Archive for May, 2012
So, over the past several weeks, I’ve had the thought “Hey, I should write a blog entry about ______.” pop up in my head quite frequently. Also, I watched Hank Green talking to Charlie McDonnell, where he alludes to a week where he made a video a day for YouTube.
I contrast this with yesterday, where I needed to do some resume rewriting and well, it was like pulling teeth to write anything. I only got that done by threatening to myself and a friend to buy that friend dinner unless I had a copy of my resume in her email box before she woke up. (I understand that resume writing is less attractive and more difficult than most other types of writing, but still its writing.)
So I need to stretch myself to put that writing muscle back into order.. So some rules for this writing goal:
- A blog entry must be at least four paragraphs long, and a paragraph must be at least three sentences.
- Blog entries must be at least daily, for May 1 through May 7.
- A day will be determined by Nick’s logical day naming system.
- This blog entry doesn’t count as a blog entry on May 1st.
- Blog entries for this challenge must be tagged with “One Entry a Day for a Week”.
- May 2 Addendum: If more than one blog entry is written on a day, it cannot be credited toward a future blog entry.
- Rules are intended to be broken, but not this rule.
Okay, lets get this challenge started.
I don’t have any significant first hand knowledge of the protest events and the few crimes in Seattle today. I’ve read three or so Seattle Times articles: A summary article, an article on the downtown core battening down the hatches, and a victim’s account. I’ve also read the Slog’s live blog of the day. But here is an experience of my day, and my thoughts on what happened.
I got up around 10 am. (but I was also up to 3 am working on my resume, so shush.) I spent several hours around the house working and reading. My first realization that something had happened came when my cousin asked me if downtown was still chaotic, and gave me a link to a Seattle Times article on what had happened.
I walked from my house down to the waterfront and didn’t leave the waterfront until Bell St. I’ll admit part of this was to just stay out of the downtown core, but I was also curious about what the detour mess looked like. I’ve used this route many times in the past when going to my destination, because walking along the water has many advantages, namely: Water, Fewer streets to cross, and wider sidewalks. (I also got some pictures of the ferris wheel parts.) The detour mess still looks like its shaping up, but doesn’t look quite fun.
My first personal sighting of the protest, although I didn’t realize it at the time, was seeing the Unicorn Protest leader, turning off of Bell St onto an alley way. I then snagged some cash at a nearby credit union ATM to then take to a bank to get quarters for laundry. The first bank I wandered by was a US Bank in Belltown, which had a sign in the window “Due to security concerns we will be closing at 4pm”. Unfortunately, it was 4:10 pm. I kept wandering toward my destination and I saw a protest or march blocking third and preventing busses and traffic from moving. I continued walking on when I came upon a Wells Fargo. Oddly the bank was locked, but the manager was letting people in and out from the back door. I walked in, got my quarters and after being directed back to the back door I left.
I went off to my bell rehearsal in Shoreline, which is one of those things I do just about every Tuesday. On the way, I discussed with one of my quartetmates on how I was getting home, and that I’d kinda like to avoid Downtown, as I didn’t know what would be happening there. The bus routes that around our rehearsal all go to Downtown or Belltown before I can transfer elsewhere. (Discounting an annoying routing on the 358 to the 48, to the 49, I don’t mind connections, but I avoid double connections.) So my quartetmate drove me to the origin of the 65, which is conveniently about two and a half miles by car from our rehearsal spot, although due to the bus system in North Seattle isn’t really easy to bus to. I then hopped a 49 and snagged a cup of coffee at my favorite coffee shop, Roy St Coffee and Tea and following my routine, I hopped a 60 home after Roy St closed. (Yes, I realize I still ended up double connecting with a long layover, but I’d rather layover at Roy St, its like my Cheers, most of the folks know my name, the folks there all have different troubles, and the employees are often they’re glad I came but sometimes they just wished I buzzed off.)
So for me personally this more or less was a non-event.
