Thank You

By Mike / On / In Personal

First of all, thanks to the staff of NSConference: dedicated people like Scotty, Dave, Claire, Simon, and the rest. Thanks as well to the staff at the venues who hosted us, such as the Athena, the Exchange, and Manhattan 34.

It’s no small feat to take something beloved, change everything about it, double its size, and yet somehow have it end up the best its ever been. I am amazed at what you’ve all managed to pull off. Genuinely amazed.

Thanks to Alex and Maxie Repty and Judy Chen for convincing me to stop working on the game, get out of my own head, and go to NSConference. Alex and Maxie went so far as to pick us up in Amsterdam and drive us to the UK and back.

Thanks to Scotty for having Judy and me as his guests. All this saving the world takes a financial toll, and we really couldn’t have afforded to come if not for his generosity, and the generosity of many others.

Thanks to my brother, Hernan Pelassini for coming to Amsterdam a couple days early to buy me a nice dinner and unwind all this enough that I could actually go where I needed to go and do what I needed to do.

Thanks to George Dick for giving the resolve to talk to my colleagues when I felt alone, like I had died and been forgotten, my work in vain. Thanks to John Fox for helping me articulate those feelings with his supportive perspective.

Thanks to Dan Pasco for giving me the man to man talk I needed, for answering the question of how I had gone wrong—by being too hard on myself, and forgetting that I have friends who want nothing more than the chance to help me.

Thanks to Oliver Fürniß for a thousand reminders of how much we rely on each other. Thanks to all the people who were kind to me, who spoke to me, who thanked me, thereby reassuring me that I have done some good in the world.

Thanks to the many people who played with the improvements we’re making to Lemurs Chemistry: Water, and who offered most excellent peer review, feedback, and ideas. Thanks to the people who’ve offered to help us make it even better.

For me, the message and theme of the NSConference 5 became the kindness of others, and calling on that kindness when things go wrong, a lesson that driving home from Leicester only drove home further.

Thanks to Volker Mohr for providing for our rescue when our van broke down, leaving us stranded in the middle of stupid Flanders. I kid—Veurne was just the most charming little village to be stuck in, full of the nicest people.

Thanks most of all to the exemplary proprietor of De Loft, whose kindness and generosity in the face of Judy’s sudden, ferocious illness was the only thing that saved us from disaster—and thanks to ADAC for finally getting us home.

Finally, thanks to Evan Doll for giving me the chance to sum up my life in 140 characters or less: Been better. Getting better. Making games is hard. I’m glad I have friends.

Good Luck Dear Friends

By Mike / On / In Personal

I was thinking about my friend John Wilker today. According to my calendar, it’s his birthday, and I wanted to wish him a happy birthday, but I wanted to do it by talking about him, which got me thinking about some other people I wanted to talk about.

John Wilker and his wife Nicole organize the 360 conferences at which I am a frequent speaker. They’re great conferences run by really nice people. There are people who are genuine in their dedication to community and colleagueship, and there are people who are capable of running a successful conference, year after year. John and Nicole are that rare combination that manage to do both, and I really admire that about them.

Klaas Speller has been my right-hand man through the creation and running of Appsterdam, into the New Lemurs, and the ambisonics project besides. I’ve recently nominated him for the Europioneer award, on the principle that his entrepreneurship is exemplary in that, in pursuing his dreams, he has enabled other entrepreneurs to achieve theirs.

Guy English and Chris Parrish are two old friends from when I was coming up, back in the Mac days. I mention them together because they’ve been working on a new app together, Napkin, which looks to be indispensable. These are two of about a handful of people without whom I would simply not have my career. They have shown me the value of colleagueship, and friendship.

Mike Lowdermilk I’ve saved for last because he, more than any other, reminds me that I don’t deserve the friends I have. He’s shown me nothing but kindness and generosity, and why? He doesn’t need anything from me. He’s an absolute hardware genius who impresses the hell out of me. I call him Hardware Mike, the implication being that he makes hardware like I make software.

