Pink

June 26, 2005

I recently picked up the debut issue of Pink, a new magazine for professional women. The thing that caught my eye was an article called “Get Fired Like a Man”. 🙂 Actually it turned out to be a good article for anyone who is entering the ranks of upper management, about how to negotiate a golden parachute in advance. Cause isn’t that what equality means? — that mediocre executives can be well-distributed among all genders, ethnicities, and sexual preferences? I have a dream! (I’m actually serious — I believe that excellence can take care of itself, so it’s not as good a measure of structural inequality as mediocrity.)

Generally I thought it was a good magazine, but… just once I’d like to read an article about a female businessperson that doesn’t mention her marital status, hairdo, and whether she goes to her kids’ soccer games. I do not give a rat’s ass about any business leader’s private life, male or female, except insofar as they have quirky hobbies like playing ice hockey or building replicas of the Titanic out of toothpicks. And when I flip through Business 2.0 or Fortune, they maybe have a single article per issue about work-life balance — not ten articles. In fact, I would like to see an article called “Blow Off Work-Life Balance Like a Man”.

Actually, one of the most innovative features of the magazine is that they take the line that female execs should “get over it” in their relationships to service providers — who may happen to be other women. For example, just get a housecleaner and stop guilting yourself out about it. Or just send a young associate on an onerous weekend trip instead of going yourself — hey, it’s an opportunity for brownie-points for him/her. Or just make your executive assistant come in at 9AM to open up so you can roll into the office at 10 when you prefer. Or if push comes to shove, make your younger employees go without health insurance so you can get yours first. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with any of these ideas, but it’s fascinating that someone needs to tell women it’s OK to do things like this — things that amount to using your power to make your life better, even if it means throwing off on other people, because you are creating more value than they are. I’m not sure men anyone to tell them that using power for your own convenience is one of the upsides of getting older and more powerful. 🙂

Joey’s birthday

June 25, 2005

Someone reminded me that today is the one-year anniversary of the rewrite of my previous employer’s site. I’ve never been so proud to belong to an eng team as I was that day. I guess it’s true that as time goes on, you remember the good parts more and the bad parts just fade away.

A recent trip to New York served to remind me how spoiled we are here for broadband. There is seemingly not an office, home, motel, bookstore, restaurant, or coffeeshop from San Jose to San Francisco where you can’t get free wifi at will. They even have it on the Google commuter bus!

In contrast, we wasted the better part of a day in New York trying to find enough connectivity to sit down and plan the day. The trouble began in our hotel (The Time Hotel at 49th and Broadway, which I otherwise liked very much): for reasons we never figured out, Tim’s Powerbook could get Ethernet just fine but my Linux lappy could not. So we marched out into midtown in search of wifi; but one Barnes & Noble and two Starbucks later, we had to grumpily admit defeat. Let me just say that a big reason I patronize national chains is to get the same services at each one; so if they don’t meet my expectations the same at home and on the road, their value to me is reduced.

The coffeeshops claimed to have T-Mobile, which I would have been willing to pay for; but what they didn’t have is chairs. Maybe sophisticated Manhattanites have perfected the art of using ssh and imap while standing up at little counters — but this West Coast girl needs to sitz her fleisch next to a table with a caffeinated beverage on top to achieve true nirvana. In desperation, we actually made the hotel patch us through to RoadRunner tech support, who turned out to be utterly useless (“unplug the cable modem for 10 seconds…”). Finally, Ops Boy made me very happy by suggesting that we could use the Powerbook as a proxy for the Linux box via an ad-hoc wireless network and NAT table (aka connection sharing).

Another major disappointment was the Treo. And here I must particularly call out Yahoo Local, which works reasonably well for me at home but not on the device. Let’s say you are standing in the middle of midtown Manhattan looking for a place to eat lunch. It’s kind of disturbing that when I type “restaurants Times Square New York” and hit the “Local” search button on the WAP interface, I get: 1) a screen that asks me whether I want to search near Home, New York NY, Palo Alto CA, or Las Vegas NV; and then 2) a list of mostly hotels and a couple of restaurants. (Update: this only happens the first time you try this search. Subsequently you get 1) a list of different cities named New York in various states, so you can be sure you’re talking about New York NY rather than say New York KY; and 2) the same search results you’d get if you did the search on the web interface. Dunno if this is good or bad.) In any case, Yahoo Local was a total dud for helping me find a cool place to eat lunch, get a massage, have an expensive drink, or visit a museum. I had money to spend, guys! Help me spend it.

Much to my surprise, the country club hotel on Sand’s Point had free wifi. However, cellphone coverage was ass all around there. Since we basically only had one car for 12 people who had disparate errands to run all over the place, the lack of cellular coverage was a significant problem.

The whole long weekend made me realize how utterly dependent I’ve become on data infrastructure. All my daily habits have changed in ways that incorporate the Interweb and mobile. I don’t even use the landline or the fax machine, much less the guidebook and the newspaper and the Yellow Pages. And yet, every time I leave Silicon Valley I realize how incomplete this transition really is.

