RIP Ian Murdock – you will be remembered

RIP Ian Murdock, founder of Debian Linux which is what powers Tendenci. Without his work in the Open Source Community there could be no Tendenci Membership Software. This is a sad way to end 2015, but I would like to think Ian would want us to continue to invent and create greater freedom and transparency in the world.

I am not good at wording such a tragedy so I will leave you with the respectful post on the debian project blog and links to some news stories on the topid.


Christmas with the family and depression (ya, I know, bummer post.)



Yes I realize I’m in dangerous territory. But I’m also old enough to have seen depression turn people into drugged out zombies or some who have tragically committed suicide.

when liberty weeps
When Liberty Weeps by artist Anu Srivastav

Yes in 2015 I’ve lost a few friends to suicide. More than a few if you count aquaintances. It seems like more than usual. Given Tendenci is open source and intended for nonprofits and cause based membership organizations, it should come as no surprise that I’ve proof read a lot of text on sites like our client

The Depression and BiPolar Alliance of Houston
(713) 468-5463

Just to repeat, this is a personal post on my personal blog. I repeat, I am not trained and am in no way qualified on this topic. I only know the devastation left behind when someone makes a decision to leave. They can call (800) 273-8255 and begin the process of healing.

You know what doesn’t work? Telling someone at risk “Hey, just cheer up buddy!” That is truly as stupid as telling an amputee “Just try harder buddy!” without giving them a prosthetic leg.

Don’t do that shit.

If you don’t understand depression is physical then you have never experienced depression. And that is your blessing. You are one of the lucky ones. Yet please read this as perhaps you can be a part of the solution without being an *^*&@@#!

Yes, I realize I’m selfishly upset about losing so many brilliant minds in the tech and entrepreneurial community to death these last few years, for whatever reason. And I understand why the newspaper doesn’t report on self-taken lives as that has been proven to increase tragic clusters. I get that.

Let’s be productive, OK?

If you have a friend or even an acquaintance that you are worried about, maybe taking action is the right thing to do. This depends on your relationship with them. And that is a definite “maybe”.

The Holidays Amplify Depression for Many People

If you have and urgent issue right now – do this:

Call 911

Call the US suicide prevention hotline at (800) 273-8255
In Houston call (713) 468-5463

Why this post now? Well for whatever reason, depression is worsened for many during the holidays. Nobody has a solution for this.

But I can suggest spending time with that person. To just be with them. Or listen to them and if they say “no” then maybe the solution is to leave them the hell alone and everything will be cool. It’s an impossible balance, no that isn’t fair, nothing in life is fair. It’s all a gray area. Depression is definitely not fair either, so there is that.

If you are seriously concerned, given one of our Tendenci clients is The Depression and BiPolar Alliance of Houston I know there is great information and numbers to call at or call them at (713) 468-5463



Stay close to family and friends that you truly know and trust. If it’s your work-out friends at the gym, your weekly poker game, your church group, or even your local pub. Hang with the people who you know who you can trust to stand behind you.


Relatives – Don’t expect Santa to show up or your long lost family member to return. Be realistic and not overly optimistic.

My experience is fights between family tend to go up during the holidays between eggnog and family being together for the first time in a year. So don’t expect “White Christmas.” My family is more like an episode of Seinfeld or a Robert Earl Keen song

My family is a bit better than this video. But a few chords strike home. Worth a watch.

Robert Earl Keen song

OK, back to getting through the holidays for you and yours.

Volunteer – Give First

Volunteer to help others. This one is the one that helps me the most. Giving is the best gift you can receive. And yes picking up the neighbor’s paper counts.  So does volunteering with the local homeless shelter or just walking the elderly neighbors dog. Ask the old Veteran down the street if he’d like you to fix his flag holder on his front porch.

Small things that reward you as well as the recipient. It ain’t about the stuff.

Call that coworker you know doesn’t have family in town and just say “Merry Christmas.” That’s it. Keep that shit simple.

Do something different, but not dangereous. Walk through the trails of that park you have been meaning to walk through for years. Adopt a pet. Put on those old shoes you are going to throw away anyway and walk into the marsh in Galveston just a little bit to see the fish. Then throw the shoes away.

Losing a Loved One During the Holidays

Losing a loved one during the holidays, as many of us have, simply causes us to think about them more.

So yes, definitely think about those you have lost, but try to find a way to think about the loving, funny and positive things that led you to love them in the first place.

When someone departs that’s beyond my pay grade and I’ll leave that to God. Remembering them with joy – I believe that is something we can all do.

