Friday, August 23, 2019

Antique Row's Last Shop

One does not simply walk into Antique Row's last remaining antique store, in North Park, without receiving an appropriate history on a purchase.

Last summer, I stopped by Zac's Attic and bought a couple demitasse spoons. Last week, when I made espresso, I noticed that I didn't have the proper cups to serve it in.

As I drove past Zac's Attic, I stopped in and immediately saw a fine looking set of espresso cups. When I brought them to the counter, the proprietor who's owned the business for 40 years, Dave McPeeters, told me about the century old cups.

The items I bought were from the Palace Hotel, in San Francisco, complete with the hotel's logo on the Buffalo China cups. The Palace Hotel is know for where opera tenor, Enrico Caruso, performed as Don Jose, in Carmen, the night before 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, which gutted the hotel.

Today, the hotel houses the opulent Palm Court Restaurant, which looks like a palace; it's also know for its Pied Piper Bar with its tiled floor and historic artwork behind the bar.

And, now, I get to sip espresso, with anisette, from this little piece of history.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Apple Card Credit Card Signup

I signed up to receive an Apple Card, today. The entire process, from applying, through approval, to receiving the new card in my Apple Wallet took less than ten minutes.

Once I received it in my wallet it was active to use with Apple Pay. I also requested to have the physical titanium card sent to me which should take about a week.
Customer support via text message

I was wondering if the Apple Card had a virtual account number similar to my Citi Mastercard. There was a button to call or text for help which was great. Nothing better than getting customer support via text message – no wait or hold time.

Unfortunately, the Apple Card can only generate one number at a time which can be easily changed by pressing a button. So, at this time, it seems that I can only have a single credit card number active with Apple Card.

Another disappointment was that Apple Card interest rate depends on credit worthiness, somewhere between 12.99% - 23.99%. My FICO score is over 810, so I would have hoped for something lower than 17.99%. But it's been more than a decade or two since I've carried a balance from, month to month, on my credit card. So, this shouldn't be an issue for me.

A nice thing about the Apple Card was that I could tap one button any all of my Apple bills (iCloud, iTunes, etc) were switched to my Apple Card which returns 3% cash, daily. Let's see how it works.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

It Can Always Be Worse

Noon meal formation at the US Naval Academy.

Plebe Summer, at the Naval Academy, is about sacrifice. It's about learning how to deal with failure as a team. Even though I knew it was a training environment, it didn't make it any less stressful. We were constantly tested on more knowledge than anyone could learn. That was the point – learning how to deal with failure while being part of a team. Sometimes... many times... that meant sacrificing your comfort, enjoyment, or pleasure in order to help someone else suffering worse than you. As Plebes, we were all in it together.

We learned what it meant to have honor. We learned to never sacrifice others for our own well being, even when we thought we'd never get caught. This isn't something you do sometimes or most of the time, it's something you do all the time. It only takes one dishonorable act to forever taint your honor. We were taught a lot, at the Academy, even when it's okay to lie.

Squash Practice

The Naval Academy challenges all of us in three key areas: military discipline, academics, and sports (all Midshipmen are required to play a sport).

During Plebe Summer, I was playing squash. Every afternoon, we went to our sport. Our squash practice consisted only of Plebes, and an old, retired, Navy captain who was our coach.

One Plebe, who was struggling to learn his required knowledge, didn't practice squash; instead, he'd sit up against the wall of a squash court and study his handbook. I could tell, by looking at him, he was stressed out.

After a couple days in a row, the squash coach told him to put down his book and play squash, which he reluctantly did. The next day, he was back at studying instead of playing squash. The squash coach snapped at him to put down his book and practice.

"Put down your damn Reef Points, pick up a racquet and get on the court," said the coach to the overstressed Plebe.

The Plebe appealed to the coach, thinking that this gentle old man would understand his predicament since he had once been a Plebe in the 1950s.

"Sorry, sir, I'm very stressed out," said the Plebe as a group of us watched the exchange. 

The squash coach's patience had run out and he shot back, "Try spending six years in a POW camp and see how that stresses you out." Then he walked off.

