Friday, June 30, 2017

Toastmaster Questions: Music Theme

Here's some questions around the theme of music. I used most of these at our recent Toastmasters meeting.

  1. A movie about your life is currently the reigning champ at the box office.
  2. After people see the movie, they're going to want the soundtrack. What songs, artists or genres will they be listening to?
  3. What kind of music do you listen to when you're feeling sad to either feed the melancholy or beat the blues?
  4. What's a genre of music you can't stand?
  5. What kind of music do you listen to when you're feeling happy, pumped or on top of the world?
  6. If I found your phone and launched iTunes or Pandora or Spotify, what genre or song would I probably likely hear?
  7. Tell us about a song that makes you feel nostalgic about a previous chapter in your life?
  8. What's your theme song?
  9. Audio Daily Double: Play short clip, ask speaker to describe how it makes them feel.
  10. Tell us about an earworm that has recently plagued you.
  11. You end up at a Billboard Music Awards after-party and someone busts out Karaoke. A duet is announced and you're pushed on stage. Which celebrity in attendance (they're all here) do ask to join you?
  12. What does "the classics" mean to you?
  13. Have you ever made a mix tape for someone? What did you put on it?
  14. What instrument do you think it would be interesting to learn to play? What's keeping you from learning?

I was ready to be offended if anyone called the '80s "the classics" but the guy who answered the question plunged the knife in and then really twisted it when he called music from the '90s "the classics." *sigh* Ok, I get it. I'm old.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Amazing Animations

I came across an email in my inbox from a year ago.  I had been looking up some examples of animation in mobile UI for some project.  I was surprised at how well these have held up - how great some of these animations still look.  For these first three, I only had the URLs for the images, not the pages they came from, sorry.




Plus, here's a whole gallery of great animated mobile UI.  Even after over a year, these still feel fresh and relevant and in some cases, futuristic (and not just because some project out of the device).

Sunday, May 28, 2017

What is User-Generated Marketing (UGM)?


User-Generated Marketing, or UGM, is when your customer (or aspirational future customer) advertises your product without any reciprocation. You haven't promised them anything in return - you're not paying them, you're not giving them entries into a contest, there's no affiliate scheme, they're simply painting your product in a positive light and helping others to be confident in their choice to purchase out of the goodness of their heart.

In its simplest form, UGM is simple Word-of-Mouth (WOM) - your customer raves about you on Yelp! or Amazon reviews because they had a great experience and they want others to know about it. (Sure, they may be helping to improve their reputation on the particular platform where they've left the review, but it's not a direct tangible reward or it's an outcome for an accurate review, not necessarily a positive one.)

UGM differs from User-Generated Content (UGC) because whereas UGC shows your product in use (whether it's a video game or a grill), UGM is more about motivating others to make a purchase as well.

There are practical steps you can do to foster UGM - whether it's including your logo on a sticker with the product, or offering up a link in your email that generates a Tweet or Facebook post with some suggested wording or an image.  It could be offering up Memes or animated GIFs that people enjoy sharing.

But, there's one thing you must do more than anything else to turn your customers into an extension of your marketing department. It's not easy, but it's something you must do, something that will set you apart in a big way from those who don't.

Ready?

Be awesome. Sounds easy, right? It's not.

It's the day-in, day-out focus on surprising and delighting your customers, of anticipating their needs, of having the solutions they need before they even know they need them. It's a commitment to identifying and addressing problems quickly and having values that will support making the tough decisions. It's about being willing to admit when you made a mistake and being open about how you're going to work to avoid those mistakes in the future.

It's about avoiding cutting corners. Doing the right thing, every time. Following the rules not simply to avoid penalty, but because you want to be above reproach. Going above and beyond when the rules or laws are aren't sufficient to truly protect your customers, your employees, your company's future.

It's about empowering your employees to represent you well, and rewarding them when they do so. It's about creating a culture that cares - because when employees feel loved, they will be more loving.

It's about being personable.

When you truly are awesome, it will be impossible to keep your customers from telling the world.

Like this article? Please share on Twitter.

(cross-posted to Linkedin)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A Few Recent Things...

3 Simple Strategies for Motivating Your Tech Team -- In a tight job market, these tactics can make your tech workers want to stay. (Inc.)

Driven to Success: Getting Inspiration from Plumbers -- Folks in their own service vans know as much about startups as we do at my high-tech outfit. (Inc.)

Monday, May 22, 2017

The guy on the train...

It's been 11 months since I moved to L.A. and started using public transportation for my commute. My previous commute was - get out of bed, turn on the coffee maker, grab the laptop and find some place to sit.  But, my employer made it clear that wasn't going to be the permanent working arrangement - I think they wanted me to show up in person more often than the few days a month when they'd fly me down and put me up in a hotel.

Why track this?

Partially curiosity, partially an attempt to refine it and squeeze out every second that I could to make the commute as short as possible.  This isn't meant to be an exhaustive examination of the system, just my tiny slice of daily travel on a much larger, complicated and busy system.

My commute:
  1. Walk to bus stop
  2. Drive Take bus to North Hollywood Red Line Station
  3. Red Line to 7MC
  4. Expo to Santa Monica
  5. Breeze Bikeshare to work
From Burbank to Santa Monica
  • average: 1h, 39m
  • best: 1h, 25m (12/19 - dwells under 2 minutes)
  • worst: 1h, 57m (not counting my "bus" phase - tie: 5/11 - Expo had to wait to go around broken train; 9/21 - 18 minute wait between Red and Expo) 
  • best days: Monday and Friday
  • worst day: Wednesday
From Santa Monica to Burbank
  • average: 1h, 45m
  • best: 1h, 28m (7/14 - super fast bike ride and no wait for Expo, feels like a fluke or bad reporting)
  • worst: 2h, 40m (9/14 - includes a 104m Expo leg. I think this is when the train died and I jumped off and took a Lyft to 7MC)
  • worst days: Tuesday and Wednesday
  • best day: Monday
Red - NoHo to 7MC, AM (usually depart at 6:28)
  • 170 runs tracked
  • Fastest: 20.27
  • Slowest: 33.82
  • Median: 23.58
  • Average: 23.78
Red - 7MC to NoHo, PM (varies)
  • 166 runs tracked
  • Fastest: 19.58
  • Slowest: 60.07
  • Median: 23.80
  • Average: 24.32
Expo - 7MC to 26th/Bergamot, AM (varies)
  • 170 runs tracked
  • Fastest: 35.63
  • Slowest: 67.05
  • Median: 42.58
  • Average: 43.10
Expo - 26th/Bergamot to 7MC, PM (varies)
  • 166 runs
  • Fastest: 40.13
  • Slowest: 104.95 (may have been the one where we jumped from the stalled train on the embankment near Palms and walked down to the street and called Lyfts and Ubers.) 
  • Median: 47.57
  • Average: 49.10
So, what have I learned after almost a year of commuting?

