Eric Holcomb may be the second coming of Mitch Daniels

Mitch Daniels’ long shadow over Indiana politics doesn’t seem stunted by Mike Pence’s cloud of gloom. Now that Eric Holcomb seems to be firmly in the middle of his first legislative session, he’s hitting all the right notes to say that he’s nothing like his immediate predecessor.

Holcomb seems to be skating right around social issues that consumed Mike Pence in a flaming blaze best reserved for the most fabulous attendees at Indy Pride.

Today alone Holcomb has reversed Pence’s dumb decisions on a bunch of stuff. He issued a pardon for Keith Cooper; a man arrested nearly two decades ago for a crime everyone now recognizes he did not commit. It was also a campaign promise. Pence ignored that, along with every other duty of his office, while he was off pretending to look Vice Presidential.

Holcomb also announced a disaster declaration for East Chicago around their water-contaminated Superfund site, which by itself doesn’t do much yet. But he did ask the Mayor there for a report of what’s needed, and the disaster declaration frees up parts of the Bureau of Bureaucracy to make things happen faster. The order currently prioritizes moving people out the contaminated area.

Holcomb has also suspended a contract with Agile Networks and the Indiana Finance Authority, a move that Pence thought would bring a real boat full of money to the state to pay for his Bicentennial projects through leased wireless towers in state parks for rural Internet coverage. That, of course, didn’t happen, just like everyone said it wouldn’t. Some people operate in reality and not blind faith.

Holcomb has also expressed support for double-tracking the South Shore line in northern Indiana. Trains! I wouldn’t be surprised if Holcomb doesn’t fear buses either! And he’s clearly open to expanding needle exchanges in an attempt to do something, anything, more than what Pence’s “I’ll pray for you” approach was to drug abuse.

It’s almost like Holcomb’s not masquerading as Governor to someday become President.

If today is any indication, Eric Holcomb is going to be a conservative with a slight libertarian angle to him like Mitch Daniels. I know for a lot of people that brings a sense of dread, but there are Republicans, and there are Republicans and Daniels – and hopefully Holcomb – are the former.

I have not been shy about my support for Daniels over the years. Yeah, we got Daylight Saving Time out of it, but lest we forget Indiana was doing relatively well overall. We were reducing expenses, balancing budgets, got our first AAA bond rating (which saves state and local governments millions in financing costs), and we were most improved in state efficiency, environmental permits, job growth, and – come on people – do we remember what the BMV was like? Have you tried going to a motor vehicle department anywhere else?

A lot of low-hanging fruit was picked between 2004 and 2012. Maybe Holcomb can find the stuff that Pence missed – and he missed a lot.

Mike Pence is not “Indiana nice”

I’ve always heard this claim about the Midwest being “Midwest nice.” More locally, “Hoosier hospitality” and “Indiana nice” might as well be on our license plates. But then a guy like Mike Pence comes along, and he’s just not a very nice man. He seems downright mean.

My grandmother used to say some people “had a lot of meanness in ‘em.” No one was safe from her scorn – Democrat, Republican, young, old, didn’t matter. Her litmus test seemed to be if you caused someone harm, damage, or were otherwise uncouth, you were mean. I feel the same way about Mike Pence. More broadly, it’s starting to feel that way about the entire Republican party.

When Pence was still Governor, I began to realize why a generation of people had begun to shift to the left and continue to stay there: everyone in my generation was taught more than any other to “just be nice to people.” I can’t prove it, but I’d bet 50% of Indiana’s brain drain problem is directly related to the politics of our State House. I’m not even talking about bag bans and Tesla sales. I’m talking about all the social cruft that strikes an entire generation as somehow mean, like a bully.

The Republicans aren’t doing a superb job of framing their agenda as “being nice.” And when someone isn’t “nice,” they’re probably being “mean,” and that’s very off-putting. The Democrats may just be better at hiding their meanness because the government can certainly be a bully to a lot of people the more it expands.

“Justin, this is ridiculous. Just because a bunch of sissy millennials can’t handle some toughness is no reason to coddle them,” you might say. If you did say that I would say you just proved my point by being a dick.

It doesn’t make a generation of people weak to be nice. It just means we don’t see a reason to push large groups of individuals away. Pence’s, and now Trump’s, Muslim ban, the wall, Sessions, the Supreme Court nominees, etc. are all just mean dick moves. Their downsides are worse than the potential purported benefit.