Our eyes were as wide as saucers. This old squash coach had been a pilot, who was shot down in Vietnam, and spent six years as a POW. We scattered like roaches, onto the squash courts, and resumed playing squash. In that one sentence, we realized the indelible lesson that it can always be worse.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Yesterday, I called 911 – it was a mistake.

Yesterday, I was at Balboa Park during a parade which had a couple hundred thousand attendees. Whenever that many people get squeezed into a tight venue, such as a stadium, cell phone connectivity becomes an issue – and yesterday was no exception.

At one point, I launched an app on my iPhone which was taking a long time to open up since it needed Internet access. Just as I closed the app it popped up three modal dialog windows in a row. The app was closed, but the modal windows blocked all other iOS interactions as if the phone was frozen.

Restarting the iPhone

To restart the iPhone, all I needed to do was press the volume up, volume down, and then the sleep/wake button. This brings up a slider at the top of the screen, "slide to power off." But, the problem was this slider was blocked by the modal window.

I tried pressing all three buttons and holding them down. Unfortunately, this activated the phone's emergency mode which dialed 911 and then sent out SOS text messages to my emergency contacts with a map of my location. The police called me back with an automated message stating that they received a hangup call but couldn't pinpoint my location. However, even though my phone had location services turned off, it seems the phone was able to know my location and sent a pin-drop to my emergency contacts along with an SOS message.

Force Restarting the iPhone

What I needed to do was force restart my iPhone, but I didn't know how. Luckily, my buddy had his iPhone (also with spotty connectivity) and we did a Google search. A force restart is similar to a typical restart, except you hold down the sleep/wake button until you see the Apple logo:

1. Press the volume up button.
2. Press the volume down button.
3. Hold down the sleep/wake button until you see the Apple logo (5-10 seconds).

Tuesday, July 2, 2019 Like Uber for Dining at a Restaurant

Today, I had lunch with the founders of Jesta. I have been wanting a restaurant customer experience like Jesta for years. It's like Uber for dining in at a restaurant. 

I simply pointed my iPhone at the QR code on the table and the Jesta app displayed the current menu for the restaurant, with photos of the items I could order. I tapped on each item and then sent my order to the kitchen, along with my payment and tip.

The best part is there was no need for me to wave down the food server when I was done eating. I could simply leave since my bill was already settled. Simple!

It all worked exactly expected. Jesta is in about half a dozen restaurants in San Diego, and growing. I hope they're able to raise a round of funding to put them over the top for marketing. Innovation at its best.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Where to Open a Restaurant?

I was talking to a savvy restaurateur who told me how he decided on the location to open an Indian restaurant in a particular neighborhood in San Diego.

He found several viable locations for his Indian cuisine. The problem was, how could he know which one was the best? So, he tested the market. For each potential location, he created his restaurant menu and direct-mailed it to the surrounding neighborhoods. Each menu had a different phone number to call, with the address of the potential restaurant. He immediately started getting calls from people who loved Indian food and were grateful that one was opening nearby. After a several weeks, he had enough calls to see which location had the most interest.

Testing a market, like this, is a very simple technique, but it's often the most overlooked step in the process for many entrepreneurs. Be sure to listen to your customers before you make up your mind to avoid confirmation bias. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

No Nonsense Marketing

The Marines are excellent at no-nonsense marketing. It's about being direct and setting the expectation. 

In June 1985, there was a TWA terrorist hijacking which was my Pearl Harbor moment. That was the moment when I pledged to join the Marines. I knew nothing about the military; not even the difference between the enlisted and officer ranks. But I wanted to do my part to make a difference. 

The local recruiting office housed all four military services. The Marines' office was in the back, so I had to pass by the Army, Navy, and Air Force offices on my way. As soon as I walked in the front door, a soldier stopped to offer me help.

"I'm looking to join the Marines or something," I said, shrugging my shoulders as I said the last word.

