Silicon Valley Summer

It’s been a jam-packed week or so already here in Silicon Valley. There have been trips to the beach with friends, hundreds of laps swam, meals with dear pals, and I even flew a drone – courtesy of a local startup called EnjoyFlew a drone in Silicon Valley courtesy of EnjoyI love the idea of this company. You basically buy yourself some cool tech, pick a time for it to be delivered, and then you get a hand-holding session on how to use the stuff.

Here in California, unlike in the UK, you don’t have to have a license to fly one. Now that I’ve done so I kind of would like to own one. Imagine the footage you can get in some pretty amazing places and spaces!

I loved this one of Glasgow when I first saw it.

Anyway the drone flying was a fun event but the next one could be even more exciting…as it’s having a shot on one of these Boosted Boards. While I was a bit of a tom boy growing up, skateboarding – this looks like it will be taking the whole thing to a new level.

It’s not just the weather that I love in Silicon Valley – it’s the entrepreneurial spirit that’s everywhere you look. It’s a little inspiring…I’d love to be working with a fun company like Enjoy, but I believe they’re only available in a few of the biggest cities in the US.

…And, in truth, I am not sure how their revenue streams won’t end up like the rest of California’s streams. (e.g. Dried up). A friend used them recently and expressed the same concerns – telling me what he bought and that he had a 90-minute stay that was simply not cost effective…so I do wonder if they’ll manage to launch in other cities in the US or around the world.

I mean “Free delivery and expert help”. How can they actually manage that?

Love and the Brain

Just to prove it’s not all about the tech while out here, I signed up for a talk in Palo Alto called “The Neuroscience of Love”. I’ve always been intrigued by the brain, how it works, and of course you can’t create a site like soyouvebeendumped.com and not be interested in the wide topic of love… I’ll take notes and report back later (probably over on SYBD rather than here).

Streaming TV

And finally the other thing I seem to spend a tone of time doing whilst in Silicon Valley is catching up on all kinds of TV shows – old and new. My dad is the king of streaming – Amazon, Netflix, Hulu etc. So that’s what we spend most evenings doing together. I did try to take him out to the movies – to see Mission Impossible and it was a nightmare. He talks (loudly), makes strange noises, and is completely oblivious to being in public so I’ve concluded staying in is our best option.

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Life Lessons My Father Taught Me – Part One

Baby Thea with her DadEven to this day, I’m a still a “daddy’s girl”. I can honestly say that there is no one I have ever loved, or will ever love, more than my dear, ole father. That feeling, I believe, is mutual. So I guess you might say that the first lesson he taught me is what unconditional love and support looks like…

As it’s Father’s Day, I thought I’d share some life lessons he’s taught me.

You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down

My dad, now in his 80s, is a workaholic. Still. He’s been that way my entire life. He works out of necessity rather than joy. He has to. He’s no real savings. The big million dollar houses we lived in are a thing of the distant past. He now lives, quite simply, alone, in his Silicon Valley apartment, and works just to make ends meet.

He runs his own security business (sort of). I say “sort of” because he has a few younger guys who, (when they actually bother to show up), do most of the grafting whilst he supervises.

He’s always been a bit like a packer mule, my father. What he lacks in entrepreneurial flair, he makes up for by being a hard-working, get-your-head-down-and-just-get-on-with-it sort of guy.

Dad often brags how he had perfect attendance throughout his four years of high school. (It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s the only person to have EVER achieved that accolade). He literally never missed a day in four years which is a trait that carried into his work life too. I can’t really remember him ever staying home from work sick. Not once.

“Work” and “dad” are sort of synonymous terms for me.

Things began to change significantly a few years ago when he suffered an “episode” (he doesn’t like the word stroke, but that’s what it was).

Hands down, that was the worst phone call I have ever received. Halfway through my late night, radio show I heard the words, “Thea you father has had a stroke”. I felt the life drain right out of me on the spot.

Two days later, at his bedside, I stood over this six-foot-four-bulk-of-a-man lying prostrate in a hospital bed. Weak. Shrunken. Powerless. Sad. I felt the same. This could not be happening. Not to him. Not to my strong father.

But, defying the odds, a month later, after learning to walk again, he was done with rehab and back to work. A little slower. A little more hard to understand, sure, but working again. You really can’t keep a good man down!

Over the course of the next two years, I racked up the trans-Atlantic air miles when he broke his left hip, and followed that up by breaking the other one!

But do you know what? Rather miraculously, like the Energizer Bunny, he keeps going and going…He is the text book definition of resilience, and it’s a skill I believe I inherited from him.

ode to my dad video on vimeo - by thea newcombHere’s a wee video I made for him a few years ago at Christmas.

Working Hard is Good…to a Point

My dad works hard, but I’ve often wondered if that may be to his detriment. He’s the kind of guy who you reckon, the day after he retires, just won’t wake up. He’s made his life all about his work – it’s what has kept him going all these years. If you take that away, what’s left.

