Sunday, December 27, 2009

Prius drivers are the absolute worst drivers in the world! They suck and I know why...

This idea first settled into my head about a year and a half ago. It's been germinating ever since. I've always been interested in finding patterns in noise and this one was just too easy to discern.

Why are Prius drivers the worst drivers on the planet? Oh there are just too many reasons. How about driving well below the speed limit in the fast lane? How about switching lanes without blinkers or without a care in the world? How about cutting people off? How about blinkers on and not turning. How about yapping on the phone while doing 20 on the highway? How about inching down the road, obviously looking for a parking spot, but not caring that there's a line of people behind them. It's unbelievable if you haven't noticed it before, but I guarantee that after you read this, you'll notice I'm right within a few days. All I'm asking for is some damn common courtesy.

I did some research to see if other people had written about this. One comment said that the reason we notice Prius drivers are the worst drivers around is because there are so many Priuses on the road. I hope that commenter wasn't serious - or else he probably drives one. More prevalent than BMW's in the Bay Area? More prevalent than Honda Accord's? So much more prevalent that I notice an undeniable pattern? I doubt it.

Here's my deduction as to why Prius drivers suck. Now I have friends that drive them, so sorry to you guys. And I do realize that this is a broad, sweeping generalization, but here goes. Entitlement. These people think that because they've shelled out some money to reduce emissions that they're now holier than thou? That it doesn't matter what they do because they're on a crusade to save the planet? It's their way on the highway!

I don't mind people saving the planet. It's a nice gesture. I do my share to save the planet as well. But just because people do good doesn't mean it entitles you to anything. I recycle. I reuse grocery bags. I buy energy efficient products. And I don't drive like an ass.

So all you Prius drivers. Go take some driving lessons. While you may be decreasing your carbon output, you're increasing, exponentially, ill will throughout the world. And that may just be even more detrimental to the environment.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I'm Back! And Working Full Time

After another long hiatus, I've decided to try to begin writing regularly again. There are lots of times over the past few months when I thought about putting pen (keyboard) to paper (screen), but just couldn't get myself to do it. Part of it was the fact that my life was in flux and I was just trying to figure out where it was going.

Well, I started a job as a Sr Product Manager at Symantec two weeks ago. I had been busy interviewing at several places, but decided that this position was best for a variety of reasons. Most surprisingly though was, and is, how entrepreneurial it is. I'm working on emerging products on the consumer side (NortonLive), in a group that is separate from the core Symantec products. Though working full time at Symantec, I am still working on Vyoo. It is my dream and I won't let it die a quiet death until I've pursued all avenues.

The real reason I ended up getting a job was not because I've given up on my idea, but because I couldn't pay my minimum monthly balance on my credit card anymore. It was that high! And my part time gigs just weren't cutting it. Sometimes in life you gotta do what you gotta do.

I'll leave the details to future posts, but wanted to get something out on my blog in the interim.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Long Hiatus - Machu Picchu

I seem to be taking off large chunks of time from writing this blog. I always said I wouldn't do that, but some days it's hard to write.

Quite a bit has been going on these last few weeks, including a two week trip to Peru. I have to say, Machu Picchu was well worth the effort. It's truly an amazing spectacle.

For full disclosure, I've been struggling with what to do about Vyoo for the past month. I received a credit card statement last month in which I could barely make the interest payment. It was then that it hit me. I'm dead broke (really beyond broke). I have no income. I have no expectation of any real income, and if I raise money, it's months away.

It was depressing to say the least. And while I vowed not to let money dictate the fate of Vyoo, it certainly has played a role in how I'm deciding to progress with the company. We've recently finished the product and rewrote our algorithm... again. I've started pushing more invites out and I'm planning on doing a full launch in the next week. Concurrent with this launch, I've started looking for work to begin to pay the bills.

I'm still incredibly passionate about what I'm doing, but it comes with several caveats. I think it's time to begin progressing my career professionally, meaning moving to a more structure company with financial support. It's time to start paying my bills and my debt down, because I'm not getting any younger. And it's time to generate some cash so I can invest it into the company.

Anyway, I've always vowed to be open and honest about what we're doing, so I didn't want to sugar coat anything. It's been a rough month - one of the reasons I've slacked on posting anything here. But what I've learned more than anything else is that I'm an entrepreneur. And while I may get a "real" job, it's with the intention of getting back to the startup world somewhere down the road.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What a Great Story - "Telkom ADSL speed beaten by pigeon"

I had to share this. Here's an example of a company that is probably resting on its laurels. From Business Day (here):

"Homing pigeon Winston has made history by beating a Telkom ADSL line in delivering 4GB of data from Howick to Hillcrest, outside Durban in far less time than it takes to download the data using the state-run Telkom’s data network.

It took Winston 2 hours 6 minutes and 57 seconds, whereas the ADSL download was still under 5 % downloaded by the time the bird landed.

Winston took off from Howick after 10:00 this morning and travelled 80 kilometers, or 70 as the bird flies, to ensure the data arrived at it’s destination quickly.

Financial services company The Unlimited decided to test Telkom’s ADSL speed against World War I technology - the ancient technology won.

While the ADSL line was actually given a head start of almost half an hour, Winston still beat the service by 95%.

There has been no comment by Telkom."

We're Switching Teams - WSGR

Two years ago I met with WSGR to discuss legal representation for our startup. I met with one of their parnters, Mark Rienstra, who I got along with really well. After much deliberation, we decided that their deferred payment terms were too high. So we went with Fenwick & West at the time. Unfortunately our partner at Fenwick left for Reed Smith and we got lost in the shuffle. As we approach funding now - I want all of our ducks in a row - and they're not quite there yet. We determined we needed more support and therefore re-engaged several law firms to discuss working together. I reconnected with Mark and sat down for a meeting.

Their terms for the deal were more fair this time around and since we had a relationship already, it made working together much easier. So a few weeks ago, we signed a deal.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Yesterday afternoon I met with travel startup GeckoGo. They're part of the Facebook Fund startup class and are developing a travel content provisioning system. They've been around for a couple of years and have some pretty good traction in terms of users and even content. They were founded for some of the same reasons that urged me to start Vyoo. Discontent with existing offerings.

Looking at what's out there, it's a shame that there's so much money pouring into the travel space and some large incumbents, but nobody up to this point has captured enough of the market or even created a viable, one stop shop.

Looking at GeckoGo's offering, they are trying to put something like this together. Even such things as finding the right time of year to hit a destination haven't been done well, until now.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ugggh.... Dell, What Are You Doing to Me? Dell Sucks!

