My EDC As Of Sept 28, 2018

I’ve got a new YouTube channel I spend too much time watching, Best Damn EDC. For those of you who don’t know, EDC stands for Every Day Carry. It means the stuff you carry with you everyday. There is some variation on scope of carry. My gun friends will recognize the term and think it about what gun you carry for CHL. My geek friends will hear it as all the stuff in your backpack.

For Best Damn EDC it is mostly about pocket carry. Though there are guns pictured in some cases. After watching a few episodes I had to break out the camera gear and wait for the sun to rise to take a carefully laid out picture. Then I submitted it for consideration on the show.

Since I’m a piss poor blogger these days, I thought I’d share what I shared with Taylor.

My EDC

What’s in My Pockets

The bottom is me literally emptying my pockets. The pen and knife I’m not currently carrying see below for more details on why.
Phone: iPhone 7+.
Getting ready to go iPhone X, but will need a new case. Story Leather doesn’t make an iPhone X one yet, which has kept me from pulling the trigger on the new phone. 
Putting a CC and my DL on the back of the phone changed my life. I very rarely now have to pull my wallet out.
Flashlight: 4Sevens Preon P1 in Copper.
No longer available, but I like its look and size. Runs on AAA. 4Sevens is no more, and I’ll probably be getting something new. Maybe based on some of BDEDC recommendations.
Headphones: Apple EarPods.
I love them. Think I’ll get a cool leather case so they have more class.
Keys: Tesla Model S key fob and 1 house key.
Having 1 key is a goal.
Pocket knife: Kershaw Scallion.
Carried the Scallion for years and replaced with the Ken Onion above. But that got dull and I haven’t had a chance to sharpen, so I pulled the Scallion back out to carry till I do. Removed the clip because it kept falling off and I don’t really use it anyway.
Normal carry knife at the top. EROS Flat Handle Large designed by Ken Onion
I remember emptying my pockets at the chiropractor one day and him asking “Do you sit on that thing all the time? No wonder you are here so often.” He was referring to my old wallet that was close to 1.5″ thick. I then saw someone mention Big Skinny and found their design innovative. Been carrying it ever since. I’m also one of those people who carries cash – I know weird now a days.
Pen: Pilot Precise V5 RT.
I love the way these pens write. Wish they had a cool looking metal body version.
The Most Unusual Thing: A Go-tcha Pokemon Go Plus Accessory.
This little device helps catch Pokemon without having to look at the app. It is in a MiPhee Silicone Case. I went to Hobby Lobby and bought a black and brass chain to replace the cheap fragile one the case came with. I loop the change around a belt loop and keep the gotcha in my pocket. The chain makes it easier to get out when needed.
My wife is obsessed with Pokemon Go and I finally gave in to the obsession. Then I applied all my geek optimization skills to leveling up. The Go-tcha is indispensable in the quest to catch them all. 🙂
That’s what is with me all the time.

 

My Story

“Once upon a time there was a man and a woman who loved each other very much and they wanted to show that love and have a baby.

Sadly though they tried and tried, they weren’t able to have a child on their own. So they prayed and asked God to give them a Special Baby.

And he did.”

<Pause>

“Mommy can you tell me the special baby story please?”

“I sure can. Once upon a time there was a young woman who found out she was going to have a Special Baby. She was excited but also sad because she knew she couldn’t take care of this Special Baby. She prayed and asked God to find her special Baby a home.

And he did”

<Pause>

“Mommy, mommy. Tell me the Special Baby story again!”

“The man and woman who were waiting for their Special Baby were told it would take a very long time before they could get a baby. Then one night they got a phone call and were told they could come get their Special Baby in the morning. They were surprised and unprepared, but excited. The next morning they got their Special little boy Baby and brought him home.

And they were very excited and happy and they loved him very, very much.”

Mommy, I’m that Special Baby aren’t I?”

Yes, little Ronnie you are.

<pause>

That is the story my parents told me about my adoption. They told it to me a little bit at a time until I figured out it was me. I thought it a good place to start talking about myself, at the beginning.

Once upon a time, the TARDIS became flesh and the Doctor got a chance to ask it a question.

“Why don’t you ever take me where I want to go?”

