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How to Publicly Criticize Your Employees, Phil Jackson Style


Phil Jackson had some things to say about how the New York Knicks have been playing.

Unfortunately, he told the world about it on Twitter, like someone complaining about bad dinner service at a hotel restaurant (via NY Daily News):

Phil Jackson’s moves and Carmelo Anthony’s injury have left the Knicks without much of a chance to win many games for the remainder of the season, but that didn’t stop the Zen Master from expressing his displeasure following Sunday’s 101–83 loss to the Cavaliers.

“Each NBA game is an opportunity for players to show their “best” nature and please the basketball gods…and those who know what “It takes,”” Jackson tweeted Sunday night on his @philjackson11 account. “Today’s game vs Cavs gave bb gods heartburn and those that know what “it” takes/means a smh.”

The Knicks are a bad basketball team, approximately a lifetime away from .500, and one of the worst teams in a league where the Philadelphia 76ers look like some of the NBA Summer League rosters we saw in Vegas.

Of course, Jackson knows this. He’s the president of the Knicks and has been instrumental in ensuring that this would be a miserable season for the Madison Square Garden faithful. It may be with a plan in mind — after all, the Knicks weren’t title-bound before Jackson showed up — but they were going to be a bad team that is going to occasionally show some flashes of listlessness. An 82 game grind of a season on a crappy team will do that to even some of the most professional players.

Maybe Jackson expects better energy from the players on his team. Maybe he is trying to get in somebody’s head. Either way, the choice of venue for his comments are distracting for a team and reminds me of some of the young managers I’ve dealt with who didn’t know how and when to criticize their employees. One of them made it a habit of doing it at a regular Monday meeting in front of everyone. There wasn’t enough coffee in the world to deal with a Monday like that.

For Phil Jackson truthers and believers, they’ll tell us, “He knows what he is doing. He knows how to motivate people. He knows when to take something public and when to keep it in house.”

To that, I say okay. Great. But just because it worked for Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant doesn’t mean it’ll work for this band of not so great players (and a currently shut down Carmelo Anthony).

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Ranking Posts by @SteveBoese, Ranked

Occasionally, my friend and 8 man rotation compatriot Steve Boese writes a post ranking certain aspects of life with minimal explanation. Today, I rank those posts from best to worst.

1. Rob Lowes

2. Months

3. Basketball Shots

4. Store Bought Cookies

5. Grunge Songs

6. Ways to Contact Steve

7. Classic Toys

8. Getting Hit by a Bus

9. Getting Hit by Another Bus

10. Getting Hit by, Somehow, Yet Another Bus

11. Breakfast Cereals

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“I’m Busy”


A lot of conversations these days start off the same way.

Me: Hey, how’s it going?

Them: Good. Really busy. You?

Me: Same.

Over and over again it goes. I’m busy. I’m writing a lot — for work most of the time, not for myself. When I get to the end of my day, I don’t necessarily want to spend time in front of the computer again.

I have too many built in excuses. I’m traveling. Kid time and wife time take up a majority of my evenings. I’m going to bed earlier because I’m getting up earlier. I’ve ended some days with my fingers very literally tired of typing.

I’ll say:

“Maybe I’ll write next week.”

“Man, I just don’t have time for this.”

“I have 27 unfinished blog posts and I don’t know where to start.”

“I’m busy.

Except, I don’t say those things about feeding my daughter, giving her a bath, or reading her a story before bed. In fact, if I’m home, I can almost guarantee that I am doing one of those three things between 5:30 and 7:30pm.

Sure, taking care of your kid is different. But so is writing. At least, it is for me. I’ve been regularly writing online for 14 years. Most of it has been without compensation. That’s a long time, but I haven’t said all I want to say.

So I’m writing now, every day. Sometimes it will be here. Sometimes it will be on my Tumblr. Sometimes it will be in my daughter’s Evernote notebook. It doesn’t have to be serious. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking.

That’s fine by me.

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Thoughts on #Ubergate

The media is up in arms over Uber because they threatened to dig up dirt on the personal lives of people in the media who don’t write nice things about them. They aren’t taking it lying down, either. They are deleting the app everyone! I repeat: THEY ARE DELETING THE APP. That’s as severe as it gets for tech journos.

