Friday, December 27, 2013

Charitable Giving: Cleft Palate Repair

As you consider where to make last minute end-of-year charitable donations, consider donating to a charity that focuses on cleft palate reconstruction surgury. There are many amazing causes to direct funds to, but year after year we contribute to cleft palate repair work because the completely life altering bang-for-the-buck is just incredible. There's no "research" being done that has questionable results (if any). There's no massive amount of money per-procedure that has to be raised. There is a simple, inexpensive, life altering procedure that many many many doctors around the world can perform.

The procedure's impact utterly changes a human's life... forever... for the better. Some of the surguries literally save a life (the child is able to finally eat), while some of them provide a path to a completely new life that allows the person to integrate into society and more effectively contribute to the world as someone "normal" who "fits in." Just imagine going through life knowing how a simple procedure could mean the difference between you getting a job, vs. not. A simple procedure could affect whether or not you could be in a romantic relationship. A simple procedure could allow you to have more friends. A simple procedure can change everything.

Perhaps oddly, we don't have any direct personal experience with cleft palates. We resolved to donate to the cause because the bang-for-the-buck just seemed incredibly high when weighing options for impacting humanity in some small way.

We've always exclusively given to Smile Train, but are considering Operation Smile as well this year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Day In Pictures; A Tuesday

Started my day with Cliff Shaw (CEO of Mocavo) to talk about money, servers, indexes, and parallel processing.
Talked Partnerships with Gnip's Jack Harvey. I love it when we overlap in Boulder (he lives out East). 
Lunch with the super smart Dave Jilk who's in some weird retired/not-retired state. Lots of backpacking and fishing for this guy. 
A grounding session with body worker Kendra Current
Adam's probably been in all of my "day-in-pictures" days and I think he's weary of it. Can you tell?

Steve simply doesn't like having his picture taken (but he likes to take them). Good conversation around the service level we provide our customers.

Eric Ryan keeping it real.

Passwords And Your Kids

I just read a post that a friend sent me about parents and social app/sexting awareness. It's a pretty good post. I don't agree with all the parenting/oversight approaches she's taking, but it's a good overview (if somewhat outdated) of some of the apps and how, as a parent, you might want to approach things in general.

She hit on something important: passwords. She suggests you, as the parent, know all of your kids' passwords, and that you should troll through everything on a regular basis. Hogwash!

First of all, no parent actually has time to troll through all of their kids' online engagements. You'd need the monitoring capability of the NSA at your disposal to even dent the volume of texts/emails/shares/whatever that your kids actually send on a daily basis.

Secondly, I teach my children to never share their passwords with _anyone_... _ever_; that includes me. Passwords are the modern day journal key. They are private, and being loose with them (with _anyone_) can lead to online identity disaster. So... don't ever share them. Teach your kids good password hygiene early so they can carry the lesson forward into an increasingly password crucial world.

Now, I'll admit, as long as they're "kids" I do hold the ultimate nuclear option if they get into trouble online and I need to kill or access their account(s). I have the credentials for the email accounts they respectively use that _all_ social services require for account validation and password resets. Our kids don't even know those exist (yet. and when they do I'll need to adjust my headspace and write an updated blog post). We, the parents, are the holders of the email accounts. With this option at our disposal, we can manage accounts if we are compelled to, but at the same time, we can treat passwords like the holy grail they are, and teach (without exceptions for mom and dad) our kids the same.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Day In Pictures; Busy Friday

Rob Hamilton recently joined the Gnip San Francisco office. He's in Boulder for a couple of weeks to learn the ways of the force. This guy knows how to do the worm dance move too boot.

Scott Brave recently moved to CO and is sorting through his options around what to do next. Fun tie-in with a very successful iOS gaming firm a friend started awhile ago in Boulder.

Gnip CEO Chris Moody in the groove. This is his "I just crushed that in email!" action pose.

Moving conversation with Simple Energy CEO Yoav Lurie. Hoping I didn't scare the crap out of him. Live pure and clear brother!

Moody and I officially have a concerning sport coat "you wear mine I'll wear yours" thing going on. Chris made his way over to Weekends and had Ann set him up with the right gear. Many nice-coat-worthy activities underway.

