In case you've been wondering why the blog is so quiet, I've been on vacation! Woohoo!

Leaving on phase II of the vacation today; heading off to run around Europe with my best friend Mike for about a week and a half. Of course, we've created a trip blog, I'm With Stupid, so head over there for updates on our adventures in Madrid and Paris.

Happy new year to all- see you in 2008!



A non-profit that I am on the Board of is competing in the $250,000 Facebook Causes Giving Challenge and I need your help! From today until February 1, 2008, we're racing to get as many $10+ donors as possible for our facebook cause Educate, Don't Obliterate: To educate tomorrow's leaders in the name of peace.

Please help spread our cause (and encourage others to do so)!

1. Vote for us by donating $10+ to Educate, Don't Obliterate

2. Pledge to invite 20 friends on facebook each day
3. E-mail your listservs: http://apps.facebook.com/causes/view_cause/48396?recruiter_id=2080600
4. Place our link in your away messages
5. Blog about us

Donations are tax deductible, benefiting Children of Abraham, a 501c3 dedicated to educating young leaders around the world to promote peace and understanding in their local communities.


Crank dat, Kosha Boy

With Chanukkah just about coming to an end, this seems like perfect time to share this Jewish-themed parody of "Crank Dat, Soulja Boy." Just found it this morning on YouTube and it seems to be spreading quickly. As someone who unashamedly admits to having tried to learn the original Soulja Boy dance through countless pathetic attempts at following along with the YouTube instructional video, I got a real kick out of this parody.

Happy Chanukkah! Now, Crank Dat, Kosha Boy!

[And in case you have somehow avoided the original that skyrocketed to #1 on the charts due largely to internet fame, here ya go...The music video and The instructional video with the dance]


NYT- A Holiday Medley Off-Key: In Interfaith Marriages, a Rivalry of Rituals

Passing along an interesting article on interfaith marriage from the New York Times website. Original link: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/06/garden/06Fight.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

December 6, 2007
A Holiday Medley, Off Key

WHEN her sons were toddlers, Amy Manata, a Jewish woman with a Catholic husband, began conducting a silent war. In the months leading up to Hanukkah, she would ask the boys, now 4 and 6, which toys they wanted most, then bestow them at Hanukkah to ensure that it was a better holiday than Christmas.

She and her husband, Frank, who live in Skokie, Ill., are raising their sons with both Catholic and Jewish traditions. Still, with so much Christmas everywhere, “Hanukkah was sort of getting lost, and I felt like I couldn’t compete,” she said.

Ms. Manata willingly put up Christmas decorations, but she sometimes felt weird about the wreath on her front door and the tree in her living room. “Skokie was very Jewish when I was growing up,” she said. “I wasn’t in a house with Christmas lights until I was a sophomore in high school, and I remember feeling so uncomfortable about it, like it was a totally foreign place.” Years later, a tree in her own living room brought back some of those feelings.

It is a familiar problem, widely known as the December dilemma: the annual conflict faced by millions of adults in interfaith marriages over how to decorate homes, how and when to give gifts, and which rituals to celebrate.

As of 2001, more than 28 million Americans lived in mixed-religion households, according to the American Religious Identification Survey, which is widely viewed as providing some of the best data on the subject. Of those households, the largest group of interfaith marriages (distinct from interdenominational Christian ones) was Christian-Jewish, and few types of couples seem to experience the December dilemma as acutely as they do.

One reason for this is that few non-Christian religions other than Judaism have significant holidays in December. (The Muslim holiday Eid-al-Adha, the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca, begins on Dec. 20 this year, but it often falls in other months.) Another reason is that many Jews, both despite and because of their assimilation into American society, are particularly conscious of threats to Jewish culture.

According to the United Jewish Communities’ National Jewish Population Survey, about 47 percent of Jews in the United States who married in 2001 married non-Jews, up from an average of 13 percent before 1970.

“You get this kind of difficult blend of family-of-origin issues as well as religious and cultural issues all at the same time,” said Karen Erlichman, a licensed clinical social worker in San Francisco who specializes in counseling interfaith couples. “They kind of sweep it under the rug for 10 months of the year, and Thanksgiving comes and it’s like, ‘Uh-oh, here we go.’”

When Scott Gamzon, who is Jewish, and his Episcopalian partner, Rick Draughon, adopted their son, Noah, three years ago, they agreed to raise him Jewish but get a tree and spend Christmas with Mr. Draughon’s family in Texas. Despite the agreement, Mr. Gamzon said he cannot help but engage in a few guerrilla tactics.

Two weeks ago he told Mr. Draughon that “it would be really nice if the house had lights all around it this year,” then sat back and did nothing to help beyond instructing him how to arrange the lights and manage the cords.

“I pretty much stood around and gave him opinions,” Mr. Gamzon said. “I had no idea how much work it actually was.”

Mr. Draughon got his revenge days later when picking up Noah from his Jewish preschool. “I put Christmas music on, and later, when Daddy Scott was in the car, Noah was singing, ‘Up on the rooftop, reindeer pause.’ Scott was like, ‘Where did he learn that?’ I was like, ‘Hmm, I don’t know.’”

Then, on Saturday, while entertaining guests for dinner, Mr. Draughon set an iPod to play a mix of holiday songs by Diana Krall. “Scott was like, ‘Would you please turn that off,’” Mr. Draughon said. “I was like, ‘It’s not “Jingle Bells.” It’s Diana Krall.’”

But even sultry jazz versions of Christmas standards can alienate someone who does not celebrate the holiday, a concern frequently overlooked by those who grow up Christian and never experience the isolation of being part of a religious minority.

While Mr. Gamzon said he enjoyed the “forbidden fruit” aspect of decorating a tree, he said he also felt guilty about it, and vividly recalled the scolding his mother gave his younger brother more than 30 years ago when he asked for one. “My mother said, ‘If you really want a Christmas tree you can go live with the neighbors,’” he said. “We were not the Jews who had a tree.”

Jewish-Christian couples may also experience tension more acutely because “having a tree in your house can feel like just a big huge announcement that says I’ve gone over to the other side,” said Micah Sachs, the managing editor of interfaithfamily.com, a Web site that encourages interfaith couples to observe Jewish traditions. “The world is full of all these symbols: it’s full of Santa, it’s full of trees.”

That helps to explain various commercial efforts at making Hanukkah, which is not considered a primary holiday in Judaism, a festive competitor to Christmas. Among the innovations: inflatable lawn menorahs.

Early on, Danielle Kolker and her husband, Donald Viscardi, a self-described Christmas fanatic, negotiated detailed rules about holiday decorating.

“What can be seen from outside has to be completely 50-50,” Ms. Kolker said of their house in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. “If there are Christmas lights up, there have to be Hanukkah lights up too. I don’t want it to look outwardly like we’re more one than the other.”