Don’t get me wrong – everyone’s kind of a dick some of the time. Left-leaning folks love shows like The Daily Show and Full Frontal precisely because they’re mean. They poke at people in a way that you’d never do to someone’s face. Bill Maher is mean. Sean Hannity and others on the right are mean.

Pence, and certainly Trump, come across as that kind of person. A sort of faux-niceness that’s him just pushing people in ways they don’t want to be. That is against the grain of what it means to be “Indiana nice” where we stay out of the way, help when people ask, and kindly say hello and smile when interacting with others.

As an aside, I find anyone who blindly supports a specific party, votes straight ticket, doesn’t question everyone and everything, and anyone who lacks some level of empathy to be psychopathic. That can’t be healthy. In what other endeavor do we do that? Do you only drink one beer? Do you only ever always and forever buy one brand of batteries or toilet paper?

I can support a lot of reform efforts that Democrats largely don’t like. I can get behind a lot of issues that Republicans generally don’t like. And I can feel at home with a good chunk of the Libertarian party because they’re increasingly just, “Leave people alone, and be nice.”

Don’t be mean. Leave people alone when they want to be left alone. Be Indiana nice.

Indianapolis must stop apologizing for winter

Hallway whiteboard

Last week’s hallway whiteboard outside SuperPixel World Headquarters asked passers-by if expense weren’t an issue, would you move away from Indianapolis or stay here? There was also a little follow-up about why.

It’s highly informal and doesn’t mean much, but it does echo a common refrain: “Indiana’s weather is bad” and “Indiana’s politics are wrong.”

The political issue is what it is. But we have a better chance of changing the weather than we do the Legislature. Or at least we have a better chance of embracing the weather.

Everyone’s gripe is that it’s cold and it snows; which are certainly two defining criteria for “winter.” Indianapolis should stop apologizing for winter. Lots of places have winter. Chicago has a winter. Buffalo has a winter. No one in Buffalo sits around crying about the snow and neither should we.

Instead, Hoosiers should embrace and prepare for it, because there’s another one coming around.

Encourage everyone to put on a thick coat and snow boots and promote sledding, ice skating, skiing (yes, skiing – there are two great slopes just a 90-minute drive away from here), and hockey.

Indianapolis promotes itself as the Sports Capital of the World. We’ve done a lot for basketball, football, racing, and swimming. We’re continuing to improve in baseball, hockey, and soccer. Why not extend that to snowboarding, bobsledding, figure skating, curling, and other winter Olympic sports?

We already have the facility for curling, hockey, and figure skating. Carmel’s interested in building an ice skating rink. Building facilities for Bobsleighs and other winter sports doesn’t seem any more impossible than what we’ve consistently already done. Except skiing, none of this requires a mountain or some other geographic trait we don’t already have.

Open the spectator sports for sports lovers, and you’ll have facilities people can enjoy themselves. Then instead of always complaining about winter and apologizing for it, we can market it and make Indianapolis the most kick-ass winter city in North America.

Using Dropbox on a Surface Book SD Card

I’m mostly posting this here for myself. If you’re looking for a way to move Dropbox to an always-fixed SD Card in a Surface Book, it does work.

You have to create a symbolic link from Dropbox to the card, which isn’t hard. It’s best if you can do this with an empty card (just in case), but I did it with a bunch of data running and it was fine.

Here are the steps to move Dropbox to an SD Card and insert a symbolic link with mklink

  1. Install Dropbox as usual. It created my Dropbox folder in C:\Users\justi\
  2. Stop the Dropbox process
  3. Cut and Paste the Dropbox folder from C:\Users\justi\ and Paste on SD Card. In my case, this was D:\Dropbox
  4. Make sure the Dropbox folder in C:\Users\justi\ does not contain anything anymore and that the root Dropbox folder is no longer there.
  5. Open cmd as Administrator by right-clicking the Start menu icon in Windows 10 and selecting “Command Prompt (Admin)” (typing “cmd” in the Run dialog won’t work, most likely).
  6. Type mklink /D C:\Users\justi\Dropbox D:\Dropbox  [Note that the /D at the start of this command is for Director, not the D: drive your SD card may be on. Just as point of reference.]
  7. Start Dropbox and test that it syncs to new location on D:\Dropbox

Removing a symbolic link

If you need to remove this symbolic link later, be careful. Using the command mklink /d will remove the link AND the files in the linked destination. Which would be bad.

Instead, use rmdir, which only deletes the directory link. I’d make a backup just in case. I haven’t tested this:

  1. Stop Dropbox
  2. Run cmd as an Administrator (right click Start > Command Prompt (this doesn’t need Admin rights)
  3. Type:  rmdir C:\Users\justi\Dropbox
  4. Restart Dropbox and, I assume, allow it to index everything again.

