The Martian by Andy Weir

I recently finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir. It was one of the most enjoyable works of fiction I've read recently, and so I can't help but recommend it here.

The story is a kind of Robinson Crusoe/Cast Away extreme survival adventure that happens in space, and will especially appeal to fans of MacGyver-style resourcefulness with some realistic science and geeky tech explanations thrown in. It's also pretty funny at times, and strangely moving at others. Check it out.

Home is where the branding is

Coffee!When I was eating breakfast at home recently, I took an inventory of the number of corporate brands that were on display to me as I sat at our kitchen counter.

The fridge, oven, toaster, etc. were obvious ones but then I started noticing brand names on things like a pair of speakers, the cookware and the ceiling fan, and the count went up to 15+.

There are probably more I'm missing. And that's before I even open up the pantry to look at food packaging - oh my.

You've probably seen the studies that say the average U.S. resident is exposed to many thousands of advertising/branding messages per day. Sometimes these studies seem a bit exaggerated, but I still think about the core point that my brain is consuming brand and advertising messaging all day long.

As I've gotten older and I feel like my brain is less sponge-like for being able to take in all the information I can throw at it, I've gotten more protective of what I fill it up with and what I use it for.

One way to do that is to not let brands advertise to me in my own home and in the spaces where I generally want the most control over how I feel, what I think about, and what messages I take in.

Continue reading Home is where the branding is

Blue Apron review

For several months now Kelly and I have been trying out Blue Apron, the service that delivers fresh ingredients and recipes to your door so you can make amazing meals. Bottom line: it's been responsible for a wonderful shift in our cooking and eating habits at home.

Shaking Beef Prep

Before Blue Apron, we were in a bit of a rut when it came to cooking at home. Both of us have found enjoyment at various times in the process of cooking, especially for other people. But at times we also faced a failure of imagination, discipline and/or motivation when it came to planning meals, going to the grocery, and taking the time to make something interesting or healthy. Yes, these are clearly problems of privilege; in a few minutes we could easily pick something from a cookbook, get to the grocery store that's less than 2 miles away, buy some stuff and a few minutes after that be home cooking - pretty much the definition of convenient and easy living.

So when I first heard about a service that would ship fresh ingredients to our door along with recipes to prepare them, I was skeptical. Surely we could just make ourselves put a little more time and energy into doing what we already knew had to be done, right?

But we decided to try it out after reading a review online, if only to say we'd experimented with this crazy new use of the Internet.

The result? Delicious, interesting, beautiful, fun, healthy food:

Continue reading Blue Apron review

Richmond Matters, a new local blog

I've created RichmondMatters.com, a new site dedicated to commentary about life in Richmond, Indiana.

As I've occasionally done here in the past, I'll be sharing my thoughts about Richmond news, politics, leadership, community life and more. It's a simple site. The name is kind of boring. I've no ambition for it beyond having a place to write with a more narrow focus on a topic that's important to me.

Sometimes I'll cross-post those essays here or tweet out links to them, but usually I won't. I'll continue to post here about all the other random stuff I enjoy writing about, but the posts about local stuff will go in this new site.

So, if you'd like to follow along with my posts about Richmond, I hope you'll use the email or RSS subscription options on Richmond Matters. I'd enjoy having your feedback and comments along the way.

Pet Adoption, Debt Clock WordPress Plugins

I recently released two simple WordPress plugins:

This creates a simple pet adoption search form in a widget on your WordPress site. Once you enter a postal/zip code, you're taken to results on Adopt-a-Pet.com where you can look for a homeless dog, cat or other animal waiting for your love. (Yes, I've worked a lot in the past with Adopt-a-Pet.com, but this plugin is not affiliated with or endorsed by them, I just created it for fun and to promote pet adoption.) Pull requests welcome.

This creates a simple widget display of the current U.S. national debt, based on the latest data available from the U.S. Treasury. If you want you can animate the number so that it is increasing/decreasing on the page according to recent changes in the actual debt. Pull requests welcome.

 

Continue reading Pet Adoption, Debt Clock WordPress Plugins

Distributed vs. In-Person Teams

TreehouseOne of the questions I get most since joining Automattic is about what it's like to go from working with a company where we were mostly collaborating in one office space in Indiana, to working with a fully distributed company, where everyone works from home, coffee shops, co-working spaces or similar spots around the world.

(The other main question I get is about what it's like to go from being "the boss" to working for someone else - a post for another time.)

The short answer: I'm appreciating and enjoying it, and I think it is the future of many kinds of work.

The longer answer follows.

The question of a distributed versus in-person setup for a team or company is discussed often in tech circles, perhaps even more so right now as tech companies face hiring challenges and consider related immigration policy issues. I feel like I've experienced both sides in some form now, having built and managed a web development firm for close to 17 years with a strong focus on working together in the same physical space (experimenting with remote workers along the way) and now having worked almost 8 months in a fully distributed configuration.

Going in to my new job, I was initially skeptical that I would find a distributed setup to be better than what I'd experienced working with my team in an office together. I thought it would be exciting, interesting and different, and despite all of the enthusiasm I'd built up for it (especially after reading The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work) at some gut level I still suspected it would be a kind of nominally acceptable, second-best alternative to working with people in person. Continue reading Distributed vs. In-Person Teams

2014 Year in Review

2014 was a year full of change, newness and exploration for me. I looked back over my posts on this site as well as my social media updates for the last 12 months, and here are some of the highlights:

Travel

SANI spent 25% of the year away from my home in the midwestern U.S., traveling ~50,000 miles around the world. Some of it was for my work and related conferences, some of it to visit friends and family, and some of it just to see new places for fun and education. Trips included:

I think that's the most travel I've done in a single year, ever. I wouldn't have previously included "world traveler" in how I identify myself so it's still a little strange to realize I'm doing it, but I'm enjoying it (and the perspective and knowledge it brings) greatly. I feel fortunate to have had these opportunities, and look forward to more of them in 2015.

Continue reading 2014 Year in Review