No Punt Days

A colleague asks, “What’s the biggest difference between running a startup and working for an established company?”

For me? It’s that you can’t punt a day away.

Today: Felt sick this morning. Like I was coming down with something.

In an office, as a corporate CTO, I would have punted. Punted well, mind you: Caught up with paperwork. Did some planning. Worked the budget. Gone to a meeting. But it’s punt work. It’s stuff you do when you’re not feeling 100%. As a pro executive, you save work like that for exactly these situations.

Instead, I worked on a module I’ve been trying to get done for weeks now. What I planned to do today.

The difference between an intermediate and an advanced coder? As a master of the craft, you know how to marshall yourself. And stay disciplined. Write organized, efficient, reusable, understandable code even when your head isn’t all the way there. You stay back, you don’t write anything aggressive or novel.

At the end of the day, that process is up. Running. I shipped.

That’s it: Startup life. No punt days.

Giants Game

My first game since the first World Series win…

At the park early, as usual. Plenty of Dodger Blue in this crowd. Make my way towards center field. Crazy Crabz for that $17 crab sandwich. Maybe the best value in the park, this would be $12 anywhere else. Delish.

My seats: Third base line, halfway between home and third, twenty-something rows up. Just under the rim. That’s where I sat at my first game ever, nine years old, Candlestick Park. Giants over the Astros.

A few rows down, this older lady in an orange jacket. Reminded me of my Grandmother somehow, the look on her face, made me think of windswept pale blue sunny days of San Francisco September past, Jack Kerouac drunk in SoMA-to-come, my twenty-something dad out carousing with his buds, my Grandma’s at home worrying about her mijo over a cup of Folgers.

The anthem, the first pitch, play ball. This game: Giants are playing out the string, Dodgers are playoff bound. Every baseball game is a line in a long poem. This line is somber, this line is professional, this line is there because it has to be there.

It reminds me a little of a scene in Tropic of Cancer… (the scene with the prostitute, they’ve paid $$$ and now Henry and his friend feel like they are compelled to go through with something that nobody in the room really wants to do)

Giants vs Dogs

For the Giants you have three groups: The pros, the guys who approach each pitch and each AB the same every time. The rookies, the guys fighting for a job next year. And then there’s the guys who are over it, who you can see in their body language and approach that they just can’t wait for this season to end.

When I saw Pablo Sandoval playing winter league ball in Venezuela last December, I thought Wow, how awesome to see Panda ripping home runs. And then Man, he is going to be beat come next September.

A group of Koreans sat to my left. There to root for Dodger starter Hyun-jin Ryu. Nice guys. Didn’t speak much English. I tried to ask if they were Dodger fans or just Ryu fans, but it got lost in translation. I offered a garlic fry as a peace brokerage, but they weren’t having any. Garlic fries weren’t any good anyway. Too many people ordering them = they cook them ahead of time = they get all soggy before you even get them.

I wonder how kimchi fries would taste…

Trying to be a good fan. Watch the game. Get in the pitcher’s head. What’s he going to start this guy with? Curveball, in there for a strike. Well, you’ll get ahead of a lot of hitters that way, throwing that big yakker for a strike. Come in with a fastball, fouled at the plate, now it’s 0-2. What’s the league hit, .190 when behind 0-2? Ok, now what’s he going to finish him with. Breaking ball in the dirt. Ok. Still have three more pitches to play with. Pitch to weak contact. Get a ground ball to second, good as a punch out. Or in this ballpark, a loud fly ball to center.

Get in the hitter’s head. Posey. What’s he thinking here. Posey’s a total pro. He don’t care it’s the last week of the season. Get a good pitch to hit. Crash Davis’s soliloquy from Bull Durham in my head: Quick hands quick hands quick hands. Berating myself as if I’m Posey. You can’t do this on TV. There’s an intimacy you get at the park, it’s the closeness, the live-ness, the idea of being mere feet away from the man standing in. Dig in with that back leg. Stay back stay back stay back. Get a good pitch to hit. Then quick hands quick hands quick hands

Like markets. Like design. Like most work, actually.

A typical Matt Cain start. Dominance punctuated by an inning or two of wildness, and a pair of long, loud home runs. Typical power pitcher start. They’re going to throw the fastball early in the count to get ahead and they’re going to give up home runs with it.

One of the highlights of the game: In the top of the 7th, Ryu came up and promptly ripped a base hit. The Korean contingency was quite pleased. Ryu put his jacket on and took his lead. Cain came home, Posey snapped up and fired a throw to Brandon Belt, who tagged the Korean pitcher for the first out in the inning. Bang! Typical Buster Posey play. And man, did that shut them Korean boys up.

My bad fan rant: In the seventh, the Giants fans sitting to my right agreed that Matt Cain wasn’t pitching well tonight. Sorry guys, but 2 runs in 7 is a quality start. You expect to win a lot of games giving up 2 runs in 7.

Brian Wilson came on in the 8th. Wearing Dodger Blue. Nobody really cared. Some people cheered. Some people booed. He pitched a scoreless inning. Life went on.

That’s what this game was a little like: John Mellencamp’s Jack and Diane. Or Bad Religion’s No Control. The World Won’t Stop Without Buster Posey getting one last clutch hit. And he did. In the ninth. To make things interesting. For a moment.

It wasn’t to be. I shuffled with the crowd to Caltrain. Packed train. Besides the fans? Lots of second, third generation immigrants. Coming home from their 14 hour days. Talked with a guy from India. His parents came over in the 80s. It reminded me of France. A different kind of France than you might think. The banlieue. Southeast-Asian diaspora. 1998, coming home from a day in the City. Meaux / Chelles-Gournay train. Same tiredness of well-dressed, hard working immigrant kids. “Un mobilis sil vous plait, ahn ah quatre.”

Equinox, Portland

Equinox yesterday. Portland. Sun is out and it’s an hour until the chicken needs to go in the oven, why not go down to that new taproom and have a cold one? We get shoes on, we step outside, and what do you know, it’s raining. Walking under the walnut tree trying not to get wet “It’s fall and everything is falling” and just in time, down comes this nut, not two feet from our heads.

By the time we get to the corner – three, maybe four houses away – a deluge has ensued. Rain, in buckets, coming in over and around our puny umbrella. We have to run for a tree. A nice, green tree still full of foliage. Stand there listening to it come down, pounding now. Laughing. The shower, on high. Water, from the sky.

A minute later and it’s done. We resume our walk. At Division we cross and check out the new construction. Heading into the taproom, they’re sliding open their full-length windows. The sun is starting to peak through the clouds again…

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categories Fall

Week On The Road

Wake up in Portland. Wake up to grey September, the airborne ocean. Like the Coast, only 90 miles inland. No bike to ride. Zipcar to the café, to the marché. Rental car to Port Orchard via Olympia, Tacoma, Narrows Bridge.

Port Orchard in late summer. Idyllic breeze on the back lawn. Boil an octopus Gallician-style, with potatoes. Grilled veggies on the side. Nice bottle of Washington Bordeaux. Dinner with mom, a slow feast, telling stories about the past.

Back to Portland on Monday. Calls in the car all the way south on that 5. Get into town, late summer sunshine, pick my girl up from work. Four days of work ahead of me. Cloud computing: GitHub, AWS, Office 365, Google Hangouts. A blend of providers. It all equals the ability to work from anywhere. Not just work, but work effectively No syncing problems. No latency issues. No ‘this isn’t available to me’ or ‘I wish I was in the office’ or ‘the conference call isn’t letting me in’.

The turn of seasons. Heat days followed by cool days. The switch of influence: Continental and marine. Can happen in two hours and it means thirty-plus degrees in the middle of a September day.

Hitting our favorites: Barista. Coava. Tasting chardonnay at Mt. Tabor. ‘Hog and Rocks’ at Woodsman. The next day, lamb shanks, Willamette Valley grown flageleot beans, a bottle from our cellar: Our favorite 2010 Pinot, the Carriere Vespidae. All these things I love about Portland: Interested people doing interesting things. Ingredient town.

Sunday morning. Flying out of the commuter terminal at PDX. Storm morning, first of the year, hail and lightning headed our way. SFO flight I’m on is delayed two hours. There’s a seat left on the SJC flight but it’s leaving now. I’m at the counter, leaning in with just my backpack on. The attendant typing furiously. Racing another attendant across the terminal who is trying to do the same thing, get the man leaning into her counter that last seat on this flight. I can see the plane out the window. The cockpit. Pilot ready to spin’em up, let’s get this show on the road. She throws the boarding pass at me. I throw it at the boarding attendant who throws it into the machine “You better hurry, they’re ready to go” and I push out the door into the drizzle and hustle across the tarmack, the lapels of my coat flying, forty eyes on me out the windows of the plane as I hustle up the ramp and bomb it down the aisle to the empty seat in the back row. I’m not even buckled in when I hear those prop engines start turning…

Commuter Terminal

Something about the commuter terminal I adore.

It’s old-school flying. ‘Through the door sir, second airplane on your left’.

Walking across the tarmac. Takes a measure of responsibility you don’t usually have at the airport. You could, in theory, get lost out there. Look left and look right, make sure you’re not about to get run over by a fuel truck, or a jumbo jet. Sounds: Jet blasts, metal clanging, baggage handlers swearing.

A prop-driven plane with thirteen rows and ten passengers. Find a seat, just don’t take that one cause it belongs to someone. All this responsibility. You’re used to being treated like a child at the airport. Undressed at security, here’s the ramp, here’s your seat, now buckle your belt sir. At the commuter terminal it’s just travel. Like a train, or the bus.


categories Travel

Portland To Prague

they’re playing kickball
in the gloaming
bottles clinking
straining to see the ball –
no one wants to go in.

And you want heaven on earth? Tonight. Stars in heavy syrup. Sliver moon clinging to the tops of the branches. How close to the heavenly dome? With 80 degrees and a gentle north breeze blowing, I’d guess we’re inside them Pearly Gates already.

In the garden:
Cucumbers, tomatoes, a squash plumping.

A night like this. Prague. 1998. I get knocked down, but I get up again. A violin, notes framed by the echos of those old world streets. Beers (“Light or dark?”)and shorts. Got shot down by a princess, I just want a kiss on the Charles Bridge. Pissing the night away. Orange and purple sky. Buskers on the bridge. Selling; selling, suddenly. The subway to the wrong side of town, we got mugged, then we walked back through the gypsy camp. Refugees. You’re never gonna keep me down.

List -> Launch, Sit -> Be

The challenge, for me, is to be a checklist person, to be passionate about accomplishment. To launch. But also to not be enslaved to it. To sit without thinking “Oh I’d better be sitting here thinking of some shit to do” but just to sit and wonder how wonderful it is to just sit and wonder.

“In a true you-and-I relationship, we are present mindfully, nonintrusively, the way we are present with things in nature.We do not tell a birch tree it should be more like an elm. We face it with no agenda, only an appreciation that becomes participation: ‘I love looking at this birch’ becomes ‘I am this birch’ and then ‘I and this birch are opening to a mystery that transcends and holds us both.”

David Richo, When the Past Is Present: Healing the Emotional Wounds that Sabotage our Relationships