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February 27, 2004

The apartment swindle?

Yahoo! News - "Apprentice" Veers from Reality This article claims that the winning team in the apartment contest actually rented to someone who was a plant. She had already been promised the apartment by the manager at a lower price and only agreed to the higher price to get on TV. And in the end will pay the lower price. So which team really won? Well the ploy succeeded in getting Tammy fired which is a good thing!

Posted by Martin at 2:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Apprentice Episode 8: Ereka explodes...

Right up front I will admit to being a little bummed. Omarosa is still there. The way the game is set up, a poor performer can sit around on a good team and if the team wins, there is no fear of being fired. I guess the numbers will always get to you though. This week Omarosa was STILL complaining about her head hurting. The other team members nearly laughed in her face at her faux drama. In addition to continuing the whining, Omarosa was a terrible sales person. She constantly undercut Amy's attempts to sell large quantities. When the prospect made an objection, Omarosa went straight to the bottom with "how bout just a couple of cases today". One case is $8. It doesn't even pay for the time to sit there. Amy got so annoyed she started kicking Omarosa under the table during meetings. That went over well.

So Trump says he wants to get into the water business. He believes his "brand" will transcend. Now I don't know what his mug does to make me want to drink the water, in fact I don't equate Manhattan with great water. His mug with the signature swooping hairdo is front and center on every bottle of "Trump Ice". The teams were Ereka against Heidi. Both teams did something I thought was stupid. They took multiple people on sales calls and they went primarily to retail locations. The task was to sell as many pallets of the damn stuff as possible. Hadn't anyone heard of distributors? I would have spent all my time there. And I would have sent one person on each sales call. You could make five sales calls instead of two. I also would have spent more time on the numbers, like Bill did. The first sales meeting with Ereka and Bill at a retail restaurant, Ereka's pitch was "we are trying to create a buzz" around the water. She was still trying the "smile and wear a short skirt" mode of selling that served her so well in the lemonade challenge. But this is selling to businesses who aren't really brand loyal and just want to make money. On the next sales call Bill pointed out that he could provide Trump Ice at half the wholesale price of their current water. Of course he got the deal. When it came time to add up the paperwork and present it for accounting, Ereka lost it and was totally frazelled. She stuttered and shook with fear that things weren't in order. Basically letting her emotions get the better of her.

Over on the other team, Troy was the "closer" and had two great insights. First, sell to distributors. He sold one five pallets. I was trying to figure out if that is a truckload, but it doesn't matter, it was the largest sale by far. His second insight was that you could write a PO for X number of cases per week for X weeks and you could effectively multiply your orders. It worked in a couple of accounts. Of course Troy and Heidi out-sold the retail focused Ereka by 50%.

So comes the boardroom. The team politics got hot and heavy. For some reason team leaders who loose have gotten it into their heads that they need to tell the people who they will be taking to the Boardroom before it happens. I don't think this is a good idea. It reflects the leader's desire to be liked more than their intelligent decision making powers. Leaders who are driven by a desire to be liked will always fail. So Ereka takes Nick and Bill. Nick was supposed to be such a great sales person and he totally choked. He didn't know his customer and didn't sell much. Ereka said she was taking Bill only because he was there when they lost the distributor order. She let Katrina off because she "didn't step up", but it looked like she was letting her off because she was a friend. Of course Katrina said glowing things about Ereka to re-enforce the feeling. I predicted from the start that Ereka would get fired because she was a bad sales person (relying on sex to sell) and she lost it under pressure. It was between Nick and Ereka, it was obvious that Bill shouldn't be there. Nick got feisty and didn't really do himself any favors, but in the end Ereka was much more at fault. Good riddance. I hope next week either Nick or Omarosa go.

My bets are on Troy, Amy and Bill to be finalists.

Posted by Martin at 12:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 24, 2004

Another tactic for SPAM, a "caller ID"

Internet Magazine - Microsoft/Sendmail deal. Spam is fundamentally an authentication problem. Who is sending the mail? Is it someone I want to receive stuff from? Are they who they say they are? Do I have a prior relationship with them? Today many spammers forge header details to hide their true origin. Today at RSA Microsoft introduced a plug-in to Sendmail's MTA that is basically an authentication signature. It lets the MTA verify the message source. There will be free and commercial versions of this. Something only Microsoft could push. Little steps. I wonder what has to happen on the publisher side? That hasn't been explained yet. Something too expensive on the sender side is not going to work.

