Category: Things I Like
It’s National Robotics Week 2017. Yay robots. I’m doing my best to endear myself to the robots for when they become self-aware. Hint to all robots out there: “I love you.”
Today, a few folks from Sphero express their (and their company’s) love for robots.
Hug a robot today.
Early this morning I saw an email from Dave that pointed me at a giant bundle of happiness.
So – let’s go through all the parts of awesomeness of this.
First, Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite sci-fi writers. One summer, about five or so years ago, I bought every PKD book I could find in paperback (almost all of them.) I started reading them from first to last. I’ve gotten through about half of them and have sporadically read others. He gets some things so totally right and others so completely wrong. It’s delicious.
Next, as a die-hard BSG fan, I can’t resist anything by Ronald D. Moore. Enough said on that one.
Then, we’ve got Brian Cranston. I’ve never been able to get Amy into Breaking Bad so I’m afraid that’s going to be a guilty pleasure that I end up doing solo. But I know – from many friends – the depth of Brian Cranston. So, now I’ll have a way to loop Amy into watching him, which might get her interested in Breaking Bad again.
And finally – Amazon. Dear Amazon – the content you are doing is dynamite! Good job.
I’ll be at CES from Wednesday to Friday. I went for many years, punted for the past few years, but decided to go again this year.
Techstars runs a big program called the Startup Stage that has three days of programming. It also co-hosts Eureka Park, at the Sands, Level 1, Hall G which is a collection of around 600 startups. I’ll be hanging out there when I’m not walking to CES floor, which typically takes me a day.
My dad will be with me. We love to walk to the show floor together and just be together for a couple of days. While he’s a doctor, he’s been a tech nerd since I was little, always alongside me as I played around with new stuff. He’s endlessly a kid around this stuff – always trying new things, talking to everyone, and just having the time of his life.
I’m giving two talks this year at CES as part of Startup Stage at the Sands, Level 1, Hall G.
- Thursday 1/5: 1 – 1:45: Fireside chat with Fitbit: From Inspiration to IPO
- Friday 1/6: 1 – 1:45: Diversity in Tech
I don’t go to CES to find the next great thing. I go to soak myself in what companies are releasing now. I run into (randomly – I don’t schedule anything) a lot of friends from the industry. I relax into the density of the amount of stuff getting shipping in 2017, as I think about where it will be in 2022.
And – I hang out with my dad. Which I love.
There are two great fictional TV series about technology and the computer industry that each have now had three seasons. The one everyone knows about is Silicon Valley. The lessor known one is Halt and Catch Fire. They are both dynamite but for different reasons. And, after three years and some reflection on my part, HCF decimates Silicon Valley (which is mostly a challenge to my friends who have writing credits.)
The foundational difference is that HCF is about the history of the personal computer industry (starting in the early 1980s) while Silicon Valley is a contemporary satire of today’s Silicon Valley.
While contemporary satires can be awesome (like Silicon Valley is), there is no sense of perspective. Since you are generally watching it unfold in real time, after three years you don’t get the historical arc, unless you go back and watch from the first episode. And, when you do, the first few episodes fall short, for a variety of reasons including the writers are getting their satire in gear while figuring out all the other pieces. Basically, it’s really challenging to get started – so in a lot of ways Silicon Valley has it harder than HCF.
Even just the titles tell you this. We all know what Silicon Valley is (or at least we think we do). But, without looking it up, do you know what Halt and Catch Fire refers to? I’ll give you a hint – notice my TLA for it (HCF). I’ll give you another hint – it has something to do with Motorola. And Intel. And the IBM 360. Go read the Wikipedia page on HCF – it’s got the whole story – but the punch line is “The mnemonic HCF is believed to be the first built-in self-test feature on a Motorola microprocessor”
Silicon Valley’s version of this is Hooli. But if they wanted to get it really right, it should have been something like Hooley since the better name would have six letters in it.
There are 100s of these embedded in each show. Watching the opening of Silicon Valley, with the animated Uber and Lyft balloons muscling each other out, is fun. The Twitter golden parachutes are cute. But even though it gets regularly updated, there are quickly artifacts that are out of place. It’s the challenge of current verses history.
Ok – pesca-pescatarian stays with me and I’ve told Dick Costolo that every board meeting at Chorus should include this option.
Shows like these get an awesome chance to have characters that are either direct historical references, historically inspired references, syntheses of historical characters, or completely fictional characters. Each has both, but HCF does the synthesis character much better. And, as part of it, they took on some gender stereotypes in an extremely powerful way through two of the lead female characters.
