Avoiding Fines While Driving Through New Zealand and Australia

Speeding

When we drove through NZ and AU we found it incredibly odd how slow people were driving. I’ve never been on a highway where almost everyone is driving UNDER the speed limit by 10K/hour on wide open roads. Where we’re from, the speed limit is realistically +/- 5Mph the posted number.

There is A TON of space between each city in NZ and AU and to make good time we made a habit of passing the unusual number of “slow pokes.”

About a month or so later I get a ~$30 charge from each car rental company. A week after that a letter from AUS highway patrol sent tickets to my parents house. Each ticket was between $100 and $200. I did some research on tickets in those countries and supposedly there is a huge crackdown on speeding; some roads monitored by drones.

No wonder everyone was overly cautious with their speed. You never know who is watching and when a simple pass of another car could cost you $100 bucks a month later. I’m not hating on them, we were going fast. We paid the ticket. Our bad.

For everyone else out there, fair warning: obey the posted speed limits in Australia and New Zealand to a T!

How a Roundabout is like Product Development

334_roundabout1I quite liked driving through New Zealand and Australia. Like most countries outside the U.S., they use roundabouts to deal with intersection traffic.

The rules of a roundabout are quite simple: you must yield to oncoming cars to your right – otherwise – go. Most of the time there are no cars coming and you can avoid the “come to a complete stop” law all together.

I find the iterative development cycle works in much the same way. In older more classic models, a product manager and their stakeholders work diligently to make sure specs are completed thoroughly before marking them as “ready for development.” In reality, the a majority of what *can* be done dramatically changes as new information is made available (digging into the problem, user feedback, stakeholder feedback, complexity etc.) The “stop” heavy culture of elaborately planned tasks are often thrown away the seconds after development, and issues, start. The real knowledge comes from implementation and iteration once each atomic feature is released. It also requires trust in those that implement to have a good enough understanding of the high level purpose of what your product is trying to achieve.

What if something goes wrong? Well, just like with a round about, development yields when there is” oncoming traffic” (AKA an issue getting flagged.) In scrum, the flag can be raised at standup meetings or planning meetings. If there is no flag then the developer does the best they can to implement the best way they can. In essence, they are entering the intersection and driving on through. This lack of congestion on spec creation can be better spent on feedback, iterations, and issues that come up. (In reality it is where the most critical time has always been.)

So, next time you’re concerned about how a task *should* be completed, and feel the need to surround yourself with stop signs, imagine the steady flow of a roundabout. Give your team the freedom to produce, stay available for issues that *may* come up, and when a change needs to be made revisit the task at hand.

Changing money – a lesson learned

So I make my way to the Alpha bank here in Naxos. The bank is only open until 2 o’clock and it was 1 o’clock; I had to hustle. It was a 10 minute walk and when I arrived the line was out the door. I asked the manager if I could change money at this bank. His response was, “Yes, you can change here. No problem.” Great.

I waited an hour in that line. I was the second-to-last person there now that the bank was mostly empty since closing 45 minutes ago. I walked up to the teller, cash in hand, and waited patiently until he stopped doing his paperwork and asked “What would you like?” I say, “May I change this money, please?” I swear he looked at me with a smirk on his face and asked, “May I see your passport?” Almost as if he knew he checkmated me. “Um, passport to change money? I didn’t bring it to the bank. Is there any amount I can change without it?” He quickly replied, “No. No passport no change.” And looked back down at his papers.

At first I wanted to punch everyone working in the bank in the face, and then a few moments later I wanted to cry a little. The bank was now closed (and will be closed all weekend) – it was all for not. Some of you may be thinking that it is obvious that you need a passport to change money. Well, I didn’t and I haven’t had to until that moment. So – that’s that. Lessoned learned. I think the manager saw how deflated I was and said, “No problem, you can change the money next door at the tourism office.”

I walked with my tail squarely between my legs to the tourism office. “Excuse me”, I said, “may I please change money here?” The person behind the desk looked at me and said, “you need to go to the bank.”

You really need to know when a mission is lost and it was quite obvious I failed it today. It was time to give up and return to the hotel.

How to create fast motion videos on your iPhone for family vacation updates

On our trips to locations around the world our family and friends want a way to get an idea for what we are up to.  Like most people, we post pictures to Facebook that try and capture the essence of our trip but video is so much better at truly capturing the 3-dimensional realities of what we experience.

