My Life Is Good – Celebrating Ten Years of Sobriety

Today marks ten years to the day since I had my last drink of alcohol. That’s 3,654 days without a drink, or 87,696 hours, or 5,261,760 minutes. If you can’t live without a drink, you know how big those numbers are. I quit cold turkey on September 30, 2007. Most people can’t do that and it’s much harder for them. I was lucky that I could simply turn it off – but I had gotten to a point where if I didn’t turn it off, I might not have lived to write this post.

I tried Alcoholics Anonymous and an addiction therapy group for about six months after I quit, and for me they just didn’t feel right. I joined a men’s therapy group and spent over six years working on my demons and just normal issues to help make myself as whole as possible. You don’t have to use groups like this to get off the sauce, but for many people they can be great anchors.

It amazed me how much of my personal growth had been stunted by my alcohol abuse. I had moored myself in the age where I really got going with my drinking. The literature backs this up – many drunks stop maturing in their thoughts and actions once the booze takes over their lives. I was what many people call a “functional alcoholic”. I did my job – and not so badly – but when I got home, I had to have a drink. Over the years, I needed to drink more and more to make myself feel what I though of as “good”. The bottles became better friends to me than my actual friends, or even my wife.

When I first stopped drinking, it amazed me how embedded drinking is in our culture. Some of that embedding is simply about enjoying life to its fullest (think a French country meal without a nice glass of the local red), but far more often here in the USA, it’s about partying and going crazy. (If you’re doing a lot of the latter, you might want to think about your relationship with alcohol.) In many ways, we’re taught that alcohol = fun. Without drinking, we’re missing out.

After I quit, it amazed me:

  • That going out with friends was actually more fun in many ways
  • How good I could feel waking up in the morning
  • How much more time there was in the day – drinking is a time consuming job
  • How I no longer wrestled with my “oh, I could quit anytime if I wanted to” nonsense discussions with myself

This isn’t just a self-congratulatory post, though. (I admit – it does feel pretty good!) I want to help anyone I know out there who feels like they may have a problem. Addictions are crazy things; when we are in the middle of them, we can’t see them – once we stop, it’s like a grey cloud has been lifted.

I’m not here to preach to anyone about their own choices. For me, stopping my drinking was – I believe – a matter of life or death. But it doesn’t have to be that serious for it to be a good decision for you. Alcohol cheated me out of many good years, and probably many good relationships. When you’re a drinker, you don’t tend to blame the alcohol or yourself – you blame others.

In the last ten years, I:

  • Started my own successful business
  • Wrote an open source library used by thousands of people around the world – SPServices
  • Became a Microsoft MVP for SharePoint
  • Traveled the globe speaking about SharePoint, collaboration, and knowledge management – all my passions
  • Regained the love of my wife (despite all my other failings)
  • Tried to be the best Father I can be to our awesome son Calder (aka “The Dude)
  • Took back control of my life

Most importantly, I’ve enjoyed so much of that time. (Into every life some rain must fall.) For many years, I had thought I needed the booze to keep me grounded and happy. The image I had in my head was of Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol. I don’t know why it was that image, but it stuck with me for years. Without the booze, I’d no longer be grounded, plus the booze was a burden I deserved. By casting off my alcohol-laden Jacob Marley chains, I have felt lighter, and breathed more clearly than I did in the time I was drinking.

Now that I look back at that thinking, I can’t believe it made any sense to me. I consider myself reasonably intelligent, yet I was able to convince myself of the value of a way of life which was totally not what I thought. That’s the insidious nature of a substance like alcohol – it rearranges the way your mind works so that you can make sense of your own behavior.

If you ever want to have a conversation with me about what my journey was like, I’m here. No one should go through the suffering addition causes without an opportunity to make big changes. But the only person who can make those changes is you. Oddly, there’s little stigma to drinking, yet considerable stigma to being an alcoholic, even if you can quit. I’m here to tell you that any amount of stigma is worth it to live the full and happy life you deserve, despite yourself.

Thank you to everyone who has been with me on this grand journey. I’m not going to list names, but many people in my life have been important parts of what amounts to my rebirth. I also want to thank all of the people who read this blog, because your thanks and knowing I’m helping some of you do better things with the technology I love to work with give me sustenance every day. If you’ve made it all the way to this point, thanks for spending a little time with me on what is – for me – an important day.

Next time you see me, let’s raise a glass of club soda together. And m. and C. – I’m here for you.