The compromise, raising their boys Jewish but celebrating Christmas, is working well, they said. At least it was until last summer, when their 7-year-old son, Zachary, asked Ms. Kolker whether she and his father helped Santa buy presents. “He said, ‘Mom, tell me the truth.’ I said, ‘Mommy and Daddy help buy some of them.’ I didn’t say, ‘There’s no Santa Claus.’”

Mr. Viscardi, a private tutor who has twice been a Macy’s Santa, was disturbed that his wife even suggested that the mythology of Christmas could be anything less than true. “I was upset she said that without thinking about the repercussions,” he said. “Going through Macy’s program, being trained as a Santa, I know you never want to destroy that illusion, at least until they get to be a little bit older, anyway.”

For her part, Ms. Kolker cannot help but be annoyed that she has to shop for and wrap a bunch of gifts and then put Santa’s name on them. “He gets credit for everything,” she said.

Susan Needles, a clinical social worker in Manhattan who holds workshops for Christian-Jewish couples sponsored by an organization called Interfaith Community, said the only way to reach a mutually satisfying arrangement is through careful discussion and negotiation.

“Attention has to be paid to how they’re going to incorporate their dual faiths as they go forward in marriage and in their life together,” she said. “That requires work: finding the language to communicate how they feel; discovering what they feel and what they know about their own faith; and discovering what they know and feel about their partner’s faith. It’s harder than buying furniture you both like, and that can be hard.”

Outreach programs across the country have lately tried to help couples achieve this goal. But they can do little to relieve the stress caused by another major source of holiday conflict: extended families.

Frank Manata, Amy’s husband, said that his wife has been supportive of his desire to share Christmas with their sons, but that his in-laws have been less than enthusiastic. Three years ago they clashed over his practice of allowing the boys to play with their Lionel train set around the holidays, then packing it up with the ornaments.

“Her parents think I’m a terrible person for putting it away,” Mr. Manata said. “I’m like: ‘No, it’s a Christmas tradition. It’s up for a month, that’s what makes it special, that’s how we did it.’ So my father-in-law bought a huge Lionel train set and put it up in his basement, so the boys have a train to play with all year long.”

Mr. Manata, who was annoyed by the train episode, never said anything to his in-laws because, he said, they are otherwise wonderful. But now he finds himself facing another indirect assault: he chipped in with them to buy a big gift for the boys, a Nintendo Wii, but his mother-in-law wants to give it at Hanukkah and not on Christmas.

“Well, maybe I don’t want to give it to them on Hanukkah,” said Mr. Manata, whose wife explained her parents’ behavior as a reaction to feeling threatened by Christmas.

Even the anticipated disapproval of a parent can influence family dynamics. Twenty-one years ago, when they married, Ron Klain and his wife, Monica Medina, struck a deal: their daughter and two sons would be raised Jewish (for him), but they would celebrate Christmas (for her).

Despite their satisfaction with the arrangement, the couple, who live in Chevy Chase, Md., have never put up the tree while Mr. Klain’s mother is visiting from Indianapolis. Instead, they wait until after her annual December visit.

“I grew up in Indiana, with a decent-size Jewish community, but we were a distinct minority,” Mr. Klain said. “Not having a Christmas tree was very much part of our Jewish identity in a place where everyone else did.”

Ms. Manata said that after her struggles, she no longer feels there is any holiday battle to fight. Several years ago a friend who is Catholic told her, “Nothing is going to be as big as Christmas; you’re not going to be able to make it as big as Christmas,” Ms. Manata said. “As soon as she said that, it kind of clicked with me. It’s not a race. We’re not keeping score. If I compete, my kids are not learning much from me.”

Many interfaith families who have managed to create their own traditions enjoy at least a bit of domestic peace. The first year of Brad and Linda Simon’s marriage in 1978, Mr. Simon, who is Jewish, sought the perfect everything bagel: seasonings evenly distributed, a symmetrically round shape and a hole that was just right for a red holiday light to poke through. Then he shellacked it, and it has adorned the top of their tree — Ms. Simon is Catholic — every year since. (“In the late ’80s it finally fell apart, and I had to shellac another one,” he said.)

Dana Reynolds, a mother of two toddlers in Albuquerque who was raised Jewish, has struggled to accept having a tree in the house ever since she married a Catholic man nine years ago. Although she put up with it every year that her husband, Jeff, decided to have one, she never really participated. “I kind of tolerated him doing it,” she said.

But lately she has been rethinking her attitude. After Mr. Reynolds left last week on a trip to Africa, she arranged to have a nine-foot tree delivered to the house. Then she and the boys, whom the couple are raising Jewish, spent Monday decorating it, to surprise Mr. Reynolds on his return next week.

“He’s not just my husband anymore — he’s the father of my kids,” Ms. Reynolds said. “I want my kids to celebrate diversity and coexist with everyone.”

It was a gesture worthy of a Christmas — or Hanukkah — TV special. “I’m hoping that he’ll see I’m not just saying I’m comfortable and open to him, but that he really believes it,” she said.


H&H Bagels Make Me Happy

To quote my Yelp! review on the subject:

"My girlfriend just sent me a lovely surprise shipment [of H&H midtown bagels east] in California. I can't tell you how happy I am right now to have real NY bagels and lox in my tummy. The lox especially is fantastic; H&H knows lox!"

Just thought I'd share...I really like bagels. This is awesome. If you know a transplanted New Yorker, chances are they miss bagels, especially at Chanukah time, when bagelmissingitis tends to flare up. You might want to consider sending them a dozen or two...here's the link

And while you're at it, throw in a Junior's Cheesecake!

The Richter Scales: Here Comes Another Bubble

Funny video from YouTube, set to "We Didn't Start the Fire," that I wanted to pass along. Valleywag didn't like it; TechCrunch did. The song told me to blog about it, so I did.

Anyone else think all the clichè talk about a tech bubble is just lame? Facebook's valuation may be questionable, but at least this time around businesses are monetizing...that's a start


Wine 2.0

This morning, The Boston Globe published a typical December article with a few cool gadgets to help you solve your endless list of holiday giftees. Unlike most such articles, though, I actually cared about this one...because it involved wine!

For those readers who don't know me personally, I'm big on wine. I have a nice little collection started up, all the necessary accessories and a spreadsheet that I affectionately refer to as "my baby" with tasting notes on my first 300 or so wines, until the list became too much of a burden to maintain.

With the Wine Collector 250, though, I may be on the verge of a whole new level of obsessiveness. The $200 price tag seems a bit steep, but it would save a lot of time and effort to have help in tracking my studies and cataloguing my collection over time. Plus, being able to have a Yelp-like wine 2.0 community would be really cool, perhaps finally democratizing the American wine buying dictatorship of Robert Parker's palate.

As an added bonus, the Intelliscanner, which is really the core of the product, has the ability to catalogue (it seems) anything with a barcode. I just hope they'll be really innovative and look to combine the device with services such as Google Product Search (formerly Froogle), to enable real-time locally driven shopping comparisons. Wouldn't it be awesome to be out shopping and just scan the barcode to see other stores in the area (or online) selling the same product for less?


