Back at it….

The Interregnum is complete, and by the time you read this I should be back at it and under the yoke of employment. As much as I enjoyed Infoblox and intended to stay there, I’m looking forward to this next round. I’m at the point in life where I can look at it and think ‘maybe this will be my last kick at the can’ and if so, I hope I can make a difference.

And that’s why I jumped at this one. A few times in your life, if you’re lucky, you have an opportunity to ‘move the needle’ — my last project at Apple was like that, where my team built something that allowed them to completely redefine how they interacted with customers and did marketing using online systems instead of paper and the U.S. mail. By the time I left we were estimating that the revenue being generated out of that system was around $100 million a year — at least. One special project I did took two weeks to build and pulled eight million in costs out of the company the first year. Another took about four hours and made the entire “buy the album and get early access to tickets for the concert tour” possible, back at a time when they were still trying to make iTunes relevant.

Same reason for going to Palm — we had an opportunity to reshape not just the smartphone world (which, at the time, was iPhone and rumors of Android and a bunch of folks figuring out how to fight back against Apple) but mobile computing. As it was, Palm took the opportunity and fumbled it, then kicked it into a storm drain and skinned their knee trying to get it back — but it was still worth the try. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you get sold to HP, and then sold again, and.. But having said that, if you see what’s starting to show up out of the ashes in LG, there’s some really nice technology appearing that looks to be both good and viable driving TVs, which is a new and interesting emerging market, and I’m damned proud of the ones who were willing to stick with it and make that happen, and that shows that what we did at Palm wasn’t completely wasted.

This new gig has that same feel to me; an opportunity to help reshape how a big company does a part of the business that is going to be significant moving forward. I might be wrong, I might be right. We won’t know until I’m far down the path. It’s a much bigger thing for me than I’ve done in the community management universe — the scale is what attracted me and what may well be my biggest risk at failure. This is definitely a stretch job for me but one I’m really chomping to get at, not worried about doing. It’s going to be a distributed team, and I’m looking forward to that again, and hoping some of what I learned at Palm about that will help. It’s clearly the biggest challenge for me personally since I left Apple.

Heading into the time off I did what I normally do, which is build up a schedule way too full of stuff I want to do. When I got back from Yosemite I realized what I really needed to do was back off and unplug and unwind so instead of running around the bay area playing tourist, I caught up on some reading, I hauled my Elder Scrolls Online character to level 15, and I slept, and I finally started digging into the long-on-hold garage project, where about a year ago I started rebuilding the shop, and then stopped, and never got it started again. The reality is I have at least a dozen other projects where the first step is “I can’t really move forward without getting the garage straightened out”, so I realized I really needed to spend time on that. A few hours here and a few hours there, and most of the crap piled up into the “I need to deal with this” pile is now dealt with and I finally have the space where the shop is supposed to be cleared and started forming it. Probably the best use of my time, in reality.

These times are also good times to make changes to habits, because your habits are disrupted anyway, so I’ve been tweaking the diet and meals to try to shift things so it’s lower in carbs and higher in protein — which sounds like a simple task until you actually try it and want it to carry forward longer than a week or so. No idea if it’ll stick, but we’ll see.

I expect to continue not to talk much about the work side of life here; there’s very little upside and way too many risks to make it worth doing. Remember, kids, those “I am not a spokesman for….” disclaimers may make you feel better, but they’re ultimately worthless the first time some troll with an axe to grind chooses to chase your words.

So, onward in the new regime. Great hopes, great expectations, and no guarantees, but then, that’s life, right? And part of what makes it so much fun, because if you aren’t always reaching for the next brass ring, why bother get on the carousel?

See you on the other side….



Posted in About Chuq

2014 NHL Playoff Predictions

It’s a tradition. Even thought I don’t talk hockey that much these days, I still want to put my playoff predictions out there for all to see and laugh at. Annual warning: if you use these predictions to do any betting, you are an idiot. Note that I’m not. My track record is probably better than random chance, but not that much better (but it is well beyond the Panther’s power play results this season….)

