Humanist, vegan, minimalist, programmer, collector of labels.
32,994 words
https://lanesawyer.dev @LaneSawyer

Surviving the Pandemic: A Rant

Since we're in the midst of a global pandemic, I figured I should write my thoughts on it. This is a strange moment in world history that I hope we'll all never experience again, so keeping some record seemed prudent for future me to look back on.

Working from Home

It's day ? of working from home. Yup, I've already lost track of the days. I started working from home a handful of days before my company asked us all to do it as well, so I think it's been about three weeks? All the days blend together now.

Maybe it's a good thing I'm not keeping track. My mind has embraced this "new normal" of working from my apartment.

I will say, working remote is difficult if you're not set up for it. I'm in a 309 square foot studio apartment right now, so there's little space to work with. My desk was already pretty packed, so it took some re-arraigning of everything in my apartment and expanding the desk (it has "wings" that can swing up) to its full size.

And now that I got a new plant today (I realized I needed some nature in my house to stay sane. More plants will definitely follow!)

My current desk setup

So now that I'm set up at home, working feels pretty normal. It's not much different than working from an office. The thing I miss most is being in the physical presense of people. The random conversations that happen throughout the day when you pass by friends and co-workers now have to be a deliberate effort in the online WFH space.

Worrying About the World

If you know me, you know I wear my heart on my sleeve. Seeing all the suffering caused by the pandemic, both physically and economically, really gets to me. I've made sure to turn down my news consumption, because things keep getting worse.

And I can't do anything about it. Well, I can't do anything more than continue to "socially distance".

A silver lining of this whole thing is that I am performing a civic duty for playing video games, reading, programming, or snoozing at home!

But other than staying home, I can't help. My skillset as a programmer is more or less useless, outside of contributing to some COVID-19 reporting projects, but all the websites with that information I voraciously consume about the virus already exist.

So I just chill at home, reading books, learning new programming languages, and playing a lot of video games (like Animal Crossing, which came out at the perfect time!).

Acknowledging my privilege hurts. My life is fine, outside of a little bit of new loneliness, but so many are facing the worst times of their life. I didn't do much to deserve the cushy life I have right now. I can do my job from home. I get paid enough to live comfortably in one of the more expensive cities in the US. I am not currently worried about losing my job (although we'll see how things develop over the next few months!)

But then I see the numbers of people losing their job (3.3 million just applied for unemployment benefits!), and with the average person not being able to handle a $1,000 emergency, we are not prepared for this as a country.

I constantly have a rage smoldering inside for the policies and laws that enabled us to reach this point.

For example, since we've tied healthcare to our jobs, all these folks being let go in the service industry will now lose the very thing that would economically protect them if they got the very virus they lost their jobs over!

It's absolutely bonkers.

I can't believe we haven't joined the civilized world in guaranteeing healthcare as a human right. We should go further, and introduce an economic bill of rights that guarantees housing, healthcare, food, and even internet acceess for all. In a modern society, we shouldn't be gatekeeping the foundational benefits of living in a society.

Right now people are literally making the decision to go to work sick or be unable to buy groceries next week. And a lot of those people are the ones making our food, cleaning our buildings, or facilitating other in-person services.

Do you want to get sick because someone was forced to come to work in order to feed their family? Or would you rather we have guaranteed paid sick leave so sick people will stay home while sick, and flatten the curve so fewer people die.

Even from an economic incentive perspective, making healthcare part of compensation reduces worker power to move to new jobs that they might excel at even more than their current one. Imagine the prosperity we could unlock if we allowed for a more fluid and free workforce! Removing healthcare from the equation would allow more people to find the jobs that fit them best, increasing productivity and job satisfaction.

And what happens for people who need treatment for COVID-19? It's gonna cost a ton, especially for severe cases. We will save people's lives, but then burden them with the weight of un-payable debt. It's asinine. People will literally forgo regular medical visits (which keep you healthy!) because they can't afford them, which leads to worse, more expensive health outcomes down the line.

We need universal health care now. We needed it 50 years ago when many of our allies were setting up similar systems.

COVID-19 is laying bare all the failings of our country.

I truly hope we wake up as a nation and learn from this tragedy. Right now, we all need to get through this together, but just as importantly, we need to consider the type of world we want to live in when this is all over. Hopefully it's one full of compassions towards individuals, and not, as MLK Jr. put it, our current system of socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor.

Hello, New Blog!

I did it! I moved all of my past Medium posts over to my new blog.

It took a couple months of chipping away at it regularly, but I got all 31,996 words moved over!

Now that I can't get away with the excuse of having to move old content anymore, I supposed I should start writing new content. That's always the tricky part.

But I do have a few goals that I'm striving for:

  1. Finish my guide to effective development teams
  2. Publish some of my learnings about the Rust programming lanugage
  3. Comment on current events, political issues, new video games, and basically whatever comes to mind (like many of my past blog posts have been)

We'll see if I can get another good, long-running writing habit going again.

🤞🏻️

Tips to Reduce the Environmental Impact of your Job

Work makes the world go round. Humans putting in time and effort to create amazing things is one of the reasons we have so much abundance in this world.

But the same work we do to create all the cool things many of us on this planet enjoy also contributes to our rapidly decaying environment.

In order to save our planet, we need both systemic and individual change.

This list is compiled from my personal journey to reduce my individual impact, but it can also be used to create corporate policies that encourage a lower environmental impact.

It is still very much a work in progress, as I would like to back up each tip with a source in order to have a better argument as to why we should all be striving for these changes, but, for now, it's a place where I'm developing my thoughts on what I can do personally.

I'm an IT consultant on a travel project, so I'm sure some of the tips make no sense in your job, and I'm likely probably missing a lot of great ideas that don't explicitly apply to my own job. If that's the case, shoot me an email and let me know!

Now, on to the list:

Commuting/Travel

  • Live close enough to walk to work to avoid using motorized transport
  • Live somewhere that allows you to take the bus and light rail to avoid using single occupancy vehicles
  • Drive an electric car (or high MPG car) to reduce gas usage and carbon output
  • Carpool when traveling with other employees to reduce the number of vehicles needed to travel to and from airports
  • Avoid flying as much as possible to reduce carbon emissions

Food

  • Eliminate or reduce your meat consumption to decrease land use and carbon emissions
  • Prefer restaurants who source their food locally to reduce food transportation impact
  • Go to restaurants and eat on their silverware instead of ordering take-out to reduce container waste
  • If you have to order out, choose places with compostable or recyclable containers to reduce contributing to the landfill
  • Bring your own utensils to reduce using single-use utensils
  • Apply condiments at the restaurant or at home to reduce the usage of single-use condiments
  • Carry a water bottle with you to reduce the number of disposable cups
  • Use a coffee mug to reduce the number of disposable cups
  • If you don't have your water bottle or cup, choose compostable or recyclable cups
  • Eat fewer processed foods to reduce the energy put into making food
  • Eat fewer packaged foods to reduce contributing to landfill and recycling

Technology

  • Write efficient code to reduce energy and physical material usage
  • Shut down testing environments outside of business hours to save energy
  • Take good care of your devices so they last longer to reduce the number of devices manufactured
  • Use Linux or other streamlined operating systems when your laptops start getting slow and it will feel like new machine to get more life out of it

Hotels

  • Opt-in to green initiatives at the hotel. Some hotel chains (like Marriott) will even give you bonus points!
  • Hang up towels for use the next day to reduce water and energy usage
  • If there is not green initiative, put up the Do Not Disturb sign when you leave so your room doesn't get cleaned daily
  • Look out for greener hotels who don't use single-use plastics for toiletry supplies
  • Choose hotels close to your destination so you can walk

Schrodinger’s Apartment

Every day I come home to a mystery. Sliding my key into the lock, I pause to wonder what kind of apartment I’ll find.

