So what does that even mean? In a 4 hour course, how much could they really have taught us?
Did I learn how to save someone's life if I pulled up next to a horrific car accident? Maybe (probably) not.
But they did teach you some fundamental skills/tips to not completely panic in the case of an emergency. And that sense of "I'm not going to completely lose my shit" is a nice feeling to have.
We only did 2 hands on lessons in the class (how to do arm splints and what to do if you find a person passed out face down). If you don't have time to take a class, you could definitely learn all the material out of a book:
(American Red Cross - First Aid & Safety Handbook)
Of course the beauty of the class is it forces you to learn. It would be hard to motivate myself to read a first-aid book and learn that way.
Here are the 5 most interesting things I learned from the class:
Consent - To avoid any legal troubles, ask for consent before you administer first aid to anyone. Good Samaritan Laws will protect you from getting sued if you at act reasonably and ask for consent. If the person is passed out, there is a concept of implied consent. (i.e. if a reasonable person was passed out in this position, would they want first aid help)
If you start, you better finish - If you decide to stop and help someone, at that point you are committed. You can't just walk away. You need to either wait for a professional to get there or the person leaves on their own.
Call 911 if... - The instructor gave a bunch of tips on when you should call 911 even if it doesn't at first look like an emergency. e.g. ) If someone bangs there head and you see fluid coming out of there ears or nose, they may say they are feeling fine, but they likely have a skull fracture and should see immediate help.
Shock - When someone is in shock it can be life threatening. There body is pumping all it's blood to vital organs to keep you alive. One of the symptoms can be extreme thirst. Do NOT give a person in shock anything to drink or eat. Food/drink does 2 bad things: 1) it makes your body spend energy on your stomach instead of vital organs (heart, brain, etc.) 2) if you need surgery, it's best if you don't have anything in your stomach.
Fire dept + Poison control - Put the telephone number of the closest fire department and the direct number to poison control in your cell phones. Calling both of these directly will be faster than calling 911. Calling 911 via your cell phone will route you to the California 911 system and there will be a bunch of routing required to get you to the local fire department anyway.
Be safe out there folks. Learn some first aid and be a bit more prepared to help your loved ones and anyone else who might need a hand.
Every time I go watch live music I think "I should really watch more live music".
Last night gave me the bug again. C & I went to Coda Jazz Supperclub in the mission (it's in the old Levende space) for her birthday. We did dinner there and hung around for an absolutely amazing show.
Dinner itself was just OK. One of those meals where everything tastes "fine" but not great. Overall, pretty forgettable and I'm not dying to go back for the food.
But the music was incredible and very memorable.
The opening act was a group from LA called the Elevaters.
California genre-bending band Elevaters is the new hope for people craving unconventional hip-hop. The racially diverse group manages to push their musical experiment to new heights, all the while never loosing their populist appeal.
C and I absolutely love this band now. Even a couple sitting near us who looked like they hated life and each other couldn't help but to nod their heads with the music.
Bands like the Elevaters make you wish you spent less time studying and more time practicing to be in a band with your friends. Forget all those books on finding the secrets of happiness. Watch these guys live and you will see 6 guys who will just make you feel happy listening to their craft.
I can imagine one of these guys telling their dad "me and my friends are going to start a band". The dad, wanting his son to be an engineer, delivered all the TV-cliches like "how are you going to earn a living? when are you going to start taking your life seriously? what will your grandparents think?". But the first time dad watches his son perform live and sees him in his element, making a club full of people happy, he understands and he can feel proud.
C and I got to say hi and thank you to a couple of guys in the band (Ben and David) after their show and you really could tell they loved what they did. Thank you Elevaters..we got a couple of your CDs and we will come watch you whenever you are back in the bay.
The other performers of the night were Supertaster.
Supertaster is the latest offshoot of the Jazz Mafia, San Francisco's eclectic and highly talented musical collective. [...] the band has become one of the most incendiary live acts on the Bay Area music scene. This dynamic five-piece ensemble has developed into a band that slides easily between raw funk, post-rock, glitch-hop and more.
It is really hard to describe the talent and range of this band. Karyn Paige has some of the most amazing pipes I have ever heard live. She reminds me of a cross between Erykah Badhu and Samantha James (if that even makes sense). Their drummer, Joe Bagale, has a soulful Harry Connick Jr. sound WHILE rocking the drums. Amazing. There are not a lot of bands that can switch from original jazz tracks, to hip-hop and rap covers (my favorite probably was "Forget about Dre" with some original lyrics and a trombone back-up"), to sets of freestyle rap.
I'm definitely looking forward to seeing Supertaster perform again too.
And finally, a big thank you to Coda. You've set up a great intimate venue for the bay to catch some great music. We will definitely be back.
Simply, it turns your twitter stream into a more visual experience. When you link magify.me to your twitter account, an instant home page is made. It takes the various links you may have in your stream and makes a very nice visual representation of them.
I love it. It's clean, simple and serves a really nice purpose. It isn't trying to be another twitter client as there are already plenty of those. But if you have been using http://www.twitter.com/username in your email signature, you should think about switching that over to http://www.magify.me/username. It's a lot nicer than your default twitter page and there are quick links to go to your facebook, actual twitter page, blog, etc.
The site is in early beta and @nalin has a list of things he wants to add when he has a chance. But play around and send him your feedback (via twitter @magify or even just leave a comment here).
A few interesting marketing-related things also happened when @nalin first launched @magify..but I'm going to save that for my next post.
Being Prepared For The Worst - Part III - Where will you meet?
Did you know, according to the USGS, there is a 63% chance the Bay Area has an earthquake of 6.7 or greater before 2036 (i.e. in the next 25 years)?
But anyway, I'm not going to dwell on that too much or try and figure out/dissect how they came up with that number. The reality is, it could happen. I've beaten that horse to death.
Question: What happens if you and your family are not together when a big quake happens? What happens if the quake leaves phones down and worse, it leaves your home inhabitable. How do you meet up?
It's a pretty simple question with a potentially scary outcome. If you didn't decide a meeting place with your family and your home is not an option anymore, you could spend hours/days wandering aimlessly trying to reconnect. Every minute apart would be a minute wondering whether your family was safe.
C and I decided that our meeting place will be the parking lots behind AT&T park.
