Saturday, December 23, 2023

Failure: How to do it Right

There are three types of failure:

1. Basic

These are simple, common mistakes.

2. Complex

Failures involving a lot of moving parts where many circumstances or factors couldn't have been foreseen.

3. Intelligent

This is where new knowledge or discovery comes from.
    a. Exploring new territory 
    b. Pursing a new goal
    c. Hypothesis-driven experimentation
    d. Fail as small as possible

What is Marketing?

1. Put up a sign in a common place with a call to action: Advertising

2. Put a sign in an uncommon place: Promotion

3. Have the news spread your message: Publicity

4. Have the government or other public entities talk about you: Public relations 

5. Highlight benefits and features while answering questions about your product or service to convince people to buy it: Sales

If you planned these five things: That’s Marketing

Monday, November 27, 2023

Vipassana Meditation, Part 2: Six Months Later

I became interested in meditation at the beginning of this year. In May, I completed a ten-day course on Vipassana in the Mojave Desert. The course is completely free including room and board (it's donation based). I took a vow of silence, for ten days, while meditating for nearly ten hours each day. Now, six months later, I've had a chance to reflect on my experience as I've integrated Vipassana meditation into my life.

While I don't meditate everyday, I still meditate most days for an hour in silence. Actually, it's not completely silent. The unguided routine I follow, over the course of an hour, begins and ends with a few minutes of chanting along with some comments sprinkled throughout the session. Since returning from May's course, I've tried different routines from 30 minutes to two hours and discovered that an hour is my sweet spot.

Sitting perfectly still without opening my eyes, mouth, or moving for an hour or two is now not a problem. At the Vipassana course I had an opportunity to try different positions. Sitting crossed legged in the lotus, half-lotus, or Burmese positions didn't work well for me because my legs would fall paralyzingly asleep. I discovered that a meditation bench works beautifully to solve this problem. A meditation bench is a small bench that allows me to kneel on both knees, but instead of my butt resting on the back of my heels it's seated on a very low, small bench.

Learning Anapana

The ten-day course I attended followed a precise schedule. The teaching of the Vipassana technique doesn't begin until the fourth day. For the first three and a half days I meditated for ten hours each day focused solely on my breath passing in and out of my nose and how it felt on my upper lip. This practice is called Anapana.

The third day was the hardest because focusing on my breathing and upper lip was mind numbingly boring. It only took a few minutes for my thoughts to quickly wander off so I had to accept this fact and gently bring my attention back to my breath. While doing this for ten hours a day my body was getting sore, tense, and fatigued. But that all changed with Vipassana.

Learning Vipassana

On the afternoon of the fourth day we gathered in the meditation hall to learn the beginnings of Vipassana meditation. For about 40 minutes, we practiced Anapana. My upper and lower back hurt and my ankles were sore. I could hear the all-too-common squirming of the other students as they continuously readjusted into temporarily more comfortable positions.

Then the instructor told us to focus on a point on the top of our head, rather than on our breath, and simply observe how it felt. Over the course of the next 30 to 45 minutes I followed his guidance and moved this point from the top of my head down to my feet by spiraling around my head and then down my back and front.

As my attention and point of focus moved, I could feel it on my skin. While this feeling isn't a physical force, the sensation is real. It's no different than focusing on the back of your hand for a minute or so and sensing, perhaps, the air moving over it, your hairs bristling, or the cuff of your long sleeve shirt resting on it. You didn't notice that sensation a few minutes ago, but now you do. Like blinking, you don't notice it until you explicitly pay attention.

Revelation and Understanding

I continued to move this point on my body and something amazing happened. As I focused and observed this point of attention move across the top of my back, over my painful shoulder, I clearly noticed the discomfort. But then, as I continued moving my attention down my back I noticed that my upper back was no longer tense.

At first this didn't seem unusual since my discomfort during the previous days would come and go throughout a meditation session. However, understanding this "coming and going" is an important Vipassana concept called anicca which means impermanence. In other words, realize and accept that everything is temporary and it will pass.

I continued following the instructor's guidance and moved my focus to my lower back which was also sore. Then, as I moved my focus away from my lower back to my legs and down to my feet, I noticed that my lower back had stopped bothering me. This got my attention. The same thing happened when I moved my focus to, and then away from, my sore ankles. My ankles were no longer bothering me.