Posted by Martin at 2:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Apprentice Episode 7: Tammy's turmoil

Behind again somewhat. It is in large part because I was totally let down by the show last week. The producers are getting very good at the trailers. The week before all you heard from The Donald was "this was the toughest one yet". So of course you want to watch. What is going to be so hard? To cut to the chase, Tammy is fired and she was the obvious choice from the beginning of the show. I mean Episode 1 show. I have threatened Alex to apply for the show just to redeem Seattle and Venture Capitalist. Those two categories fielded two of the weakest contestants on the whole show. Tammy was shielded in the comfortable womb of the all Women's team for four episodes where her ineptitude, bumbling, and general incompetence was overshadowed by the efforts of the other superior players. David the VC was outed on the first episode as a cerebral academic with little experience in reality. Well I have a little over a week to put together my video for next year's show...

Last week Heidi and Omarosa got into it. The other participants feel for and support Heidi and know Omarosa for what she is: A cold hearted killer. This week the teams had to re-balance by one and Omarosa's team took Amy over to Protege. It was a good call as I think Amy has a future. So the teams lead by Katrina and Troy were given the task of choosing between two apartments in need of restoration and renting. The one who got the greatest uplift in rent was the winner. At the outset I thought Katrina had the upper hand because she is a real-estate professional. But Troy proved more tricky than a country fox. Troy ended up with the better apartment, the one with more potential. The result of the test was set from there. A bit unfair if you ask me.

Katrina actually showed the first signs of something that has been sorely so far: the ability to delegate and manage people. Not just your team, but other resources. So far the teams have been treating this like Survivor where the only people who are available for the tasks are those on your team. Does Donald really want a President of one of his companies to be moping the kitchen, painting the walls, and doing all the work themselves? Katrina got a general contractor to come over and do the bulk of the work very quickly and cheaply. The first use of leverage that I have seen. Unfortunately it was not enough as their apartment had a higher starting rent and therefor a lower percentage uplift was possible. The potential for uplift was also artificially limited by the short marketing time available. Basically one day. The teams had three days to do work and rent the apartment. In real life you would have done more marketing and hopefully seen more tenants before renting.

Omarosa was whining the whole time about being hit on the head by a piece of drywall and used it as an excuse to not do any work. Tammy spent her time randomizing the contractor and distracting the team from their work. I want both of them to go. Tammy is gone, let's hope Omarosa is next.

Posted by Martin at 7:53 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Mark Cuban the TV host

Wow, once a media junkie, always a media junkie. Yahoo! News - Mavericks Owner to Become Reality TV Host
Mark Cuban, who I knew "before" is a very smart operator. He is very good at generating publicity and turning that into money. And more money. This will not be any "win Bill Stein's money". This is $1M. And you can bet mark will make more than that off the HD rights and his ABC contract. Go get 'em Mark!

Posted by Martin at 7:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Now this is hubris..

Pepsi World - Leaving Pepsi World. When you are on the Pepsi site and click away to a partner, they warn you. Oh, the dangers of being outside the Pepsi womb. I am all a flutter...

Posted by Martin at 7:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Napster sells 5 Million songs - according to them

Napster Sells 5 Million Downloads. I hoep they are right. The PC market is WAY bigger than the apple iTunes market. The absolute numbers of iTunes downloads is miniscule in the scheme of things. Now they have moved the bar by offering concerts for sale. But in the end all those and moer will be available on other retailers. I hope Napster is really doing these kinds of numbers. I woule expect to see a Pepsi like promotion with another retailer like Napster. Can anyone say Coke?

Posted by Martin at 7:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Microsoft's consumer electronics aspirations

A decent article laying out microsoft's aspirations in the Consumer Electronics space. Electronics companies play defense against Microsoft The problem with the analysis is that is says all the oposition is from entrenched vertically integrated consumer electronics companies not wanting to adopt MS's architecture. The problem is that the MS horizonital architecture is fundamentally a superior way to deliver a rich, value priced mass market experience. The PC industry hardware guys are working on single digit margins. The CE guys are working on double digit (high double digit) margins. For the PC hardware guys, anything is an improvement, so they will drive relentlessly into the CE market. And the fundamentals of the PC economics are just WAY better than proprietary CE. In the end, Sony may end up like Apple. A nice little niche player for stalwort true believers. The rest of us will pick the cheaper more rhobust platform. The CE guys are used to delivering single funciton devices that are highly reliable. The PC guys will deliver multifunction devices that have some bugs, but in the end are more valuable due to their multi-funciton and field upgradability.

Posted by Martin at 7:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another old idea made new

The year is 1998. I am the CEO of Encoding.com. People are coming out of the woodwork to try to monitize their audio archives on the internet. I am talking to Robert Fripp of King Crimson fame. He wants to "monitize his live archives." He is in town talking to other bands. Notably Pearl Jam who have a DAT tape of every concert they ever did. The label doesn't want to put out that many live albums. What is a band to do? Fripp ended up starting a .com that failed miserably. Now iTunes is trying to make this idea new: Widespread Panic I guess in time, all ideas have their time.

