Take a boat trip to Bainbridge Island on a bright sunny Seattle day

Office Nomads had this great blog post (which I now cannot find the link to) about visiting Office Xpats on Bainbridge Island, and I had made a mental note to do that one of these days. Which ended up being today.

I got into the office at my regular 6am time today, cleared my inbox and worked on some things that had popped up over the weekend. About 9:30am, I looked outside and discovered it was going to be one of those gorgeous Seattle sunny days. I checked my schedule for the day and figured I could use a break to get outside. And that’s when I realized today would be the perfect day to go check out Office Xpats – wasting some time on the boat commute each way, sure, but I could still get some stuff done while I was out there.

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I just barely made the 10:40am ferry after mis-timing how long it would take for me to get to the bank. The great thing for me is that there’s a foot bridge starting on 1st & Madison right outside of SURF that runs under the Viaduct directly to walk-on ferry terminal. The ticket was $7.40 going to Bainbridge (return ride is free). It was pretty cold for being so sunny; I could only stand on the foredeck for so long before my eyes were watering and my ears freezing.

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I haven’t been to Winslow since before I first left for San Diego in 1996, which means it’s been  at least 17 years, and realistically more like 20-22 years. It still seems like a neat, sleepy little town – lots of little shops and stores along a laid-back main drag.

It’s about a 10-minute walk from the ferry terminal to Office Xpats, which is on the second story of a mini-mall, complete with a theatre, a small gym, some restaurants and shops. I think they did a great job fixing it up – lots of little partitioned spaces with comfy chairs, private meeting rooms and a kitchen.

I had a quick lunch at Casa Rojas on the 1st floor, then went up to to Xpats. It was pretty empty owning to the fact that the owners were at a coworking conference in Austin, and also presumably because everyone was out enjoying the sunshine.

I worked for a few hours and decided to call it a day to head back to SURF. A quick walk back to the ferry terminal (and a detour to the Blackbird Bakery for a delicious cranberry Oatmeal raisin cookie), and I was aboard the boat heading back to Seattle.

I wish I had a panoramic camera right now – on the boat ride back and all the mountains are out, from Mt Baker up north to an unbelievable shot of Mt Rainier to the south, plus the Cascades behind the city. Just breathtaking!

I would highly recommend this day-trip to everyone – you can have the veneer of doing some work, but also be able to get out on the sound, enjoy a quaint little town and hopefully some sunny weather!

Congratulations Seahawks but there are some holes to fix

Let me first say, congratulations to the Seahawks! It was a great victory, a confidence-building victory, and I think it’s big to get that playoff road win under your belt. But I don’t think there was anyone out there that wasn’t sweating it out until late in the game.

You want the quickest of summaries? The Redskins had a 129-9 lead in yardage in the first quarter. After RG3 was injured, the Seahawks outgained the Redskins 371-84 in the remaining three quarters. Yet for as much as the Seahawks outplayed the Redskins after the first quarter, they didn’t actually take the lead until 7:08 remaining in the 4th quarter.

So let’s discuss some of the mistakes that were made to try and improve on their future playoff performances.

Giving up touchdowns to your homefield opponent on their first two drives is just a recipe for disaster. Good teams will put their foot on your throat and never let you up – it simply can’t be done. The Seahawks were lucky that RG3 was injured when he was, because it really limited the offense of the Redskins for the rest of the game, and obviously you cannot count on that happening each and every week. Had they put in Kirk Cousins at the start of the third quarter, and had they scored any additional points (touchdown or field goal), we might be talking about the Redskins moving forward instead.

I would say the most crucial play in the game was the shoestring 12-yard pass to Miller for the first down. If they don’t make that play, they give the ball back to the Redskins and who knows what happens at that point. That could have been where the blowout started. Instead, the Seahawks get the first down, the drive continues, they keep their defense off the field and they get a field goal and some points on the board. This, to me, was where the momentum shifted. The Redskins were 4-and-out on the next series and the Seahawks scored a touchdown after that. Probably the second-most crucial play was Lynch’s recovery of Wilson’s fumble. Again, it was right in the middle of the momentum shift, and solidified that shift towards the Seahawks.

The most glaring errors to me were in the red zone. One touchdown on six red zone possessions – that just isn’t going to cut it in the playoffs against the NFL’s elite. They had problems with this in the beginning of the year, and they resolved them from the mid-point on, but it really came back with a vengeance in this game. They need to fix this going forward.

Wilson had a solid day, but there is definitely room for improvement. He made some huge runs to extend drives, some great passes, made some clutch downfield blocks, and showed incredible poise and leadership. But he missed some wide open receivers, and took several unnecessary sacks while being chased when he had the opportunity to get rid of it.

