A few good reads: tech and policy

Quantified Self

Apple buys Beddit, whose sleep monitoring hardware already has a software integration with the Apple watch.

Ars Technica digs into the current state of the art in sleep tracking.

A Carnegie Melon project produced a prototype sensor that can inform you about devices in the room without connecting directly with them.

23andMe has received FDA authorization to provide genetic health risk reports.

Other tech

Bragi’s latest product, Dash Pro, offers real-time translation through earbuds.  Most importantly for me, they have partnered with Starkey Hearing Technologies to offer to tailor the earbuds to customers’ ears.

Google provides games to help people understand that AI is no longer just academic.


Census Bureau director John H Thompson resigns unexpectedly, while the bureau already faces budget difficulties.  The 2020 Census is already suffering setbacks.  The US Census provides crucial information for government infrastructure planning, as well as being an important public dataset.

A few good reads: discoveries

Inner discoveries

A new study shows that testosterone makes men less likely to question their intuition.  I wonder whether they will follow this up with a study on women.  Are we more, less, or just as susceptible to the influence of testosterone?

Acetaminophen dulls pain and empathy, according to new research.

A new paper tests more than 50 compounds for their ability to “turn off” sperm, preventing fertilization.  This could lead to a more effective form of contraception that bypasses some religious objections.

On a related note, scientists have 3D printed mouse ovaries that actually make babies.

Outer discoveries

They found a new dinosaur with its skin preserved in Montana!  And of course, they named it Ghostbusters style: Zuul crurivastator.

When we found homo naledi a couple years ago, we thought it was a precursor to homo sapiens.  Apparently, we existed simultaneously.

Global warming reaches the Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle.

We’ve found water in the atmosphere of a warm, Neptune-sized planet.

Related aside

An argument for colonizing Titan before Mars.

Spammy callers escalating, still not beating Google Voice

My various spammy callers have recently taken to leaving voicemails that don’t say anything—either complete silence or the sound of people chattering in the background (I got curious and listened to a couple). IIRC the law prohibits callers from leaving automated messages, but it would be awfully hard to prove these are automated even if you could prove who was calling. One of these silent messages was 48 seconds long! Overkill much?

I’m so glad I run everything through Google Voice‘s transcriptions, so I can see at a glance that it was a spam/phish caller who’s trying to trick me into calling back. I highly recommend an automated transcription service to anyone else who gets far more illegitimate calls than legit ones.

For example, looking at the last month, my legit calls were ~5-10% of all attempted calls—including ones where I was the caller, not the callee. People often look at me like I have 12 heads when I say I never answer unknown numbers. I think it would be crazy for me to answer them, given the givens. Legit callers leave real voicemails or texts, or contact me by other means.

Reading: Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful To Women?

I strongly recommend this article: Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful To Women?

If you find it too long, here are a few highlights:

  • The percentage of women in tech is falling.
  • “Workplace conditions, a lack of access to key creative roles, and a sense of feeling stalled in one’s career” are the main reasons women leave.
  • “The researchers found that telling participants that their company valued merit-based decisions only increased the likelihood of their giving higher bonuses to the men.” …in an experiment designed with exactly equal male and female employee performance.
  • Unconscious bias training is ineffective.
  • Intel has had substantial success in improving diversity since it linked bonuses to explicit diversity hiring goals.

And as a bonus, yet another reason to hate whiteboard coding: “It is, for example, a hallowed tradition that in job interviews, engineers are expected to stand up and code on whiteboards, a high-pressure situation that works to the disadvantage of those who feel out of place. Indeed, whiteboard sessions are rife with opportunities for biased judgment.” I have always disliked these because the situation is so far removed from how anyone actually performs the work they’re interviewing for (unless they’ll frequently be improvising presentations in front of investors or other audiences that want to judge them instead of collaborate with them). I only use whiteboards for collaborative design work in interviews—just like I would at work.