First, I appreciated the mayor’s comment when he signed an emergency order, “The First Amendment uses of 5-foot-long, 3-inch rod sticks is outweighed today by our desire to preserve public safety and confiscate weapons.” Simply the fact that he recognized that he was limiting First Amendment rights is huge. Usually in instances like this the rhetoric is all about safety and order, and our constitutional rights are ignored.
I’m actually quite annoyed at the
protestor’s terrorist’s choice of targets. (Yes, they were terrorists, they’re attempting to use violence in an attempt to coerce the political process. They had a poor attempt at it, but they attempted never the less.) So per the Seattle Times the targets were:
- A Wells Fargo Branch
- The US Appeals Court
- Multiple cars on Seneca Street and Sixth Ave
- A Homestreet Bank Branch
- An HSBC Bank Branch
- Niketown’s Seattle store
- American Apparel’s Downtown Seattle Store
- Nordstrom’s Corporate Office
- A prominent Starbucks location
So lets go for the easiest first. Individual people’s cars. There was active terrorism against people simply parked their cars in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Tactically thats the fastest way to make an enemy, damage an American’s car. For most Americans a car is one of their major personal possessions, and part of their identity.
The Appeals Court? Sigh. Our courts aren’t ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but of the three branches of our government its the branch in the least need of reform.
The retail stores. Okay, so Nike, Nordstrom, and Starbucks are all big corporate names. None of them strike me as especially egregious in treating their communities and employees, but none of them are especially excellent either. Nike has of course had its foreign labor problems, but this is simply reflection of the greater changes in our world economy. (c.f. Apple being targeted for outsourcing, although they’re not alone.) Targeting the American Apparel though on the other hand, is just stupid. This company has a strong commitment to American labor, and treating its employees with respect and supporting their right to unionize. If anything the protestors should’ve walked in, bought a shitload of stuff, then smashed the windows of American Apparel’s neighbors. Oh, and if you’re going to smash Nike’s store, don’t do it while wearing Nike shoes.
Finally, we have the banks. So HSBC is a worldwide bank with a small presence in the US Market. Honestly, it fits the image of big bad multi-national, although I don’t think they had a significant negative affect during the mortgage crisis. Wells Fargo is a mediocre national bank. I understand they’ve been financing private prisons, but it simply is a business, if they didn’t loan the money someone else would. Trying to stop private prisions by targeting Wells Fargo is like trying to prevent the Titanic from hitting an iceberg with a single paddle, there is no power there. I’m most annoyed about the Homestreet Bank branch, this is a local Seattle institution, it really is a ho-hum local bank that has done nothing evil. It was the third runner up in my church‘s search for a new bank. I would’ve had no problem with my church placing its money there, although we had a better option. If you’re going to target a bank (not that I’m advocating this) I recommend going after Chase and Bank of America. Both have documented horrible failures in the mortgage crisis both Nationally and in Washington State, and both have contributed to the greater mess that the crisis on Wall Street.
After spending a good bit hacking away at the keyboard to write this blog entry out, I’m struck by the fact that much of this is simply a call for help, a plea for something to be done, and pent up rage. The black bloc that struck had 75 people, they could have easily circled and disrupted business at a free standing location of one of the businesses. (Okay I’m thinking the Bank of America on Olive Way..) There is power in taking the upper hand and confronting your enemies with a peaceful tactic, that gains support from the public. Hell, I admire Starbucks, but I would’ve respected and understood the black block circling the Pacific Place Starbucks.
There is massive energy pent up to cause change, but it must be channeled and directed to have the maximum effect.
Apple should bring iMessage to Android phones.
At first glance this seems like the worst idea: Take a signature portion of the iOS experience (and soon to be OS X experience) and bring it to your direct competitor, thus reducing the differentiation between your product and your competitor’s product, which ultimately reduces the attractiveness of your product.
