Paying off student loans is as exciting as getting student loans

I was helping teach an orchestra class, pacing back and forth along the back row of high school students to listen closely to their performance and give correction, when my high school counselor, Mrs. Lindsey, came into the room and excitedly beckoned me over. She had the results of my college placement exam, the ACT, and had come up to the Annex to tell me that I had gotten a 30.

My legs gave out and I fell to my knees. Tears filled my eyes and I cried out in excitement. I didn’t have money for college, and that score meant that I had just earned a full-ride scholarship to the university where I had already been accepted. I don’t think I knew how stressed I really was about that, and like a dam breaking, the stress flooded away from me.

Then I went to college, with no idea what I was doing, and lost my scholarship after the first year. To maintain it, you need a GPA above 3.0 (or was it 3.25? I don’t recall), and you had to take 15 hours per semester. Also, it turned out that my scholarship didn’t include room and board, and the university required that I live in the residence hall my freshman year. So I was working 30 hours a week, and spending 21 hours a week in classes (including the symphony), plus homework and practice. That combined with a few bad professors and a couple of disastrous relationships contributed to me ending the year with around a 2.3 GPA.

But I was relieved. I dropped my hours down to 12 a semester, and having a job meant I could move out of the dorms and into an apartment where my expenses were cut in half. I dropped out of the symphony too, so my schedule became much more reasonable all the way around. But it meant that I needed student loans, and a lot of them.

I didn’t have to get as much as some, but over the 3.5 years I needed loans, it came to around $20,000. That burden wasn’t as heavy for me as others I know because I had an income, lived within my means, and had a plan to pay them back. Others aren’t so lucky, and I know people with loans in the six-figures such that their monthly payments are $800+ per month. That’s back-breaking. Most of my interest rates were locked in at 1.6% originally (oh the early 2000s!), so it wasn’t too bad.

But it was a debt, and having grown up with my parents filing bankruptcy and having to deal with the threat of losing our house, and not having enough food to eat, and all the problems that come with poverty, I was keen to discharge it.

You don’t have to pay on most student loan debts while you’re in school, and it took me 8.5 years to get my bachelor’s degree. I took a year and a half off school after graduation to decide what I wanted to do next, during which I made a couple of small payments, then I enrolled in a master’s program. 2.5 years later, I graduated and started making payments for real.

And 6 years later:


One of the benefits of student loans is that I learned you don’t need a scholarship to go to college. It’s more expensive than it was a generation or two ago, and already it is more expensive than when I started; while tuition hasn’t gone up tremendously in the last 15 years, interest rates have gone way up. But once I got into my freshman year, I learned that I needn’t have been so stressed. If I hadn’t won the scholarship, the total impact would have been around another $6-7,000 in loans. Not the end of the world.

At any rate, they’re paid off now. Like on a birthday, which is supposed to mark a milestone in our lives, I feel no different than I did yesterday. My next goal is to pay off credit cards again (they should be back to $0 by the middle of next month), max out our Roth IRA for the year, and start building up our savings again. The last couple of years of new house + repairs have drained it. But we’re on-track, and reducing debt is nice.

If I feel anything emotionally, it’s a mix of bitterness and pride. I wasn’t worried about paying them off, or stressed about it, so there’s no real relief. There’s just residual frustration that I needed them to begin with, and pride that I did all this on my own.

My first loan was disbursed on August 13th, 2003. The last on September 27th, 2006. Then I started working full-time at the university in January 2007 and my benefits paid for my classes (though I had to drop further down to 6 hours per semester to make that work).

I continue to look up regularly, up and to the right from the sofa in my office, to gaze at the two diplomas hanging on the wall there. I am happy every day that I am not in college. Every day when I can think, “I never have to do that again,” fills me with joy. With the loans paid, that book is truly closed.

Some thoughts on Netflix’s Iron First and how it’s actually kind of good

No spoilers (provided you’ve seen the trailer or have even a cursory knowledge of who/what Iron Fist is).

