Cartoon Image of Justin Andersun

Unfinished Business

17 November 2015

I don’t finish my breakfast

I don’t finish my lunch

I don’t finish flossing my teeth, ironing my clothes, or scrubbing my dishes

I don’t finish books

I don’t finish YouTube videos

I don’t finish podcasts, news articles, or songs on the radio

I don’t finish thoughts

I don’t finish conversations

I don’t finish projects, friendships, or statements of love

I go A to Y, but never reach Z

It’s the distance between 99 and 100 that I don’t finish

But I’ll be damned if I don’t finish this blog post.


New Jersey

9 November 2015

When I think of New Jersey, I think of trash. Of greased hair, polluted waters, and horrid accents. It isn’t a fair assumption, seeing that I’ve only visited for a few hours. But if you blindly believe what people say, you can become ignorantly prejudiced. Granted, prejudice rarely exists without ignorance, but succumbing to it is poor character. Nonetheless, I had a polluted view of the state that was recently cleaned up. Northwestern New Jersey betrayed the stigma.


After dismounting Frissell in Connecticut, I took a relaxing drive to New Jersey. The rolling hills were a deep red of fall foliage. The overcast sky had intermittent gaps of blue to perfectly contrast the hills. As I enjoyed the mindful meditation of the drive, I become distracted by the scenery. The road took me to High Point State Park, a pretty preserve with an alluring monument at its center. This monument was situated at the highest point of the state. Erected for veterans and enjoyed by all, the monument offered a 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape. It was beautiful. Shockingly so for Jersey.


High Point. 1803 ft / 550 m. 31 October 2015.


New Jersey


2 November 2015

A solo road-trip seems like a good remedy to your aliments—be it mental, emotional, spiritual, what have you. I’m not foreign to the concept, yet I’ve come to realize they do little to assuage ill feelings. They’re a nice respite—a pause, time for reflection—but they are no solution. Nonetheless, a trip to Connecticut and New Jersey was a nice pause this Halloween.


I even dressed to the occasion—wearing a black shirt and bearing an orange flag. The foliage only furthers my case. Mount Frissell is wonderful this time of year. Riding the Connecticut-Massachusetts state line, the mountain offered a short but steep climb amidst a picturesque landscape. Although the peak wasn’t the destination (nor very scenic), the Southwest Shoulder was well worth the hike. It was my first time ascending a summit in one state and descending into another to reach a highpoint. This was also my first time being completely alone at a highpoint. Although I’ve solo-traveled to many, there was always someone near the top to photograph me. To my luck, the cairn at the peak had some stones to spare. I built a natural tripod and snapped a picture.


Mount Frissell (Southwest Shoulder). 2380 ft / 725 m. 31 October 2015.



Danger: This Blog Post Contains Millennial Ideas

21 October 2015



Everyone hates us, but nobody is allowed to admit it. Rather, they treat us like overly-sensitive majesties, waiting on us hand and foot while tiptoeing lightly around the myriad of subjects that may incite a tantrum.


We get it. We’re entitled brats who have had little to no hardship and immense privilege, growing up in a society where all of our basic needs were met and work was rarely required. Yes, this is how we all were raised. Every last one of us; despite race, ethnicity, sex, gender, creed, or socioeconomic status. We can all agree on that. We’ve had an easier life than you.


Now that we have a shared opinion, let’s move forward. It’s October 2015. The world isn’t getting any younger. We’re getting ever closer to the heat death of the universe and Lord knows we’ll be dying one of these days. Despite continued research to eliminate the effects of aging, we can all agree that were are going to die. And that’s okay. It’s unavoidable and out of our control, so it’s best to accept it. Life without death would be meaningless, for the ticking time-bomb of our finite existence gives us perspective. With this perspective, we have the ability to craft our own lives—given political and social circumstances can afford it. In the lives we craft, we pursue happiness. It can be found in countless forms, but it’s generally a feeling we hope to achieve and maintain. We all want to live happy lives, correct?


Now we agree on three things: Millennials have had easier lives than past generations, we all are going to die, and we all want to lead happy lives for the duration of our existence. Given this foundation, let’s explore some ideas about happiness. As an industry, happiness is growing, for better or for worse. Whether or not that industry provides value to the world is a topic for another discussion. What we are interested in is how happiness relates to the essential question: what is the meaning of life?


