Monthly Archives: September 2011

4,000 miles

Yesterday, I hit 4,000 miles on my motorcycle.

Hitting that mileage was a big deal for me. The number isn’t arbitrary, but rather signifies a rider’s transition from beginner to intermediate. And it was part of my Five Things to Achieve in 2011 post last year.

Culminated with what I learned as outlined in my Shipping post, it appears an outline to achieving goals is pretty simple:

  1. Envision a goal.
  2. Work through a process to achieve that goal.
  3. Achieve the goal.
The trick is, that second step is the hard one. Riding 4,000 on a motorcycle in Kansas? You’re going to deal with seasons that change like a teenager’s moods. There was a lot of  butt-in-seat time to make that happen. And it was totally worth it.
But there’s three months left to go of this year, and I still have about 50 percent of my list left to go.
Here’s to process!


Real artists ship.” - Steve Jobs

Where you decide to put your time and attention says a lot about who you are. It says a lot about you as a human being.” - Merlin Mann

It was 2009 when I first heard about Merlin Mann. I somehow stumbled across the audio of Merlin and John Gruber (no relation) giving a talk called HOWTO: 149 Surprising Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog with Credibility!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to that podcast (I really can’t remember it’s been so numerous). It’s hilarious. It’s spot on. If you work on the web and have an ounce of desire to a.) not suck at it, and b.) not be a jerkface about money while trying to create something, it’s worth a listen.


Image from Seth Godin's book, Linchpin.

Fast-forward to 2011. I’m still a Merlin Mann fan and listen regularly to his podcast, Back to Work. There are quite a few nuggets of insight from Merlin’s podcasts and I wanted to keep them around for a good kick-in-the-pants. The problem is, they’re audio – scrubbing through hours of podcasts isn’t the easiest way to access them. So I had an idea: why not transcribe my favorite quotes and stick them on a website?

That idea came in June. I purchased a domain name.

And then I did absolutely nothing.

I have this friend at work, John Williams, who likes to write in his spare time. He’s actually written quite a bit but not many have read his work. Why not? Because John and I had a lot in common. We had these ideas, perhaps we had even worked on them a bit, but we never “shipped” them. They never got out the door for anyone to see.

On Aug. 23, after telling John about my idea for a website of Merlin’s quotes, he challenged me to have it online by Sept. 14. I challenged him to something similar: get your work out in the world on the same day.

The Shipping Challenge was born.

Along the way, we picked up one other “contestant,” my friend, David Eldridge. David has gotten into designing bumper stickers as of late. He’s into politics and history, and threw together some designs that speak to the current political climate. Not many people have seen him and he’d be the first to admit that he wasn’t really shipping. He joined us with the challenge to have something released to the world on Sept. 14.

I’m happy to announce that we all reached our goal.

John Williams

John has made three short stories available at his website, Off Yer Rocker.

David Eldridge

David’s website,, has his origin designs of philo-political bumper stickers. David also designed the website.

Yours Truly

That’s Fine for Merlin …, the curation quotes of Merlin Mann, developed (and transcribed) by me.

The great thing about each of these projects is that it doesn’t matter if you like them. It doesn’t matter that you hate them.

What matters is that we each shipped. We each had an idea, we set a date and then we shipped.

There are loads of reasons of reasons we could not have shipped. John hurt his back two days ago. My sewer line broke last week, causing me to spend thousands of dollars on repair, time off from work, and tons of stress. David’s at the beginning of a transition from one job to the next.

But with that deadline looming, and encouragement, and the understanding that nothing needed to be “perfect” to ship, we all met our goals. What a fantastic example of Parkinson’s Law in full effect.

And now we’re dreaming of the next Shipping Challenge. We’re thinking Oct. 25 as the deadline.

Want in?


We spent all day Saturday visiting Worlds of Fun, and has reserved a room across the street at a Holiday Inn to spend the night in a little weekend staycation of sorts.

I was looking forward to the stay. I had three bad customer service issues in Lawrence last week and was ready to spend money somewhere where I’d be given service in proper fashion. Right off the bat, I was impressed with the Holiday Inn. It was a big place with lots of room, ample parking and a suite with a king size bed, a foldaway bed for the 4-year-old kiddo, and they even brought up a crib for the 2-year-old.

As a silly sidenote, I’m totally in love with Holiday Inn’s logo. There’s something about that green gradient that I really like.

Things were looking up. Then we went to breakfast.

It was fine, but when I went to pay, there was someone else in front of me at the register, so I waited patiently to settle the tab. Then a couple of people showed up on the opposite side of the register. When the guy in front of me was finished, the woman working the register turned to the lady that showed up long after I had been in line and started working on her bill.

