Saturday morning: 4 things I learned from credit card deals to getting great at Photography

Working the travel points system

I did some research to see when I should get two new Southwest credit cards. People look at you weird when you say you play the credit card game but I’ve found them to be worth it. This time I’m working on a Southwest companion pass for 2018 and 2019. This means every time we fly Southwest on vacation, one of us will fly for free. A lot of travel bloggers have written about it. You need to apply for one card by October 1st and the other by October 5th. (And if you froze all your credit, you will need to find out what credit agency they will use to check your credit and unfreeze it first.)

Rey costumes

In anticipation of Krewe of Boo, Halloween and Chewbacchus, I’m working on a Rey costume. I spent a lot of time looking for pictures of her and then when I talked to my 11 year old, he remembered everything in great detail without having to consult any pictures. I should have asked him first. My partner mentioned that I’d need to figure out how to fix my hair and I told him there are tons of YouTube videos on just Rey’s hair.

Photos: Aperature

Last weekend I took pictures at a Crossfit competition and really wished I knew how to make the background blurry so that I could focus just on the people in the foreground — there were a lot of people standing around. So I spent some time learning about aperture and learned how to set up aperture priority mode on my camera. The article that got me started in the right direction was one about taking pictures at corporate events. There are a lot of articles about depth of focus.

Puerto Rico

Three and a half million people without power and running water! No drinking water! With no near term solution in sight. I’m sure money would help but they are also going to need some major logistical help and being an island is an disadvantage. And being a US territory, something few US citizens understand, is also a disadvantage. I read that Tesla is sending powerwalls. And private companies have been flying in medicine and flying out medical patients. It’s going to take a lot to help everyone that needs help.

5 thoughts for the day: who moderates conversations, organization, grit and purpose

Photo by Michael Dunne.
  • When we make a private company the keeper of the space of most of our conversations, we give them a lot of control. Revealed: Facebook’s internal rulebook on sex, terrorism and violence.
  • I spend my day working on lots of different things and I’m often context switching. I was also playing around with the search on Google Photos and find it fascinating that I can see all the pictures of a particular person, or all the pictures of “doors” or all the pictures of “angry”. Now I want that ability to group together my emails. I want to automatically have my inbox grouped by topic.
  • I read the book Grit recently. This take by Jon Gordon, based on the author’s work, was slightly different but still good. I like the focus on doing something that has purpose to you instead of just “doing what you love” which I think leads people to think that you shouldn’t do things you don’t enjoy every minute of.
  • Foot binding in China might have had an economic factor behind it. Work, not sex? The real reason Chinese women bound their feet.
  • And some more political news. I learned about congressional subpoenas vs judicial subpoenas.

5 things I read today: Amazon, Tesla and Attractiveness

Amazon’s new bestseller list tracks what people are actually reading. A bestseller list based on how many times the book was read, not sold. There’s not easy way to compare the lists but they are different. The Power of Habit, which I highly recommend was on the most read list but not the most sold list.  The 5 Languages of Love, which I decided not to finish, was on the most sold list but not the most read list. (I checked mine out of the library though so I didn’t directly contribute to that number.)

When it comes to attractiveness, your smell and voice play a role. I’m glad they now have proof for something that seemed obvious. It is interesting that voices that were deemed more attractive correlated with different body size ratios.

Tesla workers are passing out on the factory floor, according to a report. I didn’t investigate any further but assume it’s more than 1 or 2 people since CNBC is reporting. I’m not sure that’s a safe assumption these days. I think it’s crazy and fascinating that they have such a dedicated work culture. But definitely awful that it’s so short term focused that they aren’t even taking care of employees.

A few posts on how to take care of trees during spring snows.

Several political news articles.

