how time flies…

How time flies when you’re having fun. It was four years ago that I left Apple after 17 years to go do something else.  I announced my decision in July, and spent eight weeks transitioning, and in September 2006 walked out of Apple for the last time and into — well, at the time, I had no idea what I was going to do. Something different. I redid my blog into Chuqui 3.0, and four years later, again for my birthday, redid it again into its current form.

I tried my damndest to get hired by Yahoo! at the time. It’s still a company that looks to me to have huge potential — but right now, it’s just not clicking, and it looks like AOL is seriously gearing up to make a run at doing what Yahoo ought to be doing and isn’t (and some really interesting yahoo! talent keeps sneaking off to AOL land) . Not really sure why a Yahoo job never happened, there was plenty of interest in both directions, just never quite the right match (and in one case, an internal transfer that tooks a slot I was waiting for an offer from). Having lived through all of the bad years at Apple, not being hired by Yahoo turned out to be a blessing in disguise, and the best things are the things that don’t happen.

I wrote  a series of blog entries about all of this, the Apple Post-Mortem series:

  • Part 1: Why I left: and more on this in a bit..
  • Part 2: Jobs I Wish I could Have Taken: most of which are jobs I STILL wish I could have taken, and ones that I still think a company like Apple (or most companies) should create for some one…
  • Part 3: no longer online (and I don’t even remember what it was, or why it’s offline. Doesn’t really matter)
  • Part 4: Why Apple doesn’t have a blogging policy (and it ain’t what you think); by far, the piece that created the biggest kerfluffle, way back when.  And of course, there was great hue and cry about how Apple had to blog, or it was going to fail and the universe was going to shun and scorn it. We see just how badly faltered by failing to understand this basic requirement of the universe… This is the one where folks called bullshit on me without in some cases seeming to notice I’d actually left Apple.
  • Leaving Apple after 17+ years was both an easy and tough decision. Part of me really wanted to stay, wanted to, as I put it a few times, get carried out on my XServe.  Not exactly, looking back on it from today, a ringing endorsement. Most of me understood that I needed to make some fundamental changes to my life or they would in fact carry me out on my XServe, and that would have been bad.  I was physically exhausted, I was emotionally exhausted, I’d gained close to 60 pounds in the previous year. I worked myself into pneumonia,  and then hid from my doctor and bosses that I worked through treatment for it.

I was a wreck. I’d spent a good part of a year trying to find ways to fix the job situation with the help of my bosses — and failed. In many ways I blamed Apple for this; in reality, there was nothing that happened that I didn’t volunteer for and jump into with both feet and great enthusiasm. I was physically and emotionally bankrupt, and I had no idea how to resolve the problem; I honestly wondered if I was simply too old to keep up with silicon valley. I didn’t know. What I did know was that the current situation was pretty literally killing me, and I was doing myself no good, my project no good, Apple no good and the people around me no good.

So I jumped, deciding that some time off would help me recharge and give me some time to reflect and decide on what to do next and how to fix my life. At the time, I was somewhat bitter that Apple didn’t do more to convince me to stay. In reality, it did me a great favor by not trying, and in reality, I didn’t work too hard to find a place to land, either. That was just exhaustion speaking, and now, I see that and I feel that Apple — and my bosses all those years — worked their butts off to try to make things happen. It was just a situation where nothing Apple could do could fix it.

Because what I didn’t know at the time, wouldn’t find out for another six months, was that I was really sick.

When I did finally haul myself off to my doctor and talked, he sent me off to the sleep clinic to be tested. They wired me up — and the results were stunning.

I had sleep apnea. I didn’t just have sleep apnea, I was seeing an average of 50 “incidents” an hour. An incident, by the way, is when your breathing passage blocks and you start to suffocate, at which point your body has to react (i.e “wake up”) and do something to allow you to breathe again.  I was — pretty literally — snoring myself to death.

I started wearing a CPAP that night, something I’ve been wearing every night since. it’s basically the inspiration for the Darth Vader mask. I’ve talked about this a couple of times in the past, but now that some time has passed, I have a better perspective on all of this.  it’s now clear, for instance, that I was suffering from Apnea for at least a decade prior to my diagnosis. The more I look at that time of my life, the more I realize how much it was impacted by this.

In the year prior to deciding to leave Apple, I gained about 60 pounds. At the time, I blamed work and the stress of the project I was on. I strained friendships (and lost a couple I still regret). I had no energy, I was always worn out and exhausted. I was starting to suffer from high blood pressure. I was not a lot of fun to be around, and I didn’t particularly want to be around anyone.

In the two weeks after putting on the CPAP, my blood pressure dropped 20 points and I went off blood pressure medicine. I slept well for the first time in years — and so did Laurie, because she wasn’t having to deal with sleeping with a fog horn. She stopped wearing earplugs to bed, and her sleeping improved, too. After about six weeks, my energy levels started coming back, and so did my attitude.

At that time I realized I had to get serious about lifestyle changes. I decided to try to adopt a new attitude. The easy way to sum it up is:

I’ve given up denial for Lent.

And that’s been the foundation for what turned into a major effort to rethink every aspect of my life, how I lived it, and how I needed to live it moving forward if I wanted to be around for a while and actually have a quality of life that made being around worth it.  I feel for the first time in decades comfortable in my own skin and satisified with how I’m living. For the first time in decades — warts and all — I like myself.

And here’s why I’ve decided it’s finally time to talk about this.

Your health is like a credit card; you keep putting purchases on it and making minimum payments against the balance, eventually it’s going to hit the credit limit, and if you go over, bad things happen. Lifestyle choices I made in my 20’s and 30’s came back to bite me in the ass in my 40’s when the bill came due, and here I am now in my 50’s, “restructuring the debt” and realizing that there are things I’m going to have to live with the rest of my life.

Things that were completely avoidable if I’d made different choices and taken a different path.

If we’re ever together in person talking about this, one thing you’ll hear me say is that if I could do one thing, it’d be invent a time machine and go back to my younger self — and bitchslap the living daylights out  of my younger self for not taking better care of my body and my soul. I needed someone to beat some common sense into me.

I can’t go back and do that, but I’ve decided this is my time machine, and hopefully I can help someone else who is just starting to move down a path to understand the options and maybe make a better choice than I did.

It’s probably not as much fun as geeking out over HTML5 transforms or complaining about the ref’s call in last night’s hockey game — but it might save someone’s life. I promise not to lecture and not to whine or play “poor me” games. I have no intention of telling you how to live your life. But if I can help some people better understand the implications of some of the decisions they need to make, then this will be worth doing.

We’ll try it and see what happens.


Posted in About Chuq

A funny thing happened on the way to going pro…

A long time ago in a galaxy far away — way back in 2005 — I made a decision to get serious about my photography and see if I could go pro in the field as my “career 2.0″, either full-time or as part of something other than working high tech.

That’s easy to say. Making it happen? That’s the hard part. but when I sat down to figure out a path between that starting point and making the decision to make it happen, I came up with a long list of things that needed to be done.

But if you think about what the critical path is, it’s simple: until the craft you want to build the business around is good enough, nothing else matters. You can build the worlds best website, you can market the hell out of your work, you can promote and twitter yourself until you’re blue in the face, but if the photography isn’t good enough, it doesn’t matter.

So job one was to become good enough — and that’s been my focus. Every few months I’ve sat myself down and evaluated where I stand and my decision has been that I still have work to do to get where I believe i need to get to be successful.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t made progress; I thought I was a pretty good photographer when I started this (and I guess I was at some level), and along the way I’ve become a much better photographer. Many times I look back at my older images that I thought were pretty good and wince; some are salvageable through what I’ve learned about post-processing — many are being retired and put into storage. the more I learn, the more I study — the more I realize I need to be able to do to be successful at this.

Earlier this year I made a winter trip to Yosemite. That trip was (among other things) a test — to put myself into a situation well outside my comfort zone, to create a list of images that I needed to create and do so under deadline conditions, implement that plan when I get on site and adapt to the conditions and situation to see if I could still accomplish the goals (and to see what else was available when I got there, of course), and then see if  I could reliably create quality images to the plan. It was a conscious attempt “on assignment” under conditions that weren’t fully under my control and see if I could turn out work that I felt met the requirements of the assignment at a quality I was satisfied with — and most importantly in some ways, that the images were “made”, not just taken.

That latter point is crucial in many ways, because being pro isn’t just about being able to produce an image, it’s about being able to produce the images that are needed and produce them when needed and reliably. It’s about making images, not just taking them. Anyone can get lucky and take a publishable shot. you can’t build a business around getting lucky — you have to make your luck, so to speak, and be able to produce reliably.

I felt that I succeeded at pretty much all levels. I was quite happy with the images, and the images were what I envisioned and planned. Feedback on the images was positive. All of the challenges I put in front of myself to “prove” I was ready to go pro were answered. So a back in April, I sat down and started planning what my next steps were going to be.

And a funny thing happened on the way to going pro….

One of the realities you have to understand about running a photography BUSINESS is that it takes time and energy; you have the bureacracy of running a business (paperwork and taxes, business licenses, managing finances, etc, etc…). You have to spend time and and energy soliciting business and supporting your customers, fulfilling requests, billing, managing inventory, marketing and promotion… Businesses aren’t magic. Things don’t happen, you have to make them happen.

The time to do those things has to come from somewhere. Since I have no intention to “give up my day job” any time soon (if for no other reason I’m enjoying what I do for a living. And there’s this thing called a paycheck) where is the time to start the business going to come from?

Yup. The most likely place that time will be sucked from is the time I spend doing photography. Physics wins, folks.

So I made the decision – surprising to myself at the time — that the best way to guarantee my long-term success as a professional photographer was to wait and leave it to a later time. It’s better for my to put my time into continuing to take photos and work on improving my craft (and especially working to widen my portfolio into areas I’m currently not strong at). I worried that my photography might stagnate if I put cycles into marketing instead of shooting — at the least, I’d be complicating my life, and the reality is, I don’t NEED to create an income stream right now, and it just doesn’t seem to make sense to try to force it to happen now.

My life priorities have changed in the last few years. there have been some speed bumps in my life the last few years — health issues, my dad dying, the hysical realities of middle age — but I seem to be beyond that, I feel better and I feel healthier than I’ve been since probably 2003 and except for my weight there aren’t any life complications I have to worry about. I do, however, have to worry about the weight and focus on getting it off, and the things that have happened the last few years has changed my attitude somewhat, and I am trying to live a little more for now and a less for someday — in the last two years I’ve lost two friends to cancer, my dad to his heart problems and I’ve had other friends my age have major cancer or health scares. It’s made me realize that my situation (diagnosed with diabetes almost a year ago but well controlled, and the joy of middle-age — arthritis) isn’t all that bad. But it also reminds me that you can’t always assume for tomorrow, either.

So my priorities are different now. When I redid my blog in July, it was to bring my photography more front and center in the design and make it a better showcase for my images, but I consciously decided not to try to put out a shingle and creating a business around it. that doesn’t mean I won’t license something if it comes along (I need to work on my smugmug site to make that possible), but that’s different. My attitude today is about simplifying my life and enjoying it more, keeping the stress manageable (and cutting stress out where  can), more living in the moment instead of investing for someday. And doing really good photography and continuing to expand my skills instead of marketing and selling it. Letting someday happen and see what it is rather than always pushing to make it be something. Because you never know whether it’ll be there.

I don’t regret the goals I set along the way — and in fact, especially when I was dealing with dad and all of that entailed, my photography was sometimes the thing that kept me centered and sane — but you can’t be afraid to re-evaluate your goals and change them when circumstances change. I still think “going pro” is something I want to do, but later, when I’m thinner and older and ready to step away from silicon valley. But I’m not — it’s way too much fun these days. So while I still want to make this happen, I want to make sure i do it in terms that it the quality of life I’m trying to maintain today as well.

And that means sometimes the answer is a surprising “not now”…..

(and now, the camera is calling…)


Posted in Photography

Why I’ve been away from the blog…

Apologies for the radio silence recently. For once, I have a good excuse.

Two weeks ago, I decided that, since there wasn’t a hockey game on, I’d go out for a walk. First night since the playoffs started nothing was on, Laurie was on her road trip somewhere on the way back from Chicago, the weather was nice, and I hadn’t picked up a camera in days.

So off to Shoreline I go, thinking maybe i’d try to do some swallow photography and see if the cliff swallows were nesting yet (answer: just starting).

And while walking out towards adobe creek, I caught the edge of the asphalt path and went down like I’d been shot. Didn’t even have time to cuss. Suddenly I’m flat on the ground, looking like roadkill.

When you’re a “person of girth” no fall is trivial. The extra weight you carry brings with it potential for disaster, as well as completely messing up your center of gravity — I’ve always been a bit of a klutz, and despite being really aware of the potentials for taking a fall and being careful while hiking, I’m still a klutz.  When you carry a chunk of extra weight, falls bring with it a real chance of broken bones or other damage.

I realize in retrospect I was a bit in shock. My first reaction was to see whether I was injured — somewhere in the back of my head a voice was screaming “systems check! systems check” at me). I started by moving arms and legs, flexing feed and wrists, wiggling fingers.

The good news — didn’t hit my head. Went down on my left side, got an arm out a bit to break some of the fall. I remember thinking I hadn’t heard anything crack, and as I started moving things, nothing caused me to scream in agony. That’s a good sign.

Suddenly I realize someone’s yelling at me. I’m hearing “Are you OK?” from somewhere far away. I look around and a girl I’d passed as she was headed out had come back to see what’d happened. She looked convinced I was dead or something, but god bless her for wanting to help. (cute girl, where at my age girl is anyone recognizably female and under about 30 years old; for some reason that recognition amuses me…). So I rolled over and said I thought I was okay.

She clearly believed me, because she asked again. and then again. I was still moving and flexing things and it was now clear that nothing was broken, so I decided it was okay to move, so I rolled over and sat up. Probably not exactly my most graceful moment, but honestly, I didn’t care. Still don’t.

So I’m now sitting up and madly moving fingers and rejoicing in the fact that they move as intended and I then look at her again and let her know I really am okay. And I”m not sure she really believed me, but she accepted it as proof she could stop freaking and get on with her life, and she did.

Again, dear, bless you for stopping and caring, and sorry I scare the crap out of you. It was much appreciated that you wanted to help.

And then I checked out the cameras. I was carrying both bodies, with the Tamron wide angle on the 30d and the 100-400 on the 7d. The Tamron landed first and got bodyslammed into the asphalt, while the 100-400 landed last on a nice soft cushion. Some preliminary checks seem to indicate that the poor cursed Tamron only took cosmetic damage — and it has a couple of interesting gouges on it — but I still need to do some serious testing for focus and alignment. I don’t see any sign of problems in the mechanism or some simple test shots. But to be honest, I haven’t really picked up a camera since, since picking things up has been a bit problematic.

Nothing broken, nothing dislocated. I landed left little finger first, and bent it and it’s neighbor back significantly. By all rights I should have dislocated something, but somehow, I didn’t. I did, however sprain two fingers rather seriously, the wrist less severely, and as I found out over the next day or so, basically sprained the entire hand, while hyperextending the elbow. I also whacked the right hand leaving it scraped (and sore and bruised where I think the 100-400 landed on it), and whacked both knees, fortunately, nothing beyond a bit of scrape and bruising.  The hand swelled like a grapefruit, and I got the most interesting bruising deep inside the palm where bending things back stretched all of the ligaments and tendons in the core of the hand (did I mention I was damn lucky nothing dislocated or tore? a broken finger would have been the least of my hassles…)

So I’ve been a hurting puppy. Typing’s been — a challenge, so I haven’t any more than necessary, and what typing I could do without things spasming has been aimed at work, not play. Evenings have been mostly hanging out on the couch with body parts wrapped in ice bags. Tonight was the first night where I didn’t feel the need to haul them out and use them.

I’m still not 100%; I’m guessing another week before the arm is useful for carrying anything heaver than a soda can, but I’m finally able to do that, at least. My range of motion is about 90% of normal and improving daily, swelling is mostly gone, the hand is mostly functioning again, and I can type again with both hands — at least for a while. This is about it for the evening, though, because the little finger can only handle so much pressure on the key.

So things have been on hold for a while. Over the holiday weekend I hope to start ramping up a bit and moving things forward again. I haven’t exactly been idle — it was time I spent thinking through some projects that I’m chewing on that are getting close to surfacing where I’ll talk about them here. Some interesting stuff, and I’ve gond from researching and considering to making decisions and starting to create some plans, and so soon I can share some of it and maybe get a dialog going on it.

But until then, my hand’s telling me this is enough for now, so I’ll be off. But I had gotten a couple of people asking what happened, and I figured it was time for a quick status update.

and the quick status update is — I’m still a klutz, and fortunately, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. Which all things considered, I won’t complain about…

Posted in About Chuq

2009-2010 playoff predictions (round 2 edition)

But first a look back at round 1. How’d I do?

In the west, I picked San jose in 6, Vancouver in 6, Chicago in 6, Detroit in 6. I picked all four series, and three of them finished in six, and the one I missed went seven.

Not bad. not bad at all.

In the east, I didn’t pick series specifically, but I did pick Washington, Pittsburgh and Buffalo as the three teams I thought would come out of the east and said that New Jersey was in trouble. And in fact, Montreal took out the Capitals, Pittsburgh did in fact beat the sens, Boston beat Buffalo, and Philly took out the Devils, so I ended up 2-2 but didn’t guess # of games.

So I come out of the first round 6-2. To put that in perspective, I’ve had playoff years where I didn’t guess six rounds for the entire playoffs, so I’m happy. And since I watch primarily the west these days, guessing them all that well feels good.

That and $5 gets me a latte. Onward to the second round.

I didn’t get this in before the first Sharks/Wings game, but I did announce in front of witnesses at the game before game time that I was picking San Jose in six, and I stick with that. I mostly want Vancouver and Chicago to go seven games and for the two teams to beat the crap out of each other, but if I don’t pick Chicago I’ll be sleeping on the couch again, so I’ll pick Chicago in six. It would not suprise me greatly if Luongo and the Sedins carry Vancouver through this round, but I really like the Hawks as well. It really has proven out that all eight teams in the playoffs in the west were exceptionally talented and very evenly matched — if not purely in talent, teams like Colorado and Phoenix road great goaltending and amazing work ethics into serious battles.

In the east, it gets tougher; no easy series now. I’m amazed the Capitals are out, but the team had some fatal flaws that Montreal exposed: you simply can’t be a one-line scoring team, and your goaltending can’t falter at all, or you die. The Caps need to figure out secondary scoring depth, and it shows.

But I can’t see Montreal doing it a second time against the Penguins. The Penguins should get through this fairly easily (well, easy as playoff hockey is defined), but watch out for Halak. He’s capable of a “mission from god” run that could make things crazy. But: Pittsburg in 5, and they’re now my pick to come out of the east.

Boston/Philly: six games, I’ll choose Philly, but I’m not sure whoever wins this series will be in much shape to compete the rest of the playoffs. Should be physical and intense, but the Bruins just don’t do much for me…


San Jose in 6
Chicago in 6
Philly in 6
Pittsburgh in 5

and onward to the next round.

Posted in Sports - Hockey

2009-2010 playoff predictions

The so-called “second season” starts tomorrow, so it’s time for the annual playoff predictions.

But first, a digression.

It was nice not writing about hockey this year. It was nice just going to games as a fan, watching them as a fan, reconnecting to hockey as a fan and not a critique or commentator. I think one of the issues of the so-called talking heads is that since they have deadlines whether or not they have material, little things end up getting blown out of proportion because you have to talk about something, and after a while, the little things take on a life of their own and it can all become a bit obsessive. Everyone loses perspective, including the writer and the fans who read them.

The reality? At the end of the season, the Sharks ended up right where they were supposed to: first in the West, Pacific Division champs, and geared for the playoffs. Did the universe become less interesting because nobody obsessed about a soft goal (or was it?) that Nabokov let in sometime in January in a game the Sharks lost in Overtime. I watch the pundits on NHL network and they are still harping on Nabokov as a potential weak link (well, they’re saying that about Luongo, too, in Vancouver) and I sit back and think “man, that’s the best you can come up with?”

And the answer is — well, yeah.  That’s all they got. The “weak link” of the Sharks was 2nd in wins, 10th in GAA, 6th in save percentage, with ONLY four shutouts. The piker. Yeah, Russia sucked in the Olympics, but that was a group project and it seemed to me the Russian skaters were doing everything but holding Nabokov down and helping the other teams score. So whatever. It’s an axiom of being a talking head that you have to find things to criticize because good news is boring, adn you can never be boring.

That, in a microcosm, is why I was happy to shut up and not prove I had nothing to say this season. The Sharks just went and did what they needed to do. There were no controversies, nobody died, no season ending injuries, no extended slumps, no real MINOR slumps, the team just kind of motored, but at the same time, it never looked too easy and they never seemed to get bored or take it for granted like they did last year. That, of course, makes for boring journalism, which is why you see the pundits running around looking for something to point at as a weak spot. And you can’t blame the ice girls, I guess. Oh, wait. San Jose doesn’t have ice girls (thank you, Greg Jamison!)

Of course, they still have to do it in the playoffs, that much is true. Will they?

Damn good question. We’ll see. I think, however, that if they don’t, it won’t be because of things the Sharks didn’t do, but because of something some other team did better. And there are legitimate worries that as well as this team is put together and as good as it’s been playing — it still might not be good enough. Because ultimately, only one team can win it all, and 29 teams, no matter how good they are, lose.

In the west, to me it’s one of three teams: San Jose, Chicago and Detroit (sorry, vancouver fans. I await your letters…) — and honestly, I can’t choose one as a favorite over the other two. Each has strong points, each has weak spots that can be exploited. It’s going to come down to who stays healthy and who plays their best hockey when they need to. I expect some pretty damn good hockey out here in the west, and nobody’s going to get out of this conference without a fight.

That’s because I think any of the other five teams can take on their opponent and beat them. ANY of the eight could easily take the first round, and yes, while I think San Jose should take Colorado, I don’t think it’s a walk by any means. it might be the match I find easiest to call in the first round, but there are no teams in the west that don’t deserve to be there and won’t put up a fight.

So my western predictions: San Jose (in 6), Chicago (in 6), Vancouver (in 6) and Detroit (in 6).

San Jose’s weak spot: secondary scoring, Joe thornton’s tendency to falter in the playoffs, and Nabokov so far not proving himself in the playoffs. Their strengths: That first line looks killer (on paper), Nabokov looks like he’s in a good groove right now, Patrick Marleau, and Malhotra and Nicholl on the third line bolstering what was always the flawed part of the roster in previous years.

Chicago’s weak spot: unproven goaltending and youth. Their strength? Some really nice key veterans bolstering the kids. These guys scare me.

Detroit’s weak spot: age and jimmy howard being unproven. Their strength? It’s the freaking red wings. This team has a tradition of finding a groove in the playoffs, and their last 20 games? talk about hiding in the weeds and showing up for prime time. They REALLY scare me.

It would not surprise me a bit for Vancouver to go deep, and if they get on a run, they could take everyone else out and exit the west. If the Sharks, Wings and Hawks are my first tier in the west, Vancouver is a 1A. The difference is very narrow here, Canucks fans, but to me, there’s still a difference. But I’ll buy the first round if they prove me wrong and celebrate with yo.

Phoenix and LA? Beware the “mission from god” teams. They get on a run, watch out. they could easily take teams out in the first round, but I’m not convinced they’re ready to get out of the West with the talent in this conference. But they won’t be easy opponents.

Neither will Colorado or Nashville — but I think they’re a bit below the other six teams here.

Coming out of the west? Okay, hold my feet to the fire. I’ll pick — San Jose. Because I must. But any of the top three won’t surprise me and won’t be an upset. I’ll root for any of these teams (except against the Sharks), and if any of these eight make it out to the cup final, I’ll be satisfied.

In the east? Quality isn’t that deep.

I’m picking Washington out of the East, with Pittsburgh as a distant second choice. Buffalo is my dark horse, and ottawa is my choice as most likely to upset the higher seed in the first round. New Jersey has to prove it’s not going to have another playoff fade — sorry, Devils fans, but Brodeur simply hasn’t had it in the gas tank, and that team simply isn’t convincing me it can go deep. First round for New Jersey? yes. But that’s probably it.Me?

So my pick for the cup final? San Jose and Washington, which would be some amazing hockey. But honestly, there’s a good chance that the Sharks will get beat along the way, and a good chance it won’t be any failure by the Sharks, although you can bet the pundits will play it up. It’s what they do. (then again, it’s also possible the sharks DO blow up in the playoffs. if they do, we’ll be sure to talk about it… but I see it as unlikely with this team…)

So to all of the teams in the playoffs, good luck and drop the puck. And we’ll see you at the arena!

Posted in Sports - Hockey