All posts by jer_

I’m southeastern Michigan dwelling programmer, public speaker, project manager, educator, and geek of varied interests, esp. those related to development, mathematics, writing, and event management. You can find me strewn about the web at places like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and probably a million other places.

The End of an Era

How’s that for a melodramatic title? “The End of an Era”? My narcissism knows no bounds!

Today I have opted to resign from the Penguicon Board of Directors, ending more than a decade of service to the convention nearly half of which as a member of the Board. There are numerous reasons for this, but as much as I will discuss publicly is described in my letter of resignation, reprinted below. Suffice to say, this isn’t a “rage-quit”, it’s not a call to brigade those who may or may not have done wrong, and it’s not the start of some battle. The direction of the Board and my direction are no longer aligned and so I am distancing myself from them; no more, no less.

I wish the Board and Penguicon both the best, and I will see you all at this year’s event!

Fellow Directors:
Several years ago we as a group met with members of our community to discuss the concerns those members had about the direction of our newly expanded code of conduct and that of the extension of those guidelines by the convention committee. Their apprehensions were and remain valid: certainly the policies outlined could be abused and over-applied; similarly, these policies could be misapplied as zero-tolerance mechanisms for antagonism by those so inclined. All behavioral policies carry risks, and–without strong stewardship and careful oversight–ours could as easily become tools for abuse as they could empty words. We knew this then, and we promised to provide that stewardship and oversight.

I made assurances then as I did over the ensuing years that the purpose of those policies was not to allow such abuses and that those of us on the Board of Directors considered it our responsibility to ensure that these policies were applied evenly, intelligently, and judiciously. I made a personal promise on that call–a promise that I have reaffirmed numerous times in the years since–that I would fight overreaches of these policies as strenuously as I would fight to see them applied where needed; that I would not be a part of a governing body that allows our codes of conduct to fail to be applied nor would I watch them be maliciously applied. I would resign before I would be a part of either type of misconduct.

Since that time, I have had numerous opportunities to honor that promise alongside many of you. I have fought to apply the code of conduct to situations requiring it and I have wrestled with those that would use the policies as a star chamber to punish or expel those they found undesirable. I have found it simultaneously exhausting and fulfilling to do that alongside a board membership that was largely like-minded. Even when we have personally disagreed with one another, I have genuinely felt that we were doing the right thing and fighting together in the direction of that judicious, intelligent application of our guidelines.

Today, however, I come to the end of a much more exhausting and much less fulfilling period. One member of the Board seems to have decided that their agenda is more important than our shared mission and that any attempts that aren’t in alignment with that agenda are to be met with hostility and subversion. More recently, I have watched with some disappointment the formation of cliques within the organization that overlap significantly with the Board and that member. Those cliques, in turn, have started to leverage the guidelines in order to push this singular agenda and–especially since the January 2019 Board meeting–actively abuse the harassment guidelines with the goal of engineering a convention committee of their liking. I remain firmly devoted to our code of conduct, so much so that I cannot abide by the willful abuse of it; an abuse that undermines and lessens the authority of it. With those potential abuses now coming from within our numbers, I find that I must honor the second half of my promise and tender my resignation to the Board of Directors, effective immediately. I cannot prevent the abuses that are on the horizon, and I will not be a part of an organization promoting such malfeasance.

I wish you all well and I know that this year’s convention will be another amazing year. I can only hope that the remaining Directors can find someone with more time and energy to ensure that this mismanagement doesn’t continue to grow.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve,

Signed by…you know…me :)

16 Years of Gratitude

Periodically over the years I have taken the opportunity to reminisce on this date, the anniversary of my first day without drugs and alcohol. There are several posts to that effect, and I’m sure there will be several more in the future. On today’s “clean date”, I want to focus on gratitude.

I am married to a wonderful woman who is my peer, my partner, and one of my favorite people in the world. After years of unhealthy, codependent, and manipulative relationships, I am a part of one wherein we both make each other better.