Now, with tools like Hyperlapse and iMovie on iOS, you can create a video that summarize an entire site in a timely way for both the creator and viewer.

Here is an example of a video of our trip to Cappadocia I created entirely on my iPhone:

Here’s how I did it

  1. Download Hyperlapse by Instagram on your iPhone
    1. Not only does hyperlapse allow you to capture a sped up versions of your video, but it adds a layer of stabilization so to reduces camera shake.486943823_640

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      Hyperlapse’s home page, recording and saving screens
  2. Use Hyperlapse to shoot some video.
    1. Even though there is built-in stabilization, it behooves you to try and keep the camera as steady as possible.
    2. I often save my video at “2x.” Half the size (in time and memory) as a regular video and, as you will see when we edit in iMovie, you get a wider range of fast-forward-play options.
    3. Once you finalize the video it is saved to your photo library for later use.
  3. Download iMovie on your iPhone

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    iMovie app in edit mode
  4. Follow the instruction to start a new movie or trailer, and select “movie”
  5. Choose a theme (I usually just choose simple) and select “create”
  6. Follow the instruction to add “video, photos, or audio”
  7. Select one of your Hyperlapse videos from your library
    1. Tip: Pressing play will allow you to preview the video before adding it. The arrow pointing down will import it into your project.
  8. Drag and drop your movie clips in the order you want them to play
    1. Tip: Taping a clip once selects it for editing. If there is a yellow border on the clip, you are in edit mode. If you want to move the clip, tap outside the clip so it is no longer highlighted and then tap-and-hold the clip until it is draggable.
  9. Add transitions between the clip by tapping the small square box in between each clip.IMG_9912
    1. Tip: If a clip is too short the transition options will be grayed out. You must have at least enough time in a clip to allow a transition to complete in order to select it.
    2. Tip: Some transition have multiple modes. After choosing a transition by tapping it, tap the transition again to get the different variant. Eg, fade to black or fade to white.
    3. Tip: This is one of the places choosing a theme in the “create project” options will have an outcome. See the “theme” transition. That will change based on the theme you chose. Tap the gear icon in the bottom right of the application to change the theme after a project is created.
  10. Edit the the duration of a clip
    1. Once a clip is selected, and highlighted with the yellow border, you can drag the ends of the clip to shorten or elongate the duration of the clip.
  11. Speed up some “in between” clipsIMG_9914
    1. Some clips will still run a bit slow due to things like how long it took you to walk to the end of a block or to pan 360 degrees. You can speed up segments of these clips to move the video along.
    2. Tap the clip to go into edit mode.
    3. choose the meter icon (directly to the right of the scissor icon.) You will then see a meter labeled 1X
    4. Drag the knob on the meter to the right to speed up the clip. You can move it to a max of 2X (which is why saving the clip as 2X allows you a range of 2X to 4X which.) There are ways around it I will go into later.
    5. If you only want to speed up a segment slice the clip into more segments (explained below) and speed them up without transitions at their ends.

The functionality of iMovie is limited. Most of the effects you will create work off of the duration of each clip in your project. Therefor, you can manipulate your effects by slicing your clips to suit your needs.

How to slice a clip

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  1. Scrub (meaning, slide the white line A.K.A the video head) over the moment in the clip you would like to split into two.
  2. Select a clip for editing (make sure the scissor tool is highlighted.)
  3. Choose “split”

Now you have two clips for the same scene. As long as there is no transition there will be no visual result on the video due to the “split” you just made. Like I mentioned before, you are merely using the split to tell the effects we are about to add when to start and end. Eg, the titles and captions.

Adding a Caption or Title

  1. Select a clip for editing
  2. Select the large “T” (third icon to the right from the scissor.)
  3. Select a caption type
    1. In order to edit the text for a caption or title you will need to tap the video player, above the film section of the application.
    2. Tip: After choosing a theme, extra options will display above the edit tray such as “Center”, “Opening” etc. These will position some titles, as well as change the format for others. Play around with them all to get a feel for the options you have.

By now you should have a video. To get a smooth video will take practice but now you will have all the tools and tips to do so 🙂

To save the clip as a video you can post to Facebook, go to the movie listing (if you are editing a movie project now you will need to tap the back arrow at the top of the application.) There you will have options to save the film to your library.