She replied, “I don’t always take you were you want, but I always take you were you need to be.”

That answer resonates with me, as it seems very relevant to my life.

When I was about 7 years old I visited Oklahoma Christian College. For some reason I was enamored with the cafeteria and decided that was where I was going to go to college. We lived in Tulsa when I was 7.

In a couple of years, my parents would adopt their second child. Another boy, Ezra Joshua. His story was very different because he was born in Bombay India and was 7 when a missionary brought him to the US for a visit. Well that’s what he told Ez and left it to my parent to break it to him he was being adopted.

We moved from Tulsa to Albuquerque and then to Kingwood Texas the summer before I started High School. When I finished high school, I followed up on that 7 year olds dream and went to OCC.

And I liked it. Did lights for the theater. Represented my dorm on student council. Almost joined the Marines.

But at the end of my freshman year, all my friend from HS at OCC decided they were transferring to ACU, and so did it.

Computers had been a big part of my life ever since my Dad invested over $2000 in an Apple IIe. I’d majored in it at OCC, but when I went to ACU I wanted to be a filmmaker. I wanted to make movies like John Huges but from a Christian point of view.

I studied Mass Communications Radio/TV. Then I bounced back to Computer Science. Then back to Radio/TV. As I was nearing graduation time, I decided I wanted to be a campus minister in Seattle.

My last summer in school I decided if I was going to be a minister I better take some Bible classes. Turns out there was this thing called Missions Seminar where you could take two classes in a month, so I signed up.

And the TARDIS took me were I needed to be.

There was this weird red head, with big…. Any way I had to meet her because she was interested in my friend who all the girls loved like a brother….much to his chagrin.

Then she untied my shoes with her toes, and invited me on a first date with all of her siblings.

Seattle wasn’t working out, but I got a surprise internship – you never get internships in mass comm – in Ohio working for World Christian Broadcasting. A mear 8 hour drive from this crazy redhead I was now in love with.

Fours months later I had a better wife than I deserved.

We’d eventually come back to ACU. Had two boys at Hendrick hospital amid much drama. I’d decided ministry was great but I needed a job where I could get paid. Went back and finished my CS degree and start a decades long career as a computer geek.

We’d home school two boys all the way till college. Our oldest son graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in Actuarial Science, and our youngest from ACU with a degree in Biblical Text.

After years as a computer programmer, I quit my computer job to become a Paramedic. Two years later I earned my license and haven’t been on a ambulance since. Then I returned to being a computer geek starting Reactuate Software doing software development for a number of different companies. A year later I’d win a business plan competition and start a short lived computer game company.

I’ve spent the last year building a business teaching people to build successful podcasts that past.

2018 is going to be a year with unprecedented changes. As my bride and I like to say, “It will be an adventure.”

Through all of this, I haven’t always ended up where I thought I wanted to go, but I’ve been where I need to be.

The end of the Special Baby’s story is not even close to having been written, but I’m sure he’s going to live happily ever after.

