Road Movie to Berlin

The A.V. Club put out an incredibly well put together sampling of They Might Be Giants songs on Tuesday. If you wanted to listen to all the songs it’d take about an hour, but that’s a lot shorter than the 30 years it took the band to write and publish them all.

Pick #12, “Road Movie to Berlin” is one of those songs I always loved from them. Right up there with “Kiss Me, Son of God.” It’s quirky, but with lyrics that somehow speak a message meant to be heard — and chords I can analyze by ear. Seeing it now struck me with inspiration, and I picked up the guitar for the first time in forever.

I think it’s been over 2 years since anyone heard me play guitar. But music is a powerful force and it tends to stick with you. Sometimes you’ve just gotta play what’s in your head, even if your hands are no longer skilled enough to keep up.

Thanks TMBG, and thanks mom and dad for all those guitar lessons. They keep paying dividends.

If you’re curious, the original song is here:

Note-passing in Titansgrave

When you’re in a role-playing game, sometimes characters have more knowledge or perception of their whereabouts than the other members of their party. A good way for a dungeon master to give this information to the player is by passing notes.

In Titansgrave, we’ve seen this happen a couple times. Most recently in chapter 5, “Staff of Forlorn Hope,” when Kiliel (played by Alison Haislip) can see more about Mr. Voss than the others can. Her reaction nails why this story-telling tactic is awesome.

It’s exciting because it empowers the player. They get the information and they get to choose what to do with it, instead of being subject to the DM’s narration of events.

For the purposes of Titansgrave, it’s doubly effective because each of the players have secrets they’re hiding from the others. Using note-passing during more common instances like Kiliel’s actually makes it more normal when the note-passing is crucial to those secrets. I really hope a note-pass makes or breaks the climax of one of these adventures, because Wil has used them skillfully.

Lesson from Jogging Failure

Since June 16th, I’ve been doing the Couch-to-5k (C25k) running program. I really don’t like running and I’m surprised I’ve kept the habit this long. But I definitely needed to get my physical activity back up and running is free.

Last night was the first task of C25k that I couldn’t complete successfully. It was Week 4, Day 2, where you do the following:

  1. Warmup walk (5 minutes)
  2. Jog (3 minutes)
  3. Walk (90 seconds)
  4. Jog (5 minutes)
  5. Walk (2.5 minutes)
  6. Jog (3 minutes)
  7. Walk (90 seconds)
  8. Jog (5 minutes)
  9. Cooldown walk (5 minutes)

I had done this run successfully on Saturday (Week 4, Day 1.) Though I felt rough during the 5-minute jogs, I knew during that run that I would make through. Last night was completely the opposite. As soon as I started my first 5-minute jog, every muscle felt weak. My knees and feet were aching. I couldn’t even keep my head up or breathe well like I normally do. After the 5-minutes were up, I started walking home and that was it.

The Mental Conversation

When you’re taking that long walk home (it’s a lot faster when you run it…) your mind starts being cruel to yourself. All the reasons why you started running in the first place start coming back to say hi. I’m fat, I’m lazy, I’m unambitious — and that all starts to feel true since you just failed at something you know you’ve done before.

Next come the excuses. It was raining all day and even lightly a bit while running, so it was hard to grip the pavement. I didn’t have much time to let dinner settle so I was low on energy and my stomach felt uneasy. I’m stressed and couldn’t properly think of my form.

The Reality

The excuses don’t actually matter. The reality is that failures and breakdowns happen when you’re training your body for something it’s not ready for yet. If I could run for 30 minutes straight already, then yes, this 8 minutes of running is pretty pathetic. But 3 weeks ago I was proud of myself for running 8 minutes total in 90-second portions.

That’s right, Day 1 of C25k was 3 weeks ago! I’ve even been doing the training with not enough rest. This was supposed to be day 2 of week 4, and the reality is that it’s day 2 of week 3 on the calendar.

Tonight happened because my body was sending a message. I did the right thing by going out there at all, and I did the right thing by walking back. The now is exactly what it should be. The future is up to me.

The Plan

I’ve run every-other-day since starting the c25k, except one break of resting 2 days. I’m going to take another 2 day rest and run again on Friday.

Wednesday and Thursday will have lots of stretching.