Fun gathering with Gnip & Full Contact crew in an Oblong Mezzanine setup at Foundry Group. Brad doing his best to hide from the shot and flip me the bird.

Shot for "Built In Colorado" interview. 

Elyse Kent from "Built In Colorado" trying to interview me.

End-of-week retrospective on a pivotal project we're working on. I missed the demo following this meeting, but was lucky enough to see my little girl play the cowardly lion in a Wizard of Oz play instead.

My little one at a post performance celebratory dinner at The Sink on the hill in Boulder.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Three Years With BPPV

Three years ago, roughly today, I was afflicted with something that radically changed how I exist in the world around me. While I’m still not 100% on diagnosis, it is/was likely BPPV.

Year one was hell. The world around me was literally spinning all the time. Everything was disorienting. I spent inordinate amounts of energy trying to keep everything “in balance” literally. It felt like my mind and body were coming apart. Lots of ebb and flow. Some days felt good, while others were horrible.

Year two was when I started coming to terms with my new reality. I posted this update at about this time. Things were getting better (a lot better), but I didn’t know if it was because my mind and body were adapting to the “new normal” while the underlying condition was still in place, or because I was “getting better.” By the end of year two things felt more consistent. The disorientation was persistent, but much more mellow.

This past year, year three, has been a ton better. I have knocked off nearly all of my list of vestibular challenges that we, as humans, normally build up in life. I have survived radical theme park rides. I have done all the water activities again (some for the first time), from surfing, to snorkeling, to swimming in open water and big waves, to large and small boat rides. I have gone on a helicopter ride. I have had many “upside down” and odd-angle experiences again. None of them have set me back, and I powered through them knowing I didn’t want to live life without them.

I don’t feel like I did the day before the incident. Something is still off. But, it is consistent now, and I know that I can engage with life without big vestibular setbacks.

I wish this post was about how I “fixed” my BPPV situation (if that is indeed even what I had/have) and that others feeling this stuff could follow a recipe to resolve their challenges. It’s not. Apparently I simply let a lot of time pass. I don’t think about it very much anymore. It used to dominate every waking/sleeping moment, but it doesn’t anymore, and that feels so good.

Patience; as hard as I know it can be.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Day In Pictures; My Life.

Today I toted my camera with me to all my meetings. Half of the subjects are people I've worn down with this exercise and are "used to" me taking pictures of them. The other half were surprised, confused, and a little self conscious. Today's motivation came from my rental of a 50mm fixed/prime lens that I've been wanting to try out. I used it all day with the exception of a big group meeting shot.

Shannon, starting off our day at the office by leading Tuesday morning meditation; she's setting the timer before getting started.

Fun first meeting of the day with Andrew (one of our software developers). He's full of great ideas around how to make us better. He's also trouble as you might guess by looking at him.

Today we kicked off another project with Pivotal Labs. This is the kick-off of software being written on said project.

My desk-mate for the past three years. She does not allow her picture to be taken. She's working on her posture; hence the backless stool for a seat.

The "Product Roundtable" session that we do after a release to production. People interested in what we're prioritizing show up to this meeting.

Meeting with Dan (co-founder of Full Contact) about what being a CTO means.

Walking meeting with Gnip's captain/CEO, Chris Moody, along Boulder creek path. One of my favorite things to do.

Coffee with Blake, from a NYC Venture Capital firm. He was in CO meeting with one of his portfolio firms.

Coffee with Kyle, from same NYC Venture Capital firm. He was in CO meeting with one of his portfolio firms.

Late afternoon deep tissue massage with Boulder's own amazing Kendra Current.
Final "in-office" meeting of the day with Gnip engineering management crew. Challenging, but good, discussion. Lucky to work with these guys. Yes, Eric (on the right) is physically dominating of all of us; that's not the lens playing tricks.

Wrapped the day over dinner and drinks with Ian. Always a treat.