Some days I open the door and my home greets me with open arms. I smile, entering my sanctuary. Where there is a place for everything and everything in its place, even if that place is scattered on the floor or tossed on the table. Living on your own means you can build you own little world exactly the way you want.

On those days my dog greets me with the wag of his tail and a barrage of kisses. I unpack my stuff, throw on some music or podcasts, and cook a tasty meal. I give far too much of it to my dog (I can’t say no to those adorable eyes!) and I savor every bite he leaves me.

On those days, I play with my dog. We do games of hide and seek, tug of war, and wrestle on the bed. We practice some tricks and I fail in teaching him to stop pulling on his leash. Then we snuggle on the couch or bed while I happily lose myself in a wonderful book, movie, or video game.

On those days, I tidy up, knock a few things off my to-do list, and fall into bed, happy to be alive. I fall asleep, relaxed and ready to tackle the next day.


Other days, my door opens into a prison.

I step into a small dark box, my senses on high alert. Loneliness oozes from the walls; a dark, engulfing sludge of nothingness. I have to be careful to avoid it, lest it swallow me up. Sometimes I’m not quick enough and it gets me.

On those days, when my home becomes a cage, I turn on all the lights but it’s never enough. I look around, swearing the space had shrunk since the last time I was here. The mere 509 square feet stands precariously balanced between being cozy and suffocating and I never know which I’ll get.

On those days my dog is a burden, and even when he licks away my tears I can’t find the strength to smile and love him back.

On those days I can barely breathe. On those days I wish I could disconnect from the world. Put it on pause. Hit fast forward. Anything to get out from underneath the sadness.

But that’s not how life works.

So I press on, hopeful for better days ahead. And better days always do come! More and more frequently lately. I know that life won’t always be this strange and dark.

Looking back on how far I’ve come, I’m struck with amazement. I can do this. I’ve already done this. Even when life gets tough, I know that my best years are yet to come. So on days when I am strong, I smile through the tears. I hug my dog. And I let the feelings wash over me in a cleansing wave of emotion.

I will get through this.

But fuck, those prison days suck.

Rainy thoughts from a rainy evening

I’ve always loved the rain.

I don’t really know when it started. Maybe when I was a little child, singing songs at church every Sunday. Songs about being cleansed from sin, just like the earth is cleansed after rain. Or maybe it was the hours spent splashing in the gutter whenever a heavy storm rolled through. Or the times I was caught without an umbrella, hurrying home to avoid getting wet but loving the feeling the rain on my face.

Now I find myself living in the prototypical rainy city: Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

Summer is coming to a close, which means rainy days are sneaking back into my life, almost as if they never left. Tonight is one of those nights, where the evening rain steals the bright hours from the afternoon.

It’s comforting; the rain. Things are quieter. Colors are muted and the world grows dim. People stay inside, snuggling blankets, pets, and significant others while they do “indoor activities”, the kind you’re only supposed to do in poor weather. Things like reading, gaming, and cooking. Deep conversations. Snuggling with a hot beverage.

My most beloved hobbies happen to be indoor activities. Maybe that’s why I love the rain. It covers for me. Rainy weekends give me a legitimate excuse to say I did nothing but read a book for two days straight. Do that on a sunny day and people think you’re crazy. But sprinkle a little water from the sky and you’re right as rain.

But lately, I’ve started thinking that I love the rain for an entirely different reason.


I was diagnosed with depression this summer, at 28 years old. Growing up I knew I had some anxiety, but every time I saw ads for depression medicine I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t depressed like those poor souls in the ads.

You see, I was sort of an asshole. (Still am, if I’m being honest. But I’m getting better! I think…)

I believed that bad things didn’t happen to good people. It was impossible for me to be depressed. I was good Mormon boy, for crying out loud! My challenges in life were supposed to be fighting off the temptation to masturbate, not drink coffee, and avoid saying bad words. I clearly was not supposed to face the debilitating challenge of depression! That was only for people who sinned and did not have the light of the Gospel in their life.

In my young mind, depression was never a possibility for me. That denial came back to haunt me.

I was always a pretty happy, hard-working, social guy. While I was never anywhere close to popular, I had a really great group of friends. My life was fantastic. The hardest things I faced in life was getting good grades, not sinning (i.e. not masturbating), and wondering if I would make the varsity soccer team. I had hard times, just like anyone does, but by most metrics I had a good childhood.

I never thought I would be someone who has depression.

So when I moved to Ecuador to be a Mormon missionary, I had no idea what hell would be unleashed on my mind. For the first time in my life, I struggled. I found myself in a far-away country, learning a new language, with no friends or family to help me out. It was an incredible culture shock, and I did not adjust well.

During my nine months in Ecuador, something inside me started to break open, like a slumbering evil hatching after decades of incubation.

I don’t know if it was the cult-like rules that missionaries are forced to follow, the separation from my friends, family, and normal way of life, or something else entirely. All I know is that my body started a revolt. Aches and pains exploded at random, sometimes bad enough that I couldn’t even get out of bed. At one point I hurt so badly that another missionary blessed me and cast out whatever evil spirit was trying to take over my body.

Little did I know, the demons were coming from inside my body.

One night during the rainy Ecuadorian summers, a huge storm hit. The power was knocked out, so me and the other missionaries would gather around a few candles, reading whatever church-approved literature we had lying around.

I think this is where my love of indoor activities blossomed. It was one of the few times on my mission where I had more than thirty minutes to spend how I saw fit. Missionary schedules are generally quite busy, and you’re never supposed to be out of sight from your companion. But on rainy nights with no power, we had a couple hours to ourselves to read, pray, study, plan, or think.

During those precious few moments, I would diligently read the missionary handbooks and rules. I would memorize my favorite scriptures in Spanish. I would think about what life would be like after my mission. How I would come home, go to Brigham Young University, find a beautiful wife, and have a boatload of children.

Rainy nights like that were for daydreaming of the amazing life I was bound to have. They were also a rare moment where I could lay down and rest, with no pressure to be a missionary. Time where I could massage my screaming calves and try to relax my rock-hard shoulders.

I loved the rain for that. It gave an introvert some very needed rest from the extroverted work of a Mormon missionary.

But those nights of partial recovery were few and far between. I was exhausted, both physically and mentally. So after just nine months in Ecuador, I was sent home to Idaho to rest and recover.

The monster of depression and anxiety had won its first major victory in the fight for my happiness.

Since then, it’s won quite a few more fights.

Depression is a sneaky opponent. Until you realize it’s there, you spent countless nights wondering what the hell is wrong with your brain. If you don’t ever realize you’re under attack, it will tear you apart.

