Newtown, Fatherhood, and Guns

This week an unspeakable tragedy occurred quite near the town in which I grew up.  20 children and at least 8 adults were killed by a man with a gun…with several guns actually.  This hit especially close to home in a few ways.  First, I know where the school where this occurred is.  I’ve been in Newtown.  We used to have family friends there.  It is not all that far from where I used to live.  It is also not far from my two sisters and their kids.  It’s not far from my Mom.  Add on top of that, my sister is an Elementary School teacher in Connecticut.  Imagine hearing that an Elementary School had been the site of a mass slaying by a madman?  And learning it was in Connecticut.  Horror, Panic, until I learned it was out of district.

But that horror and panic made me pause and think about some of my beliefs.  In general I have believed throughout my life that responsible people should have the right to own a gun, but they should be careful with that weapon.  I don’t’ believe in automatic weapons or anything that can kill a deer 605 times in a single shot.  Those overpowered guns are unnecessary and frightening.  Too many accidents happen in the home with guns, but I was able to reconcile that with my belief in Darwinism.  People taking themselves out because they weren’t careful?  Ok.  Sorry, your own fault.

This however is completely different. This one is the first one that hits home to me as a Father of a young child.  I recently read this article in the New Yorker and as I read it, I felt my beliefs start to shift.  The Father in me is practical.  It is looking for ways to make our world better for everyone, but notably for my son.  I don’t want my son to have to face this type of awful tragedy.

There was a time that I thought “I know people are the culprits here”, that without someone pulling the trigger…there would be no mass murder senseless killing of innocents. I thought, and debated heavily with myself, that someone could have/should have locked up the guns at Columbine so those kids couldn’t get them. I thought, and debated over and over that it was some nut in Aurora and that he would have gotten guns anyway, somehow. That the real problem is we have a few crazy people in the world and they are just going to kill people anyway.

I realize that regardless of whether or not they could have gotten their hands on guns in those cases, regardless of whether they are just isolated crazy people, that we owe it to ourselves to take whatever measure we can toward safety. If tighter gun control laws mean even a single life is saved, then shouldn’t that be enacted? There is ample evidence that in the US, more people are killed by guns per year than ANYWHERE ELSE. And that is taking into account population size to death ratio. How can that be? Do we have more nut bags than anywhere else? maybe. But if that’s true…what aren’t we doing anything about it.

The 2nd amendment to the constitution was put in place in a time when a bear could still regularly walk into your living room. Where there was no standing police force. It was a time where it was highly likely that we could be re-invaded by European powers. I tell you, all these things are HIGHLY UNLIKELY these days. What is likely is that someone with a gun is going to just decide to fire a clip into my living room, or yours, or your mom’s or someone’s who doesn’t deserve it. And even if you have your own gun sitting in your house…you’re not going to make it.

I believe it is extremely rare that a normal person actually has the time, focus, skill, bravery, to pull a gun and kill the person who is about to kill you with their gun. That’s movies. That’s fantasy. That’s what little boys try to do when they play with sticks.

Guns are a part of our culture, but how can we not further restrict them? How can we take a chance, even if infinitesimally small (and it’s not), that further restriction won’t help?

Chalk up one more for gun control. I hope you’ll at least really consider the alternative, for your children’s sake.

Backup and me. Why delaying your backup solution is a BAD plan.

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That image…is my wife’s external hard drive failing catastrophically.  A few months back, her hard drive on her Mac Book Pro started slowing down.  She had filled it almost to the brim with wonderful photos of our son and our life together.  But the unfortunate side effect of this is that it became nearly unusable because with no extra memory, it slowed to a crawl.  

What to do?  We moved her iphoto libary to an external drive.  I had done this myself with my iTunes library for my iMac with great success.  I was able to put that selection of music and video on a 1 TB disk, which dwarfed my internal hard drive.  And it was fast enough that I didn’t really notice the difference.  So, what’s good for the Goose is good for the Gander (er…maybe that’s the other way around in this case).