Now, the real reason they are deleting the app is because intimidating the press is a shitty thing to do. That’s reason enough. Even though some media outlets do dig into the personal lives of tech executives (ahem, Valleywag), most don’t — at least proactively.

Lumped in with all the real reasons are two other reasons. One of them is privacy — which I’m going to leave alone for the sake of brevity — and sexism.

For months now — and if you’re in the tech press, you have no excuse to NOT know this — there have been plenty of stories about Uber’s highly suspect to downright crappy, sexist advertising and company culture.

And now, of course, Uber’s getting piled on with other stories of crappy things that they’ve done that the media chose to ignore until they were the ones being threatened.

All of this is just a reminder that the press can, and often is, self-serving to a tremendous fault. That the reason that Uber got away with a lot of these other stories is because they were swept under the rug for more favorable coverage. The people who actually were paying attention and had an issue with Uber’s sexism abandoned the platform months ago. People pretending like this was the straw that broke the camel’s back? Really? Don’t play that.

Believe me: I don’t feel bad for Uber executives. Nobody should, even if you feel a little bad for the drivers stuck in the mess. The media, with their pronouncements of deleting apps and retreading old, buried stories, are as much enablers as they are the victim here. Just let the record show that very few of them were unwilling to take two seconds to delete the app and another minute to find an alternative when they were being horrible competitors or sexist jerks.

It was only when members of the media were directly threatened by an Uber exec that the anti-Uber rage caught its predictable storyline. That only serves to give tech companies one lesson: do whatever else you like, but don’t rock the tech press honey pot.

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The Writings of Margaret Walden Haun

Margaret Haun was my great-grandmother. Born in 1909, she died in 2000 and she was a fairly prolific writer, especially in the latter part of her life. I’ve been trying to collect some of her works but they are scattered across many different publications. She submitted to magazines and journals and from what I can find, wrote mainly in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s lovely storytelling that conjures sweet memories of our visits.

She did most of her writing for publication from her place in Santa Cruz, California so I’ve been able to find a few references to pieces from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

I’m putting this out there in hopes that someone else researching her writings can help fill in some missing pieces.If you have any other works I missed, please email me at

Luckily, some of her writings have been digitized. The Christian Science Monitor and have been extremely helpful. I am including some excerpts and links below.

Flower for My Mother

by Margaret Walden Haun
May 1988A flower for my mother
Is the nicest kind of thing
That I can ever think of,
That I can ever bring.
My mother says she loves it.
I knew it all the while …
From the way it makes her hug me,
The way it makes her smile.

Out of the Hills

By Margaret Walden Haun
May 12, 1982A trip to town when I was a child on a Western wheat ranch offered more than the excitement of venturing from country quiet to sidewalk bustle or exchanging, however briefly, the atmosphere of farmyard, barn and outbuildings for general store, hardware, millinery shop. There was the sensation of being not surrounded for a few hours by swooping, dipping, sky-carving hills that folded one into another to the distant horizons on all sides.

The front porch of our square brown farmhouse faced, across the big dry yard, beyond the county dirt road, a hill that tilted the head if one wanted to see where it touched the sky. Too steep for farming, that hillside was given over to native bunch grass. (Mama said the butter tasted best in spring when the cows ate the green bunch grass. Hot weather later rendered it dry and useless.) After the snow was gone, we children picked bluebells and birdie bills there, walking great scallops over the shank of the hill on our two-mile trek to school.

Read the rest:

Fresh Advice

By Margaret Walden Haun
October 24, 1986Our little neighborhood grocery store’s pale new hardwood floor pleases me immensely. Surely, I tell myself, this third such floor in as many decades is almost a pledge that we devotees of the ambience found here can expect our love affair with the place to continue for years to come, despite the mushrooming of sleek supermarkets all over town. My fondness for the place probably stems from my memory of the country store I knew as a child, where farm wives met on Saturday afternoons to barter eggs for calico and catch up on their visiting. For months here, I may not see an acquaintance except for chats in our store while selecting bananas or artichokes.

You might almost call us another California cult, we shoppers who feel that bigger is not necessarily better. This is not to say our gem of a store is a hole-in-the-wall operation. It has five aisles, albeit they are short. Today lettuce is cheaper up the street. But broccoli is holding its own here. We faithful have found that prices even out, and many of us no longer bother to read the ads.

