Category Archives: Work

Another Great Racing Season

As you might know, Gus races go-karts in the summer at Ravenna Motor Park, and I’m his crew chief.

He’s quite a talented driver – and I’m an enthusiastic student of things that make the kart go faster.

This year, we had one primary competitor, Josh and his dad, Fred. Going in, we knew we wouldn’t be able to compete for the championship, because we had to miss too many Saturdays this year – instead, each week would be fierce competition and an opportunity to learn.

Early in the season, we usually had more speed. When Gus got ahead, he stayed ahead. As crew chief, I got a bit complacent – after all, why make the kart faster until they catch up?

Well, they caught up! Kudos to Fred – he kept improving Josh’s kart, and with about four racing weeks left in the season, it was clear that they were quite a bit faster. Now I was scrambling to find more speed.

The easiest way to find more speed is to spend money – you can buy new tires (probably the most reliable way to gain some tenths), a new clutch, even a new engine … if we were fighting for the championship, I probably would have dropped the $220 for new tires – but Fred’s not an idiot, so he would have just matched it! Also, I have a very difficult time mounting new tires – last time I did it, Fred actually did most of the hard work (on my tires), so that would have seemed kind of lame. We both decided to ride out the season on older tires.

I did replace his aging clutch, because I know how to do that one myself and it was only $50. That gained us a tenth or two Also, in the 2nd-to-last week, we finally blew a head gasket – and Fred helped me replace it. We were clearly losing some horsepower there.

In case you hadn’t noticed, competitors help each other a LOT at our track. Our goal is to make the racing as good as possible, and it’s more fun if each kart and each driver is set up to go as fast as possible. That’s when the most learning happens!

By the last week, we were really, really close to each other. I think Josh still had maybe a tenth of a second on us (per lap), but the boys were set up for really good racing. It turned out to be the best racing of the year.

We didn’t win. In fact, Josh swept the two heats and the feature on Saturday. I couldn’t have been more proud of both boys. I was proud of Gus for his effort, learning, and attitude – he never complained once about the kart or his competitor. In fact, Gus heartily congratulated Josh on each of his wins and let him revel in the success he earned. Likewise, Josh showed his chops on the track and was a gracious winner.

Heat 1

In the first heat, Gus started on the outside and made a beautiful pass off the start. He couldn’t shake Josh, though – which was a new thing for him.

In racing, you have to learn how to win with a much faster kart, a slightly faster kart – and ideally with a slightly slower kart. Gus tried to hold off Josh, but he just couldn’t do it. Josh was patient and eventually put Gus in a disadvantageous position to take the lead. It was a great learning experience.

Heat 2

In the second heat, Gus started on the pole and had a good start. I thought for a while that he was going to make a tiny gap, but Josh caught up, and Gus felt the pressure behind him. Again, Josh was patient and waited for the best moment to pass, taking him at the point where he had the biggest advantage. In my opinion, it was the best race I’ve seen from Josh – it’s great to see his growth as well as Gus’s.

Feature

In the feature, Gus started on the outside, but Josh had a solid start for the lead. Gus stayed with him admirably for about half the race, but eventually, his kart dropped off compared to Josh’s, and Josh stayed ahead for the win.

We didn’t get any wins, but it was a great week of racing. Gus and Josh raced each other hard and clean and got to experience 3 excellent passes. That’s a big deal. Both boys are better than they were at the beginning of the season, and I can’t wait for next year.

And there are big changes coming next year! After the race day was over, I finally took my first laps in my new kart! I’m not going to let Gus have all the fun – I’m going to be racing next year myself. ūüôā

If all goes well, we’re going to create a new class next year with a slightly better motor (Briggs 206) and a slightly higher weight (in the ballpark of 320 or 330 – we were 285 this year). We’re going to combine the “lighter” adults and more experienced kids into that class. Hopefully, we’ll have 6 or 8 racers mixing it up together in that class, which will bring a different kind of learning for the kids (and will be more fun for us adults, too).

If you live in West Michigan, you should come out to the track and check it out next year. It’s amazingly fun and a super healthy way to push yourself. Talk to me if you’re at all interested. The people at Ravenna Motor Park mean so much to me – I want more people to experience what we’ve experienced. It’s an absolute blast!

