You'd Have to Be Blind Not To See This

Wrote this over the weekend...

We're about to get some rain at my house. Some real, serious, hopefully very soaking rain. The radar map on my weather app is lit up with greens and yellows and more than a few reds. The west side of my house is a full 5 shades darker than the east: the clouds are rolling in and blocking out the rest of the sun. Doors and windows are creaking, settling back into place against the stirring wind.
My wife asked me to go to the back yard and pick up the toys left outside, so we could keep them dry in the garage. Outside, the ambient temperature is still Lingering Summer, but you feel the swirls of air from Parts North brushing the back of your neck. The gate to the yard slams shut behind me ahead of the wind, and a piece of trash finds occasional purchase on a leaf or a blade of grass as it's sent rearward. The sky has texture, a breathing so much more present than when it's that still, high-pressure-that's-never-gonna-move blue. You'd have to be blind not to see this.

You'd have to be blind not to see this.

Jesus replied, "Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted,  so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch." (Matthew 15:13, 14 NLT)

 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him,  "What do you want me to do for you?"
"Lord," he said, "I want to see!" (Luke 18:40, 41 NLT)


Whatever You Ask

"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you."

(John 15:7, 8, 16 NIV)


"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you." (John 15:16 NIV)


There's passages all over the bible where Jesus says the Father will give us WHATEVER we ask. Really? Anything? I know too many beautiful people in terrible situations that are praying for rescue and yet to see it.


But I think the key is about this being to the Father's glory: I pray constantly for Him to take away the things that make me fall - the gaping holes in my spiritual walls that I know are there, yet I feel powerless to close. I think the point here is that God wants to help ME close those gaps, showing how he can transform a willing soul, rather than creating a spiritual automaton.  I know God sees the other side of our challenges when we can't, and sees His glory in there, somewhere.


Dear Father, give me a glimpse of the glory for You on the other side of my faults and failures, so I can be motivated to run the race laid out before me.


Sustainability: Your Next Buzzword for Social Media

This post will be used in RAPP's Cultura Newsletter, but I wanted to share with everyone else!

Dan Barber is an extremely successful chef – owner of several restaurants including Blue Hill in Manhattan, named the top chef in America by the James Beard Foundation, and listed on Time’s 100 most influential people of 2009.  He’s a master at creating good food, but his passion is in transforming what you and I call “good food.”  Dan is an outspoken voice in the journey to reinvent what we eat, by deeply examining the entire process from farm to plate.  If you have a moment, watch the talk he gave at TED 2010, intriguingly titled “How I Fell in Love With a Fish.”  For Dan, finding the best fish in the world is about how it was raised, and how that process can continue without negatively impacting its environment.  Dan isn’t impressed by the scalability of today’s agribusiness; he’s romanced by the sustainability of a new type of biologist farmer.


As our new world of social media has developed, we’ve experienced some oddly similar conflicts – not dealing with fish, of course, but wrestling with this balance between scalability and sustainability. 


Social media sites are all about scalability – and rightly so, because they rely on Metcalfe’s law.  Simply put, Metcalfe stated that networks become more valuable as they add more users, because of the network effect between those users.  Two users can make one connection to each other, but five can make 10 connections, and 12 can make 66 connections! With each of those connections meaning more server power and more network bandwidth required, even sites with just a few users can quickly consume an amazing amount of resources.  Facebook has even had to invent new database management systems for managing the traffic and maintaining service for everyone. 


Given enough power, ingenuity and money, technology is almost infinitely scalable.  People, however, are not.  You and I have only so much ability to focus, to communicate, or to share with others.  We’re bound by our own scarce time and effort, and none of us can be replicated (as much as we might appreciate a clone every now and then).  Think of it this way: what would one more email notification add to your life? What about another site to check every day?  How often would you like a text message about the weather forecast – every day? Twice a day? Every hour? Every minute?


Creating sustainable campaigns and platforms for our clients in the future will require us to put the burden where it belongs – to make the technology scale higher, further and faster so our consumers can stay engaged.  Google Buzz, for example, uses customized algorithms that “learn” your behaviors, so the most relevant content surfaces to the top.  This is the same tactic Facebook is using with their News Feed, by showing only the most active conversations of friends that you’re most likely to read. 


Think about our own marketing efforts: clients ask us to create platforms that carry messages to their consumers, past all the filters of technology and the clutter of the landscape.  And RAPP gets to bring a unique solution to these problems, because we’re all about the technology.  We have defined processes for surveying each brand’s Consumerscape, charting a consumer journey to navigate these waters, and unleashing co-creativity with the consumer to let them bring us into their time-starved lives.  Solutions like these are more than just one-off moments that end up burning relationships through a blunt numbers game.  Direct solutions like ours are something more, because the relevance makes them sustainable.


