Head, back and butt lined up. Butt out, bent at the waist.

Feet parallel to the target.

Easy on the grip. 4 out of 10, no more.

Left arm straight, eye on the ball, twist the left knee slightly without shifting your weight to the right leg.


Don’t go crazy on the backswing.

Swing with your body. Swing with your shoulders. Swing through the ball. Don’t chop.

Hear the ping of a terrible hit and watch the ball sail smoothly into the 3′ high grass where it’s completely invisible even though it’s bright white and designed to be found and you saw exactly where it went.

Curse like a very quiet sailor.


Try again on the next hole.



The room was completely silent, all eyes were on Fletcher as she completed her presentation.

Fletcher, 44, a little taller than average, was a lifetime member of the committee. Although she had perfect eyesight and abundant hair, she wore comically round glasses and shaved her head to fit the part she was given. Her mother, whom she inherited the seat from, had looked like this, as had her maternal grandmother. It was tradition. Today was an extraordinary day, one she had trained specifically for, and she was sharing good news with a few hundred of her fellow committee members.

“And so,” she continued, her mellifluous voice ringing out clearly so that each of assembled felt as if she was right next to them, “with this successful result, we on the New Neighborhood Subcommittee respectfully recommend that we terminate the experiment, reset the environments, and plan our migration. Thank you.”

The room was silent. Fletcher waited patiently, fighting the urge to fidget or fix her suit.

“Mr. Fletcher” — all committeemen were always “Mr.” — “thank you for that report. Before proceeding can you remind us of the basic stats please?”

This was from Mr. Sigmund Youngheim, a senior committee expert on foliage and leader of the Appearances Subcommittee, who generally preferred not to speak. In fact this was the first time he has asked a question at a committee presentation in 18 years. It was a high compliment.

“Our most successful site, #5, has 24 generations, spanning 600 years, who have survived well and grown in population from our initial seed of 10,000 penal volunteers to just over 2 billion inhabitants today. The nine other sites all have substantially lower success rates. For example, at site #7, the next best result, the population has stabilized at about 1.1 billion. This is an acceptable result and once it is reset we will catalogue the site as a potential expansion neighborhood.”

“And please describe the reset process,” Mr. Youngheim continued.

Fletcher paused for just a moment. Of course she knew the details by heart, but waiting for a moment gave her audience a chance to catch up.

“The reset process is a simple. We’ll send medium-sized comets to each site. The impact will cause a gradual reset to population zero over the next five years. Once the sites are reset to pre-experiment levels, we will send infrastructure teams to site #5. That team will confirm the reset to zero population and begin migration prep. The first ships will leave for the new neighborhood in less than 100 years.”

Silence hovered while they waited for more questions.

Fletcher waited for one minute as described in the committee bylaws and said, “Gentlemen” — it was always “gentlemen”, regardless of the makeup of the committee, a fact which Fletcher occasionally wondered about but generally overlooked — “it is time for a vote. Please enter your selection. “

After a few minutes, the entire committee — all 415 — had voted for reset.

“Gentlemen,” Fletcher concluded, “thank you for your time today. The reset comets have just launched and I look forward to seeing you all at our next planning session.”

Fletcher stood, did the deep ceremonial bow, and went deep into the crowd, where she was congratulated on stirring even Mr. Youngheim to attention. It had been a great day!


Red hair.

I can smell her before I can see her, this one I’ve heard so much about. I poke my head through the trees just a bit, curiosity overtaking fear for the very first time.

There she is.

Red hair, green eyes, thirteen. Her hair is short for a girl, her face dotted with freckles. Her arms are showing, as are the bottoms of her legs, the rest of her is covered up somehow. She is walking on the path not too far away from us, confident, unafraid.

There’s an unmistakable twinkle in her eye and she’s extremely…present. She’s not just on the path. The path is her path. She owns it.

She’s not alone. A younger boy follows her and a still younger boy follows him. I can’t understand her, but she’s clearly talking and her followers are listening, intently.

What does that mean?

She’s the oldest. Those are her brothers.

So different from us.

The trio stops. She is looking right at me and I can’t help but freeze. She kneels down slowly and picks something up. She stands, slowly enough that I almost miss the threat. She cocks her arm back.

