Unemployment, Capitalism 2.0 and Maslow’s Hierarchy

Diagram of w:Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
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I finally heard a quip that made total sense to me about being laid off.  Maslow’s Hierarchy.

When I first absorbed the news that I was getting laid off I sort of celebrated.  I knew I was in need of change, I chose to look at the glass half full and the opportunity for tremendous gain.  But time is a killer of mental conditions.  Time, like water, erodes things.  I found the passion and energy being replaced with fear and anger.  The hope and optimism replaced by uncertainty and confusion.

While literally battling these swings I met someone with a bent towards psychology.  I explained my situation and within seconds he simply uttered, ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy, you’re fighting with safety and physiological conditions’.  I remember the pyramid picture from high school, but couldn’t recall the details so of course I had to look it up.

He was right.

My “negative” responses were actually survival mechanisms that are being attacked by the machine.  I have a family that has very base level needs and I’m a prime provider for those.  These needs were becoming exposed as the age of silence wore on about lack of work.

As time prolongs with my search for work I can’t help but wonder how the business community so easily and confidently trashes this pyramid.  Recently I heard a comment that went something like, “Companies are going to wait another 4-6 months before they hire anyone so people are forced to accept a 20% discounted salary”.  10 years ago I’d hear something like this at a cocktail party and laugh with almost lion pride.  Eat or be eaten, its a tough world out there, life is.  Now with a family and sensibility towards doing something right, does it really need to be like this?

Don’t we, under certain circumstances, make it harder for ourselves?  Think about all the cost cutting and outsourcing we’ve done to meet the demands of Wall Street and share holders.  We want to buy a toaster oven every 3 years instead of 6.  We want to buy 2 flat screens instead of 1.   Razor blade companies are making 5 blades instead of 2 good ones that last longer.  With all these bankers looking for work and food, I wonder if this “eat or be eaten” philosophy survives?  I know it will, its almost out of our hands now, but I like to be hopeful.

Maslow’s Hierarchy is getting attacked on a daily basis these days.  Capitalism needs a new look, a fresh start, to get us into the next 100 years not just the next 10 or 2.  Thats why I continue to think long and hard at what Umair Hague is saying and want to find a company that believes in the same principles.

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Library Review – Mill Valley

Postcard showing view of Mill Valley, Californ...
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You know when you meet someone or go to a place (bar / restaurant / hotel) for the first time and you just like them / it?  They could drool or might not carry your favorite condiment but you’d explain it away as something eclectically cool.  “They don’t carry mustard here because it changes the taste response of their Norwegian yeast”.   Well, thats what I do for the Mill Valley Library.  Winner chicken dinner!

I only spent an afternoon here so I don’t have the details like some of the others, but here is the net net.  Go.  Period.  After one date (ie. a 2 hour session), I’d recommend this place to anyone.  Here’s why….

Its located at the base of Mount Tamalpais, thru downtown Mill Valley.  Parking is decent, although as far as suburbs go I’m sure some would complain (I had to circle once to find a spot….I know, rough).  The building is surrounded by huge mature douglas firs.  Its a very natural setting and the building sort of blends in.  I’m not an architect but I’d say there’s some Craftsmen influences involved.  They did a fantastic job ensuring the trees felt included in the function of the building.

Window seat to the forest

Window seat to the forest

Ambience

When you walk in, its almost like an A-frame lodge in Yosemite or something.  Huge ceiling, big beams, well lit and then you notice the trees almost immediately.   They have these large floor to ceiling windows that really opens the place up.  You almost feel like you’re in a giant tree house.  After a quick scope, I broke towards the big tables to the left.  Lots of big tables in the middle (maybe 10).  I settled on a spot near a window (my airplane and restaurant seating preference).

Functionality

Another floor plug configuration, get on those knees!  I couldn’t even pretend to do the seated reach down, thats how deep it was.  Standard wooden chair so I’m currently debating if I bring my own cushion like a 90 yr old man, eat more fat, or always wear biking shorts.  Great lighting, lots of natural white creating some natural energy to get stuff done.  There was some chi going on in here people!  Wireless worked well, never noticed a  glitch.  Plenty of room to put my stuff without feeling concerned someone would squeeze next to me.

Clientelle

Mostly middle aged folks with some artistic nuances and a couple “youngish professionals” (late 30s – early 40s) with macs.   Lots of laptops and probably a handful of moms with tikes.  Its not a set of people that would make you stop typing and stare unfortunately.  Sadly I miss those people.  But, you’ll get stuff done and won’t have to worry  about someone inappropriately “loud whispering” to you about what WIFI means (this happened at the SF main library). Its a pretty innocuous group.

Bright white

Bright white

Random notes

No one is checking books folks, no one.

Food options are a 15 minute walk into town.  Once there you’ve got a handful of options that are tasty – from flatbread goodness to burritos and sandos.

There is a river that runs past the back of the library.  For breaks, you can walk out the back and within about a minute can feel like you’re camping.  Seriously, I’m not joking.  Huge trees, a running stream, and that smell of outdoors you can only get driving 6 hours to the woods.  There are a couple places to sit and chill out.  Occasional drum circles may emerge, so don’t be afraid to hang it out.

