Can We Talk?

If every person in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act is framed as a monster who wants people to die, the conversation is basically over before it even starts.

If every person who votes for a democrat is framed as a baby-killer who cares about ____ more than they care about life, the conversation is basically over before it starts.

It’s the dialogical equivalent of “have you stopped beating your wife?” as an opening line of question.

If you can’t state your opponent’s perspective in words that they would agree with, it is functionally impossible to have a dialogue about it. You can talk around each other, but you can’t have a dialogue. You can probably even sell a lot of books or radio advertisements, but you can’t actually have a conversation until you admit that the other side is full of people. Real human people.

If the other side only hears (shrilly) from you that they are trying to kill a group of people, it’s likely that they’ll stop listening. Nobody wants to enter a conversation where they are the villain.

…and now you know one main reason why I don’t talk politics online.

Several Things I am Doing Instead of Voting for President.

Forefathers. Democracy. Republic. Trump. Clinton. I really don’t want to discuss it online. Here’s what I’m doing instead.

Last night’s debates sealed it for me. I’m (at best) writing in a candidate. In the paraphrased words of Martin Luther, it’s not right or safe to let your conscience down.

Before you try to convince me otherwise: I’d love to get coffee with you and talk about my reasons for abstaining, but that’s not what this post is about.

If you think our culture is spinning out of control, (or about to if X candidate wins in November), there’s functionally very little you can do about it. Here are your options, as I see them:

  1. You can freak out, and head to Facebook with pleas for people to change their minds. (I don’t know anybody who changed their mind after the debate last night. Do you?)
  2. You can hunker down, buy a ton of canned goods, munitions, and water bottles in preparation for armageddon.
  3. You can start today creating culture in your little pocket of this world. Make a list of things that matter, and do one today.

Spoiler alert: I’m doing #3.

Here’s some ways I’m voting with my feet and hands (since I can’t vote with a ballot in good conscience this year):

Public Schools

Both of my children started at Wake County Public School this year (one kindergartener and one 3rd grader who has been homeschooled for the past two years), and I am going to be helping out in their public school.

Every hour that I can donate to helping in a classroom or on a field trip is an hour that the school system doesn’t have to bleed out of our already-underpaid teachers and staff. (As an aside, if you’d care to debate this, I’ll need you to go spend a day doing a 1st grade teacher’s job and then take a peek at their paystub. From there, we can debate.)

In fact, I’m starting this tomorrow: I’m helping out at picture day at the boys’ school. I’ll be wrangling children and buttoning top buttons and helping kids to smile. My children have called me “silly enough” to be helpful in this area.

Other ways you can help at public schools:

  • Give money. The PTA at your kids school (or the one they used to go to) could use your help getting funding to make things happen. Things that have a quantifiable end goal: helping kids succeed in life.
  • Ask the principal how you can help. They will have a list prepared to hand to you, if they are prepared.

If you are trying to change the culture at your child’s school (who knows?) maybe that will trickle up to school boards and other civic institutions, and with any luck, the people in Washington who have forgotten how to represent us will take note.

Local Government

Here’s the thing: am I passionate about the Supreme Court, and issues that affect the country my kids are growing up in? Absolutely. Do I have any real functional power to affect change on the Supreme Court nominees?

Probably not.

You know what I can impact?

  • I can help the Town of Cary be more welcoming to the hundreds (thousands?) of refugees being sent our way.
  • I can lobby town council to put in a crosswalk at my kid’s school. (Reedy Creek Elementary/Middle, if you’re reading this, Town Council)
  • I can be a part of town meetings where plans are discussed, and adopted.
  • I can teach my kids not to litter, and explain to them that the town of Cary pays people to walk the 30 miles of greenways picking up litter. When they throw down a piece of trash, they are costing our city money.
  • I can volunteer at my public library to tutor kids, or teach a class on web development, or WordPress.

Your options, Again

You've really only got two option when it comes to social involvement Click To TweetYou can panic, blame, point fingers, detach from the process, write angry online diatribes, vilify the other team and gloss over the mistakes of your own team (or lack of team), or any other number of things.

If you need me, I’ll be wiping the crumbs off of an elementary school kid’s chin tomorrow morning so that he can look good in a picture.

How to Vet an SEO Expert. (Hint: this works for almost any pro)

I have moved this post and lots of other WordPress posts over to my new site at https://wpsteward.com, where I will continue publishing helpful tips for Website owners going forward.
Snake Oil, Anyone?  Creative Commons Image Attribution
Snake Oil, Anyone?
Creative Commons Image Attribution

I might get some flack for this: but I think most SEO experts are con artists.

Sure, there’s room for legitimate folks who study Google (and other) algorithms. Some of them are extremely knowledgeable, and do great work.

But there is a serious undercurrent of snake-oil salesmen and half-baked “consultants” in the field.

Here’s my guess as to why, and a way to sift out the chaff.

Read the rest of this post over at the brand new WP Steward blog.

What Icy Roads Reminded Me about Web Coding

I have moved this post and lots of other WordPress posts over to my new site at https://wpsteward.com, where I will continue publishing helpful tips for Website owners going forward.

When you are driving on an icy road in a neighborhood, it makes sense to only go as fast as you are comfortable running into something. This has been the lesson I’ve learned looking out my front window over the past few days.

This hill (outside my house) has been like a wonderful social experiment on how bad decisions are made on ice. Wife and 5-year-old son for scale.
This hill (outside my house) has been like a wonderful social experiment on how bad decisions are made on ice. Wife and 5-year-old son for scale.

The same can be said for web coding. Let me tell you a story about that (filed under “just this past week”):

It was a routine change to a theme, swapping out one image for another… and it turned everything purple.

Read the rest of this post over at the brand-new WP Steward Blog

Why You Should Avoid Blogger.com like a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

I have moved this post and lots of other WordPress posts over to my new site at https://wpsteward.com, where I will continue publishing helpful tips for website owners going forward.

Blogger.com is like your rich and slightly neurotic girlfriend Julie’s house: Great for visits, bad place to live.

When you live there, at first it’s a storybook! She pays for everything, lets you live there rent free, makes it easy for you to do what you want, and you can just keep adding stuff to your room. Everybody is so happy they don’t even consider reading the terms and conditions. Just sign them, you love that girl!

One day, you decide it’s time to get a new couch. You find a great deal on a dual-reclining model, and the store even delivers it to your place. Oddly, as it comes in the door, your loving girlfriend insists (mumbling something about you having agreed to it) on using a branding iron to sear “Julie loves Jason” on the wooden leg. A little weird, but also kinda cute, and you do love Julie, so why not? After all, she’s letting you live in this awesome house, rent-free.

Over time, each new piece of furniture gets that same treatment. She goes back and marks all the stuff you brought in from before you even knew her. She’s so cute and quirky.

But, inevitably, feelings change. You’re just not that into how things are working out, and you need some space. After a big fight, Julie offers to let you have all your stuff.

Read the rest of this post over at the brand-new WP Steward Blog