Solving Problems We Don't Have (Thoughts on Apple Pay)

Shawn King of The Loop asks of Apple's new payment system, Apple Pay,

"My question has always been, is using a credit card really all that difficult for most people that they need and want this kind of replacement?"

i think the big draw of Apple Pay isn't just the ease of use - it's the security of it. On my iPhone, I would have to use Touch ID to verify that it's me; on the Apple Watch, I can enter a security code and it only remains active for as long as I keep the device on my wrist. Remove it and I have to re-verify before I can use Apple Pay again. It's a level of security which doesn't really exist for credit cards.

Just last week I used my dad's card at a home improvement store (with permission). The clerk asked for ID, I provided it, it obviously didn't match, but she permitted me to make the purchase anyway. It made things easier for me, but it's also quite troubling to see how this could be abused. 

So maybe the demo at today's event wasn't quite the problem that Apple Pay is solving. It's as much - if not more - about security as it is about convenience. But I'm sure Apple Pay is pretty easy to use, especially if you can launch from the lock screen.  

 

Much Ado about Too Much to Do

I work four jobs. I'm a substitute teacher, I drive for Lyft (use promo code BRADLEY861 for a free ride up to $25), I do this freelance writing thing from time to time, and I work part time as a supervisor at a new Carhartt retail store in Greenwood. The store manager has experience managing other retail stores, but I don't know if she's ever opened a new store before.

If you've never opened a store like this before, you can't really understand how big of an undertaking it is. When I was in high school, I helped open a new Circuit City store before the chain ultimately folded, and it was a difficult process. Everyone is new. Everyone is learning a new system. Everyone is learning how to use the computer system and the store policies and how things work, and there's no institutional knowledge to help newbies get along, because we're all newbies. It's not that different this time, and so much of the responsibilities fall on the store manager. She is inundated every time she steps into the store to pass judgement on dozens of small issues, executive decisions that don't really matter but are ultimately up to her. On top of that, she has many significant responsibilities to navigate that are above my pay grade. She can't delegate these tasks (and at any rate, I don't work often enough to be point on many of these projects).

When I work with her, I find that she gets caught in a common trap - she spends at least an hour each day telling me how busy she is and how insurmountable her workload is. I'm sympathetic because I know how difficult it is, but at the same time, I've been thinking about ways to get through the work. 

I don't know many people who aren't busy or don't feel overwhelmed by the many things that draw their attention, time, or resources. Me, for instance, I want to get out of debt, but the total balance due is sufficiently large that I find myself paralyzed by the idea. So I spend time bemoaning the situation in my journal, to my wife, and the squirrel who lives in my backyard (he's a great listener). Sometimes I ambitiously buy a Powerball ticket when the jackpot reaches the 200 million mark. I want to lose weight and become more physically fit so that I can do more things with my family, and I consider my little brother (he works out daily and runs triathlons for fun) and my best friend (a pastor planting a new church who has dropped a ton of weight and built enough muscle mass to help Jesus haul the cross up the hill) as examples of what I would like to achieve. However, when I consider the weight I have to lose, the abysmal physical condition I find myself in, and my general distaste for exercise, and then I look at what kind of shape they are in, I consider the goal a foolish dream and have another piece of bacon.  

The problem is, I focus on the enormity of the whole task, and I dismiss it as insurmountable. But folks don't get their way out of debt by winning the lottery or some other windfall. They do it by cutting costs, paying one bill down at a time, and then slowly but surely chipping away at the mountain of debt until they're free from the burden. My brother and my pastor friend didn't get into great shape overnight - they worked out daily, changed their diets (even when they didn't feel like it), and the changes started manifesting in how they felt and looked. 

What's your task? Break it down into two parts. Still too big? Break it down again. And again. Repeat this until the tasks are small enough for you to complete. Once you've accomplished one, move on to the next one. You might find that it gets easier, once you get started, to build on your success. There's momentum that will build behind you, and you can push through the hard/boring/emotionally difficult parts by the investments you've already made. 