Tip: If you want to speed things up or make more advanced transitions you can save the edited video to your library and then create a new project with that saved video. You will than be able to speed segments up by another 2X or add transition to clips that may have been too short in your original movie.

Before we go, here’s a bonus tip …

How to rotate movies

I originally stumbled onto using iMovie when I accidently recorded a video vertically and needed to rotate it. Here’s how to rotate movies:

  1. Open a movie in iMovie (if you do not know how to do so read the tutorial above.)
  2. Pinch the movie preview viewer (the area above the clips and play head line) with two fingers and rotate them (like screwing off the top of a bottle.)
    1. You will then see an circle arrow appear on the video. Once you see that remove your fingers from the screen.

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Here is a quick video of some of the features in practice, as described above.


Enjoy!

70L Backpack Packing Breakdown. What got in, what got cut and what I wish I had

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Birds-eye of the items that went into the pack. (A video run through is below.)

During our trip around the world we were sure to experience a range of climates. As such, packing the right clothes in the smallest bag possible was a challenge.

Originally I wanted to try “ultra-light backpacking.” That’s where you fill a 35L-45L (or less) backpack with only what you need, expectating to reuse clothes A LOT. There are certain types of clothing that are made for this type of use. For example, there is underwear that claims you can  wear it for 6 weeks without a wash.  Jackie talked me out of it –  I’m glad she did.

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I ended up going for a 70L bag (50L main bag with a 20L daypack) that is not carry on approved. I was worried about needing to check a bag in on every flight, due to the extra bag fees airlines may charge and the potential for lost luggage, but we decided we “needed” the all stuff we packed below and would make it work.

Most of the things we got below is from REI and Amazon. If you haven’t tried REI I wrote a bit on how I was skeptical to walk in the door at first but happy I did. They are awesome!

A video run through of the bag items a day before we left

What didn’t end up making the cut

I ditched all the wool sweaters and fleeces (top right of picture) and kept one thick hoodie and one long sleeve base layer. I figured layering undershirts could get me through most temperatures – and it has. I also got rid of the pajamas (bottom left of picture)  since my sweatpants (or gym shorts) could be used for sleeping or working out. I also trimmed down my running clothes completely (bottom left of picture) since I could just use my t-shirts and surf-shirts.

