Tuesday, December 20, 2005


I have joined a professional organization, IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis). I admit, this may mean very little to you, but since I'm going to start taking my career seriously it seems like a very good place to start.

And why not? After reflecting upon my first 39 years it seems like this is may be a good time to start get serious about my future.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What was the most important lesson you learned in 2005?

I do not usually ask myself what I've learned recently (and this has probably been a shortcoming), but I saw a post on How to Save the World and it made me pause. Here's a couple things Dave learned this year:
17. People learn more from stories than from even the most brilliant analytical discourse.
15. Look carefully at the data before you jump to conclusions. The main reason for the recent decline in violent crime in America's cities was Roe v. Wade two decades ago and the increased access to abortion that it allowed. Not law & order, not more prisons and stiffer sentences, not gun control.
12. We need to find the things that are at the intersection of what we love doing, what we do well, and what is needed -- and then do them.
11. Always trust your instincts. When your careful rationalizations or your passionate emotions lead you to do something that instinctively seems questionable, you will probably regret it.
10. There's nothing wrong with the education system except for the teachers (we learn best by watching and doing, not by listening), the classrooms (the world is out there, not in here!) and the examinations (they are more likely to tell you what the students already knew than what they learned).
4. Frames matter. You'll never convince anyone of anything until you understand her frame of reference. And you'll never convince anyone of anything until she's ready to be convinced.
2. What most people want, women and men alike, is a little attention and a little appreciation. We need to be much more generous with these things, even more generous than we are with material things, and our knowledge and our love.
I'm not sure what I've learned this year, but here's my first item:

   1. My wife is very generous.

Okay, I knew that one already, but what she made very clear this year is how much she supports me. First, I started a project in Austin that was suppose to last six weeks. It's nine months later and I am typing from a hotel room in Austin because I only go home on weekends. What started as a short-term consulting assignment has turned into a permanent position. While I am both glad and grateful to be working with Seilevel again, I only get to spend three nights a week in my bed with my lovely wife and outside of the coming holiday season, I expect this last another three to six months. And still she supports and loves me.

Second, Tony and I started a retail outlet in the Galleria Mall selling poker chips. While we entered this venture as a means to make money, all entrepreneurial ventures have risk. More than the potential risk, it meant the limited time I spent at home was occupied, very occupied. At first I spent spent 10-12 hours on Saturday and another 7-8 hours on Sunday. After a couple months I cut my schedule back to just one day per weekend. And still she supports and loves me.

I'm a lucky man. I guess that should be #2 on the list.

How relaxing

Kristi and I had a great weekend. Seilevel flew Kristi into Austin for their holiday party. It was held at Carmelo's Restaurant and we had a wonderful time. The company sponsored a White Elephant Gift Exchange with some great gifts, including two iPods, an Ecosphere, and Roomba Red. Kristi did not get the very soft blanket she wanted (Thanks, Joy!), but she did get a nice scarf. I got the bonsai tree; well, seeds for a future tree anyway.

Not only did they fly Kristi in, they also put us up at the Omni Hotel in Austin. This was an experience in both good and bad customer service. First, we checked in and we got a room with two double beds on the thrid floor. They told us this was the only room available, but they did say that if there were any noise problems we should report them immediately and they would be kicked out due to the "No Noise" policy.

When we did have a noise problem and called the front desk they told us the noise was from the street and promised to send us some earplugs. As if this was going to make everything okay?!

I left the room so I could go down and talk to the manager in person. On the way I discovered the noise was coming from down the hall, not the street. The manager's response? "We have a function going on." No apologies. No promise to talk to the first idiot who lied to us about the noise policy.

Anyway, I stayed polite, if a little bit insistent and he finally found a large room with a really small bathroom. Honest. It was the Presidential Suite, with living area, master bedroom, kitchen, bar, and the smallest bathroom you can have while still having a shower, wc, and sink. (Well, a motorhome's bathroom is smaller, but not by much.)

So, despite the poor beginning and having to change rooms at 1AM, it worked out okay if only because we finally got a quiet space to sleep in a king-size bed. (Let's not talk about the drip in the bedroom ceiling, it didn't last more than 30 or 45 minutes anyway.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Now Don't I Look the Fool?

If you look just a tad further in the blog you will see I went on a good rant against HR.com.

It was therefore a pleasant surprise to see not one, but two responses in my email inbox today. Both emails were apologetic; one of them included some internal dialog about the problem and they were obviously concerned about the problem. And when I checked my voicemail I discovered I missed a call from them too.

It is now obvious I forgot my cardinal rule when dealing with people (whether an individual or someone working for a company). The rule is, "Interpret their actions through a veil of good intentions." Because in my rant I missed the obvious possibility that somebody just goofed. It was simple mistake and I jumped all over them before I had the facts.

I therefore offer one of the emails I received as proof of their good intent. More than that, I offer my sincere and abject apology for mistaking their intentions.
Hello Jeffrey,
Thanks for taking the time to email us and alert us to the link problem you experienced. I apologize on behalf of HR.com for the error. It has been dealt with and you now have access to the article.

It was a technical error on our part. The article had a future date on it and was expected to display but unfortunately, it did not at the time of the mailout.

I am very interested in hearing more from you regarding any other problems or concerns you may have had with our mailouts and our site in general.

Please feel free to contact me via email at any time at ____@hr.com or via phone at 905-555-0713 (my remote office)...I will be at this number for the remainder of the week.

Again, my sincere apologies. It wasn't our intention to restrict this article.

Kind Regards,
Belinda Pianezza
Product Manager - Website Development and Content

For the pessimists out there, "Sure, the rule doesn't always work." But talking about the rule is really a matter for another post.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

$crooge McDuck has more cash than Bruce Wayne

Forbes has produced The Forbes Fictional 15, a list of our favorite characters and a discussion about how they made and lost their money.

Interesting to note Jed Clampett has moved up to 7th place on the list, while J.R. Ewing is no longer a member. They both may be in oil, but it's all about how you manage the company.

Personally, I'm glad to see Thurston Howell III is still on the list and disappointed Lucius Malfoy has worked his way on.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

An open letter to HR.com

I enclose, for your reading pleasure, an open letter to the management of HR.com.

Dear Ms. McGrath;

I’ve been reading your emails for years, at least three or four, and with a couple different email addresses. I have forwarded your emails to a half dozen or more executives at that many companies. I’ve saved (and recently lost in a poorly managed email system migration) a number of emails because I found them informative and relevant. I read fewer emails in the last year as you provided the “best of” series instead of new content, but I never threw your emails away without first taking a glance to see what (potentially new) information you had for me.

It is with great disappointment I opened today’s message under the following header:
From: HR.com [mailto:realityhr@hr.com]
Sent: Tuesday, 06 December, 2005 1:12 PM
To: jeffrey@davidson.net
Subject: Reality HR Interview with Arte Nathan of Wynn Las Vegas

I clicked on the link:
For All Members:
- View the entire article here.

and I discovered the article had expired for general members. Now first, I am guessing you think of me and my fellow general members as idiots, because why else would you tell us the article was available, but had expired within the first 12 hours? There are just too many vagaries in life to presume all of your members (or most? or any realistic sample of the population?) are going to read the article in something less than that time. So I therefore don’t believe the article ever was available to my class of your membership. Or second, maybe the article was expired and then we never did have a realistic chance to read the article and you don’t think of us as idiots, but as guinea pigs or rats in a maze.

As a small business owner I understand the need to convert customers who browse into those who purchase, and as a patron of businesses I know the only way this only happens when I find enough value to pay for the service and the service provider has earned and keeps my trust. You have, with the simple action of this link promising an article “for all members,” but then providing me with nothing more than the chance to buy I, betrayed my trust and lost my business.

I contrast your message with the emails I get from McKinsey or Emerald Insight, both of which clearly identify when content is part of a premium service and do not lie to me about article availability.