A quick comment on the new playoff seeding the NHL is using this year: I like it. There’s a strong emphasis on in-division matchups which I really like.  To the NHL, I have to say ‘Well done’.

This year I’m really torn between what my head says and what my heart says. Because of this, in some cases I’m going to give both a “head” (what the objective me thinks) and a “heart” (what my gut and personal preferences are) say.

Eastern Conference

Detroit (WC 2) vs Boston (Atlantic 1): Give it to Detroit; they found a way to make the playoffs; earned their way in, but barely. I hate betting against them because they find ways to make it happen. But against Boston? Boston’s a powerhouse, and I really love how they play. I do think Detroit will go down fighting, and this is a series I plan on watching as much of as I can — but Boston will take this in 5.

Tampa Bay (Atlantic 3) vs Montreal (Atlantic 2):  I’ve been really impressed with the Lightning this year. I’d make them my favorite if it weren’t for Bishop’s injury, and we don’t know if he’ll be back for the playoffs or how healthy he’ll be. If Bishop is out to start the series or not 100%, then Montreal will take this in 5 or 6. If Bishop is okay, then I’ll pick Tampa in 5. Given I can’t have it both ways when I publish this, I’ll take Montreal in 6.

Columbus (WC 1) vs Pittsburgh (Metropolitan 1): It’s been a thrill watching Columbus this year, seeing this team pull itself together and improve. It’s playing a lot of good hockey and a fun team to watch. That said, they’re up against the Penguins. I don’t expect this to be a “happy to be in the playoffs” scenario for the Blue Jackets but I don’t see how they can beat the Pens. I just expect them to go down fighting and make it interesting, so I’ll pick Pittsburgh in 6.

Philadelphia (Metropolitan 3) vs NY Rangers (Metropolitan 2): this is the series that wins the “most likely to include mayhem” award. I expect it to be hard fought and physical and a lot of fun to watch. I don’t see any way this Flyers team can win out against this Rangers team (and especially Lundqvist) in a series. I’ll take the Rangers in 5.

East in Summary: Boston, Montreal, Pittsburgh, NY Rangers

My choice coming out of the east: Boston Bruins.

Western Conference

Minnesota (WC 1) vs Colorado (Central 1): The Wild is an improving team but not this year. They got into the playoffs, but the Avs should take this one fairly easily. Colorado in 5. (and a side note: I agree with those choosing Patrick Roy for the Adams, he’s really been able to get the most of his teams and get them playing together well and consistently).

Chicago (Central 3) vs St. Louis Blues (Central 2):  The Blues have been a great team this year; a lot of credit has to go to John Davidson for putting the pieces together, but they really made it happen this year. That said, they exited the season with a sputter. Chicago on the other hand has been inconsistent at times and has some key injury questions. Even if the Hawks were fully healthy I’m not sure they’d beat the Blues, but if the Blues can get back to their game for the playoffs, you have to think the West is theirs to lose. I’ll take the Blues in 6.

Dallas (WC 2) vs Anaheim (Pacific 1): Dallas makes it back to the playoffs, and congrats to them. They’ve made a lot of progress. That said, Anaheim is a significantly better team and playing really good hockey, so the Ducks in 5.

