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November 30, 2004

The Apprentice 2: Andy's Alamo

Since Episode 1, I have been predicting the demise of Andy. Not out of any malice, but simply I couldn't see me hiring him as President or CEO of anything and thought The Donald would agree. To cut to the chase, he finally did.

This week we get another brand tie-in: Pepsi. Create a promotion for the new Pepsi Edge (the soft drink's LAME attempt to address the Atkins frenzy). I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall during the Coke/Pepsi bidding war! The Donald showed his decision criteria again at the beginning (Gawd I wish he would stop doing that!).

Again with the "corporate reshuffling". The teams are getting so small that this will be a regular thing. This week it was exacerbated by the fact that last week Donald fired two people. The Producers again played to our stupidity by prequeling the solidarity between Ivana, Kevin and Kelly against the fourth wheel, Jennifer. So of course they punted Jennifer to Mosaic as quick as you please. Their mistake. So Mosaic is Andy, Jennifer and Sandy. Apex is Ivana, Kelly and Kevin.

Jennifer had wanted to be Project Manager of Apex, but since they booted her and Mosaic had already chosen Andy, she gets to contribute. Being project manager this week carries the extra perk of going directly to the final 4 without passing go (due to the free ride next week). Important choice. I was impressed with Andy as PM on the advertising task, but his team's victory was due more to the mis-steps of the competition than any heroic efforts on his part. I still wouldn't hire Andy for anything other than Excel model builder. In the Venture business I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out if a potential hire actually contributed to the success of his prior companies or just happened to be standing on the right corner when the bus stopped. Andy was at the right bus stop. He is not a driver. This analogy is not going anywhere, so back to the show... OK, immediately upon entering PepsiCo world Headquarters, Andy starts mainlining the stuff. I guess he was deprived as a child. Andy started acting a little Stacie J on the team bouncing off the walls. The team came up with an interesting under the cap promotion where you collect countries to make a continent (thanks Sandy). But they took the geography concept too far and put it in the bottle making this dumbbell looking thing that you couldn't see into. I see looser written all over this. During the late night graphic design session on the bottle and label, Andy gets a little Raj on everyone and does some kooky stuff. He hands out $100 bills as incentive to the highly paid PepsiCo designers but denies them pizza until they finish the task. God this kid is young and inexperienced. Carolyn in completely perplexed. The team goes into present and gets surprised to be presenting to the whole PepsiCo marketing team not just the VP. Andy's caffeine fix carries him though though and he earnestly and enthusiastically pitches geography as cool and hip. Sandy pitches the game, but stumbles on her words. This is the first time I have seen her nervous. No formal education following the US college debate champion would make anyone nervous. Jennifer wisely minimizes her role in this disaster. The audience isn't buying it with grimaces all around. The first comment after they leave the room is "when was the last time Geography was cool?". Uh, never. Looser.

For Apex, Ivana gets the PM job after successfully shuttling her competition (Jennifer) over to the other team. Kelly immediately comes up with the killer idea of making the bottle spell the word Edge. Ivana ads the idea of having a hole in the bottle in which you could put some kind of promotional material. Good concept. They didn't go much further than the bottle with their concept which at first worried me. The team goes home early satisfied. The first time a team has finished early. They are a bit concerned, but I like it. Make a decision, implement it and go. Their problem is that they looked back. I don't think the Donald would appreciate the looking back part. Needless to say, Apex's presentation went much better. The marketing team liked the "edginess" of the concept. It had some logistical issues (the bottle is hard to make), but it was a big swing of the bat with a line drive straight at the target demographic for the soda. A solid base hit. Winner Winner, chicken dinner!

The Boardroom. Everyone goes of course. Andy should be fired. He is not a leader and not experienced enough to manage teams effectively. Sandy stumbled a bit, but not enough to cause the loss. Geography was Andy's idea. The bottle was Andy's idea. The game was Sandy's, but that is secondary. Jennifer kept her head down (smart). Andy and Jennifer agree to gang up on Sandy in the board room. The Donald immediately whacks Andy for a stupid looking bottle and the geography concept. He accepts blame and keeps remarkably quiet. Andy goes after Sandy who surprisingly shows alot of pluck defending herself against the set-up by Andy and Jennifer. The Donald is impressed by Sandy's pluck and underwhelmed by Andy's seeming lack of ability to defend himself (especially for a debate champion) and fires Andy. But Donald says he thought he was going to fire Sandy which I don't get at all. Maybe that part is just theatre.

So I am 11 for 13 , batting .846. Up this week!

Ivana, or Kevin should be one of the next to go

My finalist are:

Jennifer (hard core and straight up)
Kelly - solid organized, player.

My choices for most likely to go sooner rather than later are:

Ivana - She will do something silly and stupid.

Posted by Martin at 11:07 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

My Bet for PC client application development

I have been seeing quite a few plans recently for client development environments. The latest one was for a toolkit to make developing and deploying java applications on PC clients easier for an enterprise. I don't get it. The browser is such a good and ubiquitious development environment. Why use Java on a PC? I understand Java on the phone where resources are severely constrained and the browser is too heavy. But resources are not constrained on the PC. I also don't understand why people write VB apps for the PC, but that is another story. So here is one of my meta investment bets. The vast majority of client development on the PC will be done in the browser. Now I haven't decided if that is IE or Firefox or something else, but I do believe it is the browser. Microsoft had better watch out for Firefox. It is the first browser to actually get double digit share against IE in years. And it is more standards based than IE. Normally Msft would swat Firefox like a fly, but in the current regulatory environment it is much harder to do. Look for microsoft in increase it's integration of IE and the server extensions to keep the lock. And .NET framework (which of course will be much better supported in IE). But Firefox does offer an interesting alternative to IE. Keep an eye on it.

Posted by Martin at 10:51 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Googlers oogle over Bio-Diesel

Thanks Rob for the link to this story on Google Blog. The guys at Google have a shuttle from campus up to San Francisco. It has wireless internet access (of course) and runs on biodiesel. Very cool. They make the calculation that even though the fuel costs more, getting people on the bus and out of their cars saves even more money and environmental damage. Go Google!