"Or something? Have you considered the Army?" he asked as he guided me into his office. He could tell I was looking for a challenge so he fired up a 12" LaserDisc to show me exciting clips of Ranger and Airborne training. For about two hours, that afternoon, this Army recruiter told me about what the Army could be. He convinced me take the ASVAB military entrance exam, later that week.

After we finished, I left the Army office and headed to the Marines' recruiting office where I met SSgt Meehan; a Marine I remained in touch with to this very day. The SSgt, who, at 27 years of age seemed to have the wisdom and experience of a senior citizen. He sat me down next to his desk, lit his pipe, and said, "I don't have any fancy LaserDiscs to show you videos. At this point, I have no idea what you're qualified to do, so I can't make any promises. First you need to take the ASVAB. Before you do that, you have to take my 30 minute practice exam."

SSgt Meehan led me to a small room where a couple other potential recruits were taking exams. I don't recall the details of the exam, but it wasn't too difficult. When I completed it, the SSgt reviewed my answers and told me that we could proceed to official ASVAB as soon as he could schedule it.

"Can the same ASVAB exam results be used for all the military services?" I asked the SSgt.


I explained to him about my soft commitment with the Army.

"If you want to be a Marine then I would like you to schedule that test with me," replied SSgt Meehan.

As I headed out of the building, I stopped by the Army's office and gently backed out of my ASVAB commitment.

"I can tell," said the soldier I had spent two hours with, earlier that day. "You're gonna be a Marine."

In my mind, I was committed to joining the Marines and the SSgt's direct and practical approach was the icing on the cake.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Entire Mueller Report in a Single Page

The Mueller Report has been made public; all 448 pages. Known formally as the Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election, it's a bit redacted.

You can download the entire report, in a single, legible page, here:

High resolution (145.4 MB): 

Low resolution (16.9 MB): 

How did I make this PDF?

Seeing the full report on a single page gives us an idea of how much text was redacted. Each redaction tells us why the text was redacted, i.e., to protect someone's privacy, to hide an investigation technique, etc.

Change the Layout option to 16 Pages per Sheet. Repeat.

To create this single page PDF:
1. Change the Layout option to print 16 Pages per Sheet.
2. Open the new PDF in Preview.
3. Repeat.

After doing this about three times, I had the entire report on a single page PDF that was fully legible, albeit very large (145.4 MB).

To reduce the size of the PDF, for the low res version, I choose File ––> Export, in Preview, and, under the Quartz Filter pop-up, I  chose Reduce File Size.

Now, we just need someone to read the entire report and turn it into a podcast.

Update: Here's the entire Mueller Report read, verbatim, in 12 hours:

Monday, April 8, 2019

Timer Objects for Network Latency

The heart of the Timer class.
I left out a simple tip from my "Tricks I Learned At Apple: Steve Jobs Load Testing" piece about timer objects. Below, is a complete, yet simple, Timer object class I wrote shortly after leaving Apple when I was working with SMS Hayes AT commands and RESTful APIs.

Exponential Notification

Timer objects do nothing more than measure the time it takes for a server's request/response loop to complete. Since this type of call is made over a network, it might finish very quickly (as expected) or, if the network is down or congested, it could take along time. If it takes a long time, the system admins will want to know. A good notification method is not to send an e-mail update or text message every single minute, or so – that ends up flooding people's inboxes. Instead, an exponential notification would be a much better idea. For example, notify the system administrators immediately, then wait one minute before the next notification, then wait two minutes, four minutes, eight minutes, etc. Finally, send a last notification once the issue's fixed.

Initiating the timer is simple...

Timer timer = Timer.startNewTimer();
NSLog.debug.appendln("Start time = " + timer.startTime());
Response response = saleTransaction.submitTransaction();
NSLog.debug.appendln("Stop time = " + timer.stopTime());

And, lastly, the complete Java timer class is anticlimactic.

