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Roughly Drafted
Daniel Eran

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Real World Escape
My life got to be so boring I could hardly manage to get up in the morning. On my first opportunity, I jumped on Amtrak and rode out of Middle America and out to the Left Coast where I thought I belonged. My newsletter had brought me to San Francisco earlier to cover Applefest, the last hurrah for the Apple II. San Francisco was dangerous and gritty and street people asked to finish your pancakes in Wendy's. But it was the place important stuff got published, and you could get around without a car. So I showed up with pretty much nothing but a backpack and cash in my shoe and hoped I could survive.

My first job was laying out buyer catalogues for Eileen West, designer of sleepwear and pajamas for middle aged women who shop at Talbots. But she modeled her clothes on skinny young women, and I got to work in her fabulous office South of Market with great views of downtown. It was almost worth taking three busses to get there from my temporary digs at a youth hostel. The office ground to a halt when the company's dittohead consultants tried to replace their IBM mini with a lame Microsoft Access database running on new Windows PCs. I put together a database in FileMaker that put them back to work while they moved back to a real inventory system.

The prospect of having to work with PCs was nauseating, but that's where the money was. Nobody was paying people to hold their hand with a Mac. The big bucks were in the daily maintenance and management of fleets of PCs. Babysitting PCs, ugh.

I read a book on Windows NT and went to interview at the University of California. I blew them away with my common sense and extensive knowledge of Windows. I got hired as a network administrator. In six months my boss quit to work for an Internet company and I took over her job as the program's MIS Director.

I got stuff done for UCSF for three years. When a friend suggested I apply for similar position managing all the IT for a new startup she had just started with, I jumped on it. My salary jumped too. I imagined the ride would last six months. It was breakneck exciting for that long. I built a $150,000 network across two main offices and 30 remote sites and drew up a million dollar annual budget. Then things went into maintenance mode and we just chilled for another year and a half.

That allowed me to do more side projects. I built an Intranet article database and an integrated website to publish company information. Morale was low and I wanted people using my Intranet, so I started writing random stories employees thought were funny. It felt great to write again, but my audience at that point numbered about 70, and people were getting fired left and right. To widen my audience, I migrated my Intranet work into a quirky website about my life and times on Treasure Island.

Within a month my goofy site getting more traffic than our company's. I made Yahoo Site of the Week, followed by front page news on, a CNet radio interview, a Wired interview, a television interview on the evening news in both San Francisco and in San Jose, a taped interview with a French cable computer channel, and write ups on websites around the world: Korean, Japanese, something that looked like Czech, The Iranian Times and hundreds of other links. Forty thousand unique visitors in six months.

It was fun stuff. When my Internet company was dismantled, I relaxed too much for a year, then worked too much for a year. I took a few stabs at this new site for a year. When I finally got it up my domain name had expired. I was still too busy with other things. After being injured in my first motorcycle accident, I started work on it again. I apparently didn't get enough done, because it required a second, more serious accident to really get me going. So I plan to buckle down before I get killed.

I lost interest in my last site when I tried to do too many random things in different directions, so I plan to keep things simple and effective. Tell me what you think. I'm hoping for another fifteen minutes, or as a French friend once said: a quarter hour of famousness. But just having fun would be exciting too.


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