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

November 29, 2004

The Bzz....

Ran across BzzAgent recently. Joined just for the fun of it. Basically it is a specialized PR agency that is trying to manufacture word of mouth for it's clients. They are using the Internet and some social networking techniques to do this. There are many companies that try to pay people for their opinions but most of these have come off as sleezy. BzzAgent positions it as you are joining an "insiders network" of early adopters who get stuff early and can spread the word to their friends on a voluntary basis. Hey, if I can get gadgets early, great. I will wait to see what happens. If they just keep sending me stupid survey's to take and giving me "points" to redeme for t-shirts, this is not going to last long.

Word of mouth is the best way to market a product. Approaches like this have the potential to really revolutionize the way WOM is created and managed. That would be a good thing for any innovator or company with a new product.

Posted by Martin at 1:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google goes local

Google Local is now in beta. Cool integration between search results and a map. You get a map with a bunch of letters on it that relates to the results on the left. It is unclear to me how the results are ranked. And it is clear that the results are just culled from regular crawls that their bot does. There is no additional qualification of ranking or information added. I am not sure how useful it is.

If I want a coffee shop there are hundreds in Seattle. I don't just want coffee. I want my friend's favorite one. Or the "best of Seattle latte". Or one near my next meeting with WiFi access and a confortable chair so I can do some e-mail before the meeting. Local search has a long way to go.

Try this: Search for "coffee shops" on local.google.com and do the same search on www.judysbook.com. On Google you get the corporate shops, Starbucks, Tully's, SBC, etc. On Judy's book the first result is Victrola Coffee & Art which I happen to know is a local favorite. Judy's book adds user rankings into the mix to give you much better results. It is a start...

Posted by Martin at 10:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

WeedShare on E-Bay

My friend Doran Bastin spent the last month setting up an e-bay store for WeedShare. eBay Store - WeedShare: Top Ten, Alternative, and Blues Weedshare is an innovative concept for digital content sales. You buy a copy of a song and if you pass it along to another friend and they buy it, you get a commission. Sort of the Amway of digital music distribution. It leverages one of the most powerful forces in music purchasing, friends recommendations. Built on MS media digital rights management.

WeedShare is run by the ever capable John Beezer. I like the idea and hope they get some traction. Looks like Wired News finds them interesting. I still don't believe that a large business will be built on the back of the music monopoly. Especially in a digital world where free is a very real and easy alternative.

Posted by Martin at 10:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Go Fish launches

Want to search for anything music related that you can buy on-line? SiliconBeat: Fishing for music with GoFish. My friend Michale Donahue is running this innovateive site. I think search and aggregating all the various catalogues online is one of the only possible profitable models in digital goods.


Posted by Martin at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 26, 2004

The real Ivana

Every Apprentice has their own site these days. Ivana Ma is Ivana's own site. It says she was on the board of Globix. I should ask Mark about her. She apparently is a former senior associate with Advent International and ABS Captial Partners both in Boston.

She has lasted much longer than I predicted, but she is still in the final two I say.

Posted by Martin at 7:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 24, 2004

Them's fighting words...

My friend Tom Ryan has become a Branson partisan. Athena Chief Ramblings: Trump's Reality Bites. Branson better. I caught one episode of his show and, like Cuban's show, I found it lacking in drama. I credit much of that to the producers. I mean come on, Mark Burnett is the man in reality TV. You can tell that both Cuban's and Branson's shows are much more about themselves and not produced for a mass audience. Tom does have a point about true entrepreneurship though. Trump comes from the NYC old money turned into more in traditional businesses mold. Branson is more of a shake things up with a big new idea kind of guy. I would prefer to fund the second type of entrepreneurs.

Posted by Martin at 11:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Deleting Viewpoint

Early this morning a window popped up and asked me if I wanted to update the Viewpoint viewer? I had never asked to install anything from Viewpoint. I said no, but it installed a toolbar in my browser anyway. So I go to programs and there are three things from viewpoint. A "Viewpoint Manager", a "Viewpoint media player" and a "viewpoint toolbar". I deleted them all. I guess my spyware needs to be updated...

Posted by Martin at 10:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Funny bug in W.Bloggar or MT with < / BR>

I was posting something over at NW Venture Voice and having to edit the HTML from the e-mail that I received it in to a format that would look good in MT. After much messing around deleting unnecessary images and reducing the table width to fit in the window I have, I was stuck on the problem of excessive spaces at the top and bottom of the table. The code gave no clues. In w.bloggar I couldn't find any extra < / br > statements, or weird references to style sheet commands. When I previewed the entry in W.Bloggar the spaces were not there. When I viewed it in Firefox (or IE) they were. But I had put many commands on a single line for readability in the front and back. Like:
< html >
< body >
< table >

When I went into firefox and viewed the source of the page, somehow a carriage return < br > had ben placed after each of these commands. Even though that tag was not in the source editor I saw in W.Bloggar OR in the Edit entry window of MT. Maybe when the browser renders the page, it puts in the extra carriage returns. In any case, when you put the tags all together on the same line, the spaces disappear. Like this:
< html > < body> < table >

Now isn't that interesting? Sure hinders readability.

Posted by Martin at 10:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 23, 2004

Phishing up 5X in last 5 months

I noted earlier in the year that phishing was the fastest growing category of spam and predicted it would continue to grow rapidly. Now a new study out of the UK Phishing leaps fivefold as banks fall prey to attacks - vnunet.com confirms the growth is even beyond what I had predicted.

Never fear, Cloudmark has a solution in their new "Safety Bar". The new version of Cloudmark's client has anti-fraud (phising) built in.

Posted by Martin at 2:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Can Peer-to-Peer help RFID?

RFID Journal - Peer-to-Peer: RFID's Killer App?. Swedish company Stockway is trying to promote a peer-to-peer software platform for distributing RFID data. I don't really understand this, but I am still looking for a software play in RFID.