I was horrified of even the thought that I had depression, so I spent years in denial. Only after my depression threatened my job did I even start to think that something was amiss.

It took me three years after realizing I had mental health issues before I found a therapist. It didn’t take him long to diagnose me with depression. I regret waiting those three years to get help. During that time, my depression did a lot of damage. I thought I was worthless. That I would never amount to anything. At times I thought that life wasn’t worth living. Depression was a huge factor in my marriage falling apart, and it’s caused me to live with constant body aches and pains that I now accept might just hang around forever. The pain, both physical and emotional, tints my vision, casting a dull gray cloud over every aspect of my life.

For years, my world has been gloomy.

Muted.

Sad.

And that’s why I love the rain. It makes the world look more like how I see it every day.

Rain gives me an excuse to lean into myself. To do those indoor activities that I love. To write. To feel. To be me, depression and all.

I’ve spent a lot of time not being me.

I’ve tried running from it, denying the reality of my situation. I was too terrified to face the truth: That I have depression.

I finally wised up after far too many years of suffering. I’ve accepted that I’m broken. Depression is a bitch, but now that I know what I’m fighting, it’s a hell of a lot easier to punch back.

Things have gotten better lately. I’m winning that fight, at least for now. I’m doing all the things they tell you to do to keep depression at bay, and it seems to be working.

I mean, if I can get through marital separation and an impending divorce without falling into a depression, I must be doing something right.

Because I’m finally taking action, I’m starting to realize that I don’t have to be depressed forever. I don’t always have to see the world through a rainy haze.


Ah right, the rain. That’s what I was talking about.

Rain is an interesting natural phenomenon. Sad, gut-wrenching moments in movies are often accompanied by rain. Nothing screams “I AM DEVASTATED BY THIS MOMENT” as much the image of someone collapsed and sobbing in the pouring rain.

But rain is more than sadness. It’s hope and renewal. It’s nourishment and peace. It’s comfort. It’s life. Each individual raindrop is a different feeling, all mixing together to drench the world with a great symphony of emotions emotions.

We couldn’t survive without the rain, just as we can’t live without our feelings. All of them.

And for that, I love it.

One Simple Thing: Walk to Work

At the end of last year I changed projects at work, which allowed me to start commuting to my company’s downtown office instead of a client site. Since I live about a mile away from the office I started walking to work each morning.

At first it was a little tough. The distance itself is doable. But the 25 minute walk isn’t any shorter than my previous commute, so during those early days I longed to hop in my car, crank up the A/C or heater, and be there in 10 minutes.

The walk itself is generally nice. Seattle is absolutely gorgeous in the summer (unless some crazy forest fire is causing some of the worst air quality in Seattle’s history) and the mild winters means a 30 minute walk isn’t too difficult to navigate.

Untuck my shirt in the summer, throw on a rain jacket in the winter, put on a mask during the forest fires. It’s easy. I don’t ever have to deal with inches of snow or 100 degree heat.

The hardest part is the rain. I’ve had days where my shoes will be completely soaked either to an errant puddle or lack of planning.

But after almost a year of walking to work, I never want it any other way!

Walking to work is something that everybody should get to experience at least once in your life. When you walk, you are reliant on nothing but your body to get you from place to place. You move relatively slowly, taking in your environment as you stroll by. Unique social interactions take place as people navigate busy sidewalks and intersections.

Negotiating crossroads with strangers in cars is a particularly unique experience. When you live in the city, most cars understand that pedestrians have soft, killable bodies and that walkers should be given deference. Wielding that power by making four tons of steel come to a stop with nothing but a glance is addicting.

There is an inner peace that comes through the methodical steps of one’s stride.

Sometimes your steps sync to the music. You power home, the beat carrying you like the wind.

Other times, you forget you’re even moving your legs! They just keep going and your mind is free to wander while your feet take you home.

When you stop to pay attention, the regular thrum of your footstep on the concrete is a constant companion. You feel connected to the city, one of its many inhabitants moving from one place to another. You are one small piece of an autonomous organism that keeps the city’s heart alive.

Most of us don’t listen to that beat, but it’s always there. My favorite walks are the ones where I tune in and feel the city moving beneath me.

As great as that all is, there’s one benefit that rises above all the rest:

Regular exercise does wonders for your health.

And yes, long walks are exercise. Not the most intense of exercise, but it’s far better than sitting behind a desk or in a car all day.

Since I started walking to work, I have lost 25 pounds! Simply walking three miles a day gave me moderate amounts of exercise, without me doing anything other than commute! When you walk to work, you traveling the way humans have since our ancestors figured out how to stand on two legs.

That’s why walks are enjoyable and good for our health. We are biologically hardwired to do it! Our ancestors often hunted by walking after prey until it literally collapsed of exhaustion, unable to run away any longer.

I know that not everybody is in a position to walk to work. But if you have the opportunity, you should take advantage of it. I’m not sure I can ever commute any other way again (although I bet I’d love cycling to work).

If you’re looking for a way to connect with your city or surroundings or want to live a healthier lifestyle, you can’t go wrong with a walking commute.

The One Thing: Walk to work

When the words come but you’re too scared to publish: By trying to please everybody, you please nobody

Nobody will have noticed that I’ve started publishing content less frequently. That’s what happens when you’re inconsistent. There is no audience to care whether you write or not.

Today I realized that I have almost as many drafts as I have published works on Medium. While I haven’t published a ton, I had kept a fairly steady cadence over the last few years until a few months ago.

As you can see from the screenshot below, I start a lot of stories that I never finish.

Drafts vs published
My stories page, with almost as many drafts as public

Apparently I have a lot to say, but I’m afraid to say it.

Fear, plus a healthy dose of generalized anxiety, keeps me from publishing any of it. Hell, two of those drafts are about how I can’t bring myself to publish anything anymore.

What I’ve realized is that I am terrified of offending people. While many of those drafts are somewhat innocuous, the ones I want to publish most are those that might be seen as divisive or even contentious. Articles about my veganism, atheism, progressivism, and the superiority of spaces over tabs sit unpublished because I don’t want to rock the boat.

I’ve avoided publishing because I’ve already lost enough friends since college, when I transformed from an extremely conservative Mormon to a loud-and-proud social democrat atheist. Shortly after realizing almost everything I had believed for the first 23 years of my life was utter bullshit, I decided to share that revelation with the world, much to the chagrin of many of my friends and family. For those unfamiliar with Mormonism, it’s a big deal when somebody leaves the faith (and almost even more so when somebody says they are a Democrat).

Facebook was my battleground. I felt morally obliged to inform my family and friends that their religion and politics were awful, thanks in part to the missionary zeal I was originally taught as a Mormon. I had discovered the truth, so how could I not share it with those I loved most?

I realized after my Facebook crusade that the complete 180 degree swing I experienced had inadvertently severed ties with many of my dear friends, simply because we have nothing in common anymore. How was I supposed to relate to my friends who already have three kids and believe that they’ll live forever with Jesus when I’m childless and awaiting the comfortable black void of permanent death?

So in order to preserve what I had left, I limited my writing to things that are agreeable.

But I’m anything but agreeable.