Posted by Martin at 7:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 23, 2004

Biker Dreams now available on Amazon

Way back in 1996 Alex and I were part of a Harley Davidson documentary called Biker Dreams. Amazon.com: DVD: Biker Dreams (1997) It was released in 1997. That year I heard that it was available on Amazon. I went there and ordered five VHS copies and told my mother to as well. When Biker Dreams, the 1970s porno showed up I was quite surprised. I mailed Jeff with warnings about bad database linkages. Well all that seems to be behind us now as the DVD is out and apparently Amazon is now shipping the right SKU. Have fun!

Posted by Martin at 3:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 19, 2004

My Rss Reader

Ok, so I hate to pay for an RSS Reader at this point in the technology. It is not clear to me what the value added over parsing a standard XML feed is. I gotta try a bunch to figure out if there is anything worth paying for. I did not install NewsGator because it was only a trial that required payment soon. I prefer a totally free thing now. So I moved on to RSSReader. Installed without a hitch. It was a bit tricky figuring out what URL to point it at. After a couple trips to the Movable Type support site, I figured out that the standard is point to your index.rdf file. It would be nice if the reader just figured that out for you. Tell it which blogging tool you are using and it can figure out where the standard stuff should be. I have been using it for a couple days and it seems fine. Things I would like:

- A unified view of all new posts. Not have to navigate by blog through posts.
- Easier hook-up to blogs
- A search box that searches the entier blogsphere.
- Read in OUtlook
- have on-line clientless access

I guess NewsGator does much of the above. I guess that is what you get when you pay for something. I will try that one next.

Posted by Martin at 2:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 18, 2004

Useful review of RSS readers.

RSS Readers (RSS Info)
I tried to install their #1 pick, SharpReader and got an error. I am moving on to another. I have used Radio UserLand before, but I will try NewsGator this time. Hope it doesn't come with too much spyware.

Posted by Martin at 10:10 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

How to implement RSS feeds on your site

I have been thinking about adding RSS feeds to my site and found this very useful! Learning Movable Type: Displaying an RSS Newsfeed on Your Site

Posted by Martin at 10:03 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Loudeye still on a roll

Loudeye Press Release
Loudeye raised $20 million more. I wonder how private digital media companies hope to compete with Loudeye already public with lots of money in the coffers? Jeff Cavins is doing a great job there!

Posted by Martin at 9:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2004

International groups join in on SPAM policies

Governing bodies love to have things to govern. When their traditional rhelm's seem to be a little boring or un-eventful, they like to "expand their horizons" to take in the issue dejour. Spam is one of those things everyone wants a hand in "solving". vnunet.com OECD tackles global spam
Hey, we can't get the states in America to agree on policies. We passed a Federal law which has done nothing. Do you really expect an International effort to do anything? One interesting tidbit is that France thinks only 0.2 percent of their e-mail is SPAM. This is from people who eat duck liver. And to the French, those ads offering body part enlargement and beastiality pictures are valid commercial products. Oh, and probably "art" too.

Posted by Martin at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dave Weiner points out the real threat behind Dean

As my readers know, I am a Republican. But I am also a tech geek. To see a Democrat use technology better than a Republican has galled (corrected from gaul - a Frenchman - as pointed out by a fine comment!) me. They are calling Dean the "Internet" Candidate. Now what does that mean? Dave Weiner lays it out in: DaveNet : Howard Dean is not a soap bar. His premise is that most candidates today are marketed like products. Packaged and delivered by TV media moguls. Then along comes Dean. A real person. Warts and all. Goes direct. Direct to the people. Doesn't pay the big media tax to TV stations. Now that is scary to the news media. What would they do if the politicians could just go directly to the people with their message? So Weiner supposes the media ganged up on Dean and that is in part why he lost. Intriguing idea. Not totally accurate, but intriguing. They certainly helped spread the "I have a Scream" thing. I think that when people saw that, it re-inforced their ultimate fears: That Dean was a loose canon. I knew he was, but was hoping he would get the nomination before he blew himself up. That would have made it much easier for Bush. Who will win.

Posted by Martin at 11:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Design tools for life sciences

Teranode Corporation launches at Demo 2004 One of our investments just made a public launch of their electronic design tools at Demo 2004. The principal is that just like the silicon chip business and architecture business progressed to models that were too complex for the old analog design methods, the life sciences industry will eventually have to migrate as well. Terranode's VLX design suite is the first shot over this bow. More to come.

