The crown of a good name

Today, I attended a memorial service for an acquaintance who passed away a few days ago, unexpectedly . The service was a who’s who of local politicians, party officials, and activists whose lives she had touched. The loss was all the more tragic given her relatively young age. I’ve never been to a Jewish religious ceremony before, let alone a funeral, but there was one thing that the Rabbi said that stuck with me.

” And the day of death than the day of one’s birth.”

Ecclesiastes 7:1

She told a parable from Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson about the above verse.

The point being:

“At the time of death, however, there should be no sadness but a sense of achievement.  If a person has lived a good life, if a person has fulfilled the commandments, completed his mission of doing good in the world, has weathered all of the storms and rough waters that are inevitably part of life and has stayed on course, then there is certainly reason for celebration at the conclusion of such a meaningful, purposeful life. “

The Crown of a Good Name – Congregation Beth Abraham-Jacob

I couldn’t really call this person my friend, we were certainly familiar, and ran in the same circles, but our interactions were usually brief. I did get the chance to spend an hour with her while canvassing the polls this past June. She was there on behalf of one of the non-partisan organizations that she was part of. We chatted during the time, but the two of us didn’t have a close relationship.

Not so of the others that I saw today. I heard several people grieve and acknowledge the contributions that she gave to the causes that she believed in, and how hard it was going to be to fill those shoes. She left with a good name, and one that people around here will remember for some time to come.


Teach your children well

I’ve been trying to teach my daughters the things I love, hoping that some of it will rub off on her. My wife and I both have a healthy love of reading, and seem to have passed that on to the eldest. (The youngest is too young to read.) We’ve also been successful instilling a love of music in the both of them, as the girls both love making up songs and dancing. My wife was a singer when she was in school, and I’ve been a musician since I was 14. The girls love to ‘play’, but my attempts to teach them anything resembling anything other than open strumming on a ukelele have been unsuccessful.

I was exposed to computers when I was around four years old, so I’m trying to replicate that experience for them. I learned to touch-type via this Missile Command-style game on the PS2/e, so I found a game for her to play that would do the same. She managed to work her way through it, but I don’t think it stuck. At one phase I know she was bored and just started smashing keys to get through it. (There was no penalty for wrong letters.) I’ve also had her working through’s lesson plan. She advanced through it pretty well, but we seem to have abandoned it for now. Kahn’s academy was probably pushing it a bit too much. I wanted to see how far past her grade level she could progress, but I didn’t want to push her to hard.

She’s been targeted for the ‘gifted’ program at her school. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I think it’s important for her to be challenged and pushed hard, but at the same time I think about the effect that such a distinction had on me when I was younger. Not that I think there’s anything bad about being singled out for academic distinction, but I’m worried about the psychological effects of being told you’re ‘gifted’ or ‘special’. It’s a hard line to tread, cause I realise there’s might be some gender factors at play with how confidence levels are later in life.

When I’m watching my girls play, I’ve noticed that my eldest is very bossy, either with her younger sister or with other kids in the neighborhood. My wife tells me that she’s ‘exhibiting leadership skills’, and that calling her bossy is sexist or whatever, but she does bark orders a lot, and gets pissed off when people don’t do what she tells them. I fear that’s something I may have inadvertently modeled for her as well. But it is amazing watching them play.

I try to limit their television time. My wife is a lot more lax about it than I am, but I try to limit it to a couple of hours on the weekends. Today we had the TV off and the two of them were playing in the living room with their dolls and toys, making up stories and playing dress up. Their imaginations are at full gear. The youngest did something similar later this afternoon. I was meditating on the back deck, and she came out there with about four or five animal creatures and posted up on a cushion next to me and started making up this story. It was super cute.

