamed service - that was kinda cool. Later I scraped our driveway and made a pyramid and a Sphinx in the side yard. Now it's raining so that should take care of the street.

    Book Review: Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals

    Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals: A Practical Daily Use Handbook for Parents and Teachers by Angie Voss

    I bought this book for Lori for Christmas off her wish list. It's part of the Amazon Matchbook so I was able to download it for the Kindle as well for free, that was kinda nice.

    This is a pretty dense book that covers a lot of the behaviors you'll see in children (and adults) with Sensory Issues. For each, there's some information about why a particular issue or behavior and then some suggestions on ways to accommodate, address, divert or support a particular behavior. Sometimes the behavior is an emerging skill you want to encourage but other times, it's a behavior you want to curb. In some cases, the behavior may be embarrassing to you, but it's part of who they are and the author says to let them have it, and I really appreciated that.

    I'm not sure the best way to use this book - possibly a reference guide for looking up specific behaviors or traits. Since I had it on the Kindle, I just read it through from cover-to-cover. Occasionally the author uses a term that seems specific to her. I don't want to say "invented" but it's not a common term. I found this out when I went to research it on Google and the top links were to her website. In some ways, I was surprised she didn't mention her website more, but that's probably better than the flipside of aggressively hawking you website. (If this were re-printed, I'd probably recommend adding the URL to the footer where it's unobtrusive, but handily standing by.)

    I also discovered reading through it that a lot of the tactics are similar. I don't think that's a bad thing, but it's interesting to note. Also, not all are appropriate for all children. For some, your child will need to be verbal or understand the objectives. She describes one called "bubble mountain" which involves blowing into a pan of soapy water with a straw. Our child would probably try to drink the water. He hasn't mastered the straw, but he sees his sister using a straw to drink, so his first inclination would be to try to draw up the water, rather than blow slowly in the attempt to create an ever-growing mountain of bubbles.

    One thing that really struck me was that she says you shouldn't do hand-over-hand that it isn't helpful and is possibly harmful but I didn't think her explanation was satisfying. Same with tickling - she was very much against it. But for us, it's something he enjoys and also the safest and most consistent way of distracting him when he's being angry and lashing out at us.

    There was also a behavior or two we've seen in our child that was never addressed in the book. I would expect it's common (but rarely discussed amongst parents) but it never came up in this book.

    All-in-all, it was a helpful look at all the different types of sensory issues our kiddos deal with and how lucky we are that our child is so willing to engage us and how there's so many typical sensory issues that our child doesn't suffer from. Also, it explained some quirks my wife and I wouldn't have otherwise noticed about ourselves and definitely some traits our daughter exhibits that we would have never guessed were sensory issues otherwise. It's probably a handy little guide to get and hang on to if you parent or teach or work with someone who has sensory issues.

    Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals: A Practical Daily Use Handbook for Parents and Teachers (

    Friday, February 21, 2014

    Feed Sift (02/21)

    Here's a few things I wanted to share. (A few items are a little less fresh than usual, but still interesting.)


    Seattle City Council updated on Seawall Project - new maps and artists concepts


    Dilbert - why ambition doesn't pay


    Why is Bertha stuck? WSDOT's 5 levels of tunnel-drilling hell - turns out it was scenarios 1, 2 and 3. Ouch.


    Amazon is thinking about shipping you packages you haven't ordered yet - Amazon's patent application details pre-staging items close to you that they think you'll buy so that you can get them quicker. (23 hours already seems pretty quick for a carton of air filters for our furnace. If they're ringing our doorbell minutes after we place an order, maybe they'd like to open up the furnace and just install the filter?)


    Street Smart: Intelligent Motion-Activated Outdoor Lighting - *really cool*.

    Monday, February 17, 2014

    Guest Post: Recently in the hospital...

    We were back in the hospital recently. Here's Lori's recap of what happened.
    It's awful when you have to see your child in a hospital bed. But it's worse when it was your own carelessness that put them there. Read more on Last Person Blogging...
    I know this was a difficult post for her to write. There are always lessons we can learn, but sometimes you just think something is obvious or it couldn't happen to you. It did, so please at least take away from this that things do happen and one can never let their guard down. (Use this as a cautionary tale and learn from it.)