Waking songs

Music in my head

I’m one of those people who have songs in their head over 20% of the time.  It’s rarely a conscious choice.  Most often they’re triggered by conversations, because my head is an distracting little lyrics repository.  They can be obvious triggers like “I hurt myself today” (which is a terrible time to share what’s in my head), or slightly obtuse associative triggers like “Got it!”  And sometimes they can even be triggered by the cadence, rather than the content, of what they said.  I actually rediscovered a 1983 tune I had almost completely forgotten that way.  The lyrics were gone except for “got to keep a-movin“, but the chorus rhythm was still stored in my brain.  Songs also pop into my head when I’m walking or exercising, based on my movements.  You wouldn’t believe how often “March of the Trolls” sneaks in there!

It Only Makes Me Laugh

It Only Makes Me Laugh (Oingo Boingo)

Waking songs

I often find that there’s a song in my head when I wake.  Sometimes this song is related to recent events, but more often I see no connection.  In fact, more often than not it’s something from my childhood, and not always a good something—to the point where I haven’t heard it since my childhood.  I keep “Carry On Wayward Son” on conscious standby to kick out any awful earworms that I need out of my head.  It’s rarely necessary, but it always works.



Most of my waking songs are benign but bemusing.  I’ve started wondering if there’s a pattern I can’t see because these songs are only in my head as I’m waking up—not the clearest-thinking part of the day!  So I’ve started writing them down.  At the end of a year, perhaps, I’ll compile a playlist, and if I’m not too embarrassed by it, I’ll share with y’all.  Maybe we can come up with some interesting hypotheses or experiments.

The fluctuating social lives of startup founders

Chucking everything you know to become an entrepreneur is anywhere from exhilarating to depressing depending on the moment—and it fluctuates quite a bit.  Today I’m going to talk about one of the hardest parts: friends and family.


In The Before Time…

I’m a reasonably social person who enjoys a lot of activities.  Before I became an entrepreneur I would attend probably two big events per month, and I’d dance and climb with friends multiple days a week.  I threw jam sessions once every month-or-so.  I had weekly low-key engagements with a couple friends on the nights I wasn’t out playing.  My family are all far away, but I would visit for a week or two every year and spend quality time with them.

Before my cofounder and I decided to create something together, I was on a self-imposed sabbatical.  I had quit my previous job and decided to be funemployed for a while.  I took a month or two to get things done around the house and relax, then set off on travel adventures for the summer. In the fall I took online courses, attended a great conference, made things, worked on skills, and thought about what I wanted to do next.

During all this time off I also socialized like crazy.  I hung out with friends during the day, at night, on the weekends.  We went on adventures, we stayed in, we talked, we played.

I never said no.  My friends got used to me being around and available.

How to Shave a Cat

Why yes, of course I’ll help you shave your cat!

…And Suddenly, Startup Foundership

When I agreed to become a startup founder, and the only full-time employee, I had trouble convincing my friends that I couldn’t do things anymore.  Technically, I was available at any time, but I still had a lot of work to do, a lot of stuff to learn, a lot of things to plan, and just a ton on my mind.  Every interruption necessitates extra time to get back into the previous context before you can proceed.  When I visited family I found I had to explain daily that “I have to work every day” means “I have to work every day.”

 I was becoming overwhelmed, but I didn’t want my friends and family to feel betrayed by my sudden change in availability.


Social Time Management

Being me, I created a method to ramp up my unavailability that allowed me to provide reasons my friends would accept, or at least understand.

I started to come up with arbitrary but helpful rules for when to say no, with very reasonable starting points.  Just say no:

  • If I already had a social engagement planned for that day, at any time;
  • If they didn’t give me more than half a day’s notice;
  • If I already had a social engagement planned with that person during that week;
  • If I already had 5 social engagements planned for that week.

And I prioritized mitigating circumstances when I could multitask my social events:

  • If it included exercise;
  • If it included errands;
  • If it included a meal and no extra time;
  • Occasionally, if it encouraged me to pursue a hobby, for which time had been dramatically reduced.

Over time, and depending on the stage of my startup, I continued to decrease my availability until I had only the minimum social obligations to keep me sane.


Aside: The 24-hour No-Work Dictate

I originally thought I would have to stop throwing my monthly jam sessions.  The event itself was pretty optional for me, though several of my friends really loved it.  But over time I found that it was absolutely necessary to my sanity, because it was the only way I could make myself stick to taking an entire day off every month.