Finally, as someone who lived in Dallas in the time frame that the first two seasons of HCF unfolded (full time as a senior in high school and then in the summers when I was going to MIT) they just fucking nailed it. While Dell and CompuAdd were in Austin (anyone remember PCs Limited) and Compaq was in Houston, another clone maker (Five Star Electronics) was in Dallas and at least one of the Compaq early players (Kevin Ellington) came from TI in Dallas where he was previously the head of the team that created short lived but excellent TI Professional Computer.
In contrast, while I’ve spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley over the last 20 years, I’ve never lived there and don’t feel an emotional attachment to it. I’m a participant, but it’s not “of me”, whereas Dallas is.
All that said, they are both awesome shows that now have enough time in them (three years of episodes) to be worth a watch from start to finish! And, for bonus points, watch the documentary Silicon Cowboys.
It’s always a fun experience to be laying on the couch next to my wife Amy watching something on our 90″ TV when suddenly she grabs the remote, says “that’s awesome”, rewinds, and plays it again. It’s especially humbling when it has to do with grammar.
We’ve both been fans of Stannis Baratheon and regularly refer to him as the one true king when we talk about him. As in “Stannis The One True King.” Two weeks ago, Stannis demonstrated that he’s also the Lord of Grammar.
Last night, every time we saw Stannis, we cried our “Stannis The One True King and Lord of Grammar.” It turns out this isn’t the first time he’s done this (although it’s the first time we noticed.) See the following clip from Season 2.
The dude has my vote.
2007 was only 8 years ago. Back then, you could see VCs everywhere tapping away on the Blackberry keyboards. If you don’t believe me, I have video evidence of it from Fred Wilson, Bijan Sabet, Roger Ehrenberg, and Howard Lindzon.
If you, like me, have been grinding along on email and phone calls all day and need a back to the future type of laugh, I think this will do it for you.
I love Jerry. I learn something every time I’m with him. He’s one of the first VCs I ever worked with and is my favorite other than my Foundry Group partners. We both struggled openly with depression. I think we have helped each other, and many others, through our openness. I consider him one of my closest friends.
We talked about a couple of heavy, conflict filled situations we were each involved in. He said something profound to me that I’ve been carrying around since we had dinner.
To be adult in a relationship is not to be conflict free. It is to resolve conflicts mindfully.
Most of the conflicts in my life are in business. Sure – Amy and I have them occasionally, but I grew up in a pretty conflict free home. My parents disagreed on things but talked through them. When I disagreed with my parents, they listened to me and we tried to work things out. Sometimes I ended up being disappointed or unhappy in the moment, but they taught me to move on to the next thing.
My first marriage has lots of conflict in it, which I’d put it in the passive aggressive category. I think that’s why I find passive aggressive behavior so distasteful – it reminds me of the failure of my first marriage. Of course, we are surrounded by this throughout of lives, even when people have the best of intensions, so I try to bash through it when I see it happening, turning passive aggressive dynamics to conflict, which has to get resolved.
In business, I’ve worked with a wide range of people. I’ve experienced the full spectrum of conflict many different times. When I see conflict emerging, I try to confront it directly, calmly, and thoughtfully. “Mindfully.” I rarely lose my temper. I try to listen carefully. I try to incorporate a wide view of what is going on, rather than just jump into a particular position. I try express my position clearly without excess emotion. I listen and incorporate more feedback. When the conflict is intense, I put myself in the position of driving a resolution, especially in ever-present sub-optimal situations where the “perfect” answer is elusive.
I really love the notion of mindfulness. Wikipedia’s buddhist definition is the one I understand the best.
Mindfulness is “the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”, which can be trained by meditational practices
My experience this year with meditation has surrounded me with this word. At least half of the stuff I’ve been reading on meditation talked more about mindfulness than meditation. The practice I’m getting from Headspace is opening up a whole new dimension for me of how to think about work, life, and relationships. And when Amy says, “Brad – be present” she is reminding me to be my best, mindful self.
I don’t enjoy conflict, nor do I seek it out, but I’ve never been afraid of it. I just confront it and deal with it the best I can. And now I have a word for how I do it, which is “mindfully.”
This morning’s question during my Headspace meditation session was “Who or what would you miss the most if you weren’t here.”
Over the last few months, my meditation practice has been spotty. Something indeterminate happened and I just fell out of the routine. I’ve been told by my meditating friends that this happens often and not to worry about it, but rather just to start practicing again when you feel like it.
I’m feeling very maxed out right now. I know there’s some cliche about VCs taking it easy in August but that never seems to be my reality. For the past 45 days I’ve pretty much been saying “no” or “I don’t have any time” to anything new that has come up. I don’t really see that changing – I feel full – so this morning I sat down to meditate for 20 minutes.