I was never told to expect any of this, so it wasn't a subliminal psychosomatic reaction. Throughout the entire course, we weren't told to expect anything. A key lesson throughout the course was anti-expectation. Simply observe and accept our experiences without reacting.

I wanted to know if I was the only person experiencing this sensation and relief. But how could I find out? Due to my vow of silence, I couldn't speak with the other students.

However, I quickly discovered that all of us experienced the same thing. At the end of this initial Vipassana session the entire class was no longer squirming. The room was still and silent. We all felt the calmness.

What Happened?

I am a skeptical critic of new things. I wanted to know exactly what was happening. It turns out there were a couple of things going on.

First was the realization, I mentioned above, that I explicitly felt a sensation on the part of my body where I focused my attention. As I indicated earlier, while this sensation I perceive in my mind is real there isn't anything physically happening on my skin. I'm simply paying attention to my body in a highly focused way.

This attention to my body led to my second observation. When I focused on the unpleasant sensations, such as the pain in my back or in my ankles, I would unconsciously relax that part of my body and it would feel better. The pain and discomfort I was experiencing was of my own doing. We frequently do this to ourselves by tensing up during unpleasant experiences. We feel this when we shrug our shoulders while hunched over the computer or sitting with bad posture while focused on the work we're doing. We become hyper-focused on one thing without noticing its effects elsewhere.

In the Marines, I had to implicitly learn how to deal with discomfort. At this Vipassana course, I was explicitly learning the same thing at a deeper level.

Personal Goal

I had a personal goal, when arriving at the Vipassana course, to meditate for two straight hours without moving. The best I could do, the first four days, was about 80 minutes. But, after learning Vipassana, I was able to meditate an entire two hours, each day, without moving, for the remainder of the course. It wasn't easy – there were times when I was hanging on by a thread – but I did it.

An Old Student of Vipassana

During the next six days I learned how to refine and perfect the Vipassana technique of meditation. I went from initially visualizing a point moving along my skin, over the course of 30 or 40 minutes, to being able to sweep through, and scan, my entire body with each breath.

The Vipassana technique of meditation allows me to focus on every part of my body so I can "check in" and survey how it's feeling. Regardless of what I'm feeling when I meditate, I accept it without craving the good sensations or avoiding the bad ones.

When our body feels good, our mind feels good; and repeatedly doing something purposely makes our mind feel good which makes our body feel good. It's a resonating cycle of equanimity.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Is the Move Away From Artist to AI a Repeat of the Industrial Revolution?

Is the move away from artist to AI a repeat of the industrial revolution? Progress, through innovation, is a hard force to stop.

The industrial revolution is when the master/apprentice system of building was replaced by product cloning. This era shifted us away from a time when unique crafts were built by a master and taught to an apprentice. [These craftsmen may have called themselves artists – but their work was not the purest form of art. Art with function is actually design.]

Keep in mind that art may seem “unneeded”… it might be easy to dismiss art. “Why do we need the David or the Mona Lisa? Who needs a particular song?" What if we got something equally as artistic, but different? Would anyone miss it?

Alas…Think you don’t need art? Try to get through a pandemic without the artists’ creativity to fill your mind. The artist will take you from deep in their soul to a world away.

The medium and methods may keep changing – sometimes drastically – but the artist will always be there to awe and entertain us. And we will evolve to adapt. We have an excellent track record for surviving unprecedented times. But we can't always beat the odds. The house always wins. So, we must skeptically embrace transformational ideas. A new, good idea ineffectively adopted is a bad a idea.

Endnote: This is my first blog post using custom generated AI images to accompany a piece.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Algorithm vs Model

Algorithm: Step-by-step instructions. These instructions can be written down on paper or programmed into a computer.

Model: A model analyzes data to determine patterns, relationships, and behaviors based on that data.

Friday, September 22, 2023

TypeScript Origins: The Documentary

I watched yesterday’s 80 minute TypeScript documentary, TypeScript Origins: The DocumentaryTypeScript is a superset of JavaScript that transpiles, with static typing, into JavaScript so it can run inside a web browser.

The enlightening part of this documentary is that it starts with Microsoft employees talking about what a paradigm shift it was for Microsoft to embrace open source software development. It highlights the differences in leadership between Gates/Ballmer and Satya Nadella who took over as CEO in 2014. Nadella saw the importance and power of goodwill with open source while transitioning the company to providing cloud services. That’s a huge culture shift for a behemoth company like Microsoft which is one of the largest companies in the world. 