For years I have been a fan of your services, though I have never paid for them. While I cannot assure you any of the articles I forwarded were read or that any revenue resulted from my actions, I provided you one of the key things every business needs, avid fans trying to recruit new customers for you. Was the loss of my business worth what you gained by making this interview a revenue generating item?

Jeffrey Davidson

Friday, December 02, 2005

Integrity in Advertising

In a fabulous new telling of a classic tale, follow the link to the new clip for an incredibly scary version of West Side Story.

Honestly, it's amazing how much editing can change a love story into something else.

I am reminded of the movie My Girl. It came out in the Fall of 1991 and was advertised as a feel good movie, building on the reputation of Macaulay Caulkin and his Home Alone movies.

The movie itself was not a feel good movie. It was a very touching story about a girl coming of age, dealing with her first period, her father's remarriage to a floozy, and the death of her best friend (Macaulay). I left the theatre screaming mad. Not because the movie sucked (though in my (incorrect) opinion at the time, it did), but because I was lied to. I was promised one movie and I got something completely and utterly different.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

On SALE Now!

As mentioned previously, we have closed the doors at Lone Star Games. And now that we are out of the retail business, we're trying to sell as much of our left-over inventory as possible. To do this, we are selling everything at our cost (wholesale + shipping), and without any additional markup. If you want to take advantage of this great offer, please check out our Going Out of Business flier.

Seriously, you will find great prices, and I will not mark up shipping costs if you live out of my immediate driving range. Please, do us a favor and take advantage of this great offer. We also have lots of card covers, a handful of books, and some open DVDs if you're interested into those items. (Just send me an email asking for details.)

And if saving money on great stuff doesn't motivate you... Please, help me make Kristi happy. Once I sell enough inventory out of my garage she will be able to get her car in from the cold.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Art Snob

I have used up the last of my airline miles to get us a couple tickets to Denver, CO. Julie's husband, Alan is having his very first art show! We will be flying up and getting there just in time to see his debut. We'll also be attending their holiday open house on Saturday before flying home on Sunday.

In addition to the chance to support Alan, which I am estatic that we can even do, I also get to see pretty much the whole family this weekend. My sister Jill lives just a couple blocks away. My brother and Emily are flying up early on Friday. And my Dad and Debbie are coming in Thursday as a surprise. (No one is suppose to know about that last part, so don't tell anyone.)

The siblings were all together last year for Christmas, but it seemed a bit rushed and some folks were sick, so it wasn't quite the joy we usually have when we get together. I'm really looking forward to this trip, when we should have at least a moment or two together.

Lastly, with a bit of luck, Kristi and I will also get to see Rich, Carrie, and the girls too.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What I did last week...

Last weekend I closed down our retail store, Lone Star Games. We sold poker chips. Now we are selling our inventory in an effort to recoup our losses. I'll certainly be writing more about this over the coming weeks or months, but for now just know that we gave it a good shot. While we are sad the retail venture did not work out, we do not regret trying our hand in another venture. It was fun, if expensive, and we're glad we once again put our selves, our effort, and our $ on the line. Like many have said before, it only takes once.

Since closing the kiosk I have seen a bunch of movies. On Wednesday I skipped the poker game to go see Serenity, a good western set in space. The story was enjoyable, the acting good, the writing (by Josh Whedon) very good (I reckon the dialoge was a bit western-like), and the spaceship almost looked like a horse. Rating 3.75 of 5

On Thursday I did play poker and came in fourth of 11 players. It was not in the money, but I did well for my $10 investment.

On Friday Kristi took me to see the wonderful biopic, Walk the Line. Absolutely engrossing story about Johnny Cash and June Carter. Everyone will likely see this movie and that is just how it should be. Outstanding acting and screenplay, probably the best movie I've seen all year. Rating 5 of 5

Saturday was my birthday (39) and we were going to go out with Tony and Emily, Mom and Steve. Tony took sick in the morning, so I cancelled our reservation at the wonderful Fogo de Chao (fo-go dèe shoun). We'll reschedule for the next time they are in town. And if you have never eaten at a Brazilian churrasco, you really should. Rating 5 of 5

Instead, if was a calm and lazy day, where Kristi and I took in two movies to celebrate. The first was Just Like Heaven, a light hearted romantic comedy. It's my favorite genre and this was a pretty good rendition of the standard plotline; boy meets girl, boy and girl argue, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl save each other, boy and girl lose each other, boy and girl end up kissing as the camera spins around them. Rating 4 of 5

After dinner we went back to the discount theatre for the R-rated comedy, Wedding Crashers. Most reviewers found it unsatisfying, but we really enjoyed. It was a bit raunchy, but laugh out loud funny too. Rating 4 of 5

And finally, today, we visited with my mother a bit (she gave me pumpkin bars for a present, a tasty treat I asked for ahead of time), went down to Cedar Hill where we saw Kristi's parents and relatives from Alabama, Rick, Sherri, and Matthew.

One of the funniest lines tonight was when Sherry said, "Tony never even updates his blog, I don't even know why he has one!" She was a bit upset by his disappointing writing schedule and I thought it very funny.

Now it's time to pack and go to bed. I've got to get on a plan in eight hours.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

To Fuss or Not to Fuss

I think about business problems all the time. Or at least I think in circles about business problems all the time. (There is a significant difference there, but that's for another post.)

And one of the things I don't think about anymore is "good enough." You see, in business, it is usually right to be "good enough" without being perfect. The arguement goes,
Become good enough, then introduce your product (service). Do *not* let the process stop, and keep improving your product, but don't wait until you're perfect or you will spend too much time on the little things that do not make a difference.
Some of you know this as the Pareto Principleor the 80/20 Rule, which largely states you should focus your energy where you get results rather than waste your energy where you don't.

All that being said, I am a firm believer in excellence, execution, doing things right, and maybe even karma (that's karma with a small-k, not Karma).

So it made me pause to read the recent post Do Fuss on the weblog of 37Signals.
Why? WHY? After all, “they” say …

“Don’t bother, it’s just a little thing!”

Well, if it’s just a little thing, then fixing it is just a small matter!

“It’s not worth the time, no one bothers with that.” (One of my favorites)

In that case, you must spend the time! Why … well … if no one else bothers with it, you probably just found your competitive edge!
And I completely agree with this too.

I suppose, deep down in my heart of hearts, I really want to be excellent in what I do. At least one thing that I do. And I believe, or I so want to believe, that being excellent, that fussing over the tiny details, that getting just a bit closer to perfection is not only worth it, but required. That doing my best in that thing will set me apart. Will prove I am unique. And will be rewarding.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The overwhelming power of nature

The following pictures are supposedly of the sky over Alabama as Hurricane Katrina came in If anyone can verify the truthfulness of this I would be very appreciative. beautiful.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

DeLay declares "I am a walking idiot"

The Washington Times has a piece where the House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay states there is no fat left to cut in the federal budget.

This surely cannot be true, if only because of the $12 Billion we do not need in the latest Transportation Bill. But as I think about spending, I have to wonder if yesterday's post had the correct focus.

I think the federal government will spend billions of dollars on resurecting New Orleans. I believe this to be true because the administration is fearful of voter response if they do not make a big attempt to rebuild the city once called Jewel of the South. Voters respond to tragedy and this one, along with the continuing problems in Iraq, make for very poor approval ratings. The only way to fix public perception of President Bush and his management of the country in the immediate future is a strong showing of support for a new and invigrated city.

Is it worthwhile to spend the money? Good heavens, the congressional investigation alone will waste millions and I am sure the rebuilding will waste many times that. But that isn't really the issue because the federal, state, and local folks are going to be spending the money despite the questions of pundits. So, if we going to rebuild the troubled city, what should we be focusing on?

