Running Unopposed

Looking at my sample ballot for November, and I’m depressed at how many people are running unopposed. Out of 14 races, 8 incumbents are running without competition. They don’t have to debate. They don’t have to defend their records. That’s now how democracy is supposed to work.

We need to figure out how to get more people involved at the local and state level so people can get the experience to effectively serve at the national level. I’ve done some research and it’s economically impossible for most people to run for local or state office, or serve in even “part time” elected positions because of the time requirements and lack of pay. That means that only those who can afford to serve get the opportunity, which then means our government doesn’t represent all of us.

This is how we get ineffective, unrepresentative, unstatesmanlike, and uncompromising behavior from our elected officials – we don’t hold them to account. We don’t run against them. We don’t do anything but complain on social media or claim a “rigged” system, when we don’t even involve ourselves in it beyond cheering on our favorite team.

How do we “fix” this? We all need to look at how we’re participating in government at all levels, and pay more attention. We need to encourage qualified people to run. We need to make sure that our elected officials know we’re paying attention. We need to respectfully (and with actual facts) call them to account when they’re wrong. We need to state our cases for the issues using persuasive language, and not threats of violence or intimidation.

We get the system we let develop. If you don’t pay attention, it will be built and run by the people that are. Want something else? You gotta work for it. You have to do more than complain. You have to build a coalition of people who agree with you and provide actual solutions.

Voting is literally the least we can do to change things. It’s time we all took a long hard look at how we got here, how we’ve behaved this election, and what we’re going to do about it.

Never Give In* (Conditions Apply)

“…never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. I love that Winston gave himself a way out. When you’re confronted with superior good sense, then it’s fine to give in. Please, when I’m wrong, let me remember to give in with honor.

That whole speech is worth reading, because it feels like it could be given today, and it rings as true as it did then: “You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about giving up, not from temptation, but in definition. Giving up doesn’t mean not taking care of yourself. It doesn’t mean taking a break to recharge. It doesn’t mean sacrificing yourself on the altar of the cause – because you’re not much use to anyone if you’re dead or burned out.

I’ve realized that in order to be more useful, I need to be healthier, which means maybe not doing as much in the short term and spending more time on me, which feels selfish.

But it’s not. If I’m healthier, I’ll have more energy for the fight. I’ll be able to do more, not less.

So, I might miss some meetings, but it’s because I’m doing these stupid exercises and not eating brownies.

Never give in. Never, never, never, never.

Stop Spreading Hate

When you share ignorant myths about trans people, minorities, share racist, sexist, xenophobic memes, support politicians who advocate (and sometimes pass) legislation to push already-marginalized people out of public life, you’re encouraging people with just slightly less self control than you to hurt other people.

When you support bullies, strongmen, and bigots, you’re continuing the cycle that ends up in people getting hurt and killed.

Stop and think about the people affected by this stuff. They’re actual real human beings with families and friends who will miss them if they’re gone.

I’m tired of losing friends and having friends afraid to go out in public as themselves because some asshole might kill them just for being who they are.

These people are fighting for their rights to be seen as full members of society. You’re fighting for your right to continue to keep them in the closet (which isn’t a right, it’s a privilege, one that we should all be willing to give up so others can enjoy the same rights we do), and to not have your precious beliefs challenged. There is a huge difference.

History is not on your side, nor will it be kind.

Silly Games With Movie Titles

There’s a game going around Facebook where you remove a letter from a movie title to make a new movie and then you have to come up with the plot. I love these games.

Here are my entries (so far). Feel free to add your own:

  • Star Was: the story of a dying star and the planets that mourn its passing
  • I, Root: The first self-aware potato seeks its place in the world
  • Finding Emo: Emo Phillips has gone missing and it’s up to Bobcat Goldthwait and his ragtag gang of 80’s comics to find him and bring him home.
  • An Inconvenient Ruth: You know what you did, Ruth.
  • What About OB?: A hospital planned by men forgets one VERY important department. Shenanigans ensue.
  • The Rave Little Toaster: EDM, ecstasy, and a small kitchen appliance out way past his bedtime.
  • Rainspotting: And you thought looking at trains was boring!
  • Monsters NC: The story of North Carolina’s horrible, no good, very bad governor and all his friends in the state legislature.

Switching Your Primary Google Apps Domain In Not Too Many Steps

My face when we decided we needed to change our primary Google Apps domain.