What made the bag

  • Osprey Farpoint 70L Backpack (50L w/ 20L Day Pack)
  • 1 power adapter
    • This was a nice grab from when Radio Shack had a going out of business sale. I am wishing we bought two. It’s not something you can just grab on the go, since every other country’s adapters are made for their plug’s inputs. Note, We didn’t bring a converter and haven’t needed one yet.
  • 2 shorts (cotton, one hybrid, one bathing suit)
    • It was nice having the hybrid so that if the bathing suit was wet I had a back up to swim in, and if the cotton one was dirty I had a back up too. Amazing how few people wear shorts in foreign countries. They can see me as a tourist a mile away in these things but I don’t care, it’s hot as hell in some places!
  • 3 pants (one Jeans, one Lulu hybrid and one sweat pant)
    • The tan Lulu pants are awesome. You feel comfortable hiking in them and you can wear them out since they really do look like khakis. Jeans are great to have to feel a bit more dressed up; I use them often. Sweats are good for working out or sleeping in as pajamas, but haven’t used them too often and thinking about ditching them; we are following warm weather mostly.
  • Noise canceling headphones and batteries
    • The headphone cable came in handy a lot when driving. We used it to hook into aux in our rental car to listen to music on our long drives. They ended up breaking, and took a lot of space, so I ditched them a few weeks ago. They were 4+ years old anyway so  I got some great use out of them. Regular iPhone headphones aren’t cutting it when there is background noise so I will need to find replacements.
  • Chromecast
    • A nice bday gift from a few years back from the Mosqueras. I really love having this on the trip. Although, this only works when you are on a private wifi network, like AirBnB rentals, it is small enough to be worth the space for the second screen on your TV for work, maps or movies.
  • 15″ Macbook pro and charger – duh.
  • Assortment of USB cables for iOS and non-iOS devices
    • Sometimes I wish we got rid of a few. But we have so many devices that charging them (or using them) all at once requires more than you’d expect.
  • Android phone (for travel SIM cards)
    • A crappy phone that we can tether to any device for internet or make local calls or texts from. Our phones aren’t jailbroken.
  • iPhone
    • The plan hadn’t run out yet – so we froze our account for 6 months (the max allowed.) It’s been great for WiFi, movie editing, VoIp, hyperlapse, pictures, music and games.
  • Kindle Paper White
    • A solid going away present from the Odios. We use them every day before we go to bed. They’re great for flights and the beach since they are light, don’t reflect sun and have their own back light.
  • Backup Drive
    • Since internet on this trip has been almost non-existent (or slow as molasses) backing up our video and photos quickly has been crucial.
  • Waterproof camera
    • Jackie’s dad got us this for our trip and it has been a crucial item on our trip. Not only for taking pictures and video underwater while snorkeling, but, just as importantly, it has brought us peace-of-mind when it is raining or when we are walking near water or pools. Since it is durable we take it with us everywhere. If it wasn’t, we may have “kept it safe” more and miss some great shots.
  • “Fast dry” towel
    • Meh. We used this once, barely. Since we are staying in hotels we always have had towels. They aren’t great for laying on the beach so we ended up buying beach towels anyway.
  • Button-up wool short sleeve shirt (Icebreaker)
    • Great buy on Amazon. I got it for $60 and see it everywhere for close to $100. It definitely dries faster than most of my other clothes, but the ability to just put it in the sun and it smells fresh after wearing it has been crucial. Whenever I wash clothes or run out this is my go to. It also looks good enough to consider “going out” clothes. Very versatile.
  • 100% Polyester Tennis Shirt
    • This dries super fast BUT it also smells super bad after wearing it.
  • Tee shirts (two light cotton ones)
    • At this point I wish I had more light shirts. Jackie was right. I thought I would wear the icebreaker everyday but even though it smelled less and dried fast we didn’t always have sun or time to clean it when it got dirty.
  • Loose Surf Shirt
    • This shirt is SPF 50 so it adds extra protection from burns on long days in the sun or at the beach. Plus, if I get to go surfing I’ll have a nice rash guard. It is also one of the faster drying shirts in the collection.
  • Camera stand and iPhone stand
    • These items are light and compact, about the size of a cigarette box (only long nice wide.) I needed it to take the upcoming shot of my engagement, but since then I haven’t really used it. I have pretty good selfie arms.
  • Travel under-clothes satchel
    • I use this all the time when flying. It is a good place to keep your passports handy and safe. In shady cities known for pickpockets I use it instead of a wallet to carry my credit card and cash. I always leave my passport locked up in the hotel. Tip: To get a SIM card in each country you need your passport so bring it along with you for that.
  • Bag lock
    • Cheap and peace of mind. Not only for checking bags but a nice to have in places that don’t have a safe. I lock the bag up and slip it under the bed.
  • Collapsible Sun Glasses (Ray ban)
    • I love these things! Jackie got them for me on my birthday and they have lasted longer than any other pair. I think because they are easy to pack or stow in my pocket.