It's a good location because it is only about a mile from our house and there is a lot of open area where you can potentially stay clear of tall buildings (a bit harder to do now with all the condo apartments).
Even in a huge-building-crumbling earthquake it is likely you will be able to find a safe area to rest here. Also, it is near the water and that can be invaluable if the roads and such are down.
I'm not expecting the few people who are reading these posts to go out there and buy emergency supplies and stockpile your house. Most of you are thinking "well...I should" but aren't getting around to it. I get it. That's human nature and I've been talking about doing this for months before I finally did.
But this is one thing you should be able to do before you leave the house today. Decide a meeting spot for you and your family. It's an easy thing to do and you can feel good about getting 1 step closer to being prepared.
First Aid Classes
We signed up for some first aid classes at the Red Cross in San Francisco. They are on Feb 2nd (4 hr class for $50). The class teaches: "how to recognize and care for victims of injury or sudden illness plus how to treat cuts, bruises, bone and muscle injuries, shock, bleeding and other emergencies." I think learning some first aid is a lot better than squealing nervously in the face of an injury.
It is really amazing but it has been a week since the Haiti earthquake and news is still rampant about people who don't have water and food. I know the environment in Haiti (existing poor country, bad infrastructure, and all sorts of awfulness) make getting supplies to people who need it much harder.
But don't forget that when Katrina hit New Orleans, thousands of people were also stranded for days without water and food.
I hate sounding like a nutso-alarmist, but if San Francisco was hit with a huge quake, being on your own for multiple days is a real possibility. Think of this stat (via Wikipedia):
As of January 1, 2009 the California Department of Finance estimated the population at 845,559. With over 17,000 people per square mile, San Francisco is the second-most densely populated major American city.
Think about that. 17,000 people in a square mile. That doesn't even include people who are commuting into the city on a daily basis and the fact that we live downtown (SOMA) where the density is likely higher.
17,000 people in a square mile. In a major earthquake, water, power and electricity are likely out. Many buildings are in shambles. The roads are a mess. How many emergency personnel and how much time do you think it will take to get aid and supplies to 17,000 in a square mile. I shudder thinking about it.
I know..I sound like a nut-case. But after today, I'm a nut-case that will be a bit more prepared. We bought the following on Amazon:
Our Survival Items - Round 1
I've always wanted a Leatherman. This little exercise was a good excuse to get one. A Leatherman makes a swiss army knife look like a fancy-Q-tip.
I absolutely love this. It's a hand crank & solar powered radio/flashlight/phone charger. Needing a flashlight is a no brainer. But I previously never thought of the importance of needing a radio. In the age of MP3 players and streaming music, I haven't owned a radio in years (let alone a radio that would work without needing to be plugged in).
First-aid kit. No explanation needed here. There are a lot of different options when it comes to First-aid kits so I settled on something compact and not too extravagant.
Water disinfectant. This little bottle, for only $13 bucks, will amazingly purify 500 gallons of water. God damn I'm sure they could use this in Haiti.
A few survival lists I read said make sure to have some of these emergency blankets. They are cheap, waterproof and windproof. You'll want to have these around in case you need to spend time outdoors in an emergency. I was also considering some emergency light weight sleeping bags.
Waterproof matches. Also a no brainer to have in the house/emergency kit.
I have helped contribute to building a half-dozen+ PFM (Personal Financial Management) applications. I spent 4 years working at Yodlee where I helped shape parts of Moneycenter. Since I've left Yodlee, I've consulted with quite a few start ups who were/are building "Mint-like" applications. All of that makes it ironic that I am not that great at managing my own money.
That's not to say I don't know how to save money. I'm actually pretty cheap when it comes to a lot of things (most things). I can save money.
My big problem is not properly managing my savings.
I have an Ameriprise Financial Advisor. I've been working with my advisor since 2004. She is really nice and seems to know the market and makes recommendations all the time on what I should do with my savings. Most the time I just nod my head and agree with whatever she recommends. Stupid I know.
My advisor has done a good job of getting me diversified (i.e. spreading out my money in different types of things: stock, cash, bonds, funds, etc.). Through 2008, I definitely lost a lot of money like a lot of people. However, it would have been a lot worse if I didn't have some diversification in other things (cash and bonds).
So what is my problem?
My problem now is that my financial life is too complicated. I have:
If it wasn't for Moneycenter, it would take forever to figure out what my networth is.
Some of the above is because I have incorporated myself as an S-Corp for my consulting business and I have set up separate accounts for that. But it doesn't need to be so complicated...does it?
I took my first steps to simplifying earlier this week when I met my advisor. She did her usual: "Here is what is going on with your accounts, I think we should do xyz with this account, abc with this account, move some money into this account, etc. etc. etc.". After 30 minutes I replied back:
Don't get me wrong. I understand everything you just said to me. Most of it made sense. But here is my problem. If I had to come back here tomorrow and repeat to you how my money is spread around and more importantly why...I couldn't do it. I have no idea why I have $xxx in a Wells Fargo Ultra Short Term Muni and $yyy in a Wells Fargo Short Term Muni. I see it on paper but I don't know why. We've been working together for 6 years and I think my finances have just gotten out of control. What can you do to help me simplify.
She looked stunned. But she quickly knew what I was talking about. By the end of the meeting we had consolidated 4 of my investment accounts into 2. I now only have 8 investment accounts! Well..it's a start.
This goes back a bit to my 2009 reflections where I said I want to do "More with less". I'm happy I ended this week with a little "Less" in my life.
I'm going to spend some more time this year looking at what else I can do to simplify. I read Ramit Sethi's book/blog "I Will Teach You To Be Rich". It has some good tips on simplifying and automating your money. I'll give it another skim and see what I can put in action for me.
We have all seen the awful things going on in Haiti right now. Please donate if you can (I actually think it's better to donate via websites such as http://american.redcross.org/haiti vs. the texting method because the money will get to the organizations faster via the websites).
All of this coupled with the recent slew of small quakes we have had in the bay area recently makes you wonder how prepared you are for a disaster.
I would say on a scale of 1 to 10, C and I are probably at about a 3 or 4 in terms of being prepared. I think the one thing we have going for us is enough water and non-perishable food in our house to last at least 5 days. We stockpile spam. It's a weakness.