Two weeks ago I had an experience with Dell that made me think twice about their crappy customer service. I've been a Dell customer for fifteen years. They sold me my second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth computers (my first was custom built). I know them well. Their customer service used to be top notch - award winning. Until about 5 years ago. They shipped most of it offshore. And they obviously began cutting costs, including the implementation of VOIP, making it difficult to try to work with the technician on the phone. And they began to treat you like the village idiot. A typical comment, "Sir, have you tried powering off for five minutes?" Are you kidding?

Unfortunately, there was a constant need to talk to tech support, because their products became suckier and suckier.

Anyway. Two weeks ago, my computer broke. I mean, broke! The screen just went black. I could boot into safe mode but that was it. I spoke to customer support. My computer (which was already a replacement for another broken Dell computer that heated up to unfathomable levels) was out of warranty. But the nice tech asked if I'd like to extend the warranty and then get it repaired. Was this a joke? I honest to god thought it was. So for a hundred and something bucks I bought the extended warranty. While they probably made money on the transaction, I undoubtedly saved myself from buying another computer. So they came out to fix my computer, on site. They replaced my LCD, my hard drive, and my video card. I felt like I had an almost new computer. Everything worked like a charm. For two weeks. Then the same problem happened again. This time they fixed it on the phone by fixing a driver issue. But the problem started again the next day. Now I need to send my laptop back to Dell...which will take 8 days, at least. Fortunately I have my roommates computer...but WTF?! I am I supposed to work on my business like this?

And now I'm wondering if the computer will ever be fixed? I mean, they replaced most of the guts of it already. And message boards are filled with customers experiencing the same issue.

So take at least 2 days (on each end) out of getting anything done when this happens - because not only do I have to try to fix the computer, but I have to setup all of my software again. What a damn hassle! The way I look at it, Dell owes me about 8 days + 8 (for sending it back) days of compensation. Or how about at least a computer that works?

For the record, I love the Thinkpad T60 I'm using.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What's Up?

It's been a while since I've blogged. For good reason. I've been incredibly busy with the business. While I'd like to explain everything I've been doing, I'm not at liberty to discuss it all. We haven't secured funding, but we've been having successful meetings with people.

One the business front, we've experienced out ups and downs with developers, UI people, psychologists, consultants, friends, family, etc. over the past two years.

This taught me two very important lessons or at least confirmed what I already thought I knew:
1) Involve yourself and your company only with people who share your passion. I'm not talking about someone helping you craft a mission statement or coding a few lines of code. I'm talking about people you bring into your inner circle.

While it's nice to just get people working with you (and sometimes that's a necessity early on), it will end up taking up even more of your time if they're not in it for the right reasons. This is a hard thing to realize. What I'm saying is, recognize people's value, passion, and interest - and plan accordingly. Don't make someone a founder just because you think you need someone. Don't bring on a CTO just because you need one.

2) Money talks.

For all of those tasks you need completed that don't require a vested interest in your company - find a way to pay people. I've had to ask for a lot of favors through the past two years. And it sucks, because nobody is on your timeline. I want things done yesterday. Realistically - they won't be done until next month. I imagine if I were paying these people fair market value, that would probably change things. It's a bit of a catch 22.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Allow Me To Explain... Healthcare Reform in the US is Doomed

I had some people comment on my last rant about health care for all in this country. What most people DO NOT understand is that the current policy proposal is much like the system that Massachusetts has been running for years. And, contrary to the opinions from those who feel like giving free medicine to all, it is not working. And it is harming the welfare of doctors, specifically those in specialty fields. And it is creating worse health care.

Read this and then I'll happily debate with you over the current proposal. I'm all for healthcare reform. I really am. But I'm not for agreeing with, "oh yea, let's cover everyone with some extra taxes and cost cutting measures". Why don't we actually solve the problems that exist rather than throw an expensive band aid at it?.

From the ACC:

July 8, 2009

If you don't read another edition of this publication, read this one. Then read it again and get ready to join the ACC's fight for the viability of your practice! CMS late last week proposed mind-boggling cuts to cardiology that could be 30 percent or higher beginning in 2010. Taken together with the payment cuts cardiology already has experienced, this wrongheaded proposal represents a real threat to your practice and to the patients you serve.

Let's break down the horrible numbers. The proposed rule slashes Medicare payments by more than 11 percent for the average cardiology practice as a result of a badly managed practice expense survey. Out of thousands of cardiology practices solicited this survey is based on input from approximately 50. Somehow this small sample size showed that CV practices have experienced a 30 percent reduction in practice costs.

Does that match up to the numbers in your practice? Of course not. This survey has no credibility and CMS chose to disregard the standards it previously put in place to ensure the quality of practice expense data. We believe this is a significant departure from previous policy and may be a violation of the law. It is ironic that the agency that purports to support an evidence-based approach to medicine is making major decisions based on shoddy and incomplete data.

It gets worse! As if the 11 percent were not bad enough, most of the core cardiology services face cuts ranging from 20 to 40 percent. Add in the regularly scheduled SGR cuts of more than 20 percent and practices could see possible payment cuts ranging from 25 to almost 50 percent.

This is not what we meant by putting quality first. The timing couldn't be worse. Just as we're moving forward with real proposals for health care reform that would improve quality, reduce waste, slow spending and improve the viability of CV practices, along comes this CMS hatchet job. Arbitrary price controls do not equal reform and will only lead to greater disparities in health care.

That's the bad news. The good news is that this proposal is subject to revision. Your ACC is fighting this change at all levels through CMS, Congress and the Administration. ACC President Fred Bove, and your elected officers and Washington-based staff are all over this crisis on your behalf.

Working closely with our partner cardiovascular societies we are developing a detailed response to CMS and working the halls of Congress to bring political pressure to bear on the agency. We are reaching out beyond cardiology to engage other specialties like oncology that also face daunting cuts that will inevitably impact patient diagnosis and treatment. On the regulatory side, ACC staff is working closely with the Advocacy Steering Committee and the CV RUC to prepare a substantive analysis and response to this proposed rule. We anticipated this action from CMS and have identified technical expert consultants who can assist us with our analysis and help propose alternatives.

We have been rocked by this proposal and now it's time to roll! Here are four key ways you can get involved:

* The ACC has launched a grassroots campaign to get Congress involved. Go to and send a letter to your members of Congress explaining in detail how 20 to 40 percent cuts will impact your ability to practice medicine.
* Take part in a video campaign that can be shared with members of Congress, regulatory officials and the public. Upload a 30-40 second video about the impacts of large-scale cuts on your ability to provide patients with the right care at the right time. Email Molly Nichelson at to have it posted for you on ACC Advocacy's YouTube" site. Don't own a video camera? Submit your story via the ACC's online forum, "The Lewin Report."
* Take part in the ACC's "Cut the Cuts Roadshow" and volunteer to give your own or facilitate an ACC-taped presentation on the implications of the cuts on cardiology to your hospital or practice group. Email for more information
* Get involved with your local Chapter's efforts: this could include volunteering your practice to host a "Cardiologist for a Day" event, writing op-eds and more. Go to for contact information or email

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Free Magazine Subscriptions - Forbes and BusinessWeek


Two of my favorite magazines. Well worth it. Free. If anyone reads magazines anymore. Actually, I like magazines because they're very portable and easy to read. Especially in the bathroom. Newspapers are too inconvenient. Thus the demise of newspapers.

