A place to put random occurrences in my life...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Experimenting with food...

I'm not much of a cook. I could be, I think. But I'm simply too lazy. I think the actual cooking part is fun - and if that were all that was involved, I think I would try to come up with something from time to time. But unfortunately, there are two much less sexy components to cooking - preparation and cleanup.

So although I don't cook all that often, I've somehow been attracted to various cooking shows (Iron Chef, Hell's Kitchen, etc.). About a month ago, I was glued to the TV watching HGTV (can't believe I'm admitting that) and more specifically some kind of Thanksgiving cook off reality show (really can't believe I'm admitting that). Anyway, the thing that stuck with me most was someone frying a turkey. I think I had heard of it before, but really didn't understand that frying actually meant boiling in oil. Since watching the show, I've wanted to fry my own bird.

I got my chance to experiment a bit last week when our family had a gift exchange. We had the typical Thanksgiving/Christmas food (ham, prime rib, mashed potatoes, baked yams, etc.) and I volunteered to take care of the turkey. I ordered my very own fryer and spent an whole bunch of time reading the manual and recipes that I found online. I even thought about doing a trial run the week before, but I really didn't want to eat fried turkey two weeks in a row, so I decided to just go for it without the trial.

Here's the turkey submerged in boiling hot oil:

The good news is that I didn't burn down the house. Actually, that's definitely the best news of all. Unfortunately, the turkey was a bit more burned (and dry) than I would have liked. I followed the directions perfectly, but I think that a couple of things through me off. First, I was told that I should count 3 to 3.5 minutes per pound. And second, I was told to add another 5 minutes for the bird. For the 14 pound turkey, this meant a cooking time of 54 minutes. Next time, I'm going with 3 minutes per pound flat - we'll see how that comes out!

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009


On October 22nd, 2009 I became a father. I was going to say that I became a father for the first time, but that's not really true - you can't become a father for a second time. Once you're a father, you're a father for life - and no one can ever take that away from you.

I'm not a religious person, but I believe that my wife and I were truly blessed with our daughter, Victoria. The following is taken from a note I sent out to friends and family a day after Victoria was born:
Victoria Benitt was born at 3pm on 10/22. She weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces and was 18 3/4 inches long at birth.

We weren't expecting her for another week, but there were signs that made us go to the hospital a bit early. Once there, while being examined, the nurse lost the baby's heart rate for a few minutes (which was really scary when she called in four other people to help her) and when the heart beat returned it was decelarated to the 60-70 range from a previous range of 130-150. Due to the risk of the decelerated heart beat, the doctor determined that the baby needed to be delivered shortly, and since Thien was not experiencing any real contractions yet, she was started on pitocin (to induce labor). We saw a small contraction on the monitor that Thien didn't even feel, and at the same time, the baby's heart rate decelerated again. This happened one more time five minutes later, and the doctor pulled her off of the pitocin and informed us that Thien would need a cesarean section. No more than fifteen minutes later, Thien was in the OR and another 45 minutes later, we finally got to meet our beautiful baby girl.
In my note, I forgot to mention that we eventually learned that the decelerated heart rate was due to a short umbilical cord. Essentially, every time that Victoria attempted to descend into the birth canal, her umbilical cord got tighter, decelerating her heart beat.

Everything happened so fast that we didn't truly appreciate that things could have turned out much differently than they had. But with time to reflect, I've certainly come to the conclusion that we were extremely fortunate to decide to go to the hospital that day - and also extremely fortunate to receive great care from all of the nurses and doctors that tended to us. They made an extremely stressful situation manageable.

In congratulating me, one of my friends told me that this a new chapter in my life and that I should enjoy every letter. I wrote back to him that now that the first hurdle is done, I expect this to be the biggest, most complex and most enjoyable novel that I would ever have the pleasure of living, and that I would surely savor every last letter.

I've only been a father for less than a week, but the experience has already taught me that I am extremely fortunate and blessed. I hope to learn and enjoy much more throughout this journey.

Below are some of the first pictures we took of Victoria, along with a video of her taken just as we were about to leave the hospital and head home for the first time:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Building for the Cloud

MusicBrainz ServersImage by mayhem via Flickr

A few of my lifelong friends and I recently decided to launch a new company (Help Desk Support Software powered by Assistly) in the customer service space. We've all been deeply involved in this space since 1996, when we were part of the early team at eShare Technologies, one of the very first companies to develop solutions for call centers to deal with customers on the web.