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  • Underwear (A few cotton ones and 1 ExOfficio)
    • Jackie was right. Although the underwear claims to be able to go 6 weeks without a wash I really couldn’t bring myself to wear it for more than two days at a time – max. Maybe it does have anti-microbes that keep it clean, but I didn’t feel great about myself inside knowing I had used underwear on. Not worth the $40 bucks. Sure it dries fast but not THAT fast. I’m just not getting the value for the cost.
  • Vacuum Bag
    • This thing is amazing. I just stash all the fluffier items I need for cooler climates in the vacuum bag and it takes up little space. You just smuch the bag and seal it.  Sort of a light weight travel trunk.
  • 4 Shoes (walking, running/sneakers, sandals and boat)
    • Sounds like a lot of shoes – and it is, but I’ve used them all. Not only based on the environment but it keeps my feet from getting too tired. Changing the form of my shoe has kept my feet fresh for the hundred of 30+ miles I walk a week.
  • Fitbit
    • It sure is nice to see a number when you get home from a full day of walking. Turns the tiredness into a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Goggles
    • Worthless. Getting rid of them. Everywhere we wanted to see underwater we ended up renting snorkel gear (or getting it for free with a tour.)
  • Collapsible Pillow
    • Another non-starter. Jackie seems to use hers a lot, but mine has made it out of my bag once. It is super comfortable and compact – but taking it out and unfolding it only to have to fold it and packing a day or so later just doesn’t seem worth it. I typically have plenty of pillows on the bed of the hotel and on long flights they give you a pillow. I can’t bring myself to get rid of it though because that ONE place that I need it will suck.
  • Collapsable water bottle
    • Saw it on Tynan’s packing blog. Seemed cool when I got it, but, again, everywhere we went had cheap bottled water that was cold. It has sat in my bag all but once in an airport when we tried to use it from the water fountain but the taste brought us back to the bottle. I know it’s not environmentally as friendly but – sorry – I’m getting rid of it. Even if we wanted to save bottles we would just fill up an old used water bottle we bought.
  • Bag weigher
    • It has come in hand a few times when the bags seemed like they would go over. Though, we always have gotten away with a few Ks give or take and can’t carry much more. We would probably be fine without it.
  • Bug spray/Sun block lotions
    • Yeah. Especially in all the bug infested parts of the south pacific and beaches we’ve visited. We have gone through these bottles quickly.
  • Toiletries
    • You know, the usual. Tooth brush, tooth paste, nail clippers etc. brought face wash, shampoo, and shaving cream but have used it infrequently since our hotel’s toiletries are usually good enough for me.
  • Plastic Bags
    • Simple but useful. I like using it to cover my shoes when I put them with my clothes. Call me crazy.
  • Dr. Bronner’s Soap
    • A useful soap that can clean clothes, wash hair or anything else you need. We’ve used it a lot for times we didn’t have a laundry service and needed to wash things in the sink. We haven’t used it for the other uses – yet 😉
  • Granola Bars
    • We always grab a box when we can. It has come in handy so many times when we were stuck between meals in transport or at a hotel.
  • Vaccination card
    • I haven’t needed to show it to anyone yet but it is small enough that I am fine to carry it everywhere I go just in case.

All in the bag weighs about 20Lbs + (4.5Lbs for the laptop.)

Since leaving SF I’ve bought …

  • A Battery powered hair trimmer
    • I thought I would go full beard but A) I found out you can’t snorkel with a bear and B) It is way too itchy and hot. The trimmer I got in Australia is surprisingly good. I love that I can drop a few double AAs into it and it works. No adapter or outlets needed.
  • Underwear
    • Per my realization above of the realistic use of my ExOfficos, I bought another pair and will probably get more as the time passes.
  • A polo shirt
    • Again, Jackie was right. I have quick dry and odor-fighting shirts but throwing on a fresh shirt just feels too good to pass up for so little bag space. I got a fake Lacoste in Istanbul for $5.
  • Beach towels
    • They are a PIA to carry, but the “quick dry” towels suck to lay on and we are visiting A LOT of beaches. They are pricey enough (and hard enough to find) that buy-and-ditch doesn’t feel like a good alternative. Having the vacuum bag has helped decrease the space needed to keep them.
  • Sewing kit
    • I have kept the sewing kits we have found in our hotels. It is useful to have a needle and thread for fixing clothes, or patching equipment.

After a month or so on the road I wish I had …

  • Another (compact) adapter
    • Using the computer and charging devices (camera, phones, backup charger etc) would go a lot faster if we had another adapter. Worth the space for sure. And as I mentioned above, you can’t find a U.S. adapter in other countries  :-/
  • Another vacuum bag
    • I can’t seem to find it anywhere else in the world other than REI in SF. I Wish I got two.
  • A pencil and drawing paper (maybe some water color stuff that Silvio showed me)
  • An Umbrella.
    • That being said I’ve only wanted it twice so far. It would have been nice to have, but just carrying it the other 90% of the time would be annoying; I’m on the fence about it.
  • An ethernet cable
    • Another item I *sometimes* wish I had. There have been only a few times I had an opportunity to plug-in for a faster connection. Small item for a nice ROI – I think.  
  • Ketchup
    • They don’t make it like they do at home (and it is rarely available). So sue me.
  • A few bottle top water filters
    • You can’t find a bottle water filter easily like you can in the US. This would’ve cut down the need for water bottles immensely.
  • A bigger collapsable water bottle
    • Like I said in our itemized list, the one we got is semi useless because of how small it is (only a few gulps worth of water for Jackie and I) and because of a lack of a water filter to fill it safely with.

