Mailchimp Coffee Hour Talk

This morning I gave a talk at Mailchimp Headquarters that I was fairly nervous about giving. Last year and old friend of mine – Gregg Bernstein – who I hadn’t talked to in quite sometime reached out to me about coming to give a talk at his office. He works at Mailchimp and they have an ongoing speaker series called Coffee Hour and he thought I might be a good fit for it. I said of course and didn’t think much about it as the date was kind of far off at that point. I actually really like Mailchimp and use their Tinyletter platform for my personal newsletter (which you should subscribe to if you haven’t already) though I wasn’t totally clear on what he wanted me to talk about. Normally when people ask me to come talk at an event or to some group of people they somehow persuaded to sit quietly in a room together they have a set topic in mind and ask me to speak about that. That’s easy, hand me something and I can talk about if for hours – even if it’s something I don’t know anything about I’ll just make some shit up and people will assume I’m an expert on the topic. You think I’m joking there, but.. well, yeah. Keep in mind that I’m a college drop out. Anyway, when Gregg asked me to come talk I agreed and then I asked what I should talk about and he said “anything” which left me thinking “…” so I asked again, with a little more sincerity and he said clarified that as long as the talk was about me and the stuff I’ve done all would be well. 


If you know me, you know my least favorite topic to talk about is me and the stuff I’ve done. I get super self conscious and all the little head voices tell me how stupid it all is and that no one cares and who the fuck do I think I am talking about stupid shit like this and all that. Most often I take those voices as trusted council and avoid this dangerous topic at all cost, but I for this I told those voices to shut the hell up and I moved right into uncomfortable land. In part because I never do it, and I thought forcing myself to do it might help me get more comfortable with it, or at worst at least I could point to this in the future if anyone asked. I tweeted that I was giving the talk and some folks asked if it was open to the public or if they could watch it online, neither of which is was – fortunately for me, unfortunately for those folks. But what I did do was record the audio and posted it as episode 005 of my Viva Riot podcast, and I put the slides up on Slideshare as well in case anyone wants to listen and follow along at home. I’m embedding the slides here, though I know sometimes some people can’t see these embeds, so here’s a direct link as well.

If I sound nervous, especially at the beginning that’s because I was. I seriously considered faking my own death this morning at the hotel before making my way to their offices, but I didn’t and I think I calmed down a few minutes into it and it went really well. I think it did anyway. I did a “questions?” thing at the end and about 10 people had really great questions – the audio didn’t work out so well on those however, but I think if my talk sucked people would have just walked out rather than hang around and ask questions and stuff after. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway. So there it is. Thanks Gregg, and Thanks Mailchimp!

Seeing the light

The rule of thumb for tools & stuff you carry around everyday is “two is one and one is none” which basically means you lose things, batteries die, stuff breaks at the wrong moment, etc and if you only have one of something and you need it in a pinch and something goes wrong you are out of luck, having two always gives you a back up plan. I’ve been a fan of this rule for a number of things, not the least of which is flashlights. People who don’t carry flashlights can’t understand why you need even one, but once you get used to how handy they are you can’t imagine not having one within arms reach at all times. For my purposes I’ve settled on the CR123 + AAA combo. That is, a super bright yet compact and pocketable primary light driven by a CR123 battery, and a smaller yet capable AAA light on my keychain. It’s a set up that works great for me. Some people opt for two lights that use the same battery size or something but I tend to think if you are going to have two they should be different enough to justify themselves. But anyway.

I’ve had an original Arc AAA light on my keychain for over 6 years which I bought after doing a ton of research. That thing is SOLID and it’s served me really well – still works perfectly. Unfortunately the other day I noticed that the keychain hole had almost worn all the way through. I had a titanium split ring in there which might have caused the problem, titanium being stronger than the aluminum the light is made out of and all. I don’t think it’s a problem with the light and blame it much more on my own heavy use. In fact, because I like the light so much I’m not ready to just trash it and may make a weekend project out of coming up with a new way to attach a hook. But in the meantime, I need a new light for my keychain.

