CR-48 update

chromeA couple days ago, I got a new laptop. Free. It’s the CR-48 Chrome OS laptop, a test platform for the Chrome operating system from Google. I realized that I need to give some updates on what I’m learning and seeing.

  • Working exclusively from a browser feels weird. I’m a messy computer desktop kind of guy. I rightclick and save all the time. I don’t know how to do that.
  • I know, of course, that I have to figure out how I’d open some of those files with apps, since the CR-48 only uses apps (not having the applications from another operating system creator). However, Google Docs will convert spreadsheets, jpg files can open in Slideshow, pdf files open fine as well.
  • On the other hand, I have been using gmail and google docs for a long time. I have book chapter drafts, conversations with random twitter friends, forms, and spreadsheets. As a result, I make a good test case for this machine and I am very used to working with documents in the cloud.
  • I haven’t figured out how to get pictures off my Kodak Ki8 camera. Part of the problem is that I’m used to being able to see thumbnails. I’ll keep working,
  • The keyboard is really comfortable. There are some key changes. I never use caplocks, so the shift to a search key in it’s place isn’t a problem. However, not having and pageup and pagedown keys has forced me to learn the keyboard shortcuts. And there are no function keys at all.
  • I’m also discovering that I never use the search button. I just open a new browser tab and start typing what I’m searching for, but that’s one of the things about Chrome OS and Chrome as a browser.  The address bar is actually a search window too.
  • I just discovered Scratchpad today, a notepad application which which will work even when the machine isn’t attached to the internet. When you reconnect, the notes sync with Google docs.
  • I’m guessing that some of the hardware issues (only one USB, no hard drive, no printing except through Google cloud printing which I haven’t set up yet, the weird cursor jumps that happen, I think, because I flex the computer while actually using it on my lap) are because the computer is not a production model. It exist, I believe, to give the OS some realworld experience.
  • I love the fact that bootup takes way less than a minute. It’s amazing.
  • I haven’t tried the 3G capacity of this laptop yet, but will next week.

I have the machine through the pilot program. I applied online, and a couple weeks later the machine showed up. (No email notification, just a cool box.).

I’ll keep you posted as I keep exploring. For now, I’m liking the machine.

Here’s a video of the CR-48 someone else did. Watch that to see what it looks like.


The year in 140 characters.


I was working on my paragraph for our family Christmas letter. It’s always frustrating for me. What do you include? What sounds like bragging? How do you phrase a list?

So I said on twitter,

if our Christmas letter were just 140 characters, it might be easier than several paragraphs. Hmm. What would a 140Christmas letter be like?

My friend Joanna asked for mine. I knew someone would.  When I told her I didn’t know, she said,

well, once you’ve figured it out, it’ll have written itself 🙂

So I started writing. It was wonderful. I had to focus, to condense, to look at themes and major events of the year. And to not worry about who needed to be made happy by what mention.

So here it is:

son married. dog buried. table talks treasured. parents aging. writing continues. loving kids, wife and God more all the time. #140xmasltr

So, if you had to write a Christmas letter in 140 characters, less 10 for the #140xmasltr hashtag (for twitter people), what’s yours?

(you can put it here, but if you are on twitter, put it there too).

A drop in the bucket

(Here’s a guest post from Andrew Swanson)

city sidewalk at night

I was walking down Michigan Avenue and heard a bell ringer. I was past the expensive shops, further down by Grant Park. I’d heard Salvation Army bell ringers all day while walking around.  I’ve heard them my entire life, including my couple-hour stint as one. I just pass them off as another object of the city.

Silver bells. Red buckets. Christmas time. City.

When I looked up, I saw in front of me a man in a wheelchair, bundled up, shaking a McDonald’s cup with change in it. Beyond him, on the opposite corner, was the bell ringer.

My first thought was who should get the change in my pocket? It’s a hypothetical question, of course, considering I have none in my pocket.

I know the Salvation Army is a great organization. I’ve helped them in various ways, from coins and bills dropped into their trademark buckets, to being a volunteer bell ringer for a couple of hours outside of a Walmart in Fort Wayne a few years ago. I know that they help people in many ways. I even helped out in one of the centers on a work trip in Chicago.

The change I’d put in the bucket could go to help people in any number of ways. Or, it could go towards buying a fancy new instrument for the Salvation Army band.

I’ve always been skeptical of charitable organizations. I can, in my mind, imagine that the money is going directly to helping someone, or I can look at the big picture, and imagine my money going any number of places in the organization. Ultimately, it will be helping an organization that is helping people.

On the other hand, I know that my change in the man’s cup will go directly to him. Maybe it will be for him to buy dinner, maybe it will be to buy booze, or maybe it will be for a night in a shelter. Lots of times, people say “oh, don’t give them change, they’ll just buy drugs or alcohol with the money.”

I’ve seen the scams. My wife has seen the same lady in the same spot for the past five years in Chicago, telling the same story about being pregnant and needing money. But I’ve recently come to a realization. I support happiness, and happiness in a way that can’t be defined. To the person begging for change, asking for it for food, but knowing in their mind that they’ll be using it on a bottle of alcohol, they’re searching for happiness. Their definition of happiness. I can scoff and scold and turn my nose up, or I can help them achieve their happiness. And maybe, just maybe, they aren’t using the money in the way we all assume.

There lies the dilemma. Which person gets the change? Where will fifty cents (or a couple bucks) make the most significant human difference? What connection will change me the most?  What connection will change the world the most? Who will be the happiest person in the end?

Sure, I’ll get satisfaction for helping. But too many people get caught up in the results of their concept of helping.  If you’re going to toss some change in a bucket – or a cup – don’t worry yourself with where the money will end up. Just know that it is helping and bringing happiness somewhere down the line.