Posted by Martin at 11:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pure play music companies are hozed

Can pure play music download companies make money?No. The itunes of the world sell hardware. Real has software and other subscription services. I have long said that consumers don't want to add billing relationships to their world. They want to consolidate the number of bills they pay and places they buy from. That is why it is always better to be in the infrastructure business. Like Loudeye.

Posted by Martin at 11:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dell's Linux Blog

Dell - Dell Linux - What's New Dell is getting serious about Linux. And in their traditional way, are providing alot of value added.

Posted by Martin at 11:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Free Conference calling

Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools newsletter pointed me to this service FreeConference.com:

I had never really realized that what a conference calling company is selling is actually two things. One a conference bridge (very expensive traditionally). Second is multiple toll free lines. Now if you assume very cheap or free (due to flat rate plans) long distance, and you can do the conference bridge in IP on a server, could you deliver conference calling free? Yes. Just unbundle the two. Each participant pays their own longdistance. The bridge is now a server. Reservations are on the web, no operators. Volia! Free conference calling.

Free teleconference service

A great dial-in teleconferencing solution for free. You just set up your call as little as 90 minutes in advance and distribute the call-in number to the folks calling. The organizer pays nothing, and participants pay only their usual long distance, which should be extremely cheap (particularly with the new flat-rate plans). The voice quality has always been excellent. In six months of use this teleconference service has never failed me one iota. I skip the bells and whistle services they offer. Since they don't charge anything on your phone bill, or take your credit card number for their free service, they hope to make money on premium services, or maybe by selling ads in the future.

Anyway you can't go wrong with this one.

-- Thomas Petzinger

[I've used this service and it is excellent. In fact is the clearest teleconferencing I've taken part in. -- KK]


Posted by Martin at 10:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 16, 2004

Spam Zombies...

SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Technology -- A new spam loophole: poorly guarded home computers This article talks about a guy who's machine was turned into a Zombie. Alex's computer had this EIGHT TIMES! Even with a firewall and a virus program. These guys are getting slick..

Posted by Martin at 4:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New Openwave product fights spam at the edge

Silicon Valley Biz Ink :: The voice of the valley economy. This is a new Openwave product to fight spam and viruses at the edge. Our company Cloudmark has a deal with Openwave to imbed their technology, I need to confirm if it is in here.

Posted by Martin at 4:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

External Hard-drive case installation

So I had these three WD 200GB IDE ATA 133 hard drives that I bought on Ebay for a song. I had them installed in an old desktop case running as RAID0 doing back-up for my LAN. But the old case took a digger (the fan and CPU) and fried one of the drives (the one with the OS on it of course). So I have two left and no case to put them in. So I figured to get an external case and just plug it into the USB port. It was amazingly complex. There are different drive heights, some cases support only ATA 66, not 133, some only support drives up to 80gb, some are USB 1.1 only. Now with USB 1.1 being 1mb/sec transfer and 2.0 standard 12mb/sec and USB 2.0 Hi-Speed being 440mb/sec (see all the details here) (thanks rich). After allot of searching and emailing different vendors, I settled on the Bytecc (korea) ME-720 series that "supports up to 300gb drives". $38.99 from Extreme PC Gear. Now I could have bought a pre-assembled one, external case, hard-drive and all for about $200 at Ebay, but what fun would that be?

The folks at XPCGear were nice about pointing me to the right case and shipping on-time. The fun started when I got the cases and opened the box. Try to go to the ByTecc web site. First IE asks if you want to download the Korean fonts. They don't have an English language site. No manufacturer support. The "user manual" was obviously written by someone for whom english was a second language. But all the parts were there, and I figured myself to be handy, so I started in. I started by screwing on the mounting brackets to the drive. A procedure for which the user manual doesn't spare even one page. I guess they assume you are smart enough to figure that out yourself. First problem was that in the little baggie were two different kinds of screws that were not readily obvious (nor noted in the instructions). Course thread and fine thread. nary the two shall mix. After trying to screw on a mounting bracket with a fine grain thread, I figured out that the course grain ones were for screwing things into the drive itself. The fine ones were for screwing the mounting bracket to the base of the enclosure. The factory supplied screws were flat heads and they bottomed out in the drive holes before securing the mounting brackets. So I dug up some countersunk head coarse thread screws from another mounting bracket and used those. The beveled heads did a good job of keeping the mounting bracket in place.