    Sunday, February 16, 2014

    Book Review: So Good They Can't Ignore You

    So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport

    This book, recommended by my friend and former colleague Amy is a really solid book. I think if I had read it a month earlier, it might have been my 2013 Christmas gift to my staff instead of Enchantment (Review). Right off the bat, you'll be taken in by this book... no one wants to be ignored, everyone wants to be awesome and it feels like a bit of "I can do it." It doesn't hurt that its cover is probably designed to make you recall "Good to Great" (surprised they didn't call it "So Great They Can't Ignore You."

    The basic premise is that if you want to succeed at work (or whatever), you need to work. He has four basic rules that he explores:

    Rule #1: Don't Follow Your Passion - he argues that "passion" is dangerous, giving examples of people who failed because they followed their passion without doing the due-dilligence, the research, the planning. True "passion" stories, he argues are the result of time, mastery and a good alignment with natural abilities and knowing what they want and sometimes good timing. Stories that seem like someone following their passion to success are actually long stories, not overnight successes.

    Rule #2: Be So Good They Can't Ignore You (The Importance of Skill) - he recalls Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000 hours" theory but suggests it's not just doing the work, but pushing yourself. An example of a guitar player who didn't just practice hours each day, but practiced complex pieces, pushing himself to be faster and faster. It was difficult work, there was a lot of failure, but in the end, there was a mastery. He argues for becoming a craftsman and that you can then turn that into "career capital" that allows you more control over your future. But you don't start out that way. You need to pay your dues. You need to learn from those who have already been there, you need to work on your skills and recognize that at the start, you lack power/control, that it comes in time, it's earned.

    Rule #3: Turn Down a Promotion (The Importance of Control) - I love this rule, I was learning this on my own just about the time I was reading this book and Enchantment. I think many of us have this notion that you must always be climbing the corporate ladder. If you're not being regularly promoted, something's wrong. (This is probably also because a promotion equals a larger paycheck and our family's budget is supremely tight.) But after not getting the last promotion and seeing all the problems the guy who got the job has had to deal with - I'm kinda glad I didn't get the job. What I came to realize is that I had more power, more control, fewer hassles in my current role. Why try for a new role with all new challenges, stress and chances to make mistakes? Why not just get better and better at my current job and make it into a more enjoyable, less stressful environment? He talks more about this "career capital" - as you get more valuable, you have more control over your career (one example is someone who negotiates for a 30-hour week so they have time to pursue other interests) but how the more valuable you are, the more employers will do to try to retain you / control you. He speaks of "control traps" and how to identify and avoid them.

    Rule #4: Think Small, Act Big - Whether you're plotting out an entire path or just trying to go in a general direction, he speaks of "missions" - first, they require capital, whether that's time, money or autonomy/control; second, they need "little bets" - small efforts that quickly pay off or fail (both are foundational, you can learn from and build on the results) and lastly, they require marketing. Like Enchantment, the book reminds that you are responsible for marketing yourself, your abilities, your success. Otherwise, you're leaving it to interpretation or someone else's spin. No, you must take You, Inc. and be responsible for making sure people see the consistent, authentic vision of who you are and where you're going.

    I like his summaries of each rule but it's a little folksy. It doesn't take away from the learnings, but I just didn't care for it. Until the end of the book - that kind of personal dialogue worked when he explains how he was able to apply his rules in his own life with regards to a couple of potential directions he was considering in his own career.

    I think this is a solid book with good advice, simple enough that you can read once and internalize enough to set you off in a better direction if you agree with the basic premise that you shouldn't be ignored and the best way to avoid being ignored is to just be so good you stand-out. (That definitely resonates with me.)

