Password spring cleaning

At the beginning of April I received an email from Playstation thanking me for my purchase of eFootball PES 2020. That was followed by another one for purchasing WWE 2K20. Then another for TEKKEN 7. Then another for FIFA 20. Lastly, it ended with a polite email informing me that my sign-in ID had been changed. Bad news: my account had been hacked.

In what seems like a lifetime ago now, the world was in the early stages of being put on lockdown and hackers were taking advantage. Many companies outsource their support to Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs), which are typically located in lower wage countries where workers are packed closely together in what most people would deem a “call center”. The employees of BPO firms typically don’t have company provided laptops or the luxury of working from home so bosses had to inform their clients that support would be done by a skeleton crew due to office restrictions.

Hackers knew that by compromising tons of accounts from companies that employed this strategy they would overwhelm an already stretched support team and thus have more time to take advantage of customers and potentially get away with their crimes. That plan worked incredibly well based on a quick search of Reddit where this was happening to lots of people.

In my particular case, Playstation had removed and then deeply buried their chat support links. They had also temporarily suspended phone support altogether. Meanwhile, Chase, my credit card provider, had phone wait times of several hours. After a frustrating week or so I finally had access to my Playstation account and almost another week before I had a new credit card. All of this over an account I rarely use.

I tend to think that I have good password hygiene by using 1Password, which is always set to create a random 24 character password that includes letters, numbers, and symbols. But I realized that I probably have a lot of passwords in use that I created long before I used a manager but that I have never gone back and changed. Turns out I was right.

1Password has some really great features to help keep you safe like telling you how many reused passwords you have. Good hygiene Kyle had 124. 😳 On top of that, they’ll tell you if any of your passwords appear in publicly available databases from breeches. This service is provided by haveibeenpwned.com and is super handy. It doesn’t matter how secure your password is if your login credentials are on the internet to find. Worse if you use those same credentials in multiple places. Lastly, they provide a heads up about companies you have logins with that provide two-factor authentication (2FA) that you haven’t set up yet.

After learning all of this information I decided to set aside a few hours to go through, one by one, and update all of my passwords that 1Password identified as needing to be changed. That incredibly tedious work actually ended up taking a few days of several hour bouts but now I feel much safer with my online logins. It also taught me how incredibly varied security is across much of the internet. Sites that should be more secure often had me weaken my new password by having less characters or removing symbols. Others felt like getting into Fort Knox just to prove I am who I am to be able to change my password. A very few made the process feel secure yet also delightful. As product manager, it was a nice journey to see the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The main lesson in all of this is that most of us are likely more vulnerable to being hacked than we think we are, no matter how tech savvy we may be. Since most people right now are stuck inside all day searching for things to do, I recommend setting aside some time to get a password manager (if you don’t already have one), updating any passwords you know you use frequently, and turning on 2FA, where available. It may not be most the fun thing to do but it’s certainly more productive than scrolling through feeds and it may just save you from lots of frustration in the future.

Pokémon Go

Yes, people still play it. And yes, I’m a few years behind.

I don’t typically play a lot of games on my phone (mainly because I get addicted too easily) but desperate times call for desperate measures. Lately I’ve picked up Pokémon Go because I wanted something I could play socially and that would get me out of the house. I’m finally understanding what all the hype was about when it first came out.

The combining of the digital and physical worlds is incredibly well done. It’s a great way to explore a new place by walking or biking around neighborhoods and stopping at Pokéstops, Gyms, or Raids. Yes, you will be that person oddly standing on the sidewalk for an unusually long time while you stare at your phone to catch a Pokémon or battle a stranger. To bring you even closer to the real world you can switch on AR mode, which I find really fun. So then you’re the weird person standing there pointing your phone around instead of looking down at it. Just a few minutes of playing like this gets you excited about the possibilities for AR and simultaneously bummed that it’s still not ubiquitous.

Solrock floating in my backyard.

I’ve never watched a single episode of Pokémon so the characters and gameplay were all new to me but that wasn’t as much of a hurdle as I thought it would be. After only a week or so I’m rattling off names of Pokémon I want to catch and cursing the ones I know are strong when I come up against them.