Things have changed significantly since the days of eShare. It used to be that you had to build a product and have it run within a company's data center. This generally meant that the software company had to waste cycles in developing and testing for different server operating systems and various database platforms and versions. I remember even having to work within a client's datacenter to discover and fix our software for different database drivers - that we didn't know had existed. Even after the decision was made to buy our software, there was a long IT process required to install and configure. Servers had to be ordered, procured, racked, wired, etc.

The cloud allows us to be much more flexible, and as such, we'll be providing that much more flexibility to our customers. I attended an Amazon AWS Cloud for the Enterprise Event yesterday, and Amazon's CTO, Dr. Werner Vogols had some interesting observations about what defines cloud computing. In addition to the typical definition, Dr. Vogols indicated that to be truly recognized as cloud computing, the operation should be completely on demand and it needs to be pay as you go. This is exactly the same guiding principle that we plan to pass onto our customers. There is no need to by a perpetual license for 100 agents to manage a one month peak if normal volumes call for only 20 agents - just scale up and pay for the additional 80 agents for the one month that you're using them - and then immediately scale down your usage.

In addition to having a different overall philosophy with how products should be marketed and sold, it's my belief that we have a distinct advantage in building for the scale, resilience, availability, etc. of the cloud. I don't think that building for the cloud precludes us from going on prem at some point - or for allowing our customers to extend their data centers with something like Amazon VPC - but I think our product will simply be better as it's designed with the proper architecture right from the start.

I'm looking forward to the journey...

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Updating firmware on my Samsung Blu-ray

I'm about twelve minutes into my latest firmware upgrade - on my Samsung Blu-ray player - and its now just 80% done. Watching the bar progress from 75% to 80% has been like watching moss grow - very slow and painful.

So here's what I don't get; in this day and age, why does the device wait for me to want to watch a movie before it decides to download the required software? Granted, I could have watched the movie and then downloaded the firmware later, but most likely later would end up being the very next time that I wanted to watch a movie. Haven't we learned anything from auto-updating software over the years? Even Microsoft finally has this down - download in the background - and then ask me if I want to install. Instead, I get to wait - but at least that gives me time to ponder life a bit.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Is it better to take a big bite from a small pie, or a small bite from a bigger pie?


Every once in a while, I find myself contemplating the idea of focus versus diversification... the question can be applied to large companies, nascent startups or even personal aspects of life, including family and friends.

In the case of family and friends, the question may be one of whether it's better to spend a lot of time with a few very close friends, deepening the bonds and relationships, while likely just having cursory relationships with other friends, or is it better to spread the wealth and have moderately deep relationships with a lot more friends. In a large company, a decision may be made to double down on an existing business and grow it, or to take a chance and use that same investment (time, energy, PR, money) in the pursuit of four or five other businesses. These questions are answered every day, but there are pros and cons to both approaches.

For the entrepreneur, perhaps more so than in my other examples, there is also the notion of risk/reward that has to play a role. Working at a larger organization, and getting paid a nice salary isn't likely to result in a big payout - but there's something to be said for a measure of stability - and the aforementioned nice salary. Going off an a completely new venture is sure to be more exciting, and can also be more rewarding at the end (with a ton of hard work and a bit of luck), but the most likely result is more experience - and experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.

A more intricate question for the entrepreneur is whether to pursue one new venture wholeheartedly or to divide his time up and pursue a few somewhat related but diversified opportunities at the same time. Pursuing one idea gives you clarity of focus and can make the pie bigger at the end - assuming you've chosen which venture to pursue properly. Pursuing multiple fronts is likely to be more exciting and adventurous as there is always going to be something new, but it removes the focus - and any one success is likely going to result in a smaller piece of the pie as there would likely be more people involved.

No answers yet, but will definitely continue to ponder this for a bit...

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

We're having a girl!

A few weeks back, Thien and I went to the doctor for the usual tests at 18 weeks, and to find out if we were having a girl or a boy. Although the technician doing the ultrasound was very thorough, she couldn't really tell us based on the position of the baby and the fact that we were a bit early in the process. I think she said something like "I think I see a girl part" - but upon further questioning, she relented and said that she just wasn't sure.

