Category Archives: Miscellanous

Invest in your own health

Since I’ve been about 14 years old, I’ve been an entrepreneur.   I started mowing lawn, shoveling driveways and painting houses.  I bought a freaking office desk with my own money when I was 16 – ok I admit it that’s a bit weird.  I started writing software, in Pascal, on an Apple II+ in 1978.  I earned every penny to put myself through UMass/Amherst.  I became that legendary startup guy that worked 80+ hours.

Along the way, I lost track of the importance of eating right and exercising.  I was very aware of all the advice about taking care of yourself for all the right reasons.  I just never spent the time.  Until I was about 30, I completely got away with it – 5’9″ and 145 lbs – no matter what.  Then, 155 as soon as I turned 30, like it came in my birthday present – no big deal, 10 lbs.  As they say, onward and upward – working the long hours and on my way to 205 lbs by 50.  I wasn’t sleeping well, I spent several 3 to 4 days stints nursing a horrible back problem and my productivity was lower than years gone by.  I got really tired of feeling terrible and dragging ass all the time.

Starting in March, 2014 – no particular event or occasion – I started eating more reasonably, no crazy diet just smaller portions and better choices.  I also started going to the gym for an hour a day.  It was a big struggle to find an hour a day – how pathetic is that.  It was super boring too – headphones on an elliptical machine for a half hour and a half hour on some Nautilus equipment.  There were some strange mental wrestling matches about an hour a day, but in general, I stayed on track.  I lost the easy 15 lbs in the first 3 or four months and I started riding my bicycle in July of 2014.  The bicycle was far more interesting than the gym, so the rest of last summer was bit easier.  I still wasn’t convinced that I was committed, so I stuck with my 1985 Centurion LeMans RS 12 speed bicycle – that’s right, the 30 year old bike.  I used MapMyRide on my cellphone and my dashboard tells me that I rode about 600 miles that summer.  I went back to the boring gym over this past year’s record setting New England winter and weighted in at 170 lbs in March of 2015.

CycleBeing the geeky, data guy – I got a Garmin 810 GPS for my biking this summer.  It is awesome – it measures my heart rate, cycle cadence, power and mashes it up into a map overlay giving me all kinds of information about how I’m riding compared to previous rides and other cyclist in the area.  It also can track my ride live, so my wife can find out where I am along the ride.  I started riding in March, it was routinely 35 degrees and there wasn’t much daylight to squeeze in the rides.  My goal is to ride the same crappy bike 3000 miles before the cycling season ends – which is probably mid-November.  I’ve ridden approximately 2800 miles so far and here is some more data – 120 rides, 170 hours, 160,000 Calories burned with an average heart rate of 85% of the max.  Still 5′,9″ but now 155 lbs which is a loss of 50 lbs in the past 18 months.

So 170 hours was the hardest part, I’m still the crazy busy startup guy with a family and several other obligations and activities.  During these rides, I get to think about many things – a huge benefit to get away, uninterrupted.  I’ve thought about making this investment, not only for myself but for family, friend and my business.  I’ve done the math on the time against my typical work week and I believe I’ve cut my hours by approximately 10% over this past cycle season.  I’m certain that I’m in a totally better situation – I sleep far better, I have zero back issues, I enjoyed snowboarding all last winter, I’m awake and alert all day and far more productive throughout the entire day.  I’m certain that I’ve got far more than a 10% return on this time, not to mention the other benefits.  I’m not looking forward to going back to gym, I might try compu-cycling and use my rowing machine.

In any case, I’m thrilled that something happened and I changed my situation – it was worth it.

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You know why I’m here

Just some blogging fun here…

In the world’s biggest noise factory, the SuperBowl, Marshawn Lynch continues to straight arm the circus performers as he responds to every question with “You know why I’m here”. He defies the NFL’s mandates, wearing his unapproved beast mode gear while trending on twitter. Genius media stunt or pampered starred athlete who is breaking his contract? Marshawn Lynch
Meanwhile, “All-Pro Stanford Graduate”, Richard Sherman attempts to redirect the mob to more important matters. Mission accomplished, I’m entertained by the entertainment (and remember, sports entertainment is the NFL’s business) and I will survive without the philosophical gems laid down by NFL players.

