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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Category Archives: About Chuq
As if life hasn’t been — interesting — enough the last few months (gee thanks, Leo), a couple weeks ago we saw that Archie, one of the cats, was starting to lose weight and seemed to be sleeping more. We kept an eye on him, and a bit over a week ago got him into the vet to get checked out. The last week has been more or less an endless stream of talks with the vets, visits to the vets, tests, waiting for test results, and generally stressing out and all of the things involved with waiting and not knowing.
Friday, we finally got the results back from a test that gave us a definitive answer, although not the one we wanted; Archie had advanced intestinal cancer that had clearly started spreading. We made the tough call and said goodbye.
Archie’s been our companion for over 14 years; if we forged his kennel papers he’d pass for a Maine Coon, but he was a feral rescue and we know mom looked nothing like he did. He had that feral “run first” timidness, and wasn’t particularly friendly to strangers, but once he got to know someone, he was a helpless lap cat.
We’re now a one cat family, and honestly, that cat prefers that, so we won’t be bringing in a kitten now.
We are going to miss him greatly, but from what we can tell he was never in pain and never suffered.
So it hasn’t been a fun couple of weeks here in Chateau Plaidworks. if I’ve missed an email or been slow to reply, I apologize. Hopefully, with the holiday arriving, we’ll get our batteries recharged a bit and get back on it.
Since I’ve written about Apple for the Guardian in the past, they reached out and asked if I would again.
It’s now live on their site, and I wanted to point you at it and include a copy of what I wrote here:
Words don’t fail me often. they do now. Here’s what I wrote back in August. Rest in Peace.
I seem to be returning back to to the world of the blog. Apologies for the relative silence, but life’s been really busy, and something had to give. I decided it was better for the blog to take a break than for me to jump off a bridge….
It’s been a strange year so far. After my May trip to Yosemite, I knew I was going to go into a busy time as we prepared to ship the TouchPad, and so I figured free time was going to be sparse. I was right, plus I just felt worn out, so as it turns out, I only picked up the camera once between May and August, and it’s only been since mid-August that I’ve been trying to get out and bird and shoot again on any kind of schedule.
One thing I hadn’t planned on was that the TouchPad sales would be as challenged as they were. One thing I definitely did not expect was that our CEO would blow up our division and send it out behind the shed to be shot, only to later see the board take our CEO out behind the shed and shoot him as well (footnote 1). To say it’s created a bit of a chaotic and stressful time for people within the webOS world — well, that’s no surprise to anyone, right? And a week ago, they laid off a chunk of the webOS family (but I and Developer Relations are intact; still, it’s never fun, and it’s not easy for anyone).
We’re still waiting to hear how all of this is going to settle out, but I’m now sort of in a holding pattern until I hear more. So it’s gone from acute stress to chronic minor stress.
On top of that, mom decided she needed to replace her computer, which meant a couple of weeks of pulling the hardware and software together, getting it all set up, and then a pair of trips down to SoCal to set it all up and get her running on it (and then going back down to fix the Wifi network and a few things that didn’t work right the first time).
I’d been thinking of taking a bit of time off and going somewhere quiet to recharge the batteries, but the SoCal trips fixed that. right now, not exactly sure when I’ll get a chance to pull some time off, so I’ve been trying to do other things to recharge the batteries (like avoid the blog, not stress over writing, etc….). And now, the fall weather is hitting the Oregon Coast, and I’m not sure whether it’d make sense to head that way as I was thinking, or if I’d spend the trip watching it rain from the hotel room. Hmm.
Oh, and the dishwasher retired. We have a new one, a Bosch, which we really like. and me knee and I had a bit of a fight, but I finally declared a draw. Which sort of made going on the trip mythical for a while….
So it’s been a crazy year, now finally settling down into a dull noise (I hope). at least pending the next corporate restructuring. Until then, I’ve started getting out and walking again, I’ve started carrying the camera again, I’ve been spending time in Lightroom again, and birding, and now I’m finally feeling like I have the time and energy to support writing regularly for the blog again…. We’ll see how well I do. No backlog of articles to buffer a busy day, but plenty of things I want to write about.
We’ll see how it goes. but if aliens beamed down and destroyed corporate HQ tomorrow, I don’t think I’d be surprised at this point.
(footnote 1: no, really. we didn’t shoot him. we drove him out to the farm where he can run free and be happy with all of the other corporate CEOs that have lost their jobs to major compensation payouts; payouts which, I note for the record, the 500 ex-webOS staffers didn’t get… combined).
I happened to be having coffee today with an old friend today, someone who’d worked with me back at Apple. I got the news on Steve as I left the parking lot just after we’d broken up the party.
I’ve been pondering Steve and his impact on my life since. My direct interactions with him were quite limited; I almost ran over him once outside of Infinite Loop 1 as I was coming in for a meeting and he popped into the street without really looking, Jon Rubenstein and Eddy Cue in tow. He almost returned the favor once as he drove in to work as I was in the same crosswalk headed to yet another meeting on the loop. I spent a number of afternoons in his board room on the fourth floor in customer and vendor meetings, especially when open source companies like Zend were part of the discussion, because early on, I was one of the noisy ones about those technologies. He was never at those meetings, but his presence was.
I remember standing in IL1 one day when Fred Forsyth popped out of the stairwell and hurried out onto the street, and I realized he was using the stairs to avoid ending up in an elevator with Steve. He wasn’t alone. Steve could be — was — tried to be at times — a very intimidating person. His saving grace was that he held himself to the same standards he expected of others. Too few leaders do that.
