Category Archives: General

Maybe it’s time to get off your high horse

Author’s note: This was originally posted on Medium. I have adjusted the timestamp on this post to reflect when it was published on that platform. Since this is the home of my writing, I’ve decided to permanently move it here.

Recently I attended a new Meetup group focused on a budding new web framework.

This particular framework is interesting, and shows lots of promise. It piqued my interest enough that I shifted my schedule around to drive an hour to join others interested in this new technology and introduce myself. Before the meeting started, I mingled with others who asked the inevitable question: “So what do you do?”

The answer has been the same for some time now: I work in municipal government, and mainly with Drupal.

As the meeting progressed, I got to see some examples of the new framework, how it’s being used by the group’s members, and got to thinking about how I might use it for my own projects. One of the presenters showed a content management system he had built, which had a handy feature: in-place editing.

“To talk without thinking is to shoot without aiming.”

– English proverb

I was impressed at this framework’s particular implementation of in-place editing, and commented that Drupal has something similar but its implementation feels a little bloated, and certainly not as fast as the one I was seeing in this presentation.

“That’s because Drupal sucks,” the presenter said.

Now, I would certainly agree that there are things in Drupal that are easier to do with other tools. I would agree that this in-place editing feature seemed better than Drupal’s. I would agree that Drupal has entered interesting times where developers in the ranks are a little divided aboutwhere things are going.

But as I drove home, I couldn’t help to think to myself, “Maybe you should get off your high horse.”

Tell me if you’ve heard this before

Here’s a list of things that suck (allegedly).

Apple sucks. Microsoft sucks. Java sucks. Ruby sucks. Python sucks. Rails sucks. PHP sucks. JavaScript sucks. WordPress sucks. Starbucks sucks. Dunkin’ Donuts sucks. Chevy sucks. Ford sucks.

The list goes on and on and on and …

So here’s the deal: what works for me, might not be the best for you, whatever it is. And the great thing is, THAT’S OK. Governments, news organizations, and educational institutions have adopted Drupal, by and large, because it works for them. Ford owners buy their vehicles because it works for them. Dunkin’ Donuts drinkers (myself included) enjoy their coffee because it works for them.

So, to just flippantly say something sucks just because it doesn’t work for you is a wee bit immature.

I won’t be so bold as to say I’ve never said that something sucks. I will say, thankfully, that as I mature I’m finding it’s a big world filled with lots of opportunity, and I need to find what works for me and roll with it. And for that matter, you should do likewise.

Words have incredible power.

If I had a different mindset, I could certainly see myself thinking, “I don’t think I’ll go back to that group,” seeing as the first time I visited the thing that puts food on my table and clothes on my family’s backs was flippantly disregarded. But, I’m a big boy. I can take a lot of what you throw at me. But someone else might not be as resilient.

But that brings me to my final point.

Learn the fine art of thinking before speaking

We have a saying around the office: “I can’t fix ‘it sucks.'”

Criticism is fine, as long as it is useful. But criticizing for criticism’s sake? I don’t see the value in it. Perhaps before we speak, we should take Jason Fried’s advice and give it five minutes.

If you want to critique, offer ways things could be better. It could provide a fantastic opportunity to learn something for all parties involved. Through dialogue, rather than complaining, you might just gain insight that you couldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Does that mean I don’t think there’s a time and place for disdain or disagreement? Oh my, not at all. But critiquing without discovery isn’t fruitful, and could end up doing more harm than you thought.

And frankly, that sucks.

In KC: Austin Kleon and The Minimalists

Wednesday turned out to be author night in Kansas City.

I’m not sure how I missed it until Wednesday morning, but I found out Austin Kleon (as he puts it, he’s an author who draws) was speaking at the Middle of the Map Fest. I jetted down to OfficePort and enjoyed hearing him speak. I’ve read two of his books — Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work — and if you consider yourself a creative type, I highly recommend them.

It was great seeing him talk (and draw) live. By the time I discovered Kleon, it was past the point he had come to Kansas City to speak at TEDx. I’d say this made up for it.


Austin Kleon speaks at Middle of the Map Fest at OfficePort in downtown Kansas City. Man, I take a crappy picture.

Admittedly, Kleon wasn’t my first pick for the evening. For months I’ve had arrangements to hear The Minimalists speak, and I wasn’t disappointed last night. After listening to Kleon, I bolted north of the river to a nice little event space called Black on Burlington to check these guys out.

The Minimalists are two best friends: Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Together with their vagabonding friend Colin Wright, they spoke about their journey to minimalism, how the audience could get there, and what to expect from the journey.

I’ve followed their writing on their blog for awhile now off and on. The message of the minimalist philosophy is appealing. Imagine what your life would look like if you had less things in your life. Would you have more experiences? Better relationships? More personal satisfaction with life? Would your mind be more free with less?

I like to joke that I struggle with what I call sentimental attachment disorder. There are these things from my past that hold great sentimental value to me, but I haven’t let go of them. Their artifacts of the past, mementos of a live already played out,  yet I hold onto them. Why?

