Sunday, October 31, 2010

Motorcycles with Loud Engines Should be Banned From this Earth!

It was a cool Halloween night last night and I felt like sleeping with the windows open, letting the breeze blow through the apartment. Seemed innocent enough, until my sleep was shattered early this morning. It was such a loud jarring noise that I sat up in bed wondering what the hell was going on? Apparently 20-30 obnoxiously loud motorcycles had owners who thought it would be a good idea to ride through a residential neighborhood early this morning. And ride they did. Either they rode around the block six or seven times or there were packs of more motorcyclists with the same idea.

What the f^&k is with those things and why are they legal? Why do they need to make those engines so damn loud. What the hell is the point? I can't imagine the utility of those things besides to annoy every damn person who's nearby.

I mean seriously - a super loud, gurgling... oh man, another few just rode by. The windows are shut now. I gotta get the hell outta my neighborhood today. F those things.

Monday, October 25, 2010

You've Gotta Know When To Fold 'Em - When to Shutter Things, Like the War in Afghanistan

I write blog postings that often seemingly have nothing to do with starting or running a company. But in reality, they all have lessons that can be applied to whatever it is you're doing.

There was more news today that made me think about approaches we take to doing business outside the United States. The title of this wonderful piece of news, "Karzai says his office gets cash from Iran, US" (here). It tells the story of Karzai accepting wads of cash from Iran. He's the president of Afghanistan. And he's been supported by the United States in the effort to cleanse his country of the Taliban. He was basically put in place by the United States. And we've been spending billions to keep his country safe. But he feels no allegiance to the US. And conversely, he's happy taking money from a country known for destabilizing the region. Let's be clear - what he's doing isn't illegal. Not in the least. But it speaks volumes about our successes, or lack thereof in Afghanistan.

The first thought is that we don't know what the hell we're doing there. We're obviously not even doing enough to win over those we've put in power. We seemingly have zero strategy. Or at least no ongoing or apparent strategy. I think we once had a "surge". But that was an obvious short term strategy that hasn't done much to improve the situation for the long term. As with Iraq - we have no idea what the hell we're doing over there. Which gets to my second point.

That point is that we really should know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. When I was at year 2 in my startup - I began to realize the inevitable. Without cash flow and with mounting debt, I had to be pragmatic. I had two options. Double down on the company and spend all of my resources towards a goal. Or shudder it. Doubling down wasn't much of an option since I was flat broke - 25k in the whole with mounting business school debt. So I did the smart thing and hung it up.

I'm advocating that stance for Afghanistan. Not because I'm opposed to the war. In fact, I felt we should have booted the Taliban when we did. But it's become clear that we have very little upside in continuing. We've lost the leadership which is integral in winning the hearts and minds of the people. We also aren't redoubling our efforts. We seem to be enjoying the status quo and chugging along, wasting resources and life. That's not the right approach for achieving our goals.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How You Too Can Mess with a Good Thing

If there's one thing that Google has taught me (and trust me, there are more), it's that putting the user first, really truly does pay dividends. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it's the right business move. Apple has done it within a specific component of their products - their user experience. Google does it with transparency and simplistic UI's. Now where has Verizon done it? Practically nowhere.

I switched to the Verizon network a few months ago, happily trading in my iPhone for a Droid X. Among other things, the network was to blame. I dropped way too many calls, especially during important meetings. It was unacceptable. I don't care what Apple/AT&T say - it was a mix of both of them. The iPhone is an app container first. Phone is a distant second.

I had naively assumed that any phone running Android would be free and open. Even with faint memories of vCast dancing in my head. I signed into Picasa last week to have my pictures downloaded to my Droid. And for some reason, it wouldn't let me. After furiously searching the internet for a reason why - I learned that Verizon had limited access to Picasa from the gallery. The reason - so that we couldn't stream our photos to the HDMI output on our phone. Yea, Verizon apparently thinks that's going to ruin them. I'll tell you what will ruin them - acting like they control the air. Isn't that their slogan nowadays anyway. Rule the Air? Well - gimme control of my phone so I can.