Mostly, I’ve been sitting back and realizing just want an impact the man has had on my life. not JUST my years at Apple, but all across my life. The Apple II was the first computer I used instead of peeked. I bought an early Mac — a 512K — and later put a massive ten gig hard drive on it via the floppy port, and upgrading it to a huge 2 megabytes of RAM. I never thought I’d fill that drive up.
I did, of course, and many drives since. I’ve spent some time tonight trying to think about how many Macs I’ve owned over the years, and in all honesty, I can’t. My time at Apple spanned the Mac II to the Mac Pro, an just stop for a second to think about how much these computers changed and how much power they gained in that time — and despite that and all of the enhancements added to the system over that time, someone familiar with a Mac Pro would find a Mac II usable, and vice versa. they’re both recognizably Macs.
One of the things that drove me in the last years at Apple was that I was in a situation where I could create things that allowed a company that was reshaping society the ability to do so; how often do you have the opportunity to “move the needle” in a meaningful way?
Steve moved that needle almost routinely. His “one more thing” became a cliche; underneath that cliche those one more things have transformed the world we live in.
I am who I am today in large part because of Steve. Not directly, but through the companies he founded and the products he built and the technologies he fostered; even more importantly, because of the people he brought in and mentored who turned into people that mentored me. Because of the thinking and attitudes he promoted and inoculated that became part of what I’ve become.
What makes me melancholy today is that this is clearly the end of an era. Pundits will now start proclaiming this the end of apple, of course, because that’s what pundits do. Eventually they’ll be right, too, because nothing lasts forever. But while there is nobody at Apple who can be Steve, the most important thing he did at Apple was build a team of people who each understand what is needed so that collectively they can carry on what Steve did. None of them alone is Steve; collectively, they have been taught to understand the how and why of Steve, and so I think Apple is going to be fine.
What makes me happy today is something even more important — that Steve chose to walk away on his terms, with his shield and not on it. He’s smart enough to pull back before life does it for him.
Here’s hoping he continue to enjoy his life on his terms without the pressures of trying to run a company like Apple, and be a person like Steve in that goldfish bowl he’s lived in. Now is his opportunity to just be Steve, be with his family and friends, and enjoy life on his terms. I do hope we as a society gives him that opportunity and doesn’t try to peek and peer more than he wishes us to.
So thanks, Steve. I’m the person I am because of you, what you did, the opportunities you created, and the attitudes and expectations you baked into those around you.
When I left Apple, I had a stack of pictures of mine printed, and I wrote up thank you notes to a bunch of people who’d been influences in my time there. the first one I did and delivered was to Steve. No idea if he got it or kept it; doesn’t matter, either. But it was important to me at the time to say thanks to a bunch of folks, and he was at the front of that line.
Tonight, I say thanks again, because you can never say it too many times.
Quick status update on my birthday present. It’s not done yet, mostly because I had to hold off last weekend when a knee got a bit grumpy, but put some good work into it this weekend, and it’s close. Because gravel and bricks are HEAVY (wow. who knew?) I can only carry so much in the subaru in one trip, which also limits how quickly I’m turning this around,. and mostly only working on it on the weekends. I’d estimated 16 bricks and about 20 bags of gravel (half a cubic foot, about 50 pounds, per bag), in reality, Im’ going with 7 steps (14 bricks) and it’s going to take about 30 bags of gravel to finish this off, so I have about 3 more trips for supplies to finish. If work cooperates, I’ll try to do that this week so it’s finished next weekend. That way next weekend I can start bringing in the wood chips to spruce the area up… Looks like the final cost of materials will be around $250.
There are four low-flow sprinkler lines underneath this now, and that’s the next project…. That, and general cleanup. For all I’ve been cleaning out the yards into the green waste bin this year, there’s still a hunk o’ stuff to clean up and get moving out of here to the city compost pile…
All in all, pretty happy at how it’s turning out. And it’s been a good workout hauling that stuff around.
Apologies in advance. this is long, this is personal, and this is probably going to annoy some of you. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like long and personal on someone’s personal blog, go and read the lolcats site for a while, Thanks.
When it Changed…..
Five years ago today I sent out the email to my team announcing I was leaving Apple after 17 and a half years. I posted a copy of it here. I left slowly, working with my bosses to make the transition smooth, so it was two months before I actually handed in my badge and became a free agent.
It was an interesting time in my life. At that time, I said this:
With the passing of time and the sharp focus of hindsight, I have to say it was definitely the right decision; in all honesty, I was tired of Apple, and Apple was tired of me, and we both needed to make the break. You can see from Apple’s stock price since then just how badly they missed me.
Two events precipitated this decision, although it was honestly a long time coming. The first one was when a really neat lady I liked and respected asked me an unfortunate question when I was having a bad day, and I went off on her. It was mean — it was abusive — she didn’t deserve any of it, and 30 seconds after I did it, i was mortally embarrassed at what I’d done. It was also something that you can’t undo with apologies, although i definitely tried. It was at that moment that I realized if I was that stressed out that I was losing it that badly, I had to make changes before I did something seriously dangerous or the stress killed me. (to her great credit, she eventually stopped being freaked at the thought of being in a room with me, but it is one of those moments in my life I will never forgive myself for).