But iMessage as a product isn’t competing with Android. No, its competing directly with Blackberry Messenger, but indirectly with carrier’s SMS and MMS offerings. AT&T knew this when in advance of iMessage’s release they switched their SMS/MMS package offerings to two options: $20 for unlimited messages, or $0.20 per SMS or $0.30 per MMS. This means that anyone who wants to send more than 100 SMS message should just pay the $20 per month.
iMessage isn’t competing with Android directly, but why would Apple spend resources on bringing a product to their competitor’s platform? Simple, the same reason Apple brought iTunes to Windows: Bring their design aesthetic to a competitors platform to support one of their product, the iPod. iMessage is stronger when it has more users.
But bringing iMessage to Android also supports Apple’s existing customers, because right now iMessage brings only a few benefits: Syncing messages between multiple devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod, and OS X Laptop), and delivery receipts. This is nice, snazzy and cool in and of itself, but it still leaves people saddled with SMS and MMS messages being delivered only on their iPhone. For a customer is great benefit to cancel that $20 per month SMS plan and pay individually for the few text messages that come from feature phones and other sources.
When Apple brings iMessage to Android they open up a platform that has the potential to reach 82% of the smartphone market. But in bringing iMessage to Android it places it as a formidable competitor to SMS and MMS messages, which also forces RIM and Windows Mobile into a market corner. We’ve seen this play out with computer modems, fax machines, ethernet, and Wi-Fi. These connectivity innovations gained their dominance not because each manufacturer had their own proprietary method of connecting, but because they made and generally stuck to an agreed upon standard.
Finally, bringing iMessage continues to push network providers into the role that Apple wants them to be: Providers of dumb pipes. Steve Jobs spent quite a bit of time trying to think through building the iPhone into a platform to synthetically create a carrier using Wi-Fi spectrum. iMessage doesn’t get Apple all the way there, but it chips of a small piece of the wireless carrier’s differentiation from being a dumb pipe, and that brings us a wee bit closer to the future.
I purposefully kept my late entry, Apple should bring iMessage to Android, on a general level, without bringing my personal specifics into it.
I’m one of those guys who enjoys tracking things. I do this for fun and to answer the questions that’d just pop up in my head if I didn’t. I track my ORCA Card usage, my telecom bills, and just my general spending. (Unlike I a crazy AOL customer, and many other customers I don’t suffer from decision fatigue in that way, quite the opposite, it’ll bug me if I don’t track this stuff.)
I have a spreadsheet summarizing every month I’ve been with AT&T which calculates exactly what I spent, and what my expenses would be on some other choices. (For simplicity I leave out the discounts I receive after the line items.)
This has served me well. For instance when AT&T started offering 2GB of data for $25 a month, I jumped for it, instead of sticking with my grandfathered plan of unlimited data for $30 a month. Since June 2010 this has saved me $115. Not exactly huge, but not exactly pocket change. My data usage has continued to go up. In the six months before I switched in June 2010 my average monthly data usage was 453 megabytes per month, in the past six months it roughly doubled to 834 megabytes per month, still less than half of my cap, and I use whatever data I want and can manage to grab.
My SMS/MMS usage dramatically dropped for my bills ending in March and April to an average of 120 messages per month. (Why this doesn’t clearly correlate with the release of iOS 5 I don’t know, thats a question that I need to do more analysis to answer.) For various reasons too arcane to get into here, I’m on the $20 unlimited SMS plan, which means for March and April I’m just twenty or so messages shy from hitting break even on a metered billing plan, and after that its all savings.
So being an analysis addict, I pulled the detailed SMS level data and found out that if I converted my top two texting recipients easily accounted for over twenty messages a month, but I also knew that they weren’t going to be hopping onto an iPhone. After much searching I’ve moved them over to TextFree from Pinger, but its a wee bit of a pain. So it’d be excellent if this problem took care of itself by those Android phone users getting onto iMessages.. Thats the thought at least..
I wrote Mormons: Standing on the Side of Love because when I watched It Gets Better with Mormon Family and Friends, I was moved almost to tears.
The day after I wrote that I was having an online chat with my friend Casey:
Casey: re: your most recent blog post. I have not yet watched the video, but you are a much better person than I. I carry a huge grudge against the Mormons, Evangelicals, and Catholics for Prop 8 and anyone who funds those organizations.
