Category Archives: Hobbies

Major Milestones

The difference between a half marathon and a full marathon is THE WALL. The wall is the point of the run where your body stops burning carbohydrates and switches over to fat; this usually occurs at the 14 to 18 mile mark. For most people, this is the point where a marathon pushes them to their limits.

I finally made it past the wall this week. I hit it hard and it finally came down instead of knocking me back. Even with this success, I can’t see how I can manage 26 miles in a month. I was bleeding in places I’ve never bled before. It was brutal.

The Lost series finale was last Sunday. It was brilliant. After so many lackluster endings to my favorite shows, it was refreshing to see Lost stay true to its character. With only a short dreary lull between mid-season 2 to the penultimate episode of season 3, Lost has set a high bar for entertainment in its six seasons.

It’s scary to believe that the show that defined my return to cilivization after the Peace Corps is ending. I’m having my own personal “Lost” experience this weekend as I will be attending the wedding of one of my closest Peace Corps friends. Like the finale, it will be like a reunion of some of my favorite people from the most memorable years of my life prior to us moving on to the next step in our lives.

I spent this Memorial Day weekend relaxing after another long run. I also watched three seasons of a kid’s show called Avatar: The Last Airbender on netflix watch now. M. Night Shamalayan is turning it into a movie. The show will be a tough act to follow; I haven’t been this enthralled with anime since the classic “Spirited Away”.

Testing commitment

Over the past 6 months, I’ve gone through a number of computers:
– HP 2140
– Viliv S5
– Lenovo Thinkpad X200s
– HP 5101
– Sony Vaio P
– Toshiba NB305
– HP 5102
– Lenovo Thinkpad X201s

It’s becoming clear I have a problem – I can’t commit to my gadgets. While I’m ecstatic that eBay allows me to buy and sell them with few financial consequences, I’m wasting far too much time looking for a miracle. My goal has been to find a perfect combination of battery life, portability, features, and performance. I’m not going to find something that makes me happy.

However, I’ve found satisfaction with my new Apple iPad. It is simply the best portable device I have ever used. The touch features and battery life are in a class of their own. As an e-reader, it can’t be beat; I’ve read more books than I have in years using the Kindle application. I love working on blogs and documents with its gorgeous display. Despite the wonderful applications that can be used on an iPad, it’s clear that it can’t be used for everything. It has virtually no way to connect to any USB devices, no real file system, and there are no applications that allow me to code websites.

A net book is a cheap, slow, and smaller version of a regular laptop. An iPad is something new entirely. Over the past month, I’ve realized that it’s perfect for all my portable needs and I can’t be without it.

I’ve placed an order for a new 15 inch MacBook Pro. I feel convinced that a MacBook plus an iPad will meet all my needs. I’ve decided that I’m going all in with this theory. I’ve purchased AppleCare which is a three year warranty on an Apple product. This MacBook will be my last computer purchase for the next three years. Wow. That’s scary.

I’m getting married this year; commitment is a big deal for me this year ūüôā

Scott Oki at Seattle Works

One of the goals of Seattle Works is to inspire.  As a board member, I often find that inspiration at our monthly meetings.  On September 15th, we had a visit from Scott Oki who spoke to us about his current projects and his efforts to improve public education.

Scott Oki is a former senior-vice president of Microsoft who helped develop their international operations.  Since leaving Microsoft in 1992, he has been involved some amazing efforts in the community.  He has served on dozens of advisory boards for both for-profit and non-profit companies.  He also runs the Oki Foundation which tackles many societal issues. 

Initially, he talked about a new social entrepreneurship idea that is geared to bringing donors closer to the people that they help.  This effort focuses on people who are willing to donate small amounts of money to help those in need around the world.   With basic technology such as camera phones and free Web 2.0 cloud based services, this new organization will help donors see the impact of their contribution and build an emotional connection with the people being helped in developing nations.  By combining this effort with social media networks, Scott talked about the tremendous viral potential of this strategy.   

After that, he focused on his research on public education.  I was alarmed to learn about the following issues in the American school systems:

  • There are more non-teachers than teachers on the payroll of school districts
  • A large number of teachers have tenure which makes them impossible to fire even when they are ineffective
  • It‚Äôs difficult to reward insanely great teachers due to unions
  • Children are often socially promoted to the next grade instead of earning the right by merit.¬†¬† This hurts the entire class as the educator must babysit instead of teach
  • Parents have no choice in where to send their children even if they know the school is awful
  • Standardized curriculums and testing have taken the creativity out of the classroom as teachers are encouraged to teach to a test instead of to the subject

The sense of outrage in the room was palpable.  Scott then talked about his recent book and his ideas to reform the educational system. The name of the book is Outrageous Learning: An Education Manifesto and it is available on Amazon.  I’ve had a chance to read it and it is brilliant.

The mark of a great speaker is the amount of discussion that happens after their ideas settle into the audience.¬† After Scott left, the board talked about his ideas and the impacts of the educational crisis on our generation.¬† Some of my closest friends who teach in our public school systems have been laid off recently; these are people who I would consider ‚Äúinsanely great‚ÄĚ.¬† Several other board members mentioned this as well.¬† We also talked about how the WASL and the ‚ÄúNo Child Left Behind‚ÄĚ act have affected local school districts.¬†¬† We also asked ourselves if radical change was possible or even necessary.¬†

I’m always impressed with the diverse experiences and opinions of our board members.  The inspiring session with Scott Oki was a great break from the tactical work around Seattle Works events and budget. 

Break’s over.  SWANK is coming up fast!  Looking forward to another amazing auction night on October 10th!

Silly Goose!

It’s been an interesting couple of months ūüôā

The first version of the project I was working on in the Gates Foundation was released a couple months ago.¬† The feedback so far is almost universal disapproval.¬† It’s humorous that this response is better than what I expected.

  • The problems that have been identified are fixable
  • The conversations to improve the¬†system have finally taken off
  • Leadership has stayed committed to the goals that were defined

I may have skipped out on an MBA for this opportunity, but there are no classes in the world that could have given me a better business education.  What an incredible experience!

I’m adopting a kitten.¬† My girlfriend and I named him “Silly Goose” months ago and now we finally have him in our hands.¬† Well… I will have him in my hands soon.¬† Megan is on a two month stint as a nurse with Project HOPE in South America.¬† Silly Goose and I are looking forward to welcoming her home.

In my short time as a pseudo-bachelor, I’ve run through an amazing assortment of gadgets:

  • Sold my 17″ Macbook Pro and got an HP 2140 – I love Apple and its eBay resale value.¬† Surprisingly, I sold the Macbook Pro for $50 more than what I purchased it for six months ago.¬† The tiny HP 2140 netbook¬†has proven itself to be a ridiculously cheap and effective replacement.
  • Bought and sold a Viliv S5 – I worked with a tiny OQO machine for over an year and loved it.¬† However, computers that small are not really¬†for productivity.¬† The company is now out of business.¬† I purchased a Viliv S5¬†from Hong Kong to see what the buzz¬†was about and sold it one day later.¬† I¬†couldn’t justify¬†keeping it.
  • Bought a¬†Slacker G2¬†Radio – I’m very impressed with the Slacker Radio Service.¬† I don’t like purchasing music and I no longer have a regular radio.¬†¬†Slacker provides customized music stations and artist discovery for a very reasonable¬†price. You either hate or love the music it plays and it customizes the playlist accordingly.
  • Purchased a Advanced Frames Inflatable¬†kayak – I¬†knew I wanted a kayak but I never thought I would get an inflatable.¬† The Advanced Frames kayak weighs as much as a regular kayak but is infinitely more portable.¬† I take¬†it down to a launching point on Lake Union and¬†inflate it.¬† This is a purchase you can’t¬†justify¬†by dividing the cost of a kayak by the number of weekend kayak rental¬†trips.¬†¬†I simply kayak¬†much more often because I own one.
  • Bought a Kindle 2 eBook Reader – Another purchase that can’t be justified by simple math.¬† With an eBook reader, I just read a lot more books than I would than at a library or through a brick and mortar book store.¬† It’s wonderful!

There are a ton of cool gadgets coming out soon.¬† I’m sure I’ll be checking a few of them out.

  • Palm Pre – I predict that Palm will resurrect itself with this awesome phone and finally give the iPhone some competition.¬† I don’t I’ll get it because I’m not interested in a two year contract with Sprint
  • New Generation Apple Devices – I know a new iPhone is coming.¬† What else could Apple pull out this year?¬† What else will I initially dismiss but eventually buy?
  • Larger Kindle DX – Finally, a full page eBook reader that I can print my work documents to.¬† Who needs a 6″ screen when you can have 9.7″?
  • Nokia N97 – Unfortunately, I’ve pre-ordered this device despite knowing it won’t be a good fit.¬† For $200 off the retail price plus a bluetooth headset, I’m sure it will eBay well.

I’ve also caught up on a ridiculous number of TV Shows:

  • First Season of Fringe – This looks like a cross between the X-Files and Alias.¬† Its one of the best new shows I’ve seen in a while.¬† With all the good shows ending over the past couple of years – the Wire, Shield, Heroes (I like to pretend that ended after the first season), Sarah Conner Chronicles, Battlestar Galactica¬†– it’s nice to have a new show to enjoy.
  • Seventh Season of 24 – Almost too predictable after 7 seasons.¬† It’s still fun to watch, but its novelty is gone.¬† Jack Bauer needs to retire.
  • Dollhouse – It’s been renewed for another season, but I’m not sure if I like this show yet.¬† I’ll give it time.
  • Season 5 of Lost – This is definitely my favorite show of all time.¬† The season finale was another game changer.¬† It’s too bad that there is only one season left.

I’ve had visits from my friends in other states and countries, and I’ve taken a few trips on my own.¬† Life is good.¬† I will be launching another workoutrageous competition.¬† I’m looking into twitter integration…

Malcolm Gladwell

One of the main benefits of being at the Gates Foundation is the large number of special guests and speakers we have every year.¬† Last Friday, we hosted a chat with the brilliant Malcolm Gladwell.¬†¬† I had never read any of his books before but I had heard glowing reviews for Tipping Point and Blink.¬† The focus of his discussion was his new book – Outliers.¬† Despite the name, the real intent of the book is not to point out what is unique about an individual or situation, it is to present the unique set of circumstances that lead to an “outlier”.¬† He was brilliant!¬† Some of the things he discussed:

‚ÄĘ Why rice growing traditions in Southeast Asia have led to higher math test scores
‚ÄĘ Why most elite hockey players are born during the early parts of the year
‚ÄĘ Why the birthdate of a majority of our software tycoons is within the same three year period

I purchased his book for a friend and got it signed, however I could not stop myself from reading it from page to page over the past weekend.  It is brilliant!

The inauguration of Barack Obama is tomorrow.¬† One of Malcolm’s most interesting speaking points was that America sees Obama as an outlier but in many ways he is not.¬† Symbollically he might be the fruition of Martin Luthor King’s dreams, but technically his background doesn’t match.¬† In the end, it doesn’t really matter.¬† Tomorrow we will have an inspiring new president with an inbox from hell.¬† I have tremendous faith in him.

Salsa, Sunshine, and Stanford

I started salsa lessons earlier this week. ¬†As expected, I’ve forgotten all my lessons from a few years ago. ¬†My novice companion is completely¬†embarrassing¬†me on the dance floor. ¬†She’s picking up the moves so fast, it’s ridiculous. ¬†It’s going to take a lot more work for me to do this. ¬†AGAIN. ¬†I couldn’t be more delighted. This is where my¬†perseverance intersects with my lack of shame. ¬†This is me at my best.

It’s still sunny in Seattle. ¬†Usually the changing of the weather here has a huge impact on my mood. ¬†Will this year be different? ¬†I certainly hope so.

It’s also the time of the year when I need to plan for the future. ¬†Last year, I made the mistake of deciding on business school but only applying to Stanford. ¬†I still think an MBA is in my future, but I will apply to more schools. ¬†I do want to come back to the Gates Foundation when I’m finished.

I watched a couple of movies this week: the critically acclaimed Pan’s¬†Labyrinth and the manic Mission Impossible 3. ¬†I disliked both of them. ¬†MI3 was a waste of time… an episode of Alias without likeable characters or an overarching story line. ¬†Pan’s Labyrinth deserved its accolades. It is brilliantly written and well-acted. ¬†It reminded me of Mystic River… never has a brilliant movie felt more abusive. ¬†It’s advertised as a fairy tale but it was more of a historical piece mixed in with the delusions of a young girl in misery. ¬†MI3 was easily forgettable. ¬†Pan’s Labyrinth is not and I would not have seen it if I knew what I was in for.

I’ve replaced my addiction to reading with a Netflix subscription. ¬†That’s what a new 52″ HDTV will do to you.

Two Incredible Achievements in Entertainment

This past week, I had a chance to see both The Dark Knight and complete Metal Gear Solid 4.  I doubt that I will ever see two mediums of entertainment achieve such greatness ever again.

The Dark Knight was spectacular.¬† Rarely have I ever felt like a movie about superheroes could transcend the lines between good and evil.¬† Christopher Nolan took Batman to new heights and Heath Ledger set the bar for villainy.¬† The body count in this film is tremendous and some of the deaths are mind-blowing.¬† However, the film goes far beyond its shock value and weaves a message of epic proportions.¬†¬† Its a long movie but every minute counts.¬† I’ve rarely been this engaged with a film.¬†

I also completed Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid 4 for the PS3.¬† It’s a masterpiece!¬† Despite a convoluted, heavy handed story, it¬†redefines the standards¬†for virtual entertainment.¬† The graphics are gorgeous and the gameplay is deep and challenging.¬† The execution was perfect.¬†

If I was looking for an escape from my work and my life, I found it this week in my entertainment.¬†¬† I almost feel like I need to grab a good book to top this off… I’m on a winning streak!

The Burn of a New Workout Program

Workoutrageous V4 begins tomorrow. ¬†We have 17 participants! ¬†For a lot of them, working out twice a day is no biggie. ¬†They’ve always had a good regimen and all they have to do is post their workouts. ¬†I would argue that they will have a more challenging time with this game. ¬†When you build a habit and someone asks you to change it slightly, it can be hard to adjust your routine… I expect to see several good workouts get dismissed because of our strict logging rules.

For others, this is a chance to dive into a new workout program with the support of friends and a fun competition. ¬†They’ve got two great motivations – get in shape and get a win. ¬†I’ve been off a serious workout program for the past six months, and I’m ecstatic to jump back in. ¬†It’s been my longest break in over 15 years!

Over the past few days, I’ve had a chance to measure my strength and monitor my cardiovascular conditioning. ¬†I was at my peak an year ago while training for the Melbourne Marathon (which surprisingly had a positive impact on my weight training as well). ¬†I’m nowhere close to feeling like I did back then. ¬†However, it doesn’t take a very long time to recover muscle mass. ¬†My conditioning should return as well in due time.

I’ve decided to focus on shorter runs and a decent weight training routine. ¬†I don’t feel ready for another Boston Qualifier this year, and if I push my luck I may end up injured again like last year. ¬†I’ve decided to include leg training as part of my workouts which hasn’t been part of my plan for many years. ¬†Training my hamstrings, quads, and glutes has never been enjoyable. ¬†While it took me a large amount of time to build my upper body, my lower body has always responded to workouts abnormally well. ¬†This imbalance doesn’t include my calves… which would have been nice.

While I’m not a professional body builder, I’ve always taken a body builder’s attitude towards weight training. ¬†It’s not just about strength; it’s about selecting what parts of the body need training to achieve your “look”. ¬†While genes determine much of your physical build, there is tremendous potential to work within those limitations. ¬†For me, the benefits are endless. . ¬†The “look” makes me feel healthy and more confident. ¬†Others may not notice it, but I’m sure that they can feel my pride when I have it.

It’s kind of like the “Magnum” in Zoolander…

Workoutrageous Unleashed upon Unsuspecting Public!

Workoutrageous Title Image

I can’t believe it! I’ve actually completed a personal project! It’s been in Beta for so long… 99% complete for almost forever. Now it’s going to get it’s first big test!

I built most of workoutrageous by handcoding. What I thought would be incredibly difficult took me 20% of my time. The other 90% was spent working on bugs with the integration of Phorum, a great open source forum software package. That adds up to 110%… and that’s how much I feel I gave this little gem.

The 90% problem was my fault though. Once again, I suffered from hubris after my brilliant 20% and did not look for free developer help on the Phorum forum. When I finally did, I got the response to my questions within 30-40 minutes. God bless you Maurice Makaay!

Starting Gates and Hitting the Wall at Camp Muir

Starting GatesHow often can a person say that they started work at a company along with its future CEO? ¬†“Starting Gates” is the official training program for the Gates Foundation. ¬†It is a polished introduction to everything the Foundation works on and what its employees need to be aware of. ¬†Its a lot of material for three days, and it’s admirable that it lives up to its mission. ¬†Our group of 20 people also made pasta together at the Blue Ribbon Cooking School nearby, which was delicious and the event was a great team-building experience. ¬†Highlights of the training were:

  • Bill Gates Snr. spoke to us about how the foundation was formed. ¬†He was so casual about it… I was struck by how vibrant, pragmatic, and friendly he was.
  • Patty Stonesifier, the departing CEO, discussed her background with the Foundation and how she moved it from a focus on libraries to the biggest non-profit organization in the world. ¬†I was moved by her tears during the presentation. ¬†It was obvious that she has given her heart and soul to these efforts and that she fully expected us to continue her legacy.
  • Raj Shah talked about Global Development and I was stunned at both his presentation skills, his passion, and the depth of knowledge that he shared. ¬†It’s the newest program in the Foundation and it has incredible potential. . ¬†I’ve known that I wanted to be part of Global Development since I joined the foundation and I am more convinced than ever that I need to figure out how to get there as a program officer.
  • We had the pleasure of attending the three day training with Jeff Raikes, who is the future CEO, and his executive assistant. ¬†They were asking so many of the questions we hear from our Subject Matter Experts at the foundation. ¬†I’m certain that they will do an amazing job at the Foundation.¬†
  • Our start group was made up of some of the most remarkable people I have ever met. ¬†They had such diverse backgrounds. ¬†It’s likely I won’t see many of them again because of the broad spectrum of work here, but it’s good to know the Foundation is in good hands.
  • Finally, I learned about the “Boss”. ¬†The Boss is all the disadvantaged people in the world who lack access to the basic building blocks of a good life. ¬†At the Foundation, our mission is to do whatever it takes to ensure that all lives have equal value. It’s am ambitious challenge, but as long as we keep the Boss at the center of our decisions, we’ll move closer to our goals.

I was struck by how different this was from all the other orientations I’ve ever had in my life. ¬†It wasn’t a socially driven experience. ¬†There were no cheesy icebreakers or late-night binge drinking sessions. ¬† You felt that the material was a snapshot of the company at a particular moment in time… that in a few months, the orientation would have different presentation all together as the game changed. ¬† I had a great time! ¬†It wasn’t the high I get from drinking company “kool-aid”, but the feeling that I was part of an amazing mission.

A Champion and a ChickenThe week began and ended with hikes. ¬†I took a trip to Twin Falls with a few friends to reconnect. ¬†I was surprised how much the event tired me out… it was great for socializing but my conditioning was off. ¬†I should have realized it was an omen. ¬†At the end of the sleepless tiring week, I went to Camp Muir with some champion hikers. ¬†I’ve done this hike twice before. ¬†The first time was challenging, but I made it up and down fairly well. ¬†The second time was during my training for the Samsung Melbourne Marathon, and it felt easy. ¬†This time, I hit a brick wall by the time we hit Pebble Creek about a third of the way in. ¬†I was struggling and eventually I had to stop. ¬†It was both painful and¬†embarrassing. ¬†The others were forced to cut the hike short. ¬†I don’t know if the additional snow on the mountain was partially responsible for my breakdown, but its becoming clear that I can’t take my fitness level for granted anymore.

This makes the launch of Workoutrageous this week even more important for me. ¬†I’m going to need a push to get back into shape. ¬†I don’t know if many people will join in, but it’ll be a building block for everyone to build a good habit and support a great cause.