A Driving Life

CarI’m of that generation of Americans who grew up with a deep love for the automobile. Born after Eisenhower championed the formation of the interstate highway system, we came of age with grease under our fingernails and the smell of gasoline on our clothing. To us the automobile denoted liberation and the opportunity to, as Joni Mitchell sang, find Refuge of the Roads. For me, this first took the form of a four-month road trip wandering America by car after high school graduation.

In the following decades, I equated combustion engines with freedom. Until recently, that is. Now everything’s changed, but before I cover that, I thought that I’d share my own driving history in the hope that future generations will understand what they’ve missed.

The Bachelor Years

1974 BMW 2002. This was THE first car. In the pantheon of “life’s firsts” it may rate higher than my first sexual experience or the birth of my first child. I bought the car at a time when no one had ever heard of a BMW.  My friends, in their Camaros and Firebirds, gave me no end of grief for driving a vehicle seemingly styled for the geriatric market. But when I took my tormentors for a ride through the hairpins of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the handling caused them to change their minds…and get carsick. Which made the washable rubber floor mats a nice plus. Unfortunately, I totaled it in an accident.

1979 VW Sirocco. My second car also had excellent handling, but the lines and interior styling were as pleasing to the eyes as a 1970’s Kraftwerk video. Thankfully, I also totaled it in an accident.

1969 Datsun 1600 Roadster.  This car was virtually indestructible. Once, I drove it for eight hours with only three functioning cylinders. Plus, it had toggle switches. Nothing says “sports car” like toggle switches. The Datsun also provided my first encounter with one of mankind’s great mysteries—the dual SU carburetor.

1967 VW Beetle Convertible. To my mind, this remains the perfect college vehicle. It was reliable, simple to repair and parts were plentiful. I overhauled the engine in the parking lot of my dorm. When the floorboards rusted through, I substituted plywood. I loved to drive it up to Lake Tahoe in the winter with the top down under the falling snow.

The Early Married Years

1984 Rabbit Convertible. Not the most masculine of vehicles, but it helped me attract my wife because she assumed that I was “sensitive”.

1962 TR3 Roadster. This car quickly changed my wife’s opinion about the whole “sensitive” thing. I could never get the SU carburetor adjusted correctly.  The fog was heavy where we were living causing it to go out of synch every morning. As a result, at least twice a week while leaving for work, my wife (dressed in her business suit) would exchange her heels for running shoes and push me down the street until I could pop the clutch to get it started. I attribute her amazing bicycling strength to the quads she developed pushing this car.

1996 T100 Pickup. I had a Levi’s jacket and a Tom Selleck mustache. It was the times, man. It was the times.

1957 Ford Skyliner Convertible. I bought this one at the Kruse Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. I’m still not sure what the “f&*k” I was thinking. All I know is that it was a big-ass-shiny-red convertible with a ton (literally) of chrome. Without conscious thought, my hand shot up during the auction and the next thing it was mine! I drove it exactly two miles before it died on me. Two thousand dollars’ worth of repairs and three months later I was able to drive it home to California. For the next six years, I used the trunk for our savings. I would just cash my paycheck, pop it open and throw in the money. I found that this was more convenient than going to the bank to get money each time the car was in the shop for repairs.

The Parental Years

1984 Merkur Xr4TI. Despite the abysmal branding, this was a fabulous car. It was quick, with responsive handling and interesting styling. Alas, the need for infant car seats spelled its demise.

Minivans. Early in our marriage my wife and I pledged that we were the couple that was too cool to drive a minivan. We would never be like those other parents. That vow was forgotten quickly upon the arrival of the little people. We did try to show our individuality by at least choosing vans that looked aerodynamic or had some unique styling feature. But in the end, you really can’t put lipstick on a pig. It’s still a minivan.

1990 GMC Pickup. It was dirt-cheap. Completely bare bones — AM radio, roll-up windows, rubber floor mats. In fact, it cost less than the average doghouse in Terre Haute, Indiana.

1999 VW Beetle. This was the first year for the “new” Beetle.  I liked the retro styling although I used the bud vase only to hold pencils.  My buddies all made fun of me when I drove it.

1999 Ford F-150 Pickup. So, I bought one of these. My testosterone level rose dramatically, I ditched the light beer and even considered chewing Skoal. I really loved that truck. Regretfully, a few years later, my son totaled it.  Like Hank Williams, Jr. says, “It’s a family tradition.”

2001 Volvo V70 XC Wagon. It was a great car, but the AWD caused it to burn through tires. I swear I bought a new set every time I had the car washed.