And we’re gone.

Gone before the rock even leaves her hand. I hear it hit a tree behind us, right where I was standing. Good aim.

Peels of laughter echo around us as we leave for someplace safer.


Emotions are running high in today’s much anticipated 15th Annual Tully Family Reunion Dishwasher Loading Challenge. I’m Edward Greenslade and I think this is likely to be an epic display of appliance utilization know how and family political power plays.

Young Ethel Davis of Fairport, New York, is our first contestant. This bright-eyed newcomer has no idea what she’s in for. Davis, the newly minted fiancé of young Edward Tully, begins with a classic “trying to be helpful” approach that requires her to leave the dinner table slightly early, clearly ruffling the other competitors’ feathers and setting the stage for a heated competition. She begins by loading the smaller plates on the bottom rack — a rookie mistake! Will she have the stamina to fix it?

Last year’s champion, Rebecca Tully, former awkward middle child of our hosts Jonathan and Mary Cathryn “MC” Tully, is the first to react to Davis’s blatant error. Adopting the classic non-threatening posture which carried her to victory last year, Tully approaches the first contestant and kindly informs her that there’s no way all the dishes will fit using this strategy. I must award her points for helping Davis without alerting her to this significance of her error and for leaving her trademark saccharine smile behind. Davis reloads, oblivious to her coming loss, while Tully watches, her looming victory bringing a slight grin to her face.

But wait a minute sports fans we have a new development brought to you by a late entrant, dark horse candidate out of towner Maeve Tully, second wife of Jonathan “JJ” Tully Jr, who starts her approach with a pair of rogue water glasses that–and I’m quoting now–“should be able to just fit.” This approach has clearly caught the former champion and new comer both off guard. Maeve has unloaded the entire top rack before they can react and in a blatant dis removed two items for later hand washing.

Davis is trying to keep a brave attitude but the agony of defeat is written all over Rebecca’s face. Maeve shuts the dishwasher and starts it as host KC Tully approaches to crown Maeve Tully the victor with a quick pat on the back followed by a rare, “Nicely done.”

This has been an epic battle of wits and skill my friends. Be sure to tune in next year to see how family dynamics have changed. Will Davis try her hand again? Will Maeve take a bigger seat at the table now that her efforts have been recognized? Or will a young newcomer take……


Yes, fellow commentator, would you like to add something?

“Give it a rest.”

This is Edward Greenslade signing off.


Cambridge University professor emeritus, world-renowned alpine tortoise expert, and local garden club leader Dr. David Sinjin Smythe III will deliver a much-anticipated lecture at the Falinge Park Public Library this Wednesday at 16:00.

Part of the “Careers In Academia” lecture series and sponsored by the local Ladies Benevolent Association, the talk is titled “There Is No Alpine Tortoise; Here’s What I Really Did For 40 Years.” Much anticipated by Dr. Smythe’s peers, the talk is expected to appeal to both young and old and many leading academicians are expected to attend.

“This is the confession you’ve all been waiting for,” Smythe said when asked if his entire career really was a hoax. “Now that most of my detractors are dead, I plan to come clean. Mostly.”

Seating is available on a first come first served basis. Tea will be served. Tickets are £5.

Lego Aberwyvern, the Inner Curtain

Ok more on this obsession.

The inner curtain is described as 200′ on a side, 35′ high and 12′ thick. Towers would be 50′ tall. 35′ high is ~29 courses tall, 50′ is ~41 courses.


I can’t help but wonder at how imposing this would have seemed to the average 13th century Welsh villager.

This is going to take a while.

More On My Lego Aberwyvern Castle Obsession

The other day I mentioned I’ve been thinking about putting too much effort into recreating a fictional 13th century castle — in Lego.  I’m guestimating roughly 75k 2×4 bricks, but the real question is this: how much money would that cost?

As an experiment, I stopped by the Lego store and bought a large pick-a-brick for $14.99.  It included 185 1×2 bricks and 188 1×3 bricks.  If you figure the inner curtain would run roughly 200 a side, with inner and outer walls, and allowing for extra bricks on each course for the gatehouse and towers, it would be a minimum of 2000 dots a course. At 35′ tall, it would need 30 courses, and excluding any type of filler brick, those 60,000 dots would run roughly $1,000.  This is only for the external and inner walls of the inner curtain and excludes filler brick or other buildings.