 

How to make free calls home from around the world

imgres-5Wouldn’t it be nice to make free calls to your home country from anywhere in the world? How great would it be if friends and family at home could call you for free while you travel? Sure you can use Skype or Viber to make internet calls, but with them everyone needs to use the same service; it won’t work well when calling a business or landline. With the method below you can call any phone number directly, be it a home phone, cell phone or app. To do it all you need is a Google Account, a phone number with your local “home” area code (only initially,) and a computer with an Internet connection.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sign up for a Google Voice number in your home country before you leave.
  2. Google will provide you a new local number called your “Google Voice Number.”
  3. “Link” your GVoice number to an existing landline or cell number to complete the registration. Note: You can only have one GVoice number for every landline or cell phone you have.

 Your new GVoice number will charge you for “international calls” made to area codes outside your designated GVoice’s area code, BUT it will consider any call to the same GVoice area code a “free call” – no matter where in the world you call from! See screenshots and captions below. 

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After registering you must verify your new number is connected to a real non-google number.
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Using the voice.google.com (or hangouts) you can make or receive calls or text to your GVoice number.
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All calls made with the same area code as your GVoice number will be free – no matter where you call from!

In addition to the free calls, you will have voicemail that includes a free automatic transcription service, allowing you to read your voicemail messages. You will also have the ability to send and receive texts. Another great option is to use the Hangouts app. Using it you can make internet based calls to other Hangout user AND direct to local phone numbers from your phone.

For travelers this feature gives you an amazing way to stay connected to family and friends at home while using a local number they can call for free as well!

9 Ways to start learning about (or investing in) startups and entreprenuers

imgres-4“I’m looking to start investing in (and learning about) startups. Where should I start?”

I get this question a lot, so I figured a blog post may the optimal way to answer it moving forward. 🙂

Of course, it goes without saying that investing in – well – anything really, comes with its own sets of risks.  [Blah blah blah, legal jargon]

For starters, Angel.co is a great launching point (if you haven’t already signed up I suggest you do so.) There you can learn about, and meet, all kinds of startups ranging from super early to the more later types. Meet entrepreneurs, people who want to work in startups, or find a startup or syndicate and place a bet on an idea you love.

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To get in on an investment round for a pre-IPO company start with FundersClub.com and EquityZen.com. They’ll send emails intermittently letting you know when a fund is being made available.

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If you want to get shares in companies that are NOT doing rounds or looking for an investment then you’ll have to buy shares from current or former employee on a private marketplace. Sharespost.com and SecondMarket.com helps facilitate that process.

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If your goal is to just find a way to invest with more upside than a bank and less risk than a stock, I suggest using LendingClub.com for microloan investments. There you give out roughly $25 per person to thousands of people looking for them. You’ll have to keep your money in for a couple years (although there are ways to liquidate sooner if needed) but you can see about 5%-20% annual returns depending on what you set your risk tolerance to.

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Tangentially, if you are looking to meet entrepreneurs and get in on a more personal level to invest, become an advisor or just learn about the startup community, there are a few options: StartUpTravels.com that connects you to entrepreneurs around the world (full discloser, it’s a project I am working on now,) FounderDating.com and CoFoundersLab.com where you can meet other founder types to start a business are worth noting.

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If you are looking for a more in-depth look at the risks that go along with some of the investing products above you can check out my friend Daniel Odio’s blog here: http://danielodio.com/show-me-the-money-six-strategies-to-put-your-cash-to-work

Our last day in Fiji

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Fiji was an overall great experience. Between the views, islands, and water temp it was an amazing way to start our trip.

That being said there were a few – funny – things that happened on our final day there of note.

We were warned when coming to the hotel that there may be some bugs and if there was a problem we could call the front desk and the’d spray the room. So, mentally we were prepared for a few. Every Night before we went to bed there was a few ants on our pillows and we would brush them off. We never slept really well because it always felt like there were a few ants crawling on us in the night, but we thought it was all in our head. Every morning we’d find a few ants on the bed and just went with it. On our final night in the hotel we looked up and caught a few ants on the wooden rail above our head. On close inspection it turned out there there were thousands crawling across the rail right above the head of the bed. We ended up moving the bed to another location of the room. Morning when we were leaving we mentioned it to the worker there and showed him the mass amounts of ants. His response – no words just a “so what” shrug. We were on our way out so we didn’t care to persue.