1969 GMC Sierra Pickup. I bought this baby from my brother for five hundred bucks. I think it was mustard yellow, but the color was the subject of much debate because it was almost completely covered in rust, mold and Bondo-filled dents. The truck was equipped with a special “Stairmaster” braking system—you had to pump them aggressively before they would function.  Almost nothing worked in the interior cab. No radio, no interior lights, no speedometer, no heater, no defroster. Not even the latches on the doors worked. I kept them closed by running a bungee cord between the armrests of each door. This also served as an additional driver restraint system, which was a good thing because the truck had no seat belts. The only time I used it was for runs to the dump on weekends. When I backed up to unload the bed, I could sense the disgust of the others at the dump. They would look down at me with disdain as they swept out the back of their pristine F-250, Suburban or Hummer. It’s about now that you are likely asking why I purchased this vehicle. Well, on the dashboard of this truck there was this little silver button. A very special silver button. It was the only thing in the cab that worked. When you pressed it, the bed of the truck automatically lifted emptying the contents to the ground, earning the begrudging respect of those in the vehicles around me.

2001 Volvo C-70 Convertible. It was a sophisticated, solid functioning, car with absolutely no soul. Kind of like a four-wheeled Dracula. Come to think of it, I never noticed its reflection when I drove past glass buildings.

2007 Lexus Hybrid. See previous comments. As a result, this was my wife’s car.

2015 Lexus Hybrid. My wife enjoys soulless solid functioning automobiles. Consequently, she is now driving the identical car. It has the same color and options, just a newer model.

2006 Mini Cooper John Cooper Works.  Nice lines. Fun to drive. Great gas mileage and a 210 hp engine that allowed you to scare the crap out of yourself when so inclined. And BMW has done an outstanding job of creating strong brand affiliation. When you drive a Mini you feel like you belong to a secret club with a special handshake.

2006 Tacoma Pickup. My son is using it at college. I figure the odds are against him wrecking it like his older brother did the F150.  But, then again, I could be wrong.

2005 Ural Patrol. This was my mid-life crisis. I’ve included the Ural because it constitutes at least three-quarters of a car. It was a Russian made motorcycle with a sidecar based on a WWII design. Regretfully, it was little changed from the original design and frightening to drive at speeds over 40mph.  I upgraded to a 2015 Ural M-70 last year. Very cool retro styling, electronic ignition and best of all, brakes that actually work.

But now, more than four decades after I first fell in love with the combustion engine, it’s over. All those years of spent under the hood, changing plugs and points, overhauling transmissions, wondering if the car would start, they are all in the past.

The future? Next blog.

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Bike to Work Day: Why I hate it.

BTW

Each week, I meet colleagues at a local coffee shop early in the morning. We fill our travel mugs with our favorite cup of Joe, hop on our saddles and bike into the office together. For me, it’s a great way to blend a passion with my profession. But, it’s become so much more.

Cycling has been an important part of my life since I scored my first bike in the 5th grade. It was a Schwinn Sting-Ray, lime green with a long sissy bar. What a sweet ride! Since then, my years have been filled with everything from late night mountain bike rides to burn off a little stress – to weekend centuries to raise money for various charities – to long solo journeys in search of a bit of perspective.

Surprisingly, regular bicycle commuting has been a fairly recent choice. I’ve done it only infrequently over the past decades favoring my car for commuting because I thought it was less of a hassle. After all, commuting by bicycle requires a bit of extra effort. You’ve got to stage your clothes, have access to a shower, and schedule additional time for your commute.

But my thinking changed a few months ago after we kicked off our Bay Area Adobe cycling club (even got a love letter because of it). After discovering some fellow Adobe employees in my neighborhood with a similar passion, we decided to form a “bike pool”. We began by meeting at a designated time and place each week and riding to work together.  Over time, other employees have begun to join us at various locations as we pedal along our 12 mile route to the office. Fueled by the caffeine and exercise, it’s become a wonderful way to begin the day, as well as the chance to discover more about colleagues and develop new friendships. I’ve also learned that I work with some really cool people.

So why do I hate Bike to Work Day? It’s because – with all of the positive aspects of the experience – fitness, camaraderie, the psychic pleasure of riding past a freeway filled with cars in gridlock, the societal benefits of reducing carbon emissions – you would think that the idea of having a day devoted to commuting by bicycle would be unnecessary. Instead, it would just be part of how we live.

To that end, get a group of fellow employees and pedal into work one day. Just give it a try. If you do, I’m convinced that in the years ahead Bike to Work Day will be a thing of the past.

 

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Nothing but net!

