Tuesday, May 20, 2014


More people in more places can now compete, connect and collaborate with equal power and equal tools than ever before.
~ Thomas Friedman

I'm learning a new language: Spanish shorthand. It's found mostly in texting. It's similar to Spanish, except that spelling doesn't matter, there's no time for adding in accents, and abbrevs. are all the norm. There's a steep learning curve. Or, as we say in Spanish text language, "x apre."

Here's a typical text message from a friend in Playa del Carmen

The same message in regular (aka longhand) Spanish would read 
"no te preocupes" or "don't worry"

My learning of shorthand comes mostly in the form of instant text messages sent to my iPhone through the wonderfully popular global app "WhatsApp?" The beauty of WhatsApp, aside from its surprising dependability, is that all messages are free. It doesn't matter where the messages are sent from or to whom they are sent. All you need is a smart phone, a WhatsApp account, and the phone number of all your friends and acquaintances. It really is that simple. Videos and photos are instantly sent and received via cellular service or an internet connection. I love the pictures I've been getting from Mexico.

Vero sent me a photo of her son Ian making pot holders!
She is great about sending out photos and videos from her phone.

I'd first heard about WhatsApp on the cusp of its impending sale to Facebook. What I've recently learned about WhatsApp is that it has existed for years. And, more impressively, so solidly has the product established itself, that it has become a part of everyday conversation around the world. Its global recognition is up there alongside Facebook. When I'd meet someone new in Mexico, something that happened several times a day, introductions were always followed by "tienes wassap?" I'd pull out my phone and enter in my new friend's contact information. I even got really adept at knowing which country codes to add. +1 in iPhone speak equals 011. Sneaky, huh?

With WhatsApp I am in constant communication with my friends over in Mexico. I love being able to practice my Spanish and learn Spanish texting shorthand. But I don't love the constant pinging of my phone. A ping means I have a new message. Although it's never just one ping. It's typically a steady stream of messages coming through. And the now all too familiar pinging sounds are definitely not restricted to occurrences solely during daylight hours. 

But this is not a shortcoming of WhatsApp. It's the price I pay for keeping my phone on, with the volume up, letting the pings come through and distract me. What can I say? I like being connected.

Want to try WhatsApp? https://www.whatsapp.com/download/

Look me up and send me a message. (Just try to make it during a reasonable hour). 
I'll get right back to you.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

writing season

My first few weeks of unemployment didn't really feel like unemployment. Between travel, travel, and more travel, every day was filled with some sort of meeting, obligation, or deadline. For the past four weeks I have longed for a true unemployment day - nowhere to be, nowhere to go. A "holy shit, I'm unemployed" realization day. I took that day, and I'm bored already. Or rather, I'm ready to get back to work. 

I'm beginning to realize that unemployment = time. It is completely up to me how I spend my time. Right now, I spend it writing.

Because I have to write a business plan. Not just any business plan; the plan for my start-up company. There are a lot of firsts along with writing this plan. My first start-up. My first market testing. My first move into Venture Capital. My first investment. My first for profit company. But not my first partnership, not my first passion project, and not my first venture into the unknown. Just my first real business plan.

The Most Important Elements of Your Business Plan

So, I sit at home and write. I sit in the coffee shop and write. I sit in the library and write. I sit outside (when my computer is charged) and write.

Writing something as long as a business plan requires stamina. There are no quick emails sent out, no quick feedback, and no quick phone calls. There is definitely no stopping by a co-worker's cubicle to ask her a quick question. 

Instead, I write and write. And then I look for something else to do. Most of my day is now spent alone, writing. And drinking coffee. And surfing the internet while thinking. And texting/sending instant messages to have some way to communicate with other people during the day.

Currently, business planning is enough for me. But I can tell that sometime soon I'll look forward to heading into a job, complete with meetings, deadlines, constant email communication, and even being judged by someone else's standards. But that's some day. 

For now, I've got to work on this all consuming business plan...

Monday, May 5, 2014

only the locals know

Get a bicycle. You will certainly not regret it, if you live. 
~ Mark Twain 
 Taming the Bicycle. 1884

I'm back in my city of San Francisco and I'm hitting the road again. In true San Franciscan style, I'll be cruising the Avenues on my bicycle. San Francisco weather makes bike riding a fun, yet chilly, activity. I always have to layer up, especially if I plan to bike home after sun down.

This winter/spring has been brutal for California farming, if not perfect for bike commuters such as my beau. It has rained once during the past three months. We Californians are in a drought. A serious, serious drought. So much so that I ask the skies for rain on a daily basis. But every morning, when I look out the window and see the shining sun, I can't help but think, "another sunny day? Oh well, I may as well take advantage of the weather."

So I hop on my bike. But before I can actually go anywhere new, I check the internet. For some suggested bike route options. I typically grab my handy smartphone, open Google Maps, and enter in where I want to go (this activity is reserved for distant locations outside my typical biking comfort zone). I hit bike route and voilĂ , I am given the suggested route. So, I head off. I love bike rides across town.

Except that I almost never follow the suggested bike route. I find that it is never the best/easiest/quickest/safest/flattest route. So why even look it up at all, if I'm going to learn to navigate the streets myself? Force of habit, I suppose. I do rely heavily on Google Maps for driving directions. But whatever bike route Google Maps does tell me to take is not the one I end up taking. 

When it comes to navigating the streets of San Francisco, regular bike riders know best. I can honestly say I know the best routes. I knew the wiggle long before I even had a smartphone. I am glad the city has taken to painting in green bike lanes and arrows to help novices learn the flat routes throughout the city, but even they don't always get it right.

Almost every time I ride my bike through San Francisco I notice the sharrows. Sharrows are exactly what they sound like; they are "share arrows" meant to let cars know that they must share the lane with bicycles. Sharrows also alert bikers that they can and should use this street (as opposed to the major thorough-way one block to the left or right of each particularly painted street). I feel safer on sharrow or bike lane marked streets. But more often than not, I don't choose to take these streets.

Cars are notified to share the road with bicyclists

Because sharrowed streets are not necessarily flat streets. Or through streets. There is simply always a better route or street to take. Thank you City of San Francisco for painting arrows on blacktop, but your arrows are useless. Or at least should and will be ignored by us locals. I rely on what I know about the city and its streets to get me from start to finish, every single time. I go where the locals know to go, and I choose every street I take based on experience on these streets; not by any map, painted arrows, or bike lane. I know where to go because I have been there before. 

Some day I hope our friends at Google think to ask us, "what is the bike route you'd take from ocean beach to the ballpark. Or from Pacific Heights to the Embarcadero" and then edit their mapping software to reflect these best routes. Until then, we bike riders already know the best way to go. So we hop on our bikes and head across town.