Fortunately there are plenty of geeks on the interwebs these days and you can download the old version of the gallery app to solve all of your problems. You can download it here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

God Damn, America is Racist! We Do Live in a Bubble in San Francisco.

I was in Knoxville, TN this past weekend for a wedding. Saturday night after pre-wedding festivities (wedding was on Sunday), a group of us decided to venture out into the Knoxville night. We landed at what I'll kindly refer to as a more local establishment. Meaning, we were the only out of towners there and probably the only ones they'd entertained in a while.

We attracted a few locals who were intrigued by our crew and we got to talking. They really were incredibly friendly. What surprised me about their kindness is that if I saw them in a dark alley, I would have been nervous. Some of them were tatted up - all over. I mean, skull tattoos, and facial piercing in places I didn't know could be pierced.

But what seemed like really genuine kindness, quickly changed when they began talking about African Americans. It was not in a friendly manner. But it was like second nature to them. They didn't know us from a whole in the wall - but they had no problem spouting racial epithets left and right. This was not the first time I had experienced this in the South. I had experienced anti-Semitism in a bar in the middle of Louisiana in much the same way. Again, it was like second nature. They told me they had never met a Jewish person before when I, probably naively, challenged their views.

Damn. It's 2010. And racism is obviously still rampant in America. I always think our country is better than that and then I experience something like this.

Friday, October 8, 2010

There's No China Housing Bubble? Seriously?

Sometimes I read headlines of articles and I instantly react. I don't even need to read the article to know that it's absolutely BS. That dude who wrote Blink, what was his name? Gladwell. Malcom Gladwell. Yea, I don't really like his books because they're written for 3rd graders. But he does make a point. People react based on instinct. And instinct is built on years of experience - so generally, instinct works better than thinking. Why? Because thinking adds emotion to the mix. And that's never good. Just think about your last argument. I'm sure emotion played a great big factor.

Back to my point. This is the headline: JPMorgan: There's no housing bubble in China (here). After my BS thought, I decided to read the article. Now emotion was involved, because I knew I wasn't going to believe what was written for 2 very important reasons.

1) Did we learn nothing about the economic ruin we're mired in? Big banks have way too much at stake to be honest, straightforward, and the least bit pragmatic. Imagine the reality of a housing crisis in China? What would that do to JP Morgan?

2) Just a few months ago, I read article after article about ghost cities in China. And the boom that was occurring there. Lest I remind you - these were ghost cities. (here, here)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Demise of Yahoo is Greaty Underappreciated. Why Yahoo Mail Sucks...STILL

UPDATE: I decided to include a snapshot of my inbox. Honestly? Some of the subject lines actually have the word PORN in them. And most are such gibberish I can't imagine Yahoo can't tell they're spam. But I guess they really can't. They should just give up the fight since it seems they aren't even in the ring. Or maybe this is their ploy to get you to cough up $20/yr to get their extra special spam filter. Note: while this is a screen cap of my spam folder, these were moved to my spam folder AFTER I selected these messages as spam.

With increased frequency as of late, I've been receiving spam in my Yahoo! inbox. Yahoo! you say? Yea, it's my junk account. Not that I expect to get inundated with junk email, but I use it to sign up for sites that require email addresses, or for ordering goods, etc. I try to keep my gmail account free and clear of any non-contacty type of email. That's changing though. I've noticed myself using my gmail account for most things lately. That's going to change quickly though.

I literally have tens of emails a day that slip through Yahoo!'s spam filter. And it boggles my mind. I could write a regex parse to get those emails right into the spam folder myself. But for some reason, Yahoo! engineers still can't. What the hell is the deal?

Today was the end of it though. I deleted ALL of my contacts in Yahoo! All of them. Because the "preview" mode of Yahoo! mail obviously granted access for one of these emails to spam my contacts. And now I have to sit through today embarrassingly answering emails from my friends who are ridiculing me for allowing this to happen.

Why is this not really all that surprising? Because Yahoo! has been in the toilet for a while now. Thanks for ruining my day Yahoo! Now go fix your email. Stop proving to the world that you're completely inept at everything you do.