What once held value

Adobe Creative Suite, circa 2004In 2004, I bought this Adobe suite of soft­ware. At the time, it was the full com­ple­ment of soft­ware that the world’s best graphic design­ers would use to cre­ate their art­work.

(The cur­rent cloud-based ver­sion still fills that role.)

I paid some­thing like $700 — and at the time, the reg­u­lar full price was north of $1,000.

Today? That soft­ware is use­less. It’s not worth a penny.

The com­put­ers it would run on have long since been retired.

And even though the core func­tion­al­ity of that suite of soft­ware hasn’t changed, no one would buy that old ver­sion.

At least we still hold value when we get older. Our core func­tion­al­ity isn’t that much dif­fer­ent, though there are newer faster ver­sions.


You can’t say that

don't talk illustrationAmer­i­can cul­ture has become extremely polar­ized. If you are even slightly on one side of a fence, it’s very hard to say any­thing about your issue with­out get­ting shut down by voices from the oppos­ing side.

This cur­rent polit­i­cal sea­son has made the polar­iza­tion much worse. Polit­i­cal can­di­dates from both sides of the aisle are harsh and often unrea­son­able in their crit­i­cisms of their oppo­nents. A cli­mate of com­bat­ive­ness has sucked much of the Amer­i­can pub­lic into that same neg­a­tive vor­tex.

Thank­fully, I have become so tired of pre-election pol­i­tics that I lost my desire to voice any polit­i­cal opin­ion. I hardly lis­ten to any news, as so much air time is devoted to the same verses being iter­ated in some hardly-new direc­tion.

I’ll be glad when Novem­ber 9th hits, no mat­ter who wins.


When good songs become bad

Hear­ing a song over and over can ruin a per­fectly good song.

As I vis­ited Kinko’s today, I heard a song that I’d be happy to never hear again for the rest of my life.

sir-paul-mccartneyPaul McCart­ney is def­i­nitely one of the most tal­ented musi­cians of the last 50 years. But every song he has writ­ten and sung has not been a mas­ter­piece. (Very few musi­cians have that capa­bil­ity!)

Band on the Run is not my favorite song by Sir McCart­ney. Even when it became a world-wide hit on the radio, I didn’t enjoy it very much.

So when the Kinko’s playlist fea­tured that song, I nearly ran out of the store scream­ing. (Well, not really.)

Can we have a world-wide mora­to­rium on cer­tain songs? Please?



car parts in a snowbankIt’s that part of the year when I am totally ready for warmer weather.

Last week, we had a huge snow­storm. The white stuff accu­mu­lated so much that cars’ under­bod­ies left bits and pieces all along the road­ways as they unsuc­cess­fully tried to be snow­plows.

Days went by with­out sun­shine. (And in Den­ver, we’re used to “about 300 days [with] at least one hour of sun­shine some­time dur­ing the day.”) When you get used to see­ing the sun, it’s hard to live with­out.

My brother lives in San Anto­nio. He trades not hav­ing snow for putting up with long sum­mers of intense heat. As Amer­i­cans get older, many move to warmer places. I under­stand that now.

But I do love the sea­sons. And the beauty of a new snow­fall — before car parts start col­lect­ing in snow­banks.


Do you love that company?

Love cov­ers a mul­ti­tude of sins…”*

When you love a com­pany, you’ll for­give their lit­tle mis­takes.

I love IKEA:

  • I love their rel­a­tively inex­pen­sive stuff.
  • I love how they sug­gest doing more things with less space.
  • I love the photo of the old Fiat 500 with a liv­ing room being trans­ported on its roof.
  • I love the fresh, healthy and some­times tasty food options in their cafe­te­rias.
  • I love the style of much of what they sell.
  • I love the exotic-ness of the weird Swedish names for their stuff.

Because of my love for IKEA, I’m will­ing to put up with the things I don’t like:

  • I hate how they spell their name in all caps.
  • Some of their stuff is poor qual­ity.
  • Since their goods are so inex­pen­sive, work­ers in other parts of the world are not mak­ing enough in their fac­to­ries.
  • The maze can be annoy­ing, even though I know the short­cuts.

A very illu­sive goal for any com­pany is to make it onto someone’s loved com­pa­nies list. And it’s easy to get off that list. (Hello Chipo­tle and VW.)

Home­work for my mar­ket­ing friends out there: brain­storm with your team ways your com­pany can get on your cus­tomers’ loved com­pa­nies list.

* 1 Peter 4:8b.



I love dreams. I rarely remem­ber them, but when I do, and when they’re inter­est­ing, I enjoy telling Heather about them. If I have time, I like to write them down.

Sat­ur­day morn­ing very early, I had this dream…

the band Quasi

I was sup­posed to play drums for my favorite band, Quasi. We were to per­form at a small out­door fes­ti­val, kind of like on a gazebo in front of a medium-sized pic­nic. I was pan­ick­ing, since I don’t play the drums. But in my dream, I could play them at least a lit­tle.

I asked Sam Coomes if my son could play instead of me. (And Jay can play the drums.) We were in the mid­dle of nego­ti­a­tions when the dream faded. So I’ll never find out if Jay played drums for Quasi.

The irony of the dream is that Quasi has an amaz­ing drum­mer. (Janet Weiss is my favorite drum­mer.) So why would Sam be ask­ing me – or Jay – to play the drums?