Anyway, here are the links. They're free. No credit cards. Just answer a few questions and give 'em your address. I usually fill out a fake name. And use my spam email address so as not to be bombarded by spam. I recommend you do the same. You don't have a spam email address you say? Well time to create one. By the way, Forbes is an awesome magazine for those who haven't spent much time reading it.

Business Week (here)

Forbes (here)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Obama is Making Me a Republican! Americans Need To Take Responsibility!

I voted for him. Much to the dismay of my family. Not because they are war mongering Republicans, but because they are fiscally conservative and scared to death of a Democrat's "big government".

I shunned them. Praising Obama. Loving the thought of having a leader the world respected. Hopeful that we wouldn't be mired in war for the rest of my life. Scorning Bush at every chance and how he single-handedly ended the supremacy of the greatest nation the world had ever seen.

The first six months of Obama's presidency, I was elated. He was taking a different tone and stance on everything. I admired him and loved the direction America was going. Then slowly, cracks appeared in his armor. At once, a person I had thought was a moderate Democrat has become the most left winged socialist I could have imagined. I really hope this is just a figment of my imagination. And that I'm jumping the gun. But he's coming dreadfully close to mirroring some Chavezian policies.

I was raised in a family that rewarded hard work and dedication to school and life. It's part of what drove me to get my MBA and continue to push myself to achieve, even when others viewed my situation as ideal. I've learned not to take things for granted: life, friends, family, finances, and happiness.

I've watched as my parents worked tirelessly to provide for my brother and me. To give us things they never had so that we could live a life they had only dreamed of. And they succeeded.

But change is upon us if Obama has his way. See, we're not being rewarded for hard work and dedication anymore. And we're not at fault for mistakes we make. It's called responsibility. And there doesn't seem to be any culpability anymore. It's disgusting me! My dad is making less money than ever, as a physician. 30 some years of service. And he earns less than he ever did. What other field pays you less the longer you work? Name one. Sure, some of you will scoff... "he's a doctor, he earns plenty". Yea, he spent 10+ years after college in training (that's ten less earning years). He saves people's lives. He's on call. He spends the worst 30 seconds of people's lives with them - having to tell people they are dying. Or telling family members their loved ones have died. If you're complaining about prices. Take it up with your insurance provider. They're making plenty. But enough about that.

America used to be the Land of Opportunity - where your dreams came true if you worked hard. People aren't working hard anymore. They're sitting around and waiting for handouts. This sounds sustainable. Maybe a little adversity would actually make us stronger.

Just my 2 cents.

Monday, June 29, 2009

What's on Tap for Vyoo?

This Saturday is our impending wide beta launch. While I'm excited about actually getting things opened up a bit more, I'm also tempered. We're working on hiring a new UI designer who I've spent quite a bit of time with trying to create a good design. She's made some tremendous recommendations and put us on track to have a great UI. Unfortunately it won't be close to ready for the launch. At the point where the UI is good, I'll feel a lot better about everything. The UI right now is a bit messy. But that's what you get when you have developers try to make UI revisions.

Looking for mentors:
I've started to more aggressively look for a mentor. Someone who can help define a strategy in order to approach investors, partners, and others we'll need help from. I've looked for one in the past, but I was apparently not ready for it. I guess the only advice I can give is that you'll know when you're ready for one.

Looking for investors:
After Saturday, we'll start to aggressively pursue the financing track, determining who and what we'll be looking for. This is where I'm assuming our b school background will really pay off.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Student Loan Bailout. Sort of.

There's a new federal load program for people with Stafford and Grad PLUS loans. It's taking the place of the current system. Most b school classmates of mine used Stafford loans. These new rules will reduce your payments and also make you eligible for loan forgiveness after 10 or 25 years. The former if you work in the public/government sector. It will also generally reduce your monthly payments and prevent compounding of interest accrual if you're on deferral.

The payments are based on your earnings and how they related to the poverty level. Even people with six figure salaries could qualify, so it makes sense to check it out.

You should contact your lender to see if you qualify. You can read more details here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Revenue Models for Startups, Facebook, and Twitter

I've been thinking a lot about revenue models for these Web 2.0 companies that nobody can seem to monetize. While we have a monetization strategy for Vyoo, others do not and will not anytime soon. One possible solution is completely changing the model.

Problems: the traditional advertising model does not exist on Facebook or Twitter. And it won't. I reason this because people don't go to Facebook to make purchases and Twitter is quick, continuous consumption of streamed data. Sure you could throw in ads here and there but it would ruin how Twitter works.

So what about public funding? I'm saying this as an absolute opponent of more government. I hate the healthcare plan. I hate taking over the automobile industries. I hate bailing out Wall Street. Mainly because these industries made mistakes. They should be able to survive and thrive if they were run properly and had smart strategies. But there's some rationality to public funding for certain things that cannot operate without it. Like the funding of some baseball parks for example. Because ultimately they provide a value for the community as a whole which wouldn't be entirely possible without the funding. So how about public funding for sites that provide real value to our people and the government. Twitter has been instrumental in getting the word out in Iran. It's been so important the the State Department asked Twitter not to go down for its scheduled maintenance during the crisis.

Yankee Stadium cost the tax payers of New York nearly $2 billion (here). And having taxpayer money go to Twitter or Facebook doesn't hurt anyone - like some of these bailouts do.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What Happened to the American Dream? No To Socialization! Of Medicine or Anything Else!

I voted for Obama. I'll be the first to admit it. And while he's doing a great job in some respects, he's doing a downright terrible job in others. What I'm most concerned about are his socializing tendencies. You've already heard me bitch about saving the automobile industry. I think it's an utter joke.

Let me sum it up for you in a few sentences. All of the jobs that proponents of saving the auto industry claim would be lost if GM/Chrysler, etc. were shut down could easily be replaced if we spent that money building new supply chains for electric or hybrid cars. Give Tesla Motors 50 billion and they'll be hiring tens of thousands of workers to keep up with the demand for their products. It's a joke. And anyone notice how GM is "all of the sudden" coming out with socially responsible and environmentally friendly cars when they claimed that they didn't have the technology just a few years ago. What a bunch of BS. I'm getting pissed writing this.