Los Angeles (Pacific 3) vs. San Jose (Pacific 2): This is the series that put the Sharks out of the playoffs last year in game seven, where the big difference was home team advantage — the home team won every game. This year the Sharks have home advantage. both teams are playing well. Both teams are powerhouses. And this series ought to be a battlefield. Even if I didn’t live local to San Jose, this would be the series I tell everyone to watch. That said, I’m torn. I’ve watched almost every Sharks game this year, so I know the team very well and I like what I see. My heart says this team is the best of some really good Sharks teams over the last few years (and the veterans are running out of time and know it). My head says that the Kings are a really kick butt take no prisoners team that knows how to win and will do what it takes. This series is a tough call. My heart says San jose in 6. My head says Los Angeles in 7. I have to pick one, so I’ll take the Kings in 7, primarily because Niemi has been just inconsistent enough that I don’t know whether the ‘real’ one will show up for the playoffs. The other big wildcard here: Raffi Torres coming back, and how effective he’ll be. If he’s the real Raffi Torres and playing 15 minutes a night of chaos and havoc, that could well swing the series back to the Sharks. And having said all of that, even if Niemi falters, I have a lot of respect for the ability of Staylock to take up the cause — but he’s unproven in the playoffs. No matter what, this series is going to be a major hunk of fun. But: Kings in 6.

West in summary: Colorado, St. Louis, Anaheim, Los Angeles.

Coming out of the west: My heart says St. Louis, my head says Los Angeles. Again, I’m going with the Kings.

So my prediction for the Stanley Cup final: Boston Bruins and the Los Angeles Kings, and boy, wouldn’t that be fun.

Dark horses would be the Blues, the Sharks, the Penguins and the Rangers. Any of those four could proce me wrong, I think. And any series with those teams in it will be worth watching.

Onward to the playoffs!



Posted in Hockey and Other Sports

Back from Yosemite

Back from a couple of quickly planned days in Yosemite. With the early closing of Badger Pass, I noticed that rooms were available from spring skiiers who canceled and so I scheduled myself in for two nights at the Lodge at the Falls.

The Lodge has just finished a $10m renovation and it was money well spent. My room was quite pleasant. I’ve commented in the past that staying at the Lodge sometimes felt like ending up in a 70’s Travelodge, but while the buildings are the same, the interiors have been significantly upgraded. Not spa-like or resort-type accommodations, but comfortable and very much in tune with the location; the facility knows who gets top billing here and didn’t try to do too much.  They’ve put a lot of energy into sustainability which I appreciate. Overall, I have to give the Lodge update top marks.

I do enjoy the restaurant at the Lodge; had an extremely nice piece of Salmon one night, a very nice steak the second. The wine list is solid but not adventurous but fits the food well. And I want to call out a thanks for their petite dessert options, which are smaller servings that let you finish the meal without a huge sugar overload. I hope more restaurants make the move away from 800 calorie sugar bombs…

Breakfast the first day was at the lodge cafeteria, which was, well, about what it’s always been. I’m sure their lack of a Michelin star is an oversight. No, seriously, the food there makes me wish there was a McDonald’s handy. Oh well.

The one thing to remember is that there’s basically no off season in Yosemite any more, and it’s expensive. Staying inside the park saves me a hunk of driving, but you’re paying more for the food and the room. For this trip, definitely worth it. There’s something about standing outside your room and watching yosemite falls do its thing…

I missed the winter storms by a few days; when I got there is was nice and sunny and warm, everything had melted. Yosemite Falls had picked up from a week prior but was starting to fade again; it’s going to be a weak waterfall spring. The light was, well, uninspiring. Which is to say the visit was like spending time with your girlfriend when she’s without makeup and dressed to help clean out the garage; not the greatest time for astounding photography but still quite a lot of fun to spend time with. I early on decided to just unplug and relax, so I came home with maybe half a dozen images, which may or may not be worth keeping. Instead I spent the time wandering the park and exploring (um, “scouting”), relaxing and just generally doing very little but enjoying the views.

Which was awesome to do. I think sometimes those of us who are part-time photographers forget that sometimes you need to just pull the plug and take a break. I know I put pressure on myself to come back with something useful and many times that means I come back as tired and stressed as when I left on the trip. It was pretty clear at the start of the trip I was unlikely to create something that improved my portfolio, so rather than fight that, I put the cameras down and just enjoyed being there.

Sitting needs to move higher on many of our todo lists. just thinking out loud.

