Saturday, December 30, 2006

What a year.

Man, I can't even begin to tell you what a great year I had. Maybe I'll recap it in the new year but for now I can say that this was one of my favorite years of all time.

I'm on day 3 of five in NYC right now and loving every minute of it. We went to see the Bouncing Souls two days ago, it was a sold out show and we couldn't get tickets so we went down to Webster Hall and hung out hoping for a miracle. The bands staff were awesome and showed us where there would most likely be people with spare tickets and after an hour an a half we got in after a couple of false starts, downed a bunch of tequila and Heineken and danced the night away. The past couple of days we've been walking around mid-town, shopping and doing the Moma thing. I couldn't believe that they had Warhol, Jackson Pollack, Dali, Van Gough and Picasso on display - I think they have permanent galleries. Very much worth the time if you have a day to spare in NYC.

We're off to do some clubbing in the Village tonight and then Times Square new years tomorrow. Have a good one and talk to y'all next year.

Here's the pizza song to see you off.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Chase

Back on the subject of personal growth, I've had to deal with people around me that just weren't right for growth - especially in business and I've had time to think about what it is in my opinion that makes a person likely to succeed. I'm not saying that I comply with all of these characteristics all the time, but if I did I'd be better at what I do.

Here they are:

1) Passion; if you're passionate about what you jump into, you'll pour your heart into it and find a way to make things happen.

2) Persistence; not quitting beats intelligence or skill most days. This is even easier when you're passionate.

3) Optimism; it's hard to be optimistic when it's raining shit but the winners finds opportunity in calamity.

4) Precision mayhem; plow forward and demand the impossible, wreak havoc and when the smoke clears you might not achieve exactly what you planned but you'll have achieved something audacious. Mavericks aren't mice.

5) Deep planning; there's a difference between a maverick and an idiot. Do some planning not so much to plot your course but to plot out the dangers - sometimes you gotta leap that cliff regardless of how much it's going to hurt. Go ahead and jump but don't forget, if you don't care about cash flow, you will very rapidly be ultra-fucked.

6) Relationship nurturing; no, it's not about shmoozing and having 500 people on your linkedin list. The relationships that work are those that give and take. Go out of your way to be fair and help people out when you have a chance and don't be afraid to make the calls to seal the deal. Throw somebody a bone and it will come back your way tenfold in ten years.

7) Show up; how obvious is that, but oddly enough this is a hard one especially when it's raining shit and you're sleeping on broken glass.

8) Re-seeding; how many people make a hundred grand a year and still have huge credit card debts and FA else to show for it? You'd be really lucky to grow anything substantial without spending way less than you make. The exception of course is debt service for income generating or appreciating assets. Save some money even if your folks are loaded.

That's it for now, happy holidays and good luck! Now where the hell is my god damned Zune??


Congratulations go out to Dov Charney and all my friends at American Apparel on their acquistion by Endeavor (EDA) for a quarter of a billion dollars. It's great to see the maniacs kick over the statues! Now that Dov's working for a public company, you can bet for or against him on the market, wooo hooo!!!

So let's play the stock game again and buy $9900 worth of EDA shares for our virtual portfolio ($9 x 110 shares).

Friday, December 22, 2006

How much I love Apple

Here's a dirty secret, contrary to popular belief I actually love Apple, their products and management. Having stated that, I don't personally use any of their products because they're not exactly right for me but I love the company so much that I own tons of Apple stock.

Here's a tip if you have a few bucks in a brokerage account and you're feeling brave. AAPL is tanking this month, great time to buy - down 10% in two weeks for no good reason. Check out what Cramer has to say about hedge fund managers manipulating stock for their own benefit to understand what's going on. Look at their last 2 quarters, last 2 years and look forward to Macworld and the upcoming quarter end.

So let's say we invested $9906 US today for 120 shares at $82.55. Let's see what happens in the next month or couple of months.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Some stuff

First off, one more ISP is giving a computer away with a sub - Orange in France is giving out a Mac with a subscription.

Think about this, a 42" plasma display will be $750 within 18 months so who's going to be the first cable/satellite provider to give you a free TV with a subscription?? Mark my words again on this one.

Off topic, I am now using Hamachi to VPN to my office and on the road. I can't believe how painless/easy it is to use. My home computer and office computer VPN'ed together in a minute or so. My printers, shared drives and system drives are now accessible both ways and I can probably remote desktop through our firewall which is a little scary but it's RSA'ed so I'm not too frazzled. There are much easier ways to get in if somebody wanted to.

I've been using Blink for a personal firewall. It's pretty good but you'd better turn off as much as possible to not bog down your system.

Both tools are free.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wondering why you are still a slave?