Scoring the winning points at a basketball game

I was with a friend last weekend (I’ll call her “Mom”) who was giving me some feedback about my blog. She said that she enjoys my writing, but encouraged me to cover things other than work. “How about something more interesting, like the Warriors?”, she asked.

Well, here’s my attempt to make her happy.

Northern California has once again fallen in love with a team. In this case it’s the Golden State Warriors who finished the season with a record .890 winning percentage and successfully redecorated the Bay Area in blue and gold.  And although I’m a huge fan of Curry & Co. there’s another local team that with little fanfare has amassed an even better record than the Warriors. They are an organization that plays with focus, intelligence and incredible defense. They are the group of talented individuals within our Adobe legal team and outside counsel who are positively kicking ass against patent trolls.

(Sorry, Mom. I tried.)

I’ve written for years about the blight to innovation and our economy resulting from the misuse of patent litigation. During my career, I’ve witnessed first-hand the waste, the judicial burden, the financial impact and job loss, resulting from the patent troll industry. (As an aside, I considered a new moniker other than “troll”, but ex-speaker John Boehner beat me to it.)

Eighteen months ago, I described Adobe’s approach when faced with these meritless claims – an approach that resulted in Adobe going 6 – 0 in cases against patent trolls. I wrote that blog not as a bit of chest pounding, but rather to encourage other companies to take the same aggressive response when faced with these lawsuits. Absent legislative action, it’s the only way to change the economics that favor patent trolls. (In that spirit, for all of you companies fighting this same battle, feel free to give us a call. We’re happy to help and share best practices.)

So how have we done since then?

  • In January 2015, after a 9-day trial, Adobe prevailed against Everyscape’s allegations that Adobe’s Photoshop product infringed two patents. The jury also invalidated the Everscape patents.
  • In July, 2015, the court dismissed with prejudice a suit originally brought by another patent troll, Blue Spike, against Adobe in the Eastern District Court of Texas in 2012.
  • That same month, Afluo dismissed its litigation against Adobe and its customers with prejudice after Adobe obtained a favorable ruling from the Patent and Trademark Appeals Board.
  • This was followed by Adobe prevailing against YYZ (seriously, patent trolls, please put at least a little effort in your names) in a summary judgment motion.
  • In February, 2016 Adobe had another summary judgement win  against Fo2Go, another patent troll.
  • Adobe won a summary judgment against Rosebud in February, 2015 and the lawsuit was dismissed, but Rosebud chose to appeal. In March, 2016 the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal putting to rest a battle that has spanned three lawsuits and 5 years of legal expenses.
  •  Grecia, another patent troll, filed a lawsuit against Adobe, but never served it on us and in March, 2016 the case was dismissed.
  • The following month, Adobe prevailed in another summary judgment motion against Collaborative Agreement, another patent troll.
  •  Around that same time, Genaville, who had sued over three dozen companies for patent infringement, with no payment, dismissed  its case against a customer Adobe had stepped in to protect.  Notably, almost all of the companies Genaville sued were users, and not manufacturers, of the alleged infringing product.
  • In the same month, the Federal Circuit affirmed a 2014 Adobe trial court win and invalidated the patents Digital Reg asserted against Adobe.
  • And, recently we’ve successfully prevailed against two other patent trolls on behalf of our customers, also in the Eastern District Court of Texas.

So, if you’re keeping track at home, that’s 18 wins for the Adobe Dream Team and 0 for the patent trolls.

To the “Dubs”, we wish you all the best in the NBA finals. But we know which team has the best record in the Bay Area.

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Earth Day and Lawyers: A Perfect Match

ПечатьData protection, privacy, security, international taxation – all are in the news and areas of attention for companies and their legal teams. Without doubt, they present important issues. Yet, there is a challenge for us on the near horizon that dwarfs all of them, and that is climate change.

Extreme climate variability is already being experienced by people around the globe. The frequency and intensity of weather related events is growing and will continue to grow and affect all of us. For companies, it will impact every part of our business operations, including employee safety and well-being, communications, power supply, logistics, and transportation.

As a consequence, many GCs, along with other business executives, are spending time focusing on sustainability. By embracing sustainability best practices, GCs are providing multi-dimensional value to the businesses they support.  Not only are they championing a responsible approach to decreasing environmental impact, they are helping their companies be more efficient, effective and competitive.