A lot of people I know on Facebook appear to dislike Iron First. I see a lot of comments about people getting bored after 1-2 episodes, hating how dumb Danny (Iron First) Rand is, disliking the cultural appropriation, finding it odd that they have a Singaporean-Chinese-Zambian-English actress playing a Japanese woman, and being frustrated by simple solutions not being tried first (e.g. hey Danny, why not have a shower, get some shoes, and generally look a bit less absurd before you go into the headquarters of Rand Enterprises? And then you could, I don’t know, tell them something that only you and they would know in episode 1 instead of episode 3 or 4.)

But I think there’s something to be said about Iron Fist, and it’s that the character of Danny Rand is internally consistent. That’s one of the things that keeps me watching the show.

Danny was 10 when his plane crashed and he was adopted by the monks of Kun Lun. From what we can tell about him based on what little backstory we are given throughout the series, he was spoiled and bribed to do what his parents wanted. He was allowed to ride his skateboard through corporate headquarters, was always roaming around the building and finding ways in and out of it, at least sometimes refused to do what his parents wanted unless they bribed him (like with a trip to the circus), and just generally fits the stereotype of the spoiled rich kid.

This led to him being arrogant, and then he went to a monastery and was trained that “doubt leads to death.” So you take his arrogance and you turn the self-confidence dial up to 11.

As near as we can tell, his only education at the monastery was in fighting and farming. He has a 5th grade education in reading, mathematics, and science, and possibly not even that because he was home schooled. Considering the implications regarding being spoiled, it’s not hard to guess that his schooling wasn’t rigorous. Danny’s father certainly didn’t appear to drive him as hard as Ward and Joy’s father drove them. If their plane hadn’t crashed, I imagine that Danny Rand would have turned out a lot like Oliver Queen prior to the Queen’s Gambit going down.

So when Danny returns to New York and walks into the headquarters to find the people he thinks of as his long-lost family, I can kind of understand that. He expected to be welcomed back with joy (no pun intended) and celebration. He doesn’t know any better.

Another facet of Danny’s personality, that we get mostly from the comics but a bit from the show, is that he is generally naive and innocent, and he thinks the best of people. He learned honor from the monks and assumes everyone is as honorable as him (which later gets him in trouble with the board of Rand Enterprises). His parents seemed to love him and shelter him, and except for Ward being a bully to him as a kid, he lived in a safe bubble. While the plane crash was traumatic, he was then taken in by these fantastic people and literally lived in heaven for 15 years. He isn’t used to people lying to him. We know from the comics that not everyone in Kun Lun was kind to him–he was, after all, being trained to be a living weapon–but people were generally straight-forward.

So you’ve got this guy with no education, no street-smarts, who is absolutely arrogant and self-confident, and who thinks the best of everyone… but there’s a darker set of traits influencing Danny Rand too. He likely has PTSD from the plane crash. As part of the Iron Fist’s training and duties, he was to “kill” Danny Rand and become wholly the Iron Fist, but he clearly chose to go back to New York and try to resume some of his life as Danny Rand. He is internally conflicted, and this conflict has a negative impact on him.

I don’t really enjoy the Iron Fist comics, but I do think they’re internally consistent, and I do find the character kind of interesting. What we have here isn’t Tony Stark, who is a narcissist. Nor do we have Oliver Queen, who is driven by guilt. Nor do we have Batman, who is just super complicated and there’s no way to talk about Batman without limiting the discussion to a particular iteration of Batman… What I’m getting at is that Danny is another rich white superhero who thinks he can save the world, but he is different from the other rich white superheroes we’ve seen.

Danny doesn’t particularly like himself. We get this more in the comics, and while I’m only in episode 9 of the Netflix series, I think we’ll see more of it as the show goes on. The conflict between Danny Rand and Iron Fist is hard, and he doesn’t know his place in the world. What’s more, the world doesn’t work the way he expects it to, and no matter how hard he tries, it refuses to work the way he wants. I have always felt like, for many of the other superheroes, they face an ever-escalating series of conflicts and they overcome and we get catharsis. Iron Fist fails over and over again, not because he doesn’t defeat the bad guys, but because his goals are so monumental that they’re impossible to achieve. And unlike Tony Stark, the futurist who can invent what’s needed to change the world, Danny Rand has no idea how to make a real, lasting difference. He’s not smart enough to wield his corporate empire, and he’s not strong enough to stop all the bad guys.