    So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love (

    Saturday, February 15, 2014

    Worth Repeating: Marco Annunziata (@marcoannunziata)


    Marco Annunziata - Welcome to the age of the industrial internet: Everyone's talking about the "Internet of Things," but what exactly does that mean for our future? In this thoughtful talk, economist Marco Annunziata looks at how technology is transforming the industrial sector... (More on

    Why I'm Posting: This kind of stuff is exciting, systems becoming smarter and more resilient. Fits right in to the type of work we're doing now - trying to make our website and its systems able to successfully navigate failure, proactively try to avoid failure and more accurately seek out help when failure occurs.

    Friday, February 14, 2014

    Feed Sift (02/14)

    From around the web, five things I wanted to highlight.


    Make People Feel Good About Themselves with Two Questions - asking a question about an area of a person's life that they have control over increases the positivity of the answer to a question about their happiness.


    Olympia’s Whacked Out Transportation Priorities (Part 2) - the graphs alone are a clear indication of how politicians can get out of alignment with the desire of those they represent.


    Virtual & Reality: 15 New York City Data Visualizations - making neat pictures, graphis and maps from data about New York City


    The Top 10 Grammar Mistakes to Avoid Making - Just stop it already.


    How Terrible Does Your Life Have To Be To Get 'Mandatory' Weekends?​ - how is "checking your email" *not* work? Yikes.

    Wednesday, February 12, 2014


    I've been plagued recently with the "Indexing" problem on my Ford Sync. That's the one where no matter what you do, the screen says it's indexing and won't talk to you. Well, you can talk to her but all she says is "Indexing" like she's channeling Eve from WALL-E.

    I thought there must be a way around it. I tried the MASTER RESET. I tried the FACTORY DEFAULT RESET. Neither worked. Why do they even have that reset? (Why do they have two resets?)

    I thought "This is a Microsoft Product. There must be some super-secret key-combination like VOLUME-BAND-REPEAT to restart the computer." Couldn't find one.

    Pulled the fuse. (Siri was also no help.) Didn't help.

    Tried another iPod. Oddly enough, the iPod was five years older than the car but as soon as I plugged it in, a Ford logo appeared on the screen. Cute trick. No luck. I thought about making a USB key with only a single song on it but that was a level of effort I didn't want to make.

    Finally, I gave in. Finally I did what everyone else said you had to do. I disconnected the black lead from the battery for the entire car and waited a minute or so. Then reconnected, bolted it back in place, got back in the car and viola, problem solved.

    So now I know. Like everyone else on the internet already figured out, the only way to successfully solve the Indexing problem with a Ford Sync is to disconnect the battery. Sad.

    True story.

    Tuesday, February 11, 2014

    Apple vs. Google #onejob

    Siri, you are no help at all. 
    You get an F.
    (You had one job, Siri. One job.)

    Thanks, Google - a video and everything. 

    Sunday, February 09, 2014

    Week 45 (Final)

    Sunday (final) - I've not been very consistent this week. It could mean that I'm doing other things I think are more important. Might be true. Friday date night, and yesterday the iPad workshop and a movie afternoon with the family and then snow. Not that those are excuses, just interesting things. I've been working on decreasing the amount of email I receive and the number of Feedly feeds. I also reduced the number of keys on my keychain by quite a few which is cool. I've also decided I'm not going to get to a month-end summary for January. That ship as sailed. Speaking of snow, I took down the blue and green (Seahawks) lights from the tree out front (it has white lights year round) and replaced them with red ones for Valentine's Day. I worried that people might think it was a candy cane. And then it snowed. So now it totally looks like a candy cane.

    This week:
    • Week 45: 161 completed (43 pushed to next week)
    • Sunday: 34 completed (10 postponed)
    • Monday: 28 completed (7 postponed)
    • Tuesday: 16 completed
    • Wednesday: 10 completed
    • Thursday: 27 completed (7 postponed)
    • Friday: No items recorded. I'm sure I fed the cats and stuff, but didn't check it off.
    • Saturday: 20 completed
    • Sunday: 26 completed
    • Nice to have: 27 16 15 items
    • Reading: Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals, Fast Company Nov. 2013, Speechless: Finding God's Grace in My Son's Autism
    • Feedly: 27 6 19 181 28; Email: 24 26 43 81 50

    Thursday evening - The last couple of days have been difficult. Yesterday I had events in the morning and middle of the day that messed with my schedule. And then in the evening Ben was sick. Today we had power outages (plural!) that messed with stuff. And there've been some sleep issues recently. So I've kind of bombed this week as far as getting stuff done.