Read the rest:

How Sam Got Home

By Margaret Haun
February 1971One day Sam went for a walk with his big brother Eric.

“Don’t go too far,” called Mother as she waved goodbye.

Sam ran ahead. He came to a speckled toad in the road. He waited for Eric.

“Toad,” said Eric. “Toad,” repeated Sam. The toad hopped away.

Sam ran on. A long gray thing wiggled in the dust. “Snake,” said Eric.

“Snake?” asked Sam. He watched it slither away.

A big bird flew over the trees. Sam pointed a fat finger.

“Hawk,” Eric said. “Bird!” said Sam. He laughed and laughed. He knew a bird when he saw one.

Read the rest:

Kenny’s Haircut

By Margaret Haun
October 1973Kenny and Daddy were going to the barbershop to get their hair cut.

Kenny had never had a haircut. “Will it hurt?” he asked Daddy.

Daddy smiled down at Kenny. “No, it won’t hurt. The clippers will make a buzzing sound, and they might tickle but they won’t hurt a bit.”

Kenny held Daddy’s hand very tightly as they walked from the car to the barbershop.

“Good morning!” said the barber. He wore a white coat and was trimming a man’s hair. The man sat in a special chair. His clothes were covered with a white cloth.

Read more:

Is Anyone There?

by Margaret Haun
November 1972″Have you ever had a moment when you felt the actual presence of God?” the television talk-show host asked his guest with a seeming wistfulness. It was a question he often asks, and I always wait with eager anticipation for the answer. Never yet, not even when the guest was a famous minister, has it been more than a vague generality, something about a “nice feeling. “

Once I would have been forced to make the same reply. But one morning changed all that. That day I got up, put on a robe, went into the living room of the small house where I live alone, and sat down in a chair. What I did next no one a few years previously could have convinced me I would ever want to do, let alone have the audacity to attempt. For I was about to declare an ultimatum to God that I would sit there until I had personal proof of his existence.

Strange as it may seem, my challenge did not seem unreasonable to me. I had recently been with others who had been touched by God’s presence, and they were
neither saints nor mystics but ordinary persons like myself.

My early experience with what is often referred to as “kooky fanaticism” had been limited to roaring with laughter outside what we called a “Holy Roller” church and that was long ago. Never in a million years would their excessive emotionalism have led me to my determination that morning. It took two gentle matrons, living in my former home town, to lead the way.

Several years earlier, Barbara. Emily, and I, deploring the lack of vitality in our churches had come together to seek a deeper meaning to life. Some of our prayers
were answered. A man to whom we prayed was told by his doctor that his recovery was a miracle. Things that might not have happened seemed to come about because we held them up in prayer. But with it all, for me at there was a persistent dissatisfaction. Did anyone actually listen when we poured out our heart longings? Or was God, as a friend insisted, only alive in our imaginations?

I remembered my high-school-class church-school teacher. A middle-aged, sincere woman, she confessed to us once, “I have been a Christian all my life, but I have never had a single proof of God’s existence.”

On Easter morning, when the congregation chorused loudly, “He lives! … He lives within my heart!” I sincerely hoped he lived in mine. But I never felt sure he

After Barbara, Emily, and I started our prayer group, I began a disciplined morning reading, meditation, and prayer period. Once in a while I seemed very near another dimension of awareness, but I could never overcome the feeling that it might be self-induced.

Eventually I moved to another state. I missed the prayer group more than my family and other friends. I had not realized how much it had helped sustain me.

On my first visit back, the next year, I noticed a change in Barbara and Emily. I detected an added enthusiasm, a barely suppressed excitement, the cause of which came out in the strangest tale I ever had heard.

With Emily’s husband and three other persons, they had driven half a state away for what they called “the laying on of hands” by a young minister, and they all had received “the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

I was appalled. We had experimented with many forms of prayer in the past — but this was going too far. Shades of the old Holy Rollers. The girls had gone off the deep end! The following year I wondered idly, when I thought about it at all, what had possessed my friends.

THIS ALL happened before the spread of the charismatic movement to college campuses had made headlines. The charismatic movement, it might be explained, is one of those periodic outbursts in the centuries since the beginning of Christianity when the scenes enacted at Pentecost and during the next 300 years are reenacted. People for some reason become discontented with both personal and universal states of affairs and this unrest seems to create a vortex into which a new infusion of spiritual life with its amazing gifts can be sent. The so-called Jesus People and Christian communes are part of the latest evidence of it.