Should we focus on rebuilding the shipping industry even though it has largely moved on already? Or the tourism industry, which is not enough to keep the residents gainfully employeed? Or the gas and oil industry? Or another new high tech city, like I hinted at with references to Austin, Boston, and Southern California? Or the next Las Vegas, Gulf Coast style?

The first answers need to be about what the New New Orleans wants to become. And after deciding what the new city is to be we should talk about how to get there. I think my previous post will make the rebuilding easier and bring about more long-term changes, but maybe I jumped the gun on the questions we should be asking.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Place Worth Calling Home?

I've wanted to write about Katrina, but I wan't sure what to say. I still don't, but I'm going to put some of my thoughts down on paper (so to speak). I cannot speak about the tragedy with any authority, I am blessed more than I possibly deserve and I have no experience which might give me even a glimmer of insight into the human tragedy going on. I have frustrations about the response by local, state, and federal agencies, but what more can I add to what is already being said elsewhere?

I do believe New Orleans can be rebuilt and repopulated and have a resurgance it wouldn't otherwise dream of. To have this rebirth it will take a great deal of effort and money. The infrastructure requirements alone will require hundreds of millions (or should we just say billions?) and this will have to come from federal coffers. It has to come from the federal budget because no one can envision how it can be fully financed through the largely non-existant city and poor state governments. But more than the buckets of money required for infrastructure, the business and social aspects of the areas need to be rebuilt.

At this point I want to say I made a grave mistake early in the crisis. I called up a friend who was in real estate and I indicated I would be interested in properties that were going for firesale prices. I wan't that crude, but I also did not realize the true depth of the problem. This is a tragedy that will surely have many people take an inappropriate advantage of the situation, but I do not want to be one of them. On the other hand, I do not mind taking appropriate advantage of the situation. What do I mean by taking appropriate advantage of the situation? I mean, investing a real effort into meeting the needs of people in the devastated areas. I am not talking about a short term thing here.

To rebuild New Orleans, and many other towns along the Gulf Coast, it will take years of effort from hard working people. I can be one of those. I have thought, and mentioned to Kristi in passing, about moving the family to New Orleans. I am sure the area will be ripe with opportunity for me to start and run a business; a business that is a part of the community and provides services meeting local needs. This concept excites me as much as I am sure it scares Kristi.

Unfortunately, and despite the chance to be a part of New Orleans growth over a period of decades, I am not sure New Orleans is the place to go. I have three major concerns about moving to start a business in the Big Easy. The first is the legal system, the second is the historical environment, and the third issue is the population.

First. It is often forgotten, but Louisiana's legal system is based upon Napoleonic code and therefore unlike the other 49 states. While LA is changing some laws to meet the Uniform Commerical Code, the sytem works differently than I'm used to [Louisiana Law has a good short description of it].

My second concern is about the reputation of Louisiana and New Orleans; they are known more for being unfriendly to small business than for being friendly. After you add their historical issues of policital corruption, inept law enforcement, and decrepit schools and I'm not sure this is the place for my family or business.

But mostly I'm concerned about the long-term health (growth) of the city and area. Newsweek has an upcoming article on the steady exodus out of New Orleans over the last few years. I'm a firm believer you need good people to succeed in any venture and it's my proposition that the entire area needs good people to achieve success. I'm afraid the area does not have enough draws to keep professional people in the area.

So, what would it take to get me to uproot my family so we could move to New Orleans and start a business? It all boils down to building the infrastructure to support big business, ease the running of business, and drawing in potential talent to work and run those businesses. Here is the detailed list:

  1. I want to see a federal commitment to rebuild the infrastructure.
  2. I want the state or federal government to guarantee loans for business' building and rebuilding in Louisiana. Think of this as a localized SBA program for businesses of all sizes.
  3. I want the state legistlature to make a commitment to helping business' become established. There are plenty of models for them to choose from in the other 49 states.
  4. I want real attention paid to the corruption in the area. I don't care who becomes the watchdog--the FBI, Justice Department, SBA, Dept of Labor, some state agency, etc.--just make somebody responsible.
  5. I want the local community to support the rebuilding of the tourist industry. Good dining and music help make a culture vibrant and I believe this will help draw and keep more population to the area.
  6. I want to see a new university started. Southern California, Boston, Austin, and elsewhere have all achieved great things due in part to the number of quality colleges and universities. This is our chance to do the same for the "Jewel of South."

I expect #6 is the most controversial, but I suggest we need more institutions of higher learning to draw potential talent into the area. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest we have the first national university with a goal of being among the top 25 large learning institutions and top 100 research institutions within 20 years. The goal for 40-50 years should be Top 10 and Top 20 respectively. Great educational settings and a vibrant social scene (#5) will add to the long term probability of a good talent pool for business and civic life. This, and the legal structure which encourages business to prosper, is what will cause New Orleans to become a new jewel among cities in the U.S.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Finally! (part 2)

[Ed. note: The following post is in response to Glenn's comments on my previous post, but it's so long—and significant to me—I moved it from the comment section to the main page. While the initial impetus was about smoking restrictions that failed in Cave City, KS and already enacted in Dallas, NY City, California, and even Austin, TX this is only part of the issue for me.]

I agree individuals have the right to smoke in their own home and their own car. I also agree with your unspoken statement, they have the right to allow others to smoke in their home and car and this is true whether or not they personally smoke.

I also need to say after years of thought I understand civil law to be a body of rules regulating conduct between “legal entities;” a construct able to sign contracts and own property (home and car), or make commitments and take responsibility, et cetera. The ability (or society’s permission) to do these things is part of what differentiates a child from an adult.

Part of my problem with your argument is you allow freedom for some legal entities (me) while also allowing for legislation limiting the choices other legal entities (businesses) on the very same issue. As a business owner I want to ability to serve my customers in the manner I see fit. As a legal entity I see this regulation as an encroachment on my rights.

As a business I can, and probably should, market my products to a specific niche. I should be allowed to choose the niche of poker players who smoke. Now maybe the niche is too small or cannot support my overhead. Maybe it's an untapped niche that will provide my grandchildren with wealth untold. If I make the wrong choice it is my responsibility to suffer the consequences of the decision. Either way, as the head of legal entity I resent the encroachment of the legislation disallowing my customers to smoke (a legal act, mind you) within my establishment.

As an aside, I want to say a couple other things about tobacco and smoking.
  1. It is ridiculous for us to be supporting tobacco farmers with subsidies while concurrently restricting the use of their products due to safety concerns.
  2. If smoking is truly bad for individuals and needs to be controlled then I am all for classifying it as we do drugs. Make it a controlled substance and pull it from the market. (Note: Cocaine is no longer a part of the recipe for Coca-Cola.)

But let me back-up a minute, because it is my statement this issue is just one item within a larger picture, and the picture is what causes a problem for me. As the conservative movement has taken a larger part of the political discussion they are restricting my choices by pushing more limitations into my life. This is in start contrast to what I see as two of our country’s greatest traditions: (1) allowing me the freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness and (2) limiting government intervention into my individual pursuit. It is my contention this is a new version of the temperance movement, a failed attempt to legislate morality.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I've overreacting, but I think this is just one example of where the argument and pressure for change from voters is having an effect, and the end result will not be a better place to live, but a worse place.

Years ago I heard Bill Gothard and someone asked him about restricting cults, back when cults where a much bigger concern than they are today. In his wisdom he stated Christians should not work to outlaw cults. In my recollection he stated diversity was important, and moreover, outlawing cults would result in restricting religious expression and potentially outlawing the very religion his audience practiced. I don't see much difference between cults and smoking. And the restriction of either one is a dangerous road for us to travel upon.

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. ~Benjamin Franklin

Friday, August 12, 2005


The first half of this post is taken completely and without shame from BusinessPundit.