An easy first step for all of us in the legal profession is to reduce the amount of paper in the workplace and to use digital documents to lower the impact we have on our environment.  Yes, I’m biased. Our legal organization uses the Adobe Document Cloud and Adobe eSign to digitize our document workflow. With these solutions we are able to easily comment, edit, sign and manage documents across devices. The days of walking around with manila folders circulating documents with signature tabs, are over.   It’s allowed us to become much more responsive, efficient and effective as an organization.

But, this is bigger than just evangelizing Adobe products.  The average U.S. office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year; and 50% of business waste is composed of paper. The legal profession is a large part of this, leading to the demise of a whole lot of trees.

So, whether you use Adobe products or those of another company, on this day celebrating Mother Earth – do the right thing and go digital.

 

 

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Looking through boxes.

Recently, in homes across the U.S., people spent their Sunday morning walking around holding little cardboard boxes over their eyes. This was the result of a collaboration between Google and the New York Times introducing the broader world to virtual-reality (VR) technology.

It is one of those days that I will remember for years to come.

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t paid much attention to the VR space since Jaron Lanier founded VPL back in the 1980s. Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR for $2b caught my eye, but mainly for the price of the acquisition.

Like many others, my assumption has been that while VR may have applicability in other limited areas, it is first and foremost a technology for video gamers; a community of which I am not a member.

My experience on Sunday morning changed all that.

I sat down at the table enjoying my multiple cups of coffee, while navigating through the Sunday Times (a weekend ritual in my household for years). Occasionally, I would take a look at the strange box that was included in a plastic bag with the paper, but I disregarded it as some kind of marketing giveaway, like a free bar of soap or laundry detergent.

After I finished the paper, my curiosity got the best of me and I opened the bag and discovered a pair of cardboard VR googles along with instructions for downloading a related VR app from the NY Times. Within minutes I had everything completed and was experiencing a new form of journalism, in this case an article called “The Displaced” about three children driven from their homes by war and other events.

VR

In the Times Editor’s Letter, Jake Silverstein introduced the value of this new journalistic experience: “By breaking free from the rectangular editorial frame of a traditional documentary film, VR invests the viewer with an uncanny feeling of agency, a sense of being able to look around for yourself.” Although the googles were rudimentary, I understood what he meant as I was immediately transported into the story — this was true immersive journalism. I could hear children walking behind me and turn my head to see them or raise my eyes skyward to look at a descending food drop, all as if I was part of the scene. The effect was electrifying and other family members had the same experience. My wife, for example, “watched” (I’m not sure that is the appropriate word) the story and was moved to tears during one scene, something that rarely occurs when reading the written word.

Our lifetime has been one of technology advances. For me this began with my parent’s gift of an IBM PC XT in the early 1990s (with a sweet 10MB hard drive and 128k of RAM!). A few years later it was walking through Rome with a business partner and having him call California using a Motorola StarTAC mobile phone. Then it was having “1,000 songs in my pocket” courtesy of the first generation iPod, followed closely by my introduction to the Mosaic browser.

Now, I’m adding to this list Sunday’s introduction to VR courtesy of the NY Times.

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Five Things from October

  1. Type in your location and let out a “ruh roh”.
  2. Anticipating that LaPierre will use this as another example of the need for guns in U.S. schools.
  3. Interestingly, I make the same face with light beer.
  4. When art meets law. Love this on so many levels.
  5. And, this still cracks me up. Great job by the Adobe Marketing team.

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Algorithm of Sadness

It’s 1996. I’m early in my career as an attorney and working for Sun Microsystems. An opportunity opened up supporting Dave Walker, who was the vice president of sales for the company’s software division. With my manager’s encouragement, I interviewed for the job.

When I returned from the interview, my manager asked me how it went. I had no idea. It was the strangest interview of my career. It took place over lunch at a local Vietnamese restaurant. I don’t recall Dave even once asking me a question about my legal or business experience. Instead, we talked about where I grew up, my family, favorite places I had traveled, and books I enjoyed. Mostly, I remember Dave’s voice. He had one of those baritones that shifted frequently in modulation from booming to confidential whisper, but always interspersed with one of the most genuine, heartiest laughs of anyone on the planet. Stranger still, when the waiter came to take our order, Dave spoke to him in fluent Vietnamese. It was something odd to hear coming from a big Irish looking guy with thinning hair.

Somehow I got the job and for the next three years I supported Dave and his global sales team. They turned out to be formative years in my growth as a manager and a leader because I had the opportunity to work with Dave.

A few weeks after I started, Dave held a team planning offsite at a hotel in Laguna Beach, California. I was surprised to be invited, because I was not part of the sales team, but only their attorney. For four full days we were closeted in operational reviews taking only a break each night for dinner. It was an intense, long and tiring few days and after our meal on the last evening, Dave suggested that we all adjourn to the bar for a drink. When I politely declined because I was going to visit a friend who lived in the area, Dave gave me a strange look, and then a grin, but I thought nothing of it.