June 2016 to May 2017 (with much of January missing for some reason)
from left to right:
Burbank to Santa Monica,
Santa Monica to Burbank,
morning averages (reds were the bus era),
evening averages (we're pretty close to the best it's been yet),
overall averages (doing pretty good),
day of week rankings.


Morning and Evening averages (oldest on left)

1. The bus is so not worth it
As much as I liked the exercise, it added too much to walk to the nearest bus stop and then wait for the bus. I could never figure out how to predict its arrival time and finally decided it was easier to drive and I could stop buying the monthly pass and instead rely on loaded fare.

2. I can beat the train in the morning, but I can't beat it in the afternoon.  
I can get to the office in under an hour, driving, and I've done it a few times and it's been somewhat magical to experience different parts of L.A.  But in the afternoons, driving in L.A. is horrid.  If I could stay in the office every night until 9, then the drive only takes 20-25 minutes.  If I had a self-driving car, I'd have it drive me to the office and then send it home and take the train home.

3. The Breeze Bikeshare is crucial
If they decide to stop offering this, I'll probably have to find a new job.

4. Things got better after the Expo got more frequent
Lots of time was lost waiting at 7MC.  Now it's usually less than a 3 minute dwell from when I exit the Red.

5. It's hard tracking all this stuff.
It got easier once I started using Toggl.  Before that, it was difficult keeping track of when I departed. I missed a lot of January for some reason. Google Sheets is awesome for aggregating, summarizing and color-coding. I suspect the older numbers are a little less reliable, as I add more it'll even out. Of course, I'll be the first to recognize that the trains are running every 5 or 6 minutes so these stats are but a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny slice of what goes on.

6. The dwells are key.
I know when to leave in the morning, but I'm still trying to figure out what time to leave in the afternoon. But, the bike leg is less predictable so not sure if I'll ever be able to get that down to a science. But when I zoom out far enough, it's the dwell columns (red headings) that have the widest red/green variance.

7. Some things are predictable
The Red Line takes 23 minutes. It's brilliant. Maybe someone holds a door, but the precision is amazing.  The morning Expo is pretty predictable.

8. Some things aren't so predictable
I seem to often arrive at the Santa Monica station just as a train is pulling up, but I still have to return the bike, go up the platform, TAP in, so I usually miss the train there.  DTLA is unpredictable. Sometimes my Expo rides are in the low 40s, but other times there's so many stop lights and it can be 10, 15 or 20 minutes longer.

9. Things have gotten better
Last summer, lots of Expo train failures and quite a few Red failures. It's possible some of this will come back in the hotter summer months.

10. On average, DTLA isn't as bad
The key word there is "average" - on average, it's only 6 minutes slower in the evening for me than it is in the morning. It can be speedy in the evenings, but it can also drag on and on.  Thank goodness for Netflix allowing you to download shows.

11. It's worth it
Parking plus the train each way plus the annual membership for Breeze Bike Share costs less than the amount my company pays me for not parking in the business park parking lot. Plus, instead of sitting in traffic, I can watch movies, read email, write blogs, and when the Expo is really quiet, pull out my laptop and get some work done.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Jamey Kay Peterson (Aug. 19, 1997 - May 5, 2017)

Jamey and I found ourselves in a KFC one night and despite both being cat lovers for some reason we decided that their new product Popcorn Chicken was actually made from cat instead of chicken. Every time I'd put a piece in my mouth I'd meow. Jamey was almost hysterical with laughter. We must have been so annoying to the other customers.

Jamey passed away last week. I picture her in heaven, reclining against her sister Josey while Josey runs her fingers through Jamey's hair.

not actually Josey and Jamey

Friday, May 05, 2017

irregardless definition

ir·re·gard·less
/əˈrəˈɡärdləs/
adverb

1. intentional disregard to the present situation in an extreme manner; despite the prevailing circumstances. (without + without + regard) = without² regard
2. paying attention to the present situation (without + without) + regard = with regard

Common usage: "Shut up, shut up, shut up! Irregardless is not a word!"



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

📶 4/5, 6:30 am

I continue to make the mistake of going to bed 6-6.5 hours before I need to get up, never remembering that the stupid cat(s) will probably wake me up before my alarm. Milo thinks it's his God-given right to be in a bedroom by 5:45 and he starts becoming a major pain (Major Pain! Salute!) if he is denied. It's pretty irritating.

You know what else is irritating? When someone sits next to me when there are other empty seats on the train. Then I have to balance this bag on my lap while I type.

A third thing that's annoying is how dreadful the text-prediction is when you're swipe-typing on a Kindle. Maybe I should just do a full post where I don't correct the errors.


Composed Tuesday, April 4, 6:30 am on some device or in some location where I didn't have a signal.

Monday, April 17, 2017

📶 4/4, 6:30 am

I have mixed feelings about "sensory issues" - a catch-all term our family uses when a texture, noise or light source causes us problems of some sorts. I realized this morning that when Rachel tries to avoid touching dirty dishes in the sink without wearing gloves that I am resistant. But when when I have to flee the house because someone is coughing and it's making me furious (it manifests as undetected fury, bubbling up until something happens - usually I can put on headphones or earplugs, or if possible, flee the area entirely), yeah, when noise is impacting me to that degree, it's a lot more real to me.  Memo to self to apologize to Rachel, she's not simply trying to shirk helping with the dishes. 

Our train is being held - they're checking some open door in the tunnel that shouldn't be open. And we're in motion again. Nice and quick. 