So, hoping that I could actually teach them some music in a more formal way, sight-reading and some theory, I’ve been looking at getting a full sized, 88-key keyboard. They had a toy one that was too small for my large fingers, and I really want something that I can practice on as well, y’know? They’ve enjoyed messing with my 66-key USB MIDI controller that’s been stashed in the closet for a few years, but I wanted something that didn’t need to be hooked up to a computer. I found one online that was in stock at the local Guitar Center, so I took the oldest out there earlier today. She went straight for the drums, and wanted to spend most her time out there. Of course.

Of course, we don’t have room for a kit, much less the three grand for one of these fancy Roland hybrid-electronic rigs, but she didn’t seem super enthused about the keys. She couldn’t tell the difference between the two I was trying to choose from, so I guess we’ll hold off for now. Tomorrow, I’ll hook the MIDI controller back up, and start test driving some of these online piano learning app. I’m gonna see what her (or her sister) can do before I throw another three hundred dollars at it.

I know my wife will like that a lot better.


Tomorrow marks the start of my last year at university, where I’ll be finishing up my bachelors degree in computer science with a computer science minor. I’m only attending half-time, and the two of the four classes I need to finish are a professional workforce development course. Obviously, this is going to take a good deal of time away from everything else that I’ve been doing, so I’ve labored to unload as many projects that I can. That said, these are writing intensive courses, and I don’t know what kind of time commitment that’s going to take. Obviously, taking thirty to sixty minutes a day is going to be hard to fit in, but I’m going to be staying on top of the assignments to be able to fit that in.

That said, there may be room for crossposting. In the past, I’ve published writing assignments from class to Facebook or Medium in the past, so I expect I’ll find ways to kill two birds with one stone. That said, one of the first tasks is to share my thoughts on what it means to be a professional. Specifically, the characteristics a true professional must have.

Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.

C.S. Lewis

My dad taught me his work ethic, and while I’ve been slow to get going some times, I’ve I’ve never had a problem focusing on a task once I’d made my mind up to execute. Obviously, there’s a difference between personal tasks and professional ones, but I’ve always hustled my butt off. Always. Even when I didn’t have the ability, or wasn’t the best, I could still keep going, driving toward the finish line. But beyond the drive, integrity is probably the most important trait one can have. Your reputation takes a lifetime to build, but can be destroyed in an instant. And taking shortcuts, or otherwise cheating a client or task will come back to haunt you.

There are lots of other answers that people will give as an answer to this question, but I think the question is the wrong one. When people talk about characteristics, they’re really discussing a trait, or a skill. One of the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned lately is about choosing the people that I work with. Whether you’re hiring for a position, taking on a client, or choosing a new job, the most important questions that ultimately need to be asked are around values.

Values are the deep-seated beliefs that motivate behaviors; people will fight for their values, and values determine people’s compatibility with others. Abilities are ways of thinking and behaving. Some people are great learners and fast processors; others possess common sense; still others think creatively or logically or with supreme organization, etc. Skills are learned tools, such as being able to speak a foreign language or write computer code. While values and abilities are unlikely to change much, most skills can be acquired in a limited amount of time (e.g., most master’s degrees can be acquired in two years) and often change in worth (e.g., today’s best programming language can be obsolete in a few years). It is important for you to know what mix of qualities is important to fit each role and, more broadly, with whom you can have successful relationships. In picking people for long-term relationships, values are most important, abilities come next, and skills are the least important.”

Ray Dalio – Principles, #45

I’ve been at my current firm for almost seven years now, and I’ve sat on the side through a number of hiring interviews during that time. Ultimately we’ve been disappointed with those hires that we’ve taken on, and I couldn’t really understand why until I read Dalio’s principles a few months ago. Every time I sat at that table with someone’s resume in hand, I was always focused on the skills. We were hiring for a position, an immediate need. And while I may have touched briefly on some of those deeper abilities, we almost never discussed the values that drove a person. A lot of your standard interview trick questions may have been originally designed to get into some of those values, but I think they lost meaning the more they became rote. And it’s hard to get to know someone in that short timeframe.