In the end, the Seahawks outplayed and outcoached the Redskins. When the Seahawks went down 14-0 in a hostile road environment, they changed their strategy and found a way to win. The Redskins could not find a way to overcome the adversity of  RG3 not being able to perform.

Can the Seahawks win in Atlanta? Absolutely. I’ve always felt the Falcons were a paper champion this season. Per ESPN: “Schedule is everything in the NFL, and the Falcons benefited by playing the league’s easiest schedule. They won 13 games against a schedule with a .422 opponent winning percentage, a schedule that featured teams with combined records of 108-148.” I challenge you to go back and look at their schedule this year – who have they beaten? Sure, they beat Denver early in the year before the Donkeys got rolling and Manning threw 4 picks, but that’s about it. And none of the teams they’ve played this year had a good defense (except Denver).

That’s not to say that Atlanta won’t score points – I think they will. But I think they’re going to find playing against a top-rated defense quite an eye-opener, even if Clemons is out. Wilson is probably going to need a 3TD+ (passing/running) performance in order to get by the Falcons. 187 passing, 67 rushing and 1 TD is not going to cut it in the playoffs.

There are intangibles to this game – travel and pressure. Let’s not discount that the Seahawks having to travel across the country for the 2nd time in two weeks to play in a charged up NFL playoff game. It has to be incredibly exhausting and confusing to your body to change time zones repeatedly while you’re trying to recuperate and prepare for the next game.

However, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on Atlanta to perform. They’ve had an incredible regular season, they’ve been scoring a lot of points, they secured the top seed, they’re playing at home, they are expected to hold serve at home and advance. But I just don’t see it happening – I think they run into the buzzsaw that is the Seahawks, and they learn what a real NFL defense is comprised of. I think Wilson has a much better game, the defense starts out much better and the Seahawks punish the Falcons from start to finish.

Prediction – Seahawks: 34, Falcons: 20.

Pho Fuchsia in Pioneer Square

I’ve been on quite the “office shopping” trip lately, first trying out Office Nomads for a couple of months (details here), and now here at SURF Incubator. Part of the excitement of a new place is trying out all the nearby restaurants. There are quite a few options so far, but I’ve struggled to find a good pho/banh-mi joint close by (I need to explore the International District much more).

But I think I’ve found a very good stand-in for my pho cravings, Pho Fuchsia. I was pleasantly surprised at a solid chicken banh mi – not as good as Pho Mimi on Aurora, but better than anything else I’ve tried down here. And the pho tai (rare beef) was delicious. Broth was dark and flavored well. Beef was good quality and accoutrements were acceptable.

Service was solid, although the server did warn me that it gets massively busy during the lunch rush (I’m not surprised).

At any rate, this will probably become a once or twice a week spot for me – I definitely recommend it.

Bad ass Blue Angels photos

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Better late than never – my Van Halen pictures

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I hear some people complaining about it, but god damn I loved it! I feel incredibly fortunate that I got to see them before they shut down the tour..

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And The Black Keys 3 days later.. my new favorite band – horrible seats, but all great songs.

Jersey’s Sports Bar in Shoreline

Jersey's Short Rib SandwichThere are no good sports bars in North Seattle. Hell, there aren’t even any really good sports bars in Seattle, at least compared to San Diego, although there are some kick-ass soccer bars (San Diego has those too though).

But one bar that I really wish more people went to is Jersey’s Great Food & Sports at 1306 N 175th St in Shoreline. It’s a funky little place tucked away off Aurora on 175th, but man they’ve got some really good food!

This is a picture of their Short Rib sandwich with coleslaw on top – I’m telling you it’s frickin’ awesome! Love the cibbatta bun especially, and the fries are addicting. This ain’t no Sysco food wagon.

And they’ve got a Chipotle burger that’s just unbelievable. Good food, cheap drinks and beer.. not sure why more people don’t come here? Especially during football season. Especially in the North End where there ain’t shit-all to hang out (what, Bleachers? Please.)

If you read their Yelp reviews, you’ll see everyone typically loves the food, but dislikes the service, at least in the restaurant – wouldn’t know, I always sit at the bar, or on the bar, or near the bar, just to make sure I get good service.. you know, the hard-to-ignore jerk?

I do think they’re kind of floundering a little bit – are they a family restaurant? a sports bar? a disco/nightclub thing in the evening? Sheesh.

But in the end, the food is damn good, and if you need a place to eat and watch a sporting event, then you should keep Jersey’s in mind!

Another Startup Weekend under my belt – Day 1

Well, that was certainly quite a weekend! Talk about going from one extreme to the other..  but I’m getting ahead of myself.