Obviously this is a game that is intended to get you outside and interacting with other people but it’s easy enough to do the former without the latter during social distancing guidelines. Niantic, the maker of the game, has been adjusting the rules quite a bit that does allow you to do more from home than before. That is welcome and am curious to see if those changes stay even after lockdown ends.

If you’re a longtime player or just looking for a fun little escape, add me as a friend using my trainer code (5359 5860 9910) or scanning my QR code below. Whether or not I keep playing after the world returns to some semblance of normal remains to be seen. But for now I’ll enjoy trying to catch ‘em all.

Tech startup greed amidst a pandemic

Most startups would like you to believe that they are trying to save the world in one way or another. For some, this is true and their hearts are in it. For most they are simply trying to solve a hard problem with technology and hope to make a lot of money from it. The employees at those companies also hope to not just build careers but amass a large amount of wealth in an eventual exit (IPO or private sale). There is nothing wrong with wanting to make money but many of these founders, their employees, and their investors seem to forget that the entire startup ecosystem is designed to have way more failures than successes.

Yet, despite years of reckless “growth at all costs” without attention paid to margins or cash reserves, over $140 billion in venture investment in 2019, and several major IPOs recently, tech startups are trying to frame themselves as poor small business in need of government bailout because of the covid-19 pandemic.

In March, the U.S. Congress passed the CARES Act “to provide emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families, and businesses affected by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.” This bill includes fully forgivable loans to small businesses under 500 employees as part of the Paycheck Protection Program. These loans are administered by the Small Business Administration, which means they fall under their rules for disbursement. The SBA has a clause called “affiliation through majority investment,” which states:

Ownership of 50% or more of the voting stock of a business concern will result in affiliation under SBA rules and require aggregation of headcount with the majority owner and its other affiliates.

In short, no money for venture-backed startups because, even if they only have 100 employees, the total amount of employees of the venture firms that funded them will be pooled and counted for eligibility. Sounds like a pretty good rule to make sure that companies who have already received millions of dollars in funding aren’t essentially double dipping and trying to take money away from companies that need it. Tech startups seem to feel differently.

I was first alerted to this stipulation by a venture capitalist I typically respect, Fred Wilson, in his daily post on March 30th. In reference to the the PPP he complained, “this sounds great for startups, right? Well not so fast.” He then goes on to explain how startups can work with their legal teams and those of their VC firms to help figure out how to get the money. He closed by saying, “It is my hope that this ‘bug’ in the law will get fixed over the next week or so.” Sorry, Fred, this is a feature, not a bug.

Those loans are designed for actual small businesses like coffee shops, hardware stores, and restaurants that employee almost half of all Americans. Yet that didn’t stop some of the world’s most wealthy (majority) men to launch an all-out lobbying campaign to get this rule changed. On March 29th the National Venture Capital Association issued a letter to Steven Mnuchin, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and Jovita Carranza, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, on behalf of 126 “pro-startup groups” asking them to change these rules. They contend:

In addition to laying off workers, startups will have to shut down critical research and development (R&D) projects in fields like bio-research, medical technology, and artificial intelligence, setting back our country’s competitiveness and delaying the creation of new tools to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Bottom line: not providing this critical support to startups now will cause both short-term pain and long-term consequences that linger for years.

What they’re not admitting to themselves is that most of those companies were bound to go under anyway. Recessions and depressions tend to accelerate this process and it is not the U.S. government’s job to stop or slow it. In fact, if these companies need more cash and the venture capital investors deem their business model worthy of further investment then it is their responsibility to continue to provide it.

It doesn’t stop there. On March 31st, the lobbying of the venture capital industry convinced Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House from San Francisco, and Ro Khanna, Member of Congress representing Silicon Valley, to also issue a letter to Secretary Mnuchin and Administrator Carranza asking to change the rules. They plead:

Many small businesses in our districts that employ fewer than 500 employees, particularly startup companies with equity investors, have expressed concerns that an overly strict application of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) affiliation rule my exclude them from eligibility from PPP loans. For these small businesses, as for many across America, access to forgivable PPP loans will be critical to preserving jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and to securing America’s leadership in science, technology and innovation.

