Misemployment - YouTube

This was an interesting video. I remembered the anecdote of Steve Jobs talking to then-Pepsi CEO John Sculley, when attempting to convince him to join Apple: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?"

I've made this lament before to my wife, who works in health care: She makes a difference in people's lives, and I don't. I enjoy my work, most of the time, and I make a good living at it, but sometimes it feels so inconsequential and insignificant. Misemployment is a difficult problem. 

What’s So Bad About Gluten?

From the New Yorker:

Fad dieting is nothing new in America; it’s what we do instead of eating balanced, nutritiously wholesome meals. Scarsdale, Atkins, South Beach, Zone, flexitarian, pescatarian, and paleo have all been awarded their fifteen minutes of fame and then shoved aside for the next great diet. They are rarely effective for long. Some nutrition specialists say that the current preoccupation with gluten-free products reminds them of the national obsession with removing fats from foods in the late nineteen-eighties. “Low-fat” foods are often packed with sugar and calories to make up for the lack of fat. The same is true of many products that are advertised as “gluten-free.” (emphasis added)

The conclusion is interesting - maybe the problem is that we've started adding extra gluten to so many foods as a shortcut. I don't put a lot of faith in anecdotal evidence (I cut gluten and lost 30 pounds and then won the lottery!), but I know people who have gluten sensitivities who don't suffer from celiac disease. I've heard stories of folks who had apparent psychological disorders that were corrected by a gluten-free diet. Perhaps with gluten, as in all things, moderation is key. 

Daring Fireball: Retailers Are Disabling NFC to Block Apple Pay

John Gruber:

Think about what they’re doing. They’re turning off NFC payment systems — the whole thing — only because people were actually using them with Apple Pay. Apple Pay works so well that it even works with non-partner systems. These things have been installed for years and so few people used them, apparently, that these retailers would rather block everyone than allow Apple Pay to continue working. I can’t imagine a better validation of Apple Pay’s appeal.

And the reason they don’t want to allow Apple Pay is because Apple Pay doesn’t give them any personal information about the customer. It’s not about security — Apple Pay is far more secure than any credit/debit card system in the U.S. It’s not about money — Apple’s tiny slice of the transaction comes from the banks, not the merchants. It’s about data.

They’re doing this so they can pursue a system that is less secure (third-party apps don’t have access to the secure element where Apple Pay stores your credit card data, for one thing), less convenient (QR codes?), and not private.

Cutting off your nose to spite your face. 

 

 

 

What If We Could Weaponize Empathy?

"I expect you to act like a group of friends who care about each other, no matter how dumb some of us might be, no matter what political opinions some of us hold, no matter what games some of us like or dislike."

This is a principle I hope to espouse in all discussions, be it online or IRL. I haven't always done this well, but I want to. 

Google News Publisher Not Happy With New "In The News" Box

I think what amuses me is that people think Fox News, CNN, and the New York Times are "reliable."

Have you watched CNN coverage lately? They spend more time talking about pop culture than world news. It's a joke. Better reporting of real events (Ferguson, MO comes to mind) is coming from Twitter than the major news sources. 

Taking the fight for #transparency to court | Twitter Blogs

From the Twitter blog:

It’s our belief that we are entitled under the First Amendment to respond to our users’ concerns and to the statements of U.S. government officials by providing information about the scope of U.S. government surveillance – including what types of legal process have not been received. We should be free to do this in a meaningful way, rather than in broad, inexact ranges.

Good for Twitter. 

Much Ado about Too Much to Do

I work four jobs. I'm a substitute teacher, I drive for Lyft (use promo code BRADLEY861 for a free ride up to $25), I do this freelance writing thing from time to time, and I work part time as a supervisor at a new Carhartt retail store in Greenwood. The store manager has experience managing other retail stores, but I don't know if she's ever opened a new store before.

If you've never opened a store like this before, you can't really understand how big of an undertaking it is. When I was in high school, I helped open a new Circuit City store before the chain ultimately folded, and it was a difficult process. Everyone is new. Everyone is learning a new system. Everyone is learning how to use the computer system and the store policies and how things work, and there's no institutional knowledge to help newbies get along, because we're all newbies. It's not that different this time, and so much of the responsibilities fall on the store manager. She is inundated every time she steps into the store to pass judgement on dozens of small issues, executive decisions that don't really matter but are ultimately up to her. On top of that, she has many significant responsibilities to navigate that are above my pay grade. She can't delegate these tasks (and at any rate, I don't work often enough to be point on many of these projects).

When I work with her, I find that she gets caught in a common trap - she spends at least an hour each day telling me how busy she is and how insurmountable her workload is. I'm sympathetic because I know how difficult it is, but at the same time, I've been thinking about ways to get through the work. 

I don't know many people who aren't busy or don't feel overwhelmed by the many things that draw their attention, time, or resources. Me, for instance, I want to get out of debt, but the total balance due is sufficiently large that I find myself paralyzed by the idea. So I spend time bemoaning the situation in my journal, to my wife, and the squirrel who lives in my backyard (he's a great listener). Sometimes I ambitiously buy a Powerball ticket when the jackpot reaches the 200 million mark. I want to lose weight and become more physically fit so that I can do more things with my family, and I consider my little brother (he works out daily and runs triathlons for fun) and my best friend (a pastor planting a new church who has dropped a ton of weight and built enough muscle mass to help Jesus haul the cross up the hill) as examples of what I would like to achieve. However, when I consider the weight I have to lose, the abysmal physical condition I find myself in, and my general distaste for exercise, and then I look at what kind of shape they are in, I consider the goal a foolish dream and have another piece of bacon.  