Posted by Martin at 11:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 22, 2004

Gates says Spam is done in two years

Recently in Madrid, Gates suggested that he will eliminate SPAM in 2 years. Tom's Hardware Guide: Tom's Hard News. This sounds a bit like a lengthening out of the date he originally gave. Is gates a flipflopper?

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

Yahoo launches DomainKeys with Earthlink

InformationWeek > Security > Yahoo Aims Crypto App At Spam > November 22, 2004. I am incredibly skeptical of these efforts. When you have to change the fundamental transport layer and get everyone sending mail to abide by your standard in order to receive protection, it is a non-starter. And does Yahoo have the chops to drive an e-mail standard? Well they do run more mailboxes than anyone on the planet, but they are not a software company and have not been big standards drivers in the past. It will be interesting. But I predict failure of DomainKeys.

Posted by Martin at 1:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 21, 2004

Playing with my new Biodiesel Starter Kit

Received my new Biodiesel Starter Kit yesterday. Read through the book From Fryer to the Fuel Tank by Joshua Tickell. The book does a good job of describing the basic chemistry going on in creating Biodiesel. Basically vegetable oil is a triglyceride, three esters and one glycerin molecule. You need to separate the esters from the glycerin and attach the esters to an alcohol molecule (like Methanol or Ethanol). To do this you need a catalyst like Lie to break apart the molecule an have it rebind to the alcohol. In the kit you get all you need to make 1 litre of biodiesel from either old fryer oil (cheaper but harder due to pre-processing) or virgin oil (more expensive, but more straightforward). You basically need a blender you don't need for margaritas any more and your basic chem/bio wear (chemical resistant gloves, full cover eye protection, rubber apron, long pants, long shirt, chemical resistant shoes, oh and tie that long hair back). You should have some water handy to flush any unwanted eye splashes. And you need a clean dry garage (they don't recommend the kitchen). So I guess I am going to wait till the new house with the new work area is done before I attempt this little experiment. Reading the directions, I got a little more freaked out than you would be lead to believe on the web site. They also give you test equipment to see if your batch came out ok. And they recommend you test it in a model airplane engine or something you don't care if it breaks. I guess that rules out the Touareg.

I recommend the book as a good read. It is in it's third edition, but originally was written in the late 80's and many of the stats have not been updated. It could use an updating for current oil reserves, macroeconomic trends and some other things. The author also is definitely targeting the environmental geek. The home tinker who wants to buy an old junker and run it on fryer grease. That isn't me, but I like the ethos of it.


Posted by Martin at 12:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 18, 2004

The Apprentice 3: casting call

:: Solis posted the schedule. You may already be too late.

Posted by Martin at 10:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Removing more software: Feli-X

I had installed the Feli-X browser as a part of reviewing the Optimal Access desktop experience. I didn't get much time with the product, but in part that is because it didn't do much for me. It tries to be a glorified RSS reader, but I already have a bare bones one (newsgator) integrated with Outlook thank you very much. There are some catchy features like automatically creating a tabbed view of all the outbound links from a blog (for example, the "what I read" section from DGC becomes tabs). Not enough compelling features to take up desktop space or my brain bandwidth.

Posted by Martin at 10:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Removing Life Balance

Another application that seemed interesting, but didn't catch my daily use. LifeBalance from Llamagraphics is an eager attempt to show you in graphical form the balance you have in your life between the varying demands of today's life. For example work, family, socializing, politics, community service, spiritual development, etc. The purpose would be two fold. First to see where you are at today, second to plan changes to a different balance. Now the very idea that there is a "perfect balance" over time for the different elements is absurd to me, but I was curious. In my experience, you need to track over quite a long time to get the real balance. There are days and weeks that are dedicated to one portion versus the other. For example today I am flying from Seattle to Phoenix for a lunch meeting then up to SFO for a dinner meeting and more tomorrow then back to Seattle. This is almost exclusively work related. This weekend I have two birthday parties with Finn and one of her friends is coming over for a sleep over Saturday night.

Anyway, why am I ditching the software? First, you have to populate the thing with all your activity. You can't import from Outlook Calendar. Stupid. Second, you have to tag all your activities with metadata so the software can roll up the categories for you. Now my work meetings and time are fairly well tagged, but my spiritual life, book reading, family life, and socializing are not. Doing this once for a snapshot in time, may be an interesting intellectual exercise, but without the long-term view as I mentioned before, I don't think the analysis is useful. The maintenance required for the long-term is too much. So I played around with the sample data, spent about two hours trying to figure out if I could easily integrate this software into my Outlook, then gave up. Not enough benefit for the work. Someone in the throws of the "what am I going to do with my life?" decision with allot of time on their hands might have gotten further. But there are much easier ways to get similar insights without using clunky software. Read Po Bronson's "What am I going to do with my life?" or the "what color is my parachute?" series. See a shrink. Don't bother with this software.

Posted by Martin at 10:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Removing Netscape 7.1

I only installed Netscape 7.1 to test incompatibilities between IE and MT 3.0 comments feature. Since, I have discovered Firefox and fallen in love. No need for the intrusive Netscape. Their incessant branding and co-selling of everything AOL is annoying. Do I want Netscape broadband? NO. Do I want to make Netscape.com my home page? NO. Do I like the miniature "N" chasing the AIM guy? NO. LEAVE ME ALONE! I just want good browser software. I have that with Firefox thank you.

Posted by Martin at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Think you have a SPAM problem?

USATODAY.com - Got mail? You bet: Bill Gates gets millions of spam e-mails

Bill Gates gets 4M spam a day. Ouch. The last part from Ballmer saying that the Microsoft developed spam filters get "all but about 10 per day" I don't believe. We have tested their stuff and it is at best 60% effective. That would leave about 1.6M spam a day in his inbox.

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

Spam % of all mail nears 90%

CNN reports today in Security firm says holiday spam and phishing to increase - Nov. 17, 2004 that in October 87% of the e-mail through Frotbridge was SPAM. I expect it to go over 90% in December as the holidaze approach. Have you installed Cloudmark yet?

Posted by Martin at 7:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 17, 2004

Wonder what to give your sweetie for Christmas? Try a Crave Party. Pampering, private shopping and drinking. I know Alex would love it.