Watching how his work became his identity, I’ve come to realize that I don’t want to end up like him – in that respect – living alone, working all the time, sleeping or just streaming TV shows on a tablet.

My aim is to have more balance, more joy, fun and passion in my own life. Work does not define me the same way his does him. I do it and I enjoy it, yes, but I have friends, hobbies and passions – basically a life outside my work. I know who I am without it.

We’re Make Bad Employees

My dad was an Electronic Engineer by degree, and has a rather brilliant mind (particularly with Math – which is not my strong suit). He moved from the East Coast to Menlo Park – as a result of a practical joke played on him by co-workers (a story for another time).

In the sixties and seventies, he worked all over the world, and achieved much. Designing high voltage power supplies in,  he (claims he) was the only one in the world working on power supplies over 200,000 volts.

Eventually he moved out of engineering into project management.

When I was young, he got bit by the bug to leave gainful employment and run his own business.

The first business was a construction company, spending days building big beautiful homes (ones I was lucky enough to grow up in).

Then, when the housing market crashed, he segued into residential and commercial security where he has remained for the last several decades.

“Do what you love and the money will follow” is a phrase instilled in me from early on. We’re not nine-to-fivers. In fact, I’d say we both make “crap employees”. We like setting our own schedules, doing our own thing and answering to no one. I suspect, on some level, we’re both still doing what we love, and hoping that the money will follow.

That ethos has definitely shaped the choices I’ve made for my entire adult life. I’ve always stated “I’d rather earn a thousand pounds doing what I love each month, than ten thousand doing a job I loathed.” (Truth be told, I’ve come to realize, I’d actually quite like to earn the ten thousand doing what I love,…).??So instead of getting a proper job, I became a dabbler and never really had proper jobs for any length of time.

I have done radio. I co-founded ‘Bigwig’ (a music magazine) in the early 90s. After that I wrote and published an 80s music trivia book. Eventually launched soyouvebeendumped.com – rather deliberately on Independence Day in 2000.

Dad holding cash on birthdayNot quite failures as such, but not one one of them has been a financial success either. That has meant that even though he’s had little money these past few decades, my father has been my CFO throughout every endeavor. Always the money guy, he’s had to support me long after any father should have to.

That fact is arguably what has caused me a the most amount of guilt in my entire life. Therefore my whole Raison d’être has become enough of a success that I can, one day, pay him back for all the support he’s given me.

It is my number one goal, and I hope reach it while he’s still here to see it.

On Embracing Technology

I would attribute my passion for technology and gadgets to him as well. We were the first on our block to have the six-foot (projector) television, the top-loading VCR (some of you will be too young to even know that is), and an IBM PC.

To this day, we share the passion for the products. The TVs, the cameras, and the iPads. When I first got my dad an iPad though, he had a look as if to say “what the hell am I going to do with this contraption?” Thankfully, a month later, it was the greatest thing since sliced bread! Now it’s never out of his reach, he even sleeps with the darn thing!

Day and night, dad streams his favorite TV shows (binge watches Netflix) another characteristic I inherited from him, and we use them to Skype every morning and night.

Through the joys of technology, we even can watch TV together – even though we’re six thousand miles apart. (We’re currently watching and loving ‘24’).

The technology connects us in a way I’d never have dreamed of when I moved to the UK, more than twenty years ago, and it’s made me feel less homesick as a result.

Good on him for embracing it still, right? Though he is easily frustrated by it, use it he does. Not every eighty-plus year old is like that, are they? I sure hope that if I reach eighty, I am.

Have a Laugh Along the Way

My father is a very funny guy. Not a lot of people really realize how funny he is, I don’t think. I used to tell all my friends about how hilarious he was, and when they’d come over he’d clam up. It reminded me of those singing frog cartoons from the 70s – who would sing “Hello My Baby” until you got him in front of other people and then all you’d get is “ribbet”…

I’m not sure why it was like that, but take my word for it, he’s hilarious when he wants to be. We do have laugh right through life challenges, and I am sure it’s where I get my own quirky sense of humor from.

Inadvertent Life Lessons

In essence, my father has taught me many valuable lessons across the four decades of my life. Too many to really document here but suffice it to say, he’s inspired me to work hard, and do what I love. He’s shown me what bouncing back truly looks like.

Through observing the choices that he’s made, he’s inadvertently taught me the importance of having more than just my work. I know that I need to have connections with real people – personally and professionally. I need my friends, fun, travel and joy in my life.

As wonderful and funny as my father is, joyous and passionate aren’t exactly words I’d associate with him, but maybe that will change? I keep reminding him that when he gets to the end of his days, he won’t be wishing he worked more, or streamed one more episode of ‘Charmed’ on Netflix.

More than likely, he’ll regret not doing more things he had always wanted to do. It’s my intention to get him to do some of those things now – before it’s too late.