I have a fulfilling job that I enjoy, that I feel that I am especially good at, and for which I am well suited. I work with a group of people that are supportive and challenging and always help me to grow. Across the board—the team I lead, my peers and colleagues, and the team that leads me—collectively and individually they inspire me to do my best work and provide a nurturing environment where a deeply flawed individual such as myself can improve and develop.

Financially, I am grateful to be in a stable place for once in my life. In the past I’ve made much more than I do, but at the expense of my integrity, my self respect, and my general happiness. I have also worked an honest job for an honest day’s pay that left my family on the brink of (and at times even beyond the confines of) financial ruin. They say that money can’t buy happiness—and they’re right—but a baseline amount sure can buy your way out of certain types of misery. Today, we have the gift of comfort without sacrificing the things that are actually important to us.

I am incredibly thankful for the relationships with my children and my (gasp) grandchild. It was not always a given that we would have any meaningful relationship, and the fact that I can be a witness to both my son and my daughter as they start new lives as adults is awe inspiring (and more than a little confusing…I cannot be old enough for this to be happening).

All of these newfound areas of stability in my life have resulted in my wife and I becoming homeowners for the first time last year. For my entire adult life I’ve resisted owning a home in favor of the ability to cut and run whenever the mood suits me. For most of the last decade, I’ve kept one foot out the door, ready to say “to hell with it all” and take on a sexy, Silicon Valley job at any time. That’s never been what I’ve wanted, though, it’s what I have felt like I’m supposed to want. So I’ve put down roots and nestled more firmly into what makes me happy.

Today I have friends and acquaintances that I love and respect that love and respect me in return. My personal relationships are not transactions and are especially not rooted in who owes who what. I’m thankful for the ability to shed unhealthy relationships and nurture those that are healthier. Together, we can celebrate life’s joys and support one another when needed and simply be on this journey together.

It is very easy to slip into cynicism, frustration, anger, or sadness today—the world is a trash fire being hosted inside of a dumpster fire during a gasoline monsoon, and somebody keeps playing free jazz at full volume—so I wanted to use this anniversary of mine to remember some of the myriad reasons I have to be grateful for my life at this time. Thanks for bearing with me during my uncharacteristically maudlin moment, I’ll be back to dick and fart jokes soon enough!

Social Media Musings

It is with a degree of trepidation that I return to Twitter after a month-long hiatus. There are numerous reasons, but my primary justification is that they’ve finally started banning shitbags like Alex Jones, and you reward good behavior, even if it’s late and reluctant.

A more direct reason, though, is that for all of its faults, Twitter fills a gap that neither Facebook nor Mastodon can yet manage. Facebook is obvious; from a ethical standpoint it is no better than Twitter (and might manage to be worse in many ways). More impactful to me is Facebook’s lack of topic muting coupled with it just being the wrong crowd. Facebook is where I’ve aggregated friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances for life updates and event planning. It turns out that the politics of many people in those groups tends toward horrifying.

Mastodon though, in my experience, is almost worse. Whereas Facebook and Twitter are those racist cousins that you visit briefly until they drop an n-bomb in front of your kids, Mastodon is that seemingly polite aunt or uncle that seems sweet until you find out that 20% of their income goes to the Westboro Baptist Church and they lobby to keep “certain types” out of their neighborhoods. The former gives you the option of beating a hasty retreat or standing your ground and fighting. The latter just makes you wonder how much your presence in their life is advocacy of their beliefs.

Mastodon just feels uncomfortably like everyone is wearing their most presentable mask…but as Wil Wheaton saw, the faces beneath look awfully similar. Sure, it’s nice when it’s your “side” doing the dogpiling, but when you think of the ramifications it does cool the enthusiasm a bit.