When I returned to my old hometown the second summer, Barbara and Emily were ready for me with a tape recording. “Ignore the background,” admonished Emily. “This is an Episcopalian rector speaking to a group of Pentecostals.”

Dutifully I listened as the speaker explained how the experience that had given life and vitality to the early Christian church is still available and can be claimed by anyone today. He said people of all denominations were receiving it and bringing the real meaning back to Christianity. It was unlike any message I had ever heard.

To this day I do not know whether Barbara and Emily know that something happened to me while I was listening to this tape. Even more peculiar, I did not realize it then myself. It never remotely occurred to me to ask the girls how one came to this experience. I had a vague feeling one might be expected to work up to some frenzy of which I was not capable. So I returned home with a yearning but dimly discerned for something about which I knew almost nothing.

Glowing letters from Emily and Barbara did nothing to dispel my unrest. Members of their families were receiving the Baptism. A bishop in their church and many clergy had heartily endorsed the experience. Amazing stories of healing and guidance were being told.

“I was called to the hospital late one night,” Emily wrote. “My mother had been taken seriously ill from some unknown cause. I hurriedly dressed and as I drove across town, too frightened to think clearly, I began to pray in the Spirit. When I got to the hospital, Mother had recovered. The doctor could not understand it.”

This and similar stories sent me at last to a local minister. “Do you have anyone in your congregation interested in the new charismatic movement?” I plunged in. He hesitated so long I asked if he knew what I was talking about.

“We have no one here,” he finally said. At my obvious disappointment he added halfheartedly, “I believe there is a group at Father Paulson’s church in Redville.”

Thus I came among those who are, I often think, much like the first-century Christians must have been. Here were people praying for one another, finding release and joy and inspiration in song and prayer. How I wanted what these people possessed! But I was still too timid and too unaware of the universal availability of this baptism to make my wish known. Frankly, I could not conceive of a Supreme Being stooping to bestow such a treasure on me — maybe on others, but not on me.

By now Emily and Barbara were aware of my longing. One of them suggested that, if I needed help, a Father Irving some hundred miles from my home was having phenomenal success. So one night I called him to make an appointment. “My dear, you don’t need to come way up here. You can receive anywhere,” he said. I have forgotten what else he told me. I knew then that he would pray for me and I knew also that space is no barrier to things of the Spirit.

So there I was the next morning, sitting in my chair, my soul on tiptoe to receive this miraculous something my life was lacking. It is an awesome thing to present one’s soul naked and vulnerable to the Lord of the universe. One can never feel worthy but must come at last, humble and penitent for all one’s shortcomings, with an overwhelming desire to have one’s life become something of more significance.

After a time of quiet I recalled Emily’s saying that praying in the Spirit is mainly for one’s private devotions so I began to sing Praise God from whom all blessings . . .

And then — it happened. What someone aptly has called a “rush of love” seemed to descend and engulf me. My entire body was alive and vibrant. Here was surely the “strangely warmed heart” which sent John Wesley out to change the lives of countless thousands. I was given both a keen awareness of the presence of the Lord Jesus and beautiful words with which to praise him.

At long last I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Someone indeed is there.

Edited and adapted from Together, by the United Methodist Church. Sourced from:

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It’s 5:45 in the morning and I’m up, looking out the window. The dawn is starting to break on the familiar hill above the farm. The sunlight is filtering through clouds and trees, onto a dew-covered pasture littered with cows and their calves.

The upstairs is a little cold, but I can smell the coffee and conversation coming from downstairs. I walk into the kitchen bleary-eyed to see my grandpa in his chair, drinking coffee while talking to grandma. She’s cooking eggs, bacon, and toast. I get brought into the conversation immediately, sitting on grandpa’s lap, telling him an important story about something only a seven year old (and, apparently, a 65 year old) would care about.

Days like that were made for my grandpa, Lawrence D. Shinn, who left this world at 90 years young just a week and a half ago.

On any given day, there could be any number of things on the agenda with a few constants. Maybe moving the cows to a new field, or feeding them hay. Probably cutting wood for the winter, especially in the waning days of summer or early fall. Or working on any number of barns, outbuildings, or house projects. He loved working with his hands, on his 160 acre farm north of Portland for more than seven decades.