But, yeah, sensory issues - plenty of people would declare them things you just need to get over.  Bright sunlight hurts your eyes? Wear a hat. Or sunglasses. It's not that bad. For me, there are times where if I'm driving and I've forgotten sunglasses, I have to pull over and stop and take a break. It is that bad. For Ben, he has trouble with wearing hats of glasses, so it can be even worse. (Though we try to put his hat on him when we can, hopefully he can grow to tolerate the hat as a way to combat the brightness.)

So, anyway, why am I thinking about this? Our family is suffering with colds right now. The coughing makes me so angry - the particular sound just affects me. I'm not angry at the person who's coughing, but I just get to angry. I have nowhere to direct the anger and it makes it difficult for me to show how bad I actually feel for the cougher. But if I weren't aware of sensory issues, would I be angry with the person coughing? Would my desire to flee the situation be worse, or negatively impact my contributions or desires to remain with my family? I think it would. So I'm grateful to have had a chance to learn about sensory issues - not only does it give me a new kind of empathy for what my children are experiencing (and appreciate that it is real) but it also impresses on me that there is a need to consider my verbal and nonverbal responses. I suspect that without an understanding of sensory issues my responses would be far different and probably detrimental to my family or my part in it. 

And thinking about that makes me sad all over again about my parents who we don't really have any contact with. The final straw may have been politics but out decision to move here (away from them) wasn't held up in any way by feeling a need to remain geographically close to them since they had stopped making any active efforts to be close to us or to connect with their grandchildren, declaring our children's issues to be parenting issues - if it's not a broken leg, it's not real. If it's not bleeding then it's a behavior issue.

I've rambled enough. Good news is I know why I react the way I do and why I must carefully consider my responses when an outside stimulus causes me harm or reactionary emotions that are best not shared.  


Composed Tuesday, April 4, 6:30 am on some device or in some location where I didn't have a signal. If there's typos, I blame the Kindle Fire. Worst autocorrect ever.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

📶 3/24, 5:15 pm

Reading a book at work about influence. One of the first things it talks about is identifying behaviors. That you can usually influence change by simply getting people to change one or two behaviors. So if I want to lose weight, I need to identify one or two key behaviors vital to success. Essentially that's easy - stop eating unhealthy crap. Boom, done. I need to study the book more because if this is really the case, maybe I don't want to lose weight. To be sure, the book is about influencing change in others, but if I can't do it in myself, why should I even try to change other people's behavior? When they talk about addictions, they say to change your environment, stop hanging around with people who are still caught in the lifestyle you're trying to get out of. Sadly, our house and office are filled with the very stuff I love to eat which is coincidentally the precise things I need to avoid if I want to lose weight. All hope is not lost but the struggle is real.

Composed Friday, March 24, 5:15 pm on some device or in some location where I didn't have a signal. If it was the Kindle Fire, that explains all the typos.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

📶 3/22, 6:10 pm

On the train home. Busy day. Kinda quiet, but still a lot to do and not enough time.I guess that's nearly always the case but right now my work inbox is suffering. I can't seem to get it down below 320 and right now I have no idea how full it is but I'm guessing it's close to one thousand. My home inbox is pretty full too as is Feedly. But I guess it's the result of how I've been prioritizing (or not). I am looking forward to the single-day vacation tomorrow - maybe sleep in and then just spend the day with the family, go to the Huntington and just be still and chill. That's very appealing.

Composed Wednesday, March 22, 6:10 pm on some device or in some location where I didn't have a signal.

Friday, April 07, 2017

📶 3/20, 7 am

Everything feels different. I slept poorly after 3:30 am, and since everyone else is on spring break I snoozed the alarm for 30 minutes. But sure how much that did, but I'm glad I did it. Except that I had to park in the dreadful overflow, there's a bunch more cops hassling people and the timing is all off - I will not win any awards today for travel-times, at least not with the 10 minute wait and extra time waking from the overflow lot. People on the train also seem to be more chatty at 7 versus 6:30. Weird.

I don't understand why sleep continues to be horrible. I had no problem falling asleep but once I woke up I couldn't get back to sleep. Amazing - this train car is full already and we're at the first stop with still a minute or two before we depart.

Composed Monday, March 20, 7 am on some device or in some location where I didn't have a signal.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

📶 3/16, 6:30 am

I try to work from home once a week, usually on Thursdays. That gets me back the 3 hours I otherwise spend commuting or allows me to work late on days with a deadline without then having the commute after that. Not today, I find myself again on the train heading in. Read a report last night about the new proposed budget. I was surprised to learn that even though California puts more into the federal pool than it takes out, that federal remit is still a third of California's budget. And because we've diversified our workforce and aren't primarily reliant on the military for all our jobs, we stand to lose quite a bit when it comes to the new budget - a lot of our federal money goes to quality of life issues (education, environment, transit) especially for those marginalized or on the edges (elderly, disabled, poor, homeless). But, I think there is safety in numbers. When they say "the Great State of California," it's not just a catchphrase - this is a place of compassion, empathy and care for all its citizens. We will have to tighten our belts, but we will still survive, and prosper. But - I fear we will lose some of our young men and women to an unnecessary future war because you don't increase military spending unless you're planning to use it.

Composed Thursday, March 16, 6:30 am on some device or in some location where I didn't have a signal.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

📶 3/15, 4:50 pm

It was a good work day. I got caught up in some stuff and I advanced some other stuff and I fixed something that's been broken for some time now. I didn't mean to skip my oatmeal, but that was fewer calories this morning. It it's an amazing day out right now, blue skies with a light breeze. Cool - got a seat today.

Composed Wednesday, March 15, 4:50 pm on some device or in some location where I didn't have a signal.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

📶 3/15, 6:20 am

Thirty-seven point five. 37.5 damn pounds. 37.5 dumb pounds. 37.5 reminders that I have not been exerting the control I possess. 3.5 months into the new year and I pretty much weigh what I did when the year started. There's no excuse for that. Sure, I tried to take on too much... lose weight, keep up with chores, email and Feedly, floss every day, hit my step count, read a book for at least five minutes a day. Jumping jacks. Situps. Pushups. Write a blog post. And so on. While I have flossed every in 2017, everything else has been allowed to stagnate. No more. 37.5. I'm coming for you.

Composed Wednesday, March 15, 6:20 am on some device or in some location where I didn't have a signal.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What happened?