It happens. You rebrand (like we did at Planted last year) and need to change your email addresses. You use Google Apps because you need video conferencing that kind of works, document sharing and email and… whatever else they do. You figure, hey, it’s Google, how hard can this be? And then you google for how to do it and it turns out it’s a poorly documented nightmare, which you’d think it wouldn’t be because it’s Google and they’re supposed to make hard things easy.

You probably took the easy way out last time and just created an alias domain. Eventually, though, you get tired of people asking about the old domain on calendar invites and dealing with aliases in all your email clients, and you just decide it’s time. Actually, having an alias already set up makes the whole process a lot easier. If you haven’t done that, that’s alright, it just means you can skip the “remove the existing domain alias” step!

It turns out that it’s not actually that bad as long as you do things in the right order. I’m going to share that order with you so I don’t have to remember it later.

Before you make the switch, I’d make sure all of your users who use 2 factor auth have added their phones as a backup because they’ll need to delete and re-add their accounts to the authenticator app, which took me by surprise and don’t remember from Google’s documentation!

I went through several iterations of this list and this is the one I came up with that resulted in the least amount of time where email addresses didn’t exist and the fewest number of steps! Without anymore prevaricating from me, here are the steps:

  1. Remove your existing domain alias. This is when email will stop going to
  2. Add your new domain as a “real” domain in Google Apps. Go through and DNS setup or verification needed, but if you already had it as an alias, you should already have all of that setup.
  3. Rename all of your users on the old domain to the new domain. This is where starts working again. The benefit of doing it this way instead of just switching primary domains is that it automatically creates aliases for all your users on the old domain, which saves you as many steps as you have users. You should rename yourself last as it will kick you out and make you log back in, which was scary when it happened to me, but not the end of the world.
  4. Rename all of your groups (aliases, y’all) on the old domain to the new domain.
  5. This is the stupid part. In order to change your primary domain, you have to use the API. I went through a bunch of the official clients and had no luck, but then I found the API Test Page and that worked fine.
  6. On the API Test Page:
    • Toggle the “Authorize requests using OAuth 2.0” thing, which will then pop up a window. Make sure you log in with your work domain.
    • For “customerKey”, put in my_customer
    • In “Request Body”, the field name is customerDomain and the value is your new domain!
    • Now click outside the request body box, and then click Execute.
    • You should get a 200 response.

And now you’re done!

Everything seems to be fine. The only thing that’s still a little weird is gChat, but all of our old Hangout URLs still work and we haven’t noticed any issues with Docs or anything else.

Good luck in your domain switching!

Further Reading:

Letters to My Congressman

My local congressman, Buddy Carter, sends out a weekly newsletter and this week’s was a doozy. I don’t normally write to him, because I’m not sure it does any good, but I had to in this case.

Here’s what I wrote. Feel free to use it and write to your representatives.

In your latest newsletter you say the following: “I believe committing this horrific act removes all civil liberties and they should be investigated in whatever way is necessary. This is now an issue of national security and it is ridiculous that Apple is not participating in the investigation of known murderers and terrorists.”

This paragraph shows an amazing lack of understanding of the Constitution and our fundamental civil rights, and a failure to grasp the most basic facts of not just what the FBI is asking Apple to do, but the FBI’s own actions that led to where we are right now.

I’ll leave the constitutional questions to someone else, but the technical ones are simple:

  1. Creating a backdoor, ANY backdoor, for the FBI means that Apple will have to give that backdoor to any government in any country they do business in. Submitting to this request of our government means that they have to give that back door to repressive regimes in China, the middle east, etc.
  2. Creating a back door, ANY back door, in encryption or security means that back door can be exploited by any one – good guys, bad guys, terrorists, etc.
  3. The FBI wouldn’t be in this situation if they hadn’t asked local law enforcement to change the suspects’ Apple ID password. If they’d left it as is, Apple could have gotten into their account and given the FBI whatever they wanted – as they have done in many many cases.

This isn’t a simple case, but just demanding that Apple do what the FBI asks denies the complexity of the issues and weakens security for everyone.

We need strong encryption, unfettered by ill-informed and ill-advised government demands, for ALL of us to be safer. Any weakness at all can be exploited by the bad guys just as easily as the good – and like people are so fond of using the 2nd amendment as a “check against unchecked tyranny” – strong encryption is an even better check against that tyranny, and not just in the US.