For all you startup founders, I highly recommend finding a way to convince yourself to take one 24-hour period completely off from work each month.  There are a lot of tips and tricks for avoiding burnout.  Very few startup founders are able to take proper weekends.  We get so used to doing at least some work every single day.  Many of us have flexibility to schedule fun/social stuff whenever we want, so we take it for granted that we need to stuff work into all the nooks and crannies in our schedule.  We overwhelm ourselves with the intense focus, with the context switching when we’re not focused, with the guilt when we’re having a good time not working, and in many other ways.

Make sure you take a long, uninterrupted break from work at regular intervals to refresh.


The Hardest Stages

From a few weeks before the Alpha release, through the Beta release, to a few weeks after the public release, I withdrew from all but the bare minimum of social obligations.  That’s more than 6 months when most of my friends didn’t see me, many close friends barely saw me, and some close friends only saw me because they made fabulous offers to cowork or co-errand.  (You guys rock!!)

Toward the end of this time I was receiving pleas every week from friends I hadn’t seen in months.  When will you go dancing again?  Please come to my game night!  I know you want to go climbing!  When’s your next jam session?  Why haven’t you gotten back to me?  I’m visiting your town tomorrow night only!  Are you going to that party?  I haven’t seen you in ages, what gives?

Every week I had to apologize to at least one person and assure them it wasn’t personal and I would emerge from my voluntary isolation…in a few months.


“Hi, you’ve reached Megan. I’m not available right now, but if you leave a message I’ll try to get back to you in 3-5 months.”

Moving forward

I’ve only recently emerged from this, only to spend most of my non-work time looking for a new place and packing.  My move is imminent, though, and unpacking is a delight for me, so I expect to start reclaiming my life in a couple weeks.  I’m already slowly and tentatively increasing my social availability, but I’m a little worried about offending or bumming out the friends I can’t get around to in the first month or two.  My near term social schedule is likely to be based on who pings loudest, most recently, or most frequently, combined with which logistics are most convenient for me.  I want to see everyone!!  I don’t yet have the time and energy to make that happen, but eventually I will.  I’m really looking forward to it!

But I’m also a little apprehensive.  I’m not sure how many of my friends really understand why I’ve disappeared, and I suspect some never will.  It is a choice.  I did prioritize my work over my friends for a while.  But it wasn’t personal.  I just really had to try this startup thing, and I really think my startup can help a lot of people.  I think the vast majority of them understand that on some level, and I’m very grateful for their understanding and support.  (Seriously, you guys rock!!)

Looking for our next equity hire!

Still working on an official job posting, but unofficially: at AdaptRM we’re looking for our next equity hire!


Do you know a web infrastructure/optimization guru who enjoys the prospect of:

  • building a shiny thing with a small team of awesome people
  • trying on lots of hats
  • helping independent professionals leverage their own data to manage their time and reduce business overhead


Drop me a line or an introduction if you know someone who might fit this bill. Bonus points for people who can be in the SF Bay Area at least once a month.

Is it latent sexism, or…?

Here’s a case where you can’t know whether the instance indicates latent sexism, even though you know the trend does.

We received an email in response to our last press release.  The press release listed our Community Manager as the contact person and attributed a quote to me, the CTO.  The email was received by a list containing me and the Community Manager.  Yet the email was addressed directly to our Chairman (we don’t have a CEO), using his name multiple times.  The Community Manager and I happen to be female and the Chairman male.

How much should I attribute to sexism and how much to a misguided desire to bypass the provided contact point and reach the top of the food chain, even though he’s called “Chairman” and not “CEO” because he only has a couple hours a week for this project?

These sorts of things happen to women in business all the time. And it’s because of the constant barrage of instances where you can’t feel comfortable calling it out (because there are other explanations of the actions) that it’s all the more important to call it out when you’re fairly sure of a sexist motivation.

There are more things….

There are more things in my to-do list, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


This was my thought as I reached midday today.  Yesterday’s accomplishments are about a page long, and today’s are rapidly approaching a similar length.  But as we’re prepping for the LAUNCH competition (at the Santa Monica pier next Thursday!), prepping for loads of Erli Bird users to come on board, and getting the initial release lined up for about a month from now, we add at least 3/4 of a page of items daily.  I’m really just treading water.  The full list is soooo loooong.


Such is the life of a startup founder.