Douglas Adams says “42.” Let’s go Nietzsche on that and say Douglas Adams is dead. While it may be the answer to “how many roads must a man walk down?”,  42 isn’t a sufficient answer to “what is the meaning of life?”


That’s because no answer is sufficient. There are countless forms to finding happiness and meaning in life, and finding the form that works for you is a personal endeavor. In the United States, the pursuit of that happiness is a right to be enjoyed by all. Yet it, for many generations, this seems to have been forgotten.


Many hardships occurred over the last century: wars, economic depressions, genocides, social oppression, and countless other tragic events. These hardships have honed our work ethic as a society, pushing us to make greater leaps in innovation and societal improvement. Generations have given up comfort and personal happiness for the creation of a better world—a world whose citizens would not be in need of anything. Millennials are the citizens of this world. The future of the past is now the present.


Inequality still exists, and always will exist, but a large class of citizens now lives in a world where their basic needs are met. We, the Millennials, are cashing out on the investment made by previous generations. While those who came before us sacrificed their livelihoods so that their children’s children could be happy, they were hoping that future generations could lead meaningful lives.


That’s what we want.


Millennials want life to have meaning. Previous generations had meaning—they existed to build a better future, to win wars and overcome economic depression—and that meaning was fulfilled. Many obstacles were overcome. This does not mean new obstacles will cease to surface. On the contrary, we have even more obstacles standing in the way of global peace and prosperity today. We, Millennials, want to combat them. But our means of doing so are not understood. Prior generations push their outdated weapons in our hands and wonder why we are ungrateful. The world has changed and the problems have morphed. New means are needed to combat them, and Millennials are trying to find them.


We move to the Internet. We create art. We wish to travel and gain new experiences. We are enjoying our inherited renaissance and using the privileges it affords to invent news ways of solving new problems. We, like all those that came before us, want happiness and meaning in life. Now that we have the ability to obtain it, it would be sinful to squander it.


It’s not wrong to crave meaning. It’s what we were meant to seek.

Board Game Canon

12 October 2015

Most educated people know of the literary canon and the subsequent term “canonical texts.” Works of literature in this canon are  lauded for the thoughts they provoke and their acceptance among a collective. A piece gains this esteem after being withheld as valuable for several years. Among members of the collective, canonical texts are seen as common knowledge and therefore referenced by other works. This shared base of material enables furthered discussion and insight. Literature is not the only domain with a canon. Cinephiles create canons to solidify milestone films. Religious texts highlight canonical parables. Several forms of art employ canons to showcase important pieces. But, until now, something has been missing…


The board game canon.


Tabletop games are growing out of a niche interest into a mainstream activity. With this rising popularity, the need for canonical board games arises. As people find new gaming buddies and develop new games, it is useful to have a wealth of shared knowledge to draw upon for the sake of conversation and learning. Old World classics like chess and checkers were played for centuries and should certainly be recognized for their contributions to the gaming scene. Also, companies like Milton Bradley and Hasbro, who dominated much of the market throughout the twentieth century when board games went commercial, produced many classic games worthy of common knowledge.


So here’s my interpretation of the board game canon:


Go – the world’s only game where humans can still consistently beat computers. A perfect balance of the strategy and empathy, Go is a thinking man’s game of territory expansion.


Chess – one of the most played games in the world, Chess simulates battlefield thinking and strategy.


Checkers – an old-time classic for children of all ages.


Chinese Checkers – this simple but fun game of hopping marbles can afford up to six players.


Tic-Tac-Toe – play it on the back of a napkin or transform it into more complex games.


Cribbage – a classic adding and racing game good with casual conversation.


Backgammon – with a bit of luck and a good deal of strategy, this draught and dice game will separate the pros from the amateurs after a few games.


Monopoly – dividing families and ending friendships for decades, this real-estate game has been adapted into countless themes of popular culture.


Risk – although heavily-reliant on dice, this game of global domination is a fun mixture of luck and strategy.


Stratego – a fun game of tactics and memory and paranoia.


Clue – the classic whodunit.


Apples to Apples – the cleaner version of Cards Against Humanity, Apples to Apples is a good way of getting to know one’s sense of humor.


Mancala – player’s “sow” stones across the board and try to win more than their opponent.


Scrabble – a crossword puzzle in board game form is sure to stretch your mind, improve your spelling, and expand your vocabulary.


Battleship – like a knife in the dark, shoot blindly into the ocean until you hear something sinking.


Yahtzee – the classic dice game of hedging your bets and making combinations.


