j.j. toothman

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Category: Thoughts (page 2 of 4)

The AT&T dropped iPhone calls problem. Definitely an SF thing.

I’m sure that no one will be surprised by this, but my opinion of AT&T iPhone service has changed dramatically since I left San Francisco. My iPhone is even more of a workhorse than it was before.  And it’s performing like a champ. I’m doing numerous 60-90 minute conference calls on my iPhone on a daily basis.  Once I did an hour long conference call while on the Acela from New Haven to New York.  During these calls, I’m putting my iPhone through its paces by surfing the Web, accessing info on the Evernote App, or other things sucking up the data stream.  And my call’s aren’t dropping.

Yes, this has resulted in heavy voice usage and the amount of minutes I’m using is skyrocketing.  This month, I would have been the victim of heavy extra charges on my bill if not for AT&T sending me a text message alerting me that I’m way over and I should change my data plan to compensate.  Thanks for taking care of me, AT&T!  I was especially pleased to find out that I could retroactively change my plan back to my last billing date.  Overage charges be gone!

It will be interesting to see how things change when I’m in metro Boston full time. 

Only in Vermont

Now these are the kinds of nuances that make Vermont unique. A TV station in Burlington has an official Phish correspondent.

OK blog, I’ve got some things to say

Hello blog.  Happy to see you’re still here. No, I haven’t forgotten about you.  Though if you thought that I had abandoned you for something like my posterous account, I could see that would be running through your database tables and php scripts.  Don’t worry.  I’m only using that for that for quick publishing photos and videos taken on my iPhone.

But I’m sure you’re wondering why no updates for since last Fall.  Let me bring you up to speed.

I spent the last half of 2009 working with a dot-com startup in San Francisco called Ticketfly. I told you about them before.  Working there was wonderful in so many ways.  I met a lot of great people and made some new friends.  I got to work with a lot of web technologies and social APIs that are right in my sweetspot of interests.  And it was about live music.  And you know how much I like that.

In so many ways, Ticketfly was a perfect match for me.  But in other ways, not so much.  As I write this I’m tuned into a live video stream of the Twitter Chirp Conference.  I’ve already heard a couple of the speakers talk about how working on a startup completely takes over your life.  I definitely found that to be the case in the last half of 2009.  Even though I was having a great time, other parts of my life were being impacted.  I have to admit that I was not completely self-aware of how little quality time I was spending with Mason and Jude.  The people at Ticketfly were great and super understanding of the demands of two children.  But that doesn’t change the fact that there were a million things to do there every single day.  Many of which simply couldn’t wait until a more convenient time.  And yes there were plenty of days when I left the Ticketfly offices in San Francisco around 4 to head down the coast to Half Moon Bay and pick up the boys from daycare.  And yes, I would get them home and spend dinner time with them.  But it didn’t take long for me to look at them and start thinking “OK, when are you two going to be ready for bed so I can open up the laptop and so work until 10 or 11 pm?” That’s no way to look at  your children.

Sure, Keturah is around to share the load, but she’s working with her own start up.  So it was a double whammy as the requirements on our time were constantly smashing into each other.  The Obama administration recently held the Workplace Flexibility Forum in which they talked about the “juggler family.”  Here’s an excerpt from The President’s remarks:

Today, two-thirds of American families with kids are headed by two working parents or a single working parent, and the result is the rise of what one expert I know refers to as “the juggler family.”  For these families, every day is a high wire act.  Everything is scheduled right down to the minute.  There’s no room for error.  If the car breaks down, or somebody gets sick, or there’s a problem at school, that begins a cascading domino effect that leaves everybody scrambling.

That’s our family.  Described with frightening perfection.  Except in addition to things like car break downs throwing us off course, Keturah and I were dealing with late afternoon meetings that started late and ran until well past 5 pm.  Or last minute phone calls.  And even worse, business calls to our cell phones while we were trying to enjoy a family dinner or read a bedtime story to our kids.

To say that our lifestyle was unsustainable is an understatement.  And something had to give.  So in January, when Ticketfly indicated that, due to budgetary constraints, they were going to be unable to continue to retain my consulting services, my initial reactions were of sadness and disappointment because of the fun work that it was and because of the good people that I was working alongside.  Good people who had become my friends.

In fact, it was so disappointing that I didn’t even say goodbye to them.  Nothing personal.  In fact, it was a pretty rude and immature move on my part.  But it was just something that I didn’t really want to do.  So I avoided it by slowly and quietly drifting away.

Sorry ‘Flyers.   You’re a great group of people and I have no doubt that you’ll help Ticketfly achieve greatness.  I wish you all nothing but the best.  Proud to call you all my friends.