Having the mounting bracket on, next was plug in the drive to the case. This was straight forward since there were only two plugs, one power and one IDE of very different configuration so you couldn't confuse them. One silly thing was that the power plug came from the factory upside down from the way you mount the drive, so you have to twist the cable to get it to fit. An annoyance, but not terribly. The mounting bracket fit snugly into the enclosure base. Two more FINE thread screws later the hard disk was secured to the case. I then plugged in the power and USB cable just to see the thing power up. There is a handy power switch on the back. The drive spun and the light flicked green/red/green. All systems go. So I figured to put the rest of the case together before plugging in the drive to my computer. As I was doing it I thought it might be stupid in case there was some problem I had to get to the drive, but I was on a mission. The top half fit fine with the bottom. Then you clip on these two rails on the sides to hold them together. A front face-plate is held in place by the two side rails as well. I put mine on upside-down (with the air vents on the wrong side) but only because I wasn't looking at the picture. Not sure it really matters.

So with the drive in the case and everything assembled, I plugged in the running drive to my USB port on my IBM X20 laptop running Windows XP in it's basestation. I plugged it into a USB port on the laptop, not the base station. There are two USB ports on the base station. In one I have the Microsoft BlueTooth keyboard adaptor plugged in. In the other, I had an external CDrom. Initially when I plugged in the external hard-drive, nothing happened. I mean nothing. No "new hardware found" message from Windows. Curious I thought. I had to go upstairs and get a coffee to think this one over. During the pouring I remembered a similar situation last year trying to plug in lots of USB devices. In the end of that debacle, I figured out that when the laptop is in its docking station, it thinks the one in the laptop and one on the back of the base station are one in the same, so it only recognizes one or the other, but not both. So I unplugged the external harddrive AND the external CDROM. Then I plugged in the external harddrive into the laptop USB port (now the base station had one free port). Windows complained about a Hi-Speed USB device in a non-Hi-Speed port, but went ahead. I don't know if that means my external device is USB 2.0 Hi-Speed and the port is USB 2.0 normal or the port is USB 1.1. I haven't tested the access speed yet. Anyway getting ahead of myself. So Windows says "new hardware found" and identifies it as "USB MASS STORAGE DEVICE" as the user manual said it would (in it's one page Windows XP installation guide). God forbid I was running 98 or ME where you actually have to install drivers from the CDROM.

OK, peachy I say. The user manual says the drive will just automatically show up in "my Computer". I go to "My Computer". I have my good old faithful "C:" and nutt'n else. Hummm. In these waters the "user manual" was totally useless. I put my coffee on it. I put my glass of water on the CD of drivers. Now I couldn't remember if this drive that I was using had previously been formatted, or was fresh out of the box. I go poking around "troubleshooting" in Windows. Yes the device manager says the device is working. Driver is up to date. Through no fault of the "troubleshooting" guides nor the user manual, I remember something about Administrative Tools under the Control Panel. Where you go for defragmentation and all that stuff. Computer Management looks like the right one, so off I go. Again there is Device Manager. And my friend Disk Defragmentor. Disk Management looks promising, so down goes the mouse click. Now in this view, I see my "C:" drive on "drive0" and on "drive1" is something, but no partitions or anything. I guess this is the one which was never installed. A few more random clicks (ending in a right click) figures out how to initialize the drive. After that, it shows up as 186.4GB of unformatted storage. Now the WD site explains why a drive sold as 200GB actually only has 186.4GB of usable space, so I won't go into it here. Actually it is a small miracle that the full drive is available as there are plenty of warnings on the WD box about Windows not seeing more than 133GB of drive and how special drivers are required. No such problem here. Just gotta format it. So I set it off to format NTFS. The Format wants to assign the drive "D:" but I know my external CDROM is that, so I give it "H:".

Format goes fine. I drag and drop some files. They copy there and are fine. I don't check the speed, but it seems slow, so I think it is running at USB 1.1 speed. Gotta figure out that later. For now, the current task is done. I like the drive case and installation of the second one went WAY faster. That hard disk had already been formatted, so all I had to do was install it in the case and plug it into the USB port. It showed up as drive H: right away.

I would recommend these drive cases but only for those who like to tinker. I should have taken Johnlu's advice about not going cheap. The case is not cheap, it works fine, but the installation stuff is not designed very well. You have to tinker. Maybe a more main-stream vendor would have a better set of instructions. But I like to tinker so these enclosures are fine. I may even get some more!

Posted by Martin at 12:20 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

on-line entrepreneur test

One of the hardest things in the VC business is figuring out your team. Are these guys really motivated and organized to do a start-up? This Small Business Entrepreneur Profiler uses some Jung techniques to figure out if your personality is suitable to being an Entrepreneur. There are certainly telling clues. You need to have a high degree of tolerance for ambiguity. Not be overly structured. Innovative. Willing to delegate, but also willing to lead strongly. A very complex soup of stuff. This test does a passable job of giving a top level view.