But otherwise, I think we would be in rough shape.
I'm going to add one more New Year's resolution to my list (maybe booting off learning Chinese..because it hasn't been fun at all): being prepared for a disaster.
This is oddly something that C and I have been talking about doing for the last 6 months. We both read the book Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life, and believe me, when you read it you'll feel the urge to get prepared for a disaster as well.
It is a really fantastic book and it will open your eyes into how potentially helpless you will be in an emergency (i.e. a huge quake).
Here are a few depressing but thought provoking questions to think about (most are raised in the book). If there was a big quake in your city, and assuming you were lucky enough to have your apartment in tact, but the rest of the city is in shambles with likely no help to get to you within 48-72 hours would you know:
What to do if you or your partner had a severe cut or broken bone in the quake? If you did know what to do, do you have supplies in your house?
Do you have enough water for 3 days? I read that a person needs a gallon of water per day (I kind of question that..but it's a good benchmark to use when stocking up)
What do you do with all your shit and piss if all the plumbing is out?
How long after electricity goes out is the melted frozen food in the freezer going to be good for?
Do you have even the basics of flashlights, candles and matches/lighters in your house?
Do you have a plan in place to contact each other in case you are separated and phones are out?
Scary shit isn't it? I'm not an "End-Of-World Alarmist", but I think not being able to answer yes to the above and MANY more similar questions is a disservice to yourself and family. I can't answer yes and that is sad.
So my NEW resolution is to be prepared for the worst.
What do I want to accomplish in the next few weeks?
First Aid classes - I took some first aid in high school but there is a reason they make you get re-certified every year. You don't remember that stuff if you aren't doing it on a regular basis. You can get first aid certification at your local Red Cross (Bay Area folks - The Bay Area Red Cross has different classes for CPR ($60 for 4.5 hrs) and general first aid ($50 for 4 hrs)).
Emergency supplies - I'm not even sure what else we need to be prepared. Again, the Red Cross site has lots of good tips that we'll be going through. We'll probably be making a Target/Costco trip to stock up this weekend.
I'll be updating this blog as we make progress towards not being helpless in the face of an emergency. Hopefully it will inspire some of you as well.
Be safe. Donate if you can. Hug your family and friends extra tight tonight.
I started another term as a volunteer running coach with De Marillac Academy today. I’ve been coaching an elective running group with De Marillac for about 1.5 years now and I’m now on my 5th term with them. I use the term "coach" loosely because I pretty much tell the kids to run in a circle for an hour once a week.
(me and a few of my kids from a previous term)
De Marillac is a pretty interesting school. It is in the heart of the Tenderloin and sadly surrounded by some pretty awful sites. On my 4-5 block walk to the school every week I regularly see junkies, passed out homeless people, blatant drug transactions and all the other things you expect to see in the Loin. My kids and I regularly see people shooting up on the streets. Sad stuff.
From the schools website:
De Marillac Academy is an educational family that provides an innovative, comprehensive and accessible Catholic education in the Lasallian and Vincentian traditions to children from underserved, low-income families in the Tenderloin and other at-risk communities in San Francisco.
(And no…I’m not Catholic and I have no idea what Lasallian and Vicentian are).
The school is in an old building and is sorely lacking in places for kids to play and exercise. There isn’t a gym at the school and they have a tiny little courtyard (smaller than a full basketball court) with a few hoops where kids can play. The entrance to the school is security gated and you have to be buzzed in via the intercom to enter. I went to a fairly middle class grade school back in Canada but it seemed like a country club compared to De Marillac.
Quite the dreary picture isn’t it? But what the school lacks in flash and amenities it makes it up with amazingly good kids.
I’ve gotten to know about 20+ different kids during my coaching and they are fantastic. Good natured, outgoing, obviously mischievous as 6th-8th graders tend to be, but definitely a solid bunch of little people.
These kids are surrounded with the type of poverty, crime and shadiness that prevent many SF residents from even entering the Tenderloin. But they never bemoan their surroundings. They take it all in stride and just have fun being kids. Inspirational.
So where do we run if they don’t have a gym or a field?
It’s not very glamorous, but we just run around Civic Center plaza. It’s that square in front of city hall.
If you are ever in the neighborhood on Tuesdays between 3 and 4 pm, don’t be surprised to see my kids (all wearing their school uniforms) and I running laps. It’s a bit of a weird site, but I’m glad I can help get these kids some much needed exercise.
Note, if you are in the city and you have a flexible schedule on Tuesdays De Marillac can always use more volunteers to teach their electives. Every term they try and have electives (including running) taught by a few volunteers. The electives will vary depending on volunteer availability and some in the past have included juggling, baking, fencing, and hip-hop dancing. So if you have some time and a special skill you would love to share with kids, let me know!
Special thanks to the group at JustRun SF for introducing me to De Marillac and my good friend @macknuttie who first got me thinking about volunteering with youth sports.
I think I have minor OCD when it comes to being late. I hate being late. It doesn’t matter if it is meeting friends at a bar or meeting clients for a meeting. I hate being late.
If I happen to be running late, I start feeling slightly nauseous. Even when I’m likely going to be the first one there, I still feel nauseous.
If I’m going to be 5 minutes late for a restaurant reservation, I usually call the restaurant to let them know even though I know they don’t really care.
My OCD on not being late is why I don’t understand why we live in a culture of lateness. We all have friends who start getting ready at 7:55 when they know dinner is at 8. We have all been to meetings when even the meeting organizer shows up 10 minutes late and walks in without even an apology. I just don’t get it.
When I started working at Sapient in 1999 I was in heaven. It was a professional culture/cult where being late was not accepted. You would often be fined (a dollar or something similar) for even being 30 seconds late to a meeting. I was in heaven. Thank you Sapient for making me realize I wasn’t crazy to want things to be on time. There are a lot of us out there.
Where did we learn being late is OK? I don’t think it was in school because I remember grade school being a time when being late meant being embarrassed at the front of the class. Did we learn it was OK to be late because…it was OK? Because it almost never matters if you are on time or not?
How many times has this happened to you:
4:58: You are meeting a friend for a drink at 5 pm. You get there a couple of minutes early just to make sure your friend isn’t waiting alone. You are the only one there.