And eventually, my disappointment washed away into relief and a true understanding of what I was really disappointed about in the first place: the recurring conflict of my personal and professional ambitions with the realities of being in a juggler family that includes two toddlers.   Living that existence is extremely difficult.  The challenges are extremely physical and emotional and they took a tool on me last year.  In addition to creeping close to exhaustion at times, healthy nutrition became a term completely lost on me, and exercise…does stretching on the couch count?

Ultimately the relief I felt was because a decision that I didn’t want to have to make was made for.  I had often said to Keturah in 2009 “I’m not so sure we can both be involved in startups AND raise these two kids AND keep our sanity. “

Now I know it sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m not.  Yes, I did go to Vermont last Fall to visit some friends. And the last night pig roast was something only a bunch of idiotic college friends would do.  And in that same trip I went to Fenway for a playoff game with my parents.  And we had a wonderful family Tahoe trip a couple of months ago that included Mason’s first time on skis.

Yeah, there have been some good times.   But I want more of those.  So I’ve been making changes recently.  I’ve been regrouping the last couple of months.  I did dabble in a few freelance projects, but none were really what I was looking for long term.  Mostly I’ve been relaxing, spending time with my family, reading books (another thing that went in the waste bin last year), trying to eat better, and get myself on some exercise programs.  As you can tell from the lack of posting here and on Twitter and Facebook, I went into hibernation a bit.   I’ve talked with a few startups, but wasn’t looking to dive into the questionable work/life balances that came with those types of opportunities.  Being in a “juggler family” isn’t something I want to do long-term and I’m ready to tackle that from another angle.  This post is long enough.  I’ll write more on what’s next for me in my next post.

My Top 5 Dream Jobs – May 2009 Edition

After a recent watching of High Fidelity, I decided to put myself through a little exercise.  In the film/book, Rob Gordon creates a list of his top 5 dream jobs. I decided I would do the same. 

High Fidelity

So here’s my top 5 dream jobs list. Like a top 5 albums of all time listing, this list would probably change on a monthly basis. But right now, here’s my best shot. In no particular order…

Own a record store. Not a Virgin, but a place that sold vinyl. Something like Village Records in Mill Valley. Which is where DJ Shadow would go to find fresh sounds for his music and which sadly closed a year ago. Extended ideas around this include having a expansive space to have a coworking facility (complete with self serve coffee bar) during the day and a performance space at night.

Be the new media director for Wilco (or another band that I love). Actually, the ideal position would be with Phish. But someone already has that role and is doing a kick ass job at it (if what happened at the Hampton reunion shows in any indication). In addition to handling Wilco’s online strategy and execution (web, social media, etc), figure out ways to integrate new media into their performances. This dream job is heavily influenced by an earlier dream job on this list: be the visual designer for concert backdrops…incorporating abstract video, animation, etc.

Social media stratgist for an entertainment company. Ideally Marvel or DC Comics. I once wrote a multipage outline of how comic book characters should have have online profiles integrated into their marketing outreach and ultimately, the storylines. Social media integration could take the story into a real time dimension, capturing what takes place between issues or episodes. Sort of what happened with the Mad Men characters on Twitter. Example: Bruce Wayne and Batman on Twitter. They would never be tweeting on the same time, right? Do you think they would be following each other’s tweets? In short, there is an entertainment thing that can take place in social media. The Fake Steve Jobs blog did it. Twitter.com/darthvader also doing it well.

Photographer (Street, urban, dark landscape, or concert) – If there was money to made in traveling the world shooting photos while also towing my family with me. I would do it. Even if that means I have I’m shooting traditional photos for postcard companies. Ideal job is Rolling Stone staff photographer based in Europe – specializing in capturing what happens when up and coming American bands make their first trek to Europe. Imagine being there when Kurt Cobain brings Nirvana to Paris for the first time and seeing him react to the Louvre.

Multimedia Artist – Can someone just pay to hang out in a loft somewhere, working on digital art installations, like what I did in grad school – http://solidether.com/luminance

Honorable mention bonus…

Recently bumped from this list since the last time I did such an exercise (in 2001, in the months following the dot com implosion) – Helicopter Pilot. Not your ordinary traffic reporting copter pilot, but the guy who takes the extreme skiers to mountain peaks and tops of glaciers to drop them off. In the summer of 2001, I actually tried this. I logged about 2 hours of flight training before realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to deal with the motion sickness. If it wasn’t for that it would still be on the list.

A Career?

Sage wisdom from Lloyd Dobler in “Say Anything”

A career? I’ve thought about this quite a bit sir and I would have to say considering what’s waiting out there for me, I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I dont want to sell anything bought or processed or buy anything sold or processed or repair anything sold, bought or processed as a career. I dont want to do that. My father’s in the army. He wants me to join, but I can’t work for that corporation, so what I’ve been doing lately is kick-boxing, which is a new sport…as far as career longevity, I dont really know. I cant figure it all out tonight, sir, so I’m just gonna hang with your daughter.

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