But it's not only autos that really kills me. It's health care and every other industry he's trying to socialize. The US has the most advanced medicine and health care system in the world. Hands down. Yes it's expensive. Because these people train for years to provide American's with the quality of care they deserve. And. They save LIVES! Put a price on that while your auto industry gets government handouts. So instead of really revamping the system to make it more affordable, while keeping the quality of health care high, we're ruining the system. There are lots of examples of ruined systems already, even though Michael Moore would like you to think otherwise. Take a look at Massachusetts for example. Here are some problems:

1) Long lines
2) Decreased overall quality of care
3) Lack of interest in medicine
4) Increase in taxes

"No sir, we can't look at you now. I know you have heart problems, but see, we have a line. Take a number". Want that to happen to you?

Healthcare in the United States is 15% of GDP. The highest in the developed world. And that's where the problem lies.

To cut costs, the government continues to cut reimbursements to doctors. Yes, they are reimbursing the care givers less. Not figuring out a way to make healthcare more affordable. So they expect doctors to treat you the same way, but now we're going to pay them less. A lot less. Yea, no worries. Those 4 years in med school, 4 years of internships, years of residency, and your fellowship? That several hundred thousand in debt from school? Don't worry about that. You're have time to make that back. And while you're at it, we have new regulations that require you to update your office technology, sell your lab equipment back to the hospital so you can't make a profit, accept uninsured which we won't reimburse you for, and you have to work more hours just to make what you used to earn. What other profession pays you less the longer you work? There are no promotions or stock options in medicine.

So here's what needs to be done. Screw the insurance companies. Let's do something about that. Make them compete. Right now they get to cherry pick who they accept. Make them accept everyone. Provide tax relief for those buying their own health care or paying for their health care out of pocket in some way. And how about the pharmaceutical companies. They're printing money. Figure out a way to get prescriptions for less. I mean, shit, we can get them less in Canada, and they're made in the US. Socializing medicine WILL NOT WORK! It's not working in Massacusetts. Or Canada (long lines). Or Sweden (outragoues taxes). Or anywhere else. Not in its current incarnation.

Another reason it won't work is because nobody will want to go into medicine anymore. What was once a prestigious field where the brightest and best students flocked will now be an assembly line job. Please don't ruin our health care system.

And while I have many ideas, here's a proposed solution that highlights most of them. And it's from a Senator, so maybe we'll see it (here).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pineapple Express Sucks!

Who the hell recommended this crap show to me? Lots of people, that's who. I can't believe people like this movie. It sucks. And it made me realize that Seth Rogen really isn't funny. Well, that's not true. I already knew that. I'll tell you who's funny out of that new crew of stoner jokers. That super fat kid from SuperBad. And that other kid from SuperBad - the one who was in Juno. I don't know their names, but they're hilarious. I thought they'd all be in this movie too. But no.

I don't even think I laughed throughout the entire movie. And I stopped watching it before it ended I was so bored. I started wondering if maybe I needed to be super stoned to watch it. But since I don't smoke weed anymore, I was resigned to watch it sober. But then again, those other stoner movies I still find hilarious so that's not it.

Bad plot. Bad script. Bad everything.

Anyway. Save your $3. By the way, I looked up this movie on Rotten Tomatoes just to see how well it's been received. It got a 65%. Which means nothing to me since Rotten Tomatoes is a thumbs up or down. What's a good score on that site anyway?

Perfectly coined by Richard Roeper (and I hate critics):
Watching Pineapple Express is like sitting dead sober in a room with a bunch of stoned people who are laughing uproariously. They’re having a great time. You’re not.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hello Bank Of America. So Far So Good. AND a $75 Sign Up Bonus

I was asked what bank I switched to. It's Bank of America. I can't really praise them yet, but I will say I'm happy so far. And while I'm not happy with Mr. Lay's unimpressive stint as CEO, their purchase of Merrill, their ATM fee hikes that led the industry, and a litany of other issues, I still decided to give them a try. So why did I choose BoA? It really came down to three things:
1) Free checking. Totally free. No BS!
2) Loads of ATM's, since that's how I get my money.
3) And a $75 signup bonus for opening a checking account (and adding direct deposit). You should always be on the lookout for these sign up bonuses. They change frequently. And sometimes they're as high as $200.

Here's the bonus link (here):

So far I've been impressed with two things:
1) Customer service. They were incredibly helpful and friendly on the phone. Unlike Wells.
2) Their online portal. It's better than Wells and much more secure which makes me feel more comfortable.

I'm sure there are people who have issues with Bank of America. We'll see how my experience goes.

Goodbye, Good Riddance Wells Fargo. I Hate You!

I know there are a few Wells Fargo employees who read my blog. To you, I apologize for what's coming. I'm sure your departments at Wells are run and managed like well oiled machines. It's just personal/business banking I'm not too fond of.

It is with absolute joy that I walked into Wells Fargo yesterday to close my personal accounts. While I closed my business accounts weeks ago, I needed to get my new ATM and pin before I closed my personal accounts. I mean, how else could I overdraw my account if I didn't have an ATM card?

It was actually a little sad. That marketing ploy they put on your ATM or credit card that says "Member since" really works. I've been a Wells Fargo member since 1995. That was my first year of college. My first real bank account. And that was back when I was living in Rochester, New York. A hellhole, but that's besides the point. It was a long time as a loyal customer. Wells has made thousands from me...if not more. And apparently it wasn't worth it to keep me around during these tumultuous last two years while I get my business going. And for a few mere $12 fees. I still can't get over how ridiculous they were in dealing with me. Absolutely no flexibility. No support for startups or entrepreneurs or loyal customers. And they're a damn San Francisco bank. Home of the startup.

Anyway. It really was a pleasure in the end. "I'm here to close my account". Shazaaaaaam! I was thinking. They probably didn't care. But I did. And then I marched that bank check over to my new bank where I was met with open arms. And a smile.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How To Get Freebies: Part III -

The next freebie that I want to highlight is for House Party. House Party is a website that lets you sign up to host a house party for their corporate sponsors. Their sponsors run the gamut in terms of offerings: Ford, BumbleBee Foods, TruTV, Chef Michaels, Carnival, Clairol, Domino's, Oscar Meyer, TNT, Kaplan, Sargento just to name a few. The parties come and go throughout the year, so if you don't see something you like, just wait.

I found them last year...I'm not really sure how. But they were featuring a Margaritaville Party. And since I'm a huge Jimmy Buffett fan, this was right up in my wheelhouse. In order to qualify for the party, you need to sign-up, fill out a one page essay/description of why you should be a host for the party, and promise to post blog entries and photos from your event.

I was one of the winners of the Margaritaville party. They sent me about 20 lei's, but most importantly, they sent me a Margarita machine. It was awesome. And once a week, they'd send additional products, like a Buffett Live CD, cups, extra blenders, part favors, and coupons for the guests.