Now that I’m back, a few days of puttering and projects and wandering around the area. Maybe some time out with the cameras, maybe not. It’s nice to be off the clock a bit….




Posted in About Chuq

“Rhymes with Crisco” — Really?

Someone dropped me an email and called me to task for using “Rhymes with Crisco” in my note yesterday announcing my new job. The email could be boiled down to “Dude, really?”

They have a point. It’s trite, silly and rather 12 year old. That was, in fact, the point. Let me explain.

First, I’ll admin: guilty as charged. It’s silly, and supposed to be. I get to have a bit of fun here if I want to.

But it also serves a more serious purpose. I used it for the same reason I use “Mama Fruit” when talking about one of my former employers. And I do that not just because it’s silly — and we all take this stuff way too seriously some days, especially when talking about the tech industry — but because it prevents my comments from being easily found in the search engines.

When I write here I write on a personal basis and not as a formal representative of my employer or any organization that I’m writing about. I learned — the hard way — that you can load your stuff with disclaimers all you want, all it takes is one troll with an axe to grind to choose to ignore that to make your life miserable.

You learn to watch what you say. But I’ve also found you can limit the chances of what you say ending up in the hands of random idiots looking for a fight by managing how you say things to stay away from hot button terms. Like using “Mama Fruit” and “Rhymes with Crisco” instead blah and blah. I’m not pretending this is more than it is — it’s like talking quietly at a party about a topic instead of grabbing the mike from the DJ — but it makes it easier to talk about some aspects of some organizations with less risk of those discussions getting hauled into larger discussions  I want to stay out of by someone trolling specific keywords for content to start fights with.

Effectively, it’s a way to make it easier to talk about some things with you all, the people who normally read this blog without a lot of risk of those comments ending up in some troll fight that I’m not interested in getting dragged into. That’s what this blog is primarily about — sharing and interacting with the people interested in what I say and do. This is just one way of managing the audience that sees some of the comments I make and limiting that audience to people who understand the context.

It serves a useful purpose. It’s a tool I’ve adopted in cases where I specifically don’t want to try to attract a large audience and instead talk more quietly to people already involved with me and this site at some level.

So yeah, it’s silly. But to date, it’s worked pretty well…

Posted in About Chuq

More Road Trip Snacks….

Welcome to yet another in what may be an infinite series of postings on the topic of Road Trip Snacks.

In Previous Episodes, I actually attempt to drink an Ensure (so you don’t have to), and then I introduce you to Clif Builders Bars as the best of a pretty inedible collection of “high protein” hunks of sawdust. Actually, the builder bars aren’t bad, just dry. Don’t try to eat one without a water bottle handy.

Here’s the challenge: I’m diabetic, so I’m trying to limit my carbs and sugars. I have allergies that prevent me from eating either tree nuts or peanuts, which nuke out a lot of the protein sources used in normal people’s snack foods. I’m not a big fan of indelicate digestive imbalances (ahem), so I don’t cheat on the allergies except by accident.

What I’m really looking for are edible (or drinkable) things that are low to moderate in carbohydrates, doesn’t require refrigeration and can be stuck in my car so it’s there when I need something out in the field when I really don’t want to head into civilization to grab food and can’t wait because my blood sugar is doing the lambada. Oh, and I’d like an ingredient list that looks like, well, food, and not like I’m chewing on a chemistry set.

This morning Laurie pointed me to an add for what seems to be a new entry into this growing class of products known as “breakfast shake”.

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Quaker Oats now has their own breakfast shake, with the special added super power of extra fiber. Because, you know, we all need to drink more fiber. Think about it and it makes sense: Quaker Oats does — oats. Oats deliver fiber, lots of it. So we’re going to liquefy oats and hide it in your breakfast shake. TADA: liquid oats.