53 Things I Believe At 53

Written on the occasion of my birthday.
  1. It is possible I’m wrong.
  2. Tragedy is not evenly distributed.
  3. What you believe matters.
  4. Perception is not reality. Just because you think something is true doesn’t make it true.
  5. Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
  6. There are a lot of things worse than death.
  7. Ask good and interesting questions.
  8. Commitment is important.
  9. Happiness isn’t the point.
  10. Micro and macro living.
  11. Only worry about the things you can influence.
  12. Action is real truth.
  13. Only God can change people’s hearts.
  14. Get to the point.
  15. If you want to influence people, you have to change your behavior.
  16. Implementing is more important than an idea.
  17. Smooth is fast. Slow is smooth.
  18. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.
  19. Firing people is very painful.
  20. I hate the phrase “my truth”.
  21. Most problems attributed to millennials are a function of age not generation.
  22. You don’t have to go through the devil to get to God.
  23. Christians focus too much on the wrong parts of Christianity and not the truly hard stuff in the sermon on the mount.
  24. Grown women wear high heels when dressed up.
  25. If you don’t think you can do something, you probably won’t.
  26. You can learn to do anything someone else with similar physical abilities has.
  27. Focus is the most important thing.
  28. How to do deep work.
  29. People are no more or less moral today than in the past.
  30. Older people are generally less up tight about sex than younger people.
  31. Sometimes you believe something based on too small a sample. Or a sample from only one group/context.
  32. Laws don’t stop crime.
  33. The government generally makes things worse.
  34. Very few of the things we fear are a valid fear of violence.
  35. Humans are addicted to drama.
  36. This too shall pass. (Especially related to politics and elections)
  37. Manifesting may be bullshit, but you very often get what you focus on.
  38. Most of my beliefs are based on my experience. Other people with other experiences may believe differently, and they may be right.
  39. The more varied experiences you have the better your beliefs.
  40. All things are not equal. Wisdom is knowing the relative values.
  41. You are probably only getting one side of the story. (Especially in other people’s break-ups)
  42. Being warm – not hot, not cold – is the core of feeling good.
  43. Often we like things because we are used to them.
  44. Humans can adapt to anything.
  45. Try things.
  46. Do it. Don’t plan to do it.
  47. Sometimes it is OK to quit.
  48. People redefine their history when something goes wrong. (Ex: At divorce they say they never loved the other person.)
  49. Taking responsibility puts you in control. Denying it means you can’t do anything about it.
  50. Age is more than a number, but getting old sucks.
  51. There is a difference between health and fitness. One takes work, the other vigilance.
  52. Bad things generally don’t get better if you ignore them.
  53. Sometimes I’m brilliant. Sometimes I’m a dumbass. The trick is figuring out which is which.

 

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

NaNoWrMo 2017: The League Book One, The Secret Years

This year I’m going to participate in National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWrMo.

The Novel

I have had a fantasy in my head for a very long time. In this fantasy, I received a box with Clarkian-magic* stones in it that had the ability to do at least 3 really cool things: generate gravity, change any matter to energy and create any matter it has seen from energy stored in it, and view any where from a distance.

It was a cool personal fantasy, but a fantasy isn’t a novel. (Even when it is a fantasy novel ). In a novel things don’t always go the way you planned. And it isn’t about you.

This year I’ve decided to turn my fantasy into a novel. I decided to participate in NaNoWrMo, which I had heard of before, but thought was kind of crazy. I mean write a whole novel in 30 days? Stupid. Even a relatively short novel like the 50,000 word goal for the contest.

But once you break it down to what it is, you are really just writing something that is 50,000 words long. A worthy and inspiring goal.

Why Write A Novel

The decision to write a novel came from two desires in my life. Firstly I wanted to do something where I didn’t have to depend on other people at all. Secondly I wanted to have a good deep work project.

I’ve got a number of very important and big projects in my life right now, starting LaunchAPod as a business, creating a new Toastmasters club in Abilene, being Public Relations Manager for District 25, and redoing the D25 website. The success of all of these projects depends on my motivating and leading others. Something I’m interested in learning and doing, and I have good people to work with. But still, I wanted something in my own hands.

I also read Cal Newport’s book Deep Work in September. It revolutionized how I work and how I organize my time. He makes a compelling argument for the fact our increasingly distracted lives are literally messing with our brains. He also contends that even as our environment increasingly distracting, the value of being able to focus, work, and think deeply has never been higher.

Writing is a classic example of deep work. It is also one that doesn’t require collaboration. So writing is what I’m going to do.

The Prep

NaNoWrMo is all about having a goal. Specifically a 50,000 word goal. That is 1666 words every day of November. To write like that you need to have time set aside every day to do the deep work of writing.

One thing I already know is if you sit down to write but don’t know what you are going to be writing that day you can waste a lot of time staring at a blank screen. So I decided to prepare for my writing by creating an outline.

I don’t like outlines. I’ve written outlines and treatments before for stories. Then once I got those written the story was out of my head and I didn’t care enough to sit down day in and day out to actually write it.

I have a couple of things going for me this time. First I’m not doing a complete outline. I’ve created scenes in Scrivener, my writing tool, but they aren’t all there. In this process I’ve learned a lot about how a plot develops and how much of the cool meat of a story is in the single scenes. I like writing scenes with emotion. Every scene needs to have a beginning and ending feeling for the main character in that scene. If there isn’t a change in feeling, the scene probably doesn’t need to be there.