Perhaps I’m feeling a little saucy at the moment, but I felt like going way out to left field and abandoning the traditional tacti-cool aircraft aluminum or titanium as a material and trying something new. I’ve been into copper recently – we have some copper cups at home and I got a copper pen that I’ve been enjoying, so when I saw that County Comm had an all copper version of their Maratac AAA I was in. That light regularly gets great reviews on the nerdy flashlight geek websites  and at under $50 I didn’t even really have to think about it.


Being a pure element, copper has some unique properties and should tarnish quite interestingly after carrying it for a while. My first impression after getting it is that the little wire used to create the keychain loop may be a problem, but only time will tell. It has 2 brightness levels instead of the on/off that the arc had, and is considerably brighter in the higher setting, though that comes at the cost of shorter battery life.

Since apparently I’m susceptible to suggestion or easily marketed to when I’m in the buying mood, seeing that they just released an all copper CR123 as well, also for under $50, I gave in and got it. Maybe I’m just a sucker for matching stuff. I have these crazy conversations with myself where I try to justify this completely ridiculous behavior – where I blatantly know I’m trying to fool myself or make myself feel better about doing something I shouldn’t be doing, and then I do it anyway. I’m all “Dear Sean, this shit is going to happen wether you like it or not so you better come up with a way to be OK with it. Love, Sean.”

I have the U1 version of the Sunwayman V10r which is no slouch of a light. Solid titanium, a cool magnetic brightness control and compact as crap. I’ve had it for about 5 years and it’s still a fantastic light. So I have no good reason to replace it at all. Except, you know, this other one is copper. And I suck.


The Maratec is smaller, but it’s heavier because copper outweighs titanium by a lot. And the Maratec has 3 modes – low/med/high where as the magnetic swivel ring on the Sunwayman is basically endless brightness control, however I think the Maratec tops out a bit brighter because it’s all new tech, were as the Sunwayman is fairly obsolete all these years later. The CR123 size light is where manufacturers really flex the new electronics, new LEDs, new reflectors and stuff so generally any higher end new CR123 light is going to beat the pants off one just a few years older. So I’ll carry the Maratec for a while and see how it goes.

But for under $100 I got two brand new flashlights that that should last many, many years to come – not bad.


Earlier this week a news report started spreading around with a bunch of my long time friends. A bank in Orlando had been robbed and the security camera photo looked a lot like someone we knew. Some people assumed right away it was our friend, others debated one aspect or another in hopes of convincing others (or maybe themselves) that this couldn’t be him. As that discussion went on people started telling stories of some stupid thing this guy had done at one point or another, or how they hadn’t seen him recently but when they had last he wasn’t doing so hot. And those stories were followed by stories of other friends, or friends of friends who had take a turn for the worse. Arrests, suicides, OD’s – yes those are plural . and that’s just in the last month. That might seem excessive, and it probably is, but you know all the jokes everyone makes about Florida? There’s more truth to them than anyone realizes.

I grew up in Florida. I wasn’t born there and my early childhood was spent bouncing around to a number of cities around the country, but my formative years – the ones I remember and the ones that I believe had a real lasting impact on me – those were in Florida. And let me tell you, shit is fucked up in Florida. Don’t get me wrong, it’s home in so many ways, and there will always be parts of it and people there that are truly special, and not just to me. I still have family there. I still have friends there. The rooftop of the rec center overlooking a baseball field where I first kissed a girl – really kissed a girl not just some peck on the cheek – it’s still there. The clubs where I saw the most important bands in my life, their names have changed but the buildings are still there. Apartments I lived in still stand. Streets I used to walk down everyday are still blanketed with moving shadows from the trees that line them. There’s magic there. But that doesn’t change the fact that shit is fucked up in Florida. And there’s a reason I don’t live there anymore. Hundreds of them to be honest.

I rarely visit, because inevitably when I do I cross paths in a very real way with my past. I see people I knew who are still doing the thing they did 20 years ago. I see people who had all the potential in the world, who obviously never did anything with it. I see places that sucked then, that have only gotten worse. You can feel it. And even among my friends, we joke about the people that moved away and the ones that stayed. Not that there’s anything wrong with staying, some of my favorite people in the world still live in Florida and I miss them but I can’t handle going there to see them. Some things are better left in the past, and I wish I could reach in and pull some of those people into the present.