"A highly paid slave is still a slave"

Robert Kiyosaki has co-authored a new book with Donald Trump called "Why We Want You to be Rich". Personally, I think that Trump is a dick and has no taste and in some regards exemplifies what's wrong with North Americans and I wouldn't bother with this book. However, Kiyosaki has a previous book called "Rich dad, poor dad" that takes a deep dive into how to make real money - the big kind. No, not how to land a cushy six figure job, but rather how to own companies, stocks, real estate and investments that work for you so you don't have to. For me this book is a fairly accurate articulation of how the really rich people around me got rich and to a lesser extent how my personal financial successes have been played out. I have some rich friends who are seemingly ordinary people in ordinary houses, driving crappy cars but who make tens of thousands of dollars every single day without lifting a finger - these people's tactics are covered in the same stroke as the slash-and-burn, scorched-earth Trump tactics. The differences between the two being scale and extent of crass public excesses.

There's a free summary of Rich Dad here. And if you are thinking of starting a company, read this before you do anything. And finally, here are some more free book summaries.

Some stats

Lets play the stats game:

Tell me where:

1) Over 100 cars are burnt here every day in this first world country. Over 20,000 have been burnt this year to date.

2) Nearly four million people have died here directly and indirectly through this conflict since 1998. (third world)

3) Between 200,000 and 400,000 people have been slaughtered here in recent history while the UN pushes paper. (third world)

4) The people in this country consume the most calories per day per capita, 3689. FYI US citizens consume 3609/day, Canada 3059, Afganistan 1689, Ethiopia 1661.

5) 4000+ police are attacked here annually by pissed off youths.

1) France
2) Congo
3) Darfur
4) Greece
5) France

Monday, December 11, 2006

Carbon vs. Population

There's lots of hype about carbon emissions these days but not very many people talk about population growth. Lets compare a carbon emissions historical chart with a population growth chart:

Carbon Emissions

Global Population Growth

Notice something that these two graphs have in common? Sure you already know about both of these factors individually but don't you find it odd that nobody talks about population control the same way they talk about emissions control? Clearly, talking about population control and immigration in the context of global emissions is unthinkable so we as a society choose to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that recycling bins and tofu wieners are going to solve the worlds' carbon problems. Until we face the facts, until we acknowledge the white elephant in the room, we're all fucked.

Open source hardware

Yep, we have plenty of open source software but I think that open source hardware has much bigger implications. Take this open source fabber for example. While it is a really crude machine that can crank out custom parts out of silicone and chocolate, the implications of having really cheap fabrication machines like this in third world countries are astounding. It means that with only raw materials, third world villages can download plans for almost any simple machine and have the computers build it on the spot. The locals just have to assemble the parts and voila - they can build pumps, gas & deisel engines, grinders, tools, water filters, food processors and all kinds of useful stuff on the spot.

Neil Gershenfeld at MIT did a bunch of cool work on this as well, here's the book.

What would be cool would be an open source computerized chem lab that could spit out basic useful chemicals/nutrients/suppliments on the spot from raw materials.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Take it on the chin

Procrastination is killing you.

On the theme of growth, I think that the single most important habit that's helped me to move forward rapidly is the adoption of the attitude of "taking it on the chin". What this means is simply doing the hardest stuff first and then plowing through the easier stuff later. Practically speaking, I make lists of stuff to do each week and when I'm feeling bullish, I hit the nastier stuff first. This is when I'm at my best and when good things start to happen. When I'm at my worst, this grittier stuff stays on the list and then gets carried over onto the next list (ie procrastinated). Taking it on the chin works well with learning too. I have an expectation that I'm going to be taking my lumps while learning something new and usually when I actually get down to it, my perception of what was to come was much worse than the reality of actually going through with it. In a masochistic sense, this makes steep learning curves fun.

Might not work for you 'cuz I have a high pain threshold but worth sharing.

I was right

It didn't take a genius to figure this one out. Yes I know it might have been obvious to some but back in October, I predicted that ISPs and hydro/electro companies would be giving computers away for free with a subscription.

It didn't take long before Telus became the first to do exactly that.

Telus gives you a free Dell C521 computer with a 3 year subscription at 41 bucks/month. You get a free $600 computer with a subscription that costs you $1476.

Next up: Microsoft/Apple will give you a free computer if you buy the OS, Office and a few years of support. They won't do it willingly but Yahoo and Google will force their hands.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Evil Called Comfort

Back on the topic of growth;

Comfort is the antithesis of growth. I have a mathematical formula for it, Comfort is equal to Risk times Age squared divided by Confidence. My opinion is that if you are not outside of your comfort zone, you are most likely going to stay in the same place in life or even move backwards and lose ground. You probably know a bunch of people that ski/golf/cook etc., ever notice how they reach a plateau and then never seem to get any better? That's probably because they're at a level where they aren't making mistakes anymore which means they aren't taking risks anymore which means they aren't growing.

Comfort to me means moving out to the suburbs and growing fat without noticing. Comfort means not speaking up when something wrong is going on. Comfort means not eating shit to get better. Comfort to me means telling people who ate shit and moved forward how lucky they are to be where they are.

I saw a kid about 6-8 years old in Nosara hanging onto the nose of his Dad's longboard for dear life 150 meters offshore. The waves were head high and I was having a hard time getting outside. The two of them were getting worked from time to time and it seemed really sketchy. Sometimes the little guy was flying 5 feet in the air when a big one took them out. Then I saw them ride some waves together, both of them were beaming - the kid on the nose suspended by his arms. It really dawned on me how sheltered we've all become where we won't ever take risks like that and we most likely won't ever see our kids have rewards like that. The kid swam like a dolphin and probably will grow up to surf like a king.

