Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Story of an Artist


Pure art is nothing more than an expression of human consciousness for others to experience.
– Me

Apple announced upgraded MacBook Pros, this morning. That lead me to noticing their new commercial that's part of their "Behind The Mac" marketing campaign. Apple commercials sometimes have sticky songs such as in "The City," featuring "Sing to Me." (Both videos tell a story about a deep, curious, and budding love.)

What's unusual about this most recent "Behind The Mac" ad, embedded below, is the naive, lo-fi recording that accompanies the commercial; the song is "The Story Of An Artist," by the musician Daniel Johnston.

Johnston suffers from debilitating mental health issues. At one point, when he was flying in a small plane piloted by his father, he removed the key from the ignition and threw it out the window. Amazingly, they escaped from their crash landing, in a forest, with only minor injuries.

For those of us who are older, it's the subtle, yet authentic, quality of Johnston's cassette tape recordings that bring a wave of something more than nostalgia; it brings saudade. We remember making the same recordings on our cassette players in our bedrooms and basements. Press play and record at the same time --- and don't forget to break off the tab if you don't want to mistakenly record over it.

Johnston's songs have a hauntingly raw simplicity underneath a sad kindness, as they are performed by a man whose sufferings are difficult to understand, let alone imagine. His lyrics aren't his words, instead, they're his unfiltered thoughts, feelings, and experiences ---  candid and exposed --- yet endearingly palatable in their message. 


How to Inventory Prime Now

More and more often, I find myself using Amazon Prime Now for two hour food and restaurant deliveries. As a former supply officer in the Marines, I quickly learned the importance of receipting for materiel as soon as it's received, before signing off on the delivery.


Pre-inventory
Receipting for a Prime Now delivery should also be done as soon as it arrives. To avoid any confusion or mistakes I simply unload everything in one spot, typcially on my kitchen counter (see my pre-inventory photo). Be sure to thoroughly check for any small items, especially in the bags with the cold packs.


Post-inventory
You can print out your order if it's a big delivery, but that shouldn't be necessary. I simply open my Prime Now app on my phone and start at the top of the list. As I scroll down, through each item, I pick it up and move it from my pre-inventory location to another counter (see my post-inventory photo). I've seen people simply take a quick look in their delivery bags and then put everything away, causing problems later when they're unsure if they received an item they ordered. Also, be sure to double check the quantities. 

Once you've gone through the entire list, you'll know within a two minutes if everything was delivered. If something's missing, I'll go through all the bags to triple check before calling customer service. 

If you have extra items, simply keep them. I've contacted Amazon when I was delivered a few extra items I didn't order and their response was "I'm truly sorry that you have received an extra bag of goodies. You are welcome to keep, dispose of or donate the items in that extra bag." Their loss is your gain. Not a bad deal.

If you're missing anything – or, if you've received the wrong order – then contact Amazon. They will probably give you a refund and/or a credit and then, if time allows, send out the replacement items.

In my experience, all of the drivers for Prime Now have been Amazon Flex Drivers which is like Uber/Lyft, but instead of moving people, the driver is moving goods. However, the Flex Drivers do not pick and pack the items in the warehouse; that's done by well-trained Amazon employees and highly obedient robots.

To speed up my delivery, I will use the app or website to track the Flex Driver on the way to my place and meet them between my front door and the street. Your deliverer will appreciate that, especially if you live in a gated complex. 

Like Uber/Lyft, no money is exchanged on the spot. It's all done ahead of time, through the app; even the tip.

Yes, Amazon's taking over the planet (and beyond). It's the second most valuable company in the world, if my calculations correct:

High Tech Market Capitalization
  • Apple:     $939B
  • Amazon:    $872B
  • Google:    $824B
  • Microsoft: $801B
  • Facebook:  $599B
  • Netflix:   $180B


PS – No, you don't have to queue up your food to inventory it. I don't. I only did it for these photos.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2018

    iPhone X Deals?

    A buddy contacted me asking about iPhone X deals. This was my response...

        It's not easy to find a real deal with Apple's iPhones because Apple doesn't run sales/discounts. It depends more on a person's budget if they can pay upfront the full $999/iPhone X or a subsidized plan through a carrier with a contract.

