OUTRAGEOUS: New law requires topless driver’s license photos

Got your attention, didn’t I?

Look, we need to talk. You keep seeing crazy stuff on the web, and sharing it to Facebook so your friends can share your outrage and/or delight. And the thing is… you’re being used.

It’s not totally your fault. It used to be, there were news sites, there were opinion sites, and then there were satire sites like The Onion. Actual satire sites that set out to make people laugh while also slyly critiquing current events.

But now there are “parody” news sites like Empire News. I put “parody” in quotes because unlike The Onion or even the Daily Currant, these sites don’t give a shit about entertaining you. They aren’t out to inform you, amuse you, or critique anything.

All these sites care about is using your Facebook feed to sell ads.

Here’s a screenshot from one of these sites:

ScreenClip

The “article” is neither true, nor a clever send-up of real news. It’s just a poorly-written invented story with just the right balance of reality and absurdity to get you to hit that big fat “share” button.

Yes, there’s an “about” link you can click on that will let you know that you’re on an “entertainment” site, not a real news site. But they are counting on the fact that nobody will ever click on that.

There are some resources you can use if you want to know something is for real or not:

  • Snopes: the gold standard
  • RealOrSatire: This one is new to me, but it seems like a handy site.

…but honestly, you rarely need those sites. Ask yourself two questions:

  1. Does this title seem link link-bait?
  2. Is the site completely plastered in ads, like the screenshot above?

If so, chances are it’s just a ploy to get you to help them sell your friends’ eyeballs to advertisers.

Look, I’m not here to tell you to only post Serious, Important News to your Facebook feed. I just don’t want to see you be suckered by sites that are using you as nothing more than free ad-space. If they want to use your space as a billboard, they should at least pay you for the privilege.

 

 

Conflict

I will leave this place a safer one for my kids. All of them.

I will not permit the machines that watch over my children to be birthed in callous indifference, in hubris, or in contempt.

I am just one man. I am flawed and tired and sometimes distracted.

But if the last 15 years are evidence of anything, it is this:

I am persistent. I am stubborn. I will become anything I have to be.

And I mother. fucking. win.

Not going anywhere

So, just to clarify for readers of my “exit 0” post: I’m not going anywhere.

Yes, I’ve achieved all of the goals that have consumed me for the last 15 years. This doesn’t mean I’m done with life; it just means that I get to pick some new goals, which is kind of cool.

I also have to pay for this lovely new house of ours, so I still have to make a living 🙂 Which means more RubyTapas, more books, etc.

The biggest difference is that I’m going to say “no” more often to new professional opportunities, and “yes” more often to my kids, and my wife, and myself.

But I’m still here. I’ll still travel to conferences. I’ll still be looking for ways to make the programmer community richer and happier.

It’s just that it’s all going to feel like more of a choice now, and less like a necessity. Which is a happy thought.

exit 0

I’m finished. It’s a strange feeling.

For fifteen years, my entire life has been oriented toward one goal. Every hour of work, every project, every risky change of course, every late night, every carefully considered decision, every deferred gratification, every hobby put on hold, every invitation turned down, every tough financial call, every reluctant “no”, every scary “yes”. Even community-oriented endeavors had to be justified; I had to ensure they would also advance the mission before I could permit myself to invest. My entire will, day and night, waking and sleeping, bent towards a single plan.

There’s a plan you’re supposed to follow. I’ve written about it before. Even starting from a point of privilege, you have to stay on the demarcated path if you want to avoid a long fall. Good grades, good school, spend your 20s working hard, get married in your late 20s, have a couple of kids in your mid 30s, support them with two professional incomes.

I got married at 20 to a woman who already had two young children, and committed to enabling her to stay home with the kids.  Then, later, we had four more kids. From the perspective of The Accepted Plan, this is the equivalent of charging full tilt at the sign that says “dangerous cliff”. I’ve felt like I’m playing catch-up ever since. And thus, my own plan, an urgent program with no margin for dalliance.

For fifteen years I’ve been checking off items on a list in my head. I haven’t shared it with anyone, not in its entirety, for fear of killing its mojo. Fifteen years watching the next milestone crawl towards me, knowing I can make it, but also knowing I can’t make it arrive any faster, and that there’s another beyond it, and another, and another.

For the first time in print, The List:

  • Get married
  • Have kids
  • Find a place we can fit in and afford
  • Make enough money to make ends meet without Stacey working
  • Switch careers away from the effective dead-end of corporate defense contracting
  • Work partly from home, for more time with the family
  • Work entirely from home, for even more time with the family
  • Switch to consulting to increase schedule flexibility
  • Eliminate debt
  • Buy a car we can all fit inside at once
  • Switch to a product business to maximize flexibility and fully eliminate geographic constraints
  • Increase income enough to put aside money
  • Buy a house in the mountains that’s big enough for the family
  • Move to the house in the mountains

All this time, the clock has been ticking. Loudly. I failed to reach the goal in time for the older batch of kids, a fact I may never forgive myself for.

