Friday, March 30, 2007

Simplicity

I've started a "SIMPLICITY" tag for this blog as well as a listing of Google Reader items down on the right side of these posts.

It's hard to be an observer of yourself, and so I don't claim to know how much of a trend this really is. I'm observing more people talking about simplicity, but does that really mean anything? Or am I just self-fulfilling my own assessment that people are talking more about simplicity?

But I suggest there are a few trends converging here. One is global warming. In the last year, and especially in the last few months, awareness has grown about this issue and awareness that excess consumption somehow is contributing. Two is the indication of a real estate meltdown. Anyone who has considered real estate investing has to have wondered if it's a bubble and how long it will last. I don't know if there's a meltdown happening and I also don't know what effect it will have on overall consumption. But it's got to have some impact. Simplicity and reducing consumption are not the same thing but they're inextricably linked. Three is our expanding recognition that health and wellness are goals on which we--not just our doctors--can have an impact, and that this doesn't only have to do with eating a balanced diet and getting exercise. It has to do with a mind set, an overall shift in our lifestyles that focusing on finding fulfillment, physical as well as spiritual. So again, physical consumption appears often to be at odds with spiritual consumption. And finally the war in Iraq. Although our President hasn't asked any of us to sacrifice (well, any of us who aren't associated with the military), really we are through increasing debt and decreasing security. And people are starting to realize this. Also, the black hole in which Americans and Iraqis find ourselves in Iraq, with no light in sight, has to be making people thinking more broadly, about mortality, our children's future, where this country is headed and less about the mundane and material.

Isn't that a strange convergence of disparate items? Global warming, too much debt (especially against our largest assets, our real estate), health and wellness, and the war in Iraq?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Nice write-up of our game

A nice write-up from Inkling about our game . . . though the blog that Jim and Diane do gets too narrowly characterized as "mostly about parasites and blimps". Still, you don't hear those two in a sentence very often, do you? Link.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

ConceptDraw


I've been given a copy of ConceptDraw Mindmap by the nice folks at ConceptDraw and will have a review up shortly. I'll be reviewing the Windows product but this software is cross-platform.

Bad presentation example

When doing an important presentation, good to check your facts:

In diplomatic contacts, Iran had provided Britain with an initial set of coordinates for the position of the boats that placed the incident in Iraqi waters.

“We pointed this out to them on Sunday in diplomatic contacts,” Vice Admiral Style said. “After we did this they then provided a second set of coordinates that places the incident in Iranian waters” over two nautical miles away from where they were said to be by Britain, he said.

“It is hard to understand a legitimate reason for this change of coordinates,” he said.

Link from NYT

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Al Gore + climate + Senate

Wonderful, wonderful live blog from Gristmill on Al Gore in front of the Senate.

Just a snippet:

Thomas: we can't trust weather reports. How can we trust climate projections. [Lordy.]
Gore: climate models, dude.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Highrise CRM by 37 Signals . . . no contact:contact

Damn. Highrise by 37Signals was just launched . . . and it doesn't do what I'd hoped. Someday someone has to figure out that key to keeping track of contacts is understanding the interrelationships between them--at least for how I work and how I think lots of people in today's world work. You have to be able to link between contacts, understand the history of how PersonX referred you to PersonY who referred you to PersonZ. Otherwise your contact database quickly becomes a disparate grouping of people. Sort of a private LinkedIn. Tell me different if I've missed something but I don't think 37Signals does this . . . so, those who get this are still just MarketCircle, GoldMine as far as I can tell. Damn.

I'm sure they're right about their product:
Your address book doesn't do enough. Traditional CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software tries to do too much. That's why we built Highrise. It's the just-right, more thoughtful way to keep track of the people,conversations, and tasks that are the lifelines of your business. (from their blog)
But still . . . damn. They're missing a key piece. It's not about the pieces (contacts), it's about the network (how the pieces relate). It's not just about the history of your company to your clients as HighRise tracks but also the relationships among those clients.

Possibilities

"Terrorists could infiltrate the world's car companies and manufacture large, fuel-inefficient vehicles like Hummers. Once America has gone all SUV, the resulting carbon emissions would contribute to polar melting and global warming, causing devastating hurricanes through the southwest, killing and displacing millions of Americans. Ban car companies now, or the terrorists have won."

Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing

Monday, March 19, 2007

Citizenre Solar

There was a piece this morning on NPR about Citizenre the solar company in Massachusetts that wants to take solar to the masses. The big picture sounds logical: the challenge with solar is that there's not enough volume and further that it requires a big upfront expenditure by homeowners. If a well financed company like Citizenre can take on that upfront expenditure and lease or rent the equipment to homeowners then both company and citizen can share in the upside with a locked in electricity rate through solar as other electricity rates soar over time. Sounds good. I was first alerted to this company a few weeks back by an old old friend who's signing up to be a seller Citizenre residential rental agreements. One thing that raised questions for me was when my friend said, "they have obtained loans of up to $650 million to build the manufacturing plant. They avoided venture capital due to the high cost."

I have no direct knowledge of Citizenre and I hope they're for real and I hope they get their financing and I hope they can fulfill their promises to consumers. But both the NPR piece and my friend's comment certainly raised questions. The NPR piece questioned whether they have actually raised the money and whether they will therefore be able to manufacture the product. The NPR piece quoted a company spokesperson as saying that they couldn't disclose information about financing and other plans at this time because it was proprietary and confidential. Perhaps . . . but combine that with the comment my friend reported and I start to wonder. Whenever anyone says essentially, "we couldn't get smart money and therefore we had to take dumb money" (because that's really what they're saying with their VC comment) you have to wonder . . . Of course, you don't raise VC money to build a new plant--that would be bank debt and other sorts of money but why can't you say who's financing you with such a large amount? That seems to me atypical. If anyone has knowledge that contradicts these slight suspicions, I'd love to hear it because I hope this thing can work. At very least, after the NPR piece, Citizenre needs to fire its PR agent and get a new one. Kristen?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Road bikes for those over 40

Two people yesterday asked me for bicycle recommendations. Beyond the obvious--which to me is to test out bikes at two or more independent bike shops upon their recommendations--here's a few thoughts on bikes for the casual but serious bike rider who's interested in road riding, perhaps some on dirt roads. Can't comment on mountain bikes. Your comments welcome. I don't make much in the way of claims to extensive bike knowledge but have a few observations that I don't see elsewhere.

First, if you're over 40 like me and haven't had a bike for a while, there's a new category of bike which my friend who knows orders of magnitude more than me on the subject calls "lawyer bikes". Classic in this category is the Serotta bike that John Kerry rides--expensive, beautiful, intended for serious riding and club racing, but with a frame geometry and set-up that provides forgiveness to an older body. Trek has a whole line of such bikes, their Pilot series.

Another category of road bikes to consider is cyclocross. These are road bike type frames adapted to the sport of cyclocross, where people zip around a grass and dirt track featuring lots of hills and obstacles. But they're also great all-around bikes, perfect for commuting and dirt roads. The bikes have typical downswept handlebars but take their cantilever brakes from mountain bikes and have forks wide enough for knobbier, wider tires than road bikes. Bianchi makes a line of these, which includes a wonderful steel framed all purpose bike called the Volpe that's been around for years. The Volpe is the bike I own. Another entry level bike (and by that I mean about $800) is the Surley Cross-Check.

People who are returning to biking and are over 40 are usually thinking about a hybrid bike. Hybrids are the result of a union of mountain and road bikes, often resulting in a poor compromise, especially at the lower end of the price spectrum. They can't do real trail and off-road work like a mountain bike and they're slow on the road. But if you choose well, you could be quite happy for bike trail activity and casual commuting. There's some cool city bike variants too, like this one from Specialized that features an internal 8 speed hub and a front light driven off the friction of the wheel.

Singlespeeds are probably not a good choice for someone returning to biking, but depending upon the terrain you ride it might be great. There's an upsurge in such bikes, a good way to channel your desire for a more simple life and also connect to bike messenger culture! Here's a missive on singlespeeds from a crazy bike guy who owns a shop to visit if you live in Boston.

If you really want to return to your youth, you can buy a bike from the wonderful obsessives at Rivendell who created a mini-cult following for those who believe that bike technology reached a plateau sometime before index shifting. (For those who don't know, index-shifting is a technology now found on essentially every bike but Rivendells that let's you shift with discrete click stops between gears instead of feeling your way through the gears via a friction gear shifting system.) I'd buy a Rivendell if I could, especially with their psychedelic SpeedBlend tires.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Bombing the books

This is especially sad, if any one bombing can somehow be sadder than the one that preceded it . . .

A suicide bomber detonated a car full of explosives in the historic booksellers’ district of Baghdad today, killing at least 20 people and injuring 65 others, police officials said.