package com.woextras;


public class Timer
private NSTimestamp _startTime = null;
private NSTimestamp _stopTime = null;

public static Timer startNewTimer()
Timer timer = new Timer();
return timer;
public void start()
_startTime = new NSTimestamp();

public void stop()
_stopTime = new NSTimestamp();
public NSTimestamp startTime()
return _startTime;
public NSTimestamp stopTime()
return _stopTime;
public Long elapsedTime()
long completionTime = -1;
if (_startTime != null)
long startTime = _startTime.getTime();
long stopTime;
if (_stopTime != null)
stopTime = _stopTime.getTime();
} else
stopTime = new NSTimestamp().getTime();
completionTime = (stopTime - startTime) / 1000L;
return completionTime;

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Apple's Pivot into Services

After giving my Apple Talk, I do a Q&A with my group on their tour bus as we head to Apple Park. Some of their questions are light hearted, such as, "Why did the Apple logo used to be upside down on laptops?" or "Why does the Apple logo have a bite taken out of it?" But my latest group asked some deeper questions about the future of Apple.

My group, on Wednesday, asked me about Apple's It's Show Time event held a couple days earlier. Monday's event at Apple seems to be a pivot for the company in that no new offerings were revealed that are now available.

It's a pivot for Apple because the company is moving more and more toward services delivered via Apple products. We last saw Apple make a strategic pivot in 2007 when Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone. Near the end of his presentation, Steve Jobs said he was changing the name of the company from Apple Computer, Inc. to Apple Inc. to better reflect that Apple was moving away computers and into consumer electronics.

Now, once again, as the smartphone market becomes saturated, we see Apple staying relevant by increasing their services offerings. Of course Apple has a lot of potential offerings in R&D, but many never see the light of day if they're not up to Apple's standards. 

Friday's announcement that they were killing off its never-to-market AirPower charging mat is a rare premature misstep by Apple. Rumor has it that this product, after being announced more than a year and a half ago, was running too hot to provide a decent customer experience. And that's what Apple's all about. I describe the company's mantra as best possible customer experience

Future Apple Products

The groups I speak to frequently ask me about Apple's future offerings, so I speculate...

1. Car: Apple is working on a car (codename: Titan); or, perhaps, autonomous software for automakers. It's not a secret what they're working, but they don't yet know what will became of their research.

2. TV: Apple's Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, who reports directly to Tim Cook, has long wanted to unbundle TV channels from cable TV packages. In a nutshell, he wants to do for TV cable subscriptions what the iTunes Music Store did for music... unbundle content to give customers more options. 

3. Medical: This is a long term play that's clearly humming in the background. Apple was the first company to get FDA approval for a consumer EKG product via the Apple Watch. Earlier this month, when visiting my doctor for a cold, he asked to look at the recent data on my Apple Watch. Apple's foray in to healthcare will continue to become more important. Perhaps a future Apple Watch will allow noninvasive glucose monitoring.

Obviously, we never know what secrets Apple has under wraps, but I suspect that the best is yet to come. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Unsavable Photos on the Internet

Imagine if you could send a photo to someone else that couldn't simply be captured or saved. In other words, a screen capture wouldn't work and neither would taking a photo of the screen with another camera. One of the first Java applets I wrote solved this problem. But, since then, I haven't seen this technique used anywhere (which probably means there's not much demand for it).

I still think there's a market for displaying photos that can't be captured. But this technique is only a feature... there's not enough for an entire business. I'm just surprised I haven't seen it used. I thought, with the advent of disappearing photos on SnapChat, that it would resurface. My technique for this is still one of my favorite hacks.

The Early Days of Java

Java was the new hotness during the Dot Com boom period of the 1990s. It was the first mainstream object oriented language that worked great on the client and server. Although it was billed as "write once, run everywhere," it still needed work in the early days and we were fond of saying "write once, debug everywhere."

The big selling point of Java was it could be complied and run as an applet inside a web browser's Java Virtual Machine. It was the first executable mobile code for the Web. Java became everything Ada wanted to be and JavaScript became everything Java applets wanted to be. It's funny how that happens.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Backups and Versioning

Revert To keeps multiple versions of your iWork files
with a UI similar to Time Machine.

Steve Jobs first demonstrated Time Machine about a dozen years ago. It's a simple backup feature built into macOS that takes hourly backup snapshots of files on your computer, when they change. This makes its trivial to recover a file your deleted or overwrote. The biggest challenge is enabling it with an external hard drive (which isn't much of a challenge at all).