    Monday evening - The children had poor sleep. One of them impacted my sleep. I also impacted my sleep by not trying harder to go back to sleep when I woke up. So all my good intentions went out the window and I slept in until the last minute. Got quite a bit done anyhow. Went over my calories because it was way too cold to walk and there's still birthday cake. Birthday cake!

    Sunday evening - I actually wasn't going to watch the game. I figured trying to stream it wouldn't work well. But it did, streamed it on two computers (one with the sound off) while Rachel was watching Netflix downstairs and I also had ESPN's GameCast going on - which is a really cool feature. Anyhow,  But the game was fun, especially everyone cracking jokes on Facebook. After the game was over, I signed off of Facebook, taking a break. Need to restart this blog. I noticed a few minutes ago that it has gotten 99,988 views. (And I can't go on Facebook and try to drum up a few quick hits, darn it all.) Because I was caught up in the game, I didn't get to everything I wanted to today. Almost all of it. And some other stuff.

    Sunday afternoon (prep) - Slowly but surely the system is being optimized. Very little work necessary to get the list prepped for this week, which is good. I want to use it to help me get the right stuff done, but I don't want to waste time on the list itself.

      Book Review: Takedown Twenty (@janetevanovich)

      Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich

      Lori brought home W is for Wasted (Completed/Review) and Takedown Twenty from the library at the same time and asked which one I wanted to read first. I took one look at the size of W is for Wasted and grabbed that one first. I'm glad I did.

      So here's the deal... both are about female protagonists, both are formulaic series, both are meant to entertain. 23 in for Grafton and 20 in for Evanovich, one of them still understands this, one of them doesn't. And as you can tell from my review last week, Grafton doesn't.

      In the latest outing, Stephanie Plum and her gang of cohorts haunt their usual hangouts in Trenton, the Burg and Stark Street. All the predictable elements are there... Joe and Ranger trying to seduce her, Lula makes bad life choices, crazy grandma is crazy, things happen to cars, Stephanie's got money problems and foiling her attempts at bond enforcement. But you know what? The characters have also grown and developed. While Stephanie still has some embarrassing failures, you'd like her to be better by now, she's a little better. She does a few things right, even though she still screws up plenty. She's also taken a much more mature stance towards the men in her life. The adult love-triangle is still there, but the author's toned it down and there's hints that Stephanie might be starting to be more respectful of the men in her life and possibly even close to making a choice. (Read: it's less tawdry than some past books.)

      While this one also violates Pixar #19, it's more acceptable because the subject matter doesn't ask you to set the bar as high - it's not a serious tome like W, it's still a light-hearted romp, you're much more willing to forgive a little deux ex machina in the name of a guilty pleasure.

      Complete with a giraffe roaming the streets that no one seems to notice.

      Takedown Twenty (

      Saturday, February 08, 2014

      Worth Repeating: Sandra Aamodt


      Sandra Aamodt - Why Dieting Doesn't Usually Work - In the US, 80% of girls have been on a diet by the time they're 10 years old. In this honest, raw talk, neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt uses her personal story to frame an important lesson about how our brains manage our bodies, as she explores the science behind why dieting not only doesn't work, but is likely to do more harm than good. Read more on

      Why I'm Posting This: We have a "set point" (range) our body is trying to return to. That will rise if we're overweight for any length of time, but it doesn't lower if we lose weight. Really interesting. I once told a doctor I was stuck at my default weight and he didn't bat an eye. Now I wonder if I was on to something. Of course, I have dropped weight since then and I feel stuck there but I'm still determined to lower it a little more.

      iPhone Theft-Deterrent Lock Screen

      This is what I see now when I turn on my iPhone. On Monday I hope to confuse some of my friends in the IT department who don't read this blog.