Cave City Takes a Stand?
Reason has a
post about the defeat of a smoking ban in nearby Cave City, KY (better know as the home of Mammoth Cave).
Monday's vote against a proposed smoking ban by the Cave City Council benefits both local citizens and those across the commonwealth.

Mayor Bob Hunt, who cast the tie-breaking vote, made it clear that smoking bans threaten private-property rights and the choices available to consumers.

"I voted not to pass a ban because I don't feel like government should tell private business owners who help support the city with their taxes what to do about smoking," Hunt told the Bluegrass Institute. "I respect those people who see this as strictly a health issue, but I also respect the man who has invested in his business and is trying to make a living."
Louisville is supposed to vote soon on similar ban. I don't smoke. I never have. But I don't really support it either. People ask me if I want to go to smoky places. I don't want to. So I don't go. It's as simple as that. I've left bars because they were too smoky. If I go to the local comedy club, I go to the non-smoking show (which they were smart enough to offer).

I think smoking should be banned in places I have to go (government buildings, etc.) but private businesses can make their own decisions. Then I can make mine about whether or not I patronize them.

My comments...
This post strikes at the heart of the issue, not just the issue of smoking, but the deeper issue of where our society seems to be moving. While the issue typically brought up is one of second-hand smoke, the push for this type of regulation is much stronger than just protecting people who do not wish to smoke. Rather, this type of legistlation is one of our society's more recent attempts to answer how the law should protect people from their own choices.

Tobacco is controlled substance. By this I mean adults are able to purchase this item in the same manner they can purchase and use alcohol. Or pornographic materials for that matter. All are considered harmful, and some are proven to be bad for you in certain conditions. But all of these items are legal to own and use. Restricting our use of these items in private businesses bothersome. Not bothersome in a "irritant" manner, but bothersome in a "this goes against the principals for which we strive" manner.

I want my government to protect me "from enemies foreign and domestic," but I should not be restricted from making bad choices. I am happy to grant the government ability to protect others if I am a danger to them, but this is vastly different than protecting myself from making bad decisions. Rather, I want to be allowed—encouraged even—to make choices AND then learn how to deal with the consequences.

It is only be accepting responsibility for myself that I can grow and mature. Children who desperately need a caretaker do not make a positive impact on society but mature citizens can. Let’s start to pay attention to the what will help us grow rather than stilt us into thinking we need some big parent to tell us what we can and cannot do.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Poker Story

I was sitting at a poker table, playing $1-2 No Limit Hold’em. I was new to the table, only having played for 30 minutes. The action was pretty high and I had already bet away half my stack of $100 without ever seeing my cards through to the end.

When I was done to a measly $36 dollars I went all in and finally won a hand. I won a bit more over the next fifteen minutes, including one pot of $6 when everyone folded.

I played another hand, starting with J - 9 of hearts. I bet $20 and one person called. The flop came Q - 10 - 5. I checked, he checked. Fourth Street brought an A and there was no chance anyone was going to catch a flush. I bet again, $20. I checked my cards to make sure what I had. The other player called. Fifth Street hit and it was another blank (3), no good for anything. I bet big and with confidence. I push $50 in and the other player studies the board. He figures I have two pair and folds. I throw my cards out and say straight.

Of course, there was no straight. I only had four cards to it. But I thought I did, so I acted with confidence and won the pot. The table laughed and most of them figured I was stupid. Some of them thought I was bluffing. I let them think what they want, saying just enough to encourage both thoughts.

A couple hands later I’m sitting on over $170. I’m two from the button and the seat to my left has put in a $10 straddle bet. This is a bet you make before the deal. It means the minimum bet has moved from $2 to $10, and he gets the final option to call or raise before the flop. To make matters more interesting, this is the same guy I got my “straight” on and I’m pretty sure he’s steaming about my play.

I’m dealt a pair of twos and I raise from $20. Everyone folds but the guy who straddled. The flop comes Q - 2 - J, I’ve hit my set with three 2’s! It’s my read that he’s on tilt about my earlier play and he’ll probably want to run me off the pot if I show any weakness. I decide to check-raise him to get a bit more action. I check and he bets $30 dollars.

Wow, it worked! I say “Raise” and put my first $30 on the table. Hmm, how much more to put in? I say “50” and I start stacking my chips. Next thing I hear is him saying “All in.” I’m so excited my chest is thumping loud enough to hear over the TV on the wall and the people laughing at the next table. I say “Call.”

As he pushed me around early and then I bluffed on the straight he says “You got the Queen?” He went all in with just a pair of Jacks??

“Nope,” I say. “I’ve got the twos,” and then I throw them on the table. The guy who believed I was bluffing earlier starts laughing, the guy who is about to lose most of his stack is choking. He’s got a K - J, but even he isn’t all that hopeful. The next two cards are blanks. I tip the dealer, play one more hand, and ask for a rack so I can leave.

Some days are good days.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I am an Island

CNET.com has an article discussing Top 10 Web fads, and #6 is Friendster. The idea behind Friendster is you link to friends, and they link to their friends, and those people link to their friends, and so on, and so on. Next thing you know, you're only Six Degrees away from Kevin Bacon

Well, there are a bunch of similar psuedo-businesses with the same concept of Friendster. One of these is LinkedIn; a version for professionals who want to expand their network online. One of the catches with LinkIn is that you have to be invited to join, which means you would always have some connections.

Well, Joe was talking about LinkedIn the other day and I thought I signed up for it years ago, but didn't do anything about it. Last night I took a few moments and decided to see if my memory was correct. I entered my email address, guessed at my password, and was let into the sanctum of LinkedIn, an invitation only service.

What I found out is that I had zero ( 0 ) connections. In a universe of people I was apparently linked to no one. It's like they were telling me to "Go Away. You're just not good enough for the rest of us."

This morning I told Joe the story and we had a good laugh. Then Joy came in and she had a good laugh. Next thing you know, they're looking up the lyrics to Simon and Garfunkel's "I am an Island."

Based on that, Joy took the time to compose a couple new verses, just for me. Here it is:
A summer’s day
In a bright and cheery July;
I am alone,
Gazing from my browser to the internet around me
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of blank screen.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship, linkedin causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
Just so you know, I'm going to build up my network a bit on LinkedIn. [The island was lonely. :) ] Drop me a note if you want to be included in my journey towards the mainland.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Crash, doing it again

Some of the regular readers remember me back when my name was Crash. Today, that's just what happened.

I was leaving work for lunch, trying to fit in a couple errands along with some quick bite to eat, when I had a fender-bender. I thought the person in the car ahead of me was pulling out into the street from the parking lot exit. I had almost come to a stop when I noticed she was turning into the street. I therefore took my foot off the brake and was looking left for oncoming traffic.

Apparently, she decided to wait and in making that decision came to a stop. Since I was expecting something else, I turned my head in time to stab the brake and think, "Damn, I'll never stop in ..." CRASH

It really was not a big deal. I was very worried about the person in the other car. Her name is Bethany, she was very polite and apologetic. Best of all, she was not hurt in any way.

After confirming she was okay and pulling the bumper panel of her car away from the rear tire I gave her my insurance info. I called the insurance company, she called the insurance company, they had someone call both us back, and it looks like everything is going to be just fine. Allstate is going to have her car inspected and repaired. My car has a scuff mark on the bumper, but is fine in all other respects (as far as I can determine). And it's possible our rates won't even go up. (I can dream, can't I?)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Power versus a To-Do list

You know, it's cool having a real business. I've played at business so many times and in so many ways it was a bit depressing. I've said, "I've formed a company." My company has been able make a little money, even after paying expenses, salary, and taxes. But the truth of the matter is, it takes more than a couple words and a website to make a real company. It's not about the initial effort, it's about continued effort. When Tony and I formed Lone Star Games it finally got serious for me. And I love it.