But Mastodon is supposed to be safer than Twitter, so at least everyone is protected from that abuse, right? While Mastodon bills itself as more like a roll-your-own, artisanal social media experience–just pick an instance with whose ethos you’re aligned today, and if they abuse your trust you can just cart it all to a different instance–but that merely serves to distribute the burden simultaneously too broadly and not broadly enough. Wil was dumped from his instance because he was getting dogpiled and it was excessively burdensome on the admin. Mastodon, in a nutshell.

I hold out hope that we as an electronic community can come together and figure out a solution to the egregious abuses, but I’ve come to believe that the problem isn’t the network; the problem is the people. We have to solve our social problem, not our technology problem.

Until that time, I won’t cut off one potential abuser in favor of another, this time…although if we do run the into the problem of failing to ban painfully obvious abusers again, it’ll again be time to go.

The Cleverness of Intent Over Content

I tweeted the other day about some quizzes I had taken that yielded results that were…unexpected. Resulting conversations ran the gamut from the relative merits of requiring leaders of technical teams to be technical folk to simply commiserating about the “impostor syndrome”-triggering nature of failing even a badly done test—and I fully intend on writing about some of these—but that’s not this post. This post is about a different concept that the assessments made me think about; the incredible difficulty of making good testing materials and one strategy for making better ones.

The fact that teaching people is a tricky and difficult thing should come as no surprise, but what I found only when I had been doing it for a couple of years was that the hard part isn’t the actual teaching itself—that part is actually fairly simple if you know the topic really well and can communicate with any degree of clarity. The hard part is honoring your initial intent with all of the materials, but especially exams and the like.

I started my undergrad—well, the final time I started my undergrad—a working software developer fully a decade into my career. By the time I sat down to take one of my first exams in a class purported to be an introduction to programming logic, I had been writing programs for double that time. That test bothered me to such a degree that it haunted my thoughts for years to come as I continued my career both as an instructor and a developer. Why was it such a terrible exam? How could a fantastic teacher create an such a bad evaluation tool?

More than half of the test was comprised of questions best described by the following template:

What is the definition of {word}?

  1. Obviously wrong answer
  2. Answer that looks right save for one very small error
  3. Answer that could be correct, but is clearly wrong
  4. Correct answer

Of the remaining questions, most only deviated from this formula by not specifically requesting a definition. My favorite example from this particular type of question (presented to you by virtue of the fact that I’m a digital hoarder with decades of bullshit on my hard drive):

An array is:

  1. A collection of values stored in one variable referenced by index 1 to n
  2. A collection of values stored in one variable reference by index 0 to n-1
  3. A single beam of light
  4. A list of similar but unrelated items

There is a host of problems with this question, but for someone who spent some time programming in Pascal and Fortran both in school and professionally in the years prior to this exam, this question was really galling.1

The crux of the problem is, there wasn’t even any point in the latter half of the text of the “correct” answer. It’s clearly very clumsily tacked on as a counter to the “trick” answer. Getting this question “wrong” by answering (1) doesn’t indicate that you don’t understand the material—at best it indicates that you were unclear on a nuance. More importantly, answering this question “correctly” doesn’t even indicate a fundamental understanding of what an array is—as evidenced by the lackluster results of the first practical exercises when we used arrays.

The instructor took their eyes off the prize and forgot what their intent was in giving the exam in the first place. So many tests make this exact mistake. The purpose of this exam was stated in print at the top of the first page:

The purpose of this exam is to demonstrate a basic understanding of how [to] use the foundational components of a computer program…

In most applications, simply knowing the definition of a word—especially to a pedantic degree—does not afford one any more ability to be proficient in a thing that not knowing the definition.2 Wouldn’t the following question have better suited the purpose?

For the following questions, use an array defined in C as follows:

char letters[5] = {“h”, “e”, “l”, “l”, “o”};

What index would you use in C to request the letter ‘e’?