I ask that the government get smarter, that our representatives gets smarter, about thinking about how to perform their duties and catching criminals than asking the innovative companies that drive our economy to get dumber.

Thank you for your time,

Kevin Lawver

On Manly Men

I’m tired of what scared man-children are doing to my industry, to social media, to my country and to women. It’s self-defeating. It’s wrong. It’s violent and it’s cowardly.

SO… Men. Stop being cowards. Stop treating people like crap. Stop threatening them. Stop lashing out like toddlers having tantrums because you’re afraid for no reason. Stop making up reasons to be scared and start living.

Look at your behavior. If you really think that threatening women, doxing them, swatting them, demeaning them, pushing them out of your communities because you’re threatened by them… if you REALLY think that makes you a manly man – you’re an idiot.

Being a manly man means being comfortable with yourself and not being threatened when someone else wants the same.

Being a manly man means being courteous, debating on the merits and not throwing tantrums when someone else wants a turn to speak. It also means admitting when you’re wrong.

Being a manly man means not being afraid of people who are different just because they’re different. It means being curious and adventurous – and not afraid to treat people like you want to be treated – or better, how they wish to be treated.

Bullies aren’t manly men. Bullies, at their core, are afraid and have to use intimidation and violence to project power. But, they have no power. Once a bully is outnumbered, he’s just a coward again.

Be a manly man and welcome everyone into your communities. You’ll find you’ll have more fun, learn more, and your community will be stronger for it.

Let’s make stories like this one a thing of the past.

And in case you’re confused, there’s nothing wrong with being a man. There is something wrong with thinking that your gender means you’re somehow entitled to affection, attention, recognition or leadership. If you really believe in a meritocracy, you’ll judge people by their results and not by what they look like, how they worship or where they’re from – and that means untangling centuries of bullshit about ability, the meaningless signifiers of “success” (for example, all our presidents have been men, therefore to be a good president, you have to be a man – or the funny bit of trivia that almost all Fortune 500 CEOs are white men over 6 feet tall). Just because historically, someone hasn’t been allowed to do something doesn’t mean they can’t. And just because this is how we’ve done it in the past doesn’t mean that’s the best way going forward – especially if it’s a cultural affectation that doesn’t actually have anything to do with the outcome.

So, being a man – it’s not bad. But, it’s not the only thing. Being kind is more important than your gender.

Kevin’s Year in Music: 2015

It’s been a great year for actual music, but a sad one for me personally. Why? Rdio died. I loved Rdio for years – even when I was working at a music startup building a competing service, I still loved Rdio. And now it’s gone. I tried Google Music, and had to give up on it because it lacks any idea of social, and does some very strange things with explicit lyrics. Now I’m on Spotify and it’s all right. It’s not perfect. It’s definitely not Rdio – but it’ll do.

Enough sadness, let’s get on to the music! Last year, I just threw together a list of the albums I liked and put them in three categories. That was a cop out and saved me from having to pick a single album. This year, I’m picking a single album that is my favorite of the year! And then a couple more than I really liked.

My album of the year is…

Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett! It’s funny. It’s fun to sing along with, and the songs are actually about things. This album came out early on this year and I kept going back to it all year.

It was really hard to pick just one album but I did it. Courtney’s biggest competition was from an artist that my friend Bryan told me about – Ghostpoet. His album, Shedding Skin, is fantastic. It reminds me a lot of Massive Attack, which is always a good thing. You should listen to it, a lot.

There were a lot of really good albums that came out this year. So many that my Kevin’s 2015 Favorites playlist has 340 songs in it and if you listened to it all at once, it would take 23 hours and 29 minutes. So, get started!

Importing Rdio Playlists (and Your Collection) Into Google Music

My beloved Rdio is dying, and soon. They ran out of money, sold all their assets in a fire sale and have given their users about a week to find a new music home. I tried Apple Music, but quickly ran into limitations (song limit, my patience with their awful UI, horrible apps for importing songs, etc). Asking around, it looked like Google Music was the next best option.

And then the problem was, how to I get almost 5 years of musical history from Rdio into Google Music? All those favorites playlists from 2011-2015, the road trip playlists, the special occasion playlists… all of those will just disappear.

It took a lot of experimentation, but I found a way to export my playlists (and entire collection) from Rdio to Google Music. Here’s what you need (sorry, this is going to require some Terminal time):

  • First, you need to install the Rdio Enhancer Chrome Add-on.
  • Sign up for the Google Music free trial.
  • Install gmusic-playlist – it’s a python library for interacting with Google Music. It has some dependencies, so you’ll need to follow the README instructions carefully.