Iron Fist is a B-list hero; he was deliberately written to be on the B-list. Iron Fist gives us an opportunity to see, “What would happen if a regular guy got super powers?” Yes, this regular guy is a multi-billionaire, but the money is largely irrelevant to the story or Danny’s character, except insofar as it shaped the first 10 years of his life.

OK, so that’s why I think the show has some worth. It’s internally consistent and I can see where it’s coming from. That said, I mostly watch it for:

  • The Joy-Ward story arc. I want to like Joy but am not sure I should. I want to hate Ward but am not sure I can. And despite them both being of questionable moral fiber, their sibling love is something I admire. They’re great characters.
  • Claire. I mean, come on. I laughed long and hard at her saying, “Sweet Christmas” right before she knocked a guy out. She’s a straight-shooter and I love that she ties all the Marvel TV shows together. My only regret is that she hasn’t facilitated a meet-up yet.
  • A lot of people like Colleen, but I think she’s just OK. She’s a bit too much of a supporting foil for me, and I wish she was more independent and stronger on her own.
  • Tie-ins. I love all the ways the various Marvel TV shows tie together. I have a deep longing for tie-ins to the movies too. They’re going to do a Defenders movie, I think, and I am hopeful that Doctor Strange will at least have a cameo in it.


Adaptavist Live: The Adaptavist Atlassian Ecosystem Podcast

As part of Learning and Development at Adaptavist, we launched a podcast this week. It’ll be published every Monday sometime during the day (depending on which country’s “day” you’re in) and you can listen to it!

We’ve already recorded the second one, and will be doing the third one this Friday. If you have any ideas or want to hear us talk about something in particular, send an email to

Migrating from WordPress Server to

Last year, when my site on Bluehost came up for renewal, I decided that I ought to migrate to to save some money. I’ve been spending around $133 per year for my domains, hosting, and storage, and I just don’t blog enough to justify that anymore. Paying Bluehost was worth it to move off the server that used to run on a computer in my living room, but it’s not worth it anymore, especially because my sites have been going down multiple times a day.

I have been working on migrating to for the last week or so. I first had to roll back a test migration, which took a surprisingly long amount of time; all the pages and posts had to be deleted, and the process kept timing out. Then, I had to re-migrate everything so this site had the latest posts from both and

I get one free domain with the cheapest plan here on WP (which was $36 instead of $133 for the year), so I’m letting go.

Don’t expect any more frequent blogging than I have been doing… but know that things are going fantastically at Adaptavist. I’ll likely publish here in March to point you at some of the stuff we’ll be releasing then.

Focusing my energy on Adaptavist

I started this blog because I had some ideas for articles that I thought would be helpful for people, but keeping a regular schedule for it has been difficult. Between work as a Consultant at Adaptavist, work at the church, some volunteer activities, and spending time with friends, I didn’t have much time or energy for writing. I would fit in some blogging in an evening or on a Saturday when I would try and write many articles at once to schedule out into the future. If I had a busy month or two, I would fall behind.

In December, I was promoted to Head of Learning and Development at Adaptavist. One of the things I’m excited about with this new position is that I can take all of my goals for Meta-Manage and implement them at Adaptavist, but instead of trying to cram them into a spare Saturday or an occasional evening, I can develop these ideas during the week. What’s more, I’ll have a team of people to help me, so we’ll be able to do all the things that I’ve been dreaming of.

This means that I won’t be posting here much anymore, if at all. I might let the domain lapse once the year is up. But keep an eye on and where new articles will be showing up with greater frequency. I’ll post here on occasion (while the domain is still registered anyways) when we have something new, like the podcast we’re planning to kick-off, or a webinar, but all of my energy and attention will be going into Adaptavist rather than Meta-Manage for the foreseeable future.

Pro tip: Use different mailbox for incoming and outgoing email for JIRA

Strong Bad checks his emailAtlassian JIRA has two different  places to setup an email connection: incoming and outgoing. This probably goes without saying, but let me briefly define these for you:

  • Incoming: This is where you add one or more email server connections for incoming email. This email will be used to create JIRA issues, comments, and potentially users.
  • Outgoing: This is where you add one email server for sending email from JIRA. These will typically be notifications, such as that an issue was created, assigned, or commented on. JIRA can only have one outgoing email connection.