So while we may have chosen hires that were capable of performing the skills that were needed at the time, we handicapped our future growth. We wound up with employees who weren’t motivated to keep learning new skills as business needs changed, that were using the workplace as a dating pool, or who were incapable of documenting their work properly. And make no mistake, I’m no angel myself. Most of the jobs I’ve had over the years have been failures. And this may be my privilege talking, but I’m not afraid to be fired any more. And I’m not afraid to fire a client if they don’t align with our values. I’m at the point now where I can say ‘no’. I’ve realized that a lot of what comes my way is going to distract me from what really matters, and what I’d rather be working on.

I’m forty years old and still trying to figure out what my personal mission statement is. I may not be able to spell it out, but it’s there. I think ultimately it’s about service, and passing on what one has learned to others and helping them along. It’s about building connections and community. Hoarding knowledge is ultimately futile. I think lately I’ve been thinking that if I have an idea and someone else can do it better, then by all means, let them. I’ve got to focus on the things that I can do better than anyone else. What’s my niche? If someone brings something to me, the first thing I ask is ‘am I the only one that can do this,’ and that usually determines my answer. There’s other factors to be considered, of course, but I try to stick to that as much as possible these days.

One last concept that I’ll leave here is the concept of life as a multi-armed bandit problem, where we’re always exploring and experimenting and figuring out ways to exploit that knowledge that we’ve gained. Having this framework in mind and knowing when it’s time to put in the work to experiment build those relationships and reputation, and when it’s time to focus on that one thing that is going to bring you success — that’s key.

But hey, I’m no expert yet. I’m still learning too.

Starting is easy…

So it looks like we are slowly moving into the business of managing websites and social media accounts. This site has been around in various forms since October 2004, and here we are, 15 years later, still trying to make something of it. Wow.

My first website was called StereoNet. It was a small little thing I put together back in the late 90’s, probably around 1998-99 or so. RealPlayer, the first audio/video streaming application, had been out for a few years, and you could actually listen to music in real time for the first time. Before then it you were limited to low-fi tracker music, based on samples, or by downloading MP3s. This was before broadband was rolled out everywhere, meaning that you would spend eight to fifteen minutes downloading a three minute song. RealAudio was a major breakthrough at the time, and it was everywhere.

The experimental music site Beta Lounge was one of the first sites to really take advantage of the technology that is still around today. They’re still kicking around with their live broadcast shows, which run for 4 hours or more at a stretch. They’ve got over 22 years of shows up on their website. There were more sites out there that have fallen into the ether over the years, and escape my memory, but I spent a lot of time on them, listening to techno and dance music.

During this time, I was under 21, and too young to go to most of the bars and dives where most of the bands in the area would play. I’d been playing guitar for a number of years by then, and had been in several ‘bands’ myself, and liked chatting and hanging out with other musicians. One day, looking at one of the free zines that covered the local scene, I got an idea to create an online calendar for the bands playing, with a page for each band and samples of their music.

I didn’t have any problems getting the bands onboard. I’d take their demo CDs, rip them to a RealAudio file, and throw them up on a page with a picture and details. Then I spent too much time toying around with pretty coding tricks to design a calendar app from scratch, and eventually lost motivation. It was a major missed opportunity.

I eventually got involved in the rave scene, and tried to replicate some of what BetaLounge was doing with the DJs and clubs that I went to. I was too undisciplined, more interested in getting drunk, doing drugs, or getting laid, and eventually began what I call my ‘time in the wilderness.’ More lost opportunities.

This name, daHIFI, is a holdover from that period: digital audio high fidelity. I hung onto the name for it’s uniqueness, but here I am at forty, looking to remake myself and rebrand, if you will. I actually let the domain lapse one year, and it quickly got bought up by a squatter. I regretted letting it go, and wound up waiting them for another year, when they let it lapse and I snagged it back up. But now, daHIFI isn’t even unique, as there’s now a Belgium dub soundsystem that goes by the name.