A surprising number of people have asked about it, so here’s the deal with the hair extensions.

Why did you do it? I served as a bridesmaid in a big formal wedding this past weekend. I think my last hairstylist regarded me with contempt because I just gave him a blank look when he asked me how much time I spend on my hair every morning — so he gave me this wash-n-wear faculty-wife ‘do that is impossible to dress up in any way. We’re wearing pretty dramatic dresses, and the other bridesmaids are all getting their hair done, so I was worried I would look stupid and pinheaded and insufficiently femmy standing next to them. Plus I’ve always just liked the idea of changing one’s looks through technology… so scifi!

How did you find the stylist? A friend of mine has really nice extensions, so I asked her for a recommendation. Turns out the work was done by a coworker from her law office who does hair on the weekends.

Is it real hair? Yep. I just didn’t grow it myself — but it’s mine now!

Where did you procure the hair? Wig shop. There are a lot of brands, ideally your stylist will come with you the first time to match your color and texture. It costs between $40 – 110 per pack, and most people need only one pack. You can use the hair over and over.

What is involved in the procedure? I understand that the “normal” process is to put in several rows of thin horizontal braids and then sew the hair to those. My particular stylist prefers a technique in which she basically sews several horizontal rows of knots to my hair with thread and then sews the hair to the knots. It kinda feels like a net under there. In addition, because my hair is so straight, she also used some kind of special hair glue to stick the fake hair to my real hair.

How long did it take? 4 hours — but we were drinking beer and watching TV and stuff. I amazed them with my knowledge of old-school hip-hop lyrics (“I’m expressing with my full capabilities, and now I’m living in correctional facilities”… awwwww yeah!)

Did it hurt? It didn’t hurt me except for some pulling, but I have a high pain tolerance. It feels tight and itchy for a couple days, like you had really tight braids put in.

What’s the maintenance like? Immediately afterwards I dyed my hair because the colors didn’t match perfectly and it made the gradient more obvious. You really want to go a shade darker than whatever color you’re rocking now, because the fake hair doesn’t take up lighteners and pigments exactly the same as real hair — especially if you’ve been coloring for awhile. On a daily basis, the big thing is that I must blow-dry because my natural hair is pin-straight while the fake hair is wavy. People with naturally wavy hair would have less trouble with this.

How long does it last? I understand it lasts about 4 – 6 weeks before it starts to look icky. You can have the extensions taken out and then immediately put back in.

Would you do it again? Yep. It was a lot of trouble, but I think I achieved my goals.

Neologism

June 9, 2005

I think I’m the first to use this word: Flickrstalking. Using Flickr to track a person’s movements through the world. Whee, Googlewhack!

What is up with that lame Gary Rivlin piece in the NYT Magazine today? Rivlin has the sharpest knife in Silicon Valley! People are genuinely afraid of the guy. Why would any editor waste that kind of god-given talent on what is essentially a lifestyle puff piece (“Get the silver Ferrari, the red is tacky”) mixed with some bad psychologizing and evidently some extremely leading questions?

I don’t get what’s so strange about people thinking they’re too young to retire in their 30’s, that it requires this level of creepy analysis of their motivations. There’s probably a whole bunch of partners at Goldman who don’t need to work either. Does anyone write articles like this about their reasons for continuing to show up at the office? Everyone in this society has a job. It’s isolating to stop having one, especially if all your friends still have them. There’s only so much travelling and golf-playing a healthy 30-something Type-A obsessive can stand to do before he starts to crave the grind again. No amount of money changes that, as far as I can tell.

Plus, Rivlin severely underestimates the motive power of doing things because you can and it looks like no one else will. I can’t believe how many hours of my life have been spent on tasks that I started basically because I realized no one else was going to step up. If you happen to be the type of person who has bleeding-edge technical needs, and you build something that you need… well, guess what, sometimes you end up giving birth to a company while you were scratching an itch.

The pecking order thing also doesn’t seem to jibe with my experiences — meaning I think there is (at least) one, but I don’t know that it’s as closely calibrated to net worth as the article suggests. I don’t have any freakin’ idea how much money Reid Hoffman has, to pick just one example from the article, but I know a lot of people who respect his judgment in evaluating consumer web companies over that of anyone else in the Valley. Conversely, I’ve met people here worth half a billion dollars who no one particularly looks up to.

And finally, at the risk of sounding like a total sap… these guys aren’t just serial entrepreneurs, almost all of them are also angel investors — and there’s an aspect of giving back or paying forward to their compulsive business-mindedness. I think a lot of people here, egomaniacal as they undoubtedly may be, have love for the unique ecosystem that helped create their success. Well, you can’t exactly write a check to Silicon Valley in the same way you can to Stanford or MIT. What you can do though is employ, train, mentor, fund, introduce, and advise those following in your footsteps. To say that these guys are just about starting companies to make more money or feed their egos or move up in the pecking order is to miss a lot of the special habitus of the place in favor of a one-dimensional portrait of wealth on the hoof.