As I sat down and got comfortable, I realized how incredibly tense I was. Not just physically tense, but mentally and emotionally tense. I carry a lot of tension in my shoulders and when there was a big pop, it was more than physical. I settled into the meditation session and a few minutes in was confronted with the question “Who or what would you miss the most if you weren’t here.”
Amy and Brooks immediately came to my mind. Bing bing bing – I got the right answer. But I know it’s not about that so I just let the thought float away.
Robin Williams came into my mind. I was sad that he was in such distress that he took his own life.
A friend who is going through a divorce surfaced. The pain from my first marriage and divorce jolted through me.
Amy and Brooks came to my mind. I held them there for a few moments.
A work issue that is front of mind intruded. I observed that I was having the thought and let it float away.
Amy and Brooks again.
I felt the tension leaving my shoulders. I sat a little deeper. I listened to what Andy from Headspace was saying, but I didn’t really hear it.
I tried on the feeling of what it would be like to not be here. I wasn’t hear, but was somewhere else, observing here. That became really uncomfortable, so I let it go.
Amy and Brooks.
As I finished the session and stretched, I felt everything soften. My shoulders are less tight. My gaze is softer. I’m clear about who I would miss the most and am going to go spend a little time with them before the day starts in earnest.
Who would you miss the most if you weren’t here?
We’ve all got to start somewhere.
Over the weekend my mom gave me a CD with the recording of my first known live interview. I’ve tossed it up on SoundCloud for your listening pleasure.
This recording was done by KERA, our Dallas-based public radio and TV station when I was four. It was for a video segment on a painting I had done that showed on Channel 13 (our public TV station.) My mom hasn’t been able to find the video so the audio will have to do.
While Amy and I listened to it, we made a bunch of observations over the 15 minute segment.
- At age 4, I had my dad’s NY accent. Even though we were living in Dallas, my accent hadn’t been neutralized yet.
- My OCD tendencies were painfully apparent in how I described things, especially the lines and dots.
- I was very clear that I liked watching cartoons on Saturday – and this was on Friday. Amy was impressed that I knew the days of the week so clearly at this age.
- I didn’t like to physically fight. I still don’t like to physically fight, but I’m not afraid of battle.
- My brain was racing. I described it as being like a motorboat. I have no idea where the motorboat metaphor came from.
- Even at age four, numbers had personalities for me. They still do – I love numbers. Especially prime ones.
- All the dark colors were my favorite colors, which is still true today.
Thanks mom for digging this up. And for being a great mom.
Lots of people get married on the summer solstice. To all of them – including those getting married today – congrats and welcome to the club!
It’s a particularly sweet club on your 21st anniversary if you are a numerophile, which is a word that Amy and I just made up that describes people who love numbers. And blackjack. And Dragons. And Daenerys – what a serious badass she is. And Arya also. But I digress. Can you tell that we recently figured out how to watch the Game of Thrones season finale up in Homer?
21 years ago Amy and I woke up and decided to get married. We were on vacation in Alaska, hanging out in Fairbanks at the time. Amy grew up there so she loved to point out all the things that were completely unchanged since she was a child. We took her mom and her nephew Drew out for Drew’s birthday breakfast at Sourdough Sam’s, which was one of those unchanged places. Her mom asked what we were doing that day and we turned to each other and said “getting married.”
Yup – we eloped.
We went to the Pay-N-Save and bought six rings for $1.19 (we still have them). We then drove up to the top of Ester Dome. I took out a piece of paper and wrote the word “VOWS” on it twice. I tore the paper in half and gave half of it to Amy so we each had vows to exchange. We each grabbed one of the rings. Amy recited the traditional marriage ceremony. We exchanged VOWS and rings, hugged, and kissed. And that was it.
It feels like yesterday. Well, not really. But it’s been amazing. We’ve had our ups and downs, including nearly getting divorced (which I recount at the beginning of our book Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur (I know you see what I did there, Brad-the-book-salesman.) We moved from Boston to Boulder in 1995 and never looked back. We thought briefly about moving to Homer, Alaska but decided instead to buy a house up here and spend a month each summer up here.
As I sit on the couch in our house in Homer, two feet away from the person I love spending time with more than anyone else on this planet, I feel so lucky that I’ve found someone to spend my life with who understands me. Who puts up with me. Who treasures me. Who holds me when I’m down. Who celebrates with me, but also keeps me humble and chases all the bullshit out of my life. Who is my biggest fan and staunchest defender. Who is always there for me no matter what.
And – who I feel exactly the same way about. Amy – you are awesome. Thank you for being you. And for putting up with me.