Roadtrip Media Survival Guide

Dark storm clouds over some random shopping center in Northern VA.
The family just did our big annual road trip to see my family in Northern VA.  That meant over twenty hours on the road.  I almost always create a new Roadtrips playlist every year (first in iTunes, then Rdio, now Spotify).  This year’s was a little different since I let the kids add songs to it… and they did (for better or worse).  We didn’t end up listening to it on the big drives, but it was great for our trips around town with everyone in the van.

We mostly listened to podcasts.  This year, I created a new playlist in Overcast of things I’ve been meaning to catch up on, or that I know the kids like.  It worked great, especially since I limited all of those podcasts to only the 5 most recent episodes. It kept us from getting too many episodes of the same podcast in a row, and kept me awake since I never knew what was coming up next.

I had to skip podcast series where you have to have listened to all the episodes to know what’s going on, so no Limetown.

Here’s what we listened to, along with my recommendations (1-5 stars):

  • The Cut on Tuesdays: 5 stars. You never know what you’re going to get with the one. It could be an interview, or a fun story about “bad” dinner parties (my favorite episode), or a story about the history of birth control.
  • Revisionist History: 5 stars. Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast is now in its fourth season and it’s great. Super thought-provoking and great storytelling.
  • Scene on Radio (The Seeing White season): 5 stars. We only listened to the last four episodes of the season, but it’s amazing. It’s a great introduction to the history of whiteness, its power over the systems that run our lives, and some hopeful ideas on how to fix it.  It’s like a podcast of Dismantling Racism and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
  • Everything is Alive: 4 stars. A really silly concept: that everything is alive, so let’s interview them, but it turns into some mind-bending, funny, and touching conversations. I especially like the elevator one.
  • Every Little Thing: 4 stars. There’s some heavy stuff in this playlist, but ELT isn’t one of them. Audience questions get turned into explorations of things you never thought about. It’s always educational and fun.
  • Lore: 4 stars. You know about this one already, right?  Scary stories haltingly told.
  • Sawbones: 3 stars. The kids love this one.  It’s hit or miss for me.  Some episodes are great and hilarious.  Others just don’t work for me.
  • Solvable: 3 stars. Solid interviews with people changing the world. A little dry, but worth listening to.

There you go.  Hopefully that helps your end-of-summer roadtrips a little more pleasant.  Enjoy!

Talking About It

The last time I talked to a therapist for myself was when I was five or six after I fell into a beehive and then was petrified of bugs – to the point I had ulcers.

I found a program offered by my insurance company called AbleTo; it’s an eight week combination of therapy and behavioral coaching to help improve … whatever it is you need help with.

I asked for help making healthy choices and sticking to them – because boy have I struggled with that over the years.

In talking to my therapist and my coach I realized that I have failed to keep up with exercise and weight loss in the past not because I’m weak or incapable but because I’m too hard on myself. I get sick or hurt and feel like a failure… so I give up.

It’s the height of allergy season. I literally have a headache and sinus pain 24/7 right now. My therapist was worried that I’m hermiting myself away so we went through my calendar and she was blown away by how many commitments I have and am still able to keep.

And that’s when the light went on. I do not have to do it all and it doesn’t all have to happen now. Almost all of my guilt about things not getting done is self-inflicted. That guilt keeps me from seeing how much I’m able to get done in spite of my various health “challenges”.

So, no more. I will say no to things. I will do what I can and stop feeling guilty for not doing it all. I will stop sabotaging progress because that progress is halting.

Half assed is better than nothing.

Funny Not Funny

I was reminded of this story today, and wanted to write it down before I forget it.

My dad was in the Air Force for over twenty years, from a little after I was born until a little before I got married. He was a navigator, planned exercises and did all kinds of stuff I didn’t understand at the time.