Andrew Swanson lives in Chicago when he’s not tour manager for a band.

For another look at questions of helping, see Nancy Swanson’s “He said thank you.”

5 gifts for Christmas

thank youYou can ignore this post and I won’t feel bad. This list is for people who have a little extra this year and want to help someone out but don’t know where to start. I’ve helped with each of these one way or another. If you were going to get me something, don’t. Help with one of these projects.

1. Help Glenda Watson Hyatt serve dinner in Vancouver. For the third year, Glenda is raising money to help people in her community have dinner at the Union Gospel Mission. She and Darrell wouldn’t be able to fit many people at their table, but last year we all served $160 people through Glenda’s invitation. (Here’s Glenda’s request.) $3.29 a meal.

2. Help Megin Hatch feed kids at an orphanage in Ethiopia. This year, Meg went to Elolam and fell in love. (I once wrote about her doing something.) She’s raising money to send to the orphanage to buy food. (Here’s the Elolam project). (.10 for an egg. $60 for a month of salary for a staff member).

3. Learn more about homelessness and help Mark Horvath. Open Our Eyes is a collection of essays by homeless people and their friends. The proceeds from the book help Mark, buying through this link helps my friend Ed, and reading the words will change you.  (9.99 per copy).

4. Learn about falling off a roof and finding God. That’s what Rich Dixon writes about in Relentless Grace. Rich fell off a roof, broke a bunch of things, and then, from a wheelchair taught school and rides bike and listens. (8.95 a copy, that’s 40% off.)

5. Help kids studying to serve God. The Alma Swanson Memorial Scholarship fund is at a little church in Cambridge, Minnesota (North Isanti Baptist Church). She attended there for awhile and her funeral was there in 1970.  It’s in memory of my grandmother who worked as a cook at a college for years. And cared about people. The scholarship goes to kids from that church who are wanting to spend their lives for God. (No online giving, just a link to the church for an address.)

Disclosure: I receive nothing from any of these links. Okay, that’s not true. I don’t receive any money or other material compensation. I just know I’m helping people doing things that matter. If that’s a problem, I’ll pay that fine.

I hate communication.

communicationI hate “communication”, especially when used in the sentence, “we need more communication.”


Because the word “communication” doesn’t tell us what you want. When you ask for more communication, here’s what you really might want:

  1. Explanation: You may want a policy or a process explained in simpler terms, with clearer pictures.
  2. Information: You may want details of events put into the available organizational media more times.
  3. Affirmation: You may want people to talk to other people about what is working, to encourage each other.
  4. Persuasion: You may want more selling to happen, of your event or someone else’s.
  5. Illustration: You may want stories.
  6. Clarification: You may want more backstory, talking about why this process is being implemented or how this decision was made.
  7. Celebration: You may want more delight in the organization, less information and more balloons.
  8. Confession: You may want people to accept responsibility for what isn’t working.

These are just 8 of the many things that people mean when they say, “We need more communication.” And these 8 can, at times, conflict. Information isn’t explanation. Confession isn’t clarification. Some things take more words, some fewer. Some take more images, some none. Some take all channels, some shouldn’t be in more than one.

I could say more, of course. But I won’t. Sometimes “we need more communication” means “Just shut up.”

Jon Swanson has three degrees in communication.  It doesn’t help much.


20 questions for reviewing 2010.

Here are 20 questions to help you review the year.

  1. Who do you know better than you did at the beginning of the year?
  2. Who have you listened to carefully?
  3. Who have you cheered for?
  4. What do you understand better than you did in January?
  5. What are you explaining to other people that you weren’t able to explain then?
  6. Where have you been that you didn’t expect to be this year?
  7. Where have you stopped going because you needed to stop going there?
  8. When were you most comforted during this last year?
  9. When did you say, “I’m not sure I can do this” and then discovered that you could?
  10. What is your favorite sentence, blog post, paragraph, or tweet that you wrote since January?
  11. What was the most encouraging thing you did for someone this year, as measured by their smile?
  12. What question have you actually spent time trying to answer this year?
  13. Where, geographically, did you find the most delight this year?
  14. What item did you cross of your list this year that had been on it the longest?
  15. What book did you intentionally quit reading because you knew, halfway through, that you didn’t need to finish to get the author’s content?
  16. What book did you read that was written before 1846?
  17. What picture you took did you look at more than once because liked it?
  18. What was the best conversation you had this year?
  19. What was the most satisfying $5 you spent this year? (and you get to define satisfying).
  20. What piece of mail that you received this year made you smile the most.


8 ways to prep for 2011

I’m tired of people saying, “here’s how I prep for the year” and other people saying, “that’s not necessary, just do this.” Last time I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see you, I saw me. (And wasn’t pleased, per one of my three words for 2010).

So, instead of THE way to succeed in 2011, here are 8 ways that might help you. And you can list the other 1,547,296,133 ways in the comments.

  1. Write three words that you want to use as guiding words for the year.  (How Chris Brogan does three words and my three words for 2010).
  2. Write a list of 100 goals you want to do in 2010 (Marc Pitman can send you this exercise.)
  3. Write one word for the year.
  4. Write a list of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound)  (Here’s a SMART goals worksheet)
  5. The letter N Pick a photo for the year, an image that reminds you of what matters or what direction you are going. A picture of a place you are dreaming or a relationship you want to mend.
  6. Describe how you want to be known in five years. Then identify specific actions to learn that will take you toward that reputation.
  7. Forget years. We can get paralyzed by thinking about annual goals and all that. So think about the next three hours. What’s one roadblock you can remove in the next three hours?
  8. Don’t set goals at all. Leo Babauta talks about finding something you are passionate about and then doing it. (The best goal is no goal).

But here’s the secret of these 8 ways. All of them are choosing to be intentional.