Even Better

But, what if you didn't setup Time Machine? No worries, since backing up work is such a valuable feature Apple has incorporated versioning into their iWork suite of applications for word processing (Pages), presentations (Keynote), and spreadsheets (Numbers). At any given time, you can step back to earlier document versions in iWork; no setup required (screen shot, above).

I wish other major software suites, like those from Adobe or Microsoft, would implement this simple feature.

To step back to an earlier version of your iWork file, simply go to File –> Revert To and, voilĂ , your previous versions are there. This out-of-the-box feature, coupled with Time Machine, will solve nearly all of your common backup needs. I say nearly because all of your backups will still be local to your computer and network. For the most mission critical redundancy, I recommend a 3-2-1 backup policy: Three backups on at least two different media, with one backup located offsite (i.e. Amazon S3 or Glacier). 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Rolling Out a New Version of Your Website

Tricks I Learned at Apple: Steve Jobs Load Testing is an excellent precursor to this post.

When launching a completely new version (update) of a website, it's best to have a rollout and a rollback plan. Very few brand new websites will have the problems that had in 2013 because new websites typically start with zero traffic. was a unique case since it went from zero to millions of users, overnight. 

Typically, as a website grows, servers will be added and optimized to handle the additional traffic. But, if growth happens too quickly, then the company can prevent new users from creating new accounts on the website while they manage their growth and scale up their infrastructure. Facebook was able to manage their growth by rolling out across college campuses, one at a time, whereas Twitter had no way to control their growth since they were open to the public, resulting in the fail whale. Again, these are rare cases; the typical problem with websites occur when rolling out a major update.

Rolling out the New Website Version

While growing from zero to millions of users is a high quality problem, it's actually very rare. A more likely problem is encountered when an entirely new version of a website is rolled out since it will probably have critical bugs or scaling issues. 

When I worked at Apple and Wyndham, we had to handle both bugs and scaling issues. At Apple, we switched from using RDBMs to memory caches for read-only data. At Wyndham, we had to roll out more than a dozen different websites at once for brands like Days Inn, Ramada, Howard Johnson's, Super 8, Hawthorn Suites, etc.

Managing Risk

Initially, Wyndham wanted to switch from the old website to the new one, all at once. My boss, who's a particularly sharp guy, had enough experience to immediately recognize the risk of doing this. Specifically, what if the new website was broken (what if it had too many bugs, preventing customers from booking rooms)? Instead, he suggested a very simple plan. Rather than making the switch, overnight, he suggested we keep the old version of the website running while rolling out the new website over the course of a week or so.

Since both the old and new versions of the website talked to the same database, it was a simple process, at a high level. We'd have an all-hands meeting, on Monday morning, in our war room (dedicate conference room). During Monday's meeting, all of the departments (marketing, product management, development, and QA) would give a thumbs up to move forward. Then, we'd have our load balancers begin to randomly send 1% of the traffic to the new version of our website. We'd place a cookie on the customer's browser so, if they came back later, they'd automatically be directed to the new version of the website otherwise they'd end up the old version. 

Staging the Rollout 

Just before the close of business on Monday, we'd meet again to confirm that everything was running as expected. On Tuesday morning, we'd meet and give a thumbs up to increase the traffic to the new website to 5%, etc. It looked like this:
Monday: 1%
Tuesday: 3% – 5% (based on Monday's performance)
Wednesday: 10%
Thursday: 50%
Friday: 100%

The beauty of starting at 1% and then 3 % – 5% is that's the most revenue you'll risk losing (in theory) if something goes wrong.

By using this week-long rollout process, we all kept our jobs. I only recall one time, when there was a major bug, that we had to stop after the first day or two, which wasn't a big deal; we simply sent all traffic to the old website while the new one was fixed and we got it right on our next rollout.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Interesting Apple ID Issue


A friend called me this morning because he was having an issue with apps on his iPhone. After resetting his Apple ID password, the App Store wouldn't authenticate him so he couldn't update any apps on his iPhone. My first suspicion was, since this problem happened soon after he updated to iOS 12.1.3, there was a bug preventing his credentials from propagating to all of his devices.