When my brother, Tim, and I were high school, we went to his office after school (why, I don’t remember, and I think my mom might have been there, but I’m not sure). Almost as soon as he got there, he had to go talk to one of his coworkers, leaving Tim, me, and his desk, all alone. We were bored, so started looking at all the stuff on his desk. What did we find? His super awesome, self-inking, bright red, clicky-clack noise making, CLASSIFIED stamp!

We started stamping every piece of paper we could find CLASSIFIED: Post-Its, to-do lists, you name, it got CLASSIFIED.

Dad came back in, saw everything we “decorated,” pursed his already narrow lips, put his hands on his hips and said in his sternest dad voice: “Not funny.”

We, of course, thought it was hilarious. We thought it was so funny, we got him a blue, self-inking, clicky-clak noise making, super awesome, NOT FUNNY stamp for Christmas.

My Giant

If you go back through the archives, there are several posts about how funny my wife is. It’s been a while since I posted a new Jen story, and writing here is one of my resolutions for the year… so here we go.

At 3:50AM this morning, while I was very much asleep, Jen grabbed my leg and yelled, “There’s something terrible happening!”

“What?” I muttered trying to open my eyes and figure things out.

“Something bad is happening in the house. Go check it out!”

I was definitely awake now. I hopped up, rushed out of the bedroom, checked the kitchen, the doors, the windows, the floor (you know, for blood maybe? it was early), and then stood in the living room and just listened for a bit. Nothing. It was a house very much asleep… except for me.

I walked back to the bedroom.

“Did you find anything?”

“Nope. Nothing’s burning, no blood, all the doors are still locked. I think we’re good.”

“Maybe it was just a dream? OK, sorry, I know you don’t go back to sleep easily.”

“It’s fine. Better to check than not.”

With that, Jen put her sleep mask back on, rolled over and was asleep within 30 seconds. I think she was awake for maybe five minutes. I, of course, laid there, heart racing, trying to get back to sleep, for 45 minutes before I gave up, made tea (so I didn’t wake anyone up with the coffee grinder) and headed for the couch.

Re-reading this, it doesn’t sound as funny as it feels. But, it is a thing that happened, which makes it perfect for a blog post, right?

(and the title is a Twin Peaks reference… Jen is my very own giant, telling me crypticly that something is terribly wrong and to go fix it)

I’m on Team #OfficeHours

Inspired by Matt’s tweet, I’m trying out offering office hours on Fridays. You grab half an hour of my time on a Friday afternoon and we can chat about whatever you think I can help you with.

If you’re in Savannah, I also like to do coffee meetings weekdays between 8-9, but you should email me about those.

Some rules, because it wouldn’t be official without some:

  • Please don’t try to sell me anything. If you want to get feedback on your pitch, great, but I just… I don’t want to.
  • You set the agenda. Some things you might ask me about:
    • Savannah’s tech scene and TechSAV.
    • Savannah restaurants
    • Baking bread
    • Technical leadership
    • Ruby on Rails or CSS (or databases or javascript or whatever)
    • How to create a guerilla organization that actually gets things done.
    • How to write a resume that a robot can read
    • Being on a board
  • I guess “no sales pitches” is really the only rule.

And while you’re at it, why don’t you set up your own #OfficeHours and share what you know! It’s ridiculously easy to set up either Calendly or a Public Calendar on Google so people can talk to you.

Susie King Taylor Community School

I’m on the governing board of Susie King Taylor Community School, and it’s been amazing to watch the progress the school’s made even since I joined in December. It’s a different model for Savannah, and one that I hope works well enough that it pulls the rest of the school system forward.

If you’re a business in Savannah and want to get involved with the school, teachers are always looking for people to come speak to their class, get involved with a lesson, or let a gaggle of young learners come check out businesses and see how things work. If you’ve got money to spare, we gladly accept donations. If you want to help, but don’t know how, you can reach out and get involved.