Business of Software 2017

In three weeks (September 18-20), I’ll be attending Business of Software in Boston for the 8th year in a row (here are impressions from my first). If your company makes and sells software, you should probably go, too. Here’s why:

  • You’ll be inspired by amazing talks from people like Seth Godin, Jason Cohen, and Rita Gunther McGrath. The talks are really, really good – and highly relevant to software businesses.
  • You’ll be energized by the other attendees. It’s a small conference (maybe 300 people), and everyone who attends is worth talking to. My current position is a direct result of meeting Harry and Ted (the founders of Moraware) at Business of Software years ago.
  • You’ll be pulled away from your everyday routine and get a new perspective. How often do you step away from the day-to-day aspects of your business while still focusing on it? If you attend this conference, that’s what you’ll do. It’s so valuable to get a different perspective.
  • You’ll have fun. This conference is very focused on business … and because everyone who attends loves this stuff, it feels more like fun than work. It’s also at a great hotel, and the food is the best you’ll have at a conference.

Obviously, I must be a pretty big fan of this conference if I’m willing to go 8 years in a row. It’s hard to explain, but it’s become a very important part of my life. If you have any inclination to go, you should. If you have more questions, feel free to email me.

Yours truly giving a Lightning Talk at my first Business of Software – thanks for the photo, Betsy Weber!

See you in Boston!

Allergies

A friend of mine told¬†me about his bad allergies the other day, and it reminded me of how lucky I am that mine¬†have been completely under control for the last few years. Here’s how my allergies¬†got better.

Most importantly, I saw an allergist, and I can’t recommend that highly enough. When I was about 8, I got diagnosed with allergies by my regular doctor. He prescribed some antihistamines and sent me on my way. That’s not good enough. My allergies got worse and worse into my twenties, and finally I couldn’t take it anymore, so I went to an allergist – I wish I had done it much sooner.

Before he tested me or prescribed anything, he simply explained how allergies work in simplified language. He said I have a “tipping point” – let’s give it an arbitrary number of 10. When the things that bother me stay below 10, I might notice them some, but I’m basically OK. When they go over 10, my tipping point, I’m miserable.

So the key to managing allergies is keeping the bad stuff below my tipping point, and we did that in several different ways.

First, we tested what I’m allergic to – he suspected I’d be allergic to some foods, not just pollen. “I’ve got bad news for you, too – it ain’t gonna be broccoli. People often have an addictive-type reaction to foods they’re¬†allergic to, so they’re probably going to be some of your favorite foods.”

Sure enough, in addition to all the trees and grasses I was allergic to, I was a little allergic to milk and quite allergic to eggs. Crap. He said if I stopped eating those things, it would make it that much harder for pollen to get me to¬†my tipping point. So I stopped eating anything with eggs (including cakes, cookies, etc.) or milk (including cheese … pizza’s better with cheese, but it’s surprisingly good¬†without it, too). My wife’s wonderful¬†cooking made this tolerable.

At the same time, he recommended a regimen of drugs – most of these were prescription at the time, but now, they’re all available over the counter (unfortunately, this made them much more expensive for me, personally, since the¬†prescription drugs were covered by my insurance). As soon as the first hint of allergies came each year, I started using Flonase every day and taking Allegra – there are competitors and variations on these things, but these are what he recommended for me. These days, I only buy¬†generic knockoffs.

Flonase is steroids for your nose – it doesn’t make the problems go away, but it makes your nose and sinuses better at handling them (steroids = stronger). It can also useful if you have an earache. The dosing is really annoying – you can’t tell how much you have left … but it’s one of those things that has a cumulative effect over several days, so you might as well just calculate the number of days a bottle is good for and take it until it’s gone (120 squirts = 30 days).

I’m pretty sensitive to drugs, so I don’t like taking the ‘D’ version of Allegra. Instead, I go to the pharmacy counter, get plain ‘ole pseudo-ephedrine and take the minimal amount (the ‘D’ versions of antihistamines typically have 4 times that¬†amount!) – and only when I’m pretty¬†plugged up. I only take it in the morning, or else I can’t sleep at night.

Another super useful tool is Zatidor. It’s an antihistamine drop that you put directly in your eyes. Nothing brings more immediate relief to allergy eyes. It’s amazing stuff.

