Wednesday, July 1, 2015

lessons from an entertainer

The future of work is Uber.

No, we won't all be driving around in our cars picking up strangers.

What I mean is, the future is freelance work. The transaction costs of using the market are falling, falling, falling. The value of maintaining a firm is likewise falling, falling, falling.

We all need to start thinking like freelancers, building our individual brands.

I saw this post about how an entertainer failed to capitalize on the exposure she was getting at an event, and I thought, this is not just for up and coming singers. This is advice we all need to heed, I liked the author's "Perfect 30 test" for shows. It could just as well apply to any freelance work:

Every show you play put to The Perfect 30 test:
Payment = 10. Career building = 10. Enjoyment = 10.
You don't want to play any shows for less than a total of 15 on the scale. If the payment is incredible (10), but there will be very little career building potential (3) or enjoyment (2), that equals 15. If there is decent payment (5), but will bring great enjoyment (9), but little career building potential (1), that also equals a 15. Take these shows. The shows you shouldn't take are the ones for little to no money (1), very little career building potential (3) and very little enjoyment (3) = 7 total. Pass!
Read the whole post here:

The future of work is Uber. We're all headed toward a freelance world. Time to start thinking about your brand. 

stirring things up

It's good to stir things up. 

I find myself getting into ruts - with the things I do, eat, listen to, read, etc. 

This morning Kandie and I went for a walk. Normally we try to go for a run, but sometimes we're not in the mood, so we walk instead. Today was a walking day, not in small part because it was raining. A nice gentle rain, but rain nonetheless, and while I can run in the rain, I prefer not to. So we walked the back way through the woods onto campus

(a shot of the Oyster River that we cross to get on to campus when we walk through the woods - I took it yesterday when it wasn't raining)

and around town. We took the dog. She generally does not like the rain. 

It was a nice walk - about 2.5 miles. It was 62 degrees, so it was cool. By the time we got back to the house I was in the mood for a cup of coffee to warm back up. And I decided I wanted to have hash browns in my new 6 inch cast iron skillet. But since it was kind of cold, I decided to stir things up a bit, or spice things up a bit. I added chili powder, cumin, and curry to the potatoes and onions for a nice taste of India. I'd never had Indian hash browns, and it was a nice flavor for this morning.

I think experimenting, even with small things, small changes, is a good way to keep your mind fresh. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

learning my new stove

Stoves are idiosyncratic. Even though stoves are mass manufactured by a handful of companies, every stove is a little different. You have to get to know a stove like you have to get to know a business partner. You're going to work together, but you don't know how he reacts to different situations and different challenges. Caramelizing onions is one of those unique challenges. You have to find that sweet spot - not too hot, not too cool - just right to bring out the sugars and sweat the onions down without burning them.

There's a lot of learning in a new house to make it your home. How the shower runs, how long you have to hold down the toilet handle, how to lock that sticky door. It's all new and strange right now and it's a time of exploration. A few months from now I'll have developed habits that reflect the realities of the house and all its components. I won't even think about giving the back door a hip check when I go to lock it. We will have achieved symbiosis - the house and me.

Friday, June 26, 2015


I haven't read the decision in KING ET AL. v. BURWELL yet, but I plan to.

You can find it here:

As you might imagine, I am a bit disappointed with the outcome. I still feel the ACA was bad legislation rammed into existence by a narrow majority and will have lasting bad effects on the economy and on national health.

Setting that aside, I have mixed feelings about what the Court did in this case.

On the one hand, I think the Court failed to do its duty. The law says what it says. It's bad legislation. The Court should have forced the Executive to follow the law. Changing the law is not the purview of the Court. One cannot "interpret" black to mean white. If Congress realized now that the language was out of line with their intent, all that is required was an amendment to the law correcting the erroneous language. Instead, the Court is trying to mollify the Executive. This is not their role.

On the other hand, the issue in KING was not a constitutional matter. What the Court just did is a constitutional matter, but not the issue at hand in KING. Since the issue at hand was not a constititional matter, it should not have been solved by the Court. Congress, as the voice of the people, needs to fix it, if it needs fixing. Thus, the Court punted the matter back to its proper place. If Congress doesn't want the Executive to have the kind of leeway that it has been taking, it needs to write a law that is clearer. The ACA is so long that it couldn't reasonably be read or comprehended by the law makers voting on it. Instead they voted for intentions. The problem is not so much the Court failing to strike down the law, in my opinion, but Congress failing to pass a law that is 1) clear, and 2) representative of the national will (as opposed to a narrow majority).