What happened to #blogaday?

I will get back to them. But at the moment, I've gotten behind. I've been busy at work, not getting great sleep and frankly, this whole Trump fiasco has got me quite depressed. It's such a disappointing mess and I'm a little scared for our collective futures. One article I read says that Russia isn't done with us yet - that if need be, they'll perform some terrorist acts on our soil to keep us off balance and distracted.

I heard that the average Trump voter makes $70,000 a year. That's a decent amount of money. Although I have a theory about that - basically lots of people who make nothing per year were conned by the obscenely wealthy and together they make $70,000 but if you were to look at the median income, it would be a lot less.

I feel like I can generalize Trump voters into a few basic groups:
(1) People who stand to profit financially. Many of them are now getting cabinet positions. / They might also be racist or sexist.
(2) People who will always blindly vote Republican / or will never vote for a party because of those who celebrate values they disagree with (especially abortion) / They might also be racist or sexist.
(3) People who genuinely believe that things are going to get better for them. These people also think that Obamacare and the ACA are two different things. They are grasping for any place (besides themselves) to put the blame for their situation. In some cases, it's their state or the education offered to them or private enterprise that failed them and their situation is not of their own making, but they are going to be sorely surprised. / They might also be racist or sexist.

I also wonder about Trump himself... is he a clueless pawn in all this? Remember those movies where there's a party and the cool kids each bring an uncool kid and the uncool kids don't realize it's just one big joke at their expense?  I feel like that's what's happening here.  I don't really believe for a minute that Trump got where he was without a lot of help, but that he's not in on the joke. I just don't know who brought him and when they'll let him know. A convenient scapegoat for Republicans who will impeach him shortly? Or someone the Russians will assassinate as soon as he becomes a liability?

And speaking of, what about the mood of our nation as a whole?  Is he safe from the people who voted for him once they realize he actually doesn't care about them? Is he safe from some other country he insults on Twitter? If they prioritize strategy over saving face, they'll leave him be because far more damage will be done to our country if he continues to call the shots, but if they're about saving face, I think it's plausible that a foreign country might decide to take him out. I feel like we're in for dark times of uncertainty while the GOP and its supporters get richer and richer at the expense of all of us.

I really do not get it. People are saying that it's time to take the restrictions off of businesses. This will not help the average worker. It will help the business owners but remove the restrictions and you end up with environments that are less safe and pay less.

People are saying that foreigners are taking our jobs and that we should shut down the Visa program, but at the same time, this administration seems hell-bent on destroying our education system.

People are saying NAFTA steals jobs, but the facts are that immigration from Mexico (illegal or otherwise) has actually been going down but destroying NAFTA will eliminate jobs in Mexico and Central and South America, forcing more people to come to the states looking for work.

All the while we seek to privatize prisons (as a whole, for-profit prisons are more violent than government run facilities), education (as a whole, for-profit schools produce lower test scores), health care (as a whole, for-profit nursing homes are far more likely to keep their charges sedated because it's cheaper and easier than keeping them enriched and safe) and basically anything else you some private company wants to profit by doing. (Like the private nuclear waste company that contributed a lot to Perry's campaign while he was in Texas.)

We've got wholly unqualified people who haven't even bothered to learn about the jobs they've accepted. It's appalling. I loved the Esquire article: "As nearly as I can tell, the nominees for the president-elect's Cabinet fall into several different categories. There are the people you'd pretty much expect from any Republican administration. (James Mattis, Michael Flynn, Ryan Zinke). There are the people who understand the mission of their departments and have spent their lives undermining it. (Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Rick Perry at Energy, Andrew Puzder at Labor). And there are the people who are fundamentally clueless about the general nature of public service. (Rex Tillerson at State.) On Tuesday night, DeVos demonstrated that she is that rarest of Trump administration fauna: Someone who fits capably into all three categories."

This is the last land-grab of a desperate political party that has given up any semblance of compassion - they've said "screw you" to the social contract we all (whether we like it or not) are a part of in this grand experiment of the United States of America.  I wondered aloud of any non-criminals still existed in the GOP and my wife mentioned Senator McCain and one other person whose name I can't recall.  It's slim and even the "good ones" seem unwilling or unable to go against the party. They've either lost their backbone or they were pretending.

Dark times are ahead and the only thing I know for sure is that whether it's for the PTA or President, I'm never voting for another Republican.  I'm not ready yet to call myself a Democrat, but I'm getting pretty close.

I've spent way too much time reading internet comments lately, but I'm just astounded by all the people who are so excited for this presidency. And who actually read Brietbart (a headline on there for earlier this month: "Dear Mr. President-Elect, Please ‘Pick a Fight’ with California on Behalf of the American People" - I'm not linking to the Fake News, you'll need to Google it) and think it's real news while accusing CNN, NBC News (and even Fox News) of being Fake News.

It's getting to where even the jokes aren't funny anymore and it's getting difficult to even watch pick-me-ups like Futurama. I just see the aliens blowing up buildings thinking how an alien invasion or the rapture would be nice right about now. This isn't a "you lost, get over it" moment -- I didn't vote for Hillary Clinton either - but my state was a lock for her electorally so my vote didn't count - I've been an independent when it comes to my Presidential voting record since 1996 though in hindsight if I was allowed to retroactively vote in the 2012 elections I would have voted for President Obama -- this is true dread.

I do not get it, not at all. How are so many people snowed? There's one thing I really, really want to know.  When will those who voted for Trump know if they made the right decision or not?  When can we poll them and ask "Is your life better off today than it was on January 19?"  When can we start making them uncomfortable by making them use their brains and really assessing if their vote was a wise one or not?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

#14 - This is Not a Backpack #blogaday

I mean, technically, it is a backpack. I guess I should say it's not *just* a backpack.  This rugged bag is really my "go bag" - at any time (except right after I get home), it's packed and ready to go.  Usually for a train trip, but with the addition of a few power cords and maybe a few more items of clothing and vitamins and it's also ready for a flight and a 2-3 day conference.  I can also leave the helmet behind for most flights these days.