And don’t forget Benadryl. Even though it’s cheap and ubiquitous, it’s actually really powerful. The only problem with it is that it makes you sleepy (in fact, the same drug is sold as a sleep aid!). Driving with Benadryl is about as dangerous as driving after a couple of beers – don’t do it.

When things get really bad, I take some Afrin before going to bed. That stuff is super powerful – it’s like drilling new holes in your head – but you need to be religious about using it for no more than 3 days in one stretch; otherwise, you’ll have a nasty rebound. I haven’t used it for allergies in years, but I have used it for a couple of bad head colds.

The drugs helped to keep things under the tipping point – the next step was to move the tipping point itself. We did that with allergy shots.

Allergy shots aren’t drugs – instead they’re some sort of serum made from the stuff you’re allergic to. I’m oversimplifying here, but by steadily giving your body more and more of what it’s allergic to – in tightly controlled amounts over time – your body gets used to it. That tolerance gradually raises your tipping point.

I took shots for about 8 years. Eventually I noticed that my seasonal allergies weren’t bothering me much at all. A couple years later, I stopped taking the shots, and I still had no problems. Then I started eating milk and eggs again (yay!) … still no problems (except for gaining 20 pounds – dammit!). My tipping point has effectively been raised.

Now my allergies don’t bother me. At the first signs of spring, I start taking Allegra and Flonase every day for a couple of months, and it keeps me well under my tipping point. It’s great!

The moral of the story is that if you have bad allergies, please go see an allergist (at least if you can afford it). Doing so made a shockingly significant improvement in my life.

Also, recognize that our bodies grow in and out of allergies. Things change. Something might bother you for 20 years and stop bother you after that – or vice versa. Things are great for me now, but it could change. This isn’t like a surgery (although I know people who have had a¬†surgery that literally drilled holes through their¬†sinuses¬†– that’s yet another option).

Finally, there’s still one situation that I have to watch out for: dust. Technically, I’m not allergic to dust at all, but after years of my nose being ravaged by allergies, my nose itself just doesn’t work very well. So if I breathe in some dust, I have a mechanical reaction to it, because my body can’t get rid of it. In other words, I sneeze non-stop for an hour or so. Super unpleasant. If I’m doing something like cleaning out my garage, I have to wear a face mask, or I’m going to be miserable.

Giving up politics

I love politics. It’s arcane and maddening and dramatic and … human. I love reading about politics; I love listening to political podcasts; I love watching political shows on TV.

But for now, I’m giving it up. I still like all those things (political podcasts in particular – we’re in a golden age), but it’s¬†so interesting to me that I find politics displaces other worthy interests.

Here’s what triggered this change … last week, I went to a Visual Studio launch event – it was the first time I’d been to a Microsoft event since I left the company. I missed seeing all my local programming friends! They seemed to miss me! Why had I not been around?

No particular reason … I don’t need to go to local tech events as part of my job, so I guess I wasn’t really paying attention. I’d like to pay attention to my local technical community again, but I don’t have any extra time. Something had to give. So I’m giving up politics.

Maybe I’ll run for office someday. If I do, I suppose I’ll have to pay attention again. For now, I’ll just get the condensed version from Twitter (and Rocky Mountain Mike parodies). I think that’s enough, but if something really important happens, please let me know.

NOTE: If you happen in the market¬†for great political podcasts, here’s what I recommend:

Dealing with TRUMP

I’m a centrist Democrat, so I really liked Hillary, and I wanted her to be president. She lost, so it’s time to deal with the reality of a Trump presidency.

I don’t want to spend a ton of time analyzing why Clinton lost, but it’s important to consider at a high level, because it provides context for what comes next.

First of all, she wasn’t cheated (not even by Comey). She lost fair and square. It was very close (especially considering that she won the popular vote by nearly 2 million votes), but ultimately, the Clinton campaign made some critical mistakes:

  • The average American didn’t know what Clinton stood for, other than not Trump. I think she would have been better served using language like this: “I trust the American people to determine which one of us is more fit to lead this country, so I want to talk about …” and then talk about something – anything – positive. Probably jobs. Always jobs.
  • The Clinton campaign didn’t campaign enough (or effectively) in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Easy to see in hindsight, but some pretty smart people (Michael Moore, Nate Silver, …) were actually pretty loud about it in the last three months of the campaign.

Ah well. Water under the bridge. It’s time to move on.