As Justice Sutherland said in his dissent to West Coast Hotel v. Parish, the three branches of government were created to operate independently, and in tension with one another:

The people, by their Constitution, created three separate, distinct, independent and coequal departments of government. The governmental structure rests, and was intended to rest, not upon any one or upon any two, but upon all three of these fundamental pillars. It seems unnecessary to repeat what so often has been said, that the powers of these departments are different, and are to be exercised independently. The differences clearly and definitely appear in the Constitution. Each of the departments is an agent of its creator, and one department is not and cannot be the agent of another. Each is answerable to its creator for what it does, and not to another agent. The view, therefore, of the Executive and of Congress that an act is constitutional is persuasive in a high degree; but it is not controlling.
It seems the Court has once again forgotten its role. 

in the last homely house, finally

We finally arrived at the last homely house this past Tuesday.

Before I left to go back to Texas to get Kandie, I made this sign as a small symbol of our lives together so far. It's next to the driveway, so when she pulled in, it was one of the first things she saw.

We're happy to be here, but our movers won't come until Saturday, so we've been banging around a largely empty house with no furniture.

One day of no furniture is kind of like camping inside. We're now on day 4. The charm, such as it was, has worn off.

Nevertheless, we are still happy to be here. Yesterday we walked to town to get breakfast at one of the local coffee shops. 

The route is about 3/4 of a mile along a wooded road, and include a view of the Oyster River.

Durhan doesn't have much of a down town - just one block basically - but in that one block there are several restaurants, coffee shops, a grocery store, and a drug store. Everything you really need. And I love the fact that we are close enough to walk in, but far enough that it feels like we are out in the country.

We started this transition almost a year ago, when UNH offered me my current position. The house in Texas was officially no longer ours a week ago today. Tomorrow our stuff finally arrives (barring any further delays), and the last homely house will finally take shape, and I think the transition will finally be over. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

revolting and fascinating

short piece in Fastcompany about growing your own edible bacteria - 
"They're super nutritious," Douenias says. "As much as half their weight is protein depending on how they're grown." Spirulina, colloquially known as blue-green algae, is already sold as a supplement in health food stores. But the designers see it as the perfect candidate for ultra-local food—something that's possible to grow in the living room, without the energy requirements of the typical indoor garden. The vessels could also double as heat storage for the home, or help shade part of a room.

The idea that we could feed ourselves using bacteria is fascinating in a theoretical/scientific way. And of course, it is completely revolting.

But if you think about it, human beings are designed to eat just about anything. Our sense of revulsion is cultural. We could learn to love this stuff.

I could imagine a subculture of people who treat eating as a fueling process. To them, this option would probably be of no great consequence. Mix in a little Tabasco and a bowl of green slime would be fully satisfactory.

Imagine if you really didn't value the act of eating, or tasting diverse foods. Most of us don't really value the act of food preparation already, so it isn't all that strange. Why not drink a big glass of green goo? Heck, lots of people make green goo with their Vitamixers.

If you didn't value the act of eating, this could save a huge amount of time and cost. It could make your life much better by allowing you to focus on the things you do value. Maybe you don't care about eating, but you do care about collecting bottle caps. Imagine how much more time you could spend with your bottle caps.

Innovation is a beautiful thing.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

very good article about self-harm and cutting

This is a very good article about self-harm from someone who has dealt with it.

I am constantly surprised by how common this is:
A 2006 study in Pediatrics estimates that nearly one in five college students have deliberately injured themselves at least once. Approximately six per cent of young adults will injure themselves repeatedly. 
She does give hope:
It has been several years since I last cut myself. Although the urges get easier to resist, when I’m under high stress, thoughts of hurting myself return. I have learned to distance myself from these thoughts, to treat them as comments from the random peanut gallery in my head rather than concrete advice from a reputable source. Similar techniques have been used to treat anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (with which I have also been diagnosed). In fact, these therapies have helped to shape my brain to work in a healthier pattern. With lots of therapy, I have learned that emotions pass and I can cope with them in ways that don’t leave me embarrassed, ashamed and scarred.
Worth a read - you might be surprised at who is doing this around you.