The second thing that happened was far more agitating. When we arrived to the counter at the Nadi airport we placed our bags on the carousel to check in. The lady at the counter tapped some keys and said, “That will be $200 USD please.” Mind you we already paid for the tickets in advance. This was a charge to check bags on the plane. I was pretty upset as it was clear we were being fleeced. There is no airport in the world that charges $100 per bag that weighs less than 10K. She was persistent and honestly what could we do, pout until our plane left? After some complaints to management they said they would only charge us half if we wrapped our bags together (which cost another $10) and left begrudgingly.

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Not a great note to end on for our trip in Fiji on, still makes me a bit upset to this day.

The question that keeps you up at night IS the sign you’re looking for

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Have you ever woken up every morning with the same question burning in your mind? Do you constantly wonder if it’s worth changing paths, environment or career day-in and day-out but continue convincing that part of your mind to quiet down? Do you think you could make a decision to act if  you had a sign, or a clue, or some sort of guidance from someone more experienced than you that could “show you they way?”

About 10 years ago I had those thoughts swirling in my head. I had a good, secure well-paying job and a bright future. Though, for some odd reason, I woke up constantly with those questions burning inside me day-to-day and week-to-week.  “Why can’t I just be content with what I have?”, I would ask myself. “What’s wrong with me?!”

I convinced myself changing paths would be a form of quitting – and I was no quitter. Some friends would explain to me how “life is hard. No one likes what they do. Everyone has those questions – it’s normal, but you keep working until you get over them. Eventually they go away. Anywhere you go you’ll ask the same thing. Everywhere in the world is the same. You’re just running from your problems. Deal with it.”

It sounded like mature advice to me so I tried to overcome the doubts and concerns I had about my current path. Unfortunately, letting go of the questions turned out to be pretty impossible.

I got it in my head that I wanted more, something different, something challenging and I couldn’t kill that thought. I wanted to move to SF and be part of the startup community. I wanted to create things people used. I wanted to meet others that created the things I loved to use. Friends on the other side of the advice fence validated those thoughts telling me “it would be a great fit. Quit what you’re doing now and just go!”

How could I decide which piece of advice was right? Both had their merits and both came with a fair share of doubts. Growing as a person by learning to be content didn’t really feel like a great life-goal and quitting to follow a curiosity seemed irresponsible. As Kenny Rogers would say, “You’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them” but how do you know when that is?! Why didn’t Kenny answer his song’s question?!

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As my freshly shaven cheek chafed against my frosted collar while walking to work on a frigid winter day in DC I decided enough was enough. If there isn’t a clear logical answer to stay or go then I would break the tie on weather. I don’t care if it’s right or wrong – I was going to make the move. I was done with the cold. I quit my job, got on a plane and flew to a city that I had never seen with no work waiting for me on the other side. When what I’d done truly sank in at 30K ft I went to the bathroom and threw up.

Of course, I will never be happier that I came. Without a doubt, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I realized this as I was walking home from my first job at a cool new startup in SF. I paused to catch the sunset of a spectacular view from the street, groceries in hand, when it hit me – I hadn’t had a sleepless question-filled-night or pensive morning in – well, since I arrived.  Sure the process was scary, but the questions were gone. I still had tons of work to do and was working extremely hard, but, now, I had an open mind to do it. Life felt right again.

It was important to me to try and distill a lesson from this experience so I would never have to go through that period of agonizing unknowns again. After all, staying back in DC could have been the right answer too. Sometimes you are running from problems and need to face them in order to grow. On the other hand, it’s important to follow your dreams; life is short. So, do I know now how to make the right decision again when the time comes? What did I learn from all this?

The answer IS the question.

Yeah. It really is that simple. No, the “answer” isn’t any old “question.” It’s the questions that burn inside you. The ones that wake you up and put you to bed. The ones that you debate between constantly and ask advice for every chance you get. The ones spawned out of an interest to learn something different. Those are the questions I’m talking about. Those are the question that MUST be answered. They are answered through creating your own experiences.

Well, what if I follow that logic and I’m wrong?