Wait – here’s one thing that doesn’t matter: If Trump had won the popular vote and lost the electoral vote, he probably would have thrown a never-ending tantrum, and we’d be in a year-2000-election-like clusterfunk right now. Does. Not. Matter.

What matters to me is the way our country responds to this moment. On election night, when I came to the sinking conclusion that Trump would be our next president, I kept imagining future American History books … we clearly just started a new chapter with a single-word heading: TRUMP. In fact, we’ve only just experienced the introduction to that chapter. We have no idea yet what the chapter itself is going to say.

So what does this moment say about our country? ¬†How should we respond? Here’s some more context, this time from Slate Star Codex on the eve of the election:

I suggest people precommit to their views on politics and society now. We live in a country and a world where Hillary can be at about 47% and Trump at about 45%. This is pretty much all you need to know. It suggests that a lot of people are willing to support a nationalist candidate, and a lot of other people really hate that candidate. It suggests that political fundamentals are totally compatible with a situation where either Trump or Hillary could win based on noise in the electoral process.

This was really good advice, but I didn’t see this post before the election, and I’m not sure that I would have listened. One bright spot of this stinging loss (for me personally) is that it forced me to ask these kinds of questions and come to the realization Slate Star Codex makes above: this is who we are and this is the country we live in.

Our country is obviously complex enough that it’s impossible to boil down our cultural and political differences to Just One Thing … but this October column from David Wong at Cracked does a surprisingly good job. In short: our underlying differences have a lot to do with Country vs City.

The results of the election support this. The biggest difference between the performance of Obama and Clinton is that Obama didn’t do as poorly in rural counties. He still lost most of them – just not as resoundingly as Clinton did (again, I think this was first and foremost a failing of the Clinton campaign, not an indication of demographic realignment or nefarious forces).

A rural/urban divide rings true to me personally as well – Clinton’s message just didn’t resonate with the working class people I know, especially those who live outside cities – or leave the city as often as possible to hunt, fish, race, etc. I even know several life-long union Democrats who didn’t vote for Clinton, which seemed unthinkable four years ago.

I don’t think Trump’s policies will actually help the working class, but at least Trump made them feel heard. Clinton did not. In fact, her deplorables comment had the opposite effect – I’m sure many working class people reasonably wondered, “Is that how she thinks of me?” Not a winning strategy.

The good news for Democrats – I’m trying to stay positive here – is that this was more of a campaign mistake than a policy mistake (or a demographic inevitability). Better jobs policies can and will win back these voters in future elections.

It’s intellectually lazy to blame this election on racist or misogynist voters. There will always be some degree of racism and sexism in our country, but it’s been getting better for decades, and it will continue to get better (just not in a straight line). We’re still the same country who elected and re-elected a black man with Hussein as a middle name. We nominated a woman who almost won – and there was shockingly little talk on either side about¬†her being “weak” or any other stupid female stereotypes. In the end, people voted – as they always do – for the candidate who they thought would¬†make their own lives better. A large group of voters felt listened to and understood by Trump. Those same voters felt vilified by Clinton.

Those people¬†didn’t vote for Trump because he was the better candidate for white nationalists – they voted for Trump because he was the better candidate for the working class, for them. The fact that Trump happened to be the better candidate for racists was irrelevant – numbers-wise, the white nationalist vote itself was and is insignificant (Slate Star Codex makes this argument quite convincingly¬†– Democrats, PLEASE read this).

The furor around white nationalists turned out to be a brilliant diversion (whether that diversion was intentional or not is a separate debate). Overt racism is not OK for most Americans. If white nationalists make up less than 5% of our population, that means 95% of our country has no inclination to put on bed sheets and burn crosses. But many good people still live in a pretty segregated world. The way you talk about and think about people of color is different if you don’t actually know or interact with many people of color.

My son goes to a school where only half the kids share the color of his skin. We live in a pretty white neighborhood, but thanks to Gus’s schooling, people of color aren’t other to him. His closest friends are truly diverse.

If you attend schools and churches that are mostly white, you’re obviously not going to know as many people of color – they will be more other to you. The letters sent home from the principal and the sermons you hear on Sunday will be less likely to use strenuously inclusive language like people of color, because the community is less diverse. They simply have less experience with people who don’t look like them.