Then a few weeks later, I was in a planning meetings when the alarms went off because the system was down. It turned out the database machine threw a drive, the primary data drive. On the primary master server, which was two weeks from being made a fully redundant, multi-machine server with automatic failover. We were that close from avoiding this disaster — and that drive was basically the one piece of the system that wasn’t redundant or easily replaced on failure; of course, it was the piece that fried. We knew about the risk, we were working to resolve it, and we missed it by THAT much.
It took us 13 hours to bring the system back live, swapping in one of the redundant slaves in the mysql pod and turning it into a master. There was no data loss (thank god), but still, that was one of the most stress-filled, panic-inducing times I’ve had in my life. At the end, I wandered into my director’s office, slumped to the floor, looked at him, and told him I couldn’t do that again. I was done. He sent me home, told me we’d talk later, and I went home and slept for 15 hours.
We agreed on two months as an offramp, plenty of time to bring up the new team and train them. That gave me, I thought, time to find a new project and home at Apple; in reality, I had no clue what I wanted to do — only that it was time to stop doing what I was doing — and didn’t try very hard. So I handed in my badge, got in the car, and drove off the face of the earth for a couple of weeks, my first “no phone no modem” vacation in years.
That project started out as a skunkworks with myself and one other programmer to see if it made sense to bring Apple’s marketing email inhouse. It turned into a behemoth that when I left was conservatively driving $50m a year in revenue and we were showing at least $10m a year in cost reductions within the company with a team of about seven. It was recognized as having the best ROI of any project in Apple IT — ever. We extended it for use globally, localized to something like 20 languages. It was the first Apple IT project to make significant use of open source technologies and be hosted 100% on xserves, so we blazed a few trails I’m rather proud of. it was (and still is) one hell of a hack; the team that took it over has done an awesome job and done some nice things to it I wish I’d thought of. If there’s one thing I’m really proud of, it’s that the transition went off about as smoothly as you could hope for, which is what I wanted. The whole open source thing was a fascinating experiment in itself (by design), and both a blessing and a curse, and deserves some discussion on its own; maybe later I will get to it.
What I didn’t know then, wouldn’t know for another six months, was that 95% of the problem I was having was sleep apnea. I’ve talked about that before, so I won’t go into detail, but in the 18 months before I left Apple I gained 90 pounds; in the 5 years since I’ve gained 15, ten of that in the last 9 months while we’ve been driving to get the TouchPad launched (and now I’m working to change that and pull that back). What I do know is when I got the apnea treated, my blood pressure dropped more than 25 points and a whole lot of problems in my life went away.
The last five years have been an interesting journey, in both the literal and chinese way. The executive summary of the last five years:
- Sleep Apnea — once I was diagnosed and treated, my blood pressure dropped over 20 points. It’d progressed enough I was falling asleep in meetings. But the first night I put on the CPAP, my life changed radically, and I’ve never looked back. But I was very close to falling asleep at the wheel, or snoring myself into a stroke.
- When I left Strongmail, it was with the intent of launching a site called Dare2Thrive, and try to break out onto my own. A secondary deal I thought I had with a friend blew up in my face, costing me a chunk of change, and then it became clear Dare2Thrive was dead on arrival (I really need to talk about that some day), so I took it out behind the barn and shot it. This, needless to say, did wonders both to my self-image and my pocketbook, but not as badly as if I’d launched the thing. I did, however, self-destruct in interviews for weeks, costing me a couple of really good jobs and probably guaranteeing I’d never work for Yahoo without a name change (not that, as it’s worked out, that this is a bad thing).
- I got my exercise program up to about 1 1/2 miles three times a week, which was making nice progress on my weight, and then stepped in a gopher hole, tearing the meniscus in my right (good) knee. Which didn’t heal, which is how we discovered the arthritis in both knees. Neither of which is operable, until we decide it’s time for replacements. Fortunately, 500mg of Relafin twice a day keeps them mostly functional and it hasn’t seemed to progress much. But that indirectly caused a serious case of tendonits in one ankle, which took nine months to get rid of. That made life interesting (and exercise impossible) for most of 2008.
- But 2008 was the year my dad got sick and died; it was a year of tests and hospitals and funerals and laywers, as I spent a big chunk of time in SoCal (or in transit: 12,000 miles on the subaru, just driving up and down the state) and helping mom get settled and things under control with the estate and her life. When I surfaced, it was October, and honestly, I remember almost none of it.
- Somewhere along the way — my best guess is around March — I went diabetic, but we didn’t diagnose it until 2009 when the simptoms got significant enough (significant enough: blood sugar > 400, tryglicerides > 600, blood pressure way up…). Fortunately, it all responded well to treatment and is well controlled and stable without a lot of fuss.
- And once I got that under control, I went and fired up the exercise program again — and fell down and went boom, going back on the shelf for about two months before I could even think of doing any significant exercise again (not that I wanted to; given recent history, it’s suprisingly hard to get up much enthusiasm to try again, although I’ve been starting slow and trying to build carefully…)
I mention all this not to whine or elicit sympathy, but to bring forward the thought. Sometimes life is good, sometimes it throws you challenges. It was Nietzsche who said that which does not kill us makes us stronger. It was in a hotel room on the road, with dad in the hospital and it increasingly seeming like he’d never get out, my ankle wrapped in ice so I’d have a chance of walking the next day (because i had no choice), Laurie hundreds of miles away, feeling very much alone and tired of it all.