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SharePoint and Office 365: The New Beautiful Cookbook Series

Most of us are “meat and potatoes” people when it comes to the technology we use. We like what we know and we know what we like. (Yes, there are vegan “seitan and potatoes” people, vegetarian “sprouts and potatoes” people, pescatarian “cod and potatoes” people, etc. I’m not trying to leave anyone out.)

Every once in a while, though, someone hands us a new ingredient – something we’ve never seen before, something we’ve never cooked with.

Image from the Netflix show Chef’s Table S3E6 – Virgilio Martinez

That new ingredient becomes a part of our pantry, and we want to try to cook with it. We’ve probably heard how delicious it is or how it can make an ordinary dish taste amazing.

Sometimes, we get a whole new palette of ingredients. (Many of us love to watch cooking shows for just this reason: we see novel dishes and decide if we’d like to try them at home.)

Image from the Netflix show Chef’s Table S3E6 – Virgilio Martinez

We need to take a ton of time to figure out what the new ingredients are, how we can work with them, and what we can cook. If we don’t cook with the ingredients pretty often, then we lose the knowledge of how to use them, what ripeness is best.

Writing off something because it tastes bad in one context means we may miss a great use of the ingredient later – a ripe plum tastes so much better than an unripe one. Once someone has eaten an unripe plum, they may decide they hate plums.

But if we can overcome these hurdles and learn about the new ingredients, we can make some incredible dishes.

Image from the Netflix show Chef’s Table S3E6 – Virgilio Martinez

This is what I think we are going through with SharePoint and Office 365 right now. Microsoft is offering us an entirely new set of ingredients with which to make our stew.

Let me give you an example…

In my “meat and potatoes” way of looking at the world, which has been pretty consistent for the last ten years or so, even though SharePoint and my approaches have evolved, I might use this set of ingredients:

  • A Single Page Application (SPA) written with AngularJS or KnockoutJS – or even just plain old JavaScript
  • A dollop of values passed on the query string to a…
  • Standard list form, with a little JavaScript mixed in to pre-populate some columns in the form
  • A SharePoint Designer workflow to add notifications on top (Substitute Alerts if your local market doesn’t carry SharePoint Designer)

But there are new ingredients now. Instead we could whip something up with these:

  • A SharePoint Framework Web Part (still maybe written with AngularJS or KnockoutJS)
  • Creating list items using REST based on the values in our SPFx Web Part
  • Microsoft Flow to add in the notifications and any process
  • Stir in a pinch of PowerApps – until they are ready

That’s quite a shift. We’re being asked to think about cooking in a very different way. We’ve been through stages of evolution before – new cooking techniques like sous vide (Sandbox Solutions), gelification (Add-In Model, nee App Model), etc. – but this time it’s really different. We’re not even sure if we’re supposed to like everything we taste. Is it just the next wave of kale frenzy or is it an ingredient that will last?

At this point, Microsoft is asking us to dream big, and reach for the previously unimaginable. I think we need to try to do it.

Image from the Netflix show Chef’s Table S3E6 – Virgilio Martinez

Some of us will be able to cook up truly amazing solutions on the “modern” platform. Don’t be afraid to give it a taste.

Image from the Netflix show Chef’s Table S3E6 – Virgilio Martinez

In case you didn’t figure it out, this post was inspired by the Netflix show Chef’s Table S3E6, which profiles the Peruvian chef Virgilio Martinez. It’s an outstanding series, and this particular episode was stellar.

Also see any volume in the Beautiful Cookbook series.

Dave Coleman, Men’s Health, Movember, and a Request

Last week the SharePoint community lost a valuable member and I lost a friend. Dave Coleman, who had been in and out of hospital since last year about this time, finally succumbed to cancer. Dave was a SharePoint Server MVP, active community member, and educator. He was also a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. Many people will miss him, and I am one.

Dave Coleman

Dave Coleman 1959-2014

One of Dave’s many legacies will be his work to raise awareness of the types of cancer which first struck him, namely prostate cancer. In the video blow, Dave elucidates on his goals very clearly. Even while staring directly at his own mortality, Dave wanted to spend some of his time to make all of the men in his life and beyond more aware of how to prevent – as much as possible – them arriving in a similar plight.

Dave Coleman, Claire Smyth – 05 February 2014 15.36.21 (Original link)

In honor of Dave, I’m participating in the annual Movember movement. The goal of the Movember movement is not just to have millions of men grow cheesy 1970s era moustaches – aka ‘Mo’s – but to raise awareness and fund research about men’s health issues. It’s about the diseases like prostate cancer that can only strike men. The women’s health movement has been incredibly strong in recent years, with pink pervasive during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Movember is not meant to detract or compete with NBCAW, but to build a similar platform for men’s health. I’ve committed my upper lip to help change the face of men’s health by growing a moustache, now I need your support.

