ConFusion 2017

This weekend, I’ll be attending ConFusion in Novi, Michigan. In addition to getting to rub elbows (literally, the bar gets crowded) with the likes of Daniel Abraham, Ty Frank, Amal El-Mohtar, Joe Hill, Gail Carriger, Mark Oshiro, Cherie Priest, Tobias Buckell, Jim Hines, Mur Lafferty, and something like infinity more authors, publishers, and people of note, you get to attend great panels about gaming, literature, science, and even movies and television.

‘Fusion is one of the two local conventions that I make it a point to attend each year, and for $60, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better price for a weekend of entertainment, food, and beer. You’re basically losing money by NOT attending. I think. I’m actually pretty bad at budgeting, so someone might want to check my math.

But when you’re done checking my math, come see me at ConFusion this weekend!

Politics as Usual?

I made the mistake of logging into Facebook this evening and reading the general mishmash that shows up on the timeline. Typically–on the rare occasions that I sign into the site at all–I have a restricted list of people that I skim through and then I go on with my day. Facebook is mostly an outbound mechanism for my Tweets to visit.

Today, though, I ran into a political post that I just had to respond to. Because these things on Facebook have an alarming tendency to just magically disappear (weird, eh) I thought I’d reproduce my rant here. I’ll not provide the original post (it’s not my post to share), but I will say the following:

  • It was a link to this article with a clickbait intro saying something to the effect of “this dude won’t go to the inauguration, and his reason will infuriate you.”
  • The post sharing it opined that “America has spoken” in electing Trump, that “America has had to deal with 8 years of this sort of thing”, and that Trump is our president and we should deal with it.
  • The post further opined (and I’m not exaggerating here) that this must be racism because Trump is white and the representative is black–since the reason that things like claiming Obama wasn’t an American was called racist was because a white person said it.
  • The post ended by pointing out that Trump’s election is a sign of the thoughts and feelings of the American people, so we should get over it.

The problem that I had was not with any of these individual points on their own–I’ve seen and scrolled past far more egregious examples in these past few months. My problem wasn’t even with the sum of these snidely delivered opinions in aggregate. No, the thing that struck me as compelling enough to write a knee-jerk rant was the implication that this is just politics as usual. That sentiment is driving me mad, and I’m seeing it everywhere. People saying “Clinton supporters are upset that they lost” or “we dealt with Obama, now you can deal with Trump” as if, by pretending that the problems are merely disagreement with a political agenda, it would erase the actual issues in play.

Insanity!

At any rate, my response was as follows:

First..and this is a pretty key point: the American people have not spoken…at least not in the way you imply. The American people (which would be indicated by the popular vote) have spoken in favor of Clinton. I bring this up not to indicate that she should be President, but to ensure that you don’t get mired in a grossly inaccurate statement right from the top. The American people have spoken, we instead chose to listen to the American electoral system.
And that is the right call. We should have listened to the American electoral system. It’s how this all works. So you’re right (even if for the entirely wrong reason); he’s our President-elect by virtue of the mechanism we should be using.
 
Your conclusion, however, is beyond flawed. First, you seem to think that the reason people said that various racist things were racist was solely based on the fact that the two folks in question were opposite races. That shows that you don’t listen. That’s fair, in reality most of us do an abysmal job of escaping our filter bubble (and that includes me), so it makes sense that you wouldn’t have heard much from beyond it’s noisy walls. Wrong, and excusable.
 
The inexcusable wrong, though, is to think that Americans have put up with 8 years of what is going on now. As a Republican until just a few months ago, I think I’d remember 8 years of active attacks on the ability of the press to do it’s job in holding folks accountable. I suspect I’d recall 8 years of increasing suspicion that our President was an agent of (or at least entirely too cozy with) an unfriendly foreign government—I further believe I’d recall our President spending 8 years preventing the investigation of that relationship. I’d definitely have some hazy inklings in the deepest recesses of my mind if our President spent 8 years threatening to make databases of people of a given religion, expressing approval of religious tests for citizenship, and appointing actual white supremacists to various roles in the government.
 
I disagree with MUCH of what Obama did, and I disagreed with much of what Bush did. This is not that. This isn’t political disagreement. This is genuine concern being expressed by a man elected to express exactly this sort of concern. This is the result of the FBI asking to be allowed to investigate a troubling relationship between a candidate and a foreign power and being denied the ability to do so. If Woodward and Bernstein had as murky an understanding of current events as you’re conveying here circa Watergate, Nixon would have had a much easier go of things.
 
So, you fumbled the mount, had a good time on the uneven bars, and completely blew the dismount…but I will say this, you ended exactly correctly: Trump represents the thoughts and feelings of a huge number of Americans, so if you’re paying attention, that should be absolutely terrifying.
 
I invite you to start paying attention.
 
* Brought to you by a lifelong Republican that recently broke to independent based on the party’s willingness to court this exact human being. This isn’t partisanship, it’s sanity.
This isn’t politics as usual people; and characterizing it as such says one of three things: you aren’t capable of recognizing the differences when they are posed to you, you aren’t willing to listen to the differences when posed to you, or you’re lying. Disagreeing with the sentiments expressed is rational (I mean, I think you’re wrong for disagreeing probably, but it’s rational). Hand waving a potential program of interference by a hostile foreign government off as “sore losers” is egregiously and dangerously stupid. Be better.