5:00: Still the only one there
5:05: Still the only one there. You start getting a bit annoyed.
5:10: A bit more annoyed
5:15: Even more annoyed and you have probably looked at your watch/phone about a dozen times by now.
5:20: Your friend finally gets there and says “Oh my god, sorry I’m late again, blah, blah, blah”. Your response: “It’ OK” (while fuming a bit inside).
That’s why people are always late. Because the rest of society lets them get away with it. It shouldn’t be OK.
I’m obviously not saying you tell your friend “Fuck you asshole. Why are you always late? You think you are more important than me? *throat punch*”
But I think calling out your friend or colleagues in a non-deuchebag manner can go a long way.
This last week, I had meetings on back-to-back days with one of my clients. Both meetings had: Me, 3 or 4 people from another consulting company, and 3 or 4 people from the client team including the client CEO.
In the first meeting, everyone was on time except the client CEO. He has his admin open the call up on time and ask us to wait for the CEO. He joins us 15 minutes later without even an apology.
The next day the same thing happens! Same meeting, same people, and another 15 minutes late from the CEO. Lame.
After the meeting I asked one of the guys from the other consulting company if Mr. CEO was always late. The answer: “Always, it’s ridiculous”. But I also got the sense they never said anything to him about it.
After some thought and pausing over the “Send” button a few times, I sent the following email:
I wanted to quickly share some feedback with you.
During our last few meetings that I have attended with the wider team you've been 10-15 minutes late each time. I of course know you must have an absolutely hectic schedule, but at this point I'm sure everyone else does as well [Editor Note: It’s a crazy time for everyone on the team because we are a few days from launch of the site]. However, having 5-6 people waiting on a call for 10-15 minutes when time is so short right now seems inconsiderate and a bit unprofessional.
Personally, in terms of my time, I start tracking and billing my time the moment I dial into a conference call. In the last 2 days, I've tracked just under 30 minutes ($[xx] that will be billed to your company) waiting on the phone. That just doesn't make sense.
I kindly suggest that if you know you will be more than just a few minutes late, to have [your admin] let the team know when we can expect the call to start so we can continue working on other activities. I think this is especially true for the [other consulting company] team that is huddled in a conference room for these calls and not in front of their computers where they can be working to complete this release.
Thank you for listening, Will
Yes, I was a bit nervous about sending this email. It might have rubbed him the wrong way and when you are a freelance consultant, pissing your clients off is never a good idea.
But this CEO, outside of being chronically late, is a good guy. He is friendly and he is always quick to thank his own team and the other folks working for him. I actually thought he would take the feedback well and appreciate that I sent him a private email instead of calling him out on the call in front of everyone.
And I was right. Mr. CEO sent the following email back:
Thanks Will. This is fair feedback. I apologize for the late start in the last couple of meetings. We have been swamped but that is no excuse. We highly value your time and the time of [Consulting company] and I agree this is not an effective use of time or money. The last few meetings I was stuck in between some urgent matters that I could not break away from but will work with my team to communicate things better and try to estimate the impact of unexpected emergencies.
Sincerely, Mr. CEO
Well, I don’t know if it’s actually going to make him stop being late. But it felt good to not bottle up my annoyance and give my client that feedback.
So the next time someone makes you wait. Don’t be a dick about it…but don’t be afraid to let them know it’s not cool and their time is not more valuable then yours.
I love Penelope Trunk’s blog because she doesn’t just spew what she thinks on a topic, but she’s absolutely fantastic at referencing “bigger-picture-human-behavior-traits”.
For example, her tips for keeping New Year’s resolutions: start small, think in increments of three weeks, get the wording right, visualize what you will look like and start now are all great, if not obvious-when-read, tips.
But what got my attention the most in her post was this paragraph:
I love that. It makes so much sense. It’s so obvious. It’s empowering. And for the most part it’s a great reminder that being happy is sometimes as easy as “Do what you want to be doing”. Duh.
The hard part is sometimes answering the question “What do I want to be doing”.
And that’s where my 2010 Q1 resolutions come into play. Yes, Q1 (i.e. Jan -> Mar) resolutions. Nerdtastic. But I think keeping some shorter term goals (but a bit longer than the previously recommended 3 weeks) will keep me a bit more focused.
Here are my Q1 resolutions in no particular order:
1. Blog More
I really have this love/hate relationship with writing. I think I’m a decent writer. I can sometimes make people laugh and I can sometimes narrate a funstory. I’ve tried to restart blogging quite a fewtimes. But I sometimes find the act of writing a drag even though I’m usually very satisfied with the end result.
I’m commiting myself to blog at least 3 times a week for the next 3 months. If Sunday rolls around and I haven’t hit 3 posts – I’m going to just do 3 bullshit posts and then look at myself with disdain. Hopefully by the end of March I’ll remind myself whether blogging/writing is something I want to be doing. My 10th grade social studies teacher who told me to go into journalism would be proud. Thanks Mr. Scott (?).
2.Launch 3 Websites
My great friends @nalin and @emh are both fantastic technologists as well as great “idea” guys. We have had many a conversation about “Wouldn’t it be great to build a site that did this”, “I think we could make money building an app that did blah, blah, blah”. @nalin has been good about developing a lot of his ideas and @emh is also pretty decent at starting side projects. But I’m the worst. I just stew on these ideas I have. I don’t act. It’s sickening. And my inaction depresses me. The worst part is I have a technology and product management background. I really have no excuse to not crank out a few fun sites.
I have 3 fun website ideas I’ve been brewing for a few months. I’ve built a prototype of one. My goal by the end of March is just to put these sites out there. They won’t be that pretty and they aren’t going to change the world or make a lot of money. But I’ll get them out there and I’ll break my streak of “All Talk”.
3.30 minutes of Rosetta Stone Chinese 5 times a week
I’m Chinese. I speak Chinese at probably a 4 year old level at best. Maybe a mentally challenged 4 year old. A mentally challenged 4 year old that drank too much contaminated Chinese milk. I’m going to China at the beginning of February for a few weeks. I know I’m not really going to fine tune my Chinese by then. But it’s good incentive for me to hunker down and start learning some Chinese. I’ve done a few sessions with Rosetta Stone…and it’s an interesting experience so far. I’ll probably blog more on that later.