I should be so lucky. I’m so selfish, it makes me sad that he’s a new dad and has to get a real job in California instead of hanging out in Amsterdam with me. Because I’d love to hire him. It’s my dream to work on a project with Hardware Mike. The frustrating thing is, he’s available and I have a hardware project, but no. He’s an adult. He makes his own people. They need him in California.

I used to think that when people treated me well, it was because of some innate goodness that made me worthy of their esteem. I’ve come to realize that the magic is not in me, but in people like these. They are the ones who are good, while I am the one who is lucky. Moreover, I should be paying that forward, which I suck at.

It’s true. I suck at friendship. For example, John’s birthday is on the 13th. Hell, I suck at all kinds of social interaction. Maybe you can all help me suck a little bit less. Help Hardware Mike find a job. Try Guy and Chris’ app. Vote for Klaas. Wish John a happy birthday (preferably on his actual birthday). And hey, I’m sure you have your own people to think about today.

Religious reasons

By Mike / On / In Personal

We are motivated by so much more than money.

The first job I ever had in college was taking notes for students whose challenges made it hard for them to do so themselves. As much as people make fun of community college, I’m glad I spent some time there, because it gave me a chance to meet the full spectrum of mankind. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without those introductions.

Take even just one example, like the deaf community. They don’t consider themselves disabled, just different. They communicate in the most beautiful way, creating physical poetry, like hula, for even the most mundane of topics. They do not envy us. If anything they pity us, trapped and deluded in our world of sound.

Sometimes I get anxious, thinking that I might get hit by a car or have a stroke and be left paralyzed, fully aware mentally, but trapped behind as little as a single, blinking eye. I see people like Christopher Hills, able to communicate, able to tell his story, as we are all compelled to do, with the help of technology.

The world inspires me to change it. I have as much choice in the matter as Van Gogh had to paint. “The sun compels me to paint,” he screamed, as it marked the inescapable flow of entropy by riding across the sky, unstoppable as the sand of our time spilling through the glass funnel of our lives.

I genuinely worry that at the rate we’re going, we may fall short of that threshold between evolving to the point where we make contact with the rest of the life that’s out there and using up our planet’s resources while destroying ourselves in the process.

I sincerely believe that we may not have 100 years on this planet. We’ve pumped so much CO2 into the atmosphere, we’ve set off a methane cycle that’s going to accelerate global warming and extinct us within three generations. I don’t know if it’s too late to fix, but I do think it’s worth trying. It might at least buy us some time.

Things are changing, and the changes are themselves accelerating. Whatever happens, if we have any chance of fixing it, escaping it, or adapting to it, it’s in getting the smartest people in the world together in one place. I spent a year looking for a place, and I chose the Netherlands. It’s pretty free, not too expensive, and solidly capitalist. It’s easy for Americans to get to, and everyone speaks English.

Once you believe something like this, money no longer becomes a motivating factor. You need enough to live, and enough for your team to live, but that’s about it. The material things that give most people pleasure are behind you, as your survival instinct takes over and you do what humans do: rage against the dying of the light.

I believe these things, and a whole lot of other things I don’t have the math to explain. Therefore I cannot prove them, but they are a model that seems to produce useful results. To me, that is the essential definition of religion.


By Mike / On / In Personal

The rain started in Amsterdam early, early this morning. The city seems to shake and groan as water pours down from above in sheets. This is not happy rain. This is not the kind of warm rain you take a romantic and fatalistic walk through. It’s the kind of rain you must simply accept, washing over your entire life, whose only promise is that this too must pass.

Nobody can claim to be surprised by this weather, after enjoying so many days of glorious sunshine. Over the weekend every street cafe was open, every boat was on the canal. We all knew, all told each other, that the sun wouldn’t last, that the rain would come. We told ourselves that, steeled ourselves against the coming winter.