That’s the beauty of these gut-wrenching questions. As I learned, even if I was wrong,  the questions I had went away – they got answered. My mind was free and a freer mind can do so much more than a plagued one. So, you see – it’s a win/win. Either be half the person you are because you are preoccupied mentally every day with a burning question or be half the person you are because you made a bad decision. Only attempting the latter will leave you net-positive with no more questions and an ability to work towards living fully and clearly once again.

The mission to create space in your mind for thoughts to grow is paramount to moving forward positively in life. It is accomplished by oscillating back and forth between curiosity and answers. I realized there is a version of life that does not have the burning question running through my head every day (that was the fallacy in some of the advice I got early on.) Yes, life has its challenges and problems and it is important to work through them, BUT it’s a waste of life to circle around the same question. It deprives your mind of answers it needs to free up space so it can grow and more forward.

What do I tell those that ask me what to do next when they have a difficult question burning in their minds and causing tons of stress? I say the question IS the answer. Your body is your sign. Whether you are wrong or right it is important to know if you are indeed wrong or right. That knowledge is the catalyst that sets off the ability to ask and answer even more important questions, building answers upon one another to form clarity. Finding that answer clears the mind for more to fill.

Why am I writing this story almost a decade after it happened? Sadly, it happened to me again this past year. I’ve given this advice to so many people looking for direction yet I lost sight of it myself when the questions began to form in my mind again. It grew so subtly over time. This time, I made the excuse that it was different since I was older. That this time there was more to lose. And, yes, the concept of not being a quitter became more of a focus than learning, growing, exploring and building. I am writing it because I was wrong again and this is a message to me as much as it is to you. Your deepest hardest questions are only asked when your mind knows that it needs to find an answer. Your questions ARE the answer.

 

 

 

Facebook JS login on Chrome iOS workaround

I was putting together a Facebook JS SDK based login on a site I’m working on – only to find that Chrome on iOS does not support the action.

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What was even more surprising was the lack of documentation or support online (with Chrome or Facebook) to help work around the issue.

I saw a few suggestion that had solutions based on using Parse or where others suggested using a backend based login API. I didn’t want to install another framework just to solve this problem, and my objective for the interface was to offer a seamless login process that doesn’t interrupt the user’s current modal based workflow.

To make matters worst, and I am really disappointed in Google for this (which is rare,) popping out windows on Google Chrome iOS makes a null reference to the  “opener” in certain situations. This makes it hard to complete a seamless login between two windows once the FB auth page is verified.

Below is a solution that checks if FB is authed, if not, manually opens an FB auth window that forwards the user to an Opener Handler page. That page forces a refresh of the openers auth tokens and closes the window. Once completed the user is sent back to the original page (with no page refresh) and can now proceed with a validated FB auth.


var ABSOLUTE_URI = "http://yourpage.com/openerhandler.html";
var FB_ID = "123456778";
function openFBLoginDialogManually(){
// Open your auth window containing FB auth page
// with forward URL to your Opened Window handler page (below)
var redirect_uri = "&redirect_uri=" + ABSOLUTE_URI + "fbjscomplete";
var scope = "&scope=public_profile,email,user_friends";
var url = "https://www.facebook.com/dialog/oauth?client_id=" + FB_ID + redirect_uri + scope;
// notice the lack of other param in window.open
// for some reason the opener is set to null
// and the opened window can NOT reference it
// if params are passed. #Chrome iOS Bug
window.open(url);
}
function fbCompleteLogin(){
FB.getLoginStatus(function(response) {
// Calling this with the extra setting "true" forces
// a non-cached request and updates the FB cache.
// Since the auth login elsewhere validated the user
// this update will now asyncronously mark the user as authed
}, true);
}
function requireLogin(callback){
FB.getLoginStatus(function(response) {
if (response.status != "connected"){
showLogin();
}else{
checkAuth(response.authResponse.accessToken, response.authResponse.userID, function(success){
// Check FB tokens against your API to make sure user is valid
});
}
});
}

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FB JS Auth

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<html>
<head>
<script type="text/javascript">
function handleAuth(){
// once the window is open
window.opener.fbCompleteLogin();
window.close();
}
</script>
<body onload="handleAuth();">
<p>. . . </p>
</body>
</head>
</html>

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Opened Window

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