Now, first I must confess that I have not achieved this goal.

But why oh why do we remember the date of our Father’s funeral but can’t tell you his birthday even faster?

“The Meaning of Life Conversations”

Your friends and family may want to have “The Meaning of Life Conversations.” As my friend says “Oy vey” you aren’t a trained counselor. Neither is anyone else after two glasses of wine. Listen if asked but think thrice before offering advice. If it’s serious, suggest they see a professional counselor. Keep an eye on your friends and call them a cab. Look out for one another but don’t try to solve it at the holiday party. If it’s that urgent, then both of you can leave the party in a cab and get a coffee at IHOP.

Family Gatherings

Family Gatherings – make something out of nothing. At a family holiday gathering in the mountains I once found a flat stone about the size of a saucer near the house. Brought it inside, cleaned it, and suggested all of the kids could use a sharpie and sign it so we could all remember that Christmas. It turned into a tradition. And I love that stone still displayed on our porch. It was genuine, beautiful, and it cost nothing.


Gifts? – I’ve given up on this one and unless I know, I either ask the person or ask their best friend. Or an Amazon gift card. If you’re low on cash, give away your airline miles. If you’re good with cars, give them a paper that says “one free car repair minus the cost of the parts.” Maybe just a Christmas card with the words “Love you” written by you.


Parties. For many of us these are terrifying. “zOMG, what is their name again?” But if you enjoy them, then go. If you don’t, then don’t go. Or go with a trusted wing-man/wing-woman who won’t abandon you. Stuck alone – pretend you have an urgent update to do on your phone and play a game. Fake it.

Photography at Parties – Yes be in the photos. Don’t make a scene. Do try to avoid holding a drink in your hand in the photos. Why? because if you are holding a drink and you blink when they take the photo you look hammered. Or you just learn to never blink.

Work & Entrepreneurs

Work – this varies. Some people like the time off completely. For me I use it to plan for next year while everyone else is napping. I just don’t talk about it with them. It’s just a great time to plan ways to help the ones you love by providing for them without the interruptions of the daily business.

Entrepreneurs and business owners don’t have work-life balance. They are planning like crazy, either on the web or in their brains. But they aren’t having the same thoughts you are going down the ski slopes in Aspen or putting together a 1000 piece puzzle of Santa.

Here is the deal, If you surround yourself with extreme risk-taking type A personalities, then don’t be surprised by their hard-wired  risk-taking and constantly driven behavior. Huge victories followed by crushing defeats. Retreat into their cave to heal, and then for some dumb-ass reason go do it again. Entrepreneurs chose an activity with a 95% failure rate. The highs are very high and the lows are very low. Honestly I don’t know how you put up with us, but I do know I couldn’t live without you.

Trivial games – why not?

Play Cards – no, not Texas Hold’em. Ask your elders to teach you spades or bridge or spoons. There are games that aren’t as high stress as Risk or Chess that bring you together.

Penny Bags – over the year we collect pennies and we have a bag that they all get put in and all of the kids can reach in and take out as many as their hands can hold. It’s just fun. Sometimes the older kids will ask if they can pull for a younger and the younger one can pull for them. It’s cool.

Legacy and Meaning

This one I mean the most. Talk to your elders. And by “Talk” I really mean “Shut up and listen.” Example: Walk up to your Great Grandmother and ask her if it’s OK if you turn on “voice memo” on your iphone and ask her what it was like when cars were invented? What was your great grandfather like?

Treasure those memories. If appropriate post on so others will hear the wonderful and funny stories about the people that created you. It is a beautiful gift to future generations and my elders have always been honored when I truly want to listen to them. And I do. I wish I had done it more.


I’m sure this post is all over the place from an organizational perspective. From suicide prevention to how to navigating through the holidays for those with depression or memories of someone you lost in holidays past. I can’t help that.

But if you or a friend are feeling sad. Accepting one another, the hug, the love, the phone call, even a text message. These are beautiful things you can do for yourself and your friends and family.

I wish everyone a Merry Holiday Season. Let’s just look out for each other, call an Uber, call a Cab, call a crisis hotline, use your love for each other and your common sense.

Actual Emergency? Do one of these two things.

Call 911
US suicide prevention hotline at (800) 273-8255


FAA UAS Registration is Open

To my friends in the Drone community – registration is open!

FAA UAS Registration

Registration and acknowledgement from the FAA is a good thing as it keeps irresponsible pilots OUT of our airspace. It puts regulations at a national level and prevents overly restrictive local laws. It is a formal acceptance that Drone pilots add value to society and can serve in many ways like the heroes in the HAM Radio community who are always there in a crisis.