My love for businesses comes from a few places. The first place is probably my love for a stage. Not the theatre, but I have always been comfortable in front of a crowd, and leaders get more attention than followers.

The second place is probably my long-term interest in power / leadership / management. I know the order of that may put some of you off, but this was how I was introduced to the concepts. In high school I read The Prince by Machiavelli. Then The Art of War by Sun Tzu. I found them interesting and I wondered what I would do with power. Then I studied leadership, and taught it. Then I went into management.

The third place is my desire to solve puzzles. Not that I care about games, but I like to solve problems; it gives my overactive and underutilized mind something to do. And whether it is because of the above or just chance, I happen to like solving business problems.

Now, I'm not claiming to be good in management, leadership, or power. I've had plenty of successes and more than most by many counts, but I've also learned what the truly successful do. And a few success is not in the same league as the successful.

Additionally, I've mellowed. Along with learning the difference between the desire for power and weilding it, leading and managing, motivating and exasperating, stellar performance and just getting by, I've also learned, and largely come to accept that as good (or lucky) as I am and as much as I want to exceed, I'm not great.

But I'm still fascinated by business, the processes that make them successful, and filled with the desire to achieve. And I've learned good systems are the way to take mediocre to outstanding. Combine that with hard work and a little luck, and you've got yourself something to be proud of.

Now that I have a going concern my nights are not filled with a wonder of what I would do anymore. I still want to hear about other people's business problems, because I like to think of solutions, but I don't need that to fill my time. With Lone Star I have plenty of issues to figure out for myself. And I need to do them right now.

For example, here are some of the issues on my plate. They are in no particular order, other than I need to get answers to them all with hours or days, and the item with the longest term still needs to have some action within the next two weeks.

  • hire another employee
  • make payroll
  • finalize product pricing
  • develop grand opening plan
  • market to APL and LPR
  • review schedule
  • write HR procedures
  • review register procedures
  • follow-up on procedures for deposits
  • re-write employee handbook
  • approve business flier
  • print stickers w/logo for shopping bags
  • develop sales script
  • learn new poker chip trick
  • select next mall to open location
  • order more product
  • negotiate shipping rates
  • update website
  • figure out online retail store
  • apply for rights to use CLC images
  • find local table manufacture
  • list Grand Opening procedures
  • borrow copy of standard lease for mall
  • and the list goes on...

Mark Cuban was right when he said, "You only have to be right once." And I'm glad to have traded in my early dreams of power for today's to-do list.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

I've been busy

Well, it's time to post a blog entry and let my readers know what's going on.

For those who don't know, I have been consulting since mid-March in Austin, TX. I am once again working through Seilevel, this time as a contractor. I am leading a small team that is gathering requirements to build a software program for Dell Financial Services.

On a typical week I fly to Austin on Monday morning and get to work by 9AM, stay in a hotel room four nights, and fly home to Kristi on Friday night. We spend three nights in our own bed before I wake up and repeat the cycle.

Kristi has been very supportive of me working Austin. She knows I like working, she knows one of the people I'm working with, and we're both happy I'm contributing to the family funds. Also, I like to travel and I'm half-way to getting back my Gold status on American Airlines, but there are times I miss Kristi, the dogs, the house, etc.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Lest you think I do nothing but watch the boob toob every night in my hotel room, let me tell you about a couple things I've been working on over the last few months.

First, my father and I flew out to California back in February. After the trip was over I said, "I had a good time, a very productive meeting on a potential (likely?) business venture." Now, after a very long time, I am willing to say we did reach an agreement and I am working with my father to help a small manufacturer bring his goods to the marketplace. I have some friends helping me build a couple websites. One is an online store for consumers, while the other website is only for retailers who want to purchase the items at a wholesale price. If you want to give me some feedback or help me test the online store, please leave a comment or send me an email.

Second, my brother and I are very proud to announce Lone Star Games! When we open next month we will have full line of high quality poker chips, accessories, and gaming supplies. We are currently in the midst of hiring our first employees. Our first location is at the very prestigous Galleria Dallas, and we are already dreaming of the next location in our little business empire.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Internet News

A bunch of stuff happened yesterday, and I want to give you the updates in case you missed them.

First, Yahoo! Music has finally announced what I've been long awaiting. After purchasing and rebranding Launch, they now offer the chance to download about 1,000,000 (one million) songs. Rather than spend 99 cents apiece in iTunes, you can pay a montly fee and get everything for just that monthly amount. I guess it's like renting songs, and as long as you pay your rent, you get to listen to the songs on your various music devices. What's really cool is that the price is only $4.99 a month! This is a great price, currently causing Napster and Real to loose 20% of their stock value. [Co-workers have asked why I didn't short these stocks for a quick buck!]

Next, Mozilla's Firefox just released an update to their browser. Download version 1.0.4 for the newest security update. And if you use Firefox, you really do need to check out the Extensions for adding a great deal of flexibility to the program.

Lastly, Google bought dodgeball, officially entering the mobile social networking fray. This cool service allows you to hook up with friends by relaying a message from your phone to others you call friends, allowing easy coordination of who is going to be where. It also let's you know when a friend-of-a-friend (FOAF) is within 10 blocks of your location, let's you designate who you have a 'crush' on, so you can be notified when they are nearby, and more.

Microsoft had a couple announcements too, but they weren't about anything that I would consider internet related. But if didn't really seem as big deal unless you're looking for info on the next gen Xbox. According to Steve Ballmer, "You'll have to wait until later today for the name. Tune in to MTV at 9:30 eastern, tonight."

Sunday, May 08, 2005

New phone

Like most others on the planet, I am constantly on the lookout for a decent cell phone. No matter what we all have, there seems to be something missing. Some people are worried about missing a new game or feature, some miss a camera, some miss the ability to hear and be heard by the person on the other end. And lot's of geeks and business people just miss the bragging rights of having the latest and greatest.

Me? My phone misses the ability to stay ON. It turns itself OFF when I am hanging up the phone after a call. Not everytime, just often enough to play with my head.

Anyway, I found one of the coolest accessories ever made for a phone from POKIA. Seriously, I think I want this.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Free Superheroes

It's been a long time since I collected comic books. I used to collect a huge amount of them, upwards of 75 titles at a time. I still have few thousand or more of them in mylar bags up in the attic. I don't pull them out very much, and not just because the boxes are heavy and buried under the Christmas decorations. I hadn't thought about it until I started to write this post, but I cannot even say I enjoy superhero-based movies anymore.

Hmph. It is a pleasant thought to think I have grown up enough over the last decade or two that I no longer feel the need to live vicariously through the cartoon characters of my past. I have enough confidence and control over my life and my destiny that I don't need the escape mechanisms of my childhood.

But, since Free Comic Book Day 2005 is coming this Saturday, maybe I'll step into a nearby comic book store and visit my old friends. They are literally giving away comics from a bunch of different publishers. The titles include special editions of Batman, Betty & Veronica, Ronin Hood of 47 Samari, Star Wars, Uncle $crooge, and others.

Heck, since they're free, it migh be worth your time to go by a comic book store and pick one up for your favorite neice or nephew.

Step up with Music!

Kristi is a board member for Jacob's Ladder, a community organization that "strengthens families in the Dallas community by offering adults educational and interpersonal skills to climb the ladder to self-sufficiency." If you are available, please come to the 2005 Fundraiser, featuring the world-renowned Turtle Creek Chorale.
Mark your calendar for a special concert by the renowned Turtle Creek Chorale, lifting its voices to help Jacob's Ladder lift the lives of families in our community. In the quarter century since its founding, Turtle Creek Chorale has performed around the world for literally hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic patrons at venues like Carnegie Hall and the finest theatres across Europe. They have collaborated with luminaries like Dr. Maya Angelou, Liza Minelli, Marlo Thomas, Betty Buckley, Margaret Cho, Nell Carter, Michael Feinstein, Tom Wopat and Harvey Firestein.