Thien and I were ecstatic to "find out" that we were having a girl, but we found that we couldn't communicate that out to our friends and family - we ended up just saying that "we think" that we were having a girl. And this lack of confidence got depressing fast.

Thien set us up for a session at the Ultrasound Experience in San Marcos and we went last week. It truly was an experience - Thien was giddy the entire time seeing our baby in her womb, up on a 100" display. This was dubbed an "Early Peek" and not only were we able to see our baby, but we (or rather the technician) were able to confirm that we are in fact having a baby girl!

Presenting baby girl Benitt for the very first time, in full 4D glory:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Stuck on week 5

About six months ago, I started using a Robert Ulrey's Podcast based on the Cool Running's Couch to 5K program. The podcast and program are based on a 9 week schedule of continually escalating runs, geared to get couch potatoes (like myself) able to fairly easily run a 5K distance - the equivalent of just over 3 miles.

In reality, I can run 3 miles and have often run in excess of 5 miles - but this effort is a struggle for me - and I took up this approach as a way to get more consistency for myself in an attempt to "easily" run a 3 mile distance without much effort. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, for a while I seem to have gotten stuck on the 5th week. Maybe it was the halfway point and the runs were starting to get more difficult or perhaps it was my move from LA to San Diego. Whatever the reason, I had definitely stopped making progress.

The good news is that I think I'm finally back on track. The big change for me was deciding to do outdoor runs by my house, instead of having to go to the gym. Apparently, the time and hassle involved in actually going to the gym was a major roadblock for me. For the past week or so, I've woken up, put on my shorts, and just started running. I'm now two thirds of the way done with week 7, and I'm confident that I'll get all the way through to week 9 in the next couple of weeks. And I get an added benefit of becoming more familiar with my new neighborhood.

The trick for me will be to maintain the runs once I'm done with this 9 week podcast. Any suggestions for other running podcasts that I can use for coaching and motivation once I'm done?

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

24 Hour - As long as it's not 5:30

For only the second time since I moved to Carlsbad, I finally managed to make it to the gym. Unfortunately, in my haste to actually get to the gym, I didn't think through the logistics of going at 5:30pm. Long story short, if your gym is 24 Hour Fitness, don't go during prime time! Thien and I showed up and there were people already backed up, waiting for cardio equipment. There were a few weight benches available here and there, but overall it was a bit of a mess.

Thien and I managed to hang around for about 20 minutes or so until we decided to give it up. Since I was already in my gym clothes, I decided to jog home - with a hedge. I told Thien to go home, take a shower, and then come back and meet me - just in case I was piled up in a corner somewhere unable to make it all the way home.

This was my first outdoor jog in about six months. It started out rough - right out of the gate there was an uphill slope, which combined with a the still hot sun and my extreme lack of fitness definitely slowed me down. It wasn't until the 2.4 mile point that I finally felt some energy kick in - that's when I hit my stride. All in all, 4.7 miles in 42 minutes before Thien came to my rescue - and I was only 1.5 miles away from home - although most of that up a steep slope.

Anyway, lesson learned. If I want to go for a jog - I should just go outside. And if I want to go to the gym, I've gotta plan a bit better!
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Sunday, May 3, 2009

An opportunity missed

Ch√Ęteau Margaux, a First Growth from the Borde...Image via Wikipedia

I just ordered some wine from Gary V's WineLibrary.com. Actually, I ordered a lot wine - three cases to be exact. And although I was thrilled to open open the FedEx boxes, I think that Gary missed an opportunity to continue the conversation with me.

Specifically, I bought the wine from him for a reason. He's a bit of a web celebrity - I hear of him and from him fairly often - and I tend to enjoy his commentary. More to the point, I had purchased 3 cases of various wines without having tried them - because he had recommended them to me through his email newsletter. Each newsletter talked about the wine, letting me know where it came from, how many points it had, etc. and it was punctuated with a quote from Gary V., himself.