With all the trips last year, I felt like I have it pretty much down to a science.  When I get home, I remove the items that are used or worn, replace with new items and I'm ready to go.  Electronics, clothes, pen, paper, toiletries in airport security approved sizes, even a lint roller. Everything has a purpose and nothing extraneous. Except maybe a few extra pairs of headphones.

~~~~~~~~~~

Blogaday 2017 (what is blogaday?)
Tomorrow: #15 - You Were Saying Football Things in a Football Voice

Friday, January 13, 2017

#13 - 2016 Did Not Happen #blogaday

Oh, boy. Would that this were true.

Some good things this year. Some... ehhhhh.... I can't recall exactly when I picked these topics and I feel like the thing to do would be to pick one single thing from 2016 that I wish hadn't happened.  I really want to say Trump. I really do. Maybe I can save that for 2017. I suspect we'll regret him even more this year when he finally gets the keys and is able to drive the country off a cliff into a pile of manure.

No, I'm going to go with the murder of a friend (who I hadn't seen in 10 years).

~~~~~~~~~~

Blogaday 2017 (what is blogaday?)
Tomorrow: #14 - This Not a Backpack 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

#12 - Not in the News #blogaday

No one reported that tonight Ben was upset with Lori and said "You Bad You Bad" - it wasn't super clear, but we're both sure that's what he was saying. No one reported that he also had his best haircut ever today.

No reported that Rachel and I had a nice day today, including lunch with my college roommate, and a 2-for-1 sale on Skylanders at Gamestop (we picked up two Senseis and two Creation Crystals rather inexpensively) and went to the library and Lowes.

Also not in the news today - Rachel and I played Skylanders, Ben enjoyed swinging at the park, Rachel read some books and we went to Menchies where Rachel and I had frozen yogurt and Ben sat and ate lots of Cheez-Its and Wheat Thins.

