Author: Pete

2017 Christmas Letter

Hello beautiful people who still check this site even though I barely update and when I do it’s unreadable hot garbage!

2017 started with a bang heard round the world. My mom filed for divorce. Of course, my siblings and I have been telling her to do that since 1994, but better late than never! Granted, my father won’t go away without a fight. But while you might think all of that drama would be stressful, I can honestly say that for her, myself, and my siblings, this has been a year of incredible freedom and peace. I can’t remember a time when it was this calm, happy, and loving. For plethora reasons, that’s all I’ll say about that for now.

That brings me to work, I suppose. In 2016, our distributor, who is not known for creating accurate forecasts, ordered double what they normally do. I pushed back and told them this was really weird and were they sure, and they said they were positive. Well, turns out they were not correct, and they had actually ordered twice as much as they needed.

My previous boss had this notion that we could force them to keep buying stuff they didn’t need, even though the contract didn’t dictate any such thing. I found out part way into the year that the distributor was looking for a way out of working with us because they were so sick of him emailing threats to “call the CEO” and other such nonsense.

In reality, the distributor had screwed up, but I don’t believe in throwing tantrums to get my way, especially when “getting my way” has no contractual basis or logic to it. Instead, we calmly worked with the distributor and came up with some very reasonable, workable short-term solutions, understanding that excess inventory would eventually be depleted.

What that meant was 2017 was a slow year – but ironically more profitable than previous years… imagine that. We have a solid core team that works hard. We have a ridiculously integrated quality system that we continually upgrade and spent significant effort on this year. We digitized 100% of our records and all current and future record-keeping is in the cloud. We cut costs, consolidated our space, updated our workflow, and overhauled our entire inventory system.

On the personal side, 2017 was a lot of work, but it was so much fun. Having two one year olds is a challenge as any parent of twins could attest.

Molly is the perfect baby of the family. It makes us not want to have any more. She was destined to be the youngest. She’s extremely mellow and sweet. She’s almost never mad. When she cries it’s for a minute or two then she’s over it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mia is very spunky and she lives life at 110% at all times. That means when she’s happy she’s HAPPY, when she’s sad she’s SAD, and when she’s mad, she will slay you and anyone who resembles you. She’s also tough as nails. I tripped going down the stairs with her and about killed myself. She’s more likely to break the stairs than be injured by the stairs.

 

 

 

 

 

Elaina is everything I would hope for in a four year old. She’s stubborn, funny, imaginative, emotional, and cannot for the life of her put a shirt on by herself. Her favorite activity is her “pick one” (iPad) where she watches YouTube shows. Her least favorite activity is eating dinner when I tell her to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olivia… she’s 13 in every sense of the word. She has become a woman before our very eyes. For a couple of years, we saw a child with occasional flashes of womanhood. Now, we see a woman with flashes of childhood. She dances competitively and has practice 4 or 5 days a week. She plays cello in the school orchestra. She’s got all A’s and B’s in school. She’s 5’10” and about to pass me up within the next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicole and I celebrated our fifth anniversary this year. I can honestly say it has flown by. Having 3 kids during that time probably had nothing to do with it. With the kids, we struggle to find time together, we run constantly, and we collapse into bed between 10:30 and 12, then start over again the next morning before 6. She’s adores our kids and they adore her. She’s the best wife any guy could ever ask for.

We have aspirations of living in SoCal, so maybe that will be the next big change for us. Or maybe it will be changing our last name to get rid of negative associations. Or maybe we’ll decide we need more kids. Maybe she’ll be having me committed to a mental hospital tomorrow. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Over the course of 2016-2017 I finished two full sleeve tattoos and started a full back piece (5 months to go on that).

If you have been a reader here or you know us personally, I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2018. Keep your stick on the ice.

How to Know You’re in a Cult

There are many helpful red flags to let you know that you’ve inadvertently stumbled into being a cult member. Keep in mind the simple definition of “cult” is a system of religious veneration of a particular figure. A cult doesn’t have to be sacrificing virgins and worshiping Satan to be a cult.

None of the things I list below necessarily mean you’re in a cult, but it sure might. So tread very lightly if you see these warning signs:

  1. The “leader” is revered as the one person with all the answers. This is especially true if he will argue with anyone who challenges his assertions. You can’t be a cult leader without first being a narcissist.
  2. The leader has no actual seminary training or ordination. Folks, there is a reason that the vast majority of preachers go through seminary, or at least through an intensive ordination process. It’s because it weeds out a lot of the potential cult leaders – people in it for personal accolades. It also provides real accountability, as a person who is ordained through a larger organization can be fired and replaced if they go off the path.
  3. The “church” is several years old and still meets in someone’s home. Again, this is from my own experience, and your results may vary. Many churches start in homes, but churches that are planted in this way typically outgrow the home quickly.
  4. People who leave are badmouthed by the leader. In a real church, people come and go all the time. This happens for myriad reasons. Sometimes it’s doctrinal differences. Many times it’s simply logistics. And other times, it’s interpersonal reasons. However, if each time a family leaves, the leader of the “church” talks about “always knowing they were bad people….” you can be sure of one thing – you’re in a cult.
  5. The leader has requirements of members that make most reasonable people uncomfortable. For example, if the leader of your “church” insists on kissing all of the women on the lips, you can be sure you are in a cult. The Bible does say to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” However, I don’t recall the Bible saying to kiss the women on the lips and no one else. Creepy As F. Also, a 100% sign you’re in a cult.
  6. Your “church” only attracts weirdos. Sure, we’re all a little weird, and into every church a weirdo or two will appear. But if your entire “church” is made up of weirdos, misfits, and the fringe of society – there’s a good chance you’re in a cult. Cult leaders prey on the weirdos and misfits. They tell them that if they just follow this set of rules, that they will be an accepted part of the group. That’s what weirdos and misfits want – acceptance.
  7. Incidentally, if everyone “out there” is considered lesser because they don’t believe exactly what the “leader” believes, chances are, you’re in a cult. There are about eleventy-million denominations within the Christian faith. All of them share a reasonably short set of things in common and have many small differences. I would never say a Lutheran is less of a Christian or less of a true believer than a Baptist. However, these little one-off cults are happy to paint with a broad brush.
  8.  The leader makes all the decisions. I’ve been in a lot of churches where they pay lip service to inclusion and accountability. But I’ve also seen people who just “pitch” their ideas to their “elders” and it’s just expected they will rubber stamp it.
  9. The leader meets with and “counsels” people of the opposite sex one-on-one in closed door sessions. No professional, accountable person would ever do this. Pastor’s office doors have windows in them. Pastors don’t meet with women one-on-one without anyone else around. Even if the pastor has no bad intentions, it’s completely unprofessional and is asking for trouble. If your “leader” doesn’t worry about things like this, you may just be in a cult.
  10. The leader tries to act like an altruistic hero. “You don’t even have to pay me, I’ll just do this cuz I’m a good guy.” Mmmhmmm. A wise person once told me… “Pete, everyone gets something out of it.” I’ve never met a real pastor that wasn’t a humble, genuine guy. You can smell narcissism from a mile away, and if you smell it, run away – you’re in a cult.
  11. The “leader” interferes with other people’s relationships. No real pastor or counselor takes a side when doing relationship counseling. To pick a side is to interfere in someone else’s relationship – something only a cult leader wants to do. If a pastor is telling you “he’s no good, you should dump the bum….” he’s WAY overstepping his bounds – a sure sign you’re in a cult. Some exceptions apply, but they are extreme – physical or sexual abuse. “He’s mean” is not a valid reason for a pastor to try and break a married couple up. A real pastor is always working towards helping both parties get better and create an environment for reconciliation. If he is not up to the task, perhaps he should be in a different line of work.
  12. The church ceases to exist when the “leader” moves on. Churches go thru tough times, but no church should be built on one single person. If it is, there’s a good chance it’s a cult.

Dell Latitude Rugged Extreme

Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme (Model 7404) notebook computer, group shot, one open 90 degrees, the other closed, showing handle.

If you’ve ever dropped your laptop off a table, you know the fear. Every digital thing you own may have just died a tragic, untimely death.

Dell has the solution, and it comes in the form of the Latitude Rugged Extreme 14. This laptop is ridiculous in every way. It’s heavy, it’s bulky, it is so big it has it’s own handle and shoulder strap. And you could drop it off a cliff in a rainstorm while it’s open and on, and when you climb down to retrieve it, it will still be running just like you left it. It’s constructed from magnesium alloy and ultra-polymers. It’s IP-65 against water ingress. Its official spec says it can withstand a 6′ drop, but they are tested at 12′, and most survive from much higher drops than that.

It’s tested to run at -20 to 145 degrees. It can operate in blowing dust and sand, snow, salt fog. The desert. High altitude. The jungle.

And best of all, it can run in a manufacturing operation in Missouri. That’s where I come in. I work in a manufacturing environment where we have heavy equipment and chemicals everywhere.

So a top spec rugged 14 extreme will set you back about $7,000, and it will last until the sun turns into a chunk of charcoal. I frequently toss and drop mine to demonstrate to friends. It’s a computer AND a party trick.

Hasselblad X1D-50c

Do you love insanely high resolution, smooth, creamy medium format images but you hate carrying 200 pounds of medium format gear? If so, you have found the perfect weapon of choice in the Hasselblad X1D-50c.

Prior to the X1D, I was shooting the Hasselblad H5D-50 Wifi camera and carried several of the heavy HC lenses in my kit. The X1D uses the SAME sensor. It uses software that is actually more modern than the H5D.

After a couple of weeks with the X1D, I sold my entire H5D kit including all of the HC and HCD lenses. The XCD lens line is so much lighter, and syncs at 1/2000 out of the box. My HC lenses would have required an expensive shutter upgrade to achieve anything higher than 1/800. And multiply that fee by 6-8 lenses and you’ve got some serious outlay of cash.

I currently shoot with the X1D, and my lens kit includes the 90mm, 45mm, and 30mm XCD lenses. I’m excited for the release of the 120mm later this year, and frankly that may just complete my kit.

The 30mm is plenty wide for landscape, the 90mm is amazing for portraits and fashion, and the 45mm is a great walking around lens for street photography.