Wait, I wrote this whole thing being positive.  Thats how good this place is.  If it can change me it can change you.

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Ahead of the pulse

Strobist
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When I read the Tipping Point it became clear that there was an empirical threshold when something went from trendy-cool to fad to lame.  So….since CNN is reporting that libraries are the new rage in this downturn, looks like my latest library review postings are on the highway to lame.

Hmmm.  Damn.

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Library Review – The Anza Branch

My introduction to this blog here as sort of background.

My first review is of my neighborhood library, the Anza Branch.   I’ve traveled to Rome, Paris, Berlin, Annecy, but this place….it takes the breath away, as you shudder the thought of having to enter the facility.  Ok, that wasn’t fair, but seriously, look at it!

Anza Library Front

Anza Library Front

This library takes me roughly 5 minutes to get to and thus is my home turf.  Although is it still your turf if you’re willing to deny its existence?  Regardless, it holds the core of my requirements which are, a quiet place to sit, a place to plug my computer, and free wireless.

So onto the review!

Lets be clear, this place is situated on 38th and Geary which is somewhere between Fresno and Bakersfield to use a central valley analogy.  No one really wants to stop and hang out around here, unless you’re running out of gas or have family there.  Its usually foggy, its littered with single family homes with cement “lawns”, and very few smile.  But its nice, people are quiet, its essentially a suburb within the city.  The community is mostly families of chinese and russian descent, for those keeping score.

Ambience

The moment you walk you are underwhelmed.  Its really hard to describe.  Its small.  Most homes in Presidio Heights would dwarf the place.  Boxy would be another term.  I’m almost positive that most interior decorators of DMVs would raise their noses at this place.  Lofty ceilings with strange american indian inspired art (I think), curtains commonly found in prisons, no color…let me be blunt, its pretty drab.  I’m not sure what the inspiration was for the architecture of the building but my guess is Mr. Reid said “f*ck it, just build it and go home”.

There are 3 tables to sit at.  There might be more but I choose to go with what is presented right in front of me.  Its literally a box best described with a photo.

The DMV punked this place

The DMV punked this place

There is very little “energy” happening in here so anyone looking for it should not attempt finding it.  German’s may thrive here, I don’t know.  From the above photo you pretty much walk 10 paces and to the left and front are 3 tables.  Enjoy.

Functionality

The seating is spacious, so you don’t have to rub elbows with some 47 year old who is still living with his mom.  The table is big enough so if someone dares to sit across from you, chances are your feet *gasp* won’t touch.  The chairs are a disaster.  Literally within minutes I’m reminded that I have no natural padding.  I don’t know who to blame for this, possibly my father, but honestly, the shifting going on here is borderline turrets.

Comfortable?

Comfortable?

The power supply is on the floor so you should stretch before arriving or prepare to get on your knees.  The floors probably haven’t been cleaned since Nixon.   Once plugged, seated, and ready, the rest is dressing.

Even though there are maybe 2 or 3 laptop users in the building, the wireless connection was spotty.  I’m sure it was the chinese gamer behind me with some bittorrent download going.  It was mildly annoying at times, but functional.

Clientelle

How to describe?  Lets see, its mostly handicapped elderly if thats ok to say (meaning lots of limping, shuffling and confusion), chinese math wizards with giant oversized backpacks, and that segment of society that has no real tag per se, you know…..wearing some wacked out 10 year old jacket, walks with a very slow gate, wanderer looking for eye contact (which someone did catch mine and yes, I got pulled into a coversation about my new fangled laptop — that is 3 years old — and how it has a transformer in it….awesome, thanks!), basically its that guy carrying a 30 times used brown bag of some sort and you hope to God they don’t sit next to you at all costs.

Location

The closest thing here is a laundramat.  There literally is nothing nearby so a snack or a coffee is not an option.  Its like going into the mountains, pack your stuff.

Random notes

The only people checking out books were 4 year olds.  Thank God the place is subsidized.

There is a reference librarian on call all day, just in case you need to find the letter R encyclopedia.  I have no idea what this person does except stare into a screen quietly.

I was impressed with the rule system for the bathrooms.

Terms and Conditions

Terms and Conditions

There were 25 books on psychology which I think is overkill for this community.

The good
Easy parking with no 2 hour limit or meters, never busy, lots of room to claim your space

The bad
Building energy, vibe and look, uncomfortable seating, spotty wireless, occasional weirdo lurking around, no food/drink nearby, depression

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Bay Area Library Review – Introduction

A modern-style library in Chambéry
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I’m currently unemployed.  This means I occasionally cry at commercials, laugh a little too long, and question my life’s meaning — all at the same time.

I have 2 small kids and live in a small place so when its time to “work”, I need to escape.  I will do coffee shop squatting from time to time, but thats a different post.  Lately I’ve been getting hooked on the library.  Yea, remember those things?  With the old ladies loitering around looking serious, the smell of aging paper, the occasional loud talker breaking the slience, no headphones, no laptops, no computers, just quiet……..hang on…..yea, thats right, quiet READING!