A Valentine's Profession, and a Confession

Valentine's Day this year is gonna be a little weird, and there's not much we can do about it. The year of our Lord 2010 brings a complete confluence of the craziness inherent with Parenthood. And I mean that with a capital P. Which rhymes with T. And that stands for Toddler.

Squid is almost 3, and has been sick with various nasties for about the last month. All the classic hits were there: RSV, Strep, Asthma bringing their entourage of Noze Gunk and Breathing Treatments and More Antibiotics. He's just now getting over it, but Mommy and Daddy are clawing our way back from a serious sleep deficit, nonetheless.

Add to THAT the fact that Mommy is currently carrying Squidette, our lovely next addition to the team, whose little finger will be where Daddy soon takes up residence. My wife has been so amazing these past few weeks that she's sick of being amazing, and I get it - it's one thing to be miraculously awesome for a day or two, and it's entirely another to keep it up for a month. We've been working on clearing out, cleaning up and setting up Squidette's new room, but it's slow going.

Add to THAT the fact that my work has been bizonkulous, and add to THAT the fact that inclement weather snowed us in for Thursday and Friday, when we were planning on getting that last-minute Valentine's shopping in.

It's a lot to deal with.

Next weekend, Squid is going to go hang out with his Mema and Grandad down in Houston, and we're going to celebrate Valentine's. There will be the obligatory visit to a nice hotel, and the even more obligatory gastronomic adventure that IS The Melting Pot. There will be more work on the Squidette Sanctum mixed in there, but a break will be well appreciated. But there's something that must be done today, on Valentine's Day. Even though we're officially celebrating later, I can't just let it slide.

My wife, my Valentine, is singlehandedly the greatest person in my life. She laughs at me, and knows when to ignore me. She's a mom, teacher, friend and CEO - all on top of everything she is to me. She's totally cute and beautiful, even if she doesn't feel that way right now. She's supernaturally strong, even if she doesn't feel that way when she's asked to be. She's irreplaceable, immeasurable, and thought of writing a Valentine's day blog post right before I did. (DUDE!)

I love you baby. Happy Valentine's Day!


How We Will Wave

Here's the question. I was watching this video:

... and I was captivated by the part where he says "this is probably only 3.5% of what Wave could do." The fact is the official Wave interface is just one front end to the engine - there are completely open APIs underneath Wave that we could all interface with in different ways - via blogs, IM, mobile, who knows. Think of how we used to use Twitter through web, and while many still do, others (like me) have taken off to advanced interfaces like TweetDeck or Seesmic.

So stretch your brain for a bit - the question might not be how are we gonna use Google Wave, but what will it enable?

  • Collaborative online newspapers
  • Student crowdsourced notes for a course
  • The first collaborative comic book
  • Owners' Manuals written by the owners, as they use the product
  • Community based support by Wave, rather than by message board or email

And think even further - if they get the media managment systems worked out, we could be mixing music via wave (like http://www.indabamusic.com/), or designing art via wave, or testing a beta product through Wave (while it's in beta!). The mind boggles.

(Big nod to the latest episode of This Week in Google, which provided some of these ideas and further sparked this concept for me!)



Trimming. Edging. Weed-whacking. Call it what you will - this has basically been the bane of my lawn-work existence ever since I got $20 from Dad for doing the yard on my own. Why is it that when it's time to evaluate whether you're ready to do the Youth Group fundraiser thing and mow someone else's lawn, the question is "can you edge with a weed-whacker?" Sure, it's tricky, but is this the ultimate measure of landscaping ability?

But I digress. My trusty instrument in the weed-whacking world is this one you see here - that's right, a GAS trimmer. And no, I don't mind it. In fact, I'll gladly trade the foibles of a two-stroke engine for having to lug around an extension cord capable of reaching Utah. Yes, it takes some work, and no, it doesn't always start immediately. But it's cordless, powerful, and ultimately reliable. But the agony starts near the business end of this thing: the ever popular "bump head" for advancing more weed-whacking line.

Now, I'm fairly good with things mechanical. I even understand how this bump head is supposed to work. I can wind the line on it properly, and I can get it to work... ONCE. I'm convinced this thing was invented mainly to increase the level of cursing on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, because it CERTAINLY wasn't a way to make the process of trimming more efficient or speedy. I've literally broken the handle on this thing slamming the head into the ground trying to get a millimeter of line to spit out. So if you're like me on this issue, you need to find what I have: the Fast Loader.