      Friday, February 07, 2014

      Feed Sift (02/07)

      Five things I wanted to share from around the web...


      Simple Year in Review - I liked the design of the 2013 recap from Simple Bank, a great bank*.


      7 New Year’s Resolutions I Wish Facebook Would Make - from Social Fixer, an extension everyone should install if they use Facebook, it makes Facebook better.


      NASA shows off a squishy robot rover that could land on Titan (video) - this is just so odd I can't explain it - you kind of have to watch it to understand it


      What's Attention Worth? - another good quick reminder from Seth Godin


      SkyCycle: London Concept Takes Biking to New Heights - could cut travel time down for bikes, be safer, and get more cars off the road. (Unless you choke on the exhaust of the trains below you?)

      (*I totally recommend this bank. This link will tell them I sent you. I don't get paid, but it would be interesting to know if anyone joined because of me.)

      Thursday, February 06, 2014

      Car Insurance is a pain.

      We've been on a money-saving kick lately, dropping the land line, replacing satellite TV with online services, trying to see if we'll be able to go to a smaller trash can after Christmas, stuff like that.

      So we wondered if we could get cheaper car insurance, since everyone advertises it. While getting a quote has gotten easier, sort of, it's still not as easy as one would expect. I was surprised (or weirded out) that with a few pieces of personal info, they were able to tell me what cars I currently own.

      GEICO - the quote may have been cheaper, but it zeroed out a bunch of coverage we currently have. Their system lets you customize (so we could compare apples-to-apples with our current insurance) but after I'd change an option, it would break and refuse the load the page. I finally gave up. I get emails every few days from GEICO telling me to "Buy Now" - it doesn't reference the original quote with any specific details (or the cost) and it doesn't invite me back to review my quote, just the hard sell "Buy Now." I had tweeted my experience that night and they didn't respond.

      MetroMile - their site doesn't seem to have been fully tested in Chrome as it occasionally glitches. A confusing near-last step ended up with them asking me for a credit card. I thought I was still waiting for the official final quote, but apparently that's supposed to come by email. That email never arrived. I'm going to do the test-drive thing where they send you a small device to plug into your OBD-II port in the car and track your driving habits, but I'm pretty sure they're not competitive. I tweeted my experience and they tweeted inviting me to call them and they also did call and leave a voicemail.

      esurance/Allstate - this website broke part-way through the process and I was never able to complete. I never returned to the site.  I tweeted my experience and they invited me to call them.

      Liberty Mutual - I'm currently a customer for another product. Their form was by far the most onerous (no auto-lookup) so I thought if I signed in that would save some time. Surprisingly, there's no marketing inside their portal, I'll probably make a separate post about that. At one point in the process when you hit submit the screen refreshes with an error message asking me to find the marked field and fix the error. But there are no marked fields. I tweeted about this. They tweeted back inviting me to call them. They ultimately turned my info over to a local agent who emailed me and left me a voicemail.

      Based on what I was able to see, this is one place I won't be able to save any money. It's weird, I should feel good - that I've already been getting the best possible rates on car insurance (yay, USAA!), instead I felt bad that I couldn't squeeze any more money out of the process. (I tried to flip the tactic and see if I could save money on my homeowner's insurance but USAA can't beat Liberty Mutual.)

      So my experience is that buying car insurance online isn't as foolproof as it ought to be. This is somewhat of a commodity product but computer glitches and a model that's still biased towards talking to people on the phone mean it's not so cut-and-dried.

      Why not talk to a person? When you talk to a salesperson, you're at a disadvantage:

      (1) Talking to a person, you want to get it over with quicker, either because you want to respect someone's time, or like me, any real-time interaction is nerve-wracking because I'm such an introvert.

      (2) A salesperson sells for a living. I don't buy for a living. So they have the advantage.

      (3) I can't easily compare and try out different options when they have the screen in front of them and I can't see their screen.

      So I'll stick with my current car insurance provider, USAA. Confident no one can beat their rates, before we even factor in the annual dividend. Oh, and yesterday they just offered me 5% off to help them with a research study - they want me to plug in one of those devices into one of my cars.

