Friday, October 31, 2014

How to Rebuild a Life in Madison, WI

I've moved away from reading Penelope Trunk's career posts. Occasionally, I'll open up Newsblur, and there they are, waiting for me. I read her homeschooling posts as they come.
Penelope Trunk

Here's a recent story about Kate.

There are a lot of comments telling Penelope that she's so goodhearted, and maybe she is. I don't know. There are a lot of shenanigans in Penelope's life.

I think that Kate deserves a helping hand. I thought about what it would be like to rebuild your life when you moved somewhere else, especially Madison.

  1. Get a GED. Kate didn't finish high school.
  2. Find a job. Easier than you would think...there are help wanted signs everywhere in Madison right now. There's a shortage of people to work at Target, if the crowds at the checkouts are any indication. They also have help wanted signs out.
  3. Get a car. Unless she finds a job and home on the isthmus, she'll need a car. On the isthmus, a bike can be your primary transportation year-round, and it's faster than a car.
  4. Get an apartment. I live in a "luxury" apartment (even though I think the moniker is ludicrous). It costs more than Kate should spend on an apartment, but there are craigslist postings for apartments that should suffice.
  5. Enroll in a Madison school. There are a few colleges around here, and I think that Kate can get into one without too much fuss.
Those are the first steps to rebuilding her life when it's crumbled so far. I wish her the best, and I hope that everything works out.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Why All Employees Shouldn't Code

I'm a huge proponent of everyone learning to code. It's an incredibly important part of our economy and our future.

But we shouldn't do it for the wrong reasons.
Tom Davenport
Source: @tdav


The most important technological skill for all employees is being able to code. If, as Marc Andreessen once noted, “Software is eating the world,” knowing how to code will help you eat rather than be eaten. Understanding how to design, write and maintain a computer program is important even if you never plan to write one in business. If you don’t know anything about coding, you won’t be able to function effectively in the world today.
No. Understanding how to design a computer program is far beyond what I was trying to get people to do. Maintenance? Are you joking? There are entire sections of Windows dedicated to maintaining legacy code. It shouldn't be a common skill, because one should hope that we learn how to work around legacy code. The last sentence is extremely egregious. There are so many successful people in the workforce who don't know anything about coding, and they can function just fine.
You will procure much of your information from the Internet, and you need to know what went wrong when you get “404 not found” or a “500 internal server error” messages.
No, you don't. I understand what those mean, but for the vast majority of Americans, understanding server speak is not necessary.

It's this kind of snotty ivory tower speak that makes me unhappy. I'd rather he stood against everyone learning to code. I'm uncomfortable having this guy on my side.

The most dangerous party member.-- In every party there is one who through his all too credulous avowal of the party's principles incites the others to apostasy.

from Nietzsche's Human, all too Human, s.298, R.J. Hollingdale transl.

Listen, I come from a software background. It was my full-time job. And I've practically tech illiterate people fumble around on the inside of a software company. And they do ok, although life is a terrifying place for them. They never need to learn how to work with servers - they just keep to themselves and learn as much as they need to. You underestimate how much on-the-job training they'll do just to keep their heads above water.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Review of It's Not All About Me by the former head of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Program

Robin Dreeke, former head of FBI's Behavioral Analysis Program
Source: Google Plus

Approaching randoms strangers in hotel lobbies

The lobby was spacious and had a coffee counter that served coffee, dessert pastries, etc. A young woman walked up to the counter to order a coffee. My friend and I were sitting sipping on our own coffee about 30 feet away and my friend noticed that the woman was wearing knee-high boots. My friend explained that he was in the market for a pair of boots like that as a gift for his wife. He went on to ask me if I wouldn’t mind using a little subterfuge to get a photo of the boots so he could show his wife to check whether she liked the style. My friend went on to explain this elaborate scheme of pretending to photograph him with my cell phone with her innocently in the background. I look at him doubtfully and said, “I’ll just go ask her.”
I think that's the best approach. It's sketchy to take pictures of someone without his or her consent.

Politicians’ body language

A few years ago I also noted former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in a media photo. He was doing the same thing. Mike Huckabee demonstrates excellent accommodating nonverbal behavior. He generally has a lower chin angle; he leans in to listen with a slight head tilt and shakes hands palm up. Some have said that this may be because of his days as a pastor greeting individuals following a service. Whichever the case is, he is another great example of accommodating nonverbal.
I realized that this happens all the time in church. We open ourselves to other people.

Changing people

I do not believe in trying to “change” people. When someone says, “You need to change.” Or, “I can change her.” I think you are setting yourself up for a disappointing task.
It's true. You can't force other people to change, which people find out to their sorrow.