The novel is the first item on that list, and I could not be more proud of him for embarking on this journey. It could be, if you’ll forgive the pun, a whole new chapter on his life. Incidentally, it’s called ‘Then and Again’ and it’s very good, but then I might be biased. No, in fact, I know that I am…

Happy Father’s day to my father, all of you fathers out there.

What is it that you’re teaching your kids?

The Rukus – Loads of Fun on Many Devices

Rugged Rukus from Eton CorporationOne of things that I think I mentioned in my last blog about #CES2014 was that wireless speakers were all over the place!

Headphones too!

Well, I finally got my first one to try out from Eton Corporation – the Rugged Rukus. It’s a cute, durable, wireless, solar-powered, bluetooth speaker!

Though it’s a tiny speaker, it packs a good wee punch! Plus it works with all my devices – the iPod, my Nokia Lumia, the MacBook, and I just watched a little Grey’s Anatomy on my Kindle Fire with it on too! Anything with Bluetooth.

rukus on my macbook keyboardIn addition to it playing all my music across my various devices (incidentally my Amazon cloud currently at over 41,500 songs!) – it can also charge my smartphones or iPad or anything else in the above picture (except the Macbook of course – that needs too much juice!).

I just love I can take this guy into the bathroom while I shower, or into the kitchen with me while I cook. It’s so rugged (hence the name) that it could go out when hiking, at the beach or poolside (can you say “Splashproof?”) or wherever you are outdoors. As I tend to be really hard on my tech – I love the durability aspect of this.

The one thing I was most curious about – given that it’s a solar machine – “will it work in Glasgow?” That was the first question I asked John Smith (Eton’s VP). Well, luckily for me, it works even in the less-than-sunny climbes like Glasgow!

So suffice it to say, I am delighted with this little guy.

Rukus Extreme from Eton - A Bluetooth Wirless SpeakerAt #CES2014, Eton launched a few new products – but the one I am most excited about is the new Rukus – Xtreme! It got some rave reviews at CES – you can see more on the Eton Blog. They won an innovation award for this new one – due out later this quarter and I for one can’t wait!

In case you’re wondering, no I don’t work for Eton, nor am I being “paid” for this raving blog! I did however get a demo device to play with, and couldn’t help but rave about it.

Let’s face it, we all have too many wires these days. Anything that cuts down on my wired devices – in or out of my home – is a good thing!  I look forward to taking the Xtreme to the EXTREME when it comes out! Watch this space!

PS: If anyone else has any cool technology they want me to play with and write about – I’m all ears/eyes! 🙂

Silicon Valley Update # 2 – Just Back from CES2014

International CES 2014Last night, I arrived back to Silicon Valley after four, exhausting days in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show 2014 #CES2014. It was a last minute decision to attend with a few friends who were working the conference. As I said in my last blog – it was on my “bucket list” to attend it one day.

Before leaving, there were a few aims and objectives I had in attending the event. I knew that Marissa Mayer the CEO from Yahoo was giving a keynote.  I wanted to see that. I also learned that Dick Costolo from Twitter (also CEO) was going to be giving a keynote/panel too.  So that was on my list.

Naturally as a gadget girl, I would be interested in seeing all the cool tech too. This year’s event had many themes, buzz words and hot topics – but in a nut shell, I’d say some of the more cool trends were things as follows:

Tablets & Smartphones – more and more are coming to the market (from brands you probably never even heard of yet too) – trying to find niches, and aiming at different demographics – mainly so they don’t need to go head-to-head with Apple!

Eton wind up power charger for smartphonesChargers – boy were there a variety of chargers – we’re talking some that were portable and snap onto the end of your phone/iPod etc (like the PhoneSuit Flex Micro), some were smart cases that could charge your phone while in there (like this PhoneSuit Elite) and others you could place upon or in something like the “smart bowl” (I love that idea! I want one!) Or even ones you can “wind up” – like Eton’s Boost Turbine which came under the “Preparedness” category.

HDTVs – What seems to be on the way out? 3D. But, on the way in 4K. If it wasn’t those gorgeous glossy tellies, they were curved or smart.

Speakers – There was every kind of speaker you can imagine.  Wireless balls, sound bars, solar (like the Eton Rukus). Most of which were Bluetooth.

Headphones – Wow, there were a zillion of these.  My favorite that I heard about were the “Smart Buds” at the Intel Keynote. ..which ties in nicely for the one main theme, I saw, or that interested me anyway were the Wearables.

This year, and no doubt the coming years, appears to be about these wearable devices…ones to monitor our health and our fitness. This can range from glasses, to smart watches to the aforementioned headphones and more.

What really was hammered home were stories from brands who are trying to create immersive experiences. Products designed to make their users lives better in some way. That seems to be the name of the game. It’s an exciting time to be alive!

I’ll write another blog here or over on the Glatitude website soon with more details and maybe my over all impressions of Vegas on this particular trip…