Archive for July, 2012

How I Became a Geek

It may have started in utero. I can’t be sure. But here’s what I remember…

1962: Born. Okay, I don’t really remember that part, but the important part is that my dad had a degree in math and we moved six times before my 6th birthday. And that last move landed us smack in the middle of what would become Silicon Valley.

1962-1968: I remember the teachers at school whispering and giggling about this radical musical ‘Hair,’ and I remember a lot of low-waisted bell bottoms, blue eye shadow and headbands. That is all.

1969: My parents get divorced. You may not see this as an important milestone on my road to geekdom, but in fact it is, because after my parents get divorced my mom quits her job as a teacher and goes to work as a secretary for Fairchild Semiconductor. Boom.

1972: Pong. My first video game.

1973: Sometime around 1973 my dad moves to San Diego, but the rest of the family stays in Silicon  Valley.

1974: Mr. Demerelli gives me a C in math and I realize I did not inherit my dad’s math gene. Sigh. How will I ever become a geek if I can’t wax on about calculus and write my friend’s phone numbers down in binary notation?

1975: My dad quits working for large government contract companies and starts a company called Antares, and begins designing and building I/O circuit boards that allow commercial computers to interface with Naval Tactical Data Systems (NTDS) devices or systems.

1976: My mom needs to keep me busy for the summer so she brings me to work with her every day and pays me some exorbitant salary (probably 50 cents an hour) to type invoices and packaging labels for semiconductor parts.

1976: Bill Joy invents the “vi” editor for Unix (This will become important later. Trust me)

1977-1979: I discover that working summer jobs in startups is way more interesting than working in retail or fast food. I spend my summers editing code I don’t really understand, do secretarial work, and soak up the energy of the startup entrepreneurs.

1979: I ask my dad what I should major in in college and he says, “Major in art. It doesn’t matter. You’re just going to get married anyway.” Yeah, didn’t take that advice, but thanks anyway.

1980-1982: I share a 2-bedroom apartment near San Diego State with three strangers, one of whom is a Computer Science Major. I watch Shelly carry stacks of cards back and forth to the computer lab, and I finally get curious enough to come with her one day to see what she’s actually doing with all of those cards.

1982: Stanford classmates Vinod Khosla, Scott McNealy, Andy Bechtolsheim, and UC Berkeley computer science graduate student Bill Joy co-found Sun Microsystems (SUN is the acronym for the Stanford University Network). I have no idea this is happening, but it will become very important later.

1983: I register for Computer Science 101, a class that just barely scratches the surface of what an operating system is, and how you can program it to display “Hello World.”

1984: I graduate with a Journalism degree, with an emphasis in Advertising, and minors in Spanish and Television & Film. I know, nothing to do with computer science, but just hang in there. I assure you this all comes together in the end.

1984-1985: Did I mention that I graduated during a recession? I couldn’t get a job in an advertising agency, so I became a cocktail waitress. Boom. I know what you’re thinking. Major life detour. What does this have to do with becoming a geek. Well, if I had actually gotten one of those advertising jobs my life would have taken a different path.

1985: I decide I’ve had enough of the cocktail waitress life, pack my bags, buy a one-way ticket around the world and leave.

 

My Employee Badge from Sun

1985: I make it all the way around the world, run out of money in Hong Kong, come back to Silicon Valley and head to the Volt temp agency. They place me at a little startup called Sun Microsystems as an administrative assistant. Geek heaven. I am amazed by Sun’s internal email system, Suntools, so I decide to write a User’s Guide for the employees. I am bored in my administrative assistant job so I read Henry McGilton’s book “Introducing the UNIX System” cover to cover like a recipe book, trying out every command as I go. I ask Henry to lunch so I can discuss further. I’m well on my way to becoming a geek.

1985: ARPANET becomes the Internet and I discover online forums that you can only find if you know the IP address.

1986: I become a certified Sun systems administrator, and discover how to hack through Sun’s screenlock and report this as a major security bug. I take a Pascal programming class and write my first computer program.

1989: I am working for another startup called Frame Technology when I discover a proposal written by someone at CERN about something called the World Wide Web. I decide this is going to be something amazing and I write a white paper about it that no one outside my company ever sees.

1989: Frame Technology founder Steve Kirsch comes into my cubicle and tells me he has this brilliant idea to create a way to let us find things on this Worldwide Web thing without having to know the IP address of what we’re looking for. That idea becomes Infoseek, one of the first Internet search engines. At this point I consider myself a full-fledged card-carrying member of the geek club.