The next morning, when I reviewed my bill at check out, I noticed that there was a charge for liquor and cigars from the previous night. The amount was for more than the cost of my entire stay. After questioning the clerk, I determined that Dave had somehow obtained my room number and forged my signature on the bill.

I spent the weekend feeling very anxious about explaining this expense to my parsimonious manager, but when I came into work on Monday, I discovered that Dave had let my manager in on the joke. It was a great example of Dave’s sense of humor. It was also his way of teaching me that if you want to be part of the team – be part of the team.

The following year, Dave held an operational review meeting in Paris. He had decided that his team needed to learn to make more effective presentations, so he hired  a coach to provide additional training at the meeting. When I found out that I was expected to participate, my anxiety level peaked. Public speaking was my Kryptonite. The thought of speaking in front of even a handful of people caused me to break into the sweat of a 10,000 meter Olympic runner. I tried every excuse to get out of it, including honesty. “Dave, I hate public speaking and I’m terrible at it.” But, Dave was relentless and made me participate.

After a couple of hours of training, we were given an exercise in extemporaneous speaking. My turn came right before lunch and I was asked to speak about something like my favorite meal or movie. I froze. My throat constricted, my lips felt like parchment, and then I mumbled nonsense for five minutes before we adjourned for lunch.

I walked out of the room feeling complete humiliation. Then I noticed Dave walking besides me. He flung one of his big arms around my shoulders and said: “Wow, you were right. You really sucked.” Then he let out one of his wonderful laughs. To make matters worse, over lunch he made a point of teasing me at every opportunity. Turning to others on his staff he would say things like: “Nice speech by our lawyer” or “Hope we don’t need him to argue a case for us.”

But that evening at dinner he leaned over to me and quietly said: “ Hey, don’t worry about this morning. Public speaking is an acquired skill. I was terrible when I started. Well, not as terrible as you, but just keep at it. You’ll get better.” That’s was pure Dave. He’d tease the hell out of you, but it was in fun and you always knew he cared – cared about you as a professional and as a person.

There are many different types of leaders. Some are removed and aloft; some are only focused on business; and others manage by fear. Dave was none of these. Instead, he had a style that I like to refer to as “professional intimacy”. He had a way of letting you know the pressure he was facing – whether it be in hitting sales targets or navigating internal company politics – in a way that galvanized your support. You wanted to do your best not just for the company or organization, but for Dave.  As a result, Dave’s teams always tended to “punch over their weight.” He always got the most out of us.

From Dave I learned that it was not just acceptable to have fun at work, but that it was an important ingredient of success. No one enjoyed humor or a joke as much as Dave. Yet as I grew to know him, I realized that it was also a deliberate and thoughtful mechanism that he used to help reduce organizational stress. And when it came to this, Dave would stop at nothing including convincing his team to dress at as the band Kiss and perform in front of his entire organization. The vision of Dave channeling his inner Gene Simmons and strutting around the stage in platform heels and black and white makeup still brings a smile to my face even now.

In that same vein, it was at Dave’s prodding that I performed at a sales leadership event on stage at the Hofburg palace in Vienna, Austria. My part of the performance was to dress in tights and a jester’s costume and juggle clubs before an audience of more than 400 people. I was absolutely terrified, but Dave had a way of getting you to do things you never thought possible. That was one of his greatest attributes as a leader.

Over the last fifteen years, Dave and I lost touch. He called me once or twice to ask a question about one of his business ventures, but slowly we drifted apart. Despite this, several times a year something would bring him to mind and I would imagine us grabbing a beer and me thanking him for all that he had taught me. I knew how he would respond – with self-deprecating humor punctuated with a big laugh; however, it was something I really wanted to tell him. So, I would pledge to drop in to visit the next time my travels took me closer to his home in Atlanta. But they never did.

Sometime, perhaps a few years ago, a product manager at LinkedIn came up with an idea for a new product feature. The thought was to create an algorithm that would provide LinkedIn members with news related to other members who shared similar career experiences, for example, having worked at the same company during the same time. She probably handed this idea off to her programming team and they spent weeks coding and testing the algorithm before releasing it as a new feature that would provide value and happiness to LinkedIn customers.

Last week, the algorithm didn’t work that way for me. Instead, it brought me great sadness because when I logged on to LinkedIn I saw a message from a former colleague.

It said that Dave Walker had passed away.

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