Posted by Martin at 3:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Segway's new monster!

a four wheel downhill monster. Where do I buy??? I love it! Now if the company would only stay around long enough for me to buy.

Posted by Martin at 2:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

PopSci notes the diesel comeback

The Pressure’s On - Popular Science and mentions my new rig on the way, the Touareg.

Posted by Martin at 2:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Review: The Deviant's Advantage

A couple months ago, my friend George Zachary gave me:

The subtitle is "How fringe Ideas Create Mass Markets". While I generally like these kind of books that give lots of examples how small ideas became mainstream (the core of entrepreneuralism), this one falls short. It re-hashes some scenarios I had already read other places. It has too much of the pithy "think out of the box" talk. Not specific enough. I would give this business book a pass. I rate it 1 of 5. Don't bother.

Posted by Martin at 1:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Review: Don't think of an elephant

Just finished .

Yes, I read the leftist too. George Lakoff is one of those liberal conspiracy theorists that subscribe to the whacky belief that somehow the "right wing" has hoodwinked an entire nation into electing a Republican majority with an agenda in total opposition to the real interests of the country. Similar to Thomas Frank. While Frank comes across as just so many sour grapes, Lakoff actually has a more interesting approach to the standard "the commies have brainwashed us" argument. Lakoff is a linguist. He studies framing. He correctly notices that the Republicans have done a much better job than the Democrats at investing in think-tanks and long term "strategic" projects that frame debates with terms favorable to them. Here is an example: "Tax relief" is much more popular today than "tax reform". What is the connotation? Relief connotes some form of malady, oppression, something wrong that needs fixing. Everyone wants "relief" from the ills that afflict us. Put "tax" in front of it and taxes become the malady for which we need relief. Whenever the Democrats debate "tax relief" they are arguing a frame that favors the Republicans. The presumption is that we need relief from the tax malady. Lakoff (with no minor amount of self-interest) correctly points out that taxes do have a positive frame. Taxes pay for the infrastructure that built the country, roads, public libraries, courts, justice systems, prisons, education, public health. I don't mind taxes per se. I voted for an increase in the sales tax here in Washington to fund education. I don't want my children to grow up with dummies around them. There are valid things the government does. If the Democrats would frame taxes as part of our responsibility as citizens and essential for a civil society, they may have a better chance. The problem is that when you start off in the "relief" frame, you are behind. The Republicans are arguing a value and the Democrats are arguing facts. Values trump facts every time.

Lakoff also highlights the differences in world view between liberals and conservatives. He calls them "nurturant values" and "strict father values". This dichotomy is similar to the "unconstrained" and "constrained" world visions described in A Conflict of Visions (review coming).

Here is Lakoff's (short) description of the "strict father" view of the world:

The world is a dangerous place, and it always will be, because there is evil out there in the world. The world is also difficult because it is competitive. There will always be winners and losers. There is an absolute right and an absolute wrong. Children are born bad, in the sense that they just want to do what feels god, not what is right. Therefore, they have to be made good.
What is needed in this kind of world is a strong, strict father who can:


  • Support the family in the difficult world, and

  • Teach his children right from wrong.



What is required of the child is obedience, because the strict father is a moral authority who knows right from wrong. The rationale behind physical punishment is this: When children do something wrong, if they are physically disciplined they learn not to do it again. That means that they will develop internal discipline to keep themselves from doing wrong, so that in the future they will be obedient and act morally. Without such punishment, the world will go to hell. There will be no morality.

Such internal discipline has a secondary effect. It is what is required for success in the difficult, competitive world. That is, if people are disciplined and pursue their self-interest in this land of opportunity, they will become prosperous and self-reliant.

In this model there is also a definition of what it means to become a good person. A good person - a moral person - is someone who is disciplined enough to be obedient, to learn what is right, do what is right and not do what is wrong, and to purse her self-interest to prosper and become self-reliant. A good child grows up to be like that. A bad child is one who does not learn discipline, does not function morally, does not do what is right, and therefore is not disciplined enough to become prosperous. She cannot take care of herself and thus becomes dependent.

When the good children are mature, they either have learned discipline and can prosper, or have failed to learn it. From this point on the strict father is not to meddle in their lives. This translates politically into no government meddling.

Lakoff describes the nurturant parent world view as gender neutral:

Both parents are equally responsible for raising the children. The assumption is that children are born good and can be made better. The world can be made a better place, and our job is to work on that. The parents' job is to nurture their children and to raise their children to be nuturers of others.

What does nuturance mean? It means two things: Empathy and responsibility. If you have a child, you have to know what every cry means. You have to know when the child is hungry, when he needs a diaper change, when he is having nightmares. And you have responsibility - you have to take care of this child. Since you cannot take care of someone else if you are not taking care of yourself, you have to take care of yourself enough to be able to take care of the child.

In addition, all sorts of other values immediately follow from empathy and responsibility. Think about it.

First, if you empathize with your child, you will provide protection. This comes into politics in many ways. What do you protect your child from ? Crime and drugs, certainly. You also protect your child from cars without seat belts, from smoking, from poisonous additives in food. So progressive politics focuses on environmental protection, worker protection, consumer protection, and protection from disease. These are the things that progressives want the government to protect their citizens from. But there are also terrorist attacks, which liberals and progressives have not been very good at talking about in terms of protection.

In the last chapter, Lakoff takes a stab at some framing the Democrats could use to move the debate to their territory. He also begs for investment in think tanks that will push the agenda (not surprisingly his own). I actually agree with some of the "progressive" values he frames, but disagree with far more. I don't believe the primary job of the government is wealth re-distribution and picking up the slack for those who don't feel like it. Lakoff does and believes his "reframed" issues can convince the rest of us. I doubt it.

See your politics here? The book is a quick read and worth it for a quick review of your own politics. Lakoff spends too much time promoting his much weightier tome though, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Despite the obvious cross-selling, this one delivers enough unique value for the quick read that it is.

Overall, I would rate this a 2 of 5. Content is low. Concept is high. Thought provoking factor is above average. Conclusions are wrong and wishful thinking.