But when I look at the ingredient list for this, I go “meh”. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but it looks just like the 20 other breakfast shakes I’ve looked at. It also has added sugar, a fair amount of it. at least it’s sugar and not high yield corn fructose.  I still believe all of the “strawberry” flavors across the product line were invented by some food scientist sadist, but typically, the chocolate is drinkable.

But still, meh. And so I said to Laurie “I don’t see anything in any of these products that should make me drink this instead of chocolate milk….”

And then I went “huh”.

Back when I was athletic and trained a lot on bikes and did the occasional road race, bike riders had this problem. It needed to go in the pocket of your jersey, it couldn’t require chilling, and it had to put up with some abuse along the way. Bananas were a given (and still are), as were Fig Newtons. When we got to the end of the ride, we’d hit up a store and grab a bottle of chocolate milk because it has that nice combination of sugars/carbs with a solid hunk of protein from the milk. And damn, after half a century it tasted wonderful.

Folks like Gatorade have spent a couple of generations trying to convince all of us that you need to eat or drink these specially formulated magic drinks if you want to be a serious athlete. Lots of people believe them — but if you look into modern training discussions, you’ll find a lot of people are figuring out that few of these drinks perform better for you than chocolate milk does, and many serious athletes have switched back. Ditto high-tech sawdust bars and things like, oh, Fig Newtons.

Sometimes the old ways are best. Although sometimes the old ways with a modern twist can make your day.

These days, you can get chocolate milk from a number of sources in no-chill aseptic containers. Some of them are organic. Most of them have that added sugar, of course, so that their nutrition label looks a lot like the breakfast shakes. Still, if you want something you can haul around without worrying about it going bad that tastes decent and has a rational nutritional basis, you can do a lot worse than these “kiddie” boxes and bottles of chocolate milk.

And you can even go one better. if you look, you can find this:

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Nestle, bless them, has a no-sugar-added version. it uses a bit of sucralose to sweeting, but the carb load drops significantly: the sweetened version of this is 150 calories with 25 grams of carb and 8 grams of protein. The no-sugar added version is 100 calories with that 8 grams of protein, but only 13 grams of carbs.

I now have a supply of this ordered, and when it gets in, I’ll do a taste test and report back. But this looks like a nice thing to have handy in the car, and it’s — chocolate milk. How bad can it taste? the ingredient list is surprisingly short of things that scare me, although it does have Cellulose Gel (good that gives it a good mouth feel), Potassium Citrate (manages PH and adds some tartness), Carrageenan (another goo that gives it a good mouth feel, made from kelp) and Cellulose Gum (it’s Cellulose Gel, but different). The sodium hit is a bit high but not terrible.

By the way, when I’m out on the road, one of the things I’ve started doing is hitting up a coffee shop for a mocha — hot or cold, depending on weather, think about what a mocha is: it’s effectively chocolate milk with a coffee chaser. And given how easy it is to find a Starbucks most places, it’s an easy way to get a drink with a balanced nutrional load (but hold the whipping cream; we can argue full-fat, low-fat or skim milk some other time. I’ve been moving away from skim milk to 2% personally because the fat slows how fast the carbs get digested, and I really don’t want a higher % of carbs in my diet — low fat is not a good thing for me. And perhaps most of us. But… later).

By the way, you might be amused at my Valentines Day gift from Laurie, a Coleman iceless cooler. So now I have a lot more flexibility to carry reasonable food with me, and less dependence on hotel refrigerators that actually work or can refreeze blue ice blocks. I am looking forward to trying it out on my next trip (Yellowstone, baby!) when I can set up my lunches and haul them with and be less dependent on trying to wade through fast food or poor deli counters… oh, and cold drinks that are really cold…

(as laurie notes, you have to be careful with these coolers; many only guaranteed 10-15 degrees below ambient, which can be a problem. This seems to be the best of the bunch in the consumer price ranges…)

And onward… There are options, it seems…  It can just be a challenge to figure them out…


Posted in Road Trips