It’s interesting to see how a company, like Google, has shifted away from, “Don't be evil,” while Microsoft has become more open and supportive of the developer community. 

Monday, September 4, 2023

Everything They Wanted to Be

  1. Java became what Ada wanted to be. Write once, run everywhere. 

  2. Javascript became what Java applets wanted to be. Mobile code in a web browser.

  3. REST became what SOAP wanted to be. Remote procedure calls with data over the Web.

  4. JSON became what XML wanted to be. Human readable, machine to machine data exchange.

Friday, July 28, 2023


Here's a fascinating Regular Expression for identifying prime numbers:


A Regular Expression is a sequence of characters that specifies a match pattern in text. For example, it could be used when writing code for a website to detect if someone entered a properly formatted phone number, ZIP code, etc.

Instead of entering numbers in base 10 or binary (base 2), this Regular Expression uses the unary numeral system (base 1). Base 1 is probably how the earliest humans first counted. 111 = 3, 11111111 = 8, etc.

It seems the more I learn about Regular Expressions, the less I know. 🤷‍♂️

Here's a ten minute explainer video that demos for testing Regular Expressions.

Friday, June 9, 2023

 Vision Pro Observations

Apple's Vision Pro introduces spacial computing to consumers. But will it catch on?

Key benefit: Integration of a computer with multiple, large screen displays in a three dimensional, interactive environment. This is the first standalone Apple product introduced by Tim Cook, as CEO, that isn't an add-on like the Apple Watch.

Price: Starting at $3,500.
Adjusted for inflation, this is roughly the same cost as the Apple I computer released on April 11, 1977, which required assembly.

Price Comparison: Comparable to HoloLens 2.

Personal Thoughts: This is version one of a prosumer product in an entire new area of personal computing and human-machine interactions. Keep in mind that the Pro designation implies it's not a low-end consumer device. While smartphones have virtually connected while physically isolating individuals, the Apple Vision Pro certainly does an impressive job of making remote people feel more present while interacting. Apple also has been thoughtful about how others see and interact with the user. Specifically, when people approach a person using the Vision Pro, the user can see them. Additionally, a person can see the eyes of the Vision Pro user they're interacting with. In other words, the outward facing display is solely for the benefit of others. A nice touch.
Will it catch on? Time will tell.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Vipassana Meditation, Part 1

Part 2: Vipassana Meditation, Part 2: Six Months Later  

A few months ago I became interested in meditation.

Today, I returned from a ten-day silent retreat in the desert city of Twentynine Palms, California where we learned the Vipassana silent meditation technique. This technique involves a remarkably impressive method of visualization.

For the last 10+ days, a group of about 80 of us literally lived like Buddhist monks & nuns that involved the following code of discipline:

1. No talking (Noble Silence, in other words we took a vow of silence where we, the students, never spoke amongst ourselves. This included no hand gestures, signaling, or eye contact. I only spoke about two sentences, each day, to my instructors and some days I literally didn’t speak a single sentence.)

2. No contact with the outside world. (No phones, no electronics, etc. We turned over our phones and car keys at the beginning of the course and didn’t get them back until the end of the tenth day.)

3. No reading

4. No writing

5. No exercising 

6. No rituals

7. No stealing

8. No lying

9. No sexual activity 

10. No intoxicants

For ten hours a day, for ten days, we meditated. A gong woke us up at 4 am, each morning, and we began the day with two straight hours of meditation at 4:30 am. The final daily meditation ended at 9 pm. 

For ten days, no one left the training center compound (unless they quit or were expelled). Fortunately, there were walking paths through the desert within the grounds.

Why did I attend? Simply to learn this technique of meditation.

The course is 100% free including full room and board (breakfast, lunch, and a late afternoon tea break). It’s strictly donation-based. And donations are only accepted from students who have completed the course. Vipassana has close ties to Buddhism. Keep in mind that Buddhism is a philosophy practice, not a religion, making the Vipassana meditation technique highly compatible with most any other religion, including atheism.

What do I think of the experience? It far exceeded my expectations.

It was grueling to sit for hours and mind-numbing to only focus on your breath and body, but it was so well worth it. It became easier and more rewarding as the days went by. Every single person was glowing at the end of the course, when Noble Silence ended (jokingly called “noble chatter”). I have no plans to become a Buddhist but I’m definitely eager to continue the Vipassana meditation technique. 