WPF/E - Microsoft is on a roll

(Skip this whole post if you don't care about software)

My work takes me deep into the stinky depths of low resolution audio and video so it was with much joy that I saw some demos for Microsoft's WPF/E platform this morning.

This probably doesn't mean much to you but it likely will over the long run as this new platform is Microsoft's answer to Flash. MS has been taking a trouncing for over a decade with Flash and in the past year or two, has been looking like it was completely clobbered with YouTube and pretty much every web video advert being dished up in Nth generation Flash. Next up were the gazillions of mobile phones which are quickly being Flash enabled and are without a doubt in my mind the platform for the future of computing.

So why is another Microsoft technology got a chance? Why is it not stillborn like the Zune or Frontpage?

Well MS keeps screwing it up on first try which is usually a decade after the incumbant leader set the pace. MS keeps at it for another decade at which point they get it right. Cases in point, Windows, Office, SQL Server, XBOX, IE etc. This time though, somebody really smart was in charge and they picked the same technology for the Vista UI as for browser rendering, multimedia and mobile UIs. That technology being Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) which is like the bastard child of Flash and XHTML.

Will it gain traction? Unfortunately or fortunately we have no choice - it's going to be the default presentation layer in every Windows device from here on in and MS will bribe us developers to adopt it while back at the deathstar they churn the wheels of 'platform adoption' once again.

The sneaky thing here is that there is a Firefox and Mac Safari version. MS, Yahoo and those Google guys are for sure up to no good on the back end - watch how fast your desktop, destop apps & storage gets sucked into the cloud. It's already started with stuff like this.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Manipulating the Conditioned Response

A fellow by the name of Martin Seligman did some groundbreaking research into behavioural patterns of animals and then carried that research into human behaviour. What he came up with was the theory of "learned helplessness". In a nutshell this means that when a person/animal feels like they cannot control the outcome of one area of their life, they give up trying in all areas. The results of his studies are pretty amazing.

The flip side to this is that the feeling of having control over simple things also breaks through the paralysis of not being able to control bigger things. Breaking through lethargy, depression, anxiety and stress is essential for growth and I think that Martin hit the nail on the head with his research.

"Learned Optimism" (ISBN: 1400078393 ) is Seligman's book that really opened my eyes to how easy it is to recondition my sub-conscious and manipulate what I assumed to be my conditioned responses to adversity. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to break through and step outside of their comfort zone.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Don't be cool

"Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort."

I think I'm going to stop whining about the lack of snow for a while and brain dump on strategy, tactics and execution. While this thread might relate to business, it applies to pretty much everything. Let me start with Bruce Mau's incomplete manifesto for growth:

An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

1. Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.

2. Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.

3. Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.

4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.

5. Go deep. The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.

6. Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.

7. Study. A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.

8. Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.

9. Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

10. Everyone is a leader. Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.

11. Harvest ideas. Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.

12. Keep moving. The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.

13. Slow down. Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.

14. Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.

15. Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.16. Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.

17. ——————————. Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.

18. Stay up late. Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.

19. Work the metaphor. Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.

20. Be careful to take risks. Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.

21. Repeat yourself. If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.

22. Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.

23. Stand on someone’s shoulders. You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.

24. Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it.

25. Don’t clean your desk. You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.

26. Don’t enter awards competitions. Just don’t. It’s not good for you.

27. Read only left-hand pages. Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our “noodle.”

28. Make new words. Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.

29. Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.

30. Organization = Liberty. Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The myth of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls a 'charming artifact of the past.'

31. Don’t borrow money. Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.

32. Listen carefully. Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.

33. Take field trips. The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.

34. Make mistakes faster. This isn’t my idea — I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.

35. Imitate. Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.

36. Scat. When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else … but not words.

37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.

38. Explore the other edge. Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.

39. Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms. Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.

40. Avoid fields. Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.

41. Laugh. People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.

42. Remember. Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.

43. Power to the people. Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.


November/December are pretty bleak times and it sure doesn't help that the sun goes down at 4PM. Most people get into a funk and end up suicidal by February. As for me, I'm getting really ansy to go surfing or snowboarding as soon as I possibly can. Seeing that I probably can't travel too much this month I guess I'll have to wait for the snow. Hopefully it will come down quick and hard any day now. Worst case hopefully is 3-4wks.

Last weekend my friend Caroline moved away to Mexico, a bunch of us saw her off with some festivities. We're going to miss her. If you are in Playa del Carmen, stop by the blues bar called Barra Barra and say hi to Caro and Gabo.
On a different subject, next time you're at a duty free pick up a bottle of 1800 Anejo tequila. It's probably the smoothest, cheapest aged tequila that I've ever had. And for those of you in Ontario or anywhere but Quebec, give Magners Irish Cider a try instead of beer next time you get hosed ($2.50/500ml can). It's super smooth and completely under-rated. In Quebec, there are tens of thousands of varieties of wine available at the booze can but only one real cider that's never in stock. That's too bad because there probably are tons of great local producers.