This thing is the God-send of landscaping. Instead of working with a whole spool of weed-whacking line, you're using individual 10" pieces. Push one into each cam-gripper system, and you're off to the races. Burn one up on a particularly stubborn flora? Pop it out, put another one in. Bullet-to-the-brain simple, and doesn't slow you down a bit.

Now the catch is how to get those individual pieces of trimming line. Sure, you can buy them - they sell little tubes of about 10-12 pieces each, but you pay for the pre-cut material. Just like a chicken breasts in a bag, you're paying a markup for not starting with the whole yourself. And while that may be a fine trade on your favorite poultry, don't bother here. Just buy a regular ol' line of weed-whacking line and a utility knife. Spend 5 minutes cutting your own 10-12 pieces of line before you start and you've saved yourself a lot of money. And it'll be smooth sailing through the rest of your yard, on your way to a beautifully manicured suburban masterpiece.


The 25 Random Things.

There are 25 things here. About me. Yes, I've taken the plunge, no matter what the NYT may say.

  1. I've read your 25 things. Yes, even if you didn't tag me. You tagged enough of my friends that it popped right up on my "Home" feed, and what can I say, I'd like to know more about you.
  2. That New York Times article makes it sound like doing this will give away the last vestiges of your privacy. But I don't see it that way - I live in this online world, and I even make a living from it. I'd much rather be a part of the conversation than sitting out because of fear. That being said, you can't have my SSN.
  3. I love slippers. I wear them all the time when I'm home, and even quite a bit while I'm out - except for the hottest days of Summer. I choose very shoe-like slippers, so I can easily get away with wearing them outside. Can't stand it when my feet get cold.
  4. I'm really behind on those LinkedIn recommendations people have asked of me. I'll get there, guys, I promise!
  5. I think my wife and son are made of pure, liquid amazing.
  6. I'm fascinated with the sociology of the mall Play Place, especially since I spend more time there these days. All of those kids manage to (mostly) play well together despite being different ages, races, upbringings, shapes and sizes. A lesson for us all.
  7. I have immense respect for other religions. Even as a Protestant Christian, I think you'd have to be a fool not to see the beauty in others' faiths. I hope some day I can have the discipline of a Muslim, the mental clarity of a Zen Buddhist, and the understanding of God's grandeur like a Catholic.
  8. I was up to 14 things before I had to restart my browser. Now I've gotta remember what those were, or come up with something better. Stink.
  9. I don't know what's so bad about Target clothes. Sure, they're not the most expensive stuff in the world, but I think they do a fine job.
  10. I often love bands and singers that have been around a long time, and I usually like their late-career work more than the original stuff. For example, you've gotta be insane if you can't love The Eagles' "Hell Freezes Over", or Fleetwood Mac's greatest hits album from when they got back together, or even some recent Kris Kristofferson.
  11. I've recently rediscovered The New Yorker as an excellent source of some insightful reads. Originally started checking them out for Malcolm Gladwell's essays.
  12. Speaking of Gladwell, I'm beginning to think the white guy 'fro might be coming back.
  13. There are some movies in this world that, even though I know they're going to suck, I almost feel honor-bound to see.
  14. I think we should all just stop the insanity and just call tomatoes a vegetable. I know they're not - strictly speaking, they're a fruit - but come ON. You're not gonna put tomatoes in your Fruit Salad, are you?
  15. I told my mother-in-law that my brand new HDTV could not show anything playing from a VCR. Because it would cry in agony.
  16. I'm not perfectly certain, but I think there might actually be TWO works of man inspired by God: The Bible and Dr Pepper.
  17. I don't wanna be a superhero, I wanna be a JEDI. There's a difference.
  18. My wife is totally addicted to anime and manga. Which I'm totally on board with, because those are MUCH better than soap operas and reality TV.
  19. I'm a Sudoku addict. I usually have a puzzle I'm working on in my notebook I take to meetings at work. And yes, I must admit some times that I'm looking at the numbers more than the notes.
  20. I think some parts of Texas are as gorgeous as anywhere else on Earth.
  21. Polarizing foods I actually like: cilantro, bleu cheese, and lima beans. Never have liked green beans, though - ever since I was a baby.
  22. I couldn't work at an office that didn't let me wear jeans whever I wanted to. I'm all about dressing nice for clients and interviews, and I dont' even wear jeans every day. I just want the option.
  23. I'm not putting hyperlinks in these later tidbits because I'm getting lazy and I'm ready to finish this thing.
  24. I'm a David Letterman/Craig Ferguson kinda guy. And I LOVED Craig Killborn.
  25. I think 25 is the new 10.