I’m opinionated to a fault. When I find the “truth” I run full steam ahead with it. I research the hell out of causes I find important, and I stock up on verifiable facts that I can throw in the face of those who disagree with me. The veracity of some of those facts are debatable, but we all have our blind spots when it comes to our beliefs. I’m not special in that regard. But I do my research and try to live my life in accordance to as many truths as I can find.

But losing friends isn’t fun, even if you’re right. So I slowly stopped writing stories covering the things I cared most about. Instead, I wrote fluff pieces about backing into your parking spaces or how bidets are the shit. And while I occasionally ranted against things like gun violence, I stopped sharing my opinions on the things that matter most because I didn’t want to lose the few friends I had left.

Those opinions have been bottled up ever since, living a secluded existence in my Medium drafts folder. And while it’s clearly not prudent for anyone to share every thought that drifts lazily through their brain, I do wish I would share more of them.

So maybe I will.

Maybe I’ll realize that I will never please everybody.

Maybe I’ll realize that I can disagree but still be respectful.

Maybe I’ll realize that there is more to life than religion or politics.

Maybe I’ll realize that opposition brings growth and that while my opinion is just one of many in a vast sea of people clamoring for attention on the Internet, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to share it.

Until then, I’ll keep racking up unpublished draft after unpublished draft, bottling up my opinions in an effort to make everybody happy.

But at least I’ve realized what’s going on. I’m not as self-aware as I would like to be, but I’m trying to do better. And even though nobody will care — nobody will likely clap for this post — I was brave enough to publish my short exercise in self-reflection.

Maybe those other drafts will get published one day as well.

Code Reviews: What they are, why you need them, and how to get started

Have you ever come across a line of code that made you pause and think WTF is going on here? You get in a huff because some careless programmer did something completely wrong and wrote poorly formatted, incomprehensible code.

Then you do a git-blame and discover that you wrote the line yourself.

Whether it’s poor logic, the use of tabs over spaces, or even a brilliantly crafted solution that is difficult to comprehend, reading code can feel like translating a cryptic language. When nobody on your team shares what they’ve coded with each other, the codebase — no matter how well architected — will quickly fall into disarray. The solution?

Code reviews!

Code reviews are a fantastic way of transferring knowledge between teammates and ensuring that quality code is being committed. Regular code reviews are one of the many processes that effective development teams need, and they play a key role in ensuring the long-term maintainability of a project.

This article will cover what code reviews are, why your team needs to be doing them, and how to get the practice started if it’s not currently part of your team’s routine.

What is a code review?

A code review is the analysis of another developer’s source code. These reviews help find mistakes and improve overall code quality. Code reviewers are responsible for making sure that only clean, well-structured code is allowed into the codebase. Reviewers look for the proper use of design patterns and coding styles, offering suggestions and giving constructive feedback when they encounter code that does not meet the expected quality level.

By both reviewing other people’s code and having your own code reviewed, you’ll get exposure to a variety of perspectives and learn a lot about what constitutes good code. As you grow in your career, you’ll figure out what type of code reviews work best for you and your team. But if you want some inspiration, check out the list below!

Things to Look for When Reviewing Code:

  • Anything not meeting the Definition of Done
  • Commented out code that could be removed
  • Descriptive variable names
  • Straightforward logic
  • Proper use of design patterns
  • The addition of unit tests covering the new feature or bug fix
  • That existing coding styles have been followed (things like spacing, indentation, putting code in the right file, etc.)
  • Descriptive comments are used where needed
  • That the code actually addresses the problem that needs to be solved
  • Front-end code is accessible and matches UI/UX designs

To put it simply, your goal as a reviewer is to enforce good coding standards so that your entire team can continue to quickly read, understand, and extend your code.

When you find some code during a review that needs to be changed, you let the person submitting the code review know about it. The original programmer then applies the fix and BOOM! Your code quality levels up!

Now before you get drunk with power, not every piece of feedback given during a code review has to be addressed. Sometimes team members have different opinions on what constitutes “good code”. While the majority of disagreements can be solved by referencing your team’s standards, it’s impossible to cover every scenario with documentation. As you participate in more code reviews, you’ll gain a better understanding of your teammate’s coding styles. As that understanding grows, negotiating code changes will become easier.

Once changes are agreed upon, the code reviewee will implement the changes and submit them again for review. This cycle continues until everyone agrees that the code is good enough to pull into the codebase. After the code is merged, the code review is complete and the developers can move on to their next task.

So now we know what a code review is, where does this review actually take place?

Code reviews can be conducted in a variety of ways. It doesn’t matter if your teammate rolls over to your desk for an informal walk-through, or if everyone submits formal pull requests using tools like GitHub or Bitbucket. Hell, you could even use a message in a bottle or share the code on Snapchat.

It doesn’t matter how you conduct the code review. What matters is that you do the code review.

While I prefer a mix of in-person and online code reviews, your team will have its own unique needs. Some of you may be completely remote, making in-person reviews infeasible. Others might prefer talking over the code as an entire team. Ultimately it is up to your team to decided what works best.

To help you make that decision, here are a few ways in which the different styles can shine, along with some limitations:

Real-time reviews give the reviewer a chance to deliver feedback in-person and give the reviewee a chance to practice their presentation skills as they walk another developer through their code. Feedback can seem less harsh because you get to hear and see the other person. The cold, starkly typed words of a comment on a pull request can sound completely different when said in person. However, pushing back on a code reviewer’s request that you believe to be unreasonable or incorrect can be difficult for some people to do in the moment.

Online reviews are useful because they can be completed asynchronously. This is great for distributed teams or for teams with busy schedules. The reviewer can look at the pull request whenever they have time. By leaving comments on specific lines of code, it’s easy for the reviewee to track what needs to be changed. These types of reviews also allow multiple people to more easily participate, since anyone can make comments at any time. Reviewees can react to comments in real time and ask for clarification or defend their coding decisions.

Now that you’ve learned what code reviews are, maybe you’re wondering why I consider them to be such a vital part of effective teams. That’s exactly what we’ll cover in this next section.

Why do I need someone else to look at my code?

Code reviews are a must. Even if you’re the only developer on your project, you should be finding someone else to look through your code. Unless you’re writing code for a side project or Proof of Concept exercise, collaboration is vital to a healthy codebase.

Remember, nobody knows everything about software development. No matter how good you are, you will never know it all. There is always something new to learn, which is exactly why you want to look through lots of people’s code and share your own. Interacting with other’s code will expand your knowledge and help you grow as a developer. We all have our own strengths, and code reviews are a way to share those strengths with others.

Even the most experienced developers have a small breadth of skills compared to what type of work is out there. It’s literally impossible to be good at everything, and anybody who thinks they don’t need to keep learning will soon find themselves out of a job.

Code reviews give both the reviewer and reviewee a chance to teach each other. Veteran developers can always find something new to learn from their junior teammates, and vice versa. Because software development is an ever-changing field, you will have a unique perspective on how to build great software only a few years into your career. Reviews are an opportunity to share and evolve that perspective.

Hopefully by this point I’ve convinced you of the usefulness of code reviews. They truly are critical to the success of a project.

But what should you do if you’re on a team that doesn’t have a regular code review habit? This next section will give you a few ways to help convince them.

How do I get my team to start doing code reviews?