Houston Waterwall
Houston Waterwall

Now we can identify our birds properly for the authorities. And the authorities can quickly determine which pilots takes their responsibilities seriously. Responsible pilots who know the limits of their birds and can maintain control at all times.

Heavily customized dji 550 with naza stabilization
Heavily customized dji 550 with naza stabilization

You just can’t compare our hex with DJI NAZA Stabilization to a quad parrot drone with optical stabilization. By that I mean that with optical stabilization you don’t want to fly over water because… waves. But if the goal is to NOT fly over people (hint: it is) then this technology is in direct contradiction to the safest (for the people) place to fly in some situations.

Having flown RC since I was a kid, trust me, it’s more complicated than it looks. And I say that knowing that it still looks complicated, I’m just saying that it is not something to take trivially.

Example: I once ordered a new stabilization system for a quad (I refuse to fly quads for safety reasons now but that is a different post.) The remotes we use these days have a series of stick movements that must be done to activate them. Sort of like a video game – ABAB then click some other button. In this case it was both sticks, lower left, back up, lower left. What could go wrong. Why would that suddenly make a small but dramatic amount of blood from my hand go flying across my office to the horror of one of my coworkers?

Well, in the US “down = throttle off”. In Asia “up = throttle off.” I of course had the throttle turned “fully off for safety which means DOWN”.  Thus when I went through the initiation stick movements on the controller she immediately went full throttle slicing my hand open, slamming into the ceiling before I could hit the emergency shut down on the remote.

And that was a quad! Imagine if that had happened with an octo? Now I know to always anchor them down or install new stabilization hardware/software with all  props removed. I got too comfortable with the machine, I was buying parts with instructions in Chinese and hacking everything together. I don’t mind that I sliced my hand open – I deserved it for being stupid. But what if someone else had been in the office?

So register your drones. Practice a lot. Test, test, test and be darn sure your kill switch works. Even in your office/workshop. These machines are much more powerful than people realize.


Yet Quiet

“A long time ago in a land far away” I took this photo in Key West.

Key West Mallory Square

Looking at it now, waiting on the birds to fly, hoping they would compose a photo for me before the sun set any further. A still life with a loud background.

I was there after a speaking gig so I was alone, missing my other half Rachel​. While I love to travel, it isn’t the same alone on business trips.

As for the photo, it is the momentary stillness that I remember as I pressed the shutter button. The settings on the camera I can get from the xif data. The buskers, the tourists, the chickens wandering around, the essence of Mallory Square in Key West, and the moment I pressed the shutter. These are vivid yet fading memories.

I have no desire to recreate that particular moment. Why would you? It happened. It’s over. The chaos of Mallory Square immediately resumed as the shutter released. And it was over. Over forever. Nothing defines finality better than a photo.

Key West Sunset
Sunset in Key West

Of course photography makes everything look more majestic and amazing than it actually was. But shouldn’t it? Do we not want to seek out the best in others, in events, in places near and far? 

There is a saying among photographers, well two sayings actually. The first being

“the best camera is the one you have with you”.

And the second is the profoundly obvious observation that

“If you want to create beautiful photos, take photos of beautiful things.”

Key West is a “different” place. It is beautiful. But it is not actually quiet. Yet it is.

I do understand why Hemingway stayed there amidst the commotion and chickens wandering around Mallory Square.

Creative chaos. Yet quiet. And there is the moment of silence in your mind’s eye as you see the birds compose the perfect sunset photo a thousand times for the beauty only in the minds eye.

Yet sometimes it gets quiet for only you. Chaos. Yet quiet. You become quiet. You disappear. You are the very definition of “being present” and yet you define it by your silence.

Sometimes in a tiny portion of a second the machinery cooperates and you capture “it.” You can share it. That shouldn’t happen. I mean, what are the fucking odds? Slim to none at best.

You know this is happening because it becomes quiet in the middle of chaos. You know there is something you are supposed to do. If, and it’s a big “IF”, you figure it out, what you are supposed to do,, then you know.

You know, it will never happen again. Ever.

You appreciate it. Maybe, you share it. Rarely. Sometimes.

And still you mourn it. For it is gone and will never happen again.

That moment in the photo I took? It is the the closest I will ever get to Hemingway’s perfect “Whiskey & Soda.” His drink. A Key West Sunset. Enjoy it. Finish it. Accept it. And tip the bartender well. Because it happened.