I honestly can't believe how much stuff they sent. I'm not sure how well it worked from a financial perspective for Margaritaville. But if this is how they spent their marketing, it provided plenty of goodwill. All of my friends loved the machine... and we continue to have Margaritaville parties every summer. In fact, we're planning our next one right now.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I Love Ruby on Rails! Code Snippet for Comma Separate List

I love Rails. I really do. It's by far the coolest language I've ever used. Just as an example, today I was printing out destinations that a user has visited. I created an array, looped through it, and printed each destination, followed by a comma. Now the last element would always have a comma after it, so I was thinking of a better way to implement this, instead of just removing the last comma after I had created the list. That's a lot of work to just create a damn list.

Well, of course Rails has a helper method. It's the to_sentence method that you can call on an array. I just converted my object store to a collection:


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wrapping it Up!

We're finally wrapping up our small beta in preparation for a larger beta testing cycle. This one will include a significantly larger population, including a large amount of travelers who we're hoping will be able to validate our concerns and ambitions. They'll get to see our vision and really tell us what they think. And whether it's all been worth it. Even though it has, no matter what.

I estimate a full beta launch will be ready around July 4th. We're basically waiting on our revamped UI right now. We've realized that the existing UI just isn't ready for people we don't know... people we can't personally explain the functionality to. Looking forward to it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Damn I'm Annoyed Today. Gay Marriage. The Link. And The Taliban.

I'm driving home today from San Francisco. I have time to think. And I begin to ruminate about 3 things I saw on this morning that really got me going. The first is this gay marriage ban that was upheld by the California State Supreme Court yesterday. The second, the monkey they've found which proves evolution. And the third, the Taliban seeking to return to their peace deal in Pakistan. I'm sorry about my points of view in this post. While they are mine, I usually try not to engage in political or religious discussions. They rarely go well. But I couldn't resist today.

Let's start with the gay marriage ban (here). I just don't get it? Not in California anyway. I mean, I don't care how you feel about homosexuality in terms of whether you agree with or not - that's NOT the point. But to put a law on the books to ban it, to remove people's civil liberties is beyond me. It reminds me of the Civil Right's struggles of the 50's and 60's. Not that I was around, but how is this any different? And 50 years later I think most educated people will agree that granting civil rights to all people was the right decision. Apparently for anyone except gay people. Look at it this way, I don't agree with Anna Nicole Smith and that oil tycoon's marriage, but I'm not about to propose a law opposing it. It's a decision that's not hurting anyone else and something two people choose to do - so stop wasting time debating it. It shouldn't be up to you. Unfortunately, some of you will argue that the state voted for it with Prop 8. And I ask this: Do you really trust that just because a majority of people voted for it, that it's the right thing to do? If there was an all white town in the deep south, run by the KKK, and they voted for killing all Jews (or at least denying them their rights), is that ok? And if you look back before the Civil Right's Movement, I'm sure a majority of people would have voted against it, were it up to a vote. That's why there's a Supreme Court, an Executive Branch, and The House/Congress. It's checks and balances.

Then there was this story about finding the 47 million year old fossil remains of a monkey that happens to be the missing link between humans and monkeys. It basically proves Darwin's theory of evolution. And boy am I surprised that evolution may actually be proven after all these years (note the sarcasm). What really catches me about this story though is the implication it's going to have on creationist religions. How are people going to twist their religious stories so that it becomes compatible with evolution? And what are those people who have proposed teaching creationism in school going to say? I can't wait for the day when those people will be silenced. To me, that's brainwashing. And this all links back to that first story about gay marriage. If everyone who is opposed to gay marriage is opposed because of their religious beliefs (ie: the Bible or whatever text it may be), then hopefully this monkey link is going to damage a lot of people's belief in that written word. Unfortunately, instead of embracing science, there will be a debate about the validity of this scientific proof. And we'll go on believing a book that was written by unknown people 3 thousand years ago and more.

The last story I read, which doesn't really have anything to do with the previous two, is the peace deal that the Taliban is seeking in Pakistan (here). Basically, they had a peace deal in place that enforced Sharia law in the Swat Valley in return for peace from the Taliban. The deal broke down when the Taliban decided the Sharia law wasn't strict enough, even though it had already forced women inside and closed schools to girls (among other things). So the Taliban moved into Bruner district and took up arms, some 60 miles from Islamabad. And Pakistan said hell no. And has been pushing them out. Now that the Taliban is losing, they want that peace deal back. I say, screw you Taliban. Nice try. And I really hope Pakistan doesn't give in. Because, just like in Afghanistan, the Taliban will regroup and then come back when they're ready. How do you trust a group like this to uphold a peace agreement they already broke?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

More Freebies - How To Get Free Stuff: Part II

I thought I'd follow up my post yesterday with some more free stuff today. First of all - let me warn you that getting this free stuff sometimes takes a month or so. But that's part of the fun. You totally forget about things and then shazaam, there's a gift card!

There are a few sites I frequent which actually have you test products. It's great, because you get these products either free or at seriously reduced rates. The best site in this category is BzzAgent. They're a word of mouth marketing company and they have a very active user community.

I joined over a year ago and some of the things I've received: A Norelco razor, Gift certificates for Chili's and Boston Market, a video game system, and my favorite, a laundry steaming system called the Fabric Freshener (here). That thing has a $219.00 retail value. How can you not love it?!

BzzAgent is one of the few product testing sites that lets anyone sign up. The more you contribute, the more products you're offered to test. Essentially, you join these campaigns. They send you items. And you write reviews about them - positive or negative. You have to spend some time on their site monthly to increase your status and to improve the number of products you test, but it's actually fun too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How to Get Free Stuff - Part I

In the last two years, with minimal income, I've become quite adept at getting things free. If not free then at least at heavily reduced rates. I thought I'd begin to share some of these tactics with you. Some of these tips are going to take more of an investment than others, but they're all worthwhile if you're in a situation like mine.

I'll start by pointing out the most basic methods. In subsequent posts, I'll go into the more in depth tactics.

Free Websites - these are websites that give you daily freebies or special deals on a number of different items.

My go to websites. There are two that seem to handle pretty much everything.

FreeStuffTimes: This site is updated by the author several times daily. They list freebies that are generally available at that given time. And some expire quickly - so it's good to check this page a few times a day. Now don't get obsessive about it. I usually just check it every morning and scan the freebies. Some of todays freebies: Free VOIP headset, free magazines, free drinks at Corner Bakery. But they often have free gift cards (I've received several $10GC's for Starbucks). Also - I just got a free Gillette Fusion razor in the mail yesterday. Very worthwhile site.

Now this is the mother lode....