Today we got the confirmation of what we’d hoped wasn’t true. The look alike in the photo was exactly who we thought it was. Arrested, in custody. And with that confirmation came some links, including online arrest records with mugshots of previous arrests, 10 of them in fact, dating back to ’95. DUI to possession of marijuana to possession of cocaine to robbery. I hadn’t seen or talked to him since around the time of the first arrest. I don’t remember it happening, maybe I never knew about it but he lived downstairs from me around that time and we often hung out and played records and talked music. We weren’t close friends as much as friendly neighbors who ran in similar circle of friends and had similar backgrounds. I distinctly remember him joking one time that while we had both grown up as part of the straight edge scene from Tampa, he’d started drinking and smoking pot and was now laid back and never in trouble where as I, still a die hard tea totaler was pretty tightly wound and had more than one run in with the police. And then, here we are all these years later.


I haven’t been able to really stop thinking about it all day, and it’s horrifying and depressing and disappointing and infuriating all wrapped up into one. But mostly, I’m just bummed because it’s a fucking waste.

And once again I’m face to face with the bullet that I somehow dodged.



Clutter, pt 1


For me, part of the problem with clutter is that it gives me too many choices and then I spend endless time and mental effort worrying if I’ve made the right choice, or if I should have used something different or tried something a different way. When I was poor as shit and had one jacket, I never worried if I was wearing the right jacket – if it was cold I wore my jacket. If it was really, really cold I wore my sweatshirt too. End of story. I wasn’t stressing all day that I’d worn the wrong jacket.  Many years of busting ass and creating opportunities and a life for myself I have several jackets. One is heavier, one lis lighter, one is waterproof, one is water resistant, one is wind proof, etc… the marketing that causes this situation is obvious, but the result is no matter what I wear, I’m worried that I wore the wrong thing – I took the light jacket and I’m still cold, I took the heavy jacket and I’m too worm, it started to rain and my water proof jacket is at home, and so on. For me, having more options rarely works out to my mental benefit, which is in part why I spend so much time thinking about what the perfect single solution is and then limiting myself to only that.

Having less money to play with made that easier, because I could only buy one thing, and if I bought the wrong thing I had to sell it to buy the right thing. Having more money to play with means I can try other things without getting rid of previous things – or get two things to try and the same time and see which is best. But it never ends up that cut and dry, and as the years pile on so does the closet and drawers fill with choices. But really they aren’t choices, they are clutter. Physical and mental, because even if I don’t use them they are in the back of my mind and I either feel guilty that I’m not using them or disappointed that I haven’t gotten around to getting rid of them yet. When I simplify to one option – that I actually use – all that stress goes away. I’ve learned that about myself, which is helpful.

We’ve been in our new place for a year now and it’s time to deal with things that might still be in boxes from the move, or things that I thought I lost in the move and replaced and while going through old moving boxes found, and now I have choices. And clutter. When it’s a little bit it’s easy to push aside, but the more it grows the bigger it weighs on me and the more I realize I need to address it and deal with it, so I’m putting time aside this month to think about and address just that.

This isn’t only a physical, I end up with digital clutter too. I have 5 writing apps on my ipad & 3 note taking apps. Some sync with Google, some with Dropbox, some with a native desktop app that I have on my laptop and or phone. Some don’t sync with anything but the user interface and experience is really nice. So when I need to write something down I need to decide is this just a quick note to myself, or something I’m going to expand on later in longer form. What if it’s a note to myself by *might* become something longer? What if I’ve already got some similarly themed notes, now I need to remember which app, which system, which process I used to take those notes before. Once I’m past that I need to think if this is writing that is just for me, or is it something I’m going to want to share with my team for collaborative editing? Or what if it’s something I want to just share with my wife, like a grocery list, which apps is she using? Or what if it’s something I’m just writing for myself but will later want to do something else with? If I’m going to post it to my blog I need to keep that in mind because the ipad doesn’t copy and paste text with links very well (at all) so maybe I need to write it in a blogging app instead of a writing app. Or what if I’m going to send it to an editor, which app are they using? It gets chaotic pretty quickly. It’c clutter. So in part of this I need to look at what workflow works for me, and streamline around that, get that nailed and then later consider how others might interact with it, but if I have an idea I want to just write it down, and to spend no time at all thinking about how and where to write it down.