Living in a mostly white community doesn’t mean you’re a racist. It probably means that you don’t use the same language to talk about race as someone who lives in a more diverse community. It probably means that race isn’t the most important issue on your mind most of the time. If your economic prospects are crap, you’d probably even resent programs that appear to help other communities more than your own (and it certainly wouldn’t take much effort to stoke those resentments).

If you know in your heart you’re not a bad person – and you believe that being racist makes you a bad person¬†(a belief that’s a good sign if you think about it) – then I bet it would really make you mad to call you a racist. That’s pretty much what Clinton did with her “deplorables” comment. That’s pretty much what her most vocal followers did on Facebook and Twitter over and over as well. This did not help. In fact, many of you are still doing it – PLEASE STOP. Besides being rude, it’s a horrible political mistake. It’s ineffective. Again, in retrospect, this was a brilliant diversion – Trump got us off our game. We allowed ourselves to be snookered by a master at controlling the conversation. (Yes, Trump is good at some things – uniquely awesome in fact – go read or watch Ender’s Game if you want to learn how to defeat someone who’s really good.)

ender

Obviously, racism sucks. As I’ve mentioned before, fighting the systemic racism of voter suppression is the reason I became a Democrat. We should oppose any policy that fosters racism. We should call out hatred and racism and injustice wherever we see it. But we shouldn’t use racist as a casual epithet for those who disagree with us.

In fact, we should rarely be judging what people are¬†– instead we should be focused on what people do. Do I think Governor Kasich is a racist? No, I don’t … but he supported policies that made it harder for black people to vote, and I’m going to oppose those policies. He did so knowingly and as a cold political calculation, because he thought it would help more Republicans get elected; therefore, I’m going to oppose him politically, and I’m going to oppose the Republican party¬†politically. That means I’m on the other team – it doesn’t mean I think he’s evil. Just as I can acknowledge “nice play” when the other team scores a touchdown in a football game, I can acknowledge “nice policy” when Republicans do something that makes our country better (invest in infrastructure? Yes, please!).

The beauty of representative democracy is that we’re not just spectators – we’re part of the game. We determine which team wins by voting. Elections matter – I would have greatly preferred Clinton’s cabinet picks and judicial appointments as well as her policies – but even after an election, we influence the game by supporting or opposing individual policies, regardless of who’s in power.¬†

Politicians want to be reelected, so they’re going to support policies that their constituents support. For example, even though many Republican politicians were against gay marriage, a strong majority of Americans support it, so I doubt that there will be the political will to roll it back (though I still feel some anxiety about the issue – it must be really scary if you’re gay).

The teams themselves are fluid. You can be a Republican one year and a Democrat the next. Many people are gung ho about their particular political team, but most just want what’s best for their own families. These people, the undecideds, can be persuaded, but most are going to vote with their gut for the team that “gets it” more and will therefore probably do more for their own lives. That’s what rural, working class, white Americans did in this election. Trump reached them and Clinton ignored them (except when she insulted them). Huge mistake.

As Democrats, what should we do now?

If you want to persuade rural, working class, white Americans in the next election, you know what you should do? Go hang out with rural, working class, white Americans now! Find out what they like and share those experiences. Invite them to share experiences with you. Share your fears and failures, too. Be friends. I happen to love both the city and the country, both city dwellers and country folk. Yes, there’s a divide, but crossing that divide isn’t a punishment. I’ve been to a dirt track race, a symphony concert, and a break-dance battle on the same weekend. The variety in our country is freaking awesome.

Recognize that I’m a centrist and an incrementalist – so most progressives will probably find my beliefs and my tone lacking. That’s OK – we need to have great conversations within our party, too!

This primary season could have been awesome – Sanders was a rare breath of fresh air – but the DNC sordidness ruined the conversation and left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth (which didn’t help with the general election, either). Let’s spend a lot of energy cleaning up our own house and have meaningful conversations about the future of the Democratic party.

Then we let the general election be too much about personality and not enough about policies. Let’s not keep repeating that mistake! Focus on specific policies that are meaningful to you at every level of government. If it makes the world better, support it. If it doesn’t, oppose it. Stop focusing on personalities! Obviously, Trump is going to appoint people we don’t like. Get over it – oppose policies, not personalities.