In the past I’ve looked at plot as what needs to happen. Getting from point A to B. Scenes are about information. Each has something you tell the reader so they understand how to get to the next scene.

But really a great story makes the reader feel something. A great scene leaves their eyes burning, or their heart pumping. It makes you care. That is my goal. The outline is just a map.

Second I’ve got deep work habits on my side. Since I read Cal’s book I’ve started scheduling out segments of time to do deep work on each of my projects. Instead of just popping from to-do to to-do, I schedule blocks of time to do nothing but one project. Turn off the email and other distractions and just do that thing. Generally for an hour.

Then I track each day if I’ve done each of my tasks on a calendar I’ve printed. The idea is to build up streaks of work I don’t want to break. I call this ‘streak-tracking’ and it looks like the featured image of this post.

The three things I’ve streak-tracked all of October were, Morning Pages, Toastmasters and Writing. Morning pages are 20 minutes of free writing every morning. Toastmasters is the new club or the new website. Writing has been preparing to write mostly, but sometimes you just have to write the scene.

As you can see from the image, I’ve done a pretty good job keeping my streaks. Now I have momentum. I have a habit of writing an hour every day. Plus the work I’ve done during these session is the foundation of the writing for November.

Don’t expect me to blog a lot about the writing. If I can write a 1000 word blog post I can write 1000 words on the novel.

If you want to keep track of my progress you can use my NaNoWrMo stats page. I’m also working on how to add a progress bar to my side bar.

Wish me luck.

* As in Arthur C. Clark’s famous quote, “Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic.”

Personal Insight on Decision and Action

Looking for next steps is my indication I’m changing direction.

I firmly believe in taking action when you decide something. I really believe you haven’t actually “decided” until you start taking action. There is this phenomena in my head where I say, “I’ve decided but not really”. This means internally I’ve decided but I’m not looking for next steps. I’m not taking action.

— from my morning pages 08/22/2017

Captivate By Vanessa Van Edwards Review

Any chapter in this book is worth 10x the cost of the book.

Like Vanessa I too had an epiphany at one point in my life when I realized social interaction could be learned. I wasn’t some how limited by my genetics or upbringing to forever not know what to say. Once I learned this important truth I became a voracious student of social engineering.

I’ve heard Vanessa on a number of podcasts and immediately pre-ordered Captivate when I heard it was coming out. When she asked for pre-readers I jumped at the chance. I’ll admit to struggling to get through the awful formatting of the pre-release ebook version give to me by her publisher. But the day the book came out I bought both the Kindle and Audible versions.

Captivate is one of the best books I’ve read on the subject of how to understand and interact with people in the last half decade.

The “academics who did a study on college seniors and now tell you how people tick” genre has exploded recently. While there are good nuggets and insights in those books. They are heavy on the author’s biased reasons why and not on actionable – as in you can use it today – techniques. Vanessa’s book is practical. It is written from the perspective of someone trying to build a business, get a date, or just have a good party.

This is real world stuff for people living in the real world.

If you are a fan of social and life hackers like Neil Strauss, Tim Ferris, Scott Adams, or Tony Robbins, be ready to add a new member to the social engineering pantheon.

If you are a self proclaimed introvert with social anxiety this book is for you too. Vanessa calls herself a “recovering awkward person” and you can be too. You’ll learn to work with your strengths in the first chapter and not live in the hell of faking it till you make it.

Buy the book, you won’t regret it.

World Building – Start With A Map

Every story starts with characters in a place. Often the first thing that happens is they need to go to another place. Stuff happens in between. Very many of the first questions have to do with place. Why are the characters where they are? How hard is it going to be to get from where they are to where they need to be? What is the place they need to be like? Why is it where it is?

This was my first doodles map of my new world.
This was my first doodles map of my new world.

Another core problem is why are these characters together? It is highly unlikely they are together as a party unless they are together in the starting place. Are they visitors to the starting place? Or natives, that have history and a home in the place?