I of course have a larger list of things I want to work on. Cook more inventive and fun foods, surf more, start triathlon training again, volunteer more, etc. But the 3 goals above are good to get me going and keep me focused for Q1.
[Editor's Note: I know. I've tried to restart blogging about a 1/2 dozen times unsuccessfully. 2010 is my year to change that]
Why do some years seem to “fly by” and some years “seem to never end”?
Thinking back to the last 10 years of my life (my life in San Francisco) I always seemed to think every New Years “this year really flew by”. But this is likely just due to some kind of memory trick that is projecting how I felt about this last year onto my last 10 years.
Because 2009 really flew by.
I feel like it was just a few months ago when C and I were flying back from spending New Year’s 2009 in Brazil. My memory of eagerly waiting to feel the cool, beautiful, mosquito free breeze of the bay area is clear as can be. I fondly remember the smile on C’s face as we walked out of the airport to kiss the breeze.
I feel blessed that 2009 was not a year that seemed to never end. There were a few months in 2009 that felt longer than others and I believe it was because they were extremely emotionally charged months. But I digress and won’t go into all those gory details now.
2009 was a very interesting year of work. I continued to do some consulting with my good friends at Pacwest Consulting Partners. However, as oil prices fell, so did some of my work with Big Oil. I logged about ½ the hours I did in 2008. This was for the best, as consulting and writing code for Big Oil Supply Chain management isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds.
My side gig doing freelance Yodlee consulting far exceeded my expectations. I worked with 8 different clients helping them integrate with Yodlee’s SDK (Software Development Kit). It was a fun mix of start-ups and older school financial services company. I got to write a lot more code this year and it constantly reminded me how much I enjoy coding. You just can’t compare the satisfaction of creating code vs. PowerPoint’s. Big thanks to my friends at Yodlee for all the referrals.
You add all that up and I oddly still worked less in ’09 than I ever have. This was my 2nd straight year of cubicle job evasion and it has been fantastic. But I still have that itch.
That itch of doing something great. Of doing something more than just making a living consulting. That itch of legacy building. Do I tell my kids –
“You should have seen me when I was in my 30s. Sometimes, I wouldn’t need to leave my apartment for days or even need to shower to do my work. I would work in my underwear eating salami and cheese by the fistful….kids do you believe that..my underwear! Those were wild times”.
Well that actually doesn’t sound too bad of a story to tell.
But a part of me just wants to do more. And that’s my mission for 2010. As 2009 ends, my 1 guiding principal for 2010 is “More with Less”. And I will write more about that in a future post.
To wrap up this post, I’ll end with my most important lesson learned from 2009: Just shut up and listen. This works in business and in love. Just shut up and listen. I really used to think I was a good listener. And sometimes I was. But a lot happened in 2009 that made me realize sometimes the only listening I was doing was to myself. When I finally learned to just shut up, conversations took on a new life. I learned. I grew. I hope I’m a better person for it.
I remember when I developed my first web page. It was in 1996 at my first co-op (internship) at Nortel in Ottawa, CA. I worked for a software research lab and living in -30 degree weather was a great incentive to do nothing other than work.
I remember creating a few Hello World test sites and the first bug I ran into was why the hell was the <centre> tag not working. Well..because HTML doesn't recognize Canadian spelling (e.g. centre vs. center).
I went on to do a lot of PERL development and cgi-bin apps. I learned a ton and it I felt like such a pimp going back to college and knowing how to build web apps. Over the next dozen or so years I've done a lot more web development (mainly java and .NET).
One thing that's always been lacking for me is mastering HTML and CSS. I've picked up CSS and can make my way around it but my skills are mediocre at best. I think I'm still stuck in the 90's mentality and wanting to put everything in tables and put styles right in tags.
During my developer years at Sapient, I worked on over a dozen web projects. However, almost all of them were staffed with "Site Developers". These folks cranked out HTML and CSS while peeps like me did the programming to make the pages do something other than look nice. And after years of just plugging together pages that were handed to me I realize I have a lot to learn to create sites from scratch myself.
Hence, I'm going to forget everything I already know.
I'm going to throw out my experience hacking together web pages, kludging together CSS, butchering sites by throwing in a few inline styles, etc.
I'm on a mission to relearn front-end dev skills so when I start creating some new sites I won't cringe at the HTML and CSS when I look back at it a few months later.
Cindy Alvarez makes a great suggestion, that I can access Safari books for free online using my SF library card ID! Only need to dig that up now...
But I also stumbled across this set of tutorials that look like a pretty solid place to find the tricks of the trade.
I know better than to say "Man I miss blogging, I'm going to start blogging again for real!!". I've had the urge to restart blogging in the past and I never get restarted.
BUT, I am really itching to start blogging again. I am in a bit of a lull with work and I have (even) more time on my hands than usual. So...let's see if I can keep this up and start trying to write something worth reading.
Over the next few weeks, I'm planning a bunch of mini-projects for myself (get a lot better at CSS, whip up an app idea I've been stewing on for a while in Ruby on Rails, change this awful blogger template, take a CPR/First-Aid class, take some dance classes, continue training for PMC, building a simple Yodlee-SDK web app, etc.). I'll see if I can keep this blogging up and write about those projects along the way.
SIDE NOTE: WOW, an update to my blog. It's been 2 years to the day! Guess running with bulls was inspiration enough.
I have never wanted to run with the bulls. Never.
I have seen it dozens of times on TV and on the internet.
I have never ONCE thought: "I want to do that". It was always an abstract-absurd-mystical event that I knew occurred, but not something I thought I would ever take part in. Kind of like a Japanese game show.
I have now run with the bulls.
I have felt terror and fear like I never could have imagined. And I hope to never feel that again. A dramatic-hyperbole of a cliché, but it’s true.
Yet it was one of the highlights of my life!
On July 7th, 2008 - 3 friends (Nalin, Aaron, John) and I ran with the legendary bulls in Pamplona, Spain. We did it for Aaron’s bachelor party. It was scarier and much more dangerous than any of us imagined it would be. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to any of our friends. But we are all immensely glad we did it. I know, it sounds stupid to me too.
We all came out of it relatively unscathed with the exception of a few bumps, scratches and a deep stomach-churning desire to fire-hose vomit.