      Wednesday, February 05, 2014

      Fighting Non-Compliance (A #Parenting-Related Post)

      We regularly deal with opposition. That's what happens when you combine the legendary Parks stubbornness with the equally legendary Lamb stubbornness. So many things that should be easy become a battle.

      We have a "Must Do" list. Getting everything done on a day nets 50 cents and the opportunity to do paid "May Dos" . Do it 7 days in a row and everything doubles in value, even the past days. I think our best is a 10 or 11 day streak.  Turns out money isn't the right incentive, even if there's a lot of stuff she wants. (Plus, why should she spend her money - shouldn't we buy it with our money?)

      I have found a few tactics that do help, but I don't always think to use them consistently.

      Small Wins

      Every so often I'll ask for patently, nay, stupidly simple requests for assistance, typically in the form of a favor. Something that there's no way she can say no to, something that's not going to take her away from her task for very long. Earlier today I was in the laundry room loading the washing machine and I had closed the door to the upstairs. I realized it made it more difficult to hear Ben in his room, so I called up to her and asked her to open the door for me so I could hear Ben better. She did and it gave me an opportunity to thank her multiple times, when she did it, when I came back upstairs and then a few minutes later as if I had absentmindedly forgotten. She liked the praise and it helped me to ask for a bigger favor a little bit later (priming the pump, if you will).

      Aborted (Fake) Requests

      I started to ask for a second favor and then thought better of it. But I had already started to ask. So then when I thought better of it, I said "On second thought, never mind. I can take care of this myself." She thought she had gotten out of having to do something for me and if necessary, I could use that later.


      Sometimes she'll lock herself in her room and play and play and play. LEGOs, Littlest Pet Shop, coloring. We still haven't convinced her of the "If I put it away when I'm done with it, there's never anything to put away." So instead we're stuck with the Must Do "Put away 50 items" - pick up any 50 things in her room and put them where they belong. It doesn't keep her room clean, but it stems the tide. This morning I asked her to do 10, she did 12. I asked her to do another 10, and she did. Then I asked her to do the rest and she did, plus 18 extra.

      Make it Easier

      One of her responsibilities is taking down the laundry and sorting it into the bins under the washer and dryer. On weekends, depending on how much there is, I may just say that it's fine to sort it onto the floor or just dump it in one big pile for me to sort.

      Give and Take

      Sometimes, I might need to do something but I'm waiting for her to complete a step first. Say I want to run laundry but the laundry hasn't been taken down yet. In the past, I might have asked her to do it and it might lead to a battle where it doesn't get done at all or where it takes forever and no one's happy. I've come to learn that sometimes it's just easier and quicker to do it myself. If I end up doing it because she refuses, she doesn't get credit. But if I just do it (without asking) then she still gets credit and often I can use that to get some other concession out of her later.

      Sometimes, Failure

      Of course, there's still plenty of times where it doesn't work. We hit a brick wall. It doesn't get done, or we have to to it ourselves, or we have to negotiate, cajole, harass or force as the issue requires. Some things just must be done and they aren't things we can do ourselves. And that's never fun. But whenever I can remember these tactics above, I'm able to avoid some of that and get necessary things done with less unpleasantness.

      Would love to hear your tactics in the comments below.

      Tuesday, February 04, 2014


      You did it! 

      100,000 page views on my blog.


       Thank you.

      Interesting that so many came in September of last year. Not exactly sure why. But I'm grateful for all the traffic I received last year as a result of being cross-promoted for months on a leadership blog to their Twitter audience and for the residual traffic I got from being part of the Blog-A-Day in January 2013.

      I'm honored that you stop by and read my humble (and often non-sensical) words and to those who follow my feed. I know I kind of neglected the blog in January, but I'm starting to put some new stuff up again.


      Monday, February 03, 2014


      I'm going to take a social media vacation. I'm going to remove some apps from my phone. I was thinking about blocking them altogether with a "time waster preventer" extension in Chrome, but I do still want to wish people Happy Birthday, I think that's kinda important.