Is your job prestigious? (and a lesson in survey creation)

Thanks to my friend Laura, I came across a survey from Harris Interactive that shows Americans' evaluation of how "prestigious" specific occupations are. I found the results interesting, as they reminded me of a discussion my corporate ethics and responsibility professor, Chris Michaelson (now of NYU), raised to a Wharton classroom of very eager soon-to-be consultants and investment bankers. The discussion hinged on two simple questions:

What will you do when you leave Wharton?

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Not surprisingly, the answers to the first questions were potentially lucrative, business-oriented professions: banker, consultant, entrepreneur, and so on. The answers to the second question differed quite drastically: teacher, police officer, firefighter, astronaut, doctor, etc. In short, the discussion highlighted that people often begin life wanting to do jobs that they see as beneficial to society and often trend toward choosing professions that are more economically viable. (Doctors, perhaps, being the noteworthy profession that accomplish both goals)

The Harris findings mimic our discussion perfectly. Among those professions perceived as most "prestigious" are the usual "when I grow up" answers: teachers, firefighters, doctors, police officers, military officers, clergy. And among the low-scoring professions are many that we find adults striving toward, or at least idolizing for the related financial security: bankers, business executives, athletes, lawyers, actors, entertainers, stockbrokers.

So why there is such a disconnect between perceived prestige and potential financial reward? If teachers are esteemed so highly by Americans, why do we pay them so little- and demand next to no proof of performance? And, conversely, why can CEOs, athletes, actors and stockbrokers walk away with millions of dollars in compensation? Why do we glorify these "unprestigious" roles to the extent we do through film, magazines, newspapers and other media?

Either Americans love to celebrate and reward les (perceived) miserables of our society, or these survey results are suffering from some classic pitfalls, namely that respondents (much like children) will tell you what you want to hear to gain your approval, and that they are likely biased by their own experience (alas, teachers, doctors, firefighters, etc. are far more numerous CEOs, athletes and entertainers).

Or, perhaps, this is merely the market at work. Want to do enriching work that will gain the respect of your neighbors? Fine, you can, but we won't pay you much; the prestige is your pay. Of course, ask most CEOs and pro athletes if they feel fulfilled by their jobs and I doubt you'll get too many "no"s.

And the techie in me must point out the sad truth that only 30% of Americans see engineers as having "very high prestige," a number that has barely changed since 1977, internet revolution and all. I bet Bill Gates is crying in his bowl of gold-plated Cheerios.

About the survey

"These are some of the results of the annual Harris Poll measuring public perceptions of 23 professions and occupations, conducted by telephone between July 10 and 16, 2007, by Harris Interactive� among a nationwide sample of 1,010 U.S. adults. However, only about half of these adults were asked about each occupation."

View source for more details


Barack Obama Announces Innovation Agenda at Google

At a Googler-only event today in Mountain View, California, Presidential candidate Barack Obama formally announced his "Innovation Agenda." Prior to the event, some insight into Obama's platform could be found on his official campaign site:

Technology and Innovation for a New Generation

"Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let's set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let's recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability. Let's make college more affordable, and let's invest in scientific research, and let's lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America."

The message delivered by Obama today largely resonated with this statement, adding that America needs to "recommit itself to science and technology" in order to ensure that we can compete in the future. In his opinion, this would include:

* Maintaining an open internet through a full commitment to network neutrality
* Building infrastructure, providing every American broadband access
* Making government data accessible online to all citizens
* Empowering citizens with technology, allowing them to provide active input into decisions and legislation
* Committing ourselves to electronic medical records to reduce wasted healthcare expense
* Investing in technology for clean energy sources
* Making the R&D tax credit permanent
* Encouraging start-ups by enforcing intellectual property law
* Enacting comprehensive immigration reform, including stronger H1-B visas to keep talented foreigners working in the U.S.

The message that education is at the heart of the problem resonated with me, as I find the state of math and sciences education, particularly in primary schools, appalling. Thus far, America has been able to keep pace in technology by attracting top talent from other nations through our strong university system. While this will remain a competitive advantage for us in the near-term, I have serious concerns about how long we can ride this strategy. As other nations develop more vibrant tech communities (as India, China, Israel, Ireland, Brazil and others are doing at an alarming rate), the incentives for foreign nationals to remain home will grow, meaning less talent drain in favor of the US.

That said, I have serious questions about the validity of Obama's (or any candidate's) claim that he will hold teachers accountable for performance, due to both technical hurdles and political will. The technical hurdles include technological barriers driven by underinvestment in schools' IT systems, as well as the difficulty of identifying effective, appropriate performance metrics. Politically, many leaders in the education community fail to realize that being held accountable is in everyone's interest, including teachers. I'd love to hear how Obama will overcome these specific challenges through future campaign messages.

Study Finds Working At Work Improves Productivity

Been meaning to post this hilarious article from last week's The Onion. Who knew working at work could help get work done? That said, I should probably get on that...

Study Finds Working At Work Improves Productivity

The Onion

Study Finds Working At Work Improves Productivity

WASHINGTON, DC—The groundbreaking research found that by simply sitting down and doing work, employees can dramatically increase their output of goods and services.


Android Demo and $10M Developer Contest

From TechCrunch this morning, a commentary on the Android platform for mobile application development. Also, the accompanying demo video on YouTube. Just helping to spread the love...at the very least, check out the video.

I, For One, Welcome Our Android Overlords
Duncan Riley

As we reported yesterday, Google has released the software development kit for its Android operating system for mobile phones.

The above video accompanies the launch and the $10 million apps contest.

Admittedly Sergey Brin is soo wooden he might be trying to impersonate an android, but ignore the intro and look at the demonstrations of what Android can already do. Now pretend the iPhone didn’t exist. Cool, right?

Scoble thinks it’s rubbish and I don’t agree. Sure, it’s not an iPhone, but how quickly we all forget life before Apple entered the cell phone market. The combination of touch screen and key stroke makes for an interesting experience, and the graphics and interface are a generation ahead of the ever reliable but archaic interface of the last 5 Nokia’s I have owned.

What do you think? Is Android lame or are we seeing a possible competitor to the iPhone. Remember that competition is always good, even if it’s still being worked on.


John Doerr on the need for Greentech

Today I had the pleasure of hearing legendary venture capitalist John Doerr (KPCB Bio, Wikipedia) speak about the need for investment in green technology. As one of the champions of Kleiner Perkins' Greentech Initiative, John has spent a good deal of time studying the issue in-depth and it shows. It's no secret that greenspeak is all the hype now, but I'm often disappointed by advocates' ability to make the argument in a way that is poignant and actionable. Before today, Al Gore might have been the only person I'd ever heard present on the issue and left me thinking "wow, I need to help."

John did a great job, though, so I thought I'd share some of the highlights. The two key tenets of John's speech were:

1. "It's not enough"
The amount of change needed to have a chance at avoiding an irreversible climate shift is orders of magnitude greater than what's happening today.