So I don’t know if I would call it nostalgia, or regret, but there is a part of me that is disappointed that these previous projects weren’t successful. Not that I should be hard on myself for not having the follow through and the motivation to see things through. Regrets, I’ve had a few. Ultimately I’m not looking backward though. Just digging up the past to recollect the amount of wheel-spinning and fucking off that I’ve done for most of my life. I had a roommate who told me something once that “you can either work when you’re young, and play when you’re old, or play when you’re young and work when you’re old.” I think he was using it to justify why he was working so hard, and I think I’m using it today to justify how much time I spend ‘working’ on things now.

My wife has led a sort of inverted life to this. She feels like she’s done everything she was supposed to do, went to school, got a good job that she planned to stay and retire at. We’ve got the house, the kids, but now she’s too burned out and wondering how she’s going to design a life that she doesn’t need to take a vacation from. I don’t share the same concern, cause I think that I’m pretty much doing what I want. I tell myself that at least. I don’t know if I’m kidding myself, or have just settled into this life. I want more, sure, but at the end of the day, am I content with what I have? Absolutely.

In fact, as she and I have started dipping our toes into minimalist lifestyle, we’ve realized that we have too much. Too much house, too much stuff, too much debt. We’re caught between trying to build a life where our work is meaningful, and one where we can afford the life we want. The two of us ultimately have different ideals of our rich life, and that’s something that we’ll have to reconcile as partners and parents.

So we make plans to get our business off the ground and help build networks and community. We take on additional responsibility. We learn, and we keep building.

Jack of all trades

I seem to oscillate between obsession and undecidedness most of the time. Either I have a hobby that I attack with full throated-ness, or I’m stuck flitting between one thing or the other in rapid succession. My wife jokes about my six-month hobbies, and whether she likes them or not: cooking, auto simulations, politics, crypto, and so on, &c… She says she like the cooking one the most. My mother is the same, going through phases of creativity in different projects: craft painting, stained glass, hiking, feltcraft, and so on, &c…

The problem was worse when I was a child in school. I never really had deep relationships with anyone, at least those with the opposite sex. Maybe in hindsight that’s not a bad thing, but growing up it felt like I was attracted to a number of girls and it felt like ‘going with’ someone closed the door on others, and I was always glad to be around any number of girls in school. Of course, there were always the ones that weren’t interested or otherwise unavailable that I always fell hard for. My wife, when we were in classes together, was always involved with some dude and I was like another one of her girlfriends, listening to her escapades and so on. It was part of pattern I seemed to be stuck in until my mid-twenties, when I got into pick-up culture. But that’s a story for another day.

The way in which I’ve been deeply committed to whatever obsession du jour has been has influenced my career in many ways. Since computers have been at the heart of many of them, I’ve been able to grow up with a set of skills that has benefited me greatly professionally. In a way, I still consider myself a jack-of-all-trades, as I can’t really say that there’s one thing that I excel at more so than anyone else around me. If I had to pick one, I might say that I possess a confluence of technical ability and business acumen, but I don’t really think that’s even my strong suit, given my failures in business and in technical projects as well.

I’m getting ready to head back to school in another week, to begin the last of two semesters I need before I finish my bachelors in computer science. I’m conflicted about this whole process. When I began going back to school after a 13 year hiatus, I saw a BS as a necessary box that I needed to check off to get past hiring algorithms, to take my salary to the next level. When I decided to take a ‘semester off’ all those years ago, it was because I didn’t know what I wanted to study, let alone what I enjoyed doing. It might actually have something to do with getting fired from my first tech job and being blinded by the quick money and glamorous life that I thought I had found during the heyday of sales and telemarketing at MCI.

What’s ironic is that now, after 5 years of part time schooling and tens of thousand of dollars in debt in pursuit of this degree, I am in no way interested in working for any company that would use it as a qualifier for hiring me. I have zero interest in going to work for a large corporation or other organization where people are interchangeable cogs in a machine.