We moved my wife’s iphoto library to an external G-Drive.  At first it was an excellent move.  Fast, effectively opening up wide swaths of her internal hard drive, speeding up the computer itself too.

Over time though, little issues started popping up.  If you even bumped the drive, for example, it would unmount…ungracefully.  Twice the library was corrupted and had to be rebuilt  Still…I didn’t put backup on it.

Finally a few weeks ago I started to really think about backup, and…given that Time Machine hasn’t worked in the past for me, and isn’t a great solution for a laptop that moves from room to room (my wife’s machine) I thought I’d try one of the advertised online backup solutions.  The one I’ve heard so much about is Carbonite.  I downloaded and set that up, only to find that for whatever reason, they DONT BACKUP EXTERNAL DRIVES FOR MAC.  Lame.  Just completely lame.  In fact, their response when asked about that lack of functionality was:  Just copy those files that you want to back up to the main hard drive.  Wait a minute, getting those files off the main drive was the point of the exercise in the first place!!  

So, no go with Carbonite.

And…while searching for a new solution…I heard this from the livingroom:

“My hard drive with my photos isn’t showing up…what should I do?”

Oh.  Oh No.  

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It turns out, after trying Disk Utility, taking the drive to my IT guy at work (thanks Rodrigo) who tried all sorts of things from extra power to different cables to putting the drive in a new enclosure, and finally sending it to a data recovery company (an expensive one…) the following was the result:

 

The drive suffered from a massive head failure and the data was (and I quote directly from the expert data recovery company) “ground to dust, never to be recovered”.

 

Fortunately I was able to recover what appears to be about 3000 of the 25,000 or so pictures from her main drive.  And, I have many of our son’s pictures on my machine.  

 

Needless to say, I’ve now put a product called Crashplan in place.  Crashplan does a cloud backup and DOES handle external drives.  It also allows you to back up to additional drives, friends’ drives (why? I don’t know…) etc.  So, hopefully should this happen again, we’ll be covered.

Thank you Steve Jobs, for everything.

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday.

I don’t really remember a time when there wasn’t a Steve Jobs looming over personal computing.  My first REAL personal computer was an Apple ][e (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_IIe  ) with dual floppy drives.  

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Very cool.  I was amazed at the places I could go and the things I could do with that machine.  Games, Adventure, Bulletin Boards (the first social network?), homework, reports, programming, everything.  It launched me into a passion for technology…which in turn led to my career in software.  I can, to some extent, thank Steve Jobs (and Apple) for my livelihood and the ability to be in an environment where I learn something new every day.

Then in rapid succession:  Mac SE/30, Apple 165c, Apple Power PC 6160

Then I went to work and was pulled inexorably toward PCs.  But I never enjoyed them, never understood them.  It was just that I used it at work.

A Jobs led Apple brought us technology that was simple, easy to use, and immensely powerful…because it was simple and easy to use.  It was also beautiful.  He didn’t allow Apple to fall into the Listerine trap:  “If the mouthwash doesn’t taste bad, it isn’t working”.  Computers became works of art…and then became something that everyone could have and use.  The phone I have in my pocket not only is more powerful than most computers that existed 20 years ago…it is available, for a small fee, to anyone!  Amazing, democratizing.  Fast forward several years and suddenly I’m back at work using a Mac.  And the entire community of developers that we service (nearly) is using a Mac.  Eventually Jobs proved that he was right.  Beauty, Design, Simplicity, and Quality trumped price.  Mac/Apple became a way of life.  A way of saying “I get it”.  A way of breaking out of the corporate establishment and letting creativity run wild.  For everyone.

My one encounter with Steve Jobs was a thrill.  I was crossing the parking lot on the Apple Campus…and almost got leveled by a shiny silver Mercedes 2 door going about 40mph.  I stopped and turned to yell…and caught a glimpse of a thin man with glasses and a black turtleneck.  Steve Jobs nearly ran me over.  Rather than being angry, I was thrilled.  A brush (so to speak) with greatness.