Ali took great care of Ian and myself. She always does.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Career Motivation And New Levels

A good friend just forwarded me this article about a chef we keep track of and his new restaurant. This quote hit me, and him, just right.
"Whenever I go to New York, I always feel like I'm way behind the curve, and that gets me into trouble. I should be grounded from ever going there, because it gives me too much motivation, which is how I ended up here," he cracks, while standing in the confines of his open kitchen, rocking a mohawk and a grey headband. "New York just has this way of kicking me in the pants, so when I got back to Denver, I figured that as long as I'm still young, I may as well do this thing."
Where do you find your career motivation? Even when you're doing great, what causes you to think "wow, I've got nuthin', time to shift into high gear!"

I find that my career motivators are often quite different from motivators in other parts of my life (like parenting).

This also reminded me of something one of our board members said a few meetings ago; "don't forget. there is always another level."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Should I Do This?

I've had a recent influx of conversations that have driven me back to a few tenants I live by. Thought I'd write briefly about them.

If you're ever faced with a decision around whether or not you should invest time, money or energy in something, bounce them against these three things. If you answer yes to any of them… make the investment.

Network Access
Does it provide better access to "the network" (DNS + HTTP servers)?

Does it result is faster speeds (either latency or throughput)?

Does it involve creating something good/cool that can be accessed by a URL?

Yes, they're overly simple. Yes, they're too high level. Yes, they're all related.

If you're about to invest in something (other than charity/humanitarian stuff) that does NOT contribute to one of those things, you're increasing the odds of failure.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Day In Pictures

Every now and then I like to take my camera with me everywhere I go during the day, and snap pics of who I spend time with. I couldn't capture three meetings this day because the other parties were too wimpy or shy (or both) to be shot. Chronological order.

My kids after we backed out of the garage to get them to school.

My friendly neighborhood corporate lawyer, Mark Weakley with Bryan Cave. Pre-breakfast meeting warmup.
Breakfast meeting with Jeff Casimir, to talk about building new world software developers via gSchool and more.

9:30a standup with Gnip engineering team.

Gnip Product team meet to talk about how to prioritize stuff we want and need to build.

Boulder Creek Path walking meet with Gnip's Ian Cairns. Beautiful day! 
Lunch with Gnip's Chris Moody to talk about my first week back in the saddle.

Post-lunch coffee with Paul who knows how to build software and was passing through Boulder. 
Quick sync with Eric Ryan to clarify something.

Answering Bre's question to me: "are you playing photographer today?"

Trying to keep my head straight with the infinitely wise Jillian Peck.

Capping a dinner meeting (with one of the aforementioned wimps) off with the always lovely Ali at Frasca.

Home for the night with my crew.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Clocking Back In

I "return to work" next week after two months of "time off."

It's been an interesting two months of being disconnected from something I'd poured everything I had into for five and a half years, with only a couple of notable chunks of time off during that span.

Some thoughts...

I didn't feel like I actually adjusted to being out of the office until about the fourth week. It's hard to explain. When I left to start the break I completely walked away from work related stuff. I stopped checking email outright. I removed my work calendar from my calendars. I stopped taking meetings for the most part. I put the brakes on everything really... right out of the gate. Yet, my mind kept going. Not necessarily on Gnip stuff, but on non-"vacation" stuff. I think part of it was the fact that Gnip has been my baby for so long and that I'm heavily invested in it. I think part of it was simple entrepreneurial spirit and headspace. There are so many people working on so many interesting things out there; I love being engaged in that.

About a month in my mind and body adjusted to something new. I didn't have overbearing business commitments staring at me every morning through calendar eyes. My assistant and I had cleanly broken our synchronized rhythm and became out of touch. On a day to day basis, I realized I wasn't connected to Gnip. It took while to realize that.

Then I had a couple of weeks of complete "time off." A couple of weeks of true mind drift. That was really cool. By week six, work things started bleeding back into my life. Small things. Big things. I'd been able to compartmentalize them until today. Today, a few days before fully jumping back in, the responsibility, the scheduling goop, the challenges that make up getting-shit-done sidled up next to me and said "I'm here. Are you ready?"

I did a lot of personal travel during the past two months. I had amazing life experiences with my kids on a few trips. We travel so well together. I really enjoy those trips. I enjoy showing them the world and its magnitude and culture and ways of doing.