Hopefully the groundwork I’m starting to lay will pay off, and that I’m not still scattering seeds that I’m hoping will pay off in one way or the other. Since politics has almost been completely shunted to the side, I can focus on school. But I still have a day job, and am picking up additional work still. I am handing off a project that I’ve spent dozens of hours on over the past year, as I don’t feel like I’m the one to drive if forward given my other commitments. It feels like another failure to be passing it on, uncompleted, but I have learned so much from it already, and was basically working for free on it anyways. Whether the promise of equity ever materializes or comes to amount to anything remains to be seen.

I still remain committed to crypto markets, despite all of the crazy action of the last eighteen plus months, and my stack of next actions and projects continues to fill and be sorted from next to later to someday. It will be nice to be able to close a project one day. Not one of the server implementation projects that I’ve done a million times, not something I’ve had to do to repair a car or a house out of necessity, but something that I thought of and brought completely into fruition. Until then, I’ll keep tucking unfinished projects aside, abandoning ideas, and plowing forward to the next thing.


Hit me like a ton of bricks

I’m several weeks into an experiment, or promise to myself, to blog here every day. It’s part of a continuous improvement plan, if you will, that I made to help keep me motivated or something that I’ve been telling myself. Daily habits that have been piling on top of each other. First the intermittent fasting and meditation for 10 minutes. Then no alcohol for thirty days, — going on forty, now — meditation for an hour. Code. And so on it goes.

I’m not sure what I’m doing to myself, or my family. I can’t say I’ve been content for a while. “Happiness is not something you experience, it’s something you remember.” I’ve said it here before. I’m not sure if I’m engaging in a bit of self-sabotage, or trying to protect myself from it. I once heard a man at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting — or read it someone — say that he was a dry drunk. That they were sober, but they were even worse of a person sober than they were when they were drinking. They were easier to be around when they were drinking. Since they were sober they were just a miserable sonofabitch to themselves and everyone around them. I wonder if that’s part of what’s happening to me now.

Maynard from Tool was on Joe Rogan a few weeks ago. Joe was talking about rock stars that have these weird demands for their interviews and Maynard said something like “they want to have control over everything in their life now cause they felt like they didn’t have any control over things when they were younger.” BAM. Hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like I grew up in an authoritarian household, under my dad, and I rebelled against it with every fucking fiber in my being. Now, I’m the dad, and I’m exercising my authority in the worst way. My wife calls me a ‘bully’. I tell myself otherwise, but usually I’m yelling or barking orders at the kids, or making them do stuff they don’t want to do, eat stuff they don’t want to eat. I think I’m toughening them up, to make them less spoiled, but I feel like an asshole half the time lately. I snap at them when they interrupt me mornings when I’m trying to meditate, –ironic, huh? — in the evening when they’re watching TV when I think they should be outside, or whenever they say ‘no’ to something I’ve asked them to do. I worry about it all the time, but I don’t know how else to act.

But that’s a lie. Number one thing that seniors would tell their younger selves? Don’t be so hard on yourself. Just let shit go, don’t try to control everything. My wife likes to let the kids watch TV a lot more than I would like them to, garbage shows for hours on end. “My mom let me do that when I was younger, and I came out fine.” Like hell we did, I think. Like we haven’t figured out what all that advertising did to our young minds. Like they haven’t refined that model, crafted those shows to be even more potent and damaging than they were 30 years ago? At least with the streaming services we don’t have to watch the breaks. God help me we turn on Disney in a hotel room and be subjected to six minutes of marketing for the most useless, unnecessary garbage made for kids.