Harmony has a double meaning when it comes to the organization, one of the largest and most successful gay men's choruses in the world. They use music to promote a world filled with harmony where people focus on their similarities rather than their differences.

The Jacob's Ladder concert May 15 will start with its mixed chorus, One Accord, followed by the famous Turtle Creek Chorale men's chorus.
For Tickets or Information, please call 214-827-7740.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

My hometown rocks

You can find anything on the web, including a ranking of the top 100 cities by the visual impact of their skylines. The top four cities are Hong Kong, New York, Seoul, and Chicago.

Speaking of the Windy City, I miss Fluky's, the great restaurants, the neighborhoods, family and old friends.

Other great cities on Jeffrey's scale (must have good food, neighborhoods, a bit of culture, and fun) include: Boston and San Francisco. I think New York, Atlanta, and possibly Denver might make the list too, but I don't know enough about them from personal experience.

Heap of Trouble

**Not work safe**

I've never seen the program, probably because we have better TV shows here than they have in Canada, so it's not worth the time or trouble to import them from the North, but this one's a bit interesting. Embracing the oddity of British humour, the Zed skit, Heap of Trouble "shows the seismic effect when nine naked men come marching through" a typical neighborhood.

File under: Comedy, Experimental

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Three masts and 29,687 square feet of sail

I think I've talked about it before, but if I haven't, I'll say it again. Crusing is fine, but I'd rather go to Vegas. I love the first class accomodations, fabulous shows, and great restaurants, along with the freedom to sleep, gamble, and order room service whenever I want.

Most cruises are the vacation version of modern airlines. That is, if you've traveled by air lately you've noticed planes aren't much more than a mile-high Greyhound. Cruises are nice, but they're also a week-long trip on in a small travelling hotel room.

That being said, I like the idea of cruising, if I could find the right ship and service level. I think Sea Cloud II might be the ticket. Read The Wind in the Billows for why this is a not your ordinary vacation.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Darth Side

I'm not, despite allegations to the contrary, a big geek. That is, I don't salivate over whatever Star Trek show is on and I will not see the next Star Wars movie when it comes out this summer. I'm intrigued by Hitchhiker's Guide, if only because I remember the book was laugh-out-loud funny.

If you are a geek, and you haven't seen Galaxy Quest, you're missing the best version of Star Trek to never feature Spock.

And if you ever wanted to get a glimpse behind the mask, I truly recommend The Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster. Start reading from the bottom entry up.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Not for women only

Wow! I just found a great website/blog for entrepreneurs. Actually, re:invention is focused on female entrepreneurs and businesses, but the advice is rock solid no matter what gender you are. The site is innundated with some great links to other sites too. Click here to go directly to an archive of their weekly advice column.

The site took a long time to load for me, but I'm not sure if that is due to their code, my connection, or the blog server, blogspot. FYI, their "pro-women" theme/commentary will be seen by some as too preachy, but it doesn't take much observation to see it's a valid point that is underserved in our mass media society.

I'll be reviewing this a bit later for a couple of my ongoing endeavors and I suggest you do the same.

Play Google

Here's a new way to waste time at work... Guess-the-google. You're shown 20 images and you need to guess the one word used to generate the images. My score after 10 tries was 198, which isn't great and a lot better than I expected.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Calling Instinct

I like to play poker. I enjoy the competition. I enjoy winning. I enjoy getting better at the game. My biggest problem isn't my tells, playing on tilt, or poor betting strategy. Rather, my problem is that I do not have any regular games with decent players, allowing me the chance to improve on these issues. That being said, I still manage to do a few things right and generally come out ahead. Take a look at this story about another guy who isn't the best at the table, but who still manages to do the right thing.

Friday, April 22, 2005


As currently I reside in a hotel room, visiting wife, home, and TiVo only on weekends, my TV viewing habits are all screwed up. So I wanted to let you know about what I look forward to watching. There are two shows I watch for great writing, the show TV Squad called "the most underrated sitcom on television," Still Standing and the best creepy writing since Buffy, Medium.

I do still watch West Wing, but that is more a tradition developed over the years than a testament to some of the recent plotlines.

I will give an honorable mention for two new shows bring back yesteryear. First, Ving Rhames makes a great Kojak, remaking the original Telly Savalas series. The other is Eyes, a new ensemble series that is "like Stingray meets Banacek, with a dash of Remington Steele mixed in...a real throwback to fun."

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Rough housing in Austin

My voice is hoarse tonight because after dropping Kristi off at the airport, I went to the Roller Derby. WOW, what a trippie experience.

If you didn't know it, roller derby isn't dead. I thought it died out 20 years ago, but I was wrong. In fact, it's alive and well. Tonight's match, between the Hellcats and the expansion team Cherry Bombs, was full of action and showed that there is an active fan base not only for the sport, but for specific teams within the sport.

Interesting tidbits:

  1. A&E Television is filming a reality show / documentary ??? around the roller derby in Austin. (I had a rink side seat, so my Purdue shirt may be seen one day on a cable station near you!)
  2. I was told famous Bay City Bombers used to skate on the track currently used in Austin.
  3. The fans are much weirder than the rollergirls. For instance, the Hellcats mascot was in a collar and chain. You might know him as Leopard Larry (scroll down for a picture and clip).
  4. Austin has a second roller derby league! Since they skate on a flat track (as opposed to a banked track), the game is slower and the leagues are not able to compete against each other.
  5. Minor penalties may find a team losing points based upon the results of arm wrestling or a pillow-fight. I must say, it's obviously hard to have a pillow fight while wearing roller skates, because they all ended in a big heap on the floor.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


I stopped by a friend's place to watch my wife while they scrapbooked and watched soap operas. It must be love.

But seriously, I jumped on this laptop (owned by the afore mentioned friend) to give myself something to do while just kind of hanging out. Their internet browser was open to an article on Threesomes. After reading one woman's guideline all the criteria it would take to get lucky, I found a bunch more good writing by Margaret Berry and others.

Oh, and we are not available for threesomes, in case you were curious.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Visual Thesaurus

I like a good dictionary and Roget's Thesaurus (original style only please), but I when I am using the laptop away from home I only have the stuff built into MS Word and Dictionary.com. Neither of which is bad, they're just not my first choice.

But I just ran into a very nice interface for the Visual Thesaurus by Thinkmap. They have both an online and desktop version and the interface is fairly standard and easy enough to use. The online demo is fun (but you'll have to have the latest Java Plugin).

I really like how it worked and I'd love to use it regularly. Unfortunately for me, the company wants to make money, and I'm feeling to cheap to plunk down the $ for either one. Maybe I'll start a donation link...

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Monday, April 11, 2005

Back to the Basics

Jakob Nielsen, one of the few people generally acknowledged as a web/usability expert, has a great post about real world problems based on Bad Design. This article is about life and death situations in hospitals, but he has previously dealt with annoying, if more mundane, issues surrounding automobile interfaces and remote controls. The point is, if you've got a product, you need to look at how the users interact with it. And if you don't, your users are going to suffer.

For more good info on the topic, check out Creative Good.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

on drinking...

I did some drinking recently, more than usual. Going out for drinks in each of the last three weeks is a big deal since my "usual" is drinking on a quarterly or semi-annual basis.

That being said, I like to drink. Quite frankly, I miss drinking.

It's a pleasant change for me to lower my filters a bit. To take a few moments and just exist in the 'there' and 'then.' It's more than I usually allow.

But I only like to drink in a group, a like minded group. I enjoy interacting with others. I like the twists and turns of a conversation during an evening at the bar. I have often found camaraderie over a pint or two and I treasure those fleeting moments.


I don't play or watch golf, it has never really captured my interest. But I do like Tiger Woods. He shoots for and achieves excellence. How can you not like that?