The actual problem is my buddy originally downloaded some apps with a different Apple ID than the one he's currently using on his iPhone. The apps continued to run fine until it came time to update them. The solution was simple. The current apps only needed to be deleted on his iPhone and then re-downloaded. An easy fix, especially since all of his apps were free. If his apps weren't free, it would have required a bit of help from Apple's billing department.


The lesson learned is be very cautious of changing Apple IDs. I've been using the same one since I worked at Apple when Steve Jobs introduced iTools and every employee was automatically assigned our original Apple ID. The second lesson I learned many years ago is if you've ever worked for Apple then you will be the first call that a friend or family member makes for Apple tech support. A calling that I do enjoy. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Engineers Turned Entrepreneurs, Part 3

The more I mentor engineers-turned-entrepreneurs, the more I've noticed it requires the proper attitude, more so than the raw skills. I call it the entrepreneur's attitude. When starting off, it's OK if a new entrepreneur doesn't know a whole lot about startups, but they do need to be coachable without being overly impressionable. 

When I speak with wannabe entrepreneurs, who are coming from an individual contributor background, I frequently quote Steve Jobs's comments from WWDC '97.
You got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can't start with the technology and try to figure out where you're going to try to sell it. And I've made this mistake probably more than anyone else in this room and I've got the scar tissue to prove it.

I see two key parts to the entrepreneur's attitude that are important.

The first key part of the entrepreneur's attitude is they need to be focused outward, on customers, and think in terms of benefits before features. Don't lead off with your wants (i.e. I want our company to be the best at blah, blah, blah... save that pitch for investors.). Instead, lead off with the benefits you provide to your customers. Try to eliminate words like "I" and "we" in your pitches and marketing.

The second key to a successful entrepreneur's attitude is recognizing and embracing opportunity. I recently had a friend from NY stay with me at my home. He's made millions of dollars selling companies he founded and ran. Interestingly enough, he doesn't consider himself an entrepreneur. Rather, he prefers to be labeled as a software developer. Regardless of his title, he is constantly seeking new experiences, knowledge, and opportunities. His default position, when experiencing something new, is to immediately investigate it and give it a try.

Opportunities can be found most anywhere. Many times, opportunities first present themselves as uninvited inconveniences. With the federal government currently shut down, some people are seeing it as an opportunity.

Engineers need to think like entrepreneurs. As Steve Jobs said, begin with the customer experience and then work your way backwards.

1. Sales: How and where will your customers acquire your offerings?

2. Marketing: How will customers learn about your product?

3. Development: How do you know what features to put into your product that will benefit your customers?

Many entrepreneurs will fumble #3, from the get-go. They'll either fail to get feedback from potential customers or they'll try to bake every possible feature, under the sun, into their product. To deal with the former challenge, I recommend following the lean startup methodology. For the latter, I recommend a notional press release.

Part 2 in this series:

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Two Funny Bird Stories

Tiny Bird Nest
Bird is a dockless electric scooter-sharing company that's been around just over. In 2018, Time magazine listed Bird as one of its 50 Genius Companies. 

Bird has an innovated business model by paying most anyone to recharge the scooters. Once they're recharged, Bird directs where the scooters should be dropped off, called a Bird Nest.

I spoke with one person who tried to use a Bird scooter, for the first time, but couldn't figure out where to insert the money. That's funny once you realize that the Bird process is exactly the same as Lyft and Uber in that you use an app to begin, end, and pay for a ride (Bird charges $1 to unlock the scooter and 15¢/minute).

Another person told me an interesting situation she ended up in when the battery died on the smartphone that was used to start the ride. The smartphone app is how a scooter ride begins and ends, so, with a dead smartphone there was no way to end the ride. Solution: Load the the Bird into a car, drive home, recharge the phone, and end the ride. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Purchasing an Airplane

A Marine buddy put me in touch with a former Air Force C-5 Galaxy pilot who's interested into purchasing a plane for himself. He wanted to know my experience, so here is the crux of it...