Teams who don’t have code reviews will release awful products. That alone should be reason enough to get started. If your team is not currently doing code reviews, you have a phenomenal opportunity to provide a ridiculous amount of value to your team.

Code reviews result in a better product and ultimately save hours of work by insuring new additions to the system are beneficial. You can’t afford to not do code reviews. Without regular reviews, your product will become increasingly complex, unmaintainable, and inflexible. Scaling it for a larger user base will be difficult and expensive. Developers will become unhappy and their productivity will drop.

You don’t want that, do you? Then start doing code reviews.

The easiest way to get your team to do code reviews is to leverage technology. Using tools like the pull request feature on Bitbucket or GitHub allows you to easily set system-controlled rules that force explicit approval for any new code changes. This means you will not be able to merge your code unless another developer looks at the code and puts their stamp of approval on it. Your team can always get around this by clicking the “Approve” button without really reviewing it, but if that’s happening you should be looking for a new job.

However, change is difficult. You can’t just go update the settings in GitHub and expect your team to start doing code reviews. That’s an easy way to frustrate everybody.

First, help your team understand the value of code reviews so they understand why they should begin reviewing each other’s work. Show them this article or the countless others on the Internet arguing my same point. Focus on how your everyday life as a developer will get better with code reviews being part of your team’s regular routine.

Once everyone is on board, turn on the tools and let the system do its thing.

There will be rough patches. Occasionally you’ll long for the days you could quickly commit that missing semi-colon right to master, but try to resist the urge. People will complain. They may even turn off the pull request approval feature. Keep reminding yourselves why you’re doing this and don’t fight the process.

Eventually the habit will stick, and your team’s skills will improve. The code base will become more stable and deployments will get easier. Point out how much better things are getting and celebrate as you watch yourselves ship great code more quickly.


And that’s it! We’ve covered the what, why, and how of code reviews, so you’re now ready to go out into the world, confidently reviewing all code that cross your path. Even if your team already does code reviews, see if you can find an area of the process that could be improved and give it a test run on your team.

Remember, code reviews are vitally important. As you and your team read each other’s code, you’ll all increase your knowledge and skills. By regularly reviewing your code, the quality of your codebase will improve. You’ll be able to add new features more easily and even reduce the number of bugs in your system!

There’s really no excuse to skipping this vital process. All things being equal, a team that does code reviews will be much happier in the long run than one that doesn’t.

If you have any great tips on code reviews that weren’t included in this article, send me a message!

This is the third of nine articles delving into the processes that every effective development team should use. Stay tuned for more!

No. Just No. I’m not writing about this again.

It’s clear nothing will ever be done to stop mass shootings.

Just read these again. No reason to write more on the subject. Nobody in Congress is listening.

The Orlando Massacre

Thoughts and prayers are not enough

One Simple Thing: Delete 5 Todos

You read the title. Now pull out your to-do list and delete five things from it.

It doesn’t matter what they are. It doesn’t matter how many are “overdue”. It doesn’t matter if you don’t even have an actual to-do list.

All that matters is that you relieve yourself of the need to do five things.

Did you actually go delete five tasks? No?

I can wait.

Done?

Good.

Now that you’ve deleted five items from your to-do list, listen to your body. How does it feel knowing those things are gone? Maybe some relief, with a dash of anxiety? Annoyance at this random guy who is telling you do to something? Stress from seeing the thirty other things on your list that you had forgotten about?

Having deleted five things in the process writing this article, I felt a mix of anxiety and relief. It always feels good to get rid of tasks, but I’m anxious that I deleted something important. While I purposefully chose things that I knew would never get finished, I still felt a twinge of anxiety when deleting them.

Luckily I know I’m safe.

If the task I deleted was important, it will come back to me. I’ll remember it later or add it to my to-do list without ever realizing it used to be there.

Important things in life have a way of popping back up.

So don’t let that scare you when pruning your to-do list.

If you didn’t delete the tasks at the beginning of this article, go give it a try. I promise you won’t regret it!

The One Thing: Delete 5 todos


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Do Something Radical

Have you ever done something radical?

And no, I don’t mean hanging ten with Michelangelo, stuffing pizza in your face while you fight off Shredder’s minions (although that would be a wonderfully radical experience).

I mean something out of the ordinary.

Something unique.

I’m not saying you need to go discover a new brand new human experience, like seeing a color no other person has ever seen. It only has to be something unique to you. Your uncommon, radical act could be as simple as eating oatmeal for breakfast when you’ve had nothing but cold cereal for the last decade.

We’re all products of our environment. Everything from the food we eat to the clothes we wear to the sports we enjoy is influenced by the people around us. Culture permeates our lives, and few of us stop to think anything of it.

Those of us who do push back against cultural norms often find great joy in doing so. I know I have. Since 2014, I’ve challenged many aspects of how I was raised, with radical shifts in my religious, political, and dietary beliefs being the most prominent.

I’m not here to say that my new beliefs and actions are superior to the old ones, nor am I asking everyone that reads this article to join me by abandoning their religion, voting for Bernie Sanders, and becoming vegan.

The path that has brought me the most happiness in my life surely won’t work for everyone.

But I’ve also experimented with other things, like regular meditation, reading new genres of books, diving into new specialties at work, and making a conscious effort to prefer walking over driving.

Radical acts are radical because they’re life changing, not because they’re huge changes.

Really all I’m asking is:

Do you ever do something new just for the hell of it?

If you don’t regularly step out of your comfort zone, you may be missing out on some of life’s most impactful experiences.

Not every change will become part of your life. You may find out that you really hate biking to work, or that dubstep literally grinds your eardrums into dust. There are many things I’ve tried that never stick around for long (like becoming a morning person — I wrote this particular article at 12:30 AM).

But after every new experience I always come away from it appreciating the knowledge I gained about myself and the world.

The mere act of opening yourself up to radical experiences will enable you to find new joys in life that would otherwise stay hidden away in the fog of inexperience.


I never imagined my life would turn out the way it has, but I love pretty much everything about it. Each day I find myself awestruck at the world around me and wonder how I managed to build such a great life. I’m convinced that had I not begun experimenting with radical changes, I wouldn’t have ended up where I am today.

To this day, I continue to experiment with radical changes. During one six year period in 2018, I tried the following:

  • Learned more about user-centered design in order to reinvent myself at work
  • Discovered new tastes in music by getting a Spotify subscription and exploring their vast collection of songs
  • Gained a new appreciation for cauliflower
  • Reduced my stress levels by abstaining from the daily news cycle
  • Picked up a guitar for the first time in years
  • Finally started reading biographies

Every one of those changes started as something radically new to my life.

And yes, learning how to make food using cauliflower isn’t all that intense. But small changes are still radical in a world where routines largely stay the same.

If you’ve never done something radical (or if you have but it’s been a few years) think of something you’ve always wanted to do. Make plans right now to do it. Sign up for that Brazilian jiu-jitsu class. Attend your local town hall meetings. Become intimately familiar with the best arguments of a political issue that you disagree with. Book that trip you’ve always been wanting to take.

It’s okay if you start small. I did. I know how scary it can be to try new things.

But if you don’t take that chance and if you never do something radical, you may be missing out on some of the greatest moments of your life.