2. Solutions must be economically sustainable
Because solving this problem ultimately requires altering the consumption habits of people worldwide, solutions will only come from creating tangible incentives for change.

With regard to tangible impact, John pointed to large corporations as a key enabler. Wal-Mart for example, vowed to decrease per-store CO2 emissions and green it's truck fleet. Wal-Mart is especially important because of it's influence in environmental danger zone China. How great is that influence? According to John, Wal-Mart is China's 6th largest trading partner...or it would be if it were a country.

More important than any single entity (corporation or government) is the role played by commercial standards. Energy star appliances, insulated buildings and energy efficient light bulbs are examples of some such standards that can have massive impact, but are sadly poorly adopted in the developed world, let alone emerging markets. In many instances, though, such standards are lacking. Examples include energy-devouring SUVs, flat screen TVs and Windows-based computers with little to no energy conservation rules.

Some facts and stories to ponder:

- Scientists estimate that reducing emissions by over 50% globally (despite population and economic growth) will give us only a 50 / 50 chance of solving the crisis.

- Brazil has lead the way by mandating two years ago that all cars sold in the country are flex-fuel compliant (i.e. can run on ethanol). As a result, Brazil cut nation-wide emissions by 10% and is now energy independent of the middle east.

- <5% of energy created by humans comes from natural, renewable sources. >50% of all human energy consumption is wasted.

We can do this people. Who's with me?


Multitasking: Friend or Foe?

My friend Amanda recently started a thread on her blog about multitasking that caught my eye. She's a bit critical of multitasking, essentially claiming it's a farce and only destroys productivity. Having worked in a number of companies and environments with different views on the issue, I think the answer is a bit more nuanced.

The presumption that any multitasking defeats productivity is grounded in a pretty broad assumption that all tasks require 100% effort or attention to complete them efficiently. Rather, the discussion should be more around the "return," so to speak, on one's effort. For example, have you ever gone to a store and not fonud what you wanted on the shelf? Of course you have; stockouts are a part of retail. In a well run company, such situations are engineered, not happenstance. At some point, the cost of tying up the company's capital by holding more inventory, hiring more stocking personnel, etc. can no longer justify the marginal increase in sales from guaranteeing you'll have a product. Of course, having too high of a stockout rate can be detrimental to business, by missing out on revenue from unsatisfied customers.

The same principles should apply to how we use our time. Some tasks do demand one's full attention. For example, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to multitask by watching a movie while taking a final exam or checking your blackberry while on a dinner date (provided you're interested in the person across from you). On the other hand, taking a call while riding in a cab is likely an efficient form of multitasking; the odds of you reaching your destination by *really* focusing on that cab ride probably aren't much higher than if you zone out in the back seat.

In other instances, multitasking may also be a good idea because it improves the productivity of what you're already doing. This is why people take notes in meetings and refer to documents/presentations while on teleconferences. There's also the argument of multitasking to increase group efficiency as opposed to just your own, i.e. replying to an e-mail during part of a meeting that doesn't pertain to you may be the most efficient use of your time.

The point is, the situation isn't as black-and-white as many make it out to be. Ultimately, society probably needs to coalesce around some norms that dictate proper vs. improper use of multitasking. Being in a long distance relationship, I tried to spark such an "agreement" with my girlfriend around how we can use various communication tools most efficiently. Needless to say, this might not have been the right way to go about it. "Efficient communications use" matrices that lead to messages such as "if we talk on IM during the day it may mean I have to work later, which might mean we don't get to talk on the phone at night" apparently are not as well received in personal life as in business. So, yeah, you may want to have more tact in raising the topic of personal resource allocation than I did.


Work is Awesome, Especially When Matchbox Twenty Shows Up

I normally make it a point not to speak about work in my blog, out of respect for Google, our partners and our competitors. Today, however, Rob Thomas specifically asked me (well, me and a few hundred coworkers) to do so, so I am. You've probably already heard that Google is an awesome place to work, from me, Fortune, or whoever. But today was one of those days that really nailed it home.

This weekend I went back to Philly for Penn homecoming, my frat(DSP)'s centennial anniversary and, of course, an excuse to see my girlfriend Megan who's back in New York. It was a great weekend, but my flight back was delayed and by the time I got home it was about 1:30am in San Francisco. Needless to say, I wasn't happy with my 5:45 alarm this morning.

If I worked anywhere else, today would have been terrible. But I don't; I'm lucky enough to work for Google. That doesn't mean I didn't need an absurd amount of caffeine to stay awake today, because I did, but luckily it also meant that after a long day, I got to sit back and watch Matchbox Twenty play a Googlers-only concert on our campus. Why? Just because they felt like it.

I honestly had kind of forgotten about Matchbox Twenty. Loved them back in middle school and high school, but soon after my sister went to FSU, our family converted to country fans. Today's concert alone probably made me a fan again. The band was hilarious and awesome in acoustic, despite their disbelief in rehearsing before shows, and the room was filled with an amazing energy.

The best part, though, was when one of my coworkers stood up during Q&A and, in front of hundreds of people, explained that she was a big fan and had a hard day and just needed a hug and a kiss. So Rob Thomas invited her up to collect. So, yeah, her day was even better than mine. At so many other companies, HR probably would've been drafting her "resignation" on the spot, but here that sort of thing just flies - just like when Googler Brian Bautista asked John Legend if he could come sing on stage with him...and did! (check it out on YouTube)

Anyhow, I'll stop sounding like too much of a Googley-eyed little boy, but this was a great day and I thought I'd share.


As an aside: Additional props to M20 for releasing their new album, Exile on Mainstream, on a USB drive to allow fans more freedom to decide when and how they use their music. It's about time artists realize that technology is their friend, not a foe. I'm going to buy the album for the premium price of $35 just to support the notion of what they're doing. And that's roughly $35 more than I've spent on albums in the last decade.

I was also happy to see other artists trying out new models, like Radiohead's "It's Up to You" pricing scheme for In Rainbows and Prince giving away 2.8 million copies of his album Planet Earth with the Sunday paper back in July.


Social Networking Goes Mobile

If you're a facebook junkie like me, you probably check your profile a few times a day, have at least 20 apps downloaded and read your news feeds more closely than any major publication. I love facebook, but it has one fatal flaw..mobile access.

I can't tell you how many times I've tried to login to facebook on my blackberry and been denied. Yet, I try again and again because I want...nay...NEED access to my network's information when I'm not in front of my computer.

Zuckerberg isn't moving in that direction quickly enough, though, so others are doing it for him. Personally, I'm psyched about the rash of mobile networking start-ups delivering products that may eventually unseat social networking champions MySpace and facebook. Some obvious early examples come to mind, such as twitter, etc, but my favorite to date is one you may not know of...yet.

