I had to report for jury duty today and I was joking on Twitter that the best outcome from this civic duty would be meeting a girl.  When I got to the jury meeting room I pretty quickly realized that all the optimism in the world wasn’t going to do much for me in this case.  What I hadn’t realized (and wouldn’t for another hour or so) was that my view of the best outcome was completely off.

So sitting in a big room with about 300 other folks I waited to hear my name called.  I was quite relieved when I was in the first batch of 70 people to be called into the court room.  This meant that I wouldn’t have to listen to the two guys in front of me talk about boxing and other macho crap anymore.  No, now I could stand in a hallway and watch prisoners in dayglow orange jumpsuits being marshaled around and wonder what their state of mind was before they got those new outfits as well as what it is now that they have them.  Pretty depressing.

As we were called into the court room all 70 of us eventually sat down and the judge started giving us instructions.  He also introduced us to the lawyers as well as the defendant.  The defendant was a middle aged guy that looked like he was being prosecuted for money laundering or a similar crime.  I didn’t think too much about it until the judge informed us that he was being charged with rape, possession of a weapon and a dozen other crimes that were listed too quickly to comprehend.  The central word in my head… shit.

I was expecting to potentially serve on a simpler case with lesser charges, not one where the defendant could end up spending the rest of his life in prison.  I’ve watched enough Law & Order episodes to know that prosecuting a rape is not a simple process so when the judge informed us that the trial was scheduled to last 3-4 weeks, I wasn’t surprised, I was horrified.

I was horrified not because of what this man was accused of or by what happened to the victim, but what it would mean to my startup.  These extremely selfish feelings are ones that I am not proud of but also can’t deny.  The thought of not making any progress for a month while continuing to burn my savings was more frightful than recent announcements from a quasi competitor.  But wait, what are these “hardships” that the judge is describing?

Turns out that there are five classifications of hardships that are reasons for being excused from jury duty, one of them being money.  I just had to fill out a form making a case for the financial burden that jury duty would place on me and the judge would review it and decide if I could be excused.  I haven’t focused that hard on making my writing legible since drafting class in high school.  As the hardships were being reviewed in the back, the deputy would bring them out in small batches and inform us of the judges decision.

I don’t have any problems paying attention and generally can always find something to keep myself entertained, but not in this case.  I needed something to pass the time but there was nothing.  I couldn’t even find much to count… 37 clipboards in front of me, 14 chairs in the jury box (odd), one nervous defendant who had to go to the bathroom twice and one very angry man who’s pleads to be excused were revoked (coincidentally I saw this same man yelling at the security folks earlier).  Then my name is called and I couldn’t reply with “here” fast enough… “you’re excused”.

Whew!  I walked out of that court room with such a huge smile on my face that I must have looked like I was just acquitted of a crime.  While I would have enjoyed serving my civic duty, it really would have killed me at this time in my life.  So it turns out that in this case being excused was an even better outcome than meeting a girl.  I’ll just have to keep looking for more ways to meet women, hopefully ones that aren’t so threatening to my future.

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A New Adventure

July 1, 2009

Adventure – an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.  Is it unusual?  Even in the bay area where the unusual is fairly usual, this isn’t something that the majority does.  How about exciting?  If it wasn’t exciting I wouldn’t be able to even get to this point.  Hazardous?  Compared to my outdoor activities, hazardous is a little strong but it’s not void of risk either.  So yeah, the word adventure feels like a good fit.  But a fit for what?

Starting my own company.

That’s right, in the midst of what I hope will be the worst economy in my life, I’ve decided to leave my comfortable and well paying job at Mark Logic behind and do my own thing.  It’s not a decision that I made lightly, in fact I’ve been pondering it since Thanksgiving of 2008.  I’ve given the concept plenty of time to soak in and as the weeks have passed I’ve increasingly felt like it’s something I have to do.

I had this moment in high school where I decided that the secret to my life was to minimize regrets and after 14 years it’s still serving me pretty well.  Yes this is a risky move.  Yes I could blow all of my savings on it.  Yes I could end up regretting that.  But what overshadows all of those could be regrets is the certainty of regret if I don’t try.  Plus, I’m at the point in my life where doing something like this only gets harder.

The more time you spend in financial comfort, the harder it is to live a life of minimalism.  Plus, for most people their thirties are a time of increased responsibilities in the form of houses and families.  These things seriously raise the bar on funding your own startup.

But the biggest motivator to take this risk is that I’m very excited about what I’m working on.  I haven’t felt this kind of excitement since I was working on my search engine in college.  I’m not ready to share all of the details about my project in such a public place but I will say that it’s very closely tied to my biggest passion, music.  So not only am I going to get to work on my own stuff for my own good, I’ll be forced to listen to music while doing it, what a hard life.

As usual I’ll do my best to share the details of this adventure on this blog.  Of course, if history is an indicator of the future I might get distracted for a while and have some gaps, but we’ll just have to see.

Many thanks to all of those that have encouraged me to give this a go as well as those that have given me a moment of pause, my determination is stronger thanks to you.