Surfing as a Metaphor For Working in Silicon Valley

As a kid, I spent a lot of time on beaches, and not the boring wading-pool sand tubs most people go to: my parents favored big, surfy waves. I quickly learned how to deal with the biggest: you either ducked under them, or surfed over them. Get caught in the frothy, turbulent middle, and you’d wind up with a mouthful of sand.

Working in Silicon Valley is something like that: huge relentless waves of technology crash down on you non-stop. You have three options: you can either try to absorb the full brunt of that wave, reading everything you can, trying to understand the entirety of it, you can duck under it, or you can trust yourself to it, trying to surf it as far as it’ll take you.

The Woz Speaks Out about NSA and Such

I’ve always loved Steve Wozniak – I think all geek-at-heart 80s-bred computer engineers do. He’s the embodiment of down-to-earth, not-evil geeky happiness we all aspire to. I’d like to think if I suddenly had a billion dollars I’d behave just like him.

This interview, mostly just some off-hand comments he made to a passing journalist regarding the recent big brother nastiness, largely reflect my views and those of many other siliconvalleyians I know.

My first response to many problems is to try to find technical solutions (more articles on that later), but the real problem is political, and the REAL problem is that most people just haven’t given this any in-depth thought. They’re too wrapped up in their lives to stop and consider the ramifications of an all-seeing government insisting that it isn’t all-seeing, but that if it is, its top-secret and illegal to talk about, all while saying they ‘welcome the debate’. You just can’t get any more orwellian than that.

New Posts are A-comin’

I’ve been considering what to do with this space recently – what do you do with a deserted, ignored space that is nevertheless intimately tied to your online identity. Are you timid, posting about trivia, or do you let loose?

What I think might be the answer came to me while reading some of the longer articles I’d tucked away on Pocket (http://getpocket.com, nee readitlater, highly recommended). These were articles I’d come across while skimming that I found interesting enough to return to when I had more time. If they’re interesting to me, why not share them with my audience of zero people?

So. Let see how this one goes.

Difficult Espresso is Difficult

The other day I visited a new coffee place (Avid, in Almaden Valley – highly recommended). I bought a ludicrously expensive 12oz bag of Verve beans, and had the barista make me an espresso just to see what it was supposed to taste like. Let me tell ya, it was spectacular, with all kinds of weird fruity and chocolaty overtones, and I resolved to reproduce it at home.

sermon_coffee_card_1_grande

Easier said than done.

My first try was a complete failure, but this is expected with new beans. Each bean requires a different grind setting, and the first shot is usually way off. In this case, the grind was too coarse, resulting in a fast extraction and a sour shot. I gave it to my mother-in-law, who loved it.

I immediately tried again, this time with a much finer grind. It was still too fast, but drinkable. Unfortunately, it was nothing like the stuff I tried at Avid. I tried one more time, this time with an even finer grind. Very drinkable, but no fruit, no chocolate.

At this point it was time to give up and go to work. While there, I googled ‘verve sermon’, and found that the roaster had recommended parameters (20g of coffee, 202F, 26s pour, 1.75oz shot). Really, I had to google my fucking coffee. On the other hand, “aha”, I thought, I knew where I was going wrong (I was doing my usual 17g, and pouring my usual 2.5oz almost-lungo).

The next morning I tried again, updosing to 20g and pouring 1.5oz. Disaster, since I didn’t adjust the grind. My shot was way to fast.

This went on for a few days.

Finally, at 6am this morning, after blearily tamping 20g into my triple basket, *then* doing my cooling flush, then waiting about 15 seconds, then pulling my shot, I finally replicated Avid’s shot. It was divine, more from the sense of achievement than from the momentary pleasure of drinking a 1.75oz beverage on the way to work.

And it only took me half my precious bag of coffee. In a few days, I get to start over again with a new set of beans. Sigh.

 

Trying Something New

By way of summary, I should mention that I like to work out, mostly by lifting weights. I’m currently doing a ‘five day split’, which is when you work out a single muscle group (arms, back, etc) each day, then rest over the weekend.

Until yesterday, I tried to get to the gym around lunch time. This meant I had to eat something energetic at about 11am, then digest a bit, drive to the gym, change, bust my ass for about an hour, then shower, changed back and drive back to my office. In total, the workout part was taking about an hour and 45 minutes – which is a really long lunch time. It also interfered with my work flow, interrupting anything I was doing in the morning.

So, I decided to change things around. Early this morning I drove directly to the gym, in gym clothes (which saved me my morning shower and prep time), worked out, then showered/shaved/etc, all in time to get into my office for my 8:30am meeting. As it turns out, it worked out perfectly: the traffic was fairly light, and the gym relatively uncrowded. Time from wake-up to warm-up was about an hour. On the other hand, I underestimated how long it would take me to shave, etc, so even though I skipped my last exercise (lat pulldowns, I hate ’em, so didn’t terribly mind), I barely made it to the meeting in time.

Pros:

  • Done with workout by 8:30am
  • Added at least 30 minutes to my day (save one shower, one undress, and one office-gym drive)

Cons:

  • Had to wake up at 6:00am, which is about 90 minutes earlier than I’m used to. This meant I had to go to bed earlier too. TANSTAAFL.
  • Only time for one delicious espresso. The rest of breakfast was eaten while driving.
  • My body needs to adjust – it wasn’t expecting to be mistreated before lunch
  • I need to adjust my eating habits – can’t exercise without some fast carb energy infusion.

How I Work Things Out

I’m a very visual person – I need to see to understand. Creating new things, for me, always starts with a diagram of some sort. It might be a data flow diagram for a program, or some scribbles on a napkin for a dog run, or as in the case of this page, a mind map.

When I set out to re-launch, I first needed to figure out what it was I wanted. I used a mind map (created using ThoughtsHD, an iPad tool that make mind maps fun):

I then went and did some research, settled on WordPress (because I’m lazy), and started working on what the content and structure should be, again using a mind map:

And that is where I am now. My next step is to make my page map that last thing – I suspect I’ll do a bit of that (trivial) work up front, then the rest organically.

A good day for Cord Cutters

I feel like I hit the jackpot today. First, an email from Tivo offering me a $50 lifetime subscription (usually, this is around $500!), then a Tivo ‘free unlimited DVD’ offer.

The thing is, I had *just* re-subscribed to Tivo, after being off it for a year, and probably only received the $50 offer due to a bug. And Netflix? I cancel my DVD subscription every couple of months, to give ‘good’ DVDs a chance to accumulate, and was just thinking it was time to restart.

So, yay. Jackpot :)