The running turned out to be a huge physiological and psychological experiment on my body and mind. The "Long Story" of the running is below. It is heavy on a lot of details that may be helpful to anyone who is also planning on running it.
The long story below is REAL long. You have been warned.
The running of the bulls is actually a week long festival that has a running every day for a week. We decided to run the very first day (Monday July 7, 2008 aka Encierro 1), what is traditionally the most popular day to run.
It is notoriously difficult to get a hotel in Pamplona during the festival; hence, many people don’t bother. Instead, we left our stuff in our Madrid Hotel and jumped on a train to Pamplona with nothing but a bit of cash, our white outfits and a sweater. I recommend not even bringing a bag.
If you can afford the extra euro for the first class cabin, splurge. You get a meal, movie (in Spanish) and nice-comfortable reserved seating. I can’t tell you how valuable this is, especially on the journey back, when you are dirty and exhausted (not having slept for about over 24 hours)
If leaving from Madrid, you take the train out of the Atocha train station which is breathtakingly beautiful for a train station. It’s near Madrid’s Prada museum and is a 30-40 min walk from the center of Madrid.
If you print up your train tickets ahead of time (recommended) you really don’t need to get to the train station any more than 15 min before your train leaves. The beauty of train travel vs. flying
The ride itself was about 3.5 hours and we got into Pamplona around 6:30 pm. Well, we now had about 14 hours to kill with no hotel.
Pamplona is an absolutely beautiful city in Northern Spain. We heard that no travelers go to Pamplona except for the festival. After being there, I can’t imagine this is true, because it is a lovely city of winding alleys, cobblestone roads, bars, restaurants and modern plazas that surprised us all.
Walking out of the train station, you immediately see everyone dressed in the traditional white outfit with red scarf and sash. Not just the other travelers or tourists visiting Pamplona. I mean everyone: grandmas grocery shopping, kids playing in the park, older couples in coffee shops.
During the San Fermin festival, it seems like everyone embraces the tradition and events whether they are running it or not. You slowly begin to understand that this isn’t just a tourist event but a deep routed tradition.
Since we had 14 hours to kill, we just walked from the train station hoping to stumble upon the main area (we had no map). This turned out to be fairly easy as the train station turned out to be just a mile or so from the festivities.
We hit a fair where we picked up our own scarves and sashes (8 euro each, which we later learn is a rip off - if you wait to get to the t-shirt shops along the route they are 2.40 euro each, but we figure that was a small price to pay for fitting in).
(John, Aaron, Nalin and Me)
Soon, we stumbled upon the main festival streets of Pamplona. And calling it a block party is like calling the Superbowl a football game. It just doesn’t do it justice
(Jam Packed Revelry In Pamplona)
It was street after street after street of people packed shoulder to shoulder drinking and partying. The streets were absolutely filthy with bottles, cups and who knows what.
(This was was the streets looked like for blocks on end)
At this point, anyone who knows Nalin, John, Aaron or myself is going to assume we got ourselves a few drinks and joined in. Surprise! We didn’t. A few reasons:
We did not want to be hung over (or drunk) running with the bulls
We were out in Madrid until about 6 am the night before and were still feeling it a bit
Not drinking at all helped us stay awake all night
I really recommend anyone who runs not drink very much the day before. They say that police will stop anyone who looks drunk or hung over from running. However, unless you are barfing as you try to get on the course, I don’t think they are going to stop you. So just do it for your own safety.
The next 12 or so hours was spent walking around Pamplona (we have this place memorized) including the bull running course numerous times, talking strategy, eating, sitting on benches people watching, and a bit more eating. It actually went by a lot faster than I was expecting. You can kill some time eating a later dinner until about 2 am in some places and then grab a very early breakfast at about 5 am like we did.
At the beginning of the bull-run course, you can get a close up view of the bulls in their pen. They are enormous and their horns look extremely sharp. Something hit all 4 of us when we saw the reality of what would be chasing us in a few hours. I know I’m not the only one that started to get a barfy feeling in his stomach.
(The Bulls the night before the Run. My theory is they keep the spotlight on them all night to make them grumpy and angry for the run itself)
A lot of people you see fall asleep in the streets or parks around town and then wake up for the running. I actually wouldn’t recommend this because you obviously become a prime target for pick pockets and thieves. Nalin and I met a guy named Evan in Ibiza who was in Pamplona the same time as us. He fell asleep in a park, wrapped his bag around his legs so no one would steal it, and was surrounded by his friends. When he woke up, his bag was ripped open and some of his stuff was scattered around him - minus his camera of course. Be careful.
(Random dude passed out on the sidewalk in the middle of the night)
The running of the bulls starts at 8 am. We heard that you had to be on the course at 7 am or they don’t let you on.
We headed over around 5’ish am to do another walk along the course and scope out our starting spot.
There are quite a few websites that list tips for running of the bulls. We read a lot of them before coming to Pamplona and we narrowed down our strategy to the following:
Start immediately before Dead Man’s Turn (map below) - this is one of the most dangerous parts of the run. You often see bulls sliding into the wall of this near 90 degree turn, often slamming people between them and the wall. We figured that if we started right before the turn, we would be well past the turn by the time the bulls got to us.
Run along the left hand side - In general, you want to run on the inside lane of any turn (e.g. if it is a right turn, be on the right side) to avoid the bull slamming you into the wall (see above). After Dead Man’s turn it is nearly straight into the bull arena with a slight left before entering the arena. Because of this we wanted to run along the left hand side.
Run fast as fuck - This is a bit self explanatory. We weren’t trying to be one of those guys that runs right beside the bull and slaps them.
When in doubt - Escape - Along the remainder of the course there were 2 potential spots to jump off the course through a set of fences. We each told ourselves that if there was any question for our safety we would jump ship.
Simple enough right? The best laid plans of mice….
Monkey Wrench #1 - Policia Try to Fuck With Us
At about 7:40 am (20 minutes before the run starts) the course is PACKED shoulder to shoulder. We are standing about nervously, talking about our plan over and over again and debating how fast we can move in such a large pack.
Suddenly, the Policia separate the runners into 2 groups. They form a line directly behind where we are standing and start telling us to walk forward? Huh?