I was priveleged to be invited to Styky's alpha testing last March and haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. Previously, I'd heard a bit about what Styky founder Kunal Gupta was working on, but didn't quite get it until I had the chance to play with the tool firsthand. The company announced Styky's launch at TechCrunch and it's been all up-hill since then. Styky has lots of cool functionality already (phonebook sharing, picture sharing, mobile couponing, even a handy facebook app to grab phone numbers from your network), but I'm even more excited about it's future potential. Doesn't the idea of a future twitter + styky + facebook + Google solution make you druel? Me too!

Have you heard of other great mobile social networking solutions? If you have, please let me know- I'd love to explore!


Hot Air Ballooning in Napa

One of the things I've come to love about all the many I've lived is the distinct, native beauty that each has to offer. Among my favorites are:

Boston: Cape cod and the vineyard
New York: fall foliage up the Hudson
Florida: The beach air at night
Philadelphia: ok...I'm stumped here

But thus far in the Sf Bay Area, California wine country is by far my favorite. Most of my friends assume I like it so much because I'm an oenophile and it's an excuse to indulge in wine, but my true guilty pleasure is driving through the serene valleys and mountain roads and taking in the sights that mother nature, and a few thousand wineries, have to offer.

Last weekend my love affair deepened, as I got to see the valley from an entirely different perspective. My girlfriend Megan is undeniably more adventurous than I, and this year she wanted to go hot air ballooning for her birthday. As someone who doesn't handle heights well, this terrified me at first, but overcoming the fear was well worth it. The views were breathtaking- even nice enough to make the 4am wake-up time well worth it. I though I'd share some of my pics with you so that you could see for yourself just how lovely our morning in the air was.

(And if you have the urge to go on a similar adventure, I highly recommend Napa Valley Ballons.)

Hot Air Ballooning in Napa - October 2007 - PUBLIC


Pimp My iPod

LA-based Etch-Star has launched the beta version of an online portal that allows users to pimp their iPods, iPhones and MacBooks in all new ways. Customers choose from the company's library of popular artwork or submit their own designs, then mail-in their devices for etching. The site is still pretty new, but you can check out some of their prior work on flickr.

Some people might be nervous about mailing their beloved Video iPod, but the company provides safe shipping supplies and will even commit to a next day return, so you won't have to actually hear other people at the gym for more than a couple days. The present price for etching is ~$25-$35 for iPods and iPhones, not a bad deal for those looking to preserve their individuality among a sea of mainstream Apple enthusiasts. Oh, and if you don't have an iPod yet? Don't worry- you can buy one and order etching all at once on the site.

Personally, I think it would be neat if they adopted a model similar to Threadless, where artists can submit their artwork to the user community and ultimately receive rewards for popular designs. There's probably less potential for repeat community-driven business here, so a voting mechanism might not be as effective, but if they can somehow generate mass submissions, there's probably a good deal of re-use potential in anything from creating t-shirts (dude my iPod matches my shirt!) to tattoos. Of course, tattoos might be a bit more difficult to deliver via FedEx...

Oh, and have a couple $100k you're looking to invest? Etchstar is raising seed capital, so you're in luck!


Rock, Paper, Scissors Hits the Big Screen Just in Time for World RPS Championship

A friend of mine has been working on a neat film for a couple years now and the trailer finally released this week. The movie, Flying Scissors, is a feature-length mockumentary about competitive "Rock, Paper, Scissors"- something like Spellbound meets The Office meets third grade. Looks pretty funny- so I thought I'd share. (Feel free to check out the trailer on YouTube or visit the official homepage.)

The release of the trailer is timed beautifully, leading up to this Saturday's World Rock, Paper, Scissors Championship in Toronto. Think I'm kidding? Actually, competitive RPS is very real. And for a mere $40, you can buy-in on the action- a much more economical shot at 15 minutes of fame on ESPN than the $10,000 World Series of Poker ante. Of course, streaking through a professional sporting event still probably carries the best ROI, offering a guaranteed 30 second spot on Sportscenter (times 12 airings/day) and a 1 in 10 chance of making plays of the week as an extra special bonus.

I'm glad to see the "sport" of RPS seems to really be picking up steam, with ESPN airing competitive RPS on the network back in July and noteworthy publications, including TechCrunch and the Associated Press, taking note as well. A few years ago some friends and I were in Napa during the Western regional finals, but passed up going to visit a few wineries. I love good wine, but in hindsight, it probably would've been much more memorable to go see the RPS tournament.

To learn more, visit The World RPS Society or USA RPS.

And if you happen to be competing this weekend, best of luck...and, please, please do report back on your experience!


Amazing Minority Report-style Touchscreen

Some of you may have seen this in the past, but even if you have, it's worth another look. Jeff Han, a computer scientist at NYU has launched a company called Perceptive Pixel, that produces and distributes a rather amazing multi-touch interface, highly customizable to a specific user/organization's needs.

The demo is reminiscent of Minority Report, in which Hollywood's King Crazy, Tom Cruise, puts on some highly futuristic gloves with glowing fingertips and begins navigating a wall-sized computer screen with lightning speed. Opening, closing, expanding, shrinking, rotating and zooming images without so much as a keyboard or mouse anywhere in sight. When I first saw the movie, I thought "wow- that would be awesome!" I never realized that less than two years later, the real deal would be shipping to U.S. defense agencies as a viable product.

What a great world!


San Francisco Apartment Hunting

As you can imagine from my multi-week radio silence, I've been a bit busy lately. Over the past couple weeks, I finally moved into my new place and am (almost) no longer living out of suitcases and boxes. To commemorate this occasion, I thought it would be appropriate to deliver on my promise of a SF apartment hunting post.

It's no big secret that craigslist owns the San Fran rental market. Whether you're looking for or renting a place, you really need not look any further. My company even hooked me up with a rental agent to show me around and all but one apartment we looked at came straight from craigslist.

Having lived in NYC and Boston, two other heavily craigslist-dependent cities, I understood how the game works: landlords or rental agents put up a post and receive 50-100 responses within a couple hours. This creates a seller's market, where landlords can screen for the best credit report and highest income and fast-track those applicants to avoid the hassle of large open house crowds. Convince the gatekeeper that you're responsible, a good neighbor and, most of all, successful, and you're in.

At first blush San Fran seemed like the same game: big city, expensive apartments, huge inventory of renters, relatively standardized offerings. Only one minor difference stood out: landlords here seemed to prefer open houses to save time showing the place. On the whole, though, same game, same strategy.

...But three weekends came and went and I wasn't offered a single apartment. What was going on? I started questioning the agents and landlords- what was wrong with my application? And one by one I got the same answer: "we never even ran your application." It seems I misunderstood the rules of the game.

East coast landlords interpreted craigslist as creating a fair market, where they could select the best tenant with the least likelihood of default, but San Fran landlords hold to a more basic definition of fairness: first come, first served. Despite all the similarities in the markets, the rules of the game were, in fact different. What I didn't know at first was that landlords would run the first 3-5 apps and pick the best one; everyone else has a near-zero chance.