I own a 1966 Cessna 182 Skylane that I bought in 2011 (I learned to fly in 2010).

For starters, when looking for a plane, checkout It is one of the best ways to find a plane for sale. When purchasing a plane, obviously costs are one of the biggest issues.

Since I bought an older plane, it was one tenth the cost of a brand new plane from the factory (I then added in avionics to turn it into a glass cockpit panel).

You’ll want to know how many hours are on the engine since its last major overall to compare costs. For example, two of the same make/model planes for sale, with the same number of flight hours on the airframe, might cost very different amounts if one plane has 100 hours since its last major overall and the other has 1,700 hours since it last major overhaul. Piston engines typically last 1,800 – 2,100 hours before needing an overhaul. And pricing is straight forward. For example, a new engine might be worth $40,000, and at 1,000 hours, it would be worth $20,000, at 1,500 hours it would be worth $10,000, etc. (i.e. I’m figuring $10,000/500 hours of use).

Annual inspections will be your biggest cost. Over the years, my annual inspections have run anywhere from about $2,500 to just over $20,000 when I had a cylinder overhauled and my propeller and windscreen replaced. Keep in mind with a twin engine plane, you’ll be paying close to 1.5x - 2x more for your annual inspections since two engines need to be inspected.

Ideally, you’ll want an aircraft that has all of its logbooks back to the beginning, when the plane shipped from the manufacture. This will tell you about issues and accidents. My plane was in two crashes/hard landings around 1988 and 1992 which have never been an issue for me. My opinion is if a plane was in an accident many years ago, and it’s been flying regularly since then, then all should be well. I would be very hesitant to buy a plane that was in an accident within the past couple years for fear of unknown surprise.

Don’t forget about partial ownership, which is very common. Rather than purchasing the plane yourself, you could go in on it with 1 - 3 others and split the purchase costs and maintenance.

When I found the plane I wanted to buy, I took it to a maintenance shop to conduct a pre-sales inspection. A couple issues came out of that inspection which gave me the ability to further negotiate down the sales price.

After buying my plane, I had to pay use tax (sales tax) and an annual property tax. In San Diego, I pay about $550/year in property tax on the plane.

Surprisingly, insurance isn’t required for owning or operating an airplane as a private pilot (part 91). I got my insurance through AOPA and I pay about $1,500/year for a “smooth million” of insurance across the board (I’ve never needed it, so far).

These are some of my thoughts, off the top of my head.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Needed: 55 - 60 Person Venue in Silicon Valley

Apple Park


I'm looking for a presentation venue in Silicon Valley that can hold 55  60 people. An ideal venue would be a college classroom with A/V.


For nearly four years, I have been giving my speaking engagements in Silicon Valley. My talk focuses on Apple's design and marketing philosophy and why that makes Apple different.

The venue I've used for my presentation is no longer available. I found a similarly priced venue, but it only holds about 40 people. So, now, I need a new space which could be any professional location such as a large conference room, classroom, auditorium, etc. Do you know of a space that's available which isn't publicly advertised?


1. Seat 55 – 60 people in a classroom setup with a screen and laptop projector.
This great venue, that I used for years, is no longer available

2. Located within 15 – 20 minutes of Cupertino for our visit and warm welcome at Apple Park.

A group photo during my group's warm welcome at Apple Park

3. Competitively priced with my previous venue ($200 – $250 per 1/2 day).
I had a great time presenting to billionaire Lu Junqing
and his philanthropic daughter, Jennifer.
Since I'm not a billionaire, I need an inexpensive venue.


Over the years, I have looked at many venues near Cupertino, so I'm aware of hotel ballrooms and salons, but their costs can easily be 3x – 5x what I'm currently paying after adding in service fees, tourism and city taxes, A/V equipment rental, setup costs, etc. So, please let me know if you're aware of any large space that typically remains unused since that might be a good fit.