Posted by Martin at 1:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Review: The Way of the Heart

About two months ago I picket up
Have been contemplating the role of silence in everyday life (we don't get enough). This little booklet (i find out after buying it) is actually written for priests and pastors as a guide to help explain to their flock the role of solitude, silence and prayer in connecting to the "other side". Henri J. M. Nouwen (author of lots of stuff) draws on the experiences and teachings of the "Desert Fathers and Mothers of the fourth century". His goal was to see if they had anything to teach us in the 21st century about. They do. Some useful passages:

"In our chatty world, in which the word has lost its power to communicate, silence helps us to keep our mind and heart anchored in the future world and allows us to speak from there a creative and re-creative word to the present world."
"The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart." - a practice of many paths. Basically use prayer (or mantra) to disengage your mind from the present and reach the heart (god).
"a word or sentence repeated frequently can help us to concentrate, to move to the center, to create an inner stillness and thus to listen to the voice of God."
"Our compulsive, wordy, and mind-oriented world has a firm grip on us, and we need a very strong and persistent discipline not to be squeezed to death by it. By their solitude, silence, and unceasing prayer the Desert Fathers show us the way."

This little journal is not very useful to someone not already on a journey. And may be a little inaccessible to non-ministers. But it is very insightful reading. And enlightening of a Fourth Century group of people I had never heard of before. I always like learning new stuff.

I rate this a 3 of 5.

Posted by Martin at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

amazon associates back up

two hour outage. Not bad. But I am glad my business doesn't depend on them.

Posted by Martin at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Amazon Associates site down

ouch. I want to write a review on a book, but can't get to the amazon associates site.
https://associates.amazon.com/gp/associates/network/reports/main.html
get the
Proxy Error
The proxy server received an invalid response from an upstream server.

The proxy server could not handle the request GET /gp/associates/network/reports/main.html.

Reason: Error reading from remote server
with firefox and
a 404 error with IE.

One of the risks of building your business on another person's platform... oops.

Posted by Martin at 9:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Firefox bests Netscape in browser share

From my server logs on DGC:
Firefox 7%, Netscape 6.3%.
wow.


Browsers (Top 10) - Full list/Versions - Unknown
Browsers Hits Percent
Unknown ? 22959 41.5 %
MS Internet Explorer18617 33.6 %
FireFox No 3883 7 %
Netscape No 3486 6.3 %
Mozilla No 3166 5.7 %
NetNewsWire 1516 2.7 %
Safari No 799 1.4 %
LibWWW No 354 0.6 %
Opera No 240 0.4 %
Konqueror 99 0.1 %
Others 197 0.3 %

Posted by Martin at 8:58 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 16, 2004

Review of NumberSlate versus PeerFlix

Found a blogger who did a surprisingly thorough side by side review of Netflix, NumberSlate and Peerflix: Shanafelt Sector: Peerflix vs. NumberSlate vs. NetFlix The winner: Peerflix for selection and shipping time. And that was on the old site. The new site (which I just visited) is WAY better. Much more usable and better organized. Danny fixed many of my pet peves like showing which movies in your "i want" cue were actually available on PeerFlix and which were not. They also de-coupled peerbux from dollars (you are welcome). And the performance is fixed as well. I expect the Canadians to continue to do well in this new area.

Posted by Martin at 8:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

New biodiesel car coming today

Out with the Cayenne, in with the VW Touareg V1 TDI. I have decided to put some money where my heart is. I have been a truck and fast car guy all my life. But recently the social political costs of gas guzzlers has gotten the better of me. I have been looking for the past two years for a way to get performance out of an efficient and preferable renewable powersource for my autos. Hence, my interest in Biodiesel. You can pour 100% biodiesel made in the good old US of A by strapping farmers in Iowa straight into any diesel automobile and it runs like a charm. The US sadly is way behind in selection of diesel autos. I didn't want to with a full size work truck from Dodge or Chevy and didn't like the sedan options either (although the new Mercedes E320 D is attractive in a Bellevue sort of way). So last month I got to drive a VW Touareg V10 TDI. 310 HP (you can chip it up to over 400) and all the comforts of any high-end SUV. The only problem is that there were only 4,500 of them imported in 2004 and you can't buy one to save your life. But after a couple of weeks, my trusty friends at Seattle Auto Gallery found me one outside Chicago somewhere. At this very moment it is traveling on the back of some petro diesel guzzling semi on its way to my door here in Seattle. I can't wait!

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Removing TightVNC


TightVNC is a failure from usability perspective. I am deleting it.

Posted by Martin at 7:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I am over BlueBeat

Well another early adopter technology goes into the recycle bin. Time to reclaim those bits on the harddrive. BlueBeat is out. I LOVE listening to 320K lossless audio streams commercial free. But the hooks that are required to support the X1 decoder (to make sure you don't attach an audio encoder or other copy device) makes me have to disable too many things. The spyware, virus and firewall programs complain about X1 running at such a low level in the stack. When you can get the same genre streams over at Shoutcast at 128 mp3 without any security issues, the hassle for the higher bitrate is not worth it.

Posted by Martin at 7:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

thank you Google and Bye Bye

Google had a lock-up release today. I was lucky enough to have a tiny stake in Google very early so my broker got some more shares today. I know the analyst say the thing is worth over $200, but I am selling. I am going to sell on the next two lock-up expirations as well. I would rather take this money and invest it again in more start-ups than let it ride at these valuations.

Posted by Martin at 7:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 15, 2004

The Apprentice 2: Chris gets crushed!

This one is easy. Chris stuck his neck out last week in the boardroom as he was being released back to the suite (STUPID!) He is now project manager. I have been predicting for some time that he is just a whiner and will not last. I predict even before the show that he goes. No crazy back from the dead tricks this week or prophetic key decision factors up front. Just a bastard of a task for a male chauvinist pig like Chris: Put up a wedding gown store for one day. The one who sells the most gowns wins. Mosaic has Sandy, owner of a bridal salon. This is not even going to be close.