There were the constants of food at the farm: lunch at noon sharp, strawberry jam, fresh and canned homegrown vegetables, ice cream sandwiches in the freezer, finding hard candy in random shirt or jacket pockets, and slicing apples or eating oranges in the recliner in the living room.

There was a rotating cast of characters who came and went throughout the day. An uncle or aunt. Cousins — so many cousins. A neighbor dropping by. A friend, maybe from out of town. They were always welcome. Some of them were up for a farm adventure or just visiting, but it always came back to grandpa.

He was a man with a great sense of humor and a great laugh. He made quick friends with the people who met him. He was strong but had a soft heart for his wife of 56 years, his kids, and the rest of us. He was devoted to his family. He taught us that actions spoke louder than words and that the way we treated each other was important. He was honest, humble, and he gave back what he received from this life several times over.

He was stubborn and ornery at times, a trait many of us inherited. He made sure his family made it to church, even when the roads were covered in snow and the only vehicle that could hold the whole brood was a 1963, rear-wheel drive Cadillac that better resembled a sled than a vehicle intended for driving.

He was smart and could figure out any mechanical issue with ease. He never saw problems as unsolvable and came up with ingenious ways to accomplish the challenges that farm life presented. A little cabin built decades ago was expanded again and again, becoming one of the best built Frankenhouses ever. Its halls and basement put up with decades of kids running, yelling, and spilling. Somehow it stayed in pretty good shape.

He loved the outdoors and had an appreciation for the beautiful country he lived in. He also loved traveling, especially via the road. Many of our fondest memories involve traveling the west with him. Long trips were made easier with family and easy conversation, though he truly loved getting away with grandma.

He lived a full life, shared with the people he loved, doing work that he was good at and enjoyed. And in the end, he left with little else to accomplish. A life complete. We should all be so fortunate.

The farm is a little quieter these days but the legacy of my grandfather lives on — through seven kids, 14 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, two great-great-grandchildren, and dozens of people who married in, invited themselves over, and shared a hug with him.

When I look around the family, I see parts of my grandfather everywhere. We all have our own separate pieces of his personality and wisdom. But I worry about the family he leaves behind. I wonder what happens to us when we forget that despite our differences, we’re all connected to a man who wanted more than anything for us to love each other like he loved each of us. I hope his influence doesn’t wane in us.

It’s a sad day for me because I’ll miss him being a part of my daughter’s life like he was part of mine and that the lessons and example I’ll be able to pass on can’t compare. He wasn’t a perfect man, but he was perfect for us and our family.

Grandpa Shinn was one of a kind, and I’ll miss his stories, laughter, wisdom, and deep love he shared with our family and with me.

We all have a finite time here on this world and he made the most of each day in simple ways. It always started with that coffee and laugh in the morning, though. That’s what I’ll remember most.

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Four Months


Dear Elida,

We’re four months into our journey together in parenthood. Everything that everyone told us about it is true, too.

  • Babies don’t sleep well
  • Babies need things
  • Babies are disgusting


  • I don’t sleep well
  • I don’t get things
  • I get to clean up disgusting things

All of the good things are true, too. I mean, look at that picture of you. That’s what I wake up to at 5:00 am. That gives me the energy necessary to brew my first pot of coffee. Everything takes care of itself after that.

I’ve never been one to complain or be particularly argumentative. Fights between your mom and I are a rare occasion. When they do happen, I make it worse by laughing and saying something like, “Come on!” I’m not saying that being fairly laid back is a requirement for having an agreeable parenting experience. It does help, though.

There are still limits to that laid back attitude, though. We were visiting your grandparents down in Portland a few months ago and I set you on the couch to make a bottle really quick. I’d done it a bunch at home. Not 20 seconds later do I hear a little thud. You kicked herself off the thankfully low couch onto the thankfully carpeted floor.

I ran over to grab you and found you half upset/half startled. I picked you up, put you over my shoulder, and you started bawling. Very sad and dramatic. That was the first time that you really grabbed on to me and held me like a little person.

So, while I don’t leave you unaccompanied on anything except for a crib or pack n’ play anymore, that moment will burn forever in my head. Not because I’m an idiot, either.

I’m an idiot a lot.