I will admit that I like the phase “You know why I’m here”; it got me thinking. Not about checking the box, conforming to the rules, avoiding the penalty – but about strongly believing in something and sticking to it. Cutting through the noise, facing adversity and staying on a mission is difficult and when you take this path, you’ll stand out which will make it even more difficult. I see many examples of following the pack, getting into a routine, doing the comfortable stuff – all ok, not bad. You definitely need to take care of some basics, but remembering why you are here and pushing is super important.

Full disclosure, I’m a Patriots fan.  Patriots 30, Hawks 20.

Go Patriots!

Now I have to go find a t-shirt with this quote.


Crossing paths with Ron Shaick

Today, I’m just writing a story that I like to tell for fun and to say farewell, nice job to Ron Shaick.

In 1980, my dad brought an Apple II+ home (48K of memory and a single 5 1/4 inch floppy disk drive) to do some spreadsheet work using VisiCalc (Dan Bricklin‘s concept), Excel’s great, great grandfather.  I was 16 at the time, and this simple introduction was all that I need to find my passion in life.  I loved to play games on the computer and my parents insisted that I balance my computer time with something  productive.  So I learned how to program the Apple in Pascal – a few game of course, something about dropping depth charges from a surface ship to sink submarines in a 48×32 graphics display.

In 1982, I was graduating high school and I had been accepted to the University of San Francisco; I was going to study mathematics and get very far away from home.  I also always wanted to buy a motorcycle and was never allowed – probably related to my uncle loosing a leg in a motorcycle accident a few years earlier, or maybe my parents where just plain smarter than I was.  In any case, I asked for permission again and again the answer was “no, too dangerous”.  But this time, I was 18 and free.  Right?  Since I had earned money of my own, I proceeded to buy a brand spanking new Honda 400E low rider.  Very sweet.  My parents did not like that move at all and they decided that they weren’t going to pay for my reckless California escape plan.  Oops, and there was no plan B as all my friends sailed off to college.

I found a job baking croissants for Au Bon Pain at Logan airport, starting at 4:30 AM.  It was ok, even fun, riding my motorcycle to the airport early in the morning until about October.  Wearing a snow suit in November was a bit of a bummer.  I baked thousands of croissants and delivered product to 11 carts spread throughout airport terminals.  The cart person would sign a delivery receipt and at the end of their shift, they would inventory their cart, count their money and bring their receipts back to the office.  The office manager would reconcile inventory, cash and receipts by hand – a good amount of work, recounts, etc.  I saw an opportunity to write some software – yes, Apple II+.  I showed the software to my office manager, who liked it.  She introduced me to Ron Shaick – the CEO of Au Bon Pain.  Ron offered to buy the software for $1500 and even better, he wanted me to write software for their 5 stores.  Let me see, work in an office during the warm portion of the day for $10/hour or continue that 4:30 AM motorcycle thing to earn $2.50/hour baking croissants.  I shared an office with Ron in a 2500 square foot office space, writing accounting and inventory control software in Basic on an IBM System 23 as Au Bon Pain expanded their store footprint – Harvard Square, Fanueil Hall, The Burlington Mall, the Airport and Copley Square were their first store locations.

In the meantime, I did decide to get a bit more serious about going to college – but I was still a thick headed, motorcycle riding, financially strapped independent.  So, I worked hard to get into the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in February of 1983.  At the time, Ron was driving hard to build the Au Bon Pain’s empire – many stores were opening and he built a new factory, corporate office in the old navy yard in Boston.  So, I had plenty left on my plate.  Ron asked me to continue writing while in school, returning to Boston monthly to provide update and discuss new stuff – no high speed Internet in 1983.  Again, a great deal for a college kid paying $2300/semester for school.  This continued on for a few years – Au Bon Pain opened many, many stores throughout the US they needed more than a part-time college kid.

A few years ago, I searched for Ron and found that he was CEO of Panera Bread.  Ron is a winner and a great CEO; He was smart in 1983, he worked very hard and he succeeded over and over again.  It was a good experience to work with Ron, I learned many things.  I probably should have stayed at Au Bon Pain rather than going to college.  A few years ago, I bought some Panera stock and I keep fairly close tabs on the company.  Earlier this year, Ron announced that he will retire in May.  Wow, what a run!

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Freedom is not free

Yesterday was tax day, I filed in early February so instead of scrambling to finish up my taxes, my thoughts wandered towards how expensive it is to run our country and what we spend money on.  A hop, skip and jump later I was thinking about the old saying “Freedom is not free”.  But this isn’t a tax rant, sadly we’re actively fighting two wars right this second.  There are incredibly brave American moms, dads, daughters and sons risking everything, willing to give anything.  Wearing my parent hat, I can not imagine how this happens – I simply can’t get my head around it – full stop.

Nary a word in the press these days (go look right now on CNN.com’s home page, 200 links and nothing about either war) and most Americans here at home lead a normal day-to-day life (Yesterday, I started my day with a celebratory tweet about free coffee at Starbuck, Wahoo!) – probably without much thought about our friends and family in harms way.  There are generations of people, many millions, that have similarly given to help us live in a great global society.

Freedom is certainly not free.  There are plenty of ways, easy ways, to reach out and help or simply say thank you.


Polyphemus' List

I love lists and always have.  When I was a young kid, my parents gave me “The Book of Lists” and I spent days reading it.  So this time of year is one of my favorites because everyone is sharing their lists.  The end of a decade is even sweeter for list readers like me.  I’ve been reading everyone’s top 10 music lists, inventions lists and top sports plays (ESPN listed their top 10 plays of the decade and two involved the Patriots – Thanks Adam, they’re great memories).

Everything was wonderful in list land, until I ran across Paul Krugman’s opinion “The Big Zero” in The New York Times; “the decade in which we achieved nothing and learned nothing”.  Pffst. When Odysseus and his men blinded Polyphemus by stabbing him in his eye, Polyphemus screamed that he was blinded by οὔτις (“no man”).  The other cyclops took this to mean that Polyphemus was being punished by the gods, so they did not help him.

I think we should help Polyphemus escape his punishment by the gods and list some of this decades marvelous achievement, especially on the technology front, in no meaningful order:

  • Gmail
  • YouTube
  • RSS
  • GPS handheld devices
  • Google Maps
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Podcasts
  • Skype
  • BitTorrent
  • Blogs

There.  I always want to publish my own end-of-year list.


Some guys don't make turns

This is a picture of my friend, we started our friendship after calling a truce during a rock fight when we were both 5 years old. Many years later, I took this picture during a spectacular day of helicopter snowboarding near Whistler. In the background, you can see that my friend rode straight down from the peak – a little game that we’ve been playing for years.  In four feet of powder, it is relatively risk free; a different game on the icy blue slopes of New England.

In any case, I was thinking about this today. The irony is that my friend started working at Pfizer when he graduated college and never changed course until about 2 years ago when he took a severance package; two full years of salary – a very powdery departure that happens about as often as that crystal clear day in British Columbia.  On the other hand, I’ve made quite a few turns during my career on the cold icy blue startup mountains and I’m currently searching for my next opportunity.  I’ve taken a few spills, for sure, but I’ve also had some trilling rides that I don’t believe are available when you just blast through on the straight and narrow.

Now with my kids old enough that I’ve transitioned from survival mode to teaching mode – I’m trying hard to get them to try and make a few turns because they too, avid snowboarders and skiers, like to ride quickly top to bottom with no turns.  My daughter is in the chute now, college applications in and no idea what she wants to do – who really does, when you’re 17 years old.  I keep saying, how about a year in the Rockies as a ski bum (maybe I’ll visit a few times), some time in an Israeli Kibbutz or lend a helping hand in rebuilding New Orleans – grow up a bit, find your passion by trying stuff.

Make some turns, take some risks, even if the conditions are not ideal.