      But, yeah, I'm going to take a break. Facebook has pretty much ruined Facebook.

      It's time to simplify. Not that I don't care about the lives of my friends, but that's not what Facebook shows me anymore.

      So instead, I'll be paying more attention to my blog. It'll post to Facebook and Twitter, but it'll be on auto-pilot. If I do come up with anything I think is just so brilliant that the world would be deprived were I not to post it, I'll use Hootsuite and schedule it. That'll keep me away from it.

      I won't completely be cut-off, I'll be notified of tags and comments and stuff like that. And I'll still have the number one most used social media on the planet: email.

      P.S. Facebook, please bring back the running list of everything.

      My idea is just to produce a running tally of everything. Allow me to mark things as read, allow me to mute conversations, but just show me everything. People and brands I interact with often would be full-size, with images. The less I interact with them, the smaller the font and the lighter color the font. Eventually, someone I rarely interact with would get a

      Freddy Facebook updated their status. 

      in a really faint font. I'd have to actually click on it to see it. That's how you could measure engagement. If I kept expanding their links, you could start making them bigger and eventually show them automatically. Same with people I never comment on or like the status of, their future posts get smaller and smaller until they end up in tinyville. The best part? Because it's everything, I'll scan it quickly. Even the ads you insert.

      Sunday, February 02, 2014

      Week 44 (Final)

      Sunday (final) - Nice to be back on track. Finished out the week well. Due to a change I made at the start of the week, there's also nothing carrying over. Everything I wanted to do for this week is done, and a new week starts later today.

      This week:
      • Week 44: 228 completed
      • Sunday: 38 completed (17 postponed)
      • Monday: 23 completed (13 postponed)
      • Tuesday: 29 completed (9 postponed)
      • Wednesday: 23 completed (10 postponed)
      • Thursday: 24 completed (13 postponed)
      • Friday: 44 completed (15 postponed)
      • Saturday: 38 completed (15 postponed)
      • Sunday: 9 completed
      • Reading: Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals, Fast Company Nov. 2013
      • Inbox: 48 53 48 36 61 38 29; Feedly: 213 185 150 100 115 80 26

      Saturday evening - Happy Birthday, me. Or as my daughter sang this morning "Happy Birthday to you... Happy Birthday to you... wait... what comes next?" When we posted that on Facebook someone responded "cake. cake comes next." The children seem to not like birthdays as they didn't do well this evening. Better than their behavior at Lori's, but still not great. Lori made Bierocks, salad with a really good homemade dressing and German mashed potatoes with bacon. Cake was a very yummy Cinnamon Roll Bundt Cake - light, less sweet than typical cakes (which was fine by me) and really really tasty.  Some fun gifts - a photo book of Seattle from the children and from Lori a bar of some really good smelling soap with coffee and orange in it - looks really high end - I mean soap in its own box that doesn't have the word "Dial" imprinted in it - nice and two cool books - one a writing idea book - each page has one or two starter ideas and then lines to write, the other a five-year journal diary type thing - it has a page a day and then at the top of the page it has something like "What made you sad today?" or "What's your mission for tomorrow?" and then a space to write the year and then two lines to quickly jot an answer. That way, in five years, you've got a whole bunch of interesting answers to interesting questions.  And a gift certificate to Home Depot that gets me closer to the door I want to buy to install in the garage. Also, the book I'm reading on sensory signals is fascinating. Learning so much about Ben, but also Rachel and even Lori and I.
      Friday evening - Nice quiet lazy day at home. And Menchies. We got it to go. Prevented Ben from having any problems. Definitely the way to go. Still need to write a end-of-month recap. Maybe tomorrow. Or not. Not sure how much I'll actually do tomorrow.

      Thursday - End of my work week. Hello, long weekend. Coffee and watching the rain.

      Wednesday evening - I've woken up early today and yesterday. It's been really nice, a chance to spend some time with my family before work. Busy day at work today, but aren't they all? One of these days I need to do some email again.

      Tuesday evening - All day long I've been sure it's Wednesday. I kept being surprised all over again to find out it was only Tuesday. I got up earlier this morning which meant more time with my family before work. Which was good because I got stuck at work and got home late and had less time with them after work.  Only a little less. But it was packed in that I probably only saw Ben for about 40 minutes, but it was long enough for him to eat with us, sit on the potty, play a little and get all ready for bed including Bible singing (that's where I read from the Bible but with made up melodies instead of just reading it monotone). It was a good day at work and now I'm wrapping up the day listening to heavy rain outside. Yay rain. Getting closer to a blog post. At the very least, there will be one on Saturday.

      Monday evening - I wish I had gotten more done. I suppose I got a few big things done and one thing not on my list - adding blue and green lights to the "fancy" tree out front that normally has white lights on it year 'round. Did you see? The Empire State Building is also lit blue and green tonight. Woo! Had a nice night with family and those aren't things you put on the to do list. Also a good day at work today. It felt heavy during parts of the first half of the day, except when I was onboarding a new employee. I have it down to a pretty good science. Maybe I should write a blog post about it. I need to write a blog post soon. I feel really bad about going so long without writing, it's finally starting to bug me.
        Sunday evening - Got a lot done today. Did 75 minutes of free step. We went to McDonalds for lunch today. I've been enjoying meals together as a family and I thought if we went to McDonalds we could hang out and if Ben had problems (he didn't) he wouldn't be out of place. It was a nice time and a nice afternoon.

        Sunday afternoon (prep) - Time to try again - I wonder if I should have restarted my numbering with the new year. Oh well, for now it's fine. Why keep track of tasks like this? Helps me keep everything under control. If I need to remember something, hold down the phone and when Siri beeps I say "Remind me to..." and then it's on the list. And then I don't have to think about it anymore. By planning out a week in advance, I have a better chance of keeping the priority stuff priority. I didn't do much to look at my schedule for the week to see if I should adjust any days but for now it's at least good to have a list, keeping with the goal of keeping things simpler.

          Book Review: W is for Wasted

          W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

          Sue Grafton has grown bored of the Kinsey Millhone character. This book, weighing in at a hefty 484 pages contains a bibliography of no less than seven non-fiction books at the end. Why? Because it tackles homelessness, clinical trials and medical malpractice. It also traverses southern and central California, straying outside the bubble of the fake seaside down of Santa Theresa for Lompoc (at least in name) and Bakersfield - making the whole fake town even more awkward. The whole time, Kinsey remains unchanged. Yes, 23 books in Kinsey still cuts her hair with fingernail scissors and owns a single black dress she uses for all occasions but otherwise keeps stored in a crumpled up ball. Sure, someone gets a cat, but it's not Kinsey and that's not enough to change this book that otherwise seems to be trapped in time.

          It's about 127 pages in - almost to chapter 11 where it finally feels like "Ah... the prologue is over, now the book begins." In addition to lots of research that allows Grafton to weave a complicated storyline, another plot device is used - the dreaded flashback. The story starts with two deaths. For one, the death is the beginning of the story, the reason for his death being Kinsey's to uncover. The other, the reasons are told through flashbacks, up until the point the two stories collide.

          Unfortunately, once again Pixar rule #19 is violated: "Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating." This happens a lot in these types of books and it's not a big crime, there's much else to complain about, but you'd think 23 books in a story would be thought-out well enough to avoid such a cheat. This is supposed to be a really sharp private eye, though by her actions you have to wonder about her mental state, her need for rigid order, her awkwardness/standoffishness towards others, her inability to bond. It's explained away by upbringing, but you wonder why the author wrote the character this way and what's going to happen three books from now when we reach Z.

          The book also tries to weave in a social or political commentary on homelessness while creating homeless characters who are all caricatures or hulking voiceless scam artists and purveyors of violence.

          I'll keep reading the rest of the Millhone series, but it's really disappointing to see such a complete lack of growth after so long. I'd love to see the next book contain a bibliography about character growth and development.

          W is for Wasted (