Sep 21, 01:27 AM by Eric Allen
Soooo…I bought a house. Call me crazy, but three months out of college I am officially a homeowner. It’s a small one, to be sure, but I own all 260 sq. ft. fair and square (minus the mortgage). During the two months following my return to the Bay Area, I shopped around on Craigslist for rooms to rent. I found some places that were okay, but everything to my liking was so expensive! I hate paying rent. In fact, I’ve never really paid rent in my life. Anyway, on my way to checking out yet another potential rental situation, I walked past a huge poster on the side of a building: “Homes from the high $100,000s.”
“Yeah, right,” I thought, “That must be some kind of affordable housing or something.” I figured I’d check it out anyway, just to be sure. Lo and behold, they’re legitimate, full-price condos! The catch? It’s half a condo, for half the price. These are brand new 250-300 sq. ft. studios being fire-sold after the developer foreclosed and the bank went under. They’re selling below cost, and in my humble opinion, they’re awesome. I deliberated for about two weeks, then I bought one.
This all happened in late July, just a few weeks after I started my full-time job in San Francisco. I kept asking myself “am I insane for buying a house this young?” I asked my friends, my parents’ friends, even our neighbor the realtor, and nobody could come up with a strong argument against it. I’ve been planning to buy into Bay Area real estate for quite some time, and this was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up. I’ve been living here in CubixSF for almost a month now, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. This place is everything I could want: a usable kitchen, a sweet loft, and a fantastic roof deck. That’s not enough? It’s also a block from work. Cooking for myself has been a fun adventure so far, and my girlfriend definitely approves of the place. Now all I have to do is get some furniture….
I remember some time around 1st grade when I said to my parents, “If I can just get through childhood, everything will be okay.” Well, I’m here to say that things are way better than “okay.” I’m enjoying my life now more than ever. I work with amazing people at a great company in a sweet city. I own my home, earn enough to save for the future, and have a wonderful girlfriend getting started on a terrific career.
Onwards and upwards!
Jul 4, 01:59 PM by Eric Allen
Whew, it’s over! A little over a month ago, I graduated with a B.S. in Computer & Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Since I finished my time at Peninsula School, I’ve spent only six years in intensive formal education, and that’s enough! Some people look back on high school or college as the best years of their life, but I’ll be damned if I can’t do better over the next, what, 80 years?
I went off to college a bit prematurely, which I knew would affect my admissions prospects at top schools. I found myself at RPI, a well-respected engineering school in upstate New York. I opted to steer clear of CompSci and instead declared my major as Computer & Systems Engineering. I wanted to gain experience with every aspect of computing, all the way down to how the circuits inside the chips work. Over the past three years, I’ve definitely gotten that.
I was struck yesterday by some kudos from my 45-year-old coworker who was apparently telling his wife how this kid at work (me) had actually put his education to good use. We had been discussing computer stuff at lunch, and my Computer.Build project had come up. I have actually worked with basically every level of computing, and I understand how computers do their job at a pretty intimate level. A lot of this I learned on my own, but there are details you’re just not going to get outside of school. If that’s the only thing I wanted from college, then I’ve certainly succeeded.
Have you ever wondered why bridges, buildings, cars, and most other engineered things tend to work, while software always tends to fail? I certainly have. Many in the software industry have, too, and there are a number of books on the subject. My theory was that engineers had some secret methodology that we software people just never figured out. So, I went to an engineering school to see if I could learn this secret. Now? I’m not so sure. Engineers certainly take a lot more time on things that we software people just whip through. If we were as careful with software as we are with hardware, things would probably be less buggy. However, the current software industry is based on software being cheap to produce, and applying more engineering practices to it will take a lot more time. Engineers also don’t even think about working until they have a full specification in front of them. We software guys often fly blind, with the business people making up the spec as we go along. In software, we can get away with this, but it certainly leads to bugs and inconsistencies. Engineers don’t have the luxury of 24-hour release cycles like we web companies can pull off. It’s a trade-off we make, and I think we’re making the right choice. All-in-all, I think the software industry has something to learn from engineering, but I’m not going to call myself a Software Engineer. We have yet to figure out how to do it right consistently enough to call ourselves engineers.