It’s despicable that these two Congressional representatives are trying to frame not giving free government money to venture-backed startups as some sort of national security issue whereby them going out of business will threaten the future of America. Nobody inside or outside of the industry actually thinks that is true. All of this is selfish motivation driven entirely by returns for venture funds, venture investors, startup founders, and their employees with options in the company.

What you don’t see is all of those same people worried about the non-employee staff they have cleaning their offices, serving their food, and often completing tasks that underpin their very businesses. Those are the small businesses and individuals that the loans are designed for. It could be argued that if the startups don’t exist then those people won’t have jobs either and thus startups should get the loans. But the only startups that will go under are those that cannot weather the storm. Most of those are already sitting on shaky financials, bad business models, and are overvalued. A public market reckoning had already begun months ago and now this will accelerate a private market reckoning. What will result is a much healthier startup ecosystem going forward.

Many of my friends and past colleagues at startups will not agree with my stance on this. Working for a startup is high-risk, high-reward but most people focus on the latter and forget about the former. There are plenty of other places to work if you want stability and a guaranteed return but a startup isn’t one of them. I’m disappointed in the venture capital industry for trying to take advantage of a global pandemic for their own gain.

To my knowledge, as of this writing the SBA has not changed the rules around affiliates and it is my hope that they do not. I want to see that money go to the thousands of small business and millions of employees that desperately need it right now so that they can feed their families and keep their homes. Unfortunately, this will mean that many startups will lay off staff and/or go out of business. But I believe in the system and know that the capital will eventually be reallocated and the talented people that work there will find new jobs where they continue to push American innovation forward.

Running Roundup

March 2020

When I started setting goals for 2020 there was obviously going to be a running component but given my fits and starts since my accident, I wasn’t sure what it should be. Too ambitious and I could ended up getting hurt or simply hold myself to an unrealistic standard. Too easy and I’d be giving myself an excuse to slack off. Luckily, I’ve been collecting data on my running for years now so I decided to take a look back on how things had been going.

These two charts, which represent my running since my accident in December 2016, were really eye opening for me. Despite being further along in my recovery and working with some amazing coaches, I ran less miles in 2019 than I did in 2018! And not by a small margin but 225 miles less! Granted, I took some purposeful breaks after a strong start to the year and racing the FOURmidable Half. But knowing that I can, and have, run more made the goal easy: run more miles in 2020 than in 2018.

Quick Splits

Here’s how things have been going as of the end of March:

  • Yearly distance: 201 mi (+1)

  • Monthly distance: 72.28 mi (+11.47)

  • Monthly elevation: 6,490 ft (+2,792)

  • Monthly total runs: 11 (+1)

  • Monthly longest run: 12.34 mi (+2.7)

Reflections

March was a great running month with nice, consistent progress and lots of great trail adventures. It was my first full month in Colorado so there was a lot of motivation to get out the door and explore both the city and the mountains. The running here has been amazing so far and has me super excited about spring and summer when the snow melts and opens up more options.


For those that are curious, I run with the Suunto 9 Baro, log everything with Strava, and analyze the data with VeloViewer.

Hello, Denver!

About a decade ago I arrived in the Bay Area (Mountain View to be specific) to start a big new chapter in my life. After living in Monterey for about a year I wanted to do something I was more passionate about, be closer to my friends, and live at the epicenter of technology. Moving and taking a job at Tesla ended up being an amazing decision as it very much defined who I am today.

After spending a couple of years on the Peninsula, my boyfriend and I decided to give up our relatively short commutes to Palo Alto and move to San Francisco. We didn’t want to look back on our lives when we were older and say that we lived in the Bay throughout our 20s but never in the city. So, we figured that we’d treat it like a year abroad. We’d stay for about a year and if we didn’t like it then we’d move back down south. Seven years later, I had finally had enough and was ready to move on.