Variety and uniformity

We love vari­ety. We love uni­for­mity. This con­trast in our wants and needs is intrigu­ing.

The famil­iar can be com­fort­ing — know­ing that some­thing will always be there. And yet, we love change. Few peo­ple would choose to have the same meal three times a day. We love lis­ten­ing to dif­fer­ent tunes. A change in sea­sons is often wel­come.

And yet every­one has dif­fer­ent needs for vari­ety and uni­for­mity. Some peo­ple are con­tent with no change, ever. On the other side, our ADD cul­ture pushes us toward con­stant stim­u­la­tion, which requires never-ending change. I’m prob­a­bly closer to the wanting-variety end of that spec­trum.

My need for con­stancy is reflected by the fact that I’ve been mar­ried 26 years. Yet there is end­less vari­ety in my wife. (Women are so dif­fer­ent than men that I will never fig­ure her out!)

Finally, vari­ety is a lux­ury. In Amer­ica today, we have far greater choice than kings and queens did 400 years ago. We can get fresh fruit 365 days a year. When I lived in Africa, my friends in rural areas did not have that lux­ury. If man­goes weren’t ready to pick, you didn’t eat man­goes. If they were ripe, you ate a lot, for sev­eral weeks straight.


Let’s go outside

Dur­ing my frus­tra­tion with this polit­i­cal sea­son, it’s nice to go out­side and take a few deep breaths. (There’s some­thing big­ger than pol­i­tics.)

I took that photo with my phone a few weeks ago.


King of the World

Before you start read­ing this one, you need to know that my big brother, Bill Mer­rill, wrote this as a guest post. The views expressed here are not nec­es­sar­ily my views. But it’s cer­tainly a fun road to go down. If you’ve read this blog very long, you already know some of the things I’d change…


crownOn the ego con­tin­uum of “Mother Teresa to Mr. Trump,” I rank myself some­where in the mid­dle, but I do have occa­sional fan­tasies involv­ing things I would man­date if I were “King of the World” and every­one would have to fol­low my com­mands. The list has evolved over the years. For exam­ple, I’ve dropped one I wished for dur­ing my apart­ment dweller days, now that I’m a home­owner. It was “Any­one arriv­ing home after 11PM and mak­ing enough noise to awaken any­one else in the apart­ment com­plex will be sub­jected to severe pun­ish­ment.”

I’m about to give you a par­tial list of the cur­rent “K.o.t.W.” rules, but first these notes: (1) Obvi­ously if I had the K.o.t.W. power, I would try to estab­lish world peace, end poverty & hunger, etc. This list involves self­ish stuff I would require after those altru­is­tic things are taken care of. (2) All mat­ters of prac­ti­cal­ity and pop­u­lar­ity are hereby put aside. I’m sure if most of these rules were imple­mented, they would lead to great dis­as­ters, chaos, and/or a mass upris­ing, but so be it. (3) The “severe pun­ish­ment” for break­ing these rules would be much worse than thirty lashes with a wet noo­dle, but the exact nature is left to the reader’s imag­i­na­tion. Be cer­tain that it would be very dire indeed! (4) These are my rules. You can make your own if you become K.o.t.W. / Q.o.t.W. Also, any resem­blance to Bill Maher’s “New Rules” is strictly coin­ci­den­tal.


  1. No chew­ing gum. This is sim­ply because it ends up on the bot­tom of my shoe and some­times in other unde­sir­able loca­tions (ex., under desks & tables).
  2. No TV net­work or sta­tion (or online view­ing source) will ever be allowed to repeat the same com­mer­cial within a sin­gle pro­gram or broad­cast. A vio­la­tion will result in the imme­di­ate loss of broad­cast­ing rights.
  3. The man­u­fac­tur­ers of leaf blow­ers must redesign them to be much more quiet. Sale and own­er­ship of noisy leaf blow­ers will be for­bid­den begin­ning one year after I ascend to the throne. Vio­la­tors will receive extremely harsh pun­ish­ment.
  4. In a city where I live or am vis­it­ing, no tractor-trailer rigs will be per­mit­ted on the roads dur­ing morn­ing and evening rush hours.
  5. No record­ing artists or music pro­duc­ers will be allowed to use the sound effect of a police siren in the record­ings they make. This is because if I’m dri­ving my car and music with a siren comes on, for a moment I think it is an actual siren, and I briefly freak out.

Image credit: South­east­ern Star, Cre­ative Com­mons licensed via Flickr.


Even though we know it

When I fin­ished col­lege, I hung out with a group of design­ers in Dal­las, Texas. One of the things we enjoyed was shar­ing meals together at some of the town’s many many din­ing estab­lish­ments. And we would always cri­tique each restaurant’s menu design.

Even though we were (and some of that group still are) involved in design­ing things like menus — or prod­uct pack­ages — we were and are still sus­cep­ti­ble to the lure of a well-designed piece.

It makes log­i­cal sense that know­ing we’re pay­ing for the ambiance of a par­tic­u­lar restau­rant with basi­cally the same food as a cheaper but more spar­tan restau­rant a few miles away might make us head for the cheaper place — but no. Or we’ll buy a thing with a fancy box instead of the same thing in plain box.

(The bud­get fac­tor does play into our deci­sions, of course!)

Expe­ri­ence includes all of our senses. We pay for expe­ri­ence.

Photo: I love many of the designs Star­bucks cre­ates, includ­ing this mug. And they do a pretty good job with the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, as well.