At first glance, you might think, “OK, we already have, so let’s use that for JIRA.” And you plug that in for incoming and outgoing email. But that can cause some problems.

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Culture change through collaborative storytelling

I was dismayed by the results of the presidential election. I wasn’t upset just because I dislike President Trump and pretty much everything that he stands for, nor was I only baffled because the majority of people polled said Trump wasn’t qualified to be president and yet at least 16% of those people voted for him anyways. I’m not disappointed just because my side lost and the other side won. I recognize that the other side felt that way the last two elections, and we have some core differences of opinion, and I’m OK with that.

I’m mostly dismayed because this election feels like a repudiation of my beliefs and values. I am a white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, cis male, middle-class landowner living in Missouri. I’m practically the poster-child for the Republican party. And at the same time, my wife and I both have master’s degrees, and we believe that education should be higher quality and more freely accessible, and that healthcare should be universal and provide both for physical and mental health, and that people in disadvantaged situations (such as the disabled, those suffering from domestic violence, or abuse, or neglect) should have social services to which they can turn for aid, and that we should, as a society, work to improve the lives of individuals because that will in turn improve the state of our society, and that we should all be treated equally regardless of sex, gender, race, or identity. And it feels like the majority (of the electoral college, anyways) said, “Nope, we don’t want that. We disagree with that. We want the opposite.”

So what can I do? I believe in democracy. I think our system, as flawed as it is, is still the best form of government that humanity has devised thus far. I believe that, following an election, we as a citizenry should coalesce behind the new president and give them a shot. We should hold them accountable and speak our minds and write our representatives, but there’s no going back. Not for four years, at least.

But if I think that the direction we’re going politically is a bad one, what can I do to change that? The standard advice is to be active at the local and state level. If we change local politics, we’ll change national politics. Except my local and state elections all sided with a man I find morally reprehensible and who advocates policies that I perceive as anti-American. I don’t feel like I have any power to change local politics because, again, the majority of people appear to have repudiated what I stand for. Nearly every down-ballot election in Missouri and Greene County went to the GOP, frequently by a landslide. If the majority has said that they disagree with me, what can I do about that given my support for our system of government?

I was walking yesterday and thinking about how I manage culture change at businesses, and my preferred method is through collaborative storytelling. I believe that we become like the stories we tell ourselves, both individually and culturally. If we tell ourselves we are weak and incapable, we will become those things. If we tell ourselves that we are strong and righteous, we will live our lives that way (for better or worse, for we may not actually be right, but instead tyrannical).

We have been told a story of fear. There were a lot of factors at play in this election, but a common thread over the last year of campaigning has been fear, abandonment, and oppression. People are afraid of losing their jobs and their rights. They’re afraid of terrorists. They’re afraid of change. They’re afraid that the political system has abandoned them and their beliefs. They’re afraid that a party will be elected who opposes their views. And a majority of people got out and voted for the person they think will best address those fears.

I can understand that. I totally get it. And I’m not going to speculate on whether those fears are right or wrong. I think some of them were justified. But I also know that God does not want us to fear. God does not call us to live our lives that way.

So what can I do to fix things? How can I change our society? I am very limited in what I can accomplish. I am not a political scientist or politician. I’m not particularly charismatic. I don’t have billions of dollars. But what I can do is be positive and encouraging. I can tell stories that highlight the good things happening in our society.

I haven’t figured out what this looks like yet; I’m still processing. But I may start writing poetry again, because I don’t think people really want to read my long-winded blog posts, and I’m not fond of the idea of writing in to the newspaper regularly (for myself personally; other people do well at that). I don’t know much about journalism, but I think I need to learn a few things about it. How can I tell stories with which people will connect? How can I encourage people given my limitations?

If we change the story that we tell about ourselves and our nation, and we make it a story not of fear but of hope, and a story that highlights people who are different from us and yet so very similar, and stories about people’s families and hopes and dreams and loves and losses and fears and their journey to overcome those fears… well, maybe that’s something I can do. I don’t know, but if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got. Voting isn’t moving our country the direction I want to see it go. Neither is posting on Facebook and trying to have conversations with people about the things our politicians do. Maybe telling stories about the good things happening around us will help. Maybe it won’t, but I think it’s a place to start and a thing to try.