But that was really the first time I saw you as something separate from your mom and I. Before that, I always just thought of you as an extension of us. You were always around us. You did whatever we wanted you to do. The limit of your emotions were around being tired and being hungry, both of which had pretty predictable cadences. That time felt like the first time you knew you needed me right at that moment.

When you’re older, you’ll be smart enough to realize that I was the one that put you in that spot in the first place. I imagine a feistier, older Elida punching my arm for that.

Now at four months, you grab a hold of me all of the time and do other things to remind us you’re really a distinct person. In the morning, after work, when you’re grumpy, when you’re happy… we start seeing little pieces of both of us independently expressed. Simple personality traits now but certainly on their way to becoming more complex.

It’s exciting. While you’re just starting to hit the fat, adorable baby stage, you’re also starting to discover your world one day at a time. Having a cute baby is nice but having one independent and observing of the world is a joy.

I never thought I would love having a baby. I always imagined that if I could skip the infant stuff and go straight to an adoring older toddler with good listening skills, I’d be the happiest person in the world. It’s great to go through this stage day by day, though. I realize why people really love it and why, in spite of crazy amounts of sleep deprivation, having another one sounds appealing. Not now, but maybe later.

There are a million things I could write about your budding personality but the biggest parts that stick out are your independence and your ease of loving anyone who takes care of you. While we have a primary nanny, we have a variety of fill in care as well as family members and the daycare at the gym that regularly interact with you.

You’re always happy to see us but you also seem content with nannies, family members, and whoever else is willing to give you some attention and laughs. No tears yet when mom leaves for work or dad leaves for a long trip. At least not from you.

In closing, I can’t wait to see what the next few months of development bring for us. We can’t wait to show you the world. And maybe we’ll start to get some more sleep? Hey, I can hope, right?



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Fighting the Parent-Industrial Complex

I’m not joking when I tell you I didn’t read any parenting book or blog before our little girl arrived four months ago. It’s not because I thought I knew better than the countless parents that have written about parenting. I have no idea what I’m doing, just like the rest of you guys.

Given my wife’s penchant for research and reading, she probably read a lot more than me. I just took the approach of, “Well, if we get stuck, we’ll Google it or call a doctor.”

In the first few weeks, I was trying to get my wife some sleep and trying to get our little girl sleeping for longer periods of time. It was 1:00 am and I thought, “Oh, let me Google that.”

What a mistake.

Well, investigating it wasn’t a mistake. For example, the Mayo Clinic has some excellent resources. Diving into blogs and forums devoted to parenting was. The specific advice wasn’t necessarily good or bad. Just kidding, some of the advice was bad and downright dangerous. But that’s wasn’t my biggest problem with it, that’s simply a hazard of the unfiltered internet.

What I saw was people who tore others down over not just common things like cloth diapering versus disposable, but which disposable diaper you use. Then there was another group of people that seek validation (or seek to validate everyone) and lashes out at people who may disagree with you putting raw honey on your one month old’s pacifier.

That’s a bad idea.

Of course, most of these blogs and forum sites are funded by advertising from huge consumer packaging goods and drug companies. And hey, look. I’m a capitalist. I don’t really care. But tell me these companies don’t love this idea of an empowered, yet completely confused, angry, and misdirected group of parents. Nothing makes you overspend on smashed cooked carrots like someone telling you that you’re a better parent for buying a particular brand.

It’s easy to over-complicate issues as a parent. Looking to the internet for the answers isn’t a bad idea but being aware of your sources is a requirement. People naturally seek validation for their ideas but it is amazing how things can improve when you open your mind to the right information from the right places.

I’m not a “stick it to the man” sort of guy but it doesn’t hurt to take a little bit of the confusion out of parenting. Not only for yourself and your kid, but just to take back information from sites that focus on everything but the relationship between you and your child. The toys, the clothes, the food… yes, you need it. But you also need to observe your kid and see what they like and don’t like. You can’t buy a great childhood for your kids in a package or medicine bottle.

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The Need for Community

I’ve been working from home for more than five years. It’s a wonderful thing that would be tough to trade for a commute and an office again.

That’s even more so with our little one in the house full-time. Between her and our nanny, it’s the first time I’ve had full-time “coworkers” in the same space for more than a few days.


That’s if you don’t include my cat. I certainly don’t.