Now please excuse me while I take some time to catch up on my 294 unread e-mails, along with 68 text messages and a host of other social media notifications and voicemails.

More about Vipassana here:

A new Twentynine Palms course begins about every two weeks: 

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Automating ETL = DataOps

 In the 1980s and 1990s, software engineers developed software and then a different group manually operationalized it by either putting it on floppy disks/CDs or deploying it to a server. With the advent of cloud computing, this manual process became automated and the best practices were defined as DevOps. 

With the proliferation of data, and the large amount of information that can be generated even from metadata, the consumption of it can no longer be done manually, in the form of ETL (Extract, Transform, Load), to remain competitive. So, similar to DevOps, DataOps is a key part of automating the process of ETL which enhances data analytics. 

Monday, March 20, 2023

How Will Education Adapt to AIs like ChatGPT?

It's so very interesting to see how society adapts to technology. I'm sure, a hundred years from now, people will look back at us and say, "What was the big deal about AI?" since they would have grown up with it.

When the camera was invented, it was thought that a photo couldn't be copyrighted because there was nothing "created." Obviously, that legal opinion has changed.

We teach Driver's Ed in school, because teens need to learn how to drive in society, but we don't teach "horse maintenance" because we no longer use horses as out primary means of transportation. I'm sure our grandparents were looked down upon by their grandparents for learning to drive and not riding a horse.

Public education teaches personal hygiene, like how to brush your teeth. Now they teach digital hygiene like how to pick a strong password or not leak private data.

It'll take some trial and error, but I'm sure K-12 will eventually figure it out, but only after society, as a whole, figures it out.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Encryption: Air Force One & the Police

Most people don't realize that, for general communications, Air Force One and the police don't use encryption when transmitting over the radio. 

While Air Force One certainly has encryption capable radios on board, it still has to communicate with civilian air traffic controllers (ATC). So anyone can listen in.

In 2012, when I was flying my plane from NJ to San Diego, I ended up on the same frequency as Air Force One while flying by Columbus, OH as the president was landing while on a campaign trip. My copilot, who was a commercial pilot, commented that that was a first for him.

Civilians can purchase police scanners to monitor police activity. However, police departments are now moving to encrypted communications to maintain the privacy of citizens. Imagine being pulled over, in another state, and the cop can't run your license on his squad car laptop. So, instead, he has to call it in over the radio, reading your name, home address, etc. Encrypted communications for law enforcement is probably a good idea. 

Monday, March 13, 2023

Entrepreneur Syndrome

Over the past 25 years, I’ve personally noticed something that I now call entrepreneur syndrome.

In a nutshell, these are wannabe entrepreneurs (nearly always solopreneurs) who spend all of their time going through the motions of entrepreneurship without ever generating revenue by bringing a product or service to market. 

Instead of selling, entrepreneur syndrome sufferers end up being very "busy" working on things they like doing and telling people about it, especially through social media. They have the title of CEO on one or more “companies” with no employees, no marketing plan, and certainly no revenue. They love to work from wherever they want, like coffee shops, never earning a single cent. Their focus is on building, not boosting (marketing), or buying (selling).

In the end, what they're doing is OK, but what they're really doing is called a hobby, not a business.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Silicon Valley Bank

Tomorrow, the FDIC will allow access to Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) accounts up to the insured amount of $250,000. FDIC insurance is something that's not available in the crypto world (just ask SBF and FTX). I'm guessing that all of SVB bank accounts will probably recoup at least 80% of their deposit when the dust settles. This is why billionaires buy many obscenely expensive homes since those investments can be insured to 100%.

Last week, the CEO of SVB sold $3.6 mm in stock as part of a trading plan. I don't think there's much to see with the CEO's stock sales if the cash ended up in SVB, not some other bank. If not, he'll have a tough time explaining that. 

Although I haven't had any personal experience with SVB, a good friend of mind did when he, as CEO of a startup, raised $2.5 mm about 15 years ago. Part of his fund raising deal was that SVB would loan his company $500K provided that all the funds were kept in a SVB account, which he did. In 2009, when times became tough, my buddy's startup had $600K in cash. This wasn't a problem until SVB invoked their MAC clause (material adverse change), swooped in, and pulled his $500K. Unfortunately, the corporation's fellow board members didn't want to fight SVB because they had other deals with the bank. In other words, these directors put their own business interests ahead of the corporations. But what can you do?

My buddy didn't have kind words for SVB when I asked him for comments on Friday.