Tweets of 2016

Things I Said on Twitter in 2016

As I say each year: The year in review, in micro-blog form. This is mostly for my own reference, but, you might be bored enough to look at this as well. Who knows!

Tweets of 2012 • Tweets of 2013 • Tweets of 2014 • Tweets of 2015

Something quirky happened with October/November tweets, but as soon as I get bored enough to manually scrape those, you’ll see them here too! In all, I have around 1870 tweets this year, double either either of the last two years. I suspect a lot of this can be hung directly on the shoulders of a really shitty election cycle and a propensity for live-tweeting things that irritate me. At this point, my account in general is over 19,400 tweets and I’m almost assuredly going to hit 20k in 2017. That’s ludicrous.

Continue reading Tweets of 2016

2016: A Year in Review

It would be trite to the point of cliche to lead off with a hearty “Fuck You” to 2016; more importantly, it wouldn’t even be entirely true. After starting in a lovely way among friends, this year has been up and down and featured moments both triumphant and terrible. As with all things, time will tell what stands out and what does not. For now, here’s what I recall of a year about to end:

Continue reading 2016: A Year in Review

The Best Christmas Album of All Time! (Volume 2)

 

Last year I shared the best Christmas album of all time, and I thought that this year I would continue the tradition by sharing more songs that I think make the cut.

This year’s selections are a more somber lot, by and large, which I suspect says a lot about my mental state as we bring 2016 to a close. Equally notable is how many more songs that would fall into the “non-traditional” category can be found on this version than on last year’s. It turns out that I don’t love a wide variety of traditional holiday tunes—I more or less ran out last year.

In theory, this link should take you to a Google Play Music playlist of this album. If it works, you’re welcome to use it to listen along. If it doesn’t, what do you want from me, I’m not Google, go bitch to them!

Without any further ado, let’s get to the music…

Continue reading The Best Christmas Album of All Time! (Volume 2)

Leading Questions (a Podcast)

A few weeks ago, Dawn and I were participating in a leadership conversation in a slack that we both frequent when the idea of us doing a leadership podcast was brought up.

Neither of us have ever waited to be asked twice to throw ourselves out there publicly, so we hastily pulled together a concept, some material, recording equipment, and set to work making a thing.

Yesterday, we posted the first episode of that thing!

Continue reading Leading Questions (a Podcast)

White, Male Speaker Seeks Microphone

Another white, male conference speaker has sounded off about the “quotas” that are “stealing” “his” speaking gigs and “giving” them to women or people of color despite the fact that they are “inferior.”

In case my liberal use of quotation marks above didn’t sufficiently convey my opinion on the matter, this strikes me as absolute nonsense!

Continue reading White, Male Speaker Seeks Microphone

Leading Without Ego

The lede of an interview in which I was recently featured ended up being the notion of not being precious with your ideas—as a result, that concept has been the topic of conversation quite a bit over the last few weeks. As often happens, the most common question to arise also happened to be the most obvious one:

How do you avoid being precious with your ideas?

Continue reading Leading Without Ego

Disastrous Deciding Toward Fascism

In the spring of 2004, Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond  delivered a lecture entitled “Why Do Some Societies Make Disastrous Decisions?” in which he discusses the plight of the Easter Islanders. It seems that1 the when the Polynesian people settled the island, it was covered in forest that they relied upon for their way of life. Over the course  of their limited time on the island, they slowly forested their way to societal collapse despite the inherent obviousness of what they were doing; a classic application of the frog-in-boiling-water allegory.2

In the US, our Polynesian lumberjacks are facilitating a slow slide into fascism4; death by a thousand axe cuts.

Continue reading Disastrous Deciding Toward Fascism

An Electoral Theory

I would like to apologize before you attempt to read this. I’m naturally pretty verbose, but this got out of hand even by my lofty standards. I’ve attempted to trim it back some, but, it remains quite the slog. I, personally, think it’s worth it. I’m also pretty biased.

I would like to begin with a few postulates—a few things that we can assume to be true for the sake of argument. I’m not trying to play any rhetorical games here, so I’ll attempt to show my work as I introduce each postulate (after a few up top that I hope to be relatively uncontested).

Continue reading An Electoral Theory

A Note on Election Results

We are just under 13 days until the election here in the US, and I would like to remind everybody of one simple fact that will remain true no matter what happens:

The person that is elected in roughly two weeks is our President-elect and will be our President starting in 2017. Regardless of whether or not you voted for him or her, regardless of whether or not you agree with his or her policies, that’s our President. Full stop. End of story.

Continue reading A Note on Election Results

Confessions of an IT Pro: Precious Ideas Will Hold You Back

This is a placeholder for an article about me that was posted on a different site. If you want to read the article, you’ll have to click through! Please try to ignore the ginormous picture of me at the top. Please try to ignore the use of the word “Pro” in the title. Creative liberties were taken!