There are places that deny the weather, where it rains all the time, but nobody ever carries an umbrella. In this place, people are always aware of the weather, always aware that though the sun may shine, rain is always just over the horizon. Nobody considers this morbid, a dour pessimism that sours the smell of sunlight.

Rather, it is the memory of rain that drives us to soak up the sun every opportunity we get, the knowledge of it that drives us to try to stay dry. If we let the rain surprise us each time, or if we live in constant denial of it, we will never understand the weather, the atmosphere, or our place within it. We will simply be wet, and dry, and wet again.

If we prepare, if we are ever cognizant of the impermanence inherent in nature, we can be ready for the rain when it comes. You can keep your clothes warm and your hair in order. What it seems like you can never avoid, which perhaps we should learn to savor as being part of this planet, is the feeling of raindrops running down your face.

Losing sleep over those lies

By Mike / On / In Personal

It’s past 5 a.m., and I should really be asleep, but something somebody told me today has gotten stuck in my brain and it isn’t going to let me sleep until I get it out. It has come to my attention that the Jailbreak community really does not like me.

That’s fine. Haters gonna hate. But, in this instance, I feel like this whole thing is based on some cosmic misunderstandings, so in the interest of unity and tolerance, I’d like to clear a few things up.

First, there was the Denny’s incident. This happened two WWDCs ago during the usual post-drinking visit to Denny’s. My crew was sitting, coincidentally, next to Jay Freeman’s crew. Jay and I engaged in some lively, but amicable debate on whether Apple viewed Jailbreak with animosity or apathy.

From where I was sitting, the younger guys with Jay were being hostile and rude. We really just wanted to eat our food and get some sleep, but they were scrapping for a fight. I tried to be good humored, but when one kid called me a fanboy, I felt the need to drop the kibosh.

Getting right up in his face, fully aware of the fact that I can be terrifying, I informed him that I was a Microsoft fanboy who hated Apple, but that Apple had earned my respect, and that going around calling people fanboys because they disagree with him is intellectual laziness.

Then I sat down, ate my food, and left. I wasn’t offended or anything. We all get full of piss and vinegar sometimes. We’re passionate people. That’s what enables us to do the work that we do. Of course, by the time the story got around and back to me you’d think the Sharks and Jets had accidentally gone to the same Denny’s.

I got a laugh out of it at the time, but seeing as Judy and I had our second and third dates that week, it really wasn’t the biggest thing on my mind. Apparently I really freaked those kids out. I had no idea. I’m really sorry guys. Seriously nothing personal.

Since then Jay and I at least have had many friendly conversations. I had no idea this story was still going around, nor that it had since picked up some friends. Again the old telephone game strikes. As I understand it, I’m said to be going around calling Jailbreak an abomination to humanity or some such.

That’s just silly. I’m a dyed in the wool hacker. One of my favorite things about Appsterdam is the government uses the word hacker correctly. I was around when Jailbreak started. We built it because we wanted to make iPhone apps and there was no SDK.

By “we” I mean the community. I didn’t personally contribute to Jailbreak, because Wil Shipley forbade it, since it was already sucking up a third of the company’s engineering resources, but I was passionate about the iPhone since 9:42, and watched the whole thing very closely. I then went on to co-found a company originally dedicated to lovingly bringing the best of Jailbreak to the new SDK.

Had I chosen money instead of wisdom, what I would be doing in my retirement is building robots with iPhones for brains. That’s my big secret dream, and pretty much requires Jailbreak. The last thing I want is for it to go away.

That being said, I do personally disagree with both the anti-Apple tone and some of the decisions of that crew. The latter, I believe, hurts App Makers and consumers alike, and the former is a disrespectful waste of energy.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I have the utmost respect for that team. They’re incredibly smart guys, and valuable members of our community. I welcome them, and all App Makers, to come see us in Appsterdam. Honestly guys, you’d dig it the most.

In all seriousness, I don’t hate anyone—certainly not those guys—so enough with the schoolyard antics, backbiting, and rumormongering. We, and our entire community, have bigger fish to fry.