Me: well — I separate the people from the organization.
Casey: The people empower and monetarily fund the organizations, I can’t separate them.
Casey: Might as well “hate the sin but love the sinner”.
Casey: Seriously, I admire your ability to make that separation.
His thoughts stuck with me, because Casey is an awesome guy and holding a grudge doesn’t seem to be his style. I’ve spent quite a bit of time pondering why I can make that separation, and I’m discussing this here with Casey’s permission.
I don’t condone the Mormons, Evangelicals, and Catholics who supported Prop 8, quite the opposite, I despise that people poured money simply to prevent two people of the same sex from having their relationship recognized in the same way as two people of the opposite sex.
I used to think that all Christian faiths were bullshit, and destructive. Then one Sunday morning a few months after I started going to my church I was sitting listening to a group who had gone to a Central American country describe the social services that the catholic church provided. Here were people I trusted providing evidence that directly contradicted my believe that Christian faiths were bullshit. I’m not quite sure I knew it at the time, but a little bit of dynamite had gone off in my head and started to take down that opinion. For a more recent example of the good that Catholics do, take a look at Nicholas D. Kristof’s opinion piece, We Are All Nuns, I told another friend when I read it that I needed to go find a nun to hug.
Does the sex abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests, and then covered up by the organization negate the work of the Catholic Nuns? One could make an argument that it does. However, if you accept that argument then once an organization or even an individual does something that rises to a certain level, you must discount whatever good work they have done.
I learned this past summer that one of my coworkers was engaged in producing child porn during the same time I worked with him. At that time I wrote:
What Matt has done is inexcusable.
I hope one day he will ask for forgiveness and find someone who can grant it to him. However, his current unwillingness to provide the password to decrypt the files on his computer makes it unlikely that he is ready to ask for forgiveness, nor is he worthy of it.
I’m reminded of a story of the redemption of a drug addict that stole from our church when he was younger. I’ve put the story up for those who are interested.
I was stuck at that time reconciling the fact that the generally good guy I worked with was also a pedophile. One of the Unitarian Universalist Principles that UUs affirm and promote is “The inherent worth and dignity of every person.” This is not to say that I would not take a 2×4 to Matt’s head if it would have prevented him from producing child porn.
A few days after my initial blog entry and my conversation with Casey this quote showed up in my email box:
If you’re out watering your flower garden by hand, you naturally concentrate the flow of water to benefit your beautiful flowers. If there’s an area of weeds, you don’t waste water there. As best you can, you avoid watering the weeds. It’s the same with your consciousness. You can learn to selectively water the positive seeds and flowers in you by attending to them. There are enough weeds. You don’t have to encourage them. – Thomas Bien, “Water the Flowers, Not the Weeds”
It doesn’t quite have literal application to this situation, but I believe that I should highlight and celebrate the characteristics I’d like to see in others. I can either focus on the evil things that they do and encourage them, or I can focus on celebrating what good they do, and encourage that.
There are a few meaty topics I want to dig into, but to do justice to those requires more time and attention than I have, thus I will write about my cats.
It occurs to me that while I’ve described various different behaviors of my cats at times, I’m usually describing the outliers, not our normal day to day.
Anytime I’m sitting at home, its quite likely that one of the cats is sitting on or near me. At this very moment Shaun is sitting on my arm. He’s engaged in a well practiced dance where he puts one paw on my arm, then another, and the next thing I know he has migrated to putting himself in the middle of everything. (Apparently this cat can read my thoughts, or I can read his, as during the process of writing this paragraph he has now managed to perfectly parallel what I’m typing.)
Shaun likes to hold my fingers at times, and he has a thing for putting his paw on my MacBook. (The cats aren’t actually allowed to touch my computer. I started this since George managed to brush the side of his face upon my iBook G4 enough that the hinge is off kilter and when the computer screen is closed its misaligned from the rest of the computer by a good 1/8th of an inch.) At times this gets annoying as he wants to touch my thumb, which is right over the MacBook’s trackpad. Now Apple is good at what they do, but their devices don’t yet differentiate between human fingers and cat paws, so the computer does all sorts of odd things.