After you’ve gotten those installed, you need to do the following to save your playlists and collection in a format that’ll work with the importer:

  • Go to Rdio in Chrome.
  • Click Favorites.
  • You should see an Export CSV button. Click it. Depending on the size of your library, this could take a while. It’s going to generate CSV files for your entire collection. My 35,000 song collection took 3 CSV files, and about 5 minutes to generate and download them. Chrome will probably ask you if this site can download multiple files. Say yes and wait for all of them to download (15,000 songs per file).
  • Once you have all those files, it’s time to do playlists!

For each playlist you want to save:

  • Click its link in the left nav bar.
  • Click the 3 dots in a circle button (next to the share button), then “Extras”, then “Export to CSV“.
  • That’ll download another CSV file.
  • You should open up each CSV and delete the first line (the header) or you’ll end up with “Did She Mention My Name” by Gordon Lightfoot in all of your playlists. If that doesn’t bother you, go ahead skip this step.

Now that you have your collection and all the files you want to save, it’s time to set up the gmusic-playlist importer. After you unzip it, open the folder and then open in your favorite text editor and make the following changes:

  • username should be your google login email address.
  • Change the track_info_order line to look like this: track_info_order = ['title','artist','album','trackNumber'] (the only change is to change “songid” to “trackNumber”).
  • Change allow_duplicates to True.
  • Change search_personal_library to False.
  • Save the file.

Now you can follow the gmusic-playlist directions to import all those CSVs. Google Music has a limit of 1,000 songs per playlist, so your collection will be broken up, but at least you’ll have all your songs!

Update: I tried to like Google Music. I really did. But, it has some fatal flaws:

  • Their new releases page is bad and not updated with actual new releases.
  • There’s no social at all. It’s awful.
  • The Web UI is just broken enough to be really frustrating, and all the web apps for it are hamstrung by the web’s brokenness.
  • They do very strange things with explicit lyrics.

So, I was going to update this post with instructions on how to import your official Rdio export into Google Music, but… don’t do that.

I’m trying out Spotify Premium again for the first time since I started using Rdio, and they’ve paid attention. Social is better. Sharing is better. The queue is persistent between sessions. They have more music than Rdio did, or that Google Music has. Their new releases page is actually mostly up to date.

Instead of using this process to import things to Google Music, use the official Spotify Rdio Import tool. It takes about five minutes and works really well.

Dealing With Your Kid’s Email: A Nerd’s Approach

My kids both have Google Ed accounts for their school work, which comes with an email address. Some of the parents in the school’s Facebook group were asking how to set up the school email account on their phones, which feels like overkill to me. I don’t log in to my kid’s email – I just have all of their incoming email forwarded to me (which I then filter to get it out of the way so I can read it later).

And here’s how to set that up if you’d like to do the same thing!

  • Go to Gmail and log in as your kid.
  • Click the Gear icon on the top right side of the page and click Settings
  • Click on the “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” tab.
  • Now click the Add a forwarding address button.
  • Put in your email address that you want emails forwarded to and click Proceed.
  • It’ll send a confirmation code to your email. Grab that and put it in the verify field.
  • Now click the radio button next to Forward a copy of incoming email to…, select your email from the dropdown and then choose keep Gmail’s copy in the inbox from the second dropdown.

And there you go. Now you’ll get all your kid’s emails in your inbox. Lucky you!

Now, for bonus points, filtering. I have a ton of filters to keep my inbox nice and clean, and my kids’ emails have their own filters. Here’s how to set one up:

  • After you set up email forwarding, you’ll start getting emails to your kid in your inbox. You need one of those to start with. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as your kid is one of the recipients.
  • In the search box at the top of GMail, search for (replacing “” with their actual email address).
  • Once the results come up, click the More button and choose Create Filter.
  • The To field should be filled out with your kid’s email address, so go ahead and click “Create filter with this search”.
  • This is where things get fun. Here are the settings I use for my kid’s email:
    • Label it with the kid’s name.
    • Skip the Inbox
    • Mark it as read.
  • With those settings, they never hit the inbox, but, I have to remember to check it periodically, so it’s probably a good idea to leave them in the Inbox to start and not mark them as read – just apply the label.

That should help you keep up with your kid’s school emails without going crazy! Good luck!