7 Have Nots and Haves of my Life

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1. Comfort

I have not ever slept on the street.

I have been fortunate enough to sleep in a tent, in a hostel, on a hammock.

2. Basic Needs

I have not ever feared for my next meal.

I have been fortunate enough to have eaten on a plane, on a train, without caution.

3. Appearances

I have not ever been harassed for the way I appear.

I have been fortunate enough to have white skin, not have visible tattoos, have a non-threatening appearance.

4. (Mis)Understanding

I have not ever been questioned or judged for my sexuality.

I have been fortunate enough to have gay friends, be  a male,  be considered normal.

5. Security

I have not ever truly feared for my life.

I have been fortunate enough to have lived in safe environments, have had caretakers (family and friends), have a bubble and guardrails around me.

6. Opportunity

I have not ever been unable to learn.

I have been fortunate enough to have only gone to private schools, have only nominal distractions, have parents with the means to invest in my learning.

7. Position

I have not ever been oppressed

I have been fortunate enough to have the law on my side, the power on my side, snap judgment on my side.

 

I don’t believe that unfair advantages are categorically bad. In fact, I think they are assets to be cultivated and utilized. However, I do believe that we should recognize and appreciate them and care about providing those around us with advantages of their own.

I likely have many more haves, and I would like to hear yours. Write some stuff down and throw on #havehavenot (confession: I dont’ excel at Twitter).

Note: In cursorily searching for a header image, I came to the realization that Tyler Perry has “The haves and the have nots” google image search on lock — https://www.google.com/search? I mean…

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An Open Letter to Those Talking to Voice-Controlled Interfaces

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One of my “in the shower” thoughts today had to do with voice interfaces and how they kind of annoy me. This is my appeal for silence and just being fine with having to press some damn buttons.

Cycle of Thoughts

    1. I adjust the water temperature and wonder “what’s going on in the pipes and with my water heater to deliver me this glorious hot water?”
    2. As my epidermis warms, I think “Ok,  by adjusting the handle counterclockwise in increments, I am able to achieve my desired temperature.” Which leads me to the question: What kind of valve is opening/closing and where is it?
    3. Now I’m onto design improvements: “What if I had two buttons, one hot and one cold that had five settings that I could push up and down?” Then I could just hit up setting 4 hot, 2 cold, perfect.
    4. Not Quite: “Why do I need two buttons? That way I can just go Setting 4.”
    5. Screw Having to Touch Anything: “Why do I even need to be pushing a button? How about I just tell the shower what level I want it to run at, or even better, at what temperature and for how long?”

 

 

Where I Ended Up

I hate voice interfaces. There’s too much talking. Too much ordering. Too much control or desire for it.

Must we exert that much control?

Must we have complete subservience?

Is my new normal hearing people talking about setting timers, recording shows and getting reminders?

Not to mention, your internal ponderings on any subject for which you desire to query a search engine. Can you please just keep that in the browser for me? Thanks.

Can I just get some goddamn peace and quiet?

And can you be ok with possibly having to push a damn button?

That’s all.

Thanks,

Brian

It’s fun to be at (and support) the YMCA

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I joined the Denver Metro YMCA about 16 months ago, right around the time I got married actually. There was no way I was going to slip into #dadbod (I’m not a dad) at age 33. I want to tell you a bit about my Y experience, and I hope it resonates with you and motivates you to support a wonderful organization that is completely dedicated to serving communities across our country.

If you want to skip my story, feel free click on the button below to make your tax-deductible donation to the Denver Metro YMCA. It’s very much appreciated by many!

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Why/How I Came to the Y

I joined the Downtown Denver Y to get back into the habit of regular exercise involving weights and cardio with a workout partner to whom I would be accountable.My good friend Nic Gray, a long-time Y member since his childhood, brought me in the door.

Nic is an Army vet (tank gunner) and tech CEO with a respectable commitment to physical fitness and a strong belief in its mental benefits. I had been a member at a yoga studio for a while, which was great (a bit spendy), but I was looking to diversify my exercise regimen into weights and cardio.

The Downtown Y had the right price (~1/2 what I was paying for yoga), the right location, smack dab downtown and the right product offering (exercise floor with lots of cardio and weight machines along with free weights, gym for basketball, dedicated classrooms for yoga and other programming and a locker room stocked with towels, steam room and sauna, all for $50.

What I’ve Gotten Out of It

Now, that I’m 16 months into my membership, let me tell you how’s it working out. I have been more committed to my physical fitness and my steam skills are top notch. I have Nic, the Y and myself to thank for that, but I really want to mention the other ancillary benefits I’ve received from the Y. So, here they are:

  • Community (the people)

    I’ve made a lot of new friends at the Y. I use the word ‘friend’ intentionally. These aren’t just acquaintances or passers-by. These are people I genuinely care about and who I feel care about and for me. My new friends range in age from 22 to 75 and come from all walks of life. I enjoy running across them when I’m at the Y, grabbing breakfast with them, and volunteering with them. They’re a new and diverse social group I didn’t have before.

  • Opportunity (to give back)

    About 9 months ago, I joined the Board of Advisors for the Downtown Y. For me, the Board is a vehicle providing me the opportunity to deliver impact both at the Y and well outside its walls. I also have a platform to engage others who can support the Y’s mission of offering programs and facilities that help healthy spirit, mind and body for all. I put for all in bold because I feel everyone should know that:

THE Y LITERALLY DOES NOT TURN ANYBODY AWAY. ALL ARE WELCOME AND THE Y FIGURES OUT HOW TO MAKE IT WORK. IT’S INCREDIBLE AND YOU CAN BE A PART OF SUPPORTING IT.

I am raising money for the Y’s annual campaign, so the Y and all of its supporters can continue delivering on this incredible mission. My goal is to raise $5,000. Will you help me get there? Just click the button below. It takes 30 seconds.

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  • Donation Details (what your money supports)

Your tax-deductible donation delivers real impact to thousands of people of all ages across Metro Denver. 0% of annual campaign dollars go to fund the administrative budget of the Y). All money is deployed into the community for awesome programs such as these:

  • LIVESTRONG at the YMCA – a 12-week exercise program and group talking sessions for cancer survivors, both those going through treatment currently and those who had made it through
  • Parkinson’ Disease Program – Helping those with Parkinson’s maintain muscle mobility and flexibility
  • Diabetes Prevention Program – Providing education and programming to combat the rampant rise of diabetes in our communities
  • Membership Scholarships – Remember, the Y turns nobody away. They deliver on that promise by providing membership scholarships for those who cannot afford to pay for a membership, so awesome.
  • Joy in Purpose (doing good)

I have an ongoing internal struggle around not delivering enough impact in the world. My wife is a teacher, so we know she’s a saint who helps people, but what about me? I’m a Finance guy who has done some volunteering and generally aims to help people out, but I lack regularity. And for some strange reason, finding volunteer opportunities has proven difficult (maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough).

Well, now I don’t really have to look at all, I just have to show up and sign up. The Y’s consistently helping out in a multitude of ways, and I now have confidence that I’ll be delivering regular impact right alongside it. If you want to get involved as a volunteer, check out the Y’s volunteer opportunities. That link’s only for Denver, but you can get nationwide or other localized opportunities as well. Just Google “YMCA volunteer opportunities.

Thanks for your support,

Brian

Thank you for playing to my vanity

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Once upon a time, I told my friend that I was going to work out before I was heading over to drink with him. He responded that working out was “vain”. Of course it is, along with many other things: an outlet, a survival mechanism, a pickup line, a lifestyle, a metric…

So, I’ve thought for a while now that social media is primary a vanity outlet. I’ve considered how to utilize that notion as:

1) a method for gaining adoption for any given web product. I have not come up with a good answer – it’s really just been a thought exercise of playing to this banal hard-wiring that we all carry with us.

2) a jumping off point for new product ideation. One of those I called Mall Wars. Basic idea is to gamify tween shopping and disintermediate trips to the mall (pre-Oculus existing). I never did anything with it; however, feedback is certainly welcome, and I’m happy to share my thoughts at a deeper level. I am attracted to the blend of gamification / vanity / the target demographic’s (and it’s enablers) ability to throw cash at it. If someone executes on this idea, please wrap me in to some degree 😉

3) A baseline for research on human behavior. I’m inherently interested in how our minds work and what drives us at our cores as individuals.

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine and a problem surfaced, not related to social media whatsoever, but we got to discussing it, and I got to thinking…and wanting to ask questions / posit my own thoughts.

Then, I realized I hadn’t eaten dinner and the likelihood for exploration was de minimus.

“I’m not going to sit down write now and research and think and create…And, I was right!”

So, I thought, how can I just talk about this and socialize it while I’m home alone… I searched “voice blogging”, and, voila, Bubbly. bubbled to the surface. Fucking great SEO Bubbly! You’ve been around since May 2011, so you’ve got some juice built up. I literally just found you 30 minutes ago.

Now, obviously I’m writing this, so I’m excited, which to me, means something. Bubbly could be a great outlet for me go forward to spitball ideas, thoughts, opinions, problems and get feedback without having to:

1) send an email

2) call anyone (much less multiple people)

3) write anything down…

They might just have a rabid fan.

Now, I might churn out of Bubbly tomorrow, but for the time being, it has certainly played to my vanity. I have things to socialize, I face friction from a text editor, I like to talk, I am interested by how others will respond to what I have to say.

Bubbly seems to address all of that for me and my Ego.

Plus, I think their distribution options of posting to FB (pure vanity – which I did not uptake) and Twitter (a medium I respect) are spot on. Guess what, I tried to type that on Twitter and got cut off! Had I had the foresight to Bubble it through my first, most natural form of communication, I would have gotten my point across, which is effing solid distribution strategy. I understand why you’re focused on footballers and celebs, REACH!

Allright, Bubbly – you got me to write tonight, well done! Looking forward to future Bubbles. Of course, I already have feature requests. If you’re remotely interested, hit me up on Twitter and we can touch on them.

Btw – I’m in the new WP editor for the first time (again, I’m horrible about blogging regularly…), how the eff do I preview? I’m sure it super-simple, but I’m impatient and impulsive at times.

Edit to last sentence: just realized I had my browser window hovering too low on my laptop and obscuring the preview button you see here

Screenshot 2015-03-04 21.40.00

whoops…Man, I guess I actually can crank out a post when I’m fueled with something to say. That took 14 mins. start to finish.

The Problem with “It’s not my problem”

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NotMyProblem

“Not my problem bro, not my problem”

Spickoli_fast times

“WHAT WAS THAT?”

Bitch

The Sermon

Spickoli, you were most definitely cool. It wasn’t only me, Phoebe Kates thought so too. You had a time and a place. You had a purpose. You HAD a purpose. You still have a purpose. However, it’s not one I want to deal with on the daily.

I need more from you now. I want you to give a shit. That’s it. So, let me lay that out for you.

A person that does not give defined:

  • Lazy (you do just enough of “your job”).
  • Arrogant (“i’m above that | That’s not my job).
  • Has a low ceiling (you’re not expansive).
  • Doesn’t give a shit (about me, our team, our company, our customers).
  • Is one way (maybe half) not round-trip. This person might start but doesn’t close.
  • Can’t be counted on.

Continue reading

Making your next move

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Think before acting

On Sunday, I had a brief conversation with a recent college grad who is pursuing her first full-time job post school. As someone who has recently been through a period of unemployment and recently taken a new position (10 years removed from college), I figured I could give her some advice, or at least my perspective.
We connected on a Hangout, and I was impressed with how she’s approaching her search. Here’s why:
  1. She’s Going for It — as a 22 year old female, she had the balls to move cross country from NC to SF solo. She’s not sitting around for an opportunity to find her but rather is out hustling to connect with the right people and companies, and I think she’s moved to the right place for her chosen industry music tech (though I really have no clue, maybe NYC or LA would work as well). She has clarity on the industry she wants to be in and the stage of company she wants to join, two determining factors that made SF the logical choice.
  2. Following Her Passion — Throughout the 20 minutes we spoke, it was clear to me that she was passionate about music and technology and is firmly focusing on the intersection of the two. This level of focus will suit her well as she’s out networking and talking to folks about what she’s aiming to do. She’ll be in a much stronger position relative to the 90% of other folks who want to “work at a startup”, and her passion will be palpable/inspiring. She has startup experience in the industry, and is certainly entrepreneurial by nature. In the course of our conversation, we were able to frame this as a strength that she will be able to bring to a later-stage business, one of which she is interviewing with this week!
  3. She is Engaging with Mentors — We ended up talking because she had actively engaged with someone who I consider to be a grade A mentor in the Valley. He is in my inbox daily, shared her story in one of his postings, and I reached out offering support. Basically, serendipity occurred because three proactive people became connected simply by engaging with each other.

I really only had two pieces of advice for her, both of which came from my recent experience of being on the job hunt:

  1. Focus on the People — I asked her what skills she wanted to develop in the near future. She struggled to answer this question, which was fine. My advice to her was to focus on the people she would be interacting with / learning from every day. These are the people that will be crucial in her development and who she may just end up working with for the next several years. Basically, she should seek out and cultivate this network as they will serve as her primary catalysts. Pascal Finette (the guy who is in my inbox and who intro’d us) pretty much sums it up here.
  2. Consider Company Stage — I have spent the past 3.5 years in really early stage startups (1st employee and Founder). As I was approaching my next position, I put a decent amount of thought into the stage of company I should join. One of my mentors put it pretty simply when he said “Failing is ok, but don’t make it a habit.” My takeaway from this piece of advice was that I should join a growth-stage company that had made it past hurdles I had not previously been able to clear at my previous companies. I put this out to this new job-seeker and her knee-jerk was “I’m entrepreneurial, how will they react to that?” I framed it as a strength she can bring to a later-stage organization. Even if resources are abundant, I personally think a scrappy approach is always warranted and valued.

If you’re looking for your next thing, I urge you to take some time to think through how it sets you up for your next next move and beyond. View it as a springboard that plays to your strengths and helps you develop new ones.

Be proactive. Be focused. Be networked.

The Numbers Just Don’t Add Up

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Session 1:

“Welcome Doctor.  Please take a seat and we’ll get our first session started.  Please try to be as forthcoming as possible.  No detail is too small.  I would like to focus on the last six months or so and talk about what has led to your visiting me today.”

“Well, as you aware, I was recommended to speak with you due to the incompetence of my former attorney and the presiding judge.”

“Yes, the court order calls for ten sessions.  I also believe the University has a right to increase it to twenty in regards to your situation with them.”

“I imagine ten will be sufficient.  Of course, as you know, I am on temporary leave from the University to pursue other research interests; in fact, I have been revisiting a multitude of theorems I developed long ago as a student and am, without doubt, on the cusp of…”

“I am glad to hear that you are keeping busy.  I am sure the past six months have been very trying for you and your family.  How about we go back to the day when your wife let you know she was seeking a divorce?”

“I have indeed been keeping busy.  Despite already having long ago established myself as the leading authority in the international differential calculus community, I am currently conducting multiple research projects that will completely transform the field.”

“That’s all well and good.  A busy brain is a healthy brain, in most cases.  Now, back to your learning of your wife’s decision to end the marriage, could you please give me a little more detail?”

“She lacks the mental fortitude and tenacity required to problem solve.  I am willing, to this day, and certainly more than able to solve this problem.  A rational, results-driven individual can clearly consult the supporting data and see that the solution is really quite simple.  She has let her emotions enter the equation.  I remain, as always, an objective researcher, whose solutions are not skewed by emotion.”

“While I respect your objectivity as a researcher in the mathematical arena, I would venture to say that emotion, rightfully so, is integral to a successful marriage.  Again, I would appreciate it if you could walk me through the conversation that you two had.”

“There was no conversation.  Of course, in her passive aggressive way, she used a letter to end our marriage, from what I remember it read.”

“I cannot and will not do this anymore.  Your participation in this marriage has been reduced to that of a silent partner.  I have given you ample opportunities to improve our marriage and you have failed.  I feel neglected, unloved, taken for granted, disrespected, undesired as a woman and generally INVISIBLE in your presence.  

These are divorce papers.  I have already signed them and trust that you will do the same and not draw this out.  All that is required to finalize the contract is your signature and the stamp of a notary public. The kids (remember our children?) and I are going to my parents’ house.  Don’t bother lecturing me on the mistake I am making.  I have run the numbers, and they just don’t work. I hope your trip to “Russia” was worth it.”

“Quite the welcome home from my 2-week trip to Russia, a trip she declined to attend despite her parents’ offer to watch the children.  I was being honored at the famed St. Petersburg Institute for Applied Mathematics for my latest breakthrough work.  One might think that my supposed “champion” would find this worthy of making the trip.  Well, anyways, I do not do my work for awards and honors, which have always come quite easily to me.  In brief, I was honored on this occasion for applying a set of my differential equations to artic crabbing to drastically increase fishing success rates while conterminously reducing the inherently high danger rate to the crew.  Don’t worry, I will send you a Lehman’s version, as I do for all of my friends outside of the field.  Of course, I don’t expect you to understand it, but perhaps it will be a nice piece of respected research to show to your colleagues.”

“Ok, I look forward to it, how about we continue on with how this letter made you feel?”

“Do you know the percentage of U.S marriages that result in divorce?”

“Yes, 56%.  I do not consider that to be a meaningful statistic though.  Every situation is different.  Statistics can serve as quite the convenient scapegoat.  I realize that may be blasphemous statement in the ears of a mathematician.”

“I happen to place full faith in statistics and empirical data.  I will share a personal creed of mine with you: “opinion is derivation of the present but data is the child of history and the father of the future.”  That being said, a lesser known statistic is that women file for 78% of these divorces.  Given their inherent emotional fragility, this is not surprising.  What is more interesting though is that women with children are seven times more likely to file for divorce than women without children, this data has been age and marriage tenure adjusted to negate any duration bias.  So you see my point, they take what they need from the man, primely his seed, reproduce, and then remain supported by seizing half of what is rightfully his, what he procured through the means of his own superior abilities and…”

“Ok, Doctor, those are some interesting theories.  I will say that I have not heard that data before in my 25 years in divorce therapy and would be interested in seeing the studies.”

“These are proprietary figures, but I will share them with you.  You can then share the research with your colleagues who are also unaware I suspect.  I could probably even carve out some time to make myself available for a lecture on the topic which would no doubt be highly beneficial for…”

“Doctor, let’s keep in mind that I am no longer a student and, in fact, keep quite busy with my own research projects.  Now, let’s revisit your emotional reaction to the letter, which must have been somewhat surprising despite your knowledge of the data.  I know this may be difficult to talk about as the emotions, no doubt, run quite deep, but please tell me what you can.”

“Knowing the data as I do, I cannot say that the letter I received was wholly unexpected; in fact, it was the statistically probable thing to happen.  It was the terseness and lack of quantitative mettle that was so surprising; it was as if it was written on a whim.  It seemed so emotional and lacking in empirical wherewithal, so very unlike her.   Although, I suppose I had noticed this gradual change in her since she had left the field to care for the children.  Nevertheless, it really struck me here, and I was taken aback.  This was not the mathematician I had married.”

“It was the last sentence that really stung.  “I have run the numbers, and they just don’t work”.  I had run the numbers too, far more rigorously I might add, and was aware of the situation.  This is what I get for marrying a fellow mathematician, well, realistically speaking, a former mathematician.  She has not published meaningful research since the birth of child one, approximately a decade ago now.  I suspect this was a driving factor in her growing envy towards me.”

“Let’s discuss the significance of the letter’s last sentence for a minute.  A non-mathematician may read it as being facetious in nature.  In effect, your wife telling you that she is done with the numbers.  Possibly her well being and happiness in life, and that of her family as well, depend on more than just numbers.”

“Are you aware that facetious is the only word in the English language with all five vowels in sequential order?  The spelling is F-A-C-E-T-IOU-S.”

“That is certainly an interesting piece of what many would deem useless information, but this is not my point.  It seems as if…”

“Well, actually most people just assume incorrectly that it is the only word with such a unique characteristic, a single point of tangency to lyrical genius if you will.  In fact, I have coined several words in my research that are equally substantially more impressive in their vowel linearity: ganterious, nalembivotun, and yaeiously, just to name a few.”

“Doctor, my point is that your wife was poking you in the eye with this statement.  To her, the statistical analysis is null and void.  To her, this was a marriage, not an equation.”

“Her filing was her way of one-upping me, asserting the superiority of her analysis of our marriage, her attempt to prove to me that she is still relevant in the field.  I can guarantee you that her divorce analysis will never be published.  Mine, on the other hand, is already well established, and I am currently in consultations with my new attorney on releasing the analysis I conducted on my prenuptial agreement.”

“I would certainly appreciate hearing how you arrived at this nonsensical conclusion.”

“Despite our being peers, so to speak, in the highly competitive field of differential calculus, we were always each others’ champions; at least we claimed we were, both to each other and to the outside world.  I was sincere in my wishes for her success and recognition.   I rewrote much of her research for her, without her even having to ask me.  Additionally, our matrimony itself and her concurrent privilege of assuming my last name gave a seal of credibility to her work.”

“I didn’t feel that she ever truly appreciated what I did for her professionally.  I now realize it as an inherent jealousy.  I am not one to employ hindsight bias, but all data guide me to the absolutely certain conclusion that she was jealous from day one.”  I have discussed this with colleagues and shown them my supporting analyses; they are all in agreement with me.”

“Hmmm, I see, so the key drivers of this divorce were her jealousy of your mathematical accomplishments and her ingratitude to your role in furthering her position in the field?”

“Primarily, but there were other intervening factors.”

“Ok, well I’m glad you acknowledge that.  Please expand on that for me.”

“As you are aware, mathematics needs me.  As such, I am a mathematician above all; it is my calling and, thus, my duty.  To her credit, she too realized this; of course, it would have been impossible not to.  Yet, realization and acceptance are not always complementary.  She could not accept it and it destroyed her marriage and frankly any chance she had of re-establishing herself in the field.”

“So, it sounds like your responsibilities as a husband and father took a back seat to your professional endeavors.  How do you think this made your wife and children feel?”

“Obviously her reaction was jealousy and an unwillingness to compromise.  The children are, as you would expect, very proud of their father.  They have been photographed in the newspaper with me, and I present them with a piece of my research on their birthdays each year.  I have already committed to each of them that I will assist in their University placements when they are of age.  I suspect that we will grow closer as they age and truly realize all that I have done for them.”

“Ok, Doctor, our time is up.  Given how we ended this session, I would like to talk some more about your relationship with your children next week.  We will also delve further into the relationship you and your wife used to share as well as the events that led to your dismissal from the University.”