I loved the chunk of time I took off. I didn't have any epiphanies as a result of it though. I am vowing to make some time prioritization changes in how my work and personal lives harmonize, but, I'm not setting myself up for failure and setting unreasonable expectations with myself, my wife, or my work. I am who I am and that is someone who is deeply engaged and interested in the challenges around building great software that has large-scale impact on the world in some way.

Software is my way of life, and that just is. Software is an ecosystem of technology, people, writers, customers, partners, readers, builders, users, sockets, pain, relief, community, comfort, discomfort, randomness, bullshit, bliss, and love for me. My role within it is fluid; always has been, always will be.

I'm reminded of something a friend told me a few months into my first job out of college as a network stack engineer at Netscape (client-side). He said something that didn't make sense to me until  years later. It was something like "The only thing that matters now is the URL." He was making a statement like "Plastics son. It's all in plastics. They'll change everything." I've loved the life I've been able to lead ever since understanding that statement. The Network and the software built on it makes for an amazing way of life.

Gnip continues to "crush it." We have an awesome team building awesome software for awesome customers. We also have awesome (the positive energetic meaning, as well as the "big" meaning of the word) challenges in front of us. We have some core products solving some big challenges for the industry, but there is always the "next big thing" to build to ensure the ball keeps moving up the hill. I'm grateful and excited about jumping back in and contributing to that.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Calwood Parent Volunteering Experience

Long View Lookout
I just got back from a two-night trip to Calwood just outside Boulder, CO. I was a Parent Volunteer for our 5th grade classes' adventure. It was the first time I'd really volunteered for something of this magnitude with the kiddos. It was profound. Calwood exists because its founders wanted to ensure children of all walks of life could experience the outdoors. It's remarkable how many kids don't access nature.

Thirty years ago I'd attended roughly the same program at Calwood as a 5th grader myself. I had experienced what my son and his classmates were experiencing nearly down to a 'T'. That was wild in-and-of-itself. I was able to connect clear dots between who I am today as an adult, and my experience thirty years ago which was wild, but, that's a different blog post.

I wanted to write about the positive impact a few things an experience like this can have on a child. I also wanted to write about the positive impact it can have on you as an adult. This may be obvious to many parents reading this, but, I'm not the world's best parent, so stuff like this doesn't come easy for me.

The Children

The experience is completely off the grid. There's no-wifi/Network connection. There's no cell-coverage. There are no TV's or radios/stereos. Guess what!?! Every kid survived without their electronics. Remarkable huh? The experience was so powerful it was like they forgot all that stuff existed.

The experience ensured kids cooperated for long durations of time.

The experience clearly defined respect for others. For younger kids to rebuff strangers in authority positions (e.g. the Calwood Instructors) is a lot harder to do in a completely foreign environment like this. It's relatively easy to talk back to a teacher in the classroom versus being a jerk to a hippy with long dreadlocks standing in front of you out in the middle of nowhere during a night-hike who is likely the only person in the group who can get you back to your bed safely. This sunk in for even the "trouble" kids.

The experience was awesomely educational in a very hands-on way. We spent each day out in the wild. We hiked everywhere we went, and the instructors tied everything back to science along the way. The kids were learning the intricacies of what they were experiencing around them. So cool!

The experience bonded kids together. They had to "survive" together and figure out how to get things done alone. No "mom" to clean up after them. No creature comforts of home. They had to figure it all out together. If you didn't... Darwin set in, and that's a powerful motivator.

The Adults

Three sets of us: Calwood Instructors (paid staff), Teachers (our Elementary school teachers coordinating and driving the program), and the Parent Volunteers (me and my crew).

The experience was completely off the grid for the adults too. For the adults who chose to keep their mobiles' "on," every now and then on a hike a morsel of radio waves would bring an inbound SMS to them, but it was rare.

I chose to keep my phone off the entire time. It was the longest period I'd been disconnected that I can remember. We were so slammed with volunteering responsibilities, that I could hardly tell though.