The problem is, I focus on the enormity of the whole task, and I dismiss it as insurmountable. But folks don't get their way out of debt by winning the lottery or some other windfall. They do it by cutting costs, paying one bill down at a time, and then slowly but surely chipping away at the mountain of debt until they're free from the burden. My brother and my pastor friend didn't get into great shape overnight - they worked out daily, changed their diets (even when they didn't feel like it), and the changes started manifesting in how they felt and looked. 

What's your task? Break it down into two parts. Still too big? Break it down again. And again. Repeat this until the tasks are small enough for you to complete. Once you've accomplished one, move on to the next one. You might find that it gets easier, once you get started, to build on your success. There's momentum that will build behind you, and you can push through the hard/boring/emotionally difficult parts by the investments you've already made. 

What I want to tell my boss (though I probably won't) is that instead of telling me how busy she is and how difficult this whole process is, she needs to start with one thing and do it. Once that task is done, move on to the next one. And eventually, she'll be past it.  

Your daily clichè for this: The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. So what are you waiting for? Start walking. 

Monday

I woke up this morning to my three year old in bed with me singing "Winnie the Pooh" and poking me, saying "Dada, wake up!" When I rolled over, he smiled and said "I love you, Dada." It's going to be a good day.

I have an interview today at 3, so I'm feeling hopeful. I got dressed and took my boy to Grandma's house, stopping for a cup of coffee on my way. He hugged me and said "Bye bye, Dada." It's going to be a good day.

I drive downtown to pick up a check and meet with an advisor at school. On my way I hit a pothole and spill coffee on my shirt. It's not going to be a good day.

Now my schedule has changed. I have to go to the mechanic to have a tire fixed and it's going to take 2 hours. I walk over to the dry cleaner and they can wash my shirt and iron it in an hour. I walk over to a nearby store for a couple things we need and I pick up a hoodie that's not too expensive. I go to the register to check out and it's 50% off. It's going to be a good day.

I walk to a coffee shop while I wait for my shirt to be finished - risky, I know. I sip some coffee and read the news on my phone before I realize I didn't charge my phone last night. My battery is almost dead, and I left my charger at the school on Friday. It's not going to be a good day.

I check my watch and see that I dropped my shirt off almost an hour ago, so I walk back to the dry cleaner. My shirt is drying, but the stain didn't come out. There's no reason for me to wait, so I ask to take the wet shirt and go. At least she didn't charge me for the wash. It's not going to be a good day.

I walk back to the mechanic and they haven't started on my car yet because they had some questions and my cell battery was dead. Of course, they want to sell me more work - to hear them tell it, the vehicle is likely to explode the next time I hit a pothole. It's not going to be a good day.

My car is finished around 12, so I swing by my mom's house to see if she has laundry superpowers the dry cleaner doesn't. When I walk in, my boy runs up to me and says "Dada, you're here!" He hugs my legs and drags me to the living room so I can play dinosaurs with him. It's going to be a good day.

The stain comes out by merit of mom's dark laundry magic, but it's too late for me to do anything before the interview. Instead, I put my boy down for a nap. He plays with my earlobe while drinking some milk as I sing some songs to him. His eyes close and he starts snoring softly. I hold him until I need to leave and I kiss him on his forehead and whisper "I love you, Bubba." He smiles. It's going to be a good day.

The interview goes well, and I have a second interview tomorrow. I went back to campus and met with an advisor. I have some prerequisites to take care of and can start the program Spring 2015. Dinner with my parents, followed by giving my boy a bath. I get him dressed in his pajamas and as I get ready to leave, he gives me a big hug and a kiss and says, "I love you, Dada."

It was a good day.

Improving

“That sucks” is negativity. “That sucks, here’s why, and here’s how to fix it” is criticism, and it comes from a place of love. That’s the difference.

- via medium.com

I always hate hearing "that's really good" or "I didn't like it" when people respond to my writing. But telling me WHAT they like or WHY something didn't work helps me grow and improve as a writer. I'd rather have someone tell me why they don't like my work and strategies to improve than have someone just "like" my work without any real explanation.

The Best Christmas

It's no secret - I'm a humbug. I don't really like the holiday season. I don't like decorating the house or putting up a tree; I don't enjoy shopping and rampant consumerism; I find Christmas movies to be unnecessary, cheesy, and generally annoying. I'm at a point in my life that I don't need many things, and so I hate trying to come up with ideas for gifts. Occasionally, I enjoy baking Christmas cookies and going caroling with my dad (he plays trombone, I play baritone), but that's about the sum of it. 

This year, we aren't doing gifts for anyone except our son. Parents are still going overboard, but with siblings, we've simply exchanged cards. I haven't worked since mid-November, and things have been tight. But this has been an exceptionally great Christmas, despite the lack of gift-giving and gift-getting (or perhaps, because of it).

With my brother and his wife, we had the opportunity to spend some really great time together going to dinner and to a Pacers game. My brother and I got to laugh and talk and catch up, while my wife and sister-in-law had their own girl time. 

With my brother-in-law, I had the opportunity to spend several hours in the woods, tracking deer and hunting. He's a great guy with a terrific sense of humor, but in the six years I've known him, despite our overlapping interest in camping, hunting, fishing, and guns, we've never really had an opportunity to connect over a shared activity. 

We spent four days with my in-laws and had breakfast and coffee and dinner and watched movies. I spent several hours with my wife's grandfather in his kitchen, listening to him tell stories and talk about his life. 

With my parents, I've helped bake cinnamon rolls, drank coffee, went to see "A Christmas Carol," and took a whole family day to play games, listen to music, and eat great food. 

Really, the best gifts this Christmas have been the gifts of time. I don't think there's much better than that.