The Ups and Downs of Bitcoin

I’m fascinated by Bitcoin and crypto currencies. I haven’t invested anything but I know a lot of people that have. Some friends have made some nice financial returns on their investments.

Because the currencies aren’t backed by anything or anyone, you have to be prepared for incredible instability and the potential for BIG losses.

Self driving cars are coming…

Every year the State of California releases data on the companies that have licenses to drive self-driving cars, like how many miles they drive and how often they have to disengage self-driving mode.

For Waymo…

…its cars go around 5,600 miles between disengagements. To put that into perspective, if Waymo gave one of its cars to someone with a 10-mile commute, that person would only need to take over the wheel about once a year, on average.

For Cruise (a part of General Motors)…

…it went from 35 miles per disengagement in last year’s report to 1,250 miles per disengagement this year.

Self-driving cars are coming! Get ready.

Blue Bottle Coffee

I started going to coffee shops with my dad when I was 12 or 13. We’d go before we’d go to the grocery store. Because I was young, at that point, I was drinking sugary drinks that had barely any coffee. After college, I moved to Washington, DC. I tried different coffee roasters and shops. I could start to see that coffee could really be an experience.

On a business trip to San Francisco, I was staying downtown and walking around after a conference. I stumbled upon Blue Bottle Coffee‘s outpost in Mint Plaza.  I instantly fell in love with the brand as it taught me new depths of what coffee could be.

The company was started by James Freeman in Oakland, CA in the 2000s. They’ve become known for sourcing the best beans, quality roasting, incredible freshness, and perfection in brewing technique. For example, they only sell beans that have been recently roasted to maximize flavor.

This morning, I was drinking beans from a farm in Myanmar. It popped with flavor. Drinking the coffee is like going on an epic journey.

I’m sure it all sounds pretty silly. You just have to try the coffee. They have cafes in most of the major coastal cities. If there isn’t one close, you can order their beans online and brew at home.

I’ve become mildly obsessed. We don’t have Blue Bottle in St Louis. So I’ll buy the beans from time to time online. When I do business trips to the coasts, I’ll book my hotels according to where I can drop by one of the Blue Bottle cafes. My teammates make fun of me. 🙂

So, go out there and try Blue Bottle Coffee.

What’s your voice marketing strategy?

The 2017 holiday season was BIG for smart speakers, like Amazon Echo and Google Home. They’re now in 39 million American homes.

Just today, this space hit another milestone. JP Morgan has hired Vayermedia to be their agency of record to tackle voice marketing. It shows that BIG brands are taking notice.

Also interesting that this space has formalized enough to be its own specialty… voice marketing.

“True conspiracies are rare but stupidity is nearly universal.”

NY Times opinion columnist Bret Stephens nailed it…

The principal lesson of paranoia is the ease with which politically aroused people can mistake errors for deceptions, coincidences for patterns, bumbling for dereliction, and secrecy for treachery. True conspiracies are rare but stupidity is nearly universal. The failure to know the difference, combined with the desire for a particular result, is what accounts for the paranoid style.

 

My Favorite Coffee Equipment

When I was younger, I’d go grocery shopping with my dad. Before the store, we’d get a coffee. At that point it was sugary coffee drinks. At some point it morphed into a real love of the art of coffee.

I also noticed that with the right coffee gear you can get better flavor out of even mediocre beans.

Here’s the setup that I’d recommend…

  1. Chemex – I make coffee for my wife and I every morning. The Chemex is perfect for both of us.
  2. Chemex Filters
  3. Aeropress – When I need a quick coffee, like right now, I love my Aeropress. Brew time is under 2 minutes.
  4. Capresso Burr Grinder – The burr grinder is pretty key. It gets a more consistent grind than the blade grinder.
  5. Cuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp 1.7-Liter Stainless Steel Cordless Electric Kettle – You don’t want a straight boil. You want about 200 degrees. This gets it there easily. It’s pretty slow to get going but works well.
  6. Kitchen Scale – Gotta get the right amount of beans. I still use a 16:1 water to grinds ratio.

What does your coffee setup look like?

When I Almost Quit College

At some point, you get old enough and look at the crazy twists and turns and be like “ahhhhhh” that makes sense. In the moment, you wonder “why is this happening?” Years later bring perspective and the ability to see God’s divine plan in a situation.

One of those turning points is the end of my first quarter of my freshmen year of college. I went to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). I remember visiting with my dad. Attending felt like it was meant to be.

RIT was on a quarter (10 week) system, although they’ve just switched over to semesters. The academic term went fast and the professors prided themselves on jamming 15 weeks (semester length) of material into 10 weeks. The joke was that if you missed your first week of class you’d be so far behind that you’re too far behind at that point.

Lansing, Michigan isn’t a tiny town by any stretch but it’s not a BIG city. I was always an A/B student or a 3.5 – 3.8 GPA. Everyone was BLOWN away that at 13… 14 years old that I’d learned HTML and was making websites for others. At RIT, my major was Information Technology, which is like applied computer sciences. It’s more application than theory.  Albeit to say, my confidence was REALLY high in my abilities.

Well, I’d gone from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond. Everyone was like me and a lot smarter. Plus like I mentioned classes were INTENSE. My first quarter included things like Discrete Mathematics. I swear it didn’t use numbers for the first 4 or 5 weeks. I also had Intro to Java Programming. Programming in Java is VERY different than writing HTML. It came with a bit of learning curve.