Douglas Rushkoff pointed out that marketing is designed to make people feel inadequate, that happy people don’t need to buy crap to make themselves feel better, to feel more desirable. I bought a bottle of wine today, along with rib-eye and crab cakes for some dinner guests tonight. I even told myself that 40 days was a good round number and that it was time to open that bottle of scotch I was gifted. I don’t mind having a drink; I just don’t want to make drinking a habit. I used to tell myself that I didn’t want to give up drinking, cause I like to drink. I just didn’t want to drink too much, or spend so much every week, stopping at the 7-11 every night on the way home. Well, I stay home a lot now. In fact, I don’t go anywhere. I’ve been to dinner or lunch several times now, and only water in my glass. I took the kids to a birthday party today and the adults were drinking. I turned down beer and margaritas. I was a miserable bastard that didn’t look or talk to anyone more than absolutely necessary. I was a hard-ass to my kids.

I spent a hundred dollars at the grocery store, and spent two hours making that rib eye sous vide with the crab cakes and vegetables. I asked if anyone wanted wine with dinner, looking for an excuse to open that bottle. I had fantasised that I wasn’t going to give myself a glass, or that I would pour myself one and not touch it to my lips. But no one wanted wine. After the table was cleared I put out that bottle of scotch, to talk about the gift and the circumstances which I acquired it. I thought about getting the glass, and the whiskey stones.

I didn’t. I put that bottle back on the shelf, thanked my guests for coming over. And as soon as the kids were upstairs for bath I went out and ate two ice cream bars out of the freezer. And a cup of Ben and Jerry’s after the were asleep.

Pity party

I was listening to James Altucher this morning while making the commute into the office this morning. I usually work from home, every two weeks or so I have to go into the office to pick up equipment so I can do an onsite job for a client. On a good day with no traffic I can make it in 25 minutes, most days the commute is about twice that, and on most weekdays, if I’m not careful to beat the afternoon rush hour, I’m stuck for an hour or more. Anyways I listen to podcasts in the car, and that’s how I happened to be listening to Altucher and Scott Galloway on the way in this morning. 

Galloway is the author of “The Algebra of Happiness”, and has a lot to say about fulfillment and meaningfulness. A lot of what he had to say made me realize what I feel like I’m lacking in my life right now, mainly the lack of meaningful relationships in my life. In the last eight weeks I’ve had maybe three conversations with people that have lasted more than five minutes. My wife and I talk, of course, and have conversations on the phone or in chat through work, but I think I dumped all my friends years ago and haven’t maintained any close social connections in a long time. 

A day ago I was re-reading When To Leave Your Job, and was just checking off the boxes:  you can no longer influence positive change? CHECK. you can no longer engage in what you do? CHECK. You’ve lost faith in the vision and direction of the company? ABSOLUTELY.  And I realized that August is here, and I had planned to be gone from this job last Thanksgiving. And this past week has just been more of the same. Frustration from the same problems. 

Not to sound like a pity party, but Galloway really had me thinking as I was listening. I realized that while I felt like I had brushed off June’s loss, I really hadn’t. I’m still mourning. I may have rationalized it or whatever to seem too cool, but I’m in that dead zone following a failed project where I’m still struggling to figure out what’s next. So I threw myself at various things: fasting, meditation, sobriety, coding. Trying to fill what’s missing with something. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Maybe there’s some self-loathing or low self-esteem that’s still lingering from when I was a child or something that’s holding me back. I don’t know. 

Maybe I’m conflating failure with rejection. Maybe I’m having a mid-life crisis. Maybe I’m just cranky from giving up the drink for a month and going on and unplanned 36-hour fast. All I can do is recognize what’s going on and try to be cognizant of my behavior. Maybe I’m on the downswing of the pendulum of happiness. Maybe I’m just being to hard on myself. 

My wife accused me of being miserable the other day as I was being Mr. Bossypants to the kids and yelling or something over something trivial. I’ve often repeated the refrain that “happiness is not something you experience, it’s something you remember.” I’m not sure if that’s the mind-blowing insight that I thought it was when I first heard it, or whether it’s just a load of crap that I tell myself to justify being a miserable bastard half the time. I don’t know. My usual stoicism doesn’t seem to be doing the trick. Maybe I just need to get laid.