Part of this is admitting that there is no perfect solution for everyone, there’s what works for me and I should more often trust my gut and less often worry about conflicting recommendations or reviews. That applies to all of this. If my jacket works and I like it, why do I find myself looking at jackets in the store? It goes back to trusting myself and the choices I’ve made, and accepting that I certainly did the research and made those choices for a reason – there’s no value in second guessing myself after the fact.

In future posts over the next days, weeks, I’ll dig into the nitty gritty of which apps I have and which I’m choosing to keep and why. Why this pocket knife is more practical than that one. Why these shoes work and those ones don’t. Why of the 5 water bottles I have in the kitchen, I always use this one and the others shouldn’t be even there in the first place.

Maybe some of this thought process will help you sort through some of your own clutter. Maybe not.


Unreasonable Search

Can someone double check my logic here because the math I’m doing is freaking me out and I need someone to tell me I’m reading something wrong. This is where I’m at:

A. Yesterday a Federal court ruled that no suspicion is needed to search electronics at the US border. According to the ACLU press release, this“allows the government to conduct intrusive searches of Americans’ laptops and other electronics at the border without any suspicion that those devices contain evidence of wrongdoing”

This is of course in relation to the Border Search Exception which “allows searches and seizures at international borders and their functional equivalent without a warrant or probable cause” – The ACLU hard argued this violated the Fourth Amendment which guards against unreasonable search and seizures. The court decided that it did not.

So there’s that, but what are we talking about when we say “border” exactly?

B. According to this piece from 2008, the Government considers a 100 mile zone from any international border or coastline to be “the border” even if that coastline isn’t butting up against another country. Drawing a border like this designates the entirety of the states of Florida and Hawaii as “border” as well as most major cities in the US – All of NYC, LA, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, etc.. all considered to be “border.”

Which leads me to think about A + B, do the combination of these rulings suggest that the government can decide my house, located in Los Angeles and within 100 miles of the coastline, is on the border, and thus available to be searched without probable cause? Can govt agents show up at my doorstep and demand I hand over my computers for them to inspect? The piece seems to talk about checkpoints rather than door to door searches, but is one so far from the other? But even if it’s checkpoints, could these be set up all over Los Angeles and all laptops carried by people be subject to seizure? I think that’s what this means – that it would be legal at least.

Wired wrote a piece about the newest ruling and causally mentions the 100 mile zone issue but glosses past it – seems to me like this should be THE major issue at hand.

Someone please tell me I’m misunderstanding this…

I did stuff in 2013

It’s easy to look back on a year and write it off as good or bad based on a quick feeling, and I’m certainly no one to argue against gut judgements – but sometimes when you stop and take stock things are a little different than you remembered. I came face to face with that realization the first time I did my year in photos review back in 2007 (will get this years together soon) and since then I’ve tried to make an effort to break things down a little more before throwing everything in the same bucket. 2013 was weird for sure, a lot of people have a lot of negative things to say about things that happened and I’ll let them do that as much as they want, but I wanted to take note of a few things I did this year that I’ve never done before:

  • Wrote and published a original fiction book
  • Contributed text to a non-fiction book authored and published by someone else.
  • Recorded and released an EP with my art collective/project
  • Rode Space Mountain with my son Ripley when he was finally tall enough
  • Went to Costa Rica* (furthest south I’ve ever been in the Americas)
  • Went to Hawaii* (which, if you count a layover in Anchorage once as I do, completes a visit to all 50 US states)
  • (*related) Vacationed in beachy paradise like locations with my family
  • Started a personal mailing list (which, from a zero starting point, now has over 300 subscribers)
  • Started a podcast (and told some great stories with friends)
  • Went to the Bujinkan Honbu dojo and trained directly with Hatsumi Soke
  • Took Pilaties class (for 2 months)
  • Along with Tara, was the Hacker(s) In Residence at Sparkfun in Boulder, CO – the first invited for their newly launched HiR program

