Month: July 2014

Dispatch from the Trenches #1

Count to ten when a plane goes down

This is an incredible story. It’s not long and I urge you to read it. A great story and even better reminder to stop. Stop and think before you react. Information is not immediate. When something happens, it takes time to find what exactly has happened and the first information is not necessarily the best or even true.

On this day, I highlighted her workstation and hit the F6 key to reset. But my screen went temporarily black and then seemed to be starting again. I realized that I had mistakenly hit F7 and reset all the workstations in the embassy. This realization didn’t bother me much, because no one except the Agriculture section secretary was usually on the computer system this early in the morning.

But then all hell broke lose.

A single keystroke can change the course of international events.

So today, in the face of a Malaysian Airline crash in the Ukraine—and with all the associated speculation of 24-hour news organizations and the Tweetosphere, my advice is to take a deep breath, count to ten, and know that there is a very good chance that truth in the matter will be forthcoming very soon. And let’s hope that there is no stupid 23-year-old with his finger on an important keyboard in this information chain.

Watch Dogs

Let’s Play – Watch Dogs

I enjoy watching guys play various games. I thoroughly enjoyed their video for Watch Dogs. When I learned they could stand on top of cars and not only drive them around, but jump them, was incredible.

This is something I’ve tried in various games through the years. And failed every time. I’ve tried in Halo, Saints Row, and Grand Theft Auto. None of it works. Each time the rider falls off, even when the passenger is in the bed of a truck or somewhere a person could be.

I’m happy to see this mechanic built into the game, or maybe it’s a lack of mechanic to throw people from the moving vehicle. Either way, it excited me. Is it worth buying the game for that alone? Certainly not. But it would be hours of laughs.

Deconstructing Twitter

Does Twitter confound you? David Pogue has written an excellent primer explaining the gibberish squeezed into 140 characters.

This single example contains four examples of Twitter conventions:

• @SFGate. The @ symbol indicates a Twitter member’s name. I’m @pogue, for example. This tweet also mentions Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors. His Twitter name is, of course, @elonmusk.

• RT @SFGate. RT stands for retweet. So Debbie here is repeating (that is, retweeting)somebody else’s tweet—in this case, she’s retweeting something @SFGate said. (SFGate is the online edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.)

People use RT as a courtesy; it’s giving credit to the original author.

• sfg.l/1t4EIEd. That’s a URL—a link to a Web page. URLs are super common in tweets, since one key use of Twitter is sharing things found on the Web. Here, if you clicked the link, you’d go to the SFGate article that’s being quoted here.

• #Tesla. The # is a hashtag. It’s a label for your tweet. Other people can search for these hashtags—or click them—to see more tweets on the same subject. If you click on #Tesla, you’ll see a whole list of tweets, all pertaining to the Tesla company and its cars. (You can also go to and type the hashtag into the Search box.)

This has been the first Dispatch from the Trenches. Part of what will (hopefully) be an ongoing series of things I find interesting enough to share and comment on.

Microsoft Security Essentials

Please top me if you’ve heard this one before.

I have _________ anti-virus installed on my computer but…

But I thought the subscription was up to date. It wasn’t and I got infected.
But I thought I had paid for protection. But I hadn’t and I got infected.
But I got a virus anyway because it wasn’t up to date.

Stop paying for Anti-Virus protection.

Microsoft has a product called Security Essentials. It’s free to download and install. The updates are free and they are pushed along with Windows Updates. You are installing Windows Updates at least once a week, right?

Download Microsoft Security Essentials.

This will keep your computer protected against viruses. Your updates will never stop. You never have to pay for them. As long as you’re updating your computer, your anti-virus will stay up to date too.

Stop paying for what you can get free. Don’t find yourself paying a local computer tech or bribing a family member to clean the virus off your computer. Don’t allow yourself to be without your computer because it’s infected.

Download Microsoft Security Essentials and don’t give it another thought.


When I was a teenager, being an adult frightened me. I had no idea how to be an adult. All of the things I would have to manage as an adult seemed overwhelming. There was just so much and it would never stop. It would never get easier.

Now that I’m in my 30s and can look back on my teenage years and with my 20s fading into my past. I am less afraid. But I still have no idea what I am doing. But that’s the thing. No one has any idea what they’re doing. We are all doing our best. We are all figuring out this thing called life one day at a time.