Rather than the definition, if you correctly answer this question I now know if you know how to USE this foundational component of a computer program. It’s still an imperfect question, but already it is more aligned with my exam’s intent. But wait! What if you need to ask a vocabulary question in order to satisfy the intent of the exam? This isn’t uncommon, but the vocabulary question should be phrased in a way as to satisfy understanding over recitation.

In the bad array question above, the language used in the potential answers was directly from the teaching material. This is often done for a very rational, well intended reason: to AVOID tricking students by changes in wording. The problem is that it doesn’t really prove that the student understands the concept which—again—was the stated intent of the exam. It provides evidence that they can recite the verbiage that you provided already, not that they know what it means. Validating understanding of vocabulary in a way that is quickly and easily gradable (read: non-short answer) is tricky, but there are a number of strategies that have been shown to have success.

Most commonly, multiple choice (as above) but with the actual correct answer being a derivation of the textbook answer and the other answers being derivations of other vocabulary items in the material being taught. This can be done in the single format (again, as above), or it can be done in a many-to-many format (as in “draw a line between the word and its definition”). Asking the respondent to select synonyms and/or antonyms can also be valuable in some cases.

Strategies notwithstanding (and if you’d like more in depth information on strategies like these, I highly recommend How Learning Works by Abrose, Bridges, et al), all of this is secondary to resolutely ensuring that you choose mechanisms for evaluation that adhere to the reason that you chose to evaluate the student to begin with.

It is challenging. Even with this knowledge, and even after taking numerous courses on pedagogy, I still struggled with making my testing materials valuable to students. Some time after I had taken this fraught exam, I found myself giving exams that were in no way better than those I am describing here. During one frustrating exam creation session, I got up, walked to the dry erase board in my office, and wrote the following3 in huge letters directly in my line of sight:

I want to know that students that pass this exam will know exactly how to use the things I test them on here in practical ways, and that students that get questions wrong will know exactly what they need to study to be able to use those things.

I want no students that know the answer to a question to get it wrong.

I don’t want my exam to be clever, I want my students to be clever.

Simply, I wrote my objective statement where I could see it. I made my intent…well…intentional, and I did so in a manner that increased the likelihood that it would impact my actual behavior. The positive direction that this pushed my teaching and my students was palpable. The test that I was writing at the time immediately felt more “right” to me than any I had created before. Each subsequent quiz and exam moved closer and closer to the ideal I had in mind because each time I looked at my material I found new ways that it wasn’t honoring my intention. As my skill as an instructor improved, so, too, did my ability to find ways to meet those objectives.

The results weren’t simply gut feel, though. Exam scores improved, but more importantly so did the results of all project work and labs. My sample was small, but my pass rate went up by a small-but-measurable percentage. Better still, the students that came out of my classes started being lauded as particularly “well prepared” for higher-level courses to follow. In short, I hadn’t made the tests easier—I had made them more effective.

Years after this epiphany (and I use that term very loosely, here), I had the pleasure of getting positive feedback from a student at the end of my course. She was switching careers from a decidedly non-technical field to that of a developer, and among the things she said one that stood out to me was the observation that her test anxiety and impostor syndrome did not manifest so intensely on my exams; that, as she opined, the exams “didn’t try to make her feel stupid.” Her software career has surpassed my own at this point and I delight in the idea that this change in course might have played some small part in that.

In my experience, there’s no magic bullet that creates great exams. It is only through conscious, mindful attention to the goals of the exercise that you can hope to end up with the desired result. Conscious, mindful attention…and a ridiculous amount of practice. As an aside to the armchair quarterbacks out there mean-spiritedly snarking about “shitty tests” I extend this invitation: create an exam about something you know very well and see how difficult it is to make something of which you can be proud. I think you’ll be surprised.


1 The “correct” answer was 2, but Pascal, Fortran, and numerous other languages start their indices at 1 rather than 0. Further, most modern languages (even at that time) allow for non-numeric indices, making the question even more grossly inaccurate.