We need some range in our opposition. Some things are worth protesting – the Dakota pipeline certainly clears that bar. The electoral college? Not so much – it might feel good, but it’s not going to change anything. We’d be better served saving our energy for something else.

Don’t be vengeful or petty. Yes, I absolutely hate that Mitch McConnell’s overt obstructionism has been rewarded. I hate it! That doesn’t mean we should adopt the same approach. It was wrong for the Republicans to do it, and we should work hard to punish that behavior at the ballot box – but when we lose, we shouldn’t adopt the same deplorable behavior.

Keep a sense of humor. Saturday Night Live seems funny and relevant again. That’s something. Humor eases the pain a bit, so relish the good stuff – and when you see good humor that criticizes Democrats, appreciate that, too. This was posted on Twitter during the 2nd debate. I love that funny people always have an eye open for such random observations.

islands

LEARN. Read (longer form, too, not just tweets). Be wary of what we come across on social media. Listen to podcasts. Talk more with people we agree with and those we don’t. Be friends with more people in real life, not just on social media.

LISTEN. Open our hearts and minds. Expand our understanding to include why people disagree with us. Work to understand the opposition’s point of view (again, see Ender’s Game).

Above all, LOVE. This doesn’t have to be some hippy drippy kumbaya kind of love – love with our actions. Love by helping our neighbors, even those we disagree with. Love by protesting peacefully. Love by speaking up without being smug. Love by standing with a powerless stranger who feels threatened. Love by imagining the positive motivations of those who oppose us. Love by raising our kids to be even more aware and loving than we are.

Picking Sides

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For years, I’ve called myself an Independent. I voted for Democrats about 75% of the time, but I tried to evaluate each candidate on the ballot and sometimes crossed over to pick a Republican or (more commonly) a Libertarian. I even voted for Ross Perot – twice.

I am an Independent no longer. There comes a time when you have to pick sides, and this is that time for me. I haven’t yet figured out what it means to “register as a Democrat” in Michigan, but I have a couple of yard signs, and I’ve changed my profile in Facebook (isn’t that what makes anything official these days?) … my son even put Hillary stickers all over his go-kart. It’s as official as I currently know how to make it: I’m a Democrat.

There’s one ongoing issue that started me down the path to picking sides: voter rights. For several years, the Republican party has actively been trying to make it harder to vote for poor people and people of color. I can’t stand on the sidelines while that is happening. It’s just wrong.

Suppressing voters isn’t an accident; it’s¬†a pervasive¬†Republican strategy.¬†During the primaries, the least offensive Republican was John Kasich – he had the distinct advantage of appearing sane – but he presided over some of the most explicit efforts to prevent minorities from voting. I can never support him or his party.

I trust voters, which is precisely why I can’t tolerate voter suppression efforts. In the past, I’ve been disappointed when some Republicans have won, but I trusted the results (with the possible exception of 2000, but that was a wacky year). I even made a point of voting in the Republican primary when Justin Amash first ran for his current seat (my congressman), because I knew the Republican would ultimately win, and he’s my favorite Republican.

This year is obviously different. Trump is not a reasonable candidate. He would be terrible for our country (and the world), and I can’t stand by and let him be elected without doing everything I can to prevent it. In fact,¬†I can never support a party that would nominate him.

In addition, I actually like Hillary Clinton. I always have. She’s not perfect, for sure, but she’s wonky and hardworking. I think she’ll be a great president. I’m going to do everything I can to see that she gets elected.

So I’m picking sides. Hell yes, I’m a Democrat, and I proudly support Hillary Clinton for President.

Talking Politics

Most people I know have hated this election season for one reason or another. Not me – this has been my favorite election cycle that I’ve experienced by quite a wide margin. The reason? People are talking!

From the very beginning of the primary process, I have heard people talking about candidates and issues with a conviction that seems quite different from years past. The emergence of Trump and Sanders meant there were plausible candidates with real differences in both primaries.

If you remember the Bush v Gore election, you might remember¬†the popular complaint that there were¬†no meaningful differences between them (I never agreed, but it was a popular complaint, at least before the election).¬†I don’t think we’ll hear much of that complaint this year.

I’ve always held a soft spot for Michael Jordan’s response when he once¬†refused¬†to endorse a Democrat. “Republicans buy shoes, too,” he said. When you’re a public figure, you can’t¬†communicate a nuanced position. Whatever you say will be twisted into a soundbite that may or may not summarize your point. That’s why I don’t really care what this or that celebrity thinks.