I’m going to write some reviews of several bay area libraries from the perspective of a young-ish professional who is an out of work, occasionally bored, easy going dude.

The list of libraries to date include:

San Francisco – Anza, Main, Presidio

San Carlos

Palo Alto

Sausalito

Tiburon/Belevedere

Mill Valley

I’ll break down each with pros and cons from a perspective that I’d want to read about.  So if you don’t like these reviews, chances are we won’t like each other.  No hard feelings, but you’re probably not smart.  My hope is, you’ll read this, chuckle a couple times yet come away sort of informed, even though you have zero reason to enter one of these God-forsaken-places.

So what to expect?  I’m going to break it down folks.  I’m giving you clientele perspectives, ergonomic reviews(are the chairs soft, what about power supply, tables too tall)? Can I look out a window at anything?  What about the wireless signal(when streaming last.fm, AIM, Twitter, youtube, and 10 websites all at once)? Any good food nearby?  And do you actually see people check out books?  I’ve got answers, psychological insight, I’m on your side.

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Is it Capitalism 2.0 or Socialism 5.0?

Meant to be a modern representation of the coa...
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I’ve been following Umair Haque for a couple months.  I was tipped by Fred Wilson ala AVC fame.  At first I thought he was a new age socialist, which he is.  However, I think his meaning gets stronger under todays circumstances.  His old rules vs new rules perspective literally makes me look and think sideways.  Five, maybe 10 years ago, I would have immediately dismissed these mother and apple pie perspectives to yet another progressive hippy with modern glasses.  But hang on here, now, now with literally bedrock companies collapsing on a quarterly basis, you can’t help but question if another approach is needed.

All of his ideas tend to wax the assumption of a connected world, which is great.  I get it.  The world isn’t *totally* connected as we think, but I’m following.  But Umair takes the Web 2.0/social network further by asking and requesting companies to embedd new rules of engagement with their customers and community.

Listen for yourself.  Below contains a video to a recent talk he gave in Sweden.  He’s not the most charismatic speaker, he glosses over details left right and center, but the core….listen to the core of his argument.  I’m a moderate in most things from sports to beer, but this fresh thinking is seriously f*&king sweet.

Video link.

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Can all clouds use the same gasoline please?

Dahomey Amazons in around 1890
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You can’t go a day without a dozen or so pundits preaching the value and virtues of the cloud.  Most folks seem to accept its enevitable conclusion, that all things software will eventually be powered by a “cloud infrastructure” – just as soon as we can define what the cloud means.  I think this diagram is one of the best logical descriptions going right now.

I don’t see a whole lot of conversation about how ISVs or enterprises can tap into the cloud without getting locked into a particular cloud provider.  If you go down the list of major providers, and remove the IaaS services(which is really a hop and a skip from datacenter hosting with better pricing) , each PaaS, SaaS is a full fledged lock-in strategy for ISVs & enterprises.

If I’m an ISV and I want to write a brand new application, I must decide a couple things right out of the gate:

1.  Which language I am willing to write it in?

2.  What VM environment do I want to write to?

3.  Do I need associated data within the providers environment(ie. google, AWS, salesforce.com, etc.)?

4.  Do I want to attract other ISVs already inside the providers cloud for ease of interoperability?

More recently, Coghead(a PaaS) provider just went belly up.  So now what for the customers using that platform, or better yet, the company running their application business on it?  Whoops.

I was at a Virtual Appliance conference and a member of the audience asked an Amazon rep, “when will you provide the tools and capabilities that are compatible with industry standards so I can write my application using your PaaS services and then take it elsewhere(or expand it) as I need?”  The Amazon rep could only say, use our IaaS service and you can build whatever you want.  I don’t think that answer won the room over.  But, its early days……so does anyone really care?

If an ISV needs some basic services for their application in the form of a database, a webservice, authentication, caching, load balancing, storage, etc. these are all unique per cloud provider.  Google, Azure, AWS, Salesforce, etc.  Then you have to decide, python, php, java, .Net….So what do ISVs do to now to build on the RIGHT cloud the first time without getting locked in?  Or should they build/port(like this VMware to Xen conversion) their app to each cloud platform for maximum coverage?

Again, its early days and most ISVs will have to pick or simply go with EC2 and IaaS to avoid the analysis.  I know groups are in early days of being formed to create some standards.  I wish them luck, but this is big business folks, when you’ve got a lineup that includes GOOG and MSFT, I just don’t see it happening.  However, I don’t think standards are the immediate answer to the conundrum.  Discussion is needed in order for the next generation of applications to move past this “cloud lock-in” debate.  Standards always seem to be viewed as limiting, and I think I agree with this for the most part, but de facto standards seem to move quickly among like minded smart people who are trying  to accomplish the same thing.  I hope in this world of connectedness, that a cloud application service abstraction can be born (or possibly a startup like Gigaspaces or Enomoly to avoid one vendor to take all.

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