First, a little about the space and the start of the weekend – I had heard about The Makers Space in the Twitterverse, and seen pictures from the opening night party and other events, but for some reason, I was thinking that it was down in South Lake Union, presumably because I remember reading about all those new condos on Lenora and just associated Lenora with SLU. So here I was researching parking options in SLU when I looked up the address to see where the building was only to discover that the building is actually in Belltown close to the Pike Place Market – whoops!

I busted out my trusty Seattle parking app (don’t park downtown without it!) and discovered a previously unknown parking garage at 61 Lenora that has inexpensive $6.00/evening parking from 4pm-1:30am.. highly recommended! Of course, it was $23.00/day on Saturday, but that was for 7am to 11:45pm which I don’t consider unreasonable at all.

Startup Seattle at Makers SpaceThe space was scheduled to open at 5pm, and I arrived shortly after that, with networking in full swing.  I had some great conversations and met some really interesting people before the pitches started. My favorite conversation of the whole weekend was an extended conversation with @colindchapman about all things technical: Rails, ORM, MVCs and specifically Node.js + Express. Since it seemed we had similar tastes and complaints as far as MVCs go, he made a very persuasive case for exploring those, so that’s on the agenda for the week.

An aside – if you’re thinking about attending Startup Weekend, I would HIGHLY recommend attending the free Bootcamp in the days leading up to the event. You’ll get an idea of how to integrate your laptop with how everyone else will likely be configured (with regard to file/code sharing), but even more so, you’ll get a chance to network on a smaller scale, so when you arrive at the event, you already know a handful of people.

At my first SW, I just listened intently to the pitches, but I didn’t realize how many there were going to be, and how hard it would be to keep track of them all. When all the pitches were completed, I could barely remember which ideas I liked, and who pitched them. I was determined not to make that mistake again, so I was jotting names and notes during the pitches this time around. There were some interesting pitches (Bookstream: netflix for books, MyStructure: universal PIM API, Startup Stock Market simulator, a live QR/bar-code feedback system from @colindchapman actually that I didn’t catch the name of, among others) that I was surprised didn’t get more traction, and frankly some ideas that I was surprised did get traction. C’est la vie!

A tip if you’re going to pitch – state your name clearly at the beginning, speak clearly, and at least have a catchy name or phrase (doesn’t have to be your final brand name) to repeat through and/or close with. I took notes on every pitch, and I have maybe 20% of the pitches that I missed the person’s name because they didn’t say it, or they mumbled it, or the concept name wasn’t mentioned or wasn’t clear so I didn’t know what to call it. I think the reason some ideas don’t get more traction is that they are unmemorable or don’t stand out. If you don’t take notes (like I did), it’s hard to remember who said what, and having those things that stick in your memory really help!

I had planned to pitch this time – I contemplated several interesting ideas, had selected one which was solved a problem I am continuously having, had the pitch down in my head cold, and for whatever reason just didn’t feel like “going for it”.  In retrospect, I wish I would have pitched (and hopefully made it to the team selection round) but hindsight is 20/20. In the end, there wasn’t any idea that I was super jazzed about – and I honestly just figured I would float around and see if anyone needed any help. It would give me a chance to meet and talk with everyone, and not have an uber-stressful weekend, plus I wanted to post more pictures, tweet and live-blog a bit more.

Well, that didn’t happen. I ended up talking to Saia Taumoefolau who was in from Chicago on a lark who managed to snag a ticket at the last minute and planned to pitch an idea about sub-prime auto loans, something he was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about. He had already picked up a team member Jessi who had abandoned her (I thought) really interesting Crossfit idea to join his team. So my options were: float and coast, or jump in and help. I jumped, though I had no idea what I was jumping into.

For some reason, I thought we had more members to our team. It didn’t really hit me until we actually sat down and started discussing the aspects of the project that I started to worry. We had no graphics people, we had no html/css wranglers and two people who had never been to a Startup Weekend before and thus had no idea what was going on or what to expect. It was going to be a long weekend..

(to be continued)

Rain City Burgers

I have to give a quick shout out to Rain City Burgers on the corner of 65th and Roosevelt. I stopped in there recently and had an unbelievable bacon double cheeseburger (my Yelp review). Highly recommended!

Thoughts about Startup Weekend

It’s taken me a few days to gather my thoughts about Startup Weekend (and ok, I was slightly distracted by the snowpocalypse this week).

I’m not going to give you a play-by-play because I’m not sure I could improve upon Dwight’s perfect summation (part 1, part 2, part 3) – he really captures what it was like to be there and be involved.