What I want to tell my boss (though I probably won't) is that instead of telling me how busy she is and how difficult this whole process is, she needs to start with one thing and do it. Once that task is done, move on to the next one. And eventually, she'll be past it.  

Your daily clichè for this: The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. So what are you waiting for? Start walking. 

Thoughts on Hobby Lobby and SCOTUS

SCOTUS - Supreme Court Of the United States.

Today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, who argued that providing contraceptive care in accordance with the Affordable Care Act violates their first amendment protections and religious liberties. I've seen lots of banter on social media and had heated text conversations with friends on both sides of this, and there's a lot I want to say about it.

First of all, I don't agree with the ruling. I'm not a legal scholar or anything like that - just a guy who reads a lot and has an opinion on many topics. But when a business owner incorporates or protects him/herself behind an LLC, they separate themselves from the company by a corporate veil to protect their personal assets from litigation. When they do that, they give up certain rights that people have, as protected by the constitution. If they don't want to give up those rights, they shouldn't accept the benefits of being incorporated or becoming an LLC. This issue came up several years ago when corporations were found to be individuals for purposes of campaign contributions. As such, their political speech is protected and they can contribute unlimited funds to political causes, through PACs and whatnot. This has always troubled me - I don't like PACs and I don't like the power that corporations have in America. Corporations are not people and should not have the same rights as people.

That being said, the free exercise of religion must remain sacrosanct in the United States. The first amendment that protects Tom Cruise's right to buy his ex-wife's Operating Thetans for $33 million gives me the right to pray and take communion (the flesh and blood of Christ!) and speak in tongues and everything else. There has to be broad tolerance for all kinds of religious exercise, which is good. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics, evangelicals - all of us deserve the right to practice (or abstain from practicing) religion as we see fit, so long as it isn't infringing on the rights of other people. So I'm sympathetic to the concerns of the pro-life crowd - they sincerely are troubled by and are opposed to abortion; their view is that it is murder. (Full disclosure - I do believe that life begins at conception and I find abortion troubling, but I recognize that it's a complex issue and I hesitate to vilify anyone in regards to this issue.)

All of that said, Hobby Lobby is not opposed to all contraception - their objection is to IUDs, the "Morning After Pill", and abortions. They don't oppose the use of (and coverage of) other contraceptives. From the NYTimes:

"The health care law and related regulations require many employers to provide female workers with comprehensive insurance coverage for a variety of methods of contraception. The companies objected to covering intrauterine devices and so-called morning-after pills, saying they were akin to abortion. Many scientists disagree.

No one has disputed the sincerity of their religious beliefs,” Justice Alito wrote. The dissenters agreed.

The companies said they had no objection to some forms of contraception, including condoms, diaphragms, sponges, several kinds of birth control pills and sterilization surgery. Justice Ginsburg wrote that other companies may object to all contraception, and that the ruling would seem to allow them to opt out of any contraception coverage."

 

 

My concerns are with the precedents here. What of a catholic-run for-profit organization that opposes all birth control methods? What of a Jehova's Witness run for-profit corporation that opposes blood transfusions? What of a Christian Science run for-profit organization that doesn't want to provide any health care coverage because they don't believe in going to the doctor, but only in prayer? Can they be exempt from providing health care to their employees? What gives them the right to visit their morality upon their employees? One could cynically dismiss this objection with "if you don't like it, don't work there," but finding work isn't always easy, and for many people, they have to take whatever job is available to them (such an argument was made in Indiana over the smoking ban at bars).

I can see both sides of this argument, and I recognize how difficult it is. But I would appreciate if those who disagree with it wouldn't build dishonest caricatures of Hobby Lobby to express their frustration. As far as I can tell (as reported by the New York Times), Hobby Lobby will still provide coverage for most contraceptives; there are only a handful that they find objectionable. And while I disagree with the ruling, I don't like it when people are sincere in their religious convictions and are vilified for it. That's not productive, and it doesn't do anything to make the problem better.