For some reason, I had expected to receive a printout data sheet for each type of wine that I had ordered. I had thought it would have the same exact information that was sent to me in the newsletter - no new content. I was planning on keeping this data sheet with my wine, so I could easily reference it and discuss it when sharing the wine with my friends. And I can say that I was left a bit disappointed when all I received was the wine I had ordered... ;(

In thinking about this, my expectation comes from a wine subscription that someone had previously purchased for me from wine.com. It had the data sheets, a folder allowing me to organize all of them, and labels for the bottles so that I could record when I drank the wine, for what occasion, what I thought of it, etc. - and more importantly it allowed me to keep a record so I could easily re-order the wines that I liked. The conversation was continued.

In the end, I'll probably end up going back into my email and printing out the emails on my own, but it sure would have enhanced my experience if I had received this from winelibrary.com directly, with my shipment. Something that I definitely would have appreciated...

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

My first grown up desk...

I don't know what it is, but ever since I figured out that I would soon be working from home, I've been fixated on getting a big, beautiful desk for my home office. When Thien and I went out shopping for furniture, I went to the office section first, bypassing the couches, beds and everything in between. I have to say that I was even more excited about getting my desk than I was about getting a brand new, ultra cool, super thin LED TV - for that I just went off of Alex's recommendation without a second thought.

In any case, after much searching, I finally found a desk I could call my own. I sat down behind it, looked around and felt right at home. It was different than the other desks I've owned in my life - it was big, bold and somehow just 'adult'. It probably helped that I was sitting in a store other than Ikea.

So the time came for me to pickup my desk. And anyone that knows how heavy one of these 'adult' desks is, would know that that was my first mistake. In any case, I grabbed Alex, the moving truck that I had used to cart all of my belongings from LA to San Diego and we went to the warehouse. After waiting for close to an hour, my desk was finally brought out. We helped the guys load the first part of the desk into the truck - and found out that it weighed in at a cool two hundred and fifty pounds. As soon as we were done with the struggle of getting the desk into the truck, the guys then brought out the return - except it wasn't in a box, was missing a leg stopper (whatever they call the things on the legs to avoid scratching the floor) and it was scuffed up. Another 20 minutes later, the truck was unloaded, the money was refunded, and I was disappointed...

The next night, Thien and I went back to the same store and found an even better desk. We made sure it was in stock and that it could be delivered the following day, and then we told them that there was no way we were going to be paying for delivery given our previous experience. Fast forward one day later, and I'm sitting behind my first grown up desk, and I'm loving it:

Now it's time to go and do some work and make good use of the desk!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Green at last...

ALTADENA, CA - JULY 25:  A foreclosed home is ...

Just read about "Green Grass at Last" in Fortune. I think its a brilliant idea, perfect for the current economic climate full of foreclosures, people less willing to spend on non-essentials and even the water shortage throughout California.

Green Grass at Last is a company that basically dyes grass, turning it from a faded brown to a glowing green. The dye is pretty much the same stuff that the pros that take care of baseball fields use and the company charges $250 for a 500 sq. ft. lawn.

When you drive by homes in foreclosure, listed as short sales, etc. in California, Arizona, Nevada and other desert regions, and all you see is seemingly dead, brown grass, you can begin to appreciate what a good idea this is. Putting lipstick on a pig, and making a buck along the way...

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax day comes... and goes...

IRS building on Constitution Avenue in Washing...Image via Wikipedia

I've been dreading April 15th for at least a few months, and subconsciously probably even longer than that. Since I owed quite a bit of money, I elected for the government to come and grab it from my account, no sooner than April 15th. That said, I certainly expected that the money would be gone by the time I checked my account first thing in the morning.

As I started my day, I saw Sashi's message: "the day the IRS robs my bank"

I quickly checked my account and saw that my money was safe and sound. I checked multiple times throughout the morning and early afternoon, and the money was still there. I was getting nervous, thinking that the government would want my money as soon as it could get it, and so I reached out to my accountant. She looked into my filing and verified that everything was as it should have been.

A couple of hours later, with my funds still intact, I asked my friends about their status and all that I asked confirmed that their banks had not yet been robbed. It is now just 90 minutes shy of midnight, and my money is still in the bank.

I guess I'm confused as to how the money could still be in my account given the harsh economic climate that our state and federal governments are dealing with. How much money was left sitting in private accounts today? I won't claim to know how the government deals with their money, but I assume they somehow earn interest on it? How much did the government lose in possible revenue from interest by leaving it in our personal accounts?