5 things I read today: Women in Tech, Google and Politics

Women’s Leadership Community Luncheon at Red Hat Summit 2017

We Recorded VCs’ Conversations and Analyzed How Differently They Talk About Female Entrepreneurs. Researchers study 2 years worth of closed door venture capitalists’ conversations. There was a big difference in how men and women were described and in how much money they received. Men were “Young and promising” where as women were more likely to be described as “Young, and inexperienced”. They have a whole list of comparisons but they didn’t give any advice for how we can change the situation.

Fitted tees, shorty shorts: Sending the wrong message to girls? Girls shorts are literally 1/3 the length of boys shorts!

Everything New About Android From Google I/O. I didn’t see anything crazy on Android but my kids will be happy about the picture-in-picture and offline YouTube. (I’m waiting for more standalone cell phone watches like the Samsung Gear2-3 although hopefully smaller.)

Google Photos and Google Home phone calling does look really cool. Couples can finally share pictures. And Google Home will recognize who is asking for the phone call and use their phone number to make the call.

And then I read a few articles about our current political happenings. I feel like I should be keeping a scrap book for the kids.

5 things I read today: slaves, fake ids and communication

I got paid in quarters. One of these is not like the others.

My family’s slave. A story about a family from Manila who brings along a person who belongs to them. And they keep her for 56 years. A family member without freedom. I feel like it’ll be a few days before I know what to say about this but the story is moving and worth reading.

3 Lessons in Open Communications. A Red Hatter writes about communication in open organizations. The key? It’s a discussion not a lecture.

A practical guide to fetch(), reduce() and formatting data from an external API. I have to admit I didn’t actually read the article. But I did discover that New York City has lots of open data to play with. I think that’s awesome.

Explore New Universes with Publishing’s Summer of Space Opera Sampler. I hate excerpts. Especially if the book is not available to read right now. I did however enjoy Tor’s blog and added it to my rss list. I also follow a number of science fiction writers on Twitter. I find it exciting in the way others seem to be excited about following celebrities.

There Is a Fake IDGod, and He Lives in China. I suppose it should be no surprise that you can now buy fake ids over the internet from China, but it was a fascinating surprise to me. What other illegal things can you buy on the internet?

The Culture of Poverty

I am not an expert in poverty nor in economic culture. If there are any mistakes in this post, I likely understood it incorrectly. I hope that this post inspires you to go learn more about the social groups in our society and how we can all work more effectively together.


Bridges out of Poverty taught by Jodi Pfarr was a fascinating class about how the cultures of individuals living in the middle class is different than individuals living in poverty.

For individuals in poverty, values are centered around relationships. Titles are not important. Relationships you have with people are where you place your trust.  Life is focused on the present and problems are all interlocking. Individuals in poverty spend time worrying about things like child care, housing, agencies and transportation.

An example Jodi gave of relationship based values was to take the situation where a little girl is starting school. Her older brother takes her around and introduces her to people. When he gets to the janitor, he says the janitor is good people. His sister listens and understands that the janitor is someone to be trusted. If that little girl is having trouble in school, who do you think will have more influence on getting her to do her homework, the principal or the janitor? The janitor, according to Jodi, because she’s trusted.

For individuals in the middle class, values are centered around achievement. Trust is placed with those with titles – they trust the principal, they trust the judge, they trust the police officer based on their position, not because they know them. Individuals in the middle class trust or at least respect and listen to people with the appropriate titles. Those are the people they go to for help. Life is achievement based, future focused and problems are contained. Their sister’s kid getting sick will not keep them from going to work. Middle class individuals spend time thinking about cost of childcare and education, retirement, credit card debt and careers.

Jodi also touched briefly on individuals living in wealth. Their values are centered around connections: political, financial and social. They are generational focused and problems are controlled. They spend time thinking about things like associations, travel, events and politics.