I’m doing another 52 things during the 52 weeks of 2018

Another year has flown by. This year has easily been the worst best year of my life. Some of the best things in my life happened this year, but even with all that I had an awful year. Paying attention to Trump’s America has been terrifying. The vast majority of my empathetic and mental energy was directed towards fighting Trump in order to help the people he is screwing over. As a nation, we’re entering the midpoint of one of the worst presidents ever, and that makes this year awful.

But since by definition, my universe revolves around me, I’m labeling it as the worst best year of my life (rather than best worst year) since 2017 resulted in many great improvements to my life.

In terms of the 52 things I set out to do this year, I did much better than 2016. The “finished” category was the highest this year, which means I actually finished quite a few items. Second was the “started” category. I apparently at least tried a good number of items as well. And thankfully, the “failed” category was lowest of all!

Here’s the data for comparison between years (the formatting is screwed up, I know):

╔══════════╦══════╦══════╦══════╗
║ ║ 2015 ║ 2016 ║ 2017 ║
╠══════════╬══════╬══════╬══════╣
║ Finished ║ 25 ║ 14 ║ 19 ║
║ Started ║ 9 ║ 13 ║ 17 ║
║ Failed ║ 18 ║ 25 ║ 16 ║
╚══════════╩══════╩══════╩══════╝

It seems I was more realistic about what I would actually want to do as compared to 2016. I finished and started a great deal more of the list. While I’ll always have things that never came close to happening (stretch goals FTW!), that number is decreasing over time.

Looking back on 2017, I was most successful in the “Media” and “Experiences” categories. I’m not surprised about Media, but I wasn’t expecting Experiences to be so high!

Finance went amazingly as well, even though nothing there was completely “finished”. We saved more than ever before and made great progress towards an early retirement, despite only completing one of the five goals.

Work comes next, and I did well in that category this year. Most of my goals changed dramatically as I discovered more about what I enjoy doing for a career, so I accomplished more than what the completed list would otherwise indicate.

Writing and Health and were the real losers this year. I didn’t write nearly as much as I had hoped (although I still wrote fairly regularly) and I didn’t exercise as much as I should have. Those two categories will be my main focus for 2018. Here’s hoping that I come back with good news a year from now!

With that analysis finished, let’s see what’s in store for me this year:

Health

  1. Run 104 miles
  2. Bike 104 miles
  3. Go bouldering or rock climbing once a month
  4. Be able to do 10 pull-ups
  5. Be able to do 50 push-ups
  6. Be able to do a 200lbs bench press
  7. Meditate daily
  8. Journal daily
  9. Reach target weight of 165lbs

Media

  1. Read 4 fantasy books
  2. Read 4 science fiction books
  3. Read 2 biographies
  4. Read 4 non-fiction books
  5. Read 1 horror novel
  6. Read 1 book of poetry
  7. Read 1 classic
  8. Read 1 philosophy book
  9. Read 4 books from other categories I don’t usually read
  10. Watch 10 movies from the IMDB Top 250
  11. Watch 10 other movies or documentaries
  12. Watch 5 television shows
  13. Play 5 new video games

Experiences

  1. Go to a Seahawks game
  2. Go to a Sounders game
  3. Go to a Mariners game
  4. Visit Vancouver, Canada
  5. Use my Alaska Airline miles to go somewhere far away
  6. Eat at 10 new restaurants
  7. Cook 12 new vegan recipes
  8. Go to the Dota 2 International
  9. Go explore Fremont
  10. Go snowboarding
  11. Go to the Museum of Pop Culture
  12. Go to a musical event
  13. Find a local organization and regularly volunteer there
  14. Join a sports team or group
  15. Take an improv class
  16. Go out on the lake

Writing

  1. Write 500 words every day
  2. Write one Medium article every week
  3. Write one book

Finance

  1. Keep IRA and HSA maxed out
  2. Get three months of regular expenses in the emergency fund
  3. Max out 2017 IRA
  4. Increase my 401(k) contribution by at least three percent
  5. Stick to the budget four straight months
  6. Save at least half of the emergency fund value in an opportunity fund

Work

  1. Get promoted
  2. Get an AWS certification
  3. Launch an open source project
  4. Write a work-related blog post once a month
  5. Attend a work-related meetup once a quarter

Minimalism - The Power of Less

Excess defines modern society in the United States. We’ve become so rich that we will soon spend $30 billion a year on storage. That’s $30 billion spent on hoarding. On tucking away our late grandma’s doilies. On letting mildew grow on our homework from 6th grade. On keeping our stacks of photo albums that we never look at. We spend an insane amount of money to keep everything around (just in case* we need it.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we carry around piles of junk every time we move, only to tuck them away in our bedroom closet or a storage unit across town?

Because it’s comforting. Holding on to everything is all we’ve ever known. Growing up in a nation that glorifies excess, we are scared to let things go.

But it’s okay to let go. Removing the clutter from our lives is liberating. Simplifying what we own can reduce stress, improve happiness, and even keep money in your pocket. There is actually an entire movement dedicated to ditching your stuff: Minimalism.


Minimalism is a mindfulness practice that focuses on simplifying one’s life and possessions with the purpose of increasing one’s happiness. The premise is simple. In reality, it’s a bit more difficult to do. My own journey started a few years ago when I was in college and continues to this day.

I first stumbled across minimalism in 2013 when I found the writings of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus — known as The Minimalists. Those two opened my eyes to a whole new world of happiness and meaning. After reading the first few articles on their site, I was hooked. I knew this was something I needed to try, so I started becoming a minimalist by participating in their 30 day minimalism challenge:

My tweet announcing the challenge: Two likes and a retweet! I’m basically a social media master.

The challenge is simple. On the first day of the month, get rid of one item. On the second, ditch two things. The third? You guessed it. Send three items out the door. Continue until the last day of the month and you’ll have removed almost 500 things from your home!

While 500 may seem like a hefty chunk of your possessions, keep in mind that the average American household has 300,000 things. Surely we all can afford to get rid of 0.0016% of the stuff in our homes, right?

For me, the challenge started easily enough. I donated a few pieces of clothing, appliances, and other odds and ends I never used. It hurt, but I knew other people would find more use for the items than I would. Then during the last week of the game, it got tough.

I avoided donating my digital piano during the first few weeks. I told myself I’d eventually start playing again. But as the items in my home dwindled, that piano sat there. Mocking me. I hadn’t touched it in months. I realized that no matter how much I wished I would play, I knew I wouldn’t.

It had to go.

I had the same experience with books and video games and old calculus cheat sheets. One by one, I got rid of them all.

When I finished the month, I was still left with a house full of stuff. The minimalism game is just the start of a journey, not the end.

Practicing deliberate ownership for a single month changed how I saw the world. Cutting out the crap allowed the truly valuable things to be a focus in my life. Since then, minimalism has become the single most overarching philosophy running through my life. It guides my choices in food, clothes, friends, family, hobbies, and work.

My journey to minimalism has been a slow process. But by plodding along intentionally and experimenting with what works best, I’ve learned a great deal about myself. That knowledge and experience has allowed me to maximize what matters and discard the distractions.

To help you find and remove clutter in your life, this article presents a few simple rules I follow that could help you do the same. By sticking to them I’ve become the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been, but your mileage may vary. Feel free to run your own experiments to see what works best for you.