        About five years ago, I started buying the new iPhones outright, without a contract. That made it easy for me to switch from my $100+/month plan, with AT&T, to Cricket Wireless for $35/month (no contract and no other fees with unlimited texting and voice calls):
    http://blog.joemoreno.com/2017/06/hail-cricket-farewell-at.html

        Here's an article talking about how to save some money when purchasing the iPhone X:
    https://bgr.com/2018/04/25/iphone-x-deals-verizon-vs-att-best-buy


    Q: Why is the time, on the iPhone, nearly always 9:41 AM in Apple's marketing photos?

    A: Because that's the time when Steve Jobs revealed the first iPhone on January 9, 2007 at Macworld 2007 Conference. 

    Thursday, June 21, 2018

    How to Turn Anxiety Into Excitement

    I'm coaching some speakers for next week's San Diego Startup Week 2018. It's not practical to think you can move from anxiety to calmness, no matter what you tell yourself. 




    But, this video discusses a realistic solution that simply involves saying, aloud, "I am excited," which redirects your anxiety.  Give it a try, it can't hurt. 

    Why Are They Called Cookies?

    Why are they called cookies?

    Good question... no one really knows.

    A cookie was originally designed to store small amounts of information in your web browser which was sent back to a server to provide information such as your username or login ID; this helped to make things more convenient. Think of a cookie as a token or ticket. 

    But, how did cookies get that name? The answer isn't exactly known other than it might be related to what was organically called a "magic cookie." Some believe that a cookie goes back to the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale where the siblings used cookie crumbs to mark their trail through the forest. However, if that's the case, then I would have expected them to be called crumbs, not cookies.

    My personal theory of choice is that cookie is short for "fortune cookie," in that it contains a small message similar to a fortune cookie. 

    Wednesday, June 6, 2018

    The Apple Way

    I woke up to my alarm at 1:15 AM, yesterday morning, and I was on the road, from San Diego to San Jose, about an hour later. There's something very relaxing about driving through Los Angeles at 4 AM, without any traffic. The sunrise's subtle changes in lighting, in California's San Joaquin Central Valley, is unseen, yet clearly noticed.

    Lately, I've been flying myself from San Diego to San Jose which takes about three hours compared to the typical one hour commercial flight. But, I had a late night event on Monday evening so I figured that driving was the safer option. The private terminal at San Jose Airport (FBO) has a quiet room and shower in the pilot's lounge, so I was able to sleep a bit and then get cleaned up before speaking at 1:30 PM. (Is that confusing because I drove, but used a pilot's lounge? Well, I used my pilot knowledge and skills to pilot my car there.)

    Three years ago, my buddy Kedar introduced me to his MBA classmate, Minnie, who’s originally from China. Minnie lives in NYC and she organizes tours where business delegations come over from China to tour Silicon Valley. These business people want to understand what makes Silicon Valley, Silicon Vally. They do this through presentations given to them by companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tesla, IBM, Stanford, etc., etc. Of course, they want to learn about Apple, but Apple’s a very secretive company and they don’t offer business tours and presentations to the public.

    Cupertino is the only place Apple sells apparel. 
    That’s where I come in. Since I used to work for Apple, I give the business delegations a presentation about what makes Apple different, when it comes to design and marketing. Plus, I can do something Apple employees can’t do, which is speculate about future Apple products. After my presentation, we take a trip to the Apple Visitor Center and get a tour from an Apple employee. 

    1 Infinite Loop: Steve Jobs' office is still in this building.
    Sometimes, we'll also visit the Infinite Loop campus (both campuses are about two miles apart). The nice thing about visiting the Infinite Loop Apple Store is that it's in the same building where Steve Jobs' office is, left untouched since the day he died with his name still on the door. Plus, the group gets to say they visited the “Mothership.” 

    Voila!

    Monday, June 4, 2018

    Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Fun

    Yesterday, I had a little fun at the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon with this video trick I saw a few years ago. This technique simply required someone to follow me as I walked backward while others walked and ran by me. A quick import into iMovie on my desktop, followed by choosing the rewind effect, produced the following video.



    Saturday, June 2, 2018

    The Daily Duty, Part II

    In April, I wrote about a cheeky new art installation in my bathroom. Here's Part II, where it gets personal.