So as pros go, the high end 50MP CMOS sensor, the beautify of Hasselblad’s color management system, the fast flash sync, and the medium format “look” in a package that comes in at a third the cost of a new H5D system, and frankly stacks up nicely even against the H6D-50.

As many before me have noted, it does have some “early adopter” issues you might expect in a new platform. The firmware is buggy. It sometimes hangs up. The delay after a shot is unacceptably long… close to 2 seconds. Focus is MUCH slower than any comparable full frame 35 (as if there’s such a thing), but it’s quite similar to the H6D I rented. Again, I think this is more related to firmware than hardware. We’ll see with future updates. My biggest complaint is the “eye level activation” that works like a piece of crap if you happen to wear glasses. I cannot get the thing to activate unless I take off my glasses, which renders me nearly blind. I really hope that Hasselblad addresses this issue in a future firmware update, as it drives me absolutely nuts.

All in all, for a camera body that rings in under $11,000, and lenses worthy of the brand, I highly recommend this camera. If you shoot action, medium format isn’t for you anyhow. If you need 100MP, you need the H6D anyhow, and you are almost certainly shooting in a studio. X1D was meant to be highly portable, and it shines.

Christmas Letter 2016

2015 sucked. You may remember it from the last Christmas letter, or if you are lucky, you got to watch us flame through the year like the Bad News Bears.

2016 was different.

After our failed adoption with Brandon, we were quickly rematched with a new birth mom, this time in Florida. We took a couple of trips down to hang out with her during the pregnancy, but we were much less confident this time around. But then, a week into January, I met Nicole for dinner at 54th Street Grill, and there were no kids with her. This was unusual, but it was a nice change. Then she pulled out a box, and in it was a pee-stained stick that said “pregnant.”

Naturally this came as quite the surprise since we’d been told by the experts that we couldn’t conceive naturally. That meant we had to make a huge decision – do we go ahead and adopt anyway? We thought about it for a few seconds and decided yes, we were already committed to the birth mom.

We had numerous false alarms in late January, but eventually the call came that we needed to jump the next flight. We got to the hospital literally as the c-section was in progress. And little Mia Grace was born.

The next two months are a blur of a newborn screaming in pain every 15 minutes 24 hours a day. At the end of month two, the doctor finally relented and let us switch to a lactose-free formula. Almost instantly, Mia became our best sleeper. I really don’t remember anything from February and March except for having Mia with me in the basement all night so Nicole could sleep.

Throughout 2016, we learned that pregnancy while caring for a newborn is really not fun, but we knew it would be worth it.

April was filled with Royals games and dance competitions. Spring is always the best time for both. April is also the month Nicole and I celebrated four years.

In May, I lost my grandma after a long bout of hospitalization and pain. We all traveled up to St. Louis for the services and saw the family.

Then in June, I lost my mind, and I bought Nicole a new puppy for her birthday. The dog is so cute it’s ridiculous. She’s also stubborn, loud, and refuses to poop or pee outdoors. Ah, the gift that keeps on giving. We also took a road trip to St. Louis so that we could watch Nicole barf in plastic bags – as is her tradition while pregnant.

July and August, I was in bed. And in the bathroom. And back and forth. I had a case of Strep that was treated with Augmentin, and the Augmentin gave me C-Diff. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t google it. If you’ve had it, you know what I mean. Imagine if you will, horrible stomach pain 24/7, with a side of diarrhea every 10 minutes 24/7 – for months. My favorite (least favorite) moment was when I was on an important call with our distributor WHILE I drove myself to the ER. What I learned is that next time I need an antibiotic, I’ll just go ahead and die instead.

On the plus side, August also brought the finalization of our adoption of Mia. August 24th is her “Lucas Date”. Which is awesome because her birth mother had given her a legal name as a practical joke – Nicole Miracle.

Then September 9th, the most perfect baby in the history of babies was born – Molly Ryann Lucas. And I immediately saw that she had a cleft chin. Apparently she looks just like her dad – except for that.

For some unknown reason, my sister scheduled her wedding for a week later, so we loaded up our 4 kids and our recently c-sectioned wife and had a road trip to Madison. The drive there was ok, the wedding was a lot of work, and then on the way home, Nicole and I decided to get divorced. Fortunately when we got home we changed our minds.

Olivia and I went to the Royals and sat in the Crown Club for her birthday – and we got to meet Rex Hudler!

In October, my retina detached, as evidenced by a black line running through my visual field. I went to the ophthalmologist, then the retina specialist, and he diagnosed me with retinoschesis. Apparently I’ve had 4 previous detachments that were outside of my visual field. And apparently the treatment for this condition is – well, hopefully you won’t have any more detachments in your visual field.

November was my annual Society for Neuroscience trip, but this year I got to take Nicole (and Molly). It was in San Diego, so there was lots of beach time, and some unplanned house hunting. Yes, we like it there.

Finally in December, I started my quest to become fully inked and got my first three tattoos. More are planned, but it was a good start. My wife says they are sexy, but she also says I can’t get a “Don’t Tread On Me” tattoo no matter how much I want to. I thought this was America.