I had said before in my previous Startup Weekend post, I was a little nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. Some of my fears were confirmed, but I was pleasantly surprised in many other areas.

First, my overall experience was incredible. Everyone (literally everyone!) there was super nice, really excited to be there, eager to meet you, find out about you, etc. It didn’t matter who you are or what you do – people were enthusiastic talking with you. Definitely a very friendly, gregarious crowd.

Based on the raise-your-hand survey at the begining, it appeared that most of the room were first-timers which was surprising. For some reason, I expected more grizzled veterns.

One of the other things I was surprised about was the amount of abandonment by team members throughout the weekend. I heard that other teams had people leaving because they couldn’t get along or didn’t want to take part any more. Even on our own team, we lost one person the first night, and one person the second night. So strange!

As for my team, there were some really talented people on it. Our team leader and pitch’er (Eric Butler) turned out to be the guy who wrote FireSheep (Firefox extension that demonstrates HTTP session hijacking attacks) which made a big splash when he released it, so he’s famous! (well, internet famous – at least to technical people). I didn’t know this when I first talked to him about joining his team, but I was certainly impressed when I learned this.

But that basically confirmed my worst fear – being on a team with tons of über-level talent. What exactly could I contribute? Even worse, the code was being done in Ruby on Rails, something I have ZERO experience with. I spent quite a bit of time getting my own RoR setup configured and running our source code which is another post in-and-of itself. Ugh!

I contributed what I could in various other aspects, but I did feel a little marginalized. It’s clear Eric had thought about this idea quite a bit, including researching competition, sketching wireframes, mocking up icons, and figuring out how to monetize it. This being my first time, I surely didn’t want to overstep my bounds or step on any toes by trying to take on too much oversight.

Here’s a guy who has a lot invested in his project, and extremely busy writing the backend code, and seemingly did not want (or is not able time-wise) to be the project manager, but also did not want to relinquish control of the project – it was definitely an awkward situation.

I was ok being a cog-in-the-wheel the first time around though. In retrospect, it was probably a good thing that I didn’t get thrown into the deep end and being primarily responsible for the technical aspects of a project. I got a chance to see how the process worked (and how I might handle or manage the process differently) and it was a very valuable experience.  I did find out at the end that there was at least one team that didn’t have a developer though. I wonder how it might have worked out if I’d have found that out and migrated to that team? I’m sure it would have been a completely different experience!

There were some incredible teams coming out of the event – some teams I thought were well on their way to forming an actual company and making a go of it.

In the end, I really had a great time – met a lot of great people, got some extremely valuable experience that I will be applying to my next Startup Weekend:

  • I will definitely blog/photograph/tweet more. Documentation!
  • I will definitely take notes (and possibly even photos) during the pitches. I had a hard time remembering all the pitches, what they were about, who pitched, etc. 54+ pitches in an hour or so – very hard to keep track of!
  • I am definitely going to pitch next time! I don’t feel bad that I didn’t the first time around, but now that I have a better idea of what pitching is all about, it’s something I really want to do.
  • Picking the right team – pick a team that you can contribute to, and something that you feel strongly about.
  • Confirming that I really need to tighten up my technical chops in some areas that I’m lacking (especially front-end work)

My last thought: this SW was held at http://www.thehubseattle.com in Pioneer Square so I was wandering around the streets morning, noon and night. I can’t believe how far the area has fallen with regard to hustle and bustle. Granted, it was the weekend so maybe the foot traffic was less than it might be during a normal 9-to-5 weekday but Friday and Saturday night were D-E-A-DEAD! I remember back in the 90’s when it was THE place to be, and now, nothing. No one in the bars, no one walking around on the street. Nothing. How sad.

Startup Weekend

So I signed up for Startup Weekend in Seattle next month.  I had tried to sign up for the November event but I procrastinated and it ended up being sold out. I have to say, I’m really excited about it!  I am a little nervous though – I’ve met some local startup programmers, the type of guys that I imagine will be at this event, and they were just out-of-this-world smart. I consider myself intelligent, and I have extensive knowledge in many areas, but these guys are ridiculously smart with regard to building large scalable dynamic Web 2.0-type websites quickly using RoR, Django or similar.

It’s going to be interesting to see where I “fit in” – I’ve always considered myself a programmer, but I may be more valuable to my team in other areas if there are 1 or 2 really top-notch framework developers on my team (and if that’s what we end up coding in). I’m good with CodeIgniter, but that seems to be unpopular with the Seattle startup community (though very popular elsewhere) so we’ll see.

Anyway, I think it’s going to be a great experience and I’m looking forward to being immersed in a sea of smart geeks for a weekend working on neat things!