We don’t really have any idea what is going on and we are marched past the bend. No one knows what is going on. Suddenly, strategy #1 is out the window.
We now overhear some horrifying news. For some reason, all of the people in front of the police line (half the runners, including us) are being ushered OUT of the course. We are being told that we cannot run today. WHAT?
We are furious. We are livid. The entire point of our Europe trip was to run with the bulls. And a lifetime highlight was being made a lifetime lowlight. We look at each other cursing.
[Psychological side note #1: Interesting side note here. As I mentioned earlier, I never really had a desire to run with the bulls. Even standing on the course nervously in the morning, I was having a few second thoughts about the sanity of this decision. However, the moment I found out that the opportunity to run was being taken away, there was nothing more I wanted to do. Strange. This reaction surprised even myself.]
Hundreds (thousands?) of runners are moved off the course and we all look at each other despondently. The running starts in about 15 minutes.
Well, we didn’t come half way around the world to stand on a fence.
Many of the displaced runners just walk and mill about sullenly, but a small handful just start running. The 4 of us, still not really sure what just happened, break out into a mad sprint. We are desperate to find a way back onto the course. No one is sure where we are going. We are like lemmings running to find our way back to the top of the cliff.
We sprint through various winding back alleys of Pamplona hoping to find a fence that we can jump. After what seems like 5 minutes, I am alone. I’ve lost John, Aaron and Nalin in the confused scramble. [Psychological side note #2 - Again surprisingly, I didn’t even think to double back and find them. All I wanted to do was get myself back on the course. Weird. Really weird]
I finally find a fence that is crowded 4 people deep waiting for the run to start. These folks have been waiting for hours to get a good spot to watch the run and I feel it isn’t going to be easy to push my way through. But before I know it, I squeeze my way through the crowd, crawl through 2 fences and I’m on the course!
I feel happiness and elation that is inappropriate the position I am in. I am almost right at the gate where they let the bulls out. The start of the course. This was not part of the plan.
Amazingly, I find Aaron, Hesh and Nalin all on the course and we are back to together - breathing heavily, legs tired from the sprint, but all as elated as me.
(Minutes away from the start)
Luckily, we manage to keep moving our way up the course and oddly end up back to where we were planning on starting. We still have no idea why the Polica did what they did. That was fucked.
My watch reads 7:58 and the race is about to start. This is a map of the course (about 0.5 miles total). This map actually notes the injuries that occured on the day of our run.
The race uses multiple rockets to signify significant events. We read:
Rocket 1. Signifies that the first bull is released
Rocket 2. Suppose to be about a minute later, the last bull is released
Everyone says that you start running lightly when the first rocket launches and then start hard running when the second rocket goes off. All in, it should take the bulls about 3 minutes to finish the 0.5 mile course.
*BOOM* The first rocket goes off.
I start the jog with the rest of the group. Surprisingly, the masses move quite well together.
About 15 seconds later, the second rocket goes off. WHAT? Already? Panic. This was unplanned for.
The masses begin to sprint. Hard.
I am running up the left side and I see John and Aaron vaguely around me.
People are crowded all along the very edge of the road making me run a lot closer to the middle than I was planning (and yes, the middle is generally where the bulls tend to stay). I wasn’t expecting people to just stand ON the road the entire running.
In total, I probably had about 0.25-0.3 miles to run before getting into the bull fighting arena. Before the run started, I thought it could be possible that I get into the arena before I even see a bull.
As I am sprinting, the look of fear on the faces around me is shocking. I see hundreds of faces turning around and the fear on the faces is like a Godzilla movie with white people. Lots of cursing is heard. John overhears someone yell "Whose idea was this anyway".
The fear is contagious because I get more terrified by just seeing everyone’s faces and it becomes very real.
I continue sprinting.
Someone trips up ahead. Bad bad news.
Imagine tripping and falling on the ground…with hundreds of people running as fast as they can right behind you. A cartoon like pile up ensues with people just falling over on the fallen runners and making a large dog pile. Carried by my momentum, I run right into the pile up, pushing a few people to the ground (sorry). I manage to not fall completely, and with a hand on the ground, spin myself out of it to avoid most of the mess.
One of my biggest worries was getting caught in a pile up and having a bull smash right into us. It happens. Luckily not to me.
I keep running and then I hear someone shout "They’re coming".
I feel even more panicked. I contemplate jumping into a doorway, but think better of it, and just keep running.
I mean cow bells attached to 1 ton beasts with very sharp horns.
I keep running.
The sides of the road get even more crowded as the people running in the middle move to the sides. I see the first pack of bulls run by me. I’m unscathed. I catch a quick breath but keep moving.
Another side note about the run: about 12 Bulls are let loose in the run. It is safest for runners if the bulls stay in a pack. If they stay in a pack, they generally stay in the middle of the road and don’t bother anyone (unless you fall in front of them). But often along the twists and turns, the bulls separate into multiple packs. It is the most dangerous when a bull ends up alone because it will get disoriented and start attacking people. It may even run back into the crowd.
I keep running.
I make it to the turn into the arena when out of the corner of my eye I see a bull spin out right at the turn. It is lying on the ground about to get up. It is now a disoriented lonely angry bull. Scary.
I have a big decision to make. Do I think I can make the final 30-40 yards into the arena before the bull gets up and beats me in there? Or do I jump the fence now and call it a day? My mind is racing. You do NOT want to get caught in the narrow tunnel into the arena with a bull. But if the bull got up and started running, we would hit the tunnel at the same time.
I’m contemplating jumping over the fence and forgetting about the arena. My heart is pounding. Then I hear Aaron shout: "It’s clear! Get out!"
Fuck it. I go for it.
I sprint. Or at least try.
[Physiological/Psychological Side Note #1: At this point I only have about 30-40 yards left and I am sprinting. I’m telling my body to sprint faster because I don’t feel like I’m running very fast. I can’t move any faster. My mind is positive I can run faster. My legs refuse. I still don’t know why]
I enter the tunnel (about 10 yards long) and I want to turn around. But I’m afraid if I turn around I may see a bull right there and I’d rather not see myself get gored. So I keep running.
I enter the arena and veer left right away. I HIGHLY recommend you veer left or right immediately when getting into the arena. As the bulls enter the arena, they just run straight to the exit.
