Our Road Ahead

May 5, 2015

Post by Rob Collie


If you believe in redemption
I’m calling to you from another dimension

-The Flobots

Turn the Corner, Press the Accelerator

This post will have a definite “personal” flavor to it, but also a strong professional flavor – of what you should expect from us over the coming year.  Personal and Professional are ALWAYS closely intertwined, and I’m less squeamish about blurring that line in 2015 than in 2009, when we started this journey.  Running my own business has taught me this, but really, it was always true.  I was just less aware of it when I worked at Microsoft.  Now matter how you slice it, it’s our lives.

A few days ago, I resolved a long-running personal matter.  It’s… done.  Just looking at those two words – “it’s done’’ – wow, I’m still letting the new reality settle in.  It’s going to take awhile perhaps.  But we’re going to move forward aggressively now.  A new lease on everything.  And we’re not going to waste it.

Lemony Snicket’s Series of UnFortunate Events

steering wheel

And I can’t help but ask myself
How much I let the fear
Take the wheel and steer



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Black/White Decisions in a Greyscale World

December 2, 2014

Post by Rob Collie


     JACK RYAN:  “…with them in the same place, the odds of coincidence are
     dropping fast. Still, there’s no way I can be… absolutely certain.”

     ADMIRAL GREER:  “Excuse me, Jack.  Tell me one thing in life that IS
     absolutely certain.  What I need to hear is your best guess, and I think
     I’ve heard it.  Haven’t I?”

Belatedly Reviving a Thanksgiving Tradition

In past years I occasionally took Thanksgiving Week as an opportunity to write some more “thoughtful” things, such as The Cult of the Right Thing.

This year, I would like to share something more “on topic” than any of the previous ones, while still very much fitting the theme of thoughtful/reflective.

An Exchange in “Patriot Games” Captures It

The conversation pictured above, between Jack Ryan and Admiral Greer, was pretty much lost on me the first time I saw Patriot Games in 1992.  It’s a relatively “bland” exchange.  No emotion, no drama, no action.

But in subsequent viewings, that brief little clip etched itself in my brain.  It captures something CRUCIAL about being a human being, regardless of what you do for a living.  But for those of us in data-driven professions, I think it’s even MORE relevant.

WHY is it so crucial?  Well, let’s start with Left Brain and Right Brain…

Left and Right Brain:  A Powerful Alliance



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Why I am a “late adopter” of virtually everything

June 20, 2014

Rant On.  100% ON.

I’m writing this post on a Lenovo Yoga 2 laptop that will be returned to Best Buy by the time you have read this.

Nothing but a nightmare.  Starts off with one of those improvements that we all love so much:


3200 Lines of Resolution, WOW!  So Why do I have it set at 1600???

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Holiday Bonus Post: Mobile Frame Zero!

December 24, 2013

Let’s Say You’re a Big Nerd…

…and you haven’t spent enough time with your kids over the past year.  Looking for a good way to spend many quality hours with the brood?

I give you…  Mobile Frame Zero.  (And if you’re not a big nerd, well, you may just want to stop reading right now).


A Game Where You Design and Build Your Own “War Mechs” Out of Legos?  Yes Please.
(My Mechs on Top.  My Son’s on Bottom.)

A 100% “Open Source” Mech Game That You Can Play for Free??

For nearly 30 years, I have been aware of games like Warhammer – epic tabletop nerd games – and wanted to at least try them.  But they are SUPER expensive.  You can rack up thousands of dollars buying the miniatures, and then spend forever painting them.  So, um, no.  I’ve stayed away.

But what about a mech game where you make your own miniatures out of Legos???  Pure freaking genius, especially considering that the people reading this post ALONE, in total, probably possess millions of unused Lego blocks.

Well, the creators of Mobile Frame Zero weren’t done there.  They also made their RULES free to download!  Optionally, you can choose to pay them $10 for the PDF, kinda like a donation.  Or you can buy a physical copy of the rulebook, like I did.  But they are VERY clear that they do NOT mind you downloading the game for free.  Put that together with the Legos you already have and you’re ready to play.  (Well, you need some dice too, but keep reading for a hookup).

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Mystery Pic = Washington Monument

November 11, 2013


Top of the Washington Monument (left), Excel 2013 Power Pivot Chart (Right)

imageMany of you guessed correctly in the comments on Friday, but just to make sure, yes, that was the Washington Monument.

My dad is managing the monument’s restoration project down in DC, which afford him all kinds of neat photo ops like that.

I love the picture for the whole “tip of the spear” vibe.  Which is where we all live these days, in the vanguard of Power Pivot adoption.

One of my friends and former colleagues on the Power Pivot team, Sasha Juric, is quite the creative type, and couldn’t resist “modeling” the picture in Excel 2013.

If you’d like to grab the workbook he used, it’s grabbable here.

Friday Bonus: Mystery Picture!

November 8, 2013


My Dad Took this Picture Today.  What Is It?
(Leave Guesses in Comments)

Friday Bonus: A Blog Stats “Whodunit?” (AKA “We Are Legion.”)

August 2, 2013


A Single Post (the “Cheese” Post About Power Pivot Being Removed From
Most Versions of Excel 2013) Had Its Best Day Ever Yesterday.  Why?

Yesterday I awoke to unusually high traffic on the site.  A single post – Who Moved My PowerPivot Cheese? – was going gangbusters.

What does “gangbusters” mean?  Well, for perspective, let’s check out the Mary Jo Foley Effect:

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Three Pictures: All Cool, Two Funny

July 24, 2013

Three pictures landed in my inbox in the past 24 hours that I just had to share Smile

1) Condoms Power???


Without a Doubt:  A Very Strange Superpower Indeed Smile

The author of this Power Pivot workbook has agreed to write a guest post in exchange for my assistance.  Let’s hope he follows through, because it’s a fascinating model in addition to having a funny sheet tab name.  In the end it’s a very serious subject regarding HIV prevention in the Pacific Islands.

2) Comprehensive Export Support

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A Swarm of Helpful People

July 1, 2013

Humans are just amazing.  We don’t survive on our own – even strangers come to your aid, by the dozen, and I am incredibly fortunate for that.

When I hurt myself last weekend, I just felt stupid.  I was laying there on this sea of trampolines, 100 feet from the stairs down, sweating, and unable to even straighten my right leg.  I might as well have been a thousand miles from the exit.  It’s a weird feeling – knowing, for certain, that if I were alone, I would eventually starve to death right in that spot.

My knee was basically disassembled into component parts, but the pain from that wasn’t so bad.  It was the helplessness that sucked.  The physical sense of helpless (described above) was only one part.  As an independent contractor in the process of launching a new enterprise, I had rolled the dice on temporarily going without health insurance.  This was uncharted territory for me – what exactly was going to happen now?  The System equates No Insurance with Cannot Pay For It.  I knew that I could afford it, but how do you get expensive help from people who don’t think you can pay?

Then the fire department and paramedics showed up.  Like ten guys.  Splinting my leg, moving me onto a stretcher board.  All while basically working in quicksand – trampolines aren’t the friendliest work surface.  I just kept apologizing – “guys I am so sorry to put you through this, but thank you.”  That, and make jokes.  Like “guys, I only signed up for an hour of trampoline time and now that it’s six o’clock I think this place is about to throw me out.”

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Memorial Day Musings: The Four Team Theory

May 28, 2013


We Typically Thought of the Cold War as a Struggle Between Two Opposing Teams.
But I Now Think There Were Actually Four Opposing Teams.
(and Four Teams in Every International Struggle – Past and Present)

Continuing a holiday tradition of sorts, tonight I thought I’d share a long-simmering, Off Topic thought.  Our regularly scheduled program of Excel, PowerPivot, BI, etc. resumes Thursday.

Let’s start with a movie quote, shall we?

“Why was the gun not loaded???”


In “Elizabeth:  The Golden Age,” Spain sends an assassin to shoot Queen Elizabeth of England.
He fires, but the gun was deliberately loaded with powder only – no bullet.  Why?

Here’s one of those movies that my wife watches while I type away on my laptop and only halfway pay attention.  But boy, did this sequence get my attention.

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My New “Recording Studio”

May 23, 2013


The Official PowerPivotPro Sound Booth
(Yes, all Good Sound Booths Have Primus Posters)

Even though today’s post is the first time you’ve seen a video from me in a long time, I’ve actually been doing quite a bit of video recording lately – stuff that pays the bills while I spin up my new (unannounced) company, and stuff that supports the launch of said company.

Recording some guest modules for Chandoo’s PowerPivot training course is one example of this (I am finishing those today, so for those of you who enrolled, look to see those show up sometime in the next week).

As part of this process I realized that I needed a better setup for sound.  A home recording studio on the cheap. 

It wasn’t that expensive, so I thought I’d share what I got:

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Heading Down to Uniontown (MrExcel HQ)!

May 10, 2013



Chandoo:  “It’s 46 miles to Uniontown, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a stack of Excel books, it’s overcast, and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

Rob:  “Hit it.”

Hitting the Road.  Holding a Mini-Summit.

Chandoo and I are jumping in the car this afternoon for a short journey down I-77 to a place MrExcel calls home.  Well, at least, that’s where Bill lives and works today.  He is, sadly, moving to Florida this summer.  (The second friend of mine to leave Ohio for Florida since I moved here – traitors! Smile)

This is going to be fun, having the three of us in one place like this.  But I’m a little bummed that we couldn’t get a good picture of us sitting IN the car.  There was too much glare on the windshield.

Otherwise, we were prepared to re-enact this classic scene:


Me, Chandoo, and Bill in One Place?  Serious Stuff?  Maybe.

When a bunch of Excel “heavies” get together like this for a day, you might think the gathering looks like this:


Sometimes, that’s true.  But they just as often turn out more like the barbecue scene from Mystery Men:


I’m interested to see which way today goes Smile