You also didn't hear about Lori having a morning playing with a restless Ben and then a few hours without the kids in the afternoon or how I got to read and drink coffee and ease myself into the morning or how I installed a new light in Ben's room tonight, or how I fought with lightbulbs earlier today.

~~~~~~~~~~

Blogaday 2017 (what is blogaday?)
Tomorrow: #13 - 2016 Did Not Happen

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

#11 - Me, Myself and I #blogaday

One thing I've discovered is that I can be quite selfish. I've convinced myself that I need time to myself. Nevermind the time on the train each day when I can put on my headphones and read or watch TV.

I've also decided that I need time on weekend mornings to myself.  I've been trying to sleep a decent amount, but getting up at 7:30 or 8 hasn't worked because my daughter's been getting up earlier than that.  If the weather was nicer, I could go outside, but lately it's been cold and/or rainy. One Saturday recently I had to ask her to take her book back into her room because she couldn't not talk to me.

But, I have to get past it.

I'm not a solitary creature. I have a family. I have a long commute. What little time I have with them, I need to be available to them. I need to be prepared when they're in the house to be there and present with them. If I want time to myself on the weekend and I can't convince everyone else to sleep in, then I need to get up earlier or just suck it up.

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Blogaday 2017 (what is blogaday?)
Tomorrow: #12 - Not in the News

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

#10 - Lazy #blogaday


It's taking me too long to get to this one.  Not because I'm lazy, but because I've been swamped.

Someone called me lazy today. The good kind.

Normal lazy bothers me. Lamenting a situation but never working to change it, accepting a bad situation with a shrug, not working to one's potential. That bothers me.

But I'm amazed by the kind of lazy that doesn't accept the status quo and makes it better by making it easier. Remote controls, automatic transmission, voice activated stuff... that type of thing.

This applies to work, too.  All the time we hear "This process is dumb. It's repetitive, it takes too long, there must be a better way." I admire the person who says that and then steps up and makes it quicker, easier, faster.

To me, that's the person who's always wondering... are we in The Matrix?  (Or in simpler terms, if I right-click or long-press, are there hidden options?)  They don't simply accept things as they are, they want to know why... why is it like this? What was it like before? What will happen if I mess with it? Who's behind the curtain? Do I have to?

This kind of lazy is inquisitive, curious and introspective.  This kind of lazy changes the world.

Disclosure: Still behind. Maybe this weekend?

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Blogaday 2017 (what is blogaday?)
Tomorrow: #11 - Me, Myself and I

Monday, January 09, 2017

#9 - Unwrapped #blogaday

I got a nice waterproof windbreaker for Christmas from my wife. I don't remember it raining in California quite as much as it has this year. I suppose we need the rain, but I don't need the rain while I'm riding to work. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it's only 1.5 miles and that I can change into dry clothes when I get there.  Fortunately, the rain has been more intense after Christmas than before because I would have been quite miserable if I didn't have this jacket.  Now I need to find pants to go with it.

I also received a pair of Bluetooth headphones - the first pair I've owned. I figured if that's the way the world is going, I might as well get used to it. They are neat, but I've found sometimes that I don't turn on music because it's more work than just plugging in a pair of headphones, or because I have range anxiety - they once ran out of juice in the middle of a phone call.  They gave me a few warnings and then the call was back on my phone instead of in my ear.  That said, I used them all afternoon while building phase I of Ben's fort and they lasted a long time and sounded good. I am also a little more afraid of damaging them compared to simple headphones. But as a technological thing, they're fun.

This year was a lot about gift cards - which is fine with me. We have a much smaller space so I was glad to not get a lot of "things" - most of the physical items I received were edible treats (neat candies from around the world and some salmon I have yet to dig into) or other treat-myself items, like a couple of different soaps and some hair gel and aftershave.  And that's fun.  To me, at least.  I recently read someone say that adulthood is realizing something is cool but not buying it because you know you don't have a practical reason to own it - and that's why children find adults boring.  I guess that makes sense.

Full Disclosure: Still posting late. Hope to be caught up soon.

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Blogaday 2017 (what is blogaday?)
Tomorrow: #10 - Lazy

Do you have two Twitter accounts? If you're a business, you should.

After tweeting to a brand recently, I went and looked at their Twitter feed. They sell microwavable popcorn. So they had marketing tweets about movies and popcorn, but then there were a lot of tweets that looked like this:


On the web, Twitter will hide all tweets that start with @ - you can find them under "Tweets & Replies" - but in the app, they're all just displayed right away.  It's clear that they're using a cut-and-paste (not that there's anything wrong with that) and that they are proactively and quickly addressing concerned customers.  (Yay!)

But... This brand was trying to foster the idea of watching movies and popping popcorn, curling up with a buttery treat, but in the meantime, it was cluttering up its own feed with what I can only assume were people complaining that they burned their popcorn.

What this brand needs to do:
They need to separate their Brand (Marketing) Voice from their Customer Service Voice.  You can find plenty of examples of companies that currently do this.  Hilton (@HiltonHelp) and Comcast (@ComcastCares) come to mind. The company I work for uses our stock ticker + "Assist" but most of the ones I've see online use "Cares".

They continue to promote @PopcornCompany on their products and they continue to use @PopcornCompany to tweet about watching movies and watching tasty popcorn and whatever else will inspire people to buy more popcorn.  But when someone tweets with a problem, the response should come from a different Twitter handle: @PopcornCompanyCares.  There's a couple of reasons:

  1. You separate your marketing (we're awesome) from customer service (this guy doesn't think we're awesome, let's see if we can make him happy again)
  2. (Optionally) You can continue the conversation online -- maybe you don't need to switch to email just yet. Though there may be lots of valid reasons why you would, especially if you've outsourced your social media or have a hard and fast line between marketing and customer service.
  3. The longer Twitter handle @PopcornCompanyCares immediately signals that you do care and that the customer has reached Customer Service even if they haven't encountered this naming scheme yet from other companies.
  4. The longer Twitter handle @PopcornCompanyCares also reduces the length of complaints by a few characters, causing customers to be more concise and less colorful in their dissatisfaction. (Sorry, it's true.)
If this sounds like your company, quick, go register that second Twitter account ASAP.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

#8 - Bacon and Eggs #blogaday

nomnomnomeltte
Breakfast is a treat for me. Most of the time, it's very standard - coffee and Maple & Brown Sugar oatmeal. That's been the staple for years. It's good, it's healthy, it tastes good, it's not a lot of calories. You could say boring but I'd say, "Umm.... coffee. Not boring."

But every once in awhile, we'll stay at an Embassy Suites and then I get to look forward to a really good stuffed omelette - start with 2-3 times as much cheddar cheese as is typical, then add in whatever else... ham, mushrooms, bacon.  Then add some salsa... awesome.  And coffee.  And being Embassy Suites, also pastries and fruit and who knows what all else.

Sometimes Lori and I will get the kids off to school and then go and have breakfast. We've done this lately on birthdays, especially. We'll go find a restaurant that specializes in breakfast. Might be named after someone and might even have spoon in the name. ("Marcia's Silver Spoon" comes to mind. "The Best Place in Town" fails that naming convention but also comes to mind.) It's probably not a Made-to-Order omelette here, but rather one of their specialties, possibly recommended by the server.

When it's all of us together, then we're McBreakfasting it (though Lori and I have been known to occasionally drop in unenchildbered) - a McGriddle or Sausage McMuffin for me and either a Big Breakfast or Sausage Biscuit for Lori.  Coffee, juice, milk. And often extra trips up to the register for more hashbrowns after Mr. Ben eats everyone's hashbrowns.

I keep thinking I'm done and then I think of another breakfast... We'll pull out the griddle and I'll make pancakes and Lori will make bacon and we'll have breakfast for dinner someimes. That's always a fun, family affair because we'll eat as we cook, so it's a lot of time together talking and sharing. And I'll make coffee.