We are all faking it as adults. We all struggle.

No one has everything together and I want to say that out loud because it helps to hear it.

Recently, I read a post called Supposed to be where the author talks about his struggles with depression and weight.

So the first time I took a walk in the summer heat aimed at ‘starting a program’ I actually hoped I might die. I’ve written this before elsewhere and told people, but I’m convinced their reaction is to think I’m being dramatic. I’m not. I shuffled along those pretty wooded trails in that hilly park by our home in Georgia and by the time I reached a ridge where there was a slight breeze and the peaceful rush of the Big Creek below, I thought, very clearly, hopefully I’ll die here. A man the size I was at the time, with my uncontrolled hypertension, well, I was supposed to die in that situation.

He struggles and he succeeds. It’s not easy. But he finding success with hard work and determination. He is doing his best. We are all doing our best. This is something worth repeating.

We all struggle. We all do the best with the life we have. It’s hard for everyone. No one has a perfect life where they face no adversity. We are all trying our best. In the age of social media where everyone posts their highlight reel for their friends and family to see, we don’t post about the rest of our days.

Recently, I saw a video that puts this into perspective. It asks a simple question:

Facebook can be depressing because everyone else’s lives are better than yours… But are they really?

We don’t post about our sadness.
We don’t post about our failures.
We don’t post about the days we’re too sick to get out of bed.
We post the best parts of us.

But it’s not the whole picture.
We all fail.
We all struggle.
We all have bad days.

But we don’t share those. We fear if we do, people will stop following us. We’ll lose friends online. We will be facing a truth no one wants to publicly admit.

Life is hard.
We’re all in this together.
Let’s try to help each other.


I don’t know what to say nor what to write. Ever since I visited California I’ve been different.

Ever since I walked through the Red Woods at Muir Woods and gazed upon Yosemite’s peaks and valleys I have not been the same.

It would be easy to think how being so close to the birthplace of computers and Silicon Valley would inspire me to do more in tech. But it’s been just the opposite.

I want less to do with it now more than ever.

Just the two of us

I visited the HP Garage. I rode by Steve Jobs’ house (and felt a little dirty) and the original Facebook house.

I saw the current Facebook offices. I drove past Mozilla. I saw the and buildings. I was not far from the Googleplex nor Apple. But I didn’t go. I didn’t even try.

After sitting in a grove of Red Woods or seeing the mighty sequoia trees, the iPhone doesn’t compare.

Tech especially the bubble of apps and phones it has become seems to small and insignificant. There is no future there. Nothing lasts. Everything is ephemeral.

The Red Woods are measured in terms of decades, event centuries. They were here long before any of us and will stay long after we go.

It brings some perspective to the world where everything is hyped beyond belief and each tiny change is a major disruption of an entire industry.

Technology is not interesting to me. I don’t care what the latest device can do.


My iPhone was the perfect traveling companion for this trip. It was my camera. It was my GPS device. It spent a lot of the day on airplane mode while I was exploring the forests and National Park.

I didn’t want to let the world in, I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to capture it.

Did you know the panorama mode works brilliantly when used vertically?

I was able to capture the towering trees by slowly panning up them. It made me smile when I figured it out and now I have some photos of the huge trees to enjoy.

The phone isn’t important for how much RAM it has or what network it’s on. It doesn’t matter what version it is or how I feel about it.

It matters because it was a great camera. Paired with a Canon S90, it captured my wife and I on vacation. It captures where we went and what we did. It helps me remember.

Tall Trees

I have a poor memory and it helps to look at a few photos. Then the other times come flooding back. The soft breeze as it washed over me. The smell of a nearby cedar forest. The one obnoxious woman on her cell phone at Glacier Point.

The phone is a tool. It allowed me to find my way through a foreign place and capture the beauty I saw there.

It was important for what it allowed me to do. Not for what it was. It could have been any number of phones or devices and accomplished the same thing.

It enabled me to enjoy myself. That is what technology should be.


I was on vacation last week. I didn’t pack a computer. My phone became a camera and GPS. I didn’t think about work and I didn’t let work get to me.

Before, I left, I set my auto-reply with one important line.

I will not be reachable by phone or email.

I wasn’t. I didn’t check email and I don’t give out my phone number. I didn’t worry about work. Work is here now that I’m back.

I had a wonderful vacation. Don’t let work join you on vacation.