Speaking Slowly

My confidence in the topic, my extroversion and my New York demographics enabled me to unwittingly increase my speech tempo dramatically. Toward the end of the discussion, I clearly remember one of my friends leaning over to me as we were standing in the conversation circle and quietly saying, “We all know how credible you are Robin. When you speak that fast you lose your credibility. Slow it down so you are not overselling, and stop appearing as though you are trying to sell us a bad used car.”
I've experienced this recently as I get more telemarketers trying to get me to donate to various causes. As I say, "No," their speech speeds up and I hang up. You lose trust if you try to be a used car salesman.

Easy Requests

The importance of keeping the request easy and nonthreatening cannot be overemphasized. When individuals perceive that the assistance would imperil them or involve a cost to them, they are much less likely to accommodate such requests, especially with a stranger. Individuals who have close anchored bonds and relationships can rely on tougher requests, but, for the purpose of developing quick rapport and conversations, keep the requests “light.”
I've experienced this as more people try to get me to review their books. I'm a top reviewer on Amazon, and that means that people are more willing to give their books to me for free. It's not an easy ask to ask someone to spend a few hours reading your full-length book. It's an easy ask to ask for feedback on a cover, and someone who has agreed to a small favor will be more likely to say yes to a big favor later. See Ramit Sethi's 1-2 punch and the Cialdini concept of foot-in-the-door.


Most people would feel badly if they received a gift and forgot to say or send a thank you note to the giver. When someone does you a favor you most likely want to reciprocate with gratitude.
It is part of the human condition to want to reciprocate. Cialdini used the example of the Hare Krishna and flowers in his book, Influence.

There are a lot of excellent examples in Robin Dreeke's book. These are only the ones that were compact. He did cat-on-the-roof (a concept introduced to me by Meg Cabot) during a hotel breakfast. He also reminded me of the Ben Franklin principle, which I believe was introduced to me during Give and Take. Dreeke uses his children and wife as signals that say that he's not romantically interested in the subject. The mere mention isn't enough - saying that he is looking for a special gift for them is. It's a very good book, and I highly recommend it.

Airbnb Changing the Face of Popular European Cities


One of the ambitions that I've held since middle school Latin is to visit Italy: Rome, of course, Milan, Firenze, Venice, etc. There are a lot of romance novels set there, and that's because Italy is perceived as very romantic. It's also a good retirement destination, if you like warm weather.

While looking into the costs of going there in a pack of four people, I realized that the cheapest way to go is to stay in an Airbnb apartment. And the one that I was looking at was near the Coliseo and public transportation, and it was $200/night for all four of us. That's manageable.

I realized that the owner had 6 or more Airbnb properties in Rome. It's not about sharing your home with random strangers. There's a huge arbitrage opportunity if you are a Roman, because you can own and maintain tons of properties for tourists.


Another distressed economy is going the same way. Giorgos Kallis claims that half of Greece was for rent last summer. It makes sense - in the absence of actual industry, what can people do? Bring people into their homes so they can experience the beauty of a Greek summer, augmented by authentic Greek food.
Giorgos Kallis, Greek native
Source: Press Project


One of my friends who just moved to Granada told me that most of the young folks at his wife's language school came over initially and stayed in an Airbnb for a week before settling properly into an apartment while doing the footwork while located in Granada. Granada is a beautiful place, but it's not on the typical tourist track. Barcelona has been revolutionized by Airbnb, because people apparently really want to rent out places, according to Giorgos Kallis.
I have many friends in Barcelona who have experienced a total transformation of their apartment blocks, suddenly finding themselves  alone within AirBnb rentals, unable to sleep from the parties of weekend travelers. Rental prices in the centre of Barcelona are sky-rocketing, as owners find it more profitable to rent on AirBnb than hold long-term leases. New “entrepreneurs” bid prices up, renting apartments that they then sublet at AirBnb.
 I don't think that there's really anything wrong with it. Italy, Spain, and Greece are all distressed properties set in a beautiful place with good weather. It's like all the Caribbean islands who are trying to become tourist spots. Those countries are just undergoing a natural shift as the government stifles actual industry in those countries with too many labor regulations. In the absence of 9-5 jobs, people will take what they can, which includes opening up apartments to tourists who come and spend money in the economy. While it maybe be annoying to be surrounded by tourists from all over the world, the end result is that Barcelona will be much better off for it - that goes for the rest of Europe, too.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Being the Product: Google Edition

Fred Wilson uses Gmail for his emails. He gets 700-900 a day. He was complaining this morning that the priority inbox algorithm changed. Seth Godin wrote that it was a key problem of our time. We are the product, not the service. We all rely on Google. Even though I started doing Bing Rewards, I have to go back to Google for News, Finance, and Maps. Bing doesn't come close in those areas. The UI is abysmal for Finance and Maps (Google's isn't tons better, though it is better). News from Google is way better than Bing's News. I am still sore about the shutdown of Google Reader.
Tim Cook
Source: Apple

Tim Cook talked about privacy and encryption with the release of iOS 8. They reconfigured it so that nobody could read your messages, besides you.