SlickDeals: Slickdeals is a forum where people post deals they find. It has an incredibly active user base and there are often tens of comments about particular deals. Especially whether the deals are actually a good deal or not. The deals are also rated here. It will take you a little while to familiarize yourself with the site. They also have a freebies section that's worth hitting up daily. I usually just scan the 5 star rated deals. Act quickly, because the volume of visitors to this site is so large, the amazing deals often end quickly. Their freebies are under Forums --> Freebies. Some of their great deals today - $20 GC to Starbucks, Wedding registry freebies, free aquafresh sample.

Additionally, Wal-Mart is always giving away samples (here). Today they have Prilosec samples, sun tan lotion, women's products, hair care, etc.

If you're like me and love getting packages...signing up for freebies is a great way to feel the love.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I Hate To Say It. I Love Apple. I'm an Apple Fanboy!

For my whole life, I've resisted. As a boy, I hated Apple. Their smug one button mouse. And their proprietary platform irked me. I felt it was to their detriment. The community couldn't become involved without the hands of Apple smothering them. But they retained an avid user base. And with the help of their arch nemesis Microsoft, they survived (here). Years later Apple learned a few lessons. They opened up their OS and opened up their iPhone to the masses, allowing users to create and share their own work.

But part of their core has remained the same. Their get what you pay for mentality. And pay you do. Apple products sell at a far greater premium than competing products. But like I said, you get what you pay for. Their commitment to their customers is exemplary. And it's this mantra that's made me a true fan along with the millions of others.

How I became hooked: I've been having difficulty with my iPhone for the past several months. Spotty reception and hanging software are but a few of the disruptions. I've spent a significant amount of time talking to both AT&T and Apple tech support. And Apple's tech support has so overshadowed AT&T's that it's not even a fair comparison. Apple's employees are so knowledgeable and understanding that I almost feel bad requesting their time with trivial matters. I feel compelled to thank them after every conversation. And if you know me. That's not the usual treatment that customer service reps get.

This past weekend surpassed even my greatest expectations. When I used the volume buttons on my iPhone, the volume graphic stayed on the phone, indefinitely. It would never shutoff. I decided to take my phone in to an Apple store. I made an appointment, because it was so damn easy to do online. I met with an Apple rep at their Genius bar, right on time, and he tried to fix the problem by blowing some air through the phone. When this didn't work, he didn't even have to think. I heard 5 words I never thought I'd hear without an argument and some kicking and screaming. "Let's just swap this out". What did you just say? Are you serious? You're giving me a new phone and you didn't exhaust every last alternative? You didn't make me reinstall the software, turn the phone on and off a hundred times, and throw it against the wall first? You didn't treat me like a 5 year old?

It took all of ten minutes. I have a new phone. Apple has another $69 from me because I extended my Apple Care. And they have a customer who's so happy that he's sharing his love with Apple to the world. Worth it? You bet. It'll probably cost them a few bucks to refurbish that phone. So, net, they're up about 60 bucks. And a whole lotta goodwill.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wolfram Alpha Launch - It's Pretty Awesome!

Today is the official launch of the Wolfram Alpha. It's a search tool based entirely on Mathematica, the software developed by Stephen Wolfram and colleagues over the past 30 years.

"Our goal is to accept completely free-form input, and to serve as a knowledge engine that generates powerful results and presents them with maximum clarity."

In reality, this search tool aims to answer any systemic query or really any objective question, even if it hasn't been asked before. It does this with a large repertoire of algorithms and natural language tools as well as numerous modeling technologies.

This tool is incredibly powerful. And it's pretty well done. And remember, it's still in its infancy. I have high hopes for this... though I'm still puzzled as to who will be the main benefactors. It's not really a Google type search tool for the masses. It seems to be more of a research assistant. So surely it's going to benefit scientists, mathematicians, researchers, et al. You're not going to find hotels on Maui or airline flights. But you can find computations for complex math.

I just typed in derivative of 9345x^2 2x - and it returned the answer, along with graphs. Pretty f'in impressive.

Check it: "As of now, Wolfram|Alpha contains 10+ trillion of pieces of data, 50,000+ types of algorithms and models, and linguistic capabilities for 1000+ domains. Built with Mathematica—which is itself the result of more than 20 years of development at Wolfram Research—Wolfram|Alpha's core code base now exceeds 5 million lines of symbolic Mathematica code. Running on supercomputer-class compute clusters, Wolfram|Alpha makes extensive use of the latest generation of web and parallel computing technologies, including webMathematica and gridMathematica.

Wolfram|Alpha's knowledge base and capabilities already span a great many domains, and its underlying framework has the power and flexibility to support ready extension to essentially any domain that is based on systematic knowledge."

Friday, May 15, 2009

So That's It Chrysler and GM?

Oh boy, what a surprise to wake up to today. GM will be closing about 1/6th of their dealer network in 2010. But that's just the tip. They're looking to cut 40% by next year, which I assume means they'll just announce it by next year. Chrysler is cutting about a quarter of their dealer network.

So let me get this straight. We gave the auto industry billions in order to save it and the jobs that come with it? And now they're cutting lots and lots of jobs? Maybe they're saving some jobs by cutting others. Whatever the case... these guys are downsizing and restructuring. Why couldn't they do this without 40 billion in taxpayer money?

This sure sounds like it's the golden ticket. GM thinks so too, "GM also acknowledges that its long-term decline in U.S. market share will continue as a result of the smaller network of dealers".

Hmmm.... that's smart then isn't it? Sounds like the perfect solution to all of their problems. Maybe they should downsize their employee base first. Restructure operations. Get rid of union pay. Just a few things I thought of in the last 30 seconds.

Flash, ActionScript, and Rails 2 Integration with SWFObject

I finished integrating our Flash Map into our Rails application. It was a bit tricky since I hadn't worked with ActionScript or Flash before, but in the end it all actually made sense.

The first thing I did was use SWFObject to embed the Flash Map (swf object) into my rails view. SWFObject is a javascript library that handles multi-browser support for flash. It really takes the heavy lifting out of implementing flash from the client side. I highly recommend downloading the js libraries (here).

In your view, simply include the js file:
<script type="text/javascript" src="/javascripts/swfobject.js"></script>

You can then display your flash object like this:
<script type="text/javascript">
flashVars["authenticity_token"] = AUTHENTICITY_TOKEN;
var flashParams = { menu: "false"};
var flashID = { id : "flashObject" };
swfobject.embedSWF("/path_to_file.swf", "flashObject", "550", "400",
"9.0.0", "expressInstall.swf", flashVars, flashParams, flashID);

That will display your Flash object in the DIV following the path_to_file.swf. So this will display the Flash object in the flashObject div in your page.