In any case, today came and went, just like any other day - and I'm not complaining...

Update: Well, I guess I posted to early... when I checked this morning, I had been "robbed" at some point last night... either way, seems like the money should have been taken first thing in the morning rather than just before midnight.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

No more hiking!

Temescal Canyon BridgeImage by kevincollins123

Thien and I came to a resolution last night... no more hiking!

Seems like a pretty odd resolution for a couple of active people to make, right? I suppose the resolution is actually no more hiking in Temescal Canyon. We've been hiking in Temescal Canyon fairly regularly for the past year, ever since we moved up to Santa Monica and for the most part have been happy with our experience. The one thing that always irked us a bit was the lack of parking on the street, coupled with the $5 parking within the actual park.

Although we typically park on the street, every once in a while when we've either wanted to avoid the hassle or couldn't find a close enough spot, I've been ambivilant about the $5. After all, it's not a huge expense and I felt like it was going to the improvement of a public space that I was actually using.

A couple of weeks ago, during one of the worst recessions we've ever seen, we pulled into the parking lot and were shocked to see that parking had gone up from $5 to $7. Now again, i can't say that I would have missed an extra $2, but a line of principle has to be drawn somewhere, and for us it was squarely across the $5 line. After making a quick decision, we drove to the other side of the lot, and pulled back out onto the street where we easily found alternate parking.

I thought that was the end of it, until yesterday. It seems that as I pulled out of the parking lot, I rolled through a stop sign which was in the actual parking lot. Does anyone stop for stop signs in a parking lot? I don't think I'm in the minority here. To my dismay, I received a citation from the "Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority Stop Sign Photo Enforcement Program" in the amount of $100.

To add insult to injury, I was told that I could go to a slick site to watch of video of my violation in action. This site (http://www.photonotice.com/) gave me some sort of backend ASPX error when I tried to login yesterday and when I tried to login today, the video never displayed. I was able to get the sweet black and white photo, which obviously proves absolutely nothing.

In short, I'm boycotting Temescal for two reasons. First, I'm moving and will no longer have the opportunity to go hiking here... ;) And second, I think it's pretty backhanded to try to sucker money out of people that you're trying to provide a service like this to. I can understand paying for parking - at least with a reasonable amount. I can understand paying to access the trails, wether on a daily or annual basis. But it's tough for me to swallow trying to "trap" the very customers you're trying to attract. Hopefully they'll figure out a better revenue model for themselves in the near future.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Celebrity sighting - Robert LaSardo

Robert LaSardo

Thien and I were just pulling into the parking lot at our local Vons, and just as Thien turned off the engine, we both stared into the distance at someone walking by our car. The guy was wearing a hoodie, baggie pants and holding a bag of groceries and he wouldn't be particularly interesting, except he had tattoos running along the site of his neck. Although that was likely what caught our initial attention, we continued to stare because we both recognized him.

The guy in the hoodie was an actor named Robert LaSardo - and I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't just looked it up. Thien and I "knew" Robert from his stint as Escobar Gallardo on Nip/Tuck. And yes, that means that I'm "outting" myself yet again, as someone that enjoys the show. Robert saw us staring from the car, turned and kept walking - it seems like he probably lives within blocks of the store.

In any case, as much as you had to hate his Nip/Tuck character, the guy definitely made an impression on the show and it was pretty cool to see him in such a normal setting.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Giving thanks on my wedding day

I still can't really believe it, but I've been married for just over two months now... the whole event was such a blur...

The wedding itself seemed to fly by but it lives on in my mind as a very vivid memory that I will always have with me. There were so many highlights - everything from the mixing of cultures at the ceremony (Jewish theme, Chinese Tea Ceremony, giving thanks to our parents in our native tongues, etc.) to the Best Man and Maid of Honor speeches and all the way through to the launching of the sky lanterns (Khoom Loy).

I was recently back in NY and watched the wedding video with my parents. At the end of the wedding, I gave a bit of a speech, and although I conveyed the overall message of thanks, I missed a lot of the points that I had been hoping to cover. If I could do it over again, I think my speech would be something like this:
Wow! What a night - I'm completely blown away. Let me begin by saying thanks to each and every one of you for making the long journey to celebrate this special occasion with us. It means the world to both Thien and myself that so many of our dear friends and family were able to travel over 8000 miles to be here today.