Steve, despite the fact that you tried to kill me with your car, I am fascinated by you, by your stance on life, death, and they way you carried yourself.  I had never seen the video tech crunch posted today, but it was fascinating.  It really hit right at the heart of the Apple Philosophy, at least to me.  Take a look…then tell me if you don’t feel empowered to stick with what you KNOW is right…even when others tell you it isn’t.

We’ve lost an agent of change, an agent of democracy, and one of the Good Guys.

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The Carousel Time Machine

This is one of my favorite scenes from Mad Men. It really tugs the heart strings. I’ve noticed that it is even more powerful now that I’m a Dad, and learning just how hard it is to find time to spend with my family given my work obligations…and need to support the family financially.

Grunting and the bumbo chair

My son is getting big. Time was he hated the Bumbo Chair which made him flop around like one of those toys with the stick man with string running through him. You could make the stick man flop by pressing the button at the bottom, loosening the string, and collapsing the man. I actually couldn’t find a picture of the man like this…but did find this Giraffe.

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Holden is getting big now…really big. And strong too. He actually enjoys the Bumbo Chair now.

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RC Helicopter, My Aunt Fannie

A few weeks ago, New Relic (@newrelic) had a promotion test to see if we could entice a number of folks who had signed up for our product but never deployed the agent to actually take the step and deploy.  Our marketing team decided to try three different “give aways” to those on the list who deployed by the end of the month.  Here were the three choices:

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We all took bets on which would be the favorite.  All were worth approximately the same dollar value.

The clear winner was the Helicopter.  By a landslide.  I think we had 2 or 3 responses to each of the Coffee and the iTunes card, but literally hundreds of responses to the Helicopter offer.

It was such a strong response that I figured we needed to up the ante.  I am going to suggest to Marketing that anyone who buys a $10,000 monthly New Relic subscription, by the end of September gets the following gift:

Now THAT would be cool.

NewRelic Ad campaign? How to get our message across even faster.

I recently started to ponder how I could easily explain New Relic to my friends and family who may have no idea about web applications, Application Performance Management (APM), or any type of management technology. It isn’t an easy problem…and it usually devolves into 15 minutes of circular discussion trying to level set on their amount of technical awareness, identification of some appropriate analogy, and follow up correcting misperception.

Often, this ends in frustration for me.

Always, it ends with the non-technical person giving up and saying something like “Oh, OK, I get it… did you see the ball game last night?”

Then it suddenly struck me. Perhaps I don’t need to explain in detail what New Relic does or why I spend all my waking hours working hard to make that company a huge success. Maybe… Just maybe…a Spokesperson would get the message across better.  I mean, who amongst you didn’t race out to buy more Hanes underwear when you realized that Michael Jordan wears Hanes?  I know I did (although it didn’t make me jump any higher..and I still can’t shoot a three pointer).  Who amongst you didn’t leap into action and stock up on vast quantities of Colt 45 Malt Liquour when you found out that Billy Dee Williams nee Lando Calrisian of Starwars fame drank it regularly with the Ladies!  Seriously, perhaps we need a spokesperson for New Relic.

The Spokesperson must be someone my friends know and trust so completely, the spokesperson could simply tell them that HE uses New Relic…and therefore so should they. They would then be so interested, they would simply learn about our products for themselves. If the spokesperson were interesting enough and could convey the sense of “what? Everyone else in the world uses this already? Where in God’s name have I been?” then my job would be done…and we’d have another happy customer, or at least, another person who buys into what we are doing. 

I present you with my proposed spokesperson and a sample of a web awareness campaign. Re-introducing: The worlds most interesting man.

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Wow, where the heck have I been? I want to be interesting like that guy… Maybe New Relic is for me! And I’ll take a beer too.