There are some important points to highlight. The flashVars contains variables you can pass to your ActionScript. This is important with rails because you NEED the authenticity token in the ActionScript so that your application can validate the request. You can certainly turn this off with a before_filter, but I do not advise it. The AUTHENTICITY_TOKEN is a parameter I set in my application.

If you want to use the before_filter to turn off login or authenticity validation, use this:

skip_before_filter :login_required, :check_new_user, :verify_authenticity_token

In our case, we also needed to pass flash variables to our ActionScript from the server. Without AJAX, your JS cannot get values from the server - because it's client side. In order to handle this, we used a rails "javascript_tag" to populate the flashVars with our values on the server side. You can do this like so:

<%= javascript_tag "var flashVars = { user_id: '#{}' };"%>

Or populate it with whatever variables you want.

In the ActionScript, you'll need to read in these parameters. You can do that like so:

userId = this.loaderInfo.parameters.user_id;

Of course, you'll have to pass the auth token back to the rails app as well. You can do that by appending the token to the URL:"+authToken"

Just grab the auth token the same way you just grabbed the user_id.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Value of an MBA after the Financial Crisis - Come Hear Me Speak at Stanford

This is late notice...only because I wasn't ready to announce it until I had my speech written. That's the way I operate. Anyway, tomorrow night (Tuesday 5/12) I'll be speaking at Stanford, discussing the impact of the financial crisis on both business school and life after.

While applications are certainly up this year and many people are espousing a business school bubble, I'm here to say that no matter how you slice it, an advanced degree is worth it's weight in gold, both immediately and throughout your career. Nobody can tell me that two candidates of similar work experience won't be differentiated because one has an MBA. Bull. Up, down, any economy... an MBA is a ticket.

Look back thirty or forty years when a college education was a differentiating factor. Well now that's what graduate school is. Sure you can succeed and excel without one, but the doors that an MBA opens are too numerous to count.

Come and join me. It's free and refreshments will be served.

Nickel and Dimed... Anyone Else Getting Tired of Being Screwed?

Think about the last time you bought a plane ticket. You probably went to Orbitz, Farecast, Kayak, or some other airline aggregator. Maybe they even showed you a fare which was fairly reasonable. In reality, it was far from what you ended up paying. It's not entirely their fault. See, they don't include the taxes and fees in the price they show you. And the taxes and fees can be exorbitant. And they can vary widely from carrier to carrier and route to route. It's actually becoming ridiculous how they keep tacking fees on. Like that fuel surcharge last year. Do you think they even thought about rescinding it now that fuel is half the price? Not a chance. They've become dependent on it.

It's not over there though. Then you go to the airport and want to check a bag. A frickin bag?! God forbid you want to bring something with you! That will be $15. Two bags... Jesus. It can be 10 percent of your plane ticket.

My roommate was on a flight a few months ago and they wouldn't even serve him water without charging him. Food? $10 a pop. Beers are as expensive as at a baseball game.

Unfortunately the airline industry has started a trend that is rippling through the service industry. Auto rental fees can now account for a whopping "30 - 35% of the rental". There's a facility fee, a tire surcharge, and an energy fee. But here's a tip for saving some money on renting a car. Rent it OFF airport. In fact, in Phoenix, it's half the rate if you rent it off the airport. Just take a cab or'll save you plenty.

Anyone else notice that Ticketmaster fees just keep climbing? They can be 26% of a ticket price and more. In fact, "Ticketmaster’s convenience fees defy logic — and should be publicly explained. Not only do the percentages assessed differ from show to show, they vary with differently priced tickets at the same show"(here).

Then, there was my issue with Wells Fargo last week - whereby they tried to screw me for allowing them to invest my money to make more money.

And how about those damn credit card fees?

As our economy is mired in a recession, I just wonder what tacking fees onto prices is really going to do? It's certainly not going to endear the public to these companies. In fact, it's going to create resentment, like its doing with me. It's going to eventually bring these companies down. I assure you. Companies like Virgin America and Southwest will continue to thrive and continue to create goodwill while overpriced, behemoths try any which way to survive - in the face of government bailouts and incompetent management. And they're not using the money to restructure or improve their operations. They're using it to survive just a little while longer.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Is The Recession Over?

There's a lot of talk this week about the recession possibly being over. About how we may have hit bottom and we're looking up. That's hardly the case. Unemployment has hit a 25 year high this week. Banks are still closing. Restaurants are empty. Houses aren't selling. We're a long way from a recovery.

I still don't feel like it's hit the Bay Area like the '01 crash did... but there's still time. People have been leaving San Francisco. Rents are down. I just don't buy the argument that this small stock market rally is a sign that the economy is all of the sudden looking better.

If you think about it... nothing has changed. The psyche of the American people is still in the crapper. America keeps pumping money it doesn't have into the markets. People are still getting laid off. I think we're going to be in this for a while. So strap in.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Wells Fargo Sucks! I Hate Them!

I love Mint. It's such a great service. A few days ago it sent me an email telling me that I incurred a service charge on my Vyoo business account. As is customary, I'd go down to Wells Fargo and have the charge waived. But this time was different. Not only was I sick of having to go down to Wells Fargo to deal with this crap, but I had also had them agree to waive this fee indefinitely the last time I was there. So I went down with a bone to pick.

See, Wells Fargo claims they're start-up friendly. They claim they like to help small business owners. What's so helpful about a $14 monthly fee for not having tons of money in our account.

My issue was a much larger issue though. I've been a Wells Fargo customer ever since I moved to California ten years ago. My business partner has been a customer for 10 years as well (he's linked to our business account). He also has an equity line, a personal account, and a mortgage through Wells Fargo. So when I went to speak with them about this ridiculous nickel and diming, I figured they'd be all ears. Boy was I wrong. I got stonewalled. "There's nothing we can do." And the guy was a dick about it.

Apparently it doesn't matter if we've pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into personal accounts and home equity lines... all that matters is that our business account doesn't have much money. So they charge us a $14 fee every month. We're a damn startup. We don't have revenue. But we need a business account to pay bills, to receive payments, and god forbid, to accept money if we raise financing. The fact that these accounts can't be linked to our personal accounts or that they can't waive these fees is beyond me. Like my roommate said...their left brain doesn't talk to their right brain. I'm gone...never again to return to Wells Fargo. Screw you Wells. Hope it was worth your $14.

That Damn Algorithm Is Plugged In!

Last week I finished plugging in the Python algorithm into our Rails code. I had to add error handling this week. But all is looking good now. I also loaded our survey data from the survey we sent out last year. The reason for this is that the answers actually help calibrate our algorithm. With that done, the only pressing issue is getting our frontend up to par. I'm still struggling with what will bring people back to our site. There needs to be some draw. I think part of it is going to be how people use the site. But I guess we won't know until we kick this thing out to more people.

So there's that...and there's getting our Flash map to play nicely with Rails. It's a bit more difficult than I thought. That's my task for this week.

Things have been considerably slowed as I've taken on more consulting work and GMAT tutoring to help pay down my debt. If anyone is curious. Debt sucks.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Berkeley Business Plan Competition Final Results

If you've followed Vyoo, you know we entered the Berkeley Business Plan competition last year. We made it to the semi-final round and that was it. I had a problem with the competition. I felt that it didn't live up to its billing as the "competition [that] provides entrepreneurs with the best possible resources to help convert ideas into reality". In fact, the only thing I think the business plan competition does is help take companies that already have products and/or users and helps them grow. Yes, this is a useful service, but not one that I feel a business plan competition should be providing.

Basically it's become a filter for VC's, or so it seems. Just another way for them to evaluate companies without having to take a huge risk. I was speaking to a good friend the other day. We were talking about the fact that there haven't been any homeruns for VC's in quite a while... and related it to the fact that VC's just don't invest in homeruns anymore. They invest in copycats. Or companies without a chance for revenue. I mean...Facebook is a great example. Maybe they'll figure out their revenue. But I just don't see it happening any time soon. Not after they flush more money down the tube. And how about YouTube. They lose about $500M/year. I love YouTube... but unfortunately there's no money there.

So if you look back at the Berkeley Bplan competition - and look at the 3 winners - they were all med device companies. Not only that, two are diagnostic devices - a TB device. And an HIV detection device. And one anti-bacterial solution. Not a single web company. Not a single energy company. Maybe it was the current "hot" topic with swine flu and all. Whatever the case...a business plan competition should be for aspiring entrepreneurs. It should cover different topics. It should give entrepreneurs the feeling of inspiration. That they can succeed with whatever they're doing. That they should take a chance because anything is possible.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Holy Crap! The Apocalypse is Here! H1N1!

I long realized that I don't buy into hype. Now I realize it annoys me when other people do. This swine flu thing is getting pretty out of hand. Not because I don't think it's an issue. I do. It's because people are going so overboard about it.

I was watching the news last night and this guy was talking about how he hasn't been feeling all that well the last few days. The anchor asked his symptoms and he said he's been tired. So what's this 35 year old guy do? He goes to the emergency room to get checked out. He wants to be safe and make sure he doesn't have swine flu. And he wasn't alone. There were lines of people like him. This is just clogging up the ER so people who really need help can't get it. And it's wasting money. Imagine if we had socialized medicine. Everyone would be there. And... what this guy doesn't realize is that he's exposing himself to more germs than he would have if he had stayed put. A hospital? Germ central.

I just don't get it. I mean, the regular flu has killed thousands of people this year. The swine flu has killed less than a hundred confirmed. Egypt just decreed that they're culling all of the pigs in their country even though there's no link and no reported cases there. If it arrives, it's arriving on the back of humans - so that's 300,000 pigs killed for seemingly no reason. Just overreaction.

Now if we actually analyze why it's been deadly in Mexico and not here, let's just use some common sense and compare the health care system in Mexico to that of the United States. Enough said.

But let's really look at the issue. What do we do about this? It's long been known that flu strains move from species to species. In fact, even the regular human strain of the flu mutates from year to year, making vaccinations useless from year to year (Time Magazine). Part of the problem, according to the article, is that multiple animal species have lived in close proximity to each other and squalid conditions for years. And the body that oversees flu outbreaks doesn't monitor animals. Just humans. So this is a good lesson to setup some better monitoring.

Let's be happy the flu isn't more deadly. And let's relax a little bit. If not - just head down to the ER and get yourself checked out. Maybe you'll catch it down there if you don't already have it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

WindowsError: The requested operation requires elevation

I got this error while installing Pylons for the first time. Pylons a web framework for Python - and from what I've read, the best solution for what we need. Of course, there's Django, which Google AppEngine uses.

Anyway, the error is due to user rights on your machine. I'm sick of Vista requiring me to run things as an administrator or preventing me from running things. I am the administrator. And I'm always logged in, so why does it keep asking me this.

I finally disabled User Account Control. Just go to Control Panel -> User Accounts -> Turn User Account Control off.

Shunning Responsibility - Why Is It So Hard for People To Take Responsible for their Actions?

I was listening the radio this morning on my commute to San Francisco as this professor went on a rant about how obesity is a systemic problem that's a direct result of institutional carelessness. He spoke about how world governments are complicit since they don't do enough to prevent obesity, through regulatory measures. And how they need to step in now and do something. I actually got angry listening to this joker. I wanted to punch the radio. I actually wanted to punch through the radio so I could hit this guy.

Sure there are lots of overweight people who are fat as a result of medical conditions. But how about the rest of the fat people? I'm getting tired of people shunning responsibility for their actions. You want to know why people are fat? Because Americans - and the rest of the world, are getting lazier by the day.

People have a choice to go and eat McDonald's. Nobody is forcing you. You have the choice to super size your meal or add a 98 oz. drink. Or to snack on doughnuts. Or own a deep fryer at home for your fried Twinkies. Or not exercise. Or not eat right. Look at our country. Everyone is looking for a handout... looking for someone else to bear the responsibility of their actions. Why don't we just improve education so people can be more informed rather than bail everyone out every time they're in a pickle? Jesus.

I have to laugh at how fat people are getting blamed for global warming now (here).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

*** fatal error - unable to remap to same address as parent : Cygwin, Ruby on Rails, System calls

I was trying to run system commands from the Ruby console in my Cygwin environment today (since that's part of how I'm integrating with Python). I was running into a helluva problem. I was getting a fatal error, unable to remap .dll to same address as parent. It took a while to track this down and even longer to actually figure out what is happening.

Let me tell you what you can do if you don't care what's actually happening.

1) Close out of Cygwin (and all cygwin processes).
2) Open a Windows command prompt (start -> run - > type 'cmd' or on vista : start -> type 'cmd' in the start search window)
3) Go to your cygwin bin directory. For me it is c:\cygwin\bin.
4) Type ash
5) Type '/usr/bin/rebaseall'
6) Resolve any errors (I had a warning that went unresolved and it still worked fine)
7) Reboot...and you should be good.

So what actually is happening? Well, in this case, the problem was a result of the way windows manages their .dll's. Windows uses ASLR (address space layout randomization) to manage its .dll's. It loads your dll's into different areas of memory every time you boot your computer. If this gets out of whack then the next time you look for that .dll - you can crash your system. Or if you look in the wrong place, you can crash your system. So how can this system get out of whack? Well, running your cygwin setup program can affect record keeping, especially if the ASLR has changed but Cygwin is holding on to an older copy (this can happen when setup doesn't complete).

ASLR is great for malware or hacker defense. Hackers can't constantly try new addresses for your .dll's without crashing your system.