With only one weekend left to find a place, I changed up my game plan. No more schmoozing the landlord, no more wasting time. If I couldn't be the first one at any given apartment, I knew my chances dropped significantly; so I only went to open houses if I could be there 15-20 minutes before the posted time, to ensure my application would be first or second in the pile.

Did it work? Well, I put in six apps that weekend and was offered four apartments. Far better than my .000 batting average prior to that. Most importantly, I now have a great place that I love and didn't wind up sleeping on the street at all.

Have you found success with a similar strategy? Know of others that work well? If so, let us know!


Apple Wins Again: Dust Settles on the iPhone Controversy

The blogosphere ran rampant on the heels of Apple's day-after announcement of a $100 store credit for early iPhone adopters. The range of emotions was wide, but most saw the move as reactionary, a surrender, a shame. Personally, I couldn't disagree more.

Credit Steve Jobs with yet another brilliant move. In his apology letter, Jobs explains what I penned less eloquently yesterday: "There is always change and improvement, and there is always someone who bought a product before a particular cutoff date and misses the new price or the new operating system or the new whatever. This is life in the technology lane." Early adopters know and expect this. The $200 drop seemed so extreme because Apple did such a masterful job of justifying iPhone's initial price tag a couple months back. Early adopters weren't upset to be out $200, they were upset that Apple itself had called into question the value of their baby!

So the initial, short-lived backlash aside, where does the dust settle on Apple? What have they won?

1. When iPhone II launches next year, early adopters won't be afraid to fork over the cash, because they trust Jobs will treat them fairly should the price decline.

2. Jobs and Apple turn a PR nightmare into a PR success by showing the company has a heart that beats only for its customers.

3. Apple STILL walks having successfully price-discriminated its user base, extracting and extra $100 from each early adopter.

4. Apple is rewarded with not 1, but 2-3 days of heated media coverage (not to mention years of case study discussion at the world's top MBA schools).

5. Apple gets to explicitly communicate iPhone as the perfect holiday gift early, reminding shoppers to stash away that extra $399 by December.

6. Many recent purchasers will claim the $100 rebate, not realizing they're actually entitled to $200.

7. The $100 rebate is in Apple store credit- ensuring return business and potentially INCREASING sales!

Many have assumed the rebate wasn't planned, but I for one wouldn't be surprised if this is yet another beautifully choreographed, albeit unconventional, Steve Jobs presentations.


To iPhone Early Adopters: Ha Ha!

During today's much-hyped Apple Special Event, the company announced all-kinds of new fun regarding iPods, but the story they tried to bury under a deluge of iPod upgrades,the marked drop in 8MB iPhone pricing from $599 to $399, is grabbing a lion share of media attention.

Everyone knew the iPhone price had to come down to earth, but this decline is quite striking- and early adopters are not happy. Let's do the math: 3 hours in line + paid $200 more + dealt with a ton of early kinks/bugs/service issues = 10 "wow, cool!"s out of their friends. I hope it was worth it...

NYC Cabbie Strike a Non-Issue

The long-feared NYC cabbie strike took effect today, reports the NY Times and the impact felt by passengers...well, hasn't really been that great. Despite rather extremist reports on some sites (i.e. Engadget) that estimate strike volume at 90% of cabs, the NY Times reports that major cab companies have only seen a loss of about 25% of cars on the road.

Chalk this up as yet another victory for the free market in the storied tale of diminishing union power in America. NYC cab drivers are notoriously capitalistic, a fact that Bloomberg's contingency plan brilliantly leveraged, offering economic incentives for cabbies sitting out the strike that could pay for the GPS installations that caused the strike in the first place!

As a consumer, I applaud the GPS requirement, as it will reduce tax evasion by cab drivers, improve routing and fleet management (making individual cabs more profitable), assist in the "greening" of NYC and provide new revenue streams through advertising. Oh, and being able to pay via credit card is clutch, as in my past life I often paid the "black car" premium over yellow cabs for this luxury alone.


Why (not to) start-up in the valley?

As you likely guessed from my unusual silence, I went on vacation for Labor Day weekend, spending a few lovely days with my girlfriend and her family in Oklahoma City. Yes, Oklahoma City. One of the rare commonalities binding east and west coasters is their reaction to the phrase "I'm going to Oklahoma"- I could just as well say I'm going to Narnia or Tatooine and receive the same response (if not better). I promise, it's a real place: and even Wikipedia backs me up on that claim.

But I digress.

Over lunch on Monday, my girlfriend's father posed a hypothetical question: how would life be for someone such as myself, trying to make it somewhere like Oklahoma City? My gut reaction is of course to think that there's just not as much opportunity there- I mean, for techies in the U.S. where else is there but the Valley, Seattle and Virginia?

On the other hand, many people have made a small fortune in small town America- Warren Buffet among the most notable. It seems to make sense to me that for internet start-ups, potentially the most scalable and location-agnostic business model outside of finance, location shouldn't be an issue. The obvious sticking point is that at a certain size, attracting qualified local labor or relos might be tough, but there must be at least 100 bright engineers for the taking in middle America. That's enough to get along for awhile. Throw in decreased labor, capital and overhead costs and an improved ability to fly under the radar and there might be something to this argument.

So let me ask you, my exalted (and rapidly growing!- thanks for referring me!) audience. Is the need to be in one of the tech hot spots fact or fiction? Can you scale and "go viral" without being entrenched in the tech community? How does the trade-off stack-up in your mind?

Here's what others are saying:

1. How to Kick Silicon Valley's Butt
-How to Change the World: A Practical Blog for Impractical People

2. One of our goals...is to help build that ecosystem here in the Chicago area, the place we call home. We know we’re not alone...what needs to happen first?
-Silicon Prairie Social

3. Everyone needs to hop into the sandbox and play. And that’s exactly what you get in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. It’s a giant mashup of non-stop events and networking opportunities. Meeting top people and key players is easy. And generally, people seem willing to help.
-Instigator Blog

4. On Bangalore being compared to the valley: But the biggest problem...is the absense of “deal flow”. No one likes to trade capital – if you get in, the only way to get out is the IPO or an acquisition.


Techies and Consultants Collide

A few lines from the epic office-life satire Office Space were quoted in an August 29th Valley Wag blog about Yahoo hiring consultants to support their reorg:

TOM: We're all screwed, that's what. They're gonna downsize Initech.
SAMIR: Oh, what are you talking about Tom? How do you know that?
TOM: They're bringing in a consultant - that's how I know."

As a former consultant, I’ve heard just about every joke about the profession there is (see one of my faves below a la Dilbert), but the sentiment expressed by Valleywag struck a cord in me, as I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the great divide between the tech world and the consulting world. Most large consulting firms have had trouble gaining significant traction at today's tech giants, such as Google, Yahoo, eBay, etc. Why is this?

I have a few hypotheses, represented by this fictional exchange of blatant stereotypes:

Consultant: Let us come work for you. We have the brightest people around; I have an MBA from Wharton
Engineer: I have a PhD from Caltech

Consultant: I have deep expertise in your field that could be extremely valuable
Engineer: Then when aren’t you using it yourself?