Trivial Pursuit – prove that you clutter your mind with more junk than your friends.


Sorry! – a devious game of moving pawns around a board and hoping to get them home safely.


Dominoes – like building blocks with unlimited potential, dominoes lend themselves to many fun games.


Mahjong – with just a pinch of luck and a lot of careful calculation, Mahjong will give you the mental fix you’re looking for.


Settlers of Catan – a brilliant German board game that has given this canon a reason to exist.


This list is by no means final, but I’ve reached the end of my turn.


Going Postal

10 October 2015

A man is hanged for his crimes. As opposed to falling to his death, the swindler falls into a fate much worse: a government job. The premise alone won me over.


Going Postal was my introduction to Terry Pratchett. The story was dripping with wit, clever perspective, and great humor. It fits into a category I call “Brit Wit Lit,” a collection of works ranging from Douglas Adams to Jasper Fforde. Despite this being my first encounter with Discworld, the book was plenty accessible.


The story follows Moist von Lipwig, a professional con man and jack-of-all-trades, as he rebuilds the post office of Ankh-Morpork (the New York City of Discworld). In the process, he invents stamps and sparks their cultural significance, performs elaborate displays of heroism that cast the postal industry in a romantic limelight, and drives private communication companies out of business. Readers even learn a thing or two about golems, as Lipwig’s parole officer is made of clay and his sweetheart works to employ them. While much of this sounds silly, the book is quite intelligent. Not only is Going Postal a comedic masterpiece, but it offers sharp insight into mankind’s quirks and society’s shortcomings. Pratchett will touch parts of your mind that are left unconscious and keep you thinking after the cover is closed. I, for one, will never view stamp-collecting in the same light.


To assign Going Postal a genre is difficult. Discworld books are technically “comic fantasy,” but this book had a strong vibe of political and social satire. I imagine most of Pratchett’s work carries a similar vein of intellect. Strictly “fantasy” or “comedy” would sell it short. I consider it “classy imagination.”


Looking forward to more Pratchett.

Buy vs. Build

5 October 2015

I’ve recently moved and have begun to furnish my apartment. As I sleep on my bourgeois self-inflating air mattress, I debate whether or not I want to purchase a more permanent bed. The pallet aesthetic excites me, and I’ve thought about building one. But would the effort and resources needed be worth it?


In the case of my desk, this was the case. I wanted something simple and sturdy, so the one I constructed fit the bill for nearly half the cost of purchasing one of similar quality. But this was not the case for my dining table and chairs. To build these, I would’ve not only spent a copious amount of time, but a larger sum of money than simply buying them at Ikea. Balancing cost and benefit is nothing new. The concept, though, is often misconstrued by many professionals.


In the information industry, many WebEx meetings are spent debating whether or not to buy new software, upgrade existing platforms, or build something new. Like anything, there are pros and cons to each avenue. Often, financial cost is a main driver. It may be a large upfront investment to buy new software, but the amount of human resources needed to develop it may be more expensive than the investment. Other times, functionality and support are drivers. The latest technology is often riddled with bugs, incompatible with other systems, and can require a good deal of training to get users up to speed and functional. So do we buy or build new technology?


Personally, I’m a DIY-advocate and supporter of corporate insourcing. The product is often better, as the on-site team can more easily communicate with stakeholders to ensure the various requirements are met; the time to produce is often shorter, as the local talent may be quicker at aligning tasks with objectives; and sometimes even cheaper as one talented employee may carry the work of several contractors. Insourcing development can be cheap, fast, and good. But is it cheaper, faster, and better? There are times when this isn’t practical. There may be no local talent. There may be external benefits to outsourcing—public relations, issues with benefits, and even attitude. But these aren’t the only options. There could be insourced-outsourced hybrid solutions. Or maybe the need isn’t really there…


It’s difficult in an age where the information industry is characterized by its technology. As a whole, the industry has a technocentric view, one where information and technology are so intertwined that they become tangled. Unable to fix the knots—let alone identify them as such—we have a default response of building or buying new technology in hopes that it will remedy an information issue. This scenario is not unique to one industry. Using a hammer to fix all problems is widely adopted across several sectors and professions. The question is not “do we buy or build?” but a series of three:


Does a problem exist?


If so, what is the source?


What are six solutions to the problem?


Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, once said that he tries to think of six impossible things before breakfast. If one guy can think of six impossible things before he starts the day, surely we can devise a few solutions. We may not need to buy or build. We need to think.