I've written about Google a lot. I originally had hotmail, then I had Yahoo! mail, and now I have Gmail. I've stayed with Gmail for probably just as long as I stayed with my hotmail account.

It makes me uncomfortable that Google engineers can read my emails. If Apple offered Mail in a way that had a UI comparable to Google's, I'd seriously consider switching to my iCloud account. Alas, their interface is horrible, so I'm going to stick where I am.

I think that Yahoo! mail has made leaps and bounds since Marissa Mayer took the reins, and I like how they push things into Boxbe. Sometimes, though, I Have to wade into Boxbe to find an email that I need. It's not a perfect solution, but it's where I would go if Google had a huge privacy scandal. I don't know if Yahoo! does a better job with privacy, though.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

One Asian CEO in the Workforce

I read a TIME article about Asian-Americans in the workforce. There are Asians in many companies, and the problem is that they don't get promoted.

Bamboo Ceiling

There remain problems with other minorities and their representation in the workforce, and I understand that. The Asians are trying to find ways to get past the Bamboo Ceiling, which I suppose might be the last mile. I still remember when everyone was abuzz over Wesley Yang speaking about it in 2011. It was so shocking to see that our culture was holding us back, as well as ridiculous prejudices.

Wesley Yang
Source: NY Mag

Model Minority and Learning

The TIME article talked about the model minority and how difficult reverse racism is/was for Asian-Americans. People ignore that slackers don't get A-s. There are Asian kids who are failing out, and it's harmful to always assume that an Asian child is automatically good at school. It makes it so terrible t be a child who isn't doing well. I do not know any Asian-American kid who has dyslexia or any other learning disability, but it's hard because people expect you to be someone you are not.

Being My Own Boss

There are people in my family who are better suited to leadership positions than I am. In the coworking space where I spend some of my days, I can hear the interaction of a boss with his employees. It's something that I've escaped by working for myself. I have effectively promoted myself to the CEO position of a one-person business.

Tony Hsieh graduated from Harvard with his Computer Science degree and wait straight to work at Oracle.

Working From Home

Yesterday, when I was at choir, someone asked me if I was working from home. I told her that I didn't, but I could. She replied that she couldn't, because she'd never get anything done. I retorted that I'd never get paid if I didn't work. That is true.

Societal Expectations

It's not easy all the time, especially when family members are aghast at the low amount of hours that I do per week for paid employment. I'm an entrepreneur, though not at a startup, and I identified with this Medium post.


It's a major concern, and it was one of the first questions from my family. I'm currently covered under COBRA, because I like no co-pay, no deductible coverage. When it runs out or I move out of state, I'll be eligible to switch my health insurance. I can also enroll during any open enrollment period for Obamacare.

Obamacare is a tremendous leap forward, and it's integral to the sharing economy. Without the possibility of health coverage, many freelancers like me would stick to their 9-5 jobs and not leapfrog to the CEO spot. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Voting in the Upcoming Midterm Elections

So election season has come around yet again. There's a lot of campaigning and pushing and shoving in Wisconsin over the gubernatorial race, so there's a lot of posters and such around the community. I was interested to see Lil Jon in a video about turning out for the midterm elections. He said that he was showing up to vote for the legalization of MJ. There are a lot of reasons to show up to vote, and there's a huge list.

Millennial Voters in Midterms

Whoever made the video did a good job of listening to Millennial concerns. Even though less than 25% showed up for the last midterm, Millennials have a lot of opinions. It's ok to do a big push for presidential elections, where about half of us vote, but it's worth it to target us for midterms. If that means that I'll see a lot of candidate ads on Youtube, so be it.

I personally do not at this time identify with either party. If anything, I am part of the Far Center. I'd like more moderate candidates, but the primary process does not allow centrists anymore, as shown by the ousting of Senator Richard Lugar, who was one of Indiana's senators for most of my life.

Asians in NoVA

I was interested to see that people are trying to get the Asian vote. Asians make up about 5% of the American population, but apparently there's enough of them in Northern Virginia to tip the scales. I've gotten random robo-calls from campaigns in Los Angeles touting Chinese or Korean candidates.
Superstar Eric Liu, former Clinton speechwriter
Source: CNN

It's interesting to see a growing wave of Asian-American influence (sorry, Eric Liu) in politics in some of the larger cities/metropolitan areas. I'm not sure if the Asian community is actually united in platform.

The Hispanic community of Florida is divided. Most of the Cubans (such as Marco Rubio) are Republicans, in response to the communism in Cuba. Others, who still subscribe to the more collectivistic cultures of Latin America, are more likely to vote Democrat.

I see Asian voters going the same way. There's such a diversity in the Asian community that I can't imagine truly uniting under one banner. That means that political outreach to the Asian community relies on having a flexible platform with open ears and responsiveness to feedback.