On Uncomfortable Topics: Rules and Sexual Harassment

I realized I’ve never written these down, so… here are the rules I try to follow, and that I’ve given my kids in some form or another over the years. I haven’t always followed them, because I honestly didn’t know they were a problem, and needed to be rules. Some of them are a lot easier to follow because I’m married. Some of them still require work, because I’ll hopefully never be done getting better.

There are a lot of reasons we need to stamp out sexual harassment. The first being that women are human beings and deserve to be allowed to not be threatened, abused, molested or coerced… ever, anywhere. I’d hope that would go without saying, but, it apparently needs to be said… a lot.

If we make our communities, workplaces, families, churches, etc, places where people feel threatened, uncomfortable or violated, then they’re not going to be productive. We’re missing out on their ideas, their contributions, their genius, because some of us can’t control our urges. The benefits of creating inclusive, diverse and welcoming places is that we get to benefit from everyone’s contributions. If we’re doing something that decreases someone’s ability to participate, then we should stop. That sounds stupid when we’re talking about sexual harassment, but if you can’t be convinced to treat women as equal humans, then maybe a productivity argument is what you need?

So, I said there were rules. Here they are. This list isn’t complete, but it’s a start:

  1. Don’t touch people unless you ask them first, AND THEY SAY YES. If someone is asleep, they can’t say yes. If someone is passed out, they can’t say yes.
  2. You never have to hug or touch anyone you don’t want to. If you’re a man, don’t initiate a hug unless you’ve been hugged by that person before.
  3. Do not, or attempt to, date people you have power or influence over. If you’re in management, don’t ever attempt to date anyone at work.
  4. Don’t stare. You can conquer “the male gaze”. It makes people really uncomfortable, is objectifying, and is just a bad habit – so break it.
  5. Don’t talk about, or comment on, other peoples’ bodies.
  6. Be kind. Be gentle. Be someone people can feel comfortable and safe around.

I honestly have no idea if I’ve ever harassed anyone, but I’m sure I’ve made people uncomfortable, and I’m sorry. Hopefully, I’m better now than I was, and I’ll be better tomorrow than I am today.

I appreciate the women who do speak up, and especially the women over the years who were brave enough to tell me their harassment stories, and take the time to educate me, and point me in the right direction.

This isn’t fun to talk about, but we have to stop forcing women to run the gauntlet of abuse it takes to report harassment and abuse. Men, this is OUR problem to solve, because we’re the perpetrators. If you work with harassers, pull them aside, talk to them. Report them. We have to police ourselves, and be better.

#YallDoGood: Shout Out Your Community’s Unsung Heroes

There are people in your community doing great things completely unnoticed, except maybe by you.

So, this weekend, maybe take a minute between the latest outrage and trying to ignore the latest outrage to give your local unsung do-gooder a high five, or buy them coffee, or a big shout out on social media to tell the world how awesome they are, so people can see that there’s good stuff happening.

Let’s call it… #YallDoGood

Cool? Get to it, y’all.

Love and Reading

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

James Baldwin

It’s also my favorite thing about the internet – all of the people who thought they were alone and had no way to describe how they felt suddenly found they weren’t alone in the world.

The web’s not perfect, but for all of the bad stuff, there’s this. No matter what we’re going through, there’s someone out there who’s not only lived it, but written it down and shared it with the world, and we can go find it, and maybe a small bit of peace.

Of Safety Pins and Paperclips

I’m conflicted about the whole safety pin thing. It’s an easy gesture and I’m afraid that it will provide comfort only to the people who wear it, not to those actually in need of comfort. I’m afraid that the people who wear it will think their work is done because they put on their safety pin, when it should be just the beginning. I’m skeptical because we’ve made these gestures before and not followed through, not finished the work, and we’ve abandoned those in need because our attention spans are short, and there’s always a shiny new cause to support that makes us feel better about ourselves.

I wanted to find out more about its origins and found an article about the Norwegian version – the paperclip.

Like a safety pin, the paperclip works as a symbol because it binds things together. Like the safety pin in the Netherlands, wearing a paperclip became a crime; there was real risk in wearing one.