Many cancers and other male-specific diseases are highly treatable in this day and age, but we men are too often reticent about seeking out regular health care. I know that there have been wide swaths of my life when it seemed to me that regular checkups were just too much trouble. I felt fine and didn’t see the point. Once I got married and had a son, I started to think differently about these things – there are people who love me and need me around, and I want to be here for them. I am not as invincible as I thought I was in my 20s. Annual checkups with appropriate testing based on family history, physical condition, and lifestyle can help prevent others from being taken from us too soon, as was Dave.

If you are at risk for any reason whatsoever – and even if you’re not sure that you are – take the time to make those annual checkup appointments and go to them.

Dave was a mere 54 years old at his death – just one year older than I am now. Age isn’t the only factor in the likelihood of contracting cancer or any other disease, though. As Dave said so well in the video, we should take control of our own destinies and be sure that we understand our health and the risks each of us might have.

If any of this strikes a chord with you at all, please donate to my Movember campaign or that of anyone else on the In Memory of Dave Coleman (This is a network dedicated to Dave Coleman – a bloody nice chap.) network. We’re growing bad facial hair for you, for all men, for the women and children who love us, but most importantly, for Dave.

If you’d rather donate in Dave’s memory via the site his family has set up, by all means do that instead.

However you choose to memorialize Dave, or even if you never knew Dave, please donate to the men’s health movement this month, and if you’re a man, make that MEDICAL APPOINTMENT. We need you around here.

Removing Trovi Search Malware

I had another Minecraft-related malware infection today (not my first). One of my hopes with Microsoft buying Minecraft is that they will clean up the installation and run process overall, including creating a good, clean catalog of mods.

This time we ended up with the Trovi “search experience”. I figured out that it was there plugging things up the first time I searched after installing the latest Dalek mod (yeah, that mess of a page is actually the “official” download page). It became clear that it was more insidious, though, when I realized that many AJAX-driven capabilities on pages in Yammer and Hootsuite weren’t working.

When I searched for the tricks to remove Trovi, I got many, many pages that suggested using all sorts of other malware-like tools to remove Trovi.

While I’m enough of a dummy to get infected with Trovi in the first place, I’m not dumb enough to install other junk which would make it worse.

On a whim, I decided to look at the add-on info in Internet Explorer. Lo and behold, there was a link to the “company’s” Web site. Even more amazing, there was a link right at the bottom of the page to a page with Uninstall instructions. It was downright easy to do once I realized that the program was listed as “Search Protect” in the Windows Control Panel Uninstall Programs list.

This is a case where the suggested treatments were actually worse than the disease. Don’t ever download more junk to fix something unless you really know what that junk really does.

 

 

SharePoint’s “Working on it…” In Any Language

It’s the message SharePoint gives us that we’ve learned to love or hate or be indifferent to. But it’s a message that we cannot escape if we use SharePoint even a little bit. Yes, I’m talking about “Working on it…”

Working on it EN-US

When I was in Stockholm this week speaking at the SharePoint and Exchange Forum (SEF), I noticed that the Swedish version of “Working on it…” was “Snart klart…”. According to my pal Christian Ståhl (@CStahl) at Humandata in Stockholm (the fine folks who put on SEF),

About ’Snart klart…’ this is strange translation, it’s more like ‘something will be finished soon‘ (maybe not always clear what) more than SharePoint actually doing something. Snart klart.. is more ok as an short answer to the kids that asks if the dinner will be served soon. Working on it.. is much better in a Swedish ear :)

That gave me a grin – I’m going to say “snart klart” when The Dude gets impatient with me about dinner from now on – and got me to thinking about what the message was in other languages. As with many idioms, the wording may be different and it may translate oddly as well. If you are using SharePoint with a language that I haven’t listed here yet, send me a screenshot of the message and a translation. I’ll post it here for everyone’s enjoyment and education.

Dutch

Working on it DUGoogle translate: “Processing…”

Submitted by Elio Struyf (@eliostruyf)

French

Working on it FR-frGoogle translate: “We soon finished…”

Submitted by Patrick Guimonet (@patricg)

German

Working on it DEGoogle translate: “Is in working… This should not take long.”

Submitted by Stefan Bauer (@StfBauer)

Swedish

Snart klart…

Google translate: “Almost there…”

Turkish

Working on it TUGoogle translate: “They are working on…”

Submitted by Gokan Ozcifci (@GokanOzcifci).