2 There are exceptions, obviously—knowing what “flammable” or “caustic” means could be pretty important in a lab setting, for example.

3 In reality, it was probably something very similar, it subtly mutated over time, but this is pretty close to what I wrote.

Penguicon 2018 Panels

I began planning for this year’s Penguicon with the best of intentions. I put together a handful of panels that I wanted to do and submitted them on time, like a proper planner. Then I agreed to be a panelist on a couple that seemed to be a good fit. Of course, I forgot about the recurring board panel. So now my current load for Penguicon is 6 sessions. I’ve done worse, but, I’ve certainly done better :) I don’t know exactly when they’ll be at the moment, but this is WHAT they’ll be: Continue reading Penguicon 2018 Panels

Moving Sale

As part of our move, Ger and I are getting rid of a number of things we no longer need. Our plan is to put a list below, if you want any of this, let one of us know and make an offer: we will accept the first reasonable offer for each item provided you can pick it up on the weekend of 8/12-8/13.

Anything that doesn’t find a home with one of y’all gets donated to Goodwill that weekend.

The items:

  • Leather Futon: great shape, barely used
  • Countertop Dishwasher: this works surprisingly well, connects to the sink directly (no need for plumbing work) and served admirably for a family of 2-3
  • Server Rack: 5′ tall and 3′ deep with cable management, a few shelves, removable sides and doors, and a power strip…note, it’s fairly heavy SOLD
  • Shoe Cabinet: the Hemnes cabinet from Ikea near our front door… holds 12 pair of shoes  SOLD

I’m sure I’m missing some that I’ll add here as I come across them.

Current Events, Russia, and Conviction

It has been quite a week for politics, hasn’t it? In case you haven’t been paying close attention, allow me to catch you up to just some of the goings on:

On Tuesday, Trump fired the Director of the FBI, James Comey. He did so citing a letter from Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein recommending Comey’s removal. The American people are to believe that the testimony from the day before by Sally Yates (the former Attorney General that Trump fired for not rubber stamping illegal activity) about the Trump camp being well aware of Flynn’s problematic association with Russia is mere coincidence.

More coincidence? The request Comey made to Rosenstein for additional funds to expand the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the election that ultimately won Trump the presidency that happened just days before Rosenstein recommended—and Trump executed—Tuesdays firing. Continue reading Current Events, Russia, and Conviction

On the Need to Make Great Things Great Again

Among my plans for the day, today, was to put together a quick writeup congratulating the staff of Penguicon for throwing an undeniably successful convention—the 15th in a series! Instead, I’d like to take a moment to respond to a long-time attendee’s paen to modern divisive politics; a blog post with the snappy title “Make Penguicon Great Again.” In his post, Jay “Tron Guy” Maynard makes the assertion that Penguicon has fallen to the “leftists” and resulting event is no longer one that is comfortable for people like him.  Continue reading On the Need to Make Great Things Great Again

#42FaveBooks

There’s this great hashtag floating around the Twitters that invites you to list your 42 favorite books. I’ve been enjoying reading everyone’s lists, but I can’t bring myself to tweet book titles back-to-back-to-back 42 times. Instead, here’s my list; I don’t know that they’re my favorites, but they’re pretty much the first 42 that come to mind, so they have to be ones I enjoy quite a bit.