Breakfast is definitely more fun shared.

Full disclosure: I'm still not caught up and posting these a day behind. Maybe tomorrow.

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Blogaday 2017 (what is blogaday?)
Tomorrow: #9 - Unwrapped

Saturday, January 07, 2017

#7 - I Should Have Turned Left #blogaday

If I were to say I had no regrets, I'd be lying, clueless or living an unexamined life. But... are there things I regret that I could have actively changed? Without hindsight or retrospect... is there a point where I had the decision right in front of me and I zigged when I should have zagged? Something I really, truly regret?  Something that changed my life?

There's not a lot. How is that possible?  I feel like a lot of what's happened in my life has happened to me, not necessarily things I've directly controlled, or things I influenced but happened over time. Frankly, I've been quite lucky - I've been blessed. But flip a coin moment... turn left or turn right?

Two things come to mind.  The first was after an unfortunate night of excessive alcohol consumption. I told a friend that I didn't want to speak to them for three months. I watched the calendar and when three months hit, I held my breath. The days ticked by with no contact. Close to four months, they tentatively contacted me. So, first off, I had misremembered what I'd told them - I'd told them four months not three. We've reconnected and they didn't hold it against me.  So, really stupid move I really regret, but it didn't change my life. (Except resolved not to do that again - the extensive drinking or treating my friends like that.)

Oh, Mad TV... if only I'd been paying attention.
The other thing... pure stupidity. Shortly after moving to California (the first time), I signed up with one of those dating firms. Way before internet, those ones that they always mock - you record a video, they have a big library of video tapes and binders of photos and bios. I hadn't dated a lot and now I was in a new city and didn't know anyone and thought that I needed to take matters into my own hands. I hadn't dated a lot in my life, but all had been quite awesome and all had occurred when I wasn't looking. Love found me. But now I was going to take control? Or I was going to get some company help me?

First off, it was a scam. When you first go in there they go and grab some binders and bring them back to show you the kinds of people meet what you're looking for. What you don't realize is that people can take themselves "off market" - a little slip of paper gets added to the binder.  So when they bring the binders out for you to look at, they quickly slip out the pieces of paper. Everyone they showed me when I signed up was all "off market" when I came back later to look through the binders.

Secondly, they don't care once they have your money. They don't really tell you if your video is good or not and if you suck at things like talking on the phone, even if you do find some connections, they might not call back.

Third, they know that much like joining a gym, you'll lose motivation quick. Who wants to keep going back to that place and looking through binders full of non-matches. (This was before the internet and search engines and relational/relationship databases.)  Unlike a gym which keeps sucking out of your checking account month after month, they get it all up front.

And so that's the regret.

Not that I used a dating company, not that it didn't work (I'm so glad it didn't), it was that when I signed up for that stupid thing, I went into debt. It was the first time I put more on a credit card that I could pay off at the end of the month (actually, split it onto two cards because all my cards have what now would be considered laughably low credit limits). And once I was paying less than the full amount, a line had been crossed.

I was still in debt when I got married and it wasn't until we sold a house at the top of the market (that my parents had helped us buy) that we broke the cycle. Unfortunately, unanticipated events caused us to go into debt once more after that, but I'm glad to say that now we have once again put a stop to it and we think we now understand the signs and how to avoid getting into consumer debt again.

And we know how good it feels to not be in debt.

Full Disclosure: Some stuff came up this weekend and this was posted a day late. Same with #8. Will get back on track shortly.

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Blogaday 2017 (what is blogaday?)
Tomorrow: #8 - Bacon and Eggs

Friday, January 06, 2017

#6 - Leftovers #blogaday

When we moved to a smaller house, we downsized quite a bit. But six months in, we haven't fully unpacked. Maybe you never really do.

The VCRs didn't make the move (one sacrificed to "Camp Invention", the other off to Goodwill) and the VHS tapes that for some reason did make it to California moved to a box for Goodwill.

But earlier this week in a round of unpacking, a cache of DVDs were uncovered. There was some we don't really watch, some studio screeners we maybe watched once, some we no longered cared for, some that actually didn't exist (don't let anyone tell you there were sequels to  The Matrix - if they try to tell you that you just tell them that they're filthy liars and to get out of your car. If you're feeling magnanimous, pull to the curb and slow or stop even.)

So quite a few were a no brainer.  But what of Futurama? I've gone back and forth on those. I've been watching them amongst other things (on Netflix) but DVDs?

"Toss them, I can watch them on Netflix."
"Keep them, they might not always be on Netflix."
"Toss them, there's plenty of other stuff that I've never seen before on Netflix."
"Keep them, there's DVD commentary."
"Toss them, do I really want to hear any more commentary for the people responsible for Seymour's fate?"

In the end, I decided I will donate (toss) them - it's much easier to find a device that plays Netflix (or Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime Video or Acorn or YouTube) than it is to find a device that plays DVDs.

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Blogaday 2017 (what is blogaday?)
Tomorrow: #7 - I Should Have Turned Left

Free Idea for @Amazon or @Walmart or @Target

Right up front: I offer this idea up to anyone who wants it with no strings attached. (Though credit or a gift card would be nice if you do this and it makes you a ton of money.)

How do you get shoppers to buy on-list (and from your store) when the Baby Registry, Wedding Registry or Wish List is full of higher-priced items?

From time to time, you might encounter a Wish List with items that are just too rich for you. You want to get them a gift you know they'll like, but everything on their list is outside of your price range.

And it's not like you think they're being unreasonable... after all, you have good tastes yourself. A gift card doesn't feel like you put a lot of effort into your gift giving, but looking at that China Gravy Boat that matches their place-settings, the elaborate Stroller that will protect their baby from hurricane-force winds or the Alexa-enabled Universal Remote with Hub for the techie who's just moved to a small house - buying any one of those alone just seems like an overgift.

If you knew who else was invited to the Wedding or Baby Shower, or if you wanted to connect with a bunch of family members before the Birthday, maybe you could do a group gift. But you might not know people - and it's a lot of work, coordinating, collecting and trying not to judge the miser who feels compelled to participate but only throws in a few bucks but writes three paragraphs in the card.

And this is where technology can help.  Presenting Go-In-On.  You specify the dollar amount that you want to put towards a gift and you enter in a note. Others can see what's been pledged and add their own gift. Now, suddenly anyone can help buy that special gift.

Once the first gift is pledged, the clock starts ticking. Other Wish List visitors then have 30 days to fulfill the rest of the cost.  Once the total is met, the item ships along with the well-wishes of everyone who chipped in for the gift.

At the end of 30 days, if the total isn't met, the recipient receives a gift card along with an explanation that everyone pitched in towards the item. The gift card, of course, can be used for anything in the store, but maybe there's a brief discount to encourage the purchaser to buy the original item.  

Thursday, January 05, 2017

#5 - My Favorite Selfie #blogaday

I looked through all my past Facebook profile pictures because there's where most of my selfies end up and this one made me laugh so hard.  There's a couple where Ben's being a little more gentle but I love that I captured this one where I'm getting one of his big wet sloppy kisses. Goofy boy.  And before you say "That's not a selfie - where's your abnormally long arm holding the camera?"  Oh, no, my friend... I was doing selfies back before they were called that.  That's right, digital camera on a timer mounted a on tripod, that's how we did it in the old days, I tell you whut.


I get to put extras because the rule of "blogaday" is that you get to do whatever you want, using the topic as just a jumping off point.  So here's *three* more.  Just deal with it.