Unlike being a lawyer or a doctor, IT has a number of entry points. Some go to school. Some convert their passion from childhood into a career. And some, like software professional Jer Lance, initially get their training and expertise through military service. We spoke with Lance about his roles spanning education, management and software development and what he’s learned over that time.

Q: How did you start your career? And how important do you think education and certifications were for you? 

Read more…

Another Year Clean and Sober

When this post goes live, provided nothing completely irrational has happened in the last week or so, I will have been clean and sober for 14 years.1 I have now been absent of drugs and alcohol for as long as I used them.2

This is traditionally where I pat myself on the back and reminisce about how difficult it was3, but instead I just want to say this: today my life is immeasurably better than it was when it was ruled entirely by my addiction. That isn’t to say that it immediately got better—initially my life became a complete shit-show as I took away my crutch—but as I became capable of making smarter decisions, acting more like a person of whom I could be proud, and learning to be an empathetic human being, things improved at a rate that was astonishing. It has been years since I’ve actively desired to use, and that freedom is a weight lifted from my shoulders that I didn’t even know was there.

Today, I find myself happier than I’ve ever been, enjoying a life that is not dictated by booze or drugs, and I rarely miss it even slightly. I assure you, when you get clean, it gets better.

 


1 Give or take two swallows of an iced tea that turned out to be sangria at an Olive Garden, serving to prove two incontrovertible things: no dinner at an Olive Garden shall go unpunished and the only fruit that should be found in an iced tea is a lemon.

2 Not to say that I used drugs and alcohol continuously at the same rate for 14 years; I doubt highly I would have survived it. At 12, however, the ebb and flow of use that characterized my addiction started its…flow…?

3 In a manner that is COMPLETELY FUCKING JUSTIFIED!!

Permission to Take a Break

A few weekends ago, I looked through my stub posts to see which I could finish up to post; they were all a long way from done, and none were really grabbing me in any real way. Ultimately, I got distracted and, by the time Wednesday rolled around, nothing was ready to post, so I missed a week.

This week, as I look at the things available to post, I find myself in the same spot. I have a handful of drafts that are in no way ready to post and a handful of political rants of which I am so weary that I can’t imagine you don’t dread them. (Honestly, after my recent floods of them on Twitter, you can get your fill there.)

At the intersection of a chapter that I really want to get written, a review that I’m having difficulty coalescing into reality, and the flood of new-ness that I’m trying to absorb at work, I’m fairly intellectually exhausted.

So, I’m giving myself permission to take a break. Posts for the next month will potentially be sporadic or unsatisfying updates about life with the new gig. Or not. I don’t know, I’m not the boss of me.

Slow Path to Leadership

I started a new job about a month ago, so I am right on schedule for my typical visit from the Imposter Syndrome fairy. It’s as regular as clockwork: suddenly immersed in a place where everyone in the building has infinitely more knowledge than I—everything from the business domain to work procedures to where to find the bloody conference rooms1—so I have to fight the feelings that I’ve finally taken on too much until I start to get my feet beneath me on something that feels like solid ground.2

It’s simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting.

Continue reading Slow Path to Leadership

Presidential Debate #1

Debates happened, in so far as you can call what was televised a “debate.” I think that heated argument would be a fairer characterization, but that might just be needlessly pedantic. Nothing especially surprising took place, that much is certain. While I live-tweeted my reactions to much of the proceedings, I thought I would take a minute to elaborate now, having had a day to process (and having watched it several more times).

Continue reading Presidential Debate #1

You Get What You Measure

Wells Fargo has had to fire over 5,000 employees as it was found that they were making fake accounts on behalf of customers—these terminations took place over the course of a few years, so this has been going on for some time. More recently, however, the bank ended their program of incentives to cross-sell accounts to customers.

To recap: a company started to measure how often its employees were able to cross-sell accounts, applied incentives to that measure, and the employees dialed up their cross-sells to the point of actual fraud.

This is unsurprising, you get exactly what you measure—no more, no less.

I’ve seen this often in software delivery: companies claim to value quality, but what do they measure? Lines of code, features completed, project milestones, deadlines. What do you get in return for that measurement? You get tremendous amounts of low-quality work delivered on time and within budget—then you spend extraordinary amounts of time and money fixing all of the terrible, broken software you’ve created.

A past employer expressed tremendous amounts of frustration with exactly that problem when they brought me onto the team; their projects would be completed reliably on time or very close, but would often be delivered 100% or more late (and with tremendously reduced profit) because of the enormity of the repair tasks.

If you want to receive quality, that is what you have to measure. There are numerous ways to do so; incentivizing first-time delivery quality with zero-defect feature bonuses, tracking defect counts against feature complexity for a team, and turning off incentives for milestones in favor of incentives for active status communication are just a few that I have used with great success.

In the aforementioned company, I lobbied for and eventually succeeded in eliminating milestone measurement on the delivery side of the organization in favor of quality metrics similar to those above, and both profit and timeliness skyrocketed…but what rose the most was customer satisfaction. Suddenly, clients enjoyed our process and software, which was really my goal all along.

Remember that you will always get what you measure, but you will get the letter of it, not the spirit of it. Act accordingly.