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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hiatus

For personal and professional reasons I'll be taking leave of blogging for a while.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

It's 1984

Has Been For Years


 ~ Lost in all the breathless coverage of the NSA eavesdropping brouhaha is that it isn't news.

Headline news: May 2006

While a small number of us worry about that our civil liberties are being steadily eroded, most of the American public actually trusts their government to snoop secretly into every communication they fancy. We traded liberty for security long ago, so what's the current fuss really all about?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Farmboat

Floating the Idea of Local Food


Produce for sale at Seattle Farmboat
 ~ Every Thursday from 11:00 - 3:00 through the week before Halloween, tour a vintage wooden boat and buy local farm produce:
The FarmBoat Floating Market is held aboard the historic steamship Virginia V docked at Lake Union Park Wharf. Vendors display locally grown produce, specialty foods and artisan crafts on board the 125' wooden vessel--just as it was done a century ago. Market visitors can tour the ship for free and learn about Puget Sound agricultural and maritime heritage while they shop. (There is plenty of space on deck to enjoy lunch with fantastic shoreline views of downtown Seattle and Lake Union).

Friday, June 7, 2013

Coffee is Your Friend

Live Longer


Coffee
 ~ OK, I lied. Here's more information that coffee is good for you:
Researchers primarily at the National Cancer Institute parsed health information from more than 400,000 volunteers, ages 50 to 71, who were free of major diseases at the study’s start in 1995. By 2008, more than 50,000 of the participants had died. But men who reported drinking two or three cups of coffee a day were 10 percent less likely to have died than those who didn’t drink coffee, while women drinking the same amount had 13 percent less risk of dying during the study.
Other studies have shown salutary effects on cancers and various kinds of dementia. Time to brew another pot!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Blended Standards

Is E15 Gasoline Safe?


Blended gasoline and ethanol fuel choices
 ~ The American Petroleum Institute (API) is fighting the EPA over how much ethanol should be blended into gasoline. Is 15% ethanol content, E-15, safe for modern cars?
The [EPA] and the biofuels industry say the blend — which contains 15 percent ethanol, rather than the standard 10 percent — is safe for those vehicles.

But the oil and gas industry has produced studies finding that the mix would damage vehicle engines, and some automakers have said they would not honor warranties in cases where E15 was used.

“E15 could leave millions of consumers with broken down cars and high repair bills,” said Bob Greco, API group downstream director. “It could also put motorists in harm’s way when vehicles break down in the middle of a busy highway. We are asking the Supreme Court to step in and protect consumers by striking down EPA’s dangerous E15 mandate before it’s too late.”
Well, of course it "could". But will it? The API's studies have been called "scientifically weak" and there are, naturally, many other studies that show no harm. Could it be that the science is not settled?

Reminds me of another contentious argument of interest to the API...


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Where's It Wednesday—CXXVI

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Startup Leadership

Coda—The Song Remains the Same


Coda electic vehicle
 ~ Building a car company isn't easy. Building one from scratch is harder still. And building one using new, bleeding edge drive train technology is perhaps hardest of all.

It can be done, as Tesla shows.

Yet it is more likely to fail, perhaps spectacularly—DeLorean, Fisker, and the latest, Coda Automotive. Never heard of Coda? Launched in 2009, it aimed to produce a plug-in electric sedan for under $40,000. Last month it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Why did Coda fail when Tesla, with a pricier offering, has succeeded wildly?


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Passion

All Entrepreneurs Have It


Passion fruit daquiri
 ~ I've been accused at times, to my astonishment, of lacking evident passion for my startup venture. Somehow, apparently, during investor presentations, I focus too much on the factual details and fail to offer (say some) a higher level of dynamism at the podium.

Does this really matter? Do investors truly demand a theatrical exhibition of passionate enthusiasm? Or a concise and complete enumeration of the relevant criteria for evaluating a prospective investment?

A sober presentation is better:
From now let’s all agree that we’ll only use the word passion when it’s followed by the word fruit. Ideally then followed by the word daiquiri.

Passion is implied. Passion is why you are reading this article. Passion is why you don’t work for Deutsche Post or a big bank. It’s why you believe that in the face of all the advice that tells you not to do it, to stick to your nice, safe, salaried day job, you’re doing it anyway. Passion is no longer a differentiator, it’s a prerequisite. It’s why you’re at the race, but it’s not the reason you’ll win.
No passion, no chance. I wouldn't be doing what I do (rather than a safer, easier and likely more immediately remunerative alternative) unless I was deeply passionate, not just about the startup, but about the difference I intend it to make in the world. Nor would any entrepreneur.

Only the passionless could possibly be confused on this point.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Greenhouse Gas Flows

A Problem with Many Strands


 ~ Reductions will require sustained effort and focus across a wide swath of global economic sectors.