“Humrph,” I thought to myself.

After she was done, the woman turned to me, then to the guy behind the lady that just finished up and said “Who’s next?” The guy deferred to me, and I went ahead. Of course, I should have been well before him and the lady in front of him since I had been waiting the longest, but whatever.

But after I was done, I heard the woman at the register say to the other fellow, “I’m sorry for your wait.”

“Sorry for your wait? What? Didn’t you see me this whole time?” Of course, I didn’t say that. I just kept in inside and went on my way.

I left without tipping. It was a buffet, I reasoned, and it’s not like they really did anything. Besides, they barely even noticed me.

I didn’t think anything more of it. I went upstairs, finished packing and brushed my teeth. With my Sonicare on full blast, I walked around the room. The youngest of my spawn, Remi, was looking out the window. We were on the third floor, and the window overlooked the interior, specifically, the dining area we had just returned from.

As we stood there looking out the window, I noticed the dining area workers doing their thing. They were cleaning up the mess left behind from all us who had eaten at the buffet. Everything looked great. All the tables were set up perfectly, like no one had even been there, ready for the next meal. I had noticed that the night before – the tables were arranged perfectly for breakfast, with order, ready to make an impression on us hungry diners.

Then I noticed the shoes. All of the women who worked in that dining area had sneakers on.

I worked at Toys R Us for five years during college; I know what that means – those people were on their feet, on the move, all the time. They needed something comfortable because the job was demanding on their feet.

You jerk. You big, fat, American jerk,” I thought to myself.

I rinsed out my mouth, explained that I need to do something to Amy, and headed downstairs. I found one of the women, vacuuming around (of course) the table we had sat at and handed her my standard 20-percent tip.

“I forgot to give this before,” I said. “Sorry about that.”

“No problem, hon,” she said with a smile. “I’ll share it with the girls, thanks.”

“Great,” I said. “OK.”

And that was that. What a heel. Everyone has their reasons for rationalizing however amount that is given for tipping (see also: Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs). But for me, I had to stop and think: these workers brought out food for us to pick aplenty from, cleaned up our mess (and with two children, there’s always a mess) and then made it look perfect  for the next meal. Am I really going to leave them nothing extra?

I can’t believe I can be so obtuse sometimes.

Parenting and a unicorn


Thanks to some free tickets I won from our local TV news station, 6 News Lawrence, I took the family to World of Fun on Saturday for a quick getaway.

While there, my daughter Ember (seen above) saw a face painter and inquired about getting it done.

“We’ll see,” I said.

It’s always “We’ll see” with my kids and things that cost money. They’re fickle. They change their minds. They’re not sure what they want. So, I start with “no” or “maybe” and see if they persist.

I do the same thing at work. I say no a lot. It helps weed out the serious requests from the ones that are truly needed or truly desired from the requests that aren’t well thought out.

But this time, the requests persisted. “Daddy, can I get my face painted? Can we find out about getting my face painted? Daddy, please?”

Oh, all right. Let’s go find out.

I was expecting a $5 face painting. I was prepared to go as high as $7. It is, after all, someone doing art on a canvas of sorts.

But the face-painting was priced by the type of image chosen. Of course, my daughter picked the one with a unicorn that was $14.99. After feeling my heart sink into my stomach, I gave an awkward “We’ll need to go ask mommy” response and walked away.

There was  no way I was going to pay $15 for something that would be washed off by morning. No. Way.

I told the wife. She agreed; that is a lot of money, perhaps too much, for something as fleeting as a face painting. So I told Ember, knowing she’d be disappointed but hoping for the best.

I was unprepared for the tears that followed and what I call “The saddest face known to man.”

“Amy, don’t we have a responsibility to teach our kids about buying things of value,” I pleaded? “Shouldn’t we teach them to be somewhat responsible with money? I mean, this thing is just going to get washed off and …”

“Yes,” Amy stopped me. “But, it does hold value to her. She enjoys getting her face painted.”

“And how much did your motorcycle cost?”


It’s not that we didn’t have they money. My parents had sent us some cash before we left, so the cost of the face painting was made moot. But in my fashion typical, I was questioning missing out on a lesson of money and value.

In turn, I was missing out on a greater lesson: to discover and celebrate the things my daughter likes and encourage them, even if they cost more money than I deem worthy of the expense.

And so, $14.99 later, my daughter, my wonderful, sweet princess of a daughter, had her unicorn face painting. She was beaming and she even received several compliments from people who walked up to her, unprovoked, just to tell her how great her face painting was.

And I took a picture. In fact, I took several pictures to keep the image long after the paint is gone.

Lesson learned. It was worth every penny.