Sunday, January 31, 2010

Live Music In The City: Elevaters & Supertaster

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.

Elevaters
The opening act was a group from LA called the Elevaters.


EPK from Elevaters on Vimeo.

From the Coda site:
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.

Supertaster
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.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Magify.me - Visualize Your Tweets

This week, one of my closest friends, @nalin, launched a new site he built in his spare time (amazingly most of it done over a weekend of extreme food poisoning).

It is called magify.me.


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.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

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)?

63%. Scary.

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.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Being Prepared For The Worst - Part II - First steps

C & I made some good progress in getting prepared for the worst.

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.

Emergency Supplies
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.

This is just the start of our emergency kit. You can actually buy some pre-packaged kits (Quakehold! 70280 Grab-n-Go Emergency Kit, 2-Person 3-Day Back Pack,) but it was a good learning experience building up a kit myself.

Check out the Red Cross site for more tips on what should be in your kit.

Other things we still need to add to our kit:
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Pictures of us
  • Some cash
What else am I forgetting?

Some of you may think this is a bit extreme. I probably would have thought the same thing before I read Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life. But just watch any news footage about Haiti, videos about Katrina or the South East Asia Tsunami in 2004 and you will sadly realize needing this shit is a real possibility.

Please donate to Haiti relief if you can.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Managing My Money

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.

What seems to work for you?

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Being Prepared For The Worst - Part I

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.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Another Term At De Marillac Academy

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.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Culture Of Lateness

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:

Hi CEO,

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.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

2010 - New Year's resolutions

I’ve never been big on New Year’s resolutions. Not that I don’t think I have a lot to improve on, but I’ve mainly been too lazy to think about it let alone commit it in writing.

But 2010 is a new year.

I was a bit inspired by one of my favorite bloggers Penelope Trunk. She wrote a short post on “How to keep a New Year’s resolution” .

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 realized this after spending two years reading what positive psychologists have discovered makes people happy. And, it turns out, that everything we know about what makes us happy comes down to having self-discipline to do what we know want to be doing.

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 fun story. I’ve tried to restart blogging quite a few times. 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.

What are your resolutions?

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

2009

[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.
Just shut up and listen.