So it was good to read Tiger has won his fourth Masters jacket.
"Ten majors is not that long a streak," Tiger insisted Sunday. "Some guys go without winning one all their lives."

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

He meant well

Today, like many days, I saw a business process rife with potential improvements. I like finding these. I like fixing them more.

But the low point of the day came when a co-worker uttered the following statement,
I'd rather be wrong than foolish.
What a shame he managed to do both is so few words.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Alpha Gamma

APO Coat of ArmsI recently contacted the Alpha Phi Omega's home office and asked to be put back on the list for thier quarterly newsletter. It came in the mail and I read the *entire* thing. Yes, my flight from Austin to Dallas was that boring.

Buried among the summary of 2004 National Convention was news my alma mater, the Alpha Gamma Chapter at Purdue won the Chapter of Excellence Award! Hail to Old Purdue!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Greedy violence

I missed this back in February, but the Mr. Kamprad's Ikea store in London is still closed after the grand opening sparked a riot due to 6,000 folks fighting to get first day discounts. I understand the desire to get a good price, but a riot?!

It's stuff like this which distracts me at concerts. A large mass of folks, feeling good after a few beers or more just wanting to be lead.

April 3: Edited for spelling.

Border Towns

A recent report by the Dallas Fed describes a couple interesting things. First, border town pairs between Texas and Mexico bring fairly significant benefits to the town on the Mexican side of the border, despite relatively high unemployment (due in part to the migration of workers from interior Mexico to the border town). But the pair on this side of the border does not experience the same rate of benefits.
The average per capita income of the four cities in 2002 was only $17,222, compared to $29,039 in Texas and $33,178 in the four large Texas Triangle metros. [DFW-Houston-San Antonio-Austin]
And for those who didn't know, maquiladoras is the name for manufacturing plants just across the border.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Pizza deliver... and other bad service

I have little of real value to say, but I wanted to write that in the last month, both Pizza Hut and Domino's Pizza have done nothing but disappoint me. I know the pizza isn't the greatest, but I know what I should get. I also know delivered pizza is closer to warm than hot. But is it really too much to ask for them to deliver pizza to MY door and have change for a $20? Seriously! During the latest incident the delivery driver told me it wasn't her fault she didn't have change. Since she didn't have the change needed, and it wasn't my responsibility, I wonder who was in charge the operation?

The above was my whole message for the day, but then I had some more poor service. First, while talking to Kristi, Cingular Wireless decided to do some maintenance. Well, I'm calling it maintenance, but who knows what it really was? All I know is that I had full signal strength, and at 12 midnight, the connection was lost. I had full signal strength and I could not call out. I had full signal strength and Kristi could not call me. What's the deal?

After my 10 minute phone hiatus, when I could once again talk with my wife, I learned Comcast, another of the jerks monopolies in my life has just taken a couple of the channels we watch from basic cable package. Unfortunately, the Public Utility Commission of Texas does not regulate cable service. It's a shame, because between raising the rates annually, and regularly removing channels from the lineup, I'm getting completely screwed.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the economic desire behind the attempt to move me from basic (analog) to digital service. But I don't want the box and I reject their requirement of same just to watch TV. I'm gonna let them push me to buying a dish before I do what they want.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

My new next phone

I wanted to change the service plan for my cell phone a couple months ago because I wasn't using all my minutes on the old plan, so why waste the money? Unfortunately, Cingular Wireless is like every other cellular carrier, which is largely a pain in the @&%. To change my plan, I had to buy a new phone (!) and change to GSM, a service that provides a purely poor reception within our house. (I called to complain about it, but they had trouble hearing me and the connection was dropped before I could finish bitching).

To top it off, I do not like the phone I got, the Nokia 3120. I regularly have trouble hearing people when they are talking. A good part of the problem is how I hold the phone, and after three months, I still haven't had success retraining my muscle memory.

siemens_m65.jpgSo once again I want a new phone. The things I want in a new phone are a great screen, cool programs, and maybe a camera. But more than my wants, I could really just use a decent interface to MS Outlook and I've had a client where cameras was not allowed. So I was pretty happy to see Gizmodo's description of the new Siemens SP65 Business Phone. It features
Bluetooth, Outlook synchronization, a reduced size memory card slot, and a 260,000 TFT display... It purposely lacks a camera in order to meet emerging corporate security and procurement requirements... Available next month, the phone offers 5 hours of talk time and nearly two weeks of standby.
Who could ask for more?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Yahoo! bought Flickr

In my continuing vein of bringing you news about Yahoo!, I am happy to report they have just purchased Flickr. A website that allows you to post and publish your pictures online. I use the site to show pictures on this blog, which is really only the tinyest bit of what it's meant to used for. If you've got some photos you want to share, I recommend trying it.

Proud to be a U.S. Sailor

I never talked about it much while I was doing it, but I served my country as in the Naval Reserves. I often dreaded going for my weekend duty, it was largely dull and uninspiring. I typically enjoyed my two-week duty away. Most of my fellow shipmates did not enjoy it because we were given work to perform during the day, but the truth is that the work was never hard or difficult. Also, it was a change from the regular job and you got to get away from whatever mundane things you did on a given day to try some new mundane things. To my mind, it was still a vacation I got paid to take.

But I have never been able to describe my experience or what life in the military was to someone who hasn't gone through the same. And there is no reason to explain to someone who has.

Today, someone else explained it for me! This American Life, possibly the greatest radio experiment on the air, is a teller of stories about a given theme. The themes vary wildly, and the chapters (stories) used to illustrate the current concept are very entertaining. Anyway, today's hour was about
Life aboard the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea that supported bombing missions over Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Only a few dozen people on board actually fly F-18s and F-14's. It takes the rest of the crew - over 5,000 people – to keep them in the air.
Listen to this hour-long broadcast online for free.

I beg you to listen. This is the real story about the enlisted sailors, chiefs, and officers defending you and your freedoms. Learn about young folks comprising the best equipped fighting force in the world. It was an enlightening program. (Rebroadcast, originally aired March 2002)

Friday, March 18, 2005

Tax Deductions

Wow, the government (IRS) allowed deduction for mileage is up to $0.405 per mile. And that was before we hit the new, record high for price of gas at the pump.

Something else I didn't know was that the mileage deduction for medical, moving, and charitable purposes is less than the standard mileage rate. Which just reminds me that I need to start tracking those.

Since we itemize deductions in our return, I should really start tracking this again. But it was such a pain to remember when to track mileage, I didn't keep it up.

Hey, does anyone know of a GPS system which tracks mileage of a vehicle and allows for a data dump? It would seem to me you could take a data dump, input some standard locations (doctor's office, work, charity, etc) and it could give an output of mileage for relevant trips. A few more details are floating in my head, but you probably get the jist of my latest brainstorm.

Editor's Note: This is not a new idea. There is both free software to download the data from your current GPS unit, and whole units dedicated to just this idea. So much for my "many years too late" brainstorm.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Yahoo! v Google

Y'all know I love Google, and the money I made from their stock, but I'm rooting for Yahoo!. A difficult thing, Y! being burdened with a history of content and G striving to maintain its sleek scrappiness.

Both of them make most their money from ads, Overture and AdSense, to be exact. The former is doing great with larger ads and selling to corporate clients, the latter with smaller, text only ads and zillions of small websites. So even though they are in a fight to the death, each trying to out-earn the other on ad revenue, they are largely in two different arenas. (Makes the deathmatch more interesting that way, don't you think?) So I was interested to read Waxy.org this morning. Y! has some personnel who are apparently testing the next shot across the bow.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Univ of Colorado: Taking the easy way out

On Monday I heard about the recent resignation at the University of Colorado while listening to NPR. I was a bit uneasy about the whole thing, but since I was on the way to see our accountant--and I knew how much we owe this year--I had a much bigger thing to be uneasy about and promptly forgot about the UColo problem.