When I do run on Friday, it’ll be re-running Week 4, Day 1. If these 3-minute and 5-minute jogs are where my body is at, it’s where my body is at. I’m not gonna rush this along and hit the 8-minute jogs of week 5 before I’m ready for them.

Most importantly, I’m seeing this as a failure of my muscles, not a failure of myself. I’m doing the part of this that I’m supposed to do: get out there, work hard, and learn the lessons I need to learn.



I’m getting kinda sick of cooking. I mean, don’t get me wrong – Blue Apron tries its hardest to make good food simple, but ever since Amber got pregnant I’ve been the primary cook of breakfast-lunch-and-dinner, not just breakfast and the occasional dinner. As such, I’ve made a list of foods I plan to eat while Amber is on vacation:

I’m very much looking forward to destroying my health in this glorious time.

Taking People With You by David Novak

Business non-fiction is one of my favorite pastimes. Reading the advice of successful people always feels like time well spent. Taking People With You leaves me with a great respect for David Novak, the Executive Chairman of YUM! brands here in Louisville. He was CEO at the time of the book’s publication. It’s a public version of the leadership training Novak has taught to the many franchisees and company leaders for Yum and PepsiCo over the years.

Hardcover of Taking People With You by David Novak
Hardcover of Taking People With You by David Novak

In particular, I really enjoy Novak’s third section on following-through on goal settings and properly measuring and rewarding your employees. It actually made me look at the tools we use at Automattic and think “hey, we’re totally doing this right,” because we gather so much data on everything we do. It’s refreshing to read advice and realize your company is totally living it.

The first section of the book is a little fluffy. One of my least favorite things in the business genre is how so many authors tell you to ‘use this book’ a certain way. In my opinion, if you can’t find value in a 200 page book reading it cover-to-cover, it’s not a good book. This was enjoyable, so I don’t accuse Novak of having a poor product, rather I wish he’d ditch the pretense of ‘read only one chapter a day maixmum’ or ‘use this as a workbook.’ Stand by your ideas as just that – ideas – and they’ll hold up a lot better.

Similarly, lots of Novak’s examples fall into the trap of an executive presenting himself as the main character of a narrative. Realistically a lot of people were surely involved by committee, by meeting, and certainly implementation for many of the examples and stories presented. Leadership is why we’re reading the book, but it takes a lot more than the CEO saying ‘we should have Wing Wednesday’ in one meeting to make Wing Wednesday happen and all those little actions don’t really get mentioned.

But Novak offers great arguments for some specific tactics Leaders should be using:

  • When beginning a new undertaking, think through your strategy, then its structure, then the culture that can make it happen.
  • Reward people in an interesting and notable way
  • Be an avid learner and seek out all the information you can from all the people you can
  • When creating a change, also learn and decide how to market the change within your team
  • Change is never over and improvements will always lead to new improvements

It’s a quick read and one I’d recommend for folks interested in leading business teams. Novak definitely speaks with a ‘corporate’ voice which I’ve become less accustomed to since delving so much about the tech industry, but it actually grew on me. Maybe it’s that Louisville charm. 🙂

Don’t take my word for it, Warren Buffett endorses Novak and the book as well:

David Novak is the best at leadership, whether teaching it in this book or practicing it.

Buffett and Novak have lunch at KFC once a year, apparently. Now that’s a lunch I’d like to join one day.

Thanks to my mother-in-law, Dana, for recommending the book and loaning me her copy of it. She had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Novak and receiving a signed copy. “Yum to you!” is a pretty great inscription.

David Novak signed this copy of Taking People With You
David Novak signed this copy of Taking People With You

Taking People with You: The Only Way to Make BIG Things Happen by David Novak

Amazon ; Goodreads ; Wikipedia


Wil Wheaton (and some of his guests) constantly references this song on Tabletop and Titansgrave. I assume he does in real life as well, but all I know is the internet. Anytime someone rolls a 19 with dice, he pronounces it ‘nine-nine-nine-nineteen.’

I figured it was time I actually listened to it. And now I’m sharing it with you. Here’s Paul Hardcastle’s seminal eighties tune, “19.”

Game Day

I absolutely love playing board games with friends. We invited a bunch of people over for games last night.

We also played Forbidden Desert by Matt Leacock, Star Trek: Catan by Klaus Teuber, and 7 Wonders (with the Cities expansion) by Antoine Bauza.