So Chris is leading Apex off the cliff from the get go. Within two hours Chris is whining about how this is an "impossible task". They try to call around and get people to come over with dresses. Vendors are very skeptical due to the short notice and no marketing support. It looks like they won't get any dresses until they find a friendly lady to help them. She pulls Chris's butt out of the fire and gets inventory. But there is still marketing. They decide to hand out flyers at Penn Station and Grand Central. This is a looser. Totally not targeted. Long story short, they sell two dresses. Chris whines to the end.

For Mosaic, Kelly is team leader in name only, this is really Sandy's show. She knows how to talk to the vendors. How to ask for the last year inventory. How to market. TheKnot.com is the largest on-line bridal registry. They have 25,000 brides in the NYC area that are getting married in the next 3 months. This is VERY targeted marketing! Even though Maria screws up the e-mail by leaving out the phone number it doesn't matter. Before opening time they have a line out the door! More people than they can let in at once. There is a line the whole evening! They sell a ton of dresses (i forgot how many). Winner, Winner, chicken dinner.

The Boardroom. I predict Chris, Ivana and Kevin. Jennifer did a stand up job. Right again. But The Donald wondered why Jennifer got the pass. He made some comment about how she keeps "skating by" which I don't agree. Ivana, while incompetent, was not as much of an ass as Chris. Kevin worked hard and didn't do anything wrong. Donald fires Chris. No brainer #2.

So I am 8 for 10 , batting .800. Up this week!

Ivana, Maria, or Andy should be one of the next to go

All my finalist made it through this week:

Jennifer (hard core and straight up)
Kelly - solid organized, player.
Wes - he is playing a waiting game. I don't think he is great, but he is keeping his head down.

My choices for most likely to go sooner rather than later are:

Andy - On Donald's shit list and will mess up again.
Maria - she is a liar and I still don't like those earrings!

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

The Apprentice 2: The Raj Mahal

On November 4, I was lucky enough to again be still under the influence of opiates from sinus surgery, so I missed the live show. Shortly after I was back into it though and got caught up on work. Ok enough excuses, lets get to the real goods...

At the outset I was hopeful for my pal Raj being picked as project manager for Apex. The guy is in real estate after all (so he says). Sandy gets the nod on for Mosaic. I am looking forward to seeing Sandy in action as she has not been very involved in prior tasks. Nice hair though. The producers must be feeling the mid season blues because they felt the need to throw a wrench (or wench) into things by bringing back some of the previously fired people. Apex got Bradford (still cocky) and Stacie J (still crazy). Mosaic got Rob (still earnest but no leader) and Jennifer (still a bitter backstabber). I hope my man Raj comes through. The producers also played to the lower IQ audience (are they polling something I don't know about) by having the Donald set up the key success factor for the task up front. "contractors will pick you pocket if you let them". Funny as I was just having a similar talk Saturday night at a fundraiser I was at with Kenny Logins (don't ask). Did you know he wears Prada boots on stage? (Alex noticed). So I am chatting with one of my table mates about contractors and architects as we are going through that with our house now. My key learnings are that you need three things for a successful large scale construction project. 1. An architect that shares your vision and won't try to sell you stuff you don't need. 2. a contractor that you can trust to meet budgets AND schedules and 3. a contractor and architect that have worked together before. Oh, but I digress, this should be about the Apprentice yes?

The Donald calls the teams up to the deck of the $35M penthouse of an apartment building he is renovating and has them stand in a queer line with these silly yellow construction hats on. Raj, undoubtedly worried about his hair, makes a statement by holding his hat under his arm. The task is to renovate two crappy houses in some hellhole outside Manhattan that still has single family houses. Similar to the Apartment renovation task last season. I doubt Maria will be wearing her distracting earrings for this one! I wonder what Raj will wear. Can you do house demo in a bow tie? I am sure he will try. So off they go. Immediately on Apex Chris starts whining. He is dropping in my book. Doesn't want to scratch his Rolex in this task probably. Their house is a mess and Raj decides to invest in a bathroom upstairs (good) minimal changes in the kitchen (bad), consolidate two bedrooms upstairs into a master (getting REALLY bad), and siding for the house (ouch Raj, you are really killing me here!). First thing is to get a contractor. Kevin calls around and gets a referral to one from a contractor that is too busy (watch out). Ivana and Kevin sell the contractor to Raj who has zero input (a surprise) and doesn't even interview they guys (at least that we see on camera). Raj starts to show some of his kookie side waxing poetic about the inner human need to destroy and create. Well this is part of the lovable side of Raj we all love, but I am hoping that it hides a killer inside that will come out here. As things progress it is clear that they have chosed a bad contractor. He would rather eat tacos than finish the job. Jennifer is rock'n on this task, a real driver. Raj is disorganized as a team leader and lets the contractor not finish the job. I can't believe this guy is in real estate. I believe his father is really in the business. Oh, well. When the appraisers come to see the house, the work is not done and looks like crap. The bathroom doesn't even have the fixtures bolted in and the new carpet in the stairs is dirty. They cringe at taking out a bedroom. A master is nice for the uppity neighborhoods, but not here Raj! Apex spends $20K and moves the price of the hosue from $385 to $412 (not even your cap ex dudes - the siding was a waste). 7% improvement. Bad news.

For Mosaic, Sandy turns out to be a pretty capable leader. She has a good artistic sense and knows where to make the investments, bathroom and kitchen. Stacie J. starts some ruckus with Ivana in the suite, but on the job works her skinny little butt off (good work). The first contractor they chose I am suspicious of. Lucky for them, another contractor is driving around the neighborhood and notices the cameras and work and decides to come in and fix it. The guys are Lenny, Vinny, Johnny, Paulie, etc. Big cigars are a must. Everyone is related. But they are good guys who actually pour lots of people at the project and start making excellent progress. I have no idea if they blew the budget, or pulled any other tricks, but the NJ mob definitely saved Mosaic's butt getting the work done and clean up on time. In the end their house went from $390K to $430K, a 10.26% increase. And more importantly an increase of greater than the capital expended. It was the major kitchen remodel that did it. Winner, Winner, chicken dinner.