One of the oft-repeated messages of the night was this: When you go to purchase something, ask yourself: “Will this thing add value to my life?” If the answer is no, then don’t buy it. It’s because we don’t say “no” enough, we get all this crap. What happens when we cut out the stuff? Will we be willing to live with what remains?

I had the pleasure of speaking with all three of the aforementioned men after the show. I was chatting a bit before I got in line and ended up being dead last. They insisted on greeting me with a hug (as they did everyone else) and I obliged. It was … nice. Excellent, really. We talked. I talked. And actually, it seemed as though they listened. They were not simply waiting for their turn to speak. I’m guilty of that. How about you?

Their message was convincing, enough so that I think I’ll try their 21-day challenge. And I’ve already started asking myself the question quite a few times, just today: Will this thing add value to my life?

To close the night, Millburn gave a little thought to take with us. I’ve illustrated it below.


The Minimalists and Colin Wright speaking at Black on Burlington in Kansas City.


This is a post from Terminal B of Kansas City International Airport (MCI).

The thrill of flying is gone. Man, this used to be an exciting experience for me. But after today, I’m not sure I’ll ever fly again.

I get to the airport one hour and 15 minutes before departure. I was flying on Southwest, so I get into the terminal and proceed to the long line at the first Southwest ticketing area. I got into the slow-moving line at one hour before departure time, and calmly waited until it was my turn to get my ticket.

But wait! I didn’t get a ticket. I got a piece of paper that would allow me to get a ticket.

Um, OK.

So I make my way to the security theatre where a whopping staff of two TSA agents were checking IDs. This was a nightmare. It was moving so slowly because there were about a hundred people in line. At this point, I start to get worried.

And then it was time for the buckets.

You know, where you take off your shoes, take your laptop out, take off your belt and then go through the x-ray scanner. Of course, I opted out of the x-ray for a patdown. Lovely.

And then, finally. I made it to Gate 43. The woman looked at my worthless piece of paper and said “Oh, you’ll need to go to the ticket desk.”

So I did. They looked it over.

“Oh, you’ll need to go to the other ticket desk.”

Oh no. So I did. I can see the plane. I’m right there. I’m staring at it. My co-worker going to the same conference as me is texting me from inside. I completely interrupt the ticket person to see if I can get on the plane.

“Oh, sorry. It’s too late to board that plane.”


And so, I’m on standby. Stuck. I feel like I let down my employer. If I would have gotten here two and a half hours earlier, if I would have been a total jerk and shoved my way through the line, I would be on that plane.

But I didn’t. I was in line for an hour. And now, I’m just angry and I never want to fly again.


In an effort to experiment with commuting, I decided to take a new route to work.

Typically I drive on the commuting corridor known as K10, but today I went on the interstate to see how it measured up. It ended up being equal time, so nothing really gained there (in fact, it cost me a toll, too).

Shortly after I got onto the interstate, I noticed a car to my left out of the corner of my eye. We were neck-and-neck for a few seconds, and so I sped up. We were crossing over a bridge, and the jockeying for position made me a little nervous – probably because of my driving recently.

So, I accelerated. Then I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. The car was there, but movement caught my attention. It was friends of mine waving to say hello. I looked over and smiled. “Well, hello!” I said, and gave a wave back.

In taking a different route, I end up seeing people I know, out of the blue. If they were regular commuters or something, that wouldn’t be a big coincidence. But I happen to know they’re “off,” this week because of a death in the family, so running into them in this manner took me my surprise.

Isn’t it odd how things like that happen? I find those types of coincidental meetings occur with enough frequency that it feels like it must be more than chance. It makes me wonder if there has ever been a study done or a well thought out explanation, vis-a-vis the six degrees phenomon.

It certainly seems that it’s more than just coincidence. Or is it?


Thursday night was a rainy one, preceded by a rainy day.

As I got onto an exit ramp to get on the main highway that takes me home, I lost control of my vehicle. I started spinning, and my the only thought that went through my head was “You’ll be OK. You’ll have to ride it out.”

And so I did.

In retrospect its hard to say how many revolutions I endured. At first I thought it was only one, but thinking about it later made me believe it might have been twice. I can’t say for sure; it happened so fast but seemed to last forever.

My little Corolla came to a halt and I noticed all the dashboard lights were on and the engine had died. I wanted to just sit there, a little shocked and a little thrilled. But them I noticed another car coming down the on-ramp. I feared a collision or that it might also lose control, but it slowed to a stop.

My trance wore off, I started the car and continued my ride home, albeit more slowly.

And then I called my wife. I told her about the spin and explained I’d be home a little late.

“I’m going to stop in De Soto and fill up to add more weight to the car,” I said. “And I might need to change my underwear.”

No gifts, please.

Do you remember what it was like as a kid when your birthday rolled around?

My mom would ask me what kind of cake I wanted, and she’d make it herself. She would buy cake tins for Soundwave (Transformers), R2-D2, and a few others I can’t remember. Friends would come over, games would be played, cake and homemade ice cream would be eaten.

What an experience. Summer birthdays are awesome.

Of course, I’d also get gifts. I remember when I got … well … no, I don’t. I had toys, I played with toys, and I had lots of fun playing with toys.

But I’ve reached a point in my life that I don’t want for gifts (much). I don’t want more things in the house, but less. The exact opposite is true for experiences, however. As a busy parent in the Great Recession, there aren’t as many opportunities as I’d like right now for life experiences. Be it time, or money, those types of things are harder to come by these days.

Given the choice, I’d take an experience (or a surprise; I love enigmatic events) of any kind over any tangible gift every time. Let the kids have the gifts.

Today is my birthday. I am thirty-six years old. No need to say the obligatory words.

And no gifts, please.

Paradise City

The Sandbar

The Sandbar

Last night I had the privilege of joining a few friends to celebrate the birthday of Phil Martinez at one of Lawrence’s more colorful downtown establishments, The Sandbar.

We were there over the course of a few hours, and during that time, the Guns N’ Roses song Paradise City came on three times. A classic song, to be sure, which I always enjoy hearing, but it got me to thinking about the task of work.

The picture above is pretty crappy, but you can get the gist of the evening: lots of people out on the town, having a good time in a fun atmosphere. The Sandbar has, not surprisingly, a beach/oceanic theme, complete with a nice aquarium (far left) that I found intoxicating. There was a fairly large fish in that tank that I am sure was eavesdropping on our conversation.

Back to the beach …

There’s this part of me that thought “Man, it must be pretty cool to come work here every night.” Think of it – you’d always be surrounded by people who are there to have a great time, out with friends, enjoying the moment. Who doesn’t love dark settings, twinkling lights and a party atmosphere?

But it also got me to thinking that the people who work there, especially the owners, have probably heard Paradise City and other popular songs a thousand or more times. I’m sure there are songs they are absolutely sick of hearing. And there are probably regulars who are always welcome, but have made it their second home. I’ll bet it’s safe to say it’s like this in a lot of places.

I’m sure there are days they absolutely dread going to work.

It reminded me of the old joke, “Show me the most beautiful woman in the world and I’ll show you a guy that’s tired of being with her.” We all have our things that must seem pretty exciting to others because of greener grass syndrome, but for the people that are in those spaces day in, day out, it’s a real chore to get through.

But, we keep at it. We have things to take care of at home, responsibilities, people counting on us. Sometimes we just have to dig in a little harder to get through to tomorrow, because it needs to be done.

At least there’s places like The Sandbar to head to and blow off a little steam. It makes me wonder where Sandbar workers go to do the same.


So here we are at the end of 2011.

I will end this year with a story. Maybe it will help you think about where you’d like to be at this time next year. It has certainly given me pause.

Yesterday, one of my family members went to a funeral of a 41-year-old married father of two.

The deceased’s story goes like this: His plans were to give his two weeks’ notice after the first of the year, finally moving on from a job he no longer loved. He and his wife were taking their two kids to another state where they would both start new jobs, in a new home, with a new chapter in the family’s life.

His wife was to put in her notice on Tuesday, but during the middle of the night on Monday, death came.

It was my intention to write a few more posts before the year ended. I wanted to write about an update of progress of my goals for this year, two more posts on Joplin that I never finished, and an end-of-the-year post with my expectations for the new year (aside from the planet’s imminent destruction of course).

Instead, I’ll have to continue on next year.

I hope you have an excellent New Year. Be safe and enjoy your loved ones. Don’t hesitate to do that thing (or things) you’ve always wanted to do.

You never know when your time will run out.


I forgot my glasses today.

It’s so slow around the office, and with so many people out of the city leading up to the Christmas weekend, I knew that busting across town was going to be easy. So, I took a quick break and headed home for my spectacles.

My wife runs a preschool in our home and this month she’s been teaching the kiddos about the different traditions as part of her curriculum. There’s been talk about menorahs, mangers, white-bearded gift-bringers; you get the gist. Today, they were discussing Kwanzaa.

That’s where I come in. I come in the house, interrupting the story time, apologize and go looking for my glasses. Have you ever interrupted storytime? It’s like stabbing a beehive.

Anyway, I search and find my glasses. As I’m making my way out the door, I turn and tell the kids “It was great to see you all again.  You all have a Merry Christmas.”

And then I add, “Or whatever it is you celebrate.”

My wife clued me in. “Everybody here celebrates Christmas,” she said.

And in less than one second, my oldest, information sponge brained, five-year-old daughter said, “Because we’re not black.”

Oh, dear heavens. Kids say the darndest things, don’t they?

Regardless of your race and all that jazz, Merry Christmas!*

* Or whatever it is you celebrate.


As I waited for my daughter’s gymnastics class to end this evening, I overheard a couple of women talking.

One woman said she was taking an online course. She wanted to get out of teaching and into something in the medical field, perhaps even hospice.

The other woman agreed. “My sister works in hospice. She just loves it.”

That struck me as odd, but curiosity piqued, I eavesdropped some more.

The woman said her sister enjoyed seeing how people behave at the end of their lives. A lot of times, estranged relationships are mended. People put away their past regrets and the unforgivable sins and made things right for the moment, because there wouldn’t be many more moments to do so.

Not that reconciliations happen all the time, but often, she said.

If only we lived with those future thoughts all the time. I wonder how we’d live then?