The years from 1989 up until now have been a blur of information and cutting edge technology. I have spent the past 20+ years working with a multitude of different companies (mostly startups) in a consulting capacity or as a full-time employee.

2012-????: This chapter is being written every minute of every day as I continue to chase the top of the wave—which for right now is social media marketing—and look for the next one to ride.

I am the daughter of an entrepreneur, and I thank my dad every day for telling me to major in art, because I’ve never really been good at doing what I’m told.

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Riding the Flume Trail in Tahoe is Insane

My sisters and I meet up at our family cabin in Incline Village (Tahoe) every summer for a week, and we’re continually looking for new and exciting adventures to keep our kids occupied. I am not one to sit on a beach and do nothing all day, so when a friend suggested taking the kids on a mountain biking adventure I decided to check it out.

My friend Greg recommended the Flume Trail in Tahoe, saying it would be a great ride for the kids and everyone would enjoy it. Now let me just point out that Greg rides his mountain bike five days a week, and he considers a 5-mile ascent at a 45-degree angle a fun ride, so I should have taken this fact into consideration before dragging my family into this adventure, but I didn’t.

We honestly didn’t know much about the Flume Trail ride so we called the Flume Trail Bike Shop the night before we planned to ride and asked a few questions, like how hard is this ride really. The answer was a bit vague being, “Oh there’s a bit of a hill at the beginning, then a few miles of flat terrain, and then a few miles of downhill.” We would soon find out that this was the understatement of the year.

The ride begins at Spooner Lake at 7000 feet and climbs to 8157 feet at the summit. If the hills don’t get you the altitude will.

FACT: The first FIVE miles of the adventure to get to the head of the Flume Trail is uphill.

This is no joke.  I spent the first five miles of the “ride” walking with my 14-year old daughter who was so frustrated with the climb that she literally gave up and sat down on the dirt trail. It took me about two hours to talk her out of turning around and get her up to the summit. My 21-year old son and 12-year old son were able to ride up most of the five miles with a few exceptions, but they had to wait 90 minutes for us at the summit.

FACT: If you have to stop for any reason you will be eaten alive by mosquitoes.

My daughter spent the first five miles swatting at flies and mosquitoes and shouting, “I am not an outdoors person!”

The next couple of miles past the summit were a walk in the park compared to that first five miles of hills. We really enjoyed the easy miles of trail that winded along the edge of Marlette Lake. However, the cakewalk was short lived, because you see the actual Flume Trail is 4.5 miles of single track trail hugging the side of a mountain with a 1600-ft drop off.

FACT: People with a fear of heights should NOT ride the Flume Trail.

This part of the ride is not family friendly. There is one place on the trail where you actually have to pick your bike up and carry it over a pile of large boulders.

The last few miles of the adventure are all downhill on loose sand and gravel, which is a challenge. But when you’ve been riding the last 4.5 miles on the edge of a cliff it’s a welcome change of pace even if it is harder to keep your bike upright.

All seven of us arrived at the end of the trail (at the Ponderosa Ranch) relatively unscathed, but incredibly thirsty, because you see we all ran out of water after that first 5-mile climb and had to ride the last 10 miles with no water.

FACT: You will need three bottles of water per person if you want to stay hydrated on this ride.

Four of the seven of us said we would do the ride again if we were more prepared. I would have absolutely loved this challenging ride had I not spent the entire time trying to talk my kids through it. So if you want to do this ride take my advice:

  • Park at the Ponderosa Ranch parking lot and take the shuttle to the Flume Trail Bike Shop where you can rent a well-equipped mountain bike.
  • Bring your own riding gloves, because they run out of loaners early in the day.
  • Pack three bottles of water per person.
  • Bring ample snacks, as you will be burning in excess of 1500 calories on this ride.
  • Pack a small first aid kit, because the only way you can get help if you’re injured is to have someone ride back to the bike shop, which could take hours.
  • An experienced rider may be able to finish the ride in under two hours, but it took us five hours, so keep that in mind.
  • Wear lots of sport sunscreen and a good pair of sunglasses to keep the dirt, dust and sun out of your eyes.
  • Apply mosquito repellent liberally.
  • Do not bring children or inexperienced riders. This is a moderately difficult ride.
  • Rent a place with a hot tub because you’ll want a long soak afterwards.

Happy trails!

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