It's My Party

I turned 32 today.

When I was a kid, it seemed like the grown ups in my life had it all together. My parents always knew what they were doing, they never seemed to be plagued by doubt or fear or uncertainty, and life seemed simple. As a parent, I realize that this was a lie. Grown ups are just making it up as they go along, and we put on a brave face for our kids, but in all reality we're usually just one bad day from completely unraveling. Or maybe that's just me.

The past year hasn't been all that great. I lost my job in November and I've struggled with finding something for the past seven months. The stress of it weighs on me, as well as the financial burdens associated with long(er)-term unemployment. To be totally frank, the 32nd year of my life isn't one that I feel all that much like celebrating.

When I woke up this morning, I wasn't excited or giddy about my birthday. I'm tired and weary and stressed and I'm really ready for a change. As I got dressed and headed off to school for a day of subbing, I rolled everything over in my mind. I don't want to celebrate this year that much, so this is what I've come up with. Last year sucked. Here's to my 33rd year of life - it's going to be better.

If You Want to Make the Gods Laugh

...just tell them your plans.

I'm pretty sure that's an old Greek aphorism. Maybe the Christian equivalent would be something like "God's ways are higher than our ways," but I recently read the Percy Jackson series, so I'm sticking with the Greek.

I had a plan. I lost my job in November and I've engaged in an as-yet fruitless job hunt. Meanwhile, I've been freelancing, substitute teaching, and waiting tables. I start school in just a few weeks for computer engineering, and while working the evenings isn't ideal for family life, Heidi and I planned on making it work. I had a good plan.

I hadn't ever ceased the job hunt, and yesterday I interviewed for a really interesting marketing position at a local animal hospital. While I was in the interview, I received an email for a different marketing position at an investment firm. I interview with that company on Friday.

I'm still planning on going back to school, but these new developments throw a major wrench in my plans. No more day classes. Fewer classes per semester. Going back to school is going to take longer, and god knows I've spend way too much time in college already.

I had a plan. I'll take these new opportunities in stride, because they'd be better for my family and for me in the long run. But I swear, I can hear the gods laughing at my plans.

Softball

I play softball on Monday nights with a group of friends that I didn't know a year ago. Now we email several times a week, eat together, celebrate the birth of children and new relationships. We get together for cookouts and go out to dinner or hang out for guys' nights. Some even have helped me try to find a new job, setting up meetings and introducing me to professional contacts. These guys have become some of my closest friends.

On Tuesday nights I've joined a league with the folks from the restaurant. It's been only a couple games, but I'm so glad I've joined the team. I feel like I've become better acquainted with the folks I work with each evening and have built a common bond - something to talk about and laugh about with people to whom I was otherwise just "the new guy."

This may be a shock to my readers, but I'm not much of an athlete. As I write this blog, I'm sitting with ice packs on my leg because I pulled a muscle in my leg running to third. But with my teams, it doesn't matter. It's about the game and the ribbing and the jokes and the competition. I love playing softball. These games are my favorite nights of the week.

Long Time Gone

I haven't blogged in awhile, and I want to get back into it. Just some brief updates of what's going on in my life. 

I lost my job in November, so I've been involved in the longest job hunt of my life. Six months isn't terrible, but it's been difficult and frustrating for me and for Heidi. I've been doing odd jobs in the meantime - substitute teaching, tutoring, ghost writing, and waiting tables - and I've enrolled in classes back at IUPUI. I'm pursuing a degree in Computer Engineering, because I really want to learn to code, and I like the design elements of CE that aren't offered by a Computer Science program. I'm starting with some math classes this summer and diving into the programming classes this fall. Fortunately, already having a degree (particularly in the Liberal Arts) means that I won't have to take any of the extra classes, and I should be able to complete the program in 2 1/2 to 3 years. 

