Cartoon Image of Justin Andersun

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.


27 September 2015

C.S. Lewis crafted a magical world hidden beyond the walls of a wardrobe. Narnia was a world of adventure and dreamlike wonder. Although fictional, it excited us nonetheless. We all had places like this—idyllic paradises that pleasured our thoughts without surfacing to reality. We’d picture the landscape, the inhabitants, the smell, the taste of the air, and the adventures we’d have within them. They became so rich in our minds that we couldn’t fathom them in this world. Eventually, they disappeared with our imagination. For many, these places remain locked in a wardrobe. But not for me. I visited my Narnia. It was Vermont.


Following the long day on Mount Washington, Amanda and I left the campground and traveled to Mount Mansfield. Despite our fatigue, we aimed to cap Vermont’s highest point. We drove to the little ski town of Stowe, absorbing the beauty en route. The road to the mountain curved through valleys of vibrant green, passing tin-roofed cabins of utmost craftsmanship. As we approached Mansfield, we parked at the base of a ski lift and rode a gondola up the slope. At the top, we scaled the side of a cliff and hiked a short distance to the summit. Standing atop the “chin” and feasting upon the incredible scenery, I found my Narnia.


Mount Mansfield. 4393 ft / 1339 m. 6 September 2015.



New Hampshire

26 September 2015

“Live free or die!” shouts each license plate we pass. It was our first time in New Hampshire and our introduction to the state’s extreme passion for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Radical and intense, New Hampshire hosts a stunning landscape of mountains, rivers, and forests. Mount Washington, the state’s highpoint, embodies the radical mantra to the fullest. While you can feel truly free ascending the craggy peak, a fatigued misstep could leave you dead.


It was Memorial Day Weekend. and my friend Amanda and I left the office for a weekend in the mountains. The weather was gorgeous, with cloudless skies and comfortable temperatures. We pitched a tent in a family-owned campground in the White Mountain National Forest and headed to Mount Washington the next morning. Parking along the road beside Pinkham Notch, the overcrowded trailhead, we began our ascent. The trail was much rockier, steeper, and longer than I had anticipated. For a first time climber, Amanda hadn’t expected a hike of this calibre. After a few hours, we reached the summit. It was early evening, so the sun was beginning to set. The slanted rays provided the perfect light for surveying the valley. We snapped pictures and enjoyed the setting sun. But we hadn’t anticipated the 7-mile walk down the mountain in the dark. Thankfully, the summit gift shop sold headlamps.


The Boy Scouts have a motto: “Always be prepared.” I try to embody this in my life, exercising caution and careful planning in most activities. But as Amanda and I climbed Mount Washington, I learned a truer meaning of that slogan. Preparation applies not only to yourself, but those affiliated with you.


Mount Washington. 6288 ft / 1917 m. 5 September 2015.


New Hampshire


25 September 2015

When the territory of Michigan wanted to become a state, it craved Toledo. Ohio also craved Toledo. Since both of them wanted Toledo, neither of them could have it. As the little kids they were, they whined for days and weeks about Toledo, often getting in heated arguments. Eventually, the federal government intervened. The parents separated the quarreling children. Michigan threw a tantrum and fired a shot in Ohio’s direction. The federal government tisked tisked young Michigan and gave Toldeo to Ohio. Ohio stuck out it’s tongue at Michigan and called it a “filthy Wolverine.” The parents said if Michigan wanted to be part of the family, they’d have to take the Upper Peninsula–a dreaded chunk of forest north of the territory. Michigan sighed and did as it was told.


So that’s why my home state’s highpoint is on a separate landmass. I’m from the lower mitten and the highpoint’s on the upper. But since it’s all part of the same family, a bridge was drawn between them and trolls (lower peninsula residents) like me learned to love their extended family. It was only fitting that I visited Arvon with a truckload of cousins. It was the fourth of July weekend and we drove my uncle’s suburban several miles along narrow roads to the peak. Like any northern forest in the summer, the brush was thick and the insects thicker. We piled out of the car at the highpoint and approached the top. Together, we stood atop our state.


Mount Arvon. 1979 ft / 603 m. 3 July 2015.




24 September 2015

A long drive is made bearable with companions or an intermediate destination. If the former is unavailable, you grasp at straws for the latter. When I was returning to Michigan from my summer in Atlanta, I stopped in Indiana to bag a highpoint. It was aptly titled “Hoosier Hill.”


What is a Hoosier? Google gave me the helpful answer of “a native or inhabitant of Indiana.” While Google claimed the origins were unknown, I spent longer than I should have researching the history. While, like Google, I cannot definitively say the source of the title, I learned several theories. One account refers to the act of finding cabins during pioneer days. When travelers would happen upon an unmarked settlement, they’d cautiously say “Who’sh ‘ere?” in broken Appalachian English. The slurred accent sounded akin to “Hoosier” and became the nickname of those settled in the cabins. Another account follows the construction of the Louisville and Portland Canal. A Louisville contractor named Samuel Hoosier became known for hiring men on the Indiana-side of the Ohio River. His workers were nicknamed “Hoosier’s Men” and later, “Hoosiers.”


Hoosier Hill. 1257 ft / 383 m. 2 August 2014.




23 September 2015


The Highpointers’ Foundation is dedicated to the conservation and promotion of the American highpoints. Many of the peaks sport a bench bearing the organization’s logo and a mailbox register for visitors to sign. They are a nice touch. Perusing the register provides a short history of people’s experiences on the summit, giving visitors a means to feel connected despite the difference in time. It is a good complement to the highpoint, a sideshow to the main attraction. For the highest point of Mississippi, the bench and mailbox took the spotlight.


Woodall Mountain was situated in the northeast corner of Mississippi. It was a few hours from Alabama’s highpoint, and I decided to cap it before the weekend ended. The highway between the peaks was typical for most of the distance: asphalt, generally smooth despite a few cracks, and faded white and yellow lines. Crossing the border into Mississippi immediately dropped the quality. The asphalt was a few layers thinner and sun-bleached to the point of being light brown in color. The road was too narrow to support a shoulder and large weeds dotted its surface, sprouting up from the cracks. After taking a few more maintenance-neglected roads, I reached the top of Mississippi. It was not much in terms of a view—the trees were too tall and thick and there was no longer an overlook. The peak was a historic marker for a Civil War battleground, although there wasn’t much signage to support it. There was, though, the mailbox register and a bench. Most of the time, I gave these little attention. But after driving several hours to the humble destination, I sat on the bench and read the entire logbook.


Woodall Mountain. 807 ft / 246 m. 5 July 2014.




22 September 2015

On the Fourth of July, I exercised my independence and took an unplanned trip through western Georgia and Alabama. I enjoyed the secondhand sight of fireworks from the bed my pickup in a WalMart parking lot. As the celebratory explosions dissipated and the stars took the stage, I set my sights for Alabama’s highpoint.


In the morning, I headed to Cheaha Mountain. The highpoint was situated by a visitor’s center devoted to the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps—a collection of WWII veterans that toiled to make the park beautiful. They were certainly successful. While visiting Talladega National Forest, I hiked some of the trails and scrambled about the many cliffs surveying the countryside. The landscape was worthy of admiration. Although I likely wouldn’t have visited if not for the highpoint, I enjoyed my time.


Cheaha Mountain. 2407 ft / 734 m. 5 July 2014.