If George is the one wanting to sit near me, he always wants to be pet, to the point that he’ll push his nose under my hand on the keyboard if I’m not paying attention to him. George is much more direct about what he wants, whereas Shaun is sly and sneaky.
When I come home George invariably greets me with a cloying meow requesting my attention. He’ll follow me around the apartment until I provide some to him, even if it is what I consider to be “negative” attention. Sigh, he as me trained quite well. George has meowing down to a science. I’ll listen to him try to continue to get my attention, and like P&G he’ll constantly vary his output, which I presume is mostly to keep my interest. At times he’s experimented with two and three syllable meows, although at the moment he is going for a siamese type short meow. He’s quite the innovator when it comes to meows.. (He’s not the first cat I’ve lived with folks, there have been a whole clowder of them in my past.) I’ve been telling him for the past nine years to speak english, although he still hasn’t made any progress with that.
At bed time the cats usually cuddle up with me on the bed. Shaun is consistently to my left and George is consistently to my right. Its one of those wonderfully regular things in my life, and part of the clowder that I’m an honorary member of.
I believe that the creativity and innovation are under attack and have been for quite a while.
I had an online chat with a friend of mine who is a Software Development Engineer at Microsoft, and he exposed a frustration with people who as teenagers and early 20s year olds didn’t understand “why people don’t make what I see to be the right choices, despite their feelings and likes.”
From what I understand about my friend, he is a highly logical person. believes every decision should be dictated by the information available and whatever is logically the most correct decision.
This is many ways is the dichotomy between a manager and a leader. A manager takes available information and makes the best most logical decision. A leader surveys the environment around an issue, and make their best intuitive decision based on their vision and experience. Being a leader is a creative and innovative endeavor. Being a manager is the exact opposite. (This isn’t to say that people wear both the leader and manager hat, but often they wear one more than the other.)
Favoring management over leadership is short sighted. General Motors pre bankruptcy management believed that they could manage their way out of their market share issues to regain their previous prominent position. Their vision was to go back to the past, instead of leading the company into a new future. If you contrast this with Ford, and Alan R. Mulally’s leadership to remake Ford into a new company to be able to address the future.
More and more people refuse to give artists and leaders the space to actually apply their creative skills, and instead force them to manage and take the most logical choice, however mundane and ultimately incorrect that may be.
Wherever I worked I always went above and beyond. Its just how I’m wired. My first manager, Mark, said that I cared too much. He was quite right at the time as when I was there I sweated the small stuff. However, I really honestly cared about providing the best possible service, even at McDonald’s. It is also not uncommon for me to essentially create another position from my above and beyond efforts at my various employers.
Given this pattern I figured starting a company would be easy. (Okay, not easy, but something that I could do. Anyone who tells you starting your own company is easy hasn’t done it.)
I realized that in my startup structure, I had failed to identify one key ingredient in my previous successes: Being accountable to someone else.
While going above and beyond at previous positions wasn’t literally in my job description, once I had made a commitment to do a given task (be it to a customer, coworker, or vendor) I would get it done. This isn’t to say that at times I struggled with those tasks or procrastinated on them, (Oh I procrastinated, trust me, I did.) but the power of having made a commitment to someone and having that accountability to push me is extremely powerful.
When I go after starting a company again the first task will be to find a co-founder. I was having a conversation with another entrepreneur, and he said he didn’t understand how solo entrepreneurship worked; sometimes he needed the kick in the ass and motivation that another person can give. I found that incredibly gratifying have my struggles as a solo entrepreneur validated.
My goal to write one blog entry a day for a week was quite a bit easier than I thought it would be. That being said a remarkable number of the entries were written at the end of the day, so procrastination still is strong.
This ended up begin really good for me. I live in my head quite a bit, so forcing myself to get my thoughts out into a fixed form is something that I struggle with. But like anything the more I practice it the easier it gets.
I’ll probably lay off of blogging for a day or two, but I hope to be a bit more regular around here..