I do care what my friends and family think – and that’s why I love this election. People are talking. Turns out about half the country¬†disagrees with me, and since I am friends with a broad¬†enough sample of the population, about half of my friends disagree with me as well. When we talk, that gives us the opportunity to¬†change each other, although it happens very, very slowly and in ways that we don’t always expect or even notice.

You know what that is? That’s democracy working. I love it. Keep talking!

PS, I mean¬†actual¬†talking, not writing … writing has its place, but talking is better – so if you try to engage me on any specific issue in the comments to this article, it’s unlikely I’ll take the bait ūüėČ

Vacation

Last week, I was on vacation – absolutely, completely on vacation and totally removed from any work activities. It was great.

I haven’t had a vacation this thorough in quite some time. Usually I still have work thoughts in my head, even if I’m disengaged from day-to-day activities. Not this time – for some reason, I was able to let any hint of responsibility or ambition drain from my skull. My mind was nearly blank.

We spent this vacation in Texas with Paula’s family. The trip was even a bit longer than my actual vacation – we left on Tuesday the week before last, and I worked support from Texas Wednesday to Friday (June 15-17).

I think that was a big part of my ability to detach – we spent the normal amount of energy leading up to our travel date, and then we spent a day traveling (always a bit tiring). Then I “recovered” by working for a few days. By the time Friday afternoon rolled around, all I had to do was close my laptop, and I was somewhere other than home for a full week. When I got back home a week later, I recovered again with a normal day of racing Saturday¬†and a final day with¬†minimal responsibilities yesterday (thanks Paula).

It’s time to get back to work. It was nice to empty my brain, but now it’s time to put stuff back in it.

Microsoft Office vs Google Docs

Microsoft Office is better than Google Docs in almost every way.

The Office interface is fresher – it looks and feels better. Office has way more features, and the native apps are way more sophisticated on Windows, Mac, iOS, and even Android. Heck, even the Office web apps look better than Google Docs. Again, it’s just better.

EXCEPT for one thing …

I remember my friend Rory riffing on the stupidest question in all of software: Do you want to save?¬†Rory would practically yell at his screen, “Of course I want to save! You’re a computer – just save the damn thing and then make me work to delete it if I need to!”

That was two decades ago, and Office apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint still ask me if I want to save the damn file. Google Docs does not. I know it’s difficult to change features that are entrenched with users, but c’mon, Microsoft!

This particularly becomes an issue when you move between devices. I have a few spreadsheets that I use on my computer and on my phone. This is maddening with Excel, because I have to remember to save and exit the file on one device (even on my phone!) if I want to use it on the other.

For that one simple reason, I’ve mostly switched to Google Docs, an app I like less in every other way.

That’s a humbling reminder to me … what one feature in Moraware could cause our customers to bolt? What one feature in your product could cause your customers to leave?

Mmmm … Tasty

Growing up, I was quite a picky eater (my dad still is, so I suppose I have him to thank for that).

When Paula and I moved in together (26 years ago!), I watched her cook some basic foods that I thought I didn’t like, such as meatloaf, stir fried vegetables, and lasagna. Seeing her make these foods demystified them – it made them approachable, and so I tried them and soon started liking them. These days, I wouldn’t exactly call myself an adventurous eater, but I’m not terribly picky, either (still hate pickles, though).

I was reminded of the evolution in my taste buds when “Tasty” videos started becoming popular on Facebook.

These videos have no narration and little text. They show delicious-looking food and how it gets made. They don’t just show you that you can eat this food – they show you that you can make it. When you watch one of these, you can almost hear yourself saying, “I should totally make that.”

The people at Tasty excel at one of the most fundamental movie-making rules: show don’t tell. The videos are quick and easy to watch, so they seem simple, but they’re anything but simple to produce. I saw a behind-the-scenes video a while back¬†that revealed a team of several people working hours to create that perfect 30-second clip.

Tasty’s videos are so good that they all go viral. I don’t think I can make training videos for our software that go viral, but I at least want to copy Tasty’s basic approach for making videos accessible: about 30 seconds long, no audio needed, and show don’t tell. Oh, and a whole lotta work. We’ll see.