World GHG Emission Flow Chart 2010

The problem will soon become even harder.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Choosing Profits Over Planets

From the Mouths of Boobs


Rex Tillerson, Exxon CEO
 ~ "What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?"

So said CEO Rex Tillerson at Exxon's annual meeting yesterday. What really concerns him, of course, is less the suffering of humanity than the suffering of diminished profits. The right choice between the planet and profits? Yes! More money! Never mind that there is no business to be done on a dead planet. Or that you can't take it with you. Or that dispensing with the Earth, our only home, is somehow a reasonable option in service of unbounded cupidity. But then T. Rexx has some puzzling beliefs.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Where's It Wednesday—CXXV

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Love Trains

Dating In Prague


Prague subway
 ~ Officials in charge of the Prague subway are creating a novel kind of singles scene:
Starting later this year, select carriages on each of the city's three underground train lines will be designated as singles-friendly. The idea was hatched as a way to increase ridership on public transportation, according to Filip Drapal, a spokesman for Ropid, the city's public transport authority. "This idea is just part of a new long-term campaign whose aim is to show what activities can you do in public transport that you cannot do inside your car (like reading, studying, listening to music, playing e-games and checking emails)."
Of course, there are many things one can "do in public transport which you cannot do inside your car." Why stop at dating?
Why indeed? Perhaps because the typical ride is only 5 minutes? Speed daters will need to perfect their "elevator" pitches... and here's the soundtrack.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mounting Disasters

More Billion-Plus Dollar Losses


 ~ The number and severity of economic losses from extreme weather events has been on the rise for years:

Weather related losses exceeding $1B each over the past 20 years

Several interesting things pop out from this graphic:
  • Droughts and heat waves (yellow) have increased in number, although the typical size of each event was higher in the previous decade.
  • Wildfires (red) are increasing in number
  • Tornadoes (purple) have dramatically increased in number and severity.
  • Hurricanes (dark blue) have also increased in both number and severity; it is not yet clear whether the last few years suggest a return to "normalcy" or just a brief respite in a worrisome trend.
Total damages are on the rise, and losses over the past decade exceeded half a trillion dollars. Given concerns about budget deficits, reducing that expense would be a worthwhile object of public policy discussion.

While direct linkage to climate change is notoriously difficult to prove in individual cases, the overall picture over the past 20 years cannot otherwise be easily explained. Engaging in puerile finger-pointing and self-interested politics is not befitting those we expect to provide leadership for the country as a whole.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Serial Killer

The Sequel


Tom Toles: the climate change defendant
 ~ Weren't lead, tobacco and asbestos all once in the dock peddling the same you-can't-prove-it line?

Whatever became of them anyway?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tesla

Entrepreneur Funding Follies


 ~ Should the government try to play venture capitalist?

Some think not, and they sure made hay over Solyndra. But—surprise!—we're not hearing from these same second-guessers now that Tesla has paid off its loan early.

The criticism of government playing VC is inapt anyway, and besides, do they really behave like VCs?



(h/t Mark Suster, Both Sides of the Table)

Friday, May 24, 2013

So, Do You Feel Lucky?

Or Are You Too Tired to Tell?


win dice
 ~ We entrepreneurs are a notoriously optimistic (if paranoid) bunch.

Ask most why they are optimistic and you'll usually hear about the unique and compelling virtues of their latest startup, the enormous market opportunity, the great team, the many sustainable competitive advantages, how much traction it already has, etc. Heck, I've said these things myself. Recently.

There's another oft-stated reason: hard work. As Thomas Edison memorably observed, many miss opportunity because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work. Not entrepreneurs. We expect to work hard. We may even be proud of it.

Some count on hard work so much they come to believe that they succeed (and others don't) solely because of hard work.

It's not true.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Another Kind of Oil Rig

I'm Shocked. Shocked!


Shell official walks away, head hanging
 ~ Ho hum. Another case of a rapacious global corporate cartel caught doing what comes naturally.

European officials are investigating BP, Shell and Statoil for fixing the price of oil. The US may do so as well.
[UK Energy officials] said manipulation of the oil price could have driven inflation and pointed out that the market is an important benchmark for many financial transactions.

High oil prices also feeds through to bigger bills for food, clothes and other essentials because it pushes up the cost of transport and manufacturing.

A high oil price will also fuel inflation, which erodes the value of people’s savings, and can stifle economic growth, by pushing up businesses’ costs.
The economic impact of artificially inflated oil prices is huge; $20T worth of oil is priced from the Brent crude index, a focus of investigators. As with the LIBOR rate fixing scandal, it turns out the largest players "report" prices which are then aggregated and used as the benchmark for everyone else. What stops them from playing games with those reports? Nothing, except apparently the danger of being caught due to an excess of greed.