But trust others to find the words I didn't even know I wanted to find. Vodkapundit summarizes my problem quite well.
Hoffman's administration was predated by Ward Churchill's tenure and the problems in the athletics department. What good does her resignation do? What message is it supposed to send? Why is she quitting, rather than doing a clean sweep of Athletics and giving Churchill the boot?
If the problem is the athletics dept (most of it is) and we've known that for the last couple scandals, the correct action is just that, *action*.

By resigning she takes the easy way out, hurts her career, the career of other female executives, and the concept of good management. It's time for leaders everywhere to stop whining about issues, reneging on commitments, and bilking others. Where has the willingness to act (responsibly) gone?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

What I'm up to this week.

Today is hump-day, that day half-way through the work-week. This week has been pretty good. Bullish Bob Bagley introduced me to Mike Nurre of Treadstone Partners at Kalachandji's Restaurant and Palace. If you're in town for lunch, and want to fill up on some good vegetarian food, I recommend it. The price is great, the courtyard is wonderful, and you'd never guess it was in a Hari Krishna temple.

Remember the business deal I mentioned last month, when I had to fly out to California? Well, I've been working on that. It's taking forever, and a major hiccup was thrown into the works early yesterday, but I think we can see a way through. It all stems from my thinking we had a mutual understanding of the services offered, when the understanding was anything but mutual. A (frustrating) learning experience.

And I've gotten two offers for short-term consulting work in Austin. One will only take a few days, the other will require six-weeks of onsite work.

Bentley & I went marketing this afternoon. I've been getting free lawn service from our landscaper for awhile now and in return I wrote a letter and distributed it to some homes a couple sub-divisions away. I took Bentley with me and he loved being outside today.

By the way, despite storms in the NE, here in Dallas the weather is sunny with a moderate breeze, the high was about 68 deg. I know this from using ForecastFox the super-cool plug-in for Firefox.

And, in the general recommendations column, I wanted to add the newsletter from Ask The Headhunter. If you're looking for a job, this guy gives some pretty good advice.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Tech stuff

While rummaging through the web tonight I ran into Google's Cheat Sheet, offering a bit of help on refining your searches.

The provider of this tidbit was by Paul Begley's TechLog, a good resource for admin types.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Supreme Court

Does anyone out there know a good online summary of US Supreme Court decisions and cases in their docket--for the layperson? I can find plenty of sites discussing the fine legal points and showing me the decision, but I'd like to get simple articles on what's being argued and decided. Then I can take the time to dig into more information if I really want.

In other news about the High Court, they recently decided to ban executions for minors. This article from the LA Times paints a picture of how the more liberal (and slim majority) stance is a good thing. In the heartland, we have this editorial declaring the Supreme Court is against democracy based upon the same decision.

Me, I'm just glad we are killing a few less people.

Consumption Tax

I was happy to hear that Alan Greenspan
the Federal Reserve chairman, cautiously endorsed a shift in the nation's tax system on Thursday from one that primarily taxes what people earn to one that taxes what they spend.
Not that I think Steve Forbes is right about everything, but I tend to agree with the concept of a tax on usage rather than earnings.

Author's note: A bit more research showed me Steve's proposal was primarily for a flat tax (17% on more than $13k), rather than a consumption tax, though the two plans are often tied together.

Help from on high

I have received word that Yahoo! Music, nee Launch, is going to start looking into the problems they have playing on Firefox. I cannot tell you how long it's going to take to fix the issues, but at least you can rest easy about it getting addressed.

Speaking of Firefox, has anyone seen good stats on it's market penetration? Does Google publish stuff like this, or Amazon? The stats from tech sites are not to be trusted; too many early adopters and too many Microsoft-haters skew the numbers.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

It's all about the choices you make

Today I was given directions to a bakery, but they were wrong. I was close and a quick call to Stein's Bakery let me know it was just a couple blocks over, but it got me to thinking...

Let's back up a few years; I've lost my wallet before. The last time I recall was during a cab ride to a job interview. I was running late because it was hard to find parking. I wasn't sure where the correct building was, and I really wanted to make a good impression. In my hustle and confusion I left the wallet in the cab, or it fell out of my pocket, or something.

I've also fallen and broken my arm. I was in the back of a pick-up truck, standing on a huge pile of pecan shells (used for garden mulch, it looks great) when I tried to jump off the tailgate. Now I had been warned the shells the were slippery, and I knew from standing up there, shoveling them into the waiting wheelbarrow that my footing wasn't great, but I tried to jump down anyway.

What's the point of these stories? It's to tell you I am not forgetful or a clutz. You see, while I have forgotten things, I refuse to define myself or be defined by others as careless and forgetful. Sure, I made a mistake and left or lost my wallet, but should that action define who I am? Similiarly, I have hurt myself, but that does not mean I have a severe lack of physical coordination. Rather, I made a foolish judgement and paid a price for it.

Who cares if you've been lost a couple times? Hasn't everyone? Maybe you do and maybe you don't have a bad sense of direction, but occassionally getting lost doesn't necessarily mean you need to be defined by it.

To me, we should be defined by our choices. More important to me than the lost wallet or broken arm was how I responded. I took responsibility for what I did, I didn't whine, I avoided blaming someone or something else. I tried to stay calm and I worked to replace or repair what went wrong. I tried not to make the same mistake in the future. If you're going to define me, use my actions after a mistake. See me when I'm working to fix a problem, optomistic of the future, and grateful because--despite all the mistakes I've ever made--I'm still blessed with more than most.

So, the person who gave me bad directions? She's not a bitch; she's not inconsiderate of my time and effort; she's not necessarily bad with directions. She's a human and sometimes she makes a mistake. Don't we all?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

HOW-TO: Gmail

Today we have a couple tidbits for those of you who want or use Gmail, the cool little online email service that could.

First, if you want a Gmail account, Isnoop has a gmail invite server. It's also a good place to send your extra invites if you have them.

Second, Engadget has how-to instructions for turning your Gmail account into a
personal file server, allowing easy access to your files from work/home/your friends house/etc. I've tested it, and it seems to work well. Please note, files need to be under 10Megs in size.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Albino Blacksheep

This one is for your fun and enjoyment, or at least amusement and time diversion. Albino Blacksheep, is a collection site of well-done games, skits, and songs. I've tried a handful and all have been work-safe, with the *notable exception* that you should be working instead of goofing off with this stuff.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The FED discusses Russia's economy

The local office of the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) puts out a bi-monthly bulletin (it's not big enough for me to call it a journal) and I was lucky enough to be given a hard copy. There are two things I found interesting. First, the article discussing Social Security and Medicare comes out with amazing timing, since it's at the same time President Bush is trying to sway the public opinion with his current push to change the system.

The other interesting item was an article discussing the massive improvements made in Russia's economy over the last decade. I think the following table conveys just how far they have come.
Russia Making Progress

Residential space per person
172 sq. ft.
217 sq. ft.
Percentage of housing with:

Running water

Hot water

Central heat
Percentage of people with:

Private-sector jobs

Television sets

VCRs and video cameras


Cell phones

Personal computers

Internet service (at home)

Passenger cars
Russian tourists traveling abroad
1.6 million
4.6 million
Listed domestic companies
As percentage of GDP:

Market capitalization of listed companies

Value of publicly traded stocks

Bank credit to private sector

On a personal level, this table remindeds me complaining is an unjustified personal indulgance. Despite Russia's monumental progress in just one decade, looking their current conditions illustrates how U.S. citizens have so very much more than the vast majority of the world's population. All of which makes me want to ask, "By what standard does anyone in this country have the to complain?"

Sure, we want more. Sure, we need to work on improving injustice wherever we find it. But come on, our cars are better equiped than most of their homes!