The Boardroom. I predict Raj, Ivana and Chris. Raj because he had a poor plan and executed it like crap. He should know better. Chris for being a whiner. While Ivana got lots of paint on her shirt, I still didn't see much from her and she needs to go. Raj picks Ivana and Kevin (for choosing the contractor). I guess I agree with Kevin over Chris. Note this is the first time I have missed the draw. On his way out, Chris popps off about how disfunctional the team is and how they are going to loose next week again. Donald gives Raj the chance to keep Chris in the room for being disloyal, but he doesn't take it (big mistake). Chris's blabbing gets him set as project manager next week when I predict he will be fired. Right off The Donald asks why Raj took a 4 bedroom house and made it a 3 bedroom. Raj stumbles. Donald makes sure Kevin knows he messed up with the contractor. Donald doesn't think Ivana should be there. He fires Raj. Raj did step up to take responsibility for the loss, but he should have done better as a leader. Come on, this was real-estate!

So I am 7 for 9 , batting .777. Up this week!

Ivana, Chris, or Andy should be one of the next to go

Two of my three choices for top finalists are gone so I will have to make new picks. My top three now are:

Jennifer (hard core and straight up)
Kelly - solid organized, player.
Wes - he is playing a waiting game. I don't think he is great, but he is keeping his head down.

My choices for most likely to go sooner rather than later are:

Andy - On Donald's shit list and will mess up again.
Chris - He is a boisterous blowhard.

Posted by Martin at 9:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What a difference a Gig makes!


Received my new gig of RAM from Digi4me.com the low price leader on memory on EBay today. I have a Sony Vaio desktop with a Pentium 4 running at 2.66GHz that had 256K of RAM. I have so much stuff installed it started running like a dog. And I also do music ripping and DVD editing on this machine. Things were so bad that I got the line by line disappear of windows when you closed them. So I get the gig and just plug it right into the open slot, power up the machine and Zappo! Things are moving! Night and day. I have my life back. And it only cost me $120 (25% of what the machine cost on e-bay).

Posted by Martin at 7:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Apprentice 2: The lost episode of Oct. 14


Some ardent readers pointed out that I did not write anything about the Oct. 14 episode when John got fired. In part I was out of the country in Goa, India. I just watched the show tonite on Tivo. Trust me, we didn't miss anything. John had a nice butt which helped his team win the restaurant task, but other than than he did not step up and was totally in the shadows. Rather than recount the whole sorid episode, lets cut to the chase. I would have fired John half way through the show. Totally disorganized and headless.

That makes me 6 for 8 , batting .750. Up! (with perfect 20/20 hindsight)

Ivana, or Chris should be one of the next to go.

My choices for top finalists are still:

Raj
Jennifer

My choices for most likely to go sooner rather than later are:

Andy - On Donald's shit list and will mess up again.
Chris - He is a boisterous blowhard.
Ivana - Still hasn't produced anything. Maybe she is good at Excel like alot of VCs. Too bad there is no Excel task.

Moving up on my scale:

nobody special that week.

Posted by Martin at 1:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 11, 2004

Hummm social networks for health care?

Announced today... Healthcare Collaboration Networks: Gencache - here we are. Hummm, do I really want to know that my friend knows that my other friend has chickenpox? Interesting idea to "open" the voluntary sharing of symptoms and treatments and make that all searchable, referencable. I worry about the quality of the inputs. Haven't tried the site yet, but have the password. Will be an interesting reveiw.

Posted by Martin at 9:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Meaty M&A story over at NWVV

Kevin Cable posted NW Venture Voice: A Rising Wave of M&A Activity - a view from the trenches which gives a very detailed overview of NW M&A trends. Graphs too! All good news for NW venture companies.

Posted by Martin at 7:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 10, 2004

Dino Rossi pulls ahead in the recount

In the latest numbers from Washington Secretary of State Dino Rossi (R) has pulled ahead in the governor race here. This is truly amazing in a state that went hard for Kerry and now has two women Democrat Senators. Rossi holds about a 3,400 vote lead with more votes to count in pro-Rossi counties than pro-Gregoire counties. After 25 years of Democrat rule in Olympia, it will be good to have a Governor with some business experience in there for once. The simple fact that it is even close should be very telling.

Posted by Martin at 7:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 8, 2004

New Category: My Bets

Over the years, I have peppered my posts with the assumptions upon which I make investment decisions. I think it is about time that I organize all that stuff in one place. By reading the "My Bets" category, you should be able to learn what overall market assumptions I am making in different areas. If you have a company idea that goes against one of my core assumptions, don't bother sending it in. Or if you do, be prepared to make a damn good case why I should waste my time and change my mind. Hope this helps....

Posted by Martin at 12:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An old Froe to save the fingers

thanks to Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools for the reference to this one. I am buying one right now. Save my fingers out there in the woods!

Kindling splitter
Froe

I don't know how many CT readers spend much time splitting wood to make kindling for their fireplace or wood stove. But when I think of tools that I love, this one is near the top of the list.


Most folks will tell you that the way to make little sticks (kindling) out of big sticks (chunks of firewood) is to hold the firewood chunk upright on a chopping block in one hand and take a good swing at it with a hatchet. It's pretty obvious what's wrong with this picture: you have a sharp bladed instrument moving at high speed in the direction of your bare hand. After some practice, you'll get the hang of it; the problem is reaching that level of skill without a few trips to your local suturist or finger-reattachment specialist.


There's a better way: the Froe. Traditionally used for splitting shingles, it serves equally well for bloodless, fear-free kindling. The iron blade is driven into the log (another piece of firewood makes a perfect "mallet" for this), and then torque is applied using the wooden handle to complete the split.

Your fingers will thank you.


-- Karl Bunker


Froe
$40
From Lehman's, among others

Old froes can be found on eBay for $10 - $30.

Posted by Martin at 10:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mark Cuban tells you how to get his attention

Getting My Attention - Blog Maverick - www.blogmaverick.com. Mark is not a professional VC. But he does have a point. Substance matters. Everything else is a waste of time.