Filler brick for the curtain — making up the majority of the inner and outer curtain — could be any color, so I could do things like buy 100 pounds of used bricks and not worry about the color.  Price per brick appears to be $5-10 per pound.  How many bricks would I get per pound?  I don’t know.

Base plates, assuming a 7×7 grid of 48×48 base plates, at $15 each, would be ~$750 dollars.

And given that Aberwyvern is built on a rocky outcrop, I’d probably need to build up a rock and show a river, too.

I am not yet deterred.

Aberwyvern Castle: That Would Be a Lot of Lego


Just for fun I’ve been doing some back of the napkin style estimation on what it would take to build the castle featured in “Castle“, Aberwyvern, in Lego.

Assuming a 1×1 brick is equivalent to 1 sq foot, and that each brick would then be 1.2 foot tall, I’m guessing ~75k bricks. This assumes ~50k bricks for the walls and ~25k for the rest of the buildings.

The outer curtain, for example, is 300′ to a side, 8′ thick and 20′ tall. That’s ~15k 2×4 bricks. In the real world that would be a bit over 8′ square. It would require 49 48×48 baseplates.


Now that would be a project.

Edit (Monday 2/11): could I really use 2×4 bricks? Each of those would represent a near impossibly heavy 2′ wide, by 4′ long, by 1.2′ tall rock.  9.6 cubic feet or about .27 of a cubic meter.  If a cubic meter of rock weighs on the order of 2500kg, each of those innocuous looking 2×4 bricks would be the equivalent of about 1,500 pounds (more or less).  Even a 1×3 brick would likely weigh about 500 pounds, so figure a 4-6 man crew working it into place.  Now, admittedly, when one is planning on recreating a fictional castle using 21st century toy plastic blocks, unassailable realism does not need to be our first concern.  Still.  Something to think about.

Reality Hangovers

It’s often difficult to separate the how-it-is-now from the how-it-was-then.

We carry shadows of prior reality around with us and use them to guide our day-to-day decisions, even if that perception of reality is no longer accurate.  This is inevitable in a world which changes as fast as ours.


The challenge is that reality hangovers cause problems.  The bigger the reality hangover, the bigger the problem (as this scientifically accurate graph illustrates).

As mere humans, our challenge is to remember the past without being governed or overly constrained by it.

This is one way I think about “beginner’s mind,” but I should point out I am far from immune to this problem.

My StrengthsFinder 2.0 Results

Completed a StrengthsFinder 2.0 survey early in January and it’s interesting to see the results.  The core idea of StrengthsFinders is that people are happiest when doing what they’re naturally good at.  You take a questionnaire where you answer questions about your preferences, and at the end you get your “Top 5 Themes”.


I came to look for something like StrengthsFinders two ways.  First, I spent quite bit of time in December and over the holidays exploring ideas about what makes people happy.  There are a ton of TED talks on it (including a TED Radio Hour) and lots of other info around the web, and then there’s Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness that I pick up from time to time.  It’s all fascinating stuff.  Second, I was exploring Chatter profiles and ran across another employee who had taken the survey, and became curious about what they meant.  So I took a bit of a deeper dive and decided it was worth $10 to find my top 5.

Coincidentally, through my day job with Salesforce, I had an opportunity a few months ago to do a similar exercise during a training and I found the results fascinating.  I was primed for the pump.

My Top 5 themes (and their short descriptions from StrengthsFinder) turned out to be:

Strategic – People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

Ideation – People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

Relator – People who are especially talented in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.

Restorative – People who are especially talented in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.

Adaptability – People who are especially talented in the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.

I don’t know yet what I’ll do with this info.  So far I’m mostly meditating on it.  One thing that surprised me as I read it just now (now!) was one of the “Adaptability Ideas for Action”: “Avoid roles that demand structure and predictability.  These roles will quickly frustrate you, make you feel inadequate and stifle your independence.”  That’s so true it’s scary.

You can find the full list of traits and themes here.