I’m sure there are more, but those immediately jump out in my head as milestones -many of them full on bucket list items. And if, with no real effort I can think of 12 things that I did – one a month for the entire year – that I’m proud of and will look fondly on and remember for the rest of my life, well, that’s hard to complain about. Even better is that at least half of them I had no plans or intention to do this time last year. I don’t yet know what 2014 will bring, but I can’t wait to find out.

Behavior Modification

If you’ve been following me online for a while you probably know that I often use the end/beginning of the year to assess some habit or practice, and challenge myself to make an improvement. My Year Of Less was one of the more popular ones. These aren’t really New Year’s resolutions so to speak, the new year just makes it easy to remember when I started it. Or something, maybe I just say that to make myself feel better.

Over the last month a few people have asked me what my plans are for 2014, perhaps looking for some inspiration of their own. I’ve been thinking about it a lot actually, largely because I didn’t have as clear of an idea as I’ve had in the past. But I’ve had a few discussions this year about what it means to try and improve yourself. How can you make yourself a better person, why would you try, and what does that even mean? After all, who even defines what a good person is?

For me, at the end of the day, I want to feel good about the things I’ve said and done. I want to be proud of my actions, and sleep well at night knowing I did what I could. I want to be happy with how I’ve spent my time, at least as much of it as I have a say in. And if I can make little changes here and there to improve these things, then all the better. And sometimes just talking about them, getting them out in the open makes you more aware of them, and thus easier to tweak. So, this year I’m looking at a handful of minor behavior modifications.

• No white lies

I feel like this deserves a whole post of it’s own as it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot, for a long time. The people I truly respect, whose opinions I value above all others are the ones that I know will be honest with me even when that means telling me something I don’t want to hear. I’m lucky enough to have a few friends like this and I’ve often aspired to be as direct and authentic as they are. When I need the truth, these are the people I turn to. I wouldn’t consider myself a liar by any stretch, but I’m certainly guilty of excessive simplification to get though uncomfortable situations from time to time, and I’d be lying (see what I did there) if I said I’ve never told a friend what I knew they wanted to to hear so as not to upset them. I recently read “Lying” by Sam Harris which helped me refine some of what I’d been chewing on already — namely that these tiny little white lies “to avoid awkwardness” or “to keep things simple” don’t actually accomplish that, but instead make it easier to ignore the truth and broadcast to everyone around you that you likely can’t be trusted, and might be lying at anytime. I know for certain I don’t ever want a friend to “tell me what I want to hear” so why would I do that to them? And having a kid now makes me think about this even more, I don’t want to set the example that the truth only matters sometimes. It’s important, or it isn’t. And I’m going to take the stance that it is. This requires listening better (I’ll get to that in a second) and being more thoughtful with what I say in response, but again, I think those are worthwhile efforts to make.

The flip side of this for everyone else — don’t ask me something unless you really want to know what I’m thinking.

• Listen better

A few times this year I’ve caught myself in conversations with people, just waiting for them to finish talking so I can say what I want to. I felt as if their ongoing verbage is just standing in the way of my obviously brilliant thought. Maybe I’ve done this longer than I realized, but the times when I noticed myself doing it this year I felt like shit. What kind of an asshole talks to someone and spends the whole time just waiting for them to shut up? This kind of asshole aparently, and I don’t want to be that kind of asshole. If what someone has to say isn’t interesting to me, I shouldn’t be wasting my time or theirs talking to them, and if it is interesting I should grant them the courtesy and respect of listing to what they have to say. I’d certainly want that same philosophy applied to me. So that one is obvious, going forward I’m going to actively try and be a better listener and not think about what I might have to say myself until after whoever I’m talking to has finished their thought.