In D&D your parties are almost always racially diverse. There are humans, elves, dwarves, gnome, etc. But a common troupe of D&D is there are kingdoms or domains or homelands for each of these races. There are dwarf cities underground. Elf kingdoms only partially in the forest of this plane. So why are your characters together where they are? Yes, part of character building is giving them a reason to have left their home, but generally that is looked on as why they become adventures, not why are they in the place they are in.

If you start with a map, you will start to get a feel for the places in the world. You’ll know how far your dwarf is from home. Where the centers of commerce and travel are.

Your map probably starts with geography, but sometimes geography is influenced by story. You aren’t looking to create a world for no purpose. You are doing it to tell stories in. That means you have to have mountains for the dwarves to live under. You have to have forests for elves, druids, and rangers1.

Another story element of geography is isolation. There are probably places you want it to be hard for characters to get to, especially low level characters. For instance the strong hold of the super powerful evil wizard isn’t somewhere you want lost 1st level characters to run into. So you need some hard to get to places to put those people. For instance on an island. So include some islands.

You also probably want a diversity of terrain. The typical fantasy story is modeled on medieval Europe, which is generally seen as mostly forested land with some plains and agriculture. As well as some mountains and seas. But what about desert? Jungle? Scrub lands?

Once you roughly layout the geography, the terrains, the rivers, the mountain passes, the coastline’s inlets and peninsulas, start thinking about where the people are. There are obvious places for congregations of people. Where two rivers meet. Where rivers meet the sea. On the coasts of rivers and lakes. Pencil in cities there.

Decide on travel. How do people get from one city to another? Wouldn’t it be cool to say for a particular city, “Oh, you can only access Kartan by river.”? Also cities become rich because they can easily get their goods to other cities and people. This means there are roads – or rivers – between those cities.

Now it is time to think about history.

Destroyed cities. Cursed cities. Countries. Warfare. Alliances that cause divides.

1 Or do you?

Recovering An Old Obsession – D&D

The guy who invented D&D has died. Don’t know if I would have made it through adolescence without that game.
– Ron Davis, Reactuate.com, March 4, 2008.

My D&D books from AD&D to 5th Edition.
My D&D books from AD&D to 5th Edition.

Recently I’ve rediscovered an old obsession and am returning to it. There are going to be a lot of D&D related posts on the blog, so I thought I’d write one explaining what’s going on.

You see a little over 33 years ago in High School I played D&D every weekend. I doodled maps on graph paper in class and wrote descriptions of the monsters who populated them. I envied my fellow players who could draw their characters. I ran games and reveled in creating cool scenarios for people to encounter. Places they could grow and enrich their characters.

Back then D&D wasn’t as sophisticated as it is now. The Hack and Slash dungeon crawl was mostly all there was. Every week was another keep that needed to be cleaned out. Another week protecting the weak Magic User in the party till he could get enough XP to start throwing fireballs. A weekend of discovering new cool magic items and accumulating so many gold pieces you knew you were violating the carrying rules to get it back home.

Over the years I mostly didn’t play any role playing games. I did continue to acquire books. I have two whole shelves of books. I’ve got manuals from every version of D&D except 4th. Dozens of GURPS supplements even though I’ve never even played GURPS once.

I recently heard it said that character creation is a game inside of a game. I know that has certainly been true for my sons. They took to the books like fish to water and created characters all through school. But I don’t think they played the actual game except the one time I ran them through a keep full of kobalds on a weekend. Now one does interactive story telling on line every week and the other has GMed an ongoing campaign with his college friends.

D&D is enjoying something of a renaissance. It’s coming back into the conscience of the culture – or at least geek culture. The live streaming and YouTubing of gaming session is something to behold. I was totally hooked on the new 5th edition of D&D after watching the very polished Acquisitions Incorporated episodes on YouTube.

I also have to thank my friends Kevin and Jesica for inviting us to play Pathfinder. Pathfinder is a fork – to use a computer term – of D&D 3.5. It has been a blast to play my Gnome Berserker Tiny Tanya whose personality is based on Tiny Tina from Borderlands.

This was so much fun I wanted more. Playing every other week isn’t enough. Also I want to DM. So I’m working on a new campaign for D&D 5th Edition that I will be running in the near future. As I develop it, I’m going to be writing about it on the blog. This gets me back to my promise to do more creative acts.