Over the years a lot of well-meaning people have remarked on the state of anguish I spend a lot of my time in. And it’s true that I’m prone to be melancholy by disposition. But a great deal of my distress over the last fifteen years can be traced directly to this persistent hound on my trail. The fact that I have passed every day with the sure knowledge that I could not afford to stumble, or pause, or rest. All too often I’ve felt like a soldier on forced march, far beyond the point of exhaustion, unable to see or think beyond the next blind footstep.

Vacations? Absurd. Balance? Is for after the destination is reached.

The night before last the milestones became embodied as actual mile markers. As, with two cats, and the remainder of our family belongings, I drove the nine hours and change from our old rented house in Pennsylvania to our new home in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. It’s hard to describe the feeling of being nine hours away from the end of a decade and a half’s work. And then six, and then three, and then one…

And then the drive up the mountainside, and the big house at the end of the drive, and my kids running out of it to meet me with huge smiles on their faces. And I turned off the engine and opened the door and in a way, my life ended and then began again.

It is very, very weird to be here, now. I’m done. Finished. I won.

Of course, my life isn’t over. I have the luxury now of taking stock and deciding what I want to do with the rest of my life.

Enjoy my family, obviously. Otherwise all of this would have been for naught.

Perhaps indulge in a hobby or two.

I have the freedom now to consider what I want my larger impact to be, beyond my family circle. I’ve only just begun to think about that.

As I’ve slogged through the last couple of years, I’ve started to worry that I won’t be able to stop. That I’ve lost the ability to comprehend anything other than constant striving. I hope that’s not true.

I’m taking pains to make sure I don’t take this victory lightly. I don’t want to become one of those people who says that $100k a year is all anyone needs, and when he reaches it says $250k would be better, and when he reaches that says that really, $1m would be ideal. I want to honor this achievement by making noticeable and permanent changes to my priorities, and to the tempo of my life.

Writing this is part of honoring the moment. Because it needs to be acknowledged. From this day forth, I will not live in emergency. Starting now, normal is the new normal.

I’m tired. Tired as hell. But by gosh I made it. And how many people ever get to say that?

Please Help My Friend Tom Find a Job

2020e31

This is Tom. He is one of my most trusted friends.

He is, in the words of his LinkedIn profile, a: “Writer, Public Speaker, and Educator in the fields of Conservation, Environment, and Sustainable Agriculture”. Those aren’t empty words; he has the background, cred and the experience to back them up. But he is more than that.

Apart from being “helpful, friendly, courteous, kind…”–in fact, a living embodiment of the entire Boy Scout law—Tom is what I can best describe as an archetypal Wise Man. He’s the sort of guy you instinctively go to if you have one of those Big Philosophical Questions. An Obi-Wan Kenobi, if you will.

He’s also a terrific writer. He’s right at the top of my “people I know who I wish would write a book already” list.

This year Tom set out to further his already extensive studies, an endeavor which involved moving from his native Maryland to New Hampshire. Unfortunately, after lining up a buyer for his condo, quitting his job, and moving his possessions to New Hampshire, Tom ran into a snag. After months of foot-dragging, the buyer for his house failed to close on the deal. Now Tom is at the end of his savings, and facing the prospect of moving all of his belongings back to Maryland and trying to pick up where he left off, sans safety net.

Tom needs a job, and he needs it pronto. I asked Tom what his ideal job would be, and he said:

My ideal job would probably involve writing for an environmental publication or organization – whether for print, content for the web, or a combination thereof. Right after that would be some sort of environmental/sustainable education position.

I’m guessing somebody in my extended circles knows of the perfect opening for someone with his considerable skills and background. Please check out his profile, and contact him if you think you have a lead. And please re-share this with your friends! Thanks!

Important message for you!

Yes, you, anonymous Internet friend.

In this day of Facetwits and Linkbooks, it’s vitally important that we publicly declare ourselves vis-a-vis:

  • Who (and what) we hate; and
  • Who (and what) we love.

So I think it’s high time we got this out on the table. Maybe cleared the air between us.

I don’t hate you.

I don’t hate your kitten memes, or your baby pictures.

I don’t hate your SUV or your electric car or your fixie.

I don’t hate your music. I don’t hate your celebrity crush.

I don’t hate your diet choices or your leisure habits.

I don’t hate your politics.

I don’t hate your kids or your pets.

I don’t hate your TV shows or your fashion sense.

I don’t hate your fears.

I don’t even hate you for hating any of that stuff.

In fact, I kind of like you. Or if we haven’t met, chances are I’d like you once I got to know you. I’ll bet you have a nice smile.

I’d like to have a beer with you sometime. Or tea, if you don’t do beer.

That’s all I wanted to say. Thanks for hearing me out.

I hope we can still be friends!