• Write some fiction, every day

I’ve struggled with writing fiction for a long time —  I’ve written about that before. But I realize that what I consider my “problem” is more likely just the normal steps people need to go through that I’ve somehow convinced myself I get to skip. And perhaps I don’t actually get to do that. I think it boils down to this: As much as I want to write fiction I don’t because I’m not confident that I can do it, which stems from my personal compultion to publish everything I write, so I end up not writing fiction because I don’t think what I’d write would be publishable at this point. So I keep magically hoping I’ll just wake up one day and be good at it. Which maybe isn’t be best course of action to depend on. So this year I’m purposefully giving myself permission to write fiction and not publish it. Hell, maybe I will publish some of it, but I’m allowing myself not to, which is a big move for me. And to further spur this along and eliminate another crutch, I’m going to write something everyday. That way I can’t argue with myself that something is too big to start or too involved to work on right now. These stories can be as short as they need to be, but everyday I need to write one of them.

• Blog

And while we’re on the topic of arguing with myself, I’m making a commitment that I wont let me talk myself out of blogging. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of blog posts since I began blogging regularly back in ‘98 or so. The vast majority of those were written and posted prior to 2010. I’ve been quiet the last few years, quieter than I had previously been anyway and quieter than I’d like. This has largely been due to me convincing myself that whatever I have to write about everyone else already knows about so I’d be wasting their time by writing more about it. Or worse and more likely, no one cares in the first place. And I make a convincing argument. But on a semi-regular basis I get a comment on a post I wrote 5+ years ago, or I get an email from someone about one of those old posts. And then I have to completely reconsider my “no one gives a shit” theory, but I can usally supress that. But I don’t want to, and I want to blog again more. So I’m going to stop assuming no one cares, and stop assuming everyone’s already heard it. That doesn’t mean I’ll be blogging every day, but it does mean I want to average more than one post a month.

So that’s what I’m looking at for 2014. If I can move myself a few steps in a direction I’m happy about for all of them, that’ll be a success. It’s about habits and behavior modification, but I feel like these things are worth the effort and I’ll be happier if I can push through them. What do you think? What habits could you create that would make you a better person?



As I get older I’ve started to think about what I’m putting into my body. Granted as a vegan for over 20 years now this isn’t an entirely new subject for me, but I’ve been thinking about it much more recently than I had previously if only because as I get older I can actually see the impact of some of those things right in front of me. Things that perhaps in my spry youth might have gone a bit more undetected. That said, my interest in what I’m putting in gets hindered by how much time I’m willing to spend researching, which isn’t much. I find topics with endless wealths of data and info available to be completely intimidating and prefer to spent time researching things that in a foreseeable timeframe I can comfortably master. Supplements are bonkers. For years anytime I would look around I would find just as many for as against arguments for anything leading me to the conclusion that placebos are really powerful. So I’d take a handful of things here and there with the understanding that it might be total bullshit, but I wasn’t very diligent and who knows what the results were.

Thanks in no small part to the Information Is Beautiful “Snake Oil” chart I’ve been able to compare and contrast those for/against arguments much better recently and for the last year or so I’ve been trying out a much more regular combo of things that I think have worked out pretty well. A few of my also getting older friends have asked what if anything I take – specifically if I know about vegan options (a lot of vitamins have geletin or other non-vegan ingredients) – so I thought I’d make a list of what I’m using both for their and my own future reference. Right now, daily, I take one each of these:

On top of that, I make smoothies all the time, and I add Organic Raw Maca Powder & Vega Sport Performance Protein to them on occasion. I haven’t quite figured out the optimal time to take the protein – again as far as I can tell just as many people say take before a workout as after a workout, and still others say just taking it in the same day as a workout is good, so who knows. The Maca power DEFINITELY works. I’ve also dabbled in trying out STS Creatine 5000 which I think I saw some real results from but it’s a serious headache to try and take 6 pills 2 times a day. I don’t know why they can’t compress that into something simpler to take. At the moment I’ve lapsed on that one.

I also given Rips a Vegan Kids Multiple every day. I remember taking Flintstones vitamins as a kid and figure it can’t hurt for a growing guy to have a regular dose of this stuff.

Anyway, hope this helps. Are you taking anything? Seen any worthwhile results?