In no particular order…

  1. The Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Adams)
  2. Phantom Tollbooth (Juster)
  3. The Giving Tree (Silverstein)
  4. Kill Whitey (Harvill)
  5. The Dead Zone (King)
  6. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Heinlein)
  7. The Android’s Dream (Scalzi)
  8. The Way of Kings (Sanderson)
  9. Ender’s Game (Card)
  10. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Berendt)
  11. A Supposedly Fun Thing That I’ll Never Do Again (Wallace)
  12. A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bryson)
  13. Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Boo)
  14. Mistborn (Sanderson)
  15. Skeleton Crew (King)
  16. Persuader (Child)
  17. A Painted House (Grisham)
  18. Lamb (Moore)
  19. Name of the Wind (Rothfuss)
  20. Uprooted (Novik)
  21. American Gods (Gaiman)
  22. Tell No One (Coben)
  23. The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Doyle)
  24. Interpreter of Maladies (Lahiri)
  25. Gone Girl (Flynn)
  26. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain)
  27. Le Morte d’Arthur (Malory)
  28. 1984 (Orwell)
  29. Pillars of the Earth (Follett)
  30. Little Brother (Doctorow)
  31. Slaughterhouse 5 (Vonnegut)
  32. The Martian (Weir)
  33. The Dispatcher (Scalzi)
  34. Dark Sparkler (Tamblyn)
  35. I See by My Outfit (Beagle)
  36. Crooked Little Vein (Ellis)
  37. The Fuck-Up (Nersesian)
  38. A Darker Shade of Magic (Schwab)
  39. A Hatful of Seuss (Seuss)
  40. Waltzing With Bears (DeMarco)
  41. The Road (McCarthy)
  42. Redshirts (Scalzi) (of course)

What are yours? Tag me when you start your list (or when you end it).

April and May Conference Schedule

Everything is happening in April and May, and I’ll be at a decent amount of it. The following is my event schedule for the spring:

Obviously, the break between Penguicon and Self.Conference needs to be filled! Shout out to me on social media if you will be attending any of the above (or something else that I’m missing).

Observation

Several weeks agoDawn and I discussed several of the traits that are often found in strong leaders. Among them, there was one that is so overlooked that it is the first thing people ask me about my list: the power of observation.

Observation is key to so many aspects of leadership, but everybody that asks me about it meets it with a similarly dismissive attitude.

“Everyone knows how to look,” they deride, “it’s obvious.”

Observation is more than merely looking, it’s looking with intent! Being properly observant requires actively paying attention to your surroundings (and yourself) with the goal of taking action on the information that you find. it’s not merely being aware of the things around you, but earnestly absorbing them and processing what you find. It requires diving deeper than the surface; there are numerous levels of observation, and each layer deeper you manage to go is an additional degree of insight (and action) afforded you.

At its most basic, a leader should be in the habit of observing the general attitude of the team. How does the team seem when working? When not working? Interacting with you? When you’re not obviously around? With each individual member? With people outside of the team? When things are stressful?

The answers to questions like these paint a picture of the health of your team that you will never get by simply asking—the team might not even realize, for example, that they’re combative to “outsiders” but through careful observation you might note the signs. You might observe tension between teammates before it becomes notable to those involved, even.

Remember, though, that observation implies a willingness for action. When you observe behaviors that betray underlying “illness”, it is incumbent upon you to act. It’s the combination of careful observation and resulting action that will really elevate your ability to lead your team.

Posting Problems

I’ve been having a lot of trouble actually posting anything here. It’s not that I don’t have tons to write, it’s the opposite: I am constantly inspired to write things, but they’re all about politics.

I really don’t want to just blog about politics all of the time.

To begin with—and contrary to the makeup of this blog lately—I’m not really exceptionally politically active usually. As a result, I’m not an ideal person to write about politics. I’m rabidly moderate and unevenly informed, not the stuff from which political screeds should probably be derived.

I try to keep generally up to date on the news, and sometimes that process results in my having a strong opinion on a specific item. On those occasions, I write about it—as much to make sense of it to myself as to spread my thoughts to others. Sometimes, those posts spawn a great conversation on Twitter. Less frequently, they spawn a great conversation on Facebook. I enjoy that, but not enough to make it the bulk of what is posted here.

So I’m having trouble writing anything of substance that isn’t about politics lately (I wonder why?) and I don’t really feel like posting most of the political posts that I jam out each week. I’m sort of caught between what I’d like to do and what I’m actually doing.