I see Aaron in the arena. We made it! We are alive! We ran with the bulls!
I didn’t know until this year, but the running of the bulls actually ends in a real bull fighting arena. Runners try and make it into the arena before the last bull, at which time they close the gate.
A rocket goes off signifying that the last bull has cleared the arena!
We don’t see Nalin and John after the rocket, but we assume they just jumped a fence and are fine (we hope).
Aaron and I hug and jump in joy. Words cannot describe the jubilation and elation we feel. All the people around us are smiling, hugging and are giddy.
We cannot help but to scream into the jam packed arena: "Are you not entertained? Are you not mother fucking entertained?" I think we earned the right to be a bit douchey.
(Our Fans In The Stadium)
*BOOM* a rocket goes off. The lesser known "Act II" of the running of the bulls begins.
Act II - Arena Mayhem
I didn’t know until this year either, but after the arena is closed and full of runners, they let a bull back into the crowd. Yes. They LET a bull back in. Luckily (?) these bulls are a bit smaller and their horns are tapped. But they are still extremely fast and angry.
A bull charges into the masses and knocks a ton of people down. Aaron and I run for the walls and try and climb out. Aaron is about to climb out when someone just pushes him over and he goes flying. I am just hanging on top of the fence as the bull passes.
They let the bull run around for a few minutes while runners try and touch the bull. Machismo at it’s highest. Bodies are flying all over the place.
The bull eventually gets to exit the arena and the crowd continues to erupt.
Well, it’s not quite over. They repeat this lone bull terrorizing activity about 6 times (new fully energized bull each time).
Here is a video I took of one of the runs. I’ve noted a few notable moments.
35 seconds..bull running right past me
55 seconds bull picks a guy up and he rides his head
1:50 me running for shear life
2:40 the bull jumps over the railing into the crowd and the policia jump into the arena because of it (not really well captured on the video)
3:58 the bull almost getting me again
4:14 a huge cow bull (?) comes out of no where and almost smokes me and the guy beside me
It’s finally over. They open up the arena and I leave. I’ve run with the bulls and walked away in one piece.
I go to our predetermined meeting spot and Nalin, John and Aaron are all there in one piece too. However, Nalin is doubled over in pain, but is ok. [Physiological side note #2 - A weird thing happened to all 4 of us during this event. I’m sure everyone has felt queasy at moments of nervousness. But all 4 of us (especially Nalin) felt like barfing after the run. Adrenalin overload? Any ideas?]
We all exchange our running stories. We all say how it was one of the greatest moments of our lives. And we all say how we would never do it again.
We walk back to the train ready to leave Pamplona. I have blood on the back of my t-shirt. It’s not mine. We see a guy walking along the street with his shirt ripped open and a foot print on his back.
Happy to be alive is an understatement. Great work boys:
To any haters that want to say: "You guys are chicken shits. Real men hit the bulls as they run by, chase them down in the arena, blah blah blah". Fine, fine. Whatever.
To any PETA folks that think the running is cruel. Well, I can’t say I disagree. But I have no problem eating meat either. Even foie gras and veal. Mmmm…baby cow. Go splash paint on someone wearing fur.
I haven't been very inspired to blog recently. No real reason other then a lack of inspiration and interest.
But I figured a post to let people know I'm still alive would be nice. Let's see..what's going on these days:
- Still going out a lot. A few mini-black outs. But nothing too dramatic to warrant a post onto itself (not including July 4th weekend in Vegas..but I'll leave that post off here). I've got a handful of pics on my Flickr site. That's probably a better place to check on a regular basis to see what I'm up to. I recommend viewing the sets on the right to see the pics grouped into a more logical order.
- I'm not training for any marathons or triathlons right now. And it feels GREAT! I'm still keeping in decent shape, but it's nice not feeling the freakish desire/need to work out 10 times a week. Good luck to my buddy Merrill on doing Iron Man Lake Placid this weekend! His first.
- I just came back from the worst business travel trip ever. Even worst then my last trip to Jersey. My boss and I were flying from SF to San Antonio for a meeting. We had a 1 hour stop over in LAX and were scheduled to land in Texas at 11 PM. Kind of late considering we had a 7:30 am meeting the next day. Bless our luck, but a power outage causes most of the airports in So Cal to shutdown. Our 1 hr layover becomes 5. We land in San Antonio at 4:30 am. A lovely 2 hrs of sleep for an all day meeting. Wheeeeee. *whine* *whine*
- I'm flying to Bangalore, India next week for work. I am really excited about that. My first time and I'll be gone for about 10 days. I hope I don't get food poisoning and crap my pants..again.
- The day after I get back from India, I'm off to Vancouver for one my best friend's weddings. Congrats Schaubnuts!! I can't wait.
- Watched 2 Indie movies recently at my neighborhood indie theatre - Lumiere:
Heart of The Game - One of my favorite movies of the year. A documentary that follows a high school girls basketball team for about 6 years. The natural and unforced drama in this movie put Hollywood shit like Coach Carter to shame.
Lady Vengeance - I oddly watched this movie by myself in the theatre..completely drunk. Don't ask. It was a weird night. Here's a combo that doesn't work so well: artsy fartsy korean movie, subtitles, drinking-drowsiness. I fell asleep 3 times in the movie. I had no fucking clue what was going on. All I know is there is one mean bad ass Korean chick in this movie.
- Watched 2 Hollywood movies back-to-back a few Sundays ago.
Superman - Loved it. I enjoyed Batman Begins a lot more. But I liked Superman Returns more then the first 2 X-Men movies and Spiderman 2.
Pirates of the Caribbean 2 - Hated it. How did this crap make so much money?
Why are Hollywood movies so long now? I literally watched these movies right after each other..and that was pretty much 6 straight hours of screen time. I had bed sores.
- And I got a promotion at work. Mixed feelings about it..but that's a whole other story that isn't really worth blogging about..just drinking about.
Alrighty, that's my last 30 days in a nutshell. I left out a few things like almost getting blown up in Vegas, my car being broken into, my new love of mansion pool parties, retiring of my favorite t-shirt and replacing it with Long Green Love, and a few other mundane details.
Just find my anonymous blog to get all the real juicy details.