I'd like to talk a little bit about luck. Those of you that know me really well, know that I've always been lucky. For those of you that don't know me all that well, all you have to do is take one look at the gorgeous lady standing next to me to realize that I must be lucky. Luck was by my side when Alex, Jeremy and I came up with the stupid idea of opening a restaurant. Luck was by my side when I was introduced to Thien's brother Don and when Don decided to ask his sister to invest in the restaurant. Luck was even by my side when the restaurant endeavor failed to materialize - leaving me with Thien by my side and an opportunity for my friends and I to start a little business called Goowy.

As all of you witnessed, luck was certainly on my side with the weather today! As I stared into the torrential downpour just 30 minutes before the ceremony was slated to begin, I can tell you that I was extremely worried that our dreams of a wedding on the beach would be ruined. But luck prevailed, and the weather has been nothing short of amazing.

Although everyone here contributed to making this an extremely memorable occasion for us, I think it's appropriate to call out a few people in particular. First, we have to give thanks to Peter Wolf who did a phenomenal job as a first time Rabbi. Not only did Peter help Thien and I formulate the basis of the ceremony, but he performed it masterfully, and he added in a beautiful and heartwarming speech which we will treasure. I think Peter may have a career as a wedding Rabbi if it's something that he's interested in pursuing.

I'd like to also thank my best man, Alex, and Thien's maid of honor, Tammy. Both Alex and Tammy blew us away with their speeches tonight. I'm not quite sure how much money I owe Alex, but given all of the compliments (or rather lies in my favor) in his speech, I think I'll be paying him for quite some time. And although the speeches were incredible, the really amazing thing is how much these two have done for us throughout our lives - and how much they mean to us. Thien and I have been trully lucky - we love you guys!

I previously mentioned that this was a far journey for all involved. But there is one person here who completely outdid himself. This guy landed in Koh Samui about eight hours ago, he'll be leaving the island in just about 17 hours - and he came all the way from California. Special props have to go out to Young for being crazy enough to take two 25 hour trips, here and back, to be here for just over one day. We realize what you went through to be here for us and we truly appreciate it.

We also have to mention a special couple that is here with us tonight. This couple is celebrating their anniversary tonight - their 33rd wedding anniversary! And the good news is that they still seem to be happy with each other... It must be lucky to have a "successful" happy such as this sharing your anniversary with you, right? Let's give a hand for Yakov and Yelena Melman!

Along with the Melmans, Thien and I also have our parents for being true role models of what it means to be in love with each other and dedicated to each other for decades. My paren't celebrated their 35th anniversary last summer, and Thien's parents have been married to each other for even longer. Our parents have always been there for us. Our parents have instilled in us many of the personality traits that ultimate made Thien and I compatible. Our parents sacrificed so much in leaving their loved ones and their native countries to make better lives possible for us. We are both truly lucky to have been born into terrific families and to have been raised by loving parents. We will forever look to our parents as a guiding light of how we want to live our lives as a married couple and as a new family.

Finally, we want to once again thank all of you for being a part of this occasion with us. The theme of luck continues with all of you - Thien and I are very lucky to have you in our lives and we will always cherish you!
I'm somewhat glad that I didn't write and memorize this speech ahead of time - it likely would have seemed rehearsed since I'm not a great actor, and it would have probably been overly long. That said, I wanted to correct some of my omissions for the record...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What is this blog here for?

Last week, this blog was "outted" on Twitter by @michaelwalton. To my knowledge, this was the first time, someone other than Thien had read my blog - or at least given me feedback - and more importantly, now all 100 (don't laugh at the small number - we all have to start somewhere) of my followers knew that I was writing a blog. Judging from my Google Analytics account, traffic had spiked 5x - from two viewers all the way to 10!

Since I now realize that others may actually stumble across my public blog at some point, I think its a good time to address why this blog even exists.

First and foremost, this blog is for me. As a kid growing up, I always received good grades on my written assignments - and I believed that I had above average skill in putting words on a piece of paper. Through the years, I've discovered that its become harder and harder for myself to express myself with the written word. I think the reasoning is similar to why my handwriting has gotten worse and worse (if that's possible, given how bad my handwriting has always been) - its simply a lack of practice. So in effect, this blog serves as a challenge to myself in writing on a consistent basis with the hopes of actually improving my writing.

Second, I'm a technologist. This blog gives me an opportunity to play with some cool web technologies in a bit of a sandbox. So far I've played with widgets like the Nike avatar (although I've clearly got some expertise with widgets already), Google Friend Connect, Facebook Connect, blog authoring tools (ScribeFire, Flock, and Zemanta) and Google Analytics. GA is one example of a tool that I can truly begin to understand with a smaller set of date than a larger one. On this blog, I can specifically see how traffic flows, how it's impacted by referrals and searches, etc. I can do the same thing on larger implementations, but I find it simpler to understand new pieces of the puzzle with smaller data sets.

Third, there are certain things that I'd like to keep a record of. That may be big moments in my life, interesting experiences, progress at the gym or even solutions to technical problems. Call it both a personal and professional journal.

That said, I could accomplish all of this with a "private", invitation only blog. So why do I have this public blog? I could say that the public nature gives me a voice that I wouldn't otherwise have when I want to vent about something, but I don't really expect it to resonate quite as loud as Jeff Jarvis' now famous "Dell Sucks" post. I think the answer is actually the same reason that so many of us now share our entire lives online - vanity. I suppose that since I've chosen to document some things in this public manner, essentially asking to be discovered, I can't really be "outted", can I?

So although this blog is really for me, I realize that some may stumble upon it, and I'll try to keep it mildly entertaining for you...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What do I spend my time on?

The MacBook Pro (15.4" widescreen) was Ap...Image via Wikipedia

I've known for quite a while that I spend far too much time glued to my laptop screen. I've also instinctively known that the majority of time that I spend in front of my computer is actually in front of email. To test that theory out, I installed a product called RescueTime that actually records and plots out the applications and web sites used during the course of a day/week/month.

Here's a quick look at my week for the week of March 8, 2009:

As suspected, I am currently trapped in email for almost 10 hours a day. I spend more time in email than most people spend working. How that's possible, I'm not entirely sure - but I tend to believe it! After email, my next largest chunk of time is used up by Netnewswire, coming in at just under 5 hours a day. Although I know that I subscribe to way too many blogs and spend too much time catching up on news, I also know that it can't possibly be 5 hours a day. Initially I thought that RescueTime may be recording the amount of time that an app is open - not necessarily when I'm using it. But then I took a look at my Adium and TweetDeck usage - both are open all day long but show up at under 30 minutes each, which is probably aligned with how often I actually use them. According to the RescueTime FAQ, the data should only be tracked for applications that are in focus, but perhaps there's an issue or two with the software as it stands. As a side note, it's interesting to see that my recent desire to purchasese a house is being picked up (..tempo5.sandi...) by my browsing behavior.

Below is a "live" chart that will update every week, allowing me to track my progress:

I'm definitely curious to see if visualizing how I spend my time helps me to manage it better. And ultimately, I'd love to figure out a way to decrease the amount of time I spend in front of a computer, but I don't think I'm there yet...

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Is it the right time to buy a house?

ZoneTag Photo Monday 12:23 pm 3/3/08 San Diego...Image by freshelectrons via Flickr

Thien and I have recently started looking for homes in the Carlsbad area. I should have known better, but I mistakenly made this known to the world in a Twitter message. I received a few bewildered replies via Twitter, Facebook, email, IM, and phone - all within 30 minutes of my tweet. I think that my friends/family were a bit surprised that I am now considering moving back to San Diego after just a year in Los Angeles.

For myself and Thien, I think the reality is that although Santa Monica is great, San Diego feels much more like home to us. We had planned to make this move eventually, but given the dynamics in both the real estate market and the stock market, I'm not sure there will be a better time to make the move - at least from a financial perspective - in the near future.

Do I think that either the stock or real estate markets have hit their bottoms? Absolutely not. But I do think that real estate will stabilize first. And even if it doesn't, I'm ultimately buying a roof over my head, something physical to call my own, a bit of the American dream, etc. - and I get a write off to boot. And at the same time, the stock market still seems so volatile to me, that I've had to keep my money in cash. I think the time is right (or almost right) to put that cash into a physical asset that has a decent chance to appreciate from current levels - over a ten year period.

For illustration purposes, the chart below shows the house values in Carlsbad over the past five years. Prices are now below what they were in 2005 - and I actually think Zillow is a bit slow in showing the true decline, so I would venture to say that we are actually below 2004 prices.

Obviously the prices were significantly overinflated throughout 2006 and even going into 2007, but the properties we're looking at really do seem cheap to us.

Anyway, we haven't found our next house yet, but we're definitely looking and hoping for something great!
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Time to get into shape

Gold's Gym 4: Schwarzenegger, Zane, Jacobs, DraperImage by d_vdm via Flickr

I've started down this road many a time before. But this time, I think things are different. I think I can actually follow through. Actually, it's time to forget about what I think I can do. It's time to face reality and admit that I need to do this! That's right - I have to get into shape.

After taking what amounts to a month off from reality in January, and spending it lying on beaches and kicking back cocktails, I've come back to the real world and have realized that I'm out of shape and really need to change that - fast! I've always been a sucker for the fads and ways to "buy" my way into shape, and so I was glued to the TV watching the P90X infomercial. After spending a few minutes being ridiculed by Thien about my thoughts of getting a rock-hard bod through the acquisition of a couple of DVDs, it's finally sunk in that I just need to hit the gym.

And with that, this is my public declaration of my desire to get back into shape. My regimen will include going to the gym at least three times a week - with two additional workouts outside of the gym. The gym workouts will include the usual weight training along with cardio (at least one spin class per week while training to run a 5K). Outside of the gym, the goal is to go on a hike at least once a week and to also play an active sport - like basketball or tennis - again, at least once per week.

This is a pretty agreesive goal and I'm not sure that I'll have too much time left to do anything else, but it's about time and it's gotta happen. It all starts today with spin class at 6...

Wish me well! ;)

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Continental Flight 3407

I remember feeling the dread as I first heard the reports of the crash of Continental flight #3407 headed to Buffalo. The news came just weeks after the miraculous landing of US Airways flight #1549 in the Hudson River. Flight 1549 landed in the river but all of the 155 passengers were able to safely walkaway from was certainly destined to be a tragedy. The 50 people on flight #3407 were not as fortunate.

A couple of days after learning of the crash, a friend of mine informed me that one of the victims was actually a co-worker of ours at eAssist. It's incredible for me to think that a person that I interacted with personally for a period of over 3 years was actually on this flight. Perhaps even more amazing, the wife of one of the victims of the 9/11 attacks was on this flight as well. Such a tragedy.

I turned to Twitter with a note commenting at the fact that I knew one of the victims. The number of emails, text messages and other comments that this generated was pretty impressive. Everyone that I had previously worked with at eAssist wanted to know if they too knew the victim and once they knew who it was, they wanted to express their sorrow.

Although I didn't know him well, I know that John Roberts was a very good man, trying to leave a positive impact on the world. The world is a worse place without him in it.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

First anniversary of the sale of Goowy to AOL

Image representing AOL as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase

I can't believe how fast time flies... This past January 30th officially marked the one year anniversary of the AOL acquisition of Goowy Media.

Some of the things, both personal and professional that I've done since January of last year:
  • closed down the Goowy office in San Diego's Gaslamp District
  • sold my condo in San Diego's East Village
  • converted users of Goowy's original webtop product to AOL Mail
  • moved to Santa Monica
  • migrated Goowy's datacenter from Complex Drive to an AOL operated facility
  • attended my dad's 59th birthday party - he says he's not celebrating his 60th birthday this year
  • brought on additional support to help Goowy with its growth in the new environment
  • witnessed the Bris of my cousin's second son, Jack
  • worked with AOL's PlatformA group to roll out widgets as ads which have shown success with various campaigns
  • had an absolutely amazing bachelor party in Playa del Carmen which Alex orchestrated brilliantly
  • worked through countless product releases for yourminis
  • took off for a few weeks to see Thien's heritage in Vietnam, to get married in Thailand and to honeymoon in The Maldives
I'm sure I've missed a lot in that quick synopsis, but there is no doubt that it has been a busy - and exciting year. Time sure does fly..

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