Understanding that people in different wealth brackets have different cultures, not just different problems, you can develop better systems that realize that these are systematic issues not individual choice. Jodi gave examples of how this understanding had greatly improved services for individuals in poverty. For example, a set of judges decided to try doing a first come, first serve system on Fridays. They reduced warrants by 70%! The theory was that individuals in poverty have difficulty with transportation and often have to adjust their schedule to help out others (or their own ride disappears). It’s easier for them to pick a day and show up when they can and wait as long as needed than it is for them to make it at 8:15 on a particular Wednesday. People in the middle class find that extremely inconvenient and often fail to understand why it works better for people in poverty. If we include representatives from all groups as we make policies and seek to understand and not judge, we can make systems that are much more effective.

The class was taught by Jodi Pfarr who did an excellent job of explaining both the culture and values of middle class versus poverty. The class was aimed at people who provide services for those in poverty, mostly non-profits and government agencies, and almost all middle class people. In Fort Collins, Colorado, this class is occasionally offered for free to the public by the Bohemian Foundation.

Additional Reading:

Benazir Bhutto assasinated

Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today and the world is a poorer place for it.  I had the opportunity to see her speak at a Simmons Leadership Conference a few years ago.  I wish I had my notes to share with you (but they were in my company notebook which I had to leave with the company.)  She was inspiring though.  She was doing what she thought was right for her country at great personal expense. 

I wish the best to her family and her country.

Who would you meet during a week in the mall?

This guy spent a week in the Mall of Americas in Minneapolis – all open hours and one night.  It’s an interesting read just for the people he met and the things he tried.  He met one woman who claimed to be a stay-at-home mom who shopped at the mall six days a week and spent over $100,000 a year!

Get rid of the birdfeeder: how to really solve the problem of illegal immigrants

I got an email called "Quite an Analogy" forwarded on by somebody I respect and it made me so mad.  It said we should stop providing housing assistance, emergency medical care and free schools.  Because if we did that all the immigrants would go away and life would be better for us.  No crowding, no mess.  (It was comparing it to the fact that if you put on bird feeders, the birds come and make a mess and pester you for food.  Take down the bird feeders, the birds go away and the mess is solved.)

Let me see, if I stopped feeding my kids, they’d probably go away sooner or later and the house would sure be cleaner and quieter.  Or to make the analogy more accurate, that if the neighbor kids started coming over for food, I should stop feeding the neighbor kids and my kids, so that the neighbor kids (never mind what would happen to mine) would go away.  What kind of reasoning is that??  And it obviously resonates with people – someone forwarded it to me. 

If you want the problem to go away, you need to look at why you have the problem.  It’s not because you put out the bird feeder.  If the emergency rooms are crowded, it’s not because you offer emergency care to everyone, it’s because some people had no where else to go.  Figure out why they don’t have family doctors and help them get them.  It has to be easier and cheaper for them and the emergency rooms to provide care for them some other way.  Personally, I like that the courts have constantly up held our right to emergency care regardless of proof of insurance.

I think people that want to get rid of the bird feeder are just plain lazy.  They aren’t willing to really figure out why we have this problem.  This isn’t the immigrants’ problem.  It’s our problem.  We have to fix it.  Getting rid of the bird feeder will just change the problem, not solve it.   

I take that back.  Getting rid of the bird feeder, if it meant lowering our standard of living to that of Mexico, might solve the problem.  If life was as bad here as there, maybe they wouldn’t come.  If I stop feeding my kids, the neighbor kids will stop coming over for dinner. 

The US has a hefty salary: just compare the individual states to other countries!

The US is wealthy – this map just gives you an idea.  For each state, it lists a country with a similar GDP.  California produces as much as France and Texas produces as much as Canada!  Basically the states produce as much as 50 countries combined!

It would be interesting to somehow include population in the comparison too.  How does the population of California (36 million) compare to the population of France (61 million)?  So actually, the citizens of California produce twice as much per person as the country of France.

I am not saying that producing more is better!  I’m just saying that the US is a wealthy nation.  And on second thought, wealth is not the same as income.  (You can make $100K/year and be in $200K debt or you can make $50K a year and have a million to your name.)  So the US makes a lot of money would probably be a more accurate way of putting it.  We spend a lot too.