Posted by Martin at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 13, 2004

The Apprentice: Episode 6: Omarosa's revenge

Ok, so I am going to try to get these up quicker. Last night, to no-one's surprise, Omarosa was elected project leader. She knew she would be forced into it, so she tried to make a gallant stab at it and "volunteered". I believe her team was trying to "Sam" her. She is a total power bitch and knows it. Smart enough to know when it is time to put up though. So Omarosa takes the reigns of Protege Corp. Over at VersaCorp, Bill "Cigar of the Month" Rancic got the call. Basically he was one of two who had not been the lead yet, so I guess they rock/paper/scissored for it (they didn't give us the details).

The task was a new and different one. Solicit personal experiential donations from NYC celebrities for a charity auction to benefit children's cancer research. The auction was in two days and the ten (five each) celebrities were already lined up. This task was a little wimpy because the celebrities already knew they were going to give something. The Donster had already signed them up. They do things like this all the time. The eager beavers just had to show up and ask. VersaCorp, led by Bill, would work with Regis Philbin (of "Live with Regis and Kelly"), Rocco DiSpirito (of NBC's "The Restaurant" fame), Carson Daly ("Last Call with Carson Daly"), Tiki Barber (NY Giants) and Ed Bernero (An Executive Producer of "Third Watch"). While Protégé, with Omarosa at the helm, would work with Russell Simmons (Hip Hop producer; co-founder of Baby Phat), Kate White (Editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine), Nicole Miller (Fashion Designer), The Fab Five (the entire cast of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy") and Isaac Mizrahi (Fashion Designer).

Now this is a task that I know something about being on the board of the Pike Place Market Foundation and having to solicit donations for that organization. The hardest part is getting people to donate any time at all. So the Donster had already done the very hard part. I guess this is the only way it could have gone with such a short timeframe and having all these young'uns from out of town and all. Since the celebs do this kind of thing allot, they have a standard "package" that they usually give. No-one on the teams seemed to grasp this. In addition, no-one on the teams bothered to talk to any customers! Imagine that! What do people actually like to BUY at these celebrity auctions? Even talking to the auctioneer. Or the charity organization that was putting on the event. "What sells well?" seems to me like an obvious question. Say a celeb has two or three standard things they do for this kind of event, why not get the one that tends to sell for the most? The children could have even asked the celebs themselves. But narry a word about any of that. A critical flaw that as the Donster I would have berated both teams for. Simply going to these people and suggesting stuff is no way to maximize the package. These guys had ZERO market knowledge.

So Omarosa organizes the troupes and heads out to ask for stuff. She makes the mistake (in my mind) of taking everyone to every meeting. Better to divide and conquer like Bill's team did. Less imposing for the peeps. Omarosa had a reasonable strategy of having a lead and a follow for each ask. But she had no understand of what to ask for or how to pair her team up with a celeb, so there were horrible miss-matches. Omarosa didn't even figure out how to say Isaac Mizrahi's name until AFTER she met him. Most asks were uneventful with the exception of Isaac Mizrahi where Jessie totally botched it. She talked slow like he was a child. He commented on it and she kept doing it. She oversimplified it. He hated her ideas and asked for others. The other team members had to pitch in to get anything. Troy came through with another "good ole boy" trick which was surprising in it's ingenuity and cleverness. They were on the way to see the "Fab 5" from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. So Troy is wearing a suit and takes off his belt. He knows this is going to set the gays off and he is right. They hone right in on it (so to speak). This breaks the ice as does his country drawl and they go googo. Put together a very cool event (probably a first for them).

The excitement during the asks was over at VersaCorp where Bill did a great job of leading the team, but Tammy from Seattle kept embarrassing everyone from here. She was on some other planet. Not only was she not on the same page as her team, she was on another planet. She kept asking for totally out of this world things. All her team could do was panic every time she opened her mouth. She asked Carson Daily for a round of golf with Tiger Woods. He was visibility insulted. What about ME? He asked for other ideas and Tammy came back to the golf three times! With Regis she suggested flying a group to the bahamas or something. Three days! These people were down for a day in the city at most! Easiest is a tag-along with what they are already doing. Next is maybe a dinner or something. Tammy was embarrassing. On the cab back and for awhile in the apartment, it seemed like there might be a love connection between Nick and Amy. That is bound to start up sometime.

At the auction, the prices which things went for were not really a reflexion of the team's ability to negotiate things from the celebs. It was more a reflection of how much the people had to drink. This dis-connect in performance was overlooked though. Both teams together raised $75K which is a respectable sum. But Bill's team got $40k while Omarosa was left behind with $35K.