As a Parent Volunteer we were there to basically keep the edges in place. The Instructors and Teachers were driving things (except when my control issues got the best of me a couple of times and I jumped in to try and "fix" something), and the PVs were really there just to assist. We were extra hands just to keep everything manageable.

The Bond

I haven't spent much time "bonding" with "family community" unfortunately. I've tended to keep all of this at arms length. I realized this on the trip. I walked away knowing much of our 5th grade class on a really neat level. I walked away knowing several of my peer parents on a great new level. We all share something now that we'll take with us from this moment forward. That feels really cool.

I have similar bonding experiences in the "work community" context all the time. I just rarely have them in the "family community" context.

I highly recommend volunteering for an overnight-like experience with your "family community" and children if you have the opportunity. I highly recommend that experience be "off the grid" as well; back to basics.

Calwood is a great outdoors program. It was cool to see it continuing to flourish (despite some challenging years at times). If you're considering Calwood for your school, just pull the trigger.

Monday, August 19, 2013

NYC Helicopter Tour Amazingness

Lower Manhattan/Downtown
Canon 6D, 17-40mm f/4L lens: iso100, 17mm, 0ev, f10, 1/100
Last week my 7-year-old daughter and I took a 30 minute helicopter tour of New York City. I've been to NYC many times, but the tour from the air caused everything to fall into place for me (click on any of these pics on a machine with a large screen to see what I'm talking about). If you ask my daughter what her favorite part of the trip was, you get "the helicopter ride" as a response.

I'm sure her reasons for loving it are quite different from mine, but, the tour left such an impression on me that I wanted to blog about it. Here's what hit me.

  • Perspective. When tromping around the boroughs on the ground, everything is so large that you just can't get your head around everything. You certainly need to experience things first-hand on the ground for obvious reasons, but you won't have strong spacial understanding of scale without pondering things while hovering around in the air. I'm a big city nut and love humans in dense live/work situations. After decades of visits to NYC, I now finally feel like I "get it" spatially.
  • Site coverage. Again, while no substitute for hands/feet on a given site (e.g. WTC, 30 Rock, etc), you see everything on this tour. From Harlem, to Yankee Stadium, to Coney Island, to Freedom Tower, to..... You cover a lot of ground so to speak.
  • Fun. I'd never been in a helicopter before. It was just plain fun!
Brooklyn Bridge
Canon 6D, 17-40mm f/4L lens: iso100, 40mm, 0ev, f10, 1/100

Empire State Building
Canon 6D, 17-40mm f/4L lens: iso100, 40mm, 0ev, f10, 1/125

Canon 6D, 17-40mm f/4L lens: iso100, 17mm, 0ev, f8, 1/125

Canon 6D, 17-40mm f/4L lens: iso100, 40mm, 0ev, f10, 1/100

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Connection, My Daughter, and a Subway

Today I had one of those moments as a parent where something profound comes over you. I don't know about you, but, I'm the kind of parent that doesn't have this happen too often. I'm amazed by my children all the time, I just rarely have that wave of the universe of life change come over me. I love it when it happens.

I took my daughter on the NYC subway for the first time. We took the 5 from mid-town to downtown Manhattan. On the return, we took a more circuitous route. The outbound was fairly sparse as the pic shows. The return was super packed.

I watched my little girl connect with something. She could feel the lives around her.

She heard everything. From the tantruming 5-year-old on the platform, to the "sorry about that" uttered from a nearly 7-foot tall Goth who charged through the closing door of our already sardine-packed car, and loomed over us for 10 mins. From the songs being sung, to the Spanish being spoken.

She saw everything. The drunk. The bicyclists. The businessmen. The chirping tweenage girls. The nannies. The friends going to lunch.

She felt a half-dozen strangers smashing up against her short self, and she smelled it just the same.

She quietly whispered her thoughts and questions to me from time to time.

By the time to head back home, she was insisting on taking the subway. I personally got over the "fun" of the subway years ago (perhaps sadly), but for her of course, we did it.

About half-way through the day it all hit me. Her perspective on people and life and density and cities was shifting right before me. She wanted to "take the subway" in order to absorb more of it all.

Such a beautiful moment. Get your kid on a big-city subway.