Consultant: We know what all of your competitors are doing and can help you learn from their experience
Engineer: But we're better than them already

Consultant: We bring disciplined problem solving techniques to your toughest dilemmas
Engineer: I have an ode to the scientific method tattooed on my lower back; disciplined problem solving is my middle name- seriously, I had it legally changed

Consultant: I'll push my business analysts tirelessly; they'll never stop working for you
Engineer: I can offer them a fifth of your rates and they’d be thrilled to come work for me- and never stop

Consultant: Mommy

Okay, so this might be a bit extreme, but after all, tech firms do have a lot of incredibly bright people (including numerous hired-away ex-consultants), with strong work ethics who take a disciplined approach to their jobs. To make matters worse, high-tech is known for having a healthy disrespect for conventional wisdom and competitive analysis- something other industries explicitly hire consultants to provide.

But that said, I still believe there’s a role for consultants as trusted advisors in high-tech. For one thing, tech firms are notorious for being horrible at knowledge management and leveraging cross-functional efficiencies, due to the high degree of secrecy demanded by the rapid pace of product development and obsolescence. Consultancies, on the other hand, are rather skilled at finding new ways to build bridges across organizations- and generally are better positioned to see opportunities by looking from the top down. Secondly, tech shops are beginning to converge with other industries at lightning pace (media, financial services, etc.)- a phenomenon that begs for some outsider perspective on those industries’ business models and competitive dynamics.

What other opportunities do you see?


Networking 1.0 --> Networking 2.0 --> Networking 1.0

I'll be the first to admit I'm a junkie when it comes to online social networking; if you know me, this comes as no surprise. I'm on facebook, Linkedin, Orkut, Doostang, Sportsvite, Friendster, MySpace (albeit barely), InCircle and countless other sites who are implementing networking capabilities (YouTube, Hot or Not, etc.). Yet, as much as I love Web 2.0 apps, I can't help but think that something is lacking- namely, good old-fashioned physical interaction.

Many start-ups and VCs agree, and have placed big bets on social networking that leads to real-world experiences. Sportsvite is one such example, where the network is really just a means to get people together, not an end in itself (a la facebook, MySpace). This morning, another example was brought to my attention...

Always early adopters and ones to eat their own lunch, Silicon Valley techies have begun using technology to, well...eat each others' lunches. Today's Wall Street Journal features an article, The Power Lunch, Cafeteria-Style, explaining how an unspoken trend of sneaking into the valley's infamous gourmet cafeterias has turned into a validated phenomenon called Lunch 2.0. In typical valley fashion, top internet companies have taken what others would view as a threat (outsiders inside our walls, eating our food for free!) and turned it into an opportunity, hosting Lunch 2.0 sessions as recruiting and product promotion opportunities..and, in true, never-really-left-college engineer fashion, techies are eating it up- literally.

Thank you to Megan for providing the WSJ article!


Fidel Castro Dead - Along with American global awareness

Today, rumors erupted on the Internet that Fidel Castro might have died. As of this post, I'm unaware of an official confirmation or denial and the country will hold its collective breath until the answer is known...

...or not. Americans, careful never to be made fools by faulty intelligence, have decided to just not care. According to Google Trends, the story of Castro's alleged death was "On Fire," but still ran a distant second to "Miss Teen USA." And, even then, >20% of searches came from Miami and New York, cities with vibrant Cuban-American populations. I guess America has just had its fill of infamous dictator deaths this decade; cute teenagers who sing showtunes and pledge to save puppies around the world, however, will never get old.


How much time do you waste online?

Thanks to Forbes (and Megan for forwarding me this article), today I discovered Not Working, one Brit's solution to social networking addiction. The simple gadget tallies up the time you spend at work, but not working, and the associated $ value lost to your company. I'm not sure how I feel about this for a few reasons:

1. Time spent online is not necessarily wasted. Social networking, used properly, can increase one's long-term value by exposing them to new people, opportunities and ideas and deepening their ties to others. I firmly believe these activities add substantial value to one's self- and employers.

2. Productivity is factored into one's wage, especially if a salaried employee. And if employees stop "wasting" this time, will employers fairly compensate them for the added value? Perhaps a better interpretation is that the user's "wasted" time valuation is the value they assign to their free time and long-term investment in social networking. I see an enterprise app developing from this that can help companies price overtime packages and set productivity-driven bonuses...

3. You could be working during hours otherwise spent online, but should you? Is the end goal of life to be a workaholic who spends every possible moment producing?

In short, this tool has some built-in moral assumptions I'm not sure I buy, but I am curious about it's practicality in helping to enforce discipline during times the user deems it necessary. So I'll test it out and report back.


Earth can't contain Google

Today, Good Morning America previewed the amazing new Google Sky feature for Google Earth. You can now relive that "wow" moment when you first opened Google Earth and began hovering over and descending upon the globe by navigating the known universe, including 100 million galaxies and 200 million stars!

And you thought Google was poised to take over the world...seems Larry and Sergey's sights are set a bit higher than that.


Crushing upset for Ivys

Today, graduates of Ivy League schools are reeling in defeat. Habitually among the top contenders in every "best colleges" ranking of note, not one Ivy appears on this year's list of the top twenty party schools, published by The Princeton Review.

When approached for comment, a prominent frat boy at my alma mater hung his head in shame, but then resiliently declared that he would fix this abomination. In related news, Penn's IFC announced a pop-your-collar-athon through the Fall semester, where the student with the greatest accumulated hours popped will win a free keg of Natty Light.

Other notable mentions on this year's list: once top dog University of Florida dropped to number 4, while arch rival Florida State University almost fell off the list entirely at number 18. Time to stop cracking the books and start cracking some six packs, 'Noles...


2007 Games Day Chicago

Just a quick update this time. Just today an interview was forwarded to me featuring a long-time friend, Adam Gershowitz. Adam was always a bit of a video game and design junkie as a kid and has found a perfect career for himself with EA Mythic. Follow the link to see him talking about progress on Warhammer Online at Games Day Chicago. Moments like this are exactly why I came out here- it's great to see good people getting recognition for excellent (and really really cool) work.


So Norcal...

My first two weeks out here have gone by like a blur. The multiple simultaneous adjustments- new job, new apartment, new time zone, new routines and new area- have left me in a slight daze, as I'm forced to adjust to NorCal living. This week, I thought I'd take a few moments to reflect on those small things that make a big difference, on the lighter side of my valley indoctrination.

1. The traffic really is that crazy- I live only 11 miles from my new job, but because of where I'm situated 101 is my only option to get to and from the office. Sounds crazy, but I've scoured Google Maps and there aren't any backroads to get me there without doubling my commute distance. I can generally make the trek door-to-door in about 20-25 minutes, provided I leave by 7:45. The days I've left any later than that, my commute has never been less than 40 minutes- and even up to an hour. I just don't understand how this type of instantaneous logjam is possible, but it seems to hold true day-in and day-out.