So far I have not had a problem where Dropbox threatens to delete my files like some people have stated when the Surface Book’s screen is detached. It seems to behave exactly like OneDrive did when it was on my “embedded” SD card. It simply stops checking and won’t resume until the drive is restored.


The Misery Index

When I first started my business in 2009 I had a working theory of why I’d be successful, at least as far into the future as I could predict: no one else will be willing to live like I do to beat me on price.

Other web professionals seemed almost decadent in their desire for the usual working wage. I, however, was not. I thought the market was clearly trending toward a world where web developers were overpriced. Graphic designers could maybe hold out a little while longer because “good taste” can’t easily be transferred to software or services. But most people don’t care. So neither should I.

Where everyone else had to meet payroll, student loan payments, car payments, credit cards, and had a desire to go out and pay for restaurants, drinks, and vacations, I had none of that. I still don’t. I make more money than I did 6 or 7 years ago, sure, but my prices are still lower for what we provide. My conservative estimate is we under-charge by about 60-80%.

I began to think of it as a “misery index”. That guy in Avon re-selling templates dirt cheap to customers won’t last because he’ll eventually have a kid. He did and left the business. That guy in Carmel I met at the networking event selling overseas labor for cheap won’t last because he lives in Carmel and will clearly want nice things, like a fancy car. He posted a photo of his Lexus online and left the business about a year later. That developer I see online from time to time in Greenwood won’t last because he’s over-extended on his house. I know how much he charges and how much that mortgage costs. He didn’t last and eventually took a full-time job after the IRS caught up to him.

Instead, there I was (and still am) the one who doesn’t go on vacations. I use the library. I ride a bike in the winter and take the bus in the rain. When I lived alone I ate half a tuna sandwich for lunch and the other half for dinner. I never did student loans, opting to quit when I realized the price was too high. I don’t buy much over $100. I’ve never purchased an alcoholic drink at a restaurant in my life because of the cost. I bought a lousy house in a do-nothing part of town because that’s what I could afford (and am hoping it will help me make rental income when it’s paid off). In total, I could live on $700 a month in income.

I could outlast a lot of people over the years simply because “I can be more miserable, for longer, than the other person.”

And I was a miserable person because of it. Internally I hated everything. I literally kept working almost out of spite just to prove myself right to only myself.

Obviously, everyone’s experiences are highly subjective and vary wildly. I’m not exactly a cancer-stricken drug mule in Somalia. Don’t overthink this. Everyone forms opinions based on experiences.

Today marks 15 years since my mother died. That’s framed a lot of my opinions on things. But I’ve also come to realize my opinions on most things aren’t worth sharing because my life has had to be hyper-realistic. It literally makes people uncomfortable.

“Oh please, that’s impossible, Justin.”

If you ask me whether people deserve health insurance or not, I skew straight to the notion that most people aren’t that important. I could die right now and it wouldn’t matter at all to the world. A few people would mind for a short while (I imagine). Thus, the only sensible solution is that frequently people will just die and everyone else will move on.

See. Now you’re uncomfortable.

I keep the possibility of being “friends” with most people at a safe distance because I assume they’ll move (far) away and we’ll never see each other again. You laugh at that, but it’s happened too many times with my closest friends. I’ll just let people stay as casual acquaintances. It keeps the misery index consistent.

I saw a tweet the other day that kids on SNAP (food stamps) deserve to have popsicles just as much as any other kid. “No they don’t,” I thought. “They should get used to never having nice things now. It’ll prepare them for life.” People always want things. I’d like a swimming pool. I don’t get to have one. You may think that’s an apples and oranges comparison, but what difference does it really make? Because one’s cheaper to you than the other?

Now you’re even more uncomfortable.

This is because so many messages tell us we can change, we can do anything, we can have whatever we set our mind to. No you cannot. Deep down, we all know that’s not true. Not everyone gets a fancy car or a nice childhood or their favorite spot at the table. Deplorable things will happen. If it knocks you too far off a high point your misery index won’t be able to handle the change.

Not everyone can just “change their mindset”, either. Because if that were true you’d just tell depressed people to change their mind. That shallow trope never imagines that science might show chemical imbalances that are nearly impossible to diagnose, treat, or correct. Sometimes, things just are.

Your disagreement to this is fine. It also doesn’t matter. Your life experiences were just different. Like the the amount of water in a small well, your misery index is set at a different level.