And I had a moment that can only be described as howling at the moon. I found myself yelling at nobody in particular that if life would just leave me alone for a while, I could get this all under control and be happy again. That was the moment I realized that life didn’t owe me easy, that it was up to me to make it easy. And that I didn’t like who I was, and until I fixed that, nothing was going to change. I had no idea what it meant at the time, but I knew it was important to find out. And that’s been the journey since.
Five years ago I was in dream gig with a great team, awesome bosses for a company that was changing the world — and I was absolutely miserable (and really had no idea why).
Today? Much different gig — but a great group of people I enjoy being around even more than my team at Apple, which is something I never thought I’d find. Great challenges, lots of fun, lots of work to do. It’s hard to believe five years have passed. I feel like I’m a much different person than I was.
And I’m happy. With what I do, with who I am.
And isn’t that what really matters?
Whenever I end up talking about Apple with folks, there is one question that always pops up, so I figure since I brought it up myself, I might as well answer it. That question is “Would you go back?”
The answer is yes, with some qualifications. Apple is doing many good and interesting things, and in many ways, is changing the world (mostly for the better); there are lots of challenges there to take on in the right situation. but the implied question within that question is whether I miss Apple or feel some need to go back, and that answer is definitely no. I left at a time when it was the right thing to do, had a great run there, regret almost nothing, and enjoy what I’m doing now. I’ll admit that I’ve looked into a couple of positions there over time, but in each case, it was a position targeted at an internal candidate.
If the right situation came up, I’d do it. A lot of where my interest today is around photography imaging and how technology and people (i.e. this “social” stuff) come together. Apple still seems to me too afraid of losing control of its message to embrace social — just look at Ping (sorry, really qualified and talented folks who built that). That’s a social media for companies who are afraid to be social, and that’s just not that interesting to me, and not close to what I was encouraging people to consider even before I left.
But if you’re smart, you never say never.
I’m not sure what the five years have in store. Good times for sure, challenges just as surely. All I know is that I’m looking forward to seeing what they are…
Has half of 2011 really flown by? My, yes. Look at the calendar. It has.
It’s been a busy, crazy time, in a good and only mildly insane way. The important news: we shipped the TouchPad, and I’m proud of the result for everyone I work with. It’s a great starting point to build a strong platform from, just like the first iMac started that process for Apple. We still have a huge amount of work to do — the journey is beginning, not finished — but I think we’ve made a good, solid start. My little piece of the world, Developer Relations, has been this crazy little beehive of activity, because without developers you have no apps, and without apps, you go home.
I’m not ready to go home. Having too much fun. The DevRel team, and so much of the HP-Palm world in general, are such awesome, talented, fun people to be around. I was blessed with really good, fun coworkers and teams at Apple, but this group I’m working with now is just off the charts, and that makes this all amazingly fun. Now that the TouchPad is out, there’s a really short breather as we figure out where we are, then then diving right back into the next thing that needs us.
I’ve been at Palm 2 and a half years now, since literally the day of the first developer kitchen for what became the Pre; I’m now the second most senior person in DevRel. We just released a number of new programs to support the new product and to improve our developer program, and I like the direction we’re going; our new boss (since February), Richard Kerris, has really been pushing to push things forward and make them work better and make the entire DevRel universe more developer friendly and developer-supportive, and I think it’s showing. (amusingly enough, Richard is ex-Apple from the time I was there, and as far as we can tell, we never met, even though there were a whole bunch of things one person off).
In two and a half years, I’ve had five vice presidents, seven bosses (and a chunk of time where I had no discernable boss), 160 hours of vacation accrued (and this spring, actually used some; I still have about 90 pending, I think), and five offices in three buildings. It’s been that kind of ride, and I’m loving it right now.
I expect the second half of the year to be somewhat less insane at work, but it’s never going to be boring. I like it that way.
The work crunch left its mark, though; I’m up ten pounds since October (five, half of that, in the last two months); I know why, I know what needs to be changed, but youc an only chop 24 hours into so many pieces before they stop being useful. The diabetes is doing fine, but the last couple of months have been solid “at the desk grinding” type of days with lunch while I work, meaning no real chance to get out and walk or exercise, and the lunches have tended to be a bit too carb heavy and a bit too calorie rich, and so things have crept in teh wrong direction a bit. It needs a course correction, a fairly minor one, but that needs time and energy to push the changes into habits, and I just haven’t had that. Been annoying me, though, and so we’re going to try to make it happen before the next crunch hits.
It also means, I have to admit, very little photography and less birding. My year list is 30% smaller than a year ago, and I’ve been out birding once since my Yosemite trip. Now that we’re in the summer doldrums and migration is over, there’s not much interesting birding to do until fall unless I go tripping places. that’s not too likely right now. After my yosemite trip, I didn’t touch a camera for over a month, and then I went out for an afternoon, just to shoot some casual stuff and get back into it a bit. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing other things photographically, but not a lot of new material being made; I literally only added new keepers to my library 3 times in Q2, including the yosemite trip.
But having said that, my two trips involving time off added many new images into the keeper file, so that the number of new images for 2011 is actually close to how many I added in 2010 at this time in the year. That’s actually encouraging. Some of this was that I just wasn’t motivated to go take images of the same old stuff (how many snowy egret photos do I really need?) and just dind’t have the cycles to push myself into new or innovating opportunities. Another course correction for the next few months. I did spend a lot of time evaluating my library and critiquing myself and doing other things like studying what others were doing and evalauting their images — and that’s useful, but it’s not taking pictures. Time to get back on the horse.
What I have been doing instead is catching up here at the house. With the apnea kicking my butt in 2007 until I got it diagnosed, and then dad getting sick, and dealing with the estate issues with mom through most of 2008, and then the diabetes kicking my butt in 2009 and into 2010 until I got it diagnosed and under control, I haven’t spent much time on the yard or house, and so things have gotten pretty ragged and in need of some work. Despite the cold and wet year so far, I’ve been putting time in almost every weekend in cleaning up and clearing out and doing a lot of pruning and weeding (LOTS of weeding); sending out lots of green recycling every week to the city compost pile. five weeks of clearout in the front, seven so far in the back, and now, it’s finally at a point where it looks lived in again, and I can start finishing up projects (like the hot tub path that’s been half built for two years) and planting new plants to replace the ones that died or needed to be removed. Finishing up as much of the landscaping is the summer project, and then hopefully moving into the fall, back onto some of the long delayed house projects, and work towards some much needed indoor paint and carpeting. So it’s busy times, and good busy, but it’s amazing how things fall out of perfection when neglected, and how much work it can take to get that back into shape. But definitely worth it, and I’m happy with the progress, even if it’s rather boring stuff to blog about. (“dear diary: eight more bushels of weeds this weekend. I hate my wheelbarrow. love, chuq”).
There should be more new photography as the 2nd half of the year progresses, and more walking and getting out again, now that the big crunch is done. AT least, that’s the plan. we’ll see how reality goes….
When I posted that we intended to give up our season tickets after 20 years, it generated some interesting comments and a fair number of private emails. We heard from a number of long-time sharks fans, folks we’ve known since the early days of the Sharks mailing list, and got similar thoughts from any of them — either they have given them up, or are considering it.
Almost none of them were down on the Sharks, either. Like us, it really was more the time commitment, and how over time other things kick in and make spending that much time going to games more challenging.
Derek’s view is somewhat different:
Get the tickets, pick out, in advance, the handful of games you want to plan to go to, and then immediately just put the rest on Stubhub with electronic delivery. You won’t have to touch them again other than to pull money out of your paypal account.
Then, if you make it to the post-season, you’re in position to leverage it still.
It’s a valid view, but not what we wanted. We talked about that, and decided against it. Here’s why.
First, given where our seats are, full season tickets is a significant chunk of change and an investment — if you include playoffs, it’s likely going to reach $8K for the two seats and can reach $10K if you include a deep run and parking. We’re three rows off the glass in the club, so the tickets aren’t inexpensive, but to us, were always worth it.
We talked with some of our seat neighbors (so they knew what was going on and could coordinate with their account manager to slide to the aisle next season), and the confirmed what we had thought — demand for these seats is pretty thing. There are a couple of singles in our section, and they don’t sell out 100% of the time (but being a single hurts).
If you take the full season, you’re on the hook for that money unless/until the tickets sell. As Derek noted, Stubhub is available and easy, but only if the tickets sell. We have, in fact, put a number of late season tickets up for sale, and so far, a bit more than half have sold. We expect the rest to sell as we get close to game night, but — it’s clear the price of the tickets limits the pool of buyers.
There are basically three ways to handle selling off chunks of a set of tickets:
- Do it yourself, basically, privately sub-lease or syndicate out pieces. Laurie and I just aren’t particularly interested in managing this process, although we could pull in some people who might be interested. But it’s all up to the vagaries of who wants to commit each season, and what happens when the Sharks go into the inevitable down cycle? We just don’t see hanging onto the tickets as worth the work and energy in doing this.
- The Ticketmaster “Sharks Approved” system, which is really painless, but… If you look at the fine print, you can’t sell tickets at below face value, by the time Ticketmaster and the Sharks get their fees, about 25% of the value disappears, and there’s no guarantee the tickets will sell (and if you look at how the program is structured, it’s pretty clearly designed to give priority to unsold Sharks inventory before your tickets will be re-sold, the way the pricing is set up pretty much guarantees that). It’s really easy and convenient, but — the margins charged to it are pretty high.
- Stubhub does a nice job of brokering a market in tickets. But again, there’s no guarantee they’ll sell. There’s no guarantee they’ll sell at face value, much less a premium. They also charge a 25% premium — 10% to the buyer, 15% to the seller. that implies we’d need to average sales of 15% above face to break even.
On top of that, since we have used on-site parking for a number of years, we’d have to eat parking on sales through Stubhub or Ticketmaster. to break even on that, we’d need to price another 5% or so above face value, or find some way to private-sale parking for those games we don’t use.
So by the time you get done with all of this, you’re putting $8K down up front, depending on being able to sell tickets at an average 20% above face value to break even on fees, and our history is that the market demand just isn’t that strong, even in the recent years when the Sharks have been competing well. When they hit a down cycle? If the silicon valley economy continues to struggle, or hits another air pocket?
And ultimately, that’s just more risk and hassle than we care to deal with, not when we can invest nothing up front and buy on the open market for the games we choose to go to; we’re talking to some of our seat neighbors so they’ll let us know about seats they might be selling off, and otherwise, we’d simply rather be buyers on Stubhub than sellers.
Now, if we were higher up in the arena at a lower price point, it might be different — demand is stronger at lower priced tickets, that changes the dynamics of the situation.
But really, the bottom line is this: we had a great 20 year run, and now we want to take a step back and go to fewer games, and we want the flexibility to decide how many and which games more or less on the fly; and after 20 years, we just aren’t that worried about giving up our priority and seats. It’s not worth the effort to us to maintain those (for what it’s worth, Laurie was one of the first 100 to put in a deposit when the Sharks franchise was announced, so after all of this time, our priority is probably somewhere in the top 25. but — that and $10 will buy a couple of lattes…)
It’s not about the Sharks, or the cost, or any of that — it’s more about shifting around where we want to spend our time, and give us flexibility to do other things. And some nights, that other thing is simply going to be watching the Sharks from the couch instead of the arena…
Laurie and I have been talking this over for a couple of days, and I figured this might make for interesting blog fodder.
We’ve decided not to renew our season tickets with the Sharks next season. Which given we’ve had season tickets since the Sharks first season, and we’re going through the 20th season now, probably comes as a surprise (especially to folks who know us well).
Why are we doing this? Well, it’s not because we’re upset at the Sharks, or the quality of hockey, or the cost, or whatever. It’s because we both want to spend less time sitting in a hockey arena.
Think about it. If you’re full season ticket holders, you’re committing to 43 games a year. Lots of season ticket holders sell off chunks; in our case we average about 35 games a year. That’s over a month a year sitting in the arena, so from October to June (depending on how deep a team goes into the playoffs), you’re committing a big chunk of time and a lot of evenings to being at the game. This year, especially, I’ve felt at times that it’s gotten in the way of some of the other things I want to do (especially photography), where the friday night or saturday game really limits the ability to do other things on the weekend. When I birded Panoche a few weeks ago, I only covered about half the territory I’d planned on because I needed to get back for a game.
Our decision was to drop the tickets and buy on the open market (hello, Stubhub) rather than hang onto the tickets and have to deal with selling off the ones we don’t want. It’s just less hassle and gives us more flexibility (and no responsibility…)
So we’ll still be in the arena, just less — and watching more TV from home, where we can multitask or PVR the games if we need to. or (gasp) miss one. I expect we’ll try tobuy tickets down in that area, or maybe grab tickets from some of our seat neighbors who sell them off, since we like that section and the folks in it, and we like the angle (or perhaps we’re just used to it…)
amusingly enough, we both had been thinking about this independently for a while, and weren’t sure whether to mention it to each other. And amusingly enough, neither of us was at all surprised to find out the other one was also thinking that way; the joy of sharing your life with someone for a long time….
And yes, this opens up options. We’ve wanted to check out hockey in other venues, and this frees up some cash (and time!) to give us a chance to, say, try the edmonton/red deer/Calgary trifecta, or do a trip through ottawa, toronto, montreal and some of the OHL. Or just start getting back up to Vancouver again on a more regular basis and wallow in the WHL and take in a game or two at GM place.
Oh, and we’ve also decided not to buy playoff tickets this year. Partly for this reason, partly because we just don’t think this team will go deep and can’t convince outselves to spend the money for another first or second round exit. maybe they’ll prove us wrong, if so, we’ll happily cheer (from home).
Behold the new hole in our garage.
The morning started as plumbers from about four counties all arrived at our house, in search of a slab leak. For those that don’t know, a slab leak is when your plumbing breaks, only the break is hidden under 6″ of concrete, and you get to guess where the leak is.
Fortunately, there are leak detection specialists. They have a gizmo that stuffs a sequenced electric charge onto your plumbing, and another gizmo that finds that and tells you where the pipes are, and how deep they are. They wander through your house hearing beeps (it’s the really expensive machine that goes PING!) figuring out where the plumbing is. Then they stuff your pipes with helium, and use a set of stethoscopes the size of a big can of soup (two, actually) to listen for the helium exiting through the leak. I swear it looks like the guy is dowsing….
And in about an hour, he mapped out where all the pipes are, and then he found the leak. And that made me happy.
Not because we found the leak, but because the leak turned out to be in the corner of the house, where the service enters. Right where we were seeing the water come out. And this makes me happy because the leak wasn’t in the dining room, or in the kitchen under a cabinet, or under the tile in the bathroom, or…
You get the point — if you see how this gets fixed, the place that needs fixing is best in the garage, where it doesn’t trigger major remodeling projects. So the plumbers used a saw to cut the concrete, and then a jackhammer to remove it, and after I took this picture, patched in new copper to connect the good piece to the good piece, and by about 4PM, we had water — and it wasn’t out in the front yard.
Tomorrow they’ll come back and patch the concrete, and we’ll give it a few days to harden, and then life will return to normal, at least it will once I clear out the concrete dust and the mud and all of the other debris that now inhabits the garage, and backfill the bed that used to be part of the front yard…
If you live in an eichler, this is the kind of problem you dread, and when they happen, they can become really bad really fast. If it had to happen, this problem is about as close to the best case scenario as you can ask for — so I’m happy. And it was a relatively quick fix, too.
and once they stopped jackahmmering, I even got work done…
But it’s been an interesting few days…
And how did you spend your Valentines day? I spent mine with the plumbers, with what we thought was a leak in the service line into the house. That’s been patched, but when we turned on the service again, the leak re-appeared. Not so good. That means we have a slab leak; this is an Eichler, it has no crawlspace, it’s on a cement pad. and in the pad is the plumbing, and somewhere it’s leaking. So soon the guys with the really expensive leak detection machine will arrive to find it, followed by the guys with the jackhammer to chew out the part of the floor over where the leak is. which is likely (I hope) either in the kitchen or dining room. if we get really lucky, it’s in the garage but somehow I doubt it..
And we have this nice hole in the front yard, slowly filling with water again…
But we have a nice new copper service line that no longer routes through the porch slab…
This is likely going to complicate my blogging schedule. and maybe vacation. And who knows what else?
oh well. nobody’s died, and that’s good.
I got an email from an old friend this week, and it dealt with something I was going to talk about, so it’s a good starting point for this…
I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know that I follow your blog; greatly enjoying your photos and prose since sometimes last year. I am saddened to read about your health problems.
I appreciate that sentiment — but to be honest, I’m really pretty happy with life. That hasn’t been true in the last number of years, but one thing I realized after I had the breakdown was that if I didn’t get to the root of things, none of the rest mattered and ultimately, I wouldn’t get it all fixed. The root of much of this was that along the way, I stopped liking myself, and so I went out of my way looking for reasons to be negative about myself, and that’s a big part of what drove the anger and depression that led to the collapse, and was a core cause of a lot of the weight gain — eating as punishment, eating because I didn’t give a damn. Probably, at some level, seeing eating as a really slow suicide path that wouldn’t be seen as that. At best, not caring if it happened. So if you play root cause analysis games (yes, life is nothing but a red flagged project needing some structure and a post-mortem), and you solve those root causing problems — you can fix things.
And so I ended up spending an enormous amount of time trying to understand what was making myself so unhappy, both internal and external triggers, and then understanding how to resolve those conflicts and come to terms with them. It was a process of learning to be comfortable and happy in my own skin again. There’s an entire series of blog posts on this down the road, when I can organize it and figure out how to talk about it.
In all honesty, I see myself as really lucky these days. I feel pretty good most of the time, ignoring the knees, and they continue to slowly improve; our seats at the Sharks are three rows off the glass, which is awesome, but that implies a bunch of stairs, which isn’t, but at the Phoenix game this week, for the first time in about six weeks, the stairs were merely annoying, not massively painful (down is a problem. up has never been a problem. go figure). So I’m hopeful this episode is almost over, and I’m trying to do a bit more exercise, within the caution of not overdoing it and causing a setback. I feel good enough that Laurie’s given me a hall pass, and I’m headed out this weekend for an overnight trip into the central valley to do some serious birding and photography, and see how it goes — hopefully Yolo Bypass, Staten island, Consumnes and Woodbridge on Saturday, grab a room somewhere on the I-5, and spend sunday up at San Luis NWR for the fly-out, and Merced NWR in the afternoon for sunset and the fly in. weather looks like it’ll cooperate, and I’m hopeful the birds will cooperate.
Whenever I want to feel sorry for myself, it’s easy to put it in perspective – I caught the diabetes relatively early (I’m guessing 9 months after it came on), and I had a head start of a couple of years on fixing the diet, since I knew I was a time bomb and it was likely to arrive at some point, and so while it’s something you have to watch and manage, for me, it’s more like dealing with chronic allergies or something. I’m not fragile, I don’t need insulin, I’m well controlled — and I hope to keep it that way, but for now, it’s more something to structure lifestyle mangement around than anything.
And when I look at how that (and grumpy knees) compares to what others around me are going through – honestly, my life’s not bad. I have grumpy knees and I have to watch my arthritis, and I need to lose weight. I lost an old college girlfriend to liver cancer this year, another had her 20+ year marriage breakup and she’s now being a single mom. I’ve helped a close friend through breast cancer and a full mastectomy. A photographer I know just announced her Lymphoma is back. I’ve lost friends to bone and breast cancer, my dad to heart problems. I can think of two friends currently under chemotherapy, three who underwent cancer surgery in the last year, two 20 year divorces… I could go on.
When you look at that, you wrap your grumpy knees with a heating pad and count your blessings, because I’m still happily married and working to keep it that way, my heart seems fine (I did a treadmill test a couple of years ago and they didn’t find anything to worry about), I have my photography and now that the apnea and diabetes are well controlled I now find I have my energy back, and I’m getting myself more involved in a bunch of new things which you may or may not hear about at some point. 2004-2006 was when things crashed, and things were pretty sucky for a while before that, but now?
I’m just having fun, and enjoying what I have, and trying not to overthink things or get back into the mindset of worrying and being upset over what isn’t. Because what matters is the stuff that is… And what is, is pretty cool.
So I don’t complain much these days. And that’s awesome, since there’s so little worth expending energy complaining about…
When I started talking to people about whether I should blog about some of the “stuff” going on in my life — the weight, the diabetes, the apnea, and now the arthritis — I had a lot of people strongly suggest I keep that private. A few were seriously freaked I’d even consider talking about the breakdown, which simply shows that we have a long way to go about understanding and dealing with these kinds of issues as a society. Which is, in fact, a strong reason FOR talking about it, to help teach and help people understand. A common worry was that potential employers reading my blog might shy away; honestly, the fact that I’m 50 hinders this as much or more than any potential worry, and to put it bluntly, any employer that won’t hire me because five plus years ago I needed some help getting my head straight over a few weeks is an idiot, and I don’t want to work for them anyway. It’s their loss. (the whole “aging geek” thing is it’s own discussion for some time in the future, maybe).
There’s a lot of self fear — people worry themselves into inaction. I’ve been there, done that. it took me a long time to go from thinking about talking about this stuff to actually talking about it. Part of that was because I wanted to be sure I knew what I was talking about — that I wasn’t going to screw it up and that I could talk about it intelligently and not but proclaim my expertise in something — but there was also the fear factor.
What I’ve found since deciding to start on this is that it’s making a difference. Every time I talk about the apnea, I get one or two emails from people telling me I’ve convinced them to go get checked, and in a couple of cases, I’ve heard back about the diagnosis and how the CPAP has improved their life. That pretty much everything I’ve heard back has been supportive and positive, and that there’s concrete responses that it’s making a difference — that’s huge. And it makes any potential worries about doing this trivial to me. I don’t know what your goals in life are, but among mine are to leave the world around me a better place, even if only in little ways, and to make a difference instead of just existing; and this seems to be working for both of these goals. When the apnea kicked in, and then the diabetes, it drained a lot out of me and I found myself crawling in a hole just to keep the essentials moving, and now, it’s rather nice to be able to see my ability to fill that hole with concrete and build a launching pad on top of it to get back into the place I’d rather be, which is in the middle of stuff and stirring it up….
Three things helped me get over this hump — and be strong enough to start this discussion. And given the news that Steve Jobs is taking another leave to deal with his issues, I thought it was an appropriate time to talk about them and pass them forward to you as items for you to consider as well.
First one is, not surprisingly, Steve and his commencement speech.
I was still working at Apple at the time, but I knew my time was heading towards the end there. One of these days, I need to write about Steve, having been able to watch him and Apple from a close vantage point for so many years (and Laurie worked at NeXT, way back when as well). What I will say right now is that he could be a tough person to work for, but I never saw him demand more of anyone around him than he demanded of himself. Tough, brutally honest, and yes, I saw him obsess over a comma on a couple of occasions, but that’s because he knew those commas mattered. My last project — Chatterbox — was sometimes the object of his affection and sometimes the object of his attention, and it wasn’t always easy, but Steve isn’t about easy. he’s about getting it right and doing it right, and I’ve said more than once for the right situation, I’d happily go back and see how close I could fly to that particular sun, because if it didn’t kill me, it’d make me a lot better at what I do.
Whatever’s going on now, Steve, good luck at it.
The second thing that got me over this hump was Randy Pausch’s Final Lecture:
I didn’t catch onto it when it first came out, but came back to it more recently. I strongly recommend his book The Last Lecture. Here is someone who found out he was going to die, and his response was to look for ways to make a difference, to leave something. You look at what Randy did, and how can you not be inspired to join him and try as well? I was, and I recommend him to you, also, if you haven’t.
Finally, a third person who showed how you can make a difference if you get over the fear and worry of what people will think. Laurie and I have become fans of Craig Ferguson’s Late Late show, and so I read his book, American on Purpose. It’s a fascinating look at how he got to where he is today (and why), but more important, he made a choice not to be afraid to talk about how he screwed up his life and what it did to him — and use it as a way to try to help people avoid going to the places he went to.
If these people can do it, why can’t I? It turns out the person we most fear in stepping out on these issues is ourselves. And when we grow beyond that fear, good things can happen.
Every time I’ve talked about the apnea, I’ve heard from at least one person who’s written to tell me it’s caused them to realize they need to talk to their doctor. This last time, I heard from two, and one of them has since gone on a CPAP and wrote me to tell me how much better he feels already. When I started talking about the diabetes, similar things happened.
And nothing bad has happened. Nobody’s made me wear a scarlet letter, I haven’t been shunned, I haven’t been ridiculed. I’ve been thanked. And I’ve impacted people’s lives in positive ways — perhaps getting someone into a doctor before the apnea causes a stroke, or before that diabetic coma hits or the kidneys fail from trying to clear out all that sugar. These maybe aren’t huge victories — but they’re victories. And that’s awesome.
I expect at some point the trolls will arrive, because that’s what they do. But what’s more important — avoiding trolls that have no power you don’t hand to them in your reaction? Or helping someone change their life for the better.
That first time you do it, it’s tough to get over that hump. Once you do it once, you’ll find it’s pretty good, and pretty easy. So here, for you, are three things that might help you, too, get over that hump.
You can change the world, one person at a time — if only you decide to try.
I’ve been thinking through the goals I want to set for my photography in 2011. I think I’m going to keep it relatively simple:
- Push myself into new areas of photography to continue to improve my skills; specifically, it’s time to get serious about learning how to use flash, and it’s time for me to get serious about both field and studio macro photography.
- I want to try to get back to Yosemite sometime this spring, hopefully when the dogwood is out and alive. I had planned a trip for 2010 at that time and ended up not being able to.
- I want to get out on a photo trip to an area I haven’t been to and photographed and force myself to figure out how to shoot and then publish a piece about that area and tells its story.
- I want to see if I can take at least one workshop as a way to push my skills via hands on work with someone else.
- I want to take a close look at whether I can be “photoshop free”. I’m hoping to see what Apple has up its sleeve with Aperture 4.0 — I don’t know a damn thing if this even exists, but I’m assuming it does, and I”m guessing 2011 might be the year I can retire photoshop completely, and see whether Aperture does what I want and make myself free of all Adobe software (I like Lightroom; I don’t think Lightroom will ever be allowed to innovate enough to make photoshop irrelevant to all but the most hardcore photographers — and apple doesn’t have that political problem with aperture).
- I’m going to do a personal quest to photograph as many species of bird again this year, and see if I can beat my 2010 number of 142
- I need to experiment with video more.
And I’ll note for the record that nowhere in this list is “buy new stuff”; which doesn’t mean I won’t, but the gear needs to be defined by how it will implement the goals, not the other way around…
Happy 2011, all.