I remember getting my first grades for my first quarter and it was a 2.7 GPA. I was DEVASTATED. I’d really felt like I was at RIT for a reason. This was my career path. Why wasn’t school coming more naturally to me?  I paced up and down the academic quad for hours questioning everything. Should I stay? Should I quit? I could always get a job at CompUSA (remember those?) or Best Buy back in Michigan.

I  made the decision to stick it out.

How’d I get through it? I had the grace of God and… I put in the work. I trusted that God had put me at RIT for a reason. So if I put in the work, it’d pay off.

So thankful for the love, support, and encouragement from my parents. They’re amazing and the best parents ever.

I also sat in every professors’ office hours that I could find. Most college students avoid office hours. I went to ALL of them.  It was free help. If others weren’t gonna use them, I was. Ha!

I ended up graduating with honors and a 3.75 GPA.

On the whole, college was hard. School was a 60-70 hour a week job, if not even more. It taught me…

  1. Hard work – I’m sure it sucked for my parents to see their boy face adversity but I’m so glad I did. It’s impossible to know what it means to work hard and overcome something until you face a hardship, which is going to be painful. Life is going throw you situations where you’ll have to work hard. In all those future situations I’ve felt so much more equipped.
  2. Working smarter – When you have a million things to do and it feels like the water is quickly going past your head, you have to think differently about how you work. It’s not about working harder. It’s about working smarter. You have to find new ways to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of the day.
  3. Getting thrown into the deep end – So much of school was learning something new. In one of my programming capstone classes, the final project was learning a new programming language in 3 weeks and then teaching it to the class. You just had to figure it out. RIT taught me how to learn and love being in situations that forced me to learn.

When I left college, I sought out people that shared these values.  After searching for jobs, I moved to DC to work at the Library of Congress. The first people that I looked for were people that wanted more than a 9-5. I looked for people that if a problem popped up, they’d find a creative solution to conquer it. I hung out with programmers, nerds, and entrepreneurs and it changed the rest of my life.

Life Lessons from Doing Puzzles with My 3 Year Old

For the last week-ish, I’ve been on winter break. We get off the week between Christmas and New Years. It’s been really fun to spend extra time with my family.

For Christmas, my 3.5-year-old Miles got some puzzles. They were really simple… maybe 12 pieces. But he’d never really been into puzzles before. I didn’t know how he’d react.

At first, Miles was really skeptical. As I showed him some tips for evaluating pieces and patterns, he got really into it. I got up from the kitchen table for a minute and I heard “I’m almost done.” I rushed back over to the table. He was so excited and I was being with pride.

He had two pieces left. He looked at each piece. He turned them around. He studied the surrounding pieces. He tried one way. It didn’t work. He flipped the piece around and tried it again. And it worked. He plopped in the final piece and he was done!

The experience got me thinking. How much better would life be if more of us approached our challenges in the way that Miles approached puzzles? He was skeptical at first but jumped in with both feet. He looked at what was in front of him. He assessed the situation. He tried something. Did it work? If not, he tried something different… over and over again.

Too often, we won’t even try. Or we’ll try putting two pieces together and then quit. We’re afraid of failure. We’re afraid of being wrong. We’re afraid of being judged by other people when we’re wrong. So, we don’t even try.

This attitude or mentality just doesn’t work. Life is going to throw new challenges at you daily… hourly. If you live your life afraid to try, you won’t get out of bed in the morning. I’m wrong ALL THE TIME but I don’t let that stop me. When I make mistakes, I look at what happened, why it happened, and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s really all you can ask.

We all just need to be a bit more like Miles 🙂 or really just like a child. Children don’t have the same base of experience. They’re so willing to take a leap without knowing what’s going to happen on the other end. As a parent, this is terrifying but at times admirable.

Sometimes naivete can be an advantage. When you know too much about something, you’re held back by those experiences and less likely to try something new. You need to be able to look at issues with a fresh set of eyes and take a risk.

We need to stop being comfortable.

We are a divided and broken nation filled with divided and broken people.

That brokenness isn’t something that can be fixed by policy. It’s fixed through the heart. That’s not an easy process. It’s hard and uncomfortable. Loving people amidst their brokenness isn’t easy.

How often do we worship at the idol of being comfortable? We do what’s easy and miss out on something more impactful.

I was really convicted by this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr...

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.'”

Why I Care About Politics

Over the last year, I’ve found myself more interested in politics than ever before. You likely see it in what I post about on social media, which I sure caused a groan out of some if not most of you.

There’s a famous quote, “Every nation gets the government it deserves.” If you’re frustrated with what you see in DC, state or local government, it starts with all of us and that should concern you. It concerns me.

Politics isn’t just government. Politics is how we go about living our lives together. Wikipedia defines politics as “the process of making decisions applying to all members of each group.” If the government is broken… if politics is broken, it’s not the government’s fault. It’s our fault.

Our broken politics is never more evident than over the last 48 hours. Half of America is appalled by a perceived lack of respect for the flag and what it represents. The other half is frustrated by the lack of understanding of protesting racial injustice in America. We’re divided and not listening to each other.

Something happens and we all retreat to our tribal corners. We stop listening. We stop thinking or being skeptical. If America is going to survive, we have to do something different.

By sharing more of my intellectual journey through understanding the politics of our time, I’d dream that I can somehow facilitate the awkward conversations, listen to each other, and dig deeper. This is how we learn how to love one another.

With what you see on the news day in and out, it’s easy to stick your head in the sand but that seems like a cop-out. It’s time to pick your head up and get active. Otherwise, I fear that things will just get worse.