Living in San Francisco was, on the whole, another great life decision. I got to live in three different neighborhoods (Mission, Lower Haight, & Duboce Triangle), work at two satellite startups and a 3D mapping startup, date some amazing men, eat a ton of good food, join a racing team, meet people from all walks of life, explore trials, and have experiences that I truly believe wouldn’t have happened anywhere else. But something about San Francisco never really felt like home.

As everyone knows, the entire Bay Area region is insanely expensive. The idea of settling down there seemed so far out of reach despite having a well paying job. The city of San Francisco suffers from what seems like intractable petty crime, street homelessness, rampant hardcore drug use, and widespread filth. All of this is despite its citizens having extremely high incomes. But that was also part of the problem. There is massive inequality in the city and, despite being “diverse”, felt extremely homogenous due to the high concentration of a single major industry in the area. I won’t get in to the causes or potential solutions to the city’s problems but I will say that it was no longer a place that I wanted to be.

In searching for where I would go next, I wanted to make sure that I was improving upon my frustrations with the Bay Area. First of all, I wanted more space. I grew up in the country and enjoy being outside. Living in a studio in close proximity to so many other people was not making me happy. Ideally I’d have a house with a yard and space to breathe. I also wanted an abundance of nature and new trails to explore. Close proximity to an urban area but not in the middle of it. Easy access to an airport. Industrial base in the industries I have experience in. Relatively affordable. And real summers.

To be honest, I thought I’d end up back on the California Coast. Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Santa Monica, San Diego, and Long Beach were all on my list. But after spending a lot of time researching, I realized many of those places didn’t check a lot of my boxes either. Part of the reason is that California as a state is expensive and has its own major challenges. That got me to think about places in other states. New York City is a non-starter. Portland and Seattle are too rainy and moody. Austin is too Texas. But Denver has a lot going for it.

Every time that I have visited Denver I greatly enjoyed it. Not only that, the people that I was visiting talked about how much they loved it as well. I even know people that have since moved away and say they wish they could go back. It’s a major US capital city but not necessarily a densely packed one. It has embraced growth and there are plenty of great neighborhoods to live in depending on what you’re looking for. It sits just east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and is a trail running mecca. The airport is a major hub for many destinations. It supposedly has over 300 days of sunshine. There is not only a tech industry base but Colorado has long been home to the space industry. And I have a handful of friends here that would help the social transition.

So, in the beginning of February I decided to rip the bandaid by quitting my job, giving notice at my apartment, and making the firm decision to move to Denver. By March 3rd, after a month of craziness and a three-day road trip, I arrived at my new home in the Sloan’s Lake neighborhood.

It’s been two weeks now and I can already tell that I made the right decision. I’m settling in to my two-bedroom bungalow with a yard that Luna loves. We’re super close to a great lake and park. Everything is a short bike ride or drive away. The pace of life is much more relaxed. People are friendlier. The mountains are magnificent. And, so far, I’m starting to actually enjoy the cold and snow (but can’t wait for spring and summer).

To be fair, it is a bit strange moving to a new city amidst the spread of a global pandemic. Bars, restaurants, gyms, and most other social venues are closed for several weeks. People are encouraged to limit contact with others and stay home as much as possible. All of this isn’t the best when you want to meet people and explore the town. But I know it is temporary and best for everyone’s health and safety. Plus, it’s a bit easier to social distance when you aren’t working and don’t know a whole lot of people. I am also grateful to not be holed up in a small apartment and can enjoy my quarantine from the comfort of my back deck, my porch swing, or my living room.

I’m very excited for this new chapter of my life and can’t wait to see what opportunities, adventures, and experiences unfold.


Our first Supercharging stop in Truckee, CA. Luna was about to experience snow for the first time.

The past and the future at the West Wendover, NV Supercharger on the Utah boarder.

Our new home. ❤️🏡

Sloan’s Lake Park with the Front Range in the background. A few blocks from our house.

Luna enjoying some midday sun. Lots of backyard projects to do to get ready for summer.

First trail run as a Colorado resident in Staunton State Park.

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