How to Be a Minimalist

Each of these four rules have been instrumental in keeping my life simple, focused, and happy. However, these rules are the way I run my personal version of minimalism. The rules may not be ideal for your life, so adjust them to find whatever works for you.

1. Scrutinize All New Purchases and Media

Without question, the easiest way to reduce clutter is to never gather it in the first place.

Borrow or rent equipment when trying a new hobby. I used to collect expensive hobbies. Every few months I’d find a new activity to try, throwing myself completely into it. This led to gobs of money being spent on things like rock climbing, airsoft, lacrosse, cycling, homebrewing, PC gaming, painting, and wood burning supplies. Some of those hobbies have stuck with me through the years.

Most haven’t.

Now I do everything I can to delay purchasing hobby materials. I borrow or rent the equipment so I can try it out before making a major purchase. I try the activity a few times. If it isn’t something I love, I have no skin in the game. It becomes a fun experience to remember and not a drag on my finances or added clutter in the house.

Every time you are about to buy something, ask yourself if you actually need it. Hold it in your hand or let it sit in your online shopping cart for at least 30 seconds, thinking of every reason why you don’t need it. Those few seconds are often enough time to talk yourself out of the purchase.

For those digital purchases, don’t stay signed in to your favorite shopping sites. Having to login every time you visit can serve as a reminder to ask yourself if buying the new thing is worthwhile.

Keep a shopping list and only buy things that are on it. Most of my junk seems to come from impulse purchases, so I only buy what’s on my shopping list. Every few weeks my wife and I review our joint shopping list and remove the things we don’t actually want or need.

Once we’ve gone through the list, whatever remains is ranked. We limit ourselves to a few things each month, only purchasing the highest priority items.

Curate your digital life. The same precautions taken with physical media apply to digital media as well. In the digital age, books, movies, games, TV shows, and music take up almost no space. Media collections become trivially easy to build, making it inevitable that you’ll eventually save so much content that it becomes overwhelming to manage.

So before I add any new media to my life I ask myself the same questions I do with physical items. I look for every reason not to add it to my life. I also periodically review the media I’m consuming and when a podcast or TV show loses its value, I say “buh bye”.

2. Play the Minimalism Game at Least Twice a Year

It’s not enough to play the game once and be done with it. Minimalism is a way of life, not a single event that turns you into a minimalist forever.

No matter what you do, stuff will inevitably begin piling up. Free swag from work events will be tucked away in the closet. Drunken Amazon purchases show up on your doorstep, and you’ll wonder why you ever thought you needed five pounds of gummy bears. Things you once used regularly will fall into disrepair.

Even when I do my best to live a simple, meaningful life I collect more things than I should. Between new hobbies, replacing old items, and lifestyle inflation, I make purchases that in hindsight do nothing more than clutter my life.

By playing the Minimalism Game twice a year, you remind yourself of why being a minimalist is so great. While I try to scrutinize everything I buy (see rule number 1), I know that I’ll fail at some point. You will too, but that’s okay. Regularly playing the Minimalism Game will help you sort through the new things that came into your life. Each time you play, you’re given the opportunity to reevaluate your priorities and start a fresh outlook on life.

3. Quality > Quantity

When I decide to actually purchase something, I weigh the cost versus the quality. Sometimes it’s more financially sound to purchase an expensive, long-lasting item once rather than to periodically replace the cheaper alternatives.

Purchasing multi-functional items is also a great way to cut the clutter. This is especially relevant in the kitchen. For example, my wife and I use a cast iron skillet for almost every single meal we cook. It’s a single tool that can serve a variety of functions, allowing our kitchen to have fewer supplies.

A smaller number of high quality items is superior to a plethora of cheap items with regards to the space they take up, their utility, and their true cost.

4. Try Big Experiments

Human psychology shows that people ultimately return to a baseline level of happiness regardless of their situation. My wife and I have tried to take advantage of that fact by trying new ways of minimalist living.

Our first big experiment was downsizing from a two-bedroom apartment to a one-bedroom in 2014. We did it again ten months ago when we moved to Seattle and cut off another 150 square feet. Now we’re in a 509 square foot apartment, but it feels pretty much the same as our old place. We’ve realized that we don’t need all the space we used to have to be happy.

Slowly downsizing helped us to adapt to each change. Just a few months after our initial discomfort with a smaller apartment, life began to feel just as happy as before. If anything, we are happier due to the extra cash in our pockets from renting a smaller place.

The next big experiment we tried was to get rid of the television. While my wife and I tend to watch a decent amount of Netflix, that was pretty much the only time the TV got used. Sitting on the couch glued to a screen is not a productive habit, so by ditching the TV we slashed our TV watching in half. It also freed up some room in our tiny apartment to make it feel even more spacious!

Take a close look at your life and identify something you could experiment with. You don’t have to ditch your TV or live in a closet to be a minimalist. There are other ways you can experiment. Maybe it’s getting rid of a storage unit by tossing out old furniture or selling one of your cars because you could walk to work instead.

Whatever you want to experiment with, you don’t have to ditch it immediately. Instead, cover it with a blanket or put it away for a few weeks and see how you feel. If life continues normally, it’s likely something you could do without!


Be Brave

The hardest part of becoming a minimalist is going against the grain. American culture is dripping with consumerism. Millions of people are in heaps of debt in an effort to keep up with the Joneses, but the things they purchase aren’t making them any happier.

Be brave. Go against the grain. Minimize your life.

I promise, it’s absolutely worth it.

Give it a shot and you’ll see what I mean. A palpable weight will lift off your shoulders as you clear the clutter. By clearing the junk that has been burying you for years, you’ll discover the real you. Minimizing your life can bring happiness, financial stability, and a greater sense of purpose as it helps you identify what truly matters.

So give minimalizm a shot. You have nothing to lose. After all, you are just tossing junk.

Thoughts and prayers are not enough

The GOP’s inaction shows deep indifference towards stopping mass shootings.

Another mass shooting happened yesterday. This time, it was the deadliest one in recent history, with at least 58 dead and over 500 wounded. A single armed man permanently snuffed out dozens of lives and profoundly affected thousands more.

Don’t you wish we could get back to the good ol’ days of 2016 when the previous mass shooting record was only a paltry 49 dead and 58 injured?

I wrote about that one too. It seems that mass shootings are the one thing where I can’t keep my mouth shut. And even after a year, we’re no closer to ending these tragedies.

You know these shootings are out of control when the Wikipedia page 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting has the following across the top:

“Orlando shooting” redirects here. For the 2017 shooting, see 2017 Orlando shooting.

I didn’t even know there was a 2017 shooting in Orlando. They’re so commonplace that most of them don’t make national news!

There have been 1516 mass shootings in 1735 days. That’s 9 out of 10 days, for 4.5 years. How do we continue to watch these horrific events take place without doing something, anything, to stop them.

I looked through the Twitter feeds of a few well-known GOP Senators, and what I found was a deafening silence. No calls to action to fix this. However, I did find plenty of “thoughts and prayers”:

I also looked at the Democrats:

What an astounding difference! To those who will accuse me of cherry picking, I found plenty of thoughts and prayers among Democrats as well. But the only time I saw rallying cries for Congress to act was from Democratic Senators. (I only took a small sample, so if you find some Republican representatives calling for gun control, please let me know. I would love to be wrong on this.)