Plan B
What if I can't find a Silicon Valley venue that meets my requirements? Well, then, it's on to Plan B, which isn't all that bad... a full-time job in tech, ideally located in San Diego.
This is me:

Sunday, January 6, 2019

True Talent

True talent is a force multiplier that can’t be taught. Talented people aren’t driven by discipline. They are driven by passion and love. Discipline can be a part of it (Tiger Woods has to practice) but it's the talent that's most important.  

As kids, we’re taught that skills are what we need to success in life, and that’s correct for the average person. But truly talented people are the ones who earn millions of dollars.

In 1996, the Chief of Naval Operations, who’s the most senior member of the U.S. Navy, committed suicide. The Navy didn't skip a beat. Michael Jackson dies, and hundreds of millions of dollars are lost in concert revenue. That's the difference between talent and skill.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happiness: The Unalienable Right

In September, I spoke at a memorial service for my fallen Naval Academy classmates. While writing down my thoughts, I speculated what our dearly departed would want for those they left behind. My conclusion was happiness.

USNA 1993 Reunion Brunch Following Our Memorial Service.

As my first piece of 2019, I thought it appropriate to talk about happiness this New Year's Day. It may seem like a minor thing, but it is an unalienable right proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence.

We have life. We have liberty. Those rights were given to us. But it's up to us to pursue our individual happiness.

We all want to be happy. But the trick is figuring out how to achieve it. I've spoken a lot about simplicity, but that pertains to things like systems and products, not people.

While the recipe for happiness is simple, it does require some focus and attention.


A life of happiness begins with making meaning, which is a very personal process. Making meaning and being happy requires a few things.

1. Belonging

In order to belong, you'll need candid relationships with others where you can be yourself, not your beliefs.

2. Purpose

Purpose is simply using your strengths to serve others. While a person can have multiple purposes, it's a personal choice regarding which ones to pursue.

3. Transcendence

Transcendence is simply something that lifts you to a higher calling. In its basic sense, transcendence is an existence or experience beyond typical. I don't mean it to represent metaphysical, paranormal, or supernatural.

A higher calling is simply something that drives a person beyond what's typical, due to their devotion to duty. It could be writing, religion, military, medicine, parenting, etc. It involves giving up personal gains for the greater good. As one example, it could be pro bono work like open-source coding.

4. Storytelling

Storytelling is the story you tell yourself (and perhaps, others), about yourself. The beauty of telling your story is that you are the author and you can edit and change the story as you live it.

Armed with this knowledge, I suggest that you go out and perform all manner of things thereunto pertaining in order to be happy.

Carpe diem.

The following is my memorial service speech.

U.S. Naval Academy Chapel.

We are here today to remember our classmates who are no longer with us.

And we are reminded that they each had to squeeze their entire life into a shorter period of time than we have been given. We’ve outlived them.

We sit here and allow ourselves to be sad.
And that’s OK.
We cannot separate our memory of them from the empty sadness it brings us.
To do otherwise would not be human or compassionate.
It’s OK to be sad.

But we didn’t come here, this morning, to only be sad as we remember them.
When we look back at their lives, it should inspire us to enjoy our own life more.
It should remind us to live in the present.
To enjoy the moment.
To enjoy the simple things that we encounter every day.

We know the date our fallen classmates were born.
And we know the date that they left us.
And that their entire life;
All of our lives;
Is represented by that dash in between those two dates that define us.

It's not only that life is so short, but also that we’re dead for so long.
So, what advice might our fallen classmates give us, today, after we leave our reunion and go home, back to our daily routines?

And my answer is happiness.
Whatever makes you happy while maintaining a responsibility to the long-term.
We don’t pay enough attention to our own happiness.
But it’s important.
We shouldn’t forget that our country was built for it, literally.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We have life.
We have liberty.
It’s up to each of us to pursue our happiness.

So, we remember our fallen classmates, today, with fondness, respect, and love; and with the sadness that they left us too early. And, as I mentioned earlier, it’s okay to allow yourself to be sad, this morning, and then pursue your own happiness while we live the dash between the two most important dates that define our lives.

Thank you and carpe diem.