The plus side of having lost my job is that I have been able to spend a ton more time with my son. Lincoln just turned three, we're doing potty training, and he and I get to hang out each day and play with blocks, do puzzles, and read books. We go to breakfast a couple times a week and to the park and he helps Dada do laundry and cook brownies. It has been a wonderful, wonderful time, and despite all the other frustrations of this period of unemployment, I wouldn't give up a single minute of my time with my boy. 

I have a couple of job leads that still might pan out. If they do, I'm still going to go back to school. There are things I want to do professionally that I can't do with my current skill set, and I really want to move into programming and technical communications. I made a mistake when I got my English degree - I wanted to be a technical person who writes, and instead I got the training to be a writer with some technical skills. I should have focused on the technical training and built up my writing skills, rather than focus on the writing and neglecting altogether any technical skills. It's a long way around, but I'm fixing it now.

I'll try to blog more, if for no other reason than I find the outlet helpful. I hope everyone has a great weekend. 

Monday

I woke up this morning to my three year old in bed with me singing "Winnie the Pooh" and poking me, saying "Dada, wake up!" When I rolled over, he smiled and said "I love you, Dada." It's going to be a good day.

I have an interview today at 3, so I'm feeling hopeful. I got dressed and took my boy to Grandma's house, stopping for a cup of coffee on my way. He hugged me and said "Bye bye, Dada." It's going to be a good day.

I drive downtown to pick up a check and meet with an advisor at school. On my way I hit a pothole and spill coffee on my shirt. It's not going to be a good day.

Now my schedule has changed. I have to go to the mechanic to have a tire fixed and it's going to take 2 hours. I walk over to the dry cleaner and they can wash my shirt and iron it in an hour. I walk over to a nearby store for a couple things we need and I pick up a hoodie that's not too expensive. I go to the register to check out and it's 50% off. It's going to be a good day.

I walk to a coffee shop while I wait for my shirt to be finished - risky, I know. I sip some coffee and read the news on my phone before I realize I didn't charge my phone last night. My battery is almost dead, and I left my charger at the school on Friday. It's not going to be a good day.

I check my watch and see that I dropped my shirt off almost an hour ago, so I walk back to the dry cleaner. My shirt is drying, but the stain didn't come out. There's no reason for me to wait, so I ask to take the wet shirt and go. At least she didn't charge me for the wash. It's not going to be a good day.

I walk back to the mechanic and they haven't started on my car yet because they had some questions and my cell battery was dead. Of course, they want to sell me more work - to hear them tell it, the vehicle is likely to explode the next time I hit a pothole. It's not going to be a good day.

My car is finished around 12, so I swing by my mom's house to see if she has laundry superpowers the dry cleaner doesn't. When I walk in, my boy runs up to me and says "Dada, you're here!" He hugs my legs and drags me to the living room so I can play dinosaurs with him. It's going to be a good day.

The stain comes out by merit of mom's dark laundry magic, but it's too late for me to do anything before the interview. Instead, I put my boy down for a nap. He plays with my earlobe while drinking some milk as I sing some songs to him. His eyes close and he starts snoring softly. I hold him until I need to leave and I kiss him on his forehead and whisper "I love you, Bubba." He smiles. It's going to be a good day.

The interview goes well, and I have a second interview tomorrow. I went back to campus and met with an advisor. I have some prerequisites to take care of and can start the program Spring 2015. Dinner with my parents, followed by giving my boy a bath. I get him dressed in his pajamas and as I get ready to leave, he gives me a big hug and a kiss and says, "I love you, Dada."

It was a good day.

Beautiful

To me, this is beautiful. My neighborhood is nearly silent. The snow, largely undisturbed. The roads have been plowed and the driveways cleared, but there are no footprints in the yards, or snowmen, or yellow puddles from the dogs. It's as if a blanket has been dropped over my neighborhood and a hush has fallen all around. It's cold outside, but also incredibly peaceful. I love watching from the front porch after a heavy snow.

That said, I'm ready for spring.

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