    Wednesday, May 30, 2018

    Siri Loves the Sopranos

    When I was watching “The Sopranos,” S1 E9, “Boca,” beginning around 34:21, the dialogue trigged “Hey Siri” on my HomePod. It’s the scene where Artie tells Tony to lay off the soccer coach, and they tell Artie the soccer coach’s dirty secret. It happens every time.


    Friday, May 25, 2018

    Advice to USNA Class of 2018: Be Decisive

    Today's USNA '18 Graduation: Those covers (hats) fly high.

    Advice to USNA Class of 2015
    Advice to USNA Class of 2016
    Advice to USNA Class of 2017

    The Basic School (TBS), in Quantico, VA, is where second lieutenant Marines are trained to be "Officers of Marines." The key principles I was taught there were leadership and decisiveness. Leadership in the military is, in many ways, similar to leadership in the corporate world in that your authority comes from your job position. Obviously, rank, in the military, also reinforces a person's standing.

    Decisiveness is the ability to make timely choices and take action. The challenge with decisiveness, especially in the military, is learning how to make decisions with incomplete information. At TBS, we were taught that a good decision, made now, is better than waiting for ideal information, that may never come, in order to make a perfect decision, later. This tenet taught me how to prioritize tasks by repeatedly focusing on my choices before and after, it until it became second nature.


    When to make a decision?

    I believe it's important to make a decision as late as you can, if the delay has no penalties. It's OK to decide not to make a choice, now, if a decision isn't necessary. Sometimes, I would explicitly state why I was putting off a decision. As an oversimplified example, "Tonight, I don't need to decide what I'm going to have for lunch, tomorrow, because we won't order lunch for another 15 hours."

    But, in the military... especially in combat... we were taught to make the best possible decision, right now. All too frequently, when we were faced with an important tactical decision, our senior officers (captains), who were training us, would yell at the leader, who was taking too long, "Make a decision, lieutenant. Right now. Make a decision."

    When I was the lieutenant in charge and I heard this, it put a tremendous amount of pressure one me as I was forced to make an immediate decision in front of those I was leading. My solution to avoid this in the future was by staying one step ahead of the situationat hand. (An important skill that was reinforced when I was training to become a pilot.) More and more training that's as realistic as possible (rehearsals) helps, tremendously. But that's not always possible. My backup was to instantly recognize what choice I could make, now, that would further our mission while maintaining a responsibility to the long term.

    A colonel once told me he kept his decision skills sharp by always planning for many possible scenarios. For example, he said that, when he's driving, he always made sure he had a way out. Specifically, the colonel told me that would not pull up too close to the car in front of him, at a traffic light. If the car in front of him stalled at the traffic light, he still had enough room to turn out of his lane while continuing to move forward. (Why retreat when that's not the direction you want to go?)

    Getting into a good habit is called self-discipline. Discipline is to the Marines what innovation is to Apple, except, in the Marines, discipline will literally save your life, both in combat and training.

    When to change a decision, without being indecisive?

    Indecisiveness is a pet peeve of mine. Indecisiveness is changing one's mind when no new information has presented itself.

    Simple decisions can be made and reversed if there's no cost or penalty, "I know that I wanted to have a tuna salad sandwich for lunch, earlier, but I've decided to place my order for the chicken club." There's nothing wrong with that since I hadn't yet placed my order. But, I wouldn't call back, after ordering my lunch, to change my decision once I've finalized it. That would be indecisive. I would rather live with my decision to eat something I didn't fully enjoy rather than flip-flop. That's how I live with my decisions.

    Putting off a decision, as long as possible, keeps your options open. But, in a life and death situation, that delay to consider your options might only be seconds.


    Decision-Making Principles

    My key principles in figuring out when to change a decision are:

    1. Has new information come to light that wasn't available, before; and, if I don't change my decision, will my mission fail or will my earlier decision violate a key principle, policy, or law?
    To maintain integrity, I take this one step further. New information doesn't mean information that was available six months ago, but I was too lazy to research; new information means there's no way I could have/should have known about it before making my decision. A person's judgement is only as good as the information it's based on.

    2. Will changing my decision significantly simplify the task at hand, while still accomplishing my mission; and can the change be promulgated to all parties in a very timely manner?

    Good decisions, based on principles, make for strong leaders.