Saturday, November 29, 2014

Book Review: Power - Why Some People Have it and Others Don't @JeffreyPfeffer

Power: Why Some People Have it and Others Don't by Jeffrey Pfeffer

Once again, I find myself at a book that I ended up reading just at the right time in my life when I needed it. I wish I had read it a decade ago, but I might not have been as receptive. I just recently left an organization that highly prized, nay, demanded collaboration. "For the good of the organization" was drilled into you. Do good and you will be rewarded, probably now and certainly in the life to come. Yes, we were a Christian organization believing we were doing the work of God. Probably were. But certain unhealthy ways of thinking had crept in over the decades and, well, I'm still under contract not to say much about that until at least next February.

The premise of this book is that no one else is looking out for you - you need to create environment within which you can be successful in both the large and small things. This ties in nicely with The 10x Rule (My Review) - relentlessly push forward. It may, at times, feel selfish, but no one else is going to do it for you. And as much as people say they may have hierarchy and politics, they are a part of the modern office and if you want to get ahead, you must learn to play them. This is the ultimate "bring me solutions, not problems" - only in this case, you're both the sender and receiver - you make your success or you do not have success. No time for what's blocking you, all your effort needs to be going where you're unblocked, even if that's at some other job. More than ever, we are Human Resources, not people.

Harsh, but true.

I don't see a need to belabor the point. I would recommend this book to people at any point in their careers. I would especially recommend it to people who have felt left behind or people who are by nature introverts. Some people are happy to be left alone to put their heads down and work. But if you're feeling any discontent or frustration or watching anyone else get ahead because they "play the game" - guess what, you need to play it, too.

In the end, the author shows a scientific, statistically-controlled correlation because those with people and those who felt powerless and mortality rates - that without power, you will also die sooner.

Power: Why Some People Have It-and Others Don't (Amazon)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Staying Home

Save a bunch of money today? Perhaps you might want to donate some of it to a charity to help others.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Quote: Plan

We plan for today, imagine vacations next month and never consider eternity.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Quote: Rules

If we sign-up for the Marines, we expect to follow their rules. They own you. 
If we sign-up for heaven, why do we still think we can make the rules?

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Great email from @RokuPlayer

Ordered another Roku last night. Got a chuckle from the emailed receipt.

However since we were purchasing our second Roku, they already knew everything about us (name, address, credit card info, email address)... why did I have to enter it all over again?

For less than the cost of one month of cable (plus Netflix, Hulu Plus and/or Amazon Prime), these little boxes are a great way to get most of what you can get from cable.  (I am in no way financially incentivized to promote Roku, I just really like them. I'd put an Amazon link for credit but they cost almost twice as much on Amazon.)

Since we cut the cable over a year ago now, there's very little we haven't been able to find via Roku or online. (If you have a newer TV, all you need is an HDMI and know where to look. If you have older TVs like ours (or an older laptop without HDMI out), you need an VGA to RCA adapter instead of an HDMI cable.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Feed Sift (Nov. 7, 2014)

Hello, Friday! Here's the latest collection of things I wanted to share.


ENGADGET -- A look at how 'Jurassic Park' and its CGI dinosaurs changed cinema




KEN LEVINE -- My Latest Rant


WEB URBANIST -- Dancing Traffic Signal Makes Crossing the Street More Fun (and safer)


LIFEHACKER -- Bake the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies by Knowing What to Tweak


SETH GODIN -- Learning from the State Department


XKCD -- Lightsaber


HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW -- 5 Tips for New Team Leaders


WBEZ -- Why Buses Arrive in Bunches


YOUTUBE -- First-Person Hyperlapse Videos - it's a little bit technical, but it's interesting how they're using software to create reality that never existed. Not just sped-up footage, but what would appear to be photos that were never actually taken.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Help! My Portfolio Sucks! Or does it...?

I recently read an article on A List Apart called Help! My Portfolio Sucks! I thought it was a great piece, but I didn't think it went far enough.

The submitter wrote to say that they were unhappy with some of the work in their portfolio - that what the client wanted wasn't as awesome as what they would have done if they had full control. Or, that as the web got cooler, some of the older pieces started to look stale or outdated (they'd no longer impress).  The response noted that you don't have to include every piece in your portfolio and that if necessary, you could also do some side projects to show off your skills, even if they weren't for a client.

They touched on it briefly, but I think that they didn't speak enough about context. One would presume that no matter how you personally felt about the work, that you were pleasing your clients. If not, that's a bigger issue.

But if the clients were happy, then you were successful, even if you were unhappy with the final outcome yourself.

And this is where context comes into play. The work itself should not stand alone. You aren't marketing the client and you aren't hoping that you can make the sale by simply pointing to your past work and asking your clients to figure it out.

No, you're asking the prospective client to embark on a journey with you, hopefully one that will last over multiple engagements.  You're only successful when they're successful, it's easier to retain a client than acquire a new one, etc., etc., etc.

So you take these pieces of your portfolio and you give your new prospective clients perspective. Here's what the client asked for, here's how I delivered and here's how I went above and beyond.  If we were to do a future phase to this work, here's what I would encourage the customer to consider.

Show that you can deliver. Or to put it another way, even if the customer wants a pizza with anchovies and only cheese on half, even if that disgusts you and all the other customers, you can still make a great pizza and tell the story of how happy the customer was when you delivered exactly what they ordered, even taking the time to make sure the crust was evenly golden all the way around.

This isn't about them and it isn't even about the work. It's about your ability to deliver.

I like how this company, Rational Interaction (portfolio) sets each page up with a common structure: here's the challenge, here's how we applied our approach, here's the results.  It's easy for a new prospective client to imagine how RI would go about solving their problem.  (I have no connection to RI.)

So get out there and sell yourself.

Quote: Different Life

Today, how would your life look different if you weren't a Christian?

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Book Review: Outcasts (Safe Lands #2)

Outcasts (Safe Lands #2) by

Review by ()

I usually review books much quicker after I've read them, but some stuff kind of derailed me temporarily. So even though I read Outcasts a little while ago now, I'm just getting to the review. But the time since the read has given me time to think. I've decided not to continue this series.

In the first book, Captives (my review) we have these two groups of people: people inside a large, walled community partying like it's 2049 and people outside the walls partying like it's 1849. Inside - monorails, skyscrapers, virtual tattoos. Outside, the farm life: butter churning, town meetin's and, well, for some reason, ATVs. Bad guys, good guys. Modern progressive free-wheeling, rustic rural living-off-the-land Christians. Most of the world is dead from a plague and, in fact, the people inside the walled community are dying as well. So they kidnap the people outside the walls who aren't sick, hoping that they will help produce new humans to save the good lifers from a slow extinction.

Of course, the outsiders don't want to be inside. They had plenty of opportunities to come in on their own, but it wasn't the life for them. But now, they're here by force and they don't aim to stay. So book two follows their efforts to escape, including connecting with rebels within the walled community.

Where the first book really played on the Christian theme, the second book starts with it almost noticeably absenst - as if someone said "hey, lay off the Bible verses already." Eventually they pick it back up, but it's secondary to the tale of this group and their desire to flee the city. As I've had more time to think about it, it just doesn't feel legitimate - that after multiple generations of barn raisings, that they fit in far too easily into the new world. My grandmother is nearly 100 years old. In the last 100 years, she's been witness to a lot of technological advances but there are some portions of modern technology and culture that she doesn't have an interest in learning about, they are not approachable, perhaps even foreign. Even if she understands the concepts, she wouldn't see the value in becoming proficient with some aspects of modernity. Now these people have been living in this manner for multiple generations - only one man in the community knew what life was like before the plague and he died in the first book. It just feels implausible that these 15-20somethings who have lost their parents (and the one formerly-surviving elder) can really assimilate this quickly into the modern world, but somehow they do. Oh, and at one point one wears a suit made of screens so that he can move around, seemingly invisible. Like this, only apparently much better:

Yeah, it was too much. I'm leaving the series here, I won't continue on to book three.

Captives (My Review,

Outcasts (

Saturday, November 01, 2014


Why on earth is NaNoWriMo in November? I'd love to try it, but life is too hard anyhow. But then to do it right as we're ramping up to Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Crazy.  And then some.

That's what I liked about Lindsey and Katrina's Blog-a-Day a few years ago - it was January.  It was tough, but the timing was great - by writing every day in January, it put me on a path to write every day that year.

But write a novel now? Nope. I'd probably write about a guy on a desert island who does nothing day after day but lay in the underbrush hiding from passing boats and planes.