Hopefully, before this posts tomorrow morning, I’ll have come up with a solution…but I doubt it. I suspect I’ll just post less often until things normalize a bit or until I get sufficiently sick of our political scene as to feel like writing about something else instead.

Kill the Messenger

I had a friend when I was in my early 20s named Dave. He wasn’t a great guy, but then, neither was I at the time. Among his other less-than-stellar qualities, Dave was constantly cheating on his girlfriend.

This had been going on as long as I’d known him. His girlfriend spent most nights at his place, but on those nights once or twice each week that she stayed at her place he invariably had one of a handful of women over instead. He rarely spent a night alone.

Dave also enjoyed antagonizing his neighbor. For some reason, he thought it was hilarious to park half in his own driveway and half on his neighbor’s lawn. Most of the hilarity was probably derived from the red-faced, apoplectic approach his neighbor had to informing Dave that he had “done it again.”

Ultimately, the two avenues of my friend’s dickishness collided: the neighbor let Dave’s girlfriend know of Dave’s extracurricular activities. Tammy came by for an unexpected visit one night, and after the requisite fireworks, it was over.

What I remember most, though, was being at the bar that weekend commiserating with everyone over Dave’s terrible fortune. Dave—for his part—was incensed; his nosy neighbor had no business interfering and his girlfriend was an asshole for breaking his trust and coming over unannounced on the say-so of his neighbor.

I found myself thinking about Dave quite a bit last week while I watched President Trump melt down on Twitter and even more while I read the coverage that followed.

What we know, at this point, is that Flynn did talk about the sanctions which may or may not have been illegal. Obviously Flynn found it shady enough to lie about, and that lie is where the trouble really begins, because that lie is what makes him susceptible to blackmail. While Flynn has resigned, it’s fair to guess we haven’t heard the last of this particular issue.

Like Dave, Trump is focused very intently on how he was wronged…about how someone is leaking to the press, how those complaining are sore losers, and how it’s all overblown anyway. The entire thing is “fake news” despite it being based on leaks that Trump confirms are accurate—a feat of mental gymnastics that should defy the imagination but somehow lands with an unsettling number of people.

Neither Dave nor Trump are especially good at taking responsibility, and as it turns out, their supporters seem reluctant to hold them responsible for their own actions in general. There is a reason for that.

Dave and I didn’t speak for a decent while because I had the temerity to, after listening to the same whines for the millionth time, blurt out some truth at him—to hold him responsible for his actions.

“Who cares about the neighbor, you were cheating on her you idiot!”

I hope someone in Trump’s circle is doing the same for him.

But I doubt it.

Acknowledging My Good Fortune

I say it frequently—but it bears repeating—I am so unbelievably lucky to have repeatedly found myself leading fantastic teams of hard-working people.

Consistently, these teams are willing to experiment and try new things; sometimes skeptically at first, but they always come around. They might worry about outcomes, but without fail they act from a willingness to take risks and see what happens.

Trust is a difficult thing in the workplace, and I’ve been profoundly fortunate to have always had teams that took those scary first steps to place their trust in me. They’ve given me room to work for them, and have given me room to fail and try again.  That trust has consistently translated into being understanding when I fail or come up short, and a willingness to give me another chance to make good.

Because of all of these things and many more, my teams have reliably made me look good. That’s certainly not the point, but it is a nice side effect.

There’s no real point to this post…no lesson to be learned…just, be as lucky as I’ve been, I guess.

Pitch Perfect

Want to know if your team understands something? Ask them to give you the elevator pitch. If they can’t summarize the objectives and high-level milestones in a few quick sentences, it’s unlikely that they understand it very well.

Take a step back, can you give an elevator pitch? If not, take the time to make sure that you truly have a grasp on the plan, then take that newfound proficiency to get your team on board as well.

You’ll be surprised at how much traction simply having a firmer grasp on the subject will help your team gain!

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!