I’ll be honest with you: it’s been nice to have human interaction between the hours of 7am and 6pm that didn’t involve going to a coffee shop or a Subway. As an introvert, I didn’t think I missed it but I did.

One of the things I love about working for The Starr Conspiracy is their liberal use of Google Hangouts. It’s actually nice seeing other people’s faces at least once a day.

The thing that was really weird about living in the Seattle area was how strangely cool people were and how genuinely nice people are here in Richland. We joked about the Seattle freeze until we actually lived there. When we walk out on the street or in the park away from there, people say hi and even the kids are friendlier.

I’m not making a value judgment but I will say that the last few months have opened me to the idea that I may need a local community. We’ve been so mobile in the past, it’s been easy to just forget about it and just have a few friends that we knew. Even though it’s tough to make friends after 30, who says it isn’t worthwhile?

We have a great community of friends back in Portland we’d love to get back to one day. I don’t know when that will happen, though. There’s no sense in waiting it out anymore.

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Finding “A” Talent is Overrated

AP File Photo

I just got back from NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. For those not in the know, it’s a time when rookies and those looking to make a team’s 15-man roster come to play for almost two weeks in scrimmages. The event is small and fairly inside. It was my second year going with the guys from The 8 Man Rotation.

The biggest names in the NBA aren’t there. There was no LeBron James. Nor was there Kevin Durant. Instead, you had rookies getting their first taste of team action and free agents and walk on’s looking for a shot at riding the end of the bench (or just making the roster) because there is usually better money in trying to make it work in the NBA than going overseas.

The basketball can be ugly at times and while these are — by any objective measure — some of the best basketball players in the world, most of them are not the top players in the league and a vast majority won’t see significant time as even a starter.

It got me thinking a lot about this pursuit for top talent. Everybody wants “A” players. Any team in the league would’ve welcomed James onto their team this offseason (yes, even the Spurs). With the collective bargaining agreement with the NBA Players Association in place, any team that signs him gets a great deal. There are only a handful of players like him ever, much less playing at any given time.

For the 26–28 teams a year that can’t snag a once a decade player like James or Durant, they figure out ways to remain competitive. Most teams have a great player or two, a few good ones, and then a long tail of flawed players in one way or another.

You take a look at the San Antonio Spurs and you see that method. Tim Duncan may be the best power forward to play the game but he wasn’t the best power forward this year. You see a lot of players who are great to good to flawed, in one way or another. You look at Miami’s successful title runs and see the same line of players. Some great. Some not-so-great.

Identifying the top players in the NBA is easy. If you have the salary and they have the desire to join your team, you make it happen. Convincing them to come to your team over the 29 other options? I’ll give you that.

But no team wins on top talent alone. The Spurs had nine guys who averaged at least 19 minutes game over the full season last year. There are probably a few names a casual fan wouldn’t recognize in that list too: Belinelli, Splitter, Diaw, and Mills.

These aren’t the top players in the league. They are good role players, with some great strengths and some significant weaknesses. And they were available within the budget they had to work with.

While everyone will talk about the stars in the NBA, especially when it comes to winning a championship, what it really comes down to is who can step up from your supporting cast. Even the best and most fit players need to spend time off the court. Who can give you those 10–15 minutes off the bench every night and keep you in a tight game in Memphis on a Tuesday night in January?

The difference between good teams and great teams is that talent identification didn’t end with just figuring out who can be your “A” talent. They went down the line and looked at who best fit in “B” or even “C” roles on the team. Every team has a budget they need to stay in and you can’t fit more than two or three top paid players on your team. With five guys as starters and at least three regular rotation players, that means every team out there is playing a lot of non-top talent night after night.

You won’t see their highlights on SportsCenter. Their contribution is critical, though. And smart teams have spent time and significant money finding better ways to identify who will be the role players and backup talent needed to win.

When you’re talking about the “War for Talent” and hunting purple squirrels, just remember one thing: successful hiring is more than just finding the best talent, it’s about finding the right talent, for the right price, that fits with the current skill set of the organization. Anybody should be able to identify the best and if you have the budget to afford hiring the best in every position, you are welcome to try.

Smart teams make strategic moves to find the right A, B, and C talent to fill a roster without going over their cap. The best ones can spot B and C talent and knows where they fit in. Let your competitors figure out where they can find a LeBron James of your industry, while you figure out how to fill your team with solid contributors who can make a difference at the right price.