Category Archives: Personal

Model Bureaucrats

Back when I was 15ish, my school sent me to a “Model United Nations” in Dublin. This was the beginning of my decades-long distrust for bureaucrats.

I don’t think they sent me because I exhibited any particular interest in politics, I think it was because I wouldn’t shut-up in class, so naturally I might be well-suited to such an environment. I was Mexico’s ambassador, a country I knew next to nothing about at the time. That year it was Mexico’s turn to be on the Security Council.  I noticed that most of the other students seemed to view the UN as some kind of all-powerful genie, all they had to do was vote for something and, lo-and-behold, it would happen.

So I took particular pleasure in disagreeing with whichever idea seemed to be popular with the rest of the group.

There was one guy from Chicago, he seemed to be a very experienced model-UN participant. I imagined him flying around the world by private jet, from model-UN to model-UN, part of some kind of American model-UN “dream team”.

During one debate he gave an eloquent and widely-applauded speech compared India and Pakistan to two fighting children, and thus proposing that we resolve their decades-long conflict by taking away their “toys”, their nuclear arsenals.

I pointed out that comparing two nuclear-armed nations to squabbling children might not be an entirely apt analogy, it might even be a little patronising, and there may be some practical difficulties in depriving them of these “toys”. I was unanimously outvoted, the United Nations would disarm India and Pakistan.

Needless to say, I didn’t make many friends. There was a daily newsletter, mostly contributed to other student-attendees. One of them took the time to anonymously write an entire poem about me – comparing me (unflatteringly) to Mr. Bean. “Ode to Mexico on the Security Council”. Unfortunately the poem itself is lost to history.

Remembering Oliver Schmelzle

On Wednesday night my good friend Oliver Schmelzle passed away from a rare blood infection. He was only admitted to hospital earlier this week, and to my knowledge was perfectly healthy before this, so this was very sudden. Oliver was only 38 years old, and leaves behind his wife Lacey and young son Ryder.

Oliver was an uncommon combination of intelligence and genuine niceness. Once every month or two he and I might meet to chat about business, technology, where we grew up (Germany in Oliver’s case), and all manner of interesting stuff. Normally Oliver would suggest meeting for coffee, I’d suggest meeting for beers, and we’d end up going for beers.

Oliver would patiently listen as I bounced my various harebrained ideas off him, and would always give me valuable and insightful feedback. He would often surprise me with his deep understanding of both business and technology.

My wife Janie would sometimes come out with us. At one point Janie was managing a small team of programmers, but her real aspiration was to become a Product Manager, which was Oliver’s role at that time. Oliver was more than happy to answer her questions and provide advice.

In recent weeks I had seen more of Oliver than usual. He had started working at a new company, Vast, and recognized that my company might be able to help them. I had a meeting there on Wednesday, and had hoped to see Oliver there, but his colleagues said he was out sick.

Obviously nobody realized how serious it was at that time, his colleagues expected him to be back in the office in a day or two. We joked that once he got back we would tell Oliver that we’d given up on online advertising and decided to use billboards instead, knowing that he would think this was idiotic. Of course being the nice guy that he is, Oliver wouldn’t have said so, he would have listened to our plan and politely tried to persuade us not to do it.

I will sincerely miss my conversations with Oliver, and the opportunity to work with him. Janie’s and my deepest sympathies are with Lacey and Ryder.

Oliver’s remembrance services will be on October 21st at 5pm at the Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, Lamar location, and at 11am on October 22nd at Tarrytown United Methodist Church.

update: Oliver’s obituary in the Statesman newspaper is now available here.

update 2: Some other friends and colleagues have written about their memories of Oliver, read them here and here.

Barstow has impressive sense of time

Starting at 5.30am, our cat feeder lets out a small amount of food for our cats every 2 hours until 3.30pm. In the picture below you can see our bigger (and fatter) cat Barstow staring in anticipation at the feeder at 3.28pm (he’d arrived there just a minute or two before):



Unfortunately Barstow’s impressive sense of time (or ability to read the kitchen clock) means that our smaller cat Baker has been on an involuntary diet since Barstow wolfs down the food before Baker gets anywhere near it.  Poor Baker, we’re still trying to figure out a solution to that one.


Well, I’ve switched blog engines once again. Several months ago I switched from a self-hosted WordPress to the service, because my blog kept getting hacked due to security holes in the open source version of WordPress.

But was far from perfect, they are very restrictive about what you can put on your blog (so no tools like Woopra or Google Analytics), only a small selection of approved plugins.

So I’ve decided to switch again, this time to SquareSpace. They let you use your own embedded code, which means I can now use the analytics system of my choice, and other neat tools like Google’s Prettify script.

Watch this space to see how I get on!

Dinosaur just arrived by Fedex

This dinosaur thing just arrived by Fedex – with no indication of who sent it! I think it may have been Google as a reward for judging their Android competition, but I’ll need to email them to confirm.

This thing is called a Pleo and apparently it’s some kind of Aibo-like artificial pet!

The cats are going to love this!

Update: Ok, just confirmed, it did come from Google, its worth over $300, cheers Google!