This was taken at Dash Point City Park in Tacoma, a really cool park that I enjoyed going to. It was a bit of a blustery day (aren't they all) and Rachel was there to ride the swings. She's wearing the PLU hat we had gotten at a recent visit to PLU, I'm wearing my ExactTarget "Subscribers Rule" hat, and that great green jacket that finally wore out and didn't come with us to California. That jacket makes me think fondly of World Vision - it's what I wore on my many lunchbreak walks through the fabulous forests on and around its campus.


I had to include this one. It's slightly unsettling to me because I rarely recognize the face in the photo and it's mine. Between the dark background and then angle and the fact that I was my lowest weight here, I feel it looks odd - not to mention my really long haircut.  However, it also looks good - because of my weight loss and because I used several techniques you're supposed to use to get a good photo, including moving your head forward slightly and turning your head enough to make sure that your jaw line is visible.  Hard to get all those things just right while you're also holding the phone and trying to take your own photo, but I captured it.


And finally, a selfie that I didn't take. But it's not a selfie of me. Though, OK, I am in the photo. I had photos with the kids, I wanted a photo of my wife.  Turns out most of her profile pics are professional shots or photos I took across the table of her on one of our date nights.  So, here's one she took.  I think it was because whenever we posted photos from date night and there was just one of us in the photo one of our friends would beg for a shot of the two of us.  (Yes, you know who you are. Hi and thanks for reading.) So I think by the expressions here that this must have been taken just for her.


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Blogaday 2017 (what is blogaday?)
Tomorrow: #6 - Leftovers

Brilliant #Email from @Facebook

I've been taking a Facebook vacation this week... I only go on Facebook to interact with people who have sent me Facebook Messenger messages and to post for one of the companies I work with. (Sorry, not the video game company.)  Otherwise, I ignore the little red notification circle. Last night it said 49. Oddly, the app on my phone says 30.  I figure next Sunday I'll make a brief appearance, get caught up and then consider another vacation. It's been nice and quiet without Facebook.

Facebook has noticed my overall absence as it just sent me an email trying to get me to show my face. While I'm not going to click on it, I do want to spend a little time writing about how brilliant it is. The email marketer in me geeked out a little bit when I discovered what they're doing.

So check-it... subject mentions a friend by name and then shows a little bit of what looks like something they would have said.  (I had seen the full subject earlier on my desktop and it said "[Friend] and others have updated their statuses.)


So, naturally, I'm curious... what would we have been proud that my friend did?  So I opened the email.  But the actual status is nowhere to be found. I'm using Inbox by Gmail which is notorious at rendering emails wrong, so I wasn't sure... was it a mistake that I couldn't find the status update, or was it a ploy to get me to click through.


So I looked at the source - sure enough - hidden, white-on-white 1 pixel text in a 1 pixel tall table cell with css styling to hide. They were definitely not wanting you to see this in the email.  Brilliant!!!



Wednesday, January 04, 2017

#4 - It's a Thing #blogaday

I don't know what to write for this one.

So, still thinking about what I wrote yesterday, here's an original piece of art I call "Stained Glass Paris" for lack of a better name.


I experimented with Google Translate to try to come up with a different name, but I couldn't find one I liked, so we'll stick with this one.  Simple, straightforward.  This was kind of fun. I could see doing it again, but limiting myself to a particular set of colors, or trying to be more intentional in my placement - when you step back and look at the whole, certain lines bisect the piece and it would be interesting to radiate out lighter or darker shades from those lines.

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Blogaday 2017 (what is blogaday?)
Tomorrow: #5 - My Favorite Selfie

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

#3 - Vacation I've Never Taken #blogaday

Part of me regrets not having traveled more. Before I was married, before we had children, when we only had one child, before we moved from Seattle, etc. But if I'm being honest, I somewhat dread traveling.



While I'm fascinated to scroll through Google Maps or watch drone videos, it's more detached and you get to see the highlights without all of that travel. Traveling can be tough. Long flights in tiny seats, lots of walking, looking at stuff (like museums or old buildings) that people say is important without having enough context to really appreciate why it's important, or with the kids, making sure that we're aware of where exits are and where we are on the meltdown threat index.

I enjoyed Victoria, BC - you could get there with some driving and a boat and then you had your own car with you on the other side. I enjoyed being a tourist in Seattle. And I enjoy the day trips we take now, but there's always been a little bit of regret that I haven't been to Sydney, Paris, Berlin or London and that it's been a long time since I've been to Maui.

But part of me imagines Ireland. Not the touristy big city, but a rental at the end of a long rutted road outside a small village. Going into the village to shop or for a pint, getting to know the locals. It's probably more of a solo imagining where I'm just the quiet foreigner who people think might be an author or something. And if not Ireland, then at least an arrondissement way outside of the tourist sector when the weather is nice and we can wake up, sit on a little patio with gauzy curtains swaying in the breeze, or perhaps pop down to a little cafe for a petit repas before a very leisurely day. And that's more of a couples imagining than a whole family thing. But if I were to think about what these both have in common is that they're not rushed. There isn't some need to get it all in because time is limited. If I'm going to spend hours on a plane, I'm owed enough time between flights to get acclimated (when Alaska Airlines is sending me a popup reminding me the webcheck for the flight home while I'm still checking into the hotel... that sucks), that it needs to be a retreat away from everything else, long enough for it to be home for awhile.

I do hope to get everyone on board a plane for Hawaii at some point, but that does seem like a long trip for Ben.

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Blogaday 2017 (what is blogaday?)
Tomorrow: #4 - It's a Thing

Monday, January 02, 2017

#2 - Walking on Sunshine #blogaday

Hello and Merry Christmas, Burbank (12/24)
Some people want the snow. Been there, done that.

I am enjoying being back in Los Angeles where the weather's great and the people are chill.   The last place we lived claimed it was all "within reach" but their definition of "all" was pretty lacking.

It's a crossover. A crossover SUV.

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Blogaday 2017 (what is blogaday?)
Tomorrow: #3 - Vacation I've Never Taken

Sunday, January 01, 2017

#1 - Not My Resolution #blogaday

#1 - Not My Resolution - This year, I'm not going to resolve to be a better person. There are a million ways I could improve. There are a million things I could improve. I don't have a self-esteem issue, but I'm fully aware of many of my shortcomings, though I know all of my friends, family and co-workers could come up with their own lists without too much trouble.  This year, I'm going to try to keep it together.  That may be the best I can do.  Not make things worse.  Nip a little here, tuck a little there.

But no master plan of inbox zero, or dad-of-the-year or sainthood nominations. No higher office or corner suite. I won't lie and say that I'm going to forgo personal growth or change altogether. I won't be able to keep up with the recycling or laundry, I won't have abs of steel, I won't climb any mountains but I won't take up smoking or drinking either.

This will be a year of small gains.

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What is this? 

A few years ago, I participated in a January Blog-a-Day and while it was a bit of work, it was a fun way to start the new year. So, I thought I'd do it again.  This time, I'm the one with the list of topics and I didn't recruit a cadre of bloggers - but if you're reading this... thanks! And please consider joining me.

Each day, I'll present a new topic. What you do it with, if anything, is entirely up to you.  It might be a blog post, a drawing, a painting, a photo of something you scrawled on the bathroom wall.  It could be a Tweet, an Instagram or a rant on YouTube.  Whatever. That is actually what makes it fun - seeing all the ways people can be creative with nothing more than a few words to seed the idea.

The daily cadence isn't supposed to create pressure or stress, but give you a starting point. And if you do post something, let me know I'll link to it so when people visit the blog post later they'll find all kinds of creative interpretations.  (What if it's August 2018 and you're just now reading this? Feel free to jump right in, I'd be happy to keep adding links if new people join in!) How many topics are there? I've got quite a few. I'll let you know when I run out.

Tomorrow: #2 - Walking on Sunshine