Posted by Martin at 10:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Watch your < /div >s

After the election last week, I went into my MT template and removed the javascript that linked to Election-Vote.com (since it is all over). My happy cursor (unbenonst to me) grabbed an extra < /div > (had to put in the spaces so the browser doesn't interpret this one as an actual "div") when selecting the code snippet. Today, I noticed that the google ads and the All Consuming "reading" pages were not showing up. No error messages, simply white space. The only change I made was removing the election-vote code, so I go over to count the div's. Yup one missing. I put it back in and the right column shows up again. Having consumers editing HTML code is not a good idea...

Posted by Martin at 9:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

P2P e-mail (it is about time)

A little company in Leeds England is doing it: P2P technology creates an email network free of spam. About time. This is something I have been talking about for quite some time. The only REAL way to gaurantee no spam is to join a private network that tightly controls access. Basically make the existing e-mail infrastructure "third class mail" and create a "first class mail". Now there are alot of ways to do this. Signing the headers is in fact one instance of this. Then there is creating a totally proprietary network and protocol like the Leeds company is doing. The problem with the P2P approach is that is creates a walled garden and doesn't have scale. So you can't send to anyone (one of the major advantages of the current open network). In the end, someone will put a 1st class mail network on top of existing protocols in an easy to use way. That will be compelling.

Posted by Martin at 9:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 4, 2004

Problems with BlueBeat

Ok, I am running so many different spy, spam, firewall, and virus programs that it is becoming a pain in the ass to figure out what is blocking what. But I figured out one thing. Norton Security Suite blocks BlueBeat player. I went through all the programs turning them off one at a time to get the BlueBeat player to work. Norton is the one that was blocking. I was only running the ad blocking, privacy and virus, not their firewall (using the XP firewall). So there must be something in the cookie handling. I tried adding Bluebeat to the allowed sites and configuring Norton, but gave up. I guess I could keep trying to allow it, but I just turned it off. Now naked without virus detection. The price I will pay for 320 kbps digital music!

Posted by Martin at 9:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 2, 2004

The problem with VNC at home

Ok,
have been trying TightVNC. I installed the server on one WinXP Home edition Pc and started it as a service. Installed the viewer (and server) on my laptop on the LAN as well. The laptop found the server just fine using the internal IP address assigned by the Watchgaurd firewall. Unfortunately I have Comcast without a fixed IP address. Comcast won't allow any FTP, Ping, or any type of traffic to the IP address of my firewall. So I can't even open a port to allow the traffic through to the TightVNC server. So unless I want to buy a fixed IP address from Comcast, I can't run the software. That is too large a barrier for most home users. The solution has to work without having to provision anything from your broadband provider.

Still looking.

Posted by Martin at 8:26 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

considering remote desktop software and services

Thanks Steve for: Northwest VC: Great tool for home network. Over the last two years I have looked at many options for "what is next after IP Sec VPNs". I took a hard look at all the SSL VPN companies out there. Ended up not doing any investments in part because I thought it was a small market already with alot of companies (when I started) and in part because I couldn't get jazzed about the thickness of the value the SSL VPN companies were putting on top of standard SSL. The other issue is that what you got was a web access portal to your applications and desktop. This causes you to have to write alot of web virtualization for different applications. In many ways it was more work for the VPN vendor than standard IPSEC VPN software.

Then there is the whole idea of hosted solutions. Like Aventail and Go2MyPC. There are new ones coming out. What I am looking for is some technical invention in this market. Something that is defensible and makes a 10X improvement on some key feature. Like speed, managability, etc. Making it on cost only is not enough.

Over the next couple weeks I will also try out all the VNC options built on open source like UltraVNC and TightVNC. You may even put endpoint P2P solutions like Grouper in this camp.

I think this is about more than virtualizing a certain specific set of features (like file sharing and IM) or about remote desktop access. What I really want is a virtual network connection that will work over any IP connection that I have regardless of the firewall/configuration between me and the destination. I want that connection to be secure and look just like another local network connection inside the firewall. I want all my desktop applications to work exactly the same without any new interface. Nirvana eh?

Posted by Martin at 7:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Got my first Skype Spam

I run Skype all the time now for internet telephony. Skype comes with a built-in IM client. Got my first Skype Spam today advertising a radio station on Live365. I get requests all the time (maybe 4 a day) to add someone as a "contact" on Skype. I don't know any of these people. They are just trolling. It looks like Skype is going the way of ICQ. Bummer.

Posted by Martin at 9:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 1, 2004

Review of Road Work

I love Mark Bowden and was very excited for this compilation of articles to come out. Unfortunately it disappoints. Only the first couple on foreign affairs are good. The earlier stuff and all the sports stuff is totally uninteresting. Don't bother with this one. I give it a 2 of 5.

Posted by Martin at 4:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The SPIM lawsuits are starting

seattlepi.com Microsoft Blog: Microsoft's 'spim' suit. Expect them to have the same effect as the spam lawsuits. Nothing.

Posted by Martin at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Here is the Biodiesel forum

General Biodiesel - BioDieselNow Forums is the best one I have found. Very active. Lots of pointers.

Posted by Martin at 11:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Summary of latest biodiesel research

Thanks to Green Car Congress for this pointer: McCormick 08 2004.

Here’s quick recap:

1. Not all that bullish on the energy benefit: fossil energy used in biodiesel production is similar to that of petroleum — only a small fraction of the fuel energy is truly renewable.

2. Burning biodiesel reduces PM emissions, but in newer engines tends to increase NOx more than in older engines—and they’re not really sure why. More research needed.

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

The magic of Botox....

This one is great.... Click here to find whence Kerry comes from...

Posted by Martin at 9:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Athena Chiefs keep rambling

My friend Tom over at Athena Chief Ramblings continues to produce some meaningful comments on outsourceing as a start-up startegy. Of course he has something to sell (his own services), but he also has a very learned perspective having started his company that way. If you are in the Northwest and thinking about starting a company, you owe it to yourself to read Tom's pointers.

Posted by Martin at 9:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack