Super

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The line for the movie stretched around the block but Annette was giddy with excitement.   She had been waiting for years for this film and was in full fangirl mode.  Better yet, Matt had agreed to come with her, even though he wasn’t a fan of the comic.   As the clock struck 11 with just an hour to go before the special midnight showing she took a long pull on her energy drink and did a quick butt wiggle / fist pump / dance of joy.

He looked at her and laughed, shaking his head.  “Should I be worried you’re going to run away with Captain Blammo?”

His tone was joking, not actually at all worried about her eloping with a fictional character.  She loved his confidence.  Matt was no bodybuilder, but he was one of those rare nerdy guys who realized there’s no reason a person can’t be smart and still have muscles.  He could pick her up with one arm and hardly even notice the weight.  That’s not why she’d fallen in love with him of course, but it sure didn’t hurt.

“Hell no!”  Her reply was play-petulant.  “I wouldn’t want to be with a superhero anyway.  Everyone knows the hero’s lover is bait for every bad guy out there who wants some easy leverage.  And I’m just not cut out to be a damsel in distress.”

“So what you’re saying is that if I ever get super powers you’re leaving me then…. good to know!”

He laughed at her quick “Yup” and tickled her as she squeaked with delight.

“Alright,  note to self: I’ll be avoiding gamma rays, radioactive spiders, mutagenic ooze, and bionic implants from here on out then.”

“So you’d choose me over the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound?”

“When I’m with you I already feel like I can.”

He always knew the right thing to say, THAT was why she’d fallen in love with him.

Peachy

Posted in fiction

The riots had been going on for days and, while Mo disliked the new government as much as the next guy, he was getting tired of living in a war zone.  Every wave of protests brought a wave of repression and new deaths, spurring another wave of protests.  The air was crisp and sharp – electric with the sense that a resolution is coming and it will involve blood on the cobblestones.  Either the government would fall or the police would crush the movement once and for all.  Mo didn’t know which way things would shake out, only that he was running low on food and with most of the grocery stores either locked up tight or looted things were looking bleak.

He picked his way through the streets carefully, doing his best to avoid both the protest encampments and the police who had taken to savagely beating anyone they caught alone who might be even remotely connected to the movement.  The protests and reprisals had mostly been focused in the city core so he figured his best bet was off in the suburbs.  As a student, Mo was nowhere near being able to afford a car and the cobblestones all along here had been ripped up to form barricades anyway – which of course meant no buses.   Fortunately, this early in the morning the sun was barely in the sky and the streets were mostly empty.

A steady walking pace took him out of the city core and into the neighboring town, 5 kilometers in about an hour.  The farmers coming in from the country to sell their produce were as unable to make the trip in as most of the people in the city were of making the trip out and they had set up an impromptu market in an abandoned lot.  Either the local police had been paid off to leave them alone or someone higher up was smart enough to realize police need to eat too and had given permission –  no one was talking about that part of things and Mo didn’t ask.   One stand in particular caught his attention – piled high with fresh peaches from a farm just outside the city, the fruit which had been destined for urban markets was  starting to go soft and over-ripe.

The farmer was desperate to sell and practically giving the crop away.  It was ironic – in past protests the farmers had been key in setting up roadblocks and supporting the movement but this time around the urban unions has declared the strike in response to the murder of union activists without stopping to consider the impact that the timing would have on their rural comrades.  Coming at the peak of the harvest it could hardly be worse!  Mo would have expected the man to be more upset but he seemed resigned to it

“Revolutions aren’t about convenience my young friend.  Sometimes you can choose when to fight and sometimes the fight chooses you.”

Maybe so.  But for now, Mo was more interested in choosing the best ripe peaches.  He picked 6 and handed over the money – both men laughing because there was no way to know if the paper would even be worth anything in a month.

He walked through the market and ate his breakfast (sticky peach juice inevitably running down his chin and into his beard) and almost tripped over a group of ragged children playing tag among the stands.  Many of the merchants had food they knew they couldn’t sell and that was going bad and had turned a blind eye to the little hands that were helping themselves.   A few days of such feasting had put the kids in a fine mood – years of worry and hunger erased from young faces, at least temporarily.  For kids who usually got by on scraps, a crate of fresh peaches was a treasure more precious than anything to be found in the presidents palace.

Watching them play, Mo wondered what future held. Maybe the President’s forces would drown the movement in blood.  And maybe the revolutionaries would win and end up being just as bad once in power.  The world is uncertain and people almost never get what they deserve for good or ill.  But watching the kids laugh, oblivious to all of it, Mo felt something hard in the pit of his stomach start to melt. The cynicism he wore like armor starting to crack.  He smiled.

Opportunity Cost

Posted in Life | Tagged , ,

I’ve been looking to buy a house here in Oakland and the whole experience is a bit surreal.  I’ll save you the blow by blow, but looking at home values, school rankings, and the OPD’s crime map; a few things jump out at me.

Firstly, people talk a lot about crime in Oakland but looking at that map there’s crime almost everywhere (except Albany apparently – it’s a big blank spot on the crime map.  Either criminals avoid Albany like Kryptonite or they just don’t report their crime statistics).

Secondly, the quality of education a child receives in California varies even within a city.  This is not terribly surprising – lower income students whose parents are working two jobs to survive lack the support at home that wealthier kids get and are more likely to require extra resources to thrive.  What is surprising is not that there is disparity, but the degree of the disparity.

To put it bluntly, it is a crime that there are ANY 1-star public schools. Continue reading

Learning to fly

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Today is Ride to Work day so I wanted to share the story of how I started riding a motorcycle.

I have always loved motorcycles and I’ve never felt really comfortable on 4 wheels.  I rode a bicycle everywhere through my teens and most of my 20’s and didn’t really start driving a car until I was 26.  I also tend to let my thoughts wander and get easily distracted by music, passengers, etc.  Let’s just say I’ve never been the best driver.  Knowing that about myself, I always figured I was better off to stick to a car since at least I had a seatbelt, airbags, etc to protect me.  So despite being an avid bike-watcher from a young age, I’ve only recently started riding. Continue reading

Perfect

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A bright green water bottle lay on its side on his otherwise immaculate desk, lid off.  The laptop was almost certainly fried – he hadn’t been fast enough to stop the water from getting into it.

Perfect.  Absolutely f—ing perfect.

The real danger of course with wet circuitry isn’t the water itself – it’s the electricity flowing through the board shorting out; so in theory a machine that’s off shouldn’t be damaged by liquid as long as it was dried thoroughly before being started again.

Unfortunately, he had been in the middle of a video call and the smell of burnt ozone wasn’t a hopeful sign.  Worse, the computer was a Mac and some idiot at Apple had decided users shouldn’t be able to remove their own batteries so he couldn’t just pull the plug and remove the battery to cut power quickly.   Instead he’d had choose between closing the lid to put it in a sleep state (ie not quite off and still a chance of frying things) or going through a shutdown sequence that required running the machine for an additional 30 seconds with who knows how much water  on the motherboard.  He had opted for the former and had the machine bottom-up on a towel.  He couldn’t even open the lid to blow dry it without it turning back on and risking permanent damage.   Literally the only thing to do was leave it alone and hope.

Perfect.

And then there was the news that had made him drop a full water bottle onto his brand new work laptop in the first place – after 6 years together Elaine was dumping him.  She had a whole list of reasons, white noise mostly.  The big one – the real one- was that she was bored with him and she’d met someone new.

There are a million ways for love to die – whether through deliberate hurt or unintentional neglect.  Truth be told, John had often put his work ahead of everything else in his life – including her.  He had always found it easy to lose himself in the work – focus on the task at hand and see it through to completion.  Most times he thought that was a positive character trait but maybe somewhere along the way he’d lost a little more of himself than he’d intended.  And now he’d lost Elaine too.

Not that she was blameless – he and his boring job paid for her lifestyle after all.  And right now he was the one paying for her to spend a week in Hawaii and meet her new lover.  They had planned to go together but, predictably, something had come up and he’d had to cancel at the last moment.  She was livid and declared she was going without him and he’d said that was just fine (it really wasn’t fine) and that he couldn’t deal with her right now anyway.  She had stormed out in tears and he’d spent the night drinking and writing code that – in the cold sober light of morning – he’d been forced to scrap.

That had been 4 days ago and neither of them had reached out to the other since  – perhaps because of despair or fear of appearing weak or just out of reluctance to confront the obvious.  When she popped up on his Skype chat and asked if he could spare a minute to talk he almost said he was busy.

It’s hard to spend time if you don’t make time, and as he sat there staring at the (probably dead) laptop and wrestling with his heart he realized just how glad he was that she was a thousand miles away and that he was completely incapable of logging back on and getting into a yelling match with her.  Maybe a dead laptop wasn’t the end of the world.  If nothing else it meant he couldn’t work any more tonight and he was in no fit state to focus anyway.

He mopped up the rest of the water on the desk that he’d been ignoring while tending to his computer.   A quick search around the disheveled apartment revealed jacket, wallet, keys, hat, and phone – all the necessities of modern life.  On the street below, downtown was alive with people out and about and the bars were already getting crowded.  So many lives, so much life.

Time to lose himself in it.  And maybe find himself as well.

What to track in your Mobile App?

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Brand new blog post up on the HasOffers corporate blog!

Acquiring users costs money and keeping them is hard. Every app has some amount of churn but how much and under what circumstances depend entirely on you and the experience you’ve created. Since it’s impossible to measure uninstalls – on all three mobile platforms uninstalls happen at the OS level outside the app and are thus invisible to the app developer and to SDK-based measurement – the next best thing is to capture key engagement points and measure dropoff based on the number of users who hit each of these.

Since the functionality and flow of mobile apps vary so radically, it’s impossible to identify specific events that everyone should track. So instead I’m going to go through a few common types of events that I see our clients measure and the value propositions behind each.  Continue reading…

Jacob

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Jacob was having a great day. One of those days that you look back on for years and remember as a perfect moment of happiness. After months of thinking and planning about how to ask Katy to marry him he’d just blurted it out as he drove her to work.  To his great surprise, the answer had been an easy ‘of course’ and a smile that lit her face up so bright he was sure astronauts could see the glow from space. Jacob was thrilled. He felt like a kid on christmas morning who’d asked for something incredible, never expecting to actually get it, and found it waiting for him under the tree. As he pulled away from the parking lot and into the intersection he could practically hear his heart beating he was so happy.

He never even saw the other car coming. Continue reading

10 Rules for Startups

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I was hiking with a good friend from a previous company this last weekend and we got to talking about some of the things we’d both learned over the last few years of working in tech startups.  I mentioned that I’ve put together a list of rules that for me determine whether I think a company is likely to succeed or not and he expressed interest in seeing it, so here it is.  I reference these rules both during the job hunting process as I’m evaluating opportunities from various recruiters and to decide if and when it’s time to jump ship and look for something new. Continue reading