It’s time that we do something. I’m glad at least one party has a conscience.

But even now, with thousands of people begging for change, nothing will happen. When the GOP’s platform can legitimately be reduced to “thoughts and prayers”, you know you’re fucked.

Thoughts and prayers are nice, but they’re obviously not enough. In fact, they’re worse than doing nothing.

Prayers have an efficacy level of literally zero. Thoughts are roughly the same. The mantra “thoughts and prayers” is nothing more than a way to make us feel better about ourselves, as if we’ve done something to help.

I’m all for expressing sympathy for those affected by these atrocities. We should be thinking about what’s happening. But if we do nothing more than think and pray, these mass shootings will continue day in and day out.


We can’t keep allowing this to happen. We have to take action. Action means voting out those senators who are in the NRA’s pocket, replacing them with someone who actually gives a damn. It means calling your representatives and letting them know that inaction will cost them votes. It means running for government ourselves, since nobody else will do it.

Doing nothing has gotten us nowhere. The Republicans seem to think that the answer is more guns, not less. But we’ve tried that. America has almost half of the world’s civilian-owned guns. We only have four percent of the population. That’s insane.

More guns will not work.

Do you know what works? Regulation. Just look at this massive wall of charts proving the efficacy of regulating gun access. Here’s a sample of the facts:

  • “America has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada, and nearly 16 times as many as Germany”
  • “States with more guns have more gun deaths”
  • “It’s not just the US: Developed countries with more guns also have more gun deaths”
  • “States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths”

Hm. It’s almost as if more guns means more opportunities for them to be used for their intended purpose: killing.

And yes, correlation doesn’t always mean causation. But arming every man, woman, and child clearly isn’t working. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Our inaction is shameful and insane — future generations will look back on this time as one of the great moral failings of our country. The United States is already viewed that way abroad.

So what kind of regulation is there? Well, since banning all guns is an ignorant pipe dream (at least in today’s political climate), we have to take smaller steps.

It’s not difficult to come up with ideas. Plenty of them have been around for decades, but we haven’t cared enough about the senseless slaughter of thousands to actually write them into law.

Here are just a few that would easily cut down gun violence:

  • Background checks
  • Mental health checks
  • Tracking gun sales
  • Requiring gun safety courses and licensing

We have many regulations around owning a vehicle. Those regulations keep our roads safe, and people would protest if we removed them. But a vehicle’s primary function is not to wound or kill. A gun’s purpose is just that. So how the hell do we justify not regulating guns?

It’s pure insanity.

But you help can make a difference by taking action. To make it easy, here are two links to help you find your representatives:

Call them today. Email them tomorrow. Tweet at them the next day. Attend their town hall next month. Let them know that you won’t stand for this kind of inaction — especially if they’re a Republican.

Don’t stop until something is finally done to curb this senseless violence.

Team Fortress 2 vs Overwatch

What would happen if these two teams clashed?

The Overwatch cast would dominate. For one, there are 25 characters in Overwatch compared to TF2’s 9. Sheer numbers alone would give Overwatch a clear advantage. They would swarm the TF2 cast using a well-defined plan (they’re a crime fighting super team, after all) and it would all be over shortly.

That’s no fun though. Let’s say we were limited to teams of nine. That would mean every single TF2 character gets to join the fray. But which Overwatch characters should we pick?

Let’s try to match up each TF2 character with the hero they inspired in Overwatch. Here’s what we get:

  • Scout vs Tracer
  • Soldier vs Phara
  • Pyro vs Mei
  • Demoman vs Junkrat
  • Heavy vs Bastion
  • Engineer vs Torbjörn
  • Medic vs Mercy
  • Sniper vs Widowmaker
  • Spy vs Sombra

On the Overwatch side, we end up with five defenders, three offensive characters, one support, and zero tanks. Not the ideal composition, as the lack of tanks means Overwatch is susceptible to being wiped out quickly with any sort of focused attack from the TF2 cast.

So how would this play out? The winner of each matchup is bolded below:

  • Scout vs Tracer: Tracer can teleport. She literally manipulates the fabric of space-time. What can the Scout do outside of drink Mountain Dew to make his bullets hit harder?
  • Soldier vs Phara: Phara is far too mobile for Soldier to stand a chance. Sure, Soldier has mastered the art of flying through mastery of the rocket jump, but that doesn’t even come close to the maneuverability of a jetpack. And did you forget that Phara can fire more bombs than a small fleet of jets in a matter of seconds? Heh, this one isn’t even close.
  • Pyro vs Mei: Gotta give this one to the insanely delusional Pyro. Fire melts ice, so Mei couldn’t continually recover in her Cryo-Freeze. Pryo’s insanity would probably make Mei look like a cute little penguin in need of a lollipop! As long as the Pyro deals with Mei quickly, he’ll never have to face her Blizzard and would thus win the day.
  • Demoman vs Junkrat: The Demoman is a competent demolitions expert. Junkrat is an outcast who tends blows himself up just as much as his enemies. Pure strategy alone would win Demoman the day. Sticky bombs hanging above the door? Junk will never see it coming.
  • Heavy vs Bastion: This was a tough one. Both have massive miniguns that shred through opponents, plus they both boast self-healing abilities. But as impressive as an ÜberCharged Heavy is, Bastion’s tank form is one of the heaviest damage dealers in Overwatch.
  • Engineer vs Torbjorn: Poor Toblerone. Everyone playing Overwatch hates him, and now he gets destroyed by the Engineer. While a Level 3 Torbjorn turret is impressive, the Engineer is a Torbjorn and Symmetra mushed together. The Engineer builds a solid turret, can create teleporters, and even dispenses health and ammo from his Dispenser.
  • Medic vs Mercy: Everything the Medic can do, Mercy does better. Mercy’s healing stream does double duty as a damage booster. The Medic shoots people with syringes (hey, there’s where Ana came from!) while Mercy rains down bolts of what appears to be plasma. While the Medic does have a pretty cool ability with ÜberCharge, MERCY CAN GODDAMN RESURRECT PEOPLE. And that’s not even her ult! Add in Mercy’s ability to fly to teammates and this glorious angel would absolutely dominate the Medic.
  • Sniper vs Widowmaker: Widow’s grappling hook wins the day here. She’s much more mobile and would be able to out-snipe the sniper because of it.
  • Spy vs Sombra: Sombra’s introduction to Overwatch introduced the concept of invisibility. But Overwatch has never seen something so incredibly effective as the Spy’s Disguise Kit, which allows him to look like another player on the enemy team. The Overwatch team would never see it coming, and before long Spy will have taken someone out.

That was closer than I thought. A five to four matchup gives Overwatch an edge over the TF2 cast, but just barely.

Unfortunately, that was only a direct matchup between the most similar characters. Given the massive roster on Overwatch, it would be trivial to construct a perfect team of nine to counter the TF2 guys completely.

The best set of Overwatch characters would absolutely destroy a TF2 team. If you noticed from the matchup above, TF2 doesn’t really have the concept of a tank — outside of the Heavy. A well-rounded Overwatch team would simply be too tanky to lose. The ability to negate damage completely with shields would lead to TF2 losing handily.

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