So Omarosa was back in the board room. She did the indecent thing of telling Jessie that she would be there as well the night before. Telling her what a bad negotiator she was. I was convinced that Jessie would be fired. She has no back-bone. The Donster doesn't like people who don't defend themselves and I knew Omarosa would walk over her. And then she choose Heidi to go there as well. Two power bitches against the "why can't we all get along" mouse woman. It was no contest. Omarosa was very condescending and even RUDE to the others. Heidi put up some fight but kept saying "I like Omarosa". Jessie hardly raised her pulse above sleeping. Trump tried and tried to get her to defend herself. She wouldn't. He didn't like Omarosa's treatment of the others, but he disliked weakness more. Bye bye Jessie. It is getting down to the hard core bitches now. Going to be fun from here...

Posted by Martin at 2:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Apprentice: Episode 5: remix

A week behind on my Apprentice reviews. I guess because Episode 5 was so unremarkable.

This week, with the men down to 4 guys left, Donald had to do a "corporate restart" and rejigger the teams. Nick got the lead and picked a team. Nick had been shamed into being team leader for basically bailing on the team during the last task and acting like he was above it all. Donster basically told him to put up or shut up. Kristi, the blonde from Santa Monica took the helm of the other team. Nick did a good job of picking strong people. Kristi picked the weakest people but the "nicer" people. Basically her friends. It was an early sign of trouble. Funny because for all the previous episodes, Alex and I had noticed how often the producers would interview her. We speculated that she would be a finalist. The restaurant business is hard and very crazy day to day. How wrong we would be...

So the task was to set up a stand at the flea market and sell something. The company with the largest sales over expenses would win. They were given $1,000 seed money. The trouble started for Kristi's team right away. They went to China town and looked at the junk stores for cheap stuff that they could sell at a markup. But don't they know that anyone from NYC would know the stuff was cheaper in chinatown? They basically picked up a bunch of stuff retail at a store and tried to sell it at a fleamarket for a markup. There was no value added to the product other than location. Stupid idea. Kristi wanted consensus on the product, pricing, and every aspect of the location, etc. It was clear from the start of the day that she was paralysed by fear. At times during the selling day she just sat there staring straight ahead not able to talk. She totally bonked. They were inside and all the foot traffic was outside. Few people were buying the overly marked up trinkets. They ended the day with lots of inventory and their display fixtures.

Nick actually stepped up to the plate very well. He went with Ereka's (hottie) idea to make tee-shirts and other custom created clothing. Just tie ribbon on them in interesting patterns. Nothing too complicated to manufacture (they had one day), but unique. High value add. The team also was very parsimonious on their setup. They picked an outside location. Which when it rained in the morning looked bad, but in the afternoon when it cleared up and all the people were outside, it proved the right decision. So people bought. It was a unique product that you obviously couldn't get anywhere else. The price was reasonable. But Nick did the SMARTEST thing with half an hour to go. He basically said "EVERYTHING GOES" at any price. All product, all display materials, everything for any price. He didn't want to have any work in progress inventory at the end of the day. Better to have cash on the balance sheet than inventory which doesn't count against the goal. This was the difference in strategy. And put them over the top.

Of course Kristi went to the boardroom. She took Heidi because she had a bad attitude. I forgot who the other was, I believe Omarosa. Omarosa also had a bad attitude all day. In the boardroom Heidi and Omarosa were very staunch in their defense of their actions. Kristi just sat there and took all the responsibility for everything. Put up no defense. She was a total wimp. Trump even tried to get her to defend herself but she wouldn't. She was on the verge of crying the whole time. Trump fired here. He was surprised because she had done such a good job as a team player up to that point. But when put in leadership, she was a deer in the headlights. Did nothing. I called it and the Donster did it. Whew, finally got one right.

Posted by Martin at 1:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 8, 2004


So I FINALLY got an invitation to Orkut.com, the ultra hip and exclusive new social networking service from Google. I guess I am still in the first couple hundred thousand so I should be happy, but for some reason it was burning me a little to be a member of all the others and not this one yet. Scarcity makes the heart grow fonder. It always works. Google shows it's marketing prowess.

But then they stumble terribly. The Register reports on the Privacy Policy of Orkut. It is earilly familar to the doomed Passport policy that basically granted Microsoft all rights to everything you ever did with the service. Check out Orkut's...

"By submitting, posting or displaying any Materials on or through the orkut.com service, you automatically grant to us a worldwide, non-exclusive, sublicenseable, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right to copy, distribute, create derivative works of, publicly perform and display such Materials."