2. I miss my morning show- Do you know of a great morning show in the San Jose/San Fran area? If you do PLEASE tell me! Back in NYC I fell in love with Elvis Duran and the Morning Zoo. No joke, sometimes I'd wake up at 6 and work from home until 10, just so I could listen to their show twice (6-8 and 8-10 are essentially the same routine). For the life of me, I can't find a morning show to listen to out here. They're all far too subdued for my taste. Please someone, cue me into something mildly raunchy, boisterous and non-PC, because John Tesh is cutting it. Come back, Greg T!

3. Old habits die hard- In the world of consulting, I lived out of a suitcase 3-4 days a week and got very used to that habit, as well as all the idiosyncrasies of road living that come with it. For example, I've just about gotten used to using full-sized bottles of shampoo again (luckily Minimus.biz is just a click away if that changes), have cut down to checking my frequent flyer balances once a week and have stopped expecting to get a delicious pillow mint each night.

There are a few habits, though, I haven't yet broken: For example, I did the wash earlier this week and almost instinctively put my clothes away, directly back in my suitcase. As if that wasn't enough, I battled with the mirror for about 20 minutes one morning trying to convince myself it really was okay to wear a t-shirt to work. I eventually gave-in, but decided I would at least iron it...to get the travel creases out.

4. It's okay to talk to people - When my best friend Mike came to visit me in New York last year, we gave him a good ribbing because he kept talking to people on the subway. If you're from New York, you're probably shaking your head right now. You just don't do that. Subway interactions should be limited to elbowing for position and muttering under your breath about how the guy with garbage bags full of Prado purses is taking up too much space. Mike's a true southern gentleman, though, and had faith that humanity could exist, even on the 4-5-6. Well, I can't say he was successful in making New York all chatty, but now I need to take a page out of his book. On an almost daily basis I'm taken aback by other human beings' willingness to interact with me. You can say something to a stranger, or even introduce yourself, and they won't run away! It's crazy! It also puts a lot more stress on me to have something interesting to say, as the one liners I'd gotten so good at back east no longer qualify as my half of a conversation. I'm improving rapidly though; last night on a flight back from the east coast, I met a very nice man named David Anthony who wound up being a professor at UC-Santa Cruz. We chatted for at least a couple hours about anything from sports to an interesting book he wrote to the Bay Area housing market (look out for future posts on my apartment hunting adventures!).

5. Technology is a real business- Many more posts to come relating to this topic, but suffice it to say that taking the internet by storm ain't easy. I'm not sure what exactly I expected, but suffice it to say that people here are impressively bright and the bar is high. As free spirited as most internet blockbusters appear, even the most relaxed UI has A LOT of work that went into building, marketing and fine-tuning it to be just what the user needs. But as I said, more on this in future musings...


Here goes...

Hello, world!

This blog is something I've been wanting to do for a while now. I can't tell you how many times I thought "you know, I should start a blog." But nothing came of it. Unfortunately, this became a theme for me- many things I've wanted to do or thought I would do, but never actually invested the time and effort to accomplish. That apathy ends today.

You see, today was a big day in my life. But in order to explain, I should back up a few years. Back in school, I studied engineering and business. I loved the program I was in and particularly enjoyed discussions about moments in history where technological innovation transformed human life as we knew it. I often dreamed of sparking such a moment- of changing the world for the better by unleashing the power of technology. I've had more ideas on how to do so than I can count, but often lacked the confidence and conviction to execute on them.

I became convinced that I was just shy on experience and that with a little "business" training, I would be ready to chase my dream. This lead me to the worlds of financial services and consulting- respectable professions and great training, but also quite conservative by their very nature. I often enjoyed my work- it was intellectually challenging and my coworkers were great. In a short time, I came to think that maybe this could be the path for me. But at the end of the day there was always something missing. I ploughed on for a bit longer, pretending to be content, but my frustration grew and became apparent, especially to those closest to me. And eventually, I just stopped getting excited about my work altogether. This killed me- I was never the type to not care; it just wasn't in my DNA. Then, one night, working late in a hotel room, I realized the core of the problem: I was settling.

So, I started interviewing in various fields I thought I might enjoy and could be successful in- VC, PE and the like. In the back of my mind, though, I still had these unshakable dreams of leading technological transformation, being on the cutting edge and seeing what others couldn't. I tried to convince myself that VC might be good for me, but the more I justified that was, the more I realized that exciting as VC could be, it would only be a half-step, another form of settling. VC can keep you up-to-date, but never REALLY cutting edge. By definition, to invest in something, someone else must have thought of it first. I just couldn't settle for "good enough" again.

My turning point came when an alumnus of my last employer asked me to interview for his group. He worked in strategy for one of the internet giants and I thought to myself "now, THIS could be cool!" I started interviewing with his group and felt an unusual sensation- after each interview I left, well, excited! I started talking about the opportunity with my friends and found myself going on and on about the state of the industry, although I seemed to always end with "granted, they're not [COMPETITOR], but who is?"

It didn't take long to realize how stupid that statement was. I idolized COMPETITOR. I wrote half of my thesis on them. I was an adamant user of their products. So why was I wasting my time with anyone else?

I pulled up COMPETITOR's website and began searching through job postings. Within 20 minutes I found five I was interested and I sent off an application. My odds of getting in were low. This company prides itself on taking the best of the best from the industry and I, well, I wasn't even IN the industry! My odds were slim, but I had to try.

Interviews went well with COMPETITOR and my dream company offered me a position- two in fact. There was a catch, though, they wanted me to leave New York and come to their headquarters in the valley. Professionally, the decision was obvious; personally, it was much more difficult. Most of my friends and family are on the east cost. My girlfriend of over two years is on the east coast. I weighed the pros and cons and kept hitting a stalemate. At the end of the day, though, I realized I could never really be whole and good for anyone else if I didn't take this chance. I'd always be left asking "what if?"

And so today was my first day. I have arrived in silicon valley.

Of course, this means I now HAVE to start the blog I've always wanted to- no self respecting techie can be blogless! This blog will serve a number of purposes. It will be pragmatic- a way to share my views with the world and to receive feedback, a way to become ever more in-touch with my community and to clarify my own thoughts. Even more so, however, this blog is a metaphor for my personal and professional transformation. It's about doing the things you've always wanted to and not settling for a job half finished.
This is only the beginning of my story. After all, this journey was never about getting a certain job; it was about becoming a part of a world that I'd admired from the outside looking in. It was about reclaiming bits of me that I'd lost by settling for "good enough." And, in the long-term, it's about achieving my goal of finding the cutting edge, living the valley. I have a lot to learn and many people to learn from if I'm to get there. And I'd be lying if I said I knew exactly how I'm going to do it; at this point I'm lucky I can even find 101. On many levels, I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. I feel like a virgin- confused, excited (though not sure why exactly), nervous and naive. But most of all, hopeful that a meaningful change in my life is about to happen and good things will come of it. I invite you to join me as I test this feeling and add to the story with comments of your own.