Was college worth it? Probably. The elders I talk to tell me I’ll come to recognize the value of my education later on. For now, I keep wondering if I’d have better off capitalizing on my early experience with Ruby on Rails by dropping out of high school and starting a Web 2.0 company back when that was cool. What twenty-something programmer wouldn’t wonder that? I took the conservative path (albeit accelerated), and it’s worked out pretty well. What’s a few years here and there when you’ve got decades to go? I feel blessed to be surrounded by great people, to love what people pay me to do, and to have a wonderful family. Life is good.
Apr 22, 10:23 AM by Eric Allen
Last night I participated in RPI’s first ever Elevator Pitch Competition. Pitches were limited to exactly 90 seconds, which was really tough for this idea. Even so, I won “best presentation style” for the Ideas category! There were a lot of great pitches, and I’m glad I got to be part of such a cool event. I wish I could participate next year!
The context: I’m pitching to an investor with a portfolio of internet and alternative energy companies looking for new opportunities to reinforce your existing companies.
The personal carbon offsetting business is growing like crazy. Were talking about $700 million a year in voluntary offsets, growing at over 80% per year The market has moved so fast that consumers are now faced with a bewildering number of choices, and minimal regulatory oversight. I can buy offsets from an organization like TerraPass, but I have no idea exactly what they’re going to. What do we do about the confusion? Often, nothing.
Conservation Marketplace changes all of that. Instead of blindly throwing their money at vague “offsets,” consumers come to an online marketplace where they can fund other individuals to make lifestyle changes to reduce their carbon footprint. For example, I could fund you to switch from driving to work to taking your bicycle.
By reducing confusion, Conservation Marketplace gains access to a huge segment of the market that is currently underserved. With the potential for hundreds of millions of dollars per year in transactions on the site, conservation marketplace can generate high-quality web traffic for advertisers looking to gain access to green-minded consumers.
Conservation marketplace pairs people who want to pay off their ecological guilt with people who are willing to make lifestyle changes, given a little push. It is a web service that cuts out the inefficient middlemen of an existing, proven market, with exceptional advertising potential.
Somebody is going to get the brand for personal carbon offsetting. Let me make it be you.
What do you think? I’m still iffy on the idea, but I did get some positive feedback. Accountability, of course, is the hardest part of this.
Oh, and videos will be posted soon. I’ll tweet a link when they go up.
Mar 24, 05:07 PM by Eric Allen
Last week I suffered a bit of a meltdown. I set extremely high expectations for my peers and for my professors, and they’ve been consistently letting me down this semester. Whether it’s the crazy Professional Development professor railing about how “our kids need to be more competitive” or my Probability professor’s spat with the class about the proper process for handing in homework, the faculty have been really disappointing me this semester. On top of that, my teammates for “Senior Design” have been, well, sub-par. Don’t get me wrong, a couple of them are great, but the majority are clueless and unmotivated. A terrible meeting on Tuesday sent me into an emotional tailspin, and it took me a few days to recover.
As I generally do when I’m not feeling well mentally, I scheduled an appointment with the Counseling Center. I feel weird seeking psychological help when I’m really just pissed off at stupid people, but boy was it a good call. Today I spent an hour there, and I’ve picked up a big piece of wisdom.
Don’t set expectations for events outside your control. That’s it. That’s what I learned today, and it’s really that simple. I tend to set expectations (high ones) for everything around me, and I tend to believe I can, through sheer force of will, control most events. This turns out to be a recipe for disaster, and that’s exactly what happened to me last week. It sounds simple, but it’s not going to be easy to integrate into my daily activities. As an INTJ on the Myers-Briggs, I’m predisposed toward this kind of behavior. It will take a lot of willpower and concentrated effort to change, but I think I can do it.
Already today I’m feeling better. Instead of setting expectations on everything, I’m letting the day unfold. I had a meeting with a couple of my Senior Design teammates (the good ones), and I didn’t set expectations. I simply communicated what I needed to get across and listened to what they communicated. We set some milestones for our part of the project, and we got a ton of work done. Now, instead of feeling guilty about being unproductive, I’m sitting on my favorite hill enjoying the biting breeze of Spring. Experience life as it is, instead of constantly comparing it to your predictions of what it should be. That’s my new nugget of wisdom.