The thing that struck me from the story was in the “bonus facts” below. The paperclip was just the beginning. Ordered to teach Naziism in school, 12,000 Norwegian teachers went on strike. Many were sent to prison camps. The Nazis realized having kids out of school hurt more than the teachers not promoting their cause, so they relented.

The clergy was ordered to teach obedience to the “leader and the state”. When every bishop and 90% of the clergy in the country resigned, the Nazis again relented.

More than 1,000 Jews were smuggled into Sweden by the resistance.

The Dutch were no slouches either. They carried out repeated demonstrations and non-violent strikes against the deportation of Jews from the Netherlands. No other country had as may strikes and protests as the Dutch – and they faced harsh reprisals from the Nazis each time.

The Dutch had a massive underground press with over 1,100 different titles, some of which are still around and are major papers in the country. They set up underground financing and had a massive social services network that provided financial, medical and other support to the Dutch people.

All of that is to say, they didn’t just wear safety pins and paperclips. They got to work and did what they could, under terrible conditions and at great personal risk.

I like the idea of the safety pin, because it’s meant to be temporary until you actually repair the damage.

I think donating, and setting up a recurring donation, to national non-profits is a great thing to do. The ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign and others will be kept really busy for the next four years, as we can expect the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department to be gutted like it was during the Bush years or worse (probably worse). But, while you’re donating, please look for a local non-profit to donate money and time to.

I’ll elaborate… This election came as a shock to a lot of us who thought we were farther along as a country than we really are. It was easy to call ourselves progressive and cheer on those doing the work from the sidelines, post to social media about the issue of the day, and feel like we’d done something of value. It turns out, no one was listening, and we didn’t change any minds.

Before anyone still reading this post and starts tutting… I accept the results of the election:

  • Two very unpopular people were the two major parties’ nominees for president.
  • One of them got over two million more votes and lost to a man who (this is a partial list) called immigrants racists, criminals and terrorists, called for the banning of an entire religion from the country, denied knowing anything about David Duke or the KKK, openly mocked a disabled reporter, called for protestors to be beaten, has said (and probably done) terrible things about women, and that almost seventy percent of the country feel is unfit to be President.
  • A lot of people stayed home because they couldn’t decide between two people they didn’t trust.

That result is real, and it’s not going to change. Me being sad about it will not change it. Me being angry will not change it. Me trying to decide who’s to blame for the result will not change it. All I can do is decide what I do about it after accepting that I can’t change it.

For me, this is a wake up call. If I sit on the sidelines now, and assume someone else will do the work, I won’t be able to look at myself in the mirror or call myself a progressive.

I could shake my tiny fist at the sky and lament what’s happening in Washington, but that won’t change anything. So, I’ll be watching them, but I’m going to act locally. My neighbors will be affected by the policies enacted in the next four years. Many of them are afraid and a lot of them are already being targeted by hate.

I wasn’t doing nothing before, but that no longer feels like enough.

There are already great non-profits in Savannah working on things I care about: poverty, education, technology literacy. There are probably great non-profits working in your community too. I’m trying to resist the urge to start something new – because that’s alway my first instinct. Starting things is exciting because I can design it from scratch, and I don’t have to understand an existing dynamic – but it’s a waste of time. Starting things is expensive, both in time and resources, and we don’t have enough of either. So, I’ll pick something (or a few things) with the biggest overlap in the Venn diagram of things I care about, things I can help with, and what will have the biggest impact.

Because we won’t make this country a better place by having another comment duel on Facebook, favoriting a tweet, posting a pithy meme, or by standing on the sidelines of democracy or of our communities and watching people do the work. The world has enough cheerleaders and more than enough pundits. The world needs more people to roll up their sleeves and serve; there’s a lot to do.

I don’t think I’ll wear a safety pin on my collar… I’m going to learn how to sew.