Will this be Google's Waterloo? Or more likely Google's "I have a Scream" speech ala Howard Dean? A little shine is going off the penny. The loyal hoards will have to finally admit that Google is just like every other web marketer. They are trying to make money off your surfing. Any way they can.

Posted by Martin at 7:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 4, 2004

The Apprentice: Episode 4: Waterloo for the Men

After the women won the last challenge, Donald said "I am beginning to wonder if I will ever hire a man again?" The Women have just taken it to the poor, disorganized men. But last week they had Sam as a liability and this week they don't. So the elect Kwame as team leader. Now some people wanted Nick, but he was a crafty bastard and got Kwame to take the job by suggesting him first and in a very positive light. Nick made the astute observation that two of the last three firings were team leaders and he wanted to get rid of Kwame. This is starting to sound like Survivor!

So the task is to manage Planet Hollywood in Times Square for a night. Again men against women. The team that gets the largest percentage improvement on the daily top line gross as compared to the same day the year before wins. At the outset again I pick the women. It is simple, they just need to unbutton their shirts and sell booze, the highest margin deal in the place. That turns out to be exactly what they do! They work it. They come to this realization about half way through the night after trying $5 off coupons and prowling the line for half price theatre tickets, but people receive so much of that crap in Times Square that none of it works. So they fall back to sex which has worked well for them in the past. In fact they start drinking with patrons. And the REAL manager sees the girls drinking on the job and tries to say something about that not being up to "planet hollywood standards" but hell, the money is flowing in!

The men have half the team members and again start off trying to do all the work themselves. I am totally surprised that none of the teams have figured out the basic idea of management called delegation. What about management leverage? Where does it say that only your team can work? Why not hire people? Or you in fact have a complete staff or the restaurant. Why not leverage them with management skills? Donald wants a President of his company out of this, not a waiter or a shooter girl! I get a glimmer that the men may be on the right track when they institute an hourly incentive program for the wait staff. But they don't go far enough. The goal is only top line. Old Don didn't say nutt'n about bottom line. So I personally would have gone hog wild on expenses to blow out the top line. Alex and I agree that a free food buffet with drink specials would have been the ticket. After a long day and the first part of the night, the men realize they aren't getting people in the door. Nick ckecks out and looks bored. He complains openly. Troy has the idea that Kwame should sit at a table and sign autographs. Not that Kwame is famous, but people are stupid. And they are. LOTS of people line up when they have no frigg'n idea who Kwame is. Bowie is in charge of merchandise, but doesn't sell much. Finally he resorts to interrupting people during dinner. Now where would you spend your money for a dinner interruption? A chick with cleavage who will do a shot with you? Or a chubby guy with a southern accent and a $20 Polaroid? You get the picture.

Of course the men loose. They make something like 4% more than last year, but the women are more than 30%. They are off to play golf. While there Don and the mega bitch manager take them to the woodshed a little for relying too much on sex to sell. Some women are pissed that "Donald has a problem with me being beautiful". They are missing the point. You need beauty AND brains. So far they have not shown much brains beyond their breasts.

So the men go to the board room. Kwame as team leader and he brings Nick for being a slacker and Bowie for not making merchandise sales. Kwame did a passable job as team leader with a plan and a good understanding of where they screwed up (not selling enough booze and merchandise). Nick whines about how he didn't like the plan and would have done better and how he just didn't want to put his name on the lame efforts. Bowie just says "awe shucks". Bowie gets fired. Not so much for doing anything totally wrong, but for not being special in any way at all. He is a happy go lucky guy who is just happy to be there. That is not enough. You gotta have guts and got to make some hard decisions. Don says he wants to see Nick be team leader next week. I would have picked Nick to go this week. But again, Donald shows that he is a bit of a cowboy and likes to give big talkers the chance to put up or shut up.

I called the fact that Don would have to re-order the teams and the promo calls for a "corporate reshuffling". It should get more interesting now.

Posted by Martin at 11:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Apprentice: Episode 3: Sam finally gets it

I wrote a much longer and more insightful review of this episode, but it seems that my blog posting software ate it or something, so I will just say the obvious: ABOUT TIME! In Episode 3 the men elect Sam to be the leader knowing that he would screw it up. And he does. The task was to negotiate the best price for a list of items to be bought in one day. He runs the guys around town on wild goose chases to purchase items. The women handilly beat the men by rightly targeting the two items on the list that had the most margin, the Calway golf club and the leg waxing. Finally

Posted by Martin at 10:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Here is a gadget you can make in a weekend...

PCTHiker.com: Pepsi-G Stove Assembly Instructions. If you are an outdoor guy like me, you probably spent over $100 bucks on your camping stove. This one is free with an afternoon of work...

Posted by Martin at 10:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack